‘When the White Knight Falls’: An Excerpt

At long last, my full-length romance debut is available for purchase! (Links to buy are at the end of this post.) So without any further ado, my dear readers…

I give you the opening chapter of When the White Knight Falls!

Prologue

Vinyl car seats…

Vinyl car seats aren’t comfy, not at all. They’re not like old couch cushions, resting upon worn-out, well broken-in sofas, into which one can comfortably settle. No, vinyl seats are cold and unforgiving. They don’t conform to the human posterior; they swelter in the summer and radiate winter’s chill like a cowhide icicle. Kate hated vinyl cushions of any kind. They reminded her of the leather seats in her father’s chauffeured Bentley, and she hadn’t liked those either.

Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, Kate tried desperately to find a position that wouldn’t make her behind ache. She was rather tall for a woman, and this backseat was, as Dr. Seuss would have put it, “three sizes too small” for her frame. And this whole situation would have been much, much easier without the handcuffs!

Giving up on the prospect of finding an accommodating position, Kate leaned back and stared at herself in the rearview mirror. The police officer assigned as her “babysitter” was sitting coolly in the front, listening to the radio. The Los Angeles Police had ordered a female officer to arrest her. Smart move, thought Kate sourly. The last thing the LAPD needs is the famous Kathryn McCoy suing them for sexual harassment.

Kate met her own brilliant sapphire gaze, hoping against hope that this was all just a bad dream. Just a little while ago she’d been going about her business; she still had her makeup on, for crying out loud! Not that most people thought she needed it. Her long, straight, jet black hair and porcelain complexion were usually adornment enough.

This can’t be happening, thought Kate. But the flashing police lights belied her wishful thought. The street upon which the police car was parked was inarguably picturesque; palm trees lined the thoroughfare, and the surrounding cityscape was defined by beautiful stonework. This part of L.A. was no place for horror … but here she was, living out a nightmare.

Hanging her head in despair, Kate entertained a brief fantasy of suicide. She’d just suffered a death in her family, and her exhausting career had pushed her to the breaking point. Relationship issues had caused her personal life to become an emotional roller coaster. She’d been on the edge for quite some time … and now this.

The police car was rather stuffy. Kate wondered absently if her makeup had melted enough to expose those stubborn freckles across the bridge of her nose. She had been pampered and spoiled her entire life, from her upbringing in Long Island to her current situation in California. Being cuffed and rudely shoved into a cruiser was not something to which she was accustomed.

Kate lifted her head as a detective approached the car. He motioned to the officer in the front seat and waited outside the rear door. “I can exit myself, thank you,” said Kate as the officer opened the door. She was in no mood to be rough-housed out of the backseat. Stepping primly from the vehicle, she balanced carefully on her high heels, adjusting the back of her evening gown as best she could manage with cuffs on.

“May I help you?” she asked the detective coldly.

“Is this yours, Miss McCoy?” asked the detective calmly, reaching into an opaque evidence bag.

Please don’t, pleaded Kate inside. I don’t want to see it. She turned her gaze away as the officer held up something upon which she couldn’t bear to look: a violin bow, broken in half and covered in blood.

“Is this yours?” repeated the detective.

Kate bit her lip, remembering vividly the words of her Virginian friend, old Jerry. If you’re forced to defend yourself, NEVER talk to the police! One misspoken word, and they can hang you. Shut the hell up and wait for a lawyer!

“Miss McCoy,” said the detective, assuming a patronizing tone. “I need to know what happened in there. If you don’t tell me what he did to you, I can’t help you. I’ll have to book you on the charge we arrested you for.”

A police officer can’t help you, Jerry had said. They work for the district attorney, and the district attorney’s job is to convict you. Resolved to keep her cool, Kate just stared defiantly at the detective.

“Miss McCoy—” began the detective.

“If you’re going to grill me for the third time in four hours,” said Kate between clenched teeth, “then by all means call me ‘Kate’!”

“Kate,” re-started the detective, “I need your story.”

“Ask my lawyer,” retorted Kate.

“Then, Kate, you leave me no choice,” sighed the detective. “Your ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ friend is dead, apparently by your hand. This is your violin bow, and there was no one else on the scene. You have blood on your hands and your dress, and your prints are all over the place.”

Lawyer!” said Kate firmly.

“I heard you the first time,” said the detective.

Kate waited for his next words, knowing that they would spell out her doom.

“Kathryn Leigh McCoy,” said the detective, “I’m going to charge you with murder in the second degree. Are you sure you don’t have something to say?”

Kate looked away, half-amused by the detective’s last-minute attempt to coerce a damning statement out of her. “Yes, sir,” she said contritely. “Yes, I do.”

“What is it, Kate?” said the detective, assuming a falsely intimate tone. Kate looked daggers at him.

“Kate?”

“May I get back into the car, please?”

“That’s it, Miss McCoy?”

No!” spat Kate.

“What else?”

“AND,” screamed Kate at the top of her lungs, “I WANT MY LAWYER ALREADY!!!”

TO ORDER WHEN THE WHITE KNIGHT FALLS, CLICK HERE: https://amzn.to/3qFcjT6

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ON TWITTER: @VirginiaKWalla1

Alone in a Crowd: Inside the Mind of a Writer

Being a writer generally feels a bit… surreal.

