Little Hen Romance Is Alive!

And this weekend, all the books are free to read on your handy-dandy Kindle device. Wanna see what we’ve got? (Click the image to go to the Amazon page.)

dragon gold

Celtic witch Rowan is taken from her Saxon captors by the Romans and given as a spoil of war to Titus, a Roman general.He treats her tenderly, but she is determined to be free. But when Titus is surrounded by traitors, she has to decide. Should she take advantage of the confusion and escape or use her magic to save him? Possible trigger warning: Some of the sexual activity described is not what I’d call consensual. While it falls far short of rape, readers with a particular sensitivity in this area might find it upsetting.  Paranormal historical/fantasy.

playing hamlet

A conversation with sex. Nick and Tara were drama school sweethearts before Nick became an international sensation and every geek girl’s dream. Now he’s home in London to play Hamlet opposite Tara’s Ophelia. With the help of the bard and a bottle of wine, they might find out they broke up too soon. Contemporary.

 

voodoo heartDEA Special Agent Hank West is ready to testify against the meth ring he’s just broken and leave the backwoods of Georgia behind. But on a dark and stormy night in a tin roof shack in the middle of nowhere, an ancient goddess in disguise might make him change his mind. Contemporary.

the king's tutor

As the former mistress of Louis XIV, Catriona is uniquely qualified to assist the musketeers who mean to replace him on the throne with his twin, Phillipe. While the old soldiers teach him war and politics, Cat is meant to teach him the royal methods of seduction. But when she meets her pupil, she finds herself falling in love. Episode one in an on-going series, The Sun King, based loosely on The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. Historical.

For more information about Little Red Hen, visit our website here: http://lucybluecastle.wix.com/littleredhenromance

10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Compare the Modern Man to Mr. Darcy

Lucy:

Calling all Darcy-ites! Author Emmy Z. Madrigal has some wisdom to impart that could save your love life.

Originally posted on Emmy Z. Madrigal:

amanda_darcy1. Mr. Darcy was written by a woman.

Yes, Jane Austen fulfilled our fantasies by writing a delicious character, but he is written from a woman’s point of view. He says the right thing (or wrong thing) at precisely the right time and approaches Lizzy with expressive and romantic language real men don’t use. “Hey, wanna take a trip with me this weekend?” can be just as tantalizing from a real guy as, “I must tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Read his signs like you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, with care and attention to detail. Asking you to hang out with him, means you are special enough to spend time with. Give him a break on the flowery declarations of love.

2. Even Jane Austen didn’t write the Darcy in your head.

You’ve read her words, but you’ve blown Mr. Darcy into this full-blown fantasy…

View original 904 more words

Because life is too short to read crap

the king's tutor coverLike more than 20 million other people, I read e-books on a Kindle, and my favorite genre is romance. A quick search on Amazon for romance titles this morning yielded me 365,065 options to choose from. I know from experience that there are treasures to be found all the way up and down the charts. But the vast majority of these 365,065 e-books calling themselves romances are total, unmitigated, stinky, slimy, sloppy crap. The Wild West world of e-publishing combined with a media that continually broadcasts romance as that world’s most popular and therefore most potentially profitable genre have shaken stuff out of the bushes that would make Grace Livingston Hill say “Fuck this noise” and switch to thrillers. Well-meaning amateurs who couldn’t write their way out of a wet paper sack with a box cutter and a blowtorch have unwittingly conspired with cynical assholes who say flat out they hate romance as they write the dumbass porno to prove it. Together they’ve created a digital Bog of Eternal Stench where readers who actually love the genre can only cling to the few writers they already know they can trust and pray for daylight—and better pricing.

