Genre: Urban fantasy/detective/light romance
Publisher: Studio See LLC
Date of Publication: October 2013
Number of pages: 292
Cover Artist: Pam See
Mike Roberts photographer
A bank robbery in Rockport, Texas, sends Corpus Christi police detective Kat Morales and her elf partner, Tevis, in pursuit of a band of nymphs and satyrs. The answer to their initial question - why nymphs and satyrs would rob a bank - only leads them into a deeper mystery in an enchanted woodland on the South Texas coast.
And while he and Kat try to save the woods from an evil wizard and a deadly wyvern, Tevis finds himself engaged in a personal struggle with potentially disastrous consequences: He is deeply, irrevocably in love with his partner ...
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/gCn0H3IlNGs
Drawn by the voice, he looked up from his paperwork, toward the source.
And met the hazel eyes of a Vision standing in the doorway to his office.
She was exquisite, maybe five feet tall, midriff-baring top and short-shorts concealing nothing of her petite little figure, the veil over the lower portion of her face revealing hints of full lips beneath a finely sculpted nose.
“Are you James Todd?” the Vision asked.
“Ah ...” He swallowed moisture into his throat. “Uh ... Yes. Yes. I am. President.” He clamped his mouth shut before any other words could spill out. He was babbling.
He never babbled. Never!
“President of this bank.” Her voice held a lilt, a hint of chimes, the soft, sultry sound of a cello.
He nodded. His breath hung in his throat. He knew what he saw: a Nymph. A real, live Nymph. In his bank ...
He'd heard of Nymphs. Never met one. Until now. Until this moment when a Vision stood in the doorway of his office.
She didn't look ... What? How old would she have to be if she'd actually lived in ancient Greece. He thought he remembered that was where Nymphs lived. Greece.
She looked like a kid, what he could see of her … eighteen, nineteen. Maybe 20. Young enough to be his granddaughter.
The feelings she stirred in him could not be called grandfatherly ...
“My sisters and I need money.”
“Certainly.” He pushed to his feet. A thought tried to stir in the back of his mind, something about Nymphs ... some kind of warning the authorities had issued ...
The thought withered and died. “Have – have you t-talked to one of our loan officers?” Todd felt a flicker of embarrassment. He hadn't stammered since high school. But he couldn't seem to get a decent breath. He'd read about Nymphs, of course. Greek mythology. Roman. He'd known they were beautiful. But he'd never realized the full extent of that beauty. Even the partial concealment of the veil couldn't hide her ... her … splendor. Her perfection. Todd's brain searched for words to do justice to her, and came up lacking. Helen of Troy, Venus ...
They could not be compared to the creature that stood in his doorway. “How – how much money do you ... need?”
“All of it.”
Of course. How could he be so dense? “My dear ...” James Todd came from behind his desk. “We're here to help you. Let's just step outside ...” He dared lay a hand on her shoulder, and a scent wafted to his nostrils: Roses ... no. Lilacs. No. Richer than lilacs – a perfume like none he'd ever smelled. For an instant he felt ... just very slightly ... lightheaded.
“Marry me,” he whispered.
She raised those remarkable eyes to meet his. Pools of hazel. “Do you not have a wife?”
“No.” Wait. “Yes.” He shook his head against the fog that seemed to envelope him. Elaine. Of course. He was married to Elaine. But … “But the children are grown. I can get a divorce.”
She smiled behind the veil – he knew she did. He could almost see those full, slightly pouty lips. But she didn't speak, just turned and strode into the bank's lobby. James Todd followed, his gaze taking in every movement of the slender body in front of him, the way her hips swayed gently side-to-side. He swallowed again. Two other small, shapely beings, veiled copies of the one who'd entered his office, stood near the tellers' counter, watching the bank's security guards and two of its loan officers empty cash drawers into large bags. Silk bags! Even from where he stood, Todd recognized the fabric. Silk … green – dark green and shimmering ...
Todd drew a breath, suddenly aware of sweat beading his forehead in spite of the bank's air conditioning. Now he noticed the tellers, all women, standing in a cluster against a far wall. A pack of small creatures surrounded them, creatures that looked like Human males from the waist up, exceptionally hairy goats from the waist down, complete with tails and cloven hooves. They leered at the women, goat tails flicking, their eyes glittering like multicolored gemstones in sunlight, and the women huddled together, trying to look anywhere but at the creatures, yet casting occasional furtive glances at them.
