Mystery/romance series


Ah, c’mon. Even if you don’t have a dirty mind, I promise there’s even something a little bit sentimental about this story, as the title is meant to be ironic. To prove my comics aren’t always duty, check out my action-adventure tale featuring a little girl and a stuffed bunny named Twitches.

It features Trisha & Grayson, the leads of my unpublished (but hopefully not for long) romantic suspense.

A cut after the first page because, yes, nudity, and, yes, x-rated. Apologies, as my scanner isn’t perfect and I don’t have the original files.

Story by me, art by Beto Nicacio, letters by Erica J. Heflin

Story by me, art by Beto Nicacio, letters by Erica J. Heflin

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Yes, in my head, the hero of Ghost Phoenix looked liked this in his original time period

He is pretty, isn’t he? For those who don’t recognize him, that’s Tom (Loki) Hiddleston in “The Hollow Crown” Shakespeare series. More specifically, that’s him playing Henry V in Henry V.

Ghost Phoenix‘s hero, Richard Genet (aka Prince Richard, Duke of York), is a close cousin to Henry V of England. So he could totally look like this, right?

Right!

And that’s part of the big sale news I have for everyone. Over the next twelve months, I’m going to release FOUR books.

The already mentioned The Curse of the Brimstone Contract, a romantic steampunk detective story, on April 29th.

And then…

Ghost Phoenix, out on October 7 this year.

Richard Genet is the hero, an immortal prince disgusted with his immortal court and currently mellowing out as a surfer dude. Marian Doyle is the heroine, the latest in a long line of Doyles blessed with the ability to walk through walls. Together, they go on a quest to heal Richard’s dying Queen and instead become embroiled in the clash between the Phoenix Institute and an unknown and very dangerous enemy.

Ghosts of Christmas Past, due out November 25th this year.

Charlton City Police Detective. Aloysius James and Noir are back fighting crime. After meeting and defeating the mad scientist who tortured Noir aka Lucy in Luminous, the couple finds their relationship at a crossroads during the Christmas season. A murder at a local museum doesn’t help, nor does the fact that one of Lucy’s new friends is the main suspect. It’s going to take a little inspiration by Charles Dickens to solve the crime and keep them together. Oh, and some pie.

Phoenix Inheritance  due March 3, 2015.

After taking a trip across half of Europe in Ghost Phoenix, I thought it was time to pull the series back to something more personal. This book’s hero is Daz Montoya, the head of the Phoenix Institute F-team and the man who taught Alec Farley about honor. Daz is determined to get back with the mother of his son but their nasty break-up plus their son’s insistence that he can telepathically talk to animals is causing some serious problems with Daz’s romantic plan. Throw in one nasty snowstorm, an arrogant cat, and two search-and-rescue dogs and…well, this may turn out to be my most personal story yet.

All except Curse are part of the Phoenix Institute superhero romance series, which already includes Phoenix Rising, Phoenix Legacy and Luminous.

And, yes, I did a ton of writing last year. Hope to match that this year and have news of more sales down the line to tell you all about!

 

The prize is a $20 Amazon gift card. 🙂  Go read. I discuss things like why my Mom is my hero and why no one should use my writing method as that way lies madness…

This workshop by New York Times Bestselling Authors Lee Child and Suze Brockmann at RWA National turned out not what I expected but it was fascinating nonetheless.

The subtitle was “Crossing Gender Boundaries” but I have the feeling the room would have been even more packed if the subtitle had been:

“Come listen to the incredibly charming & funny Lee Child who also happens to have an awesome British accent.”

Yes, I am shallow. And I have a thing for voices. 🙂

Onto the substance of the talk.

I had originally expected the workshop to be about how to write to appeal to both genders. It turned out to be more an exploration of what appeals to both genders.

In that, it was somewhat eye-opening.

Brockmann said her work likely isn’t viewed as romance any longer by traditional romance readers. For those not familiar with her books, she writes military action/adventure with a strong helping of romance. Some romances take place over several books, others take two steps forward, one step back.

Brockmann is also a big advocate for male/male romances and GLBT causes. Her books aren’t to my taste but, obviously, they appeal to many, many readers, including men.

Child has a large female crossover audience for his hugely popular Jack Reacher thriller/mystery series.

