Friday, February 24, 2017

An Excerpt from (and Insight on) the Upcoming Brides, Beasts & Baklava

While rushing to finish the final edits on Dead Beat Dates & Deities,  the first book of the Goddess of Tornado Alley Series, I was IM'ing back and forth on Facebook with my PA Samantha Soccorso. I can't even recall our conversation now - in my defense, we've had more of those than I can possibly count - but I'm sure she was giving me final proofreading notes and making me laugh. When it comes down do it, what she was doing was dragging me over the finish line just days before the official launch day. 

God bless you, Sammy.

You know how there comes a point with exhaustion when everything anyone says is hilarious? It doesn't matter what it is. Whatever they say is the funniest damn thing you've ever heard in your entire life. Until they say something else. Then that becomes the funniest thing. It's almost like you're drunk, even though you don't have a drop of alcohol in your system. This was my state. I'd been there for a couple of days, truthfully. I was feeling extraordinarily goofy, drunk-tired, and, if you've read Dead Beat Dates & Deities, you know that this is a silly, playful, funny book to begin with. I think the term my daughter used to describe me that night was: "She's in the deep end without her floaties." At least I was fun to hang out with. I'm a fun tired-drunk.

I'm not sure why, other than the fact that this series has to do with Greek mythology, Samantha mentioned something about Athena. The goddess of wisdom hadn't made an appearance in the story line, but for some reason, the mention of her name caused a huge event to take place for me. CLICK! All of a sudden, the entire outline of Brides, Beasts & Baklava was right there in my head.

I was so exhausted it felt like I was floating. Nothing seemed real. Did I put myself to bed? Oh, hell no. I bid Samantha a good night and I stayed up, typing as quickly as I could  the entire outline of this second book. I didn't want to forget any of it. I knew once I fell asleep, it would undoubtedly get lost in the chaos and muddled mess that is my brain, and when I woke up, it would all be gone. 

Remember this when you read the book if you will. It's all Samantha's fault. 😉

I wanted to give you all a little taste of what you're in for when Brides, Beasts & Baklava makes its debut on May 20th. I could explain it to you, but I think Archer, Frank and Ella would do a better job than I could. Here's a sneak peek. I hope you like it.  Remember, the final edits are not complete - and this is subject to change. Feedback is most welcome.

Brides, Beasts & Baklava – Goddess of Tornado Alley Series Book Two
©2017 by Jennifer C. Wing. All Rights Reserved.

The pizza that tasted so good going down was now sitting in Frank’s belly like a hard, heavy stone.

“There’s a couple of things I don’t understand,” she began.

“Just a couple?” Ella inquired.

“Well, Archer told me earlier that mama goddess is mad at me.”


Frank shrugged. “More like still. I thought we were good.” She tipped her head toward the deity. “Archer says that’s not the case.”

“Not much has taken place on Mt. Olympus lately.”

Both the women turned and stared at the deity.

“Not much has taken place?” Ella retorted.

“The fact that Frankie’s managed to get Mother so riled up is one of the most exciting things that’s happened in a long, long time.”

Ella was shaking her head. “I used to think that being immortal sounded really cool. I mean, not dying has got to have its advantages. I never thought about how long forever is, though.”

“The gods must be hard up for entertainment if I’m on their radar,” Frank said.
Ella gave Frank a shrug. “I don’t know, you’ve been entertaining me for years.” She looked back at Archer. “Still, I don’t understand why Aphrodite is so pissed.”
Archer’s answer was simple. “It’s always irked her that Frankie has matchmaking talent.”
“Now hang on a second,” Frank argued. “It’s not my fault I have it. She’s the one who gave it to me. It’s not like I asked for it, now did I?” It was a rhetorical question and neither Archer nor Ella offered a response.

“I went to her,” Frank continued. “I asked her for advice after the whole Adam and Ella and Mom and Allen thing. I asked her what I should do and she told me either I’d used up any power that I might have had, or that it would grow stronger with time.”
“She told you to practice,” Ella said, remembering well what had taken place those few long months ago. She looked over at Archer, defiance coloring her cheeks. “That mother of yours told Frankie to work on her gift, to use it as much as she could.”
Frank was indignant. “There was this whole thing she spewed about love being so powerful, so wonderful. I only did what she told me to do.”
“Yes,” Archer agreed. “I know. I’m sure she was hoping it was a fluke, that the ability would burn itself out. You already know how rare it is. When she realized it wasn’t going away, she didn’t believe you had what it took to use it.”

“I remember.” Frank’s voice dripped with sarcasm. She glanced at Ella. “She must have been thirty feet tall, all crouched over me until I thought she crush me flat … that big ole mama goddess eye right in my face. Stupid eyelashes …”

“Stop,” Ella told her with a shake of her head. “You’re gonna get yourself all worked up again and I’m too tired to stay up with you all night.”

