Mrs Giggles Reviews Dear Sir, I’m Yours

I’m thrilled to death with a score of 84!  Mrs. Giggles says:

The most memorable parts of this story are the letters to Conn that Rae had written but never sent to Conn. These notes are a beautiful showcase of Ms Burkhart’s way with words – elegant, heartbreaking, without being too overwrought or melodramatic – as well as a fascinating doorway into Rae’s head. These letters present a clear and often haunting story of Rae’s in the last five years, and through these letters, I get to feel as if Rae is real indeed to me.

You can read the entire review here.  Thank you, Mrs. G!

News & Thanks

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.

Dear Sir, I’m Yours: Behind the Scenes with Color

“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.

Dear Sir, I’m Yours Review

The first review is in!  Soleil says:

Seriously, if there is a cover art fairy, she’s hoarding it. Or maybe just blessed by it. Hell, if I were a cover art fairy I’d hang around Joely too, she writes some of the most emotionally gut-wrenching stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Dear Sir, I’m Yours is a red hot contemporary romance with depth and some wickedly awesome characters. Passionate does not even begin to describe it. You might want to have a fan near by for this one, or schedule in a cold shower afterwards.

You can read the whole review here

*hoards cover art fairy*

Thanks to Scott for an incredible cover, and thank you to Soleil for a terrific review!

Dear Sir, I’m Yours: Behind the Story

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.

Dear Sir, I’m Yours: Behind the Story

If you’ve read the excerpt or the free read prequel, then you know that “letters” play a huge part in Dear Sir, I’m Yours.  Where did that idea come from, you ask?

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.

Dear Sir, I’m Yours Releases

Today’s the big day!  Dear Sir, I’m Yours is available at Samhain Publishing here!

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. 

Dr. Connagher

Letters Snippet – The Final Final Exam

 This is the final snippet of the Dear Sir, I’m Yours prequel (set five years prior) that I’ll post here on the blog.  

 

The Final Final Exam

Rae stood in Dr. Connagher’s office, her right arm still hot from where his hand had been.  That hint of force had made her tremble again.  Her knees felt watery and her heart pounded so hard that she barely heard him shut the door behind them.

However, the snick of the lock sliding into place nearly made her jump to the ceiling and hang there like a yowling cat straight out of cartoons.

Breathlessly, she waited for him to make his move.  If he picked her up and tossed her on top of his desk, it’d be worth a spanking.

But he didn’t touch her.  Instead, he set his satchel on top of that glossy cherry desk she’d fantasized about all these months and added another stack of blue books into the bag.  “Damn.  I’m going to be grading for days.  How does a week sound to you?”

Her voice cracked.  “A week?”

“Let me finish grading for the semester, and by next Friday, it ought to be safe for us to date more formally.”  He sat in his chair and casually leaned back, his hands behind his head, but he didn’t fool her.  His eyes blazed and his arms were corded tight as though he were holding himself back instead of her for a change.  “If you still care to see me, that is.”

The blinds behind his desk were drawn, letting only slender slants of light cut across his face, leaving canyons and hollows she longed to explore.  Now, at last, she wasn’t his student.  He wasn’t her professor.  They were going to date.  However, despite his earlier threat, he seemed in no hurry to even touch her. 

A week my ass, she snarled.  Two can play his little games.

Lifting her chin, she glided over to the desk and trailed her fingers across its glossy surface as she slowly invaded his space.  On his side of the desk, she hopped up on top and sat before him, hissing a little at the cool surface beneath her nearly bare bottom.  “You know I do.”

Gravely, he merely watched her, his face lined and dark, his mouth a firm slash. 

She couldn’t tell if he was displeased or thrilled at her bravado.  “I’ve had a lot of fantasies about this desk.”

“Like what, darlin’?”

“Oh, nothing.”  She ducked her head a little so she could peep up at him through her lashes.  Deliberately, she licked her lips.  His forehead creased even more and his eyes locked on her mouth.  “Nothing I can admit to you.”

The chair creaked as he leaned forward.  He planted his palms on either side of her hips and fogged up the wood with the heat of his palms, but he still didn’t touch her.  “You will if I tell you to.”

