What’s Better Than Free?

Two of my novels are currently free (ebook editions only) at Amazon. If you haven’t read them but would like to, now’s the time!

Angels at Midnight Complete

Angels at Midnight

From Publishers Weekly

Set primarily in the glamorous art milieus of San Francisco and Manhattan, Beishir’s (Dance of the Gods) novel makes exciting stopovers in Monte Carlo, Venezuela, Big Sur and other exotic locales. The pages are rife with sizzling sex, suspense and conflict, expertly paced, as both hero and heroine are motivated to bend the law by a powerful need for revenge. Abby Giannini, who has changed her name to Ashley Gordon, loses custody of her son in a vicious court battle with her deceased husband’s parents. Collin Deverell, heir to an oil fortune, trades his share in his late father’s company for the rights to his mother’s art and jewelry estate. But when his ambitious twin Justin defrauds him of his inheritance, Collin too has a score to settle. Collin and Ashley’s joint quest for justice and lusty romance make for compulsive reading.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information Inc.
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Amazon review by William Kendall on Aug. 10 2016

The author published the book during her days with Berkely, and gives us two very sympathetic protagonists we can immediately connect with in an intricately plotted, well paced novel that explores themes of love, family, loss, revenge, and how far people will go for their own measure of justice. While our protagonists don’t actually meet until halfway through the book, that’s a good thing, as we get to follow them along parallel lines for more then a decade, getting to know them, sharing their triumphs and their despair.

Collin Deverell is one of two twin sons, heir to a fortune that his father, an oil tycoon, expects him to take part in. While his brother Justin readily involves himself in the family business, Collin has little wish to tie himself down to an executive life, preferring a carefree life of adventure and his love of fencing. With the sudden death of their parents on a business trip, Collin takes the chance to live life on his own terms, turning over shares in the family company and all responsibility to his brother in exchange for the family mansion, the art collection, and his mother’s jewellry. He lives abroad for some years, rarely settling down, living his carefree life, seducing whatever woman crosses his path. When he returns home, he finds that the valuable paintings and jewels have all gone missing, sold off by his devious brother. Collin vows to take back what’s rightfully his, even if it means breaking the law and going after some very dangerous people to do it.

Ashley Gordon is an artist from the Napa Valley in California who establishes a career for herself in San Francisco. After becoming a success in the art world and on the social circuit, she falls in love with Brandon Hollister. They’re happy together, and Brandon wants to marry her, though she’s puzzled by his complete estrangement from his parents. When we meet them, it’s not hard to understand: Bradley and Claudia Hollister are downright nasty to the core. Ashley and Brandon marry, have a son, Robert and are happy together, until Brandon is killed in a plane crash. In the wake of her grief, Ashley is hit again when her in-laws launch a custody battle for their grandson, using bribery, lies, and their connections to take him away from Ashley. Ashley is, understandably, devastated.

It’s into this mix that Ashley and Collin meet. Collin’s been busy recovering what was stolen from him by becoming a thief himself, learning the trade from a master who saves his life. What started out for him as a mission to take back what’s his becomes something more, as he discovers his father’s company has been mismanaged by his brother, and is falling into the hands of a criminal syndicate who are readily dismantling it. The syndicate are made up of the same people who have possession of his property, and what began as thefts to recover property gradually shifts, as Collin realizes he does, in fact, have a responsibility to save the company his father built. And since Bradley Hollister is a member of the syndicate, Collin decides to enlist his former daughter-in-law as a partner to bring down the syndicate, save his family company, and restore Ashley’s son to her custody.

It’s a wise decision to keep the two from really meeting until mid way through the book. We, the reader, get to see both characters develop fully on their own, so we care about them and what happens to them (Ashley’s loss of her husband and her son are particularly painful, which is one of the reasons the book works so well). When Collin and Ashley start working together, we see a growing connection between them, an emotional intimacy that comes across as very real. This is a testament to how human the two characters feel. They have depth, quirks, and flaws. As Ashley learns the tricks of the trade, of sleight of hand and the use of disguise, she and Collin find themselves drawn closer and closer. The bond and growing love between them comes across to the reader as the real thing. We come to root for them to achieve all they’re after, and it’s because of how well both of them have been written.

