Saturday, October 31, 2009

"A Wild Hunt, Part Five"

Ok, so I didn't get the story done, but I did get enough for another installment. Sigh. Am about to head out to help do set up for my friends' wedding or I'd probably try and pound it out today. I'll get the rest to you next week!

A reminder that "A Wild Hunt, Part One", "A Wild Hunt, Part Two", "A Wild Hunt, Part Three", and "A Wild Hunt, Part Four" are also available.

A Wild Hunt, Part Five
by Mercy Loomis

Ariane's heart gave a hiccup as her lips met Kiran's. She'd been imaging this since the first day of class, but those dreams had not involved running for her life beforehand, much less doing it twice. What started out as a slow, cautious kiss quickly escalated, passion mixing with adrenaline and igniting a bonfire in Ariane's heart. She shuddered against him, overcome with desire, and Kiran only kissed her harder, pulling her to him like a drowning man clutches at a branch.

From upstairs came the thud of Dave's bedroom door, and the sound of his footsteps on the stairs. Ariane broke away with a gasp, her cheeks flaming so hard they felt sunburned. Kiran had that same glazed expression he'd had when Gloria grabbed his hair, like a man waking up from a stupor, cast adrift on a calm sea.

"It's like I thought," Dave announced as he strode into the room, pausing at the threshold and gazing at their joined hands. "Oh, excellent idea, Ari, that should help."

"Why? I mean, he said things were better when I was touching him…" She struggled to let go of the impulse to leap up and pin Kiran to the couch.

"Your aura is helping to shield him. It won't stop the attack, but it will slow it down. Skinshifters," he explained to Kiran, apparently interpreting Kiran's blank expression as confusion, "are bi-planar, partly in this plane and partly in another, and tend to warp certain magical energies…"

"What Dave is trying to say is that skinshifters are immune to having our thoughts messed with or controlled." For all of Dave's theories, she'd never had proof of "warping" or anything else beyond the fact that the vampires couldn't use their usual psychic tricks on her—an immunity she was grateful for every time she had to deal with them. Although Gabriel still managed to get her to do what he wanted nine times out of ten…"Anyway, maybe that's why you could understand me, because you were touching me."

Kiran shook his head. "No, I heard you before that, when you tripped and started swearing a blue streak."

Dave cocked his head to the side. "You understood Ari in a non-human form? On this plane?"

With an uncertain glance at Ariane, Kiran nodded.

Dave started pacing again. "You shouldn't have had that ability after the attack…but then, the gift of tongues is not a human gift…"

Ariane interrupted him before he could get too caught up in puzzling over whatever had his attention this time. "Dave, what was it you found out? What's happening to Kiran?"

"The mage, Gloria, she is stealing his power from him." Dave shook his head, bemused. "It's quite clever really, akin to how living zombies are made. Instead of stealing his ti bon ange, she is taking just a small piece of it, the part that lets him use his abilities."

"My T-bone what?" Kiran asked.

"Ti bon ange. Your soul," Ariane said before Dave could get into the explanation. Dave frowned, but after a brief internal struggle he shrugged and let her definition stand.

"But couldn't I have just taught her how to do whatever it is I do?" Kiran looked from Ariane to Dave and back while they shook their heads at him.

"You can't teach someone to be taller, and you can't teach them to be telepathic. Either you are born that way, or you're not. It's part of the confluence of body and soul—a disembodied person cannot use their psychic powers, even if they took over someone else's body."

Dave was starting to warm to his topic, so Ariane interrupted him again. "But because she has part of his body to attach it to, she can draw the psychic part of it to the talisman and bind it there."

"Yes." The zombie looked a bit disgruntled at her breaking his train of thought. "You stopped her before she could complete it, but her spell is still working, still stealing his powers. Eventually it will drain them totally."

"There must be a way to stop it," Kiran said desperately.

"There is, especially while it's still ongoing…" Ariane trailed off. Kiran's expression had suddenly changed, brows knitting in confusion, his gaze going distant like he was listening to something far, far away. He started to try to get to his feet, but Ariane held him down. "Kiran, what is it?"

"I have to go," he mumbled, staring past her toward the door. He began to struggle, but she was stronger than a healthy human, much less one as weakened as he was.

"She can't be summoning him," Ariane said doubtfully. "He's human."

Dave looked even grimmer than before. "I think she is. He must have some other blood in him, Ari, and the ritual woke it up. The gift of tongues is a fae gift, not a human one, and it doesn't appear to be impaired by the draining spell."

"And tonight of all nights, with the veil so thin..." She broke off as Kiran surged against her. He was getting stronger. "Well, this is one way to find her," Ariane muttered.

"Be careful," Dave told her, regret in his voice.

"I will." She knew he wished he could come with them, but the energies of November Eve wrecked havoc with his soul's connection to his body, and with all the people running around, their drunken boisterous energies adding to the already volatile mix, not to mention the mages and the non-humans that tended to be attracted to such things…well, it was the same reason Gabriel always left town.

Cautiously she eased up on Kiran, who scrambled to his feet. "We're going, we're going," she murmured as he tried to bolt for the door. "Calm down."

Now that he was able to move, a little sanity came back into his eyes. He walked like a man with a mission, but he gripped her hand tightly, pulling her along when she didn't follow fast enough. "I have to go," he whispered, despairing. "Please, Ariane, don't leave me?"

"I'm right here," she said. "I won't let her have you."

Kiran gave a tiny shudder as they passed through the wards again, but it didn't slow him. Ariane closed her eyes as they stepped outside. The air was vibrating with energy, the wind rattling the now-bare branches, the nearly full moon playing peekaboo with the high, thin cirrus clouds like a belly dancer peering through one of her veils. The night called to her, pulled at her, and somewhere to the south she could feel the wake of the Hunt's passing, a ripple in the ley lines that she itched to follow.

"Come on," Kiran snapped, tugging her after him.

"Where are we going?" Ariane asked, a little breathless from the rush.

His free hand rose, pointing. "She's still there. She never left."

Ariane frowned. Her apartment was smack in the middle of downtown, and with Freakfest in full swing there'd be no way to get a car through without going all the way around the lakes. With such a close call the last time she was leery of cutting through the Underground again, but Kiran was pulling her straight toward the pookha hole. She held back, refusing to think about opening the way. "I really don't think we should—"

The hole stretched wide before them. Ariane cursed, clutching Kiran's hand. "Don't! You don't what you're doing yet!" But Kiran ignored her, plunging into the tunnel, and she had no choice but to dart after him.

