When I first heard news of Ruby Sister Shea Berkley’s DARK SECRETS paranormal series, I thought it was about her secret love of Vegemite, a breakfast delight invented by my people. Now, I’ve just read the second book in the series, and while I was slightly dismayed by the lack of Vegemite in the story, I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved it!
What if nightmares, best kept in the dark, refuse to stay hidden?
Dr. Maya Kelbeck believes no matter how unusual her patients’ delusions, she can help. When billionaire Alden Caldwell seeks her counsel to escape a controlling relationship, she’s intrigued by his unusual diagnosis, lycanthropy—her patient actually believes he is over 600 years old and a werewolf.
Alden Caldwell’s life is not his own and hasn’t been since the middle ages, not since he was transformed into a werewolf. The once noble knight now finds himself no more than a slave to a female vampire who is without morals, without conscious, without a soul.
Maya promises Alden she can help him, and at first it looks like she can, until the supernatural world in which he lives wants him back. Can Alden convince Maya his delusions are real in time to save her, or has he just sentenced a woman who cares for him despite his past transgressions to a fate worse than death?
Vanessa Barneveld: Shea, congratulations the release of DARK SECRETS: EDGE OF EVIL! That is one fangtastic cover, and I’ll say again how much I loved the book. It’s beautifully written and intense, yet it has moments of biting humor. Tell us how this story came about.
Shea Berkley: When I was around 10 or so, my family had a friend who loved old horror movies. He collected those old reels and would have movie night at his house. There is something really cool about old projectors and the sound they make as the movie is playing. Anyway, he showed me my first Dracula movie. Talk about a complete opposite look to what we write now about Dracula. The guy was a disfigured nightmare of a man with long fingernails, bald head and floppy, pointy ears. I graduated onto other Dracula movies where the vampires morphed into better looking versions, from Love at First Bite with George Hamilton to Underworld with Kate Beckinsale to the latest Dracula Untold with Luke Evans. From all those, I created my version. Vampires are great villains. Their backstories can be seriously complex and the people who they encounter and manipulate can really have some horrific experiences and that’s what I found so fascinating.
VB: Your heroine, Maya, first meets the hunky but haunted Alden when he comes to her for therapy sessions. But it’s bad girl Juliana who, frankly, has some real deep-seated issues. Let’s get Maya on the clock here. Maya, psychoanalyze Juliana for us. What makes her tick?
Maya: Juliana is an interesting case of a woman who has, for layman’s terms, Daddy issues. She was turned when she was a young woman at her sexual peak and was allowed to exercise her demons on the local populace. She quickly got out of control to where even her “father” the man who turned her and indulged her every whim, could no longer control her. In fact, all she really wanted in the beginning was for someone to place boundaries around her and tell her she was loved. Yet with her super human strength and her lust for blood, it became impossible for any man to get too close. She became a hardened manipulator, equating getting her way with true love and that twisted view point cemented itself in a way that it is nearly impossible to separate the two now.
VB: Thanks, Maya! I love you, but would you mind scooting aside so I can speak to Shea again, please? Shea, werewolf Alden is a mere eight centuries or so old. A young pup compared to Juliana, really. If you were paranormal, how would you while away those years?
SB: I’m pretty sure paranormal creatures don’t get fat. So I’d eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I’d gorge myself into a food coma as often as I could. This is the reality of what I’d do.
The “oh I’d better say something altruistic so people think I’m an awesome person” yet unlikely things I’d do would be: Learn to play a multiple of instruments, and write music like Mozart and Taylor Swift. Paint like Da Vinci. Sculpt like Michelangelo. And become a Tomb Raider like Laura Croft. Not only that, but I’d create the most wicked fun treasure hunt ever! Blackbeard would have nothing on me. I’d take on multiple identities and become whomever I wanted within a particular time period. I’d find a way to complement brilliant people around me, enhancing life for the betterment of everyone.
VB: Oooh, a treasure hunt sounds like so much fun! I’d join in! We learn about Alden’s history through his dreams. Or rather his vivid nightmares. Speaking of dreams, have any of yours ever come true?
SB: I dreamt once I was taking a shower and all of a sudden I was pregnant and giving birth in the shower. When I woke up, I didn’t feel very well, so I made an appointment to see the doctor and he told me I was pregnant. I did not, however, give birth in the shower. That would have been really odd if I had…though slightly Twilight Zoneawesome except for the whole actually giving birth in a shower thing.
VB: Whoa, that’s really freaky! I’ve watched many episodes of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant—surprise births in the shower are more common than you’d think! I was in total awe of your action scenes. Whether it was a car chase, a sword fight, hand-to-hand combat or gun battle, I really felt immersed in it all. (Dodged a few silver bullets, I did!) What’s your approach when it comes to writing action?
SB: I’m a ninja. And now that I told you, I’ll have to kill you.
