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#Giveaways #BlogHop¸#Authors Hosted by Teaser Addicts Book Blog
Hi and welcome to Author CL Gaber’s (author of Ascenders) Before The Holidays Giveaway Hop
We have 20 stops giving you a great chance to win AMAZING PRIZES from some Amazing #Authors and #Bloggers.
Each stop is a NEW chance to WIN something great.
I wanted to show you a couple of my book trailers and offer you a chance to win a prize!
I am giving away an e-copy of Her Undercover Christmas to two people who tell me about their favourite Christmas tradition in the comments. 🙂
Every stop is different and have different instructions to follow, BE SURE TO READ CAREFULLY SO THAT YOU ARE ENTERED CORRECTLY TO WIN.
Liking my Facebook page isn’t something I’m asking you to do – but if you would like to visit and connect, the link is http://www.facebook.com/ginawriteswords and I am also on goodreads and over making friends there: http://www.goodreads.com/ginawriteswords.
The next stop on the hop for you visit is Ashleyz Wonderland
To stop by and enter their prize, jump to the next stop here: http://www.ashleyzwonderland.wordpress.com
Complete list of hop participants so you can get an idea of the goodies yet to come, or skip back if you’ve missed anyone:
CL Gaber:* https://www.facebook.com/authorclgaber
Teaser Addicts Book Blog:* https://www.facebook.com/BookTeasersBlog
Norah Bennett:* https://www.facebook.com/norahbennettbooks/?pnref=lhc
Sarah Greyson:* https://www.facebook.com/SarahGreysonAuthor/?fref=ts
Shelique Lize:* http://www.sheliquelize.com/before-the-holiday-giveaway-hop/
Annalise Nixon:* www.annalisenixon.com
Gina Wynn:* http://www.ginawriteswords.com
Ashleyz Wonderland:* http://www.ashleyzwonderland.wordpress.com
Kandice Michelle Young:* www.facebook.com/kandicemichelleyoung
Dahlia Donovan (Int):* https://www.facebook.com/dahliadonovan/
Rose Silverstone:* https://www.facebook.com/rosesilverstoneauthor/posts/394652810865726
Cam Johns(US):* https://camjohns.com/
Alyson Reynolds:* Www.facebook.com/authoralysonreynolds
Lilly Rayman (Author):* https://www.facebook.com/LillyRayman0007
CM McCoy (The Eerie Blog):* http://www.cmmccoy.com/blog/before-the-holidays-giveaway-hop/ (INT)
Author – J. P. Uvalle:* https://www.facebook.com/J.P.Uvalle/
Barbara’s Book Reviews:* Http://barbarasbookreviews.blogspot.com
Susana Ellis http://wp.me/p2z8mL-1Si
A.C. Nixon www.acnixon.net
From the author of I Dared the Duke comes MY BROWN-EYED EARL (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; ISBN 978-1-250-10090-0; October 4, 2016) a delightful new regency series about a young woman who discovers that sometimes love has an odd way of finding you.
Miss Margaret Lacey is brainy and beautiful, but she’s also penniless, and at the ripe old age of twenty-three society has declared her a spinster. For her part, Meg is less concerned with her empty dance card than with her empty bank account. She resolves to make her own way as a governess but discovers her new employer is the Earl of Castleton—the vexingly handsome man she rejected one fateful day, eight years ago.
William Ryder has never forgotten Meg, the elusive girl next door who claimed she’d rather shave her head than marry him. Now she’s the governess, but Will plans to teach her a few lessons of his own. As stolen kisses lead to passionate nights, Will and Meg just might find true love where they least expect it…
Will leaned forward on his elbows and pinched the bridge of his nose. Somehow, in the space of a week, his highly ordered, luxurious life had fallen apart.
First, Marina, the beautiful widow he’d been seeing, hinted that she wanted more than the mutually pleasurable arrangement they’d agreed to, forcing Will to break things off with her.
Next, his recently deceased cousin’s mistress showed up on Will’s doorstep with the twin girls, threatening to leave them at an orphanage unless he took them in.
And then last night, he attended a dinner party in honor of his mother’s birthday. In front of a dozen guests, she announced her sole wish: that her son marry before she turned fifty—in exactly one year. After choking on his wine, Will promised to give the matter some thought.
Then he had gone directly to his club and drunk him- self into oblivion.
Jesus. He stood, ran his hands through his hair, and checked his reflection in a mirror between a pair of book- cases. Gibson was right—he looked like hell.
Bad enough to scare off a potential governess.
He swiped the cravat off his chair, slung it around his neck, hastily tied it in some semblance of a knot, and but- toned his jacket. There was nothing to be done about the stubble on his chin or the faint imprint the desk blotter had left on his cheek, so he threw back the rest of his coffee and congratulated himself. Within the hour he’d have a governess to manage the twins, and at least one aspect of his life would be set to rights.