The darkness was total, and went on and on and on. Kiran's breath echoed off the walls, a harsh panting that grew as the minutes kept going by. "What's wrong?" he finally asked. "Why aren't we there yet?"

"Because you don't know where you're going. You're trying to cut straight over to Picnic Point, but you can't do that. You could wander in here forever trying. I need you to stop walking."

"I don't know if I can!" he said, his voice rising. "Whenever I think about stopping, it feels like I'm smothering, and like there are a thousand little hooks in my skin pulling me forward."

"Well, try, or we're going to be stuck here for a very long time."

Kiran paused, stumbled forward a few steps, paused again, stumbled some more, but eventually managed to halt, quivering like a frightened horse.

"Now let go of the path," Ariane said. "Clear your mind of any destination other than following me."

That took even longer, but the moment Ariane felt control shift—the airflow changing, the echoes coming back from new directions, a slight change in the grade of the stone under her feet—she started walking. Kiran came after her gratefully.

In less than a minute they emerged into the Underground, coming out of an old hollow tree into a dark, menacing forest. Sighing, Ariane pulled Kiran after her when he started to head off to their right. "Not that way," she scolded. "You can't trust your direction sense down here. Let me lead."

Kiran winced, but came along without protest. "This is awful. It's like…like being tortured, and they keep giving the thumbscrews another twist."

"That about sums it up. Why do you think demons are always so angry in stories? Getting summoned sucks." She paid little attention to what she was saying, more concerned with getting out of there. The branches above them creaked and clattered as the trees whispered to each other. Ariane had heard them hundreds of times before, but tonight they sounded nervous. "Just passing through," she called softly. "No need for alarm."

"I'm not scared," Kiran said, thinking she had spoken to him. "I like it here." He sounded surprised. "It feels…right. Homey. Not exactly familiar, but like it should be, you know?"

The trees around them murmured appreciatively, and Ariane let out a long breath. "Yeah, definitely fae blood in you somewhere. Once we get this spell off you, we need to have a nice long talk."

The trees around them shifted subtly, causing them both to blink hard. Just ahead of them was what looked like a fox's den. "Blessings on the forest!" Ariane cried in relief, pulling Kiran forward. Grateful as she was, you just never knew when the trees would decide to hinder instead of help, or switch from one to the other. "You do make an impression, Kiran."


"I'll explain later." She all but dragged him into the tunnel.

Kiran looked back wistfully as the darkness closed around them. "Couldn't I have tried to take us up? I know where I'm going this time."

"But you don't know when. I mean, what time do you think it is, up top?"

"I dunno, it felt like we were in that tunnel for hours. It's gotta be past one."

Ariane smiled. "See, that's just it. I can take us out five seconds after we went in."

Any reply Kiran would have made was cut off by the glow of the exit ahead of them. "What's the plan?" he whispered.

Ariane squeezed his hand. "I have no idea."

Read "A Wild Hunt, Part Six"

Friday, October 30, 2009

100 Words About: Houses at Night

I walk through the streets of my neighborhood, and at night particularly I'm struck with the feeling that no one really lives in any of the houses. The light shines through curtains and blinds, a pale, faceless glow that, unlike the dark glass of the daytime, suggests that someone might be home. And yet uncurtained windows display empty rooms, giving glimpses of lives that might be, but don't seem real. TVs blare at chairs you can't see, photos and knick-knacks of imagined lives sit like props in some post-apocalyptic B movie. On the rare occasions you do spot a human moving around, it startles you like a mouse darting through the grass at your feet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"A Wild Hunt, Part Four"

A reminder that "A Wild Hunt, Part One", "A Wild Hunt, Part Two", and "A Wild Hunt, Part Three" are also available. I'm hoping to have the exciting conclusion to the story for you on Saturday, but this week has filled up fast! Tune in on Halloween and see if I make it!

A Wild Hunt, Part Four
by Mercy Loomis

Ariane carried Kiran into the living room and set him down on the sofa. "Dave, this is Kiran. Kiran, my roommate Dave."

Dave turned his computer chair around, but didn't get up. His mahogany brown eyes narrowed as his gaze swept from Kiran's muddy sneakers to his damp tousled hair. "Well, you do know how to pick the lookers," he said, but there was concern and puzzlement in his tone.

Kiran moaned and Ariane looked down at him. He was pale under that lovely dark skin, and sweat had broken out on his forehead. "Oh, God. It's getting worse," he gasped.

"What is?" Ariane asked, but Kiran just shook his head.

Behind her, she heard Dave rise to his feet. A gentle touch on her shoulder made Ariane step back. Dave moved up next to the couch, his form blurring in her sight as his soul leaned out of his body and he passed his hands gently over Kiran.

Kiran didn't seem to notice any change in Dave's appearance, but then, few humans would have. Then again, few humans liked to spend much time looking at Dave. Ariane was used to him, but most others found him obscurely off-putting; something to do with the remoteness of his gaze, or maybe the slightly grayish tinge to his ebony complexion.

"What are you doing?" Kiran asked.

Dave's eyes were half shut, the astral specter of his hands getting lower and lower until they finally touched Kiran's body, dipping just under the skin. Kiran noticed that, all right, jerking like he'd been touched with a live wire.

"You are missing something," Dave murmured, his words echoing faintly. His hands settled on Kiran's head, while Kiran's back arched and his mouth gaped like a fish's. After a few seconds Dave moved again, his hands tracing a line upward. Kiran's posture didn't change. "This is not good."

Dave turned and walked back to his chair, his soul settling back to its usual place. Kiran collapsed back against the cushions like a puppet whose strings were just cut. With great heaving breaths he curled up on his side, eyes squeezed tight shut.

"Dave, what is it?" Ariane had never seen him look so grim. "What's wrong with him?"

He shook his head, his gaze even more distant than usual. "Ari, where did you find him? I thought you were running an errand for G—"

She cut him off. No need for Kiran to hear that name; at least, not yet. "I was. Kiran was there, and there was some kind of ritual. A mage, Gloria, she pushed a ley line through him, and I think she had started to try to steal whatever powers she woke up when I interrupted her."

