Isn’t He Lovely?

It’s reveal day! At long last, here is the cover for my novel, Heaven in the Dark, coming Oct. 20. I’m more than a little in love with him! Let me know what you think…

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Teaser Time

I can’t believe that in only six weeks, I will publish my debut novel, Heaven in the Dark. To that end, it’s high time for a teaser, so here is the beginning of chapter one:

Chapter One

​​Was it night or day? Allie wasn’t sure. The room where they were being held was windowless and small, scarcely large enough to accommodate the beat-up wooden table and four metal folding chairs centered under the harsh illumination of a single bare light bulb. She sat, rubbing her eyes and trying to lift the veil of grogginess that enveloped her, and looked across the table at the two other girls who shared her captivity. They were younger than she, perhaps 16 or 17. One was crying softly; the other petted her and spoke comforting words in Czech. So most likely they were also from Prague. But where were they now?

​She could hear a group of men talking outside the room. Fragments of sentences seeped through its thin plywood walls, the familiar voices of her captors mingling with others in a multitude of accents, European, Russian.

​“Proč? Proč?” one of the girls kept repeating. Why? Why? Allie was afraid that she knew the answer: human trafficking.

​Prague was no more dangerous than many other cities—and no less. A young woman with no family, as she was, or one from a family with few resources, could disappear without a trace, a living commodity to be brokered for sex or forced labor, and no one would have means or motivation to pursue her. She shivered at the thought of what future lay on the other side of the wall…prostitution, servitude, imprisonment…or worse. She’d attempted escape once, on this forced, multi-day journey, but her efforts were fruitless, gaining her only rougher handling and a sharp blow to the back of her head. Recalling this, Allie rubbed the bruised area instinctively. Now, it seemed that the end of the line was here.

​The door swung to and a man grabbed one of the girls by the arm, yanking her from her seat and pulling her toward the opening. Her friend stood and snatched the other arm, forming a human tug-of-war until a backhand to the latter girl’s face sent her reeling into a chair. The first girl was taken away as the door slammed. Allie moved around the table to sit next to the remaining girl, putting an arm around her shoulder. It was meager comfort, Allie knew.

​Some minutes passed before the man returned for the second girl. He reached for her and she clung to Allie, wailing and screaming epithets at him in Czech. He pried her hands from Allie’s waist and dragged her away, closing the door once more.

​Being left alone accelerated Allie’s fear. Her limbs felt like sandbags, weighing her to the chair, and her heart hammered erratically. Bile rose in her throat and she resisted the urge to vomit. Her hands and feet were numb, her vision blurry. She felt simultaneously detached from her body, and physically overwhelmed with terror. It wouldn’t be long now until it was her turn. The door opened.

The Name Game

When I finished writing and editing my soon-to-be-published novel, HEAVEN IN THE DARK, one of the hardest tasks still lay ahead of me: what to call the darn thing. I already had a working title, SWIFT (the hero’s last name), and I kind of liked it. But SWIFT, darn it, just didn’t sound like a romance. If the name didn’t evoke swoony possibilities for me, I knew it wouldn’t for anyone else, either. When I went back to the drawing board, I tried two time-tested author methods for finding a title: 1) Combing my manuscript line by line; and 2) Looking through my iTunes, in hopes that a talented songwriter had already come up with a great title for me.  And in the end, both methods resulted in the same title. Meant to be!

A rose by any other name...but what about a book?
A rose by any other name…but what about a book?

Late in the novel, the heroine, Allie, talks about how a very dark moment in her life inadvertently led her to the happiest time of her life…to a heaven of sorts. Meanwhile, over in my iTunes, I kept going back to a Neal Coty song titled “Heaven in the Dark.” Coty’s song, which is an autobiographical tune about his being given up for adoption, includes the lines: “I’m the firstborn son of a father I’ll never know/But I’ve got his eyes and that means he’s hiding somewhere deep inside my soul.” These words could just as easily be spoken by David, the hero of my novel. I knew right then that HEAVEN IN THE DARK must be the book’s title. Will it evoke lush, romantic feelings in others? I can only hope. But for me, there was no other choice.

Heaven in the Dark

Late last August, I woke up one morning with two characters in my head. They were in a warehouse in Milan, and they were in danger. Strange, I thought at the time. I couldn’t shake the duo, a man and a woman; they would flit through my mind at bedtime, and reappear the next morning. Slow on the uptake, it took me about a month to realize that they had a story to tell. Finally, in early October 2014, I grabbed my laptop and started writing it down.

The end result is HEAVEN IN THE DARK, my first adult contemporary romance novel, which I am excited to announce will be published on October 20th. Without further ado, here is the cover copy:

Their meeting was chance.

Their love was fate.

Their future was…dangerous.

Orphaned at 14. Kidnapped at 20. American college student Allie Miller has known more than her share of heartache and terror. But when Italian industrialist David Swift inadvertently interrupts her captors, rescues her and whisks her off to his villa to recover, Allie’s future finally looks bright. She and David embark on a passionate love affair, but soon Allie must battle two new obstacles to her happily ever after: David’s past, including the mysterious American father he will not discuss; and one of her kidnappers, a sociopath with a vendetta against the couple and an affinity for abduction.

Now, the couple’s love…and their very lives…are on the line. Can Allie and David keep history from repeating itself? Can they stop a madman bent on revenge? Or will their pasts destroy any chance of a future?

I’ve never had a child, but this whole process feels a lot like giving birth. You wait for many months, and hope at the end that people think your baby is cute…or in this case, that it’s sexy and compelling. In any event, it feels good to have the due date on the calendar.