Gibson was already shuffling down the corridor. “My lord,” he intoned from the doorway, “may I present Miss Lacey.”
Will blinked. Lacey . . . it was a common name. Surely the potential governess couldn’t be—
She glided into the study and cast a wary look his way.
“Good afternoon, Lord Castleton. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
Dear God. It was her. The vicar’s daughter who thought she was too damned good for him. Standing in his study, cloaked in a drab dress that might have been lilac once but now more closely resembled gray. No ribbons adorned her brown hair. No ringlets framed her face. In fact, the only decoration she wore was the light smattering of freckles across her nose.
The butler raised his bushy brows. “I was not aware that you were already acquainted.”
“Thank you, Gibson. That will be all.”
The butler left reluctantly, closing the door behind him. Miss Lacey pressed her lips together as though she longed to say something and silence herself at the same time. From what he recalled of her tongue, it was best kept under lock and key.
“What on earth are you doing here?” Will demanded.
“Applying for the governess position. I assumed you knew.”
“No,” he said curtly.
“I see.” She glanced over her shoulder at the door. “Per- haps it would be better if I—”
“Be seated, Miss Lacey.” He inclined his head toward the armchair in front of his desk.
She hesitated, and for a moment he thought she’d refuse. But then she walked toward the chair, looked at the seat, and froze. Just as stubborn as he remembered, unbiddable as ever.
He bristled. “Perhaps you’d prefer to remain standing for the entire interview?”
“No. It’s only . . .”
“You object to meeting in my study?”
She narrowed eyes that were not quite green, but not quite brown either. “No, but I hoped to avoid sitting on this.” In one, fluid motion she leaned over the chair, picked up a pink, lace-edged scrap of satin between her thumb and index finger, and dangled it in front of his face.
Lord Castleton snatched the frilly handkerchief from Meg’s hand. He started to stuff it in his pocket, apparently thought better of it, and shoved it into a desk drawer. “Let me assure you, Miss Lacey. Nothing untoward has occurred here in my study.”
Perhaps not. But something untoward had definitely occurred somewhere.
Meg sat in the chair in front of his desk, glad she no longer had to rely on her shaking legs for support. “I’m certain that’s none of my concern.”
“I’m glad we agree.”
She was curious, though. If her parents had had their way, the man who was now sitting across from her and cursing under his breath would have been her husband. Difficult as it was to fathom, she would have been his countess, probably blessed with a couple of children at this point.
The sight of him now, sporting rumpled clothes, a scowling face, and a foul mood, made her think she had dodged a rather nasty bullet.
CREDIT: From MY BROWN-EYED EARL by Anna Bennett. Copyright © 2016 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.
About the Author
Anna Bennett started swiping romances from her mom’s bookshelf as a teenager and decided that books with balls, dukes, and gowns were the best. So, when she had the chance to spend a semester in London she packed her bags—and promptly fell in love with the city, its history, and its pubs. She dreamed of writing romance, but somehow ended up a software analyst instead.
Fortunately, a few years and a few careers later, Anna found her way back to writing the stories she loves and won the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart®. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three children, who try valiantly not to roll their eyes whenever she quotes Jane Austen. Other weaknesses include reality TV, cute shoes, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
I know, I know… I missed Thursday. I have no idea where my head is after the summer break. Bear with me—normal service is not likely to be resumed for a while. 😀
Anyway, as my throwback moment, how about this first revision of page 1 of Her Dollmaker’s Desire (or ‘The Last Dance with the Doll Maker’ as it will have been then). I think a lot of these initial changes got revised right back out. 😀 Enjoy the bonus peep at my sock. 🙂
Hot Alpha with a heart of gold? Check
Cute Puppies and Kittens? Check
Non-annoying Heroine? Check (Hopefully)
FREE on #kindleunlimited? Check
Super sexy, sweet standalone? Check
Available now to read? YUP!
Can’t Touch This by Pepper Winters writing as Tess Hunter is LIVE!
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2chTp3q
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2czIDEU
From New York Times Bestseller Pepper Winters writing as Tess Hunter, comes a sarcastic, sexy standalone full of men with big ‘you know whats’, puppies, pigmy pigs, and swoon-worthy moments.
I don’t want to touch it.
I really, really don’t.
He’s egotistical, crass, and my patient’s owner–which makes him totally off limits.
Yep, that’s right. He owns the wiener I’m currently working on.
A wiener dog–get your dirty mind out of the gutter.
I’ve also worked on his Spoodle, his Cocker-shitzu, and a Cheagle–don’t ask. (And no, it’s not a sexual position).