Life is too short to read crap. That’s the idea that inspired Little Red Hen Romance, a smallest-of-the-small-time e-book publisher that I hope will give me and readers like me a better option. The plan is to publish at least four new romance short story titles every month starting on May 1. The stories will be absolutely free for their first week of release (and only available through Amazon) then 99 cents forever thereafter (and available from B&N and iTunes, too). If things go well, we’ll do longer anthologies and maybe even full-length books, but for now, we’re trying it out with the shorties, 3000-8000 words each. But short as they are, every story will be an actual romance by a criteria that might be entirely subjective to me but that I really think a lot of readers have been missing. When I started thinking about what I wanted and wasn’t getting from new romance, I came up with a list of three things:

1 – Sparkling dialogue: Nothing kills a love connection for me faster than dull, flat, lifeless talk, and what passes for romance these days even on the bestest of bestseller lists is full of it. Before I can care about people falling in love, I have to like them; I have to want to listen to them; I have to see the sparks fly between them. Not every story has to be a laugh-a-minute romantic rollick (though there will definitely be some of that, too), but I promise, the characters in the stories from Little Red Hen will be able to carry on a conversation before they start stripping off their clothes—and after.

 2 – Tender sensuality: I love me some smut. Explicit sexuality has been a hallmark (and some would say the major selling point) for romance since the 1970s, and as a reader, I want and expect it. And I’m not squeamish about the mechanics—twosomes, threesomes, up, down and sideways, with handcuffs or without; I’ve read books that rocked my world from all of these, books that I would definitely call romance. What set them apart was the attitude of the characters getting it on toward one another, their reasons for hopping in the sack (or the haystack or the space bunk or that big ol’ hot tub full of banana puddin’) in the first place. Not every character who has sex in a Little Red Hen book will be madly in love when they start, but they’ll at least be considering it by the time they finish. The person or persons they’re sexing will have value to them as people, and their physical actions toward them will reflect that. Nobody is going to get genuinely humiliated in a LRH book (and no monster will ever “turn anybody gay” because that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of in my life, and I work at a law firm). We in the Hen House want to turn our readers on and make their toes curl but let them still feel clean and able to look their preacher in the eye afterwards.

 3 – Heart-melting romance: This one is the most important. It’s what’s most often missing from the books I hate, and I think it’s what embarrasses the haters most about romance, far more than any kind of sexual content ever could. If a story is going to be a romance by the genre definition (not the literary, which is a whole different thing involving a much wider range of happy endings), it has to be a love story; it has to be the series of events which leads the characters into (or deeper into) love. It doesn’t have to end in marriage or a marriage proposal or a declaration of eternal devotion. But it’s got to mean more than an orgasm, a contract, or the acquisition of a business partner to pay the household expenses. It’s about people touching soul to soul, something I believe in very strongly. Otherwise, for me, it’s not a romance. Every Little Red Hen story, whether it’s historical, contemporary, paranormal, steampunk, straight, LGBT, funny, dramatic, or just plain weird will be a love story by this definition.

For more information about the press or the individual titles coming up at our launch on May 1, please drop by the website at http://lucybluecastle.wix.com/littleredhenromance or come like us on Facebook. And by all means, come hang out at our Facebook launch party on Wednesday, April 29, at 8 pm EDT—yes, we’ll mention the books, and yes, there will be preview giveaway swag, but mostly it’ll be a bunch of romance lovers chatting and snarking and having fun, and we’d love to see you there: https://www.facebook.com/events/807514879343283/

And ladies of the club . . .

librarianMy mama was always my first reader and main support system as a writer. And whenever I would get discouraged and start complaining that this whole becoming a New York Times bestselling author thing was taking too damned long, she would remind me that Helen Hooven Santmyer was 89 years old when her third novel, And Ladies of the Club, finally hit it big. “And she wrote that book for fifty years!” she would finish with an air of triumph suggesting she had solved my problem entirely. God rest her soul and seat her next to Patrick Swayze, she couldn’t understand why she hadn’t helped.