I went to the workshop because my writing seems to appeal to both genders as evidenced by my reviews on Amazon and a blogger review. I ‘d always assumed that crossing the gender boundaries to snag male readers was sorta of a holy grail for a romance writer.

But Child upended that.

He said the potential male audience is very small.

“It’s bad to limit yourself to male readers. Bankruptcy lies that way.”

ETA this point by comics writer Gail Simone about the female audience.

“Men are a difficult sell. They tend to be hung up about reading fiction, almost considering it demeaning. The ones that do read tend to pick up a lot of non-fiction and those that do read fiction, many of them read literary fiction. That leaves a small slice that reads genre fiction.”

He said the crossover readership is much more generous coming from men to women than the other way around.

He also said, as a mystery/thriller writer, he encounters the same sort of pre-judgments about the work–not being serious enough–as romance writers.

Both Child and Brockmann talked about what they called the Ugly Brown Couch. What they meant was an issue or moment really unpleasant or dark or too realistic that can scare away some traditional romance readers. Brockmann said these traditional readers want the familiar and not do not want to see their fantasy world upended.

And women tend to have triggers that men don’t always have, Child said.

“There’s something elemental about an unjust situation that offends women,” Child said, providing an example.

The most interesting comment, though, came from the audience.

A question was asked about Jack Reacher’s appeal to women. Child said he thought it was because women viewed him as the perfect guy to have a one night stand with–he’s great in bed and he’ll leave in the morning, so he’s the ultimate fantasy.

I thought an audience member hit it closer to the truth.

She pointed out that Reacher is a man with no ties and leaves home with only a toothbrush. No responsibilities, just him and the road. She said this is an escapist fantasy for many women who have to support and care for their families and juggle so many responsibilities.

Basically, she said it’s possible women want to fantasize about *being* Reacher far more than about *sleeping with* Reacher.

This seemed to take Child by surprise.

But I think it’s pretty close to the truth. Running away is, I think, one of those fantasies that “good” women aren’t allowed to have. That’s because they’ll be bad mothers and bad daughters and all those other things whereas, for some reason, it’s a little more acceptable for men.

It’s similar to how, years ago, women weren’t supposed to want sex and much as men because that would make them somehow bad or evil.

Now, I’m not advocating women pick up and leave their families. 🙂

I’m just saying that even the fantasy of *wanting* to leave is perceived still as making women bad people.

Even more, the lone wolf male is still more acceptable in our society than the lone wolf female. Some in our society still considers women who want to be alone to be somehow wrong and unfulfilling, whereas George Clooney is celebrated for staying unattached.

So it’s left to male characters like Reacher to embody this escapist fantasy.

I have more stuff about how Child came to create Jack Reacher but I think I’ll put that in another post, since it’s kinda tangential to the gender issues.

When I first started writing fiction as an adult, after years of being a journalist, I started with fan fiction.

One thing led to another, I accidentally created a Mary Sue and then I realized that if I brought the character down to earth, she would be great fun to play with in her own universe.

So Trisha Connell, crime reporter, was born.

Trisha is a crime reporter because it was a profession that I can portray accurately and because it gave her an excuse to get into trouble.

I was inspired a great deal by Robert B. Parker’s Spenser mysteries, so I also wanted to give Trisha a steady boyfriend ala Susan Silverman in the Spenser books.

So Edmund Grayson, security expert, was born.

Except Grayson was a demanding character. I gave him point of view as an experiment one day and it quickly became clear that he was Trisha’s co-star, not a supporting character.

And that’s how I started writing romance.

Their first adventure is called Above the Fold. Strictly speaking, it’s more of a mystery with romantic elements as it’s about half/half of each. The story has  finaled in several regional Romance Writer of America contests, including the Daphnes and the PASIC awards. I’m extremely proud of the second place in the PASIC because I was competing against published authors.

Here’s my tagline:

Trisha wants the story behind the museum murder. Grayson wants to catch the killers. They’re both shocked to discover they also want each other.

Above the Fold: the affair behind the headlines.

My favorite snippet from the book:

“I thought ticking time bombs were a myth.”

“No.”

“Fuck.”

“Yes.”

The opening of the story is below the cut. (more…)