It doesn’t help that he also represents most of my joint-owned veterinary practice’s small clientele. We’d only just opened the doors a few months ago, and in he strode with a yelping Taco Terrier. One haughty look at our sparkling new facilities, he’d demanded royal treatment, even though I was currently finger deep up a squalling tom cat.
Ever since then, he expects me to serve him.
Any time. All the time.
Him and his revolving zoo of dogs.
One of these days, I’m going to swat him for being such a pompous ass but I can’t deny the way he handles his charges makes me want to see past the ‘do as I say and don’t ask questions’ barking exterior.
But then last week…he caught me staring at his um, cough, package.
His bossy commands switched to a cocky smirk.
He gave me permission to do something I promised myself I would never ever do.
I can touch it.
If I want…
“Earth to vet Fairfax.” Ryder waved his hand in front of my face.
I jumped, hugging the dog tighter. “What? What happened?”
He bit his lip, doing his best not to smile. “You space-cadeted on me again.” He chuckled. “You were looking at my mouth. You weren’t thinking of doing bad things to me again, were you? Because if you were…I can totally help with that.”
It would be so easy to nod and let whatever magic between us ignite. But we were at my work. I was supposed to be a mature, composed female.
Be that female!
My cheeks heated as I dropped my gaze to the Chinese Crested in my arms. “I wasn’t thinking bad things. Not in a bajillion years.”
“Bajillion, huh?” He raised an eyebrow. “Never heard of that amount of time.” He came closer, bringing sex and sparks and seduction. “Can I perhaps trade your bajillion and put my own time stamp on it?”
I froze as his hand cupped my cheek.
My face leaned into him.
“I suppose…” I breathed as his chest strained beneath his grey t-shirt. He was the one seducing me, yet he was just as affected. “What did you have in mind?”
His eyes lingered on my lips. “Do something for me and I’ll kiss you right here, right now.”
My mental capacity crashed.
His eyes burned hot into mine. “It’s a huge, huge favour.”
The way he said huge made me think he’d swapped the word favour for cock.
I burned up as his thumb grazed my cheekbone.
He murmured, “If you did it, I’d do whatever you want.”
What, you’d chase me? Pretend to be a policeman and handcuff me? Reach inside my head and be prepared to play with me?
My tummy clenched. “What are you proposing I do?” I held the squirming dog as she tried to wriggle into my scrubs, looking for warmth. Not that I could blame her—it was fairly chilly in here with the air conditioning.
“You’d do it?” His eyes turned luminous. “For me?”
Way to go, Ves. Don’t sound desperate or anything.
He smiled. “You’re such a kind, sweet…” His head tilted, bringing his mouth close to mine. His scent of outdoors and timber shot up my nose as he brought me forward, our lips only inches apart. “…amazing woman. I’m so fucking hard for you right now, Vesper.”
Dangnamit, everything inside me tightened, melted, swapped ownership and put its hands in the air to flay like idiots over how much I liked this guy.
How much I wanted this guy.
“Tell me what you want me to do, Ryder.” I licked my lips, almost hyperventilating with how much I needed him to kiss me.
“Christ, I love it when you say my name.” His thumb ran over my bottom lip, pulling it down as he pressed the lightest kiss there. “Vesper, I wouldn’t just ask this of any other woman. I’m asking you because you’re so damn incredible.”
Ask me what?
You want me naked and on all fours?
Got it, give me three seconds.
You want me to dress up in a nurse’s uniform and look after you instead of the dogs you bring in?
Hell yes, get on my table and drop ‘em.
I swallowed again. “Spit it out. I need to know.”
My heart needed to know before it galloped from my chest and left me a corpse.
“Okay, here it goes. Can you, Vesper Fairfax…knit?”
I blinked, wrenching my face from his hold. “What did you just say?”
He bit his lip, shaking with mirth. “I asked how skilful you are with two needles and some wool.”
“Why? Do you have some crazy fetish you’re trying to admit to?”
“I have fetishes, but needles aren’t included.” He couldn’t hold back his laughter anymore. “Man, you should see your face.”
You should see what you did to my knickers, you jerk.
About the Author
Tess Hunter is the superhero pen name of a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today Bestseller who gave up swallowing her one-liners and decided to write them instead. Her libido scares even her and having an outlet to be snarky, stupid, and sexy while cloaked by incognito is the perfect recipe for naughtiness online and in-between the romance pages.