Satyrs. The word slipped into James Todd's memory from that one course in classical mythology he'd taken in college. He felt his mouth open – just a little. He closed it while his mind took in the sight … black and reddish-brown and gray and piebald goat legs, the creatures' human faces sporting beards the same color as the fur on their lower bodies … Satyrs and Nymphs. In his bank! James Todd found himself grinning at the Vision at his side. “I've ... I've n-never met a Nymph before.” He was babbling again. He felt unable to control his tongue. “I ... I ...”
“It's all right.” She slipped one of her delicately formed hands into his, and he felt his insides quiver and puddle into near meltdown. She raised her remarkable hazel eyes to meet his gaze. “We need you to open the vault.” The eyes sparkled with the smile he could just faintly see on her lips.
Oh. Oh! Of course! Open the vault. And whatever else she wanted him to do. Anything she wanted him to do. He wanted her to command him. Ask him to do ... anything. It took all his powers of concentration to mumble, “This way,” as he led her behind the tellers' counter and down the hallway to the vault. Some part of him noticed, in passing, that Miss Finch, the bank's prim and fussy (and very un-Nymphlike) vice president of operations, stood among the tellers, along with the bank's secretaries and a couple of its other female officers. Had they just joined the group? Or had they been there all along? He couldn't remember.
It didn't matter. He felt – it surprised him a little – a sly satisfaction that Miss Finch looked as disconcerted as the other women.
The Nymph's hand squeezed his – not hard. The merest caress of warmth. Her fragrance drifted to his nostrils, different this time, a spicy-sweet tang that reminded him of his cabin by the lake up in the Hill Country. He met the Nymph's gaze, and in a sudden surge of clarity, he realized he would need help. “Mr. Wilford, Mr. Lopez ...” He beckoned to the chief security guard and chief loan officer. “We need your assistance.”
The two men came hurrying, almost tripping over each other, both of them frowning at the way the Nymph's hand nestled in his. Jealous; they were both jealous. Todd could see it in their eyes.
It didn't matter. His was the hand the Nymph clasped. He managed to meet their scowls with calm knowing, as though his heart wasn't fluttering like a captive bird in his chest, as though Visions came through the door of his office every day and took him by the hand. “This young lady and her sisters,” with a slight tilt of his head toward the other two Nymphs, “need our money. After I open the vault, we'll need your help in carrying it out for them.”
The two men nodded, and Lopez smiled at Todd's Nymph, flashing his very white teeth in something close to a leer. It didn't do him any good; the Nymph still held James Todd's hand. Todd smiled at her and led the last few steps to the vault.
The massive, triple-walled steel door opened by means of a keypad, the code known only to Todd and a handful of other trusted employees. Such as Miss Finch, of course – but he doubted she would open the door for the Nymphs. He punched in the access code, then a second code needed to override the vault's timelock, a device that normally prevented the doors from being opened before 10 a.m. The mechanism clicked into place, and he pulled the door open.
The Nymph gasped. That didn't surprise him. Though nowhere near the size of vaults in even some of the smaller banks in Corpus Christi, the vault of the Texas State Bank of Rockport had to be the largest the Nymph had ever seen.
“Where is the money?” She looked – she sounded – anxious, and the hand holding his loosened its grip a little. “Has someone else already been here and taken it all?”
“No!” He tightened his grip on hers. “Not at all!” He couldn't let her think that, couldn't disappoint her.
He couldn't let her leave – as she seemed ready to do. “It's in these drawers.” Still clutching her hand, he stepped around the table and chairs that occupied the center of the room, to the built-in drawers at the rear of the vault, pulled one open, extracted a handful of bills so she could look at them. “See?”
She relaxed, then made a vague motion with her free hand. A bag materialized, clasped in her fingers, another green silk bag like the ones her sisters had been holding outside the vault. This one was about the size of a large pillow case, Todd thought. Dark green like the others, forest green, with a cord that gleamed like gold. Maybe, Todd's thoughts whispered, it was gold. At last, she released his hand so she could clasp the bag with pale, slender fingers, long fingers with perfect little nails, fingers merging into long, pale hands, wrists so small Todd could have easily encircled them with his thumb and forefinger, arms willow-thin and graceful. His hand actually ached from the loss of hers. He wanted her to touch him again, he wanted to touch her ...
