August MacGregor

Celebrating Sensuality. Intended for mature audiences, 18 and over


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‘Lucky’ Excerpt

Following up on yesterday’s post about my new novel, Lucky, being free until Sunday, June 25, I wanted to post an excerpt from the novel. Here’s the start of chapter 1:
 

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Hugo Freeman stared in disbelief at the lottery ticket in his hand, then at the television screen. But the string of numbers had vanished from the screen, replaced by the guy with poofed-up hair and cheese-ball grin and shiny suit.

“There you have it, folks,” the TV guy said in his ain’t everything great voice. “Congratulations to the lucky winners! If you’re not one of those, be sure to try again next week. Who knows when your luck will turn on the Cloud Nine Lottery? Good night folks!”

Cut to a commercial for some kind of drug to alleviate some kind of painful symptoms.

Hugo’s attention was more on the ticket than the screen. Did he win? The numbers that were on TV had seemed to match those on his ticket. Maybe some of the numbers were close. Was there a 39 in the winning numbers, or had it been 29?

Impossible that he matched every winning number. The chances of matching were astronomically against him — and everyone else who played Cloud Nine every week with the hope of picking the five regular numbers and the Lightning Strike number. Thousands of people across the many states where Cloud Nine was offered. All those people handing over a dollar for each ticket, buying several tickets every time.

Hugo had seen it happen regularly. He played regularly, too. Five tickets each week, never the same number. Some people played the same numbers with meanings: birthdays, anniversaries, and such. Hugo didn’t understand the idea behind that strategy. As if luck was somehow bound to catch up with numbers meaningful to a certain person.

It was like driving the same car on the same road and thinking the road would end up in a paradise of sexy beachgoers who handed you a tropical drink and invited you to join the party. But, in reality, the road led to the same Goddamn places it had always did. Same bullshit houses, same bullshit stores.

He would find out the winning numbers tomorrow, at work. He’d wait until Darnell was in his office doing paperwork, then Hugo would pull out the ticket and compare his numbers against the official ones. The numbers had looked close on TV, but that didn’t win anything. No prize for close. Only right on the money got you the money.

Hold on. The Internet didn’t provide answers to everything, but it gave a lot of answers. Would Cloud Nine’s website have the numbers so soon after the little plastic numbered balls were lifted out of the glass box, where they swirled in a mini tornado? It was worth checking out.

Hugo turned on his old laptop and retrieved a Budweiser from the fridge while the computer woke up. Taking a drink of beer, he knew he didn’t win. He never did. He was used to the slowness of his laptop, but it irritated him as he sat on the couch and watched the computer on the coffee table. He wanted to be done with this chore. See that his numbers were close losers, then he could wrap up Friday night.

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May Plans

Once again, several months have passed since I last posted here. As before my previous post, I’ve been quite busy with writing, working, and family. But everyone I know is quite busy, so I’m certainly not alone with that.

One of the projects that’s been keeping me busy is River — the working title of a novel I finished writing last year, and I’ve been editing it this year. I’m pleased to say that I plan on self-publishing the novel in May. The editing process  seemed to take longer than it did, but I’ve grown to I appreciate the process of re-shaping of the story. Compared to the first draft, it’s more stream-lined and tighter. Hopefuly, making it a more enjoyable read.

I’ll give more info when the book becomes live on Amazon, as I’m still working on making it a little tighter. But it feels good to be almost finished. With the warmer temperatures of spring, it’s like the book is coming out of hibernation.


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Revenge is Published

Sweet Taste of Revenge ebook cover

After the pre-order screwup, my self-published novel, The Sweet Taste of Revenge, is now available on Amazon! The introductory sale is for 99 cents. Less than a buck for a novel of just over 190,000 words. After a week, the price will increase to $3.99.

I’m happy to see this book published, as it is the effort of many, many months crafting it. Several years ago, I wrote a lot of erotic and romantic short stories, and some of them have grown into novels–since I found that I wanted to expand on what happened to the characters.

The Sweet Taste of Revenge is one of those. The short story grew during the past year, and I was interested to see what happened in Michelle Brower’s life after she discovered another woman’s hair on her husband’s shoulder.

Some days brought fluid writing, while other days brought doubts and much slower writing. Eventually, though, the doubts eased during the editing process. (I described my doubts in another post.)

And now, the book is complete and self-published on Amazon. A big breath of relief!

Here’s an excerpt — the first chapter — to hopefully whet your appetite:

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Chapter 1. Strand of Hair

The blonde hair on her husband’s shoulder didn’t belong to Michelle Brower.