We are all really excited about Decadent Publishing’s #ChristmasInJuly celebrations! The holiday themed books are priced at 0.99 from July 15th – July 18th 2016, and there is a planned Facebook party over two evenings (Saturday 6:00 – 11:00 pm EDT and Sunday 4:00 – 9:00 EDT) at the Decadent Publishing Facebook Event page, as well as a rafflecopter with a Kindle loaded with all of the books in the promotion as the grand prize! Enter the rafflecopter now using the link below, then continue reading below to find out more about my Decadent Publishing #Christmas in July story, Her Undercover Christmas and the buy links you need to grab the 0.99 deal. 😀
Christmas is approaching and Phil is a girl out to get what she wants—the life of her choosing. She wants it all: a good looking man, his money, and the respect he commands. She just needs to throw her lot in with her criminal cousins for one day. Long enough to pull off a theft and come to the attention of the man she desires. But the job goes wrong.
Bastian is a man on the run—from a lifestyle he never chose and can’t seem to escape. One last favour before he disappears for good, and then he can start afresh somewhere new. But the favour balloons into more than he anticipated, and suddenly there are two of them on the run, and two of them snowed in and hiding out in his one last safe place.
Can a woman who thinks she knows where she belongs help a man who has never really belonged anywhere?
He shrugged her off his shoulder and stood her close to his body, hand clamped firmly across her mouth.
“What are you doing?” She’d get them both discovered, and the boys after him left Joe looking like a pre-schooler who’d missed naptime.
She shook her head and he loosened his grip as her teeth grazed his skin. “My mother told me stories about you.”
“Well, well. I didn’t know I was quite so widely known to have become part of London lore. That must put me in the same league as legends like the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. I’m honoured.” He kept his arm wrapped around her waist.
“More like Wee Willie Winkie or that thing lurking under the bed.” She bent her leg and stamped on his toe.
“Try harder,” he whispered into her ear. “Not only do I have boots with superior grip, they have steel toe caps. And, if you recall, you have bare feet.”
She wriggled, grinding her body against his. He looked into her eyes, focusing on the confusion he found there.
“If you do that again, I’ll kiss you.”
She stopped, and he would have plucked his words from the air to shove back down his throat…but the thought of her lips teased him, still. He let his hands fall away from her as sudden need pulsed through him.
“You’re free to go. Tell your mother you met her bogeyman, her personal Pitch Black, whatever. You won’t see me again. And I won’t hurt you.” He turned to go. “Or kiss you, so don’t worry.” His last words were a regrettable afterthought.
“I…I can’t. I don’t know how to get home. My cousins brought me.”
He held his sigh in his chest and faced her. “There’s a bus stop over there, and busses stop at it all day long.”
She cast a glare in his direction that almost had a look of Rosa, and huffed out a determined breath. “Well, good. I didn’t want you to carry me about, anyway, like some abducting, murdering, debauching Neanderthal. Yet, now you expect me to conjure a bus to get home, in a strange place, when it looks like we’re expecting snow. Some gentleman you are.”
“I never claimed to be that, JB.”
She closed her eyes and let out a low groan. “Stop calling me that stupid name. Phil. I’m Phil.”
He swallowed hard and took a small step away before recovering himself. Bollocks, and shit and bollocks again. Of course, Rosa didn’t have son. She had a daughter…with eyes so full of fear as they peered out from her darkened bedroom, until Rosa noticed her watching the adults talk and sent her back to bed, that the memory haunted him when he slept. He’d always lurked in the shadows of Rosa’s life, unwilling for anyone but Rosa to see him, especially anyone so scared. But…he juggled his thoughts. Time had moved on. He’d grown older…so had Rosa’s daughter. Twelve years had passed. She wasn’t eleven anymore, that much he could tell from her bad attitude, with no need for some of the more appealing visual cues. His gaze took her in once more, lingering a little longer than necessary on her curves. Rosa’s “beautiful” comment made a little more sense with the new information. He clenched his hands into fists, counting off the reasons not to embroil himself in the situation furthertoo young, Rosa’s daughter, and he’d think of a third.
He reached for her again, drawing her back into his arms and cradling her against his chest. “Well then, that changes everything. I thought you’d stood me up.”
To go with my whine.
If you hate self pity, please read the previous post instead. 😀
Well, maybe. It’s whining, it’s wallowing, it’s utter self absorption.
Yesterday, I blogged with great news. That great news still stands. The fact I love my books and love writing, still stands. I get ideas all day every day. So many ideas, so little time.
And that, maybe, is my biggest issue. Time. A couple of occasions over the past 3 months, I have spoken to my CP—my cheerleader and my best friend— and said that I think now might just be the time to stop writing because it’s that thing I want to do, but it just keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile.
I also have an issue with guilt. Guilt that prevents me from doing what I want when there are things that need doing. For the past 12 weeks or so, my husband has worked away (barring the weekends, when he came home long enough to make a mess and get his clothes washed :-D) so my children have needed looking after and my house has needed to be kept from falling down around our ears, or being closed by environmental health. My second guilty thing is that my little youngest, my last baby who grows older and slightly further away with each day… sometimes each moment, starts school during the mornings in September and I’ve been trying to grab as many opportunities to be with her as I can—so he overriding memories of me are not of me sitting at a computer while she swipes at a screen or loads a DVD.
