Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Atmosphere in a book means a great deal to me. Atmosphere sets the stage and, occasionally, even helps to bring characters together. Atmosphere is a combination of weather, locale, and the prevalent emotions of the featured characters as they view their environment.
For example, at the beginning of A Scotsman in Love, Margaret Dalrousie is walking through the grounds of a Highland estate known as Glengarrow. She's thinking of ghosts, because the house seems so unoccupied and empty, which it has been for the past three years. Throughout the book, whenever she has an occasion to think of it Glengarrow, or even be inside it, the atmosphere of the house remains the same. She always wonders if the experiences of people still reside within the walls of this particular home. In a way, she questions whether or not there is such a thing as ghosts.
On my last visit to Scotland, I found myself absolutely enthralled with the ruins of this one castle, particularly what had been the great Hall. I was amazed at the similarity of the structure to one I’d written about in a previous book, and as I stood there, and began to twirl slowly in the circle, I was able to envision this place as it had been so many years ago.
The tour guide, a young man with a bright smile and the most delightful Scottish accent, asked me if I was a sensitive. Was I able to pick up the vibrations of those who have gone before? I confessed that I wasn't even sure I believed in such things. I was just a writer with a good imagination.
Some atmospheres, some settings are stronger to me than others. For example, I love Edinburgh, more so than Inverness. To me, Edinburgh has more of a flavor of Scotland, more of the history. But Inverness is no less important. Or more beautiful, for that matter.
When I was a teenager, my family lived in Paris. Every day on the bus, we passed this abandoned house on the outskirts of the Bois de Bologne. Four stories tall, nearly overgrown by weeds, and blanketed by tree branches, it seemed to have a story of its own. Someone told me that it had once been occupied by Alexander Dumas, the writer of the Three Musketeers. I don't know if that story is true, I only know that the house itself captured my imagination.
To this day, whenever I think of those years in Paris, I think of that one house. It's an anchor for my memory. I can almost see it come alive every night when no one was looking, hosting all of the various people, famous and otherwise, it had once known.
Atmosphere is just as important to me as a reader. I want to feel transported to a place, hopefully to a place with which I'm not already familiar. I want to be entertained, yet at the same time I want to be informed. Is there something special about that one particular place? Why did the author choose it?
In my opinion, atmosphere doesn't have to be Gothic or sinister, lonely or depressing. Atmosphere can be the excitement of a city, like San Antonio at Fiesta season, which we’re currently experiencing. Or Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
I hope you like the atmosphere of Glengarrow in A Scotsman in Love, and feel transported to this place in the Highlands locked by the ice and snows of winter. There's something special about the house, however, and what happens inside it.
Web site: www.karenranney.com
Warm Fuzzies! Blog: http://karenranney.wordpress.com
Make sure and leave Karen a comment relating to the excerpt of Chapter One below for a chance to win a copy of A Scotsman In Love, a travel mug and a signed bookplate. (Drawing winner gets a copy of A Scotsman in Love (May, 2009) and a travel mug. Both will be drop-shipped, with an autographed bookplate to follow in the mail. Book will ship approximately April 29, and mug will ship a day or two after the winner is announced.)
A Scotsman in Love
Every morning and afternoon, Margaret Dalrousie walked the grounds of Glengarrow, daring the ghosts to accost her.
Over the last few months, it had become a game of sorts. She was determined to persevere despite her feeling the house disliked her. Or perhaps anyone disturbing Glengarrow’s eerie serenity would have felt the same.
This morning, dead leaves in shades of persimmon and ochre clustered in bunches in front of the gates. A gust of wind suddenly tossed the leaves into the air, and as they tumbled across the brittle grass, they made a sound like slippered feet on a wooden floor.
No one had danced at Glengarrow for years.
Between the front parlor windows was a space where the yellow silk curtains didn’t meet, revealing furniture draped in pale linen shrouds. Janet kept the dust in abeyance and her husband, Tom, armed himself with the task of ensuring that all was well in the Earl of Linnet’s ancestral home. To that end, he did as much as he could with no funds. The roof leak was patched; the rotting windowsill in a third floor maid’s room was removed and replaced. Six months ago, a squirrel had ventured into the south wing and created a nest in the fireplace; a generation of birds had raised their young in the ornate carved cornice above the blue velvet curtains of the ballroom.
At least – as Tom said – the birds and squirrels brought life and sound to the house, banishing the eternal silence.
The villagers said Glengarrow was haunted, that it had been for years, ever since the Earl of Linnet left for a trip to the Continent with his family. But if ghosts lived there, they roused only to guard the sprawling old house. They showed themselves to mortals with a flick of a curtain, a glimpse of moonlight reflected in a window, or a soughing sound as the wind careened through the trees.
If she believed in such things.
The house was deceptively small from the front. Two long wings stretched to the back from either side, and in the rear of the house was a large courtyard, its ornamental urns now draped in burlap, the yews and rosebushes likewise protected against winter.
Margaret slid her gloved hands into the slits of her cape and stared up at the
front of the house through the rusted iron fence. Window frames of faded white contrasted vividly against brick the color of dried blood. Broad gray steps led to a wide front door badly in need of painting. No doubt the pitted brass fixtures had once gleamed brightly.
Glengarrow seemed to know it wasn’t at its best and consequently, wasn’t the least welcoming. Four rows of windows reflected a pewter-colored sky and a long, straight lane framed by gray, skeletal trees. The old house was perched on the top of a rise, its back to an outcropping of Ben Mosub. Almost a stubborn house. Or Scot. Glengarrow was definitely Scot.
The wind pushed against her, and she wrapped her cape tighter. Despite the fact the bare branches of the trees were coated with ice, and snow was hinted at in the gray sky, the weather was still temperate compared to what she’d experienced in the last three years.
She shook her head. Now was not the time to think of Russia. Instead, she began to walk once more, taking the path to the gates of Glengarrow as she did every morning and every evening. Her walks were meant to take time away from her thoughts, not allow them to overwhelm her.
“Commune with nature, Miss Dalrousie,” the physician had said. “Allow God in His mercy to show you what a wondrous world this truly is. Find a place rife with beauty and let it sink into your soul. You will be yourself within weeks, I venture.”
She had not exactly chosen Scotland as a refuge. Instead, it had chosen her. As for beauty, there were plenty of places in this corner of the Highlands that brought a sigh to her soul. Each time she witnessed the birth of a dawn bathed in gold and pink or saw the mountain’s craggy peak swathed in clouds, she wanted to weep.
What good was beauty when she couldn’t replicate it?
No, she wasn’t going to think about that, either.
Someone had cleared the walk, removing the dead branches and the worst of the leaves. Tom, again.
Tom was the one who’d advised her to begin walking Glengarrow’s paths. “Oh, the earl be abroad, Miss Dalrousie,” Tom had told her months ago. “Gone near three years. He’ll not be caring.” Tom had looked sad then, but she’d not asked the cause for his sudden expression. As she’d grown more private, she’d reciprocated by respecting the privacy of others.
She pushed open the iron gate and slid inside. Flanking the gate on either side was a red brick pillar. Atop each was a stone lion, carved in a lion rampant pose more often found on a coat of arms, the beast seated with one paw raised.
As she did every morning, she nodded to the lions but they ignored her in favor of staring impassively down the lane. Today, instead of taking the path closest to the house, she took the lower walk, choosing the approach to the gardens along a tall brick wall.
She began to count the steps, another habit she’d acquired. Forty steps to the wall. Fifty-three additional steps to the bench in front of the embrasure. Sometimes, she’d sit on the bench and stare at the urn carved in relief on the wall, wondering whom it honored and why at that particular spot.
This morning, however, she passed the bench and continued on, down the gradual slope to the edge of the forest. From somewhere deep inside the woods came the sharp cry of a fox. Just as suddenly, a flock of birds flew swiftly up from the top of the trees, alarmed at her approach.
