Hello and Happy 2016! We rung in the new year with black-eyes peas and collard greens (with cheesy grits, of course) and watched Sherlock on PBS. Not necessarily the craziest thing in the world, but some food-inspired luck and the Cumberotter is hard to beat. I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season.
December brought me wonderful news for my dark historical romance, THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN, the first coming from About.com where it was ranked one of The 10 Must Read Romance Novels of 2015. I discovered at that point when people talk about their jaws dropping, it is, in fact, a thing that happens.
Allow me to post a screenshot here (and pardon the squishy graphic, but that’s how it appeared):
The next wonderful news I received was when Wendy the Super Librarian (who gave me this phenomenal review back in March that I still go back to in moments of doubt and it bolsters me) who listed FAFW as one of the 12 Best Not-Your-Usual Historicals of 2015. Since I had a battle even getting my romance some consideration, having it ranked on this list with the likes of Jeannie Lin and Michelle Winningham was worthy of a pretty epic boogie dance party in our living room.
Then, more great news. Heather Waters, site manager for Heroes and Heartbreakers, listed Lady and King as one of her Top 8 ‘Ships (that’s slang for ‘relationships’ with the kids nowadays) of 2015. That honor is huge and meant so much to me, but another couple in her list was Max and Furiosa, from this summer’s blockbuster movie, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. I cannot even begin to describe what that meant. I loved that movie, really fell in love with the characters and their journey and their flaws and weaknesses and how they overcome them, so to have my Lady and King on a list with them? I’m still in shock. Here’s a snap of that piece of awesome:
If you knew the struggle it was to see FAFW published, the years of knowing I was fighting such an uphill battle for the kind of story I wanted to tell, but I had to tell it like I had to breathe, you would know what amazing honors each and every one of these listings are. Not from contests I entered, or even reviews I solicited, they came from people who picked up the book and read it but, more importantly, they got it. I knew there would be readers who wanted stories like Lady’s and King’s and I thank whatever force it was in the ‘verse that got my book in front of them. If you’re one of them, I thank you too.
So, thank you 2015, for seeing THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN published and getting it out to some great people. I’m working on my next dark Victorian romance and hope to have some great news during the year to make 2016 a worthy successor.
Happy New Year everybody.
So here’s the good news–I got a new job. It’s actually a great job and I find myself thinking that jobs don’t necessarily have to equal stressful soul-sucking horror filled with passive-aggressive dickheads and people who get paid way too much and given way more power than they ever deserve.
Sorry. Might still be working through a few issues with the past job. Ahem. Now, onward…
But the good news of the great job also means my time is being taken up more so than usual as I settle into the new job and the new commute and new everything else, and on top of that, it’s the holidays! I do love the holidays, especially Christmas, but my biggest gift this year is going to be some time.
Time to relax, time to recharge, time to read and drink tea and watch traditional holiday movies.
(And I haven’t even mentioned Star Wars…)
Anyhoozles, I’m going to try and do a Christmas post, but for right now know I’m getting geared up in my day job and writing my next dark Victorian romance (and damn, is it good if I say so myself…) and taking a few minutes here and there to listen to the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack and drink eggnog.
Happy almost Christmas.
“If you don’t fail, you’re not reaching very high.”
And yeah, you’re going to see a lot more from Temple of Art. I might have found a new religion.
“I think it all comes back to the core idea of grounding your characters in an emotional reality that the audience can relate to. And if you can do that, it gives you license to have tremendous amounts of fun and wink at the audience in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re being patronized. We’re all taking it as seriously as we would take a heavy drama. And that tone is critical because you are asking the audience to suspend its belief and you are asking them to jump into this world and say ‘it’s crazy, but it’s totally real’. So hopefully when you’re watching the show, the reaction the audience is having is ‘yes it’s crazy, but man if I were in that situation I think I’d probably be reacting the same way’. If we can get the audience to that place, then they will accept anything. I think that’s our job as screenwriters in anything that we do – we’re asking the audience to suspend disbelief and to go on an emotional ride and to say ‘I accept the reality of this world. Even though it couldn’t possibly happen actually, I’m in it, I believe it, and I feel like it’s happening.’