LOL, seriously, I don’t know. I’ve always had a weird, intense imagination plus I actually kickbox, as in I get in the ring with my trainers and it’s all about me avoiding getting hit while they yell at me. Because of that, I know what it feels like to have someone come at you with the intent to knock you upside the head. (I don’t like it, not one bit.) I also know what it feels like to hit someone. (It took me a long time to get used to doing that.) Add to that getting chased around the house by a kid with a wooden sword or nerf gun and having fake fights all the time. Basically, my whole existence is about me having to avoid getting hit by someone, failing, and then pretending to die. I can playact a really amazing death scene. Seriously Oscar worthy a la Willem Defoe in Platoon.
VB: You’re famous/infamous for your ninja/kickboxing prowess. Post a video or photo of you kicking somebody’s butt in your gym class. Please, no street-fighting this time. Then, I dare you to Facebook Like the official Vegemite fan page (I’ll be checking up on this!)
SB: Here’s the video of me refusing to be baited into beating up an innocent person.
VB: Ha! Well, for that response, you get to enter…
…the Bonus Round™
I need quick-fire answers to these quick-fire questions, Shea. Ready?
SB: Linkin’ Park. That’s right. I refuse to play this sick twisted game of which Euro-pop band is better. I’m an American!
VB: Would you rather be a werewolf or a vampire?
SB: Hands down a werewolf. Who wants to be cold all the time? Plus werewolves can go out in the sun. That’s a huge positive for me.
VB: How do you like your steak?
SB: Medium rare. An overcooked steak is the worst kind of food sin to commit.
VB: Are you a lover or a fighter?
SB: I’m fairly aggressive when I’m fighting in the ring, but I don’t enjoy hurting people, so I’m more of a lover. Just don’t piss me off, then I’ll take you down, and it won’t be pleasant. I’ve been taught how to fight dirty.
VB: Yikes! Okay, to which century would you like to travel back in time?
SB: I love history, so this is really difficult to narrow it down to one century. I like medieval times, and Elizabethan era and the Victorian Era. It would be a real challenge to pick between those three.
VB: OMG, you cracked me up with your fave band answer, Shea! Thanks so much for answering my questions and for “Liking” Vegemite! You do like Vegemite, really, don’t you…?
**For those of you playing at home, this has nothing to do with Shea’s series and everything to do with my Duran Duran fixation! Tell us, who or what are you fixated on at the moment? A particular TV show or author or band or cupcake? We’d love to know!
It’s Shea Berkley here and I am so excited to introduce Vanessa Barneveld’s debut Young Adult book, This Is Your Afterlife! USA Today called it a “must read!” Clink your champagne glass to the screen and give a shout out to Vanessa. YAY, Vanessa!!!
If I had confetti, I’d throw it in the air, but me being me, I’d accidently chuck it in Vanessa’s eyes and blind her, so thank God this is a virtual party and not an in-person party. (Upside, she can’t see me dance. Downside, she can’t see me dance and I’ll have to eat the cake I bought her all by myself.)
Shea Berkley – is that a chocolate cake or a Vegemite cake?
The cover for This Is Your Afterlife is gorgeous and the book’s premise is awesome, so let’s give our blog readers a sneak peek, shall we?
When the one boy you crushed on in life can’t seem to stay away in death, it’s hard to be a normal teen when you’re a teen paranormal.
Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.
Keira’s determined to do anything to find Jimmy’s killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira’s ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.
This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to “teen spirit”.
This Is Your Afterlife (Bloomsbury Spark – digital-first imprint)
Gorgeous cover, right? It’s now time to play Question or Dare. Ready Vanessa? Don’t be scared. Be terrified.
Let’s begin. (clapping hands together in a perky, annoying way)
SHEA: Question. What’s it like being so stunningly beautiful? It appears to have no bearing to what you write, but that’s not really true. Being so naturally beautiful, I suspect it gives you far more time to write. (See the connection?) So, what’s your writing schedule like?
VANESSA: Shea, you tell me what it’s like being stunningly beautiful, because I have no idea! I bet you have people falling over themselves to write your books for you! My writing schedule is a mixed bag. I do try to be disciplined, but ultimately my scatterbrained approach to almost everything takes over. What I try to do is go to the gym as soon as the day job’s over, write for an hour, do house stuff/emails/pat the cats, then write for an hour. Rinse and repeat until bedtime, which is usually around 11pm.
SHEA: Dare. Take a picture of yourself the moment you wake up (and no cheating like Kristen Wiig did in the movie Friends with Kids) and post the picture here.
Here’s a picture of me just before waking up. This counts, yes? I’m surprised you don’t have any photos of me first thing in the morning seeing as we’ve roomed together at RWA. Or do you…?
SHEA: Question. Did you ever have the captain of the football team (or any team) in your teenage bedroom?
VANESSA: Back then I thought I’d been doused in some kind of boy repellent at birth. I didn’t go on any dates, and thus my chance of luring a team sportsman of any kind to my bedroom was nil. To compensate for this sad state of affairs, I plastered all four walls and the ceiling with Duran Duran posters.