Writers tend to fluctuate between two planes of reality: The one in their heads, and the one in the waking world. The writer is often fully buried in his or her mental world, but rarely completely inhabits the waking world. The writer can also often be found somewhere in between, wandering in one direction or the other along the fantasy/reality spectrum.

What I do notice – at least with myself – is that my need to dwell in my mental world often creates conflicts with the waking world. If I spend too much time in one or the other, it causes me a fair amount of stress. If I linger too long in my head, wallowing in my thoughts and fantasies, I begin to feel like I’m losing my grip on the real world. Then, like a drowning person, I feel a desperate need to lunge to surface so that I may gasp for air.

But if circumstance forces to me stay overlong in the waking world, I begin to feel like I’m losing my sense of self. And so, like a person languishing in the heat and eager to cool off, I feel the need to plunge back into the sea of my thoughts…

I confess, my instinct is usually to dive for the bottom.

I generally work a four-day week at the day job. By the fourth day, I usually feel rather out of sorts. I’ve become disconnected from myself; I’ve spent too long out of my head. By way of contrast, the morning of my first work day feels completely bizarre, like I’m living out a scene from a Rob Zombie film. I’ve been inside my head for too long, and coming out of it makes me a bit loopy.

In my experience, there are only two people – or groups of people – who can interact with writers at will, and do so without rudely disturbing their in-my-head/out-of-my-head fluctuations. Those people are writers’ spouses, and other writers: The two demographics that are ‘in the know’ as to how the writer’s mind works.

The rest of you?

We love you, at least when we’re living outside of our heads. We love you, we value your company, and we’re grateful for your friendship.

When we’re buried inside of our heads…?

You’re a ghost. A phantasm. A specter, a mist, and a shadow. We’d like to connect with you; we truly would. But at the end of the day you’re just not… real.

Now the eternal question is this: Does the waking world really fade in and out of the writer’s perception, as though he were the god of all reality? Or does the writer simply fade in and out of the waking world, like your drunken uncle who keeps going on long benders?

Does it matter? To paraphrase Neil Gaiman: The writer simply does what he does because it’s who he is; if he did otherwise, he would cease to be himself…

And if he did that, we wouldn’t have any more stories to read.

Thanks, Ray!

2003…

Earmark year, for me. For starters, Underworld opened in theaters (September 9th, if you must know). I went to see it, well, something like fifteen times. Metallica released one of my favorite metal albums ever, St. Anger. My career in kitchen design was winding down, and I was making plans to move back to Virginia. I was in the process of publishing my debut novel (which thankfully is out of print, as no one in his/her right mind would ever want to read it).

Sometime during that pivotal year, I picked up a copy of Ray Bradbury’s The Cat’s Pajamas. First edition, too; I could tell because the pages were all untrimmed. (This, by the way, makes them deucedly difficult to turn. Which tells you for sure that this is indeed a great book, since you must endure much irritation to savor the breathtaking tale contained wherein.)

Or not. And besides, The Cat’s Pajamas isn’t just one story; it’s a collection of shorts in the tradition of The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man and my personal favorite, The October Country. (Of course, I can never forget Ray’s full-length masterpiece, Death is a Lonely Business. I have a signed copy. Leather-bound. Mint condition. Yeah, that’s right!)

But during the pell-mell rush of work, writing, and drinking binges, The Cat’s Pajamas sat idly on the shelf for years. It got packed up, moved, un-packed, moved to another room, re-located to a different shelf, lost once or twice. It just sat, innocuously, waiting.

I don’t how I forgot it, actually. I adored Bradbury’s writings as a kid, ever since my stepfather told me about his favorite story, ‘The Man’, which prompted me to go read S is for Space. I was hooked from that point forward. The year before The Cat’s Pajamas (or was it a couple of years before?) I read his full-length novel From the Dust Returned, which tells the haunting tale of the Great Family (whose saga originally began in the shorts ‘UncleEinar’ and ‘The April Witch’).

And yet, somehow, The Cat’s Pajamas remained shelved, forgotten.

Life has a way, I think, of withholding its most remarkable gems from us until the moment in which we need them most. It waits until we are bruised, broken, and bleeding before revealing some little tidbit of a thing, some tiny comfort that suddenly becomes monumental by virtue of the simple fact that we needed it so badly.

So thus came that fateful day upon which a discombobulated, out-of-sorts person fast approaching thirty (and with it, old age and certain doom!) absently plucked her copy of The Cat’s Pajamas from the bookshelf. 

In one world, uncertainty pounded upon an already-careworn heart…

Ah, but in another…!

In another, an old southern mammy waits in vain for the little boy she raised to come back and visit her. She sits at the window, imagining all the things that could have delayed the now-successful man, the once-boy whom she rocked on her knees…

In another world, a callous, rapacious bigot is forced onto a tattooist’s table, where he shall soon become what he reviles most, a black man…

In another world, a hemophiliac writer gets a back massage from a jilted lover; she rubs him down tenderly, her fingers tipped with long, sharp nails…

In another world, two lonely people feud over a stray cat, creating a relationship born of mutual loneliness…

Nine.

Twenty-nine…

Somehow, one man’s writings seemed to make those two decades – time characterized, in part, by stupidity and debauchery unending – just disappear. Poof! Just like that. And in that maelstrom of short – almost staccato – tales defined by their dream-like, ephemeral nature, I suddenly realized why I myself wanted to be a writer.

