Wednesday, August 31, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Alien Salvation

Alien Salvation is not so much a WIP anymore since it is under contract and simply waiting to be added to the release schedule.  Still, I thought it would be fun to tease with a little excerpt:

“My name is Lindsey.”  She bit her lip.  Was she really about to do this?  She thought about her father’s drawn face, her mother’s twig-like arms.  Taking a deep breath, she plunged ahead.  “I’ll be blunt, Dramok.  My family is starving.  All the food has been looted from the stores and there’s precious little to hunt in Fort Lauderdale.  We don’t even have anything to use for bait to catch fish, and—”

Bacoj held his hand up, stilling her stream of nervous words.  “You fast speak too much, Lindsey.  I no understand.”

Okay.  Then we’ll just cut to the chase.  Lindsey said, “Kalquorians like Earther women for sex, right?

Three mouths dropped open in cartoonish shock.  She almost laughed despite her growing terror.  The expressions so didn’t fit the aliens’ faces.

Blinking fast, Bacoj answered, “We are need for species survive.”

“Then the rumors of your imminent extinction are true.”  At Bacoj’s confused expression, Lindsey said, “You like sex for its own sake?”

Bacoj exchanged looks with his clanmates and received very Earther-like shrugs.  He returned his gaze to Lindsey.  His tone was hesitant, as if afraid he would get the answer wrong.  “We like sex.”

“With women?”  She’d heard so many stories about the Kalquorians that she had to be sure.

“We like sex with women.”

Lindsey couldn’t help another nervous swallow.  “Fine.  I’ll trade sex for whatever food you can spare.  I can’t say I’ll be very good since I’ve never done it, but it’s all I have to offer.”

The effect of her statement was instantaneous.  Even as the three men stared at her in continued surprise, the air was suddenly thick with that cinnamon-y smell and the bulges at their groins swelled.  Lindsey fought the urge to run screaming.  The only male sex she’d ever seen belonged to a statue in an illicit art book she’d gotten from a friend.  From the looks of things, her would-be lovers were much larger.  Frighteningly so.

The biggest Kalquorian, the scary one Bacoj had introduced as Japohn, spoke in a hoarse voice.  “You give sex for us?  All of clan?” 

Lindsey forced her eyes to meet his.  Blue-purple, they were beautiful to look at, the least threatening feature the man possessed.  “That’s the offer, big boy.  Willing sex from me for food.”

The soft voice of Vax spoke next.  “How many to feed?”

“Three.  Myself and my mother and father.”  The tension in their exchanged looks told her she was asking a lot.  Tears welled up in Lindsey’s eyes.  Where would she get food for her parents if they said no?  She blinked back the evidence of momentary weakness.  Her tone was less than diplomatic as she snapped, “Well, do we have a deal?”

 Vax said something in his own staccato language.  Japohn answered, his glowering face easing to show concern.  Vax shook his head before delivering another burst of speech, his gentle smile growing.  Both men looked to Bacoj, who nodded.

He smiled down on Lindsey, his eyes bright with eagerness.  “We make trade.”  He reached for her.

Lindsey stumbled back a step, her guts flip-flopping.  She thought of her parents on the rooftop three blocks away, watching the exchange.  If Aaron knew what she’d agreed to on his behalf, he’d throw himself down the stairs again.  “Can we do this inside?” she asked, looking towards their ship.

Bacoj nodded.  “Sleep mat inside.”

“Okay.”  Lindsey’s stomach churned with nerves, and she couldn’t help but look at the large bulges in the Kalquorians’ pants.  Handsome as they were, she was sure she wasn’t going to like their attentions one bit.

She turned to wave towards the office building where her family hid, letting them know everything was all right … okay, lying to them that everything was all right.    Her heart pounding, Lindsey marched up the ship’s ramp past the men and entered its interior.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tutorial Tuesday –The Second Draft: Shaping Up


All right, you’ve written your story, getting it all down from start to finish.  If you approached it the way I suggested in last week’s tutorial, you have something of a mess on your hands.  Bad sentence structure, typos, ideas that ended up going nowhere, an abrupt change (or two) in the storyline … yeah, you have some work to do.  Fortunately, whipping this thing into shape is easier than it looks.  

This is where you will bring your book into focus.  Welcome to the second draft.

Hopefully you took some time away between the two drafts to give your brain a chance to re-set.  The more unfamiliar your first draft looks, the better you’ll pick up on what doesn’t work.  This is where you fix everything that’s wrong with your story.

There are two ways to get started on your second draft.  The first involves reading your first draft through before making changes and taking notes on what alterations are required; what, if any, additional scenes need to be added, what needs clarifying, etc.  The second option is to dive right in, reading and making those changes as you go.  Whatever works best for you is your call.


Where’s the Beef?

You’ll notice spots where the book reads ‘thin’.  You glossed over a few important points, or perhaps you didn’t explain everything as well as it should have been.  The story jumps and jerks from point A to point C, skipping over point B entirely.  Maybe there are even gaping holes in the storyline.  It’s time to fill all that in.  And once you get those pieces in, you might have to go over and over them several times to make them flow with the rest of the story.  That’s fine.  Take all the time you need to build your creation.

Even where there’s plenty of meat on this dish, double check to make sure you’ve got everything you need.  Do you have enough description to put the reader in the story?  Did you miss key points of dialogue?  Would a lengthy flashback better explain how the characters got to the point where they are?  Pile the flesh on that skeleton at where needed.  Fill it out.


Burn Off the Fat

You may also find you have to cut here and there.  If you’ve already explained once in your story how Jack and Jill were bosom pals from nursery school, you don’t have to tell your readers that ever again.  I know, you’re thinking, “But I want to make sure the readers really GOT that.  Maybe they missed it the first time.”  Trust me, you can scuttle all but one passage of explanation.  Your readers are smart enough to get it the first time.  As a reader, if I’m told something that belabors the same point over and over, I feel like the writer is insulting my intelligence.  I get pissed and stop reading.  

Now there’s no problem in telling readers several different specific instances related to Jack and Jill’s journey through life together, so long as it furthers the story.   Just don’t repeat the same exact blurb of information over and over.

 Also cut out any decorous flab.  Just because a passage is pretty doesn’t mean it should remain in your book.  If it doesn’t further the story, it needs to go.  You don’t want a blob of a book any more than you want a skeleton.  You want a lean, muscular novel that reads strong and powerful without an ounce of fat.


