How does an author cross genres and still keep his or her audience? Or have her audience risk traveling with her on a journey into a new genre?
Along with pen names, this topic has been discussed many many times in writers' groups. It can be a scary thing for an author to change genres, or add genres. But I think the realities of the marketplace are such that we have to be prepared for genre tastes to change. Or become over-saturated. I think it's healthy to have a couple of sources you can draw stories from and pick up new readers.
The Indie community allows us to explore all these options at our own will. We don't necessarily have to give up one genre to explore another one. And we don't necessarily have to just chase the rabbit of “best selling genres” which I see so many try to do. That's something that is guaranteed to make a writer go crazy in a heartbeat.
Speaking only from my personal experience, writing in more than one genre is healthy for my writing. Not everything can be quantified in terms of sales, although that's what we're doing as authors, writing books readers will buy. But adding “sparkly body parts” to the mix of stories in our fantasy worlds is a good thing. Like exercising a new muscle, it can be painful, but overall adds to our overall strength.
I think what makes us stronger writers is that we take chances, not stupid chances, but chances nonetheless, and we have confidence in the work. Tastes change. What is the rage one day may not be the next. There is the phenomenon that readers are always looking for new writers they can discover, like treasure hunting. Someone with a good backlist is at an advantage because of past reader loyalty, but at a disadvantage if we're not the new shiny penny anymore. The work has to be shiny, not the author.
The answer? Just continue writing what we like to write, what tickles our fancy, and what readers in the past have loved. It has been said that every author tells the same story, just with different characters. Whether they are a Dark Angel, a Golden Vampire or Navy SEAL hero, the heroes in my book all find their true calling and higher selves through finding true love.
So, here are a couple of rules I think apply when writing across genres.
1. Have confidence readers will enjoy creativity and introduction of new characters.
2. Your voice as a writer doesn't change.
3. In romance, it's still about the hero and heroine's journey to find each other.
4. Be patient with yourself and listen to the writing voice inside your heart. Let that intuition serve you and feed the faith, not the fear.
5. Explain what you're doing and make sure past readers know you are not leaving one area permanently, that you'll be back.
6. Take the new excitement of learning new things to your new writing, even if it's an old genre.
7. Writers make it every day, break out, do the impossible and defy odds all the time.
8. Payoffs are not always in dollars. Write from your heart, not just for the market.
9. Embrace change and know we learn from our mistakes.
10. Keep everyone guessing! (What the heck is she doing now?)
What about you?
When I was a full time business coach, I used to tell my customers, you must be easy to start and hard to stop. Everyone thinks they start from way behind the curve. They've procrastinated and now when they have to start, they have to work through all the debilitating emotions of frustration and discouragement, before they can even begin their project.
On the other hand, there's this little thing called Momentum that begins once we are sailing down the rails. The weight of the machine and the forward motion help propel us further, even if we should temporarily take our foot off the pedal.
Those of you who garden understand this. My mother used to spend hours and hours in the garden, just “playing with the plants” as she would say. She loved roses, which has become my favorite as well. I go for the scented ones as much as possible, the deep rose-red and intoxicating scent of the Chrysler Imperial being my very favorite. This rose is the Peace rose, another favorite of mine.
We've built our rock walls spanning the past 2+ years, and the sprinkler system was removed to do this, so it has been barren around our house, save for the occasional calendula or nasturtium volunteers. Several foxglove have been discovered, and even some potato plants that cropped up when we were filling holes created from the wall building, importing soil from our rear old garden yard.
As has been said before, “Life finds a way.” That's certainly true of my plants. I let volunteers bloom and grow where they are planted, even if planted by mistake. I think the garden faeries reward me by doing so. Just doesn't seem right to pluck out a young plant just because it couldn't know where to put itself with it's own kind. Sort of like my life.
Now that the kids are gone, my garden has become my outlet for the need to tend and bear children.
I negotiated a little compromise and got a plot rototilled and fenced so I could have a small vegetable and flower garden this year. I've kept it small because I only got a few man-hours to use and I used our helper on the hard stuff – pulling weeds and tilling the soil. My garden soil is nice and sandy-loamy, after 30+ years of putting 6-8 yards of mushroom manure on it every year before I planted. But the front of the house has, like the rest of our property, thick black soil loaded with nutrients, but makes the roots work harder when allowed to dry. I can dig a hole a foot deep, fill it with water, and a week later, it's still there.
