Cover Reveal – Bright City Lights


I just got aspankin’ new cover for my dark and sexy paranormal, Bright City Lights and I wanted to share it with you. Yummy!

brightcitylights

City of Lights – Book 1

Paranormal Romance

Sometimes it’s harder to be together than it is to be apart.

Rabb is an alpha shifter, a werewolf, who likes to defy both the odds and authority. He prefers the city lights over the open spaces most shifters enjoy.

Brant is a politician with a secret that’s becoming harder and harder to contain. As mayor of Bright City, he’s determined to keep the city free of shifters to protect his secret.

The two men share a fair amount of distrust, along with a smoldering history that threatens to drag them under again. But when shifters begin to die in Bright City, Rabb and Brant need to find a way to work together again. Especially when one of them inadvertently steps right into the murderer’s deadly path.

Redz World Reviews gave Bright City Lights 5 Shooting Stars!  “The wonderful story telling and heat between Brant and Rabb made this a book I just couldn’t put down. This is my first book I have read by Declan Sands, but I look forward to reading many more in the future. If they are anything like Bright City Lights, I know they will be stories to remember.” 

4.5 Stars from Sensualreads.com! “Exciting and passionate, Bright City Lights will capture your imagination and have you dreaming of two very sexy alphas.” 

~~*~~

The bike’s single headlight swung over trees and flared against open land as Rabb turned onto the dirt road leading to the running grounds. The trip to the forest had taken two hours. Two hours of feeling Brant pressed against him. Two hours of smelling the other man’s incredible scent—the scent that still permeated his dreams every single night.

Two hours of a raging hard-on he couldn’t possibly ignore.

Brant’s hands resting lightly on his thighs didn’t help. Or the soft wash of his breath bathing the back of Rabb’s neck. At least Brant couldn’t hear the embarrassing thud of Rabb’s heart beneath his ribs. The husky roar of the bike saved Rabb some serious embarrassment on that score.

He pulled the bike alongside a line of cars, trucks, and bikes and stopped. The silence that met their ears when he killed the engine seemed almost louder than the throaty rumble of his Yamaha.

Cricket song throbbed through the velvet black night, driven past on a soft breeze that carried the scent of shifters. Lots of them. Rabb looked at Brant. “Whatever happens, stay close to me.”

Brant’s handsome face looked ghostly in the moonlight. “That isn’t exactly reassuring.”

Rabb shrugged, grinning wickedly. “Maybe I’m trying to keep you close for other reasons.”

Brant laughed. “Yeah, I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“Come on.”

They left the small spot of flattened grass that served as the parking area and moved into the trees. Though dense and claustrophobic, the forest wasn’t as uniform as it appeared from the road. They followed a narrow, path worn into dirt by shifters and their prey. Looking close, Rabb could see small signs of the packs’ passing. Small, broken limbs and mashed vegetation told a story only the most observant would recognize.

The night enveloped them. The woods seemed empty until Rabb tuned his senses to it, tapping into an entire ecosystem that was replete with warm and cold blooded inhabitants of all shapes and sizes.

The air between the trees was cool and damp and the earth beneath their shoes was rich with the scent of all the decades that had passed before.

Rabb focused on all of it, while keeping one ear on Brant, making sure he stayed close. He hadn’t been teasing the other man, or trying to score, he was worried about bringing him there. The pack wouldn’t appreciate his bringing an enemy to their most sacred place. In fact it was a pretty sure bet they’d be royally pissed. Rabb would be the only thing standing between Brant and a painful eviction.

Or worse.

Secrets lived long and prospered in the running grounds. Enemies were extinguished, soul and body, there. Mistakes were permanently obscured. And grudges were laid to rest, along with the losers.

Rabb would have his hands full keeping Brant from becoming a permanent part of the landscape.