Bring the Story Together

Did your story suddenly veer off in another direction from the one you initially planned?  If so, you may have to rework the beginning of your book.  Foreshadowing, a little backstory to set later events up properly, re-casting characters; all this has to be done now to turn it into a harmonious whole. 
 
While you may have worried about having to completely re-write the beginning of the book to match it to the end, I think you’ll find this is usually not the case.  A hint here or there, maybe a new scene or two, changing a bit of dialogue and refocusing the action to zero in on the new ending is usually all that’s required.   It’s kind of like dying a pair of generic white shoes you already have to match a specific dress.  You’ll probably get to keep your foundation; just a little change in the architecture will be required in most instances.


Aiming for Perfection

Now is also the time to spend effort on getting the words just right.  Think about the scene you’re working on, the mood you want to impart.  You want words, phrases and imagery that precisely denote that tone.  

An example:  are the circumstances in your scene dangerous?  You can let the weather flavor some of that.  Have the sun beat down mercilessly.  Have rain lash against the window as if intent on coming in and beating senseless those huddled within.  Have snow send daggers of ice against vulnerable skin.  Also use action words like brutalize, rend, savage, shred.  Have people wail, rage, and drip venom with their dialogue.   Make every word count in building the ambiance of the scene.

And please don’t try to impress everyone with your immense vocabulary.  If your readers need a dictionary on hand to decipher your work, guess what?  They won’t read it.  If you write fiction, you’re looking to entertain, not instruct.  Don’t make it laborious on your readers.


This is the time to write the book you’d want to read.  As you tame this beast, keep firmly in mind that this is how your readers will remember you.  Hone your story to a precision point.  And once you’ve finished doing this, take another week or so off to let it settle again.

You’re almost there.  The worst is over, and the finish line is in sight.  You can breathe a sigh of relief as you ready for the final push to complete your novel.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Alien Slave (WIP)

From Alien Slave, a WIP and fifth book in the Clans of Kalquor series:

    Her large brown eyes half-lidded in trance, Dani traced the hard ridge of bone along Reggie’s back.  It broke through his gray skin, a purplish-black lumpy crest.  The first time she’d seen an Isetacian, she’d thought the creature had been horrifically injured, its skin flayed to expose the skeleton along the spine and joints.  When she’d discovered that was the norm for the six-legged race (or six-armed … with Isetacians, it was impossible to tell), she’d been both fascinated and repulsed.

    Becoming a sex slave to get off the ruined hulk of Earth had been rife with surprises, good and bad alike.

    For now, Dani was content to let Reggie sing to her while he plunged in and out, her long, lanky body suspended in the black straps of the swing. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Interview With Erotic Author Gregory Allen and Excerpt

I am thrilled to have author Gregory Allen on my blog today.  He is an excellent writer of erotica, and if you ever wanted to know the man's perspective on strong, take-charge women, Gregory is the guy you need to read.  He writes female domination novels for hopeful romantics.  His books include Courting Her and Protégé Mistress.

Thanks for joining me today, Gregory.

Thank you, Tracy, for the great questions and the opportunity to share an excerpt from my new book on your blog!

What genres do you write, and why do you write in this genre?

For a long time I only wrote non-genre fiction, mostly quirky and humorous stories. The idea of writing erotica was intimidating, but Kimberly’s dialogue started to come to me and I found as long as I approached a sex scene or a spanking scene and experienced it through characters I felt a bond with, it felt real. Sort of how the idea of having sex feels intimidating until you experience it with someone with whom you feel a real bond.

What fiction do you read for pleasure?

I enjoy reading a little of everything, but I especially enjoy reading writers who make me laugh and think at the same time: Kurt Vonnegut and Jonathan Franzen among many others. Virginia Woolf is my favorite writer.

What writers inspire you most?

I’m inspired by all the writers I’ve met since my books came out. They’re posting, daily, about how much they’re writing, how much they’re rewriting. And they love it! They love to write, and it’s really nice to know other people are enjoying that thrilling feeling of discovery and fulfillment that comes with writing.

How much of you do you put in your characters?

My philosophy has always been that putting myself into my characters would make my fiction feel more real. The trick is to put different aspects of yourself into each character so they don’t all come across the same. I tend to identify more with my submissive male characters, but my dominant female characters probably carry both books, so where did they come from? I guess every writer of BDSM has to be a switch. ; )

Which of your characters is your favorite?

Well, I’ve written three dominant females in two books, so I’m probably supposed to say I couldn’t possibly choose between them, but I’m not going to lie: Kimberly. If you asked me to choose between my books, I would have trouble, but my favorite character is Kimberly from Courting Her.

What’s your latest release and how did the idea arrive?

Protégé Mistress began as a short story called “Coaster on the Floor.” Kevin owes his manager a foot massage after losing an after work card game. He enters her living room and finds the coaster for his beer on the floor at her feet. But when the story ended with Diane patting his head and saying, “Good boy. See you at work,” I knew it wasn’t over.

Thanks for sharing with us, Gregory!



Courting Her, released summer 2010 by Pink Flamingo Publications, is available both in print and as an ebook at www.pinkflamingo.com. Alex is so smitten with the lovely Kimberly, he barely notices her dominant command of their budding relationship, but on their third date, when he fails to immediately take his feet down from the coffee table when she asks, he gets his wake up call! Ordered to strip and crawl over her lap for a punishment spanking, he may burn with humiliation, but his desire for the daunting female only increases. Courting Mistress Kimberly becomes a lengthy lesson in submission for Alex, as he’s required to focus his entire attention into becoming her worthy servant. If he’s to get any sexual satisfaction from the relationship it will be on her terms, by her rules and only after he’s devotedly served her and she finds him worthy.


Protégé Mistress, released summer 2011 by Pink Flamingo Publications, is also available both in print and as an ebook at www.pinkflamingo.com. Monica spots Kevin’s crush on Diane, and his submissive desires, and she teaches Diane to put these to use for the benefit of both of them. They have Kevin scurrying around the pizza shop making both their jobs easier. Years pass and Diane is stunned to run into the powerful looking Monica who is now a bona fide dominatrix. Monica isn’t too surprised to find Diane married Kevin, but when she discovers their sex life is a little bland, she arranges for a series of visits. A massive change happens to Diane and Kevin’s marriage with the help of the feisty dominatrix. Both ebooks are also available at amazon.

Excerpted from the novel Protégé Mistress.
Copyrighted © 2011 by Gregory Allen, all rights reserved, used with permission.

Kevin loses a card game and wins the honor of giving Diane a foot massage at her apartment.