SHEA: Dare.Take a picture or video tape yourself eating a tablespoon of your favorite (that’s favourite to you) yeast extract such as Marmite or Vegemite and post the pic/video here. (For those unfamiliar with yeast extract, it is hands down the nastiest thing Australians force their innocent children to eat.)
VANESSA: I appreciate your concession to Australian English spelling, Shea! Due to the Great Vegemite Shortage of October 2014, I’m forced to ration my supply. So I indulged in a teaspoon rather than a tablespoon of Vegemite.
Rubies and gentlemen, this is how you’re meant to enjoy yeast extract – on toast with lashings of butter. Note how thin and sparse the layer of Vegemite is!
SHEA: Question. When writing Keira’s story about dealing with the undead, what kind of research did you do? Have you ever seen a ghost?
VANESSA: When I was growing up, ghost talk was the norm. My mother has countless stories and a lot of them filter naturally into my ghost books. I’m not sure whether I’ve seen a spirit myself, but I’ve had a number of what I believe are ghost encounters. I stayed in a New York hotel that was beautiful by day, chilling by night. I saw an eerie and inexplicable blue light, and heard rapping on the wall (and not the Jay-Z kind of rapping). One night, I dreamt I was yanked out of bed by my feet. The next morning, I had a gigantic bruise that went right through the thickness of my foot. Huge as that bruise was, it disappeared the following day.
SHEA: Take a picture of the scariest thing in your house and post it here.
VANESSA: Okay, now, that would be me first thing in the morning! Second-scariest thing is this Secret Santa present my husband received. Don’t ask me what it’s still doing in our house. I must stress these briefs have never been worn, merely inspected…and laughed at.
SHEA: Question. You have quite a bit of supernatural things going on in your book. What was the most fun to write and why?
VANESSA: The most fun parts were the scenes featuring the dead guy, Jimmy. I loved the interaction between him and Keira. The bittersweet irony is that shy Keira was invisible to him when he was alive. As an invisible-to-everyone-else ghost, he forms a meaningful friendship with Keira.
SHEA: Dare. Go outside and yell at the top of your lungs “Buffy the Vampire Slayer sucks.”
Joss Whedon – creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
VANESSA: Due to noise restrictions in my neighbourhood (neighborhood to you), I cannot complete this task. Besides, I’m surrounded by Buffy fans. You don’t want me to be driven out of my home, do you?
SHEA: Question. What about This Is Your Afterlife compelled you to write it?
VANESSA: Frankly, I was possessed. True story. The title came to me first, and then the basic premise: What would you do if the boy you had a rampant crush on died and only you could see his ghost? Jimmy the ghost popped in to my head as a character right away. The other players soon came along, begging me to put them in the book. (See, I told you I was possessed!)
SHEA: Dare. Videotape yourself telling a stranger about your book and post it here.
VANESSA: Ohhh, what is it with you and video? How about I get a bunch of strangers, cast them in a book trailer, and post it here? Okay? Excellent!
Shea, thanks so much for putting me through these dares and questions. Yes, I was terrified! Phew! So glad that’s over.
To celebrate my debut and Shea’s fun interview, I’m giving away a Kindle edition of This Is Your Afterlife! Just send us a dare for Shea to complete and you could win!!!! Ah, I’m kidding. All you have to do is tell us about the scariest book or movie you’ve read or seen.
I love perspectives. We all see through the world through our own filter and when I began writing the Lone Pine Pride series, I knew I wanted each book to not only advance the series arc, but also to show the reader a new perspective on something they’d seen previously from a different angle. It was one of the things that got me excited about writing shifters again—the idea of launching Lone Pine with a pair of linked books, not just two books in a series, but two books whose plots were inextricably intertwined.
Taming the Lion and Jaguar’s Kiss could have been combined into one book, with Lila and Santiago’s romance as a subplot, but I wanted each of these heroines to get their own day in the sun, so two books interweaving along the same timeline were born. It was a fabulous challenge and I loved every second of it (and hopefully readers enjoy the pairing as well), but it was also a huge learning experience.
I am certainly not the first author to attempt this. Look at Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow. The Lost Duke of Wyndham and Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. Or half the books in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series, several of which circle around the same events from different angles. Some of the pairings are more successful than others, but they are all fascinating exercises in perspective.
And in studying those books, here are some of my takeaways about writing linked books:
Huzzah! Today is my release day celebration of my 9th book, A SCANDAL TO REMEMBER, the 5th book in my Reckless Brides series.
I am both excited and happy to final bring this book to you. Why ‘finally’? Because writing this book nearly killed me. Actually, it was appendicitis that nearly killed me, but it was because I was deep in the process of writing this book, and hard up against a deadline, that I ignored my body’s rather strenuous objections and warning signs until it was nearly too late.