“Fill this, please.” She extended the bag toward him.
“Ah ...” He nodded and dropped the bills he'd been holding into the bag, reached into the drawer for more. Wilford and Lopez stepped in to help him.
They emptied every cash drawer in the vault into that single bag, which should have been impossible but wasn't. And when that was done, the Nymph pointed to the rows of safety-deposit boxes. “What are those?”
“Lock boxes.” Todd swallowed against a dryness in his throat that threatened to choke him. If he didn't ... quite ... look at her, he could speak with reasonable coherence. “Some of our patrons store their valuables in them.”
“No.” He shook his head. “Jewelry. Documents that they consider important – wills, trust documents, things like that.”
“Do you want the boxes?” Lopez asked. “The jewelry can be worth a lot of money.”
Damn the man! That was Todd's question to ask. The bank president clinched hands that wanted to turn into fists.
But the Nymph shook her head. “We have no need for jewelry or ...” her barely visible mouth twitched in grimace, “documents.”
Todd couldn't restrain a broad smile at Lopez. No points for you, Mister. His expression became solicitous as he returned his gaze to the Nymph. “Do you need help with that?” he asked, with a motion toward the bag, before Lopez or Wilford could interfere again.
She smiled at him, her eyes absolutely dazzling, and he felt another sudden rush of warmth through his body, a sudden relaxing of the muscles behind his knees.
He managed to stay on his feet, and he reached for the bag. “Let me ...”
He could feel Lopez' and Wilford's eyes boring into him as she relinquished the bag to him. They were jealous, both of them, and he could almost pity them. Two young men, both in their thirties, reasonably good-looking and fit, Lopez with the kind of muscles that came from regular workouts, Wilford less toned but still lean.
And who had trumped them both, and won the Nymph's smile? James Todd, pushing sixty, with thinning hair and a few extra pounds around the middle, that was who! He threw the bag over his shoulder – considering its contents, it felt surprisingly light – no problem for him though still too heavy for a little slip of a thing like the Nymph.
She met his gaze, and gave him another of those smiles that caught his breath in his throat. “Come with me,” she said, and led him out of the vault. Lopez and Wilford trailed after them like a pair of rejected suitors, and Todd could feel their eyes trying to burn holes in his back. In the lobby, the other two Nymphs joined the procession, followed by two more security guards carrying bulging silk bags, and the bank's remaining male employees followed them all. The whole group of them trooped out to the parking lot –
Straight to the most beat-up excuse for a van that James Todd had ever seen. Had they really driven to the bank in this thing? Multiple faded coats of paint and rust covered the vehicle in equal measure; cracks traced across the couple of windows that remained intact, and the whole works sagged on tires worn smoother than a billiard ball. Todd's Nymph opened the van's rear door, and he and the two security guards eased the bags of money inside. Todd winced as the van settled even closer to collapse under the added weight.
“Thank you,” his Nymph said, and he felt another surge of warmth through his system.
Then all three Nymphs scrambled into the vehicle, Todd's Nymph behind the steering wheel. She could barely see over the top of it. He didn't hear the engine start, but he became aware that the van was in motion, gliding across the parking lot. It ran better than he'd expected, whisper-silent. He couldn't even hear the engine. As the vehicle pulled into the street, his Nymph extended a slender arm out the open window on the driver's side and waved goodbye, the motion languidly graceful. Todd waved back, aware of a thickness clogging his throat. The Nymph – his Nymph – was leaving, and some part of him knew he wouldn't see her again. The van merged silently into the traffic on Highway 35, headed north.
From behind him, a whole army of little, bearded goat-men scampered into the highway in pursuit of the Nymphs, accompanied by the squeal of brakes and the blare of car horns among the startled drivers around them.
And James Todd blinked, awash in the cold sensation of just having woke from a nightmare.
It had not – had not – been a dream. He no longer could see the van, but he could see the goat-men racing after it. Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph, what had he just done?
But he knew, all too clearly. He'd helped a trio of Nymphs rob his own bank, that's what he'd just done. He felt his heart pounding, a surge of lightheadedness ... a heart attack, maybe, or the onset of a stroke ...