Her heart was beating double time now, that familiar anticipation and the beginning of dread curling through her.  Yes, yes, this was Conn, not Dr. Connagher.  The mask was slipping enough that he scared her, but she loved it.  I love him.

If she pushed him hard enough, maybe he’d yank that mask clean away and take her right now on top of this big desk like she’d dreamed.  “Will I?”

Heavy lidded and dark, his eyes narrowed.  “I’m not in the mood for games, Rae.”

“That’s good,” she whispered, snuggling close enough to brush her mouth against his.  “What sort of mood are you in, then?” 

He made a low ragged sound and snagged her bottom lip in his teeth, gripping hard enough she cried out.  The sharp sting sent a wicked curl of heat through her.  Shuddering, she opened her mouth more, silently begging for his tongue, but he released her immediately.  Undeterred, she slid her palm into the neck of his shirt, relishing the velvet heat of his neck, the crisp hair barely peeking out of the top of his shirt.  She even managed to get one button undone before he shackled her wrists and pulled her hands away. 

“Rae, darlin’, I can’t take your hands on me right now.  It’s been one damned long semester, all this flirting and promising and teasing.  I thought it’d be fun to give you a hot little spanking, but I’m too raw and ragged to pull it off without scaring the hell out of you.  If I touch you right now, we’ll have the dean breaking that door down and hauling me off to prison because I’ll kill anyone who tries to keep me from you.”

“Aw, poor Dr. Connagher.  Have I been a very bad student?”

“Very,” he retorted, squeezing her wrists harder.  “Don’t push my buttons, Rae.  Not today.  You won’t like what you unleash.  Give me a week–”

“No.” 

His eyes flared wide and his mouth fell open with shock.

She couldn’t help it–she laughed out loud.  In fact, she felt downright giddy.  After all these months, she’d finally managed to knock him off balance.  As his student, she hadn’t dared antagonize him.  Now…that will be half the fun.  “Do you really think I slaved all semester in your class only to let you put me off again?”

Lazily, he dragged her wrists behind her, pinning them in the small of her back just as she’d imagined.  She couldn’t help but fight and twist, testing him, ensuring he really could hold her. 

I’m trapped, she realized, and at the same time, she felt a surge of wet heat between her legs.  And more turned on than ever.

“Do you really think you can get away with telling me no, Rae?”

“No,” she purred, wriggling to the very edge of his desk to hug her thighs around him.  “Make me yours, Conn.”

“You don’t have any idea what you’re asking.”

“I don’t care.  I’ll do anything you want, just don’t make me wait another week.”

A growl trickled out of his lips.  Before she could even yelp, he jerked and flipped her around so that she was on her stomach in front of him on top of his desk.  He leaned in, pressing his chest against her buttocks to make sure she stayed put.  Her arms ached, her wrists still clamped in his hand behind her.  “Anything I want, Rae?  Are you sure about that?”

Gasping, she tried to catch her breath, but the edge of the desk dug into her abdomen.  When she didn’t answer quickly enough, he pushed her wrists up incrementally, making her shoulders scream with pressure.  “No!”

“No, you’re not sure?”  He released her wrists but kept his chest pressed against her, bracing his arms on either side of her on top of the desk, making his body a cage.  “Or no to anything I want?  Or maybe now you’ll ask me nicely to let you go home to change this skirt.”

“No.”  She brought her hands up beneath her, ready to scramble out from beneath him even if that meant crawling across his desk.  “I won’t go home, Dr. Connagher.  Not to change.  Not for a week.  Sir.”

Wanna find out how Rae does on this final exam?  Download the rest of the story here (pdf) including one final letter and an “extra credit” poem.  If you enjoyed this free read, I hope you’ll check out Dear Sir, I’m Yours when it releases on June 16th to find out how Conn and Rae can possibly set about “Making it Right.”

Letters Snippet

 This is another snippet of a Dear Sir, I’m Yours prequel (set five years prior). I’ll be writing out several scenes over the next few weeks, alternating with more letters, and when the whole thing is done, I’ll package it all together as a pdf on the Free Reads page. For now, I’m calling this prequel “Letters” since I haven’t come up with another title. I’ll accumulate the links here in reverse chronological order if you need to catch up!