Michelle and Joe were reading in bed, their nightly routine after dinner and their favorite TV shows. Sometimes, though, Michelle went through the routine alone, when Joe worked late on a demanding project. He put in a lot of hours at Hannold Engineering in the hopes of advancing his career into upper management. That position shone brightly above him on the corporate ladder, and he was determined to climb the rungs.

The light from the nightstand’s lamp flitted across something on the fabric of light blue pajamas on Joe’s shoulder. Enough to catch Michelle’s attention out of the corner of her eye. At first, Michelle kept reading Dead Ringer, the suspense novel she was enjoying, in which Detective Baldwin was at a bar, nursing his fourth Jack Daniels while trying to make sense of clues found at yet another crime scene from the previous night.

But something on her husband’s shoulder kept twinkling in the light, like a lure drawing fish out of a lake’s depths and up to the surface. Michelle had to stop reading and find out what the thing was, so she reached over and pinched it off.

A long strand of blonde hair. It twirled from the grip of Michelle’s thumb and forefinger as she held it up.

Exhibit A, your honor. She didn’t think it then, but would eventually view the hair that way.

“This isn’t mine,” Michelle said while looking curiously at the hair. It was a simple, flat statement. Void of the intense emotion to come later.

After glancing at the hair, Joe shrugged, saying, “It’s probably from the dry cleaners.” Trying to pass off the hair as nothing.

“But I clean your PJs. Not the dry cleaners.”

“Who knows?” he wondered. “Hair gets everywhere. It’s probably from the hotel. God knows how many people go through hotel rooms.”

Hotel room. Atlanta. Joe recently came back from a business trip. The facts clicked together for Michelle. As if she hoped to emulate the hunky and damaged Detective Baldwin, who tried to click the facts together to discover the serial killer’s identity.

Joe pressed on: “You know hotels are like carousels. Thank God I’m not worried about germs. Otherwise, I’d wear gloves or a Haz-mat suit or something. You know, they never wash the bedspreads in hotels. They just put them right back on the bed. I bet those things are breeding grounds for germs. I try not to touch them at all. I don’t want to get sick and bring some nasty bug home to you. But I guess I can touch them by accident. It happens. That’s where the hair came from. Got to be.”

“Yeah. I guess so.”

Michelle had told him that tidbit about hotel bedspreads not being washed. She heard it from a girlfriend and passed it along to Joe.

And now, her husband used it as an excuse for another woman’s hair on his PJs. But Michelle wasn’t convinced. Call it intuition. Something about Joe’s tone of voice or his frown or maybe a shadow across his face.

No, there wasn’t really a shadow on his face. That appeared later, in her mind, as Michelle remembered the scene and tried to pick out details that showed her husband’s guilt.

Michelle tried to tell herself that the thoughts of Joe cheating were all in her imagination. She was looking too hard for suspicious behavior. Her perception was biased because she read too many detective novels. Maybe she wanted to find suspicious behavior, so she turned ordinary things into clues because she figured they should be guilty.

She laughed, thinking, Don’t be so worried. There’s nothing wrong. Joe’s not the cheating type. He’s devoted to you, and he’s a hard worker. All that traveling stressed him out. So don’t go looking for things that aren’t really there.

Still, another woman’s hair had actually been on her husband’s shoulder. A blonde woman’s hair wasn’t ordinary.

Discovering the first hair led to the need to decide how it got on the shoulder of Joe’s pajamas. Maybe Joe was right. He could’ve tossed his pajamas on the bed in a Atlanta hotel, and his PJs picked up a hair from a previous occupant.

Or maybe Joe was lying. The hair could’ve meant that her husband fucked some blonde bitch in his hotel bed, and she spent the night sleeping next to him. Maybe they even fucked a second time in the morning.

Because the blonde hair wasn’t the only suspicious thing. There was something different in how Joe acted. He was more enthusiastic in general. And it wasn’t merely because his business trip to Atlanta had broken up January’s winter doldrums.

Undoubtedly, the trip to Atlanta had jolted some electric juice in him. Michelle felt a nagging sense that Joe’s great mood after his trip was due to great sex. Like how Joe used to get when he and Michelle had a weekend packed with sex. After several rounds of wonderful love-making, Joe positively glowed with happiness and relaxation. The guy sported a wide grin that took many days of returning to his job and grinding at work to wear off.

He had that glow again. Like characters in a musical, just before they broke out into singing and dancing. That was it. Joe didn’t normally look like he was about to break out in song and dance, but he did now.

And it wasn’t from a weekend of having an orgasm marathon with his wife. Who was a brunette.

As much as Michelle denied Joe’s guilt, the clues pointing otherwise kept nagging at her. His effervescent mood. The blonde hair. His business trip to Atlanta.

