One Year in the Trenches: The Life of an Author

As of June 4th, I have been a traditionally-published author for an entire year.

That was one helluva a fateful email, lemme tell ya! After years of ‘Thank you for considering such-and-such publishing for your manuscript, but this is not the story we are looking for at this time,’ I finally hit the jackpot with ‘Congratulations on such a well-written romance novel!’

In hindsight, I suspect the only other phrase that alters someone’s life that much is ‘Congratulations! You’re pregnant.’ I wouldn’t know, though.

While I am new to being a traditionally-published author, I’m no stranger to seeing my work in print. I’ve been around the writing block more than a couple times, with all the headaches, hard work, and hiccups that go along with it. I thought that I had a grasp on things, that I knew what I was doing.

Yeah, right!

Shortly after getting that fateful email, I found myself sitting at my laptop being trained for ‘marketing detail’. Times have changed drastically for authors in the last few decades, mostly due to social media, which creates the ability—and therefore the need—for authors to be more visible, and the increased ease of self-publishing, which creates more competition. (NOTE: I myself was once an ‘indie’ author. I know and admire a great many self-published authors. I’m not bemoaning the fact that self-publishing has risen up to challenge the traditional publishing industry. I’m simply pointing out reality. Technology has changed the game for everyone.)

I managed to settle into a routine after a while. It felt very, very alien at first, because the change in my lifestyle was so sudden. But I got used to it, or at least I thought I did. I even got through the launch of Desire Me Again (an anthology featuring one of my stories) with flying colors. I was on a roll, or so I thought.

And then my full-length novel When the White Knight Falls launched…

It was then that I realized my new lifestyle was quickly becoming unsustainable. I couldn’t handle the workload, and I was exhausted. February of 2021 was a very rough month for me! I felt like I was going to crash. (If you’d like to know what a typical book launch looks like, read Anatomy of a Book Launch, the blog posted immediately below this one. It’s a minute-by-minute log of how mine went.)

So I asked myself, ‘what if you went back to the way things were before?’

I was absolutely aghast at the thought! Writers write so that people can read their stories. Period. Without readers, writing is an utter waste of time. I was overwhelmed and stressed out, true, but I was also exactly where I wanted to be.

So I paused, and re-assessed the situation…

The first thing I did was count my blessings. Gratitude is the antidote for discontent; this I learned very, very young. I had a publisher who believed in me. That’s HUGE!!! Some authors—ones far more talented than I—go their whole lives without finding a suitable publisher. Even better, Black Velvet Seductions is the most author-friendly romance publisher out there. Most publishers these days put it into their contracts that authors need to help with promotions. And that’s it. That’s all there is. A contractual requirement, but the ‘how’ of the matter is entirely on you.

That’s not BVS.

We have a training director, a wonderfully talented and patient fellow author who directs our promotional efforts and keeps all the authors working together as a team. She’s become one of my absolute favorite people, and I owe her a lot.

In addition to having a great publisher AND assistance with marketing, I was also blessed that my life experience has led me to this point. Some authors find themselves in print a mere few years after they start writing. That’s not me. I have decades of experience. I’m also computer-savvy, with a background in graphic design. (I didn’t realize how useful my PhotoShop skills were until I had to start cobbing up ads on a weekly basis.) Not only that, I spent years working as a sales-person; I read people well, which comes in handy when assessing one’s readers and target demographics.

Once I thought about all that I had going for me, I felt a twinge of guilt. Why was I so miserable and overwhelmed when I had so much working in my favor?

Because I’m human, that’s why. There are only so many hours in a day.

So I took a step back. What was I willing to do because it struck me as fun, and what did I need to escape because I hated it? I slowly but surely began the process of farming out the chores that were stressing me out (publishing assistants are WONDERFUL people!), and getting a better handle on managing my literary affairs.

I’m in a better place now. About the only thing I have to do that I can’t ‘sub out’ is author proofing, which I hate. But that just is what it is. At the end of the day, they’re my stories and it’s my job to go over the edited manuscripts with a magnifying glass, making sure they’re ready for print. Other’n that, I’m more or less back to behaving like a literary four-year-old, because for me that’s sustainable. I put in an average of thirty hours a week into my writing chores over and above my day job. If it’s fun, it isn’t work and it doesn’t stress me out. If I don’t like doing it, it wears me out and I start to hate my life.

So now I can focus on growing both my body of work and my reader base. It was a long year and a couple of months in Hell, but now I seem to be moving forward. I’m so excited to see what the future holds!

So what did I learn over the last year?

Ha! How much time do you have…?

#1 – Listen to your publisher and their marketing staff. If I knew everything, I wouldn’t need a publisher, would I? Sometimes you disagree with an editorial decision. Sometimes you don’t understand why you’re being asked to do something that you’d rather not. That’s how it goes. It’s funny, I have a pretty easy time with that one, but I know a lot of other authors who don’t. I think it’s because I’m lazy, honestly. If I just do exactly what I’m told, then it’s not my fault if it doesn’t work. Easy-peasy.

#2 – It ain’t always about you! Jesus said to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. If God in the flesh said something is important, then I suppose it’s best to take His words at face value. Review others’ work when you can. Got a blog? Feature other authors. We’re all in this together. And we should always remember that ‘loving your neighbor’ is never a quid pro quo. It’s not about ‘hey, I’ll do this for you so now you gotta do that for me’. Rather, it’s about doing your part to foster a positive, helpful environment in which everyone can flourish.

#3 – Swallow your pride. ‘Pride goeth before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction’.  When it comes to writing books, ‘destruction’ might be too strong a word but ‘failure’ is definitely not. Sometimes you thought you had your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed, only to be rejected, or hit with a request to do re-writes. Some people say ‘you can’t win all time’. I say, the fuck you can’t! But not every victory is easily won. The Battle of Petersburg was a turkey shoot for the Confederates, but Normandy wasn’t so easy for the Allies. And that’s how it goes sometimes. Clinging to an over-inflated ego just makes everything that much harder.

#4 – Work with others.  Everyone has a different skill set. Some authors are aces at marketing, while others struggle with it. Others are fast and efficient writers, while others move more slowly. Some authors are good at graphics, while others struggle with them. Whatever your talents may be, bring them to the table so that you can assist others, and seek help from those who possess skills that you do not. A wise writer knows that we all either stand together, or we go into the ‘slush pile’ one by one.

#5 – Mind your graphics. In a social-media driven world, graphics are everything! A spiffy book ad catches the eye in ways that even a blurb does not. If you’re good at PhotoShop, wonderful! If you’re not, find a way around the deficiency. I’m always deeply appreciative when someone sends me a copyright-free image that reminded them of one of my characters, and I always try to reciprocate. No, it’s not fair that now we have to be artists in addition to being authors. But that’s how it is.

#6 – If you hate doing something and you can afford to hire it out, do so. Odds are that none of us are getting rich anyway. In the meantime, the key is sustainability, not burnout. ‘Nuff said!

#7 – Love thy day job (if thou hast one). My day job is the backbone of my entire writing operation. It allows me the luxury of recruiting paid help when I need it. It allows me to keep my creative integrity, rather than simply chasing the next buck with my stories. It allows me a respite from writing—and yes, I do need one. I can only spend so long in my head before I feel myself slowly going insane. My day job funds my passion, and allows me to regularly engage the real world. I need it, and I give it the same care and attention that I do my writing.

#8 – Love thy reader. It is so tempting to insert one’s own opinions into stories, like some dipshit actor spewing political bilge while they’re accepting an award they earned by entertaining people. Don’t. That alienates readers, and it’s not worth it. Watch your reviews, zero in on your demographic, and give ‘em what they want. Having readers is a blessing, and we should never lose sight of that fact.

#9 – Think of your work as a calling. My writing took off in 2020. Contrary to popular belief, that was not the worst year in American history. But it wasn’t a good one, either.

I have a policy of never commenting on social issues, but sometimes you just have to point out the obvious: Never have I witnessed such un-bridled Fascism as I’ve seen recently. Never did I imagine that governments would write themselves the authority to put entire populations under house arrest. Never did I imagine that political leaders would high-handedly order lawfully-operating businesses to close, stripping legions of workers of their livelihoods. Never have I seen houses of worship ordered to close. That brazen tyranny led to a catastrophic rise in depression, suicides, addictions, spiritual malaise, and poor mental health in general.

My point is this: while the over-arching solution is to follow God and His teachings, people in the meantime need a break! A sedative, if you would. Authors are more important now than they ever were. As our world begins to crumble—as it periodically does, because all social orders rise and fall—storytellers become an invaluable source of comfort and encouragement. The Roman Empire rose and fell, and now it’s gone. The Hellenistic world is no more…

But what they left behind were their stories. We still have those. They survived even the iron fists of history, and social change.