Dave looked up at her, startled. "How much do you think he—"

"Stop talking about me like I'm not here!"

Dave and Ariane both turned to look at Kiran. He'd lifted his head, his glassy eyes bright with fierce and fevered defiance. He struggled to raise himself up on one elbow and Ariane hurried over to help, propping him up with some pillows.

"Is that better?" she asked, starting to step back.

Kiran grabbed her wrist. His skin kept shifting between cool and hot, but his grip was almost painfully hard. His eyes locked onto hers and held her, and she fleetingly wondered if this was how Gabriel's prey felt. That look demanded her full attention, determined and desperate, and made her breath catch in her throat.

"What are you," Kiran growled through clenched teeth, "and what is he, and what the hell is happening to me?" A note of pleading entered his voice, and a hint of fear showed in the line of his brows. "Talk to me."

She swallowed, and gave him a shaky smile. "Well, I'm Ariane Conant, and I'm a skinshifter, and he's Dave Larue, and he's a zombie, and you're Kiran Eckhart, and you're apparently a human psychic."

Kiran looked from her to Dave and back, but only said, "Go on."

He still hadn't let her go. Ariane sighed. Men. She knelt next to the couch, hoping to avoid a crick in her neck from looking down at him. "Honestly, I don't know entirely what's going on. What were you expecting to be doing on Picnic Point?"

Kiran's lips thinned, and he closed his eyes. "She said she could awaken my psychic powers. She said she knew the minute she saw me that I had a lot of potential, and she could help me unlock it, learn to use it." He shuddered, his hand tightening on her wrist. "She didn't say that it would hurt."

Dave snorted. "There is a price for all things. Ari, you said she shoved a ley line through him?"

Ariane briefly described what she had seen. "Kiran, what was it that you gave her?"

"Some hair and nail clippings and three drops of blood wrapped up in a little piece of my pillowcase."

"You what?" Ariane cried in dismay. Dave only groaned and muttered something about fools. "Kiran, you gave her total magical power over you by doing that. Basically, as long as she possesses that talisman, she can do whatever she wants to you."

"No wonder the attack is getting through the wards," Dave said, starting to pace. He spoke quietly, thinking out loud. "It's not quite the same…still, I don't think it will be possible to sever the connection…except…excuse me a moment." He turned and hurried out of the room. Ariane heard him run up the stairs to his bedroom.

"Where's he going?" Kiran asked.

"Probably to consult the loa, his spirit guides," Ariane replied, shivering a little. "They kind of creep me out."

"He's really a zombie?" He sounded doubtful.

"Yes. He got his soul back, but the connection's been a little loose ever since, apparently. I don't know anyone else that can partially step outside himself at will like that—usually it's all or nothing. But he knows a lot about certain kinds of magic."

"What about you?"

Ariane shook her head. "I don't do magic, and I try to avoid it as much as possible. Although, Dave's wards are kind of nice."

Kiran frowned, his eyes searching her face. "But you changed shape."

He's got such beautiful eyes
. "That's not magic. I'm a skinshifter. That's what we do."

He gave her a smile that was part admiring, part self-deprecating. "It sounds like magic to me."

Ariane was very suddenly aware of just how close they were, with her kneeling next to the couch, and him all propped up on the pillows. Mortified to feel her cheeks heating, she glanced down. "You seem to be doing a little better."

"A little. It's not so strong when I'm touching you."

Her gaze snapped back to his. "Really?"

He nodded, but there was something in his expression that made her think that wasn't the only reason he was holding on to her. "In, uh, in the Underground it wasn't too bad at all, and when we were outside the house it was worse even with you touching me. The wards messed me up, but the other wasn't as bad, until you set me down." He shuddered. "Even with the wards, it's worst when you aren't touching me."

"Oh. Well, then, I'll just stay right here." She knew she sounded breathy, but she couldn't help it.

"Thanks." He let go of her wrist, lacing his fingers through hers instead. His hands were bigger than hers, but not uncomfortably so. His eyes traced paths across their joined hands, and Ariane swore she could feel the warmth of his gaze moving across her skin. "I didn't know what it would mean, giving Gloria what she asked," he whispered.

She gave him a comforting squeeze. "I know that." Not that it makes a difference.

Kiran swallowed hard. "I'm scared, Ariane. I feel like I fell in a river and I don't know how to swim."

Ariane reached out with her free hand and tipped his chin up until he met her gaze. The heat she'd imagined feeling on her skin seared into her, but she tried to push it aside. "I'll help you as much as I can, Kiran," she told him softly, and then, to break that scorching electricity she added, half-laughing, "And call me Ari, everyone does."

Kiran's expression shifted, the worry fading, the fear morphing into something sharper, more confident, as if he had found the riverbank and regained firm footing.

"Ariane," he said just as softly but with firm assurance, and she shivered at hearing her name spoken with such intensity. A lump of longing rose in her throat, making it hard to breathe. There was a roaring in her ears, an inferno of soundless emotion that made the air around them almost shimmer with the heat of it.

Kiran cupped her cheek with one hand, his thumb tracing lines of fire over her lips, before drawing her to him. Ariane let her eyes slip closed, and kissed him.

Read "A Wild Hunt, Part Five"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Writing Around Work

(Note: even when I write the blog post ahead of time, it helps to post it before going to work...)

I touched on this in a previous tip, but today I’m going a little more in-depth into how to squeeze writing time in around your work schedule.

As I type this, it’s actually Monday morning. My husband and I carpool to work. He drops me off and picks me up, and right now I’m getting to my building almost half an hour before I actually start work for the day. Fortunately, we have an employee lounge which apparently no one else on my floor uses this early in the morning, which makes it a perfect place to get some writing done.

(There is, strangely enough, no clock in the employee lounge, but as long as I set my laptop’s computer clock to work time, I also have a convenient way to make sure I get punched in on time.)

I also have a half hour lunch, and roughly half an hour between when I get done with work for the day and when my husband gets here to pick me up. Since I’m trying to eat in to save money, that’s three half-hour blocks of writing time I can use, or two and one for reading research books while I eat lunch.