My roses have had lots of chicken manure over the years from the chickens I used to have. They actually became pets when they got too old to lay eggs, but at least I got to collect their manure embedded in the bales of sawdust lining their boxes! My 66 very expensive pets, most of them hatched on my property (and I watched nearly every one being born), eventually had to go the way of the garden, my koi pond and everything else on our outside landscaping after the fire and rebuild. I was sad to see them go, but that's when I threw myself into writing. A silver lining.
I don't think I have seen my roses so lush as this year. And now, a new venture for me: my small vegetable garden. I'm good at negotiating, so got some tractor time in the rear yard and now have it set up to plant corn, as soon as I finish my next book. If you look at my calendar, you would see garden things noted, as well as editing deadlines and story launches. It's that important to me.
This time of year is magical for me – before the hot weather puts me into overdrive to protect and water, buds forming and branches are not yet leggy and needing to be pared back. Everything is small in the vegetable garden, ripe with possibilities for a savory summer of cabbage, kale, squash, peppers, beans, peas, eggplant and swiss chard.
Gardens are hopeful, like new love, they start out precious, perhaps a bit fragile. These lovely beings take their own time. Like falling in love, I'm learning how to enhance their beauty, and that brings me great joy.
It's always a wonder at this time of year, how my garden will come back. This year, I'm charmed with the magic of possibility for a wonderful blooming adventure and prosperous year.
I'm doing it again this year. And this time, like I did in I think 2013 or 2012, 30 DAYS OF GRATITUDE.
You have to understand I'll be posting other things too. but with this logo at the top, and with the label A-Z Blog Challenge, you should be able to pick it up on my site anytime.
I already know what April 1 will start out: 30 Days of Gratitude: Amore!
We need a little more love in this world, wouldn't you agree?
So, here's my blog and giveaway, and you have until October 22nd to leave your comments. If I had a big Highland Games event and I invited all the heroes of the six books I've written, who would win? Yes, I want you to pick the winner, after I give the evidence. And I'll even make it more fair. You can pick a hero from someone else's blog or book and vote for them here too.
Every comment gets entered into our Grand Prize giveaway, and every commenter will receive something, and YOU EVEN GET TO CHOOSE. Now, when were you ever given the choice of prizes on a blog hop? Be sure you follow the instructions at the end of this post.
We have 6 Alpha Heroes: Daniel DePalma, Joshua Brandon, Marcus Monteleone, Paolo Monteleone, SOC Kyle Lansdowne and SO Calvin Cooper. You get to vote for one of them (or another hero, if you must), by leaving a comment and telling us all why you think they should win, and what would you do with them to celebrate?
So, since this is election season, here are the descriptions of the candidates, and their Hollywood likenesses:
Daniel DePalma: Brazilian-born painter of colorful wall-sized jungle prints. He does not know his best friend, posing as his agent, is a dark angel who has hooked him up with a very bad girl. The relationship nearly destroys him. Not realizing there are forces of good and evil at play, a guardian angel comes to his rescue. He falls in love with her in spirit, until he falls in love with her in the flesh. He is willing to spend his life separated from his angel lover just to see her safely home.
Joshua Brandon: A colorful dark angel who was looking forward to an eternity of partying with his former best human friend, Daniel, bedding women in the Underworld as well as “on top” in the human world, until the guardian angel intervened. He has a fondness for redheads, especially redheadded guardian angels. He hates birds and detests order and rules. But he soon finds that, among other things, he has grown a conscience and finally meets a soul he cannot claim. He faces the ultimate sacrifice when he is asked to deliver that very woman to the Director of the Underworld to become a concubine. He discovers there are rules worth dying for.
Marcus Monteleone: A 300-year old golden vampire, has spent most of those years searching for his fated female, only to find her dying in his arms. He saves her life by turning her, only to be enjoined by the rules of his breed, to not interfere with her once human life. He does not believe he has fathered a child by a half vampire half witch/villainess, but he feels an obligation to take responsibility for the boy. In the end, he is willing to spend eternity without her if it means she will be safe from the jealous mother of the boy.
