Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Dark Side

Hot season must be getting to me.  I yelled at a small Togolese child to EMBRACE THE HATRED today after she and her band of misfits sang the yovo song one too many times.  Of course I yelled in English, so she thought I was just singing back at her and laughed, but still.  *smacks head with hand*  Bad Cari!

More Pandora tomorrow, and it's a long one.  No foolin'.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pandora Post #14

Title: Pandora

Part Fourteen: Skin

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. Those who know where I live know what inspired this chapter. Oh yes, you certainly do.


“Journal Record Four, beginning.”

“Ship technicians who don’t have the educational background to be engineers aren’t under the oversight of the science lab. This is a lucky thing for them, because if they were, Martina would have fired most if not all of them by now. One paragon of intellect decided that the environmental controls for the ship needed to be tweaked, and fourteen hours later we’re drenched with sweat and using power up at a disgusting rate. The self-proclaimed mastermind couldn’t fix it, none of his buddies could fix it, then the ship’s engineering department had a look and determined that the programming that controls the air and water temperature has been pretty much demolished, and it’s going to take another eight or nine hours to get something jury-rigged enough to be functional.

“What this means for me is that right now, it’s hot enough to melt in my apartment and the halls aren’t much better, but I’d boil alive if I tried to take a shower. The only bright spot so far has been that my first aid class was cancelled, although I’ll probably regret that when some natural collapses in the hall outside my door due to heat exhaustion or something. Also…I’m starting to reconsider my vanity at this point. This hair has got to go.”


Garrett wasn’t sure why he kept his hair long. He didn’t actually do very much with it, just tied it out of the way while he was working and let it hang loose the rest of the time. Women seemed to like it more than men, although his lovers had been known to use it as a handle at times, and since Garrett had no genuine desire to attract women and didn’t care to style it for himself, he never thought about it much one way or the other. Until now.

Right now he was lying in a pool of sweat, his limbs akimbo on the polyblend sheets. Cotton. First thing he was having shipped for himself: cotton sheets. Polyblend didn’t stain but it didn’t absorb either, so he was left damp and miserable. The fan just blew hot air. The water…the less said about that, the better. And then there was the mass of pale blond hair spread across his pillows was achingly hot, and heavy when he tried to tie it up.

Well, why don’t you whine about it a little more? That’s sure to help. Garrett mentally slapped his subconscious, then reached over and grabbed his communicator. He asked for Lila.

“Hmm?” her voice responded tiredly a few moments later.

“You cut your own hair, right?”

“Sometimes. Why?”

“Because I’m dying, and the gods demand a sacrifice to save my life. It’s either my sanity or my hair, and I’d rather keep my sanity. Want to come play high priestess?”

There was a long pause. “It took me a moment to work through that one. You’re seriously strange, Garrett. Are you sure you want me to cut off your hair? It’s so pretty…”

“Utterly sure. It’s just hair, it grows back.”

“But it’s so pretty.”

“Damn it, Lila, you can have it if you like it so much. Just come over here and cut me into something that doesn’t look stupid.”

“Aw honey, you don’t look stupid,” she said soothingly. Garrett caught up after a second and groaned.

“Me walking right into it is no excuse to make terrible jokes. Will you help me or not?”

“Sure. I’ll be right over.”

“Thanks.” Garrett turned off the communicator and flopped back onto the bed, then remembered that he was stark naked. Clothing would be uncomfortable, but being ogled by a coworker he wasn’t interested in fucking would be worse. He slipped on a pair of loose shorts, thankfully synthetic cotton, and forced himself to drink another glass of water. He glanced at his reflection in the mirror above his dresser and tugged mournfully on a lock of sodden blond hair. “It’s not you, it’s me,” he told his hair seriously, then went and sat down in the living room. A few minutes later the door chime sounded. “It’s open,” he called.

Lila walked in, carrying a small bag of supplies. She wore a loose, formless dress that looked comfortable rather than flattering, and her bright red hair was pulled up in a knot. “Goddamn, it’s hot,” she said as soon as the door closed behind her.

“Is it?” he asked languorously, “Really? I’d barely noticed.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t start with me, Mister ‘I’m Always Hot’. I know you were thinking it,” she added as she sat down beside him on the couch. “And do you own any clothes that don’t make you look like a meal? Jeez, have a care for the rest of us.”