In every heist story, to root for the person pulling off the heist, it requires that the target be unsympathetic. Certainly having the target be a criminal syndicate is a very good way of having the reader dislike the target. And the primary targets, Bradley and Claudia Hollister, are more then worthy of our dislike. Both of them, particularly Claudia, are cruel and malicious. It’s not hard to understand why their son broke ties with them, and as readers, we want to see them brought down, broken, and defeated.

Justin Deverell is another interesting character in the book. Early on it felt like he’d be the primary antagonist of the book, but as things go on, it’s made clear that he’s the dupe, the tool for the syndicate to dismantle the family company after they’re done using it. I enjoyed the premise Norma used that Collin and Justin aren’t the kind of twins we’re used to in fiction… they have nothing in common but blood, barely speak for years, and ultimately are so far apart that it’s doubtful they’ll ever bridge that gap. There’s no closer then blood mental connection sort of bond between these two twins, and it’s a refreshing change.

There is a wild card sort of character I thought I’d make mention of. Anton DeVries, an insurance investigator, lurks in the background of the story. He first comes into the picture after Collin discovers the theft of his possessions. Through the rest of the book, he suspects Collin, looks for proof, and takes part in a pivotal moment towards the climax. He’s an interesting character, something of a bloodhound, or a Javert to Collin’s Valjean. DeVries is a good adversary, conflicted by catching a man who he knows to be morally right.

The attention to detail throughout the book is spot on, and perhaps never as much as during the various thefts that take place in the book. From training sequences in which both Collin and Ashley learn how to become thieves to the heists themselves, each act feels intricate, and brings a lot of variety to the table. An escape from a time lock safe and a judicious use of a mirror stand out particularly for me during the theft sequences. And the attention to detail also reflects itself in the early sequences featuring fencing and the artistic process.

Angels At Midnight is a beautifully written book that you’ll enjoy reading. The plot and pacing of the novel keeps the reader on the edge. The details drawn out in the book about technique, places, and situations give it a very real world sensibility. And the characters really make the novel. Collin and Ashley are a winning couple that we can’t help but sympathize with, to root for, and to cheer.

And who knows? Perhaps Robert has siblings… and all of them have grown up to take after Ashley and Collin’s habit of breaking into high security vaults….

 

Final Hours cover - new

Final Hours

 

Amazon review by Mark R. Hunter on November 14, 2013

Final Hours fooled me: Despite the title, it isn’t really about the giant asteroid that’s about to wipe out human civilization. On the contrary, if there was ever a story that’s all about the journey, it’s this one.

Jamie Randall has to make a decision in the hours leading up to the apocalypse: Retreat to a secretly built bunker, where he might survive to continue his loveless marriage, or seek out the woman he’s loved for the last fourteen years and die with her? We soon know his decision – the story is about why he made it, and as we wait to know his fate the story flashes back to the events that led him there.

It turns out Jamie is – let’s face it – a jerk, although as we learn more about his history we get to know why. He married his wife to get ahead, to get revenge over those who once had power over him. The events that keep him in the marriage are believable, if tragic.

He’s rescued in every way when Kate appears, quite literally saving his life. The rest of the book is a love story, as Jamie woos Kate but is stymied again and again in his attempts to make her more than “the other woman”.

The truth is, Jamie probably doesn’t deserve either of the women at first, and by the time he starts trying to do the right thing he’s dug himself into a hole deeper than the one the asteroid’s going to make. Kate is practically a saint, while Jamie’s wife is trapped just as much as he is, and I kept rooting for a way for them to all get away happy.

That says something about the story – that we want to know how it all comes out, even though we already know it from the very beginning.