Paulo Monteleone: Brother to Marcus. He loves human women, and, unlike his brothers and sisters, does not take golden vampire mates and chooses to marry outside the fating, resisting a fating that went terribly wrong. He falls in love with a professor of legend and myths, who claims she knows everything about the “non-existant” golden vampires of Tuscany. He finds he is willing to sacrifice his immortal life to rescue his human lover from those that want her silenced.
Kyle Lansdowne: SEAL team leader sent on a mission to find his AWOL swim buddy, who has been kidnapped by a drug gang. The gang's intent is to get weapons and equipment from the SEAL community for their illegal use. By accident, Kyle runs into a newbie Realtor, and he finds in her the woman he has always wanted, just when she is nearly taken from him forever. He is forced to choose between her and his SEAL team buddy's life.
Calvin Cooper: Nebraska farm boy turned U.S. Navy SEAL. A specialist with gadgets, a medic and one of the tallest SEALs to ever graduate BUD/S. He is ordered to meet the family of a fallen SEAL medic, to help him heal the loss of his own family in a tornado. He helps a prominent psychiatrist protect his family, including his lovely daughter, from a psychopathic killer bent on revenge.
Now for your choice:
1. Dog Tag from Accidental SEAL
2. Amazon Kindle version SEAL Encounter.
Be sure to leave your name, AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS, and please do so in code like: Jane Doe (at) gmail (dot) com.
Have fun, and good luck!!
We took a drive today in West Sonoma and Marin Counties. If you don't know where that is, it's 60 miles north of San Francisco, and west of Petaluma, at the coast. We traveled from Sonoma County South, into Marin County, through green cattle-grazed hills in bright sunshine. No fog, and very little wind. We have a client moving here from out of state, who is considering purchasing some acreage out there, and today was the perfect day to go check it out and send him photos.
We've had so much rain, the hills are still green. After viewing the property, we headed to south to Nick's Cove for some oysters and some chowder. We ran into a local Motorcycle Club, Iron Souls, from Oakland, California. I think there must have been about 50 beautiful Harleys there.
I think I've found a great place to hole up when the fall storms come along. At the Boat House they stoke up the fire and you can stay there well after sunset – perched over the water. Do you see the fog beginning to show itself over the trees?
We took a tour of a couple of the cabins. One is an actual boat converted to a one bedroom rental.
I'm grateful I get to live in such a beautiful spot in wine country, California. Many people come here for vacation, and I get to live here all the time. Just 30 minutes from my house, I can be on the water, overlooking clam and oyster beds Jack London used to steal from by moonlight around 100 years ago. It probably looked very similar then.
Welcome to Day 16 of the A-Z Blog Challenge, and my Letters of Gratitude.
I've said it before here on my blog: We OVERESTIMATE what we can accomplish in a day and UNDERESTIMATE what we can accomplish in a year.
PERSISTENCE: Do it and stuff happens.
I've always been a big one for goal setting. I used to coach people in business. For two and a half days each week I would talk to clients every half hour for 8 hours a day. My job was to help them become more productive.
Most people would come to the phone feeling they'd been missing something, that they needed that secret that would propel them into the stratosphere. Our level of production at the time was so huge, they couldn't see themselves being able to do a tenth of what we had accomplished in business. “Sharon, what's that missing piece? What's that spark that motivated you to go to the next level?” Everyone thought there was some secret to high levels of achievement. They hired me to give it to them.
My job was to help them realize that the secret was within them all along. You don't have to be smarter, faster, prettier than anybody else. Every writer alive has been told, “You're a natural.” We all think we are all so special, don't we? Yes, we have to believe in our work. But the truth is, TALENT IS OVERRATED.
It's persistence that gets us to where we want to go. If you want to do and go where others haven't gone, you have to do what others won't do to get there. Everyone wants a shortcut. A magic bullet. A technique or brilliant answer to all our problems, without learning through trial and error, what we should be doing.
Bella Andre taught me this. I don't think I've ever run across a harder working writer. And she reads a book EVERY day, too. She's managed to turn her career from mid-list author without a contract to megablockbusting Indie author phenom in less than 2 years. She did it by doing what others wouldn't do.
How many of us would have quit if we had a big deal withdrawn? Who picks up the pieces after the Snoopy Dancing when there is no party? When the bride and groom don't show up to the wedding? Bella went to work. She got very good at literally running over every obstacle that could come her way.
