What a journey this has been! Carina Press launched today with great books from Carrie Lofty, Shannon Stacey, Megan Hart, and Bonnie Dee, just to name a few. Take a look, read a few excerpts, and enjoy 20% off any title purchased.
Remember that little Civil War short story I was working on a few months ago? I’m thrilled to announce that it’ll be included in a US Civil War anthology from Drollerie Press, including stories by Laura Anne Gilman and Angela Korra’ti! Watch for it to be released end of October. Isn’t the cover lovely?
First, thank you to everyone who helped make this a great week for Dear Sir, I’m Yours! I’m stunned and honored to see Dear Sir in the #1 bestseller slot at My Bookstore & More. I hope you’re enjoying it!
Second, I have news. If you were at the Drollerie Press chat last night, you know this already. The Rose of Shanhasson is coming to PRINT this November, along with Confessions of the Creature and two others (sorry, I can’t remember them off the top of my head — some of our earlier releases). As we get closer and details are firmed, I’ll update Rose’s page. I’m so excited I can hardly sit still!
Watch the DP Bookshop for several new releases coming today or this weekend, including Needles & Bones, a fantastic looking anthology I can’t wait to get my hands on.
Lastly, the Drollerie Press blog tour will be this weekend, too. In honor of Father’s Day, Isabella Thanatos (Beautiful Death) has a few choice words to say about her father (monster! murderer! bastard!) Oops, maybe she’ll talk about Icarus instead. He’s the father she wished she had.
“White is virginal innocence, which brings out all my wickedness and debauchery. To a man like me, it’s like waving the white flag of surrender. I see you pure and innocent in white and I can think of nothing else but all the ways I might be able to get that pretty white a bit dirty.” ~ Conn
Maybe it’s just me, but if an author mentions a specific detail about a character in the story, I (as a reader) want it to mean something. I don’t want to know about their favorite color, what books they read, where they work, etc. if it has no impact on WHO this character is. So maybe it’s a foible of mine to make color so important to a story.
I’ve always assigned meaning to color. I carefully select a color theme for each story BEFORE I begin writing. I have to have a matching notebook for the story. The pattern or color end up signaling to my brain which story I’m working on.
For example, there’s a reason the blog is mostly black: it’s in honor of Johnny Cash’s Man In Black. But it also stands for the darkness I typically include, whether shadows, old hurts, or dark emotions. I’ve always been intrigued with the Dark Side.
In Dear Sir, I’m Yours, colors take on some subtle meanings. Miss Belle could never have a parasol in any color other than pink. It would violate her character. Conn would never have a Mustang in any other color than black, and as you can see from the quote above, he loves to see Rae in white.
When I filled out the questionaire for the cover, I emphasized the importance of white and black. I never mentioned that Rae’s favorite color is cherry red. We went through a couple of different design ideas, and then Scott sent this one and I almost fell out of my chair. All that glorious red. I hadn’t asked for it, but it couldn’t have been any better for the story.
After all, this story is all about Rae. Her preferences, her fears, her desires. Conn would want her to have a red cover.
When I write, every story ends up with a theme song, sometimes several. They help me set the story in my mind, and they definitely make it easier for me to switch mental gears from one story to another, especially when one is “red hot contemporary romance” and the other is “dark fantasy.” Some characters even end up with their own theme songs, or a particular song will help me write through the dark moment or climax of a story.
For Dear Sir, I’m Yours I had several theme songs on my playlist.
The first and main song is Austin by Blake Shelton. If you’re not familiar with the song, it’s about a woman who left about a year ago (without leaving her number), but decides to call her old boyfriend. She listens to this incredibly long voice message, and at the very end, he says “P.S. if this is Austin, I still love you.” She gives it a few days and calls him again, just to see if it was an old message he forgot about — because surely he couldn’t still love her, couldn’t still be waiting for her after all this time. She’d left him, with no number, certainly no promises that she’d ever come back. Sure enough, this is a new message, and at the very end, he says the same thing. I still love you.
That really really got to me. If Rae had ever picked up the phone and called Conn, whether a month or a year or several years later, he would have jumped in that Mustang and driven cross country to reach her. He still loved her that much. In Rae’s case, she’s been writing him constantly, all these years, even while married to another man. She loves him, but she can’t pick up the phone. Surely she couldn’t have loved him that much, just after one semester of poetry. Surely she hadn’t needed him that much. It had to be all in her head. But why can’t she stop writing him? Why does she still remember his office phone number; why does she still dream about calling him? (Hint: read the book to find out ha!)
Hello Darlin’ by Conway Twitty started on my playlist but then I quit needing to listen to it once Conn found his voice.
Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy by Big & Rich always gets my blood pumping to write a Connagher. (Dies, I almost typed “ride” a Connagher. Talk about a Freudian slip.)
Hell Yeah by Montgomery Gentry, another fun blood pumping country song. Yeah, I’m showing my country “hick” roots, aren’t I? Actually, this is the only book I’ve written to country music. It just fits the down-home atmosphere of Beulah Land and Conn’s Texan upbringing.
Finally, this might seem like an odd song choice, but Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood ended up on my playlist late in the game. I couldn’t figure out why. Conn certainly would never cheat on Rae or vice versa now that they were trying to “make things right”, but my gut insisted this song needed to be there. By the end (next to last chapter, I believe) you’ll see why my Muse insisted this song had to be on this playlist. Laughs. I was totally surprised by that one.
Now you’ve probably got song lyrics stuck in your head! Next up, I’ll talk about colors in Dear Sir.
Part of my character development process usually involves writing some kind of “first person” letter or snippet in the character’s voice that takes place before the story. It helps me figure out how this character talks and thinks, as well as explore some of the defining moments that shaped the character right before the story. Very early in trying to figure out who Rae was and what she needed to accomplish in the story, I stumbled across a comment on fellow Drollerie Press author, Cindy Lynn Speer’s blog. (Sorry, I can’t find it now–it was probably in 2008) It was about writing letters, and pouring out hopes and dreams into words, very melancholy and “lost love.” It made me sad, but touched me, too.
So when I started writing Rae’s character letters, I made a tiny change to my process. She specifically wrote her letter to Dr. Connagher, the hero of the story. I never intended to put those letters into the story itself — they were just to help me deepen who she was and what she feared.
However, the letters soon took on a life of their own. They were so raw, heartfelt, open and honest, very rarely politically correct or “safe.” I had to decide why Rae would write those letters to him in the first place and why she’d never mail them, even after she left. Soon those letters were defining HIS character, too, changing my perception of him as a professor and as a man. Every defining moment in her life, from that dark, erotic day in his office, to leaving campus, to her dating and eventually marrying someone else, only to suffer through an unhappy marriage and divorce…the letters eventually led her back to Conn.
Once I realized how important they were, I had to make the letters play a definite part in the story. I mean, why include the letters, even as “glimpses” into her past, if they weren’t absolutely crucial to the story and how Conn and Rae would “make things right?” So the letters went on to affect the plot itself. In the dark moment, the only thing Conn has left: her letters that she wrote him.
Five years of letters. Five years of heartache, anger, grief, need, and yes, love.
So here’s a little “Story Behind the Story” post.
It all started with a photograph of Clive Owen. My friend and accountability partner, Jenna, sent me a picture. She was using it as inspiration for a short story she was working on, and she thought I might like it too. Her story was for a spanking-themed anthology and she said something like, “My heroine hasn’t ever been into spanking, but she looks at him and says, if he asked, why not.”
I took one look at him and recognized him. Clive Owen didn’t look back at me. It was Conn.
I’d started a draft back in 2004 with an English professor named Dr. Connagher, but I’d never finished it and had no plans to do so, until I saw that picture. My entire perception of Conn changed forever. Because my friend had dropped that little comment about spanking, it was attached to him and his picture, and I couldn’t shake it. What kind of professor would he be, then? What kind of heroine did he need?
The rest is history.
So when I personally think of Conn, this is who I see.
I’m looking for reviewers for The Road to Shanhasson. It’s proving slightly more difficult than usual because this is book two of a trilogy, and Road will ONLY make sense if you’ve read Rose too. I can’t send it blindly to the normal romance review sites if I can’t guarantee the same reviewer will be assigned. And, well, Road isn’t exactly standard Romancelandia fare, with violence, extreme sexual situations, and some really really bad villains.
Then there’s Gregar, the sadomasochist assassin.
So if you have a blog or website, you’d like to read some smoking hot romantic fantasy, and you’re not grossed out by violence and blood, please drop me a line or comment here and I will contact you.
A few of you have already read Road, so if you’re so kind as to blog about it, let me know so I can link to you. (Let me know if it’s okay for me to pull an excerpt from your post to advertise both here and at Drollerie Press.)
The first two chapters of Road are now posted if you’d like to take a gander first.
I love a challenge.
At one of the first Drollerie Press chats, Deena challenged me to write a zombie romance. I mean, how could anyone pull off someone falling in love with a dead creature that hungers for brains? Ewwww, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t look away from the horrific thing revealing itself in my mind.
