Behind the Story: Two Cuts Darker

TwoCutsDarker125I’ve blogged before about where the original idea for A Killer Need came from. Basically, I wanted a “horror romance” with a possible serial killer hero who I could make believable, likeable, and redeem in some way.

It might surprise you, but Vincent came first, even though his book is only just now coming out. The original idea I played with–and ultimately set aside–was a bad guy undercover as an even worse guy on some kind of private cruise ship. The heroine was in bondage there and sent to him for the night.

You can see why I tabled that idea, right?  I couldn’t come up with a way to make THAT likeable/romantic in any way.

When I started writing Charlie’s story, I honestly had no idea that he fit into the killer storyline at all. He lied to me the whole time. Only after about 30K did I finally realize I had found a way into that killer horror/romance story.

Vincent was Trouble from the beginning. Readers liked Charlie, which was great! But I hadn’t planned on him returning that much. Once I got the idea into my head, though, I couldn’t get it out.  Then I lost balance of the story and had way too much Charlie/Ranay on page for it being Vincent/Mads’s book. Luckily I had a great editor!  Alissa was able to help me bring that balance back in.

You see that “Dare to look beneath the mask…” up at the top of the page?  That’s a reminder for me too.  Sometimes I flinch.  I don’t actually look as deeply as I need to.  I don’t want to explore that darkness.

Aside: growing up, we lived out in the boondocks on a 100 acre farm just off tornado alley. I HATED going to our basement – even though it was supposed to be safer than the house. It was a nasty root cellar beneath the house.  We actually had to go OUTSIDE into the STORM to reach it.  (If you’ve seen the beginning of Twister, our root cellar was a little like that, except theirs was waaaay nicer.)  Small snakes, tons of spiders and cobwebs – you name something creepy that lives under an old farm house, and that’s what we had to sit with during a tornado.

Sometimes writing a really dark, emotional story is like standing at the top of those stairs, barefoot in the middle of the night, scared out of your mind.  There’s a tornado coming behind you.  Wind is whipping your hair and you can’t see.  But you really REALLY don’t want to go down into that black scary hole.

Even if it might save your life.

That’s where a good editor can say stuff like “Explore this more.”  “What’s he feeling here?”  “Can we get more emotional responses here?”

A.K.A. go down into that dark basement and poke around.  You might find something really creepy good in the dark.

One Cut Deeper Roundup

OneCutDeeper200With it being release week, there’s a lot of action going on. Instead of constantly bombarding everyone with links, I thought I’d just gather them up in one place.

Reviews are coming in!

  • “One Cut Deeper kept me guessing from start to finish. The kink aspects are not for the faint of heart, but fit the relationship between these two characters – and they are integral to suspense plot as well. This is an erotic thriller that should not be missed. It is a fantastic story with just the right blend of kink and suspense.” Romance Novel News
  • “Do not be afraid of this book. This story is so expertly put together, given to us in a way that holds us captive and engages our imagination. It’s about learning to love and accept ourselves and allowing others to love us. I can’t express to you how much I was pulled into these characters’ world. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.” SM Book Obsessions
  • “If you like Dark erotica/romance and suspense/thrillers with sexy sadist Doms that will leave you with warm fuzzy feelings while scaring you just enough to leave you hot and bothered then this is the book for you. This is Joely Sue Burkhart writing what she writes best.” Stephanie Christine
  • “One Cut Deeper is a deeper, darker journey into BDSM and Joely Sue Burkhart was just the perfect author to write something like this. Again, amazing!” Sultry Steamy Reading

Guests posts, background about the story, and some opportunities to win prizes!

Re-Release: The Fire Within

The Fire Within_webOver the years, I’ve had a few people email me to ask about the Keldari Fire novella, The Fire Within.

It was originally published by Drollerie Press, along with the Shanhasson trilogy and Survive My Fire, but that publisher folded years ago.  I was on a roll in 2012 and got most of these lost titles re-released with new covers, but I ran out of steam. Sadly, I had this cover made… I just kept putting off the actual formatting.  Then I decided I ought to make an edit pass, because that was several years ago and my writing style has changed quite a bit.