Romance Reading Roundup: My Favorite Books (Thus Far) of 2015…

You know how sometimes you just can’t find any new authors you like, and every book you read leaves you vaguely dissatisfied? Other times, you stumble onto an embarrassment of literary riches? I’m happy to say that 2015 thus far has been the latter kind of year, and I’ve discovered several new authors who are must-reads for me. Foremost among them is Elle Kennedy, who blew me away with her Off Campus novels. This New Adult series deftly meshes humor and (lots of) steam. The characters are well-developed and the writing is flawless. There are currently two stand-alone (but interconnected) books in the series, THE DEAL and THE MISTAKE. This is one of my favorite excerpts from THE MISTAKE, featuring a hilarious (and clueless) minor character who dispenses relationship advice on the radio:

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“Here’s what you’re gonna do. Pick up a bottle of wine, invite him over to your place, and make sure some old-school Usher is playing when he walks in. Then, you take off all your clothes and—you know what, baby girl?” Pace Dawson drawls into the microphone on Friday afternoon. “Forget the wine and Usher. Just be naked when he shows up and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be ready to go to the bone zone.”

I’m also a fan of dark romances, when they are well-done, and this spring I stumbled onto a pair of dark, angsty novels by JM Darhower that grabbed me by the throat and still haven’t let go. Published in 2014, MONSTER IN HIS EYES and TORTURE TO HER SOUL tell the story of young college student Karissa and her dangerous lover, Naz Vitale, a mobster who just may be out to get her. You may read these books and call Naz a sociopath; I just call him my all-time favorite book boyfriend. Here’s a short sample from MONSTER:

“You don’t have to be afraid,” he says. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

He kisses me then. His lips are soft—so, so soft, like velvet, a stark contrast to the roughness of the rest of him. His kiss is gentle, little more than breaths against my lips that I eagerly inhale, taking him in. I let out a soft moan, hardly catching it as he whispers, “unless you want me to.”

If you haven’t read either of these series yet, I highly recommend them. Btw, for my next blog post, I’ll be turning the topic to my own novel, which is (finally!) coming soon…

GREY Matter

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with fan fiction. To me, it is the literary equivalent of song sampling, and I think any writer who borrows characters, plot or prose from another author should cede them a cut of all royalties. (E L James is to Stephenie Meyer as Vanilla Ice is to David Bowie and Queen.) That said, anyone who knows me probably also knows that I have BIG LOVE for FIFTY SHADES OF GREY–no lie and no shame. Sure, even a rudimentary edit to shape the story and remove excess verbiage (and to edit this trilogy is one of my ongoing fantasies) would have reduced the books by 30%, and probably have saved them from much ridicule. But, even in their current form, James brought several things to the table for her story, including a charismatic hero and some clever writing–the email exchanges and Christian’s “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” line being but two examples. I would go so far as to argue that Christian Grey is a more compelling figure than TWILIGHT’s Edward Cullen and, to me, a more romantic one.

GREY

Thus, I was giddy when the publication of GREY, a FIFTY SHADES retelling from Christian’s perspective, was announced earlier this week. Never mind that the alternate POV novel  is almost de rigueur these days (not to mention that it has also already been done by Stephenie Meyer). I literally giggled at the news, because anyone who has read the trilogy will agree that the books come alive most when Christian is on the page. And on June 18, we’ll get to be inside Christian’s head for 500+ pages. I think it will be, as Ana might mutter, “teeth-clenchingly good.” It appears that fan fiction is here to stay (thanks, Internet). And while it remains to be seen what contributions, if any, fanfic may make to the canon of great literature, even if it only serves as pop culture junk food, rather than a gourmet meal, in the case of GREY, I think it will be delicious.

Sexy Times, Sexy Tunes

Welcome to my blog! Since I’ve recently transitioned from the music industry to writing romance novels, I thought I’d kick things off with a post about my favorite romantic CDs. First, a brief housekeeping note: This blog will be intermittent until my novel’s (tbd) release date nears and then will be updated regularly. Now, with no further ado (and in no particular order), here are my favorite romantic records:

* Dierks Bentley/RISER. Dierks’ voice could probably induce swoons singing the national anthem, and it’s used to full effect here on songs like “Say You Do,” “Five” and the title song (sample lyric: “I’m gonna get down low so I can lift you higher”).
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* Meiko/THE BRIGHT SIDE. I’m not sure anyone has captured all of the emotions of falling in love on one CD better than Meiko does on this record. From joyous songs like “Stuck on You” and “I’m in Love” to the sultry “When the Doors Close,” and even during a detour through love gone wrong (“Good Looking Loser”), this one is a winner from start to finish.
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* Cee Lo Green/THE LADY KILLER. You wouldn’t necessarily expect the CD that includes the “stick-it-to-em” anthem “F*ck You” to also include a slew of romantic songs but, if you love the rich tradition of seductive R&B, I highly recommend THE LADY KILLER. I think every tune on this disc is a home run, but I particularly love the overt sexuality of “Satisfied” (“The least I can do is try…I want you to be satisfied”), the swoony “Old Fashioned” and the passionate plea of “No One’s Gonna Love You.”
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* Roxy Music/AVALON. Hands down, this is my desert island disc. It’s ethereal. Dreamy. Awash in longing and desire. The song titles say it all: “More Than This,” “While My Heart Is Still Beating,” “To Turn You On” and my personal favorite, “Take a Chance with Me.”
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What’s your go-to romantic CD? I’d love to know.

xo