(Nine hours later…)

It doesn’t seem like much time, but I managed to get 200 words done in about 20 minutes. If my word count goal for the day is 500 words, I should be able to do that entirely at work. Of course, some days will be better than others—for instance, the fire alarm kicking off on one of my breaks was a tad distracting, and of course there will be those days where I stare at the keyboard and only get half a sentence done before it’s time to pack up. And those are days when I will have to park my rear in front of my computer at home and finish out my word count.

But so far, so good. And another nice thing—if I get stuck on something early in the day, it’s got all day to kick around in the back of my head while I work. If letting things simmer overnight works, I imagine letting ideas percolate through the filter of claims processing will have a similar effect.

Shoe-horning my writing time around my work time leaves my evenings free for walks with the dog, watching the Daily Show and the Colbert Report with my husband, and (gasp!) dishes and laundry. My husband is always great about supporting my writing habit, and the dishes and laundry will keep. But the dog? She’s less forgiving.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hungry For Your Love:The Editor Speaks

Hey all, just a quick note to point you over to Ravenous Romance's blog, where editor Lori Perkins has posted some neat info regarding the upcoming Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance, which contains my story "White Knight, Black Horse."

As Lori points out, they had 110 submissions for the project - a huge amount considering it was never posted to the Erotic Readers and Writers Association or the Erotic Authors Association open submission sites, and also considering the call was open for just over one month. I haven't gotten through the whole thing yet (life intervenes) but there are some really great stories in this, and I'm excited and proud to be a part of it!

Lori also includes the Introduction from the book, which recounts the entertaining birth of the idea for the anthology, as well as a quick run-down of all the stories. Check it out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Win a Free Copy of Bedknobs and Beanstalks

Hey folks, just wanted to point out that you can leave a comment in this link to enter to win a free copy of Bedknobs and Beanstalks! Thanks to editor EM Lynley and!

In other news, I had a lot of fun yesterday over at the Torquere LiveJournal Community! Thanks to everyone who posted, especially kinky_kneazle, aishabintjamil, and twillery for the microfiction prompts! The microfiction prompt thread is available here.

100 Words About: Dark Mornings

It is immeasurably harder to get up in the morning when it's dark out. The alarm goes off, and the brain says "Are you kidding me?" And yet, the construction crew down the street is already on the job at 6am. "I can sleep through that," my brain says. "Hit the snooze button until it's properly morning, will you?" Even the dog, who is happy to go out nearly any time of day, gives us doubtful looks as we make our way through the dark house. (We leave the lights off at first, as if not to disturb her, even though opening the bedroom door always wakes her up.) She has more sense than her humans.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Sale, New Review, and a Reminder!

It's been a heck of a week!

First, I'm pleased to announce that my short story "White Knight, Black Horse" will be published next week (I believe) in Hungry For Your Love: An Anthology of Zombie Romance from Ravenous Romance. I haven't had a chance to read the other stories yet, but this looks like an absolutely fabulous anthology. Twenty-one stories of zombie love, just in time for Halloween!

Second, here's a review of Torquere Press's Bite Me anthology, from the folks at Night Owl Romance. The reviewer doesn't comment on the stories individually, but as a whole we got five hearts out of five, to make us a Night Owl Romance Top Pick! Here's what they had to say about it:

Bite me is an Anthology of books written by ten authors. It encompasses romance, love, mythology, magic, mystery, paranormal and sexy love making all in one. Each author brings to the table their own style of writing that transitions into the next story cleanly. From Sean Michael’s When Needed to BA Tortuga’s A Family Business each story gives you their own vision of love with a bit of the paranormal. I found this book to be delightful and will read it over and over...Overall, this is a real winner of an anthology. There is something for everyone.

And last but not least, a reminder to stop on over to Torquere Press's LiveJournal Community and hang out with JL Merrow, Sunny Moraine, and me as we pimp our newly released anthology Taste Test: Scared Stiff.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Release from Torquere Press

Today is the release date for Taste Test: Scared Stiff from Torquere Press.

This anthology features just three authors: myself, JL Merrow, and Sunny Moraine. The three of us will be hanging out over at Torquere's LiveJournal all day tomorrow, so stop on by!

In my story, "The House that Pip Built," Caleb wants desperately to be in the same fraternity as his longtime crush, Evan. Will he be able to spend enough time in a haunted house to get his wish?

Here's an excerpt:

    Mickey had climbed the steps and was just now laying his hand on the knob. Caleb watched him impatiently. Caleb’s name had come up second, so once Mickey was done it would be his turn. He schooled himself to patience, knowing the other boy had to spend at least five minutes in the house, and might stay longer to prove his courage.

    The house pulsed.

    That was the only way Caleb could think of it. For a brief moment it was as if the whole building swam in his vision. A sound like a breath came from it, quickly followed by Mickey’s yelp as he stumbled back from the door, nearly falling down the steps.

    It was like the house was staring at the boy.

    “Fuck this noise,” Mickey said, and bolted for the street.

    The other pledges had gone absolutely still. Caleb jumped when Evan’s hand came down on his shoulder.

    “You’re up,” Evan said.

    Caleb nodded, little tingles of attraction running through him from the older boy’s touch, distracting him from his fear. He could stand a little staring at for Evan’s sake. Squaring his shoulders, he marched up the steps and took hold of the doorknob.

"A Wild Hunt, Part Three"

A reminder that "A Wild Hunt, Part One" and "A Wild Hunt, Part Two" are also available. Tune in next Wednesday for Part Four.

A Wild Hunt, Part Three
by Mercy Loomis

There was no time to wonder how a human could understand a horse. Ariane raced down the peninsula, heading for the closest faery mound. The ley lines shivered and cried like frightened children, more distracting than useful. She pushed her energy sense to the back of her mind. She knew where she was going.

"Hang on!" she called to Kiran. His arms were wrapped around her neck, his cheek pressed hard against her. He moaned, and Ariane hoped it was in response to her words, because she didn't dare stop yet.

There were barrows scattered all around the lakes. As they approached one, Ariane demanded entrance. This wasn't something that she did with words, or even conscious thought. She'd traveled this way too many times to question it. She ran at the side of the little hill, knowing that the doorway would open, and it did.

