West Clare Coast. Worth saving?

Sea off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. The setting of my new novel, Selkie's Song

Sea off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. The setting of my new novel, Selkie’s Song

An excerpt from my new release, Selkie’s Song:

Muireann rolled to a sitting position and sat cross legged. “Are you ready?”
“Always,” he said. “What, exactly, did you have in mind?” His suggestive tone only added to her curiosity about him.
“Something I want to show you.” Muireann offered her hand. “Ready for a bit of cliff rambling?”
She took a step back. “Let me show you something.”
They walked the short distance to where they had left the car. Ty tossed the picnic paraphernalia in the boot, grabbed his mandolin case and looped the strap over his shoulder.
They strolled, hand in hand, back toward the cliffs.
“I can’t remember a time I didn’t know this headland.” She stopped perilously close to the edge of the drop. “I’ve even dreamed I was born here, under the sky, rocked to sleep by the music of the sea.”
She tugged on his hand to draw him close. Ty hesitated.
“Something wrong?” she asked.
Ty blew out a breath, cleared his throat, and gripped tight on her hand. “I’m not all that crazy about precipitous drops onto sharp rocks.”
Ah, the brave and gallant Celt has an Achilles’ heel.
“Here,” she encouraged him as she lowered to the turf. “Get down on your stomach.”
He set the mando down, knelt beside her and then stretched out on his stomach with his chin resting on his hands. “You may as well know I’m not fond of frigid water either.”
“Are you saying you don’t swim?”
“I swim…like a rock.” Ty’s smile turned strained.
Ty swallowed his trepidation. If hanging off this feckin’ rock meant he was gettin’ lucky tonight, it was well worth the risk.
Whomp. A virtual slap to the side of his head would have knocked him flat had he not already been prone. He’d rekindled his acquaintance with Muireann less than twenty-four hours ago. He’d either lied to himself or to her about why he was here. A lie by omission, but still not the entire truth.
Ty had promised himself he wouldn’t deviate from his master plan. That plan, initially, did not include a woman—in his bed or his heart.
“What am I looking at?” he asked, trying to distract his carnal thoughts.
“You have to be patient. Watch the water, there, just beyond that solitary rock.” She nodded in the direction of a shallow pool.
Ty tried not to think of the churning blue water and the three hundred foot drop. He gamely pushed back the memory of being caught in the tide and dragged out to sea, the struggle, and then the giving up. Twenty years had passed, and he still remembered clearly his battle for the surface of the water.
“There. Do you see her?” Muireann whispered and pulled him back to the present.
Against the dark water, Tynan’s vision focused on a silvery streak. Just when he thought he had made out a form, it disappeared. Then there were two and in a moment a third silken and sleek creature appeared. “Seals?”
“Cool, huh? It’s a family.” Her voice caught. “I watched that pup being born right here on this strand. This is home to them. Harbor seals live in the same place all their lives.”
Muireann’s face softened and her lips turned up ever so slightly as she spoke of these animals. She reminded him of American girls’ reaction to puppies and newborn babies. The female need to nurture inspired an instinctual fear in the gut of most men, himself not included. When the time was right, Tynan would be more than ready for a nurturing female in his life.
She turned on her side, propped up on one elbow. Her expression hardened. “Seals follow the sound of fishing boats. So many seals are hurt or killed each year by careless fishing methods. Locals know this and take care.”
The two adults and the pup hauled out and readied for a nap in the sunshine. “This bunch seems to feel safe here.”
“Yeah,” she sighed and continued. “That’s why I want to keep big business interests out.”
“I don’t understand,” Ty admitted. “Seals have lived for centuries alongside fishing boats. What’s changed?”
“The economy or perhaps simply greed.” She looked straight in his eyes. “If industrial fisheries are allowed in here, this family will be gone. I won’t be able to protect them. The large nets will trap and strangle them, the food supply will dwindle…They’ll starve.”
Ty questioned that thinking. “Aren’t there plenty of fish to go around?”
Muireann’s jaw clenched. “Industrial fisheries overfish sand eels for animal feed and fertilizer. Greenpeace calls the practice ‘Hoover fishing’…a clean sweep.”
“Sand eels?”
“Right. And these little fish are the main food source for harbor seals, and seabirds as well. Everything’s tied up in the ecosystem of the sea. It’s a domino effect. The most profitable fish are also the ones the seals need to survive. Without sand eels, this cove, this strand, it’ll be empty.”
Ty loved her passion for this crusade but couldn’t see how things could change. “What can one person do?” This was the adult Muireann. The girl had become a woman with serious interests. She took some getting used to.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. “I want this to be designated a marine protected area.”
“Seems that’s going to be a hard sell with Ireland’s economy tanking and high unemployment,” Ty suggested. “Is there some sort of compromise?”
Muireann sat up and hung her long legs off the rock edge. She turned to him. “I’m not an impetuous child anymore, Tynan. If you knew me, you would realize I’m not inclined to compromise when it’s a matter of saving something or someone I love.”
Tynan could indeed sense her instinct to fight to the death for justice…or love.
“I stopped a whole damn oil company from setting up a rig offshore right there.” She pointed toward the horizon, then turned and gave him an ebullient smile. “Me and my mates. We camped out here and made the oil company’s lives a living hell until we got enough attention in the media.”
“You amaze me.” Truly she did. When she talked about saving seals, her love for the sea, when he saw her passion in the pottery she created, Muireann had that same charisma he had admired last night in O’Malley’s when she sang.