“Why, do you want to taste me? Are you sure you wouldn’t just prefer a beer?”

“Senator Dowd probably wants to taste you, and no, I wouldn’t prefer a beer. Your beer is undoubtedly warm and undrinkable, like everything else since those morons went above and beyond,” Lila replied sarcastically. “And while I do like to look, I don’t want to taste you, because I prefer men who wouldn’t think sleeping with me was a chore.”

“Like Shekar.”

Lila pulled out an automatic clipper. “I’m not sleeping with Shekar.”

“Not for his lack of trying.”

“I won’t be sleeping with anyone I work with, Garrett; it would be too confusing. I’m going to Pandora to start over, and I don’t want to screw up my job.”

Garrett watched her take out a very shiny, very sharp pair of scissors. “You’re not a natural though.”

“Not really. One in five shots of Regen gives me an adverse reaction, but I’m on additional meds that compensate for it. If I choose to reproduce, however, thanks to some squirrely genetics from my folks, I’m almost guaranteed a natural child.” She shrugged slightly and pulled out a comb. “I want any children I have to grown up feeling comfortable, not caged.” She looked at him assessingly and changed the subject. “How short do you want to go?”

“Short enough that my hair doesn’t hang down and touch my skin.”

“That’s very short.”

“If you make me look like a marine, I’ll kill you,” he warned her. He could just picture the look of Robbie and Wyl’s faces when he spoke to them next if he had a butch haircut. Robbie would be incredulous and Wyl would choke himself laughing and…no. Just no.

“Fine, no marines, but no complaints about what you do get either,” Lila said, snapping the shears menacingly. “Now scoot over here, shut up and let me work.” He obeyed, and a moment later she made the first cut, the thick sheaf of hair separating with a smooth schick.

Immediately his head felt lighter, as if he’d had lead weights dangling from it instead of fine white-gold hairs. The next two thick snips got rid of the rest of it up to the nape of his neck, and then Lila paused.

“We need to cover you with something, so the hairs don’t get everywhere. Ordinarily I’d just say take a shower afterwards, but in this case…”

“Right.” Garrett got up and walked back into his bedroom, finally deciding on his pillowcase as a protective cloth. He had to wash the damn thing anyway. He came back in and saw Lila staring at the picture he had wrapping his room, as though she’d never seen this one before. Then again, maybe she hadn’t; he’d only had it up for five days. “It’s Taua’i.”

“Wow, in the hub of the central system.”

“I lived there for a lot of my life,” Garrett reminded her as he sat down again.

“I know, but you never really talk about it.”

“There isn’t much to say.”

She picked up the tension and changed the subject. “It looks gorgeous there.”

“Great beaches,” Garrett said. “Cool breezes, lots of protected zones. Almost as watery as Griffyn, but way better developed. It’s a resort world.”

“It sounds lovely.”

“A lot of it is.” A lot of it wasn’t, too. Taua’i was populated with the spoiled rich of the central system and the people who worked to cater to them. You could get almost anything you wanted there if you had enough money, but there was none of the oversight of a place like Ceyla City. “Everything to excess” was a fine philosophy for the hopelessly insipid, but the culture of obsequiousness there was grating to anyone with a true need for independence after a while.

Lila wrapped the pillowcase around his neck, letting it drape over his shoulders. “What really made you decide to exchange all that for Pandora?” She picked up the scissors and started snipping, using the comb with her other hand.

“I didn’t exchange it for Pandora. I went to a lot of different places for work, and when I didn’t have work I tagged along with my dad whenever he wasn’t actively pursuing a military operation. I organized his personal staff, ran some of his campaigns...”

“You and your dad sound really close.”

“We are.” Nowadays.

“So what, you just felt like you needed a change from your high society ways?”

“Something like that.” Garrett still didn’t know what he was looking for, but he did know he hadn’t found it on Paradise.

“Hmm.” Lila worked in silence for a while, focused on Garrett’s hair. After a few minutes she tilted his head up so she could see his face, hummed and made a few more cuts, then put the scissors down and unfolded a flexible wraparound mirror. “Well, what do you think?”

Garrett examined his reflection. Huh, not bad. Not having all that hair was…different. It made him look sharper. You could have cut glass with his cheekbones.

“Stop bragging.”