It wasn’t to change the world. It wasn’t to say something wonderful, something earth-shaking. Heck, I’ll even settle for being trite, if I must. Maybe I’d even prefer it.

No, I aspired to become a writer in the hope that one day, in my own higgledy-piggledy way, I could write something that – even for one afternoon – could perhaps make someone forget just who they are, and what they dislike about life.

The greatest writers aren’t the Ernest Hemingways, the John Steinbecks or the J. D. Salingers. History may honor such men, but the average reader usually doesn’t. No, we prefer our space ships and our monsters and our sad, strange characters that seem a little off-kilter and sort of remind us of ourselves… but not really. We care little for brilliant minds and deep, deep thoughts. Just tell us a story; lift us from whatever irritates us, whatever forces us to face reality when we’d rather not.

I can’t describe a blasted thing Hemingway wrote; all I know is that he bored me to tears. But when I’m much older, and my nieces and nephew are tired to death of their TV and their video games and their music… Maybe I’ll tell them a story about Uncle Einar, the crazy old bat-winged man who sleeps in the attic with the spiders. Maybe I’ll spin them the tale of Cecy the April Witch, whose soul flies from her sleeping body every night to peer vicariously through the eyes of strangers. Maybe I’ll tell them about that unnamed, doady old married couple, husband and wife each fighting off death while cheerfully trying to poison the other.

Maybe. Or not; you know how kids are these days. But for myself…

Thanks, Ray!

Shadows and Secrets: The Haunted World of ‘Her Lover’s Face’, by Patricia Elliott

Why don’t men come with a warning label? (Alex) was a lethal weapon… This was not a man who’d write a letter just to get his way. Not the man who held her at night, whispering sweet words into her ear after a nightmare… – Line from Patricia Elliott’s ‘Her Lover’s Face’

I just read ‘Her Lover’s Face’, by Patricia Elliott…

I wish I could tell you more about the story. I wish, my dear reader, that I could offer you a thorough review. I wish I could lay out the basics of the story in the hopes that you might read it… and in so doing, enjoy it as much as I did.

I can’t.

I can’t, because with every word I type I risk ‘blowing it’. ‘Her Lover’s Face’ has so many layers of intrigue that to say much of anything would risk unraveling them pre-emptively, and thus there’s very little I can write here.

All that I can safely say is this: ‘Her Lover’s Face’ revolves around a coincidence. As Stephen King brilliantly put it (in the intro to Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’) coincidences are usually unforgivable in fiction. There is only one exception to the rule, and that exception is this: Coincidences are only allowable if the coincidence is the premise of the tale. (An excellent example is the classic film ‘The Parent Trap’, in which estranged twins just so happen to meet at summer camp.)

So rather than give you an exhaustive review, I will simply share how the story made me feel…

Haunted.

When I was fourteen, my mother gave me a ratty paperback copy of what would go on to become my favorite book: ‘Rebecca’, by Daphne du Maurier. I would never have read such a story if I hadn’t run out of new books to read, but I was so bored that I gave it a whirl anyway. Little did I know that ‘Rebecca’ would forever alter my view of literature.

‘Her Lover’s Face’ left me feeling much the same way ‘Rebecca’ did. Engaged, breathless, and eager to turn the next page in the hopes that one of the umpteen mysteries of the tale would be revealed to me. But yet ‘Rebecca’ is not a ‘thriller’ or even a ‘mystery’, and neither is ‘Her Lover’s Face’; the tale is too somber, too angst-ridden, and too racked with searing pain.

Like du Maurier, Patricia Elliot understands all too well the complicated workings of relationships, and adroitly uses her knowledge to weave a bewitching tale. Even more noteworthy, unlike many (not most, mind you, but many) romance novelists, she writes men very, very well. Too often romance-novel heroes are just women with square jaws and washboard abs. They’re sexualized, sure, but they very often don’t behave the way real-life men do. (Call me old-fashioned, but I have always believed that men and women are inherently different, and thus there are certain behaviors that are fairly typical of each gender.)

Alex is a man. He behaves like one.

Laryssa is a woman. She behaves like one.

It takes some life experience to learn the difference, and – as a writer – to deftly place oneself into the opposite sex’s shoes for the purpose of telling a story. Patricia Elliott’s public bios describe her as a ‘family woman’, and it’s obvious that life has given her the knowledge she needed to write men just as convincingly as she does women.

As a Christian, I don’t believe in Reincarnation. But if I did, I would suspect that Patricia has been on this earth before…

And I’m betting her name was Daphne. She writes similarly tormented characters, and fills her stories with layer after layer of dark secrets – secrets that sometimes take the entire story to unwind.

And that’s all I can tell you, honestly, lest I commit the unforgivable crime of spilling those secrets. You don’t need to read those revelations from me. You need to read them from the Literary Enchantress herself: Patricia Elliott.

‘Her Lover’s Face’: Available on Kindle if you’re on a budget, but trust me… you’ll want the paperback!

