Posts Tagged 'D. Jackson Leigh'

Turning up the Heat

By D Jackson Leigh

Heat, cold, rain, drought – weather drives life on a very basic level in all parts of the world.

Aching bones predict a coming cold snap, a herd of cows lying down (not just a few napping) portend impending rain, thunder in winter forecasts snow will follow seven to ten days later, and so forth.

And, any culture born from agricultural roots, like the Midwest and the South, have learned to respond accordingly. If winter’s coming to the Midwest and granny says to go ahead and dig her hole next to grandpa in the family cemetery before the ground freezes, you better do it. Everybody knows the old and infirm seem to drop along with the outdoor temperature every year. Likewise, heat, the most basic measure of Southern weather, generally slows everything down in the sultry states because we’re familiar with the dangers of dehydration and heat stroke.

Writers, however, turn up the heat to bring our stories to a boil rather than slow them. Heat between two characters is the heartbeat of a romance. Heat brings tingle to a sex scene. Heat accelerates the pace of the plot to a breathless ending.

SwelterConsidering that heat was the theme, my timing was a little off when I found my rhythm while writing Swelter.

I had signed a contract with a deadline, then procrastinated getting started.

I always intend to write during the summer months but find it difficult with so many book events during the warm months. I still work a full-time job that pays my mortgage, so my writing time is mainly on weekends. This past summer, I had six weekends in a row booked with travel. So, no writing.

Autumn was rolling in when I whipped out the first chapters to introduce my two characters to the readers and to each other. Then I suddenly had writer’s block over what to do next. I struggled through those fall months, then went to visit a close friend, VK Powell, for one of our frequent brainstorming sessions. She’s a master plotter and lives in an awesome high rise condo where one wall is all glass and looks out over a downtown city park. So, as is our custom, we imbibed – I’m partial to whiskey and she likes vodka – and brainstormed while I paced and stared out at the city lights. She was left with empty liquor bottles, and I went home filled with inspiration.

Only now, it was the dead of winter.

So, I jacked up the furnace and turned on the gas logs in the fireplace until I was sweating and The Terrors, my three rescued terrier mixes, had their tongues hanging out.

The heat building in Swelter is three-pronged: chemistry between August and Teal; temperatures baking the Texas Panhandle; and plot tension as danger escalates.

In a nutshell: Congressional aide Teal Giovanni is fleeing the media and her shattered life after her affair with a married senator makes prime time news. Betrayed by her lover/law partner, August Reese is hiding out at a small cattle ranch to testify against a drug kingpin. Attraction sparks when Teal’s aging Honda blows its engine on a steamy stretch of Texas blacktop, and she’s rescued by August. But just as that spark bursts into flame, their worst nightmare comes calling. Will they survive or swelter as the heat becomes unbearable?

Why the Texas Panhandle? I’ve always been fascinated by places like Caprock Canyon State Park, red rock giants carved out and standing tall against the skyline. Besides, what’s sexier than cowgirls in boots and chaps?

The book’s title? Well, when temperatures become too hot to withstand, it’s not uncommon to hear a Southerner to proclaim: “I’m just about to swelter.”

Since Swelter was written in winter, it only seems appropriate to have it turn up the heat with December release to warm your holiday. Hope you enjoy the ride.

 

Parting note: Leave a comment on the Bold Strokes blog site by 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and I’ll announce two winners on Sunday, Dec. 11, to receive autographed copies (ebook copies if you live outside the U.S.) of Swelter.

What do you do with a lovesick dragon horse?

BY D. JACKSON LEIGH

Tracker and the Spy 300 DPIFor those who joined me on the Dragon Horse War journey when “The Calling” debuted a year ago, the trilogy continues this month with the release of “Tracker and the Spy.” 

“The Calling”  told the story of First Warrior Jael who was ordered by The Collective Council to assemble an army of dragon horse warriors and stop The Natural Order, a dangerous cult gaining ground in their society.

The cult is a retro movement – not in a groovy 60s kind of way — that promotes belief in a single deity who has a propensity for torturing any souls who don’t worship him and declares men as master over the perpetual source of new human life, namely women. The cult’s leader, who calls himself The Prophet, isn’t a live-and-let-live kind of guy and intends to force the rest of humanity to conform to his belief by taking control of the world’s dwindling food supply. So far, his plan is working.

Jael’s mission, of course, catches a little bad air when she falls head over heels for her direct opposite, First Advocate Alyssa, a peace-loving empath. Alyssa has issues with Jael’s mission to prematurely cremate (as in before he’s dead) The Prophet so that his badly born soul will be purified to reincarnate and make restitution in his next life for his misdeeds in this life.

“The Calling” ends just after the Jael’s army of flying pyros concludes Dragon Horse War The Calling 300 DPIits first clash with The Natural Order. The dragon-horse warriors scatter The Natural Order believers in that first battle, but The Prophet and his second-in-command escape.