In the aftermath I realized that I had written my own drama into the book: I had created two characters who fail to recognize their own warning signs of impending disaster until it is very nearly too late for them.
Interested? Here’s an excerpt:
Isle of Wight, and the whole of the coast of England, was slipping away to the stern. Nothing could stop Jane Burke now. Not Sir Richard, nor the snide derision of the crew. Nor even Lieutenant Dance’s strange ability to soothe and discompose her all at the same time.
Perhaps the Bible verse had it wrong—it was not the truth, but her lie that had set her free. The irony could only make her laugh.
“You seem well entertained this morning, Miss Burke.” While she had been watching the isle, Lieutenant Charles Dance had been watching her.
Jane tried to combat the rising heat in her face by turning into the wind. “It has been a most instructional morning.”
A twisted-up half-smile threatened to steal across his face. “And have all your—what did you call them?—collecting expeditions been as instructive?”
“If only.” But Jane thought it best to say no more on the subject of instruction, and what she had learned this morning. And so she instructed herself to smile more serenely while she prayed that her face did not color with betraying heat. “But I am very much looking forward to learning more.”
The lieutenant’s sharp, all-seeing glance slid across her face so fast she was surprised it didn’t cut her.
Oh, Lord. And there was the suffocating heat. It was a good thing the wind was chilling, or she would be as overheated as a boiled turnip. “I mean, I am very much looking forward to this overseas expedition. I have never collected outside of Britain, nor taken such a long expedition before. Two months is hardly the same as two years.”
“Yes, hardly the same.” His green, green gaze, which had moved on in a constant inspection of all the various and different parts of the ship, came again to rest upon hers. She could feel the pressing weight of his regard as if it were a stack of books sitting upon her chest.
“You do know, Miss Burke, that the Admiralty’s estimation of two years is based upon a sort of minimum requirement for getting to the other side of the earth and back?” His gaze spared her for a moment as it swept up the bowsprit. “Two years is the least amount of time it could take, barring bad weather and unforeseen circumstances, which, I will scruple to tell you, can be counted upon to plague us every sea mile of the way. The truth is, it will undoubtedly take far longer than two years.”
The news jarred the breath from her. She had not known, though clearly she should have. She had planned both her stores and her funds for reprovisioning at the standard stops of Madeira, Salvador de Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Valparaiso—just saying the exotic names had made her giddy with delight—to last only those two allotted years.
No, she had been careful in her preparation and generous in her funds. And besides, she had provisioned for two people—Papa and her, before he had changed his mind and decided they were not to go—when she would be only one. And those provisions had been a keepsafe—something to go along with the meals she would take sharing the captain’s table along with the rest of the expedition, as had been arranged. She would be fine—although she was certainly hesitant, as well as curious, to meet the captain after the lieutenant’s cryptic but descriptive comments upon her arrival.
“And if you were asked instead of the Admiralty, Lieutenant, how long would you have said the voyage was to last?”
“I would have said that we will be lucky to see England’s shores within five years, Miss Burke, not two. That is, if Tenacious lives up to her name, and doesn’t sink us all long before that.”
Jane absorbed the second blow in silence. She had thought only of what she might accomplish on such a journey, and not of the passage of time. In five years’ time she would be one and thirty. She would be the thing she had not wanted to admit to being, the thing that she told herself was not important. Being recognized as a talented, dedicated, scholarly conchologist had been what mattered. But the inescapable truth was that in five years’ time, after having taken herself across the globe and back, she would be irrevocably ruined for marriage. She would be a spinster set firmly upon the shelf.
It was a bitter tonic to swallow at the very start of her triumph. It was almost frightening.
Oh. This time it was she who looked more closely at the grim pleasure on the lieutenant’s face. “I see. You mean to frighten me, Lieutenant Dance.”
He nodded, all purposeful admittance. “I do, ma’am, I do. I mean for all of you, from Sir Richard on down the Royal Society’s muster roll to you, J. E. Burke, conchologist, to be frightened into understanding what might come. Sir Richard spoke of hardships. Make no mistake, Miss Burke, there will undoubtedly be hardships, but there will also be danger—very real, threatening danger. The dislike of the crew, and the resistance of Sir Richard will seem like nothing compared to it.”
He meant it, this sharp-eyed, grim-faced man. He believed the truth of every word he spoke. “You’re a cynic.”
He laughed into the wind. “Assuredly, Miss Burke. But at least I am not a worthless drunk.”
I don’t think it will be too much of a spoiler to tell you this is a ripping good yarn of a shipwreck story. And things will most assuredly heat up on the beach for our hero and heroine, and for one lucky commenter who will win a copy of A SCANDAL TO REMEMBER. Just leave a comment to enter!
In honor of my latest pirate adventure MUTINY OF THE HEART which was released last week, I thought I’d talk sailor shop, literally. Did you know that many of the idioms and words we speak today are of nautical origin? Granted, some of these phrases are disputable among etymologists, but their seafaring origins are plausible. And interesting, if not romantic in the literary sense.