 

on July 14, 2009
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Final Hours is a good book to spend an afternoon curled up with. The story follows a man named Jamie, who has heard that the end of the world is coming, and because his wife is the daughter of a senator, he and his family are secured a spot in a safehouse, where they will be most likely to survive. But Jamie does not want to go. Instead, he realizes that he must face up to his mistakes and do the one thing he’s been wanting to do for the last fifteen years: spend his final hours with the woman he loves.

Forced to choose between his own happiness and the happiness of those he cares about, Jamie spends most of the book torn between the woman he loves and the woman he needs. His wife, the mother of his sons, was able to give Jamie everything he thought he wanted out of life, but when a free-spirited photographer named Kate saves his life, he begins to realize that maybe his priorities were wrong all along, and it’s time to start living the way he now knows he needs to.

Despite some bad choices all of the characters make, they really are what makes the story golden. Everyone makes bad choices, and these characters are all willing to face up to their mistakes, which makes them all the more admirable. They’re doing what they think is right in the current situation, and that’s really what sets them apart. The story really makes you think about life and love, and what it really means to be alive. And most importantly, when everything is stripped away, what truly is important enough for us to spend our final hours doing?

A New Domain, and a Link to an Old One–Merry Christmas!

Some of you are familiar with my longtime blog, The Three Rs: Rants, Raves and (Occasional) Reflections. I also have a new one, an ongoing serial featuring the characters from most of my past novels. Ever read (or write) a book and wonder what happened to the characters in the years that followed “The End?” I did. And I decided to do something about it.  I hope you’ll check out An Army of Angels while I decide what direction–if any–this blog will take. Word Press isn’t as easy to use as it used to be!

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The Unicorns Daughter eCover

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Angels at Midnight Complete

Coming in for a Landing…But Where’s the Rest of the Squadron?

I once told a fellow author I was going to take flying lessons as research for a book (that was never written, as it happens, because my agent didn’t find the idea glamorous enough). The fellow author’s response: “Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the air.”

I should probably point out that this comment was made in the early ’90s, when air travel was still fun.

Anyway, I’m not flying now. Not even as a passenger. By “landing,” I was referring to Creativia’s landing pages for my books. So far, only two are up and running. I’m guessing they’re doing this in alphabetical order, as the first one up was Alexander’s Empire and now we have Angels at Midnight. To check them out, just click on the links. And while you’re at it, check out my author page at their site. (They haven’t yet added my latest release, Ms. Maxwell and Son, to my bibliography.)

Angels at Midnight Complete

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When I decided to reissue my backlist books, I had a choice to make. These books, with the exception of Chasing the Wind and Final Hours, had all been written and published in the late 1980s-early 1990s. That was a time when the most popular fiction was either historical romance (not my cup of tea) or glamorous, suspenseful contemporary romance. Today, the market is decidedly different. On one hand, I really wanted the old books to be available on a permanent basis, even if they didn’t gain many new readers. Om the other, I felt an urge to rewrite all of the old stuff, not just to make it more relevant to today’s readers, but in the case of Alexander’s Empire to satisfy my need to finally publish the story I’d wanted to write from the start.

If I were writing them today? Alexander’s Empire would still involve wealth and power–to a degree. But it would be, at its heart, the story of a man who discovers he’s not who he’s always believed himself to be, that his present life was created out of a tragedy that destroyed several lives. It would focus on his inability to trust, to love, and his search for answers.

As for Angels at Midnight, again, there would be less glamour and more of a modern “MacGuyver meets Robin Hood” story. Ashley might still be a celebrated artist, but Collin wouldn’t be an oilman’s heir. He’d be someone who was one of many cheated by a ruthless employer. He’d be more high tech than he was back in the ’80s. And there would be more fencing. Those were my favorite parts of the original.

That’s what might have been….

What’s in a Name? Sometimes, Everything Depends Upon It!