No problem.

Capt. Tanisha, one of the six warriors of the elite Guard who are Jael’s command staff, is an expert tracker. It’s just that Tan has a few quirks, a few guilt and anger issues left over from her previous lives. So, Jael assigns Kyle to help the complex and solitary Tan in her hunt for The Prophet.

That is a bit of a problem.

Kyle is an exceedingly powerful, but untrained pyro who just happens to be the daughter of The Prophet. She’s just joined the dragon horse army after escaping from her father and wants no part of Jael’s plan to return her to The Natural Order as a spy.

Also, Tan’s even more twitchy than usual because her dragon horse  has picked this inopportune time to get the urge to mate. Since warrior and dragon horse are bonded, Phyrrhos’ urgent need for love is driving Tan crazy with lust. The last thing she needs is to be distracted by an untrained sparkler – especially one with a hot body with eyes as blue as lasers – while she’s tracking.

But Jael pulls rank and orders the tracker and the spy partnership.

Then, when things can’t get any worse, Phyrrhos decides Jael’s dragon stallion, Specter is prime daddy material. Specter is willing, which drives Jael a little crazy.

That lights the First Advocate’s candle because she’s laid claim to the First Warrior’s sexy assets and isn’t about to let two horny dragon horses trigger a rerun of Tan’s and Jael’s former “friends with benefits” relationship.

Then there’s Phyrrhos’ sudden and baffling affection for Kyle – not in a mating, but in a motherly kind of way.

Sun and stars! This is no time for a meeting of the mile-high club. The Prophet and his henchmen are getting away.

 

Totally didn’t see this coming

I’ve always been a “plotter” rather than a “pantser.” Translation: I write from an outline because my writing time is jammed in around a full time job, the chores of living and a little time with friends so they don’t forget who I am. So, an outline lets me put a manuscript down for a few days or even a few weeks and pick right back up where I left off.

The characters in the Dragon Horse War trilogy had other ideas. I started it as a lark because I had an unusual spate of weird dreams about dragons. Then it became my personal commentary on the decline of current society into a culture of hate and greed, and, to my own surprise, an introspective journey of discovery.

Best of all, the Dragon Horse War trilogy is a wild adventure of pyro-gifted warriors, flying horses, and the discovery of many other less fantastic gifts we humans didn’t know we could wield. The good guys have flaws, some of the bad guys have redeeming qualities and the story has lots of bumps along the way.

 

Back on track

Meanwhile, “Tracker and the Spy” is the longest manuscript I’ve ever written, because the misbehaving dragon horses is the only the spark – its real importance emerges later – that starts Tan’s and Kyle’s personal story and their mission to track down The Prophet.

There are battle scenes, tragedy, unanticipated developments and new characters to love and hate. There’s also personal discovery, romance …and a set-up for the third book to come.

That final book has yet to be written, and honestly, while I think I know how it will end, I can only say for sure that the characters will let me know.

Editor’s Note: If you leave a comment on this blog, you’ll get a chance to win a free autographed copy of “Tracker and the Spy”

 

  1. Jackson Leigh

2013 GCLS Paranormal winner for “Touch Me Gently”

2014 GCLS Romance winner for “Every Second Counts”

2014 Lambda finalist for “Hold Me Forever”

Dreaming of Dragon Horses

By D. Jackson Leigh 

There was no explanation for it.

I dreamed of dragons three times in the same week. Weird, I thought. I hadn’t seen dragons on television or a movie recently. It’d been decades since I’d read Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books. I couldn’t remember the details of the dreams, only that they involved dragons.

Now, I’m not superstitious about dreams or much of anything else, but who am I to say it wasn’t a cosmic nudge? Besides, I’d been wanting to stretch my writing wings a bit and I’ve been a life-long fan of the fantasy genre. I’ve always loved the good vs. evil, the adventure, bravery and the romantic idealism of fantasy.

I couldn’t abandon my trademark horses, however, so my dream dragons became horses that transform at dusk into fire-breathing winged dragon-horse hybrids. I only needed to find a purpose for my dragon horses.

I’m not a religious or spiritual person, but I’m definitely not an atheist. I don’t believe we’re just a bunch neurons that stop working at some point. I’m sure there are things such as souls, ghosts, an afterlife, possibly reincarnation, hopefully no judgment, and very doubtfully a segregated heaven and hell. I just don’t worry about it. I figure whatever awaits will be no matter what I believe or don’t believe. The safe road, I decided long ago, is just to treat others as I would like them to treat me, and hope for the best ending.

I do worry, however, about how mean-spirited and divided our world has become. The worst dividing lines, in my estimation, are race, religion and politics. The tools used to shove us into these groups, for the most part, are wealth and fear.

