Thursday, July 30, 2009

Running with the Pack by Pat Cunningham

Running with the Pack

By Pat Cunningham

Pic from ~ ~

I’ve always been an animal lover. As a dog person, I picked werewolves as my supernatural being of choice when I moved into paranormal romances. Fortunately I live in an area with a unique research opportunity – the Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary of PA, right up the road from me, so to speak, in Brickerville, Pennsylvania. The Sanctuary consists of 25 acres and is home to 40-odd wolves, divided into packs/family groups, each with its own roomy run. I stopped in recently for one of their weekend tours and picked up some info and anecdotes to give my howling heroes and their world some verisimilitude. As I discovered, even with wolves truth can be weirder than fiction.
First off, the biggest wolf in the pack doesn’t necessarily become alpha. The sanctuary has a family of four eastern timber wolves, all zoo born. Because the pup was bottle fed and received better nourishment growing up than his parents, he’s the largest of the group. That doesn’t mean Pop can’t make Junior submit when he’s of a mind to. Attitude more than size is what makes an alpha wolf. The smaller wolf dominates the larger because he’s got the drive and the mindset. The Dog Whisperer is right – it’s all psychological. The muscular six-foot werewolf might find himself taking orders, and having to like it, from his 5’2” mate. That could make for some funny scenes.
We’ve all got this picture of alpha wolves clawing their way to the top of the pack and ruling with an iron paw. That ain’t necessarily so. The sanctuary’s pack of thirteen gray wolves is led by Murphy, possibly the laziest wolf on the planet, according to his keepers. Murphy does nothing and makes no effort to maintain his leadership. The pack follows him because they like him and they want to. His brother Winston could probably kick his butt and take over the pack, but he just isn’t interested. As beta, Winston does the heavy lifting in pack administration. He keeps the others at bay while the alphas feed, then determines who eats next and in what order. If your alpha hero’s smart, he’ll have a loyal beta to watch his back so he can focus on running the show.
Another myth blown out of the water is wolf monogamy and the idea of the alpha male in charge at mating time. When a gal’s in season, the keeper said, the boys take notice, regardless of her rank or theirs. “She gets up, they get up. She walks off, they follow. She stops, they stop. It’s hysterical to watch.” She, not the males, decides who’s going to father her litter. She picks the wolf she deems most likely to sire the strongest pups. If that turns out to be the alpha male, and it probably will, so be it.
As long as there’s no alpha female on hand, the pups might even make it. Alpha females tend to kill other females’ litters, both to secure their own pups’ survival and to demoralize possible rivals, to keep them too depressed to challenge her authority. If your story needs an antagonist, you need look no further than the literal queen bitch determined to hang onto her position. And hide your kids.
At the other end of the hierarchy exist the omegas. You can’t really call it living for them because they have to take everyone’s crap. The omega in the gray wolf group was easy to spot: the tips of her ears had been chewed off and the end of her tail was missing. The keepers had to move her into a separate pen or the pack might eventually have killed her. She shared her new home with two other wolves and seemed a lot less stressed. Got any werewolf omegas? Might they be harboring resentment and plotting against your alpha hero?
Finally, take this one for what it’s worth. Glacier is a big handsome gray wolf who comes from a showbiz family (his grandfather played Two Socks in “Dances With Wolves”). He’s also something of a diva. Glacier has been known to go off and sulk if he isn’t the center of attention. His last girlfriend had to be removed from the pen; Glacier bit her because he was jealous that the keepers were petting her more than him. Glacier shares his pen with Chipper, a diminutive male who’s suitably submissive enough to satisfy this prima donna alpha. “We think he’s gay,” the keeper said.
And on that note, I’m heading back to the keyboard. Happy writing!

Coyote Moon

Blurb ~

It's that time of the month -- the full moon -- when Willy Alvarez's moods go wonky and her dreams fill up with wolves. A time for hungers she doesn't dare fulfill because they lead to violence. She's resigned herself to a manless life, then Cody Gray arrives.

Cody is cute, funny, charming, and a werecoyote. His nose knows what Willy doesn't: she's half werewolf. He's convinced this repressed half-human she-wolf is his perfect mate. Now he just has to convince her. And quick, because her long-lost pack has learned about her existence, and they've come to town to claim her...

COYOTE MOON by Pat Cunningham at ~ ~ NOW full-moon rising on Siren-BookStrand’s bestseller list.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Magic of being In Print

~ In Print ~ Those are magic words to us e-authors for the obvious reasons. You get to hold your book baby close, gaze at it lovingly... maybe, even give it a little excited smoochie.
Yes, now, those readers who prefer print books have the opportunity to read your romance novel. Yay! Course, it’s a whole other discussion about actual sales. However, let’s not ruin this celebration.
Being *In Print* is also a sense of achievement that derives from those times when only hardback and paperback books were available.
To be honest, it was a sweetly magical moment to hold a print copy of
WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS. To look at the cover art and feel deliciously giddy. Then, to gaze at the words within. My words. My story. With all it’s trials and tribulations. With all it’s glorious instants of inspiration. The final triumph of finishing the love story... at least, the first book of Sedona and Volcano’s love story.
Now, MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS, is In Print. The journey has been long, an endurance ride on a roller coaster, for sure.
Am I proud of myself and my book? You betcha!

Here’s the promo ~

Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis - IN PRINT

Yep, it's true. I am one happy camper over it!

So, if you're into a futuristic look at the risen land of Atlantis, a mystery with lots of action... and how about a love story where the battle of sexes incites extreme passion... this might be the erotic romance novel for you.

Murder by Hair Spray in Gardenia, New Atlantis

~ This story spun and formed in my imagination, turbulent as a sea storm ~ then sprang forth onto paper and onto my computer screen like Poseidon’s powerful emergence from the ocean, during a time lost to history when gods and goddesses ruled the world and the heavens above.

Gardenia, New Atlantis... The future begins here...

The story of beginning a new world on a legendary land...
The beginning of a love Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing never believed was possible for her, especially not after a hundred years on Earth...
The beginning of a love Federal Agent Zryphus has arrived on Earth to find, only he didn’t plan on remaining in a land where women are in charge...

First Line:
The evil cloud of hair spray dominated the air in guest room 666 at Gardenia’s only motel, The Eternal Magnolia – so named because it was surrounded by a park-like acre of Magnolia trees, saved despite the cataclysmic weather, wars and land changes on Earth.