A human, watching her, would have seen horse and rider vanish into the hill, but to Ariane it seemed as if there was a cave ahead of her, one that had always been there but that she might have missed seeing because of a shadow, or from standing at the wrong angle. Ancient, weathered, and overgrown with hanging grasses, the cave was little more than a dark hole that appeared to be far too small to fit Kiran alone, much less Ariane's current form. But she ran toward it, and while the cave seemed to grow no bigger, and she no smaller, still there was room to spare between her pricked ears and the cave's ceiling as she entered.

The tunnel twisted and writhed, but her hooves always found solid ground beneath them, and after a few nearly-blind moments she shot out into the Underground. The sky glowed a brilliant, pristine blue, and the long grass brushed against Ariane's belly. She slowed, blowing out a relieved breath. "Okay, we should be safe now. Just stay on my back, all right?"

Kiran clutched at her mane, his legs trembling against her sides. "Where are we?"

"The Underground." Ariane picked her way down the gentle slope toward the river. She didn't trust the forest's sense of humor, not tonight. "Avalon. Arcadia. Faerieland. Take your pick."

"Faerieland?" he asked, as if he hadn’t heard her correctly.

"Yes." Her tail swished back and forth in agitation—or would have, if she'd still had tail hairs to swish. The scorched skin of her rump and the dock of her tail protested the movement, but she couldn't help it. "Look, sit tight. We’re just passing through."


Ariane stopped in a huff, twisting her head around to look at him over one shoulder. "The Underground is not a safe place for humans at the best of times, much less tonight, so unless you want to get stuck here for eternity, be quiet!"

To Kiran's credit, he shut up.

Keeping her pointed ears pricked, Ariane navigated the steep bank. The river was shallow here, more a babbling brook, easy to wade across. Ariane knew better than that, though she couldn't help getting her hooves wet as she followed the riverbed. All I need is a few minutes…

There was a great splash in the middle of the stream. Kiran choked in disbelief as what looked like a horse made of water burst up out of the fountaining spray. It stood on the moving surface and cocked its head to one side.

"Is that a human?" it asked Ariane.

She gave it a polite nod, but kept walking. "Yes, but he's with me."

The kelpie laughed, a sound like water over little stones. "I didn't think your kind trafficked in humans. How delightful!"

Ariane felt Kiran tense, but she had to ignore him for now. "We don't. He's a guest."

The kelpie lifted its flowing, cascading tail, and Ariane gave it an envious glance. "I could give you a ride, pretty human. Wouldn't you rather come with me, and see the ocean in all its glory? The blue of the Mediterranean, the craggy shores of the Scottish Isles?"

"And the dark vasty deeps, with no air to breathe?" Ariane added lightly, as if sharing a joke. "No, he'll stay where he is."

The kelpie tossed its head, spraying them both with drops of water. "You mortals. No fun at all." It giggled, sinking slowly back into the stream. "Better hope the King doesn't find you." It vanished in a tiny whirlpool that was quickly swallowed by the gentle current.

"Crap. Hang on." Ariane broke into a canter.

Kiran threw his arms around her neck, sliding around on her back in a most distracting way. "Wait!" he cried. "You said we were safe now!"

"We were. Briefly." Ariane spotted the little overhung hollow she’d been looking for and altered her course, hugging the edge of the river, which was growing deeper and wider as they headed upstream. "But that kelpie will tell every fae it sees, and they won’t all be so polite." Almost there. Arian dodged into the water so she could swing around and find the tunnel. "Don’t let g—"

An explosion of water rocked them as her hooves broke the surface. Ariane couldn’t quite see what it was, but something huge rose up behind them, and Kiran yelled, a desperate, terrified sound. Ariane felt the weight of him lessen as the water fae tried to snatch him off her back, but before she could even try to check her headlong flight there was a burst of hissing steam, and a roar. Kiran dropped hard against her spine, his sobbing breaths loud in her ears. It was all the encouragement she needed. With one wild leap, Ariane found the tunnel and ran.

They emerged moments later in Ariane’s backyard. She stumbled to a halt next to the back door, sides heaving and head low. On her back, Kiran shook like a fever victim.

"You can get down now," she said finally, when they’d each caught their breath.

Slow and awkward, Kiran swung one leg over her withers and slid to the ground. His knees buckled, and he landed in a shivering, boneless heap.

Changing back to her birth skin was nearly as easy as breathing. By the time Kiran had blinked once, the horse had been replaced with a brown-haired, brown-eyed girl kneeling at his side. "Let’s get you indoors," Ariane said, reaching down to him.

Kiran fell onto his back with a yell, his eyes showing white all around.

"Oh, for…it’s me, you idiot." Ariane stood up, hands on her hips, and glared down at him.

‘I know you." He sounded more panicked than ever, which made no sense to Ariane. "You’re in my chem lecture." His voice rose until it cracked.

He noticed me? There have to be fifty students in that lecture at least. Ariane tried not to preen. Or blush. "Yes. Well. That’s how I know your name." She tried to gather her scattered wits. "Kiran, calm down. Please. We need to get inside. It’s safe there."

He eyed her up and down warily, but his exhaustion was overcoming his fear. "I’ve heard that before," Kiran muttered, but didn’t protest when she put his arm over her shoulders and helped him to his feet. Even with her guidance his feet wandered in every direction. "What’s wrong with me?"

"Want a list?" Ariane half hauled him up the few stairs to the back door and fumbled her keys out of her pocket one-handed. Grumbling under her breath, she finally got the door open.

Kiran staggered over the threshold, and she nearly dropped him as his legs gave out. "What was that?" he gasped, hanging like a dead fish from her shoulder.

Ariane glanced at the doorway. "Wards. I forgot, I’m so used to them. You felt that?" She pulled the door shut behind them and gave a relieved sigh as she shot the bolt home.

He shuddered. "It’s like…like static electricity, all over, even on the inside. Ugh." Kiran grasped her arm and tried to stand, but his legs still wouldn't hold him. "What is wrong with me?"

Ariane gently lowered him to the ground, then scooped him up in her arms. "What, girls can't be strong too?" she snapped when he gave her a disbelieving stare. With a toss of her head, she started down the hall.

A laconic voice drifted through the doorway ahead of them. "That hardly sounds fair, Ari. Who are you tormenting now?"

Read "A Wild Hunt, Part Four"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Release from Ravenous Romance

Today is the release for the Bedknobs and Beanstalks anthology from Ravenous Romance, including my story "Cry Wolf."

