January News & Announcements
Hi guys! welcome, and I hope your 2020 is off to a great start! First, I have two big news items to announce this month, and then, farther down the page, you'll find my January Musings, where I share some thoughts about opening new stories. But first, the news!
News Item #1:
Amazon has picked DUKE OF SECRETS (Moonlight Square, Book #2) as a Featured Deal for January in both the US and Canada. It'll be just $1.99 throughout the month of January!
About the Book:
This is a wintry gothic-style romance with one of my most enigmatic heroes.
If you've read the Inferno Club, then you'll remember that the heroes in that series were members of an elite secret unit of warrior-spies fighting for the Crown, called the Order of St. Michael the Archangel. You may recall that their age-old foes were a sinister secret society of international elites called the Prometheans.
Our good guys in the Order finally defeated these bad dudes by the series' end. But I always wanted to explore the idea of a good man born on the wrong side of that fight: a potential hero who, through no fault of his own, is born as the heir to one of these evil, rich, powerful, Promethean families. Duke of Secrets is that story.
Azrael, the Duke of Rivenwood, is the heir to a dark heritage. His evil father (who named him after the angel of death! thanks, Dad) was the terror of his childhood, so he's kept his distance from all efforts to reestablish this sinister, high-level cult. But he has to keep a low profile, or he knows the few remaining stragglers who managed to survive will kill him without a second thought. As a result, he's become known as an eccentric recluse who prefers the company of his pet black leopard to that of humans.
But when the beautiful Lady Serena Parker finds out that her family was tied up in this dark stuff, too, (she had no idea!!) she is determined to find out whatever Azrael is willing to tell her about it. Together they have to fight their way through the aftermath of this darkness they've inherited and reach a future together of love, light, and redemption.
Intrigued? You can get your copy of Duke of Secrets on Kindle now for just $1.99.
PS: If you do decide to read this book, keep an eye out for the settings ! Just a writing-wonk sort of note, but I worked extra-hard to come up with cool settings for many key scenes in this book (especially the Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night stuff!) and I've gotta say, I'm actually kinda proud of how they came out. ;)
News Item #2:
I'm delighted to announce that HarperCollins/ Avon has decided to reissue ROYAL BRIDESMAIDS in mass market paperback, hitting shelves near you on Tues, Jan. 25!
This is an anthology of three novellas centering around royal weddings, and featuring the wonderful storytelling of "the" Stephanie Laurens, "the" Loretta Chase, and your 'umble author.
You can order ROYAL BRIDESMAIDS online or keep an eye out for it at your local bookstores or at Walmart, Target, etc. Enjoy!
And now, on to the topic of the month....
Thoughts on Opening a Story
The start of the new year and a whole new decade has me thinking this month about one of my favorite aspects of writing: starting a new book!
In a romance, of course, that means setting up an engaging and memorable “first meet” of our two new, destined lovers. Writing romance is so much fun. :)
When I first start a new novel, it’s true it can be daunting to realize I’ve got 500+ pages to produce. I try not to think about that too much, though, and just take it one scene at a time.
Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter if I outline the story beforehand—it still takes me a good hundred pages or so before I feel like I really know my characters. That’s why I always end up going back to make two or three more (many more, lol) passes over the opening chapters before I’m happy with them.
Most authors will freely admit that setting up the story in those first three to five scenes can be extremely tricky. It’s a balancing act between getting the hero and heroine firmly established in their own separate lives, and then getting them onto the page together as quickly as possible so the story doesn’t drag.
After all, their “first meet” is the true start of every romance. It seems like once you get the opening right, writing the rest of the story just flies.
Not long ago, I was having a conversation with some fellow authors about the challenges of writing novel openings. Some of them felt that showing the hero and heroine separately (before the first meet) was just fluff, and that it’s best to bring them together ASAP. (This was the advice several of them had received from agents and critique partners, fwiw.)
But, for me, after reflecting about it, I realized that my preference, as both a reader and a writer, is to have at least one scene of each lead characters in their “single” lives, before they meet their future spouse.
It’s kind of like those dramatic “Before/After” pictures you see of someone who has gone on a drastic diet (speaking of New Year’s Resolutions! haha) or has undergone a big makeover.
When a character falls in love, it’s like they’re going to get an emotional or psychological makeover by the end of the story. So if we don’t get to see the “Before”, how their lives are before they meet that special someone, then the “After” loses a lot of its impact.
“The healing power of love” is one of the main themes of all my writing, so I like to see my hero and heroine up close and personal before they meet that special someone, when they’re still kind of a mess inwardly, lol.
I don’t know about you, but I can relate to characters who don’t have everything figured out in life, who carrying emotional wounds or baggage. I don't generally enjoy sad books, but it’s okay to have that angst or suffering at the start of a romance because I know everything’s going to be all right for them in the end. That the suffering character will be able to let go of old wounds and heal (at least partly) by the end of the story.
So, I, for one, I would hate to miss out on those messy, sharp-edged “Before” conditions of the characters just for the sake of having a rushed, gimmicky first meet. Openings like that tend to lack depth for me as a reader.
That said, the danger is not to go overboard and start explaining every tiny detail of a character’s past. Ugh, BORING. Nobody wants to read a giant “info dump.” The trick is finding a happy medium so that the story will have emotional richness without sacrificing a nice, quick pace.
Have you read any books lately where the opening really grabbed you? Please share in the comments below!
My readers and I all love to hear good book recommendations from like-minded people, so if you have any to share, don’t be shy!
Also, what books are you looking forward to in 2020? Any upcoming releases already on your radar? Comment below.
Thanks for visiting ~ and I hope your 2020 is off to a great start!
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Duke of Shadows
A heartbroken belle, a missing suitor, and a heroic duke in disguise.