We are the ones who write those stories. We matter.

Never forget that…

Cheers! – V

CONNECT WITH ME ONLINE:

https://linktr.ee/VK_Wallace1378

Callie Carmen’s ‘Michael’: Review and Author Interview!

Olivia had spent enough time on memories of her ex-boyfriend’s abuse. She was going to put all of her efforts into her new business career. And try to convince her boss, Vice President Michael Evans, that the woman he’d been dating was nothing more than an opportunist and that she’d climb into bed with anyone that could get her to the top. 

Michael, who lost his younger sister to an abusive relationship, was falling in love with Olivia. He kept his distance from her and waited patiently for a sign that she was ready for his love.

Michael is the sixth and last novel in the Risking Love series. The stories chart a group of friends through life and love. These steamy stories will have you laughing, crying, and your heart racing.

Blurb from Callie Carmen’s Michael

It’s FINALLY the release day for Michael, the grand finale of Callie Carmen’s Risking Love series!

It may shock you, my dear readers, to learn that I don’t often read contemporary romances. Oh, I do love me some heart-wrenching stories, now, being a romance writer and all. But I tend to lean toward fantasy, sci-fi, and darker stories. So it’s high praise when I tell you that I have always found Callie Carmen’s writing to be captivating. It’s powerful enough to pull me out of my blackened little fantasy bubble, and that’s saying something.

Callie writes in the first-person tense, and alternates between the hero and the heroine’s respective points of view. It’s a very clever way of telling a story, because while first person creates more intimacy than third, it can also limit the scope of the story. Using dual narratives fleshes out different aspects of the tale, making it more complete than it would otherwise be.

Another earmark of Callie’s writing is her leading men. They are amazingly complex, and very life-like. Her heroines are also complex and engaging, but hey, let’s face it: Risking Love was custom-tailored for the ladies. (I mean, seriously, check out the covers!) From the assertive Patrick to the reticent Anthony to the smart-yet-somewhat-clueless Joshua, Callie’s cast of male leads makes for great storytelling.

And now there’s Michael…

Michael’s a corporate exec. He’s smooth, suave, handsome, and possesses an uncanny ability to read the people around him. He’s also the perfect gentleman, with a courteously deferential way of treating women that’s very endearing. It’s obvious from the opening chapters that lovely Olivia is head-over-heels for him. There’s just one problem. Well, two, actually…

The first is Veronica, the conniving ‘dragon lady’. She’s cold, ambitious, and a rather daunting romantic rival.

The second is Braylon, Olivia’s stalker.

Those twin threads of suspense—the personal angst, combined with the element of danger—make Michael an absolute page-turner. It’s a worthy ending to the series that began with the explosive Patrick, and I suspect that many readers will be sad that the ride has finally come to an end. I know I am.

But that means we get to look forward to whatever comes next!

Michael, by the amazing Callie Carmen. Check it OUT!

BIO

Callie Carmen is a tormented artist who drinks way, way too much! Fueled by a steady diet of booze, caffeine, heavy metal music, and horror films, Callie is often so addled that she doesn’t even know what day it is. She’s also prone to mixing up her days and nights, and is more than a little obsessive/compul…

Uh… Hold on… Waitaminit…

Dammit, that’s MY bio! Sorry, y’all. My bad. Lemme just open the correct file, here… just a sec… Okay, here we go!

Callie started in the book business as a bookstore manager which was the perfect place for her since she was an avid reader. After two years, she moved to the corporate office as a buyer and eventually became a senior book buyer. This was a rewarding career that she loved.

Along the way, Callie became a stay home Mom but couldn’t give up working around books altogether. She volunteered to run the book fairs in her small farm town. At the same time, Callie started and ran, A Child Oasis Company, with the sole purpose of placing a small book library in the homes of all the needy children in the nearby city.

As her children became teens, Callie found she needed more in her personal life than the volunteer Mom for the schools. She sat down at the computer and began to write. To see what she’s been up to go to Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07BN5PXDF

INTERVIEW

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

Enemy That I Know, a mobster romance as part of the Craving Loyalty Anthology. It is a wonderful book. My story takes place in the nightclub my grandfather had owned. It was my first attempt at a short story and at the time I found it difficult to tell an entire love story in 10,000 words. If I had a larger word count, I would have included the rescue battle scene. With that said, I think it’s a passionate second chance at love tale and I’m proud of being able to accomplish it. Since then I’m been working with a different publisher, Black Velvet Seductions and have learned a great deal working with their staff.  

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Yes. I’m a firm believer that you need to watch what you say or do in front of an author or you may end up as a character in their next novel. Each of my stories includes the personality of at least one person who I know well, or even a casual acquaintance. Like my five college friends, that appear in my Risking Love series.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

They don’t help with my marketing, but they come up with some great villain ideas like the serial killer in my novel Patrick. My husband reminded me of a rather disturbing date I had gone on with a man when I was in my twenties. The man had given me a serial killer vibe. He was a perfect role model for the serial killer that was after Jaq in Patrick. Or my friend’s creepy ex-boyfriend was the perfect person to be my muse for Olivia’s betraying ex-boyfriend from my latest novel Michael.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Yes, I keep toying with writing a Greek Family Series. It would feature the sexy brothers and cousin of Nicolas, from book two in my Risking Love series. Especially Damon. So many women that read that novel wanted to date him. My own daughter put dibs on being Damon’s love interest. Lol. I’m also working on an alien love story for the upcoming Dark Desire Anthology from BVS coming in 2022.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write? Why?

I could never write a BDSM story. I know nothing about that type of relationship, and I think one should do their research on the subject before attempting to write about it. To me those that write BDSM have a responsibility to the reader to get it right. There are a few BVS authors that write that genre well.

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

I would not do well as a person who is a tormented artist. I attempt to be a cheerful person who lets pain roll off my back after a few minutes.

Do you drink? Why or why not?

I have a jumbo frozen margarita with I go out to the Mexican Restaurant. And at Christmas when I’m with my entire family in upstate New York I have a fancy drink with them all.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

There are too many to name them all, but I’ll mention a few. As far as a children’s movie goes it was always the Disney original version of Cinderella. That movie and my mother’s teachings about being kind to others, even the bully stayed with me. My mother would say, “You never know what’s going on in their life to make them act that way.” It has always worked for me in my life. Later it was the movie Ever After, which is an adult version of Cinderella. I love how she continued to show her kindness, but also her wisdom, strength, and passion for the man she loved. Other than that I have a long list of fantasy or science fiction movie that I love so I’ll only name a few: The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Trek, etc.  

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

I’ve had to do research for each of my stories, from the history of dream catchers to the world of rodeo life on the road. However, you did say exhaustively so hold on to your hat.
When I first started writing love making scenes, I wanted to be accurate how men felt when they made love. So I grilled my husband, and that got me nowhere as he didn’t want to discuss it.
So I hit the internet. I read first-hand accounts from many men describing the physical aspects of sex. What it does to their body, how it feels before, during, and after the big moment. Many of them also got into the emotions of making love, too. I took all of that information in.I found that even though no two people are the same, there were several common things that went on for men while making love. I had what I needed to make my passionate scenes realistic.

Thanks for gracing our pages today, Callie! It was an honor to host you, and here’s wishing you all the best in the future! – V

How can we stalk you?

Social Media Links

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011326206882

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/CallieCarmenAuthor/

Twitter

Search Twitter for Callie_Carmen (Sorry, the link hijacked my page)

Amazon

https://amazon.com/-/e/B07BN5PXDF

Youtube

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC884L9_4lE3Mclj6yNmMZkg

Instagram

https://www.instagram.com/calliecarmennovel/

MeWe

https://mewe.com/profile/5aea84c00dc9f110e68a9373

Goodreads

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17829431.Callie_Carmen

Linkedin

https://www.linkedin.com/in/callie-carmen-72ba98156/

Tumblr

https://calliecarmenauthor.tumblr.com/

Pinterest

Search for calliecarmennovel (another link hijack with this one)

Website

https://www.calliecarmen.com/

BookBub

https://www.bookbub.com/profile/callie-carmen

Meet Niki Trento!

My friend and fellow author Niki Trento is the creator of the ‘Seasons of the Wolf’ paranormal romance series. The latest book in the series, ‘Spring of the Omega’, was released recently.

The blurb and links to buy are available after the interview. Take it AWAY, Niki!

When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?

