This weekend (April 5-8) I’ll be at The Forbidden Bookshelf spilling everything I can about the Blood & Shadows series, specifically The Shanhasson trilogy. There will be excerpts and lots of background/behind the scenes information about the characters and world, plus a giveaway! Details here.
Ahhhhh, look at his hair! And of course, the blood.
I am Shadow. I am Death.
Oh, there is soooo very much to be thankful for this year. I’m thankful for my family and friends, my Evil Day Job (which really isn’t that evil), three releases in 2011, an RT nomination, just to name a few. But one thing I’m very very grateful for…. is finding Silviya, the artist I commissioned to create new covers for the Shanhasson books.
Because let me tell you, she outdid herself.
You know how hard and long I searched for Gregar. I never could find the right man, the right look. Well, Silviya was able to take the stock photo I found that was close, almost him… and breathe life into the wicked assassin I’d hoped to see.
Wait until you see him in all his glory!
But you know me, I have to torture you just a little. So this week I’m going to release hints of the final cover, one cropped bit each day. You won’t see the whole cover until Thanksgiving Day. Until then, feast your eyes on this…and dream of Blood and Shadows, which I hope to re-release in December after I finish NaNoWriMo.
I haven’t talked about The Shanhasson series in the past year or more. I kept thinking, “Oh, I’ve talked about it so much already–I don’t want to bore people.” But then I realized that I lost years of posts when I left yahell hosting, and so if you’re a newish blog reader in the past year or so, you might not have any idea how it all began.
The first dream.
I’ve always tinkered with writing. I was writing Walter Farley The Black Stallion and Gone with the Wind fanfiction way back in elementary and high school. I have enough credits for a minor in English, and one of my all-time favorite classes really was a Romantic Period class on Byron, Shelley, Blake and crew (alas, Conn was NOT my teacher). But in all those years of writing both for school and pleasure, it was a hobby.
I never took it seriously, until my beloved sister called me in the fall of 2003 because she’d finished her first book. Other than fanfic stuff I’d finished as a kid, I couldn’t say I’d ever finished anything. Certainly nothing that was entirely MY OWN. She even sweetened the pot by saying she’d only let me read HER story if I let her read MINE.
The story I had the most finished was then called My Beloved Barbarian. It was a kind of mishmash of all my favorite elements of both fantasy and romance. A little bit of Johanna Lindsey, Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, not to mention all the Scottish and Regency romances I’d read in my 20s and early 30s. I adored both fantasy and romance, but it’s hard to please me as a reader with “romantic fantasy” because it’s usually not romancy enough. Fantasy Romance is usually too lite on the fantasy for my tastes.
So I set out to write what I couldn’t find at the time. Steamy, highly romantic yet very epic fantasy.
With my sister’s encouragement, I finished the first draft of My Beloved Barbarian around October of 2003 and went on to write its sequel, then titled Khul’s Beloved by Christmas. YES — a huge amount to accomplish in just a matter of months. MBB clocked in well over 500 pages and the first draft of the second book was almost as long.
Remember, these were the first books I’d ever finished. e.g. I didn’t know ANYTHING. My POV was all sorts of messed up. My heroine had significant problems, speaking too modern–while my heroes spoke too stiffly and formally.
But it was a start. The beginning of the dream.
Yes, there were dark patches. Like the first time I entered an RWA contest. Yowsa, did I learn a LOT! I rewrote the books entirely from scratch and tried again in 2004 with contests. MBB even finaled in a few that time and I got some nice agent requests but no bites.
Then I hit another bad patch in 2005. I was learning all this new stuff about plotting and characterization — basically figuring out all the things I’d messed up and feeling overwhelmed that I’d never get it right again. I doubted that I’d ever finish a book with the same kind of overwhelming love and excitement. I was too hung up on the rules and I’d lost the love.
I started to fear I’d never finish a book again. In fact, I didn’t finish a single book in 2005.
But Beautiful Death helped break that vicious cycle, and in 2006, I decided I was going to rip MBB apart and rewrite it yet again. I murdered my heroine and recreated her. But as I threw out those hundreds of pages to start over for the third time, I realized I’d done quite a few things right. It was my job in this third and final draft to highlight those things I’d done right and fix the things that were wrong.
