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I'm so excited that my lifelong dream of becoming a published author has come true. If you'd like to go straight to excerpts, descriptions, and buy links for my books, click on the covers below on the right.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Characters on the Couch: Viola Carr's Lizzie and Eliza

It's often said that we authors have voices in our heads. Viola Carr has voices with their own voices. She's currently in the midst of the very clever Electric Empire steampunk series. The second, The Devious Dr. Jekyll, came out Tuesday.


Magic, mystery, and romance mix in this edgy steampunk fantasy retelling of the horror classic—in which Dr. Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of the infamous Dr. Henry Jekyll.

In an electric-powered Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll is a crime scene investigator, hunting killers with inventive new technological gadgets. Now, a new killer is splattering London in blood, drugging beautiful women and slicing off their limbs. Catching the Chopper will make Eliza’s career - or get her burned. Because Eliza has a dark secret. A seductive second self, set free by her father’s forbidden magical elixir: wild, impulsive Lizzie Hyde. 

When the Royal Society sends their Enforcer, the mercurial Captain Lafayette, to prove she’s a sorcerer, Eliza must resist the elixir with all her power. But as the Chopper case draws her into London’s luminous magical underworld, Eliza will need all the help she can get. Even if it means getting close to Lafayette, who harbors an evil curse of his own. 

Even if it means risking everything and setting vengeful Lizzie free …

Before I give you the cover and blurb for the second book, which I cannot wait to read, here's an interview with Viola, Eliza, and Lizzie. It made me laugh, which gives you an idea of the tone of the books. Yes, there's some dark stuff, but a lot of humor. Oh, and as you can see, she comes from a place where they add an extra vowel to "behaviour."

1. If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Oh, dear. Where does one begin? {evil laugh}

My heroine – crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll – is witty, clever, polite and cautious. But she has a secret dual identity. Drink the magic potion, and she becomes Lizzie Hyde, her flamboyant, rude second self.

Lizzie is reckless, angry and unafraid. She carouses in seedy pubs, drinks too much gin and flirts with dangerous men. She couldn't care less what other people think of her.

Which would be all very well, if Eliza wasn't trying to carry on a respectable career in a strait-laced Victorian London obsessed with keeping up appearances. If Eliza wasn't addicted to the magic potion, over-using to the extent that Lizzie sometimes pops out of her own accord. And if magic of any kind wasn't forbidden on pain of execution.

Most inconvenient!

Understandably, Eliza doesn’t like talking about her 'problem'. Getting her into therapy won't be easy without a pretext. She's worked as a mad-doctor in lunatic asylums. So you might get her in your office with the promise of showing her some cool new treatment for mental illness. As for treating her own issues… well, she'd decline with a sharp smile and a witticism, and walk away.

Lizzie thinks it's Eliza who's the problem. Offer her a way to get rid of Eliza, and she'd at least listen. If you suggest to her she's a sickness who needs to be cured? She'll likely punch you in the face.

2. Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Yes to both! External, because changing shape at whim is very inconvenient when magic is a capital offense. Spies are everywhere. She's sure to get caught.

And internal, because despite the trouble Lizzie causes, deep in her heart Eliza secretly wants to be Lizzie. To say and do exactly what she thinks, to take what she wants with no regard for the consequences.

Lizzie, too, wants her own life. She's sick of being stuck inside Eliza all the time. She wants out.

Not to mention the romantic conflict. What if they're interested in different men? Worse: what if it's the same man?

Most of the time, they'd each happily strangle the other… but they love each other, too. The way we all secretly love the darkest, strangest part of our own heart. Because, well, it's our heart.

3. It's always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

Eliza sits quietly, smooths her inoffensive gray skirts, folds her hands in her lap. She listens to what you've got to say before she opens her mouth to demolish you with her cutting wit, so she won't have to face the problem.

Lizzie – assuming you got her in there at all – slouches about, grumbling and poking at your stuff and wondering where the gin is.

4. Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

Lizzie: {flops on couch in a flounce of scarlet skirts} Well? Don't just sit there gaping like a stunned sardine. Get on with it. All this head-shrinking malarkey is cutting into my drinking time.

Therapist: I'd like you to talk to me about the effect your behaviour is having on your host.
CD note: Viola made it easy on me and filled in the therapist questions.
Lizzie: {snorts} My behaviour? All my fault, is it? What about her? She never wants to have any fun! Always yammering in my ear with 'do this', 'don't do that', 'keep your voice down', 'ooh, Lizzie, don't flirt, whatever are you up to with that sly-fingered gent?'