She became persistent.
Did she fail? Sometimes. Did she have doubts, disappointments? Of course. But just like the Realtors I used to coach, and I've coached probably 200-250 of them during my time, I would tell my clients what they needed to do to be successful and less than 10% would do it. It's probably even less than 10%.
But not Bella. What about you? Do you show up every day and do your best? Like I said in the letter O post, are you Open for business? Really?
F is for Falling In Love!
Welcome to Day 6 of the A-Z Blog Challenge. I'm talking about a month of gratitude.
Where would we be without love? Do you remember that fuzzy feeling in your belly when you've just met that “special” person? You can't sleep. You don't want to eat. You run into things and say words you have never said before. You do things you never thought you would do, like go skydiving, go hot tubbing in the nude, wear a string bikini or don Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland. You open the sunroof at night to watch the stars with the heater on full blast. You take more walks, hold hands, go see more movies. You smile a lot more.
In writing romance, I absolutely live for the scene when the hero and heroine meet. If I get that right, the whole book stands up and demands to be written. I mean, take no prisoners. Shout it from the highest hill. It makes me sing along to music in Safeway and do handstands on my shopping cart. I feel like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
Romance is defined by two things:
1. The woman always wins
2. There is always a happily ever after.
Fact is, I think reading romance novels is actually good for your health. We live in a world of harsh reality. What's wrong with a little fantasy now and then? I've heard it said that great sex is between the ears. Do you doubt this in your own life?
You can call it animal attraction, or a divine gift from a father who only wants what is good and healthy for us. But falling in love, although invisible, can be measured by the actions it produces. I leave it up to your imagination.
Hey, it's spring. Did you think all my posts on gratitude would be heavy? Let's all get the heck knocked out of us by love. And feel grateful we can feel, we can love, we can have hope for a bright future with someone from our dreams.
Welcome back to day 5 of the A-Z Blog tour, 26 days of gratitude. E is for Envy, the Enemy of gratitude. My screaming little impetuous child self that has no sanity wants Everything, both what is mine and what belongs to Everyone Else. The root causes of this are many, but the most important one is a feeling that I lack something.
These days (I am a student, not an Expert) I speak the mantra over and over again: I have Enough. I do Enough. I am Enough. When I forget this, I want more than what I have, and it's not about improving the world, it's about feeling I have to do something so I don't feel less than. I've talked before about the God-shaped hole in my soul that wants to be filled with anything: chocolate, stimulants, overspending, other vices that don't serve me well. When I remember I have Everything I really need, that hole becomes smaller, or temporarily goes away completely.
Envy makes it impossible to really enjoy another's success because we think we are more deserving than the person who has Earned it. Or, we justify why they have it and we don't. Again, this comes from a basic feeling of a lack of something.
But when I remember to be grateful for what I have received, knowing that I don't always receive what I want, but what I need, the whole world opens up to me. It lets me share in the enjoyment of others, and it brings more happiness, opportunities, and lights my path in serendipitous ways. Coincidence becomes miracle. The next right action becomes a career path, a trajectory where all the riches of life reside.
I'll close with one of my favorite songs: Everyone's a Hero in Their Own Way by Nathan Fillion (Richard Castle) from the Dr. Horrible movie. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thursday, just because you deserve it…
I have a special connection to the Navy SEALs, and editing my first SEAL romance, writing the second in the series I call SEAL of Honor. We were just in San Diego this past weekend, and I never hesitate to watch the boat crews work on the beach, as a new class is molded, melded and forged in steel. As I have said earlier, many men try out to become a SEAL just to find out where their limits are. You never know until you try.
D is for DOR. It means Drop On Request. There is no shame in trying out for the teams. There is also no shame if a man finds he can't complete the training. Many of them get injured, some seriously, and have to roll back to another class after they are healthy. And some, find out where their limits are.
The reality of that is also just that: reality. Doesn't make you a better or lesser person. It is in the trying that all the courage and mental metal is produced. Many, though disappointed, will say that it was the one thing in their lives they truly were glad they did. Imagine that in this world of instant gratification (a funny spin on the word gratitude, don't you think?). Going through all the grueling training, and failing, but being glad they did.