Kevin ventured across the living room and looked into the kitchen. A bottle of wine gurgled as Diane filled her glass. She passed him on her way by. “Grab a beer from the fridge.”

A few bottles were scattered near the back. Kevin twisted the top off one and sipped. He stepped into the living room and stopped short. “What is this?”

Diane gave a slight shrug and smiled. “I’m a stickler about coasters.”

“Okay, but why…”

“You’re paying up on the bet, aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Well then.”

Diane sat with her glass of wine on the wooden armrest of the couch, coaster underneath. The other coaster sat on the carpet just past her feet.

 “So you want me to sit on the floor?”

 “Not sit.” Diane lifted her glass and sipped. With her legs crossed, one socked foot swung above the floor.

Kevin tried to lighten the mood with a sheepish grin, but Diane countered with a confident smile. Kevin wanted to kneel in front of her, to massage her feet, and he knew she knew. He moved forward, leaned his knees into the floor, and sat back on his heels. He took another quick sip of his beer then set it on the coaster as Diane stretched her foot toward him.  Kevin took it in his hands.

“Oh, yes,” Diane said as soon as he began massaging, then giggled lightly. Kevin focused on his task, keeping his eyes down. He squeezed one hand around the top part of her foot and applied circular pressure underneath with his knuckles. He attempted to bring technical proficiency to performing this task to alleviate the straining in the tightening crotch of his jeans. He needed to take his mind off what he was doing before his discomfort got worse, not to mention obvious.

Diane seemed intent on not letting him. “You look so cute down there,” she said. “Fitting, don’t you think? You lost the bet and now have to kneel before your victor.”

“I have to listen to you tease me, too?”

Diane’s other foot slid across the carpet, stopping between his knees. “Oh, yes. You have to, part of being the loser. Can you take it?”

“You are a good 31 player. I admit it.”

“No, that’s not good enough.” She sipped her wine. “You have to say, ‘Diane is a superior 31 player, and I pledge myself as her foot masseuse for the night.’”

Kevin laughed. He ran his thumb along her instep, giving circular massages under each toe.

“You have to say it.”

Keeping her foot held up, Kevin reached for his beer with his other hand and took a swig. He let the liquid swish through his dry mouth before swallowing. “I didn’t know that was part of the bet.”

“Just say it.”

He peeked up at her face, saw her smiling down at him, and quickly lowered his gaze. “Diane is a superior 31 player, and I pledge myself as her foot masseuse for the night.”

“Good. Very good. See? That wasn’t hard, was it? Switch.” She pulled her foot away and lifted the other, raising it almost up near his face. Kevin took her foot in his hands, moved it above his lap, and began with the same slow massage he’d given the other. Diane leaned back, settling on the couch. Her feet encroached on where Kevin knelt. “That feels so, so good.” Her eyes closed.

Kevin shifted on the floor, easing the pinching in his fly by maneuvering room. While he did make himself more comfortable, he also made his present state of excitement pointedly obvious. The minimal friction of his jeans caused a pleasurable flutter. He focused on Diane’s foot, giving the bottom penetrating massages with his knuckles then stroking the top with his other hand from her leg all the way to her toes. He listened to Diane softly moaning to determine what she liked. He lost himself in his task for a long while. When he came out of his trance, and grabbed his beer for a sip, he found Diane’s eyes had opened. She smiled down at him, her manner seemed drastically changed from just moments ago. “Hold it still.” Her eyes flitted to the beer in his hand, still on the coaster.

She withdrew her foot from his grasp and slowly moved it over the bottle. She caught his eye, gave him a smile—the smile was the change in her manner, gone from confident but playful to playful but insistent. Her big toe touched the rim of his beer and circled it. Kevin held the bottle still, didn’t utter a word or give a gesture of complaint. He simply watched her foot in the same trance he’d slipped into during the massage. Her tight socks revealed the shape of her toes. With the dexterity of fingers, they grasped the top of the bottle and twisted back and forth. Her big toe pressed as far inside the bottle’s lip as it could reach. Finally, she pulled her foot back. “Okay, go ahead.”

Kevin paused only slightly. He couldn’t look up, though he knew her smile beamed down on him. He raised the bottle, touched it to his lips, and drank.

“Well? How did it taste…better?”

“Oh, yes, it was wonderful,” he said, though he hadn’t noticed a change. The beer taste overpowered. Really, he would have wanted to simply touch where her foot had been to his lips and not drink at all, but he couldn’t with her watching.

She crossed her legs, her foot bobbed in front of him. “I’d like you to start using my name when you answer me.”

“Okay, Diane.”

“Say yes.”

“Yes, Diane.”

“Good boy.” Diane leaned forward. “Now, I want you to take my socks off, but do it slowly. Very slow and very sexy. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Diane.” Kevin cupped the heel of her foot that hung above the floor and squeezed. He moved his hand up, brushing her sock until his fingertips met smooth skin. He curled a finger under the elastic of her white athletic sock. Twisting in a zig-zag, he slowly tugged the sock down to her heel. Slipped it over and massaged her bare heel with his hand. He brought the sock down the length of her foot the same way, massaging her skin as he peeled the sock off. He removed it completely and gave each of her toes a squeeze and a slight tug, admiring the sight of them.

Diane switched her legs so that her other socked foot hung in the air. Kevin thought he heard a sigh escape her as her thighs swished together. He removed her other sock, slowly massaging as he went. He set the second on top of the first in a pile on the carpet.

Diane leaned back into the couch again. “Let me ask you a question, and I know you’re very shy, but I want you to answer honestly. Earlier tonight, when I invited you over, before I told you about how I couldn’t date you, were you hoping to kiss me?”

Her foot kicked toward where he knelt in front of her. Under the circumstances, he felt silly being scared to admit it, but he could barely meet her gaze as he answered, “Yes, Diane.”

She smiled. “Awww, you’re so cute. Blushing at my feet. Did you fantasize about kissing me on your drive over?”

“Yes, Diane.”

“Well, your fantasy might come true. Though it’s probably not going to happen exactly as you imagined. Do you still want to kiss me?”

“Yes, Diane.”

She frowned slightly. “I know you can be more polite than that.”

“Yes, Diane, please.”

She straightened her leg, her foot rose to just under Kevin’s chin. She pressed her foot down so that her leg from toe to hip stretched its full length. “Go ahead. Kiss me.”