I initially began writing (bad poetry) when I was in my early teens. It had been a dream of mine to be the next Stephen King. However, I never had the patience to write more than a couple of pages. When I was in my late 30’s I decided to write a shifter romance novel. Two years later, I was talked into releasing it.

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

My first book baby was Summer of the Alpha. I released him on my 40th birthday. Although I still love the story, it is a bit on the soft side compared to the ones that followed.

How do you balance writing with your personal life?

I’m a stay-at-home mom with teenagers. When they aren’t at school, they do their own thing and I do mine. I write when I can, when the inspiration strikes, or when I’m bored.

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Oh, yes!! In the Seasons of the Wolf series, there are aspects of some of the characters that bleed over from my real-life people. I also have characters sprinkled around who’s names are versions of my support team.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

To a degree, my brother will retweet some things. I have friends in the writing community that are sounding boards and help when I’m stuck. They are often referred to as my Trifecta, the Devil on my shoulder, and the Demon under my bed in my dedications.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Loads of stories dance around in my head. I have some that are in the works right now, and some that are planned.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write for some reason? Why?

My autobiography! Haha!  Seriously though, I have plans for a reverse harem that I am a little hesitant to write as all of mine so far are not rh. However, I am getting over that by making the first in my next series RH. The reason reverse harem is a bit daunting for me to write is because there are so many incredible authors out there. The way they write the…steamy scenes…are pretty believable. I’m not sure I can measure up, but I am going to try anyway.

Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?

Definitely 18+.

Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?

Only for school projects.

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

Honestly, it depends. There are certain scenes or storylines that I write that require me to dig deep down into my darkness. Overall, aside from being a bit weird, I am a ‘normal’ person. (Virginia’s note: Everyone answers ‘normal’. They’re often fibbing. Just sayin’…)

Do you drink? Why or why not?

Nope. I had my fun in my early 20s, but except for an occasional wine cooler, I don’t have the desire.

Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?

I have been with my mister for nearly 20 years. He is fully supportive of my writing. I would say that all of my relationships affect the way I write love stories. Of course, my mister is the epitome of ‘fated mate’ in my life.

If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?

Oh! I would LOVE to see Seasons of the Wolf made into a movie! Shifters, drama, love, magic? Yes, please!

How does your life experience influence your writing?

I didn’t have a glitter and rainbows life. I’ve seen darkness, death, hatred. However, I’ve also seen love, light, and happiness. All of those things are in my writing, without a doubt.

Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?

I don’t really think too much about it, honestly.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?

Sometimes. I really have found that listening to Celtic music gets my blood pumping while writing. I like to sing (even if it’s done badly) when listening to music, so having something with lyrics going messes with my writing. I’ve caught myself typing lyrics instead of what I intended a couple of times. I wouldn’t say that it influences the story. I know a lot of authors who legit have playlists that go with their books, but I am just not that talented. Haha

Have you ever written a story based on a personal experience you had? If so, what was it about?

Like I’ve said before, my real life tends to bleed into my stories to some degree. For example: the relationship between some of my shifters and their fathers. Mine passed when I was almost eleven years old, so I tend to have a soft spot for that relationship.

Do you let real-life events influence your work, or is there a ‘disconnect’ between your stories and world/national/local events?

I have mentioned some things from the real world in my stories. References to Harry Potter movies, Punky Brewster, and even books from fellow indie authors!

Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?

What is this planning and structure you speak of?? (Virginia’s note: Fuck if I know…)

What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

People enjoying my imagination. Hands down. When someone says to me, “I love your books!” or “I need more Axel!” then I know my job is done. Or rather, just beginning!

Who is your favorite author, and why?

That isn’t fair! As I mentioned, I’ve always been a fan of Stephen King. As I got older, though, my library has broadened. I adore Angela Roquet, Kory Shrum, Patricia Briggs, Kevin Hearne, and all my amazing indie author friends.

If you could pick anyone to narrate one of your books, who would it be?

Sam Elliott. I don’t care, that voice is just everything!

Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?

Promise not to tell the others? Barin and Axel are my top favorites. Barin was inspired by Brock O’Hurn, so he would have to play my alpha. Axel…I would have to look into that. In my mind, he is an Italian with blue eyes…

Do you write when you take a vacation, or do you prefer to simply relax?

Vacation? Another of those words that is not in my vocabulary. Writing is relaxing to me, so I probably would write on vacation.

Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?

I try not to read wolf shifter books often while I am writing so as not to be influenced. I love just about anything paranormal, so that’s the stuff I tend to read.

What’s one quirky thing about you that your readers might not know?

I am a packrat. I’ve gotten better, but I will never throw away the three inch gummy bear that I bought the year my son was born.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

Another tough question! Gosh…okay, I love the Harry Potter movies, Disney movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and The Blind Side. Back to the Future, Frequency, League of Their Own…the list really is long. I love movies that make me cry. I told you I was weird               

Do you set up events to meet your readers, or is your interaction with them strictly online?

 I’m an online personality. Lol Maybe some day it would be cool to meet up with readers though.

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

I’ve done research on wolves and other animals and how they compare to humans. For example: gestation periods, running speed, etc.

What’s a question I haven’t asked that you’d like to answer?

Yes, I would like the winning lottery numbers! (Virginia’s note: BEST answer I’ve gotten to that question thus far!!!)

THANK you for gracing virginiawallace.com with your presence, Niki! I’m honored to host you. Here, my dear readers, is the blurb for Niki’s latest literary masterpiece:

They say when you’re at the bottom, you can only go up. But when you are the omega, is that really true?

Cash is an omega, and his Mother never let him—or anyone—forget it. He had one job under her rule, to gather intel from other packs. Until one day when he left and never returned after finding his way into the heart of the Silver Lake Pack, always looking over his shoulder and counting the seconds until he had to run again.

Pandora lived on the streets after she discovered her foster parents hunted her kind. Shifters. Thankfully, they didn’t know what she was.  Her life changed for the better when she found her place with the family that is Silver Lake Pack.

When both Cash’s and Pandora’s pasts collide, will they both go on the run again? Or will they make a home for themselves with the Silver Lake Pack?

Niki’s latest book can be purchased here:

https://books2read.com/u/mZekrR

And y’all can stalk Niki here:

linktr.ee/nikitrentoauthor

THANKS again, Niki, for appearing today!

‘Secret Love’, by F. Burn: A Review and Author Interview

Secret Love, by F. Burn…

Francesca Gabel, a learning support assistant, accepts a post at a prestigious Catholic boys’ school. She manages to form a bond with a challenging student named Richard Cunningham, but the lines begin to blur as they become closer. Francesca experiences an internal struggle as she grapples to control her feelings. The passion they develop for one another consumes them as they enter a world of forbidden love and desire. Is it true love or a simple case of lust? Francesca must make a decision: give in to Richard and face the consequences or let him go.

You read about teachers developing inappropriate relationships with pupils and you wonder how it all happened. At what point did they finally decide to cross that line? Whose fault was it? Ultimately the responsibility lies with the adult they say, but when is the student considered an adult? You imagine yourself in that position and you tell yourself that you would never do that, but I found myself in an impossible situation.

Why I seemed to enjoy this destructive need, this obsession, I didn’t know. Maybe we all had it inside of us… Lines from F. Burn’s Secret Love

Everyone knows that Virginia Wallace is an incorrigible pest. I am absolutely notorious for badgering my co-workers out of un-released manuscripts! If a book catches my eye, I’m just like, ‘gimme’! And no, I’m not a paid reviewer, or even an amateur one for that matter. I just love to read, and I am smugly pleased to have access to amazing stories that haven’t been made available to the general public yet.

Fortunately, F. Burn was kind enough to lend me hers, the manuscript for her novel entitled Secret Love. Two words caught my attention when her book was described by my publisher, Ric Savage: ‘Dark’, and ‘poetic’.

She had me at ‘dark’, but ‘poetic’ to boot? WOW!!!

Secret Love could be described as a ‘taboo’ story, and in some sense I suppose it is. It’s the story of a female teacher who falls hard for a male student. It’s no secret that I have a fairly conservative view of relationships and sexuality (I’ve been panned in reviews for that), but this book fascinated me nevertheless. For starters, F. Burn is very careful to make no moral commentary whatsoever upon her character’s actions. Right, wrong, or otherwise, this story is happening… and yes, this kinda stuff does happen.

I loved the moral ambiguity of the tale. Was it wrong for Francesca to fall for Ritchie? It wasn’t like he was a kid, after all. Younger, perhaps, but certainly not a child. But then, many would say it’s always wrong for a teacher to fall for a student. On the other hand, attraction kinda happens even against our will, doesn’t it?