I was reminded of this earlier today when I heard that a talented writer and publisher of my acquaintance was desperately discouraged. She’s been at this thing for a long time, too, and major success still eludes her. She writes great books, but she doesn’t have great sales, and her stack of rejections keeps on piling higher. She’s starting to worry that maybe she won’t ever hit it big, that maybe she’s been wasting her time. A mutual friend (my baby sister, who has more in common with Mama than she’d ever want to admit) told her it could be worse; she could be me, and if I can keep soldiering on, she certainly can.

Ahem.

As I told her, I still have those thoughts all the time. And even though Mama is gone, I have a wonderful support system that encourages me and talks me off the ledge, and I appreciate them all more than I can say. But sometimes what really gives me the kick I need is a much-less-loving little voice inside my own head.

“If you want to quit, honey, quit,” she says. “Who’s stopping you? Who’s gonna care besides you? Writing is hard work, and publishing is a pain in the ass, and if you’re not making any money at it, what are you suffering for? You can cross-stitch, crochet, play piano, and make biscuits, all perfectly nice hobbies that don’t take nearly as much energy or require nearly as thick a skin–when was the last time somebody handed you back a biscuit and said it was nice enough, they supposed, but not what they were looking for right now? No law says you have to be a writer.

“And it’s  not like you’ve ever actually published a book . . . well, all right, yes, you’ve published ten. But nobody’s ever read them except for those few tens of thousands of people who bought them, and what do they know? What have  they done for you lately? And all this time you spend working on your so-called craft, has it made you any better?”

You’re damned right it has. Every story I’ve ever written, published or not, finished or not, has taught me how to write cleaner, clearer, smarter, sharper than I did before I wrote it. More to the point, the very act of putting words on paper keeps me sane. It’s what makes me the person I am in all those other things I do. Writing is my talent, my best thing, my thing I do better than I do anything else. It siphons off the voices in my head into something useful and meaningful that connects me to other people. I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.

And I don’t. So when that voice pipes up, I know exactly what to tell her. I have applied my many years’ experience writing dialogue to honing the perfect response.

Fuck you.

There are writers who do it for money, but most of us do it for love. Bless our pitiful hearts. And ladies–and gentlemen–of the club, if we have to wait until we’re two years out from dying of old age for the rest of the world to notice, I promise you, it will still be worth it.

4 Ways to Fix Sleepy Hollow Before It’s Too Late

sleepy hollowSleepy Hollow, Season 2, is driving me insane. If the damned show had been horrible from the beginning, I would have watched once and walked away. But Season 1 was flawed but fabulous; even the stuff that was stupid about it was so much fun, I couldn’t skip a single episode. So watching the people who own it systematically dismantle and discard every single good thing about it this year to add in a bunch of crap that just doesn’t work is just about more than I can stand. Since the mid-season premiere, it’s been breaking my heart so much, I find myself spending valuable time and brain energy I ought to be using on my own writing trying to figure out how to fix it. I don’t pretend for one minute that anybody cares what I think or that a post on my little backwater blog will help the actual show in the slightest. But in the grand tradition of magnolias everywhere, I’m hoping having my say will be enough.

1. How do you solve a problem like Katrina?

Love her or hate her, the character of Ichabod’s wife is the single biggest issue unraveling the fabric of the show right now. It’s time for the writers and producers to make two important decisions about Katrina: Is she good or evil? and Will she live or will she die? And they need to share those decisions with the audience sooner rather than later.

Any of these options could work. No, seriously–here, watch:

A good Katrina lives: This seems to be what they want, and they can have it; they just need to do it better. Katrina needs to stop swanning around like an undead supermodel–Morticia Addams is a great character, but she’s been done, and she doesn’t fit in Sleepy Hollow. So we soften her up, get back to more of the sweetly sexy Quaker chick she started out to be in Season One with a generous smattering of the witty girl who was digging reality TV when she first came out of Purgatory. She needs to reconnect with her coven (remember, they’re still around) and start doing more fun witchy stuff and less life or death dark magic that invariably falls short because that shit is just annoying. (For fans of Practical Magic, more Sandra Bullock, less Nicole Kidman.) Most importantly, she needs to get the fuck into the background of the story. The leads are Ichabod and Abbie; the quest (or quests-of-the-week under the new game plan) are ultimately theirs. If Ichabod is happily married, that could be totally awesome. Katrina could provide valuable information and the occasional assist, and their domestic life could add a lot to the whole “man out of time” side of Ichabod’s character–they could be cute as hell discovering the 21st century together if they weren’t constantly wading through sticky bogs of angst. If this is what we’re aiming at, we need to resolve the whole redemption of Abraham and Henry and Hitler and anybody else Katrina wants to save RIGHT THE FUCK NOW, let the Cranes be in love with one another, and move on.

Good Katrina dies: This is a quicker fix that would silence the cries of a lot of haters (and raise the wails of the small but vocal Katrina Fan Club). Let Katrina and Ichabod’s relationship stay ambivalent and angsty, have her working on some big project to prove herself to him or, better yet, save him–maybe she knows something about the spell that resurrected him that she hasn’t told us yet. In the eleventh hour, she enlists Abbie’s help, and Abbie does everything she can to help her. And the project succeeds, but Katrina dies. Maybe she always knew she would; maybe her magic can only resurrect one 18th century hottie at a time. The Abraham Conundrum could be solved as part of this same storyline–he can be redeemed and waiting for her on the other side. This would leave Ichabod and Abbie with a lot of survivor guilt to deal with and doesn’t really seem to fit in with the lighter mood the show’s producers say they want. But it could work.

But let’s say Katrina is a baddie . . . .

Bad Katrina dies: The same scenario as above, except her big project is destructive rather than redemptive. I would introduce this with a flashback from Henry’s point of view to the night Moloch was killed. At some point in the action, while everyone is focused on Irving or Moloch or whatever, Henry sees his mother do something horrible, casting some spell that takes Moloch’s force into herself or something–Henry sees Katrina become the Big Bad. And either he really has had an epiphany where he wants to save his dad and be good as it seems (and has disappeared all this time to whip up a way to beat Mama) or he’s still bad but literally mad as hell to see Mama stealing his thunder. In any case, it all builds to a huge confrontation that shatters Ichabod and kills Katrina. Less survivor guilt, but way more melodrama.

Bad Katrina lives: This is the one that is almost but not quite impossible. Katrina is a bad witch, but not so bad that she has to be destroyed. She shows her hand, and Ichabod denounces her, but either he can’t bring himself to kill her or Abbie convinces him that he’d never forgive himself if he did. And either Katrina would go away and never come back, taking Abraham with her, or she could be a secondary villain next season, Ichabod’s evil ex living in the woods, selling magical beauty products and occasionally causing trouble. I would call this the least satisfying possibility just because it plays into the Katrina-hatred and makes it worse going into a new season – assuming there’d be a new season at all.

My point if I have one is, they can do whatever they want with Katrina and make it work; they’ve just gotta go ahead and do something.

2. So what about Hawley?

Hawley’s gotta die. There’s no hope for it; this Matthew McConaughey as the lost Winchester brother by way of Uncharted has got to go. The actor playing him is just cute as the dickens–and that’s the problem. If they wanted him to be a viable member of the team (and a viable rival for Ichabod in the affections of Abbie and the audience), they needed an Alexander Skarsgard, not a Ryan Kwanten. Edgy as a grilled cheese sandwich, mysterious as corn flakes, the best function he can serve right now is as a blood sacrifice to the plot. The Mills sisters shouldn’t be fighting over this slab of plain cream cheese.

