The Fourth Book I’m Not Writing.

As I usher Outrush, the third book in my PNR series, through editing and production, I confess to having set up a love story and drama for a fourth within it. I’m going on record as saying I’m not going to write it – I’m just not, people, so don’t pay any attention to these little asides I throw out that suggest otherwise. This development of scenes is an exorcism, and any minute, I’ll be purged and free, just you watch.

With that, here’s an excerpt from the book following Outrush (which again, I refuse to write!):

From Crosstide, Book Four of the Mer Chronicles by Errin Stevens

“Xanthe. Come back to me.”

She knew that voice, had been in these arms before… but maybe not. Maybe she was dreaming she was in a better situation than she actually was. She looked apprehensively over her shoulder toward the room she’d just left, the glow from the chandelier too bright, its illumination still touching her.

Like a prison searchlight when all good inmates were in bed, and she was an escapee in the yard.

She bolted deeper into the night shadows, pulling so hard on her companion, they both stumbled, and how odd for the laws of gravity to work in a scenario that didn’t really exist. Her phantom Peter steadied them.

“Moonflower.” His voice was gruff with emotion. He contained her struggling when all she wanted to do was run, flee to the ocean as fast as she could and find the deepest, darkest sea cave to hide in. “What did they do to you?”

Not that negotiating with a ghost would get her anywhere, but she decided there was no harm in responding. “You must be new here. If you show sadness, if you withdraw and dim yourself, they will kill you.” She checked over her shoulder again and frowned. “I don’t know why they aren’t coming for me…”

Peter shook her, pulling her attention back to him. “Xanthe. You’re safe. And they’re all dead. No one will chase you.”

God, but his anger was glorious, as was the unlikely assertion he’d done away with her captors. Still, she reveled in the reprieve, in the idea she had a true friend at her side. She studied his face, his ethereal beauty, then took in his confidence and self-possession, two attributes that would never survive in this place. He was so vital, so real. “What new trick is this?” she murmured, touching his cheek. He felt warm and solid, and yet couldn’t be. He flattened her palm against the side of his face.

He was too physically vibrant, too enticing. He was in fact a desperate hope she couldn’t afford to indulge, because to believe in him was to invite her own execution. She fought to get away, but he held her firmly… and even his strength, his illusory hold on her, was a solace. She stopped, leaned into him. Perhaps she’d snapped and her mind was forcing her into the conclusion she needed so badly, that she was loved and protected. But she still turned her head away, gazed toward the sea glittering under the high moon. If she could imagine Peter, she could imagine getting away from here.

Peter began to hum. The tune tugged at a memory, one she’d buried because it had made her too homesick.

A ball in a grand palace among her own people. A prince in fine dress bowing before her, his admiration evident as he paused over her hand to request a dance. Her worry at the time seemed absurd now, how she’d stewed over his interest in her and what she risked by allowing him to lead her onto the floor.

He swept her into a waltz.

The sights and sounds of that faraway time blended with the present, her old memories darkening as she and Peter glided and turned along the stone corridor. She relaxed against his hand at her back for every spin, trusting him to contain their momentum. And at each step, the music from their earlier encounter also bled away… until soon, all she heard was the deep, resonant voice of her partner, his breath intimate and warm in her ear.

The vivid hues from that long-ago celebration – the gowns, the floral arrangements, the garish towers of hors d’oeuvres – went last, their brilliance fading into a colorless but deeper, more private display. She and Peter performed alone here in moonlight and shadow, like a silent movie they enacted between the arches of the arcade. She began to watch Peter’s face, looking for further evidence of his actuality. His features appeared and disappeared, never displayed long enough for her to know.

At the end of the gallery, he stopped humming but kept her in his frame, as if they might dance again. He stood so close she could see nothing else, his chest heaving slightly from exertion. She watched the movement in fascination, reminiscent as it was of the waves she so longed for, the swelling, the contraction. She set her ear against his heart and let its rhythm absorb her. He cupped the back of her head.

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A Real Life Love Story.

(originally published 6/25/2018)

This is the story of how I met my husband, Michael.

I was out with my cousin, Helen, at a bar in Minneapolis to listen to a beloved local band that had decided to reunite/play a late, impromptu gig. I was 27… and I never went to bars. Because I was chicken and didn’t like the predatory feel of the few romantic interactions I’d had in them. Meaning now there’s some irony to my forever-answer to the question, “Where did you meet your husband?” !! It had been more than a year since I’d been in a place like that after 10 p.m. on a weekend.

Anyway, the bar was packed – seriously, wall to wall people – but when we walked in, one of the guys playing pool near the back nudged his buddies and (as Mike revealed a few months later) pointed me out. This guy was/is a friend of my husband’s, and I’m told he said, “Look! There’s the next Mrs. Stevens over there.” Yep.