TO ORDER ‘HER LOVER’S FACE’ FROM AMAZON, CLICK HERE: https://www.amazon.com/Her-Lovers-Face-Patricia-Elliott-ebook/dp/B079DS6X9X/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=her+lover%27s+face+patricia+elliott&qid=1607557595&sr=8-1

FROM BARNES AND NOBLE: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/her-lovers-face-patricia-elliott/1127920816?ean=9781936556342

TO ORDER PATRICIA’S LATEST STORY IN ‘DESIRE ME AGAIN’, CLICK HERE: https://www.amazon.com/Desire-Me-Again-Annabel-Allan-ebook/dp/B08GRZDDD4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=desire+me+again&qid=1607557933&sr=8-1

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Changing Genres

Writer – (noun) a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.

As I’ve pointed out before, that definition falls short. It’s certainly not my definition.

To me, a writer is someone so adept at the literary arts that he or she can write on cue. To me, a writer loves writing for the craft itself, so much so that even genre becomes irrelevant. To a disciplined, well-trained writer the written word is an end unto itself.

It took me years to learn that!

My first few outings as a novelist were exactly what my friends expected from me: Dark Fantasy/Horror. They came so easily to me, those morbid tales. (After all, I had spent years playing fantasy role-playing games; nothing hones one’s storytelling chops quite like ‘Dungeons n’ Dragons’!)

Those novels did reasonably well, at least by the standards of the ‘indie’ scene. But this reality sunk in fairly quickly: Fantasy and Horror are extremely difficult genres to break into! Name recognition is everything in those circles. If you’re not already a known entity, most readers won’t buy your book. Which leaves the fledgling author in a bit of a quandary: How does one become a known entity if one must already be a known entity to sell well? (Kinda like Alice Cooper once sang: ‘I ain’t got a job ‘cuz I ain’t got a car/ I ain’t got a car ‘cuz I ain’t got a job…’)

As I thought about what I wanted to write for my fourth novel, something began to slowly dawn on me, something that created a budding paradigm shift in my thinking. That ‘something’ was this: Virtually all of my readers were female.

That completely floored me. Of course there are ‘horror chicks’ out there, a lot of ‘em; I was always in good company there, but I still assumed that most of my readers would be male. (After all, ninety percent of my D&D buddies were nerdy dudes.)

Slowly a plan came together. If I was capable of pulling a female audience into a genre with a male-dominated fan base, then perhaps I could also tackle the world’s best-selling genre: Romance. The demand for romance novels is completely off the rails, and romance readers are far less discriminating than fantasy/horror readers. If the cover blurb and a cursory flip-through captures their interest, they’ll read your book; you won’t be placed back on the shelf because you’re not Danielle Steele.

And thus I found myself at a crossroads: I could either keep writing what I wanted while selling poorly, or I could write what the market wanted and enjoy more success. But here was the rub: Could I learn to write what the market wanted while finding a way to make it interesting to me?

So (after reading boxes full of romance novels, by way of research) I began working on a manuscript entitled Kilbride

Kilbride turned out to be a total dud, and sat in a shoebox for over a decade. It was a mediocre piece of work, and I knew it.

Life went on from there. I continued writing, and enjoyed a fair amount of success as a blogger. I also wrote a few more fantasy novels, although I didn’t work very hard at marketing them. And all the while Kilbride sat in the closet, gathering dust and nearly forgotten…

I don’t recall what made me brush it off, and give it another read. But somehow, the reason for my failure became immediately clear: I didn’t have a solid handle on the romance genre.

And ironically, I’d also had a solid handle on the genre all along.

My fantasy novels developed a cult following due mostly to their love-story sub-plots. I was so freaked out by changing genres that I somehow missed the fact that I’d been writing romance all along. Everyone engages in romantic pursuits, from the giggling college-girl to the tobacco-chewing hillbilly. Humans instinctively seek relationships. As the Bible says, ‘male and female created He them’.  The genders comprise two halves of a whole, and humans – virtually all of them – instinctively ‘pair up’.

How did I miss that?

Ultimately Kilbride was a flop because – despite having well-developed characters – it lacked tension, and conflict; I somehow got it into my head that romance novels had to be sweet and sappy. I should have known better; all stories revolve around conflict.

And there I saw a ray of hope: I’m good at writing conflict! I stuck my fantasy characters in a literary vise, gleefully creating a nightmarish world for them to inhabit. In so doing, I also gave them a chance to become the noblest – or darkest – possible versions of themselves. This is how life works; why should fiction be any different?

So I cracked my knuckles, and began re-writing Kilbride from scratch…

This time, people were going to suffer. This time, life was going to painful. This time, my characters were going to scream for mercy. This time I would refine my characters by fire; they would either succumb to their various torments, or rise above them.

In some sense, I switched genres by moving into romance…

And in another sense, I changed nothing at all. Because in the end, the common denominator was… me. My worldview, my plotting instincts, my word usage, my sense of humor and my sense of darkness… All of those traits are immutable, as they are with any word-smith.

There are still moments during which I forget that, of course. I had the opportunity recently to contribute to a ‘cowboy romance’ anthology. I originally dismissed it, to be honest. What?! I ain’t Louis L’Amour! I thought. But then I reconsidered. Are you a writer or are you not? I asked myself. You’re not gonna let this assignment kick your ass, are you? My initial hesitation made me the ‘Ginny-come-lately’ as far as my submission went, but it succeeded; the resulting story, Orion, should see print next spring.

Orion cemented my paradigm shift: I just love to write! I’ll tell ya any story you want, so long as you read it. Essentially, all genres are the same; it’s just a matter of where you place the emphasis. You can tell the exact same tale in both horror and romance. It’s just that in horror, you emphasize the pain and the fear; in romance, you emphasize the love, the human connection. But all of those elements will nevertheless be present in both versions of the tale.