But I miss it.
I have the ideas. I have the list of stuff in the order I plan to write to write it. But, every time I scavenge even a minute that I might be able to use from my day… either something more important attracts my attention, or I literally waste the minute away doing crap all because I can’t stand to put my want above actual needs. This is cyclical, right? Lack of time and too many responsibilities leads to too much guilt and frittering away time on responsibilities and crap leads to increased guilt and less time because I just frittered some away, etc.
Worse, I have reviews of books to write, blogs to post (because I’m at the point of letting people down, now), feedback to pass along… and I know, I absolutely KNOW I’m just behaving all ‘poor me’ and just need to get hold of myself.
So I’m mostly just whining because I’m frustrated – mainly with myself, I think. I need to kick myself up the butt and put myself in gear, or something. But I’m also filled with questions. It’s been so long since I finished something – can I still do it? Will anyone want to read it? How do I market what I already have? How do I learn? I used to cit and edit for others… but what if my opinions actually have no merit? How do I balance crib/beta reading with my own writing (and my rest of life… and my attraction to frittering time away)? What in God’s name am I doing? Is it easier to just quit the writing for now? Should I learn how to plan? How will I find the time to do that?
So many questions.
Yet… I have works in progress. I have one work in progress, a sort of contest/submissions call due in August. It’s so off-the-wall and bizarre that it wouldn’t really be suitable for anywhere else, so I need to get it finished and submit it so it isn’t a waste of the time I’ve already spent on it. (If it doesn’t make the finals, at least I’ll have a full doc I can hopefully tweak to something more mainstream than it is now. Either way, for submission or changes, it needs finishing.)
I have a third (possibly fourth and fifth) story to write for the sort-of-series I have stated with Her Undercover Christmas. There are characters from the first two books I want to revisit and bring happiness to. I plan to make them stand alone, but of the same ‘world’.
I have mini stories to write in my What You Wish For world, I have a Christmas story, a smalltown story, another more WF-leaning story… I have many. I have so many I can barely stand myself because why aren’t I just knuckling down to write them? Everything sparks ideas these days. I went to flush the toilet after one my children yesterday (I know, TMI) and I saw bubbles coming from the direction of the U-bend just as I’d started closing the lid. I suddenly thought “What if there’s something down there?” That’s not normal, right? Most people would just press the flush and move on. I’ll be talking to myself soon.
So the ideas are there, but what if I just can’t? I have no idea what to do. At this point, I. Am. Struggling. :-/
Two pieces of great news – both courtesy of Decadent Publishing. 🙂
Firstly, Her Dollmaker’s Desire is available in print! It has been for a little while – it’s just taken me far too long to actually write about it in a blog. It’s available on Amazon, and looks absolutely gorgeous! (I actually framed my copy – books as art, right? :-))
Being able to hold a book I’ve written in my hands, or even look at on my wall, will never get old. Even better, my six year old looked at it and asked me why my name is on this book, so I was able to tell her I wrote it. She’s just getting the hang of reading, so she was suitably impressed. The eight year old is over the whole fact I’ve written books, now. 😀
Also in my news is that Decadent Publishing has contracted What You Wish For to be republished and it is currently with one of their editors. This is great, great news for me, although I almost want to take a hatchet to it in order to improve it. It’s really a great opportunity to be working on it again, as I think a first book will always be special and what could be better than the chance to iron out those little scenes that still cause a niggle? So, What You Wish For will be back. It will look different and have been through another complete set of edits. I’m really excited to be bringing it back.
I’m currently holding a giveaway on Goodreads for Her Dollmaker’s Desire. This is also very exciting as it’s the first time I’ve done one. I hope I’ll also be in a position to do one for the second in the series (but stand alone), Her Undercover Christmas, soon, too. <- this book isn’t just for Christmas. 🙂
Enter the Goodreads giveaway for your own signed print copy of Her Dollmaker’s Desire:
Writers have all heard the recent stories – small, and seemingly not-so small, presses and indie publishers closing their doors. Most seem to close in the face of the ever-growing marketplace where money is harder to find and share between everyone, where press and publisher overheads will always be more than self-published authors because they have to split the royalty the platform pays out even further and pay key people within the company, not least the publisher themselves.
But this blog post isn’t to bemoan the state of the ever decreasing industry, or the increasingly limited options for authors who don’t want to self publish, it’s to say goodbye. Gone is the first ever edition of What You Wish for, published through Three Worlds Press.