“Compromise when you can.When you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move, plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say ‘No. You move.'”
–from Captain America: Civil War

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In the past few days, a problem arose that I believe has been resolved–but it reminded me of another problem my agent and I faced years ago with one of my former publishers.

Early in my career, I realized the publisher’s marketing chimps were trying to turn me into a Sidney Sheldon clone. I was a big Sheldon fan, so on one level, I was flattered. But as a writer trying to establish my own professional identity, I knew being a clone of anybody was not a good idea. I dug in my heels and resisted. There were a lot of arguments. I objected to the Sheldon knock-off titles: The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels (I got Angels at Midnight)…Windmills of the Gods (they chose Dance of the Gods)…The Sands of Time (A Time for Legends). They decided to re-title SolitairePlayers of the Game (as in Sheldon’s Master of the Game).

I’d had enough. I did a lot of shouting, while Maria went about searching for the means to stop them. She found it in my contracts. Back then, I was quite prolific. As it happened, I had delivered manuscripts months ahead of schedule–and once those manuscripts were accepted, the clock was ticking. They had, according to my contracts, a limited amount of time to publish the books. I was a second position lead title author with the promotional budget that goes with that position, so they would only publish one book a year.

That left the publisher with three options: publish the books within a few months of each other, an expensive option; lose the books and the sizeable advances paid for them, also an expensive option; or give us what we wanted and get an extension to publish. Maria made it clear to them that if they didn’t back down on the title, I wouldn’t sign the extension.

As you can see, the title wasn’t changed.

When I delivered the manuscript for book #5, I gave it a title that sent a clear, if sarcastic message: A Cold Day in Hell. They pointed out that it wouldn’t play well in the Bible Belt, so I submitted the actual title I’d chosen for it: Luck of the Draw.

I sent them a message, and they sent me one–a really crappy cover. Oh, well. At least it didn’t have jewelry on it!

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword…Or Is It?

Today’s excerpt is once again from Angels at Midnight, which begins a special ebook promotion at Amazon on Sunday–just $.99!

In this excerpt, Collin Deverell is caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, wanting to pursue a last shot at Olympic gold and his father’s determination to have both of his sons join the family business….

 

Angels at Midnight Complete

Boston, February 1976

“En garde!” Two men in traditional white fencing attire moved around on the floor of the gymnasium with lightning speed, the blades of their French foils flashing in the harsh glare cast by the fluorescent lighting high above them. One of the men, his foil raised menacingly, took full advantage of a miscalculation on the part of his opponent, lunging forward in an aggressive move that caught the second fencer completely off guard. He backed off hastily, attempting to regroup his forces while using his own weapon to block the attack. The aggressor moved swiftly, and it seemed to his opponent that he was suddenly everywhere—parrying, lunging, feinting, counterparrying, and thrusting with the skill and assurance of the experienced swordsman he was. He scored one touch and then another and another, until he had made the required five touches on his opponent’s target area to take the match in the allotted six minutes.

Once won, however, the aggressiveness of his manner vanished as quickly as he removed his wire mesh face mask, revealing a lean, angular face flushed with triumph, the vel­vety brown eyes crackling with fire. His thick, wavy dark hair was tousled and damp with perspiration as he faced his defeated opponent and bowed gallantly from the waist, displaying the natural grace of a superbly conditioned ath­lete. As he straightened up again, he grinned. “We really should do this more often, Farnsworth,” he commented with a twinge of amusement in his voice.

The other man laughed wearily. “I don’t think my heart could take it, Deverell,” he responded breathlessly. “You weren’t playing a game out there—you were waging war!”

Collin Deverell laughed heartily as he pulled the leather glove and gauntlet from his right hand and ran his fingers through his hair, pushing it into place. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you that there’s no crime in playing to win?” he asked in a mocking tone.

“Playing to win?” Derek Farnsworth said with a laugh. “Come on, Collin—for a minute there, I was beginning to wonder if you’d forgotten that there was a friend behind this mask! I felt as though we were actually engaging in combat!”