At the end of the day, this story just is what it is. I recommend simply reading it as such, and leaving it at that.

I loved that Francesca was lovely in her own way (as romance novel heroines generally are), but she does describe some self-perceived ‘flaws’ in her appearance, which makes her very relatable. The first-person narrative tense makes the story even more intimate. I loved that Ritchie only weighs in on his own tale at the very end, giving the story a very, very powerful next-to-last chapter.

And I have to say that this is one thing that makes F. Burn’s novel really shine. First-person narrative is a deal with the Devil. It gives one a deeper look into a character’s thoughts than third-person, but at the same time it’s limiting because the reader is forced to view the story entirely through the characters’ lenses. There’s no all-present, omniscient narrator.

It’s hard to be ‘poetic’ when one is writing in the first-person tense. First-person tends to come across as rather matter-of-fact, even though it’s often entertaining. Only three novels narrated in first-person come to mind that I would describe as ‘poetic’: Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. (My Cousin Rachel, by the way, had a similar ‘taboo’ theme to Secret Love.)

Now I’m gonna say four novels. Secret Love just joined the list.

I also loved that the story was defined by a strong sense of restraint on the part of the heroine. Relationships require restraint. Bonds easily forged are bonds easily broken. Creating a lasting relationship requires saying ‘no’ for a long time. Introducing sex too early leads to a selfish satisfying of desire at the expense of truly bonding with another person on an emotional level. I’m not overly fond of stories in which the hero and heroine jump right into bed, and then suddenly realize they’ve found true love and live happily ever after. Life just doesn’t work that way, you know? I certainly don’t write that way. (And yah, I’ve been panned for that, too.) Level-headed people know when to set passion on a back burner in order to build something better, and I loved that trait in both the fictitious Francesca and the real-life imagination of F. Burn.

This book gets an honest five stars from me. Some readers might be uncomfortable with the subject matter, and if that’s you then I suppose I understand.

But this book doesn’t condemn its own subject matter, and neither does it condone it.

It just is what it is.

So if you’re feeling adventurous—if your own comfort zone is starting to feel a bit stifling—check it OUT!!! Secret Love, by the amazingly talented F. Burn.

An Interview with F. Burn

When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?

I first started writing in my teens. I started off writing poetry to express how I felt. Some people described it as dark poetry.

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

Some of my poetry was published in anthologies.

How do you balance writing with your personal life?

It’s really hard, but I try to do bits during the week and weekends.

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Yes, I based a character from my upcoming novel, Secret Love, on my ex.

Do family members or friends help with your writing?

They’ve helped me by being supportive, giving constructive feedback and providing inspiration for my characters.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

Yes, I have quite a few ideas running around in my head. I am planning a sequel for Secret Love, but it seems to be taking a darker route.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write for some reason? Why?

The sequel of Secret Love. The main character discovers a side to her lover that scares her. There is a thin line between pleasure and pain.

Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?

I have a fairly wide target demographic, ranging from age 20-60+

Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?

The first book I wrote was a non-fiction piece on astronomy when I was a child.

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

I guess I am fairly normal, but with a dark side. That dark side is expressed through writing, art and music.

Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?

I’m not married, but I’m in a committed relationship with my soulmate and best friend. When I met him, I realised that the kind of love which is described in poetry and songs actually existed.

If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?

I would like my novel, Secret Love, to be made into a movie. It reminds me of a movie called ‘Notes on a Scandal‘ which is also about a female teacher engaging in an affair with a student. Though my story focuses more on the teacher’s assistant and is more than just purely physical.

How does your life experience influence your writing?

All my experiences growing up and work experiences have influenced my writing. I am also influenced by some of my favourite movies, music and novels.

Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?

I definitely just tell the story. Genre can be decided later.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?

Not usually, but I occasionally listen to instrumental music when I write.

Have you ever written a story based on a personal experience you had? If so, what was it about?

Not yet, but I considered writing about the experiences of a relative with a serious mental illness and a friend with Asperger’s. I wanted to tackle the stigma and the stereotypes associated with it.

Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?

Sometimes I go by a rough plan, but sometimes I write and see where the story takes me.

What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

Reading the finished product and feeling a sense of achievement.

Who is your favorite author, and why?

I have so many favourite authors, but one of my favourite books of all time is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.(Virginia’s Note: I KNEW I loved F. Burn!!!)

Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?

My favourite character is Ritchie from Secret Love, because he is a complex individual with needs. I would pick a young Jonathan Scarfe to play him.

Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?

I usually read horror, science-fiction, dystopian and non-fiction.

What’s one quirky thing about you that your readers might not know?

I am also an artist, who dabbles in song writing, making jewellery, astrology and photography.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

One of my favourite movies is Alien. I love the design of the alien by H.R. Giger and how the alien is a deadly parasite that gestates inside of a human host.

THANK you so much, F. Burn, for appearing on virginiawallace.com!!! Here’s wishing you a bright future, and CONGRATULATIONS on the release of Secret Love!!!

Secret Love is NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!!! Just go to to Amazon.com and paste this into the search box: Secret Love F Burn Black Velvet Seductions (I’d post the link, but Amazon hacks the hell out of your page and overwhelms your entire post.)

Connect with F. Burn on Face Book here: https://www.facebook.com/fburn.co.uk

‘Dear Dictator’: A Review

Didja ever see a movie that just blew your freakin’ mind?

What I like best is when you pull a movie out of the bin at the dollar-store, buy it because it was cheap, watch it because you’re mildly curious… and THEN it blows your mind! That’s even better than falling in love with some big-budget blockbuster, because you kinda see those coming.

I, however, am particularly fond of the amazing film that I didn’t see coming!

So, last week I stumbled across a dollar-store DVD entitled Dear Dictator. It stars Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, and a young lady named Odeya Rush who turned out to be fantastic. Talk about a lightning bolt out of a clear blue sky!

That movie got an immediate five stars from me.

The story goes like this: Teen-aged Tatiana is the daughter of a single mother, and she fancies herself a bit of a rebel. In one of her classes, she’s asked to write a letter to a public figure in the hopes of getting a response. Going for the shock value, she decides to write one General Anton Vincent, the tin-pot dictator of a small Caribbean nation.

Oddly enough, the two become pen pals. It seems that Vincent relates to the troubled Tatiana, as his country is in a state of turmoil and and his people are ready to overthrow him… which of course, they do. So General Anton heads for the only American address that might actually prove to be friendly territory: Tatiana’s house.

The story proceeds from there, and of course I won’t drop any spoilers.

What floored me was the complexity of the relationships between the characters, combined with the profound social commentary. And when I say ‘social’, I don’t mean ‘political’. Anton Vincent is a pragmatist; he is less interested in shifting political winds than he is the immutable traits of humanity, traits which a clever revolutionary can use to manipulate entire societies. There’s a wonderful scene in which he illustrates Machiavelli’s ‘rules for revolution’, using a box of Tatiana’s old dolls and action figures from the garage.

What fascinates me about Anton is this: He’s almost certainly a Communist, which many viewers would find offensive. But the film doesn’t dwell on that, because it’s not important. What is important is how well Anton reads people, and uses his observations to serve his own ends.

Anton is not a particularly good man, nor a particularly bad one. He—like most world leaders—is simply a product of his times, his upbringing, and his environment. The writers just told his story without attempting to cast any judgment upon his character. What is so endearing about him is how deeply he obviously cares about Tatiana. He has a daughter about her age, and it’s doubtful that he was the best father. The viewer almost gets the impression that Anton views Tatiana as his ‘second chance’, his opportunity to do right by a young girl in a way that he didn’t the first time around.

He guides her, teaches her, and expresses pride in her as Tatiana learns to apply his revolutionary tactics against the bullies that endlessly torment her at school. I LOVED it when he told her ‘and that is how you pull off your coup d’éTatiana!’

Dear Dictator. An absolute stroke of genius, and all for a mere buck. I dunno know if it’s on DisneyFlicks or NetPlus or whatever the new brain-candy network is, but if you happen to stumble across it…

You’ll wanna watch it! Not only is it a wonderfully heart-warming story, it also gives you a lot to think about. Which is probably why it wasn’t a huge hit; your average person just doesn’t do ‘thought-provoking’ these days. But if you’re one of the blessed few who does

Check it out! – V

(PS—You’ll also get to see Jason Biggs get water-boarded with a jug of milk. From humping cherry pies to getting drowned by Michael Caine, that poor feller has not had an easy career! Seriously…)

Romance and Horror…

There’s a TON of literature out there!!! Seriously, it’s enough to make one’s head spin. Fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction, historical…

But there are two genres that stand head and shoulders above all the others: Romance and Horror.