Heroine and Hero:
Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing is 100 years old in the year 2051. A rebel at heart, an artist by soul, she survived the sterile fifties’ suburbs, the revolutionary turbulence of the sixties, the disco guru seventies. After the suicide of the man she loved, Kalypso barely survived the designer eighties, the fast-forward nineties. In the 21st century Mother Nature rebelled. Kalypso battled for freedom. She never knew why she survived. Until Atlantis rose. Once again.

Agent Zryphus Dolen Vasquoz chose an enforcement career on Earth for several reasons – his fascination with primitive worlds, to make his own way outside the family heritage, to keep official watch for his own Worlds – and, Zerculeon men find Earth women highly desirable, like the gods of old they rival in strength. Since there aren’t enough Zerculeon women, it’s a match made in intergalactic heaven. Especially when Zryphus gets a real eyeful of the Sheriff.

Excerpt ~

The evil cloud of hair spray dominated the air in guest room 666 at Gardenia's only motel, The Eternal Magnolia—so named because it was surrounded by a park-like acre of Magnolia trees, saved despite the cataclysmic weather, wars and land changes on Earth.

"Reminds me of seventh grade, after gym class. When I avoided the noxious fumes of spurting hair spray," Sheriff Kalypso spoke to her deputy.

"We sure can't go in yet. Till some of this evil stuff airs out," Deputy Anna agreed. Holding up her Video Multi, she stood in doorway, scanning the room before they entered.

"Lucy," Sheriff Kalypso yelled, her voice aimed toward Gardenia's only enforcement van, parked near the bottom of the steps. "You got International linked up yet?"

"The operator's comin' on shortly," Deputy Lucy hollered up.

"Track down the Agent-slash-agency that's in charge of the Hair Spray Serial Killer, will ya? Anna, you finished scanning yet?"

"Almost, Sheriff. Large number of odor pixels installing now for later analysis at the lab. Looks like two males so far. One she entertained, sexual wise, that is—nothin' kinky I can pick up, though."

"Too bad. The Tribune needs a sensational story," Sheriff Kalypso half-joked, half-mocked.

"Murder by hair spray isn't kinky enough?" Anna drawled. "Hell's little bells, Marzzie would dance one of her jerky bar jigs on top of her news table."

"We'll give her whatever exclusive we can. But I gotta feeling the Federals are gonna request some private investigation time. Unless it's a copycat? Other than who she was with, any of our people been in the room since our victim occupied?"

"Naw—only with her and trace genes from before. Elsie's cleaning crew looks like."

"When exactly did Elsie's assistant click on the room camera?"

"Barb got concerned when the guest, now victim, didn't ring down for breakfast. She'd been here for an old-fashioned week, and always rang at eight. Waffles with fruit, rice milk and dark chocolate souffle. Barb clicked on at about eight thirty. Took her a time to find the body on the floor. Medical monitor never chimed emergency. She did a med scan immediately, then called us."

"Yeah, our poor victim is stiff as a board with hair to match, apparently." Sheriff Kalypso carefully stepped into the guest room, gazing around for any detail the Video Multi couldn't retrieve. "Go ahead, deputy. Video her body as is."

"This hair spray stench is demonic, I swear. One can of the stuff is by the body, Sheriff. Looks new. But this nasty crap hasn't been made for several decades." With meticulous precision the deputy scanned the face-down victim, inch by inch. "She was gone in sixty seconds. Death by hair spray asphyxiation."

"Any chance of a blast from the past? That stuff is highly flammable. I remember reading it on the back of the cans."

"Don't light a candle for her," Anna suggested, her tone pure irony. "She was definitely here to have a private good time. Multiple sex partners. Most of them male. Earth human or hybrid human." Anna inhaled sharply. "Oh my Goddess! She was with child. Twelve days since conception."

"Still viable?" Sheriff Kalypso moved toward the corpse."Checking status."

The hair spray victim was a small slender woman with mother-of-pearl skin. She wore an early sixties Jackie O blue shift and pumps, with the hair style to match.

"Shellac for the hair," Sheriff Kalypso commented. Kneeling, she sat back on her haunches, observing the body. "Shiny and not one strand has moved."

"We have a two hour window, if we can round up the proper womb incubator."

"Sheriff," Lucy hailed from the doorway. "Head Agent Vasquoz will be here by portal, to quote 'soon as I'm shaved and down a cup of coffee'."

"I take it Vasquoz is male and didn't mean his legs. Lucy, get Dr. Victoria up here now. We need her expertise. Tell her we have a viable twelve day pregnancy. Then go meet 'Head Agent Vasquoz' for me."

"Sure as shootin' fish, Sheriff." Deputy Lucy athletically ran down the steps, already signaling Dr. Victoria with her Handheld.

"You know Georgia's been seeking a viable fetus. She's in the mood for motherhood again. And she's the best." Deputy Anna completed her corpse scan. Leaning back on her calves, she studied the results as they appeared on screen.

"She is the best. I didn't know she was seeking again. Though, I hate to put her through the process if there's another claim on file. You know how heart-vulnerable she is."

"Yep, she is. Let's see what Dr. Victoria recommends. Sad, haven't had a murder in over a year. And the last case was a boundary dumped escaped rapist."

"Yeah, nothing to mourn there, except his soul and his family."

Sheriff Kalypso frowned. "Our Jackie O's real identity hasn't even popped yet. We may not own the time to find out who she is."

"Sheriff," Anna crooned with excitement, and absolute surprise, "the fetus is Venutian hybrid, female. Someone wanted our victim pregnant."

"Yeah, the bio father wanted her pregnant. Or it never would have happened. Check the International missing partner list. Venutians are extremely protective."

"Checking. Unless it was done by nefarious deception."

"Absolutely on target, Anna, thanks. The perpetrators could have stolen the semen, treated it with the right bio hormones, then inseminated her."

"Whoever she is. Her ID still hasn't popped. She was taking whole-food pregnancy nutrients."

"Why would a woman who knows she's pregnant, using natural nutrition, even come close to decades-old hair spray?" Sheriff Kalypso stood, studying the woman's body for a moment. "I'm looking around for any form of ID."

"The Vid Multi picked up a personal bag in the bottom chest drawer."