But mostly it’s about letting your inner kid play around and have fun and be wide-eyed in wonder and experience awe and experience the joy of story twists and turns and fall in love with characters…and if we feel like we can genuinely make that happen, then we say yes. But it’s a process for us in that we have to really believe we can do that. Otherwise it’s not worth the time, because it will be painful for people who loved it to feel it didn’t meet their expectation and it will be painful for us because we don’t want to be the guys who did that to anybody. Especially to ourselves.”
~Alex Kurtzman, as quoted in Creative Screenwriting’s A Year in Quotes series
Now, your first question is probably who the heck is Alex Kurtzman? Short answer is he’s the co-creator of FRINGE, co-writer of STAR TREK, TRANSFORMERS and COWBOYS & ALIENS. He’s done a lot of other writing, a lot of producing and was the executive producer of THE PROPOSAL. Yes, Alex Kurtzman gave Betty White center stage. Let’s just say when Mr. Kurtzman gives advice, I’m listening hard.
I loved the first part of his quote as I’m a fan of Michael Hauge and his whole thing is about eliciting emotion from the reader (audience). Thinking of emotion as a way to ask your reader to suspend disbelief and jump into your world is a great way to put it, and well worth some ceiling gazing in the future, but the gold here is this line: But mostly it’s about letting your inner kid play around and have fun and be wide-eyed in wonder and experience awe and experience the joy of story twists and turns and fall in love with characters…and if we feel like we can genuinely make that happen, then we say yes. That, my friends, is the blue ribbon. Read it again. Read it out loud. See where your voice naturally stresses a word and pay attention to those beats. Feels good, doesn’t it?
Thank you, Mr. Kurtzman.
Here it is, the first day after Labor Day. I don’t care what anybody says, today is the first day of fall. I’m not going to get into what the weather is or should be, just harkening back to the first day back to school being this day, and school=fall, so there ya go. First day of fall also means summer’s over. I hope yours was lovely and everything summer should be. Me? Oh, well I went to a baseball game or two…
Went to the lake…
And met some fun new people… ;)
I also wrote three books, which is why I wasn’t blogging that much. I’m not going to say much about them now because I am a bit superstitious and don’t want to jinx anything, but I really love them all and am keeping my fingers crossed.
Okay, that much writing means lots of other fun stuff that goes with it, so on to that to-do list. I’m thinking of some fun posts about other summer vacation stuff (including lots of excited swears and squees over Mad Mad: Fury Road) so promise to get those up soon. Until then, happy first day of fall.
So, THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN has been out in the world for a week now, and I can’t tell you how tickled I’ve been (and still am!) seeing it out and about. To celebrate FAFW’s week anniversary, I want to share the first scene with you, introduce everybody to Lady and King. Hope you enjoy!
In the twelve years Lady had been a mistress, a bangtail and a whore, she had never been afraid of a man’s kiss. Dockworkers with missing teeth, boys who didn’t know enough to open their mouths, bastards who turned what should have been something sweet into something ugly, she’d faced them all and earned her coin. This man before her now was something she’d never experienced—a man she wanted to touch her. The thought scared her worse than her first time.
“Pet, give the gent a proper kiss for luck,” her protector ordered with a naughty grin. “You want King to be lucky and win now, don’t you?”
Lady pushed her fear down with an ease born of practice and gave the men a sultry smile. “Of course I do, Mr. Adams, though I don’t think luck is going to have anything to do with it,” she said, eyeing the fighter from head to toe and back again. “This man has let you show once again that you own the very best, another champion to join me under the Adams name.” She leaned close and whispered in his ear, “Though I prefer to be under you all by myself.” She sucked his lobe between her lips, giving it a soft nip, and his throaty laugh sealed a moment’s safety to look at another man. To look at this man.