At his eye level, Kevin could glimpse, under her pant leg, her smooth calf. He knew what she wanted, what she offered him, and he desired it as much as the kiss on her lips she had correctly guessed he’d driven over hoping to receive. This alternative was beyond compensation, it was bliss. He bent forward and placed a soft kiss on her foot.

“Good. Very good boy,” she said. “Now, one on the bottom.” She pointed her toes up, and the bottom of her foot hung inches from his face. “And you don’t have to be so quick. You can give me a nice, long kiss. Don’t be shy.”

Kevin moved his face forward and touched his lips to her, holding them pursed against her heel. She slid her foot down and pushed until her heel cupped under his chin, her instep pressed against the bridge of his nose, and the soft arch of her foot covered his mouth. He remained there, not breathing for several seconds, then drew away with a soft kiss.

She stared over her foot at him. A smug expression played on her face but she looked, as well, excited and happy. Kevin felt an emanating heat from the humiliation of what he’d just done, but he smiled up at her, equally excited and happy. Diane swiped her foot across his cheek, and Kevin pecked after it as it passed his lips.

“Open your mouth and show me how you wished you could kiss me on your drive over.” Her feet lifted into the air, and she pressed the bottoms against his face. Kevin moved from one to the other, placing wet, open-mouthed kisses on them. The smell of dank sweat struck his nostrils as he inhaled with his lips sealed over her feet but contained the fragrance of intimacy. His closeness with the object of his devotion made the smell and taste of her immediately pleasant. He lost himself in his passion, and a moan escaped him.

“Oooh, good boy, that’s it. Moan for me.” Her feet pressed harder, and Kevin pressed back. His tongue slipped out and curled around a toe. At the top of his periphery, he caught Diane’s hand slide down her belly and slip under the waistband of her pants. Her moans joined his. Her other hand popped the button on her pants, and soon the two roving hands spread the zipper open. Kevin moaned harder, licked and kissed faster, but peeked up and glimpsed fingers slide under the purple triangle of Diane’s panties. Her eyes closed, and her body rippled against the couch as her hands bulged the purple material from her open pants. Her feet began to flail. Toes filled his mouth. His cheeks were caught with wild slaps.

He tried futilely to match her intensity. The locked pleasure in the tight fly of his jeans pulsed only faintly and uselessly as he witnessed Diane pleasuring herself. Her moans became high-pitched, frantic sighs and she seemed to have forgotten about him. His face might have been her footboard for all the attention she gave him.

Kevin had seen women come before, but he had always been so involved in his performance, so absorbed by his own building climax. Watching from his knees, Diane appeared so powerful and beautiful, able to conjure such a force in her own body with the touch of her hands. Kevin’s experiences with his own hand—desperate as he felt to use it presently—paled in comparison. Her feet suddenly went rigid, pressed against his face with a big toe in his mouth. She shrieked as her hand vibrated up and down inside her panties.   

An orgasm that lasted minutes made Kevin wonder if, in fact, he had ever seen a woman come before. The slits of her eyes opened, and finding him staring wide-eyed back at her, she reached with her feet for the top of his head, pinched his hair with her toes, and pulled down. Her feet went to the back of his head and she kept him pinned, his nose touched to the carpet. “Stay,” she said.

He heard her hands still fidgeting, but her breath slowed and quieted. After a while, her feet slipped off. Kevin raised his head slowly, keeping his eyes down. Asking for permission, by moving slowly, to look up again. She allowed it. She smiled down at him. A light covering of sweat was the only evidence of the powerful outburst, laced with femininity, for which he felt honored to have been present.

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Sentence Friday

Drop Dead Sexy, under contract, Chapter 12:

The three vampires all looked lean and hungry despite having supposedly just fed. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Alien Interludes

Okay, I'm jumping the gun a bit to discuss this one.  After all, Alien Salvation (Kalquor 4) hasn't been scheduled for release yet and Alien Slave (Kalquor 5) is still in first draft status.

But as I've been pounding away at the Kalquor and Netherworld series along with assorted other projects, I've also been quietly working on an anthology.  I'm supposing the readers who have found so much enjoyment among the various clans I've already introduced would like seeing what they've been up to since their stories ended. 

So I'm putting together a bunch of short stories catching up on the latest with Amelia, Jessica, Michaela, etc.  All our ladies are making a return, along with those scrumptuous men who surround them.  You'll meet some new people as well and find new dangers on the horizon for the clans of Kalquor.

This all started when more than one reader expressed a desire for a certain Nobek to realize his fantasy of hunting down his Matara in the forest.  What is it with you gals wanting to be stalked by big, muscular, feral men anyway?

Oh, silly me.  I guess it is obvious why that would appeal.  Nevermind.

At any rate, these requests inspired me to do a little catching up with everyone else.  So if you're dying to know how feisty Jessica is holding up with her emperors or how Israla is tempted away from her boytoys by a gorgeous, heartbroken Earther, stay tuned. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tutorial Tuesday - Writing Like Your Ass is on Fire: the First Draft

So here you are, ready to dive in and write your book.  You know your characters.  You know your plot.  You've got an outline to tell you where you're going.  It's time.

I describe the writing of my first drafts as 'quick and dirty'.  I'm all about getting in there and banging out the story just as hard and fast as I can go.  Why?  Because at the start, inspiration is at a fever pitch, and I'm not about to waste that heady motivation.  It's sloppy, it's nasty, it's a five-dollar whore moving through customers at light speed.  I'm laying out the bare bones of this beast, building my Frankenstein monster and bringing it to life.

Forget about pretty.  Forget about lyrical passages that are sheer poetry.  Forget finding that absolutely perfect word during the first pass. First drafts aren't about that.  Just get it out.  It's okay if the story is ragged with gaping holes and shredded sentence structure.  I promise you, it will hold together for now. 

You don't want to slow down for anything.  At this critical point if you stop and think too much about what you're doing, you run the chance of losing momentum and bogging down.  Don't worry about perfection quite yet.  That's what the next two (and three or four) drafts are for.  This first draft is the utilitarian foundation of concrete and rebar, the steel girders rising to poke ugly fingers at the sky.  The stunning architecture and stucco facade come later.  So just write.

When you've got that first scene down, move on to the next.  Do not stop at this point to rewrite the first bit you scribbled.  I have a very good reason for this advice.  Going back is a trap, a veritable oubliette waiting to put your story out of sight and mind of ever being seen by the outside world.  I have known far too many would-be authors who wrote the first chapter of their books and followed up with WEEKS of rewriting that first chapter before moving on.  These people usually gave up on that story before getting a quarter of the way through.  Exhausted, dispirited, all motivation sapped from them they walked away, never to write anything ever again. 