Turn a Blind Eye – ignore. Credited to Admiral Horatio Nelson. When things looked bleak for the British during the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, his superior signaled a flag of retreat. Nelson was notified of the banner, but he raised his spyglass to his blind eye and commented he didn’t see the flag. He continued to fight and within the hour won the battle. Now THAT is the stuff heroes are made of.
Clean Bill of Health – to be well and healthy. This was a paper signed by presumably a doctor or other authority stating the vessel’s passenger was free from disease or illness. No one wants the spread of nasty or fatal cooties in the close confines of a ship.
Doldrums (in the) – emotionally down. Sailing vessels relied on winds, namely trade winds in the northern and southern hemispheres. But between these hemispheres near the equator, the winds are so calm, ships can get stuck out there for long periods of time going virtually nowhere. Think of how hot and crabby you’d become floating around with nothing to do.
Hazing – humiliating and/or harassment of a newbie to an organization. Unpleasant and unnecessary work to assert authority and make crews manageable and humble. Wonder if I could haze my kids. Hmm…
Keel over – die. A keel is the center structural beam on the ship’s hull. Quite frankly, if a ship capsizes, there is a pretty good chance those on board are going to drown.
Loose Cannon – unpredictable/uncontrollable person. If a gun breaks loose from the ropes securing it in place during rough seas, it rolls around on deck becoming very dangerous and causing damage. I’ve been known to break free from my…oh, nevermind.
Pipe Down – to be quiet. An officer or boatswain blows his pipe when it was time for the above-deck shift to below deck to retire. (Often heard by parents who are ready to haze unruly children.)
Rummage Sale – the sale of secondhand items. Rummage is to stow and arrange cargo in a ship’s hold. Items that may have been damaged in route are sold in a rummage sale. Admit it, you love a good rummage sale. One man’s trash is another’s treasure.
Skyscraper – tall building. This was a small sail at the top of a mast. Because a ship needs just one more sail. I’m wondering if this was sail envy.
Slush Fund – money set aside for corrupt activities or entertainment (sometimes that is one and the same). Food goes rancid pretty fast without proper storage and this posed a problem for sailing ships on lengthy voyages. Salted meats lasted longer. These meats were kept in barrels, and when the food was gone, slushy fats and salt were left over in the bottom. Ewww. The ship’s cook would sell this slop in port to candle makers and tanneries, keeping the money for himself or the crew.
Under the Weather – ill. There are always crewmen standing watch for land, other vessels and dangers in the water. The sailor on the weather side of the bow taking the beating from the ocean waves and spray is said to be under the weather. So much for that clean bill of health.
There are many more sayings and terms that have briny beginnings. Can you name one?
Navigating the high seas as the female captain of a pirate ship means always being on your guard—especially when one takes a temptingly handsome slave on board.
Captain Joelle Quint believes the slave claiming to be a cartographer can help her decipher the map her father left her when she was a child. She’s spent years trying to unlock its truths, hoping that it holds the answers to a dark family secret.
Sloan Ricker has no intention of remaining captive. When the fiery, red-headed captain offers him his freedom in exchange for solving her map, what begins as an opportunity to escape becomes a struggle to make the beautiful, intriguing Joelle his mistress in more ways than one.
Amidst a battle with the Royal Navy and a first mate’s jealousy, Joelle also fights her growing lust. And as much as he’d like to deny it, Ricker’s desire for Joelle has overcome his initial disdain. To get the answers, independence and love that they both long for, Joelle and Ricker must relinquish control to each other…or die trying.
Writing genre fiction can sometimes be described as trying to write books that are the same, but different. The books need to be “same” enough for us to establish a brand as an author, same enough for readers to know what they will be getting when they pick up a Vivi Andrews (or Amanda Brice or Laurie Kellogg or Darynda Jones) book, but simultaneously different enough that they don’t feel repetitive or stagnant – even if we are telling the oldest story in the world over and over again. It’s quite a delicate dance.
Your books need to be similar enough to what’s already out there that readers (and agents and editors and marketing departments) can easily visualize what they are going to get (oh, this is a sexy shifter story! hey look, a small town contemporary!) but different enough that there is a hook, a twist, that little something extra to set your stories apart make readers click on the “Buy It Now!” button.
Maybe it takes the art out of writing to think about it this way, but I’m in this for both the love of it AND to make a career, so looking at what sells and why and how we engage readers of genre fiction is a necessary part of the business.
A few years ago, back when I was shiny and new and just starting out as a published author, I wrote a series of fun, sexy shape-shifter novellas. They surprised me with their popularity and readers wanted more, but after four of the novellas (set in a small pride where there were only so many single available characters to believably hook up with one another) I began to worry that they were too much of the same and not enough different. After completing the story arc of the Minor family, I decided to take a hiatus from the series. Readers asked me when I would be writing more and I had to tell them I had no immediate plans to continue the series (though I never say never!) – I just couldn’t find that twist, that hook, that something different to lure me back into the world – and if I couldn’t find that access point, how would readers?