“Oh, sorry, did I say that part out loud?” Lila smacked him on the shoulder and he grinned, then looked again. It was long on top, comfortably non-military, but short enough on the back and sides to not fall against his sweat-soaked skin. “Could you shorten the sideburns some?”

“Sure.” She got out the clippers and cut to where he indicated, brushed up the lines on his neck, then said, “Better?”


“Are you positive you won’t regret this once the climate controls are working again?”

“I strive not to regret anything ever,” he assured her.

“Yes, I know.” She got out a soft-bristled brush and wiped away the tiny hairs left along the edge of the pillowcase, then pulled the whole thing carefully away. “We got most of the small stuff. What do you want to do with the long pieces?”

“I don’t know, incinerate them?”

Lila ran a finger down one of the sweat-soaked coils. “If they were clean they could be made into a wig.”

“Who the hell needs a wig?”

“Almost any natural with cancer. The treatment is very hard on the body.”

“Tell you what, you can have it,” Garrett said magnanimously, shooing her towards the pile of hair. “Recompense for your services.”

“How generous of you,” she snarked. “Could I vacuum your couch and floor too?”

“I have robots for that, but thanks for the offer.”

“Whatever.” Lila repacked her kit, carefully gathered the hair, then stood up. “The pool is open, you know. It was cool before the temperature started climbing, but it can’t be more than room temp now. Might be nice.”

“There will be a million people there, then.” He waved her away. “Maybe later. You go. Tell Shekar hello for me.”

Lila rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to meet Shekar.”

“Of course you aren’t,” he soothed her. “Still. When he finds you, please ask him whether he needs more specific variables for the simulation we’re modeling.”

“You. Shut it. Now!”

“Sorry. Bye, Lila. Thanks for your help.”

“Sure.” She didn’t say anything else, just opened the door and left. Briefly Garrett feared that he might have pushed too hard, then dismissed it. Lila just didn’t want to acknowledge that she had a lust-crazed stalker. If Shekar were anything other than the intelligent, sarcastic, emotionally-bumbling person that he was, Garrett might have have intervened, but watching Lila being courted by Shekar was like watching the antigrav on a speeding hoverbike cut in and out. You saw it crash and burn, then bounce and crash again, and then again, and then again…it was too guiltily intriguing not to marvel at.

Garrett lay his head back on the couch and stared at the ceiling for a moment before deciding that he needed to get out of his apartment. It was too quiet, too still. The central server had been showing a marathon of his mother’s old movies lately, nothing he wanted to watch, and he’d seen his own collection a hundred times. He got up, ran a questing hand over his head, then grinned and pulled on some loose, lightweight pants. He knew he had a clean t-shirt lying around somewhere…yes. Now to find a skinroom.

Skinrooms were small, private chambers located on the outer surface of a ship. They were basically a floor-to-ceiling viewport, a thin spot in the hull where a person could stand and be surrounded by space. They were called skinrooms because standing in them was as close as many people ever got to actual exposure, and the viewport window panes were so thin that the freezing vacuum beyond could be hinted at. It was like being a part of the ship’s skin, with no great hull to separate you, no yards of metal and foam insulation, just a slender pane of near-unbreakable glass.

The view disturbed some people, but for others the need to escape the press of walls was as essential as breathing. Federation colony ships were required to have skinrooms, since they had to cater to the mental needs of all their colonists and claustrophobia was scarcely uncommon. Garrett wasn’t claustrophobic, but he did enjoy the view and he’d enjoy the sensation of coolness he could get there even more.

He made his way from the thirteenth level to the twenty-eighth, the highest that there was on the Neptune. There were skinrooms scattered throughout the hull of the ship, but the ones on the top side were the best, since they opened above you as well as around. The twenty-eighth level was used mostly for storage, and only maintenance crews really frequented it, but his ID badge gave him access.

Garrett made his way to the closest skin room, found it happily unoccupied, and stepped into the alcove. It was only four feet wide by ten tall, but as he moved closer to the viewport, the air turned to ice on his sticky, overheated skin, and he smiled with pleasure. Garrett leaned his forehead against the window and sighed deeply, letting his eyes wander into a soft focus and watching the stars blur into a swirling spiral of dark and light. It was perfect, quiet and meditative. He felt his mind relax with his body, and leaned further into the chill.