No such luck. The robust health James Todd had enjoyed all his life hung on him like a curse. Death wouldn't rescue him from this situation.
Mexico. If he got in his car right now, he could get to Mexico. And then ...
And then what? Keep going south as far as he could. How far? Brazil? Argentina? A chill worked its way down his spine, through his legs, down to his toes, even as fresh sweat popped out on his face. The authorities would be one issue, but he had a feeling they would understand. Everyone knew about Nymphs and the effect they had on men. The sight of an unveiled Nymph stunned a man, blinded him. Killed him!
Todd felt another shiver trace down his spine, sinuous as a snake, and freezing cold. He and the bank's other male employees were lucky to still be alive. The situation would be awkward – Hell, it would be embarrassing to the point of agony. He'd probably lose his job, and even if he didn't, he'd be the butt of jokes for months. Years. He could almost hear the sniggering behind his back, the looks ranging from pity to derision. He'd have to move, try to start over someplace else.
But he could deal with that. He wasn't really worried about the authorities, or even the bank's board of directors. They'd exonerate him. The board wouldn't be happy about it, but fairness would demand it.
Which left his wife. Elaine. She wouldn't understand. He didn't think she would want to understand. James Todd swallowed against a dryness in his throat, forced his knees not to fold under him. Once Elaine found out about this ...
Argentina wouldn't be far enough. The most godawful uncharted jungle in Africa wouldn't be far enough.
He wondered if they had airports in Siberia, and if he could charge the tickets on his Visa card.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
I've wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember – at least since the age of 7. I love words and the ways they come together to express thoughts, communicate, evoke emotions. I'm an incorrigible (and some of my friends will add “terrible”) punster. That said, there have been other careers that have tugged at me through the years. I love paleontology and geology (actually got to participate in a dinosaur dig!), and I'm an amateur historian. On the other hand, “writer” is a career that lets me dabble in a lot of other stuff I love doing!
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
Probably at age 7 when I wrote a little short story and read it aloud to my classmates. That's certainly when I decided “writer” was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I “turned pro” as a writer when I graduated from college, armed with a degree in journalism, and got my first job as a newspaper reporter.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
I got amazingly lucky on that! I was feeding chapters of my first Portals book - “Shadow Path” - to a friend (a co-worker, in fact) to beta read, and … After a few chapters, she told me that she'd always wanted to be a publisher, and she'd like to get started in the business by publishing my book! So things kind of took off from there.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
Well … I have another job other than writing my Portals books – but that job too involves writing. I'm a reporter for a news organization here in Sheridan, Wyoming – sheridan-media-dot-com, for anyone who'd like to check us out. I did try semi-retirement for a while, doing nothing but work on my books, but I discovered I like the adrenalin rush of being out in public, gathering stories. Besides, the people and situations I encounter as a reporter are great for generating ideas.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
Latest book that's been published is Sister Hoods. Twenty words or less … Bank robbery leads two detectives into a fight for their lives in a magical forest.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
My publisher is Studio See LLC, a small indie publisher in Sheridan.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
That depends – mostly on the demands of my day-job. But anywhere from five to eight months has been my usual pace.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Right now I'm having too much fun with my Portals books to branch into anything else. Certainly for the near future … Book 5 in the series is finished and in my publisher's hands, and Book 6 is finished and waiting for my publisher to finish reading Book 5. And I just started Book 7.
What genre would you place your books into?
My Portals books are mixed genre – urban fantasy/detective with … recently … a touch of romance.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
The fantasy element came first. I've been a fan of fantasy – and folklore and mythology – since I was around 9 or 10 years old. But the detective part wasn't too far behind. Probably one of the first books I read in that genre was A Study in Scarlet, which introduced me to Sherlock Holmes who is still my all-time favorite detective. So I grew up on a diet of fantasy and detective novels, and those are still my favorite (though not my only) genres for reading.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
(smile) I do have a favorite – Tevis Mac Leod, the elf male who's one-half of my detective team. As for why … Well, start with the image … I envisioned Tevis as the elf version of Illya Kuryakin, the Russian spy in the old Man From Uncle TV series. Tevis also has some of Kuryakin's mannerisms, with a little bit of Sherlock Holmes in the mix.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
I've been writing since at least the age of 7. As for my inspiration … I'd say my grandfather was a huge influence. I was raised by my maternal grandparents, and starting when I was a toddler, Daddy (my grandfather) would set me on his knees every night and read to me. I grew up loving books, loving words, loving the images they can evoke. And after the book was finished, I would continue with stories that I made up for myself. At heart, I'm a storyteller, and writing is just another way to tell the stories.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, it in a certain chair?