Watching her step, Sheriff Kalypso moved to the small bureau. "It's not just her hair. She's entirely coated with the stuff. But lightly, like an artist's touch."

"Like a death portrait. Great moons away. Some poor artist type gone round the bend for whatever good reason. And there are a lot of good reasons in this world."

"Conform or it's time for a psychological lobotomy. Could be. Or it could be the killer gene was stimulated, like during the Conflicts."

"The super soldiers, bred to be killers, and hyped up on adrenaline. You had to blast their heads off to stop them," Deputy Anna recalled.

"Sheriff," Dr. Victoria hailed from the doorway. "How do I help?"

"Stay there. Anna will show you her results. We'll go from there."

"Sheriff," Anna summoned. "Got an ID on one of the males in here. Brody...Lavern's son."

"Crap and snap! He's only sixteen. Ring Lavern. Have her bring him to the constabulary office. I'll get Woodson to talk with them. He can get the full story out of most anyone, the easy way, with no harsh chemicals involved. Woodson, that you?" Sheriff Kalypso spoke into her wrist vid unit.

"Yeah, Sheriff. What's going on at the motel? The town's buzzin' like a beehive."

"Keep it on suppression, deputy. Nasty scene. Need you to work your dialogue magic with Brody. He was here. Might have shared some saliva and seed. Keep it friendly for now. No use stirring up a hornets nest of feelings yet."

"Will accomplish, beautiful. Let you know if I discover what you need."

"Thanks, Woodson. Later." Sheriff Kalypso slid on her working gloves, then used one finger to open the bottom drawer, just in case the vid scan hadn't picked up all the evidence. The bag perfectly matched the woman's pumps. Since it was unlatched, she gingerly opened it wider. She could see makeup, lipstick, and grooming accessories, all early 60's period reproductions. Then, as she leaned over peering deeper inside, she spied the piece of folded up paper, a rarity these days. Especially because it didn't look like a love letter reproduction, a trendy sentiment currently.

Nope, it was plain white note paper, the kind the Sheriff knew about. She'd had a recent birthday, turning one hundred years old. As a shared joke, one hundred cupcakes had been delivered to her from the people of New Atlantis, each with its own tiny candle. Actually, the pastel candles had been miniature fireworks' sparklers. She'd lit them all, one at a time, at the impromptu party her friends had insisted on.

"Anna, you and Victoria decide on anything yet?"

"We need to turn her over, Sheriff, for removal. Location of the fetus," Dr. Victoria explained. "The vitals indicate survival in a temp incubator will be for thirty minutes, only."

"Anna, did you talk to Dr. Victoria about Georgia's possible availability?"

"We have Georgia on contact now," Anna answered. "She's willing. Understands the hybrid genetics. Says she'll be a surrogate if necessary. But does want the child."

"Let me check what's on this piece of paper, in case there's ID info." Sheriff Kalypso unfolded the strip of paper, which had been precisely creased four times. There was only one handwritten word or name, Beatrice. "Beatrice," Sheriff Kalypso spoke. "That's it, all that's written here. Go ahead, remove the fetus for Georgia."

"Sheriff." The man's voice commanded first, and announced his presence second. "Sheriff Kalypso Sun Wing."

"Yeah, that's me." Turning, Kalypso's gaze gave no quarter, hard as diamonds on the outsider. "Agent...?" Dang it to hang, he was a tall and broad drink of water. She'd expected the usual tight-ass wimp, with grim lips and eyes that were mirrors, reflecting nothing but the orders the been given. No, this man burned with sheer vitality. His gaze assessed, a damn force of nature. She'd bet if she struck a match and tossed it toward his eyes, they would sizzle like her birthday candles, then explode at his will. Yep, he was definitely a whole load of nano dynamite, unlit.

"Agent Zryphus Dolen Vasquoz," he answered. "Give me your evidence retrieval. I'll take over from here."

Audible gasps burst from Anna and Dr. Victoria at the man's patriarchal and patronizing tone.

"No, you won't, Agent Vasquoz. You're here at my invitation. Only. You follow my rules or you don't get to play 'Find the Hair Spray Killer'. Do you understand?"

"Wowzi Powzie," Deputy Anna whispered, watching her vid screen light up with the sparks flying between the Sheriff and the outsider Agent.

"It's a Federal Union case, Sheriff. I have priority investigation." The Agent's gravelly deep voice filled the entire room.

"You have nothing, Agent. Unless I say so. You can turn around, hit the portal. Or you can cooperate. You'll have full access. Anna will give you all she's retrieved so far. If you want, I'll even act friendly, let you 'analyze' this bag more closely." Sheriff Kalypso approached, a lioness with no fear. "I'll even sweeten the pot, Agent Vasquoz—let you do a quick exam of the body before we save the fetus. As they used to say, deal or no deal?"

"Whirlwind in the room," Deputy Anna whispered to Victoria, who still watched her vid screen.

"Deal. For now, Sheriff." Focusing his gaze like a cannon laser, the Agent straightened his over-large shoulders, his latent power obvious.

"Pull anything against my authority, Agent Vasquoz, and I guarantee you won't like the results. Deputy, feed your vid evidence to the Agent's data base, will you, please?"

Once Anna stood, he handed his data vid to her without looking. His gaze relentless, Agent Vasquez followed the Sheriff's arm wave to the corpse. Moving easily in the small confines of the room, despite his size, he knelt with deliberate care, scrutinizing every detail of the body.

Sheriff Kalypso couldn't deny his concentration was impressive. She watched him turn the victim over with gentle precision.

Awed, her heart tripping rapidly, Sheriff Kalypso moved closer. "Even her face resembles Jackie O."

"How do you know?" Agent Vasquoz demanded, not looking up.

"I was born in 1951. Check out your history data base, Agent."

"Call me Zryphus."

He stood, gradually moving around the corpse. His gaze never deviated until he halted, and faced Sheriff Kalypso. Immediately, she nodded toward Anna and Dr. Victoria. Kneeling, they worked as a team, rescuing the fetus.

"Got an ID on her, Zryphus?" Kalypso ignored his intense study of her.

"I know who she is. Vrilesa Corzinski. We've been looking for her ever since she disappeared. She fits the Hair Spray Killer's profile. Before she discovered her ability to bear children easily, she was an elite prostitute. Baby-making is a premium moneymaker in some circles."