I knew it was coming. The publisher let everyone know very kindly, so it wasn’t unexpected, but it being gone is worse than I anticipated. In fact, no. I can cope with it being gone. Worse is the ‘currently unavailable’ status that it has achieved on Amazon – like some ghost ship doomed to sail the waters of failed publishing forever.
And I didn’t expect to feel shame, either. Yet I feel ashamed that my book is gone because every single person who doubted me when I said I was going to write and get my book published is now technically ‘right’. This time last year, I had no books published. By Christmas 2015, I had three. Now, I have two remaining. I know these aren’t bad odds, but it has put me off my stride a little.
It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest my house is the tidiest it has been all year while I have thrown my energy into not-writing. I’ve thought a lot about writing, and I’ve got at least 12 story beginnings (I know, I know. It’s an illness, I’m sure.) crying out to be finished. Or at the very least, given a decent middle.
It’s very self indulgent to lick my wounds after the orphaning of just one books, but I’ve been doing just that. 🙂 As I said in the brief face book post I put out, I’m sure What You Wish for will be back in one way or another and maybe in another dimension it never went away in the first place. In the meantime, I will be working on other things.
In celebration of What You Wish For, and in recognition of the fantastic cover artist, Magali Fréchette, here is the cover it was first published with. I now need to go away and decide what to do with the book. Magali has retained all rights to the cover, and it is with her kind permission that I am able to use it here. She’s great to work with, so definitely check her out if you need a cover, or any art work for your book.
Thank you for stopping by my blog today! Happy New Year to you – I hope 2016 is a great year. Thank you to Ashley Reader Granger for organising this blog hop.
I’d like to tell you a little it about one of my books, Her Dollmaker’s Desire. I wrote it in response to Decadent Publishing‘s submissions call for retellings of fairytales. The only catch? They got to assign a random fairy tale! I got the little known “Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine!” by Hans Christian Andersen and didn’t really look back. I’m not sue it’s entirely true to the original – Andersen’s 49 lines left me with a lot of scope, but I tried to tease out some of the same people and magic he captured in his tale.
I have one copy of Her Dollmaker’s Desire up for grabs (in the format of the winner’s preference). For your chance to win, please leave me a comment with your opinion on author newsletters. I’m kind of considering starting one, but have no idea if many people read them before they get deleted and what you like to read about or otherwise find in your newsletters. 🙂 Closes 9am GMT 18th January 2016.
Rule number 123: Once upon a time is for fairy tales, not for broken ex dancers who live at home with Daddy and a textbook evil stepmother, and who only manage to get through life by counting every single step.
Amy knows her rules inside out…who to spend time with, what to eat, what to drink and what to do – until danger shows up in a leather jacket on a shiny chrome motorbike. Suddenly, breaking the rules seems to be all she can manage no matter how hard she tries, and her rigid control starts to slip.
Peder’s violent past has shaped him into the man he is, much the way he has learned to shape dolls with the help of his grandfather. He used to have only one rule in his life, courtesy of his absent brother and their shared gang past. When Amy is sent to write an article on his grandfather and his history of doll making for a paper her father’s company owns, she captures Peder’s interest and his heart. After his brother makes an ill-timed return and issues an instruction that threatens his future with Amy, Peder becomes trapped in a fresh web of lies and family ties. He must decide if he should start breaking the rules he didn’t know he lived by to take a chance on a future with Amy while knowing he could still lose her if she finds out.
Is Amy brave enough to put her faith in Peder, and can he overcome his past and convince Amy to follow their destiny, rather than her rules?
Once upon a time, down the darkest of winding cobbled streets, sandwiched between a tarot reader’s grimy window and a closed, exclusive clothing boutique stood the plainest of doors. Made of faded and splitting dull-brown worn oak, only the gleaming brass handle suggested anyone ever used it at all.
Amy Nelson looked at the door and then at the address Mick, her editor, had shoved into her hand as she left the office. She shrugged in defiance of her churning emotions. Pride…fear…the name didn’t matter when they were equally as painful to swallow. Fleeing home from London with a vow never to return had been humiliating enough, but being sent back within a few years—even for just a day—at the paper’s expense, burned. Melodramatic vows were no use when they could be so easily overturned. Worse, she’d spent the best portion of the morning seeking out a remote backstreet where she stood equal chance of being accosted by a mugger…or by a rat.
Working as the entertainment correspondent on the small-enough-to-be-insignificant local newspaper her father’s company published sounded far more appealing before she arrived on the first day and started the job. She’d pictured herself taking occasional calls from above-themselves am-dram groups about their next big show or reviewing random sleep-inducing monologue performances, not turning into the most inept of newshounds when Mick needed to fob something off to the most junior employee.