With a background of working in the news media, I'm most comfortable with a certain amount of controlled chaos. When I'm writing, it's with the TV on for background noise, and of course with three dogs, there's a certain amount of barking and interruptions. When weather permits, I have the windows open, so I get noises from outside … I also don't set a particular time or place to write.
I do get up early in the morning so I can get some writing done before I start my work for Sheridan Media, and I snatch writing time at lunch when I can, and on weekends. Stolen moments. Basically, I grab whatever time presents it to me, wherever I happen to be.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I do. I love getting reviews! Even the critical ones, if they're genuine criticism and not just rants, can be a learning experience.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
The first six books in the series, the titles have come to me first. Usually they're plays on words. The current WIP, the idea for the plot came to me, and I still don't have a title!
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
A combination of factors. Since part of my settings are in the real world, I use names from the real world. My detectives live and work in Corpus Christi, Texas, for example, and I use the names of real streets and other locations. I also draw mostly on beings that actually exist in folklore and myth for my heroes/villains.
Are character names and place names decided after their creation? Or do you pick the character/place name and then invent them?
Again, it's a bit of both.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I like for my characters to develop as I go along. That feels more natural – organic – to me. It's the way we discover people in real life. The characters, especially the long-term ones such as Kat and Tevis and their friends and allies, reveal themselves to me as we go along.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
(chuckle) Nope! I write the kind of fiction that I like to read – pure and total escape. An editor I had for a couple of my books – we no longer work together – found “messages” in my books, and … That may be so. I'm nearly 68 years old, so I figure some of the attitudes I've picked up along the way may have made their way into my writing. But any messages the books might contain are there purely by accident. If you find something you can take away with you, that's great! But all I really want my readers to take away is a feeling that they've been entertained.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
I love reading books no matter what form they're in. Right now, because of cost constraints, all of my books are in digital (eBook) form, but my publisher and I are exploring print-on-demand.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Fiction – Lord of the Rings. I love Tolkien's Middle Earth. And … I've read it so many times that there are entire passages I know by heart.
Non-fiction – The Making of the Atomic Bomb. This is an awesome book that goes beyond merely how and why America made the first atomic bomb. It's a history of quantum physics, the background of World War I as actually a cause of World War II, and the fears that precipitated the creation of the bomb.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think books can transfer to movies well, but much depends on the director and producer. I think Peter Jackson did a great job of transferring The Lord of the Rings and, more recently, The Hobbit, from book to film. He was faithful to the spirit of the books, though not completely to the books as written.
I think what's lost in translating books to film is some of the subtle nuances of the written word. In movies, you can't read the characters' thoughts, you're totally dependent on dialog and action. In the hands of an unskilled or careless director, that can result in disaster.
Your favorite food is?
Your favorite singer/group is?
Journey, back in the days when Steve Perry was lead singer. I still have all the Journey CDs I can get my hands on. Perry had an awesome vocal range. Plus, I don't think a lot of people knew what a sensitive, caring person he is.
Your favorite color is?
Bright, sun-yellow. Unfortunately, because I have a “winter” skin tone, it's a color I can't wear. I put on a yellow shirt, and I look jaundiced.
Your favorite Author is?
Tolkien. Closely followed by Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels.
A native of Texas, now living in Sheridan, Wyo., P.L. Blair divides her time between two careers. As P.L., she writes a series (Portals) of urban fantasy/detective books that, recently, including elements of light romance. Published books include Shadow Path, Stormcaller, Deathtalker and Sister Hoods. Her fifth book is now with her publisher, and she is working on Book 6. As Pat Blair, she's a reporter for Sheridan Media, an organization that includes nine radio stations and an online news publication at sheridanmedia.com.
She's also “mom” to three dogs and a cat, all rescues, and is an avid reader, an occasional painter, and loves doing research. A lover of horses, she researches American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred pedigrees as a hobby. Another hobby is history, and she's been the lead writer last year and again this year for Sheridan Media's “Sheridan Chronicles” history publication.
Web site www.plblairauthor.com