3. Henry? Irving? Jenny? Sheriff Reyes?

All of these background characters have been nicely established, and there should be plenty for all of them to do in a story that still keeps Ichabod and Abbie at its center. Whatever the deal is with Irving, it needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible or conflated sufficiently to make him (or whatever oppresses him) a viable Big Bad for a brand new storyline. Ditto with Henry. I love Jenny; I think she could easily take on the functions of both Katrina (witchy-poo stuff and arcane magical knowledge) and Hawley (kick-ass magical weapons and a little black book full of convenient dark side contacts) while still having an emotional stake in what happens with her sister that can’t be shaken. And Sheriff Reyes has evolved from being another needless cipher to the obligatory exasperated authority figure this kind of story needs.

4. Okay, smartypants, you’re fooling no one,  you ‘shipper, you. What about Ichabbie?

I admit it; I would love to see Ichabod and Abbie become a couple eventually. They have great chemistry; they have great banter; and they look absolutely beautiful together. But with all the Katrina stuff they’ve had so far, even if they pluck Ichabod’s wife out of the equation for good before the end of this season, I think it would take at least another season to work back to that being a viable, non-skeevy plot option.  And if the show lasts and at some point there is an Ichabod and Abbie love connection, I would really, REALLY hope they would get together, stay together, and MOVE THE FUCK ON. These two could be a great couple – but that should never be what this show is about. Whether they’re lovers or friends or just fellow travelers, they’re on this journey together; they’ve got stuff to do, a world to protect, evil to vanquish. Would I like to see them having a little pillow talk between battles? Of course; I’m a freakin romance novelist. Do I think the show needs that to succeed? Absolutely not. And if that ever became the primary focus of the plot, it would kill it faster than Katrina in a little black dress. And the way to make it a non-issue is NOT to create more angst with an on-again/off-again; will they/won’t they conflict but to let them be happy in their relationship and get back to fighting monsters.

I still don’t think any of this is what’s actually going to happen on the show, but I feel better. No one can say I didn’t try. Anybody else got any ideas they need to get off their chest? My comments section is your comments section.

For the Love of Writing

librarianAs a writer, I’ve only made one New Year’s resolution for 2015: To enjoy the process more and worry about the product as a product less.

Publishing right now is batshit crazy, and it’s changing so quickly, I seriously doubt anybody can really keep up. When I started writing seriously with the intention of profit, the process was cruel but simple. You wrote the best book you possibly could. Then you sent it out into the world to be brutalized by strangers until you wanted to kill yourself. If you were blessed in talent, timing, and/or acquaintance, you eventually found an agent to champion your poor battered baby and hopefully get you published. By and large, you took the agent you could get who found you the publisher they could get, and you considered yourself lucky and kept your whining to yourself. The actual marketplace was considered to be a mystery beyond your ken in which you were invited to participate in only the most peripheral way. (Though if your book didn’t succeed there, it was always your fault.) I published 6.5 books in this system, and it still exists. Too many people depend on it to let it die any time soon. Even Amazon, the big giant head that’s been threatening to vanquish it for years, doesn’t really want to kill it. They don’t want to slay the dragon; they want to keep it as a pet.

When e-books became a thing for the masses instead of a novelty for geeks, a whole new world opened up for writers. Sort of. Now you could publish your own stuff without that clunky apparatus that took so long and treated you so mean. For a while, it looked like writers would take over the publishing world. If we were willing to do all the work of packaging and promotion (a viable option when it all happened in The Cloud), we didn’t have to answer to anybody but our readers. Best of all, we got to keep all the profits. This system still exists, too, of course; the mainstream media is still touting it as the brave new world. The problem is, without those profit-skimming, soul-sucking gatekeepers of mainstream publishing standing in the way, the marketplace got flooded with anything anybody could type and slap up. And prowess in packaging and marketing doesn’t necessarily equal writing talent. A whole lot of “writers” are skipping that step where you write the best book you can. Either that, or the best book they can write is a big, old, stinky turd. And in this brave new world of indie publishing, that turd carries just as much cachet and earning potential as a good writer’s polished diamond–more if the turd maker is better at marketing. And turds, by and large, sell cheap. And readers just loooove cheap. And they love to bitch about turds in reviews, too. They bitch, but they buy–if they don’t have to pay more than a dollar.