Collin grinned. “You’re slowing down, pal,” he warned. “Not equal to the challenge anymore?”

“I’m hardly a match for a former world champion,” Farnsworth reminded him. “Look, I think I’ll hit the show­ers and get back to my law books, okay?”

Collin nodded. “Tomorrow, then?”

Farnsworth gave an exaggerated groan of despair. ” Please—it’ s going to take me a week to recover from to­day’s match! Give me a break, will you?”

“I keep forgetting I have to go easy on you softies,” Collin teased. “All right—I’ll just have to find someone else to take me on.”

“Keep this up and you’re going to run out of friends,” Derek Farnsworth joked as they walked back to the locker rooms together. “They’ll all be mounted on your wall with your swords and other trophies!”

At that moment, the doors at the far end of the gym opened and a third man entered, a tall, slim blond man Collin recognized immediately from one of his classes at Harvard. “Hey, Deverell! I’ve been looking all over for you!” he called out loudly with an unmistakable New En­gland accent.

Collin waved him off. “Whatever it is, I didn’t do it!” he yelled back.

The other man ignored his response. “Your father’s in town—he’s been looking for you. He called here twice. Your brother also called.”

“My brother,” Collin said ruefully, so low that only Derek Farnsworth, who stood next to him, could hear him. “Baron Stormcloud himself.” He turned back to the other man who stood poised in the doorway. “My father knows where I live,” he said loudly.

“Sure he does, and he also knows that you spend most of your time here,” the blond man responded. “Better give him a call. He said he’ll be staying at the Ritz-Carlton.”

“As if I wouldn’t know where to find him,” Collin said in a casual tone. “I guess I’d better make this fast. When he flies up from New York instead of calling, it’s usually urgent.”

In spite of the bitter cold, the Boston Common was crowded. A group of demonstrators marched in formation, brandish­ing large, crudely lettered signs while a soapbox orator de­livered his impassioned—and very loud—speech from the center of the group. Several children bundled in warm win­ter attire ran off in the direction of the playground while two bag ladies rummaged through a trash can. Three young girls sat on a bench, lacing up their skates as they prepared to go ice skating on Frog Pond. Collin walked through the Common, oblivious of everything around him except the cold. Turning up the collar of his heavy winter coat, he pulled his gray cashmere muffler up over the lower half of his face. His cheeks stung from the icy wind and his eyes felt uncomfortably dry. The wind whipped through his hair, still damp from the shower, as he walked along the pond, headed for the underground parking garage just beyond the Public Garden at the west end of the Common. Breaking into a run, he dashed through the park and into the garage, not slowing down until he reached his silver Ferrari. Pulling off his gray leather gloves, he dug into his coat pocket for his keys and unlocked the door hastily, his breath visible in the bitterly cold air. He slid behind the wheel and closed the door. As he put the key in the ignition and turned the switch, the engine came to life immediately. He listened to the low hum of the Ferrari’s powerful, perfectly tuned mo­tor for a moment, then put the car in reverse and backed out of the parking stall, reaching for the garage ticket he’d left on the dashboard. The garage, he noticed as he headed for the exit, was almost empty now. He glanced at the gold watch on his left wrist. It was later than he’d thought.

As he pulled out of the garage onto Arlington Street, he was still wondering what could have brought his father to town. Business, no doubt. Quentin Deverell lived for Inter­continental Oil, the family business, as Collin referred to the corporation his father had founded and built into a global giant over the past thirty years. He expected the same total devotion from each of his many employees, and from his identical twin sons, Collin and Justin. It had been their father’s idea, sending the twins to Harvard, and then to the Harvard Business School. It was Quentin Deverell’s most fervent dream that one day his sons should rule side by side over the empire he had created. For Justin, it had been easy: Justin, like their father, had the blood of the board­room flowing through his veins. He couldn’t wait to occupy a seat on the board of directors. Collin, on the other hand, had never shared their enthusiasm. He had never quite been able to picture himself locked away in an office all day, pushing papers and making deals. He did not think of him­self as a businessman. He had only accepted the idea of the Harvard Business School because he knew how much it meant to his father, and because he was not yet sure what he wanted to do with his life.