Not only can you overwrite the first draft to an early death, you might do all that work only to later find  that the story veers in an unplanned direction.  Thank your bitch of a muse for pulling that trick on you.  Now you have to go back to the beginning to lay the groundwork for your new ending!  If you've already spent weeks on the start of your novel to get it just right, having to do a whole new revamp ranks pretty high on the Suck-O-Meter.  If you'd settled for quick and dirty, you wouldn't have so much invested, so much work to redo. 

And speaking of the story changing in midstream (which happens to me more often than not), if that happens, by all that is holy, do NOT go back and re-write the beginning yet.  Instead, write yourself notes as to what changes must take place during the second draft phase.  After that, crank back up where you left off.  Keep on picking those chapters up and putting them down.  Go, go, go.

Why am I pounding on this point to keep going no matter what?  Because it is so much easier to correct mistakes and polish a completed story than it is to complete a story!  When you have finished that first draft, rife with errors, crappy prose, and continuity problems, you feel on top of the world because at least you have it down.  You have lots more work to do, but by golly the story is there, and you're not fighting to yank it out of your head and splat it onto the computer screen (or notebook if you're old school). 

Once you have reached the magnificent conclusion of your opus, pat yourself on the back because you deserve it.  You have written a book, from start to finish.  Good job. 

Now take at least a week off.  A month if you can contain your enthusiasm and aren't under a deadline.  Let the story percolate in your subconscious while you walk away from it for a bit.  Start outlining your next project while the first draft rests.  Then when you're ready to come back for round two, you'll see it with fresh eyes, catching the things you missed on the first go.

But more on that second draft later.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday - Drop Dead Sexy

From Netherworld:  Drop Dead Sexy, a WIP and the first book of the erotic paranormal Netherworld series:

But even in dreams, a lady doesn’t jump on a solid piece of walking sexual real estate.  Introductions are a must.  “Who are you?” I asked.

His deep voice was gentle, a muffled bark of sorts.  “I’m here to help you.  You seemed very upset when I got here.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pirates and Thieves: An Open Letter To You

I wish today's blog had to do with the sexy kind of pirates.  You know, hot nefarious men of the sea, swashbuckling their way into treasure and young maidens' pantaloons.  That kind of pirate makes me happy and horny. 

Unfortunately, I'm not writing about that.  I'm a bit put out today, not happy and horny at all, so you may want to tune out if you're one of my beloved readers who takes the time and money to enjoy my books.  I TRULY appreciate you all who have been so kind to give my books a try in an honest and ethical manner.  You have helped to make my life a joy, and I only hope I continue to entertain you.

This blog is for those who put my books on the Internet and offer them for free downloading.  It's also for those of you who accept this thievery and take advantage of these opportunities to steal from me and my family.

You see, the overwhelming majority of us writers are not rich.  We are not Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers, John Grisham, Dan Brown, or J. K. Rowling.  Most of us have jobs outside of writing so we can put food on the table and roofs over our heads.  The typical writer doesn't make a pittance for what we do.  We are not driving around in Mercedes, traveling the world on private yachts or dining at five-star restaurants every night of the week. 

What's more, writing is not a hobby for us.  It is hard work, no matter how much we love doing it.  Let me tell you a bit about what my life as a writer is:

My world revolves around writing and marketing my writing AT LEAST eight hours a day, and AT LEAST six (usually seven) days a week.  Even during my recent vacation, I wrote approximately four hours a day, every day.  Some vacation, huh?  Why would I do such a thing?  Well, because for one thing, I do love my work, but also BECAUSE I NEED THE INCOME I GET FROM WRITING.  I work my ass off for a few bucks.

My husband and I both drive cars with over 100,000 miles on the odometers.  We get to eat out maybe once a month.  We're not looking to move up in the world so much as to simply catch up to where we're not living hand to mouth.

Most importantly, my family has no health insurance.  We can't afford it.  And we have a special needs child who requires therapy and assistance.

Let me make this succinct and to the point.  You are not simply stealing books.  You are stealing money from a little boy with special needs.  I ask you, is this the person you wanted to be? 

I know it's a tough economy and you might not be able to afford the five to six dollar neighborhood my e-books hang around in.  I don't always have that kind of money to toss around either, but I don't make others suffer for it by taking advantage of pirated downloads.   You know what I do?  I browse the garage sales where I can score paperbacks for ten to fifty cents.  Better yet, I hit up the local library for free.  My publisher offers free short stories you can read on your computer.  Amazon has freebies too. 

I do not take people stealing my work as a kind of compliment, no more than I would high-five someone who stole my car.  I am not flattered.  I am hurt.

You are not sexy pirates.  You are not Robin Hood-type heroes stealing from the rich to give to the poor.  While you smugly congratulate yourselves on getting something for nothing,  we writers worry about the rent, groceries, and the welfare of our families. 

My wish for you is that you wake up and realize the damage you're doing.  It's not just me this happens to.  Lots of writers who are holding multiple jobs and barely making ends meet are being damaged by your actions.  There are thousands of you doing this, so every 'little' download is contributing to the problem. 

Writers.  Families.  Children.  These are your victims. 

Next time you decide to pirate my books or next time you download a pirated copy for free, remember those you are hurting.  Are a few hours of reading pleasure really worth making us miss a car payment, put off a needed home repair or keeping us from seeing a doctor when necessary?  Is getting your hands on a story for free really more important than my child's health? 

Just saying.  I hope you're listening.

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Sentence Friday

Alien Salvation, (under contract) Chapter 6:

The shuttle ran low on juice over the Everglades, and Bacoj found a relatively dry spot to land for the night

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Contest - Win Print Copies of Kalquor Series Books

Hey all.  I need your help here.  I've seen very few reviews of Alien Rule or Alien Conquest.  Did they rock your world?  Did they suck brown Easter bunny eggs?  I need you to let me know, and I'm prepared to reward you for the effort.  Besides, I haven't given away any books in a little while, so I think we're due for a contest here.  In fact, I think we're due for two! 

Prizes will be your choice of a signed print copy of my books Alien Embrace, Alien Rule or Alien Conquest.  With two contests, that's an opportunity to win two books. 

Contest One:  Post an honest review of Alien Rule or Alien Conquest on Amazon.  Email me at st.johntracy@yahoo.com letting me know which review is yours (giving me the title should work fine).  At the end of the contest, I'll randomly draw a winner from all entries.  Actually, my five-year old son will draw the winner.  He gets a kick out of picking a scrap of paper out of the bowl. 

