Tag Archives: Veiled Mirror


“You really should go to the hospital and get checked out, Mrs. Pontifore.”  The paramedic unwrapped the blood pressure cuff from her arm.  The rain had stopped, leaving the hot summer air thick with humidity.

Beth shook her head.  Or tried to.  She still had a cervical collar wrapped around her neck.  She couldn’t go to the emergency room.  They’d find out she wasn’t pregnant, that she’d never been pregnant.  And then they would question who she was.  She didn’t trust doctor-patient confidentiality enough to keep that secret.  “No.  Thank you, but no.  I’d rather see my own doctor.”

The paramedic frowned.  “All right then.  I’ll need you to sign this release, saying you refused transport.”

Beth signed the proffered form.

“You really ought to go to the hospital, Ellie.”

Beth looked up to see the sheriff’s deputy – what was his name? – Toby, that was it – looming over her.

“I’m okay, Toby.  I just want to go home.”

“I’ll take you then, but I have to ask you some questions on the way.”

“Fine.  Whatever.”

She wanted to climb the hill with a harness; if she let them strap her into that basket they might just carry her off to the emergency room regardless of what she said.  But the paramedics insisted on hauling her up in the rigid frame stretcher before they let her go.  It bothered her to hear the men grunting with effort on her behalf, but they weren’t going to let her aggravate a possible spinal injury while she was still in their care.

The paramedic paused before unstrapping her.  “You sure you won’t let us take you to the hospital?”

Beth beat back a little surge of panic.  “I’m sure.”

The man shrugged and set her free.

Toby helped her into his SUV.  Her muscles groaned as she eased into the front seat.  “I’m going to be sore tomorrow, I can tell.”

“Yep.  That seat belt is going to leave one hell of a bruise,”  Toby agreed.  “But it’s a good thing you had it on.  I’m glad you finally started wearing one,” he added more gently.

Apparently Ell’s dislike of restraints was common knowledge.  Beth nearly choked on her anger.  Why couldn’t she have fastened her damn seat belt?  She’d known better.  Their mom hadn’t worn one either, but that hadn’t mattered to Ell.  She’d never liked the feeling of being confined.

Somehow Beth managed to answer, “Well, I have more than just myself to think about now.”

Toby nodded, apparently convinced.  He pulled carefully onto the dirt road.  After a minute he cleared his throat.  “I’m real sorry about Beth, Ellie.”

Beth swallowed hard and shivered.  It felt creepy accepting condolences for her own death.  For a second she wanted to shout, I’m not dead!  I’m alive!  It’s Ellie who’s dead.  Ellie is gone and I’m all alone!

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The elevator dinged as the doors opened. Jason Blackforth stepped out onto the ninth floor of Austin’s Federal building and strode down the hallway to the FBI offices that were home to the fraud and extortion squad.

“Hey Jase! Good to see you!  You back for good now?” Bill North, one of his team, paused on his way to the men’s room to shake his hand and slap him on the shoulder.

Jason stifled a wince as a jolt of pain ricocheted through his chest.  A month ago that friendly slap would have brought him to his knees.  “I hope so.  The doc cleared me for light duty.”  He waved an envelope full of papers.  “It’s up to Renton, though.”

Bill grimaced.  “Maybe having you here will cheer him up. The ATF’s trying to poach your case.”

“The ATF?”

“Yeah.  Listen, I gotta go.  I’ll let him tell you.”

Jason made his way into the office, accepting and returning the greetings of his co-workers.  It felt strange after being gone for over three months, as though a subtle rhythm had somehow changed.

He rapped on Renton’s open door.

“Blackforth!  Come in, come in.” His supervisor shook his hand and gestured him into a seat.  “How’s the P.T. going?”

“I’m doing so well the Marquis cut the torture sessions down to once a week.”

“Does that mean you’re ready to come back?”

“If you’ll have me.”  He gave Greg Renton his medical clearance and sat down normally.  His shoulder only screamed a little. “I’m only cleared for light duty, unfortunately. No fieldwork yet.”

“Give it time.  You were pretty torn up.”

That was an understatement. The bullet had gone in his shoulder and ricocheted through his torso. His left lung had collapsed but the bullet had stopped short of shredding his aorta.  He’d been damned lucky.

Time slowed as Jason heard the percussive shock of weapons fire. The guard in his sights didn’t drop his gun when Jason yelled, “FBI!”  Jason hadn’t expected him to.

            Jason pulled off two rounds.  Red blossomed on the man’s chest, but Jason barely noticed because he was moving, rolling under the conference room table.  Distantly he heard Garcia whimpering.  Peters was on the floor, a neat hole in his forehead. Suddenly two more guards were there–

“Jase?”  Renton’s brow was furrowed.

Damn it.  Jason gripped the arms of his chair.  He hardly had the flashbacks at all anymore.  Why’d he have to have one now?

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My Self-Publishing Journey: I am the Decider!