She veered to the right, still following the path, returning to counting again. The numbers kept her from thinking. Thinking led to remembering, and memories were not good company of late.
Yesterday afternoon she’d surprised a deer in this very spot. The two of them had stared at each other, both nervous creatures. Had the deer felt Margaret’s sudden fear, or had it simply been alarmed for its own safety? It had turned and bolted into the forest, leaving her to stare after it, wondering what type of haven the deer sought.
Was there a haven anywhere?
Resolutely, she continued on the path, her gloved hands clasped together beneath the folds of her cape. Made of brilliant red wool, it was the warmest garment she owned, and still it was not warm enough. Once, she would have passed over the cape in favor of something lined in fur, an ankle-length cloak with a hood, perhaps. She’d sold that garment before leaving Russia, to a minor noble who wanted it as a gift for his mistress.
Not again. She halted once more, staring into the forest, the trunks of the trees now only a mass of sticks with a few die-hard leaves affixed to them. The winter forest bounding Glengarrow was ugly, without color, a stark representation of her mood.
Why today? Why was she determined to revisit the past today?
She began walking again, keeping her mind empty, her feet on the path and her gaze on the monochromatic landscape. A bird, braver than his compatriots, flew down and perched on the wall bordering Glengarrow as if to take a look at her. He, too, was winter-colored with a brownish gray plumage. He tilted his head as he regarded her, then flew away, leaving her feeling as if she hadn’t passed his inspection.
The air was colder now, but she was walking into the wind, heading back uphill. To her left, the base of the mountain was separated from the house by only a thin strip of forested land. She welcomed the cold, her thoughts finally diverted from the past and fixed on the effect of the wind on her exposed skin.
A fox cried again, but that was the only sound other than the sough of the wind. Margaret wrapped her arms around her waist beneath the cape. Perhaps she was not as immune to Scottish winters as she’d thought. This was a damp cold seeping into her bones and making them ache.
She’d have a cup of tea, perhaps, when she reached her snug little cottage. Later, she’d have one of Janet’s jam tarts. That, and a book she’d not yet read, part of a shipment from Edinburgh. There, the afternoon was planned, as her mornings always were.
The sudden sound was oddly discordant. A deep thumping echoed from the forest and back again, as if Glengarrow had suddenly developed a heart, and it was now beating furiously. Startled, Margaret remained in place, her eyes darting from the trees to the wall between her and the house, then to the lane ahead of her. The sound was louder, but she still didn’t recognize it.
A rider abruptly appeared at the end of the lane, as if he’d magically sprouted there. Then, suddenly, where there had only been one rider, now there were four of them. No, six. A carriage rumbled down the road, followed by a slower wagon piled high with trunks and cases and followed by still more outriders. The strange drumbeat now sounded like thunder.
She marked the exact moment the leader saw her. His gaze was straight ahead, directed at Glengarrow. A moment later, he glanced to the right, in her direction. In less time than it took for Margaret to realize she was in danger, he spurred his horse and began riding straight for her.
She turned and started to run, leaving the path and heading into the forest. The peace of the early morning had been shredded and in its place this terrifying cacophony. Her heart was beating so hard it was difficult to breathe. She raced through the trees, up a gentle slope, all the while seeking sanctuary. But winter had stripped the forest of any covering, and the trees were too young to provide any hiding place behind their trunks.
As she ran, she glimpsed shadows on either side of her, horses with caped riders, dark specters flying over the frozen ground. Her breath escaped her lungs in panting gusts, little clouds of terror.
Glancing over her shoulder proved that her fears were real. She was being pursued by five more horsemen.
This was Hell, revisited.
She emerged from the line of forest to face a small clearing. On the other side of it were granite boulders the size of a man, marking the base of the mountain.
One by one, the men emerged from the trees, each horse and rider ringing her until she was surrounded.
A scream caught in her throat and emerged from between her lips like a kitten’s tiny cry. Last time, she’d begged for mercy. This time, she wouldn’t beg. But they would have to kill her before it happened again.
One man garbed in a black greatcoat urged his horse closer. He held up his hand as if to silence the others. But none of them had spoken. Nor were there any smiles in evidence.
Her assault was to be no matter for amusement, then.
The leader still didn't speak, merely walked his horse closer. He had a handsome face, but she’d learned attractiveness was no guarantee of character. Sometimes evil was exquisitely beautiful.
His hair, thickly black, was too long, curling over his collar and falling down on his forehead. His nose was narrow, and his lips thinned by anger. He would tower over her if standing next to her. Even on a horse, he was commanding.
His face was ruddy with cold, but he wore no hat. That absence alone marked him as arrogant. Did he think himself impervious to the weather?
When she awoke this morning, she had no idea her life would end today. She had no inkling that today, of all her days, she would die trying to protect not her virtue, but her very soul.
This would not happen to her again.
She pulled her hands back beneath her cape, clenching them together out of sight. With more daring than she believed possible, she straightened her shoulders and tilted her chin up so she might face him with her own show of arrogance.
"Why have you waylaid me?" she demanded.
“Why are you trespassing on Glengarrow land?”
She stared at him a moment. “You’re the Earl of Linnet, then?”
He nodded. “I am. Who are you?”
Being an earl did not render him less dangerous than he appeared. Being an earl was merely a title, and she’d already been the victim of men with titles.
“Will you let me pass? Or have you other plans, you and your men?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he lifted his left hand again. Just that, and the five men on the opposite side of the clearing disappeared, fading into the winter forest as if they, too, had become black and white and gray.
Still, four men were behind him, each of them intently focused on the confrontation.
“Who are you?” he asked again, and she understood. The price of her safety was information.
“Margaret Dalrousie,” she said. Would there be a reaction? Evidently the Earl of Linnet paid no attention to society.
“Why were you trespassing?” he asked.
Did he think she was a threat to Glengarrow? That she was a vagabond?
“I take my walks here,” she answered. “Because the area is peaceful and private, and there was no one to bother me. Until today.”
He didn’t speak, only raised his left hand. This time, however, the men flanking him slowly walked their mounts to the side so he could turn.
“Find another place to walk, Miss Dalrousie,” he said over his shoulder. “I have come home.”
Margaret was too busy drawing a deep breath to respond. As her heart slowed its frantic beat, she stared after the Earl of Linnet.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Luttie McFee's history has taught her to avoid attachments...to people, to places, and to almost everything. With her mother long dead and her father long gone to find his fortune in Las Vegas, 15-year-old Luttie lives in the god-forsaken town of Yankton, South Dakota with her nine-year-old brother, Fate, and Floy Satterfield, the 300-pound ex-girlfriend of her father. While Lutie shoplifts for kicks, Fate spends most of his time reading, watching weird TV shows and worrying about global warming and the endangerment of pandas. As if their life is not dismal enough, one day, while shopping in their local Wal-Mart, Floy keels over and the two motherless kids are suddenly faced with the choice of becoming wards of the state or hightailing it out of town in Floy's old Pontiac. Choosing the latter, they head off to Las Vegas in search of a father who has no known address, no phone number and, clearly, no interest in the kids he left behind.
MADE IN THE USA is the alternately heartbreaking and life-affirming story of two gutsy children who must discover how cruel, unfair and frightening the world is before they come to a place they can finally call home.
I've got 5 copies to give away, many thanks to Valerie at Hatchette for the books!!
So This Is What You Have To Do To Get An Entry!
1. Leave a Comment +1
2. Follow Me +1 already a follower +2
3. Post this contest on your blog (can be on your sidebar or a post) +3
PLEASE put your email in your comments or no entry (no exceptions).
This is for the USA and canada only please and no Po Boxes (publishers rule)!
Winners will be announced on May 10th!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I have just this moment finished the rough draft of LINGER, my fourth novel in three years, and I have to admit I’m feeling a little introspective. Terry invited me to guest blog on anything I’d like, and so I think I’m going to ramble on a bit about something that has been in the forefront of my mind for the entire draft of LINGER: trusting an author.