By the way, if you post reviews of both books, that's two chances to win.  Just make sure you tell me about both.

Contest Two:  This is easy.  Anyone entering Contest One is automatically entered.  I will select my favorite review based on how helpful I think it will be to other readers.  However you feel about the book you reviewed, tell everyone why.  Simply saying, "This book was great!" or "This book should never have been written" isn't enough.   Tell us what made it a thrill or a chore to read.  Was it the characters?  The sex?  The story beyond the sex?  Tell everyone what you would have wanted to know before purchasing the book.  Just no spoilers please!

Along with sending me the title of your review(s), also send me your snail mail address and let me know which two books, in order of preference, you would like to win.  That way, if you happen to win the random drawing along with best review, I'll know what to send! 

The contest ends midnight August 31.  Winners will be announced September 1. 

I look forward to your feedback.  Thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

WIP Wednesday - Alien Slave

Men.  Testosterone-driven, chest-thumping men.  Weekend warriors screaming bloodthirstily at a football game, NASCAR, or UFC fights.  And we women roll our eyes, shake our heads, and wonder just how far removed our guys are from Cro-Magnon.

Admit it though.  It's kind of sexy when they go all primitive.  You know it is.

The new Kalquorian clan I've got in first draft falls along those lines.  They love to hunt.  Not Bambi or Thumper though.  Gelan, Wynhod, and Krijero like stalking and killing scary stuff bigger than themselves.  Stuff with big fangs and claws.  No guns either.  These uber-men are armed only with knives and attitude.

Like any self-respecting Earther woman, their companion Dani does just we would.  She looks at them with disgust.  She calls them idiots.  She thinks about smacking them upside their heads.  And she secretly drools over their sweat-drenched muscular bodies, thinking how animalistic, how uncivilized, and how hot they are.

****
     Krijero reached up to grasp her about the waist.  He carried her to the fire, where the other two were washing blood from their hands and knives.  They jabbered at each other in their own language, no doubt reliving every thrust and parry and congratulating themselves on being such masterful monster killers.
     Men.
     She couldn’t help admire how sweat gleamed on their muscles, how stunning they were pumped up with the glory of victory.  How handsome they were with their faces alight.  How very masculine they were with their primal power.  Damn it, was she getting aroused again?
     I'm every bit as weird as they are.
     Dani shook her head as much at herself as at them.

****
Yeah, it's like that.  But we won't tell them, right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tutorial Tuesday - Outlining the Story

*Spoiler alert.  Examples from Alien Rule give away the ending.*

Writers usually fall into two camps:  those who outline their stories before embarking on the literary journey, and those who jump in headfirst, spilling the tale's guts from the word 'go'.   These two groups are also known as plotters and pantsers (as in writing by the seat of your pants).  If you've read my previous articles, no doubt you've figured out which type I am. 

I require a roadmap to start my journey, even though the destination frequently ends up at a different locale than I originally planned.  My characters decide they have better things to do more often than not.

 Those of you familiar with Alien Rule know how it ended:  a huge fight taking place in a shuttle bay that crescendoed with our heroes and heroine taking out their enemies once and for all.  The original outline called for a dungeon-type setting in which the heroine and one of the heroes were tortured until they managed to thwart their foes.  The revised ending turned out much more dynamic and more satisfying, in my opinion.  And here's where I want to make my biggest point:  no one should be married to the outline they make at the outset.  It's a guide, not the Ten Commandments chiseled in stone.  Your story will evolve. 

So why do I bother with an outline if two-thirds of the way through it becomes moot?  I have a few reasons.  First of all, it provides me inspiration to write every day even if my mood isn't quite up for it.  I never get writer's block.  NEVER.  I credit outlining with keeping me from getting stuck for what's going to happen next.  And when I realize the end of the story has changed, I re-outline so I don't forget which way inspiration is pointing me. 

That's another place outlining saves me.  I forget stuff.  A lot.  I have to write down the sudden brainstorms, or I'll lose  really good scenes and their details.  Without my outline, I'm left with that terrible 'it's right on the tip of my tongue' feeling, and I can't always guarantee I'll get that memory back.

Next, it prevents the mid-book crisis.  That's when somewhere in the middle of the story you run out of steam.  You may know how the book will end, but midway through the energy has dropped out, the ideas have dried up, and you're at a loss as to how to get to that curtain call.  You're left flailing around, unable to push your way through without herculean effort.  This is where a lot of authors get lost and will sometimes give up the whole project entirely.  Many books are stillborn at this phase.

Finally, outlining helps to point out where you need to focus on research.  Say you're not the outdoorsy type but a sudden flash of inspiration dictates your main characters fight for survival in the Grand Canyon because their kayak was destroyed in the rapids.  Knowing this during the outlining phase rather than when you're poised to write these newly discovered scenes, you can:  1.   Google kayaking;  2.  Check the television schedule so you know when to watch survivalist Bear Grylls drink his own urine; and 3.  Plan your next vacation to include the Grand Canyon.

Now you don't have to worry about halting the flow of a full-on writing splurge.  Armed with the knowledge of how to survive in the wild until the park rangers arrive, you can write yourself silly when you reach that point in your story because you have the information you need at hand.

Making the Scene

I outline my stories in scenes rather than chapters.  This comes from my experience in writing scripts, in which every scene change demands separation.  I like writing in scenes because it's easier for me to transition from one situation to another.  I switch scenes when there's a change in setting or POV.

Outlining helps guarantee me the required word count for a novel.  I have figured out I usually write over 1000 words per scene.  Some are much longer, others shorter.  But since I know my personal average, I have found that 60 scenes per book will give me an total of 63,000 - 100,000 words.  That's a pretty good word count range for a mid- to full length novel, one publishers seem to be happy with.  So that's what I aim for.

Drawn and Quartered

My books are split into four parts.  The first quarter of the book deals with introducing the characters and getting the story's conflict underway.  The second quarter deepens the conflict, setting up a struggle between hero and the villain/situation and perhaps hero versus heroine.  The third quarter gives the story its smoothest sailing, in which while conflict continues to build, there is still the sense that all will be okay in the end.  Then the fourth quarter hits, throwing everything into chaos and threatening the happily-ever-after the readers are rooting for until the stunning climax resolves everything for better or for worse.