And Kilbride…?

Raised from the ashes under the title When the White Knight Falls, it’ll be coming your way sometime this winter. It’s under contract from Black Velvet Seductions, a well-respected romance imprint run by one of the best people I know, Richard Savage.

Brigham Young once wrote that we should ‘pray like God’s going to do it for us, and work like we have to do it ourselves’. My blood, sweat, and tears would have been all for naught had God not steered me toward the right people… and He did.

So yeah, I spent well over a decade re-learning something that I knew all along…

Genre is irrelevant.

Writers are not!

You can order my short story ‘Renewing Forever’ here: https://amzn.to/34NstC7

Or you can follow me at the following social media links:

On FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100051882828372

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‘The Brute and I’, by Suzanne Smith: A Review

‘… I knew at their core, both men had shared a deep hostility and distrust towards the world and nearly everyone in it. That brooding malevolency was one aspect of Marco’s personality that I hoped I had been instrumental in changing.’line from Suzanne Smith’s ‘The Brute and I’

Didja ever read a book that just kinda blew your mind?

Call me a Narcissist, but I am ever mindful of one very simple reality: The writer is an eternally ego-driven creature. Period. It’s why we hide in the shadows, day after day, pounding away at the keyboard in the hopes that we might somehow manage to dazzle the world with our brilliance. (Or maybe just baffle ‘em with… well, you know.)

Ergo, the books most prone to blowing my fragile little mind are the ones that are eerily similar to those I might have written. Interestingly, a dear writer friend of mine recently quizzed me about this line from one of my short stories:  This is the difference between a good man and a bad one; every man wants to do violence to his spouse once in a while, for two cannot live in such close proximity without provoking the occasional violent thought.

She asked, do thoughts like that actually cross your mind? I was surprised by the question, because I assumed the obvious answer for most of us is ‘yes’. That line was written within the context of fiction, but I was being truthful about the violent impulses (although I, like most people who consider themselves decent, never act upon them).

I suppose I see anger and violence not as a label so much as a spectrum. It’s not ‘is this person angry or violent’, so much as ‘where does this person fall on the anger/violence spectrum?’ We all have nasty little beasts in our head; it’s simply a matter of how far we’re willing to go to either indulge or defeat them. Suzanne Smith, I suspect, views the human condition in much the same manner as I…

Which explains why, for one lazy afternoon, The Brute and I totally rocked my little world!

The Brute and I is intense, terribly so! Suzanne pulls the narrative from the secret places of her characters’ minds, from the darkest recesses of the human consciousness. Her characters Marco, Alex, Jake, and Emme are nothing if not amoral; Suzanne makes no judgment regarding their actions, and casts no aspersions upon their motives.; they simply are what they are, and she skillfully allows the story to tell itself without adding unnecessary commentary to the narrative.

I really liked that the story was fairly ‘clean’. While tasteful sex scenes are occasionally appropriate in fiction, I’m not a fan of gratuitous, excessive, or explicit content. The over-use of such content, in my opinion, detracts from plotting and characterization… and The Brute and I is tightly plotted, with brilliantly-drawn characters. They’re brooding, larger-than-life, and often possessed of ambiguous or even self-conflicting motives…

As are we all, at least sometimes.

If you’re looking for sappy ‘fluff’, The Brute and I isn’t for you. But if you’re not afraid of the twisted workings of the human mind, if you want a story that feels raw instead of idealistic… then The Brute and I is an absolute MUST-read!

So check it out. S’only three bucks on Kindle, but I’m betting after you read it you’ll want the paperback too!

Order The Brute and I from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Brute-I-Suzanne-Smith-ebook/dp/B07F95G2FS/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=the+Brute+and+i+suzanne+smith&qid=1605995709&sr=8-1

From Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-brute-and-i-suzanne-smith/1129034890?ean=9781912768103

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On Twitter, click here: https://twitter.com/Suzanneromance

‘Desire Me Again’: A Review

Black Velvet Seductions’ greatest strength is this: Their incredibly diverse cast of writers. Do you like sweet romances? Got ‘em. Do you like erotica? Got it. Paranormal? Got those, too. Thrillers? Contemporary? Historical? Yes, yes, and YES!!!

Like the previous anthology ‘Mystic Desire’, ‘Desire Me Again’ highlights BVS’ broad range of content and writing styles. The BVS writers are second to none, and I’m honored to be one of them. (And no, I won’t be reviewing my own contribution. I mean, c’mon! I may have an ego, but it ain’t THAT big! The review of my story was written by the acclaimed romance author Callie Carmen.)

The reviews are listed in the order in which they appear. So, my dear readers, here we go…

Renewing Forever by Virginia Wallace (review by Callie Carmen) – “He liked staring absently skyward; it reminded him of how small he really was, and how utterly insignificant his problems were. Somehow, understanding how little he mattered made his little piece of the world more manageable.” It was thoughts like those in Renewing Forever that kept me turning the pages. There were several special moments in this story between a husband and wife living life and trying to figure it all out. Who knew it would be so hard to make a marriage work. I guess when you knowingly marry a blood thirsty shape-shifting beast, you have a clue you’re in for one heck of a ride. Will David and Jillian once love birds communicate instead of keeping their feelings pent-up inside? Or will Jillian and her werewolf family tear David apart? Be sure to read this story which is part of the wonderful Desire Me Again Anthology. It was so worth learning the answer to those questions.

