Thursday, 30 January 2014

Eighteen-Year-Old Girl Meets Handsome Stranger in Italy - LAURA'S LOCKET: Short Story

What's a girl to do when she's swept off her feet by a handsome stranger she's met on holiday? He's charming and utterly seductive; even gives her a locket as a token of his affection. Yet, not all is as it seems. There's something—different—about this man.

That's the premise of my short story—LAURA'S LOCKET—and based on an incident in my book BLOODGIFTED, the first in the Dantonville Legacy series. My character, Laura Dantonville, reminisces about a young man she met while on a European holiday with her two best friends. She was only eighteen.
Many years later, the silver locket he gave her still hangs on her dresser-mirror.

Those who've read BLOODGIFTED, will recognise the incident and the young man involved—Jean-Philippe Reynard. He's a talented portrait artist and—something more. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the book yet.

As a teaser, I'm including the first four pages. The rest of the story will be available FREE on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes/iBooks, Sony, Kobo and Barnes & Noble in the next two weeks.

My wonderful Dantonville Street Team have already read the story. The verdict? Thumbs up!
In my next post, I'll reveal the cover.

So, without much ado, here it is:

LAURA’S LOCKET © Tima Maria Lacoba 2014

I opened the train window and the cool air rushed in. Although it was January, I wanted to breathe in the wintery air. The wind bit my face and made my cheeks tingle. It was refreshing after sitting for an hour in an overheated train compartment. I’d already taken off my coat, scarf and woollen cap, and my angora jumper was scrunched up on the seat.

In the distance, the Mediterranean Sea sparkled in the late afternoon sunshine as our train snaked around the narrow precipice of the southern Italian coastline. Jagged cliffs dropped away inches from the iron tracks that barely clung to the rocky earth.

‘Sorrento, next stop!’ I said with a smile, then left the window and pulled my bag down from the overhead shelves.

My two best friends, Beth and Angie, also hopped up from their seats to lift their bags down. We’d known each other since seventh grade, and there was rarely a weekend the three of us didn’t have a sleepover at one of our homes. At school we’d been nicknamed “The Three Amigos.”

And this was our very first trip overseas. I couldn’t wait to start our Amalfi holiday.

We linked arms, jumped up and down on the spot and squealed. All through our senior year we’d planned this trip to celebrate the end of high school, worked at part time jobs and saved as much as we could. Our parents made up the shortfall, as did my aunt Judy, Dad’s sister. She chose our hotels and even paid for mine.

I glanced out the window just as we passed a secluded cove and the gentle undulations of an inflated palm tree close to the shoreline caught my eye.

‘Look at this. An artificial tropical island!’ I said and pointed. ‘Must be anchored to a rock below the waves or something.

Beth and Angie squeezed in next to me and stuck their heads out the window.

‘A fake palm tree. That’s classic!’ Beth said while clawing away tendrils of her long, black hair the wind had whipped around her face.
Beth’s family had migrated from Mumbai when she was three, and their house was only a street away from mine in Earlwood. Her dark exotic looks were in stark contrast to my coppery locks and lavender-coloured eyes. I envied her being able to stay out in the strong Australian sun, whereas my pale skin turned pink within five minutes.

‘Does it belong to a resort or something?’ she added. ‘Wonder if there’re more?’ Her ebony eyes scanned the coastline ahead.

It seemed so out of place. The beach was empty: no deck chairs, umbrellas or the usual summer paraphernalia. But then, it was January, and all the resorts were closed. Perhaps this was one thing they’d forgotten to pack away for the winter.

‘You know, Laura, I’m still surprised your parents let you go. They’ve got to be the most over-protective people I’ve ever met,’ Angie said, a thick, faux fur hat tucked so low over her curly brown hair I could barely see her eyes.

Even before we had purchased our airline tickets, Angie had splashed out on the latest winter fashions. That the hat was too big for her didn’t matter—it was “in!” Masking her eyes as it did, I worried she could trip and hurt herself.

‘Well, it’s only-child syndrome! So I can kind of understand,’ I added quietly. It had taken a lot of persuading on my part. I’d asked my aunt Judy to talk to them too. She and Dad were close, although I knew she wasn’t keen on my trip either. ‘But Angie and Beth’ll be with me. I’m not going alone,’ I’d told her. ‘You know them. Pleeease?’ It worked.

‘That’s cos you look so young. No one’d guess you’re an adult. I reckon you’ll have to pull out your passport every time you order a drink,’ Angie said as she pushed the hat back off her brow for the umpteenth time.

I stuck my tongue out at her and she laughed. So did I.

‘They’re probably worried you’ll meet some foreign guy and won’t want to come home,’ Beth said.
I shook my head. ‘No way!’ I had no intention of doing anything of the sort, but the prospect of meeting a hot Italian guy was exciting. I was on holidays, so why not have a little romance? The problem is my handicap. It’s not a physical one, more like a weird genetic anomaly—I age slowly, very slowly. At eighteen, in the prime of life, I haven’t got my period yet. And, I was still a virgin! How embarrassing!

‘We’re here!’ Angie squealed. The train rounded another bend and began to slow. She leant her head further out, gripping her oversized, fur hat. ‘It’s so pretty.’