The third book in the Fadó Trilogy, Selkie’s Song, is now available at Amazon.com

For more information about my books go to http://www.clareaustin.com

It’s Coole! The autograph tree.

The autograph tree

The autograph tree

Coole Park that is.  The home of Lady Gregory, patroness to many of Ireland’s famous writers. This is the autograph tree. I thought it was appropriate, though somewhat presumptuous, to have my picture taken here.

George Bernard Shaw, J.M. Synge, Sean O’Casey and, of course, William Butler Yeats all spent time in this garden. Who knows what inspiration came of it?

Ireland’s beauty and her people have been an inspiration to me as well. In my novel, Selkie’s Song, now available in the Amazon Kindle store, I hope to have captured some of the legend, mystery, and romance of Ireland’s west counties.

For more about my novels, please go to http://www.clareaustin.com

Ceol agus Craic.

IMG_4849What does that mean, anyway?

If you come to Ireland you’re going to get some…whether you like it or not.

Ceol is the music. In this case traditional Irish music. You can get it in a kitchen over tea and biscuits or in a pub with a pint. Often you get it on the street for a coin tossed in a fiddle case or simply for a smile. It is everywhere, like the sound of the sea birds, the wind that messes your hair and, on this island, the lilt of the spoken Irish language.

Craic? Oh, that’s another thing altogether. Hard to describe “craic” unless you are part of it. It almost always goes along with ceol and often with a pint of stout, although the new Irish consciousness about healthy living has slowed the pints a bit. A glass of fizzy water or a soft drink is just as useful when quenching the thirst brought on by enough craic.

Craic, simply put, is Irish fun. It isn’t a lonely pursuit. It takes people of a like sense of humor. Last night at one of the two pubs on our little island, the  craic was “up to ninety” and included plenty of music and dancing…at one point the dancing happened on a table top. Think Riverdance, Aran Island style!

If you want to know more about Ceol agus craic, check out my Fadó Trilogy, starting with Butterfly and Angel’s Share. The last book in this series was  released on Amazon Kindle yesterday, Selkie’s Song.

To read more about my books go to my website http://www.clareaustin.com

I guarantee a bit of ceol agus craic!

Did I say “live blog”?

Here I am in sunny Ireland and for some reason I thought blogging would be so easy. Not from Inis Oir! This lovely island off the coast of Galway is about as isolated as one can be in the 21st. century.

It is beautiful, rock covered and nearly treeless with a wide blue sky and silver seas today, but if you don’t like the weather, stick around for five minutes and it will be sure to change.

There is a certain lethargy that takes over in a place like this. Life is contrasts between the rush of the world and the pull of the past.

This diversity is one of the themes of my novel Selkie’s Song, available soon on Amazon Kindle.

Stay tuned. Now that I have the “island internet” sorted, the idea of live blogging from the land of saints and scholars is not so daunting.Image

From minor breakdown to Golden Heart finalist, with horses thrown in.

Introducing Colette Auclair and her wonderful, witty writing. Thanks for being on my blog today!

I hope you enjoy this new author. Please leave a comment for Colette. I will pick a random comment and that contributor will receive an e-book copy of one of my novels.

Colette and her mare, Brooke

First off, I’d like to thank Clare for my first guest blog post! It’s an honor to play in this happy blog habitat.

My first book, Thrown, recently finaled in this year’s RWA Golden Heart contest in the Contemporary Single Title category. You might think it’s about a sport involving a ball or discus, or perhaps a WWF smackdown. But no, it’s about two characters who are (forgive me for this) thrown together because of horses and then (ready?) thrown for a loop when they fall in love. Does someone get thrown from a horse? You’ll have to wait until it’s published to find out.