Therapist: So you’re hearing her voice?  She gives you instructions?

Lizzie: Invading my privacy, that's what it is. Right distracting it is, too, having prim and prissy Dr. Eliza chirping in my ear when I'm getting down to most private business. Never a moment's peace!

Therapist: And how does that make you feel?
CD: Hahahahaha!

Lizzie: Like I want to punch her in the nose? I'm only doing what she'd do if she had the guts. At least Miss Lizzie knows how to have a good time. I'm a prisoner, that's what I am. I'm the victim here. She's the one with a stick shoved up her snooty behind.

Therapist: I'm sensing some hostility…

Lizzie: Right. She's the one what hates me. I'm just trying to get along. Are we done here?

5. Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Lizzie orders gin. Flirts with the bartender. More gin. Flirts with the bloke next to her until he pays for more gin. Has deep conversation about how she, Lizzie, is just fine the way she is, thanks very much, and Eliza is the one who ought to get some frickin' therapy. More gin, laced with laudanum. Everything goes black. Eliza wakes up next morning sprawled on the pub floor, wondering what the hell happened, where her stockings are and why her skirt has blood on it.

6. When you're building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I definitely do a lot of work on backstory. What are the pivotal events that made this character the way she is? What are the core beliefs that guide her decisions? And what are her limits – what would those core beliefs never allow her to say or do?

Often the characters don't consciously know what these things are. One of Eliza's core values is justice – she's driven to solve crimes and get justice for murder victims, particularly murdered women. But at the start of the series, she doesn't really know why - not until she uncovers some mysteries from her childhood does she come to understand.

Thanks for hosting me on your blog today – it was lots of fun!

And thank you for coming by! You gave great answers. I mean, Lizzie did. 

My review of The Diabolical Miss Hyde:

I picked up a copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde at the Avon Party at the Romantic Times Convention because it was the only obvious steampunk there. I started reading it that night and got sucked in, but then life got in the way. I picked it back up last night, and can we say book hangover? I was up way too late finishing it.

Eliza Jekyll is the daughter of that Doctor Jekyll, and she's a forensic medical specialist, although that's not what she's called. She also has a secret. Like her father, she has a literal dark side who comes out, Lizzie Hyde, and does all sorts of naughty things.

One of the things that really worked about this book that I never would have expected was that Eliza's parts are in third person while Lizzie's are in first. It gives the reader a good sense of Lizzie's frenetic immediateness, especially since she only gets to come out every so often. It also works for the transitions later in the book so you know exactly whose POV we're getting.

Also intriguing is Captain Remy LaFayette, who is part of the Royal Service whose mission is to squash the practice of magic, but who is dealing with his own curse. I won't spoil what it is, but I found it all intriguing. Lizzie is attracted to this captain with a dark side, but he's got the hots for Eliza, and wow, that's going to be a complicated love triangle, especially since Eliza is attracted to a bad boy of her own.

I really really hope this is the first in a series because I can't wait to get back to this complex world and these fascinating characters. (And I'm so glad it is!)


A perilous case. A worthy foe. This could make her career ... or ruin it forever.

Solving the notorious Chopper case was supposed to help crime scene physician Dr. Eliza Jekyll—daughter of the infamous Henry—establish her fledgling career in the chauvinistic world of Victorian law enforcement. But the scrutiny that comes with her newfound fame is unwelcome for a woman with a diabolical secret: her dark and jealous shadow self, Lizzie Hyde. And there is the mercurial Royal Society agent with his own secret to hide, Captain Remy Lafayette. Does he want to marry Eliza or burn her at the stake? It’s impossible, however, for Eliza to push Remy away when he tempts her with the one thing she can’t resist: a bizarre crime to investigate. And although Eliza is uncertain about Remy, Lizzie isn’t. Lizzie wants to steal the magnetic and persistent agent and usurp Eliza’s life. 

As the search for a bloodthirsty ritual torturer dubbed the Pentacle Killer draws Eliza and Remy into a terrifying world of spies, art thieves, and evil alchemy—where the price of immortality is madness or damnation—only Lizzie’s dark ingenuity can help Eliza survive. Eliza and Remy must race to thwart a foul conspiracy involving the sorcerous French, but they must also overcome a sinister enemy who is all too close to home: the vengeful Lizzie, who is determined to dispose of Eliza for good.