So right now, everybody–writers, agents, publishers, bloggers, marketing gurus, and Jeff Bezos–are scrambling to stabilize the process, to find a compromise that provides readers with books they actually want to read at a price they want to pay, keeps the great machine of traditional publishing adequately fed, sends Amazon’s profits up, up, up, and oh yeah, makes writing books a viable occupation for grown-ups who aren’t necessarily on anti-psychotic medication. And believe me when I tell you, that last item is last on way more lists than mine. Believe me also when I say this is the stuff that keeps me up nights wondering if it’s too late to go to law school.

Luckily while I do write to be read and I do want to make money at it, I also write because I have to. My mental health demands it. My soul is nourished by it. The construction of story is my favorite pastime and has been since I was a child. I can’t control the marketplace. I can’t predict it. Most days I barely understand it.

But I can write great books. I can pour my heart out in a story and touch a reader’s heart in turn. So while I know I have to keep trying to market and make good choices and be smarter about my work as a widget to be sold, I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to lose my mind over it. I can revel in the joy of making stuff up. I can write the book I really want to write because why not? Writing to the market, for me at least, for now at least, makes no sense. In 2015, I just want to write a great book.

 

Scarlett at the Golden Globes – an excerpt from Alpha Romeo

alpharomeo_originalSo tonight I’m live tweeting the Golden Globes with my sister, Alexandra Christian, and our friend, writer Amy Ravenel, starting around 7ish EST with the red carpet stuff. (Come prattle with us; the snark will fly thickly; it’ll be festive! I’m@lucybluecastle on Twitter.) And I remembered, hey, a whole chapter of my book, Alpha Romeo, takes place at the Golden Globes. The heroine, Scarlett, is an actress and the daughter of a major movie star, Calvin Cross. She’s nominated as Best Supporting Actress in a drama for her first part, playing his daughter in a movie directed by a well-respected European auteur, Aksel Jorgen:

* * * * * *

Once we were inside the theatre, the illusion of a dream was even stronger. Reality couldn’t possibly contain so many pretty people in such a tiny, overcrowded space. I clung to my brother’s hand and let him lead me, smiling and waving or kissing everyone who called my name and recognizing no one. I felt like I was drowning, but no one else could tell.

Our table was only two rows back from the stage and nearly dead center. Even I knew what that meant. Somebody thought somebody with us was going to win. Sebastian was sitting beside Jorgen, hanging on his every word. Cal was on Jorgen’s other side with Bette beside him, her arm twined around his as she leaned in to listen, too. Watching them, all I could see was Berlin, the sight of them dancing in front of the window, the lights of the city and the snowflakes falling in the colored light. All these perfect little movie scenes inside my head, so pretty and horrible, perfectly lit, and none of them meant anything at all. I sank into the chair beside Sebastian and folded my hands on the table, eyes closed, fighting another sudden wave of nausea, as if the little problem making me sick could read my thoughts.

“Sissy,” he whispered urgently, putting a hand on my arm. “Are you all right?”

I suddenly remembered something Stella used to say, quoting her father, who had fought in World War II. “Oh yeah.” There was a glass of ice water in front of me, and I took a sip. “Situation normal . . . all fucked up.”

The next two hours were a blur. Jorgen won, as everybody had known he would–best director of a movie drama. I stood up and applauded as he walked away from the table, but I barely heard his speech. At one point Sebastian reached over and squeezed my hand, and everyone at the table was smiling at me. “He thanked you for being his muse,” Sebastian whispered in my ear.

“Oh,” I said, not quite a whisper back. “That’s nice.” I smiled back at the others, but I truly could not have cared less.

Sebastian kept a hold on my hand through the next award, best supporting actor in a drama, the category he was nominated in. His hand was ice cold and shaking, I suddenly realized. I turned toward him, putting my other hand over his and leaning close, and he leaned in, too, and kissed my cheek as the nominees were read. His lips were icy, too.