Framed by the timber and brick of the St. Katharine’s Warehouse, the walls glowing a hellish red in the flickering gas lamps, King looked like a mercenary kicked out of hell. He stood a few inches taller than she did, the two of them on opposite sides of six feet, and his square face was unremarkable except for the imperfection of a broken nose and what a gypsy woman she’d once visited called “eyes of an old soul.” He was dressed like a stevedore in his black boots, wool pants and faded blue shirt, and like somebody who worked on the docks, had the muscled physique to show for it. He wasn’t necessarily handsome, not in a traditional way at least, but Lady had never been attracted to the pretty men. She’d always felt drawn to the ones who looked like they’d been brawling since before drawing breath, broken and scarred. King fit that image and, more than once, Lady had wondered how she’d fit King.
Ever since that night almost three years ago when he’d helped her gain her balance as her broken ribs caused her to stumble on that last stair, and then whispered, “Willow bark. It’ll ease the pain,” Lady had discovered this newest bruiser of her protector’s had kindness tempered with his strength. Now, after years of keeping their touches to a hand into a carriage or an elbow on a slippery patch of wet cobblestone, she was being asked to perform one of the most intimate acts two people could share with this man she pictured when Mr. Adams fell asleep beside her. A kiss sounded so simple, but it would be safer to offer a drunk a fine brandy and then ask him to pass over the rest of the bottle. She felt herself looking at King’s lips as if a drop of that brandy still clung there.
“I do own the very best, indeed I do.” Mr. Adams clapped his hands and the sound was consumed by the crowd reacting to the introduction of the fighters. It snapped Lady out of her thoughts and allowed her to collect new ones. If she didn’t get her head back in Mr. Adams’s game, she’d pay a painful price later. “But I figure it can never hurt to have a little extra luck on your side, eh? But mind yourself it’s a little, King, not a lot. Where a bigger kiss might mean bigger luck, it’d also mean I would have to fight you myself.” Mr. Adams shook a finger at King in a joking manner, but there was no doubt that if King got too friendly with Lady without Mr. Adams’s permission, the joke would be over.
Mr. Adams pulled Lady close with one arm around her waist, his hand lightly grasping her hip. His head reached only to her shoulder, yet unlike most men, he seemed to enjoy having her tower over him, her blond curls tangling around his neck. He often said so before he tossed up her skirts.
“Now, Mr. Adams, no fighting your best man.” Lady managed a throaty laugh while she slid her arm around her protector’s shoulders. “You want him to be in the best possible form for tonight, don’t you?” She looked at King and waited for him to act his part in this little drama. She’d managed to play her role. The last thing she needed was Mr. Adams to be in a temper because King didn’t play his. Lady could act blasé about the kiss she was scared to give, but it would be so much easier for both of them if King said his lines. Yes, he was a powerful fighter and Mr. Adams liked that King was always winning, but winning was nothing without adoration. If King didn’t bring in money and make Mr. Adams smile while doing it, he would be killed. Lady woke every morning knowing that same fate could be hers if she didn’t keep Mr. Adams happy. Very happy.
King cracked a smile and Lady felt herself slump with relief. To cover her gaffe, she turned in Mr. Adams’s arms, trailed her finger down her protector’s chest and cocked her head coquettishly at King.
“Have no worries, miss. I’m set to win tonight, especially with such good luck in my corner.” He inclined his head toward her.
“Yes, you are.” Mr. Adams pointed a stubby finger at King, his whole manner suddenly more intense. Lady prayed it was merely excitement for the fight. “You’re going to win this tournament of mine and be crowned toughest bloke in the world.”
Lady beckoned to the betting man with a wave of her hand, hoping to return Mr. Adams to a more relaxed state. “If King says he’s going to win tonight, then I’m calling that a guarantee. And if I know Mr. Adams, he would say such a guarantee is worth wagering on.
“Five pounds on King to win,” she told the betting man and reached into the neckline of her dress for the bill. She took the scrip he gave her and tucked it back into the same place with some extra patting and smoothing.
“Aw, pet, spending your hard-earned blunt on my fighter? That means a lot to me, it does.” Lady simply waited for what was next. “Of course, you earned it after I spent my hard-earned blunt on you.” He finished with a braying laugh, thrusting his hips against her thigh.