Viola Carr was born in a strange and distant land, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

If you could be your evil twin for one night, what would you do? Comment for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Diabolical Miss Hyde.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Snarkology Halloween Hop: Victorian Ghosts and Hysteria

Follow the hop for more fun, great books, and awesome prizes. (Click Image)

This year I'm thrilled and honored to be part of the Snarkology Halloween Hop. There are lots of bloggers participating, each with their own prize, and the grand prizes for the actual blog hop are fabulous, too. 

(1) $100 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card or
(1) $50 Amazon or B&N Gift Card

Victorian Ghosts and Hysteria

When I was a kid, I spent hours reading ghost stories. Something about apparitions from beyond the grave fascinated me. Like many elementary school children in the South, I read Kathryn Tucker Windham's series, most notably 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey, which, thanks to my overactive imagination, ensured that I didn't go upstairs to go to the bathroom in the evenings without turning ALL the lights on. Yes, I liked the idea of ghosts. No, I didn't want to meet one.

Pratt Hall at Huntingdon College (image credit: al.com article)
Thankfully I'd mostly gotten over my fear of ghosts by the time I went to Huntingdon College. If you're familiar with the 13 Alabama Ghosts book, you will recognize the school as the site of the haunting mentioned in the eleventh chapter, or The Red Lady of Huntingdon College (hyperlinked to an al.com story about her). My sorority pledge room or storage room - I was never sure which - was supposedly the site of the tragedy, but we were always careful to never be up there alone or piss off Martha. I never saw, heard, or felt her, which was probably good with my aforementioned imagination. You see, the mind is a tricky thing. The Victorians knew this well.

While researching my current work, the third book in my Aether Psychics series, which will be called Aether Spirit, I found a fascinating book called The Birth of Neurosis:  Myth, Malady, and the Victorians by physician and medical historian George Drinka. It was written in the early 1980s and is long out of print, but thanks to my local library, I was able to get my hands on a copy quickly. It details the history of mental health in the Victorian era outside of Freud. Yes, there were others working in psychology, which was really psychiatry since they were all medical doctors at the time. The cultural context for mental illness is fascinating and can be seen in Victorian ghost stories if you know where to look.

First let’s talk about how death was handled in Victorian times. Typically people died at home, not removed from their relatives in hospitals, and it was common across the lifespan. Women frequently died in childbirth and children before they reached adulthood. If you think about it, signs of death and mourning were everywhere, whether they were people in mourning clothing, the peals of church bells, or elaborate funerals and processions. Rules about mourning were also part of the many Victorian social regulations. Is it any wonder that ghost stories became a popular genre with well-known authors such as Charles Dickens (of course), Arthur Conan Doyle, and Henry James contributing to it? It was actually a great genre for female authors, too.

So how do ghosts and mental illness intersect? What happened beyond the grave and “madness” were two areas the Victorians didn’t have much control over or knowledge about, but about which they were fascinated. They’d made some progress with regard to nerves but still didn’t know exactly how they worked and regarded the nervous system, particularly that of women, as fragile and easily overwhelmed by the growing chaos of “modern” life or other disturbances. Would such overwhelmed nervous systems be more inclined to see things that weren’t there and mistake them for spirits? We recall Ebenezer Scrooge’s accusation that Marley’s ghost is a bit of undigested beef.

According to The Birth of Neurosis, one theory about psychological problems was called the Degenerate Theory, in which successive generations succumbed to worse forms of mental illness until the final progeny died either in prison or mental institutions. So, rather than being a cause for anxiety for individuals and their immediate family only, psychological issues could potentially mean the dying out of an entire family, and this concern permeates the ghost story literature of the era. For example, in the first story in Michael Sims’ entertaining compilation Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories, from which I draw my examples, the narrator says, 

“…I thought I could make out that Miss Furnivall was crazy, from their odd ways about her, and I was afraid lest something of the same kind (which might be in the family, you know) hung over my darling.” 

