Today I’m very pleased to be celebrating my fourth release since my Ruby Golden Heart final for GHOST PLANET back in 2009. In some ways this book represents a change for me—it’s my first release of an erotica title. But BEFORE SHE WAKES is full of romance, fantasy, and sci-fi (in other words, plenty of geeky bits), which have all been part of my author brand since the beginning. Also, while my other titles were published by Tor Books, this one comes from the Penguin Random House romance e-print, Loveswept.
BEFORE SHE WAKES has a fun history, in that I wrote the first scene of the first story, The Garden Rules, as an experiment (when I was supposed to be working on one of my other books, ahem). I had no idea whether I’d be any good at erotica. A couple of beta readers liked it and encouraged me, and I even got a manuscript request from Kindle Singles, but still it was more than a year before I worked up the nerve to finish it. When I did, my agent was so enthusiastic that I decide to write and indie publish a series.
So with the help of my agency, I published two shorts. But I quickly found I did not have enough time to put into promotion to make the stories a success. I also wasn’t sure about the market for short stories sold individually. So we decided to pitch the collection to a couple of digital-first lines. I was very pleased (and frankly, stunned) that we quickly got back two offers. And everything moved pretty quickly from there.
The best thing about this collection (that ended up being six stories) is it’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a writing project. I didn’t start it with the intention of seeking a traditional publisher, so I sent my internal critic on extended leave and I wrote whatever I wanted to. Every time I’d think of a scene or plot twist and that critic crept back to whisper in my ear, “That’s TOO much, TOO weird, tone it down,” I very deliberately went right ahead with whatever it was. (So if you read the book and come to a scene with a purple fairy and think “whoa!”, you’ll know exactly what happened.) And as I expected, what you’ll see in reviews are a number of comments such as:
For those readers with a sense of adventure who are looking for a change of pace and aren’t afraid to go there, Before She Wakes is a wonderful, sexy, titillating trip to the other side of speculative fiction, that side you’ve been curious about but until now, haven’t been brave enough to try. Be bold. Take the plunge. And have some fun. (Books, Bones & Buffy book blog)
If your curiosity is piqued by all this, name your favorite fairy tale in the comments for a chance to win one of two e-copies. (Leave contact info, or plan to come back and check comments to see if you won.) Also you can check out a story for free (The Dragonfly Prince) on Instafreebie.
And now I’m off to mix the cocktail I’ve chosen in honor of the day, The Green Fairy.
Have you noticed how popular novellas are lately? I totally get why. Writers like me, who take anywhere from six to twelve months to write a full novel, can get a novella written and published in a fraction of that time. For readers, a short, satisfying story can be devoured in a sitting or two. And that’s terrific for the chronically time-poor. When I was asked to join forces with four dangerous Australian/New Zealand writers for the DANGEROUS BOYS YA e-novella anthology (out now!), I jumped at the chance to try out the art of writing a novella.
The DANGEROUS BOYS YA anthology — out now!
But how long should a novella be? After doing a quick search online, I discovered that’s a bit like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” It depends on the publisher. Fiction magazines generally call for short story word counts of 500 to 1,500 words, even up to 5,000. Novellas can range from 20,000 to 40,000 words. Obviously, if you’re targeting a publisher, check their guidelines.
So now that you have those vague estimates on word counts, how do you pack a complete story into a little package? The way I approached LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG (out now!) was to plot it out like full-length novel. After all, like a regular story, it needed a beginning, middle and end. Character-wise, my two main protagonists share the spotlight. It’s all about them. The small supporting cast stays on the periphery. I didn’t delve too far into the secondary characters’ backstories; I have an evil plan to give each of them their own novellas down the track. Given I had a limit of 25,000 words, subplots went out the window. Mechanics-wise, I zapped the bad things I do so well, like waffling and padding.
You can see the results in my YA novella, LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG. Did I mention it’s out now? 🙂 Ironically, it’s about a boy who hasn’t got long to live. He’s hell-bent on doing as many dangerous things as he can in the time he’s got left. Here’s the official blurb:
Molly Corbett can’t stand seeing her childhood pal Alex Gibson destroy himself. He’s gone from straight-A student to rebel without a cause. With so much at stake, some serious interference is called for—or at least Micromanaging Molly thinks so. Alex needs to get back on the path to the Ivy League. But the harder Molly pushes Alex, the harder he pushes back.
Alex has a secret. Well, two secrets.
Number one: He has terminal melanoma. With six months to live, Alex hasn’t got a second to waste. And hanging around hospitals when his friends think he’s cutting school definitely counts as wasted time. Instead, he’s going to drop out, surf, drive fast cars…and finally put secret number two out there. He’s in love with Molly and he’s going to tell her before it’s too late.
PRAISE FOR LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG
Edgy, and yet wonderfully tender, “Live Fast, Die Young” sent me to reader heaven! ~ Tina Ferraro, author of THE ABC’S OF KISSING BOYS
Today I’m giving away a Kindle e-copy of the DANGEROUS BOYS anthology, which features five dangerous novellas by five dangerous YA authors from down under. Simply tell me what you love about reading or writing novellas in the comments below. Perhaps you can also tell me what the “right” word count ought to be for a novella! The winner will be announced here tomorrow. Good luck!
The Rubies are proud to share some awesome discounted books as well as some upcoming new ones (now available for preorder):
I WISH (I Wish #1)
by Elizabeth Langston
Discounted to 2.99!
What she needs is a miracle. What she gets is a genie with rules.