My favorite books in the whole world are the ones where I trust the author. Do you know what I mean? I mean when you open the book and after reading a page, you know that you trust this author to take you places you want to be. It’s not about plot; it’s not about a devastatingly interesting first sentence. It’s a weird combination of characterization and writing style. It makes me sit back and say “okay, I’m up for where ever you decide to go with this.”
Several of my all-time favorites stick out to me: CROW LAKE, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU, and MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD. There was just something about the way the characters were written and the author’s way with words that made me quite happy to follow the characters even when there was no discernible plot. I just . . . trusted the author.
It’s probably worth noting that all of the books that I notice this in are quiet books. Subtle. They’re plots that move, but slowly, or conflicts that unravel subtly and with nuanced layers that need to be peeled back by the reader. And the language begs you to linger and bask in it, so you don’t miss the teeny things.
I guess I’ve been obsessed with this lately because I wanted LINGER to be one of those books. My debut, LAMENT (I’ll be giving away a copy to a blog reader), was me playing in the world of Faerie. It’s about a girl who falls in love with a boy who turns out to be a soulless faerie assassin -- and she’s his next mark. It was my chance to try out my writing wings and explore first love and forbidden love and, of course, homicidal faeries in the real world. Both LAMENT and its forthcoming sequel, BALLAD (Flux, Oct ’09), were insanely fun to write -- stylized, very plotty, and very fast-paced.
But SHIVER (Scholastic, Aug ’09) and its sequel LINGER (Scholastic ’10), were different creatures entirely. It’s not that they don’t have plot -- they do -- it’s just that they magic is far more subtle and the romance is more . . . earnest. SHIVER is about a girl, Grace, who has always loved the wolves who live in the wolf behind her house, particularly a yellow-eyed wolf who watches her back. When she meets Sam, a yellow-eyed boy, the chemistry is immediate. Only Sam has to become a wolf each winter and one year won’t change back. To what lengths will Grace go to keep him human? And LINGER continues the story of the wolves of Mercy Falls.
Anyway, what I really wanted with SHIVER and LINGER was for readers to fall in love with the characters first, to want to follow them anywhere -- to the woods, to the grocery store, whatever -- just because these characters were friends. You want the first kiss between the characters to ache, because the reader is right there with them, lost in your prose. It’s an amazingly different process, writing a book like that instead, because every word is crucial for maintaining the mood, and you’re never sure what tangents the characters will beg you to take.
So how about you guys? What books have you read where you trusted the author implicitly? That sucked you in with their writing style and voice on page one, so thoroughly that you didn’t care where the rest of the book went, because you knew you were going along for the ride? Leave a comment with your answer and e-mail address and a winner of a signed copy of LAMENT will get picked out of them!
Thanks, Yankee Romance Reviewers, for having me!
Terra's Review of Lament
Lament by Maggie Stiefvater is a mystical magical tale of the world of Faerie that is sure to delight even the most unbelieving reader. This is a tale woven so beautifully that it flows like water through your fingers. A tale that is sure to entertain all ages and a great summer read for your teen/young adult.
Deirdre Monaghan is a normal teenage girl but with musical talent that is well beyond her years. A musical gift that comes so naturally that it could even make the angels weep. Only problem is, is poor Dee has stage fright to the point of getting physically ill.
Luke Dillon is anything but what he seems. Befriending Dee and setting off her abilities to call the Fae is his beginning with her. They immediately fall in love but will the dangerous obstacles that pop up keep them from each other?
Our story starts quickly and leads to our heroine singing a Lament while playing her harp accompanied by a brand new acquaintance who plays the flute just as beautifully. Together the duo set in motion something that will change their futures forever.
Deirdre hears herself singing but can't quite believe the voice that sounds like an angel's let alone how it could possibly be coming from her. Her strumming the harp is like caressing the finest silk, soft, smooth and yet powerful. This is the best performance of her life and she hopes that it will win her the school competition. With Luke's flute beside her how could she possibly lose and who is this stranger that has popped into her life so suddenly.
As our story goes on many strange things start to happen to our characters. Most of what happens seems to involve Dee and things that she always thought were children's tales are now becoming realities both frightening and beautiful. The female line of her family being blessed with a gift, or is it really a curse take her down a path that will determine the outcome of the human race. Her only hint of dangers present is the smell of herbs and the finding of four leaf clover that appear out of seemingly thin air. Question is, will Luke be able to save her from a cruel fate? Will he be able to save himself for falling hopelessly in love with what is forbidden?
Our author has given us a tale of enchantingly beautiful music combined with jealousy. A story that has been woven as tightly and intricately as a spider's web. A story of danger and love that are balanced equally and of trust and deception so fragile that a feather angled just the right way could slice through unhindered. A story where the heroine saves the hero with an unusually powerful ending. One I won't soon forget.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I don’t know about other writers, but I’m constantly being asked to write school talent show skits, girls’ camp skits, church programs, that sort of thing. Usually all I get for my work is a good seat and a warm feeling.
My Fair Godmother was different.
It started out as a half hour skit for the youth of my church. A bunch of local churches were putting on plays for the community with the theme: fractured fairytales.
I’ve always been a fairy tale fan. When I was a child and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would proudly tell them I wanted to be a princess. No amount of explanation from my older siblings about the fact that “princess” was not a realistic career choice could sway my decision. I wouldn’t even listen to them when they pointed out the Queens had all the power anyway. I’d read the stories and I knew that princesses were the ones that had adventures, got handsome young suitors, and wore poufy dresses.
Is it any wonder then, that I’ve planned to write a few romances that take place in the Middle Ages? I have two rows of history books in my den. One thing became clear as I read them—poufy dresses aside—no sane person would want to live in the Middle Ages. It was cold, smelly, and full of lice and fleas. No indoor plumbing, no electricity, no chocolate.
If you put these two aspects together you have the backdrop for My Fair Godmother. When Savannah’s older sister steals her boyfriend, Savannah wishes she had a prince to take her to prom. Her fair godmother, Chrysanthemum Everstar—who is fair because her grades in godmother school weren’t great or good, but you know, just fair—sends her back in time to be first Cinderella and then Snow White.
Savannah realizes right away that living the fairy tale life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It involves a lot of cleaning and drudgery. She wishes herself back to the modern day and makes it clear to her godmother that she wants a prince from her own day to take her to prom. Chrysanthemum then sends one of Savannah’s schoolmates back to the Middle Ages to make his fortune and tells him he can’t come home until he becomes a prince. This by the way, is why you need to be careful when making wishes with a fair godmother. Savannah’s only choice after that is to go back to the Middle Ages and help him. Once there, she runs into ogres, dragons, and a mysterious and sexy Black Knight.
I have to say I love Chrysanthemum’s character. But she didn’t start out as a spunky teenage fairy.
In the original skit I’d imagined her as a more no-nonsense type of gal. Think: Florence Johnston, the maid from The Jeffersons. Not a star of the show, but someone who would mumble about how the star couldn’t get it right.
I probably would have always thought of her that way except things changed when the director chose parts for the skit. I had originally pictured my teenage daughter as Savannah. And she had the credentials to play the part. She’d been in drama for years; she could pull off the humor needed for Savannah—and my daughter wanted the part, bad.
But the director cast another girl as Savannah, and my daughter as Chrysanthemum.
My daughter was upset about this, and I felt for her. I hated to see someone else get the leading role. But an amazing thing happened when my daughter became Chrysanthemum. She turned the character into a sassy, confident, and yet very teenage fairy. She added humor that wasn’t written into the script. She stole the show every time she stepped on stage.
And when I decided to turn the skit into a full length novel, Chrysanthemum stayed just the way my daughter had portrayed her.
This is why it pays to have teenagers and why I always suggest hopeful authors get one. When it comes to writing, they’re magic.