Clusters of red-roofed houses and three-to-four-storey buildings honeycombed the cliff side all the way to the sea. In the marina, only a few boats bobbed on the waves, large luxury yachts among them.

Beth and I tried to see past Angie, but the wind stung my eyes. I flopped back into my seat and threw on my jumper. ‘C’mon you guys, we’ll be there any minute. Better get your stuff together.’

‘Should we get a taxi or walk to the hotel?’ Angie’s voice sounded muffled as she struggled into her shocking-pink anorak.

‘No way we’re going to lose you in a crowd wearing that thing,’ I teased.

Angie laughed and dipped her knee in a mock curtsy. ‘No way, matey. Besides, it’s so this season.’

I rolled my eyes, but I admired Angie’s love of bright colours and her ability to wear them with such unabashed confidence.

‘Laura, you’ve got the map.’ Beth took charge. ‘How far’s the hotel from the station?’ She checked her reflection in the aisle window and adjusted her beret.

I retrieved the Lonely Planet Guidebook from my coat pocket. ‘Um… on here it looks really close; down the hill from the station. Fifteen to twenty minutes to the Piazza Tasso maybe?’

‘Okay, walk then?’ She turned to face us, eyebrows raised. We’d elected Beth as our unofficial leader, being the oldest. At nineteen she was already engaged to her long-time boyfriend, Ashley. She was even on the Pill.

Angie looked at me and shrugged. ‘Sure. We’ve been sitting for ages.’

She had a point. After the first twelve hours of the twenty-two hour flight from Sydney, the novelty had worn off and I couldn’t wait to land. At the Bangkok stopover, I practically ran from one end of the terminal to the other; not so much to catch our connecting flight, but for some exercise.

The train stopped, and we followed the other passengers along the platform. Heads down, faces concealed in scarves and bundled up against the cold, they dispersed leaving us staring at a sparsely populated square—the Piazza Angelina Lauro.

In less than fifteen minutes we stood before a set of tall, scrolled wrought-iron gates, behind which we glimpsed an imposing, terracotta-coloured building. The sign read: Grand Excelsior Vittoria Hotel.

It would be our home for the next three days.

*    *    *

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Awesome Blog Content Award


My good friend and fellow gothic romance author, Lindsay J Pryor has nominated me for the Awesome Blog Content Award - which should be fun! So what does it entail? Here are the rules: post the logo (done), link back to he/she who nominated (yep), provide an A-Z guide to your soul (mmm… interesting) and then nominate forward (when you've finished).
I was told not to think too hard!

Well, here goes -

A is for Aussie writers, like me!

B is for books, the lifeblood of an author, and my passion.

C - is for Christian. My faith in Jesus, as my Lord and Saviour, is what sustains me.

D is for deadlines, or as Douglas Addams (author of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) famously said, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly past!" 

E - is for enthusiastic about my Dantonville Legacy series.

F is for Fatima - my full name, although I never use it. (Never liked it, because Australians are notorious for shortening names. Anyone can guess what mine was. I blame my parents!)

G is for green, the colour of my eyes.

H is for History. I'm an Ancient Historian/Archaeologist and my speciality is Late Imperial Roman Britain.

I is for Italy, my favourite holiday destination. I've taken classes there to visit ancient sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum.

is for joy. I've been blessed with a joyful spirit and usually see the rainbow at the end of every dark cloud.

K is for klutz! I'm the clumsiest person I know.

L is for laughter. I love to laugh!

M is for my mum. She's been my greatest fan and supporter in whatever I've chosen to do.

N is for nuts - as in the edible variety! I love snacking on raw cashews, macadamias and pecans while writing.

O is for organised. I tend to plan every aspect of my writing, from plot lines and structure, to entire character genealogies and even languages.

P is for patience - not! I hate waiting for the books in any favourite series of mine, to be released. I want them all, NOW!

Q is for queasy. I've always suffered from motion sickness, and flying anywhere without my Travel Calm tablets becomes the trip from hell! I even avoid travelling on ferries.

R is for restless. I can't sit still for five minutes without fidgeting. A lot of the time, I work at my laptop standing up.

S - is for seafood. One of my favourite meals is spaghetti marinara.

T is for tea, of course! I love my Twinings Earl Grey, closely followed by Australian Afternoon tea. We are one of the few countries in the world for whom Twinings created a special blend. Aussies are special!

U is for unmarried. Currently I'm single, independent and enjoying it. (I have eight gorgeous nieces who visit often.)

V is for vivacious. It's always been part of my character.

W is for workaholic. I tend to stay on a task until it's done, even if it means staying up very late.

X - is for the xtraordinary friends I've made since joining the writer community.

Y is for yarn. I love knitting and other handicrafts, like cross-stitch and rug making. My living room wall is covered in framed cross-stitch pictures I've made.

Z is for zodiac. As the above characteristics show, I'm a typical capricorn. But then, who believes that nonsense anyway!

That's it! Now I nominate -

Dionne Lister

Debbie Johansson

Peita Byer

Have fun, ladies

Monday, 13 January 2014

Can Historians Write a Gothic Romance? You Bet!