For those of you who have been enjoying skinshifter Ariane in "A Wild Hunt," you might want to check this one out. "Cry Wolf" is the first of my published shapeshifter stories, with more to come.

I'll also be over at Torquere Press's LiveJournal page on Thursday, along with JL Merrow (who is also in Bedknobs and Beanstalks), and Sunny Moraine (who was also in Like a Thorn). We'll be promoting the Taste Test: Scared Stiff anthology, which releases tomorrow!

Tuesday Tip: Back It Up

I actually had another tip ready to post, but I’ll save that one for next week. This week, in loving memory of my hard drive, comes this tip: have backups.

Have extra backups. Back up regularly. Back up thoroughly.

I backup all of my important files to a thumb drive that gets stored in my fire-proof safe. That one doesn’t get updated very often, maybe once a month. I also have a thumb drive that sits on my desk next to my computer. I don’t leave it in the computer, just in case there’s a really bad power surge. But it’s right there so I can back up my files EVERY TIME I CHANGE THEM.

Yes, every time.

I have the advantage of also having married a stellar IT guy, so I didn’t actually lose any of my files. (I did lose my bookmarks though. Note—-make sure you are backing up your bookmarks, especially if you do a lot of internet research.) But even without that, I had backup software, two thumb drives, and my laptop. I also have many of my files stored off site with friends, mostly through email. Alternatively, you could burn a CD and keep it off site, like in a safe deposit box. Just make sure to burn new CDs and drop them off regularly. Destroy the old ones, don't just throw them away, especially if you are backing up financial information on them.

It's important to have a backup plan and adequate coverage. Don’t risk losing your work when it only takes a minute or two to protect your files.

Friday, October 16, 2009

100 Words About: New Beginnings

Ah, the delights of the path untrodden. Still, a map would be handy. Or at least a flashlight? Anyway, keep your head down and forge ahead—you'll get the lay of the land soon. Make sure to bring the necessary supplies. A coffee cup is a must, even more so than a towel. Sorry, Douglas Adams. Sensible shoes are another thing that can't be stressed enough. Make your way carefully, but don't forget to enjoy the journey; after all, it's only new the first time. If you skip ahead to the end, what will you miss in the middle?

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two New Stories Getting Published Next Week

Two new short stories are getting published next week! First up, on October 20th is "Cry Wolf" in the Bedknobs and Beanstalks anthology of m/m erotic fairy tales from Ravenous Romance. No one in the village believes Wil’s stories about the wolf, except the girl he’s being forced to marry. But the wolf has other plans for Wil – and troubles of his own.

Then, on October 21st comes "The House That Pip Built" in the Taste Test: Scared Stiff anthology from Torquere Press. In this story, college freshman Caleb agrees to enter a haunted house in order to get into the frat of his long-time crush, Evan, but the entity in the house has plans of its own.

Also on the 21st will be the third free installment of "A Wild Hunt" here on the blog.

In other news, I finally got a new day job, so I will be working full time again, at least for a few months. However, you'll still be able to find the same bloggy goodness on Tuesdays and Fridays, and any other day I have something to say!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Wild Hunt, Part Two

Here is the second installment of "A Wild Hunt." A reminder that part one can be found here. (And since this was written for the contest, it's one of the few pieces I've done that's safe to read at work! LOL.) Part three will be posted next week Wednesday.

A Wild Hunt, Part Two
by Mercy Loomis


None of the figures below paid any attention to her. Kiran's dark face was solemn, his wavy black hair whipped by the stiff breeze into an unruly halo. He was a classic American mutt, with his clear Indian complexion and shocking leaf-green eyes, and a slightly bulky muscular physique that came from who-knew-where. He was easily the most eye-catching student in any of her classes, and Ariane had been trying to weasel her way into his chemistry lab ever since she first saw him. He can light my Bunsen burner any time.

The three initiates—or so Ariane supposed they must be—each handed something to the robed woman in front of them and then knelt at her feet. Ariane glanced quickly from face to face, dismayed to discover that she recognized the woman standing in front of Kiran. Gloria was also in their chemistry lecture, and Ariane had caught Gloria staring at her several times with an inquisitive, calculating look on her face.

She watched Kiran a lot too, but then, who wouldn’t?

"All that I am is in your hands," the initiates said, more or less together.

What a stupid thing to say, Ariane thought, shifting uneasily on her branch.

Each of the dark-robed mages held up her left hand, placing her right hand on the brow of the initiate in front of them. "Then give yourself into my keeping, and open your mind and soul to Magic."

The bottom dropped out of Ariane's stomach as the surrounding ley line energy was diverted from its usual course and channeled, roaring and unfiltered, into the initiates. Though she couldn't touch or use the lines herself, like all skinshifters she felt them resonate; a hum in her ears, a breeze against her cheek. This disruption of the lines rattled her bones so badly that she was nearly shaken right out of her skin. While Ariane clung to her crow form, the three initiates began to scream.

The diverted energies surged through the shrieking humans, forcing open all the paths of their psyches before finally escaping back into the ground. The other male initiate evened out first, his cries subsiding into harsh sobbing breaths. Though his face was haggard with pain, a look of wonder came over him, and Ariane felt the current running through him shift as he touched it.

The mage in front of him switched the position of her hands, and spoke. "What I have given, I may take."

Ariane caught her breath as the screams started again. The mage was drawing energy out of the man now, and the more she drew, the less was able to flow through him, until the ley line disengaged completely and settled back into its normal course.

The man dropped unconscious onto the ground, just as Gloria switched hands on Kiran's forehead.

"Oh Hell no," Ariane snapped.

Launching herself from her branch, Ariane released her crow skin, breathing out her aetherial self and pulling the skin after her. Both slipped through the crow's beak like thread through the eye of a needle. Sight fled, but her energy sense fed her the shape and taste of everything around her far better than eyes could do. As the crow vanished into the aether, Ariane took hold of her horse skin. The misty ball of air—all that was left of her ancestors' true form—swirled and condensed, pouring through the needle's eye from the other direction.

Her front hooves struck the ground with a thud-thud that was lost under the humans' cries. Another thud-thud as her back feet landed, hindquarters bunched, tail high in indignation. She heard Gloria speak, heard Kiran screaming anew, before her sight returned and the energy sense faded into the background. Five seconds, maybe less, but Kiran needed help now. With all the momentum of the crow's stooping dive, Ariane charged Gloria.