"Who reported her 'disappearance'?"

"Her brother. He became suspicious of an ongoing vid relationship she had. He was worried when she just packed, and went on vacation, and wouldn't confide where. He claimed it was unusual behavior for her, even when she was pregnant."

"Then there would be parents for the fetus."

"No one on official record. She may have just conceived, and decided to keep the pregnancy."

"Twelve days ago. A Venutian hybrid is the father. That doesn't add up to a 'let's have sex fun' conceived child. Unless you know something I don't."

"Point accepted, Sheriff. May I call you Kalypso?"

With the fetus safe, Anna grinned and checked her vid. Sure as the sky, the Agent's voice suddenly registered as masculine velvet.

Kalypso hesitated. Dang and wolf's fang, was he putting the moves on her? "Why not? We try to stay friendly around here."

"Fake charm or real charm?" Dr. Victoria whispered.

"He's for real," Anna spoke near her ear.

"Now that I have new leads, Kalypso, I'll research later, discover if there are waiting parents. Where's the victim's handbag?"

"Down in that drawer. I used gloves, and had a look inside. Found this folded piece of paper at the bottom." Sheriff Kalypso handed over the evidence. "If the handwriting doesn't belong to our victim, your resource base is larger than ours. I expect full knowledge of whatever you find out."

"Mutual giving. It's a deal," the Agent purred, his meaning obviously beyond investigative cooperation. He gazed down at the unfolded paper, as if it could be the key to solving his case.

"Mean anything to you?" Sheriff Kalypso finally prompted.

"No. Not any connection to a 'Beatrice' that I've come across."

"We have a volunteer surrogate for the fetus." She arched a brow. "Do you object?"

"I can't offer a surrogate soon enough. No, Kalypso, I don't object. What autopsy methods do you have here?"

"Dr. Victoria, let me know how insertion goes, will you?"

"Sure, Sheriff. On my way."

"We have machine autopsy. Holo program or real cutting. Our town butcher knows her way around the human body. She worked forensics in Chicago before the permanent break up of the United States. You got a preference?"

"Start with Holo. From my examination it looks like 'the Hair Spray Killer'. Not a copycat."

"Anna, give a holler to Deputy Lucy. You two take the victim to autopsy after you've scanned her clothing, and all her personal items. Once the Agent and I have satisfied each other on the collection of evidence, I'll check in."

"Sure as fire, Sheriff. Sorry, bad joke. No sparks allowed in here with all these fumes. Heck, the corpse could still explode from all that hair spray covering her. We'll keep the ride real cool."

"Lost several of our victims that way, Kalypso. One static spark before we arrived, the body burned," Zryphus seriously stated. "Leave the hair spray can here. I need to do an analysis."

"How many victims so far?"

"Twelve. If this proves out, it will be unlucky thirteen. Or lucky thirteen. I have a feeling you're a very persistent woman."

"Truth, justice. That's our way here, Zryphus. Play it that way, we'll get along. Once Deputy Anna finishes scanning, you can take her data, or follow in her footsteps, and get your own." She eyed him, wondering if he was a wolf dressed in wolf's clothing, as he appeared. There was no pretense of wearing sheep's clothing that she observed. "Do you usually work alone?"

"Back up team for forensics, investigation. Yes, I work alone. No partner. You're the exception, Kalypso. Let's investigate the contents of her handbag together."

"From what I can tell. the makeup and lipstick cases look like replicas of the early sixties era. We have lab verification and analysis, if you want use of it."

"Let's see what we've got first." Agent Zryphus carefully dumped out the handbag's contents. After scanning each item, he professionally murmured, "Just her prints and bio cells. Take a look at the lipstick. Is it the color she's wearing?"

"Wouldn't your scan data verify that?"

"Wrongly phrased. You're the period expert. I wanted your impression of how real the lipstick and the makeup itself are to your recollection."

Sheriff Kalypso uncapped the lipstick. "It's been ages, but it looks real. Smells real. Not the same color she's wearing."

"The color of lipstick has been the same on each victim. Never found a container."

"How could you tell on the burned victims?"

"Enough residue remained for holo reconstruction. Take a look inside the other cases," he suggested.

"Why the nice treatment, Zryphus? I was dirt under your shoes when you first arrived." Sheriff Kalypso did some burning of her own while she picked up the mascara wand. "Black, black. Just like I remember."

"Sheriff," Deputy Anna called out, "finished the personal item scan. Got the body ready for transport. We're on our way. I'll leave the door open. Keep airing the room out."

"Thanks, Anna. You know where I am." Kalypso picked up a compact case, solid rich elegance in design. Opening it, she studied the pasty heavy covering. "Looks real. But I never used this stuff. Couldn't stand it. I used the sheer version they came out with, when I used makeup. Except when I acted in college theater. We used the heavy stuff because of the lighting. You haven't answered my question, Zryphus."

"Bluntly, Kalypso...I want you in my bed."

Placing the compact case down delicately, Kalypso absorbed the shock. "No, I don't think so," she slowly enunciated each word.

"Do you have a lover?" Zryphus handed her the powder case.

"None of your business, as they used to say. Looks real. Mind if I test it with my finger?"

"Please. You don't have a lover. Neither do I."

"Probably because you're married or in a committed partnership. Or you just ended an affair. Something like that. No!" Kalypso shifted gears. "Feels real, smells real. Are you aware of a company, or maybe a small business, that creates these replica products?"

"Three, to be exact. I can't tell where these originated. I'm a one woman man, Kalypso. You'd have all my attention."

"No thanks. I politely decline. Eyelash curler. Never used one. They always looked so barbaric. Hmmm, brow tweezers. Unfortunately, I tried this a few times. Way too painful."

"I'll convince you. What's this?"

"Eyebrow darkening powder. No, you won't. I don't like men when it comes to relationship crap. Perhaps you don't know much about our social structure here. Women rule."

"I dominate in bed. In our passionate relationship."

"No. Make me say 'no' again and something ugly will occur to you. Eye shadows. Definitely not the colors she had on. Let me see the blush."

"Ever been married, Kalypso? Which one is the blush?"

"I'm not answering. This case." Snatching it up, Kalypso lifted the lid. "Looks like the same color she had on. But we'll have to test. What's in the white satin bag?"

"Rings, three of them. They scan out at the same time period." He answered as if they were merely investigating together.