“Daddy, here’s one—oh.”

“Hush,” a deeper, husky voice said softly. “Don’t disturb ‘im. We’ll find another room, bucko, there’s some not too far off.”


You could stay, Garrett wanted to say. He didn’t know who they were, but in that instant he was feeling so mellow that the prospect of sharing his space didn’t bother him. By the time he turned around, though, they were gone. He shrugged and turned back, eventually folding to his knees and leaning his entire upper body into the window. He knelt there silently until the environmental controls came back on five hours later.

Garrett’s knees ached as he walked back to his apartment, but it was totally worth it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blogging For Victoria Blisse

Today I'm blogging on Victoria Blisse's website about collaboration.  You can check it out here: Playing Well With Others.

But wait, you say.  Collaborating?  Uh, Cari, correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't collaborate.  You haven't written anything with anybody.  What gives?

Yes, well...turns out my creative muse is a bit of a slut and wanted to have a chance to express herself in another venue.  I'm working on a project with a gal in Sydney and once we have something worth posting, I'll let you all into our collective creative boudoir (scandalous!) and show you what we've got.  It's very interesting.

I'm working on more Pandora, so sit tight, my darlings.  Good things come to those who love me:)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How I Do It These Days

Concerning my writing process, that is, not my sex life:)
A good question deserves a thoughtful answer, and I had to think for a while about how I write before putting this together. Some writers don’t like people to know about how they do things because they don’t feel like unveiling the mystique. Other writers love sharing and want to give you a blow by blow look into how a story comes about. I don’t feel brimful of mystique, but I’m not a blow by blow kind of girl either, kinky as that may be, so this post attempts to lay out my writing process in a general kind of way. Specifics vary depending on the projects that loom.

All writers need some structure, I think, at least if they’re serious about it. The muse is capricious and can’t be relied on to carry you through a story. Inspiration is wonderful for ideas and for beginnings, but in the end the only thing that finishes a story sometimes is forcing yourself to do so. Will it be as wonderful as the beginning, when you fluttered through plot and character light-footed and fancy free? Maybe not, but that’s what editing is for. A lot of people tell me that they have no trouble beginning a story, but can never finish one. I commiserate. Reach deep and find the font of good-willed sadomasochism inside of you, and make yourself finish it. Ignore the other tantalizing beginnings. You’ll feel so much better when you finish the one you’re on.

I’m not as structured here in Africa as I could be in America. Some days I work in the clinic all day, some days we have no electricity, some days I’m just too sick to muster the energy. Overall, though, I try to have at least four days a week where I’ve done something really productive, either a big piece of story begun, middled or ended, or a next piece written or something important plotted. I only give myself specific word counts when I’m working on something big that has to be done by a certain time. NaNoWriMo was great for that. I don’t write a lot of novels (not yet at any rate), so word counts are easier to meet when I’ve only got to get down 5k, or 10k, or even 20k. On a good day I can write about 5k before my eyes start bleeding. On a bad day, I have to force myself to hit one thousand words.

I write for a lot of anthologies, because I find it a great way to get to know a new publisher and also to get a broader spectrum of people interested in my work. I have a master document that details all the calls for submissions I’ve found that I’m interested in. As the deadline gets closer, I evaluate the call and decide if it’s really interesting to me, if I can squeeze it in without other things suffering, if I can do it justice, etc. If it’s a go I usually get it done within a week. If not, I delete it and move on to other things.

Some people who read my stuff have noticed that it takes me a long time to get a sequel up. When I finish with something, I tend to need to take a huge breath and shove it away from me for awhile, or risk ruining it with rewrites. I’m trying to diminish the time between submissions, though. Breaking an old habit and making a new one is hard, but if the goal is to keep improving (which mine is) I have to constantly revamp my work ethic.

One thing that revs my motivation is the expectation of others, which is why working with another person on a story or hearing from people who expect my next piece of work can make the difference between a project that languishes in the “in progress” folder and one that leaps to the “fully drafted” folder. Is it good for me to rely on others to help me finish things? No, but it is human and I’m as human as they come, and being part of a community is not only a good thing, it’s a necessary thing for a lot of writers. My community right now, while small, is a wonderful help to me. I appreciate every email, every comment, every outreach, and I try to respond in turn as I can.