Real paper books!
She’s talking about her “darling” charge, a little girl named Rosemund, and the child's great aunt, who is guilty over some events of many years previously. The story is The Old Nurse’s Story by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Mental illness had symptoms similar to the sensations experienced by those who encountered ghosts. Recall that Arthur Conan Doyle was a trained physician. In his story The Captain of the Pole Star, the captain asks the narrator, the ship’s doctor, about the symptoms of madness. The narrator replies, “Pains in the head, noises in the ear, flashes before the eyes, delusions…” The captain has also been seeing a ghost and is going mad from grief. Or is he? The doctor has to sort it out.
The emotional experiences that attract ghosts in stories also drove people mad, for example, guilt, witnessing violent death, and suggestion through frightening tales. These are evident in The Phantom Coach story by Amelia B. Edwards and Henry James’ Sir Edmund Orme. Also, the narrator in Charles Dickens’ lesser known story The Trial for Murder is at a point in his life when he’s feeling burned out by his job and dissatisfied with his situation when he starts seeing a ghost. Although they didn't call it burnout, Victorian physicians treated men and women who were "neurasthenic" due to overwhelm from the demands of life.

Victorian ghost stories are entertaining in their own right, but knowing how the society viewed psychological illness adds an interesting dimension to the tales.

I will never forget 13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey. What is one ghost story that still haunts you? See what I did there? Tell me your favorite ghost story for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Novels, short stories, and movies are all fair game. Please leave your email address in the comment box itself so I can easily contact the winner. And don't forget to enter for a chance to win one of the main blog tour prizes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Guest spot - Cover reveal for The Twisting

Today I'm really excited to be part of the cover reveal for Laurel Wanrow's second book The Twisting. I read and LOVED the first book in the series (my review is below by the Goodreads giveaway), so I'm excited to see that this one is sharing a book birthday with the paperback release of  my third Lycanthropy Files book Blood's Shadow.

Welcome to the cover reveal for The Twisting, Volume Two of The Luminated Threads by Laurel Wanrow! The talented Craig Shields www.craigshields.co.uk has beautifully depicted the magical Victorian world of this new adult steampunk fantasy romance. His cover artwork graces both the ebook and a print paperback edition.

Pre-order The Twisting on Amazon for the special price of only .99 cents. The Twisting releases November 3, 2015 in ebook and trade paperback.

About the Book:
The story of otherworldly Blighted Basin continues in THE TWISTING...

In a valley hidden from the rest of Victorian England, Annmar Masterson has found friendship and acceptance at Wellspring farm. But as her recently discovered magical abilities grow, unstoppable crop-eating pests drive her new home to the brink of collapse.

Shapeshifter Daeryn Darkcoat's heart pulls toward Annmar, but duty comes first. With harvests across the Farmlands shire facing destruction, the predator guard scrambles for new solutions, calling upon the ingenuity of animal shifters, mechanics and growers alike.

Desperation drives landowners to utilize prototype machines, heedless of the threat to their way of life. As the danger mounts, Annmar's knowledge of Outside ways—and her magic—might be more important than anyone realizes.

Weaving steampunk engines and a land of wild magic with a coming-of-age romance, this sequel to THE UNRAVELING and second volume in THE LUMINATED THREADS whisks readers off on another spellbinding adventure.

THE TWISTING is a full-length novel, approximately 370 pages, with a sweet romance for readers 18+ due to mature themes. Please note: This is volume 2 of a three-part serialized novel. Volume 1, The UNRAVELING is available now, and Volume 3 releases in the spring of 2016 to complete Annmar and Daeryn’s steampunk fantasy romance. To be notified of upcoming releases, sign up for Laurel's Newsletter. (http://eepurl.com/17xRH)


Annmar scrunched back into her pillow. This wasn’t a cat. The face was too pointed, never mind the sleek body three times as long as it was tall. Yet when she looked into its face, the familiar eyes belonged to…


Eyes squinting, the animal’s ears pressed flat. Its head sank, giving a little jerk up and down.

Had he…nodded? “That is you.” Daeryn. This was a polecat. Her drawings had been correct, but not the same as seeing one uninjured, acting normal. Or as normal as a polecat in someone’s bed would act.

She pressed her fingertips to her temples. Oh, Lord, just stop thinking already. But her head didn’t hurt, her vision wasn’t cloudy, and neither were her thoughts. She lowered her hands and looked around to confirm they were alone before fixing her gaze on…him. “What are you doing in my room?”

His shoulders lifted.

That was a shrug. He half-crouched and jumped to the foot of the bed, then to the floor, all before she knew that’s what he had in mind. He disappeared behind the end of her bedstead.