Finally this month, I sat down and made a quick pass.  I hired out the formatting so I didn’t have that hanging over me.  So it only took a few minutes of setup this morning and I was able to push the “publish” button.

I’ve never had a work exclusively in KDP, so this is a trial for me. I know that this makes it more difficult for non-Amazon fans, so if you can’t bring yourself to pick up a copy via Amazon, just email me and I can hook you up.

So I’m very happy to offer a new fantasy romance (yes, this one is solidly romance and has a HEA) complete with dragons!  There’s no need to read any of the other Blood & Shadow books to enjoy this one, though it does fill in a few holes about the king prior to Shannari’s line taking over the throne.

Never Let You Down Giveaway

NeverLetYouDown120To celebrate Virginia’s book, I’m offering winner’s choice:

  • Signed print copies of all four Connagher books to date, mailed anywhere on the planet.
  • OR digital copies of all four books, any format, and a $35 gift certificate to any online book retailer.

You have two opportunities to win!  Enter via Rafflecopter below, or join my newsletter for a second prize package (same details) to be drawn from the list of subscribers on Jan 16th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Never Let You Down Cover

Mama, aka Virginia Connagher, coming January 6 from Samhain Publishing!

NeverLetYouDown72lgA breath of a second chance can bring a slow-burning flame roaring back to life.

The Connaghers, Book 4

Virginia, Matriarch of the Texas Connaghers, has been alone twelve years since the great love of her life passed away. Tyrell loved her sadist’s heavy hand and the hard inner core she’s dared not show anyone since.

She lives in the past, clinging to all those memories except one. The one she’s determinedly blocked out of her heart and mind for nearly forty years. The one time she was almost unfaithful to her then-fiancé with her best friend, Jebadiah Garrett.

That was a long time ago. They both married and moved on. She has three adult children settling down with their own families. Besides, it was just a kiss. One kiss.

One unforgettable kiss that brought Jebadiah to his knees at her feet.

Now he’s back in town and determined to finally, once and for all, tell her how much he’s loved her all these years. Or, even better, show her by going to his knees once more. If she’ll only give him the chance.

Product Warnings

Friends to lovers, older characters with a second chance at love, and a hard-as-nails matriarch who finally succumbs to a forty-year-old unrequited love.

Mama Connagher: The End

I’ve written EVERY DAY this month… even if it was only 100-200 words.  And tonight, finally, I finished the last extra scene I wanted to add and then tied it into the ending scene of the book.

Mama C’s complete at 58,578 words.

All I have left to do now is place the last few extra scenes I wrote into the correct order, and then do another read through to make sure I’m happy with everything.  Hopefully I’ll have time tomorrow over my lunch…and praying I won’t have to work late again.  I had to babysit a job this weekend so maybe I can escape a little early tomorrow so I can finish the read through.

YAY!!!!  I’m so happy!!!

Mama Connagher Day 12

I’ve written every day this month so far, though the last few days have been smaller, around 500 each day.  However, work is super super hectic right now (plus it was Middle’s birthday this weekend so not a lot of writing time).  I’ve got a major Evil Day Job deadline I’m dealing with.  The kind of impossible deadline that’s making me cranky and wish super hard for a winning lottery ticket if you know what I mean.  So no writing over lunch this week and probably longer hours.

However, I finished one of the story-within-the-story scenes and have a good start on the next.  Then I just have one resolution/fun scene that shouldn’t be as hard to write.  I had to figure out the plot for this story, even though it’s not a “complete” story, at least enough that makes sense, so the word count has been a little meager, even though the progress overall was good.

I’ve done one read through of the first draft and it’s pretty darned solid.  I have just a few things I want to layer a bit and then I need to define the chapters and drop in the flashbacks and story-within-the-story scenes.  The timing/placement is tricky but hopefully I can wrap that up this week even though I’ll be putting in longer hours than usual for the Evil Day Job.

So… beta readers!  If you’re interested in taking a look in the next week or so, drop me a note (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com).  I’ll do a second pass this week, give it a few days while I write the synopsis, and then I’ll do a final pass with your feedback.  I’d like to have Virginia off to visit with my editor by next Monday if at all possible.

The end is in sight!