I took some time to chase down other stories – completing my para-rom-com psychics series and writing a cluster of superhero romance novellas. And then a funny thing happened – one day the inspiration to write more shifters hit me upside the head. I didn’t want them to be exactly like the first series, but I wanted to play in the same world – so a new pride was born. I’d been heading in a “battle against the evil scientists” direction at the end of the first series and so it was very natural to steal from another paranormal idea I’d been playing with and insert that element into this new series arc.
But what really caught me and made me want to write this new series was the idea that I could take some of my favorite classic romance tropes (the oldies but goodies) and slide them into this paranormal world. Arranged marriage! Cinderella stories! Revenge romance! All those tropes that first hooked me back in the day when I first started reading Johanna Lindsey and Amanda Quick – those tropes gave me my access point to this new pride. They gave me back my enthusiasm for a series that had begun to feel too much the same.
Hopefully it is still somewhat the same, but with that special edge of different. You know the old saying “Something old (my shifters!), something new (shiny new pride!), something borrowed (classic tropes!) and something blue (sex-ay blue cover!).” Hopefully it’ll result in a happy marriage between readers and my new series, launching today with the novella Jaguar’s Kiss and continuing in September with a full length novel, Taming the Lion.
What are your favorite classic tropes to read or write about? How are your books the same but different? Or how do you bring new life to an ongoing series so it remains fresh?
And here’s a peek at my shiny new release! (Huzzah!)
To get what he wants, he’ll have to rattle her cage…
Lila Fallon, the Lone Pine Pride Alpha’s only daughter, has been betrothed since childhood to marry her father’s chosen successor. The match is designed to maintain peace by shoring up any cracks in pride solidarity.
She’s always known she would do her duty—she just never expected to meet a man who would tempt her to throw it all away.
As a black panther, Santiago Flores couldn’t be a less suitable mate for the Alpha’s purebred lioness daughter. But that doesn’t change the fact that for every one of the five years he’s been with the Lone Pine Pride, he’s been head-over-heels in love with her. And when the Alpha announces that Lila’s indefinite engagement is about to end in a very definite marriage, Santiago is through holding his peace.
From their very first kiss, Santiago rattles Lila’s neatly ordered world. But can a lioness who’s always lived to please everyone else risk everything to please herself?
Warning: This book contains tempting lone-wolf jaguars, lionesses who long for fairy tale endings, arranged marriages, tangled emotions and a pride full of trouble.
Vivi Andrews is an award-winning paranormal romance novelist with a travel addiction. Born and raised in Alaska, she currently lives in Manhattan when she isn’t bouncing around the globe. Whether at home or on the road, she’s always at work on her next happily-ever-after. For more about her books or the exploits of a nomadic author, please visit her website at www.ViviAndrews.com, or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
One of the things I like most about reading and writing fiction is the opportunity to explore the world vicariously. However, for my latest book, Acceptable Risk, I took my characters home to Texas. And by home, I mean the Lone Star state is both their home and mine.
My family moved to San Antonio when I was eight. I loved growing up in Texas. I even met my husband there, “kicker dancing” at a combination honky tonk and bull-riding arena called the Bluebonnet Palace. (No, he isn’t a cowboy, but he IS my hero. And yes, there were real bulls.) The history, sights, sounds and tastes of the region give the city a flavor like no other. You can sample this flavor all year round, but Fiesta (in mid-April), and Cinco de Mayo (May 5th), offer a particularly vibrant experience.
Mariachi band. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, credit to Steve.
St. Mary’s University, where I attended undergraduate school, hosts Oyster Bake every April, just one of the many activities during Fiesta. The Cinco de Mayo events in downtown San Antonio draw tens of thousands of visitors each year. The events also host mariachis, Tejano and Conjunto music groups, Folklorico dancers, arts & crafts, and concerts. And then there’s the food, beer and margaritas.
The Alamo. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, credit to BigRoger27509
San Antonio’s history is rich. It is the home of the Alamo, which is downtown, and Mission Trail, which is an eight-mile hiking/biking path along which adventurers can see four historic missions. Because my father loved the arts, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend many musicals and symphonies at The Majestic theater, which is the most beautiful theater in the country (that I’ve seen, anyway). The ceiling is painted like stars. And, for those looking for some thrills, don’t forget Sea World & Fiesta Texas.
I’m so excited that RWA’s national conference will be in San Antonio this July 23-26. And on the Riverwalk, no less! Talk about the flavor of the town. Paseo del Rio holds a special place in my heart. The barge rides are fun, and if you’re looking for flavor, restaurants are abundant. I plan to seek out a slice of world-famous cheesecake at Kangaroo Court, midori margaritas at Rio Rio Cantina, and barbecue at The County Line.