Temperance by Gibby Campbell – BDSM isn’t generally ‘my thing’. But Gibby writes in such a way as to make the sexually bizarre feel completely normal. Add Tarot cards into the mix, and suddenly you have a supernatural element. I like that Gibby offers no commentary on her characters’ skewed psychology, and casts no moral aspersions upon them. They simply are what they are, and she allows the story to tell itself.

Second Chance by Dee S. Knight – Rape is a horrible thing, truly an abomination in this world we live in. But it’s also a sad fact that this repugnant act has altered millions of lives. Dee unflinchingly faces this reality in her stark, realistic story, but what makes it truly beautiful is that she approaches the topic with a note of hope. It’s not about what happened to her heroine, it’s about how she rises above it. This was surely a difficult story to write, but Dee absolutely nailed it.

Lost & Found: A Soldier’s Return by R.M. Olivia – Like Dee S. Knight, R.M Olivia tackles a very delicate subject: Post-combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As someone who grew up in a military city and often saw this phenomenon up close and personal, I can personally attest that R.M. Olivia did a brilliant job with this tale. It’s gut-wrenching, but it’s also sweet and heart-warming. This story, probably more so than any other in the collection, feels very, very real.

A Convict’s Prayer by Jan Selbourne – This one wins the award for being my favorite. Sweet, tense, and thoroughly researched, this brilliant piece of historical fiction has echoes of ‘The Witch of Blackbird Pond’ all over it, at least in tone and style. I also like that it was so ‘clean’; you could give this story to a little girl to read. All too often, I think, romance writers exclude younger audiences… and we shouldn’t, because stories about relationships interest readers of all ages. Emotional interaction defines the human condition, and we should never forget that.

The Handcuff Proposal by Patricia Elliott – Everyone hits the occasional crossroad in their life. You know, that pivotal moment in which one decision will send your life in one direction, and another decision will put it upon a completely different trajectory. Most of us make the correct decision at least half the time. ‘The Handcuff Proposal’, on the other hand, is the story of a young woman who makes the wrong decision at every… single… crossroad. As such, it’s more than a little amusing. I’m a huge fan of Patricia’s shorts ‘Love from the Mist’ and ‘Love Knows no Apocalypse’, and this story was a worthy successor.

Flight to the Stars by Zia Westfield – I had high hopes for this one (since Zia’s short ‘Bewitching the Wolf’ is a beloved favorite of mine) and this story did not disappoint. It’s a supernatural tale with a distinct note of humor. What I love about Zia’s writing is how she likes to sneak in the tongue-in-cheek, funny character. ‘Bewitching the Wolf’ had Oggie the drunken leprechaun, and ‘Flight to the Stars’ has Sal the smart-mouthed duck. (Yes, I said ‘duck’. You just gotta read it.)

Together at Last by Carol Schoenig – This story was beautiful. It features two elderly characters who lost each other as young people, and reconnected decades later. Most romance stories feature virile men with rock-hard abs, and nubile women with luscious bodies. But love spans the entire human lifetime, all the way up to the end. Most of us forget that, at least when we’re younger. Carol plucked a wonderfully touching tale from the twilight years of the human experience, and her story will bring tears to your eyes.

Xpose by Annabel Allan – The world of BDSM can be confusing to some readers, but Annabel writes such content in a way that explains it clearly to the ‘un-initiated’. There is also a distinct ‘thriller’ note to this story, which makes it exciting. What I love most about Annabel’s writing is her smooth, flowing style. It’s well-composed prose that’s evocative while also being very easy to read.

The Holiday Mermaid by Alice Renaud – Anyone who knows me knows that, in my mind, Alice Renaud can do no wrong as a writer… and she doesn’t. Rowena Regor is a mermaid who comes from the most xenophobic, controlling clan of the mer-folk world. As always, what I love most about Alice’s writing is how balanced it is. Many romance authors over-develop their female characters and under-develop their male leads. They also often hyper-sexualize their male leads, and don’t quite do the same for their female leads. Alice’s stories are so balanced that they appeal to both male and female readers. Romance readers often joke about ‘book boyfriends’ but Alice’s stories also offer a ‘book girlfriend’, which gives her stories a very, very broad appeal.

So that’s it. ‘Desire Me Again’ has something for EVERYONE, old and young, male and female, those with milder tastes and those with a penchant for the exotic. BVS doesn’t guide their anthology contributors; they simply unleash them…

And therein lies the utter brilliance of Black Velvet Seductions.

TO ORDER ‘DESIRE ME AGAIN’, CLICK HERE:

https://amzn.to/34NstC7

The Dark Side of Laughter

The more the light shines through me/ I pretend to close my eyes/ The more the dark consumes me/ I pretend I’m burning, burning bright… Lyrics from the song  ‘Burning Bright’, by Shinedown

It’s been said that ‘laughter is the best medicine’…

Perhaps that’s true. According to a study done by the University of Michigan, laughter increases blood flow, delivers more oxygen to cells, improves lung health, and strengthens the immune system in ways that help ward off viruses and even cancer.