I interviewed one graduate, who was barely out of high school. He said he felt lucky to have found the SEAL teams at such a young age. He was glad that he didn't have to wait until he was 30, or 40 or beyond in years before he could find out what he loved to do, who he was. Lucky. He felt lucky to go through the harsh training.
There are many great books about the teams. Dick Crouch wrote a compelling book, The Warrior Elite, about one particular class, and in that graduating class, several of the men from Blackhawk Down prepared their way, even though some would not survive. Lone Survivor is the story of one of those boys, Marcus Luttrell.
I'm grateful for many things, especially the men and women who put themselves in harm's way so we can go to the store, to school, to church, so we can spend a leisurely day shopping or just having coffee with friends. Because of the sacrifice of a few we have today and tomorrow as gifts.
I'm also grateful that we get to try, and that we fail, and we get up again and try again. Remember, it isn't in the falling down, or failing that all the miracles come. It is what you do with yourself, how you pick yourself up afterwards that counts. We live to fight another battle another day. One day at a time.
We talked yesterday about belief, and how believing combats fear. We become afraid when we forget our blessings. So where does courage come from?
I do believe in evil, which isn't to say that my belief in it actually creates it, as some new-age thinkers would have us think. To understand evil, to accept that it exists, helps us to look at it right in the eyes and stand up for what is right. We call it doing the right thing. Not when it's convenient. Doing it when it counts. And it counts most of the time.
When my son was playing Little League baseball, I took him to a Saturday morning game with an opposing team they'd had trouble beating on several occasions. Before the game could start, I found my son and a boy from the other team rolling around in the dirt. Both coaches separated them, and benched them for several innings.
I was irritated during most of the game. When I took my son home, I let him know that we didn't act that way towards others. I dug for the reasons he had gotten into the fight. I could tell he was hiding something he didn't want to tell me.
And then he did. The other boy told my son, “Your mother is so fat, she needs her own zip code.” It was a funny comment, but my son felt obliged to avenge my honor. I was suddenly grateful I hadn't gotten more heavy-handed with him, although I made it clear I disapproved. And still did.
I'd never thought about what impact my being overweight had on my family. My son demonstrated courage to stand up for what he believed in. I got to tell him how much I appreciated his act of valor, even though displaced. And I got to look at some of my habits and how they hurt more than just me.
But none of this would have happened if he hadn't the courage to stand up to the bully from the other side. He made a stand against evil, and defended what he thought was pure and right: his mother. For that I am forever grateful.
He's still doing that today. I'm grateful for all the heroes, little and big, who stand up and do the right thing day in and day out, who don't capture headlines, but do it anyway.
Welcome to Day 2 of my 30 days of Gratitude for the A-Z Blog Hop.
B is for belief. One of the reasons I wanted to do this blog hop is that I forget to say thank you for all the blessings I have received in my life. Fear can occupy a dark, cold and lonely place in a person's soul when they have no hope, when they find it difficult to believe. So, the opposite of fear, then is belief. When we focus on the negative, we become fearful. When we remember all our blessings, we believe in a compelling future.
Isn't it funny how quickly belief can spread? We watched The Hunger Games this weekend. I loved the part when the people in District 11 began to fight back, and how dangerous belief can be in an environment that doesn't tolerate that kernel of hope. How dangerous it is when people stand up and do the right thing.
My husband and I turned to each other after the movie and remarked that we felt like we'd just been through our own version of the Hunger Games in real life. And we are still here. We survived. And we believe in the future, our future.
I've heard it said that if we are to doubt something, we should doubt our limits, not our abilities. If we just do today what we know is the next right thing, everything is going to be just fine, good, and perfect.
I'm going to expand on that on Thursday when I do the letter D. I'm going to talk about the DOR (Drop On Request) bell the SEALs have during their BUDs training.
And about never giving up.
I've decided to choose a theme this year in the A-Z Blog Challenge, which starts April lst and goes the entire month, or until we get to letter 26. This will be the second year I have done it. I met some wonderful people last year. This year the group is about twice as large.
My new theme? GRATITUDE.
I've had a real blessing over the past three years. My good writing coach/friend, Kristen Lamb has reminded me in her workshops and posts the value of sharp pointy objects and sharp people–who then smooth and shape us, polish us into the jewels we become.