This is how Alien Rule mapped out:

First Quarter:  Introduction of Jessica and the Kalquorian Crown Prince Clan.  Highlighting that despite the mutual attaction between Earther and Kalquorians, there is no way Jessica can join the clan.

Second Quarter:  The clan and Jessica fall in love and want to be together more than anything. Conflict and circumstance throw larger and larger hurdles in their path, keeping them apart.  The struggle to overcome these hurdles is highlighted here.

Third Quarter:  Despite continuing obstacles, Jessica and the clan commit to each other, determined to be together no matter what.

Fourth Quarter:  All is lost.  A challenge to Jessica's fitness to be Kalquor's future Empress as well as abduction drive her from the men she loves.  The climactic fight to save her puts the clan in harm's way.

The Super Six - Something Big Happens

Before putting together the whole outline, I determine the pivotal points that the book hinges on.  These are the major scenes that drive the story.  These six main scenes are the opening scene, second quarter opening, middle of the book, fourth quarter opening, climax and end scene. 

Again using Alien Rule, here's how those scenes played out:

Opening Scene:  Looking for a Kalquorian clan to save her from a death sentence on Earth, Jessica performs an exotic dance for members of the alien race, hoping to attract mates.  Crown Princes Clajak, Bevau and Egilka are in attendance.  Despite being betrothed to another woman named Narpok, they are determined to seduce Jessica.

Second Quarter Opening:  Jessica, infatuated with the Crown Princes but refusing to be won by them, is captured by the three men.  The clan takes custody of Jessica so they can enjoy her for the short time they have before taking her to Kalquor to join another clan.

Middle of the Book:  In love with Jessica, Clajak, Bevau and Egilka renounce their unwanted betrothal to Narpok to make the Earth woman their mate despite the trouble they know it will cause.

Fourth Quarter Opening:  Jessica is abducted by the brutal enemies of her clan who plan to take her away from her mates forever.

Climax:  The clan and Jessica engage in a battle to the death against their enemies.

End Scene:  Jessica is formally acknowledged as the clan's mate and Empress of Kalquor.

And Now ... The Rest of The Story

Because I'm aiming for 60 scenes, I know that the Super Six will fall around the following points on my scene list:  Opening is Scene 1, Second Quarter Opening is Scene 15, Middle of the Book falls on Scene 30, Fourth Quarter Opening comes at about Scene 45, Climax is Scene 59, and End Scene is number 60.  These are approximations, obviously.  I have ended up with as few as 54 scenes in my initial outline and as many as 65.  It's a fluid number, changing as the story wills it.

Now I fill in the gaps between the major scenes, creating a list that will guide me along as I write.  I'll give you a rough example of how Alien Rule's first quarter scenes are laid out.

Scene 1, Opening Scene:  Looking for a Kalquorian clan to save her from a death sentence on Earth, Jessica performs an exotic dance for members of the alien race.  The Crown Princes Clajak, Bevau and Egilka are in attendance.  Despite being betrothed to another woman named Narpok, they are determined to seduce Jessica.
Scene 2:  Jessica preps for meeting a Kalquorian, discovers it is the leader of the Crown Prince Clan she will spend the night with.
Scene 3:  Jessica meets Prince Clajak, is seduced and they make love.
Scene 4:  Next morning Jessica and Clajak make love again, Jessica discovers the clan is already betrothed to another woman, gets in argument with Clajak and storms out.
Scene 5:  Clajak and clanmates argue over royal duties and Clajak's refusal to perform them.
Scene 6:  Jessica meets Prince Bevau who apologizes for Clajak's behavior, he explains monogamy is not expected for a clan until they actually join with their betrothed, the clan's mate-to-be is a spoiled woman they do not like, Bevau and Jessica make love.
Scene 7:  Jessica and friend Michaela practice for upcoming Coming of Age Festival dance.
Scene 8:  Jessica accompanies friends to eatery where she meets the arrogant Prince Egilka, they argue, she storms off, he follows.
Scene 9:  Jessica and Egilka continue argument in the woods, Egilka coerces Jessica into having sex with him, despite the attraction Jessica now refuses to go to Kalquor because the attitudes of Egilka and Clajak have made such a bad impression on her.
Scene 10:  Egilka, Clajak and Bevau make up with each other, discuss seducing Jessica further and convincing her to come to Kalquor with them.
Scene 11:  Jessica's nightmare, leaves her apartment in the middle of the night for a walk.
Scene 12:  Jessica encounters hostile Earther soldier, evades him.
Scene 13:  Jessica and Clajak have an encounter that ends with their lovemaking, attraction grows but Jessica still refuses to go to Kalquor.
Scene 14:  Jessica and Michaela dance at festival.
Scene 15:  Jessica pursued by Clajak's clan through festival grounds.
Scene 16, Second Quarter Opening:  Jessica, infatuated with the Crown Princes but determined to not be won by them, is captured by the three men who have fallen for her.  The group makes love on an altar in full view during the festival.  The Kalquorians take custody of Jessica, determined to enjoy her for the short time they can before taking her to Kalquor to join another clan.

I know now exactly where I'm going with this story, at least until something better comes along, as it usually does.  Still, every time I sit down at the computer to crank out that day's allotment, I'm never at a loss as to what I'll be writing.  I don't get stuck wondering how I'm getting from point A to point B.  I know what's coming up in the days ahead and if I'm fuzzy on the details, I can be sure to get my research in. 

If you're a pantser who gets bogged down and loses momentum on a regular basis or if you've always wanted to write but don't know where to start, give outlining a try.   It will keep you on track and might just save your story.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday 8/14/11

From Alien Salvation, now under contract:

    They had no sooner entered the clan’s sleeping room when the men all tugged on Lindsey’s clothing.  Her clothes disappeared with an alacrity that left her gasping.
    “You sure become assertive when it comes to sexual relations,” she stammered, suddenly naked in the middle of the group.
    Bacoj shucked his knee-high boots and peeled his formsuit off.  “Kalquorians strong men.  Strong needs.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Villains - How Bad Do You Want It?

Having done some very (VERY) minor acting, I can tell you nothing beats playing the villain.   When else can you sink your teeth into being as bad as you wanna?  Role around in unmitigated fiendishness?  Sure, you're usually vanquished in the end, but in the meantime, you get to commit full-on chaos.

Writing villains is nearly as much fun.  Getting into that mindset to commit nefarious acts against society ... it makes up for all those times when I act civilized in the face of others' assholery. 