Why THOSE two?

The ancient Greeks had this idea that they called ‘Eros Thanatos’: Sex and Death. Sex gives life and Death takes it, and thus the two concepts are inextricably intertwined. Literature reflects this.

Romance is the world’s best-selling genre. I suspect that this is because humans instinctively know that the only hope for the future lies in ‘pairing up’, in creating a stable household within which one can usher in the next generation. Even in the absence of children, marriage is the foundational bedrock of any stable society. Without it, anarchy begins to creep in. As God Himself decreed, ‘Male and female created He them… Therefore a man shall leave his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ That, I think, is why the world’s best-selling genre revolves around concepts such as ‘soul mates’ and ‘true love’.

But why is Horror ever nipping at Romance’s stiletto heels?

Death—or the fear thereof—haunts humanity’s every waking thought, whether we want to admit it or not. There are a million ways to die, and horror stories reflect this. Honestly, I suspect that our fear of death eclipses even our need for love. In that sense, I kinda wonder why Horror is the ‘number two’ genre instead of the top dog.

The answer is simple. You can fall in love, get married, have sex, and tell about those experiences later. But you only get to die once, and then… well, it’s kinda too late to write about your ordeal, isn’t it? Death is just as much a reality as Love, but the difference is that there’s no going back after you croak. The stories you’re gonna write then will only ever be read by God.

Romance and Horror, Horror and Romance…

The popularity of those two genres speaks volumes about the human condition.

COWBOY DESIRE!!!

Well, my dear readers…

It’s finally RELEASE DAY for the epic anthology ‘Cowboy Desire’, by Black Velvet Seductions! Fourteen mesmerizing tales, penned by fourteen diverse authors who hail from every corner of the globe. It doesn’t get any better than this, friends!

I am truly honored to be one of the illustrious fourteen. Being given a place at the table was a blessing, one that would never have been bestowed upon me but by the grace of God and my publisher, Ric Savage.

So here, my dear readers, is my story-by-story review of the entire anthology. (And no, I didn’t review my own story. I mean, seriously… just how conceited do you think I am?! I may have a big head, but it ain’t THAT big!!! My story was reviewed by the acclaimed novelist Callie Carmen, who also appears in the anthology.)

So without any further ado: ‘COWBOY DESIRE’!!!

Wild Thunder by Zia Westfield

Zia’s shorts ‘Bewitching the Wolf’ and ‘Flight to the Stars’ are two of my absolute favorites. ‘Wild Thunder’ is a worthy successor.

I can’t tell you much about this one, honestly. Spoilers, you know? Let’s just say that the lovely Emmaline waking up in a hotel room with a complete stranger leaves you thinking ‘what the…?!’

The rest of the story unravels the mystery behind that cliffhanger beginning, and it’s one heluva ride!

I wish I could say more. All I can do is tell you to read it!

Ava by Callie Carmen

I had high hopes for ‘Ava’, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Ava’s character appears in Callie Carmen’s novel ‘Joshua’, and author Annabel Allan described her as ‘the perfect shade of bitchy’. She was, too, and I can’t think of a better way to put it.

But I always wanted to see more of her. Ava was snarky, rude, and petulant with good reason: She was madly in love with someone who didn’t love her back. Anyone who’s ever experienced that knows how utterly demoralizing it is, how badly it damages one’s sense of self-worth. I turned the last page of ‘Joshua’ hoping that someday I’d get another peek into Ava’s head, during a better period in which she was free of Joshua’s unwitting spell.

It is a challenging thing to flesh out characters and a relationship within a context so confining as a short story. Callie Carmen nails it, as she always does; ‘Ava’ immediately pulls the reader into Ava and Colton’s heads. I’ve always loved Callie’s rotating first-person narration; it creates a story that gets intimate with surprising quickness. Much like her contemporaries Suzanne Smith and Patricia Elliott, Callie Carmen writes men very, very well; one would almost think that she hired a male ghost writer to pen Colton’s sequences. (Those of us who love her stories know better, of course.)

Ava’s love-interest Colton is a handsome, rough and tumble, and surprisingly artistic man. He’s a worthy match for Callie’s wonderfully complicated heroine. This is Ava the way she was always meant to be seen, as a beautiful, confident, and witty woman. She was the dangling thread in ‘Joshua’, and it’s a lovely ride to see her story come full circle.

Orion by Virginia Wallace (review by Callie Carmen)

Whether you have seen the movie Jerry Maguire, you most likely know the line “You had me at hello.” That was how I felt when I read the opening paragraph from Virginia Wallace’s story, Orion, which is part of the wonderful Cowboy Desire anthology.

It goes like this:

Perhaps, thought Daisy, she should have thrown on something to wear besides what she was already wearing, and her riding boots. Her thigh-length nightgown wasn’t exactly the ideal outfit for a night ride…

After reading that opening to Orion, I had to know what was so important that she couldn’t take the time to get dressed. Why was she going out in the dark for a ride on her horse? Where the heck were they going in such a hurry?

From there I got lost in the vivid scenes of Daisy riding her horse, Buster. And wanting to know how things would progress with the mysterious man that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Romance, fantasy, and science fiction readers will love this story.

The Long Paddock by Jan Selbourne

Jan’ story ‘A Convict’s Prayer’ was my absolute favorite in the ‘Desire Me Again’ anthology. ‘The Long Paddock’ continues that tradition of excellence in writing.

Mack and Shelley are two of the most engaging characters I’ve ever read. What I love most about Jan’s writing is how clean it is; you could give this story to a teenager to read. While there is certainly room for racier writing (my own occasionally included), we romance authors should remember that everyone loves a good love story, even youngsters.

This story has my absolute FAVORITE ending! I can’t tell you what it is ‘cuz I’d ruin it, but when you read it you’ll see why I love it so. It’s so sweet that you just wanna go ‘awww….’

Well done, Jan!

Space Cowboy Blues by Alice Renaud

Alice has long been one of my favorite BVS authors; her novella ‘Mermaids Marry in Green’ is one of my absolute favorite fantasy stories.

So she had a lot of expectations to live up to. And she didn’t disappoint, either; she never does.

Alice’s strength as a writer is her ability to transport the reader into another world, to make the utterly bizarre feel strangely normal. To read Alice’s work is to be pulled into another dimension, to leave this reality entirely for a blissful few hours.

Like Eileen Troemel and yours truly, Alice—as I suspected she would—shot for science fiction on this collection, and ‘Space Cowboy Blues’ is a worthy addition to her body of work.

Loving Jack by Estelle Pettersen

I may as well tell you up front, this story was a bit racier than I’m used to reading.

But fans of erotic fiction will almost certainly love it. Estelle’s tale is set in Australia, and I was stricken by how much of a difference there is between an Aussie tale written by an Aussie writer, and one by an American who just did some research. There’s an authenticity there that’s hard to replicate.

What I’ve always loved about Estelle’s writing is how deftly she uses the first-person narrative tense. It feels natural, real, like you’re actually inside the character’s head.

Fans of Estelle’s ‘Lessons on Seduction’ will NOT be disappointed by this story!

Mail Order Mate by Eileen Troemel

This story SERIOUSLY has some elements of the bizarre in it! It’s set on a faraway planet, for starters.

But I’m nevertheless reminded of an old saying: ‘Wherever you go, there you are’. While this story is ostensibly science fiction, I’m recalling tales set in America during the Great Depression and World War II. The poverty, the hard times, the crushing loss of human life…

Sic-fi fans will love this one, but—strangely enough—I’m betting fans of historical fiction will too.

Well done, Eileen. Well done!

The Wyoming Way by Nancy Golinski

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I’ve read a couple of Nancy’s stories under her pseudonym Gibby Campbell, so I went into this one expecting off-kilter erotica. (Not that I’m knocking that, mind you. While it ain’t exactly my thing, I gotta tell ya that Gibby’s REALLY good at it!)

My expectations couldn’t have been more wrong.

‘The Wyoming Way’ has a very natural, down-to-earth kind of feel to it. It’s about ordinary people with real-life problems, and there’s a certain homespun beauty to it that’s very charming. This story showed me a whole new side to Nancy’s writing, one that I enjoyed very, very much.

‘Course, she did use the word ‘dickwad’ in the story…

That’s Nancy for ya!

The Cowboy’s Heritage by Patricia Elliott

Patricia Elliott NEVER disappoints! Her shorts in ‘Mystic Desire’ and ‘Desire Me Again’ were aces, as was her full-length novel ‘Her Lover’s Face’. Her writing reminds me eerily of my literary heroine Daphne du Maurier, and that’s saying something. (And if you don’t like Daphne, get off my page. Seriously. Go stand in the corner, and think about what you’ve done wrong.)