She half-sat up, and as she started swinging her legs around, a hand pulled down the extra quilt that hung on the end of her bed. Annmar gasped and scooted under her covers. A moment later, Daeryn’s tousled brown hair came into view. The quilt swung through the air, and he stood, the fabric draped over his shoulders and held closed in the front.

He squinted at her, his expression the same as the polecat’s, looking very sleepy. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Didn’t mean to surprise you.”

What was she supposed to say to that? He’d been in her room. Sleeping in her room. In her bed! Oh, Lord, what would Mother… Nothing. Mother wasn’t around to worry about anymore, as Mary Clare had pointed out. Annmar had no one to answer to, Blighted Basin society included. Their lack of rules completely befuddled her. How did these people function?

Still. This was highly improper. She glared at him, and he seemed to shrink beneath the quilt, drawing it closer to his body. He was likely naked.

She heated, the blush running from her chest up over her face and…down. Thinking of it just brought on more heat. Mercy, in her bed. Had he been…

“You…uh, you haven’t been in…here as…” She swallowed.

His eyes widened, and he shook his head vehemently. “Only as a polecat.” He took a step back. “I wouldn’t do that… Not to you.” He turned and walked to the door. “I’ll leave.”

Yes, he most certainly was naked under there, and a part of her was curious. She was nineteen, a grown woman. Her first look at him had been brief—she swallowed—but good. “Hold on a minute,” she gasped.

He paused in the open doorway and half-turned to face her.

“I don’t understand what you’re doing in my room.”

“Sleeping here.”


His brows and shoulders lifted at the same time. He looked as confused as she felt when he stepped out and closed the door.

Laurel Wanrow
About the Author:

Laurel Wanrow loves misty mornings, the smell of freshly dug earth, petting long-haired guinea pigs and staring at the stars. She sees magic in nature and loves to photograph it.

Before kids, she studied and worked as a naturalist—someone who leads wildflower and other nature walks. During a stint of homeschooling, she turned her writing skills to fiction to share her love of the land, magical characters and fantastical settings.

When not living in her fantasy worlds, Laurel camps, hunts fossils and argues with her husband and two new adult kids over whose turn it is to clean house. Though they live on the East Coast, a cherished family cabin in the Colorado Rockies holds Laurel’s heart.

Visit her online at www.laurelwanrow.com.
To be notified of new releases: Laurel's Newsletter

Don't miss Volume One, in The Luminated Threads series, The Unraveling:

The Unraveling

A signed paperback copy of The Unraveling, Volume One of The Luminated Threads is on a Goodreads Giveaway Thursday, Oct 22 through Thursday, Oct 29, 2015.

$10 Amazon card, and 2 print paperbacks—the winners’ choice of The Unraveling (book 1) or The Twisting (book 2)
Open to the US/CA/UK
Ends November 2, 2015
Prizing is provided by the author, hosts are not responsible.

Cecilia's review of The Unraveling:

While I loved the characters and story, the magical part of this book is the setting and world-building. This is a wonderfully written book with imagery that will stick with you long after it's over. I'm not kidding about this - I had dreams of giant vegetables the night after I finished it. The author obviously did a lot of research and planning, and all the layers of this multifaceted society work together beautifully except when they're not supposed to. I also loved that the hero is a shifter, but not a typical wolf or other large mammal. Nope, he's a polecat. Yes, I had to look it up. They're cute weasel-type critters.

I can't wait to see how everything plays out in the next books in the series.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Outtake Tuesday: Cut Scene from A Perfect Man

When we pick up a book from the bookshelf, we're (hopefully) getting something that's been through multiple rounds of revisions and edits. We don't often get to see the early drafts and "mistakes." I decided, for the entertainment of my readers and for the use of anyone who wants to see why certain scenes or characters don't make it into a final draft, to post cut scenes from my published works.

A Perfect Man, which was released in May, has a lot of them because I worked on that book for a long time, off and on for three or four years. I have several cut scenes files, not sure why. Here are the contents of one of them, the original chapter five. An early version of the book had some extra characters, and others had different names. Phoebe, who I'll bring in a later book, is a biology student who is taking classes in the MFA program. I combined Carl and Albie into just Albie. Iain turned into Isaac, Sarah into Samantha.