Michelle imagined Joe sitting at a hotel bar, sipping on a bourbon and club soda. A long-legged femme fatale sauntered in, wearing a black dress that hugged her curves. Her dress was cut low and cut high where it mattered. Showing enough skin to capture your eyes and hold them there securely. Until you realized that you were staring, and you had to turn your head. Before someone called you a creep.

As the femme fatale sat on a bar stool, she pushed blonde hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. Her long, straight hair flowed gently past her shoulders. Making all the men in the bar wonder how that hair would look when it was fanned out on a bed. Of course, after the bedspread was ripped off. Hotels never washed those things, and they were surely breeding grounds for germs.

Once the bedspread was ripped away, you could lay this hottie on the bed and see how her blonde hair looked all splayed about. You’d get to see how her body looked in various positions. Because her body and hair inspired lots of wicked fantasies.

All the men in the bar lusted after the blonde, as her smoky blue eyes drank them in. Her glossy red lips were parted just so, seeming to nearly say something—or kiss someone. If only a special someone would come.

Joe slid off his bar stool and went to the woman, as if drawn by a powerful magnet. He said in a scratchy voice, How about a cigarette, then a drink, then my hotel room? In that order.

A scene from an old, black-and-white noir movie, full of clichés. A blonde femme fatale and stilted dialogue. The scene was probably nowhere close to what actually happened to Joe in the hotel during his trip to Atlanta.

Michelle didn’t have a clue as to how Joe got started with the blonde. But she knew the story led to a long hair on the shoulder of her husband’s pajama top.


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Assuming Roles

Funny how connections can be made.

I’m deep in editing Revenge, and part of the time, I feel good about how the novel  progresses. Other times, however, doubts pop up: Will readers think the story works well? Will they want to read it?

In these moments, I go back to a conversation between Neil Gaiman and his agent about his doubts that readers will care about his book. (The conversation is in a 2014 post about my doubts.) Revisiting that conversation helps me, because the agent tells Mr. Gaiman that all her clients have doubts about their books.

While doubts have come with all my stories, they’ve been stronger with Revenge. Maybe that’s because it’s my longest stand-alone book. So there’s more story in Revenge to mull over it working or not.

The other reason behind my doubts is that the main character is a woman, and she goes through separation and divorce. That’s not a spoiler alert, since those events happen early in the book. The revenge is about why the woman leaves her husband.

The book is written in third person, not first, and the story spans several months in the life of the female character (Michelle Brower). That brings up the particular doubt: As a man who’s never been divorced, can I appropriately write about a main female character who has?

And that’s where the connection came up.

Because the upcoming Oscars made me remember that actors assume roles all the time. A role could be similar to an actor’s background. Or the role could be quite different. The character could be from another culture, another economic class, another time in history. Could be a character with mental illness. Then actors are judged on how well they portray characters, and some are nominated for Academy Awards. (I won’t go into which actors I think deserve nominations.)

Actors aren’t the only ones assuming roles. Of course, us writers do it, too. And some male writers have written popular female characters. Stephen King created Delores Claiborne, who uttered the great line: “Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman’s got to hold on to.”  Stieg Larsson came up with the powerful character of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (and the next two books of the series). The list can go on and on.

This isn’t to say that my writing is as good as King and Larsson. Nor is it to say I’m as successful as movie actors in my writing. But keeping them in mind helps me push back against the doubts.

Also helpful is remembering that writing fiction is based on imagination. Without imagination, how could authors write science fiction and fantasy? Not all characters should look like the reflection in the author’s mirror. We can write characters similar to ourselves, but it’s interesting to leave our shoes and try on someone else’s.

That’s also a strength of reading books. By reading, we can inhabit someone else’s life. Be they from another culture, economic class, gender, time in history, and so on. We can live as them for a little while. We can learn from that experience.

And that’s along the lines of writing a variety of characters. It’s good to get out there and stretch in writing. Even when the stretching causes doubts in us authors.


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Author Interview: Zoe Ambler

Zoe Ambler

I met Zoe Ambler back in November, during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when loads of writers try to plunk down 50,000 words for a novel. I started following her blog, where she talks about her own writing — much of it done in a coffee shop, which I think is amazing, because I’d be too distracted to write. Social media is already a distraction, but if you add people watching to the mix … well, that would pull my focus away even more.

Recently, she’s been interviewing fellow authors on her blog, and she accepted my offer to be interviewed in the series. On the flip side, she also allowed to be interviewed here on my blog. I think it’s really neat learning more of another writer’s background and rituals. Writing is such a solitary activity, that it’s nice to share this stuff.