Mama Connagher Day 8

The bad news:  I was going to post this last night, but I wasn’t feeling the best and I was too busy today.

Today (yesterday) was a take care of the wrists day.  My hands kept hurting throughout the morning, so I put on my wrists splints and worked in them all day.  They helped tremendously, though it did make me slower than usual.  I also feel a weird thing going on with my stomach tonight.

I didn’t want any coffee tonight.  I know, right?  I might be dying! [I’m still off my coffee, sob!]

The good news:  I finished the main draft!  I just have 2 more story-within-the-story scenes to figure out.  Then I’ll need to drag a few scenes around in Scrivener, compile, and see what kind of mess I made.

1947 words.  Mama’s overall word count is sitting at  52,088.  By the time I add a little more on the other thread, that should be around 55K, about what I was thinking.

Snippet:  this is a shorter excerpt – I’ve got to keep *some* secrets, laugh!  It’s a flashback scene with Jeb and Virginia and such a heartbreaker – though you don’t get it all here.  Poor Jeb!

“I still remember the first time I saw you.”  He didn’t sit down, but kept hold of her arm, standing in the shadow of the wall.  “I was in the first grade and you’d just started kindergarten.  We were outside at recess the first day of school and Bobby Wagner tried to cut in front of you in the line for the tallest slide.  I was surprised you got in that line.  Most of the little kids were too scared of it because it was twice as tall as the others, but that’s the first thing you headed for.  When you pushed him back, he knocked you down.  I ran toward you but before I could help, you stood up and smacked him in the mouth.  You said, ‘You got my dress dirty.  I hate this ugly thing but it’s Mama’s favorite.  If this stain doesn’t come out, I’m going to smack you again.’  And even though Bobby was three years older than you and could have beat the crap out of me, he hightailed it out of there lickity split.”

“Mrs. Baker came over to ask what had happened.  Why Bobby’s mouth was bloody.  And you said you’d hit him because he pushed me.  Why’d you lie for me?”

“You burst into tears.  I thought it was because you were afraid of getting in trouble, so I took the blame.  Later you told me it was because you were afraid Miss Belle would think you got the dress dirty on purpose because you hated it so much.”

Virginia laughed.  “Yeah, I hated to wear dresses.  She finally gave up and let me wear whatever I wanted after that.”

“We’ve been best friends ever since.”

Her smile slipped.  She still had her arm tucked in his and it felt so natural to drop her head against his shoulder and just look up at the sky.  The city lights muted most of the stars, but she could barely make out Orion’s Belt.  “Yeah.”

“You used to tell me everything.  If you were in trouble, you came to me.  If you needed help with homework, we did it together.  When Miss Belle upset you, you called me.  If you needed a ride, an ear to listen, anything.  Yet you’re suddenly engaged and I had no idea until my sister told me in passing.”

She turned and pressed her face against his arm.  “I didn’t know how to tell you.”

“You didn’t even tell me you were dating anyone.”

He said it softly, his voice echoing with regret and pain, not recrimination, but she still winced.  “We didn’t date, exactly.  One minute I was smacking him and the next we’re engaged.”

“Yeah,” he blew out a deep breath.  “Knowing you, I can see how that would happen.”  His voice became wistful and younger, like a kid asking for a bedtime story.  “I can see you love him.  I just didn’t expect it to happen.  Not like that. I thought…”  He sighed again and leaned back against the wall.  The movement drew her with him, shifting so she almost faced him.  “What about me, Ginny?”

She pulled back to look into his face.  Illuminated by the streetlight, he gave her a stricken look as if she’d just kicked a dog for no good reason.  “What about you?”

He raked his hand through his hair, tumbling it down over his forehead and roughing it up as if he’d been out on a bender all night.  “Yeah.  What about me.  I guess that says it all.”

Mama Connagher Day 7

Tonight was harder, although the word count (3,776) looks good.  I wrapped up the last major plot point and moved into the final major sex scene.  Yeah, you know how that goes.  Plus it’s a punishment scene.  I have to get it all right.  It’s vulnerable and painful and raw in many ways, so it’s rough going.  But I refused to go to bed until I broke the 50K mark.