Confused yet? Here's the deleted scene (warning - adult language):

Sarah sighed and put her face in her hands.  This was going to be tough.  Really tough.  Karen might complain about her story being hijacked, but at least it meant she would have help!  Meanwhile, she would discover the difference between writing what you know and putting yourself through hell to purge the wound you inflicted on yourself and your family.

“You don’t have to do this, you know.”  The voice was familiar, soothing.  It was also the voice that had told her, “You don’t have to feel guilty about this.”

“Fuck off,” she told it.  She opened a new document in Word and started writing.

[story excerpt]

Those mesmerizing green eyes…  “Are you kidding me?” she asked herself.  The phone rang.  It was Karen.

“I’m convening a session of the Bitch Club,” she said.

Sarah wiped the tear that crept down her cheek, smearing it up with the heel of her hand.  “I’m…kind of busy right now.  I’m, um, writing.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.  Yeah, I’ll be fine.  Are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where are we meeting?”

Even late on a Sunday night, the coffee shop was crowded, but Phoebe had gotten a table.  Or, judging from the books piled there, Phoebe had already been camped out there all afternoon.

“Work hard today?” asked Sarah.  She was the first one there.

Phoebe rolled her eyes and piled stuff so that Sarah could have space for her notebook.  “I’m always working.  And I can’t get this damn book off the ground.  It would be so much easier if humans just reproduced by splitting themselves.  Damn romance.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

“Are you okay?"

Sarah sighed.  Why did people keep asking her that?  “Yeah, I’m fine.  What do you want to drink?”

When she got back, Phoebe still sat alone.  “Hey, Phoebe, question.”


“Did you ever do anything you really regretted?  Like really hated yourself for?”

Phoebe frowned.  “Not recently.”

“That’s a nice, evasive answer.  I’m being serious.”

“I am, too.  I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to get past all that stuff.”  She shrugged.  “It’s just not worth it to drag it all out again.”

“Ah.”  She wrapped her hands around the ceramic mug.  The smooth curves fit her hands perfectly, and although the heat stung her skin, she found it to be comforting.

“Is there something you want to talk about, Sarah?”  She saw that Phoebe was looking at her, her pretty cornflower blue eyes dark with concern.

Sarah shrugged.  “It’s this writing project.  It’s like I’ve got all this stuff that I need to get out, to purge, but I’m afraid of what I’m going to find underneath.”

“Like what?”

Karen and Lillian walked through the door before she could answer.  Although the two young women were close in age, they couldn’t be more different in how they carried themselves.  Karen looked young but with that confident air of a woman with her whole life ahead of her in spite of the pensive expression on her face.  Lillian, only five or six years older, had that certain walk that women only had after they had given birth.  Not that it was any less confident, but more careful.  She smiled easily, but there was always a shadow lurking behind it, a whole cache of worries just below the surface about her family, especially her three kids.

“I’m surprised you were able to get away,” Karen said to Lillian as they sat down.

She nodded.  “Me, too, but Paul said to go ahead.  I think he’s relieved that I finally have some female friends, even if they’re in that program he doesn’t see the point in.”

Sarah felt her cheeks grow hot.  She’d never met Paul, but she already hated him.  “Then screw him!”

Lillian smiled, gently.  “I did.  And I’ve got three kids to show for it.”

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh.  “Touché.  So what’s the call for the bitch club?”

Karen sighed.  “Y’know, I’ve been thinking that I must be stupid to call y’all together for a mere hunch, but I think that Seth is up to something.”

“Was tonight your meeting with him?” Phoebe asked.


“How’d it go?”

“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate him any less, but he was way too agreeable.”

“Even to the idea that his precious Harrison isn’t the perfect man for Lila?”

“He managed to sidestep it.”

Sarah blew on the surface of her coffee.  “I wonder what the other guys told him.”

Karen snorted.  “Who knows?”  She looked around.  “Does anyone want anything?”

“The usual,” Lillian told her.

“Cool.  I’ll get this round.”

When Karen left, Lillian leaned forward, and Phoebe and Sarah leaned in as well.  Lillian checked behind her shoulder to make sure Karen indeed stood in line, and with a small grin said, “I think that they’ll end up together.”

“Who?  Harrison and Lila?”

“No, Phoebe, Karen and Seth.”

Phoebe shook her head.  “No way.  I mean how cliché would that be?”

“Besides,” Sarah added, “you don’t want to shit where you eat, if you know what I mean.  We’ve still got almost two years in this program.  What if it didn’t work out?”

