"SECRETS" is a Labor of Love--Literally
When I explain the basic plot of my first published romance novel Secrets in the Sand, how a whorehouse madam falls in love with a doctor, and he with her, I usually get some strange looks. You know the ones. The ones that say “How do you know anything about being a whorehouse madam?”Well, let me assure you, it’s not from personal experience.
But Lily Pearl Evans is very near to my heart. She’s been a character long before she hit the pages of the book for the Wild Rose Press. She used to live in space. Gene Nicholas, the Doctors-Without-Borders hero she falls for? He used to live on a space station, where he was the chief medical officer.
My real-life husband and I met there, in space, on this space station, as players in an online role playing game (RPG). Both of us had full-time jobs and headaches and kids and used the online time to escape from the busy lives we led. Because we are both science fiction junkies, we found this place where we could live out fantasies of being space pilots or grubby ship mechanics or stunning bartenders or…whatever. It didn’t take long for us to find that no matter what characters we portrayed, they eventually gravitated toward one another and fell in love. (Or they killed each other passionately. But mostly, they fell in love.)
So it was a no-brainer after that. We discovered that we only lived a couple hours apart in the real world, we met in person, we truly fell in love and we got married. That was nearly twelve years ago, and we’re still creating stories together. J
Even in the RPG world, our characters of Lily and Gene were worlds apart in every sense of the word. He’d grown up in a pampered household, he’d had all the privileges, and she’d scrambled for everything she had. She clung to that house she owned and took care of her girls and wouldn’t let any man take it from her. His heart was the size of the moon and he took others under his wing and mentored them, nurtured them, healed them. But they’d never cross each others’ path.
Until one dramatic story arc of the RPG when an evil threat came to the space station and Gene ended up killing the villain with his own hands. Torn between the knowledge he had no other choice and his oath to protect life, Gene has a breakdown and goes on the run. He ends up on Lily’s doorstep. She takes him in, not knowing who he is, and takes care of him. He earns his keep playing piano in her cathouse parlor. And, yes, they fall in love.
My husband and I got very close through this story arc; invested in these characters with all our hearts, we fell in love with each other right alongside Lily and Gene. It was a great love story. I wished I could share it with others. But science fiction didn’t seem the right place to tell the story to romance readers (though it might have been just fine). I chose instead one of my favorite landscapes in the country, New Mexico, and set the scene near the southern border, so Gene could be working with a small town patient base when he encounters the evil of the Mexican drug cartels. And so, the story unfolds again.
They’re not the typical romance hero/heroines. They’ve seen hard lives, they’re older, each is broken in his or her own way. But, just like so many, once they find each other and let down the barriers that keep them locked inside themselves, they discover a world of acceptance, trust and love—just like their creators did twelve years ago.
Alana Lorens has been a published writer for over 35 years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at the South Dade News Leader in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications includes the non-fiction book 101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce, published by Impact Publishers in 1999, stories in A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women, in December 2008, and A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Parents, in June 2009. Her Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series (as Lyndi Alexander) is available from Dragonfly Publishing; THE ELF QUEEN in 2010 and THE ELF CHILD in March 2011, with THE ELF MAGE coming out in early 2012.
Her newest release is SECRETS IN THE SAND, in the Crimson Rose line from The Wild Rose Press. She also takes care of a husband and a bunch of kids and blogs on a variety of subjects, including autism, science fiction and life at Awalkabout.
SECRETS IN THE SAND is available as an ebook from The Wild Rose Press, or at amazon.com, Smashwords and other ebook outlets. Learn more at www.alanalorens.com
Relieved to the point of weak knees to see the cartel hadn’t found the aging BMW yet, Gene walked around the car, imagining each of the bumps and scratches was new, caused by a malicious hand. But a forced objective examination showed him all was as he had left it. He’d even locked the doors.
Funny, he couldn’t remember doing that.
But then much of that trek in the dark, he simply didn’t remember. Since he’d ended up somewhere safe, it was probably just as well. He opened the door, at first, just far enough to wedge his shoulder in. To shove it the rest of the way open required a grunting effort to knock aside a pile of sand that threatened to swallow the car whole.
The phone was easily retrieved from the place he’d dropped it between the seats. He’d left it on, plugged into the car charger. He turned it off and pocketed it.