So I’ll finish this major scene.  Then I’ll have the closing image that mirrors the opening scene, probably a couple of hundred words.  I already know what it should be.  Then 2-3 at most story-within-the story scenes and this puppy is DONE.  Those last few story-within-the-story scenes will be a little tricky though.  I have THIS plot solid in my head, but I don’t really have the other one figured out.  It doesn’t really matter, exactly.  It’s the reflection of character that’s important, not the plot itself.  But I do need to spend a little time figuring out what makes the most sense.

Then I need to go back and add some detail that came out tonight that will make those other scenes even better.

Less than 10K for sure.  Probably more like 5K or so.  The end is definitely in sight.  It’s a good thing, too because my wrists were really giving me fits today.  I had to type quite a bit for work, so I’m starting to get tingles tonight.  Not good. I’ll have to do more stretches tomorrow and try to take it a little easier.

Hmm, what to give you for a snippet tonight?  In looking back, I guess I’ve made a pretty critical error.  You’ve not met the hero yet.  Poor Jeb.  It’s all Tyrell, Ty, boo-hoo all the time, even though he died 12 years ago.  There are things that Jeb has endured that will hopefully make you want to blubber like a baby.  He’s one of the most tender, protective men I think I’ve ever written, modeled after the great and totally sexy older Tom Selleck.  Le sigh.

Snippet:  His introduction.

Driving out to the old Connagher place took Jeb back forty years.  Once upon a time, he’d been Virginia Healy’s best friend and accomplice in all her scrapes.  When she needed someone to help her with something risky and no doubt stupid, she’d known exactly who to call.  Most everybody had expected them to get married.  Including him.  But he’d been dead wrong.

He’d managed to keep the friendship, though.  He’d even asked Tyrell Connagher to stand up for him at his own wedding years later.  Jeb and Sharon had moved to California and that should have been the end of his unrequited love affair with his best friend.  They were both married.  Happily.  At least, he tried to be happy.  Sharon wasn’t Virginia, but she was a good woman.  He cared deeply for her and he put all his effort and will into building a life with her far from Texas.

More than a decade passed before Jeb ever heard from Virginia again, when she’d called to tell him her husband had died.  Of course he’d dropped everything right away to comfort his grieving friend.  Something for which his now ex-wife had never forgiven him.

Jeb slowed his truck to a crawl.  He hadn’t seen Virginia since Ty’s funeral.  He hadn’t even called to check on her all these years.  He couldn’t because he’d been too busy trying to save his own marriage in California.  But it’d been too late.  It’d always been too late.  It’d only been his own stubbornness that made him try so hard to stay and do the right thing by his wife.

Now here he was nearly sixty years old and starting out all over again.  No wife.  No family.  A rented condo.  No job.

Well that wasn’t exactly true.  He’d owned his own veterinarian practice for years and had finally sold it in the divorce proceedings.  Now he had time to do all the things he’d put off because of work or his marriage, and the only thing he could think about was an old flame who didn’t even know she’d burned in his memory all these years.

As he neared the house, he saw her sitting on the porch in a rocking chair.  Virginia Healy Connagher, the legend herself.  The years had been kind to her.  She looked as good as she had twenty years ago and more.  Her dark, wavy hair was pulled back at her ears to fall loose and soft at her shoulders, emphasizing her high, angular cheekbones and the dark fire of her eyes.  Sure, there was a little gray sprinkled into that hair and some creases around her eyes and mouth as she smiled a pleased welcome, but she looked damned good.

He parked, but before he got out, he reached over and popped open the dash.  The small ring box was still there.  In some fashion or another, he’d carried it with him for nigh on forty years.

Calling himself a sentimental fool, he slid out of the truck and walked up toward the porch, smiling back but not saying anything.  Not yet.  What could he say?  What would she want to hear?  He planted a boot on the bottom step but just leaned against the railing, sucking in her presence.  Even injured and fresh out of a hospital bed, she made the air sharper, the colors brighter.  She was too alive herself to let anything stagnate around her.

She started to get up, struggling with the sling.  “Jebadiah Garrett, you old dog.  What brings you out here?”

He strode up the last few steps and took her hand, hopefully discouraging her from trying to stand.  “You.”