‘Cowboys Heritage’ is a tale of amnesia, the story of a lovely young woman who’s forgotten who she is and where she came from. Nerina is a sweet, vulnerable character; the reader just wants to hug and protect her… as does Reid, the man who has made it his task to care for her.

The hardest thing about reviewing Patricia’s work is that I always have to keep my reviews very, very short. Her stories have so many layers of mysterious intrigue that I’m at constant risk of dropping a spoiler.

So I can’t tell you anything else. Sorry.

Just read it!

Bird That Sings by Dee S. Knight

Dee’s short ‘Life Saving’ was my favorite in the ‘Mystic Desire’ anthology. Her writing style is absolutely off the rails!

‘Bird That Sings’ is fairly ordinary tale. No aliens, no space cowboys. Her heroine Debra is a fairly normal woman. What makes the story is the lush, evocative prose. Dee’s writing reminds me of Ray Bradbury, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Elizabeth George Speare. There’s just an eerie, compelling side to her word use that transports the reader out of this reality, and keeps them in another until the tale is finished.

Dee could write the phone book, and it’d still be well worth the reading. ‘Bird That Sings’ is no exception.

Craving Her Cowboys by RM Olivia

As always, RM Olivia’s lush prose really shines. One feels the angst, the uncertainty of her leading lady Riva as she tries to escape her old life and begin a new one, far removed from her abusive past.

I loved Olivia’s use of description. The rural setting feels very real; one can almost close one’s eyes and see tumbleweeds rolling by.

I must say that the sexuality of the tale is a bit odd, but fans of erotica will almost certainly love it. Whether you love that side of the story or it makes you squirm, it’s nevertheless very well told.

‘Craving Her Cowboys’ is an emotionally engaging tale, and well worth the read!

E-mail-Ordered Groom by Starla Kaye

This is the first story I’ve read by Starla Kaye…

I’m impressed.

This story was very… normal. There is nothing bizarre about it, and nothing supernatural or insanely kinky. Just two ordinary people named Drake and Gwendolyn, trying to figure one another out.

And that’s okay. What REALLY shines about this tale is Starla’s incredible writing style. I’d always heard that she was good, but this is the first time I’ve gotten the chance to read her. Every word is absolutely perfect, with the right adjective in exactly the right place every single time. Her characters come to life almost immediately, pulling one into their heads and hearts and dragging the reader along for the ride.

‘Email-Ordered-Groom’ is absolutely breath-taking. There are no sci-fi or fantasy bells and whistles, for this story needs none.

It shines all… by… itself.

Ben, Pearl, and REO by Alan Souter

One would think from the title that this is some kind of kinky sex story…

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

It’s a wonderfully sweet tale of an aging couple. What I love about Alan’s writing is this: I swear the man is Mark Twain re-incarnated. Wry sense of humor, down-to-earth descriptive prose… you just can’t beat his narrative style.

Alan’s full-length masterpiece ‘A Thread of Sand’ is one my all-time favorite books. ‘Ben, Pearl, and REO’ proudly carries on that legacy of rock-solid writing.

Bullets and Bustles by Suzanne Smith

This one easily won the award for being my favorite! NOT because Suzanne is any better (or worse) than the rest of BVS’ wonderful cast of literary misfits, but… well, birds of a feather flock together, you know? Suzanne writes a lot like I do, which of course means that I adore her work.

This story is unflinchingly violent, brutally so. Which makes it feel very, very real. The lead characters are, simply put, un-repentant murderers. And yet you empathize with them as you get into their heads, as you slowly come to understand what makes them tick.

This story reminds me of one of my favorite films, Oliver Stone’s disturbing opus ‘Natural Born Killers’. The lead characters are a couple of psychos… but somehow, you find yourself rooting for ‘em anyway!

So there you have it, friends. ‘Cowboy Desire’, like its predecessors ‘Mystic Desire’ and ‘Desire Me Again’ is an epic read.

I will end with this comment…

The insane quality of Black Velvet Seductions’ library is proof positive of one simple fact: If you’re a publisher, it’s best to keep your guidelines as loose as reasonably possible. Writers shine best when they’re not shackled with stifling guidelines. BVS lives by this maxim, and Harlequin would do well to borrow a page from our playbook. We got it goin’ ON!!!

So yeah, ‘Cowboy Desire’. Order it today!

TO ORDER COWBOY DESIRE: https://amzn.to/2LmdUhD

POSSESSED BY PASSION!!!

When it comes to romance novels, I tend to lean towards the dark stuff…

I mean, who wants boring old millionaires when you can have warlocks and werewolves? Sex and death are the two most intense experiences that a human being will ever undergo, and thus Romance and Horror are the two top-selling genres of literature. (Romance is the best-seller, though. Probably because once you actually do experience death, it’s kinda too late to write about the affair.)

As an author, I tend to bop around in a number of literary circles. Given my love for dark romance, ‘Possessed by Passion’s’ writing groups are very familiar to me.

For a limited time, Possessed by Passion will be selling a collection of stories and novellas written by their best-selling writers. It appears that this collection will be Mary Shelley and Danielle Steele rolled into one…

So check it OUT!!!

TROY, NH – Crazy Ink Publishing, LLC is pleased to present a USA Today bestseller list-aiming dark romance and paranormal romance collection boxset for release on March 16, 2021. Featuring stories from USA Today and International Bestselling authors, this set includes more than twenty romantic novels and novellas aimed to ignite your passions and make you fall in love with the characters. Pre order your copy today!

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Releasing: March 16, 2021!

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Experience exquisite and sultry seraphs, demonic witches, a hellfire phoenix, a vengeful gargoyle, ordinary humans with dark sides, vampires, werewolves, ghostly spirits, and other creatures of the night, who will whet your desire for romance and seduction. Travel with them into their worlds as they lust for love, romance, and pleasure.

Will they find what they are searching for? Will you?
Find out in this twenty-plus, limited time paranormal and dark romance collection by USA Today, international bestselling, and award-winning authors.

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Readers of Anne Rice, Debbie Paterson, Linda Howard, Dean Koontz, Kristen Ashley, and Paul Tremblay will love this dark collection! One click now to become POSSESSED…

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Featuring the works of USA Today and International Bestselling Authors:

Bella Emy – USA Today Bestseller – For Better or For Cursed

Alyssa Drake – USA Today Bestseller – For Better or For Cursed

Cora Kenborn – USA Today Bestseller – Cast Stones

Catherine Wiltcher– Amazon All Star – Cast Stones

Erin Lee – USA Today Bestseller – Blank Slate

Olivia Marie –USA Today Bestseller– Blood Bound

Lorah Jaiyn – USA Today Bestseller – The Immortal Stone

Murphy Wallace – International Bestseller – Death in the Flames

N Isabelle Blanco – International Bestseller – Malice

Rena Marin – International Bestseller – The Arisen

Rita Delude – International Bestseller – Driven by Desire

M W Brown – International Bestseller – Under the Moonlight

Diana Register – International Bestseller – Electric Man

Stephanie Ayers – International Bestseller – Blood White

Yolanda Allard – International Bestseller – Gargoyles: Stone Curse

Sian B. Claven – International Bestseller – Neutral Ground

LJC Fynn – International Bestseller – Blank Slate

John Watson – International Bestseller – The Hollow-Eyed Girl

Tiffany Carby – International Bestseller – Meet Cut(e)

Michelle Edwards – International Bestseller – Demonic Destiny

Tracy A. Ball – International Bestseller – Blood Like Rain

Eve Corso – International Bestseller – Spellbound

Marie Ahls – International Bestseller – Villainous

Rheanon Nicole – International Bestseller – His Soul to Keep

Cloud S Riser – International Bestseller – Queen of Stone

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Meet Brandi Hanson!!!

It’s been seventeen years since I first published my debut novel. (It’s out of print, and yah… It was pretty bad!)

But I’ve never forgotten what it feels like to see one’s work published for the very first time. It’s right up there with having your first beer, or losing your virginity. It’s a wedding day, a child’s birth, and golden anniversary all rolled into one.

I work for Black Velvet Seductions Publishing now, but I came up on the ‘indie’ scene. And I have never forgotten – and never will – just how much amazing literature can be found just around the corner from the ‘mainstream’ publishers. I came out the gate dark, raw, and firmly entrenched in the world of off-kilter lit.

So, my friends, today it is my honor to host someone who is about to kick off her literary career in much the same manner as I did. She’s dark, she’s intense, and she’ll TOTALLY make ya blush! She is destined to rock the literary world, of this I am absolutely certain.