Eventually, Mike and his friends moved to the opposite side of the bar from my cousin and me… and they started trying to call me over to talk with them. I was not typically courageous in such situations, but I laughed at their airplane landing moves and walked over. The three of them were like wolves, surrounding me, standing too close and shooting rapid-fire questions – who are you, what do you do, where are you from – and I was so unnerved, I dropped my glass of beer. It shattered at my feet. All three guys immediately extended their own glasses toward me. “Here!” they said. I tried to laugh it off, to pretend this sort of thing happened all the time, but I was pretty freaked out by the intensity of their attention. I signaled to my cousin I wanted to get out of there.

Now, it must be said that Mike was the least aggressive of my male entourage that evening, and I found myself sidling toward him. He’s bigger than his friends, taller and more muscular… and I now think I was subconsciously seeking protection. And I’m 5’10”! No shrinking violet! Nonetheless, one of the other guys cut me away somehow to talk. During that time, a stranger slipped Mike a note – I’m truly not kidding – that said, “Get her away from them. She belongs with you.” I kept that note for years but somehow lost it during our last move, unfortunately.

As we were about to leave, Mike asked me for my number, and, sad case that I am, I said no, I didn’t give my number out in bars, but I would take his, which he gave to me. I slipped it in my pocket and expected never to call him. Helen and I left.

The next day – yes, the very next – I ended up calling him. I had tickets to a play at the Orpheum that evening, and the friend I was going with had a family medical emergency come up and couldn’t make it. So I called a few other friends, but they weren’t free, either. Over the course of two hours, I tried to contact every friend and acquaintance I had, with no luck. I called old high school friends. I eventually tried to give the tickets away to parents of friends, with no takers… meaning by the time I remembered I had Mike’s number in my coat pocket, I was in a snit. By then, going to that play with someone had become synonymous with not being a complete social loser. My self-esteem was fully on the line when I called Mike.

He later told me he knew – knew! – I was the one calling when the phone rang. I was courteous and professional. He was warm and confident. I told him I’d meet him at the theatre. He insisted on coming to get me. I let him.

We had a great time. Unlike the previous evening, Mike was reserved, respectful… which made me wonder if maybe he wasn’t into me. He kissed me chastely good night when he dropped me off. That time, when he asked me for my number, I gave it to him.

The final nail in our marital coffin, as I like to call it, occurred two weeks later when Mike took me out for Valentine’s Day. It was beastly cold out – I’m talking negative 30 with snow up to my waist. I was a working girl not making too much, but I did have a nice pair of leather gloves lined with rabbit fur, and I wore them to our dinner. When Mike dropped me off at my apartment afterwards, we realized one of my gloves had gone missing. We searched his car, didn’t find it, and I ended up leaving without it.

At noon the next day, the receptionist at my office called me up to the front saying there was a gentleman there to see me. It was Mike, looking semi-frozen and holding my missing glove. He extended it to me and reported, “I found it.”

People, I have lived in Minnesota most of my life and I know what someone who’s spent time in extreme cold looks like. In the space of a minute, I learned he’d taken the morning off from work, retraced our steps from the previous evening, and found my lost glove. My response? I thanked him, of course, but I didn’t have words to encapsulate the magnitude of what his effort represented to me. He watched me in that careful, intense way of his. I eventually confessed, “I have no defense against…. against whatever this is between us.” His expression relaxed and he smiled at me. “Want to go to lunch?” Yes. Yes, I did. I got my coat and took his arm.

Sometimes when I’m blue, I ask Mike to recount the story of when we met. He says for him, it was like getting “snake-bit,” was definitely love at first sight. I can’t say I was the same at our first encounter, but my ‘love at first sight’ moment happened two short weeks later. 😉

_____

Errin Stevens is the author of The Mer Chronicles series: Updrift (Book 1), Breakwater (Book 2), and coming soon, Outrush (Book 3).

Cello Babies.

(originally published 4/22/2018)

In my early 30s, I fell into an unlikely obsession with all things cello. I couldn’t have told you why at the time, although I’d identified a nagging sense of unfulfillment within myself, one I didn’t want to attribute to the correct cause. As it will do, life prodded me back onto the self-honesty platform… and the cello became my conduit, not that I understood back then how my preoccupation would develop.

But. It was a grand love affair that began with lessons on a starter cello marked with tape on the neck so I could learn to play in first position. I’d had ten years of voice and eight years at the piano, so I wasn’t as unschooled as I could have been, but I was still awful. With time, though – and, on a few occasions, earplugs – I managed to improve. Over the years, I progressed to a better cello, then to another; until eventually, I commissioned a custom instrument from American luthier, Chris Dungey. My baby was stunning and perfect and I named her Annabelle. I felt like the luckiest girl on the planet to get to play her.