Honestly, I’m not as structured as I’d like to be, but I do continually try to improve how I do things and what I produce. Writers who are static in their work are either already amazing, happily formulaic or unrepentantly lazy. I see the room for improvement in my own work and that’s a large part of what keeps me going. I have to strive to do better or risk being a dilettante, and because no other career paths really appeal to me at this point, I’d better become the best writer I possibly can. That’s one thing being a Peace Corps volunteer has helped with: honestly apprising my interests. There are fewer distractions when there is next to no media, shopping or the expectations of family/friends. I love writing, I have to write and so I’d better do the best job I can with it, because otherwise I’m cheating myself.

Aaand that’s enough of that for now. Suggestions on improving the process are welcome, by the by. I freely acknowledge there’s a lot I don’t know about that could help me out. Share with me! Thanks to Tiffany for the suggestions already given, btw.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pandora Post #13

Title: Pandora

Part Thirteen: A Trouble Shared

Notes: This is the next part of a spin-off story of a series I posted on Literotica (titled Bonded, as Carizabeth) and the subject matter is m/m sci fi. Enjoy!

“How’s the trip so far?” Claudia asked. She looked a little different at almost four months pregnant, a little softer and brighter. Her hair was down, and it fell in dark, shining waves around her face and shoulders. She looked happy, and Garrett appreciated that. He wondered how he looked to her.

“Oh, it’s a thrill a minute. Truly. I can barely contain myself, what with all the excitement around here.”

“Gare.” She sighed with a certain exasperated fondness that Garrett had seen in his father at times. And Robbie. And Wyl. Come to think of it, everyone he was close to made that noise on a semi-regular basis. “Be honest.”

“You don’t want me to be honest, Claudia.”

“Sure I do.”

“No,” he said emphatically, “you don’t. Not if you value your sanity. I can tell you that I want to kill Jezria, however.”

“She sent Miles a message that had him chuckling a few days ago. I think it was about you.”

“Yes, well, they both have sick and twisted senses of humor. Seriously, you’d better hope the baby gets the vast majority of her personality traits from you. In fact, next time, screw the sex thing, just pop off a clone. The universe could use more Claudias.”

“Garrett.” It was too easy to make his step-mother blush. “Be serious for a moment. It’s not really that bad, is it?”

“No,” he assured her. “It’s not that bad.” Because the expedition wasn’t, it was just oddly confining, restricting in a personal way that he hadn’t had to deal with since boarding school. His work was challenging but the atmosphere in the lab was brittle, and the tabs that were kept on his consumption of all things even remotely related to vice made him feel like an inmate. Plus the thing with the guy in the ship…yeah. Strange.

Jonah. Not “the guy”, Jonah. Funny how he didn’t want to forget that name.

“How did the elections go?” he asked, done talking about himself.

“Pretty smoothly. There were a few incidents but no more bombs, and no one was killed. The Federation troops are still out in force as part of a police effort as the new members of Parliament get situated, so Robbie and Wyl are working almost as much as Miles is. Oh!” Claudia smiled suddenly. “Wyl hired a friend of yours for the motor pool. I think his name is Isidore Cain?”

“Seriously?” It had been several months since Garrett had given Wyl Isidore’s information, and he’d thought that nothing had come of it.

“Oh yes. Wyl was way too busy keeping all the vehicles going since all the troops are on call and he really needed the help, and apparently it’s working out very well. I guess that getting the security clearance took longer than expected because of some of his family’s connections, but it worked out in the end.”

“He’s related to people who were against Paradise joining the Federated Colonies?”

“In a big way, but I don’t know the details. He’s here now, though, and I’ve met him. He seems very sweet.”

“’Sweet’ is the perfect word for Isidore,” Garrett said with a lascivious grin, and Claudia giggled. “Get him on his back with his legs in the air and—”

“Don’t tell me about it!” she begged. “Gentlemen aren’t supposed to tell!”

“Who did you think you were talking to, honey? Robbie?”

Claudia opened her mouth to speak, but then a chime went off in the background. “Oh. I’m sorry, Garrett, I have to go. We’re hosting a dinner for the Parliament members and their families tonight and I need to start getting things ready.”

“Better you than me,” Garrett said easily. “I should head to the infirmary anyway.”

“Infirmary, why? Are you okay?” Her pretty features creased with worry, and Garrett swore silently at himself even as he decided lying was the way to go here.