Lacey Linden is hiding the truth of her life—a depressed mom, a crumbling house, and bills too big to pay. While her high school classmates see a girl with a ready smile and good grades, Lacey spends her evenings seeking ways to save her family. On a get-cash-quick trip to the flea market, Lacey stumbles over a music box that seemingly begs her to take it home. She does, only to find it is inhabited by a gorgeous “genie.” He offers her a month of wishes, one per day, but there’s a catch. Each wish must be humanly possible.
Grant belongs to a league of supernatural beings, dedicated to serving humans in need. After two years of fulfilling the boring wishes of conventional teens, he is one assignment away from promotion to a challenging new role with more daring cases. Yet his month with Lacey is everything that he expects and nothing like he imagines. Lacey and Grant soon discover that the most difficult task of all might be saying goodbye.
She’s a girl who can’t remember. He’s the guy she can’t forget…
It’s her final semester of high school, and Kimberley Rey is curious about what will come next. She needs to pick a college, but her memory disability complicates the choice. Will her struggles to remember make it impossible to leave home?
Help arrives through an unexpected and supernatural gift. Grant is a “genie” with rules. He can give her thirty wishes (one per day for a month) as long as the tasks are humanly possible. Kimberley knows just what to ask for–lessons in how to live on her own.
But her wishes change when a friend receives a devastating diagnosis. As she joins forces with Grant to help her friend, Kimberley learns that the ability to live in the moment–to forget–may be more valuable than she ever knew.
Re-release—now available in print!And digital version is only $1.99!
All she wanted was passage on a ship…
MARISOL CASTELLAN is desperate to find her younger brother. Now after months of searching, she’s closer than ever. But stealing the information necessary to locate her brother makes a dangerous enemy from the one man she needs as an ally, Captain Tyburn. However, she has something the handsome rogue wants, and she’ll do whatever it takes to reunite her family. Even if that means sailing with a notorious and ruthless libertine pirate.
All he wanted was the lost silver….
BLADE TYBURN has too much invested to allow the load of silver to be stolen. Time, yes. Riches, of course. But most importantly, his legendary reputation. Though he has good reason to suspect Marisol’s brother is the thief, the last thing he wants is a cunning woman aboard his ship, especially one he can’t trust—especially one who tempts him beyond reason. But when she makes a bold offer, he accepts, determined not to let her lush beauty make him lose sight of his treasure.
All they needed was trust…
When Marisol disappears, Blade is forced to choose. Does he trust his heart or does he chance being separated from Marisol forever? Is love the greatest treasure of all?
One drunken night in Cuba lands Captain Valeryn Barone in a life or death situation. To escape the gallows, Valeryn must agree to a bargain only a fool would make: Escort the tempting and tenacious niece of his captor across the Caribbean or lose his ship, his crew and his life! The caveat? The beautiful Spanish woman must remain untouched for the entire voyage.
Determined to get what she wants…
Catalina Montoya will stop at nothing to get what she wants—even when trouble is certain. Sent to live with her uncle after a scandalous affair, Catalina intends to concentrate on her dream to become a renowned naturalist. She never expected her uncle would send her with a notorious pirate to further her studies. Worse, she never expected to want the devilishly handsome pirate more than anything else.
It’s a battle of wills…
Now Catalina only has 8 weeks to seduce Valeryn and collect her specimens before he returns her to her uncle. And Valeryn has 8 weeks to secure his redemption. Except neither would be that lucky. Not when ruthless enemies threaten to destroy them at every turn. Can Valeryn save those that foolishly depend on him? Can he resist Catalina’s heart? Does a dead man walking even have a chance?
Did you have a new release this week? A book on sale? Have you read something that blew your mind? Sound off in the comments! We want to hear from you! We only ask that you are courteous to other commenters and that authors do not post the same book more than once. Buy links are welcome. Thank you!
With summer coming to a close (yikes!), some of us are already looking ahead to the holidays (double yikes!). Here’s a Ruby release that’s up for preorder that’s sure to warm your bed on those cold nights…
A WRONG BED CHRISTMAS (Featuring 2 great Harlequin Blaze stories in one book!)
Releases November 1, 2015!
The Wrong Bed—But the Right Guy!
IGNITED by Kimberly Van Meter
What do you do when a sexy, naked fireman gets into your bed? If you’re Alexis Matheson, you freak out. But now she’s snowed in with Layton Davis, and suddenly Alexis’s best intentions to behave seem to have disappeared up the chimney. Because a hot ‘n’ naughty firefighter in her bed might be the best Christmas surprise ever…
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE by Liz Talley
Emma Rose Brent is sure she’s dreaming when Erik Matheson, her bestie’s überhot older brother—who she’s been crushing on for years—mistakenly slips into her bed, all gloriously naked. But Emma must have been a very good girl this year, because she’s been given the best gift of all: the chance to be really, really bad…
And we’re thrilled to celebrate Lara Archer’s latest release, WILD AT HEART:
Cinematographer Nick Turner has yearned for independent film director Amber Wakeling for years, but he absolutely forbids himself to touch her. Their work together is the one thing that makes this notorious Hollywood Bad Boy feel like he has a soul. He’s just not wired for commitment, and he won’t risk his artistic bond with Amber for a few nights of even the most mind-blowing sex.
A new shoot on Colorado’s beautiful Wild Mountain, though, strains Nick’s resolve to the breaking point. Somehow in this lush, unspoiled setting, the rules of civilized life don’t seem to apply. When normally straight-laced Amber makes a sudden move on him, Nick is lost to desire.
But will stepping off the safe path lead to heartbreak for both of them, or will Nick discover he’s capable of something he’s always thought impossible—real and lasting love?
Did you have a new release this week? A book on sale? Have you read something that blew your mind? Sound off in the comments! We want to hear from you! We only ask that you are courteous to other commenters and that authors do not post the same book more than once. Buy links are welcome. Thank you!
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.