posted by Nancy
I'm happy to have bestselling author Jessica Andersen back in the Lair. Jessica is the author of the hot, enthralling paranormal romance Nightkeeper series. She has also written more than twenty category romantic suspense novels, which have been nominated for the RITA award and RT Reviewers Choice award.
Today she'll tell us about her Nightkeepers-related novella, CRYSTAL SKULL, in the new On the Hunt anthology.
Hey, Banditas, and thanks for having me out again to talk about running, screaming, sex, the end of the world, Mayan archaeology, and more sex ;-) This week I’m celebrating the release of CRYSTAL SKULL, the first (and only) novella in the Nightkeepers’ series, which is part of ON THE HUNT, a fabulous anthology with stories also from Gena Showalter, Shannon K Butcher and Deidre Knight.
Without further ado, on to the questions!
Who are the Nightkeepers, and how does this story fit within their continuity?
The Nightkeepers are the last survivors of an ancient race of magi sworn to protect us from the doomsday foretold for 12/21/2012. But as we get closer and closer to the end date and the danger ramps up, the Nightkeepers are desperate for reinforcements.
CRYSTAL SKULL falls outside the main storylines of the Nightkeeper books, but it feeds into the next big book, STORM KISSED, which will be out in June 2011. So if you’ve never read a Nightkeeper book before, you can totally pick up CRYSTAL SKULL without missing anything … but if you’re a Nightkeeper fan, you’ll get a couple of the inside jokes.
What's your personal grounding in Mayan culture?
When I was an annoyingly bright little kid (you know, the kind who finished the year’s work in the first few weeks, got bored, and started disrupting class), the school was more than happy for my parents to take me away for a few weeks every spring, down to the Yucatan. I kept a journal and did a presentation when I got back, and each year I got to talk about a different set of ruins we’d been to. Those experiences have always stuck with me, and I try to bring the sense of wonder I felt back then to the books as I write them now.
Who are the hero and heroine?
The hero, JT, is both a protector and a loner. He’s been down in the rainforests of the former Mayan Empire for years, fighting vampire demons who are coming through one specific ruin. When gorgeous lady archaeologist named Natalie rolls into town, JT convinces the locals to let her team excavate, hoping to find the hellmouth the vamps are coming through. He never expects to fall for her, though … or to discover that they’re connected by far more than scorching chemistry.
Can we see an excerpt?
Sure thing!! Here goes …
The instincts Natalie had been ignoring suddenly lashed at her, through her, bringing images of jaguars and the recent livestock kills in the area. She was a woman alone, unarmed. Stupid move, Nat. Her heart lurched into her throat as she lunged for the Jeep, and the weapon within it.
She was a few paces short of the vehicle when a dark blur erupted from the greenery and slammed into her, sending her crashing into the side of the Jeep and then down. High-pitched squeals battered her eardrums, making her head ring, and she screamed as a dark-furred, red-eyed creature leaned over her, its batlike face splitting into a three-cornered leer of moist, inhuman hunger that she had seen before, carved in stone.
Instead of arms, it had elongated wings with tattered sails and wickedly barbed claws at the ends of the bony struts. Its dark brown, almost black skin was covered with patches of mismatching fur, and it smelled terrible, like a rotting animal carcass. The miasma brought tears, though not before she saw up close and personal that it was male.
Panicked, she tried to worm her way under the Jeep, screaming, “Help me!”
A pair of claws hooked her arm, dragged her out. Pain slashed through her. Terror. Sobbing, she kicked at the creature, but caught only air as it hauled her upright, screeching almost above the level of her hearing.
Its mouth split wide, revealing a black cavern of a throat framed by long, curved teeth.
“Help!” Natalie thrashed against the creature’s hold. She was all alone, in the middle of nowhere, JT wasn’t home, and—
Automatic gunfire slammed out of the nearby forest and into the bat creature.
The bullets ripped into the thing’s upper body, blowing back a spray of blackish blood and chunks. The creature reeled and dropped her. But incredibly, horribly, it spun toward the new threat as black ichor rained down from its wounds.
Seeing the flash of a weapon and the curve of a man’s shoulder in the forest, Natalie scrambled up and screamed, “Kill it!”
She flung herself flat as a heavy thump split the air and a fist-size missile caught the creature in the midsection and then detonated. Hot, oily black sprayed and the thing flew backward and went down in a limp mass.
“Oh, God. Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God.” Natalie lurched to her feet as her rescuer emerged from the rain forest, cradling a big double-barrel across his body.