“I’m fine. I just have to take a first aid class. You know, what to do in case a natural gets his arm chopped off or something.”

“Oh, that makes sense.”

“Go get ready for dinner, Claudia. Tell Dad hi for me.”

“I will,” she promised. “Hopefully next time he’ll be able to talk.”

“When things calm down a little,” Garrett agreed. “Bye, honey.”

“Bye, Gare.” Her image winked out and Garrett shut off his screen. He hadn’t actually signed up for a first aid class yet, but he knew the nurse would bother him again about it today. He’d been receiving perky little messages to that effect all week. In fact, the number of messages he received was huge considering he didn’t have many friends on board the ship. It turned out most of the notices were for group socializing events, which Garrett had no desire to become involved with. Artificially constructed mixers where you got a flashing nametag and had to tell people Three Fun Things About Me!!! was not in the game plan, not if he wanted his brain chemistry to stay on an even keel. Thanks, but no thanks.

Garrett wasn’t a complete shut-in. He had dinner with Jezria once a week, he ate lunches with Lila and Shekar, and he ran regularly with a group of the ship’s security officers whom he knew by sight if not by name. Officer Brady turned out to be Officer Carrie Brady, and she was cute and could run like the wind, so they chatted more often than not while he worked out. The rest of the time, he worked or entertained himself. It wasn’t a wonderful life, but it wasn’t bad either.

Garrett forced himself off the couch and out the door. He wanted to get the infirmary appointment over with. Hopefully all would be well and he could give it a rest after this.

The place was surprisingly busy today. There were at least four doctors bustling around seeing to various people, and when he looked at the sign on the wall Garrett found that they were giving out vaccines today. Vaccines for what he had no idea, but he recognized several scientists who were naturals sitting down, and figured it was specific to them. The nurse was different, but the girl who’d replaced him for today indicated that Garrett should go ahead to Booth Two and let the autodoc do its thing. He went into the small room, but stopped at the door when he saw a small child sitting in the diagnostic chair.

The kid wasn’t being analyzed, he was just sitting there, his knees tucked to his chest and his face hidden in his arms. A wild mess of butter-yellow curls several shades darker than Garrett’s own hair made the boy look like he’d just come in from a windstorm. He peeked over his arms at Garrett.

“Are you a doctor?”

“No,” Garrett replied, squelching his initial impulse to call someone and have them get the kid out of the room. “Not this kind of doctor.”

“You aren’t gonna give me a shot?”


The boy sighed deeply. “Okay, then you can stay.”

“Thanks.” Feeling bemused but oddly entertained, Garrett sat down on the bed next to the autodoc chair.

“What’s your name?” the boy asked.

“Garrett.” There was no way he was throwing his last name at a toddler. “What’s yours?”

“Cody David Helms, and I’m five years old, but I’ll be six in three months, Daddy says.”

Five. Okay, so not a toddler. Garrett wasn’t comfortable with kids. He’d never had the opportunity to get to know any, but he didn’t feel the need to run out of the room screaming yet, so that was good. “Five, huh?”

“Yep.” The boy nodded firmly. “How old are you?”

Garrett cracked a smile. “A lot older. Super old. Probably as old as your daddy.”

“That’s old,” Cody agreed.

“I know.” They were silent for a moment. “Aren’t you supposed to be out there?” He gestured towards the main room.

“Yeah, but I thought they were just gonna check my ears again, ‘cause I have tubes in my ears and they have to make sure they’re okay, but then they said they hafta give me a shot too and I don’t like those, but Daddy can’t come right now and I don’t want to do it without him.” Cody looked thoroughly miserable at the prospect of getting a shot. Garrett could commiserate. It really was easier to be on Regen.

“Well, I don’t know—”

“There you are!” A white-coated doctor appeared in the door, her face set in a slightly scolding smile. “Cody, I’ve been looking for you. It’s time for your vaccination.”

“No.” He hid his face in his arms again.

“You’ll get a treat when it’s over, honey.”


“Cody…” She sounded exasperated. “Doctor Caractacus needs this room so he can use the autodoc. We don’t want to inconvenience him.”

“Who’s that?”

“It’s me,” Garrett confessed.

“You said you were Garrett.”