As I sit and write this, I know some day I will be a well known author. Right now, I work at other things until this dream can be realized. But the wandering garden path that looks so enticing comes up for me each day when I awaken. By the end of the day, I've seen garages and boxes of stuff, closing statements, bills, attorney memos, banks and title companies, inspection companies and reports, office meetings, happy people, upset people, traffic and frustrations of all species. It's a bit of a challenge to remember that lovely bucolic path I took in my dreams, during my quiet time, in the morning. Even quieter now that I have sent my chickens off to a better place for them. And for me.
I read a prayer a few Sundays ago in church which sums it up for me:
We confess the daily bread you give us is seldom enough to satisfy our indulgent appetites. Our craving for recognition and significance causes us to ignore the needs of our neighbors. Forgive our lip-service in worship when our actions beyond this sanctuary do not honor you. Renew us by your grace and remind us what it cost, that we might live in humble gratitude for Christ.
I'm not going to make this a religious experience or blog. One could substitute several words in the above prayer and it would apply to other religions or philosophies, and let me make sure to say that my way is by no means the right way. Afterall, I've said it before, I'm a Christian with a bent antennae. The passion with which we get to live and love has me falling down on my knees with gratitude. And to be blessed with the gift of storyteller, is one of the best gifts a person could receive.
And like the Bible stories, the gifts sometimes come at a terrible price. It's always darkest just before the light of a new day. In our stories, the black moment comes right before the resolution. And like in our romance novels, the Happily Ever After is always there, delivering the promise, perhaps not giving us what we want, but what we need.
I'm going to do 30 days of gratitude, one day at a time, starting April lst. I will humbly walk the path and would love to have your company.
A much wiser person than me said one time, “Don't compare your insides with someone else's outsides.” I have to remind myself about this all the time. Isn't it interesting, then, that I should pick careers that are highly dependent on what other people think: writer and Realtor?
Selling real estate for 25 years has taught me how to listen to what other people want, not what they say they want. Get the big picture. Be of service where they really need me. I tell my clients they could buy a better friend. But as far as getting the job done? I can definitely be counted on to tell them the truth. In an industry where people are often legends in their own mind, I became very successful because I tried to focus on the truth, not the fluff, the fantasy.
I even had rubber stamps made. One was a castle from one of the Disney brochures. Underneath it is the word Fantasyland. I'd stamp that in red on the lists of homes for sale, without offers. The other stamp said Reality, and it was a picture of a home with a sold sign across it. I would stamp that in green across the solds. Fantasyland or Reality?
Some days I want the Fantasyland, no question. I recently posted to my FB page the following:
There are definitely days when there is too much reality for me. Time for a good fantasy book, a spicy paranormal romance with characters I can fall in love with. Enough checking the stats on Amazon, checking other writer's stats on Amazon. I forget that not everyone can pop to the top of the charts with their first or second or even third book. I forget some days that the success lies in the words I write every day, not the checking my stats for what I don't have. No one writes like me. No one sold real estate like me, either.
One time I drove home from a very successful day. I had listed two homes, sold one and closed one. In the lingo of agents, it was a 4-deal day. I was on cloud 9. Until I drove past a home with someone else's sign in the front yard. I had thought they were my clients. But obviously, they thought otherwise. That yard sign stuck like a spear through my middle. Cursing and slapping the steering wheel all the way home, I am certain I made my family miserable. My husband reminded me, “What are you doing? You had a really great day!”
I've learned that I get to doubting things when I forget all the blessings in my life. I start focusing on what I don't have instead of what I do have. I have four wonderful children and 3.5 grandchildren. All healthy. All doing things they love. And despite my lapses in judgement, we've managed to have relationships I'm proud of. Adult relationships. I have the love of my life who has been by my side for over 40 years now. Who likes to read especially my spicy parts and believes in me.
Now how could stats on Amazon or Barnes and Noble ever compete with those things? Only if I let them.
A close family member had been grieving at the loss of a relationship. He asked me, “How do you find another partner? How do you find someone to love?”
Dinner was a long affair with good food and good talk. Grace looked once or twice to the head table to catch a glimpse of Eric, Gertrude or his parents. Soon, both couples were circulating around the room, stopping at one table or another to speak briefly with each group.
Watching them, Chastity cocked an eye at Grace, and spoke softly. “All society knows Gertrude is wildly jealous of her husband. She keeps an eagle eye on any attractive woman who comes within shouting distance of him.” Grace looked appalled. “It’s amazing you have gotten this close. Beware of her fangs!”