In addition to being possessed of a certain shining dark talent, this gal has also been a great friend. Birds of a feather tend to flock together, regardless of publisher affiliation. Dark Romance is a niche all its own…

And it was in that niche that I first bumped into Brandi.

So without any further ado, ladies and gentlemen… I give you BRANDI HANSON!!

Q: When did you first start writing? 

A: It had to be around 6 or 7. I checked a book out at the library about a girl with a bad attitude, and it inspired me to write my own story about a girl who had a sour attitude. I never finished it as I shifted to my own fantasy world but I’ll never forget how I started!

Q: What is your first published work and what do you think of it now?

A: Technically, my debut novel A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN will be my first published work. It’s an urban fantasy/paranormal romance. As for what I think of it….it’s a beautiful story about a witch and her twin brother navigating through life problems and relationships while trying to survive. There are some sexy scenes in there, but romance is simply a side plot. The main focus is the fantasy plot and how the characters cope with faced with the fact that they have to save the world. It’s not perfect yet, but by the release date, it will be! My characters guide me pretty easily.

Q: Do people you know make appearances in your writing?

A: YES! My main female character in my debut novel – A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN – has a best friend by her side throughout her ordeal with trying to survive. That character is based off of my real life best friend. If someone begs me to put them in my novel, I kill them off in brutal ways. And lastly, two of my villains are based off of people I know. They’re the Shadowbound (evil) witches after our MC.

Q: Do family and friends help with writing and marketing?

A: Definitely. My friends were the ones to coax me into publishing A Rose for the Fallen. They told me if I don’t publish it, I’m wasting a good story. I’m so thankful for that push. My friends also help me run my author support group, Aislin’s coven members – Sins and Stories for Readers and Authors.

Q: Do you have stories you haven’t written yet?

A: HELL. YES. After the A ROSE series is complete, I will be making a stand alone novel from the series, a spin off series, and then two completely unrelated stories. They’re both paranormal romances. 

Q: Do you target a certain demographic?

A: Yup. Anyone who likes paranormal romance and werewolf sex should check out A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN and the rest of the A ROSE series. 

Q: Have you ever written non-fiction?

A: Only high school reports on various topics. I’m much more interested in paranormal romance and fantasy than real life. Reality sucks. 

Q: Do you drink?

A: Nope. I don’t have the acquired taste of alcohol!

Q: Are you married? How does it affect your writing?

A: I have an extremely compassionate husband who only wishes to see me succeed. If I need to go write, he has no problems allowing me to do that. 

Q: Have your life experiences affected your writing?

A: Without shelling out a sob story – yes. I created my universe for A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN as an escape from trauma I was experiencing. Writing and visiting my world is an escape from reality. It changed the way I wrote my villains – as I based the villains off of real people who have harmed me greatly in my life. 

Q: Do you consider yourself a “normal” writer or more of the tormented artist?

A: Nothing about how I write is normal. Most people can sit down and write 5k words in a few hours each night. Not me. I have to be kissed by the Gods and blessed by the angels to sit and write. The inspiration has to be there or else my writing comes across disingenuous and forced. I will never put out half ass work, so you can guarantee everything from me is top quality and polished to the best of my ability. It’s not about money to me, it’s about the love of my series and the love of writing. 

Q: Do you listen to music when you write?

A: ABSOLUTELY. Symphonic power metal really gets me going during fight scenes. Anything powerful and fast makes writing a paranormal/urban fantasy romance world even better. All of the books in the A ROSE series will have a page dedicated to songs for scenes so you, as the reader, can sit back and listen to these songs to be able to visualize the chaos around you. 

Q: Have you ever written a story based off of your life experiences?

A: Actually, there is an overarching theme in A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN of fear of abandonment. My main female character, Mona Kinkade, has trust issues with her werewolf boyfriend. They have to work through this while trying not to get murdered by an evil witch called a Shadowbound. Mona is me. This is something I experienced as a young adult, and how I managed to work through it. 

Q: Is your writing time planned out?

A: Never. I write when the inspiration hits me and I don’t when the light isn’t on. 

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

A: When people tell me they love so and so character. That makes my heart swell. I love them, too! I love them like they’re real people. 

Q: Who is your favorite author, and why?

A: I have two, because I’m a rebel like that. Sherrilyn Kenyon, author of the Dark Hunter series is the first. She truly inspired me to put all the raunchy sex in my books because I learned there’s a market for it and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. She taught me that enjoying werewolf sex isn’t a problem and there are a lot of us who like it, too. Second is Raven Kennedy. Some of my favorite series came from her and she was my first true introduction to kinky paranormal romance. 

Q: Which character of yours is your favorite? 

A: Easy. Mona’s twin brother in the A ROSE SERIES, Kura Kinkade. He’s the overprotective big brother. He would do anything to protect his family and protect the coven, Aislin, from the Shadowbound threat that looms over them. He is also an imperfect person. He has flaws. He’s a powerful witch, yes, but he cannot deal with stress and uses outside means to cope such as eating too much fast food or chain smoking. His temper can explode sometimes as well but Kura means well. He’s a true sweetheart and I’ve watched him grow and mature over the course of my life and the course of writing. He makes me so proud.

Q: Do you prefer to read fiction similar to what you write?

A: That’s all I ever truly read. It helps inspire me, and I like sexy men being badasses and kicking villain butt with their mate. 

Q: What’s a quirky thing that readers may not know?

A: As dumb as this sounds, I can’t write a story unless I’ve “met” the characters. That means they show up to me in my head and introduce themselves. Then they’ll put down what they look like and who they are as a person. Then, they’ll instruct me how they’d like me to write them. My characters for the A ROSE series have been around since I was six years old, so I’ve essentially grown up with them and I’m very well acquainted with them. For my other stories, I’ve only had a few new characters pop up and tell me about themselves, so this will be interesting. I’m not in any rush to get any of the other stories done so if no one makes their debut to me, it’s not a problem. I’ll wait for them to show. 

Q: What is your favorite movie?

A: Sweeney Todd. The music, the dreariness, the overall feeling of hopelessness and despair you get from the movie is beautiful. I’ve seen that movie so many times I know every line. 

Virginia – Thank you SO much for being here today, Brandi! I can’t wait to see your novel released, and I expect great things from you in the future!

Brandi – Thank you so much for having me! If you’re interested in keeping up to date with everything in the A ROSE series, please visit my Facebook page at Brandi Hanson- Paranormal romance author. 

BRANDI HANSON’S DEBUT NOVEL ‘A ROSE FOR THE FALLEN’ WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON! In the meantime, please take a moment to join her FaceBook page!!!

Meet Eileen Troemel!!!

HELLO, friends!

Today it is my honor to host the acclaimed author Eileen Troemel. I first ‘met’ Eileen when I stumbled across her novel ‘Dragon Lord’s Mate’, and I gotta tell y’all… that book TOTALLY blew my fragile lil’ mind! It was dark. It was intense. It was brutality, tenderness, sex, violence, and hope all rolled into one delightful literary ball!!!

I’ve since come to view Eileen as a wonderful big sister. She’s a loyal teammate and an aggressive promoter, and—since she’s been around the literary block far more times than I—I often look to her for guidance as to what I should be doing as an author. When I get stuck on the ins and outs of promoting my books, I very often remember to do this: Look at what Eileen’s doing!

Eileen is an amazing writer, and a well-loved member of my literary circle. The world of fiction is a better place because she’s in it. I’m grateful she’s here. I am even more grateful that—for the first time ever—she and I will be sharing a cover credit on the upcoming anthology ‘Cowboy Desire’, from Black Velvet Seductions.  

So, ladies and gentlemen… without any further ado, I give you the one and only EILEEN TROEMEL!!!

When did you start writing? What made you first decide to try your hand at it?

I learned to love writing at eight when my third grade teacher assigned the task of writing a short story.  While I’m a bit rebellious now, back then I did what I was told.  What I discovered was I could use my imagination to create a story. 

What was your first published work? What do you think of it now?

Secret Past in 2014 for a novel in fiction. I had articles and other items published previously.  I think it’s a solid story in need of a new cover and an edit.  

How do you balance writing with your personal life?

Balance?  We’re supposed to balance things?  Huh?  Hadn’t thought of that.  I work my day job.  I work at writing.  I crochet and publish my patterns.  I spend time with my family.  It all overlaps and intertwines – except the day job – that has set hours.  The rest is muddled and messy and I don’t mind it that way.

Do people you actually know make appearances in your stories?