There had been a time he had believed his future was in the world of sports, in fencing. It was a passion he had felt the first time he took a foil in his hand at the age of fourteen, much younger than most professional fencers begin their training. He had taken an interest in it first as a hobby, then later as a possible career. His first coach, a maitre d’armes from Paris, had seen a natural ability in Collin Deverell and filled his head with thoughts and dreams of Olympic gold. As he grew older, Collin’s love of fencing prevented him from giving one hundred percent of himself to his father’s plans for his future. Furious, Quentin Deverell had put an abrupt end to the training, insisting that his son’s future was in the boardroom, not on the tournament circuit. But Collin had persisted, and soon had a new coach, a former gold medalist from Milan who also saw promise in his young protégé and encouraged his ambitions. With his encourage­ment, Collin had gone from local to national tournaments to the international level of competition. He had developed a rather flashy style that combined the best elements of the intellectual, defensive French style learned from his original coach with the aggressive, offensive Italian game taught by his new mentor. By the time he was eighteen, he had won several major tournaments, including a world champion­ship. He had been preparing for the Pan-American Games when his father suffered a heart attack. Knowing how much it meant to his father that he and Justin pull together and concentrate on the family’s business interests, Collin had shelved his plans to go for the gold and concentrated on his studies, not wishing to upset his father or cause him further concern. That had been four years ago, and still Collin won­dered what his life would have been like today had he con­tinued to pursue that dream. Would he have found what he was looking for, or would he still feel the confusion, the uncertainty he was feeling at this moment? If only, he thought now, he could be more like his brother.

Though Collin and Justin were identical twins, and it was virtually impossible to tell them apart physically, one had only to spend a few moments with them to recognize the striking differences in their personalities. Collin was outgo­ing, flamboyant, daring, and enjoyed nothing more than poking fun at his twin brother’s serious, uptight, ultracon­servative ways. Though they were only twenty-three, Collin often complained that his brother behaved like a very old man, while Justin would refer to Collin as “childish.” There had never been any doubt in Justin’s mind that he would one day follow in their father’s footsteps, that he would hold a high rank within the upper echelons of Intercontinental Oil. Collin, on the other hand, had never been so certain about his future. He could not imagine himself an execu­tive, even within his own father’s company. He possessed the heart and the spirit of the true adventurer, and wanted something he had yet to find. Excitement. Challenge. For a while, fencing had been the answer. Nothing else had made him feel so alive, so exhilarated. And while his dreams of capturing the highest award possible in the game had been dashed, he had never been able to turn his back on it com­pletely. He still played, almost every day, whenever he could find someone willing to take him on. Unfortunately, most of the fencing enthusiasts he had met at Harvard were am­ateurs and offered little challenge for a world-class player such as himself.

Crossing the river into Cambridge on the Harvard Bridge, he glanced up at the gray, overcast sky. It looked as if Boston would finally get that snowstorm the forecasters had been predicting for the past three days. He switched on the car radio and fiddled with the dial until he found a station broadcasting the local news. “Damn!” he muttered under his breath as the announcer predicted five to eight inches of snow by morning. A traveler’s advisory had been issued by the National Weather Service, the announcer was saying. And Collin had plans for the weekend. Important plans. A snowstorm would definitely put a damper on them. He promptly switched the radio to an album station and adjusted the volume. Then he reached up and loosened the muffler wound around his neck. It had been a long day, and he was glad it was over, even if the coming storm did manage to ruin his weekend.