Before Grace could respond, the Schuylers were nearing the table. She thought of excusing herself to head to the powder room and then decided that would be too obvious a snub. Instead, she gathered her wits and prepared for another encounter with Gertrude and her barbs.
“Dancing will start in the main ballroom in a short while,” said Gertrude. “I hope you will find this new orchestra appealing.” Gertrude put a good face on things, having sheathed her slings and arrows
“But first, we’ll have some carolers from Epiphany School serenade us and sing us into the ballroom,” added Eric, just as the sound of “Deck the Halls” resounded from the entry.
The grandeur of the dining room had impressed Grace with its flocked and silvered wallpaper hung above cherry wainscoting, drapery of fine silk and delicate crystal chandeliers. The ballroom nearly took her breath away.
“I had the same reaction when I first saw this room,” whispered Chastity. “It makes me think of Cinderella and her prince.”
The highly polished floor of intricate parquet spread out before them. Immense fireplaces sat in the east and west walls of the room, each big enough to fit a foursome for a game of whist. Silver and gold garlands hung throughout the room and reflected the light from chandeliers and wall sconces. Several chandeliers tinkled in a breeze from the opened doors on the south side of the room. A Christmas tree, easily twenty feet tall, glittered in one corner. Hand painted ornaments retold the Christmas story while star-held-candles sat on the tree’s branches.
“I think I have died and gone to heaven,” Grace whispered to Chastity as they moved across the vast room. Their little dinner group stayed together with the men making places for the ladies on the brocaded settees and tiny chairs along one wall.
The Epiphany choristers gathered near the tree and ended their performance with a medley of traditional carols and then slipped out the side doors and were gone in a flash. From an overhead gallery, a large orchestra immediately began a waltz to entice dancers. Both Schuyler couples moved onto the dance floor and met with applause as they dipped and twirled about the room. In moments, the floor was full of couples, young and old, slim or stout, all showing their enjoyment in smiles and trills of laughter.
Grace’s dance card was soon filled with the promise of a long evening. She was glad for the lessons at Mrs. Thompson’s Dance Academy that she had begged from her father. At times, she scarcely learned her partner’s name before she was whisked away by the next. When a break in the music came, she found Chastity locking arms and leading her to the balcony. A maid stood at each door to offer wraps to the women who sought to take the air. All along the terrace, men and women were resting from their exertions on the dance floor and chatting or flirting with their companions.
“Good, here come Ralphie and Bob Warren with drinks for us,” said Chastity
As the foursome downed the cool champagne punch, Gertrude and Eric came out on the balcony. Eric had his arm about his wife’s shoulders and was talking to her with deep concentration. Grace felt a knot form in her stomach as she watched them. Gradually, they forfeited their privacy as guests vied for their attention with compliments and congratulations on the fine party.
Chastity nudged her, “A penny for your thoughts.”
She was saved from answering when a drum roll called the dancers back inside to find Santa and his elves gathered near the tree. With many a “ho, ho, ho,” Santa began calling ladies to his side. To each he gave a gift, carefully wrapped in silver and gold foil. When Grace’s turn came, she approached and recognized “Santa” as Eric’s father.
“And are you having a good time, m’dear?”
“Yes, Santa and I have been a good girl all year.”
Santa beamed. “That’s what I wanted to hear. Now, here’s your reward. Enjoy!”
On returning to her friends, Grace opened the slim envelope to find a membership card for the Museum of Art resting inside. She looked up to find Eric watching her from across the room. She nodded her thanks, and saw by his answering smile that the gift had been his doing. Beside her, Chastity found a silver pen in her gift box.
“I wonder how Santa knew of my poetry attempts!”
The evening whirled on with surprise after surprise. The season’s opera diva made an appearance and sang her famed aria. Teddy Roosevelt, so recently back from Cuba, rumbled in after midnight, in good time for the light buffet. A duo of flamenco dancers entertained, their lightning steps and graceful maneuvers putting the audience to swaying. Jugglers dressed as court jesters kept balls flying.