So, how does this relate to dragon horses?

The fantasy genre is almost always used as a metaphoric allusion to some social issue. So, I decided to explore my concerns in my story–a trilogy, actually. Because aren’t all good fantasies a trilogy? Thus, “The Calling” is the first in the “Dragon Horse War” series.Dragon Horse War The Calling 300 DPI

My fantasy world isn’t full of brilliant allusions, but it is complicated.

The trouble we’re experiencing now between Christians and Muslims escalates into a massive world war. In the end, the great religions are extinguished and a new era of thought rises up that celebrates diversity and differences. A world government is established that abolishes guns and fossil fuel.  Resources that were previously hoarded and traded by competing nations are equally shared. Basic education, food and clothing is free for every person in every corner of the earth. No citizen is oppressed because of their gender, age, skin color or cultural background. 

It’s not  a perfect world. While there is overall peace, the character of mankind still struggles with jealousy, greed, addictions, domestic problems and other disputes that go along with imperfect human nature. People still work for luxury credits, so some are richer than others. Not all diseases have been cured. And, there are still natural disasters.

In fact, an unusual alignment of the planets causes a spate of natural disasters that give rise to The Natural Order, a cult led by a madman who seeks to take control of the world’s food supply when resources fall dangerously low.

In “The Calling,” the good guys are very sure of their righteous mission to extinguish the cult. But when I said earlier that I set out to explore my concerns, I meant it. As I write this blog for the release of the first Dragon Horse War book, I’m half way through the writing of the second installment and my characters are already finding out there are lessons to be learned by everyone, not just the bad guys.

I’ve always written my romance novels according to an outline, but this series has taken wings, and the characters are flying places I had never imagined in the beginning. Good places. Exciting places.

And, even if you don’t care about the shallow allusions behind the story, “Dragon Horse War: The Calling” is still a D.Jackson Leigh romance (because I’m a hopeless romantic) with fiery battle scenes and a bit of intrigue. At the very least, you’ll hopefully be entertained. At best, perhaps you’ll take JRR Tolkien’s advice to “suspend disbelief” so that you can soar with me on dragon wings and briefly touch the stars.

Enjoy the Ride

D. Jackson Leigh

P.S. Don’t forget to leave a comment to win an autographed copy of “Dragon Horse War: The Calling.”

When Horses Fly

She’s the consummate southern storyteller and her latest release, Hold Me Forever, is a must read. Listen in to hear about D. Jackson Leigh’s new project: dragon horses.

Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit

By D. Jackson Leigh

Language is my music.

I’m not talking about the mechanics of grammar—a necessary evil in my affair with words. I’m referring to the inflection, the regional euphemisms and the quirky idioms that add texture to our conversations and communicate who we are and where we’ve been.

That regional texture—whether it’s a Northern England clip, a soft Charleston lilt or  California surfer dudette lingo—is  the icing on my cake, the milk in my Cheerios, the red on my candy.

If you think I’m just porch-sittin’ (being whimsical), then consider this:

When Texas Gov. Ann Richards delivered the keynote speech of the 1988 Democratic Convention, she offered example after example of why the Republican Party’s “trickle down economics” did not work. However, little of her astute research is recalled today. Instead, she is remembered for her “that old dog won’t hunt” declaration that plunged her into the national political spotlight and put her name in history books.

So, when my friend Phoebe gave me a daily calendar of Southern expressions titled “Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit,” my language-oriented brain latched onto a theme for the third in my Southern Secrets series.

Southerners love colorful euphemisms to soften the harsh realities of life. Instead of saying “she died,” we say “she passed on.” A man who has a wife and a mistress is “buttering his bread on both sides.”  To someone who has gone against your advice and then comes to you for help, you would tell them to “skin their own skunk” or “you made your bed, now lie in it.”

The world of quarter horse racing in Cajun-rich Southern Louisiana is fertile ground for the Southern eccentricities in “Hold Me Forever,” Hold Me Forever coverwhich is scheduled for a September release by Bold Strokes Books.

Clinton Casey is a grumpy old Texan who trains quarter horses at Louisiana racetracks. His daughter, Whitley, learned about horses from Pop and then got an education in lesbians and high-tech journalism at Louisiana State University. Mae St. John is an over-educated Georgia debutante with no job experience and no family … rather, no legitimate family.

They each have their own problems.

Clinton’s got more gravy than biscuits (more bills than money) after Alzheimer’s disease puts a leak in his crankcase (muddles his brain), so he takes out a sketchy loan against the farm and puts all his eggs in one basket—a promising bay colt named Raising the Bar.

So, even though Whit’s feeling like a sore-assed duck swimming in salt water (very hurt) after realizing her latest relationship was just spitting in the wind (going nowhere), she moves back home and works like a rented mule (you would never work your own mule that hard) to keep her dot.com business going and shoulder Pop’s training work, too.