“I’m that too. That’s what you can call me.” He looked at the frightened boy and the annoyed doctor and made a decision. “How about we get our shots at the same time? That way we can stay here together.”

“You aren’t scheduled for a…” Garrett caught the doctor’s eye and stared until she caught on. “I mean, yes. Both your shots. I’ll just go get one more.” She turned and walked away.

“Is that okay with you?” Garrett asked Cody. “Because I know I’m not your Daddy, but honestly I don’t like getting shots either and I don’t want to do it alone.”

“Will you go first?”


“’kay.” Cody seemed resigned if not enthusiastic, and after a moment he got out of the chair and pulled himself up onto the bed next to Garrett. The boy’s warm little body pressed against his side, and Garrett found himself actually thinking that the kid was pretty cute, as kids went. His hair was all over the place, but it was a nice color, and he had brown eyes that looked too big for his face but made him look completely adorable.

And this, Garrett thought to himself, is why parents don’t go homicidally insane more often. Cute gets you out of a lot of trouble. It had worked for him, certainly.

The doctor came back, two small syringes in hand. “Who’s going first?”

“I am,” Garrett told her. She nodded and rolled up his sleeve, then wiped the skin just below his shoulder clean. “You’ll just feel a little pinch,” she told him.

All of a sudden Cody was clinging to him, holding his side tight, and Garrett was so taken aback by it that he didn’t even realize he was getting the shot until the doctor pulled back and said, “All done! That wasn’t so bad, huh?”

“Not at all,” he replied honestly.

Cody looked up at his face from under long, sandy brown lashes. “Really?”


“Are you ready for your turn, Cody?”

Cody nodded, but there were already tears in his eyes, and when the doctor touched his arm to roll his sleeve back he buried his face in Garrett’s arm. “I don’ wanna watch,” he mumbled.

“That’s okay, you don’t have to watch,” Garrett said, feeling totally out of his depth. The doctor smiled slightly at him, then gave Cody his shot. The little boy flinched but didn’t make a sound, and after a few seconds it was done. The tiny hole was bleeding, though, and Garrett watched in fascination as the doctor wiped it clean again, then put a Space Ranger band-aid over it. Having a band-aid seemed to cheer the kid up some. Huh. Weird.

“There you go,” she said cheerfully. “Good job, Cody! If you come with me now I can check your ears and Doctor Caractacus can finish his things in here.”

“’kay.” He reluctantly let go of Garrett but looked up at him. “Thank you.”

“Thank you,” Garrett replied. “I didn’t want to do that all by myself. You were a big help.”

“Oh. You’re welcome.” Cody smiled and Garrett felt himself smile back, unable to resist. “You can call my Daddy if you hafta get another shot and we can come help again. Daddy is really good at helping.”

“He can’t be as good as you,” Garrett said.

“He is. He’s the best,” Cody assured him. His insistence was very cute.


“I’m coming.” He got down off the table and walked over to the door. “Bye, Garrett.”

“Bye, Cody.”

The doctor winked at Garrett and then laid a gentle hand on the boy’s shoulder, guiding him out. Garrett watched them go, completely bemused for a few seconds, before he remembered why he’d come into the infirmary in the first place. He moved down to the chair and put his hand in the gauntlet. A few moments later he was being analyzed, and a minute later the hologram informed him that his blood chemistry was back to normal and he could go. It felt cold and impersonal after the interaction he’d just had. Garrett removed his hand, stood up and walked back out into the waiting room.

“Sir!” The perky girl at the desk waved him over before he could leave. “About the first aid class…have you signed up yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Only we’ve got just five weeks to go until we reach Pandora, and all personnel and family members have to be certified by then. We have the classes every other day.”

“Next week, then, on this day.” Maybe if he was lucky he’d see Cody again. The kid was cute, no denying it, and Garrett wouldn’t mind meeting his parents.

“Thank you!” The girl beamed at him. “I’ll make sure you get a reminder before the class.”

“I’m sure you will.”

“Have a lovely day!”

“I…will.” Actually, Garrett had no idea what he’d do with the rest of his day. After chatting with Claudia and meeting Cody, however, it was looking up. “Thank you.”


“Journal record three, beginning.”