This all started because I wanted to write a screenplay and I wasn’t. After having a minor breakdown on the couch one morning that caused my husband to offer to send me to a screenwriting workshop, seminar, conference, cruise, Ph.D. program or a year of private lessons in Tahiti with Nora Ephron–anything, just so I’d please stop crying–I took an online screenwriting class. I ended up with a fifteen-page outline, or treatment, for a romantic comedy based on The Sound of Music–only mine had horses instead of music, a grand prix jumper rider instead of a governess/almost-nun, a hottie movie star instead of Christopher Plummer’s sea captain, Aspen instead of Austria and a manipulative grandmother instead of Nazis. (Although the Nazis would have been happy to have her.)

Treatment completed, class completed, it was time to write the script. Problem was, I couldn’t get the scene after the closing credits–something I’d never use–out of my head. So I wrote it in prose so my characters would pipe down and let me write their movie for them.

And I’ve never had more fun writing anything. Which is saying something, because I’ve been privileged to write some outlandishly fun things like TV commercials in my day job as a copywriter.

I told myself I’d write the story as a novel merely so I could get to know my characters better. The words flowed, I hated leaving my computer, and voila, four months later I had inadvertently written a full-blown romance novel. All thoughts of screenwriting vanished. I found my calling.

It was like finding all the “buttons” on a horse you’re riding. Ride after ride, you get to know the horse, you discover that if you’ll just keep your left hand still, the horse stays straight, and if you don’t “yell” with your outside leg, the canter transition will be smooth instead of a buck. Then one day, everything clicks. You only have to think of what you want and the horse does it, happily. The two of you become one. That’s how if felt as I wrote Thrown. My writing had found its dream horse.

Now I’m fully committed to getting published, no matter what. I’m polishing my second book, Love in the Time of Colic, and have scads more story ideas–all involving horses somewhere, somehow. I hope romance (and horse) fans will enjoy reading my books as much as I love writing them.

Excerpt from Thrown

Setup: Amanda, the riding instructor, slipped on the poorly designed barn floor and hurt her back. Grady, her movie-star employer, feels guilty that she got hurt and has brought her dinner in bed.