Meanwhile, Mae is feeling like a hound dog without a porch to crawl under (a stray). She has neither home nor family since her grandmother, Big Mae, had too many toddies at the country club and drowned when she accidentally drove her Mercedes into a water hazard on the fifteenth fairway. When her grandmother’s will is read, Mae learns that the family fortune is gone and the bank has foreclosed on their house. Big Mae has left only a modest trust fund for the care of her poodle, Rhett, ten thousand dollars secreted between the pages of “Gone with the Wind,” and a letter confessing the father Mae grew up thinking was dead actually lives in Louisiana.

Seriously, while I had a lot of fun with the Southernisms, “Hold Me Forever”Hold Me Forever cover is about seeing people for who they are, not what they are. It’s about family, loyalty and trust. It’s about finding that person who fits perfectly in your life … someone who will hold you forever.

Leave a comment to enter the drawing for an autographed copy of “Hold Me Forever.” A winner will be drawn 5 days after the posting of this blog.

Small towns, secrets, and shaded tobacco

BY D. JACKSON LEIGH

If there’s one thing we Southerners like, it’s secrets.

We like to keep them. We like to sniff them out. We like to whisper about them.

A secret might involve a crazy relative, a criminal act swept under the rug, or an indiscretion that leads to an additional family member. But all Southern families have them.

That’s why it wasn’t hard to write a second Southern romance following the theme of family secrets.

The first, “Call Me Softly,”  involved the concealed parentage of one of the main characters. “Touch Me Gently” is a second completely stand-alone romance that follows the same “Southern Secrets” theme.

Fleeing the secrets and subsequent betrayal of her closeted lover, Salem Lacey flees her urban life in Atlanta, Ga., for new start in a small rural South Georgia town where she meets the beautiful and mysterious KnoxBolander, a woman who has been rarely touched and never loved because she hides the grandaddy of all secrets.

To unfurl this story laced with a hint of the paranormal, I decided to take my readers to where Spanish moss hangs from huge, gnarled oaks and farmers still grow shaded tobacco in the rich bottom land between the Louisiana bayou and Georgia’s swamps – sort of a rural “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” setting.

I learned about shaded tobacco country when my dad served as a minister for a few years in a tiny town on the Gulf side of the Georgia-Florida border.  I was immediately enchanted by the  grand old houses and wrap-around porches.

They were celebrating “Mule Day” during one of my visits with the annual parade led by a matched pair of Percheron mules. They were huge, gorgeous animals and their owner, my parent’s landlord, was more than happy to give me a history lesson on the importance of mules to “shaded tobacco.”

Unlike cigarette tobacco that is wrapped in paper, cigars are wrapped in an unblemished tobacco leaf. The rich soil in that area was perfect for that variety of tobacco, but the plants had to be grown under the shade of thousands of yards of gauzy cheesecloth to produce leaves unblemished by the sun.  So, long after tractors became farmers’ workhorses, mules were still used to cultivate the rows of plants nestled under the arbors draped in cheesecloth.

But as enamored as I was with the mules,  it was the group bringing up the rear of the Mule Day parade that made me gasp.

High-stepping, smooth-gaited and black as a moonless midnight, the cadre of Friesian horses were an exclamation   the end of an impressive processional. While the mules pulled the cultivating equipment, Friesians with long, wavy manes and tails were the farmers’ choice to patrol their thousand-acre plantations.

“Touch Me Gently” was taking shape. I had a secret, two sexy women and the trademark of my novels, beautiful horses.

What more do you need for a good romance? A lesson learned.

The lesson in “Touch Me Gently” was one I personally learned some years back when I bought property for my own horse farm.

The small Georgia town where I spend most of my childhood was a wonderful place when I was very young.  I spent summers shoeless, swimming in farm ponds and riding ponies. But when I began middle school, I was rudely introduced to the fact that you were only somebody in a small town if you could afford the right clothes, your parents had the right jobs and your skin was white. My parents moved to a mid-sized city when I was twelve and I vowed never to live with small town bias again.

However, another small town – this one in North Carolina – changed my mind about that. The farm property my friends and I wanted to split was very cheap, but the family that owned it wanted to meet the buyers before they decided to sell. We were invited to their Labor Day family picnic and decided only two of us would go so that we didn’t give ourselves away as two couples looking to buy and split the land. Shortly after we arrived, we realized we had worried over nothing when one family member showed up with her wife and another showed up with his boyfriend.

The rest of the town was just as welcoming. Instead of being known as “those women without husbands,” we were known as “those women putting up all that board fencing for horses.”

It was a surprise to us, just like Salem Lacey finds more than a few surprises in the fictional town of Oakboro where folks are more open-minded than you’d think and a fresh chance at love awaits.


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