They hadn’t gone far before Rabb smelled wood smoke. He stopped, throwing out a hand to halt Brant. “Stay behind me and keep your mouth shut. No matter what.” He turned and fixed the other man with a warning look. “Understand?”

Brant nodded but his expression held far too much arrogance for Rabb’s comfort. “I mean it, Brant. There are no laws here except pack law. You’re in our territory now. I’m the only insurance you have that you’ll walk out of here tonight.”

Brant crossed arms over chest, belligerent. “Which totally explains why you insisted I bring no guards.”

“I had no choice, fang. One look at your conglomeration of black suited thugs and this would have been a blood bath.”

Brant glared at him. Rabb could deal with that. It was the pinpoint of fear in the icy gaze that did him in. “Look, you’re just going to have to trust me. The pack is understandably jumpy right now. Someone is targeting us and when that happens we tend to contract and isolate. You’re not pack so you’ll be suspect. They aren’t going to care that we slept together once. A long time ago.”

“It was a hell of a lot more than once,” Brant offered.

“You know what I mean.”

They stared hard at each other for another minute and then Brant finally sighed. “Okay. I’m trusting you with my life, wolf. Let’s see if you can take better care of it than you took with my heart.”

Rabb felt the sting of that remark all the way to his gut. But it wasn’t the time or place to get into it. “I’ll do as well as you’ll let me. Just like last time.”

He turned away and started forward, not wanting to give Brant the chance to say anything else. Their past was their past and he really didn’t want to rehash it—now or ever. Some relationships just weren’t meant to be.

Theirs was apparently one of them.

Golden firelight danced through the trees as Rabb emerged into a small clearing. The fire raged at the center of the space, filling the sky with soft, gray smoke. Dozens of people stood around the flame, their faces blank and their muscles taut with anger.

On the ground next to the blaze was a slim form, wrapped in a blanket. Kneeling on the ground next to the woman was her mate, his head bowed. He was covered in blood, most likely some of it hers, and his big hands were clenched in tight fists at his sides.

As Rabb stepped out all heads turned in his direction. Almost immediately, faces softened, legs buckled, and several shifters hit the ground, prostrate with grief. A soft keening sound filled the night. One of the women sobbed, her head dropping back on the heartfelt sound.

Rabb was their alpha. Pack law said they showed no emotion until the time was right. Until all was in place. With Rabb’s arrival the pack could begin the grieving process. They wasted no time.

Brant stepped out behind him and the mood changed with the swiftness of a hatchet slamming into wood. Tension pulsed across the space, hitting Rabb with the fierceness of actual violence.

Slowly, in movements borne of exquisite pain, the mate of the slain woman stood and turned. His bloodied face was purple with rage, his hard eyes bright with it. His gaze found Brant and his jaw worked, the vein at the side of his throat throbbing with rage. “Good. You brought us a sacrifice. Let the blood feast begin.” He turned to the waiting shifters. “Tonight, let the woods fill with the sound of screams and the scent of death as we avenge our fallen packmate.”

Rabb’s muscles tightened, ready to fight if he had to. He’d known it was coming but even he was shocked by the swiftness with which it occurred. As the entire pack moved forward, all eyes fixed on Brant, the only sound Rabb heard was the startled gulp of the vampire standing at his back.

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Monday Musings – Gothic is Cool


When I say Gothic, I don’t mean dying your hair black and coating yourself in black fabric. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfield would say,  I’m talking about Gothic fiction. I cut my fictional teeth on Gothic romances. I ate them up…devoured them. I mean, to have blood-less horror, suspense and romance all in one story is the very definition of heaven for me. So what are the elements of a Gothic romance that appeal to me? It’s the settings more than anything: Dark, lonely castles–foggy cliff sides, high above a roiling ocean–tortured heroes with dangerous secrets–terrified heroines trying to cling to their dreams while fighting for their lives. Gothic romances throb with atmosphere.  They test the human spirit and challenge the human will.  As a reader, it’s easy to immerse yourself in Gothic fiction, because there’s just so much heft and flavor.

