This blog is for those 18 and older.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Guest Author: J. Gabriel Gates

Okay, so people might look at me a little funny when I tell them I’m a writer of teen paranormal romance books.  That’s because I’m a 32 year old guy.  Sure, I have fairly good personal hygiene and I’ll let myself get dragged into the occasional “Forever 21,” but aside from those qualities, I’m not exactly the prototypical romance writer.  That’s okay, my stories aren’t the prototypical romance stories, either.  My teen romance series “The Tracks” features storylines including a gang battle in a small town, a search for a supernatural treasure, a father-son grudge match between a fallen angel and a Nephilim, and a bad-boy main character who uses his kung fu skills to beat down baddies and stir up trouble.  

Beginning with book 1, Dark Territory, this troublemaker from the literal wrong side of the tracks named Raphael falls in love with the heroine of the story, a girl named Aimee, who just so happens to be the sister of a prominent member of Raphael’s rival gang.  The result is a classic tale of forbidden, star-crossed love with a supernatural twist.  

In book 2 Ghost Crown, things get even more interesting when Aimee gets seduced by a sultry, surly, charming Nephilim named Orias and Aimee’s best friend turned arch-enemy, Maggie, sets her sights on Raphael .  And as for what happens in book 3,  Shadow Train … well, let’s just say you’ll have to wait until that book comes out in the spring of 2013 to find out about the big finale.  

The question is, how did a guy like me end up writing romance in the first place?  Let’s be real, even though we might act macho about it, the truth is that most men desire love just as much as women do.  We might not be as vocal about our feelings, or as good at expressing them, but they are there, none the less.  For a guy, writing romance requires that you take off your “dude hat” for a while and bare your emotions to the world.  I think that creates some interesting dynamics, too.  In “The Tracks” series, my co-author Charlene Keel and I portray several relationships, each of them marked by their own challenges, their own beautiful flaws, and their own rewards for the characters engaged in them.   Perhaps because of my male influence, there is an undercurrent of not-completely-expressed longing that, I think, not only draws the characters through the trials of their relationships, but also creates an undercurrent of desire that drives the plot forward.  The more “testosterone-filled” fight scenes also serve as a marked contrast to the tale’s more amorous moments, and heighten the urgency of each romantic interaction.

I mentioned my co-author, Charlene Keel.  Like many men who can’t get along without the help of the fairer sex, I must admit that Charlene was a great asset as we co-wrote these books.  Not only is she a seasoned author and TV writer, she’s also an expert in the romance genre.  Whenever I was too squeamish to add that detail about how delicious Raphael smelled or how chiseled his abs were, Charlene was there to flesh the passage out, thoroughly and brilliantly.  

Readers seem to be enjoying the series immensely.  A lot of that has to do with the many interesting characters, the unique, genre mash-up, action-filled plot, and of course the dramatic tension of the tale’s star-crossed love.  But I tend to think that some of it comes from the  differing influences of the series’ two writers, the confluence of the male perspective, and the female one.  It’s a combination that makes for great romance on the page, just as it does in real life!

J. Gabriel Gates is the author of Dark Territory: The Tracks Book 1, Ghost Crown: The Tracks Book 2, horror novel The Sleepwalkers and upcoming dystopian sci-fi novel Blood Zero Sky.  For more information on J. Gabriel Gates and his work, please check out his website:, find him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter: @JGabrielGates

Excerpt from Dark Territory.

Ignacio Torrez stepped into the Middleburg High School cafeteria
at high noon, five minutes before the fists started flying.

It had already been one of the worst days of his life. His right foot had landed in a puddle as he stepped off his front porch that morning, and one of his sneakers, a brand-new white Nike Air Jordan Retro, was now stained a funky shade of gray. His mom had taken his iPod during their drive to his new school, with the excuse that she didn’t want him to listen to it in class and have one of his teachers confiscate it. His argument that it was ridiculous to confiscate something in order to keep it from getting confiscated had no effect on her. Few of his arguments did. She had simply muttered to herself in Spanish and continued driving, ignoring him.