A survey of the car showed he’d left several bags and his laptop there as well. Good thing the cartel hadn’t come this far. The personal information on that hard drive alone could have nailed him for sure.
He slid into the driver’s seat and tried the ignition. A quick turn of the key brought up the dash lights and a fuel tank reading well below the E.
“Well, damn.” He got out of the car and looked back in the direction of the Club, thinking he must have been hepped up on full tilt adrenaline to stumble that far. Amazing.
He opened the fuel can, screwed on the funnel end, then started to pour. Lily came up behind him. While the gas glubbed slowly out of the can into the BMW, she peered inside at the detritus of his international life.
“It’s not pretty,” he said, with a sheepish grin. “Single man, batching it up, you know.”
“I think some of that’s taken on a life of its own. What is that green stuff on the floor of the back seat?”
He leaned closer to see what she was pointing at. “Not sure. Nothing a dose of penicillin won’t cure.”
Satisfied everything was copacetic, he stepped back from the car, studying the sand around the wheels. He kicked at the sand, making headway against the baby dunes that had piled up. He hadn’t seen a chain, or towbar in the bed of the pickup. How were they going to get the car out?
“You’ve got to let the air out of your tires,” she said behind him.
“What?” His expression must have revealed his shock, because she laughed softly.
“Not all of it. You want to broaden the surface of the tire on the sand. Here, like this.” She bent down and loosened the valve stem on the left rear tire, holding down the catch.
He took the left front, crouching near the tire to mimic her actions. “How long does it take?”
“A long time.” She grinned, her fingers still holding the valve open. “You’ve probably got to lose twenty pounds of pressure.” She glanced off in the direction they’d come. “We’ll have to stop and fill you up again back at the state line.”
“How do you know these things?” he asked, bemused. The Sassafras Social Club’s madam was certainly more than just a pretty face. Although he had to admit, even here, in the middle of a sand pit, without her makeup and fancy clothes, he found her a real knockout.
She shrugged. “You live in the desert awhile, you pick it up.” Her voice acquired an edge as she turned back to her task. “Unless you’d rather assume that the local tow-truck drivers whisper survival mantras for pillow talk.”
“I—No, I never assumed that.” And who would? What a strange thing to say…
He leaned back, stretching his legs in the unfamiliar position. Stiff from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, he missed his old bed and pillows in
. Even in Puerto de Anapra, the villagers had seen to it that he had the best they could scrounge up among those who could spare anything. Florida
Grumbling that he was turning into a cranky middle-aged man, he narrowly diverted a cramp in his leg by standing up a moment. When he cleared the edge of the fender, he sensed a difference in the air. The wind had picked up, but the sky to the east had cleared.
He turned to look behind him, to the west, and a jolt of adrenaline tingled down to his feet. A giant cloud spread across the horizon, reaching a quarter-mile into the sky. The ocher color of the desert sand, the cloud billowed forth in all directions, heading right for the pair of them. He’d never seen a sight so terrifying.
Her face paled when she saw what he was looking at. She started off at a run for the truck.
Unsure what to do, he hesitated. The oncoming cloud swelled and swirled, billowing outward toward them like parachute material filling with forced air, constantly moving, growing. Mesmerized at the monster’s progress, he stood, slack-jawed, until the first pecks of sand stung his bare cheeks, the pain bringing him back to very present danger. The air darkened around him as a hissing filled his ears. His hands came up automatically to cover his face, and he backed into his car door, inadvertently slamming it shut.
“Come on!” Lily stood on the truck’s running board, yelling over the door. “Hurry!” The wind swallowed her voice, stole the words away, but her expression needed no explanation. He moved. He stumbled in the sand, three or four steps in before he got traction enough to run. The cloud came closer, enveloped him. Blinded, he held his arm across his face, fighting his way toward the place he believed the truck to be, where it used to be before the world shifted into chaos.
He’d been working in Miami when Hurricane Andrew devastated the southern suburbs, and that was his only experience that even approached this in terms of terror. The wind roared around him, the sand continuing to assault his skin, even worse than the onslaught of wind and rain Andrew had been.
His heart raced. What if this had happened the night of his border crossing? He imagined being lost in such an event, the sand scraping away exposed skin, filling airways with dust, slowly choking a person to death…