Make sure and leave a comment for Janette as she will be giving away a copy of her book. Don't forget your email addy too!
Terra's Review of My Fair Godmother
My Fair Godmother is the most delightful fairytale of the current century. This book first caught my interest just because of the cover art and yes I know you should never judge a book by it's cover. Well I will be happy to say that the story within is even better than I could have possibly expected and where were books like this when I was a teen.
Savannah Delano is sweet sixteen, extremely pretty and watched by all the hot jocks. Unfortunately she is so wrapped up in herself that she doesn't really see what's happening around her until after the fact. I know she sounds like your normal teenage girl but this one is lucky enough to have a Fairy Godmother pay her a visit. Oh wait a minute, I mean a Fair Godmother.
Our story starts out with Savannah and her sister Jane both falling for the same guy. Said guy wants Savannah though and this breaks Jane's heart for she has longed for his attention for a much longer time. As the months pass Jane and Hunter form a friendship that turns into a relationship and Savannah is totally oblivious until the entire situation is thrown in her face. Just weeks before the prom, prom dress in hand our pretty princess is dumped like yesterday's smelly socks.
Savannah decides to withdraw to her room and is confronted by a pink haired, punk looking so full of myself Fair Godmother. Chrissy our Fair Godmother it seems has not passed her Fairy Godmother test and must do extra credit work to help out and you guess it, Savannah is the extra credit work. Chrissy being the dysfunctional what about me type of person only hears half of everything that's said to her and when she grants Savannah three wishes you just know that comedy is going to ensue.
Savannah's first wish lands her in the role of Cinderella, her second wish lands her in the kingdom of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as none other than Snow White herself. Her third wish is the one that lands her in a faraway place finding herself for the very first time. Will she find her Prince before the prom? Will our Fair Godmother ever get things right? At what actual cost will come the fruition of Savannah's third wish to have a Prince take her to the Prom.
Our author has taken fairy tales and combined them with the typical teens of today to give us a story of comedy, longing, hurt, betrayal and love. A tale of finding out the real person under the pretty girl persona. A tale that will leave you well satisfied with it's ending. This book is a must read for all of us who love the world of make believe.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
There were three things Wraith did well: hunt, fight, and fuck. He was going to do all three tonight. In exactly that order.
Crouching on the rooftop of a shop run by immigrants who had probably come from such a shitty country that the violence in the streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn, didn’t faze them, Wraith waited.
He’d spied the gang members earlier, had scented their aggression, their need to draw blood, and Wraith’s own need to do the same stirred. Like any predator, he’d chosen his target with care. But unlike most predators, he didn’t go for the weak or the aged. Screw that. He wanted the strongest, the biggest, the most dangerous.
He liked his pint of blood with an adrenaline chaser.
Unfortunately, Wraith couldn’t make a kill tonight. He’d already met his one-human-kill-per-month limit set by the Vampire Council, and no way in Sheoul would he go over.
Strange that he was worried about it, given that ten months ago, Wraith had happily gone through his s’genesis, a change that should have made him a monster who operated only on instinct — an instinct to screw as many demon females as possible, with the goal being to impregnate them. An added bonus of the s’genesis, was that male Seminus demons became so focused on their sex drives that they cared little for anything else. But in Wraith’s case, he was also a vampire, so killing things was in his blood. So to speak.
Eager to get started with his new life, Wraith had found a way to bring on The Change early. Unfortunately, it didn’t change a damned thing. Oh, he wanted to screw and impregnate females, but that was nothing new. The only difference was that now he could impregnate them. Oh, and he also had to shapeshift into the male of their species to do it, because no female on Earth or in Sheoul, the demon realm in the planet’s core, would knowingly bed a post-s’genesis Seminus demon. No one wanted to give birth to offspring that would be born a purebred Seminus despite the mixed mating.
So yeah, a few things had changed, but not enough. Wraith still remembered the horrors of his past. He still cared about his two brothers and the hospital they had all started together. Sometimes, he wasn’t sure which was worse.
Wraith scented the air, taking in the recent rain, the rancid odors of stale urine, decaying garbage, and spicy Haitian cuisine from the hovel next door. Darkness swirled around him, cloaking him in the shadows, and a cold January breeze ruffled his shoulder-length hair but did nothing to ease the heat in his veins.
He might be the epitome of patience while waiting for his prey, but that didn’t mean that inside he wasn’t quivering with anticipation.
Because these weren’t your typical gangbangers he was hunting. No, the Bloods, Crips, and Latin Kings had nothing on the mercilessly cruel Upir.
The very name made Wraith’s lips curl in a silent snarl. The Upir functioned like any other territorial street gang, except those pulling the strings were vampires. They used their human chumps to commit the crimes, to provide blood — and bloodsport — when needed, and to take the falls when the cops busted them. For their service and sacrifice, the humans believed they would be rewarded with eternal life.
Most vampires adhered to strict rules regarding turning humans, and since a vampire was allowed only a handful of turnings in his entire lifetime, he didn’t waste them on lowlife gangbangers.
Of course, the gangbangers didn’t know that. They played the streets, their fangs-dripping-blood tats and crimson-and-gold gang colors screaming warnings others heeded. No one messed with the Upir.
No one but Wraith.
The Upir came. Seven of them, talking trash, swaggering with overblown arrogance.
Wraith unfurled to his nearly six feet, six inch height, and then dropped the fifteen feet to the ground, landing right in front of the gang.
“Hey, assholes. ‘Sup?”
The leader, a stocky white guy wearing a bandanna wrapped around his bulbous head, stumbled back a step, but hid his surprise behind a raw curse. “What the fuck?”
One of the punks, a short, fat, crooked-nosed troll — not literally a troll, which was unfortunate, because Wraith could have killed him, penalty-free, — drew a blade from his coat pocket. Wraith laughed, and two other punks produced their own knives. Wraith laughed harder.
“The dregs of human society amuse me,” Wraith said. “Rodents with weapons. Except rodents are smart. And they taste terrible.”
The leader whipped a pistol out of his droopy-ass pants. “You got a motherfucking death wish.”
Wraith grinned. “You got that right. Only it’s your death I wish for.” He smashed his fist into the leader’s face.
The leader rocked backward, clutching his broken, bleeding nose. The scent of blood jacked up Wraith’s temp a notch…and he wasn’t alone. The two gangsters at the rear zeroed in on the scent, heads snapping around.
Vamps. One black male, one Latino female, both dressed like the others in baggy jeans, hoodies, and ratty sneakers.
Jackpot, baby. Wraith was going to get some kills in tonight, after all.
Before any of the stunned humans could recover, Wraith sprinted down a side street.
Angry shouts followed him as they gave chase. He slowed, drawing the gangsters in. Nimbly, he leaped on top of a Dumpster and then swung up to a rooftop and waited until they passed. Their fury left a scent trail he could follow blindfolded, but instead, he dropped to the ground, used his infrared vamp vision to see them in the darkest shadows ahead. He hated using any of his vampire skills, including super speed and strength, but vision was the one he truly despised.
Despised, because he hadn’t been born with it. Instead, it had come twenty-two years later, with the eyes Eidolon had transplanted into his head nearly eighty years ago. Every time Wraith looked into the mirror at the baby blues, he was reminded of the torture and pain that had preceded the new peepers.
Kicking himself for letting the past distract him, he silently started the hunt. Normally, he’d take out the vamps first, but the troll was just ahead, huffing and puffing and trailing far behind the others.
He pounced, squeezed the breath out of the squat human and left his unconscious body behind a pile of boxes. Next, he tracked the male vamp, who thought he’d gained the upper hand by swinging around behind Wraith.
Wraith feigned distraction, standing in the open beneath the bright glare of a street light as the vamp crept forward. Closer…closer…yes.