Things only got worse when they reached the school. Since Amelia Torrez was such an education nut, she made sure that they arrived in the principal’s office a full half hour early. The woman at the reception desk, surprised to see any student before he had to be there, told them to have a seat on a wooden bench in the hallway and wait for the principal to arrive. Ignacio, with thirty minutes to kill and no iPod to distract him, folded his arms in frustration and watched as his future classmates began to trickle in through the double glass doors directly in front of him. It took only a few minutes for him to see that the kids here were tragically different from the ones he knew in L.A. Los Angeles was a virtual cornucopia of fashion, but teenagers at Middleburg High seemed to dress in only two styles. They wore either preppy threads that looked like they were straight out of a J.Crew catalogue, or they were decked from head to toe in goth gear—black T-shirts and skinny jeans, black high-tops that
looked like Converse knockoffs, and studded black leather bracelets.

There wasn’t a hint of hip-hop in the place, which meant that Ignacio, in his brand-new L.A. Dodgers cap, matching jersey, baggy jeans, and white sneakers (well, one white and one gray) would stand out even more. Not only was he the new kid in a really small school, but he was sure he was the only Mexican kid in the whole town.

All the while, his mother peppered him with exhortations: “Sit up
straight, mijo. Quit slouching.”

“I’m not slouching, Mom.”

“You got your planner, right?”

“I got it.”

“Make sure you turn things in on time here. You stay organized, ’Nacio. I don’t want to hear none of this ‘I lost my homework’ crap. You listening to me?”

“Sure, Mom. I’m listening.” He sighed, wishing he could tune her out. But his mother had the grating voice of a chain-smoker, and tuning her out, unfortunately, was impossible. If he didn’t give the proper responses, she would just become more relentless in her directives.

“And take off the hat. You don’t know if they allow that in this school. You look like some kinda thug! You don’t want any gang bullsh—I mean, nonsense to follow you here, do you?”

“I know, I know. I’m cool.” He didn’t remove his hat.

“Cool—really? See, that’s what I mean, mijo—you got more important things to think about besides being cool. Why do you think your father and I moved you out of South Central? To get you away from those gangs—those homeys in the hood—that’s why.” Even though he had never been in a gang, he remained silent for that one. “Come on, what’s wrong with you?” she persisted. “Aren’t you excited? This is a fresh start for you. For all of us, you know? And please—take off the hat.” On and on she went.

Just when his mother’s monologue and the stares of passing students were really starting to unnerve Ignacio, the secretary came out into the hallway and invited him and Amelia back into the office. What followed was even worse than what had come before. Amelia spent forty-five minutes explaining to the principal the reasons for their move, all the way from California. She talked for so long that even the principal, a short, thin, balding man with a perma-grin on his face, looked like he was about to nod off. When Mrs. Torrez finally took a breath, Mr. Innis leaped at the opportunity (literally) to steer Ignacio into a cubicle in one corner of the office, give him a sharpened number-two pencil, and tell him to fill out a quick placement test.

It took him two and a half hours.
The sky over the airport was dark, freighted with a fleet of fast-moving black clouds. Sheets of rain battered the blacktop, pelting the windshields of the cars and vans and SUVs that lined up at the curb, all filled with husbands and mothers and boyfriends eager to pick up their arriving loved ones. But there was no one there to pick up Aimee Banfield.

She stood alone on the sidewalk, listening to the deep rumbles of distant thunder, surrounded by a matching set of pink luggage with a pattern of white flowers on it. A year ago, when she had dragged those bags into the departures terminal, she had thought they were adorable. Now, their air of innocence embarrassed her. It was just one of many changes that had taken place within her since last September. She was an inch or so taller, and much thinner—almost too thin, she knew. Her naturally blonde hair, which had nearly reached her waist, was now cut so short the ponytail barely reached her shoulders—and she had dyed it dark. The sundress and white cardigan she had worn a year ago were now replaced with a dark blue T-shirt, jeans, and a pair of sneakers. Even her eyes were different. Every glance in the mirror confirmed it. They had somehow gone from the bright azure of a Caribbean cove to the dark blue of a deep, turbulent sea.

