So, I had a title and a story idea when I opened the file, but then we started making trips across the state to look for a new home, and the file was set aside. I had spent the previous years concentrating on my romantic suspense stories for St. Martin's Press, then wrote Dark Captive, the sixth book in the Spirit Wild series, and then started the next one. All would have gone well, except we got serious about selling our house in Healdsburg and shopping for a new one "somewhere special," which took longer than expected. We'd sold our house and still had nowhere to go when we found the place where we live now. It's beautiful, though the picture of the forest above is how it looked long after my husband started clearing out undergrowth, dead branches, fallen trees and all the other stuff that meant you couldn't see the forest for the trees...
When I finally settled down, my office was as organized as it was going to get at that point, and I went back to the few pages I'd managed to write and realized they were absolutely awful, but I finally pinpointed what was wrong. It took awhile before I realized two things: first, I no longer had Anton Cheval sitting over my shoulder and whispering the story in my ear, and because I was trying to write without Anton, I'd lost my voice. He's always been my secret weapon with the Chanku books, the pushy muse that is the reason I even started writing Spirit Wild in the first place, and the fact that I'd lost my "voice," the rhythm of my own writing that makes it quintessentially me, meant I sounded flat and foreign. I wasn't sure how to fix things. I knew I had to get Anton back and figured he'd help me find my voice.
So I went back to some of my older stories and read them. The first Wolf Tales (and damn but I want to edit that thing!) and a few of the Sexy Beast novellas, and then I reread Dark Captive since that's the lead in for this new book. And once I'd spent a couple of months immersing myself in all things Chanku, Anton was back, and so was my voice.
Then, about the time I got really serious about writing the story, I had some health issues when the arthritis in my hands and wrists made it difficult to type, and of course there was a pandemic. That should have actually helped, but we lived in a beautiful place with hiking trails and wildlife and it kept pulling me outside.
I don't even remember what day it was when I looked back through all the openings I'd written--and discarded--for this book, and decided to start fresh once again. The difference was, this time I was ready. I lost a year in there and still thought I'd started it sometime after we moved here, but it wasn't until I'd finished the book a couple of days ago and was getting ready to send it to my beta readers that I checked the "open file" date. That's when I realized I'd started it three years ago. After years of writing four to six books a year, it was pretty humiliating to see that I'd essentially lost track of the time I'd spent with this story.
It's not like my other books--this one is about the second generation of the original pack, now the Chanku Nation, going out in search of Berserkers--bred as the warrior class in the time when the early Chanku were still comfortably living on their home planet long before it died and they had to escape to other worlds. Berserkers are Chanku born as animals and unable to shift, and yet well aware of their humanity. It wasn't until the discovery of Asha in Dark Captive that the modern Chanku fully realized that Berserkers existed in greater numbers than imagined, that they could be held in zoos and cages, bought and sold illegally by criminals trading in endangered predators, or even in large animal parks where their true identity was hidden by their animal's inability to communicate just who and what they were.
In Dark Stranger you'll meet a number of new characters, all rescued over a very short period of time, but each with their own stories and drama.
Once this book is done and set free, I plan to get busy working on the reverted titles that have been unavailable for so long. My first project will be the Dream Catchers series--my erotic S/F releases that came out during the Borders meltdown. The series release was truncated from the beginning and very few books made available to stores, it got absolutely no promotion to speak of, and died on the vine. Personally, it's one of my favorites, so it's first on my list, and since the leading novella is important to the series, I plan to include all three stories, Dream Catchers, Dream Bound, and Dream Unchained as a single release. if there's enough call for it, I'll also bring them out in print.
Anyway, that's it for now. I'll do a contest once I get the "beta-read" manuscript back and have a better idea of when it can be released. I've got some neat stuff for new writers (and I know there are a lot of you among my readers--we all have to start somewhere!) and some really unique little wolf-print earrings that our 15 year old granddaughter makes. They're really very cool!
I'm not able to use my Yahoo groups newsletter notice anymore, so I'd suggest you sign up for the RSS feed on this page so you know when new posts to the newsletter/blog come out. I'm still working on bringing my website up to date, and hopefully it won't take me as long as it took to write the damned book!
Take care, I hope you've all made it through the pandemic safely, and always remember to find time to read.