Wraith spun, pummeled the massive male with a flurry of fists and feet. The vamp didn’t have a chance to throw a single punch, and once Wraith had hauled him into the darkness beneath an overpass, he took him down. With a knee in the male’s gut and one hand curled around his throat, Wraith drew a stake from the weapons harness beneath his leather jacket.
“What,” the male gasped, his eyes wide with shock and terror, “what…are…you?”
“Buddy, sometimes I ask myself that same question.” He slammed the stake home. Didn’t wait around to watch the show as the vampire disintegrated. There was another one to take out.
Anticipation shimmered through his veins as he stalked the female through side streets and alleys. Like the male, she believed she was the one doing the hunting, and Wraith caught her off guard as she crept in the shadows behind a building. He shoved her into the wall, lifting her by the throat so she dangled off the ground.
“This was too easy,” Wraith said. “What is the Vamp Council teaching younglings these days?”
“I’m no youngling.” Her voice was a low, seductive purr, and even as she spoke, she lifted her legs to wrap them around Wraith’s hips. “I’ll show you.”
The scent of lust came off her in waves. His incubus body responded, hardening and heating, but he’d rather kill himself than screw a vampire — or a human, though he had different reasons for not bedding human females.
He leaned in so his lips brushed her ear, which was pierced all the way around. “Not interested,” he growled, but still, she arched against him, affected by his incubus pheromones.
You shouldn’t play with your food. Eidolon’s voice rang in his ears, but Wraith ignored it the way he ignored pretty much everything his brothers said to him. He had no intention of making a meal of this female.
“Could’ve fooled me,” she said, rolling her hips into his erection.
“Maybe you need some convincing.” Wraith pulled back and gave her an eyeful of wooden stake.
Her eyes went wild. “Please…” She swallowed, her throat convulsing beneath his palm. Her body wilted like a dying flower, and that fast the temptress was gone. “Please. Just…do it quickly.”
He blinked. He’d expected her to beg for her life. He met her wide, haunted gaze, and slowly, with a sick sense of dread, he shuffled his fingers on her neck. A raised pattern peeked from beneath the collar of her hoodie. Damn.
He shoved his stake into his pocket and tugged her sweatshirt aside to reveal a welted pattern the size of his fist.
A slave mark. Not just any slave mark. The cross-bones brand of Neethul slavemasters, the cruelest of the demon slave traders. This female had been forced to live in hell for gods knew how long. Somehow she’d gained her freedom, probably by escaping…and now she was doing what she had to in order to survive.
She’d suffered. Was probably suffering even now.
Something clawed at his gut, and it wasn’t until he lowered her to the ground without realizing it that he identified the strange feeling. Sympathy.
“Go,” he said roughly. “Before I change my mind.”
She got the hell out of there, and so did Wraith. Rattled by his uncharacteristic display of mercy, he ruthlessly shoved aside the incident. He needed to get back on track. He needed to feed. He needed to cause some pain.
The punks had split up, and one by one, he tracked them down with almost mechanical efficiency until only the leader was left. Somewhere nearby, a gunshot rang out, a familiar sound in this part of the city, so familiar he doubted the cops would even be called.
The leader was ahead, pacing in front of a boarded-up shop front, his voice crisp with agitation as he barked out orders on his cell phone.
“Yo, scumbag,” Wraith yelled. “I’m over here! Would it help if I wore a neon sign?”
Red-faced with fury, the leader bolted into an alley after Wraith. Halfway in, Wraith pivoted around. The gangster pulled his gun, but Wraith disarmed him before he could so much as blink. The weapon skidded across the wet pavement as Wraith put the guy’s back into a wall and jammed his forearm across the human’s thick neck.
“This is disappointing,” Wraith drawled. “I expected more of a fight. I seriously wanted to tenderize you before I ate you. When are you guys going to learn that a gun is no substitute for learning hand-to-hand combat techniques?”
“Fuck you,” the guy spat.
“Guy like me?” Wraith smiled, leaned in so his lips grazed the guy’s cheek. “You. Wish.”
An outraged bellow made him smile even more. He inhaled the man’s aroma, anger tainted by a tantalizing thread of fear. Hunger roared through Wraith, and his fangs began to elongate. Playtime was over. He sank his teeth into the gangster’s throat. Warm, silky blood filled his mouth, and after a couple of spasms, his prey went limp.
Wraith could have used his Seminus gift to fill the guy’s head with happy, pleasant visions, but this dude was scum. The things he’d done slapped at Wraith’s brain in rapid-fire succession. Sure, Wraith was no angel — though he’d screwed a false one or ten — but with the exception of Aegis Guardians, he didn’t harm human women or children.
This guy…well, Wraith wished he hadn’t blown this month’s kill quota on the Sumatran poacher. Still, tormenting the gangster could be fun. Swallowing the human’s alcohol-laced blood with relish, Wraith used his mind power to feed the guy gruesome images of what Wraith would do to him if he ever found out that he’d committed a violent crime again. For the most part he couldn’t care less if a human lived or died, but this guy got off on preying on the weak and the old.
There was no sport in that.
Power surged through Wraith, power and adrenaline and flashes of heat lightning under his skin. His dermoire, a history of his Seminus demon paternity, pulsed from the tips of the fingers on his right hand to his shoulder and neck, and all the way to the right side of his face, where the swirling black glyphs marked him as a post-s’genesis Seminus. Humans thought it was a tattoo — some thought it was cool, the rest were appalled.
Humans were so freaking uptight.
His prey’s pulse picked up as his heart tried to compensate for the blood loss. Wraith took two more strong pulls, disengaged his fangs, and hesitated before licking the puncture holes to seal the wound. He’d never minded drinking from his victims, but he hated licking them, tasting sweat, dirt, perfume, and worse, their individual essence. Cursing silently, he swiped the holes with his tongue and tried not to shudder, but the shakes wracked his body anyway.
“You should kill him.”
The male voice, deep and calm, startled him. No one snuck up on Wraith. Ever.
He released the gangbanger, letting the guy hit the pavement with a thud. In a fluid, easy movement, he faced the newcomer, but too late he saw a flash and a blur, felt the sting of a dart in his throat.
“Shit!” Wraith ripped the dart from his neck and threw it to the ground, even as he charged the guy who had shot him with it. He was going to gut the bastard.
Wraith grabbed for the male’s shirt, some sort of burlap tunic, but his fingers only brushed the collar. The guy was unnaturally fast — unnaturally fast for a human. This male was demonkind, species unknown.
The male didn’t make a sound as he whispered through the night, moving toward a sewer grate.
Awkwardly, because his left side had begun to weaken, Wraith drew a throwing star from his weapons harness. He hurled it, catching the newcomer in the back.
The male’s ear-shattering, high pitched scream rent the night as he fell. Wraith slowed, a sudden sense of dread weighing him down, turning his limbs sluggish and uncoordinated.
He stumbled, attempted to catch himself on the side of a building, but his muscles had turned to water. His vision grew dim, his mouth went dry, and with every breath it felt as if he was taking flames into his lungs.
He tried to reach his cell phone, but his arm wouldn’t work. And then his mind wouldn’t work, and all went black.
Demonica Book 3
Grand Central Publishing
March 31, 2009
If you enjoy paranormal romance I know you'll really love this book.
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Sunday, April 12, 2009
Do you remember the opening of the movie Romancing the Stone? Kathleen Turner was romance novelist Joan Wilder, and at the beginning of the movie she is just finishing her latest ‘Angelina’ adventure. As she types ‘The End’ and rips the final page out of her typewriter (Wow, it was the 80s, pre-computers!) she is weeping, out of tissue and anything else that remotely resembles tissue, and celebrates with candlelight, a can of tuna and her cat.