A section of Hadrian's Wall. Courtesy of Glen Bowman
Wikimedia commons

This blog was originally posted on the ARRA
(Australian Romance Readers Association) blog, and I thought to repost it here, on mine.

As an historian and archaeologist, I had the
chance to visit many ancient sites around the  world, but my favourites were in Britain - the Roman forts and villas. I'd always been fascinated by ancient Roman culture, and while researching for my MPhil in archaeology, I came across a particular site which piqued my interest - Vindobala. It's located in the north-eastern part of England, in Northumbria, and was one of a series of military garrisons built along Hadrian's Wall; a physical reminder that this was the extreme end of the Roman Empire.

The the barbarian tribes on the other side, it was a "Keep Out" sign!

What fascinated me, was that this fort was abandoned in the mid 3rd century, and no one knows why. Or at least, historians haven't as yet discovered the reason.
So, in the light of any other explanation, I decided to create my own, and it had to be something truly terrifying to force battle-hardened Roman soldiers, and their families, to flee the safety of their fort. And I could think of only one thing, some supernatural force their military skill couldn't overcome - a horror known as the "Lamia."

The ancient Romans were very superstitious; they believed in gods and demons, and the Lamia were the closest things to what we call, vampires. They usually took the form of beautiful young maidens who sucked the blood of young men, although they could also take male form.

This then inspired the backdrop to my story - a Roman patrol from the garrison at Vindobala, sent out to rescue a group of Roman captives captured in a barbarian raid, find themselves cursed by a Pictish witch and turned into vampires. They return to the fort, and unable to control their new urges, kill almost everyone there. The survivors flee.

The scene then opens eighteen hundred years later, to a young woman - a descendant of the cursed commander - who unknowingly holds the key to ending the centuries-old curse which has plagued her family.
Thus, BLOODGIFTED, Book 1 of The Dantonville Legacy was born and I was able to combine my love of ancient history and mythology with a modern gothic, romantic tale. And, how my heroine - Laura Danontville,  a fifty-year-old woman - stopped ageing in her mid twenties! (Isn't that every woman's dream?)

Originally I planned it as a trilogy and set it as an urban contemporary romance/thriller, but the final book in the series (Book 4) will go back to the genesis of the story, to 3rd century Roman Britain. It'll be a historical novel. And I can't wait to write it!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Australia Day Blog Hop

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
Australia Day is a celebration of all things we enjoy in our country - spectacular climate, barbeques, surfing, thongs (flip-flops for the non-Aussies), or as one well known Australian TV commercial spruiked, football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars. Although, I don't drive a Holden ( I prefer my Toyota Yaris) and kangaroos are in plague proportions out west, eating all the grass and leaving nothing for the sheep and cattle. But, hey, they're an Aussie icon and woe betide if someone tries to cull the flea-ridden things!
Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Australia Day is also in the middle of summer, where the average temperature in Sydney is 30 degrees, but can rise as high as 40. As a historian, I've often wondered how the first settlers coped in the extreme heat. Women wore layers of light woollen clothing (only the rich could afford cotton) or hemp - several petticoats, bodice and blouse as well as outer clothing, gloves and veiled hats.
It must have been torture! No wonder they died young. I'm so thankful for being able to run around in my favourite capris, light blouse and thongs (flip-flops).

Australia Day also reminds me of the joy of living in a free country. My family originally came from an Eastern European nation whose freedom had been taken away by a more powerful and aggresive neighbour who imposed a repressive and tyrannical regime - communism.
My family escaped and came to Australia as refugees.

As children, my brothers and I were taught to value the freedoms we have in this country and to uphold them. We were taught to be Aussies, and that this is where our allegiance lies.

To me, being Australian on this day is more than just the good things we collectively enjoy. It's saying, Thank You God, for allowing me to live in a nation where I don't have to be afraid.

So, let's celebrate.

Join in the Rafflecopter to win some great prizes and check out the fabulous selection of books, blogs and authors. And, if you're after a little gothic romance set in Sydney, just click on the links in the right margin for BLOODGIFTED, Book 1 of The Dantonville Legacy.
Don't forget to call in every day and visit the blogs, leave a comment, enter the raffle copter for the fabulous gift basket.

$100 and 26 e-books (some print) from our generous authors

drawn Australia Day

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 1 Monique McDonnell
January 2 Sara Hantz
January 3 Annie Seaton
January 4 Imogene Nix
January 5 Caitlyn Nicholas  
January 6 Tima Maria Lacoba
January 7 Nicole Flockton
January 8 Wendy L. Curtis

January 10 Susan Horsnell
January 11 Susanne Bellamy
January 12 J'aimee Brooker
January 13 Victoria Purman
January 14 Ann B Harrison
January 15 Cate Ellink
 Demelza Carlton
January 16 Jenny Schwartz
January 17 Donna Gallagher
January 18 Lily Malone
January 19 Tea Cooper
January 20 Fiona McArthur
January 21 Max Henry
January 22 Jennie Jones
January 23 Alison Stuart
January 24 Eve Rabi
January 25 Kendall Talbot
January 26 Annie Seaton-Prize draw