Laughter defines our world, throughout every available medium and throughout every conceivable interaction. From internet memes to television comedy specials to office/job-site pranks, laughter is a precious commodity to the human race. We constantly seek the humor of things, and we cherish the company of people who make us laugh. Countless comedians have gone from obscurity to stardom based upon their ability to crack a well-timed joke.

But is that all there is to it? Laughter is good for you? Funny people are God’s gift to our world?

No.

A thousand times over, no.

There is a psychological concept known as ‘congruence’, and this idea powerfully impacts the psychology of humor. I’m no therapist, but my entire life’s experience has led me to believe in its truth. The idea behind ‘congruence’ could be defined thus: The closer the façade you display to others matches the person you really are, the more mental health you will enjoy. The further away your façade is from your nature, the more miserable you will be.

It’s no accident (as multiple, extended studies have shown) that people who listen to hard rock/heavy metal are more relaxed, and enjoy better mental health than many other demographics. Metal-heads are perfectly at peace with their own anger, and exorcise their inner demons by enjoying them as an art form.

Your average metal-head would never shoot up a school, or kill himself…

But a comedian – a ‘class clown’ – just might.

A sense of humor can be a wonderful thing, but it all too often serves as a mask. Very often, behind the brightest of smiles lurks the darkest of thoughts. Very often the loudest laugh covers the deepest pain. Humor, despite its benefits, often leads to mental ‘in-congruence’; it often creates a yawning rift between what a person portrays and what they really are.

Chris Farley, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Sam Kinison, Robin Williams… All of them made us laugh while they wallowed in their own privates rooms in Hell. Their deaths shocked us all because we only saw the mask, not the person.

Yes, sometimes humor is a wonderful thing.

But sometimes, just sometimes…

We need to quit laughing and face ourselves, and each other. The consequences for not doing so can be brutal…

Even more so than the demons that we were trying flee by laughing.

Interview 10/25/2020

Hello everyone! Yesterday I had the honor of participating in the book launch party for Black Velvet Seductions’ new anthology, ‘Desire Me Again’ (which features one of my stories). Here… is my interview!

Eileen Troemel Hi Virginia!!! Thank you for joining me!

Virginia Wallace Thank you for having me! I’m grateful to be here.

Callie Carmen I’m looking forward to reading your story. It has to be the first one that I read in Desire Me Again because I have grown so fond of the way you write in your blogs.

Virginia Wallace Aw, you’re the best! But you already knew that!

Eileen Troemel What’s the heat level of your story?

Virginia Wallace Uh… One? My focus is more on the strained relationship between husband and wife. There’s some mention of sexual tension, but that’s about it.

Eileen Troemel Nothing wrong with that at all… and probably a bit more realistic.

Callie Carmen For sure because they aren’t getting along. I’m betting the writer in you doesn’t allow you to be oblivious to those around you.

Virginia Wallace No. I mean, what are people for if not inspiration?

Callie Carmen Yes.

Eileen Troemel Is this a contemporary romance story?

Virginia Wallace It is, set in modern-day Virginia Beach, VA, USA. It’s also a fantasy. I used the werewolf myth as an allegory for the differences in culture and upbringing that often drive a wedge between married couples.

Eileen Troemel That sounds fascinating!

Annabel Allan Was there a specific werewolf myth you found intriguing?

Virginia Wallace I kind of used the modern ‘monsters walking hidden among us’ myth, rather than the monstrous, full-moon driven werewolf. It seemed to fit better.

Eileen Troemel That makes perfect sense.

Callie Carmen I can only imagine the tension between families. Them worrying about it working and such. Does that cause major problems?

Virginia Wallace Only if you count being eaten alive as ‘major’…

Annabel Allan You seem to like the horror/darker stuff! Is that something you try to incorporate in your writing?

Virginia Wallace ALWAYS! The only exception, perhaps, is my upcoming novel ‘When the White Knight Falls’… but even that one’s got some dark spots. I suspect a better description for my work would be not so much ‘dark’ as ‘brooding’.

Gibby Campbell How about humor? Do you like to incorporate it in your writing? I see it often in your posts.

Callie Carmen Me too.

Virginia Wallace It’s funny, I tend to flip-flop. My shorter pieces tend to take one tone or the other – dark, or light-hearted. My full-length novels, though, do have running threads of humor.

Eileen Troemel What inspired this story?

Virginia Wallace I drafted it out in 2004 (originally featuring vampires). But it kinda gathered dust until about 2010 or so… when I was newly married, and slowly beginning to realize how much work being married was. That prompted me to dust the story off, and breathe new life into it.

Gibby Campbell Yah, marriage can be a drain on the creativity. Or an inspiration. It all depends.

Virginia Wallace And that’s what I tried to put in the story. Marriage is a blessing, for sure… but it ain’t always easy, and there are (hopefully rare) moments during which it feels like the ultimate curse. You just gotta push through it, you know?

Gibby Campbell I do know! I can’t wait to read the angst!

Eileen Troemel I think the first year of marriage is the toughest… especially if you haven’t lived together…

Eileen Troemel Okay – I gotta ask – When do you like to write?

Virginia Wallace (Pasting Annabel Allan’s earlier response to the same question) I like writing around 12am-5am. It’s when everything is inky and black and totally silent. I live in an area that you can always hear cars and kids, people yelling, so at night, especially around the Witching Hour, it’s totally serene and I get my best pages done.