She snorted.  “You heard about a car accident all the way out in California?”

“I’m not in California any longer.”

She tipped her head back, squinting against the sun to try and read his face.  He kept that cheesy grin in place, too happy to see her to worry about looking like an idiot.  “Well, why don’t you sit down and tell me about it so I don’t break my fool neck trying to look at you.”

She was still letting him hold her hand, so he sat down right where he was on the top step.  “I sold the practice a year ago and moved back here last month.”

Her eyes narrowed.  “You did?  And you never bothered to stop by and let me know you were back in town?”

He reached up and took his hat off, giving him something to do with his free hand.  “I had some things to work out first.”

“Typical man.  Act first without taking time to socialize.  That’s a mighty fine hat, by the way.  Is it a Serratelli?”

“Sure is.”  He passed it up to her, although that meant she let go of his hand so she could turn the black fur felt hat around and examine it from all angles.  He was ridiculously proud of that hat.  It was the first thing he’d bought that was solely and wholly his.  The sterling silver band had cost a mint, too.  Back when he’d been married, Sharon would have had a fit that he’d spent over a thousand dollars on a hat.  Let alone where the money had come from.

“It’s almost too pretty to wear.  You said I’m not in California.  Not we.”

He looked out across the front yard, not really seeing the parallel lines of trees along the driveway or the white-railed fenced pastures of horses.  “No, ma’am.  Sharon and I divorced almost a year ago.”

“Oh, Jeb, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.  It’d been over for a long time but we kept going through the motions.  It was time for both of us to move on.”  He smiled but didn’t turn back to look at her.  “She’s already remarried and is quite happy from what I hear.”

“And you?”

He shrugged.  “I’m starting over.  Moving back here was the first step.”

“Are you going to start a new practice?”

“I might,” he hedged a little, turning back to see her face.  “I’ve been helping Cap Winston out here and there, although he’s already hired on a new young man to take over.”

Virginia harrumphed beneath her breath.  “Yeah, he’s been out here a few times to see the stock.  Not sure I trust someone so wet behind the ears.”

“He’s young, but he’s good.  I’ve seen him work through some pretty sticky situations.”

She nodded, a little more at ease with the new vet.  “Well, if you’re going to be helping out, then I”ll definitely call him instead of trying to find a bigger vet out of Dallas.”

The screen door banged open behind them.  Catching a glimpse of pink skirts, Jeb jumped to his feet and started backing down the stairs.  Virginia’s mother still sometimes popped into his nightmares, not the gun-wielding Marine father he’d dreamed of someday asking for his daughter’s hand.

“You’re just in time for supper, Jebadiah.”  Miss Belle flounced over to grab his hand and tug him back on the porch.  “Boys, come and help your Mama.”

He’d much rather help Virginia inside than escort Miss Belle on his arm, but evidently he didn’t have a choice.  She might be a petite eighty-year-old grandmother but she dragged him right inside as easily as if he were a toddler and not almost two-feet taller than her.  On their way out to help their Mama, her two boys paused long enough to shake Jeb’s hand.  He hadn’t seen neither of them since the funeral, both big strapping young men though they couldn’t match him for height.  Both of them were successful and well-mannered, as if Virginia and Ty would have allowed them to grow up rude or shiftless.  Ty must be beaming with pride at them both.

“So that’s why you insisted we set an extra plate.”  Virginia’s only daughter smiled at him.  “Welcome, Mr. Garrett.  If you need to wash up, come on in to the kitchen.”

Sharon hadn’t wanted kids.  At the time, he’d regretted the decision, always hungering for the chance to be a father.  But after their ugly split, he was relieved they hadn’t had children in the mix, even though they would have been adults by then.  He hadn’t expected all of Virginia’s children to be home, but knowing the family, he shouldn’t have been surprised.  Of course they’d all rally around her after the accident, even though Conn and Miss Belle lived in Missouri.

They all know me.  I’m just an old family friend.

Which was true, but as Jeb washed his hands and prepared to sit down at the Connagher table, he had a feeling he ought to be upfront with at least Virginia’s boys.

How are they going to take the idea of me courting their Mama?