Excerpt: The Order of Actaeon (Waxwood Series: Book 1)

Actaeon Two Dog Attack Statue

Photo Credit: Actaeon, Paul Manship, 1925, bronze, Smithsonian American Art Museum: File Upload Bot (Kaldari) /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY SA 2.5

My blog post this week is sort of a departure from my usual, as it’s specifically about my work. In honor of finishing the final proofreads for my upcoming book, The Order of Actaeon (Waxwood Series: Book 1), I’m posting an excerpt below.

Editing this book was a very long process for me, much longer than for my first book, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories. I think there are several reasons for this. With each book I write, I become more seasoned as a writer and I also learn a lot about my own writing voice and style. So I naturally become pickier about the quality of my fiction which makes the revising and editing process longer. Also, my second book will be quite a bit longer than my first – almost 3 times longer. The longer the story, the more complex it is to keep track of all the balls in the air (plotlines, characters, scenes, etc.) Finally, my second book is part of a series called The Waxwood Series and along with juggling the different parts of the book itself, there is also building the foundation for the series so that the following books fall into place.

Waxwood Series Banner

Photo Credit: Biarritz – La Grande Plage – L’Hôtel du Palais – L’Église Orthodoxe, Rafael Toussaint, 2013, oil on wood: Colibrix/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY SA 2.0

Right now, the release date is set for January 18, 2018. I’ll be posting all the details closer to the release date, including when you can preorder a copy and when my cover reveal and book release party will be.

The following excerpt involves the Alderdice family (matriarch Larissa and her daughter Vivian and son Jake – the protagonist of Book 1), who are central to the series and also Stevens, an older man who is a guest at the Waxwoodian, the hotel where the family is staying for the summer.

I hope you enjoy it!


“I’d like to meet Jake and Vivian’s father,” Stevens said. “Will he be coming down here some time this summer?” Jake gave him a stony glance. He was sure Stevens remembered what he had told him about Raymond.

There was a few minutes silence while Jake felt they were all trying to think of how to respond without lighting the fire of shame to the Alderdice name.

Vivian was the first to speak. “We had different fathers. Mother was determined to wipe any trace of them off the face of the earth and she damn near succeeded.”

“My daughter uses vulgar words, Mr. Stevens,” Larissa said. “But she’s not far wrong.” Her polished fingernail trailed the damp cocktail glass. “I am once a widow and once a divorcee. I took back my maiden name and gave it to my children. I wanted to give them their dignity back.”

“Mother finds any flaw undignified,” Vivian said in a tight voice, “My father was a weak man who died of a heart attack and Jake’s father was a cheating bastard who went away when Jake was three years old.”

Larissa’s face darkened with the mark of her rage and she pushed the empty cocktail glass away from her a little too savagely, making it tumble to the grass. Jake quickly picked it up and set it gently on the table.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.” Stevens’ head tipped just enough to show humility but not so his eyes were totally hidden.

“No,” said Vivian. “You shouldn’t. But now that you have, tell me, Mr. Stevens, does a man who abandons his son to run off with a younger woman fit your theory of defending what is precious?”

“That’s enough, Vivian,” Larissa snapped.

“I don’t mind answering the question, Mrs. Alderdice,” said Stevens. “I find it reprehensible, of course.”

“Of course,” Vivian echoed.

“But sometimes people should run away,” he continued. “When they’re too volatile or too dangerous to be around others, that is.”

“You mean,” said Vivian, her voice softening, “sometimes hurting others becomes an act of love.”

“Something like that,” he said. “For some men, the rules are different. It’s not always easy to understand.”

“Explain it, then.” Vivian leaned forward.

“Viv, I don’t think — “Jake began.

“I don’t mind,” said Stevens. “I have nothing to hide.”

“I must admit, you have me curious,” said Larissa.

Stevens smiled then. It was the smile of the Cheshire cat, hanging solitary but mystifying.

“The boundaries aren’t as rigid with primitive people as they are in so-called civilized society,” he said. “Jung knew it. So did Freud.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” said Larissa.

“Taboos aren’t as neatly categorized,” he explained.

“You mean you can sleep with your father or mother and not be damned?” asked Vivian.

“Don’t be disgusting,” Larissa said with a wince.

“I don’t mean that at all,” he said, a little edgy. “Even primitive people have lines they won’t cross”

“Then?” Larissa asked.

“Their imagination is more fluid,” said Stevens. “An airplane is a bird from the gods, a walk in the woods is a pilgrimage to a new world. The rules don’t play out in the same way as they do for us.”

“That’s the second time you’ve used the word rules,” said Vivian. “The world must be a very regulated place for you, Mr. Stevens.”

A peak formed in the center of his forehead. Jake was alarmed when he saw the redhead’s hands tighten. But then Stevens relaxed, though that ease seemed a little forced. He rose. “I’d love to continue this conversation, but I’m afraid I have a phone call to make. I’ve told Jake I know a few art galleries in San Francisco willing to see his work if he wants.”

Jake sat back, swept into the lie, since Stevens had never mentioned anything of the kind.

“You mean there is hope for him after all?” said Larissa with a little laugh.

“Passion is the definition of hope, Mrs. Alderdice,” said Stevens. “I’m sure even you will admit Jake is passionate about his work.”


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