"Those have to be worth a fortune. To an investor who can pay."

"Approximately four ounces of platinum on the investor's market."

"Inscriptions?" she asked.

"Jim loves Mary forever on this one."

"Wonder if they're family heirlooms?"

"Intuitively, how do you read it, Kalypso?"

"Our Jackie O look-alike, was searching for something. I don't know if these rings are part of what she was looking for. Or maybe they were just an insurance policy."

"Insurance policy?"

"Like 'diamonds are a girl's best friend'. But since they're period, maybe they hold more sentimental value. Maybe a way of life she wanted to create for herself. The sixties Camelot of the Kennedy's, which wasn't, of course. But it was certainly a lovely shining hope at the time. Until the day certain powers-that-be at the CIA killed him, President Kennedy."

"Diamonds are a girl's best friend?"

"Come on, how old are you? Don't you ever watch vintage movies?"

"I'm 150 in Earth years. I have inhabited Earth for thirty-two years. Vintage suspense and crime movies. Dinner later? I'll bring diamonds."

Well hell and do tell, that explained his bull-massive size. He wasn't Earth human. "I'm ignoring you, Mr. Space Man. Except for a temporary professional relationship. What next?"

"We check out her clothes. You tell me your favorite kinky sex acts."

Kalypso decided a scowl in his direction wasn't worth the energy. "Only if you tell me why your behavior is so reprehensible toward women. Her clothing is mostly hanging in the closet, except for her underwear."

"What is reprehensible about sexually pleasing you? Several Jackie O outfits, I believe. You tell me."

"I don't want you 'sexually pleasing' me. That's what is reprehensible. Yes, three more. Travel clothing, as if she arrived by auto-bus rather than portal. English horse riding outfit circa late twentieth century, early twenty-first. Yoga exercise garments. Wow! negligees. Too bad you missed out on those vintage movies. These are early sixties styles, too. Boas, shoes to match everything. Find any stray hair that doesn't belong to her?"

"These aren't the clothes she wears with a sexual partner. Let's check the drawers. Yes, you do. You want me to do all those fantasy carnal acts you play out when you orgasm."

Used to commanding men during the Conflicts, Kalypso didn't flinch. "Meet me at our training gym. I'll show you what I want. To mash you like potatoes, into a begging pulp." She opened the first drawer. "Oh, my Goddess...she came equipped to play out fantasies. You should have asked her about favorite kinky sex acts."

"See what you mean. No new evidence recovered on the vid. Same males that were in bed with her. Two women. One-on-one, far as I can tell by the evidence. Actively used, however. Maybe enthusiastically would be a better description."

"Must be the type of woman whose hormones leap to insatiable when she's pregnant."

"Promise not to make you pregnant, Kalypso. If that's a worry for you."

"Why would I trust you? Next drawer?"

"You open. I'll vid any evidence. You'll learn to trust me."

"You'll learn to trust my incredible dislike for you." Sliding the drawer open, Kalypso gasped, poignantly. "Baby clothes, early sixties. She was planning on keeping the baby. At least, that's the way it appears."

"It does," Zryphus gently uttered. "Maybe she wanted to raise her child here."

"It's happened before. A mother who wants to change her life, start over. She decides to live in New Atlantis. Maybe she was searching for a life partner, also. By the way, we've got one of our own people coming down to the office for an interview. He's only sixteen, though."

"Why didn't you inform me earlier?" Zryphus growled.

"Why should I? It wasn't the priority. I've got my best person handling the interview. Male, if that makes you happy. He'll let me know immediately, if anything vital to the case plays out."

"This male want you as a lover?"

"Geez Louise, you're a bore."

"You won't say that after I kiss you. Bathroom, let's check it out."

"Picture my knee plowing into your male jewels." Kalypso pictured it with great satisfaction as they moved toward the bathroom door.

"You've got the most exquisite lush ass. Doggie lust at least once a week."

Kalypso whirled, feeling her face ignite to red. Her rage barely suppressed, she demanded, "What woman has ever responded to that degrading approach? Never mind!" She whirled back toward the bathroom, and forced her fists to unclench. "Obviously they have or you wouldn't be using it on me."

"You're the first. Believe it or not. What's that overwhelming smell?"

Pausing, she inhaled deeply, just to make certain. "It's Chanel #5. A popular perfume during that era. Personally I never liked it." Wishing she could jab her knuckles into his throat, a shot that would knock him off his big fat feet, she snapped, "Of course, I don't believe it. Men usually lie. Why would you be an exception to that rule?"

"What was your favorite perfume during that era?"

He'd spoken as if they politely conversed. Figuring she'd be rid of the monstrously framed irritant soon, she answered, "Emeraude it was called. Don't like perfumes now. Too synthetic still. Even with the revolution toward eco life styles. Look at all this replica stuff. Electric hair curlers, ancient hair dryer for heaven's sake. I wonder if she was trying to live the way she remembered her mother or grandmother? She showed up about half my age on the bio data. Do you know her birth date?"

"April 26, 2000. Five life path."

"Yeah. Lookin' for adventure. Never the bored girl. But she needed roots somewhere, if she was planning on keeping her daughter."

"Your town, Gardenia, and even your settlement area here on New Atlantis, remains isolated. Was it a new life or was she running from something?"

"If she was running, she should have kept on going. Maybe she could have outrun the Hair Spray Killer. The Hair Spray Killer, male or female, or both sets of genes, do you know?"

"All indication is male. Although the bio isn't conclusive. One male's presence looms larger than the others in here. A primary lover, do you think?"

"Client? Whatever. We don't tell people how to live their sex lives here. Keep it away from the children. Keep it private from those who don't want participation—and you can do whatever consenting adults do. Should be right up your preference alley." Kalypso knife-inserted her voice. "Get enough bio on the primary male for ID?"

"He's a Venutian hybrid. Maybe the baby's father? Nothing pops on immediate ID. Sending the bio to world search." He glanced at her professionally. "Got a local bio bank of all your people?"

"No. Just those who want ID for safety purposes. That's how we knew it was Brody, and his age, sixteen. You won't put his bio in your system." She stressed won't. "If you do, which we will discover, I'll make certain your systems are fried. All of them. In fact, you will not put any of our people in your federal system or any system—without permission. Do you understand?"