Yes.  I have a co-worker who is an ex-cop and he asked to be a villain.  He’s an assassin in my Wayfarer novel.  Others have jumped in here and there.  Some purposefully and under request.  Others  – well let’s just say the saying about not pissing off an author or you’ll end up in their novel… very true.

Do family members or friends help with your writing? Your marketing?

My family are amazing.  My middle daughter is my “consultant” and reads everything – usually.  My oldest daughter reads when she’s able – busy life and sometimes cannot read my stuff.  My sister does promo work for me.  She also reads everything I write.  There are others in my family who read (except the love scenes – it freaks them out to think of Aunt Eileen writing stuff like that). 

My children’s book (written under pen name RJ Stone) I consulted with my sister who was a teacher and reading specialist for forty plus years.  I’m working on the next one in that series… have to see what mischief my characters want to get up to.

Do you have stories you want to write that you haven’t yet?

I have over 25 works in progress.  There might be twenty or thirty stories I want to tell.

Is there a story you’re afraid to write for some reason? Why?

I won’t write historical.  Not really afraid of it – just lazy I think.  With a historical novel you have to make sure your details are spot on.  If they aren’t, you get readers who call you on it.  I want to tell the story not worry about the language or did they use this word or how did they do X (fill in the blank from going to the toilet to raise children).

Do you ever target differing age groups or demographics with your writing?

At this point, my characters have been up to their thirties.  I have a couple of WIP which have older main characters but I’ve not developed them yet

Have you ever written non-fiction? If so, what?

Yes, Moon Affirmations.  It’s a meditation book which follows the energy of the moon phases and offers a short meditation for each phase.  It’s meant to help people bring balance and peace into their lives. 

Are you a ‘normal’ person who likes to write, or do you consider yourself more of the tormented/driven ‘artist’ type?

This question makes me laugh.  Normal – I can already hear my family and friend laughing until they pee their pants.  Tormented – no.  I’m not some starving artist.  I’m a pragmatist.  I know writing is unlikely to pay the bills.  I like a house with heat and air conditioning.  I like running water – particularly in the bathroom.  I write as much as I can.  I work at it and when I’m annoyed because all I want to do is write, I remind myself that without the day job – there wouldn’t be any writing because no power for the computer to create my stories.

Do you drink? Why or why not?

Every day – water.  Occasionally, I drink Izze (carbonated fruit juice). 

Are you married? How does being a writer affect that? Has your marriage affected the way you write love stories?

Yes I am.  My husband is really good about leaving me alone when I let him know I’m writing.  If he wants attention, he’s pretty good about letting me know that too.  Everything influences my writing.  I think this is seen the most in my Wayfarer series. 

If you could see one of your stories made into a movie, which one would you pick and why?

Oh this is a question… So I want all my books (under Eileen Troemel) to be made into movies or tv series.  The money which comes from a movie deal is usually too good to turn down.  BUT – and it’s a big one – I wouldn’t want them hacking away at my stories.  Who hasn’t gone to the movie made from a book and come out pissed off because they messed up your favorite scene? 

Wayfarer series – I think this one lends itself to a series.  I think each book could be a season.  I also think the further in the series they get the more episodes they would have to make.  Wayfarer Aegis (the prequel) could be the two hour movie to hook people.  Then the first book could start the series.  When I wrote it, I saw it almost like a movie. 

How does your life experience influence your writing?

I’ve been an observer most of my life.  I’m the creepy person in the corner taking notes and listening in on snippets of conversations.  Anything in life – mine or others can influence a story or make it’s way into a story. 

Do you try to keep your stories within their pre-determined genres, or do you just tell the story your way regardless of genre expectations?

Try – sure… I try.  These characters are unruly and demanding.  They run the show.  They keep me up at night – either telling me too much or being too quiet.  It’s all the characters.  What may start out as one type of story end up being something different. 

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what kinds? Does music influence your stories?

Yes.  Classical.  Not really.  It’s more background noise.

Have you ever written a story based on a personal experience you had? If so, what was it about?

Yes.  Guess.

Do you let real-life events influence your work, or is there a ‘disconnect’ between your stories and world/national/local events?

Draconian Peace is all about race and bigotry and prejudice – to the extreme level.  This was very much influenced by the racial issues in the US.

Is your writing time planned out or structured? Do you go on writing ‘benders’?

I’m a feast or famine writer.  When the words are flowing, leave me the F*** alone.  I just want to get the words down.  I cannot type fast enough.  When the words aren’t flowing, I still write but it’s putzy.  Oh here, I’ll write a silly scene or a scene to give background information or something similar.  Wild Magic flew into the computer.  I couldn’t get it down fast enough.  When I tried to write the sequel – Hostile Magic – there were part I felt like I was dragging the story out of the characters. 

What to you is the most rewarding aspect of being a writer?

When I get a story out and it feels like a good job – that’s fantastic. If it’s out of my head, I can move on because there’s always another story waiting to be told.

Who is your favorite author, and why?

Hahahahahahahahaha  – What genre?  What era?  I can give you an extensive list of who I love to read.  I will inevitably leave someone off. 

If you could pick anyone to narrate one of your books, who would it be?

Jim Dale – he narrated the audio book for J K Rawling.  He’s amazingly talented.

Which character of yours is your favorite? Why? Whom would you pick to play him/her/it in a movie?

Oh this is a tough one.  I am currently rereading Dragon Lord’s Mate – working on the sequel and putting it through an edit – I love Pena.  She stubborn and determined.  But I think if I look at all my characters across all my books and have to pick a favorite one – don’t tell all the other characters – I think it would have to be Adara Stone from my Wayfarer series.  I loved watching her grow and develop. 

Do you write when you take a vacation, or do you prefer to simply relax?

I write everywhere and any time I can.  My sisters and I spent time together one weekend and while they thought I was playing on my phone, I was writing two poems.

Do you prefer to read fiction that’s similar to what you write, or do you pick different types of stories?

I prefer to read fiction which entertains me – I don’t care what genre so long as I’m entertained.

What’s one quirky thing about you that your readers might not know?

I like educational programming.  Give me a good documentary and I’ll watch them.  Nature, science, social, anthropological, I will watch almost anything educational.  I find it all fascinating and it’s almost like research because odd things end up in my stories.

What’s your favorite movie? Why?

Hahahahah I’m going to refer you to my answer for a favorite book.  I love to watch movies.  It takes me away from life.  I watch a variety of movies across a lot of genres so tell me which genre and I might be able to narrow it down to a top ten. 

Do you set up events to meet your readers, or is your interaction with them strictly online?

Pre-covid I was doing in person events.  Unfortunately, we’ve all had to move to virtual relationships.  Once we’re past this, I hope to do in person events again.

Have you ever had to exhaustively research something (say, history) for any of your books?

When I write, I use my computer to write but then I will use my phone to research.  If I need something more in depth, I’ll do it on my computer.  I am more likely to tap into what I’ll call an expert.  When I wanted to know divisions in accounting, I text a friend who knew.  Once when I wanted to know about hanging – I asked my youngest daughter (she’s science woman) and her answer was “do I need to do a wellness check on” my daughter who was living with me.  I laughed and told her no I was writing. 

While I write a lot of fantasy where I create the worlds, I still need to research how things are and the way they are moving. 

You said it, sister! Whenever I work at creating worlds, I begin to suspect that God must have given Himself a terrible headache. S’prolly why He rested on the seventh day. THANK you for taking the time to join us today!

EILEEN TROEMEL’S NOVELS ARE AVAILABLE ON BOTH AMAZON AND BARNES AND NOBLE. (Sorry no link, but Amazon’s ‘author page’ link tends to hijack my page.)

Take a Chance Eileen Troemel and Amelia K Oliver’s ‘Kidnapped’! Among a group of humans, Mae must hide her true self in order to avoid a lifetime of horrors. She must escape from the hyena shifters who plan to sell the humans for hunting. But how can she overpower a cackle of hyena shifters. Good at hunting they are persistent and once they get her scent, they won’t stop until they catch their prey. Chance grabbed with the other humans wants to put a stop to the hyena shifters but can’t take his focus off the beautiful Mae. He knows she’s not human but he cannot tell what she is. As they work together to reach safety, Chance cannot resist a bit of flirting as he’s drawn to her. She’s a puzzle and he’s determined to find out what she’s hiding. Will Chance and Mae escape the hyenas? If they do, will they be able to overcome old prejudices in order to be together? https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08W5F27M9

TO READ MY REVIEW OF EILEEN’S ‘DRAGON LORD’S MATE’: https://virginiawallace.com/2020/09/25/dragon-lords-mate-by-eileen-troemel-a-review/