Writing Ash Moday, the villain of Unholy Union, was definitely a lot of fun.  He's not just bad, he's an infernal being, an incubus.  For those of you unfamiliar with the profane, an incubus is a demon of lust.  Hmm ... villain, evil, sex.  Yep, that checklist works for me.

Here's an excerpt from Unholy Union, now available in e-book from New Concepts Publishing.  Enjoy my bad boy.

    He kissed her before speaking again.  "In my hands you can’t fail.  I'll keep you and guard you, guide you and raise you on high.  In return, you'll write beautifully and feed me until your body fails you."
    She moaned as he thrust powerfully into her, taking her on that sweet journey to ecstasy.  It felt so good, so perfect … but looking into Ash's face, something didn't seem right.
    His face looked thinner somehow.  His incisors appeared sharp, like the canines of a dog.  And his blue eyes swam in a reddish mist, almost as if they were glowing.  As he plunged in and out of her helpless body, Ash began to look more like a stranger disguised as Ash.  A dangerous stranger, predatory with greedy hunger, looking to devour her alive.
    Even his voice sounded different, the growling voice of a brutish beast that had learned the trick of speech.  "Together we will fly like angels for a moment, drowning in rapture few will ever experience.  I will give you a taste of heaven even as you descend into the bowels of hell."
    He jackhammered his hips against her, bringing her close to explosive orgasm.  Terror didn't rob her of the coming rapture; indeed it seemed to add to the thrill.  A sense of doom was descending, and Elaine imagined that if she gave into the climax stampeding towards her she would be lost forever.
    "Ash, please, you're scaring me," she sobbed.
    The red-eyed creature riding her mercilessly smiled down on her, driving her ever closer to crescendo.  "Don't be frightened," it said in that growling voice.  "Give yourself to me, Elaine.  Surrender completely and know ecstasy so profound even death cannot frighten you away."

Friday, August 12, 2011

First Sentence Friday


Unholy Union, Chapter 8:
The ringing phone roused Elaine from a pleasant fantasy of riding Ash.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

WIP Wednesday

As I write this, I am putting the final touches on the first Netherworld book, Drop Dead Sexy.  It took me a long time to concede to writing a paranormal series featuring vampires and werecritters.  Quite honestly, I feel like the genre has been done nearly to death.  The last thing I wanted to do was write another vampire/shifter novel, as much as I love these creatures.

But Netherworld kept pulling at me, kept whispering sweet, deadly nothings in my ear.  I finally had to heed the call to purge myself of this madness, if nothing else. And I'm glad I did, because Drop Dead Sexy is my favorite work to date, and Brandilynn is my favorite heroine.  I look forward to working with her again in the future, and that's good since the future holds at least three more books for the series.  For a dead girl, Brandilynn's plenty active. 

So I'll soon be throwing my vampire/shifter hat in the ring.  We'll see how it does; if it rises above the multitudes of so many paranormal novels already clamoring for readers or if it becomes just another title in the throng.  Meanwhile, here's an excerpt just for fun.  Brandilynn's ghost has borrowed the body of channel Isabella, and she's just met vampire Patricia:

     As we followed Patricia, I snorted, "Long on manners around here, aren't we?"
     The vampire flung a fanged grin over her shoulder at me.  "Only when we're trying to charm someone out of their blood."  Her gray-pink tongue traced her lips, and she tittered when my eyes widened.  She hurried ahead, pulling well ahead of us.
     Okay, now I was grumpy.  "Who is Morticia, exactly?" I whispered to Dan and Lana.
     The corner of Dan's mouth quirked.  "Tristan's sister.  Behave yourself.  She's not one for foolishness."
     Oops.  Properly chastised, I snapped my mouth shut.  At least now I knew where I'd seen her before.  Any time Commissioner Keith held a press conference or gave an interview, his sister Patricia lurked in the background.  She'd also attended a few events I'd been dragged to on clients' arms.  I should have recognized her.
     A werehog with big yellow tusks brushed past me, and I fought not to scream.  Zoo Flu doesn't jump around easily, thank goodness.  It's a blood-borne virus, but most of us normals are still squeamish about skin-to-skin contact.   I barely restrained an urge to check Isabella's arms for open cuts.
     Next to me, Lana seemed more cheerful than ever, something that lowered her a bit in my estimation.  How could anyone be so jolly with all these scary bugaboos surrounding us?  "Patricia is totally dedicated to her brother.  She has the most pull with him, even more than the Judge."
     Patricia climbed the two steps of the bandstand, joining a dark-haired man standing with his back to us.  Despite the very expensive-looking suit covering him, I knew that body on sight and experienced a thrill up my spine. 
     The greeting on my lips died without being uttered as Tristan turned towards his sister and I caught sight of his lily-white face.  Even with several yards still separating us, I could see the more predatory expression he wore.  There was an aloofness in his attitude that hadn't been there before.  He looked as watchful as a hawk looking for tasty bunnies in the meadow.  My skin crawled.
     Dan whispered, "I know I don't have to remind you, but Tristan as a vampire is different from his ghost self."
     "Dan and the girl are here," Patricia said to Tristan, and he swung his dark gaze towards us.  I couldn't control the shiver that raced down my spine at that calculating stare.  He looked at me as if I were a particularly delicious morsel he couldn't wait to take a bite out of. 
     "Is he dangerous to us?" I whispered to Lana and Dan.
     Lana's smile slipped a touch.  I felt better about her again.  "All vampires are dangerous, even the good ones.  You have nothing to fear from Tristan though.  He's never lost control." 
     Her hesitant tone didn’t have to finish her last sentence.  That we know of hung unsaid in the air.
     A massive creature stepped to Tristan and Patricia's side, and I gasped.  Even on all fours, the majestic griffin stood tall, reaching Tristan's shoulder.  The pure white feathers on its eagle's head laid flat … not a plume out of place, I thought.  The eagle part of it extended down to its chest and shoulders.  The black and brown plumage of its folded wings was a monochromatic contrast against the golden lion's pelt that made up the rest of the gorgeous entity.  I couldn't help but stare.  I didn't know Fulton Falls had one of the ancient beings as a resident.
     "Cool pet," I breathed.
     Lana bit her lip.  "I wouldn't call Augustus a pet to his face.  You'll lose poor Isabella's head that way."
     Boy, I just kept putting my foot in my mouth.  "Maybe I should just shut up for the rest of the night," I groused.
     There was no humor in Dan's reply.  "That might be wise."
     I scowled at him.  "You know, you've been kind of a jerk since I borrowed Isabella's body.  I don't like you too much right now, Dan."