"Sure, gorgeous. You got sovereignty. Curious though, how are you planning to southern fry our systems?"

"Intention. Ever get a group together...a little concentration? A whole lot of intention. The system fries up like catfish. And if that doesn't do it...well, we always have a backup plan. Which I won't divulge." Kalypso half-turned away, before her itching kneecap enjoyed some exercise between the tree trunks that were his thighs. "Where's her underwear drawer?"

"Where's her underwear?"

"Good question, crazy man. She was wearing a bra, panties and hose circa the period. Showed up on the vid scan. I'll check all the drawers in here. You check her luggage, since there was none in the chest of drawers."

"Rather have you squeeze past me, our bodies in mutual contact...gorgeous." Zryphus grinned in that overbearing male, highly irritating way.

"Deviant. Why don't you advertise? There are women here who would 'appreciate' that particular lack in your character. 'Male Deviant. For sexual hire and doggie style pleasure. Top dog position required'," Kalypso sarcastically crooned, and shrugged one shoulder.

"Ruff, ruff, baby." He spun out of the bathroom before Kalypso could sock his jaw with her balled-up fist.

"I'd probably break my hand on his square rock-hard jaw," she muttered, then leaned over, and pulled open the first drawer. Lotions, nail polishes, and a manicure set were neatly arranged. "It would be worth it," she groused.

"I heard that, gorgeous."

"I hope so. If you know what's good for ya." Kalypso opened the next drawer. Anti-aging health supplements and creams lined the bottom. Most of them she was familiar with, and used.

After years of deliberate misdirection, and lies by the Global Elite-run corporations, the truth had finally come into full raging spotlight. There were three basic corrections that could be made naturally, which would effectively reverse aging back to a peak state of youth and beauty. A truth that had come to 'cosmic light', in part, because of Contact. Contact with the ancient Humans, who had returned to Earth as visitors. Many of them had departed before the destruction of the Atlantean empire, one more story of biblical proportions on the billions-year old Earth.

Deciding the fantasy-playing Jackie O may have hung her 'unmentionables' in the shower, Kalypso slid open the shower door. Only a pair of red lace thongs hung from the shower head. "Darling," she called out as if she was in a Doris Day/Rock Hudson movie. "In here...with your equipment, please."

"Our first sex act in the shower, darling?" His low gravelly voice seized her.

Kalypso whipped around. "Get your equipment up, stud dog, for these."

"Not worn long," he stated, watching his vid scan. "And not worn by our victim. Must be one of your citizens. She's not showing up on my ID. I can analyze her gene material, give you a profile, unless that's contrary to your sovereignty, Sheriff gorgeous. By the way, no underwear, anywhere." He fastened his gaze on her. "You're not wearing any."

"Don't like it." Kalypso averted her face, and twisted the corner of her mouth. Men! "Except on special occasions," she added for affect. "Give me a profile on our red lace gal. My prerogative as Sheriff of our fair land and town."

"I like it. That you're not wearing any...underwear. It'll take a few minutes. I have to use the central program."

"Really don't care what you like. And don't like," Kalypso grouched. "Anything else you want to investigate here?" She shoved past his great hulking frame, and breathed in the air of freedom, from him, even if it still reeked of hair spray.

"Feeling trapped by our ferocious attraction?" Zryphus sauntered toward her, his gaze locked on the vid.

"If I have to personally tromp through hell, I'm finding the killer just so I don't have to be around you!"

Zryphus raised one dark ruthless brow, then both brows. "If I were the killer I'd be quaking in my killer killer shoes, or my killer bare feet."

"Is that the diabolical plan? Make me hate you so much, I'll do whatever I have to do to get the killer, despite my duty to the sovereignty of New Atlantis?"

"No, the deviant diabolical plan is to trap you in my bed, take advantage of every carnal thrill with that exceptional and sweet body of yours."

"Disgusting doesn't cover it!" Kalypso marched toward the door. She grabbed a breath to calm herself. "Before I touch the door handle, do you want a second close-up scan?"

"Better scanning-safe than sorry. You've got me slightly off my game, gorgeous. Or I would have thought of that." He strode to the front door, watching her pivot to one side, then fold her arms tightly against him. She tapped her foot impatiently, while he thoroughly ran his super vid over the entire surface. "The handle, it's been intentionally cleaned, on the inside and outside of the room."

"Cleaned with what? Top dog detective," she sniped.

"It reads out as old-fashioned Windex. Effective enough."

"Defeated by Windex. Great holy cow!"

"I see your Deputy Anna scanned the direct area around the room outside."

"Yep, when we arrived. As we walked up the steps to the room. The camera feed from the motel is already in process at the office. The little amount there is...we don't spy on our people here!" Kalypso heatedly defended at his hard glance. "Do you want to view it, or not?"

"Anything to stay next to you, gorgeous. The profile on your red lace gal is coming up." He flashed a small cock-of-the-walk grin at her.

Happy Summer Reading...
May your most romantic dreams come true...


Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~
~~~ Kalypso & Zryphus invite you to read their love story ~ a match made in intergalactic heaven ~~~

MURDER BY HAIR SPRAY IN GARDENIA, NEW ATLANTIS ~ 2051 suspense futuristic, erotic romance ~ American Title IV finalist ~ One hundred years later Sheriff Kalypso despises relationships. Zryphus has found his one woman. The Battle of the Sexes begins. Rising from Siren-BookStrand ~ the future begins here... ~ ~ IN PRINT ~ available at Barnes and Noble & Amazon.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lunar Eclipse Magic ~ It’s here... COYOTE MOON

July 7, 2009, night of the full moon and a lunar eclipse. Yep, definitely a lucky omen for Pat Cunningham’s COYOTE MOON. Her first romance shapeshifter romance releases today!

Blurb ~

It's that time of the month -- the full moon -- when Willy Alvarez's moods go wonky and her dreams fill up with wolves. A time for hungers she doesn't dare fulfill because they lead to violence. She's resigned herself to a manless life, then Cody Gray arrives.

Cody is cute, funny, charming, and a werecoyote. His nose knows what Willy doesn't: she's half werewolf. He's convinced this repressed half-human she-wolf is his perfect mate. Now he just has to convince her. And quick, because her long-lost pack has learned about her existence, and they've come to town to claim her...

Coyote Moon – Story Excerpt

Cody sighed carefully, in and out. She wasn’t really in a state to hear this, but… “Willy, listen up. We’re out of time, so I gotta be blunt. You’re a werewolf.”
She stiffened in his arms. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me. Definite wolf. Not all the way, though, just half. From what I’m seeing and smelling, I’d say the wolf’s stronger than the human.”
She lifted her head and stared at him. His eyes were inches from hers, and utterly sincere. “You’re serious.”
“‘Fraid so. You almost shifted tonight, that’s what happened to you. The wolf and the ape are all mixed up and your body can’t make up its mind. I’m betting once you switch all the way, everything’ll sort itself out.”
“Switch? You mean, into a wolf?” Good God, this must be loonie night, and here she was stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a naked one. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“Wish I could say yes, but you’re showing all the signs. You’re a wolf, and the sooner you own up to that—Hey, where you going?”
“Home.” Willy marched past him, eyes carefully averted, in the direction she figured Coopersburg must lie. The panic had run its course; her brain operated coolly again, all unwanted thoughts and emotions carefully suppressed. Okay, not all, but distance from Cody would take care of that. And maybe by the time she got there, she’d have figured out a way to deal with Beth that didn’t involve homicide. “Werewolf, my ass.”
In the blink of an eye Cody shot ahead of her and planted himself in her path. “I can see you’ve gotten good at this, but you can’t keep running forever. Face facts, darlin’. You’re a wolf, pure and simple, and you better accept it, or what happened tonight’ll happen again. Next time you might kill somebody.”
Like she hadn’t thought of that. Quick, distract herself. She waved her arm at the sky. “Explain why I’m human while a full moon’s out.”
“It only works like that in the movies. We can change whenever we want.”
“‘We’? So you’re a werewolf, too? Well, I guess that explains the lack of clothing.”
“Not wolf. Coyote.”
“Oh? Well, that’s a big difference.” She started walking again.
He got in her way again. She glared at him, seething over the effort it took to keep her gaze locked on his and not let it dip. Her mood swings threatened to swing her in that totally inappropriate direction again. Think of something else. “Okay, I’ll play along. How am I supposed to…switch?”
“First you take your clothes off.”
“That’s what I thought.” She stalked down the hillside. “That’s the sickest pickup line I’ve ever heard.”
She picked the stretch with the fewest rocks and stomped along it. She kept her glare riveted straight ahead, so she wouldn’t have to look at Cody. She could hear him trotting at her side, just out of reach. “Not a line,” he said, “just common sense. You’ll rip your clothes if you try to change in ‘em. Just thinking ahead, is all.”
“Of course,” she said frostily. “And I suppose in order to achieve this `switch’ I have to sleep with you?”
“Well, no. Never heard of it done that way.” His voice lit up. “Might be fun, though.”
“I’m calling the cops when I get home. I’m having you put away.” And maybe herself, right after.
“If that’s what makes you happy. I’m betting it won’t.” He reached for her arm. “For your own good—”
She snapped at him, a move so quick, so instinctive, she had no time to think. Her teeth clicked together just short of his fingers. She followed it up with a snarl that would have backed up a whole pack of wolves. Cody stood his ground and waited her out. The snarl died away when she realized what she’d done. Her color drained off until she was pale as the moon.
“That’s her,” Cody said softly. “The wolf. You don’t let her out, she’ll kill you. Chew you up from the inside.”
“No. I’m not. You’re not. Those things don’t exist.” She would have bolted, but Cody caught hold of her and wouldn’t let go, no matter how much she thrashed and snapped.
“Atta girl,” he encouraged. “Set her loose. I’d rather we didn’t do it like this, but like my daddy always says, any den in a twister.”
Willy ground out a curse and kicked. Her knee fell short of its target. Their legs tangled and they tumbled to the ground. She tried to scramble up, but couldn’t find her footing. Her hands and feet kept sliding all over the carpet of pine needles, and Cody. Like having four legs that refused to cooperate with a brain programmed to deal with only two.
“That’s the spirit, darlin’. Hey, is that hair on your neck?”
She aimed a punch at him, and missed. How dare he make jokes while she—oh crap. While she rolled around on the ground on top of a naked psycho. She shoved away from him and scrabbled back. “Don’t touch me. Don’t come near me.”
“You sure?” His grin infuriated her. “For our breed, this counts as foreplay.”
“You disgusting son of a—”
Coyote. Cody was gone. She blinked and he blurred. The coyote crouched in front of her, forelegs splayed and hindquarters hiked in the air. He waved his tail and yapped at her, an invitation to play.
Willy gulped, hard. I did not just see that.
The coyote lolled his tongue. Cody’s grin on canine jaws. His yellow eyes held Cody’s twinkle. He rocked back on his hindquarters and became Cody again, kneeling before her. “See that? Nothing to it. Now you try.”
I’m not going to scream. Screaming is for sissies.
She fainted instead.

Purchase at ~ ~

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sneak Preview ~ Coyote Moon by Pat Cunningham

Cody Gray hiked into Coopersburg just shy of sunset, and right off the bat he smelled she-wolf.
Cody’s mouth stretched in a great big fox-in-the-henhouse grin. If he’d had his tail right then, he’d’ve wagged it. All the way up from Texas he’d been on the lookout for some nice wild country to set up a pack in, and a mate to help him get started. Just when he figured northern California might fill the bill for one, Fate dropped the other in his lap. Chaos, patron of the coyote-folk, must be smiling on him.
He set his nose to the wind. He’d already spotted a bar up ahead, and a couple of houses and a gas station, before the two-laner he’d hitchhiked in on widened out and entered Coopersburg proper. The she-wolf was at the gas station, and plenty riled by the scent of her. He drank in a noseful of her and sighed. Nice and pungent. Alpha, maybe? He liked his girls feisty. Cody quickened his pace.