I just got the 2nd pass edits on LIGHTBRINGER back from Edits that Rock. One of the questions Rochelle raised after the first round was whether I wanted  to discuss religion quite as much as I did. In much of today’s paranormal romance, the big questions of religion are carefully skirted so as to not offend and lose readers. This isn’t as true in science-fiction and fantasy. A significant number of authors in those genres have tackled religion head-on, but not so much in romance.

I had what I think is a fairly average Christian upbringing, colored by an early love of science-fiction and fantasy.  In SF and fantasy it’s often acknowledged that in building a new world, religion is an integral part of  what motivates people. So for me, if characters have a conversation about life after death (VEILED MIRROR)  or angels (LIGHTBRINGER) it doesn’t make sense to pretend religion doesn’t exist.

And yet . . . I am paying Rochelle for her expertise, and I do want to actually sell my books, not just decorate Amazon’s website with my listings. So I thought pretty hard about her advice. I was free to take it or leave it. As I mentioned in a previous post, unlike an editor at a traditional publisher, Rochell has no leverage — the decision was all up to me.

I’m pretty good at catastrophizing. I can worry that a minor misstep can doom me to utter darkness and failure with the best of them. Interestingly, as I’ve progressed on my self-publishing journey, I’ve felt less of that. Where I used to worry that if I didn’t write the perfect synopsis I would be exiled to the outer reaches of writer purgatory, now a decision about editing is just that, a business decision.

In the end I decided to trim a few sentences from LIGHTBRINGER for the sake of the larger story arc of the Celestial Affairs series. And that’s the point of this post: It’s all about the story you want to tell. Every story has its audience. Don’t worry about that. In my opinion, the priority should be what works best for the story, not protecting the author’s ego and not potential sales.


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VEILED MIRROR — Chapter Three

Big fat drops splatted on the windshield of the truck as thunder rumbled overhead.   “You sure you don’t want me to drive?”  Hills dotted with scrub oak and greening grass flashed by, grayed by the falling rain.  Beth braced a hand against the cracked dashboard as Ellie took the turn on the twisting dirt road faster than Beth liked.

Ellie flashed her a grin.  “Still a nervous Nellie, huh?  You never did like speed.”

“Humor me, okay?  Slow down.  And fasten your seatbelt while you’re at it.”

“I drive this road all the time.  Besides, we need to get across the Jimson Wash before it floods.  There’s no bridge there.”

Beth changed the subject.  “You want to stay and get some dinner in Tucson after this meeting with Mr. Cox?”

“Sure.  Depending on how heavy this rain is, we may need the extra time to let the water go down.  We might as well spend it having dinner.”

“Uh, just what do you hope this guy can do for us?”

Ellie threw her a sharp glance.  “You still think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

“No, but–”  She didn’t want to doubt her sister, but the evidence was against her.

“– Listen, you don’t know Chris like I do … did.”  Her chin quivered as she struggled not to cry.

Beth winced.  It killed her to see Ell like this.  When her sister met Chris she’d found more than her prince charming.  She’d found her soul-mate. When she and Ell had lost first their mother, and then later their dad, somehow they’d survived, but now Ell was pregnant and Chris was gone and her heart was bleeding all over again.  How much pain is one woman supposed to bear?

Ell glanced over at her.  “Don’t look at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like you’re glad you’re not me.”

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Chapter Two

“Hello?”  Beth said into the telephone, then sighed as the perky soft rock resumed.  She was on hold again.

When Ell had collapsed two days ago, the ambulance crew had taken her forty-five minutes away, to the emergency room at the nearest hospital.  The doctor said Ell and the baby were fine, but she should take it easy for a while.  So while Ellie sequestered herself in her room, Beth worked off the invitation list for the wedding reception, calling everyone to let them know about Chris’s death.  It was an awful job, breaking the news to old friends, but it would be even worse for her sister to do it.

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Beth jolted out of a restless sleep, reaching for the phone just before it rang.  “Ellie, what is it?  What’s wrong?”  She didn’t need to check caller I.D. to know her identical twin was on the line, and at just after two in the morning it couldn’t be good news.

Ellie showed no surprise at either the quick pick-up or that her sister knew who was calling.  She wouldn’t.  They’d done this sort of thing all their lives.  “It’s Chris.  He’s missing.”

This must have been what Beth’s confused, foreboding dreams had been about.  “Missing!  What happened?”

“He didn’t come in for lunch like he usually does, or for dinner.  Ell’s voice trembled.  “He’s still not back.”

“Have you called the sheriff?”

Ellie’s laugh held a sharp edge.  “Oh yeah.  I called.  He thinks Chris is just out blowing off some steam.”

“He said that?”  Chris and Ellie had just returned from their world-tour honeymoon to their southern Arizona ranch.  Beth had met her brother-in-law only a few times, but he didn’t seem like the kind who would step out on his wife seven months after the wedding.

