Look at that new cover. Isn’t it shiny?
In 2011, I wrote a serialized historical romance called Emeralds and Ice. The main leads, a nobleman and a poor orphan, met and fell in love amidst danger and mystery and misunderstandings.Together, they vanquished the bad guy and ran off into the sunset to live happily ever after. Their names were Draike Weatherby and Olivia Lawrence. Three years after writing that story, I dragged it into the modern era, threw in some shifters and vampires, renamed it The Fox’s Mate, and published it through a small press. Last week, rights in hand, I rereleased it as an Amazon exclusive to experiment with Kindle Unlimited.
I think the hardest aspect of switching eras in this story was language. It took my editor and I several passes to “pull the stick out of Draike’s ass” in his dialogue.A nobleman’s language of the time was stilted, precise, and very formal. An art gallery owner from the 21st century? Not so much. Modern orphanages, at least the legal ones, do not operate on the same abysmal level as they did during the Regency era. During much of the initial revisions, I wondered at the logic of modernizing the tale. I’m glad I stuck with it. It took some inventive hammering, but I think I beat it into some semblance of a decent tale.
First, the shiny new link – CLICK HERE!
And now, a small excerpt:
Her mouth dropped open. “Would he really stake you?”
“He’d try. It never ends well. The boy sulks when he loses. Most unbecoming in an alpha if you ask me.” Maximus swirled the liquid in his glass with a sniff. She shook her head in wonder. A silly vampire? Yep, it was time for the huggy coat. “I confess I’m teeming with curiosity about you. I have a million questions, but if I make you uncomfortable or frightened, I’ll go pester Miriam in the kitchen. Draike told me you’ve had a hard time of it lately. I don’t want to add to that.”
“I think,” Olivia began, but had to take a sip of her drink to wet her throat. “I think I’ll be okay. You’re not what I would’ve expected from a v-vampire.”
“Forgive me, my sweet, for being such a crushing disappointment. I fear I left the cheesy cape and fedora at home.”
“In your coffin?”
“Where else would it be?” He arched one brow and looked down his nose at her. She grinned despite her lingering fear.
“I don’t know. A closet?”
They shared a laugh, and she eased back onto the plush upholstery. Maximus Petreius was as attractive as she would have expected from a vampire, but not nearly as frightening. She knew it was deliberate on his part; he was working hard to calm her fears. He was succeeding too. If that part of the myths was true, he was stronger and faster than a human male. With his goofy grin and casual slouch in Draike’s chair, he reminded her so much of her father her heart ached.
“Will you tell me about the—what did you call them—shadow seers?” Olivia swallowed hard at her temerity, sneaking a peek of the vampire through her hair. “Did you know many? What could they do?”
“Unfortunately, I’ve only heard about them in stories. I don’t think I’ve ever met one in person before you. If I had, they never revealed themselves. The shadow seers’ history isn’t a pleasant one since their skills are always in demand, for good intent or ill.” Rising from the chair, Maximus resumed his earlier pacing.
“I don’t understand.” She pulled her feet onto the chair and wrapped her arms around her legs. With her chin resting on her knees, Olivia tracked his movements. Now her terror had abated, she tracked his every movement. His lack of a shadow fascinated her. “I can’t do much more than see weird shadows.”
“That is plenty, trust me. While you didn’t know what I was, you knew I wasn’t human the moment you saw me in the light. Not everyone appreciates being outed like that. No one wants to end up as a lab rat.”
“Okay, I can understand that. Is that why they went into hiding? The seers, I mean. Did they tell people about the shadows?”
“Partially. My understanding is they’ve always been fairly secretive. They’ve had to be secretive in order to survive.” He paced over to the desk. Leaning against the edge, he frowned. “I’d have to check the records, but this is what I remember. Seers are always female, passing the ability from mother to daughter, which historically placed them at a disadvantage. Back in the day, they were at the mercy of first their father and then their husband. If they were unwed, they fell under the authority of the male head of the family.”
“Yeah. Being a woman sucked back then. Everyone knows that.”
“True, and seers had it both better and worse than most. Some villages feared them. Some worshiped them. Men either shunned them to keep from perpetuating the ‘taint’ or forcibly bred with them to create more seers. Nonhumans were little better.” Maximus pushed off from the desk and resumed pacing. “In the Middle Ages, there were many groups—mostly human, but not always—that forced seers to identify nonhumans. They used the seers as oracles, priestesses, or nuns to accuse their rivals of many natural disasters or diseases.”
“But why would anyone believe them? I could run down the road telling folks werewolves live among us, and I’d get laughed at or thrown in the loony bin.”
“True.” He nodded and spread his hands. “But that’s in today’s modern world with today’s science and knowledge. Hundreds of years ago, they believed many things we find ridiculous. If a shifter rebuffs a human’s advances, the seer gives him a reason to exact vengeance. She’s an animal, after all. Then, other things happen to support the seer’s accusations—locusts swarm this field but not that one, a baby is stillborn bearing a birthmark, or wolves carry off a black lamb. All coincidences that feed into superstition and enable the villagers to believe the seer.”
“Couldn’t she lie?”
“Many were children.” His soft declaration shook her. Loomis often complained he should have taken her just after her parents’ death. She couldn’t imagine trying to resist him then. “Humans seeking answers to the Black Death captured entire families of seers in an effort to purge Europe of the evils of nonhumans. They relied upon their scripture and preyed upon the people’s fears. Power-hungry opportunists used the time of death and chaos to destroy entire villages, wiping out packs of shifters and covens of vampires. Both sides sought to use the shadow seers as tools in the human-nonhuman war. It was no wonder they hid.”
“Does everyone see us as nothing more than pawns?” Olivia clutched her legs to her chest, a shiver running through her slim frame. “I didn’t ask to be able to do this. I doubt any of us did.”
“I know you didn’t, child.” Maximus kneeled by her chair. He pried her hands from her legs and placed a gentle kiss on each. His dark eyes glowed a soft crimson at this angle. Another reminder he was more than human. “Believe me, not everyone sees you as a pawn. I believe Draike would take great offense at that.”
“Thank you,” she whispered. Offering him a strained smile, Olivia squeezed his fingers. “You’re not what I would’ve expected from a vampire.”
“Of course not. I’m much more handsome, witty, and charming, I’m sure.”
“And modest?” The tension in her shoulders eased as she teased him.
“Of course, my sweet.” He rose with a fluid motion, ending on an elegant bow from a bygone era. His lips brushed over the backs of both her hands. With a grin and a wink, he turned them over and did the same to the pulse at her wrists. “I’m as humble as a child.”