On one level she recognized JT; she knew his voice, knew the way he moved. On another level, though, the man who stepped out of the shadows and into the fading sunlight was a stranger.
The JT she knew was clean shaven, well dressed, a strangely urbane oasis in the middle of the tropical wilderness. The JT who faced her now shared the same powerful five-ten frame, skull trim, and cool gray eyes. But he wore several days’ worth of scruff and hard-used bush clothes, and his body was strung bandolier-style with an arsenal of weapons and ammo. He carried himself with the tough purpose of a soldier, moving on the soundless feet of a hunter. And he had just saved her butt.
He once told her the guns in his foyer were for hunting the occasional man-eater among the big cats in the area. Now she knew different.
“Chan camazotz,” she whispered the nickname the villagers used for him. Death-bat killer. She had thought it was a metaphor.
His eyes were hard and hot, almost feral. “Did he get you?”
A harsh, ugly sob ripped itself from her chest. “That was . . . It was . . . Oh, JT!” She flung herself at him.
He caught her, his arms banding around her with crushing force. Relief poured through her as she burrowed into him, feeling the solid strength of his muscles and the way her body fit against his. His warmth surrounded her, and his voice rasped as he said her name, over and over again, into her hair. At first she thought she was shaking with fear and shock. Then she realized she wasn’t the one shaking.
“JT?” She pulled away a little so she could look up at him. “What—”
He interrupted her with a kiss.
There was nothing soft or urbane about his lips on hers this time, nothing civilized about the way he crushed her mouth with his, the way he gripped her. But she was suddenly hanging onto him just as hard.
What's up next for the Nightkeepers?
STORM KISSED is next up—it’s the story of the strongest and toughest of the magi to date: big, bad Snake Mendez, who prefers to be called Dez and may or may be a new man since his release from prison and selection as a super-powerful Triad mage. He’s got one soft spot, though, in the form of former bounty hunter Reese Montana, who was his first and only love … and was responsible for his incarceration. These two have some serious chemistry going for them, along with some major issues. And can you say hot? Wheee….
Anyway, thanks so much for having me on today, Banditas! Best of luck rooster hunting, and I’ll see you in the comments!
We love having you! Wow, that looks hot! And the cover is red, in keeping with our theme this month. How handy . *g*
Jessica is giving away one copy of ON THE HUNT, signed by her but not the other authors, and a copy of: 2012 End of the World Calendar. This is the description she sent me of the calendar:
The Last Calendar You Will Ever Own
A 23.97 month calendar packed with digital artwork from all over the world. Features a countdown to the End of the World, prophecies, and information regarding December 21, 2012. Any theories or predictions you may have heard are explained here: Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Time Wave Zero, Webbot, Pole Shift, World War III, The Bible, Solar Flares, Gamma Ray Bursts, Global Warming, Cataclysm, Planet X, Hopi Prophecy, Dead Sea Scrolls, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Rapture, and much more.
This calendar is HUGE! There are 52 pages total and it measures 12x12 which opens up to 12x24. Ironically printed on Eco Friendly paper, and coated with Matte Aqueous (AQ) Coating for protection. There is no other calendar out there quite like this. It's the perfect holiday gift for any 2012 enthusiast.
So tell us, would you go searching the jungle for a rare artifact, or would you rather search via Google? Who's your favorite fictional archaeologist? Who's your favorite Nightkeeper or winnikin? Feel free to ask Jessica any questions that come to mind, too.
Don't forget to check out the Healthy Heart tip and free book opportunity below.
The healthy heart tip for February 2 is: Quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts. Bundle up and plan an active outing such as sledding, ice skating, gathering wood for a fire, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit an indoor rock wall.
Go Red for Women on February 4
Romance Writers of America and the American Heart Association have partnered to raise awareness of heart disease in women and encourage you to join us in wearing red on February 4, National Wear Red Day®. Visit http://www.goredforwomen.org/ to learn how to fight heart disease.
And just in case you missed it....
Sign Up for the Go Red BetterU Program and Receive Two Free Romance Novel E-Books
From Feb. 1 through May 31, 2011, receive one free romance novel e-book when you sign up for the American Heart Association's BetterU Program and one after you complete week six of the program. And look for the Eat Smart for Your Heart limited-edition magazine (that features this offer) on newsstands and in a grocery store near you.
To sign up for the BetterU program, visit http://www.goredforwomen.org/betteru/index.aspx.
(Go Red For Women is trademarked by the American Heart Association, Inc. Romance novel downloads provided by Belle Books.)