The only thing that remained unchanged was the locket around her neck, the locket her mother had given her two years before she went away.

Her dad seemed to be just the same, too. He was already half an hour late.

Just as she glanced down at her cell phone to punch in his number, a car raced up to the curb, going far too fast, and then screeched to a stop in front of her. It was a black Mercedes, its body long, lean, and sleek, its windows tinted an almost impossibly dark shade of black, its gleaming paint immaculate. Aimee had never seen it before, but she automatically grabbed the handles of two of her bags and began dragging them toward the car’s trunk. She was accustomed to being picked up by long, black, expensive cars—and sometimes her father was driving, instead of a polite but impersonal chauffeur. As she approached the Mercedes, the trunk slowly opened, as if Aimee possessed some kind of trunk-opening magic.

She had thought she had magic in her once, before last September came and went. Now, she knew the truth.

The largest of her suitcases thudded off the curb, and she hoisted it up, both hands on the handle, straining every muscle in her petite, fifteen- year-old body to lift it up and into the waiting trunk.

At that moment Jack Banfield emerged from the car. Even Aimee knew her father was a handsome man, with his perfectly styled salt-andpepper hair, broad shoulders, and a chest that looked muscular under his cashmere sweater. His chiseled jaw and cunning gray eyes looked more like they belonged on the cover of Soap Opera Digest than at the arrivals terminal of a third-rate regional airport. He stood next to the car, shouting into a Bluetooth headset—something about foreign currency exchange rates—while Aimee got all her luggage loaded into the trunk.

Yep. At least Dad never changes, Aimee thought as she closed the trunk and made her way up to the passenger seat.

“Watch it,” Jack said.

Aimee opened the passenger door.

“I’m talking to you, young lady.”

Aimee looked up at her father. He was frowning at her now over the roof of the car.

“Sorry, I thought you were still on your phone thingy,” she said.

“Never slam the trunk,” he said irritably. “There’s a button. It closes automatically, all right?” He got into the car and shut the door.

“Sorry,” she said as she got in the passenger side, and then muttered, “I missed you, too.”

He didn’t seem to hear her, but she wouldn’t have cared much if he had.

The drive to Middleburg took an hour and a half along a winding two-lane highway. All the while, Aimee sat with her head turned to the right as far as her neck would allow, the side of her face pressed against the perfectly supple leather seat, while her father shouted into his Bluetooth about some big property deal. With one finger, she traced the streaks of rain as they quivered and streamed across the glass. Outside, old halffallen barns listed wearily. The yellowing husks of dried corn stalks sat row upon row in their fields, soaked by rain and shivered by wind. As they neared Middleburg, the scenery changed, and the flat farmland and wide-open prairie disappeared. Forests passed by her window now, the leaves of their towering, prehistoric trees shot through with red and yellow,
brown and orange. She came out of her reverie when they passed an old, deserted factory that had once been Middleburg Steel. Pieces of abandoned equipment littered the grounds, and most of the windows in the main structure and the outbuildings were still boarded up. At this familiar sight that told her they were close to home, Aimee finally turned her head forward and looked out the windshield.

By the time they turned into Middleburg, the rain was falling only intermittently. Sunlight seeped through a halo of black, rolling storm clouds, making the raindrops on the windshield glisten. As they passed through the Flats, a nasty part of town she usually ignored, Aimee checked for text messages on her phone. One from her now ex–study partner back in Montana, and one from her dad, telling her he’d be at the airport to meet her flight. Nothing from the one person in the world she most
wanted to hear from.

But no one had heard from her mother in the last six months, and Aimee was beginning to think they never would.