“Make the best of it!” her father commanded when he steamrolled through her quiet depression and magicked a position available in his usual controlling yet distant way. Her stepmother gave her the silent treatment until she signed the contract of employment, and her father called his parental duty done. Easy for him to say when everything he touched turned to gold. Nothing about being an ex-dancer qualified Amy to write or even think she could—not even on her stellar days. Her shoulders slumped. Such was life, though, and her life usually meant not getting a choice.
If only she’d rescued her last precious drops of self-preservation and taken the time to read the fine print. She thought she’d clocked in as a trainee-journalist, but if she failed at stringing words together in a pleasing way, she had the vague idea she could be demoted to the person typing up the company’s daily sandwich order or traded for three fine goats and a handful of magic beans…because no one would want to be caught suggesting they fire the CEO’s daughter.
In truth, though, she’d have done herself a huge disservice if she tried to argue her way out of this assignment. She gave way to a huge inner squee. As a little girl, she’d lusted after the beautiful dolls made by the magical and mysterious man called Tobias, even if she hadn’t pictured his beautiful creations starting life in a hole-in-a-wall down a grime-filled alley on the way to nowhere.
She shook off her melancholy. The street hadn’t become any more appealing for standing in it. Ignoring the tingling sensation along her spine and a misplaced premonition of change, she raised her hand to knock. Before her knuckles made contact, the door swung inward, and she would have struck the face of the man emerging from the darkness beyond if he hadn’t been the size of a six-year-old child. She moved out of his way to let him pass, recoiling even more when she noticed the electric blue tarantula crawling out of his tangled grey beard to sit on his shoulder.
“Nice to see you again, Nicodemus.” A heavily accented voice spoke from a little way inside the building, and a stooped, elderly man with a time-lined face but the dancing, bright-blue eyes of an ageless sprite stepped forward. His grey hair, thick on his head, hadn’t seen a brush in a few weeks if not several months.
He turned his attention to her, his sudden, sharp gaze unnerving. “Are you Amy? I’ve been expecting you. Told my friend Nicodemus we had an appointment this afternoon. He’ll be expecting all manner of stories the next time he passes this way.”
Amy glanced over her shoulder at the little man hobbling away on stiff but sure legs and shuddered in revulsion at the flash of blue still at his shoulder as he disappeared into the gloom. She conjured up her brightest business-like smile and held out a professional hand to the man who’d spoken to her, even though she wanted to shriek a little bit and fangirl in his doorway or ask him to make her a doll of her very own.
“And you must be Tobias the Dollmaker? I’m sorry—I’ve never known your last name, and my editor didn’t pass me one, Mr…?” She made a pantomime of riffling through the pages of her notebook.
In truth, Mick hadn’t even given her a correct first name right when he mentioned the assignment. Did Tobias even have a surname? Bloody hell. She wasn’t even in the door yet, and she was messing up her first interview. She’d never heard a last name associated with him. Maybe he started the celebrity trend of using one name.
“Not to worry, not to worry. I’ve been Tobias the Dollmaker far longer than I ever used any other names. I’m not sure I remember, myself.” He gave a lusty cough into his pristine handkerchief as he shuffled away from the door, gesturing for her to come in. “I see you found my little workshop without difficulty?”
Amy’s smile tightened as she remembered too much walking, her leg aching with the effort, and the clouds of grime setting up a comfortable home in her aura. “No problem at all,” she agreed.
A claustrophobic corridor led from Tobias’s front door to an uncarpeted staircase. Narrow shelves competed for wall space, and, on each, stood rows of dolls. Amy turned away from the miniature figures crowding around her and cringed under the weight of so much judgment.
Wooden dolls with random tufts of straw-like hair fashioned in decaying parodies of long-past state of the art hairstyles butted up against eerie little creatures—pale perfection in their heyday, probably—growing yellow with age. Their fixed faces and sharp stares watched her pass, and she shivered, pulling her coat more closely around her.
“It’s a touch small these days, but old men like me don’t entertain much, so I make do.” Tobias twisted his fingers together as the top of the stairs opened straight into another little space where yet more shelves and their residents fought with life’s usual clutter.
Amy’s eyes widened. “How do you manage to relax with all of them looking at you?” Her voice came out as a squeak, and she cleared her throat as she forced herself to remember she’d scored an unbelievable opportunity to interview a mythical figure from her childhood, regardless of what Mick thought he handed out.
“You may say they look at me…. I prefer to think they simply watch over me. We’re old friends. I’ve cared for all of them these many years, and now they do the same for me.” Tobias sat on his shabby sofa and bent to a battered copper kettle on a grate over an open fire. “Forgive the lack of modern conveniences”— he offered a vague gesture around the room—“I find my antiquated ways work better than exploring for the electric kettle every time I want tea. Can I make you a cup while we talk?”
Amy gave a bemused shake of her head, horrified at her sudden lack of words and journalistic intent, before she snapped her mouth closed and pulled her attention from the rows of dolls.