Broken Angel does involve zombies, and does involve a love story. I’d even say it has a happy ever after (waaaaaay ever after!) — but I wouldn’t call it “romance.” It’s quite gruesome. So in that respect, I may have failed the challenge. Angelina’s story wouldn’t let me go, though, until I discovered why she was haunted by this horrible dream. It’s a short story, so I can’t share much of an excerpt without giving the whole thing away, but here’s the opening section for your enjoyment.
The full story is available in the Bump in the Night anthology.
Standing on a bridge curtained with willows and blooming vines, I saw her in the crystal water flowing beneath the stone arch. At first, she looked perfect: lovely porcelain face, large sparkling eyes, and flowing silken ribbons of gold framing her angelic features. Beautiful, she rose from the gurgling stream, floated up to the bridge like dandelion fluff. She smiled with that Cupid’s bow mouth and walked toward me, stiff and jerky like a mindless robot.
Dread rolled through me, a drowning darkness of cold waters. I couldn’t breathe. My head pounded, my heart struggled to beat. Ice encased my hands, my feet, inching up my arms and legs. I wanted to run before she came any closer, but I was frozen immobile.
Dead leaves rained down; brittle flowers crumpled to dust; ice covered me. My face was stiff and cold, my eyes wide open and staring. Just like that horrible, perfect doll marching toward me with grim joviality.
From the other dreams, I knew there was something horrible about her face, something so terrifying that I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want to remember. I didn’t want to look.
Peaches and cream complexion, once smooth and symmetrical, now drooped. The eye on the right sat lower on her face, her mouth tugging down into a grimace. A dark slash cut across her forehead, another down her cheek. She stumbled forward, clutching a heavy gold watch, links of chain woven between her wooden fingers. I stared, frozen like a dumb animal, as that face broke open. Porcelain cracked away to reveal…
Screaming, I jerked awake. I clawed at the blankets, flailing toward the edge of our king-sized bed.
My husband reached for me, mumbling, “What’s wrong?”
Relieved, I sank back onto the pillows and rolled into his embrace. Even woken from sleep, his voice echoed with command. He was a man used to leadership, wealthy enough to purchase the best doctors and provide exclusive, expensive care for me. He loved me. I remembered that much.
A wave of nausea flooded my stomach, burning up my throat. I really didn’t want to see any more doctors. Perhaps one—the one who … My head hurt. Yes, he’d taken care of my head. After the accident. The bridge. Pain exploded. Why couldn’t I remember his face? His name? He saved me. Images fluttered through my mind like loose papers, blowing leaves, gone in an instant.
Pillowing my face on Robert’s chest, I tried to calm my thoughts. “I was dreaming. Oh, it was horrible. That doll, her broken face …”
Shuddering, I couldn’t tell him the worst of the nightmare. She was me. I was her. What does that mean?
“That same old nightmare again? Go back to sleep, dear.”
His dismissive attitude stung. Rather, it would have hurt if I could feel anything. I was suddenly aware that I was fully awake, yet I was still numb to my surroundings. His bare chest was beneath my cheek, but I felt no heat from him. I smelled nothing from his skin. Hadn’t he always smelled of cologne, even at night? His chest hairs should tickle, yet I felt nothing but the rise and fall of his chest. Panic gnawed in the pit of my stomach, twisting me into knots.
He made a sound of pain and took my hand in his, lifting my fingers away from his skin where I’d gouged my nails into him. “That hurts, Angelina. What’s wrong?”
I couldn’t speak for the dread choking me. I was still the doll, but I was awake. He rolled up onto his forearm and smiled down at me. Didn’t terror flash in my eyes, dark with the screams of nightmares? Or was it the blank stare of the doll? Which was worse?
He kissed me, murmuring against my mouth. I felt the pressure of his lips, but not the heat or wetness, nor the scratch of his mustache. I clutched him harder, pushing him over onto his back and climbing onto him. Nothing. No heat, no sweaty glide of flesh on flesh. Yet he threw his head back and groaned deep in his throat, his hips arching up beneath me.
He was inside me, and I couldn’t feel it. His hands gripped my hips, pulling me into a rocking rhythm that my body knew but didn’t feel. No stirring fire burned in me. Nothing but this spreading blackness of fear. I plunged harder, faster, desperation driving me to feel something, anything. He drew me down and whispered, “Are you ready? I’m coming, oh, my love …”
Nothing. I couldn’t even cry. He shuddered and made a masculine purr of satisfaction as he rolled to his side and tucked me down beside him. “I like these nightmares of yours.”
I lay there, silent, frozen, strangled with betrayal. How could he be so blind, so oblivious? Didn’t he see? Couldn’t he feel the coldness in my unresponsive body?
The reality was worse than the doll’s nightmare.