Well, that’s me. Kind of. For every idiot out there who disparages romance novels as ‘hack’ fiction, there is a romance writer putting her (or his) heart into their work, agonizing over the characterization, researching the details, working long and hard to get it all right. I can’t speak for other romance novelists, but when I’m wound up in writing I think about the characters constantly. I worry about details that aren’t working. I hug myself secretly when something works better than I planned. I work hard, but it usually doesn’t feel like it because I love what I do with a passion, pun intended.
Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark (Sourcebooks Casablanca - April 2009) began as a ‘what if’, as most books do. What if a woman in 1786 decided she had no earthly reason to marry? But what if she then met an irresistible man, the kind who she never thought existed?
But the central idea for the series was to take paranormal occurrences – there were lots of them in the 1700s, just like today – and take a skeptic’s view of them. Therefore, in Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark, Lady Anne investigates a werewolf sighting. In Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge it is a troublesome Barbary pirate ghost on the coast of Cornwall, and in Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse it is a curse that is making people fall ill at Lady Anne’s home of Harecross Hall, in Kent.
Throughout, of course, there is a continuing romantic thread; three books gave me a leisurely length in which to toy with the main characters. One may fall in love rather quickly, but the decision to commit your life to a person should be done with a little more sobriety, and Anne takes it very seriously indeed! Does she or doesn’t she? You’ll have to read through them to find out!
Here’s a little about the books:
Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark – Sourcebooks Casablanca – April 2009
Lady Anne Addison receives a frantic letter from a dear friend, Lady Lydia Bestwick, telling Anne that she is frightened. There are reports of werewolves near her new home in Yorkshire and she is scared, but her new husband is not as sympathetic as she thought he would be. Anne is one of those people that folks turn to when they’re in trouble. She is strong, smart and caring, not prone to hysterics. She travels north to Yorkshire and the very hour she arrives at Ivy Lodge, the dower house of Darkefell Castle, she not only trips over a dead body and then wanders up to Lydia’s home with blood all over her hands and dress, but also meets the mysterious Marquess of Darkefell, a moody, handsome man, Lydia’s brother-in-law, who questions her about her motives.
Sparks fly between Anne and the marquess, but she is intent on finding out what is behind all of the mysterious happenings at Darkefell Castle. The marquess keeps distracting her from the werewolf sightings with ill-timed kisses that leave her weak at the knees, but also suspicious; what is he hiding?
Lady Anne and the Ghost’s Revenge – Sourcebooks Casablanca – August 2009
Lady Anne Addison, terribly tempted by the sensuous assault of the Marquess of Darkefell, leaves Yorkshire and heads to Cornwall and the home of her friend, Miss Pamela St. James. But it seems that Anne just can’t stay out of trouble! There is a ghost plaguing the people of St. Wyllow, along with smugglers and worse!
When the Marquess of Darkefell just happens to show up, Anne is forced to face her intense feelings for the handsome, rugged peer as she investigates a tragic death and the ‘haunting’ of St. Wyllow.
Lady Anne and the Gypsy Curse – Sourcebooks Casablanca – November 2009
Anne is perplexed; why does Tony, the Marquess of Darkefell, keep following her? She is passionately attracted to him, they have shared more than a casual kiss or two, but it is hard to believe that he wants her when he could have his pick of any woman, almost literally, married or unmarried. He is good-looking, wealthy, titled and has a simmering sensuality that leaves Anne weak at the knees. But back home, trying to consider her feelings for the marquess in the calmness of her father’s estate, Harecross Hall, Kent, she is still beset by dreams of Darkefell.
But trouble is never far away, nor are supposed supernatural happenings. Illness befalls some of the folks closest to Anne, the result of a gypsy curse. Of course she is a rationalist and doesn’t believe in curses, but what then is making people so ill? And what can she do about it?
And why did she see Darkefell in her woods, near her home, when she begged him for time alone to think?
I had so much fun creating the characters, Lady Anne Addison and Anthony, Lord Darkefell. Both are strong and compelling, but with conflicting wants. The paranormal occurrences that they investigate throw them together, and they quarrel and kiss their way to solving the mysteries! I was reminded recently of mystery author Dorothy L. Sayers’ pair, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. I remember so well the growing affection between them, and how much I wanted Harriet to say yes to Lord Peter’s proposal! I do hope readers enjoy Lady Anne and Darkefell’s interaction even half as much!
Learn more about the Lady Anne series on my website, as well as interesting tidbits about the Georgian era, and my other books!
Join me at: http://www.donnaleasimpson.com/
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Thursday, April 09, 2009
Hi to Terra and everyone at Yankee Romance Reviewers! Thanks so much for inviting me to spend the day with you. I’m Julia Latham (and I’m also Gayle Callen, but that’s another blog!) and I write medieval romances for Avon Books. My newest release is TAKEN AND SEDUCED. Sexy title, huh? I cannot tell you how difficult the title process can be, what with brainstorming with my husband, my critique group, my agent, my editor…between us all, we finally manage a title. And this one really reflects the plot, which can be tough to do in a couple words. But I strive for that.
TAKEN AND SEDUCED is the first in a new trilogy, “Raised to be Bladesmen.” If you haven’t read my books before, I’ve created a mysterious group of knights called the League of the Blade, who fight for justice. Either the hero—and/or heroine!—is a member or about to be member. Lots of swashbuckling and intrigue, and of course, most importantly, Romance with a capital R. The League serves as a backdrop as two people come together and overcome their pasts and danger and all their misconceptions about the other. And isn’t that what makes a good romance?
The trilogy is about three brothers whose parents were murdered when they were children. To keep them safe, the League took them in to raise them. They decided on an experiment—to train Bladesmen from childhood, to create a superior group of warriors. The experiment has unintended consequences that are confronted in each book. Adam Hilliard, earl of Keswick, the hero of TAKEN AND SEDUCED, is the eldest brother, and he feels it is his responsibility to bring his parents’ murderer to justice. But the only way he can get to his enemy is by kidnapping the man’s daughter, Florrie. Adam tries very hard to intimidate her into behaving as they travel the length of England to confront her father, but she sees right through him. Florrie is destined for the convent, and she is thrilled to have her very own adventure.
Every so often, I write an on-the-road book. I’ve done them in the Victorian era (in which I write as Gayle Callen) where there are fine carriages and decent inns. Travel was totally different in 15th century England, especially when one wants to remain hidden. Ah, but that’s the challenge, isn’t it? Two people alone in the close quarters of a room at an inn, sharing a bedroll by a fire at night (okay, one person is tied to the other so they can’t escape…), forced to bathe in streams…there are so many fun and romantic situations when characters are on the run!
Hope you get a chance to read TAKEN AND SEDUCED. The “taken” part is pretty obvious, but who is seducing whom?
I love questions. Ask me about writing, or writing under two names, or—anything!
Julia will giveaway a free book to one lucky commentor. Ask her a question and don't forget to leave your email addy!
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Are you a fan of reunion books? I am – which shows in my latest release, COMING ON STRONG. This is a ‘she left him at the altar’ story that I call my runaway bride with a reunion twist. When I was coming up with it, I asked myself why a woman would leave a man at the altar – keeping in mind that the man was the hero of the book so he had to be, you know, heroic.
The answer? An oldy but a goody – no sex without marriage. But... again, with a twist. She wanted sex, he was holding out for a ring on her finger. The result? A really fun book to write.
I really enjoy reading reunion stories myself. I think it adds a whole ‘nother layer of depth to the characters. Why didn’t they work the first time? What made them come together then, versus now? How do they feel about their history and how does it factor into their reaction to each other?
Here’s how my hero, Mitch, reacted to seeing Belle again:
One more step into his office and Mitch felt like he’d been hit in the face. Maybe it was sex on the brain, but even the air shifted, turning sultry and suggestive. He breathed in, his lungs filling with a musky floral scent.
Instant turn on.
Seated as she was in the high-backed leather chair facing the window, all Mitch could see were long, sexy legs ending in strappy black ‘do me’ heels. He tried to swallow, but his mouth had gone dirt dry. Those were wrap around the shoulders and ride-‘em-wild legs.