Unfortunately she had to come at them from the side to avoid hitting Kiran. The sound or the movement caught Gloria's attention. The mage's head snapped around, her eyes widening as over a thousand pounds of angry black horse came barreling toward her. Yelping a curse, Gloria dove behind Kiran.

Drat. Well, at least she's not touching him anymore. Ariane snorted and switched targets. The mage draining the female initiate was right in front of her, and apparently having a harder time of it than her compatriots. She'd barely looked up before Ariane was on her.

Her forefeet struck the mage's legs, knocking the robed woman to the ground. She fell a little to one side, so only two of Ariane's hooves made contact as she deliberately trampled the mage. One went crunch, and one went squish, but the lumpy body or the long robes caught Ariane's feet and she tripped. She stumbled and nearly fell, catching her stride in a drunken lurch that almost sent her careening into a tree.

Neighing a stream of expletives, Ariane wheeled around. The male initiate was still unconscious on the ground. The mage that had drained him had stumbled back a few steps, staring at the mage Ariane had just crushed, who was hopefully in the process of gasping her last. The female initiate was curled in a ball, clutching her head and apparently still trying to come to grips with the ley line. Kiran was on his knees, shaking his head and looking like a hung-over man in a fog. Behind him, Gloria scrambled to her feet. With an angry hiss, Gloria grabbed Kiran roughly by the hair, pointed at Ariane with her free hand, and started chanting.

Eep! Move, move move! Ariane leapt forward, darting toward the unconscious man and the mage next to him.

Her tail burst into flames with a whoosh that singed the hair off her rump.

"Ow!" Ariane shrieked in horse. "You miserable witch! I have a show in two weeks!"

Without slowing, she ran between the unmoving initiate and his attacker. The mage jumped out of the way, but all Ariane had hoped for was that the proximity would make Gloria hesitate with her next spell. Ariane flicked her tail as she ran past, and had the satisfaction of hearing the woman yell as her robes caught fire.

"That's what you get for wearing synthetics." Ariane turned her attention back to Kiran and Gloria. "Let's see if you can cast with my hoof down your throat!" She charged again.

Gloria had let Kiran go. She was kneeling with both hands pressed to the earth, whispering feverishly. As Ariane approached Gloria chanted faster, a language Ariane didn't know rolling through the clearing, gaining strength until, with one last shrieked phrase, Gloria shot triumphantly to her feet and pointed.

The ground beneath them rumbled, the trees swaying and groaning in protest. Ariane's charge faltered and broke as the earth in front of her heaved upwards, splitting apart. Desperately she veered to the side as a craggy hand reached up out of the crevice.

"Kiran, run!" Ariane yelled, knowing he couldn't understand her but unable to help herself. Her words came out as a high-pitched frightened squeal. "Run, run, run!"

The confusion in Kiran's gaze gave way to terror as a second huge hand shot out of the ground, nearly catching one of Ariane's hind legs as she dodged around the opening. Kiran staggered to his feet. "What the..?"

"It's an earth elemental, you idiot! Go!" She ran straight at him, as if…as if my tail were on fire. Ha! With a half-hysterical whinnying laugh, Ariane pounded toward Kiran. Bless his heart, he finally turned and ran.

Ariane glanced back over her shoulder. Gloria was sprinting in the opposite direction, and the giant—now head and shoulders above the earth and slowly squirming farther out—blocked her view of the others. It looked frightfully annoyed, glaring across the small space at Gloria, but Ariane knew better than to think that it would turn on its summoner. It might take its sweet time getting out of the ground, but if Ariane got within its reach she had no doubt that it would kill her.

She had expected Kiran's strides to get stronger as he got going, but instead he lurched and tripped and looked likely to fall over at any second.

"Oh, love of Epona!" she snapped, skidding to a stop in front of him. Awkwardly she bent her front legs as he staggered to a halt. "Get on!"

Kiran stared at her, sobbing for breath, his brilliant green eyes drowning with confusion and fear. "What are you? How do you know my name?"

"I'm your ride out of here, and I am leaving," Ariane retorted, out of patience. "Get on!"

The giant roared at them, and suddenly Kiran was scrambling onto her back. As soon as she felt his legs close around her ribs, Ariane hauled herself to her feet and bolted. She raced for the nearest nature trail, and was halfway down the path before she realized that he'd understood what she'd been saying.

Read "A Wild Hunt, Part Three"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Read "How Not to Write a Novel"

There are a lot of really great books out there on writing, and there are many that I could recommend, but one of my all-time favorites is How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman.

This is a great little book. As the authors state, it is hard to tell you how to write well, but sharing observations from many years in the publishing industry--that they can do. And boy, do they. "200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them--a Misstep-by-Misstep Guide" is the book's subtitle. Not only do the authors give valuable examples of things that will make your prospective editor wince, they are also roaringly funny. Particularly if you like tongue-in-cheek humor, as I do.

I'm currently re-reading it, both because I was in the mood for something funny and also because I wanted a refresher course. Several times as I read it recently I said to myself, "Ah-ha, I recall that I was about to do that, or started to do this, and then I fixed it." That sort of impartial self-quiz is very useful, particularly when you don't have a regular critique group. It also makes me proud to remember when I used to make such mistakes in my writing, because it shows me how far I've come and how much I've learned. I love it when I can say, "I'd never do that now."

You can also check out their website,, for updates, articles, and further hilarity.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Update on Paranormal Authors Fight Club

Hey folks. The results are in over at Romance in the Backseat, and "Charged" got more votes than my "A Wild Hunt." Full results are here.

Best of luck to the remaining contestants!

I have the second part of "A Wild Hunt" already written, and I'm planning to finish up the story regardless. My question for all of you is, would you rather see it as a serial, or wait and read it all at once? Leave a comment and let me know!

Friday, October 9, 2009

100 Words About: October

I love October. The leaves are usually beautiful for much of it, and the ones on the ground make a shush-shush-shush as you walk. The smell of fallen leaves is difficult to describe—dry and rich, a little musty, and a whole lot autumn. The corn is high and turning gold, the fields slowly emptying as the month progresses. Pumpkins and dried corn stalks are everywhere, and Halloween is just around the corner. The grey sky and the cool breeze remind you that winter is coming, so you need to hold autumn close because it, like life, is fleeting.