Letter Four
Snippet Four – Promises, Promises
Letter Three
Snippet Three – Office Interrogation
Snippet Two – The First Day of Class
Letter Two
Snippet One – Love at First Voice
Letter One

Snippet Five – The Final Exam 

Miss Rae Jackson sauntered into Conn’s classroom one last time, wearing that slip of a skirt that bared every inch of her incredible legs to what had to be just below her ass.  The top she’d paired with it wasn’t much better:  a heart-stopping red fitted tank that hugged her body and lifted her breasts like an offering for him.  Everything fit well–it wasn’t too tight, slutty, or slinky–and it was certainly blazing hot outside.  It might be only June, but summer had come early with ninety-degree heat and miserable humidity.

A quick glance confirmed that the other students wore similar clothes.  Hell, one student even wore a bikini top which made Rae look overdressed.  The other student’s tanned skin already gleamed with oil, making it very clear that as soon as she turned in his final, she was headed to the lake.  However, none of them sent a fist of lust tearing through his stomach like Rae.

She took her seat, crossed her legs demurely at the ankle, and flickered a quick look up at him to judge his reaction.  She’d worn her hair loose too, another temptation with all that bare skin.  And that damned skirt.  She knew very well what it did to him.  What he’d promised. 

While his students wrote their final letters into their composition books and turned them in to him at the front of the room, he forced himself to read their papers instead of tormenting himself about what she might have on beneath that skirt.  He would not think about it.

Damn it, I have more control than this!

An hour crept by until she was the last student remaining.  He watched her flip back through what she’d written, absently gnawing on her lip.  I’m going to have that lip in my teeth before she leaves this room.

When Dean Strobel stuck her head in, he very nearly cursed out loud.  Rae scribbled a few more lines and then quickly brought him her final.  The dean didn’t even let him get a finger on it–she took it directly from Rae’s hand. 

“And her paper,” Dean Strobel demanded.  She eyed the impressive stack of pages in Rae’s essay and gave her a considering look.  “I’ll have my decision by the end of the day, Dr. Connagher, and then you can read and grade everything to see if we agree.  I must admit, young lady, that you surprised me, and him, I dare say.  I saw you at the lecture a few months ago, so quote me something from Burns, and it’d better be something other than ‘A Red, Red Rose.’

Rae paled, shooting him an imploring look of panic.  Neither of them had expected the dean to interrogate her in person.  He tried to think of a way to help her, even opened his mouth to start a quote for her, but Dean Strobel silenced him with a fierce look.

Staring at his mouth, though, Rae must have suddenly remembered a Burns poem, although Conn couldn’t say that he cared for her choice.  At all.

“’Ae fond kiss, and then we sever!/ Ae farewell, alas for ever!/  Deep in heart-wrung tears I’ll pledge thee/’.  She hesitated, a hint of color darkening her cheeks, but she finished the phrase, granted in a slightly ragged voice.  ’Warring sighs and groans I’ll wage thee!’

Conn let his pride glow in his eyes, and hopefully a hint of the warring sighs and groans he was going to give her as soon as they were able to slip away.

The dean smiled widely, slapped Conn on the arm with the bundled pages, and headed toward the door.  “I can’t wait to read her final essay.  Excellent work, you two.”

He waited until the dean was surely well on her way to her office, and then he leaned in close to Rae.  Her eyes locked on his mouth, her teeth flashing against her lip again, and it was all he could do not to haul her beneath him here and now. 

His control felt ragged and frayed, like a rope which she’d been sawing away at day by day.  They weren’t safe yet, far from it.  He certainly couldn’t kiss her here where anyone could walk by.  Until final grades were posted for the class, he’d continue to be under the dean’s scrutiny.

Grimly, he turned away and began shoving all the blue books and essays into his satchel.  He had to have a taste of her, soon, before he lost his mind entirely.  “Do you remember what I said I was going to do if you wore that skirt again, Miss Jackson?”

Wide eyed, she nodded, her breathing loud in the empty room.

He cupped her elbow in his hand to get her moving quicker.

“Are you…were you…serious?”