When they passed the Middleburg United Church, which was the only church within city limits, a little quiver of dread tickled slowly up Aimee’s spine, as it always did whenever she saw the church’s ancient sandstone face. According to a plaque near the entrance, French settlers built the edifice shortly before the Louisiana Purchase, and it was the oldest structure in the state. It was so old, the plaque said, that there was no record of when it had actually been built. Most local historians dated it to around 1800, but some claimed it was even older than that. The building, the cemetery, even the huge trees that dominated the churchyard all looked exactly as they had the day Aimee left. They were entering the commercial section of Middleburg now, where moisture from the storm had turned the brick storefronts the dark red of dried blood. This was the downtown of Aimee’s childhood—the hardware store with the same green wheelbarrows out front; the ice cream shop with its sign in the shape of a huge ice cream cone; the barbershop with its candy-cane striped pole; and the Dug-Out Diner, where kids sometimes went for after-school french fries. On opposite ends of Main Street there were a couple of dress shops (one strictly couture and one strictly goth), and between them were a hair salon, a shoe store, an Italian restaurant, and a gas station. There was also the old feed and grain store, long abandoned now, which for the last three years had been rumored to be the future
home of Middleburg’s very own Home Depot, but that hadn’t happened yet. And that was pretty much it.

She had been gone for a year, she realized with a sinking heart, andnothing here had changed. Absolutely nothing.

“I gotta get back to work,” Jack said, cupping one hand over his headset. “I’ll drop at school. Just go to the office, and they’ll get you reenrolled.”

“I thought maybe I’d start tomorrow or something,” she said hopefully. “Can’t I at least go home and change first?”

“Look, just tell them we’ll own every property in the Flats by spring. A few impoverished tenants are no match for our legal guns,” Jack said into his headset, and then cupped his hand over it again.

“Aimee,” he said, his voice low and threatening. “I want you to listen to me. You mess up once—and I mean once—and you’ll be back in Montana so fast your pretty little head will spin. You understand me?”

Aimee nodded.

“You understand?” Jack repeated, louder this time.

“Yes,” Aimee whispered. “I understand perfectly.”

“Good. I’ve got a lot going on right now, and I don’t have time to— yeah, I’m still here.” Again Jack’s attention was riveted to his headset.

Aimee ran a hand through her hair, pushing the bangs out of her eyes, and used every face muscle she had to keep the tears that were forming from running down her cheeks.

She had imagined her homecoming would be completely different: her dad smiling and embracing her, her brother, Rick, with her best friend, Maggie (who was also his girlfriend), and all her other friends there, waiting at the terminal. She had even allowed herself to imagine a WELCOME HOME banner, presents, a party, and a cake. Now, as disappointment sat heavy as lead in her stomach, she knew how foolish that had been. Nothing was going to be better. Nothing would be different. The only thing that had changed was her.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Review: WHAT ALICE FORGOT by Liane Moriarty

When you’re trying to be your best, look your best, and act as a perfect mom and wife, the results may be something you’d like to erase from your life.

Alice Love used ten years of her life to construct such a personality.  Hating to exercise didn’t stop her from a personal trainer, jogging, and attendance at a spinning class until she spun herself off her seat, resulting in a concussion. 

It sent her memory back ten years.

In the hospital she wondered why her husband didn’t visit.  Where are the flowers?  No phone call?  She remembered herself as a well-tempered, loving wife.  She didn’t remember the divorce proceedings or the three children.

Moriarty constructs the life of a woman who needs to find her former self, away from the busy, bitchy, and hard-edged personality tens years had formed.  Unknown to Alice, her former self is the one that Nick, her husband, had fallen in love with.

Nick learns of Alice’s condition, but her memory loss isn’t his concern.  That is until the woman he once loved emerges from beneath the layers of self-indulgence.  As if walking on egg-shells, he wavers back-and-forth about giving her another chance.