By four in the morning, Grace was sure she couldn’t drink more champagne, dance another dance or eat another morsel. She knew from Chastity that the Schuylers would serve breakfast at six for the diehards who remained. She intended to be in her bed by then. Taking leave of her friends and refusing offers of an escort back to The Lily Hotel for Ladies, Grace made her way to the entry where she asked for her things and her ride home.
Grace slept in late on Christmas morning, her head full of memories and dreams. She kept to her room most of the day, thinking back to Christmases past and drawing her visions of Albany, the store, the apartment and the town. At two o’clock, over a fresh cup of tea, she drew a random mark that evolved into the outline of a man’s head. It took shape and became her father’s image. Not a picture of his last days, but from her childhood when health and hope were still his. She caught his essence in the finished work, as her tears swelled to the surface.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt from BY GRACE. Watch for its publication in the coming year as Grace flees NYC in fear for her life and makes her way West.
Arletta Dawdy writes from Northern California but her heart is in the 19th century American West. When immersed in the stories of strong, independent women, she has been known to get lost in their adventures. Arletta's social work background lends itself to character analysis and develpment. Her extensive travels in the Southwest add believeability to her settings. Watch for Huachuca Woman and By Grace in spring 2012.
So pleased to announce Underworld Lover is out now. It is the second book in my Guardians series, about a dark angel who falls in love with a human woman whose soul he cannot claim. Jimmy Thomas, the international cover model who has graced some 2000 romance novel covers, is the perfect Joshua Brandon, the hero. My thanks to Kendra Egert for the beautiful cover artwork.
When I was writing Book 1, Heavenly Lover, Josh was the villain. But I must admit, I sort of fell in love with him while writing his character. He was a very bad boy in Book 1, but I knew inside he had a heart of gold, and that's what comes out in Book 2. And though this story is finished, I'm not done with him yet. More about that later.
His character starts out smarting from his first failure to claim a human soul. My premise for the series is this: Heaven isn't 100% perfect by design. The Underworld isn't 100% evil by accident. The Underworld is a place where things happen by chaos, where the Director is elected, and everyone cheats. Nobody really wants the job, and all prior Directors have never followed the rules, set in dusty ledgers no one has opened for centuries.
In this chaotic mix of sensual pleasures and “do your own thing” philosophy, as long as souls are being claimed and the Underworld is growing, dark angels are happy and left free. This goes a long way to convince humans to end their lives and join the Underworld ranks.
But a new Director has been elected, who wants this position and has a dark agenda. He sees the legendary and extremely popular Joshua Brandon as being a threat to his consolidation of power. So, the Underworld has taken on an oppressive atmosphere. Dark angels with black oily wings are being created again, with the gift of fire breathing, and a war with Heaven is brewing.
In the midst of it all, Josh finds he has fallen in love with a human woman. Just happens to be that the new Director wants her too.
I like to write about a character's higher calling. Love heals in the gardens of the heart, is a theme throughout all my books. My premise is that once the character meets the love of their life, their life changes. These changes set in motion battles of lust, passion, redemption and sacrifice. My dark angels have to go to meetings, similar to 12-step programs.
It has been a wonderful journey, first dreaming about these characters and then putting them down on paper. I hope the readers embrace my twisted sense of good and evil, and suspend disbelief just enough to be entertained.
After all, reality is a story too.
Excerpt, Underworld Lover:
I hope you enjoy taking this journey with me. I'd love to hear.
Santa Rosa, California
I'm uploading my new release, the second book in my Guardian Angel series, Underworld Lover. As usual, my friend, Tina Folsom, is helping me with the technical aspects of making sure it is done correctly, and looks great. I've had feedback that my books are the best formatted readers have seen. Makes me happy.
I'll announce when it's up and ready for sale. But just had to share the cover. Jimmy Thomas is perfect (again–I mean when isn't he?).
Here's the blurb:
Joshua Brandon, a legendary and powerful rogue dark angel, meets a human woman whose soul he cannot take, and finds something he has not experienced before: love. At the same time, a new director comes to power in the Underworld, who asks for a test of Josh's loyalty by delivering this very woman to him.
Melanie Worthington is back among the living, after reeling from the suicide of a close friend. She has no idea she is to become the pawn between two powerful dark angels, one who would command her as his personal concubine, and the other who would set her free.
Will their love survive the battle between the two dark angels, or will Joshua risk his own immortal life to protect the woman he loves?