Closer to the gas station, he spotted a nasty tableau: three big apes closing in on a pair of ladies. The lady in back, getting herded into the dubious safety of the garage bay, was slender, blonde and cursing like a dock hand. The herder had auburn hair and three-four inches on the blonde. She looked fit to chew brass and spit tacks. Cody’s pulse ramped up to a gallop. There was his wolf, and she was about to get herself trounced. Her bared teeth kept the apes at bay, but they wouldn’t hold much longer.
He slowed and came up on them careful and unnoticed, close enough to smell the alcohol on the apes and hear the menace coloring their taunts. The wolf-gal said something. The snarl in her tone announced the apes were in for a whuppin’, but she made no move to attack. Cody crouched behind a parked car. Chaos, only three of them. Why didn’t she just shift and end it?
Then, in a heartbeat, the situation changed. The blonde screamed. Cody’s hackles lifted. The apes had a buddy, and he’d snuck in through the office into the bay and caught the blonde gal from behind. She writhed in his grip while the other apes hooted. The wolf-gal darted in to help the blonde, but the ape in the lead grabbed her arm. Cody didn’t catch his words, but the leer on his face said it all.
So she let him have it. No girly slaps for this she-wolf. She socked him a solid one, right in the nose. The smell of blood joined the odors of liquor and adrenaline that already charged the air. The words she barked at the lead ape weren’t the kind ladies should know, much less repeat in public, but given the situation Cody allowed she was entitled.
The big ape’s face got uglier, no mean feat. If the wolf-gal hadn’t switched by now, Cody realized, she either wasn’t going to, or couldn’t.
That clinched it. This was his future mate getting threatened by those drunk knuckle-draggers. He bared his teeth, revealing canines just a tad longer and heavier than a human’s. Time to get involved. In true coyote fashion, of course.
This being a garage, naturally it had a peck of cars sitting around, and naturally some trusting soul had left their keys in the ignition. Cody slid in behind the wheel of a sporty little Mustang that started up real nice. He took aim and floored it.
The rev of the Mustang’s engine must’ve cut through the boozy haze on their brains because they looked around and finally noticed the car rocketing right at them. They abandoned the wolf-gal and scattered. Cody plowed through the midst of them, then swung a tight U-ey and shot after their leader, the biggest, ugliest ape in this bunch of bananas. The man scrabbled desperately over the tarmac. Cody brought the Mustang right up on his heels before he slewed it aside. He reached out and slapped the ape’s John Deere cap clean off his head. The ape stumbled away, and the car shot on by.
Cody let loose a Texas howl and wheeled around for another go. Chaos, this car handled sweet. “Gotta get me one of these,” he murmured.
And one of those, he added mentally, as his squealing turn faced him toward the garage again. The goon in the bay had let go of the blonde, and now the wolf-gal was all over him like, well, like ugly on an ape. Poor guy couldn’t even land a slap. Too quick and strong for him. Cody’s butt hitched on the seat, wagging a phantom tail.
Since the wolf-gal didn’t need his help, he went back after the apes. They’d made fast tracks across the street and piled into a pickup parked by the bar. They took off down the road without so much as a cussword flung at him. Cody offered up a mental shrug. Didn’t want to dent their truck, most like. Apes had oddball priorities.
He trundled the Mustang up to the garage. The wolf-gal had the fourth ape flat on the greasy floor. The ape contracted into a ball. “C’mon, Willy. I said I was sorry.”
“You’re sorry, all right,” she growled down at him. “I expect cheap thuggery from Les, but you—”
She cut herself off and sniffed the air. She turned just as Cody hopped out of the Mustang. He watched her eyes get big and her body tighten up to full attention.
She knew what he was, all right, but only on some basic, primitive level, not in her head or her nose. She didn’t recognize him. Any she-wolf worth her pack standing would be showing her fangs by now, with a growl at him to git, rescue or no rescue. That’s how your average wolf saw coyotes, pests to be run off. Because your average wolf had no sense of humor.
He stared hard into her eyes. A fine honey-brown shade. Wolf eyes ran to yellow, like his own. This one had a whiff of ape on her. Half-breed? That might explain why she hadn’t switched.
Her stance had shifted into a pose of wary friendliness. She let him get pretty close up before she stopped him with a little twitch of her mouth, not quite the flash of a fang. “Thanks,” she said.
“My pleasure, ma’am.”
“I could have handled it. Those jerks are losers even when they’re sober. But I do appreciate the help.” She smiled just enough to get Cody’s invisible tail wagging again. “Nice moves with my car, by the way.”
Her car? Chaos love it, this just got better and better. Cody flashed a smile wide enough to eat the moon. She didn’t even have her hand halfway out before he seized it. “Glad I could help. I’m Cody Gray, up from Texas. You’re going to marry me.”

COMING REAL SOON from Siren-BookStrand!!! Git those pinkies ready to click the buy button!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My First Time

My First Time

By Pat Cunningham

No, not that first time. (Made ya look, though, didn’t I? Ha ha!) I’m talking about my first sale of a romance story to a romance publisher. “Coyote Moon” will be available shortly from epublisher Siren/BookStrand. Since my other story sales were all to SF/fantasy markets, this means I’ve successfully crossed over into another genre.

Well, crossed over, at any rate. We’ll find out how successful I was once the reviews start coming in.

To be fair, I cheated. It’s a paranormal (shape-shifters), so there are strong fantasy elements, which kept me well within my comfort zone. It’s a comedy – again, something I’m no stranger to. I had a ball writing the dialogue, but for me dialogue’s the fun part.

Switching focus from a plot-driven adventure to the developing relationship between two people – okay, you got me. That was the tricky part. Still locked in action/adventure mode, I tend to run with the plot and forget the relationship. I need to slow down and give these people a chance to get to know each other. Half the time I have to go back and shoehorn in the sex scene. That’s not how you write a romance, much less keep your characters happy.

So, what have I learned from my foray into a brand-new genre? I love humor and snappy repartee. I should probably focus on romcoms. I need to add more sensory detail. I use variations of “was” far too often. (The editor highlighted every one of them in the manuscript. Yikes! Passive voice was rampant. See what I mean?)

Best of all, I’ve added a new form of writing to my resume. Now I can get rejected in science fiction, fantasy, and romance. Tomorrow, the world.

How long will I swim in my new pool? Depends on how long the paranormal trend stays healthy. I’ve got all sorts of ideas. My current WIP involves a werewolf paired with a witch (she’s a vegetarian – hilarity ensues) to solve a murder mystery. Great, now I’m doing mysteries. Genre number four.

The important thing is to learn the rules, keep them in mind, and treat the material with respect, regardless of the genre(s). With luck and lots of practice, you’re bound to produce a tale that people will read from end to end and find entertaining enough to thank you afterwards. That works no matter what genre you write in.