And just a reminder to head on over to the Paranormal Authors Fight Club and vote! All eight stories are up now, and I've updated yesterday's blog post to that effect. For those of you who don't want to read all eight pieces ('cause I know a lot of you are busy...but you should anyway! Hehe.) I've added a link to the story under Read My Work!

Photo courtesy of Julie A. Wenskoski and

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Vote at Paranormal Authors Fight Club!

Hey gang, some exciting news. I'm a contestant in Romance in the Backseat's first annual Paranormal Authors Fight Club! This is a contest between eight unpublished (other than short stories) authors, including yours truly. We were all given the same prompt on October 1st, and the first 1000 words of each story are up at the Paranormal Authors Fight Club blog.

Four pairs of stories battle for the reader's interest. Who will win between:

The prompt, as you'll see, was "She hurried her footsteps down the alley. This was not part of the plan. Something grabbed her foot. A bottle, a branch, or a hand – either way she found herself flat on the pavement, cheek to the ground, face to foot with a very large, very black, boot."

Click on over to the blog to see where six different authors took that prompt, and vote for your favorite four! Leave a comment at the blog to get a chance at winning a free book! The winners of the first round move on to round two, and the second installment of their stories. The winner of round one will be announced (I believe) on October 11th, so don't delay! Vote Today!

You can also find brief interviews with the authors, like this Wild(e?) Interview with Mercy Loomis.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Tip: Keeping Tabs on Submissions

The publishing industry moves at its own pace, and waiting with baited breath for anything in the this business is a sure path to insanity. Therefore many writers espouse the method of "submit it and forget it." I myself try to hold to this adage, although as date milestones creep closer it's hard to limit myself to checking my gmail account only a few times a day, as opposed to several times an hour...

The trick with "submit it and forget it," though, is that you really can't forget it completely. It's an unfortunate truth that many agents and a number of publishers just don't get back to you. Ever. So it's up to you to decide how long is long enough, and find a method for keeping track of your submissions.

I put all of my submissions on a spreadsheet, with submission date and publisher's website, among other things. My general wait time is 2 months, unless the publisher specifies a different time period. Some will say "If you haven't had a response in X weeks, please send an email to..." but those markets are becoming fewer and fewer. Many don't address the issue at all in their submission guidelines. So if I haven't had a response on a story in two months, I'll send a brief follow-up email. I've mentioned this before in my Tuesday Tip on Rejections. At that time I hadn't yet had a market not get back to me, but that's changed and I wanted to share the experience.

On July 3rd I submitted a short story to a particular market, one I hadn't done business with yet and had not heard anything about one way or the other. I never got a "we received your submission" reply, which is never a good sign. But I gave it the standard two months, and then sent my polite inquiry on 08/30/09. I resolved to wait two weeks. On 09/15/09 I sent a second inquiry. Still nothing.

What to do? The lack of any reply at all might indicate that, for some reason, my emails were not getting through. However, that's no reason to leave one of my stories hanging in limbo where it's not earning me any money.

In the end, I sent the following email on 10/01/09:

"I am writing in regards to my short story submission, “TITLE,” which was sent on 07/03/09. I have had no response from you confirming receipt of the story despite two attempts. I can only assume you are uninterested, and therefore I am revoking the submission. If this is not the case, please contact me."

Then I found a new market for the story and sent it out.

There is another short story that was submitted to an anthology with a deadline of 07/15/09. This one is a little trickier, as I have worked with this editor and publisher before, and the last time I never heard back until I got the acceptance email. I've sent inquiry emails twice to this editor, with no reply as yet. Since I have a couple other email contacts with that publisher, if I don't hear back by the end of the second two weeks I'll start checking in with my other contacts. Still very polite, I'm only looking for a brief update. If the anthology has been delayed or something that's fine, I just need to know.

I had another editor at a different publisher get back to me saying that my story was being considered and they'd know for sure in November. That's perfect, exactly what I needed to know, and best of all, she sent me the information before I had to ask for it. Yeay!

I will be coming up on a similar situation at the end of the month, when all of my agent queries will need to be reviewed. The majority of my current agent queries were sent on 09/01/09 or thereabouts, so the electronic-submissions-only-that-only-respond-if-interested ones will be getting moved over to the rejected side of that spreadsheet and new queries will get sent out.

The important part is, find a way of keeping track that works for you. Use a spreadsheet or Outlook reminders or notes on your calendar or whatever so you can "forget it" with the confidence of knowing that, when the date milestone of your choosing comes about, you will have the system in place to remind you and provide you with the information you need to keep your work out there working for you.

Friday, October 2, 2009

100 Words About: Fear

I'm feeling poetic this morning. ;)

Perhaps what you notice first is tension in your shoulders, your neck, that comes along with a feeling of not-quite-rightness. You pause, maybe hold your breath for a moment and listen. That tension grows, tendrils of cold that climb and creep up your scalp, that wrap around your spine and slow you down. In the silence of your held breath your pulse throbs in your ears, but that paralyzing cold tap-dances into your veins and makes your blood run sluggish even as your heart pounds. The knot of your stomach sits high under your diaphragm. When you finally remember to breathe, the air stutters and gutters like a dying candle. Run.

Photo courtesy of

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Nice Review for "Empusa"

There's a nice review of the Bite Me anthology over at Rainbow Reviews.

Here's what reviewer Carole had to say about my story "Empusa":
Mercy Loomis brings us "Empusa," set in Athens in 482 B.C. Empusa is a daimon, summoned by Bennu who wants a spell to attract his master Kleon. Tongue-in-cheek humor is clearly Loomis' specialty. "His frustration perfumed the night air and made my mouth water. Egyptian, by his name and accent, and probably a slave. I hadn't had Egyptian in ages." The characters in this story are all so busy spelling each other, that it takes a daimon to unravel it all, leaving them vulnerable to the hottest spell of all.

And here's what she had to say about the anthology as a whole:
Bite Me is an unusually strong anthology. I don't think I would toss any of the stories out, and I'm a picky reader. K.I.L. Kenny has done a deft job of selection and editing, which leads to an exceptionally pleasurable reading experience. If you like ménage stories, if you like a little bite to your reading, you'll love Bite Me.