“So, I had a minor epiphany today: children are not the devil. They might seem like it most of the time and I’m certainly happy I don’t have any, but there are moments when their sheer adorableness probably makes having them worthwhile. It’s conceivable that when my stint on Pandora is up I might go back to Paradise and do more than spoil my upcoming sibling rotten during brief trips. Cody Helms is a cute kid, and I hope his father realizes how much he idolizes him.

“I don’t remember if I idolized my father when I was that age, but…I don’t think so. I don’t think I knew him well enough to. Then I got older and I hated him, and it took a long time for us to get past that. I love him now, but I hope he gets that kind of pure idolatry from his and Claudia’s baby, because just being on the periphery of it for a few seconds made it seem like a pretty special thing. Dad deserves that. Everyone should have someone look at them like they mean the world to them…”


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sequel to Treasured!

So, Pink Petal Books has contracted with me for the sequel to Treasured, to be titled Shadowed.  This is great news for me, since I'm completely in love with the main characters of this series, and great news for you because, um, you like my stuff.  Yeah?  Yeah!

The novella is about 22k words and takes our men to Venice, where they experience fascinating history, glorious architecture, running for their lives and kidnapping.  Variety, it's the spice of life.  PPB is a great place to publish and I'm sure by the time the novella comes out it will be vastly improved with editing and an awesome cover, but I'm going to give out a snippet now, since it's not going to be released until May or June.  Personal denial, thy name is not Cari.

The next part of Pandora is coming, never fear...and my big writing goal for the month is to have the fourth and final part of Shadows and Light finished by the end of March.  I got some help on certain sticking points with the plot, and I think it's coming together.  Anyway.  C'est la vie.

Here's the excerpt from Shadowed, taken from the beginning.


Reese Daveth could charm the scales off a snake. It was kind of disturbing to watch, actually.

I knew Reese was charming, I’d experienced the full weight his sparkling personality firsthand. When that much wicked charisma was suddenly leveled at you it could be hard to remember your own name, much less take the time to wonder who this gorgeous man actually was and how he had talked you into a date, or out of a speeding ticket, or in this case, into letting your only son spend his winter break traveling abroad with his significant other instead of spending it with his mother. Which was how my mom thought I should be spending it, obviously.

Mom and I lived a few hours apart, so it wasn’t really convenient for me to visit her as often as she thought I should. When the winter holidays rolled around she insisted, point blank, that I give her two weeks of my time, seeing as how she had given me nine months of undivided attention followed by eighteen years of loving care. I’d never understood why my mom insisted on bringing up her pregnancy every time we argued, but she wielded it like it was a verbal rapier. “I carried you for nine months, the least you can do for me is x.” Parry, riposte, point.

Usually I didn’t mind visiting my mom, even if it meant spending two weeks basically just watching television and eating bland food. I’d inherited all of my mother’s skill in the kitchen, which was precisely none, so together we made do on boxed mac and cheese and microwave dinners. This holiday, however, I had already made other plans. My…my what, boyfriend? Paramour? Shapeshifting doppelganger/unrepentant thief/occasional incredibly hot hookup? Reese was all of those things and I hoped a few others, and he had asked me to go to Venice with him over my break, his treat. I still wasn’t entirely sure why, but I wanted to go with him anyway.

Mom was understandably skeptical. I’d never even mentioned Reese to her, and all of a sudden I was going to Europe with him? This set off a scolding of epic proportions, finishing with an insistence that if I was going to abandon her during the holidays, the least I could do was introduce her to my oh-so-convenient man of mystery. I think she was half convinced that I’d made him up just to get out of coming to see her. Surprisingly, Reese had no problem with paying her a visit.

“I figured as much, Danny,” he told me over the phone. I didn’t have a number that worked consistently for Reese, but he called me about once a week. “She’s closer to New Orleans, right?”


“Then we’ll just fly out of there afterwards. Gotta keep the mum happy, otherwise life will be hell.”

“It sounds like you’ve met her.”

Reese laughed. It was a low, warm chuckle that sent a thrill of heat through me even though I’d heard it dozens of times. “I know the type, pet. Don’t worry. I’ll work it out so that she’s begging me to take you away.”

At the time, I wasn’t so sure that he meant it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Reese was a talented guy, but my mom was implacable when she thought she was in the right, which was most of the time. I felt like we were headed towards the classic “unstoppable force versus immovable object” paradox. I had underestimated Reese, however.