The San Antonio Riverwalk. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, credit to Magicknight94.
It just so happens that today is Cinco de Mayo. It’s also a book birthday for me. And a particularly important book birthday, since it’s my first experience as an Indie author. Acceptable Risk is the latest installment (Book 5) in my Mindhunters series, and it takes place in San Antonio. To celebrate, I’m buying y’all a round of cyber margaritas and passing platters of nachos, quesadillas, fajitas, and BBQ ribs. Enjoy!
What flavorful city have you enjoyed—either with personal experience or in a book? What city would you like to read more about? One lucky commenter will receive a digital copy of ACCEPTABLE RISK.
Book five of The Mindhunters
To repay a debt, resourceful receptionist Catherine Montague has been living a lie, and her secret betrayal eats at her conscience. She knows what she has to do to reclaim her life, but revealing the truth could mean losing everything, including the agent she’s fallen in love with.
For sexy ex-SEAL Max Sawyer, hunting killers gives him a sense of fulfillment he never would have found if he’d followed the path that was his birthright. However, when his latest mission goes horribly wrong, releasing a hardened criminal in Max’s hometown of San Antonio, Texas, it’ll take all of his charm to convince the beautiful and resilient Catherine to serve as a buffer between him and the painful ties from his past.
Amid a manhunt, the re-emergence of a serial killer, and the activity of an organized crime ring known as the Circle, Max and Catherine may be the only ones who can set things right again. That is, if Max can forgive Catherine for her deception before a killer claims her. But is mercy a risk he’s willing to take?
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
I have three brothers. They taught me much as I grew up. How to kick a soccer ball. How to climb a tree. How to bait a hook. How to score a baseball game.
They also handed down their books to me. Books like: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, and I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. I never read a Nancy Drew story in my life but I did jump feet first into all twenty-three volumes of the Tarzan series by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
When I was eleven or twelve I would take one or two of these hand-me-down books on summer vacations to South Carolina. Until the year my Aunt Annie put her foot down. I believe the book in question was A princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Annie had no idea what was between the covers of this book, she simply objected to its cover.
Not to mention the fact that I was reading all these hand-me-downs from the boys and I was missing out on the good stuff. Or so she claimed. I personally thought four armed green guys with tusks were pretty cool. Annie didn’t agree.
So that summer she took away my Edgar Rice Burroughs and handed me Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I reluctantly cracked the book, sure that it would be filled with icky, sissy, not very interesting stuff.
And then I met Mr. Rochester and . . . *sigh* . . . I’ve never been quite the same since.
I think I’ve re-read Jane Eyre at least twenty or thirty times and I never get tired of it. It was the gateway drug for many other reading addictions including my love of Jane Austen.
Anyway, I knew when I started writing about the Last Chance, South Carolina book club that they would eventually get around to reading Jane Eyre. And that’s precisely what they do in my newest release Inn at Last Chance, which went on sale this week.
This book is an homage to Jane Eyre. My heroine, Jenny Carpenter, is a modern take on Jane. She’s a former school teacher who dresses like a little mouse and who has decided to embrace her spinsterhood. Her plain outsides mask a deeply emotional and passionate woman. My hero, Gabe Raintree, is Mr. Rochester in spades. He’s moody, dark, tortured, not entirely honest, and keeps lots and lots of secrets which make for fun plot surprises. He even has a mastiff just like Rochester, only the dog in the story is named Bear and not Pilot.
There’s a creepy house. And a ghost. And lots of gothic goings on. Of course I’ve blended all of this with the usual matchmaking church ladies who are determined to match Jenny up with the new Preacher in town, Tim Lake, who bears a resemblance to St. John Rivers.
I had a blast writing this book. And I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but it is probably my favorite of all the Last Chance books I’ve written so far. That’s how much I love the hero of this book . . . and Jane Eyre.
So here’s my question for all of the readers (and authors) who are dropping by today: What was the book that turned you on to romance, and why?
One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of Inn at Last Chance.
* * * *
Back Cover Blurb
Jenny Carpenter is the unrivaled pie-baking champion of Last Chance, South Carolina’s annual Watermelon Festival and the town’s unofficial spinster. With her dream of marriage and children on hold, she focuses on another dream, turning the local haunted house into a charming bed-and-breakfast. But her plans go off course when the home’s former owner shows up on her doorstep on a dark and stormy night . . .
Mega-bestselling horror writer Gabriel Raintree is as mysterious and tortured as his heroes. His family’s long-deserted mansion is just the inspiration he needs to finish his latest twisted tale, or so he thinks until he learns it’s been sold. The new innkeeper proves to be as determined as she is kind, and soon Gabriel finds himself a paying guest in his own home. As Jenny and Gabe bring new passion to the old house, can she convince him to leave the ghosts of his past behind-and make Last Chance their first choice for a future together?