It might sound depressing to think about throwing out yet another draft and starting from scratch (by now, I’d written over 1000 pages in this series only to throw them out), but it proved my love for these characters. Turning MBB into The Rose of Shanhasson was like coming home and finding it more wonderful than even I remembered. Surely I didn’t really love this story that much (wrong!). Surely it wouldn’t make me cry AGAIN. (I was mistaken.) Surely it wouldn’t keep me up until all hours of the night when I already knew exactly what happened (ditto, again).
After years of learning and writing other things, my voice in this world was firm. I’d learned to write with authority because I believed. The dream lived in me and I refused, absolutely REFUSED, to give up on it again. Rhaekhar and Shannari lived and breathed on the page, and Gregar…well. Let’s just say that Gregar whispered in my ear. “It’s about time you came home to us.”
The biggest plus to working so hard and rewriting so many times: years had gone by and I found the courage to do things that never occurred to me when I first started. I’d grown so much. I wasn’t afraid to make the difficult choices, to really put my characters through the Three Hells and bring them back again.
It was a long road, and so “Faith of the Heart,” the original theme song for Enterprise, became the major theme song of this series. Along with Kiss from a Rose by Seal and Everything I Do (I Do It For You) by Bryan Adams. Those songs instantly put me in the Shanhasson world. I can’t hear them on the radio without thinking of Gregar, and usually, I burst into tears.
I’m not kidding.
So the dream that began in 2003, continued with the publication of The Rose of Shanhasson in 2007 and The Road to Shanhasson in 2008, will be complete with the release of Return to Shanhasson. The story began in Dalden Bay and that’s where it ends. It began with a barbarian declaring his love was unshakeable, and ends with him proving that he was right. This is not “romance” in the true sense of the word (WARNING: major characters do die – but they are never gone) but if your heart isn’t singing and crying at the end, overwhelmed with the love of these characters, then I should become a sports mystery writer like my husband wanted. *wry laugh*
It’s been a long road fraught with tears and heartache and doubt, but through it all, the Lady’s Moon shines down with love from above. Love, the greatest gift of all, and the greatest sacrifice.
Susi from The Geeky Bookworm says:
The Road to Shanhasson is a wonderful Fantasy Romance which does everything right. I loved the story, the characters and the wonderful narration. This book broke my heart and put the pieces back together and left me with a warm feeling deep inside. I can’t say often enough how wonderful Joely’s books are and again I’m sitting here craving more. Highly recommended to all romance readers.
The Road to Shanhasson is a wonderful and unique Fantasy Romance with wicked warriors, a heartbreaking lovestory and an engaging plot.
Read the whole review here. Thank you so much, Susi! Plans for the print release of Road are in the works now, and Return to Shanhasson (the final book in Shannari’s trilogy) will release in electronic format this fall!
This book pushes the limits to new levels, in terms of passion, strength and pure lust. The scenes between the three main characters are so explicitly hot and erotic I expected my e-reader to melt. Ms. Burkhart creates her world so skillfully, the people and places become real to the reader, and the emotions are deep and, at times quite gut-wrenchingly real. There were many places in the story where I cried along with Shannari, at her depth of loss and her heights of joy and passion.
A great review from Sherri, who writes:
I lived a lifetime between these pages! Laughing. Crying. Loving. Dying. I laughed at Rhaekhar’s wicked sense of humor (at the inn) when Shannari’s father meets her Blood (personal guard) — he seriously channelled Gregar! I cried as my heart broke along with Shannari’s. I squirmed in delight when Rhaekhar, Shannari, and Gregar’s love culminated into the menage a trois hinted at in book one. And don’t worry if that’s not your usual thing because Burkhart does it tastefully without losing the sizzle. There was some roughness between Gregar and Shannari though I didn’t feel it was abusive within the scope of their relationship.
These characters — these people — are as real to me as my husband or best friend. Their world as real as the one outside my door. But Burkhart doesn’t stop there. She blends in a life and death struggle that fits perfectly within the world she breathed life into.
Read the entire review here. Thank you so much, Sherri!
The Road to Shanhasson is up for best book of the week at Long and Short Reviews here. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, please go vote!