Virginia Wallace Told you (I’d copy Annabel’s response)!

Annabel Allan Virginia Wallace LMAO I totally expected you to cut and paste it!

Virginia Wallace Great minds, you know…

Eileen Troemel I had to (ask)… LOL

Callie Carmen Here come the whips and chains.

Callie Carmen Do you ever watch shows like Dead Files? If so, do you get any of your dark character ideas from shows like that or the type of movies that you watch?

Virginia Wallace Films are everything to me… and I love all different kinds. I’m an animation nut (which probably explains my juvenile sense of humor), but yes… I like the dark stuff. My favorite TV series is ‘Tales from the Dark Side’, and my favorite series of movies is ‘Underworld’. ‘The Crow’, ‘Natural Born Killers’, and ‘The Lion King’ are also faves. And being a romance writer, I suppose my favorite romantic film is ‘Serendipity’.

Eileen Troemel If you could choose any location for writing – money and time not an issue – where would you want to write?

Virginia Wallace Honestly? Right where I’m sitting. If I’m in some super-spiffy exotic location, I don’t feel like writing… I just wanna enjoy the location. Writing is an escape, at least for me… so why write if I’m somewhere that I don’t feel like leaving?

Callie Carmen Great answer. I tried writing on a couple of cruises it didn’t work.

Eileen Troemel Do you plot out your books?

Virginia Wallace Short stories, never. I just carry them in my head for a week or two, just mentally polishing the story up in my mind. When I start writing it’s over pretty quickly. Novels I write character outlines, the finished ending, and a very loose outline. As I write towards the ending, I periodically adjust the outline to fit shifts in the story line. My writing is only structured in a very, very loose sense.

Callie Carmen Do you enjoy doing the marketing that is involved with being published? The ads, the communications like now?

Virginia Wallace You kiddin’? I freakin’ dote on it, ‘cuz I’m a TOTAL ham!!!

Callie Carmen Yes you are.

Callie Carmen I like your ad too. You must like the graphic part of it too.

Virginia Wallace I started out as an artist, from a very young age. My teenage years were the transition period, when I slowly realized (through playing Dungeons n’ Dragons) that I could express myself more thoroughly through storytelling than art. But yes, I’ve always kept my art chops up!

Eileen Troemel What part of writing don’t you like?

Virginia Wallace PROOFREADING!!! And because I hate it, I suck at it. I finally bowed to reality: My books go through hired proofreaders before they’re submitted.

Eileen Troemel What’s next for you?

Virginia Wallace Well, my novel ‘When the White Knight Falls’ should be out this winter, and my story ‘Orion’ will be featured in ‘Cowboy Desire’ early next year. In the meantime, everyone is welcome to stalk me at the following links:

Follow me on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100051882828372

On Twitter at @VirginiaKWalla1

On MeWe at https://mewe.com/i/virginiawallace1

On LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/virginia-wallace-63b2731b1/

Or follow my blog at http://www.virginiawallace.com

To order ‘Desire Me Again’ on Kindle or in paperback, click here:

https://amzn.to/34NstC7

A Season of Death

‘The summer is over/ the fall is here/ the wind is growing cold/ the rustling leaves/ that fall from the trees/ are turning from green to gold…’ – Unknown

It’s been one hell of a year…

The news – ever since last January – has only come in two varieties: Bad, and Worse. All the fun summer events were canceled. (Even my Guns n’ Roses concert… dammit!)

But guess what? Now it’s AUTUMN!!!

Nothing makes me happy all over like fall. The air turns crisp, and the wind carries the sound of rustling leaves hither and yon as the smell of wood-smoke permeates one’s every breath. The sun sets sooner, bringing the soothing calm of nightfall and casting a shroud of peace over everything.

Spring is a ‘looking forward’, a bright anticipation of another summer. Autumn is a ‘looking back’, a cheerful remembrance of a summer well spent. Autumn is also a ‘winding down’, an en masse sabbatical after a long ‘busy season’. Fall gives one a chance to reflect upon one’s life and accomplishments, before hunkering down for winter.

There’s a sense of utter, eternal timelessness about fall. Summers, in my mind, are individual entities. Upon this summer I went camping in the mountains, and upon that one I saw Metallica play at an outdoor amphitheater. Each summer is unique, and remembered as such. Fall, on the other hand, is Everywhere and Everywhen, a timeless season that gives us a glimpse of itself each year. Autumns tend to run together, their experiences ever linked to form one endless memory.

Then there’s Halloween… Not so much the actual holiday, but the season.

Some of us are ‘Halloween People’ all the year ‘round. Thus it’s very gratifying when – for just a little while – the rest of the world joins us in our pleasant morbidity. Suddenly everyone’s wearing dark clothes, and reading stories and watching films that give us the pleasant willies. Halloween is, I think, a celebration of Death – and also Hope. We celebrate the death of nature, and wistfully anticipate next spring’s rebirth. We celebrate the death of people, and thus perversely re-discover the fierce joy of being gloriously alive.

Autumn is a strange time, a season and a frame of mind that is oddly off-kilter; it exists in between all the usual human pursuits and social norms. If you’re an ‘Autumn Person’, enjoy this time while you can… because it won’t last.

And that’s what makes it so very, very beautiful…

Nothing, after all, inspires appreciation like impermanence.