“That’s what I’m here for,” Archer said.

Ella threw him a sideways glance. “Men,” she huffed. “One track minds, I swear. You’re all alike, but you,” she pointed at Archer. “You take the cake.”

Frank cocked a disbelieving eyebrow. “Um, Ella?”

“Yeah, I know,” she brushed Frank off with a wave of her hand. “He’s Eros. Whatever.”

Archer continued. “Even after you stood up to her that night in the museum, Mother still wasn’t sure you could pull this whole matchmaking thing off.” 
“Because I’m such a mess,” she stated. She’d heard people tell her that all her life, but the frequency in which she heard it increased a great deal after she clocked her head on the Aphrodite statue in Cupid’s Closet at Pleasant Valley mall. Admittedly, there was some truth to it, which is why it bothered her so much.

Aphrodite not only thought Frank was a mess, she also struggled to wrap her extraordinarily beautiful blonde head around the fact the Frank possessed the gift of matchmaking. It was ironic to say the least. At nearly thirty, Frank had a depressingly long list of men she’d gone on dates with, but had never experienced any success at all in the relationship department. Frank had no answers as to why she, someone who had never experienced true love, had been given such a powerful gift, or why the ability within her continued to thrive. Aphrodite didn’t understand it, either, and apparently, her magic, golden girdle was in a serious twist over it.

Frank felt Archer’s hand move across her back. His touch was warm like it always was, and his fingers instinctively probed at the tight muscles along her spine. Magically, he untied the knotted muscles he found there and Frank closed her eyes. While it was true that many people had called her a mess, Archer had never been one of them.

“She didn’t want you to be able to pull it off,” he told her, his voice quiet.

“You always knew that I could.”

“From the very beginning.”

“But you did pull it off,” Ella said, unaware of the pair’s inner dialogue. “You are pulling it off. Not only that, you’re kicking ass.”

Frank heaved a sigh. “I am,” she told Ella, her eyes still closed. “But now it looks as though Aphrodite wants to kick mine.”

Frank already knew that she’d have to reveal her secret. She wasn’t excited about this, but Ella was even less so.      

“This was a whole lot easier to deal with when it was just Frankie’s secret.”
The three of them had moved from the kitchen table out to the living room. Ella sat sideways on an upholstered chair, her legs dangling over one arm, the back of her head leaning against the other.
“At least your deity doesn’t want to kill you.”
“No, but yours does.” Frank was sprawled on the couch, half sitting, half lying across one side. Her long curls looked like dark lengths of rope reaching across the plump throw pillow stuffed behind her head.
“Not all of Frank’s deities want the two of you dead,” Archer reminded them. Frank watched him pull a bottle of whiskey from a hutch on the far side of the room. She knew there was liquor in there, but hadn’t purchased any whiskey since Archer went MIA. Now it looked as though it was well stocked. 
“Oh, yeah,” Ella quipped. “I keep forgetting. Frankie here has more than one. She’s a lucky, lucky girl.”
“You’re so cranky lately,” Frankie accused.
“I can’t begin to imagine why.”
“I’ve been dealing with Peri every bit as much, no,” she paused, “even more than you have.”
Ella sat up in her chair. “You’re the reason Peri’s involved with the wedding in the first place!”
Frank opened her mouth to argue, but Archer didn’t give her the chance.
“I’m not downplaying your upcoming nuptials, Ella,” he told her, walking across the room and sitting on the other half of the couch. “I rather enjoy weddings, but catering and live music is child’s play compared to what we’re going to be up against when Mother decides it’s time to exact her revenge.” He looked over at Frank, his gaze dark. “Do you remember what I said about Cerberus?”
“Who?” Ella asked.

“Cecil,” Frank informed her, her eyes still on the deity.
Ella gasped. “No …”
“Yes,” Archer said, uncapping the bottle. “I don’t know who will fight for which side. There’s so much history. You’ve read a lot, but that’s just a small percentage of what’s actually taken place over the years.” He tipped the bottle up to his lips and took a hearty swallow. Frank was usually surprised when he did this without the slightest change in his expression, her own throat burning as she watched him take drink after drink. This time she was too wrapped up in what he was saying to notice.

“Every god has had interactions, both good and bad with other gods and creatures on Olympus. There’s good and evil in all of them, and not even I can predict which way they’re going to fall.”

“You used the word ‘war’ earlier,” Ella said, her voice quiet.

Archer nodded and took another pull from the bottle. “I’ve worked hard to rally those who I think will stand with us, but I have no idea how it will turn out in the end.”

“You immortals are a fickle bunch.” The two stared at one another, but Archer didn’t look as though the comment rankled, and he didn’t deny the accusation.

“You said that Aphrodite wanted to take me out,” Frank recalled.

“And me, too.”