So what stays with me long after a Gothic romance is done? The humanity. Built on a platform of Beauty and the Beast mythology, these stories embody the idea of acceptance and love. If a terrified woman who finds herself alone in a world where the man she loves might be a monster can hold onto that love despite danger and misunderstanding…If she can look beyond the ugliness of her perception, to the man underneath…anything is possible. It’s the ultimate love story. And I eat it up like lemon cake!

Happy reading everybody!

Monday Musings – Why do I have Reader ADD?


Maybe I need a medi-patch or something. I mean…you know you have a problem when you start 4 books at the same time and have to skip back and forth between them when you hit a slow spot (or you think you’re going to lose your mind). Or maybe as I get older I just don’t have as much patience as I used to. It’s true, I just can’t force myself to push through a slow spot in a book anymore. So I make sure I’m reading several books and come back to that book another day. It can be a challenge to remember what was going on when I left, but I’m amazed to discover that in doing this I can usually move beyond my lack of interest.  There was a time, in my youthful ignorance, when I loved to declare that it was the author’s fault if I got bored. Sometimes that’s still true, but I think a lot of the blame has to lie at my feet. (Maybe it was the act of becoming an author myself that allowed me to see the error of my ways. #:0) If I shy away from a certain part of a novel one day, and easily conquer it on another, that doesn’t have anything to do with the book…that’s me.

Besides, one man’s slow spot is another man’s angsty tidbit. So I proclaim that it’s because I like a faster pace in the novels I read. It’s absolutely true, my favorite authors keep the pace moving along nicely, and that’s how I try to write too. But personal taste aside, I think my problem is deeper than an allergic reaction to thoughtful, deliberative prose, I think it’s my lifestyle. Ever since I set out to create my own success, I’ve been so driven that I rarely stop to smell the roses. Hell, I pass the roses by so fast I couldn’t even tell you what bleepin’ color there were. I count the success of each day by how much I accomplish. And if I don’t accomplish all that much I mentally beat myself about the head and shoulders with a thorny branch (possibly snatched from the unseen roses as I whizzed past them).  I have an inner impatience that sometimes astounds even me. It seems pretty likely that this impatience is bleeding into my enjoyment of books. I mean, if a book spends several pages lamenting the characters’ inability to connect in any meaningful way…well…some (me) might say that not much got accomplished during those pages. And if my inner accountant is cataloging how much I’ve accomplished when reading…those pages would definitely count as a fail.

But this isn’t good.

At least I think it’s not good.

I don’t feel damaged in any way by this ravaging impatience. I still enjoy reading. But I no longer force myself to finish a book just because I started it…though mostly I do finish books…because then I can chalk them up as an accomplishment. Oh gawd…I’m a hot mess.

But at least I’m lovable, right? Say yes so I can chalk it up in the accomplishment column for today. Oh yeah, I wrote this blog…check!

LOL

Monday Musings – Is He an Alpha or Just an Ass?


hoalelotoftrouble

Book 1: Hoale Construction Mysteries

Romance readers love strong men. Arguably the most important aspect of a romance novel is hitting the right note with your hero. Readers want heroes who are alphas. Strength is sexy to most people, which is why soldiers, firemen, and cops are automatically elevated to hero status in romance stories.

So, are you susceptible to the alpha male?

Let’s do a little test. You are a contestant on a couple-matching game show. Through a series of questions, the field of bachelors has been whittled down to 2 men. Both are attractive. Both are clean and well-spoken. However, Bachelor #1 wants to be a house-husband. He promises to cook and clean house, and then rub his lover’s feet when he/she comes home after a long day of work. Bachelor #2, works hard all day conquering his little piece of the world and then comes home to sweep his lover off his/her feet and create mind-blowing sex. He cooks steaks on the grill but not much else, and his idea of cleaning is throwing his sexy, silk boxers into the laundry basket.