Grady let out a huge sigh and switched on the lamp on the bedside table. This guest room was closest to the kitchen and the front door. It had a king-size bed, a wall-mounted flat screen TV, a full bathroom, and a sage-and-purple color scheme.
Amanda’s hair was tousled and her eyes were drowsy. The tank top rode up to reveal a couple inches of a toned stomach, which he ordered himself not to look at.
“Hiiii!” she said again. The word rose and fell over several roller-coaster syllables. “These muscle relaxers are awesome.”
“You don’t say.”
“I’m not gonna pull a Rush Limbaugh or anything. I just feel all floaty. You brought me dinner?”
“Soup, courtesy of Harris.”
“Harris. I love Harris. He’s so cute. And he cooks. If only he weren’t gay…Where is he?”
“He came by, but you were sleeping. How’re you feeling?”
“You’re pretty cute too.” She bit her lower lip.
He ignored this. “I told Jacqueline everything you told me about taking care of the horses, so between the two of us and the girls, we should be fine. And,” he said sheepishly, “I promise I’ll replace that floor as soon as possible. I had Jacqueline call for estimates.”
“Good.” She nodded vehemently, then stopped. “Whoa. Dizzy.”
“Want some soup?”
“You’re so nice to bring me dinner. So nice and soo cute!”
“Let’s see.” He presented the tray so she could see the food. “You’ve got lobster bisque, a fresh fruit salad and a hunk of what I believe he called ‘crusty artisan bread’—Tuscan, to be precise. Sparkling water. Dark chocolate—it’s Vosges.” He pronounced it correctly, vohj. “The good stuff. I had to talk him out of sending a get-well martini.”
“Look at you—always thinking of my liver.” She smiled.
“Among other parts,” he muttered. “Voila.” He unfolded the little legs on the tray, placed it on her lap and unfurled a light green linen napkin for her.
“Come sit with me.” She patted the mattress beside her.
“I should be going.”
“I could fall asleep and drown in the bisque.”
He sighed. “All right. But just for a minute.” He moved around the bed and sat next to her. Amanda smiled brightly as though he had just given her a Hanoverian stallion and custom-made saddle. She dipped her spoon into the soup and frowned, then slowly lifted the spoon to her lips and slurped. She looked like it was her first day working with spoons, bowls and soup. She was silent for several forays, then spoke.
“Your kids like the push-ups.”
He looked at her. “That’s the drugs talking.”
She took another spoonful. “Not the push-ups per se—push-ups per se, thass funny! What I mean is, they like riding, right?”
“Okay?”
“So I’ve solved the mystery of the nannies.”
“What mystery of the nannies?”
“Why they don’t like their nannies. They like riding. You know why?”
“Wild guess, but because it’s fun? And by the way, if you hadn’t noticed, you are really high right now.”
“Partly because it’s fun. But they behave for me. I gotta say, I was worried at firss.
“Did you know Harris called me the shit? I’m the shit, Grady.” She waved a hand at him. “Kids beg their parents to get me as their trainer. And I come here and I get, ‘My horse is ugly! I’ll die if I have to brush my horse.’” She whined to bolster her imitation. “So I said to myself, Amanda, you’re the shit. You teach them like you’d teach anyone else. No special treatment, even though their dad is all dreamy and a big fat star.
“Did you know I haven’t taught raw beginners since, like, college?”
Grady was staring at her, mouth open. Watching her was like watching a member of a newly discovered tribe on a remote island. He realized she was waiting for his response, so he said, “No, I didn’t.”
“I made an exception for you. For them. And they’re coming around now. But at first I thought they were spoiled rotten brats. But now I like them—they’re fun. They tried to pull stuff on me but I didn’t put up with it. And do you know why?”
Again, it took him a second to realize she expected an answer. “Because you’re the shit?”
“Damn straight! You can be the shit too, you know. Juss set some rules. Makes ’em feel like you care. When they came into my barn—and don’t get me wrong, I know it’s your barn, but you know what I mean—I told them no swearing and now they don’t swear. I juss tole them. And I carry through on the push-ups. Oh sure, I had to groom their horses—well, Rainy, because Wave was down with the grooming right away—but Solstice came around. I bored her into it.” She paused to slip a spoonful of bisque into her hard-working mouth.
“I mean, come on, who wants to watch someone brush a horse?” She poked his arm with her spoon. “It’s freakin’ dull. Now they’re happy to groom their own horses. It’s basic horse training, psychological stuff. You make the thing you want the animal to do seem like it’s the animal’s idea.”
“And my daughters are the animals?” He didn’t like this, but she was so funny right now, he wasn’t all that bothered.
“Grady, we’re all animals. It’s how our brains work. We’re all about survival. Maslow’s Ladder. We’re hardwired to want safety. Food. Sex. All that.”
She had to mention sex. He was grateful the tray hid her midriff.
She continued. “And what’s with their names? Were you guys hippies or something?” She slurped more bisque. “Oops!” She giggled as lobster bisque dribbled down her chin.
“Here.” He dabbed at her chin with the napkin. “I think Annie did it to bug my mom.”
Amanda looked dreamy and sultry all at once, even though she just called his girls brats and animals.
She stared at him, blinked in slow motion, and continued. “Thanks. Yeah, all you have to do is do what I did and make ’em do stuff. Rules. Response…responsblitty. Responsibility,” she finally managed, crinkling her brows in concentration. “Give ’em choices.” Looking back at the bowl, she carefully slid a bisque-laden spoon into her mouth. “Mmm. This is deliss…delshish…good.”
“So you don’t think I’m a good father?”
“I think you’re a hot father.”
Suddenly, Amanda set her spoon down and wonderingly, gently touched his hair. She looked at it with the queerest expression of awe, like a Woodstock attendee after the acid kicked in.
“Mmm, nice,” she said softly, and furrowed her fingers through the thick mass of dark wavy hair, then pulled his head to hers as though gearing up for a kiss. “Sexy.” Her traveling fingers landed at the nape of his neck and tickled him. Grady found this extremely arousing and thoroughly unnerving, so he took her hand and guided it back down to the vicinity of the spoon and tried to ignore his body’s response.
“More soup?” he asked quickly.
She picked up the spoon absently. “Nah. Nap. Sleepy,” she murmured as her eyes closed.

Author Susan Schreyer here Monday, April 30

Author Susan Schreyer will be here to give you a sneak peek at her new novel Bushwhacked. This is the fourth novel in her Thea Campbell Mystery series. I am currently reading the first book, Death by a Dark Horse. If you love a good mystery spiced up with romance and written with humor and pathos, you are sure to enjoy this series. Be here Monday and hear what Susan has to tell you about Bushwhacked.

To learn more about Susan, her writing and her horses, please go to her web site at http://www.susanschreyer.com/

A little passion to start your weekend

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