* * * *
The coals in Mr. Raintree’s fireplace must have been hot because the wood he stacked on the andirons caught fire right away. He looked down and poked the log a few times. The fire’s glow lit up his stony features, softening them in a way that made the breath catch in Jenny’s throat.
Just then, he looked up at her across the bare, almost sterile room. “You’re staring at me. What is it? Are you checking me out? Please don’t tell me that you think I’m handsome.”
“No,” she said without thought.
He chuckled. And the sound seemed to warm the room by degrees. “You’re a piece of work, Jenny Carpenter. You look exactly like the kind of conventional woman who hands out platitudes. And yet every time I speak with you, you surprise me. Don’t you know that southern women never speak their minds directly?”
The room suddenly felt tropical. Her mother had scolded her dozens of times for speaking her mind. She needed to watch it, now that she was an innkeeper. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I was too blunt. I should have said something about how what’s on the outside doesn’t matter much.”
He snorted a laugh. “I’m glad you didn’t. I like honesty. The truth is I’m not even remotely handsome. I never have been. Unlike…” His voice faded away, and he turned to look at an empty corner of the room.
He shrugged. “No one.” He turned back to the fire, and the muscle along his jaw flexed. “I need to get back to work.”
(*Warning: Author has the tendency to seek patterns in life and wax philosophical about them.*)
What is an important part of a satisfying romance? Pacing.
What is a key ingredient in making a story suspenseful and thrilling? Pacing.
What can make or break an author? Pacing. And knowing one’s limits.
Years ago, one of the most valuable lessons I learned as a newbie romantic suspense writer was how to use pacing as an effective tool. I had to kill my darlings—to delete paragraphs, sometimes even pages, of backstory and description that bogged down the story. It wasn’t easy to cut these hard-won sentences. I liked them. I’d nurtured them. But I had to admit, leaving them in the dust increased the power of the story.
Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
But pacing is also a factor in an author’s career. The pressure to increase the quantity of books can be enormous. But it’s the quality of books that builds readership. How does one pace oneself to achieve maximum potential and still stay sane? That’s been a very real question for me this past year.
On the writers’ loops, blogs and conferences, there appears to be a constant hum of, “You must have a backlist and produce several books a year to keep your readership happy or your career will wither away.” Logically, I know not everyone is producing more than a book a year, or even one book a year. Likely, there are only a few writers who can keep that pace and still keep their lives together and their readers happy with good quality. Today, I’m releasing my fourth book in just under three years, and I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough. (And some days I don’t feel quite sane.) But I’m doing all I can. And I need to stop and recognize that before the joy is gone, or before I burn out.
So I’m killing my darlings and saving myself. What darlings? Those beliefs I harbor that could end up breaking me. It may be time for a new belief system—one that’s framed in a positive way.
I can write a book (or less) a year and still be a successful author. The important thing is that I’m living life, and writing when I can.
I am on my own path. That author, over there, is on her own path, and those journeys can look different.
I give myself permission to simply write new words or edit old ones today, without spending an hour keeping up my social media sites.
I can take tonight off to enjoy my family, rather than work.
I can be a productive person without being Superwoman.
If it comes down to saving myself (and my health) versus producing more books, I choose myself. I’d rather kill my darling misconceptions than lose myself in the process. Sometimes we have to let go of things that seem important in order to be stronger.
What beliefs (or darlings) do you need to kill off to pace yourself better and stay healthy and sane? Extra points for re-phrasing that belief in a positive way.
And…to celebrate my release day, I’ll be giving away a digital copy of DARK DEEDS to one non-Ruby commenter, so please share your advice and/or experience below.
Dark Deeds (Mindhunters, Bk 4)
Dark Deeds Blurb:
Walking away from sexy Detective Diego Sandoval was one of the toughest things security specialist Becca Haney ever had to do. But her past is a direct threat to his future, to the career he’s working so hard to rebuild. Now, with a witness from a horrific case implicating Diego, Becca must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.
Diego is a big-city lawman used to cracking the hardest cases, but he’ll never understand why Becca ended their passionate affair. When he’s assigned to help keep her safe from a human trafficking ring, he’s determined to stay by her side and learn about the woman behind the passion—scars and all.
But Becca has another admirer. Known only as “the Fan,” he believes he’s the perfect partner for her—and he’ll kill to prove it. When the stakes are raised in the killer’s deadly game, Diego will be called upon to save lives—including Becca’s.
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
So…um today my new book, Getting Lucky, was supposed to be released, BUT life got in the way. For the last two weeks, my husband has been in and out of the hospital. Not to get too personal here, but it was very serious.
How do you write romantic comedy when your husband is in ICU? You don’t.
A long time ago, my friend and kick-butt writer Jane Myers Perrine told me that it was okay to give myself permission to take a vacation from writing. I didn’t truly understand the need for this until two weeks ago. As a writer the need to create pretty much controls us, but when life gets in the way, it’s great to have an out clause.
What’s your out clause? What do you do when life gets in the way?