“But what if it did?  They could be a cute writing team.”

“Until things go sour, then they’d be in a cute legal mess.”  Sarah shook her head.  “No way in hell.”

“Fine,” said Lillian.  “Want to put a wager on it?”

Sarah sat back and pondered for a moment.  “If we’re going to wager on our friend’s happiness, we need to make it worthwhile.”

“How about a hundred dollars?”

Phoebe whistled.  “A hundred dollars?”

Lillian looked at her.  “And don’t even think about asking what my husband would think.  Yes, a hundred dollars.”

Sarah stuck her hand out.  “You’re on!  Phoebe?”

The petite blonde shook her head.  “Too rich for my blood.”

“Fine, then, you can be the monitor.  You can make sure that neither of us is trying to influence the outcome, that we play fair.”

When Phoebe hesitated, Sarah added, “And whoever wins has to give you twenty percent.”


Karen returned with her decaf soy latte and Lillian’s iced white mocha.  “What’d I miss?”

“Nothing, really.”

She sat down.  “So what do I do?”

Sarah opened her mouth, but Phoebe’s look stopped her from giving Karen the advice she thought she should.  She couldn’t try to influence the outcome of the bet.  “I think you should just follow your heart.”  The words felt strange on her tongue.  Look where following her heart had led her.

“That’s not exactly what I was hoping for.”  Karen slumped back in her chair.

“I think Sarah’s right,” Lillian said.  “We can’t decide this for you.”

“But…”  Karen looked at each of them in turn.  “This is why I called the Bitch Club to order!  I need some advice here, ladies!”

“I think you should find out what the other guys have told him to do,” Phoebe told her.  “He doesn’t seem to be able to stand very much on his own.  I’m betting he went to the others for help.”

Sarah nodded.  “I’m sure Carl and Albie have lots of advice for him, the young fella.”  They all laughed.

“Yeah, and Iain seems to be somewhat of a smooth operator,” Lillian added.  “This isn’t just your project, Karen, it’s a class project.”

“In which case you should find out where the class is steering him, at least the guys.”

Karen nodded, slowly.  “In that case, each of you gets to corner one of them.  I can’t because it would look suspicious.  Who wants who?”

“I’ll take Iain,” Phoebe volunteered.  “I’m too nervous to tackle one of the older guys.  And Iain knows me from the restaurant.”

“You hang out at the Chocolate Chasm?”

“All in the name of observational research, of course.”  Phoebe blushed.  “And believe me, there’s lots to observe.”

Sarah couldn’t resist.  “Any bodice-ripping going on?”

Phoebe blushed even deeper.  “Nope, at least not there.  I make predictions as to whose bodice will be ripped later that evening.  Not that I, um, ever find out.”

“I’ll take Carl,” Lillian said.  “He seems to like me.  I think I remind him of his daughter or something.”

Sarah sighed.  “That leaves Albie for me.  God, what a prick.”

“But you’re the best one to be able to handle him.  You’re feisty!”

“Maybe a little too feisty for my own good.”  Sarah sighed again.  “Fine, I’ll take Albie.”  She looked at the others. “But you all owe me coffee for not having to do it yourself.”

Karen laughed.  “That’s fine.  We’ll meet here the same time next week, and y’all can tell me what you found.”

Sarah and Phoebe walked out to their cars together.

“It’s going to be an interesting week,” Sarah remarked.

“No kidding.”  Phoebe looked at Sarah through her blonde curls.  “Hey, we never got to finish our conversation.”

“That’s okay, I don’t really know if I wanted to finish it.”

“Well, if you need to talk, I’m free tomorrow morning before class.”

“That’s sweet of you, Phoebe, but I’ll be fine.”  Really, she said to herself as she got in her car, I’ll be fine.  She waited for the voice to argue with her, but tonight it was silent.


Why this scene got cut:

1. The book ended up being on the long end for me and Samhain as it was, so there was no room for the wager subplot.

2. I didn't want Karen catching on to Seth's interest so soon.

3. I wanted to pare the book down to just Karen and Seth's points of view.

If you'd like to check out the final version of A Perfect Man, you can read an excerpt here.

Or if you'd like to buy it, you can find it at Samhain PublishingAmazonBarnes & Noble, Google Books, iTunes, and anywhere else books are sold. It was one of About.com's ten romance novels not to miss in May.