“Hell yeah, darlin’.”  He squeezed her arm, watching her eyes darken, her lips part on a soft little sound that sent his blood pumping.  “That’s one thing you should know about me already,” he growled out against her ear.  “I always keep my promises.  Now I expect you to report to my office immediately for the real final exam.”

 

Letters Snippet

Alrighty, then, with May’s and Soleil’s mad reading skillz, I was able to spank out (haha) the revised draft of the “final exam.”  Here’s the plan:  I’ll post a letter today, the “real” final exam tomorrow, and then on Friday, the “final” final exam begins in his office.  It ends on a humdinger, but that’s not the whole story.  If you want the rest, I’ll post a complete pdf on the Free Reads page that finishes the final final exam, a final letter from Rae, and her “extra credit” poem. It all sets the stage for the five year break and will hopefully leave you chomping at the bit to see how they can possibly go about “Making it Right” in Dear Sir, I’m Yours.

Snippet Four – Promises, Promises
Letter Three
Snippet Three – Office Interrogation
Snippet Two – The First Day of Class
Letter Two
Snippet One – Love at First Voice
Letter One

Letter Four: the day of the final exam

Dear Dr. Connagher:

 

We made it. 

 

In less than an hour, I’ll be sitting down for your final exam.  I just finished printing out the last page of my essay detailing how I’ll personally use poetry in the future, not just at college but my whole life.  Do you know how many versions I had to go through to get something clean enough for the dean to read?  Because I want long hours in bed with you, listening to you quote poetry in that rough, ragged voice against my ear. 

 

Now all I have to do for the actual final is write a letter to you in the blue book about my favorite poem and make suggestions for next year’s class.  For extra credit (ha), we can submit an original poem of our own.  Even if I’m not quite brave enough for that, you’ve accomplished the impossible, Dr. Connagher.  You took a student who knew absolutely nothing about poetry and made me love the rhythm, images, and feelings so wonderfully disguised in a few simple lines, and no, I’m not saying this because of the future I hope to have with you.  I’ll always remember this class and your passion for poetry.

 

You’re a phenomenal teacher.

 

I love you, Dr. Connagher.  I know that sounds strange since we’ve not had a single “official” date, but it’s true.  You did your worst to me as a professor, and as your student, I survived.  I think I even excelled, at least far beyond my personal expectations.  But as soon as I turn in your final exam, it’s time for you to leave. 

 

I want you to remove that professor mask and show me the real Conn underneath.

 

However, you made me swear to always tell you the truth, no matter how awful or pissed off I thought you’d be.  So here’s the truth, Conn.

 

You bruised me that night in the lecture hall.  I wore your fingerprints in my thigh for days.  Every time I looked at those bruises, I shivered with the memory.  I wanted you there with me so you could do it again, and maybe this time, you’d kiss me.  Maybe you’d pin me flat on top of your desk and have your wicked way with me.

 

When the bruises faded, my first thought was to do something bratty just so you’d have to do it again.  Without those marks, I felt empty and lost, as though I didn’t belong to you anymore.

 

That’s what scares me.  You said you’d give me just a taste of the real you.  Are you going to hurt me so badly I’ll have bruises all the time?  Will I want those bruises, cry when they fade away, and then beg you to give me more? 

 

When you pulled off your Dr. Connagher mask, you also pulled off mine, and I have to admit that I don’t know the Rae underneath.  She’s weak in the knees for you, Conn, vulnerable, scared to death, and so in love with you that she’ll do anything to be with you.  I think she’d let you do anything, Conn.  Anything at all.

 

You gave me fair warning, so I guess I should do the same, although I know you won’t ever read this. 

 

I’m wearing that white mini-skirt to your final. 

 

Dangerous, I know, but when I wear that skirt, I feel powerful.  I see the darkness in your eyes.  I know I’m flirting with danger, and I just can’t help myself.  But I also need to know the truth, Conn.  I need to know how far you’ll go when you’re not Dr. Connagher, and how far I’ll let you go when I’m not Miss Jackson. 

 

Are you going to hurt me again?  Will I let you hurt me again?  How can I protect myself against you when I love you so much?

 

I can’t.  

 

Because what I’m really afraid of is that I might need you to hurt me. 

 

Yours,

 

~ Rae