Now, I realize the idea of having somebody clean and cook for you is damn tempting. But is that really what you want in a man? I would choose Bachelor #2, because I like the alpha male. I think men were meant to be strong and conquering. And though I definitely believe women can and should be strong and independent, a strong woman deserves a strong man—one who can keep her on her toes (as well as curl those toes when the lights are turned down low #:0).

But when does strong become overbearing? It’s a fine line in romance fiction. One person’s alpha can be another person’s jerk. We want a man who is decisive and knows how to get things done. But we don’t want him telling us what to do or taking decisions away from us. He should be strong enough to know when to let his partner stand tall, while he stands behind him/her in support. He isn’t afraid to let his softer side show, or too politically correct to be strong when necessary. Walking that line can be tricky, both in fiction and in real life. But certain basics must always hold true. An alpha male doesn’t let anybody mess with his friends and loved ones and he’ll fight to the death to protect them. He might make mistakes, but in the end he always does the right thing, even when it’s hard to do. And he might not be rich or famous, but he rocks the bedroom, keeping his lover’s needs foremost in his mind.

An impossible standard for any man to reach? Maybe. Maybe not. But if you don’t have an ideal to shoot for, you might just end up with the ass!

Happy Reading everybody!

Monday Musings – Real Life? Or Escapism?


 

My personal philosophy as a writer (and as a reader too) is to stay away from too much real life in my entertainment. I do this because in books, as in movies, I watch or read to escape real life. For this reason I mostly hate reality programs on television and avoid obvious political bias in my entertainment.

I’m a functioning adult. A contributing member of society. I work hard, pay my taxes, try always to do the right thing…even the hard thing…and I raised my kids to do the same. That’s who I am and I’m proud of it. But I wouldn’t want to read a book about that because it would be less than fascinating. #:0)

When I pick up a book I’m looking for heart-pounding excitement, or stomach-twisting suspense in a world vastly different from my own. I’m looking for a larger than life romance, or at least a life-changing passion. I want characters to leap off the page, engage me, and drag me, willing or unwilling, through their world. When this happens life is beautiful. When this happens the story sticks with me for months and years to come…the story and its characters feel real to me. But thank god the stories aren’t real. Because real life is vivid and hard and cruel. It’s also sweet and wonderful and sometimes even exciting. But it’s too real to be entertainment.

Monday Musings – To Angst or not to Angst…


…that appears to be the question in m/m fiction.

I’ve noticed a predominance in contemporary m/m fiction for stories with lots of angst. I’m personally not a great fan of angst. I understand that any good story has some angst in it. Romantic tales are so much more powerful with the inclusion of an anti-happiness theme.  So angst definitely has its place in romance fiction, as it does in real romance. I’m only questioning the levels. More than any other type of romance, m/m fiction is saturated with angst. And, in many cases, these books are very popular.

So it leaves me wondering, does the market inspire all these angsty tomes…or is the demand more organic in nature? There’s no question, gay romance is of a fashion right now. The gay lifestyle is experiencing a wider acceptance than ever before. But like any other concept fighting for acceptance in society, gay romance still bears the scars of that battle. For the human animal, part of healing is tied up in uber-examination of that which wounded us. I think that’s the organic part of how gay romance is portrayed.  As writers, we feel the need to reflect and explore those old wounds. Besides, it can make for great stories.

The market side is less explainable and probably more fickle. Today’s angsty smash hit will most likely be tomorrow’s, “meh” moment. It’s the way of things in the fiction world. But that’s okay. By its very nature, humankind is in a constant state of evolution, each of us evolving at different times in our lives and with different levels of intensity. That’s why fiction can remain popular for decades and even centuries.

And the good news is, like fashion (think bell-bottom pants and tie-die, bleurgh!), if we absolutely hate a current trend we can rest assured that it will pass. And if we love it we know it will come around again!

Happy Reading!