Then they read out the name of the winner–somebody else. “Oh thank God,” he mumbled against my ear, squeezing my hands in his. “Thank you, Jesus.” He let me go to applaud, and I clapped with him.

Then suddenly it was my turn.

“This is you,” Sebastian said, taking my hand again. I stared at him blankly. “Your category,” he pressed on. “You need to pay attention; you might win.”

I laughed. “Yeah, right.” No one in the world expected that. The nominees were me, Bette, a producer’s new wife, a three-time winner, and a former siren of the ’60s who was up for playing the evil dowager duchess in an arthouse flick based on an 18th century Russian novel. More importantly as far as I was concerned, Sebastian hadn’t won. I didn’t stand a chance. I smiled across the table at Bette, who winked back. We didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Vegas.

Then the actor at the podium called my name.

At first, I didn’t react, thinking he was just reading out the nominees. Then I realized people were looking at me and applauding. I turned toward my smiling brother and fell into his arms. He kissed my cheek and started pushing me away. “Go,” he said when I tried to hold on to him. “You have to go.”

I stood up as Calvin came around the table, and I grabbed him next, dissolving into tears. At that moment, I was too terrified to care that we were fighting; right then, I just wanted my daddy. Don’t make me go, I wanted to beg him; go for me; this is a mistake. But he was kissing me and pointing me toward the stage. I started walking,  one foot moving mechanically in front of the other until I reached the stage, stumbling a little on the steps. I turned into the blinding lights, wide-eyed, crying, completely at a loss. The extremely tall, skinny English actor who had called my name was smiling down at me, polite and barely interested as he put the trophy in my hands. I let out a little hiccup as I gripped it, and he raised an eyebrow before  leaning into hug me.

“Breathe,” he ordered in a whisper. “Thank the Foreign Press.”

“Yes,” I was whispering back, my knees weak with gratitude.

“Your father, your brother, the people who worked on the film.” He drew back, the polite smile still on his face but his eyes now sparkling with mischief, and I smiled back.

“Thank you,” I said to him out loud, and the mike picked it up–the opening of my speech. I turned toward the audience, startled, and everyone laughed, and I felt myself smile. “I’m . . . I want to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press.” My voice sounded like a stranger on a TV in another room, and I could only see the faces of the people at the very front. The ’60s siren I had beaten was smiling up at me with brittle cheer. “And my father . . .” I couldn’t see Calvin, but I could imagine him, smiling, so beautiful, so proud. “I love you so much, Daddy.” I was crying again, but now I had control of it. “And Sebastian . . . thank you. And everyone who worked on the film . . . Aksel.” I had never once called Jorgen by his first name, on the set or off it, but I was doing it now. “You’re amazing,” I said. “You’re an amazing, great director.” I looked toward the wings, and he was standing there beaming at me. I smiled and waved, and the audience chuckled.

“And Bette,” I said, turning back to the mike. “Who is brilliant, and all of the other nominees.” I could see the conductor raising his baton, ready for me to be done, and I started to step back and walk away. Then I thought of one last thing, the most important thing, the thing that had held me so spellbound all night I barely knew where I was. “And Stella,”I said suddenly, leaning close to the mike so it was loud. “My beautiful mama.” My throat was closing up, and I was trembling, but I was determined I would get it out. “I miss you so much . . . and I love you.” I was crying harder now. “And I wish so much that you were here.” I held up the trophy, and I saw the ’60s siren weeping. “This is for you.”

The band started playing as soon as I started turning away. The scarecrow-looking English actor whose name I wished I had paid attention to took hold of my elbow. I smiled at him again and let him lead me off the stage.

* * * * * *

Wanna read the whole book? I’d be thrilled – find the best links to buy it here:  https://lucybluecastle.wordpress.com/alpha-romeo-scarlett-cross-book-1/