Damn. Talk about distraction.
Mitch flipped his phone closed, not sure if he’d said goodbye or even if his foreman was still talking. He stepped further into the office, deliberately closing the door behind him. Two steps into the room, and he could see around the high back leather of the chair.
Gorgeous. The impact was like getting kicked in the gut by a black belt on steroids. Swift, intense and indefensible. The first time he’d seen Belle, she’d been twenty-one. He’d thought then she couldn’t possibly be more confident in her own sexual power. He’d obviously been wrong, since she was now a master of it. Or was that mistress? And why did that make him crave studded black leather shorts?
Six years had added layers of polish, maturity and assurance to her already powerful sexual charisma. Mitch’s gaze reluctantly left those delicious legs to travel upward. He noted the flirty green skirt, the same shade as her eyes, ending a few inches above her knees. A wide leather belt accented her waist and emphasized her lush breasts in the gossamer soft white blouse. Mitch let his eyes rest there for just a second, millions of regrets pounding in his head. He’d wished like hell that once, just once, he’d tasted their bounty.
He was sure if he had, he’d have easily kept her out of his mind. The only reason he’d never finding another woman to replace her was that he’d blown the fantasy of sex between them all out of proportion.
He felt her amusement before he even looked at her face. Belle was used to being ogled, so he didn’t waste time on embarrassment. He wondered briefly at giving her that much power this early in the game, but he couldn’t seem to help himself. That there was a game afoot was implicit. The question wasn’t who would win, either. It was how much it would cost him to play.
She arched one platinum brow, amused challenge clear in her eyes and the dimple that played at the corner of her full lips. Her hair was shorter now, angled to emphasize her rounded cheekbones and the sharp line of her jaw.
“Well, well,” Mitch drawled, moving around to lean on his desk while he faced the biggest mistake of his life. “If it isn’t my long lost bride.”
How about you? Are reunions a theme you enjoy, or one you shy away from? What reunion stories have you read – do you have a favorite?
Tawny will give away one copy of any of her backlist books to one lucky commenter.
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Friday, April 03, 2009
Pemberley Manor by Kathryn L Nelson is available from Sourcebooks as of April, 2009.
Thanks for the invitation to visit with Yankee Romance fans today. It reminds me that some of the most romantic moments of my life (don’t tell my husband) were my late night writing rendezvous with Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy as I followed them off to their honeymoon and then home to Pemberley Manor. While Jane Austen never offered us much to go on as far as love scenes, and I’ve definitely steered clear of the temptation to expose her characters to the prying eyes of the modern reader, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have a bit of fun with them. After all, they are married.
Levity to tenderness was an easy step. They put aside all troubled thoughts of past and future, and engaged themselves fully with their present happiness. If last night’s embraces were passionate, this morning’s were sweeter for the laughter they had shared. Elizabeth could not resist one last jest. Feigning a worried frown, she complained, “I still find one impediment to our perfect intimacy, Mr. Darcy.”
He answered with a gallant bow, “Tell me what it is and I shall remove it at once.”
“It is this dressing gown, sir,” she replied with a laugh.
That was the morning after. The night before hadn’t gone so very well for the new couple. Misunderstanding led to argument and flight, culminating in a tearful unraveling of hurt and confusion.
During the long silence that followed, Elizabeth closed her eyes and wrestled with the mortification of her self-revelation while Darcy studied her face intently, aware that he was seeing her with new eyes. When at last their reverie was broken, it was by a soft sigh from Elizabeth. Shaking her head, she opened her eyes to meet his, then raised her hands to smooth the frown lines tenderly from his brow. He scarcely breathed as her fingertips traced the lines of his face and neck and moved down to his shoulders. With poignant tenderness, she slid her hands under the lapels of his waistcoat and lifted it from him. Holding his eyes in an unwavering gaze, she untied his silk neckcloth and unbuttoned his vest and slipped it off, unafraid of the violent trembling she felt as her hands moved along his torso.
Standing up, she slowly unfastened the buttons on her gown and let it fall to the floor, saying softly as she did, “We have talked enough to understand one thing sufficiently well – that our love must not be denied any longer or we shall both end up quite mad. Teach me to love you as I should,” she pleaded with eyes filling with tears, “so that we may never doubt again the steadiness of each other’s affection.
The obsession that drove me to the Darcys was the thought that happily ever after doesn’t arrive in a neat package with the wedding cake. Strong, intelligent, passionate men and women, as these characters were conceived to be, will doubtless have to resolve some issues before they can sit by the fire with a good book. Austen left us in no doubt about the attraction between these two people, but she didn’t resolve all of the questions that had created a wall between them. Why was Darcy such a difficult person to get to know? And why did Elizabeth, who prided herself on her honesty, deny to herself and everyone else the attraction she obviously felt for him from their first meeting?
One would think that the first and arguably best romantic writer of all time, Jane Austen, had said all that should be said about her characters. How then to explain the explosion of sequels to her works that started in the early 20th century and continues with a new book nearly every week? I can’t explain the motivation of others, but for me, the essence of romance is the tension that the reader feels, the excitement of being in the scene with epic lovers. No one has ever created that sexual tension for me as a reader with so very little physical description as Jane Austen did. (I have to admit it didn’t hurt to see her words spoken by the likes of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle in the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice in 1995.)
From “Jane Austen's Regency World,” September/October 2007: "…As in Pride and Prejudice, The couple we really want to know about is Lizzie and Darcy: witty, sexy, well-matched and not about to settle into a placid happy ever after. And what we get is a storm of strong emotion and suspected betrayal before the ends are satisfactorily tied up.
"Kathryn Nelson weaves a well-crafted tale of the young couple's first months of marriage, exploring the reasons for Darcy's famously brooding personality and taking a number of other characters forward into new lives, with sometimes surprising but always entertaining results…
Please share your thoughts with me on sequels, sex and Pemberley Manor. I’ll be checking in all day! Thanks again.
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Thank you Karen for taking the time to do this interview and blog with us today.
Terra: What made you decide to do a story about southern families with deep rooted pasts and strong family ties?
Karen: I try to write what I know. I come from a long line of southerners whose lives are filled with stories—not as dark as the ones I write about, but certainly a jumping-off point for the stories and families I write about.
Terra: Our heroine Earlene is drawn to her past because of regret. A regret for things that should have been said and moments in her life she took for granted. What do you think her chances are of coming to terms with these feelings she is having?
Karen: Her chances are very good, actually. I think a some of it would have come naturally with maturity, but I think in Piper’s case once she got past her own personal pain and loss, she was able to open her eyes and see the bigger picture of her life and her interaction in the world around her. I think Helen is a big catalyst for her—as Helen had been through equal pain but emerged mentally healthy and without the self-pity that Piper let herself fall into.
Terra: Tucker our hero is a man torn. He is torn by love, pain, regret and low self esteem. What do you think it will take for him to finally wake up from his self imposed fantasy world to the world of reality and will he do it in time to prevent more damage?
Karen: I think that by the end of the book Tucker has already turned the corner. Piper and Helen both—and his daughters—have helped him see that his wife’s death was beyond his control, and that he is free to love again with a whole heart.
Terra: This story is powerful in so many ways, if you had to pinpoint it down to just one thing what would it be and why?
Karen: That to live an extraordinary life, you don’t need to be a champion. Savoring every moment, an viewing the world as full of possibilities will make an extraordinary life possible.
Terra: You have taken on major handicaps and shown us another side of what people like Earlene and Helen experience each and every day. How much research did you have to do and how satisfied are you with the outcome of your characters?
Karen: I was very pleased with how these two characters turned out. I did a lot of reading about living with blindness for Helen’s character and I’ve had readers tell me how ‘real’ she seemed to them. She might even be my favorite character! For Earlene/Piper, her handicap was as mental as it was physical, enabling me to hone in on my own personal mental blocks that have held me back in the past. I think that personal involvement made the Earlene/Piper character even more three-dimensional.