“Ahh, smart girl. You must be waiting for the kiksekage. I sent my grandson, Peder, out for some a moment before you arrived.”
Amy nodded at his ready excuse for her rudeness and offered another polite smile before pulling her bag higher onto her shoulder. Nowhere looked clean enough to put it down. “Do you mind if I…?” She gestured around the room.
“By all means. Go and meet them. Perhaps you’ll find a new friend?”
Her foray into journalism could wait while she tiptoed around Tobias’s room, for just a few minutes, anyway. The excited child who would have given up every birthday wish to get within smelling distance of this workspace would never let her forget the missed opportunity to exercise professional nosiness if she didn’t at least look.
“Wow. I haven’t seen most of these dolls before, and I thought I knew all of your work.” Her incisive and thought-provoking journalistic line of thought never ceased to underwhelm her. “I…um…what made you decide to exhibit them?”
He laughed, the ready sound musical. “Just as you said. I may very well be the only one who has ever seen all of my creations. It feels like the right time for a change.”
She cast her glance from every petite face to each delicate hand. Some of the dolls she’d never seen before were super-creepy, even though she could acknowledge their lifelike beauty. She caught sight of a doll with a particularly malicious smile. “Ew!” She coughed. “Ooooo!” She cleared her throat and hoped her shock at discovering a miniature chamber of horrors came out as delight. Some of them only lacked their little axes and cutthroat razors, though.
She walked to a different shelf with a deliberately casual air and massaged her thigh, working hard to control her ever-present slight limp. This shelf…this set of dolls was different again. The feeling here could almost be described as friendly. She stopped, and surprised herself by bending to examine a beautiful ballerina doll, her tulle tutu alive with movement she wasn’t capable of making, her features lit with recognition received from the crowd she couldn’t dance for. Lost in her thoughts of the past, Amy reached to grasp the ballet dancer’s tiny form.
“I’ve brought the cake, if you want to come and sit with us for your cup of tea?” A new male voice, deep and confident, startled her.
She jumped and straightened, coming nose to nose with the unhinged grin and vacant leer of a circus clown.
A gasp tore from her lips. “Oh my God.” She backed into something warm and solid, and shrieked before spinning round.
“Sorry. Sorry…it’s just me.” The man’s eyes, rich with the colours of wild woodland moss, held an unexpected glint of danger. She shivered as an electric jolt shot straight through her when she met that green gaze. It glimmered with mischief and laughter, and he didn’t look quite as sorry as he should have.
Reflex led to her almost leaning into his strong grip as he reached out to steady her. Almost. She tugged her arm away and held out her hand.
“Pleased to meet you.” Superficial manners and years of rules kicked in, and she averted her gaze from the man who hadn’t introduced himself, and especially from his dangerous eyes. Her heart continued to race over her close encounter with the clown…yet the warmth in her arm lingered where the man had wrapped his strong fingers around her.
“Quite,” came his polite reply, and the obvious disinterest in his tone echoed through her, but what had she expected? Rule Number 15: Know your place, always.
She sneaked a quick look at him, and his very attractive lips upturned in an amused smile. One she almost returned, while wishing he’d speak more words once she could hear him over the rushing of blood in her ears.
His voice melted her, creating sparks and exploring long-forgotten depths of attraction. It made promises for ways they should spend time together he couldn’t even be aware of, and she wanted him to talk forever. She took an uncertain step away. Space seemed necessary…safe.
She took a last look at the grotesque clown, able to see a bit of Jonathan in the twisted features if she squinted, and crossed to Tobias in three short strides, her limp under control over the tiny distance.
She tugged a small, dusty stool from underneath a shelf, wiped the seat with a tissue she dug out of the bottom of her bag, and sat on a carrier bag she kept tucked away in her pocket. Grit and grime and germs. Better safe than sorry. She closed her eyes and counted to five. Five—the business alternative to ten. Quicker, less noticeable, when she needed to get hold of herself fast. When she opened her eyes again, she found Tobias looking at her in expectation, curiosity sharp in his wise gaze.
The other man’s expression soured, darkness and brooding replacing his earlier amusement and spoiling the beautiful curve of his mouth. Amy watched his lips as he spoke. “That’s Lise-Moér’s. No one sits there.”
Tobias looked at him. “Now, now, Per. Where do you expect her to sit? On her thumb?” He laughed, his sound of merriment at odds with the other man’s unexpected mood change. “Thank you for fetching the cake. Now, if you will please serve us instead of leaving a fine-looking cake like an ornament to be enjoyed yet never touched, we shall eat while we drink our tea. Some things are not meant to be merely looked at or to gather dust, but to be used and enjoyed…or, in fact, to be eaten.”
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