A fantastic characterization of a couple who have a chance to repair a decade of a badly constructed marriage.  The only thing is, can Alice regain her memory and retain the more desirable personality?  Will Nick give her the chance to be a couple again?

What Alice Forgot is a thought provoking novel which illustrates the simplicity of true love.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

My Island Life: Interesting Laws

My adventures living on a Caribbean island. Welcome to my monthly, or not so monthly adventures. We try not to commit too soon here on island :-)

Impression #5
Having only lived on St. Croix for two years now, I can't say that I am an expert on laws here; however, there have been 3 that I find, hmmm . . . interesting :-)

The first is rather odd, and my husband and I found out about it the hard way. We knew upon landing on island that we had to register our truck and the box trailer we shipped that had our belongings in it. We decided to forgo the "container" shipment method because the price was outrageous to ship from Arizona to St. Croix. Besides, having our box trailer with us makes for nice extra storage. 

Upon arrival, we went straight to the Motor Vehicle department and registered both  the truck and trailer. Then a year later my husband went back to register both again. Much to our surprise, we had an $80 penalty fee for having an unregistered trailer! How could this be? As it turns out, all trailers are registered only in November. So when we registered our trailer in August, we were supposed to come back in November and register it again. Who knew? We certainly didn't, but we do now!

Another law here on the island that I find interesting is about drinking and driving. Or rather I should say the absence of a law, specifically the Open Container Law. Yes, it is acceptable to have an open container with an alcoholic beverage in the car while driving. It is not, however, acceptable to be drunk and drive.  That law is firmly on the books.  What makes the absence of the Open Container law so nice, is that I can drive my husband and he can have his beer, and we don't have to be worried about breaking a law. It makes the Designated Driver role that much more important and since I am always Designated Driver, I like it :-)

The third law confuses me. When we arrived in August of 2010, smoking was allowed everywhere.  Since my husband smokes, this was actually nice because when we went out to dinner, he wouldn't have to leave me sitting alone at a table while he went outside to have a cigarette. Well, that has changed. The law against smoking in public places is firmly in place now.  I certainly understand why because as a nonsmoker, I don't want to breathe cigarette smoke either. Luckily, I have a very polite smoker in my husband :-)

What confuses me about this law is that there are hundreds of open air restaurants in the Virgin Islands. In their case, this just doesn't make any sense.  It is rather comical because for beach bars, there is literally a line drawn in the sand as to what is "outside." I understand there is some special fee an owner of one of these restaurants can pay to allow smoking, but that seems pretty silly to me. Then again, this is half of the fun of living in a new place, learning all the idiosyncrasies of it.

Lesson #5
Register the trailer in November, drive husband when he has a beer, and eat at open air restaurants. I can live with that :-)

True dat!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What about Mysteries?

I love historical romances. Let me rephrase that….I love romances. Period. But I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you that I also love mysteries, those classic who-done-its that have been the staple of many a reader. For a while there, I couldn’t get enough. (Thankfully, the public library was within walking distance of my house so I spent a lot of time there, finding fabulous authors and picking up everything the shelves had to offer).
Bill Pronzini is wonderful. He has a series called “The Nameless Detective.” I’ve read about thirty-three of his books and never, not once, has he ever revealed the name of his character (it’s all told in first person). I love that, but it also frustrates me…..can’t tell you how many times I’ve shouted out “What is your NAME?” Alas, Mr. Pronzini has never said.
Marcia Muller is also wonderful as is Carolyn Hart and Nancy Pickard. Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski? Love her too. And of course, I couldn’t write this without mentioning Sue Grafton. Absolutely adore her Alphabet series and her character Kinsey Milhone. And, be still my heart, Agatha Christie, the grand dame of the Who Done It.
There’s something so satisfying about the hero or heroine catching the bad guy, isn’t there? And don’t you just love that? I know I do.
So, any of you out there love mysteries as much as I do? Who are your favorite authors? Or will you keep that information to yourself and let it remain….a mystery?

As always, happy reading