Terra: Do you have any plans on doing another novel including the lore of the South and the charms of bye gone times?
Karen: Oh, yes! It seems to be my trademark, after all. J The book I’m working on now is set in Folly Beach, South Carolina and involves parallel stories of two war widows---one from WWII and one from the Iraqui war. Their lives will intersect in interesting and unexpected ways, merging the past with the present.
Terra: Which of your characters do you like the best and why?
Karen: Helen, I think. Because despite being blind, she sees the world with such clarity, and with an open heart.
Terra: The Lost Hours is a powerfully turbulent emotional story of love in every way shape and form. What do you think the chances are that there are actual people out there that could step into your characters shoes?
Karen: I have no doubt that there are! I’ve lived and traveled all over the world and met lots of people. Everybody carries a burden—probably not as heavy as the ones carried by the characters in my novels—but just as important to each individual’s life. I think that’s why my characters resonate with readers.
Terra: Do you think that Tucker and Earlene have a chance at true happiness and can put to sleep the ghosts of the past?
Karen: Absolutely. They’ve gone through so much, but they’ve learned a lot, too—about love, life and forgiveness. They’re ready to move on.
Terra: Will Lillian ever be able to acknowledge her past regrets and decisions, confront her demons and finally find peace before it’s too late? Will she be able to save her grandchildren, great grandchildren and the life of one lonely stranger by opening up to the truth?
Karen: Yes—and she does at the end. The truth can—and does—set you free and she realizes this before it’s too late. It is through her finally telling her story that allows Helen, Piper and Tucker to move on with their lives. She teaches them about forgiveness and atonement, and how neither should be a roadblock to future happiness.
Karen is giving away a copy of THE LOST HOURS to one lucky commentor, along with a hard-to-find and out-of-print copy of her 2003 release AFTER THE RAIN! (U.S. only)
When Piper Mills was twelve, she helped her grandfather bury a box that belonged to her grandmother in the backyard. For twelve years, it remained untouched.
Now a near fatal riding accident has shattered Piper’s dreams of Olympic glory. After her grandfather’s death, she inherits the house and all its secrets, including a key to a room that doesn’t exist—or does it? And after her grandmother is sent away to a nursing home, she remembers the box buried in the backyard. In it are torn pages from a scrapbook, a charm necklace—and a newspaper article from 1939 about the body of an infant found floating in the Savannah River. The necklace’s charms tell the story of three friends during the 1930s— each charm added during the three months each friend had the necklace and recorded her life in the scrapbook. Piper always dismissed her grandmother as not having had a story to tell. And now, too late, Piper finds she might have been wrong.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
I don’t know why and I can’t explain it, but I have more fun writing from the male point of view than the female. If you knew me, you would know why this seems odd. They don’t make girls more girly girl than me. I love flowers and lace, ribbons and bows. I love jewelry and perfume, and I don’t even let my mother see me without my makeup on. I wish we still wore crinolines and petticoats. I love classic movies from the fifties where ladies are glamorous and gentlemen are debonair. I could go on but you get the idea.
I once heard an editor say, “I want a hero who makes me swoon!” I think every author of romance wants to create that kind of man between the pages of her book. So in addition to giving my hero devastating sexual appeal and to die for good looks, I enjoy coming up with ways to confound him, to surprise him, to back him into a corner, and then find a way to get him out without compromising his ideals. I always let the reader know what he’s thinking and why. I like to develop something vitally important at stake for him, and then give him a worthy heroine to help him resolve it.
And one of my favorite types of hero just happens to be the guardian/bodyguard/protector hero that I created for the first book in my latest trilogy, The Rogues’ Dynasty. In A Duke To Die For Blake is also a reluctant hero. Responsibility is the last thing he is looking for when Miss Henrietta Tweed arrives at his door claiming that he is her new guardian. The carefree duke doesn’t want any part of taking care of anyone, especially the kind beautiful, young lady he would much rather seduce than protect. I love it when a man has no desire to be a protector but will step up and do it when he has to. I’m going way back here, but think of the first Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis or Romancing The Stone with Michael Douglas. They were perfect as reluctant heroes and so is the Duke of Blakewell. Having been born to power and privilege Blake doesn’t know the first thing about responsibility or boundaries. He’s never had to, of course, until he meets the heroine. His carefree lifestyle is suddenly turned upside down, and he doesn’t quite know what to make of it. It gave me a tremendous amount of pleasure to present him with an organized, orderly heroine and watch him squirm.
But I still wanted more from him so I started thinking about what I could add to the story to make Blake different from all the other heroes I’ve created. Suddenly I had it. I would give him a heroine who believed she was cursed. And why shouldn’t she? Her previous five guardians had all died mysteriously, and she believes Blake will be the next victim.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had a fascination with curses. Can someone be cursed? Can an ordinary person put a curse on someone or can it only happen by someone or something with special powers? Most of us have probably felt like we were cursed from time to time. I know I feel that way every time I step on the scales! And just maybe one or two of you will admit that, like me, there’s been one or two people in your life that you would like to put a curse on!
But I also wanted a couple of threads that I could run through all three books of the Rogues’ Dynasty Trilogy. That’s when I came up with the idea of the cousins’ deceased grandmother and her dear friend Lord Chesterfield who was noted for the long letters of advice he wrote to his son. And the cousins’ grandmother relentlessly passed his advice along to her grandsons and naturally they hated it.
This was easy for me to do because I absolutely love quotes, sayings and clichés, be they clever, inspiring, funny or too puzzling to figure out. The real fun of this was in thinking up quotes and sayings that I could attribute to Chesterfield that I know he didn’t say. An example of this in A Duke To Die For is when Blake tells Henrietta it was just bad luck that all her previous guardians had died mysterious deaths. She reminds him that all that bad luck had just landed at his doorstep. He says “if not for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” and he attributes it to Lord Chesterfield. Henrietta assures him Chesterfield said no such thing.
An in A Marquis To Marry, the second book of the trilogy one of the cousins quotes Chesterfield as saying “People love in haste but they detest at leisure,” when in reality that quote is actually attributed to Lord Byron. I haven’t used my favorite quote of all time yet, but hopefully I’ll find a place to use it in the last book of the trilogy, An Earl To Enchant. I found it on the movie poster of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood. It goes like this: ‘For the love of one woman and the good of all men, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law.’ It doesn’t get any better than that!
I didn’t mean to ramble on about so many different things in this blog, but hopefully I’ve left you with a few questions to think about; Do you like a lot of male viewpoint in your romances? Do you enjoy reading about the guardian/protector hero? Do you believe in curses? Do you have a favorite quote? I’d love to know yours so I can add it to my growing collection.
Responsibility is the last thing the carefree Duke of Blakewell is looking for when it arrives on his doorstep in the form of a beautiful young lady. In a sequence of unfortunate events, the guardianship of Miss Henrietta Tweed falls to Blake.
Blake doesn't know if he's irritated or impressed by Miss Tweed's boldness, but he can't be responsible for her. His feelings for the seductive and captivating Henrietta are far from what a guardian should feel for his ward. Finding it hard to resist his desire for her, Blake decides the only honorable thing he can do is find her a suitable husband.
Henrietta Tweed has been controlled by men since her parents died when she was a young girl. She's not interested in her roguish new guardian finding her a husband.
All of her previous five guardians have died, causing her to believe she is cursed. Not wanting the appealing Duke to die because of her, she tries to warn him off. Blake isn't one for superstitious nonsense, even though mysterious accidents are happening that put him in danger.
Blake considers possible suitors, but eventually rules them all out and concedes that Henrietta has captured his heart.
But has he pushed her away for too long?
Henrietta must find a way to escape the curse, and Blake, before he becomes the next "duke to die for."