Lady looked both coy and wicked, like she was supposed to. She stole a glance at King and saw his face harden before he forced an appreciative laugh. There was a part of her, perhaps the blushing girl she never was, that always felt a brief thrill that this man cared enough to be outraged on her behalf. The woman she’d become took that thrill and buried it in the same grave as the blushing girl. King had the strength to protect her and, more importantly, she felt deep down that he cared for her enough to want to do so, but for him to take any action greater than he already had would have terrible consequences. A gentle hand to support her, a handsome face to picture in the dark—that would have to be it. Anything else was too dangerous. She was a rich man’s mistress and he was a rich man’s thug, and the two did not mix.
“Thank you for your confidence, miss.” King took a step backward. “Mr. Adams, I need to go be announced. That is, if you don’t need me for anything else.”
“No, you’re fine. I know most everybody here.” He opened his coat to show the slim, leather-wrapped handle of a knife he wore at his waist when he went out. “I’ve got this if somebody gets too close, and that’s if they even get past Shade.” Mr. Adams jerked his head toward the shadows and Lady watched King follow with his eyes. She could tell when he spotted Mr. Adams’s other bruiser. He looked back at Mr. Adams, and Lady watched King’s face tighten, his shoulders pull back as though standing at attention, and she felt something icy crawl in her belly without even having to look at Mr. Adams.
“But if it’s not too much trouble to ask,” her protector said slowly, “it would make me feel better if you got that lucky kiss.”
She’d only heard that tone in her protector’s voice once before and the sound of it still caused her breath to seize, her ribs to ache. The injury had long since healed, yet her deepest fears knew that one brought about the other. King may not face the same fears, but she couldn’t chance that Mr. Adams would find new ones for both of them if they kept refusing.
“Perhaps you have found your fighter’s secret, Mr. Adams.” Lady had been trying for lightly mocking, though truth be told, she was just happy her voice didn’t tremble. “He’s scared to kiss a girl.”
“Trust me, King, this lady’s kiss is sweet. Nothing to be frightened of at all,” Mr. Adams said and chuckled in a moment of shared masculine appreciation. Except King didn’t look like he appreciated anything. He looked like he fought everything, from the invisible tether Mr. Adams held to the dreams he had at night.
She wouldn’t let him fight her, though, no matter how scared she was to do this. She stepped up to King, putting Mr. Adams at her back and out of her mind. “Come, King, it’s only a kiss,” Lady said, deliberately pitching her voice low. She would give the kiss and pray her trembling barriers would hold, keep her safe against the desire to close her eyes, breathe in his scent, and feel for one moment that a fighter and a fallen woman had a future together.
“Lady, you should know when it comes to you, it’s never only anything,” he whispered so that only she could hear. “It’s everything.”
Lady braced herself for a deeper look into King’s eyes and saw flecks of gold in the brown, a fading bruise ringing his left, and a wariness that matched hers. Beneath all that was a cold, empty place, but she couldn’t tell if it was his or a reflection of hers. She quickly lowered her eyes, praying he hadn’t seen anything tonight other than a reluctant whore. With a quick intake of breath, Lady glanced at King’s mouth, closed her eyes and pressed her lips to his.
Warmth. Protection. Life. Lady could taste it on his lips, could feel it pulse around him like fire. For an instant, her entire body was flooded with heat and she longed to throw herself into it, knowing he would catch her and hold her close, protecting her from the flames while making her burn. It made her reach out, her fingers fluttering in the hidden recess between them, and she felt his hand already there, straining between sense and desire. He grabbed her hand only for an instant, but it was long enough to brand his touch on her skin before he let go.
Lady pulled back and her eyes drifted open, her held breath slipping from her mouth and into his. King was right. This would never be only a kiss.
Yes, there are many blog posts scheduled to talk about the release of my debut historical romance novel, THE FIGHTER AND THE FALLEN WOMAN, and various details, thoughts and comments about it, but not today. You see today, the day after Release Day, something wonderful happened.
I’ve talked before how music inspires my writing, even talked about it recently on the Carina Press blog for FAFW (see, got some promotion in!). As other books come up, I’ll talk about their songs and inspirations (including one full book inspired by a song I heard on Dancing With The Stars and the way the universe lined up on that one), but not today. Today is that something wonderful I referred to above.