“Frankie because she’s grown to be a powerful proxenitĂ­s, and you, Ella, well …” the deity’s voice drifted as he leaned forward to place the whiskey on the coffee table. “You were the first match Frankie made. You’re where it all began.”

“That’s hardly my fault,” she retorted.

Archer wasn’t done. “You also belong to Athena. That fact annoys the hell out of her.”

“Again, something I had no power over.”

“Ella,” Frank said quietly. “It amazes me that you’re still looking for logic in all of this.”

Ella heaved a dramatic sigh and stood up. “You think we need to tell our family and friends that Greek mythology is not only real, but that we’ve been interacting with the gods,” she paused, pacing around the room. “Hell, that Frankie vanishes every so often and gets carried away in a traveling, spinning vortex to places like Mexico and Paris whenever mama goddess decides to call a meeting?”  

“Like I said,” Frank told her. “Logic.” She waved her hand in the air. “It went right out the window a long time ago.”

“And the whole matchmaking thing?” Ella turned and made another pass. “I’m Frank’s best friend. Like you said, I was her first match. I’ve seen her hook up at least twenty different couples, and those were just the ones I was around for. I know it’s real, but there are times when I still struggle to believe it.” She looked at Archer, her feet still and her eyebrow cocked. “She’s like Cupid right here on earth, but instead of slinging arrows she’s got that whole blue glowy thing and the apples … And why her?” she asked with an exaggerated shrug of her shoulders. “I mean, really?” Her wide, blue eyes moved to Frank. “I love you, you know I do, but does lover boy here even know how long it’s been since you’ve had sex?”

Both Frank and Archer were quiet as they stared at Ella.

“She had to go there,” Frank said. “And she called you Cupid again.”

“Give her a minute. She’ll run out of steam soon.”

“We need to tell everyone all this?” She began pacing again, turning and moving toward the door.

“I’d be fine if you wanted to leave that last part out,” Frank said out loud.

“Why do we need to tell them?” Ella pushed on. “So they can help us win a war against a slew of gods and mythological beasts that Aphrodite has decided to bring here, to Sparrow, in the middle of nowhere Nebraska simply because she’s been bit by the green-eyed monster?” She turned and let out a long, shaky trail of maniacal sounding laughter.

“Yes,” Archer said, undaunted. “That about sums it up.”

Ella stared at the deity, her heated, doll-like face framed by errant wisps of blonde hair. “Unflippingbelievable.”

“You can say that again,” Frank agreed.

“So, what do we do about it?”

Archer leaned back against the couch and caught Frank’s gaze. He patted his lap with the palms of his hands and Frank slowly moved her legs up, resting her bare feet on the warmth of his thighs.

“Call Adam.”

“Oh, no,” Ella said, shaking her head. “I’m not about to tell him any of this over the phone.”

The god’s fingers pressed gently against the arch of Frank’s left foot. “You’re just going to let him know you’re sleeping over here tonight.”

Ella gave him a look of disbelief. “You honestly think I’m going to be able to get any rest? You expect me to just nod off and catch forty winks after telling me a Greek hit squad is about to come after us?”

“Call him,” Frank advised.

“You have thirty seconds.”

“Give her at least forty-five. He’s her fiancĂ© after all.”

“That’s a bad blister.”

Frank looked down at her feet. “I know. It hurts, too.”

Archer ran his finger over the sore, raised spot and Frank felt the heat against her skin intensify. When Archer moved his hands and began to rub the ball of her foot, Frank could see the blister had disappeared. She smiled sleepily. “Thanks.”

“Hi, Adam,” Ella said into the phone.

Frankie’s eyes moved back up. She was beginning to feel more relaxed, her body heavy against the cushions of the couch. Ella must have felt it, too, because she faltered, then moved toward the love seat that was only a few feet away.

“It’s late,” she continued, her voice growing calmer with each word. “I’m just gonna stay here at

Frankie’s tonight.” She dropped onto the love seat and blinked her suddenly tired eyes. “Be safe. Love you.”

“Lie down,” Archer told her.

“I can’t sleep,” she argued, disconnecting the call. “Too keyed up.”

“Five … four …” Frankie counted drowsily.

“Be keyed up tomorrow.” Ella’s head found another throw pillow. “There’s nothing more we can do tonight.”

“Three … two … one …”

Both Frank and Ella fell asleep at the same time, leaving Archer alone in the room. The deity listened to the clock as it ticked a rhythmic beat in the otherwise quiet house. He realized Ella was slouched on the couch and squinted his navy blue eyes ever so slightly. Slowly, Ella’s legs moved up off the floor, her body swiveling so she was resting more comfortably on the short couch.

“I’m wide awake …” she mumbled before emitting a quiet snore.

Archer rolled his head to the right, his eyes falling on Frank’s face.

“Good night, kanĂ©la.”

The corners of Frank’s lips twitched the slightest bit upward in silent response.