My hidden unhappiness did not disappear despite my efforts and good musical fortune, however. My solution? Study harder! Broaden my cello horizons! Through the lens of relative sanity today, I can laugh at the absurd lengths I went to, from unearthing obscure video performances by Yo Yo Ma, Pablo Casals, and Jacqueline Du Pré (which led to a trip to London with my mother once and a search through Golders Green for Du Pré’s grave); to a private session with Minnesota’s former principal cellist, Bob Jamieson, wherein I was given the very undeserved opportunity to play his Montagnana and was rightly admonished afterwards to spend more time practicing, less time on history.

Outside of these shenanigans, my husband and I both worked for a living, in the same way people trying to advance do, which is to say excessively and perhaps desperately. We were also frustrated at the time that we hadn’t had children, even though initial tests revealed no reasons against parenthood for us. I thought it was perhaps my travel schedule or his, which often enough had us in different zip codes during key times of the month. I took a different job, and Mike started his own company to stay closer to home.

Toward the end of my thirties as we remained childless, I came to understand exactly what my focus on the cello distracted me from, and as rich as the study was, it wasn’t taking the place of what I really wanted. I began consulting with a fertility specialist, underwent three cycles of entry-level, drug-supported protocols. No dice, or rather, ‘dice’ in the form of an ectopic pregnancy and a burst fallopian tube, but no infant. The next step was invitro fertilization, which we tried and failed at. Did we want to try again? It was expensive, but we did want to try. I sold my cello on a gamble, knowing I might end up with no cello and no baby.

I remember with brutal clarity how my M.D. greeted me in the waiting room before the ultrasound and blood test that would confirm that next success or failure for us. I’d been giving myself hormone shots for over a year by then, had committed all of our emotional and financial resources toward the possibility of motherhood… and I was admittedly unstable. I barely controlled myself when Lisa took me, shaking and tearful, by the hand toward the imaging room. She hadn’t seen me since the day of the transfer, but she was optimistic. “You’re going to like what you see, Errin,” she promised. I didn’t and still don’t know how she could be so confident.

But she was right. One of our two embryos pulsed away on the monitor, and my blood test predicted viability. I was stunned. I was euphoric. My husband wept. Within a year we had our gorgeous, healthy little boy.

I haven’t touched a cello in years, but two months ago, my former teacher reached out. Her last student recently stopped playing due to health issues but wanted to know her cello was being used by someone. It was at our preferred luthier’s shop at the moment having some work done. Would I like to take it home and play it? The owner would be grateful.

Now, I’m just waiting for the call to go get it. I’ve dusted off my score of the Bach Cello Suites (and have my earplugs at the ready!), and I’ve dragged out my cello chair and music stand, putting them in the same corner of the front room where I used to practice. I’m looking forward to relearning the prelude for my son, who’s never heard me play. I’m grateful for the chance to change that situation.

Curious what my cello babies look like? Here they are. I love one a great deal more than the other… but apparently for now, I won’t have to choose between them.

Smashwords, Anyone?

(originally published 4/14/2018)

There is seriously always something to learn in this ever-changing but opportunity-filled world of publishing for little folks like me. To whit, although I’m published on the IngramSpark platform, the ebook side of their distribution doesn’t cover the whole wide world as well as others do… have I lost anyone yet? Why should you care, you ask? You shouldn’t! You should dream your way through the process of reading and not pay one tiny bit of attention to the nonsense that goes on to throw a book out there! I really believe this.

I offer such musings with an intention and an offering, however. My point (it arrives!) is that I started offering both Updriftand Breakwateron the Smashwords platform as of last Sunday… and today I generated a coupon by which the interested can download e-Updrift at a reduced price starting tomorrow (April 15)through May 14. The coupon code, which is not case sensitive, is as follows: ZR64C  Redeem and share at will.

Want the link? I have that for you, too! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/812828

For the Audiobook-philes Among You…

(originally published 2/23/2018)

I recently had both of my stories produced on audio, and in my opinion the world will want to hear the killer baritone of the guy I hired to voice them. Fortunately, you can do that! I’m on a little audiobook tour for the next couple of weeks, which includes a giveaway folks can sign up for, too. 🙂 Swim on over! The full tour schedule is toward the end if you want to peek: http://dazzledbybooks.com/2018/02/updrift-errin-stevens/

The Shape of Water!!!

(originally published 1/31/2018)

I’ve seen this movie three times. *covers face with hands* It’s so beautiful. I’m not just saying this because of what I write – run, don’t walk/there’s a reason it’s been nominated for so many awards! Of course, Updrift would make a lovely follow-up read, though. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5580390/

Audible: http://tinyurl.com/lhayfcj
iBooks: http://tinyurl.com/mm9gk3g
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/mfam47f
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/kro64ew
Book Depository: http://tinyurl.com/lye3uo2
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/nyvqwth

Because who doesn’t need more social media?

(originally published 12/1/2017)

I may be a bit behind, but apparently some folks are excited about a new romance site called Books + Main Bites, which focuses on excerpts and new book content spanning the romance genre. I may not stay, but I hunted around a little the last couple of days and thought I’d share for others of you who might be interested. Here’s a link! https://bookandmainbites.com/users/27573