So this Tuesday morning I’m driving to work, listening to an Ed Sheeran shuffle of both X and + (his two albums of those names) and a song came on that got me. If I may quote my own webpage, “felt as though it bruised something deep within.” A hero popped into my head, a dark and tortured hero to rival any I’ve written or have planned to write (and trust me, not of them get softer and fluffier than King. We’re talking dahr-har-har-hark!) I knew this was a hero who deserved his story because a) for a second I wondered if he was too dark, too fucked-up to be a hero in a romance novel, which meant he was absolutely a hero I had to write about, and b) who needs a happy ever after more than somebody who is that far gone, that destructive (both to himself and others)?
Sidenote: I’m not linking the song now not because I’m worried that somebody will steal my idea or anything like it, but this stage of the game the idea is fresh and new, and I need to bury it deep in the fecund soil of my writer’s brain to steep and grow stronger. I can only do that if I keep everything in the dark ground and out of direct light.
“So you had a book idea from a song. Big deal!” some of you may yell. “You’ve been there, done that. Tell us something new.” Okay, I will.
Yes, I’ve had ideas spring from a single song before, but this one was different. I heard the song and had the idea. Usually that’s as far as it goes for a while. Nuh-uh. Not today. Within 15 minutes, I had 2 more songs for the soundtrack, the visual hanger for my hero and the title of the book, which is also the central theme. I even had the big crisis moment that precedes Turning Point 2, aka the midpoint of the book. That much information about a book, enough to really jump-start the whole damn story? That has never happened before. All from one song. I am so excited about this hero that I want to move him up the queue and start writing his story much sooner than some of the others, but I also know I need to let him steep for a little while, find him the perfect heroine and a few other necessary points. Then I can write him.
I cannot wait.
So, my very first book comes out on Monday. Needless to say, I have been planning the celebration since…well, for years, actually, but that’s another story. Let’s just say an official celebration plan has been in the works since I got my release date.
Now, as Carina Press publishes on Monday, I decided to do one level of the celebration the Sunday night before. Montana and I have a great little restaurant that we’ve been to before and is perfect for this occasion (bacon wrapped figs–need I say more?) and my celebration necklace is polished and ready.
But, in the way of Life, that celebration isn’t going to happen. Nothing horrible or bad–just a nasty cold that took me out for the better part of the week, and is still working me over pretty hard. The couch has been my best friend this week, gallons of tea and a mountain of tissues at hand. Comfort reads have been utilized (Marilyn Brant, Heidi Betts, Sherry Thomas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Julia Quinn to name a few…), Netflix has been left on autoplay, and a pillow is never far from hand for when I need to fall over into a nap.
So the celebration has been postponed until next weekend and I like to think there’ll be many more to come and, the ‘verse willing, some with you wonderful folk. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for some DayQuil and a nap.
See you Monday.
So I was watching the Oscars last night and one thing trending during the red carpet portion of the evening was #AskHerMore. It was basically a plea for those doing the interviewing of the stars (particularly the women) to not just ask about the dress, but about the woman wearing it. It was a fun hashtag to watch, with some amazing thoughts and ideas being tweeted. (One of my absolute favorites was from @RebeccaSchinsky, who tweeted: My kingdom for a red carpet “What are you reading?” #AskHerMore)
But it all got me thinking–there’s another similar situation where (primarily) women are treated as mindless airheads, not asked substantial questions but instantly judged by one single aspect of their appearance: the romance novel they’re holding in their hand.
So what if more people adopted an #AskHerMore philosophy, especially when it comes to romance reading and writing? We could call it #AskMeMore. Under that hashtag, people could ask romance writers why they chose that genre, what drew them to it. #AskMeMore could be used to ask romance readers what kind of story they like–sweet or spicy? A Harlequin Presents or a self-published novella? Is it all about the Happily Ever After or is there something else that keeps a reader going back to a genre over and over?
I’m not trying to judge or be all sanctimonious or anything else, just encouraging open conversations before drawing conclusions about a person who lists Loretta Chase or Nora Roberts as their favorite author. Women on the red carpet are so much more than their dresses and romance readers and writers are so much more than the covers on their books.