Also, stay tuned after the interview for info about Zoe’s book, The Road of Darkness, with cover, summary, and links.

Zoe’s interview:

1. What is your writing process?
I don’t really have a process, I don’t think. I mean, I am certainly more productive when NOT at home. I love working from my little coffee shop. Or when on ‘vacation’. I get random ideas at very random times, however. So I always have a little notebook on me to jot things down. I have these little notebooks EVERYWHERE…purse, truck, backpack, laptop bag…The biggest problem is finding a pen or pencil when I need it…lol. My ‘process’ doesn’t happen in order, either. I may have a random idea that would be great just nestled in a random chapter of a book, not really a beginning or ending.

2. What do you read for pleasure?
Anything and everything. Well, except romance. Erotica, yes, romance, no. I love everything from horror to non-fiction.

3. What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The freedom. I have a head full of ideas on a variety of subjects, and writing lets me place them on paper, with the hopes that someone out there is going to sit back and really enjoy it.

4. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a full time coffee drinker. Hot, cold, iced…gimme coffee. I live in a little land called Enterprise Alabama. We have a statue of a lady holding a bug in town square. I love cats. LOVE CATS!!! I have a cat. She’s very neurotic. Just like her owner. ..lol. I have one child, a beautiful young woman now. When not at the coffee shop, I have a home office I live out of. On some occasions I sleep. Mostly when not feeling well. Otherwise I quite the insomniac.

5. What are your strengths and weaknesses when it comes down to sitting down and writing?
When at home, I get very easily distracted by Netflix. I’m one of those people that just can’t watch an episode or two of something…I have to watch the series from start to finish…lol. And then there is my gaming. As for strengths…when I do get ‘in the zone’ on writing something, I write for hours on end, forgoing sleep and all. The ideas just pour from my head to the screen and usually doesn’t need much editing.

6. Do you have any strange writing habits?
I don’t think so. I mean, I talk things out with my cat…and answer for her. We argue sometimes. Nothing strange there. >_>

7. What is your least favorite part of the publishing/writing process?
Marketing/advertising/promoting. HATE IT. I’m not good at it, but can’t afford someone to do it for me…lol.

8. Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
I make it. You wouldn’t really think me the type, but I do. And I love clean sheets. So I have a linen closet full of the pricey nice sheets.

9. Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
The Everglades and Florida Keys.

10. Choose: Vampires, Werewolves, Demons or Zombies?
Vampires

Bonus Question: How prepared are you for the Zombie Apocalypse I’ve ordered?
I am so totally prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. Food, weapons (I have a nice, completely usable collection of swords), ‘run over anything and everything’ 4WD truck. My house is in a good spot, the only real danger being is if the zombie are ‘regular’ zombies, or ‘Mira Grant’ zombies. (Mira Grant zombies – anything over 40lbs can be turned into a zombie, meaning I would then have to contend with zombie deer and cows)

Road to Darkness, by Zoe Ambler

The Road of Darkness is the story of Addison. She’s a young Southern Belle in early 1700 Louisiana with a love for Voodoo. She’s a child of privilege, but never really let it go to her head. She was always a little odd.
On an innocent outing, Addison falls prey to a supernatural predator. A vampire. He attacks and turns her, then leaves her to lost and alone with this new hunger for blood. However, unlike most, she embraces this new ‘life’. She finds delight in it. A darkness grows within her.
Like any young vampire left to fend for themselves, she stumbles in her new existence. She meets others here and there, and the world of the paranormal opens up to her.
Due in part to her thrill of bloodlust, she becomes fascinated with war. Soon she is moving from country to country, war to war. Mans evolution and technology in the art of warfare intrigues her.
Through her time and adventures, she has fleeting bits of both happiness and sorrow. The darkness within her will only allow her so much happiness.
Her link with all things Voodoo brings her into the servitude of the Baron Semedi, demi-god of the Underworld. A deal gone bad. It only serves to deepen that darkness.

Can anyone help her before she does irrevocable damage to both an entire city of innocent people…and herself?

Links for The Road of Darkness: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Scribd. | Googleplay


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Goonies Never Say Die

The Goonies, by Ben Northern (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Ben Northern (Flickr, Creative Commons)

“And that’s why books are never going to die. It’s impossible. It’s the only time we really go into the mind of a stranger, and we find our common humanity doing this. So the book doesn’t only belong to the writer, it belongs to the reader as well, and then together you make it what it is.”
― Paul Auster

Source: Goodreads
Click on illustration of The Goonies to jump to the illustrator’s (Ben Northern) Flickr page.