“Not in so many words, but the meaning was clear.  He said to call him if Chris doesn’t make it home by morning.”

“What a jerk!”

“I wish he were out with the guys.  I felt like a nagging wife, but I even called Jack’s.  Nobody at the bar has seen him.”

“What about the foreman?  Maybe one of the hands knows something.”

“I phoned Mack before I called the sheriff.  He said Chris planned to check fences on the south forty today.  No one saw him after that.”  Ell drew a shaky breath.  “Mack got a couple of the guys and went out looking for him, but it’s a big ranch.  We looked until after dark, but then it started to pour so we came in.”

Beth understood what her sister had left unsaid.  The summer monsoons could be violent.  Visibility dropped to nothing and the normally dry arroyos flooded quickly.  Every year someone tried to cross one, and every year someone drowned.

“Chris is smart enough not to drive through a flooded wash, and he wouldn’t stay in his truck if it got stuck in a dry one, either.  Not this time of year.”

“I know.  But what if he got bitten by a rattler?  What if he broke his leg?”

Beth spoke in the voice she used at the Humane Society to sooth the worried owners of lost dogs.  It felt weird to be the one reassuring her normally unflappable sister.  “Don’t borrow trouble.  The sheriff will find him tomorrow.  He probably just ran out of gas or something.”

“Then why hasn’t he called?”

“You told me yourself there’s places on the ranch that don’t get a signal.  Or maybe his phone is dead.”

Ellie sniffed.

“Why don’t I come over and keep you company?”

“It’s a four hour drive, Beth.”

“It’s not that long.  Besides, I could use a vacation.”

Ellie paused a moment.  When she spoke again her voice caught.  “Thank you.”

“Chris will probably show up before I do.  We can all go out to breakfast together.”

Beth hoped she was telling the truth.

MORE . . . (18 years old and older only, please)

copyright 2011 by Frances R. Gross

VEILED MIRROR IS NOW AVAILABLE  HERE IN PAPER FORMAT! Digital release will be September 21, 2011.


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My Self-Publishing Journey: Getting The Word Out

One of the things I love about where I’m at in my journey is that I’ve come to accept that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission. By that I mean, I accept that I’m going to make mistakes, but almost anything can be recovered from. That’s one reason I enjoyed Roni Loren’s blog “Writer Under Construction: 10 Things I’d Do Differently.”  It’s a long post, but I recommend you read it.

I really liked her points that there is NO ONE RIGHT WAY.  As we grope our way toward publication, we’re going to hear many voices offering contradictory advice. That’s a good thing. You WANT to take in a variety of information. How else will you know what your options are?

With regard to getting the word out to the reading public, Roni mentions the disparate advice that you should:

  • Wait till you’re published to start a blog or get a website
  • Start a blog at least two years before you intend to publish, so you have a following when your book comes out.
  • Write about what you know: writing
  • Appeal to non-writing readers
  • Blog consistently and frequently
  • Blog occasionally and only when you have something to announce.
  • Use every form of social media you can
  • Just write the next book. It’s your best advertising.

There are so many options for self-promotion, choosing can be overwhelming.  But choose we must. And in some cases, (as in selecting a name to write under) it’s best to choose early so you avoid a lot of “do over” work. Here’s what I did/am doing/am going to do:

  • I chose to write under a variant of my maiden name because my married moniker didn’t say “romance.”
  • I bought my domain name as soon as I chose my pen name and put up a decent, though not fancy website.
  • I started blogging almost two years ago. Building an audience has been slow, but leaped as I learned better how to let people know the blog was out there, and how to use the technology.
  • It took me some time, but I found a visual theme that represented my “brand” of Romance, Mystery, and Magic
  • I aimed my blog more and more at other writers.
  • I reduced my frequency of blogging to twice a week so I could be more consistent.
  • I decided to add posts that will appeal both to writers and to non-writing readers. (More on this below.)
  • I’ve decided to redirect my website URL to my blog, where I can do the same things. (Soon.)
  • I may spend actual money on advertising, but it will be very cautiously spent. For the most part I’ll use free social media to get the word out. (Always ask yourself if the advertising you’re buying is likely to result in more sales — either directly or through increased word-of-mouth —  than you have to make to pay for it.)
  • I made up my mind to try new things. (That was a big one for me. I tend to be cautious.)
  • I accepted that everything takes more time than I expect it to. Fortunately, that’s one of the benefits of self-publishing. My books won’t be pulled and stripped if the sales don’t reach a certain level within three months — or less. I have time to try different approaches to build sales.

One of the things I mentioned above is that I want to draw in more non-writing readers. Most of my future fans won’t be writers after all.  So once a week beginning Thursday, I’ll be posting excerpts from VEILED MIRROR,  which is coming out September 21st in digital format, and a little before that in POD format.  If you enjoy what you read, I hope you’ll share the link with your friends.  Mondays will still be about various aspects of writing and publishing.

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing this blog and sharing my journey with you!



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