He drove into the darkened tunnel leading down into the parking garage under his apartment building and parked the Ferrari in his assigned space. He switched off the radio and the ignition and got out of the car, locking the door before he strode off to the elevators. As he rode up alone in the elevator to his floor, he looked at his watch. He would have to put in a call to his father at the Ritz-Carlton as soon as he got in the door. Quentin Deverell was a man who did not like to be kept waiting, even by his own son. He tugged at the muffler until he pulled it off his neck, then unbuttoned his coat. A small smile played on his lips as he thought about the art history major from Radcliffe who was coming over to cook for him tonight. She was quite a work of art herself, he thought. If she were to spend the night….  Maybe the possibility of a snowstorm wasn’t such a catas­trophe after all.

The elevator doors opened and Collin stepped out of the car, walking briskly down the corridor to his apartment, keys in hand. As he let himself into the apartment, the first thing he noticed was that the light was on in the living room. Concerned at first—he knew he hadn’t left it on him­self—he suddenly remembered: he had given Laura the spare key yesterday so she could let herself in if he were not home when she arrived. Of course—that was it. She’d prob­ably decided to come early and surprise him. Well, he had a few surprises in store for her, too. He turned and opened the closet door, smiling in anticipation of the night ahead.

Tell Me What You Think….

I reluctantly agreed to a change in the cover for Angels at Midnight. I happen to love Collin’s original design, but there were problems with it, so I agreed to allow Creativia to make a change–not a completely new cover, just a change. Which one do you think looks best?

86166-angelsatmidnightCollin’s original design…

Angels at Midnight CompleteCreativia’s upgrade…

William Kendall's review of Angels at Midnightand the 1989 Berkley cover….

To Rewrite or Not to Rewrite…Is That Even a Question?

When we signed with Creativia, I told Collin I was seriously considering complete rewrites for most of my backlist books. They were written and published in the late ’80s and ’90s (1988-1997, to be specific) and were outdated. I even mentioned the possibility to our publisher, Miika Hannila.

Then, I gave the books a good, hard look. Did I really want to invest that kind of time and effort when I could be writing new books? No. I didn’t.

 


I knew I wasn’t going to rewrite The Unicorn’s Daughter. It was my favorite of all of my backlist books. I recalled how much I’d enjoyed writing it, especially those last  few chapters, intertwining Jaime’s search for her father with the US air strike against Libya. It had become relevant again, with all that’s currently happening in the Middle East. It would be the basis for a series, if I could kick my brain into gear and actually write it.

But what about the rest of the books? How could I interest readers in twenty-year-old novels? It took me a while to realize I already had the answer.

I had contemplated a series of “Where Are They Now?” blog posts about each of the main characters, catching up on the events in their lives since their books ended. I already knew what had become of them–why not weave their current stories into my works in progress? It could work….

This is one of the best things about not being under contract to a conventional publisher, specifically a Big Six (or is it Big Five now?) publisher. Nothing is ever chiseled in stone. We as authors are in the driver’s seat. If something’s not working, we can change direction, plot a new course.

These characters’ lives have changed dramatically in the past two decades.  All were affected in one way or another by world events and personal crises. I might still write those intended blog  posts–but now my characters will also live on in new novels. Their author has undergone some major changes…and so have they.

If Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, What Does it Say About the Imitator?

When I sold my first novel, one of the first things I was asked by my editor and Berkley’s editor-in-chief (at that time) was: which authors did I most admire? Which books did I think my book was most like?

DANCE OF THE GODS coverThat was easy. I was a big fan of Sidney Sheldon. I’d learned a great deal from reading his novels and was quick to say so. I didn’t realize I’d opened my own personal Pandora’s Box. The marketing chimps took that and ran with it–to the extreme. I was launched as an author of glitzy romances with knock-off Sheldon titles that made no sense whatsoever, when what I had meant was that I wanted to write fast-paced thrillers with an international backdrop. The glamorous backdrops in my first two novels simply suited the plots–it had never been my intention to always look for glamorous settings. But it seemed I’d painted myself into a corner as far as the marketing department was concerned.

I’m still trying to figure out those nonsensical titles. Sheldon’s came from the epigraphs in his novels, but mine? I have no idea. A Time for Legends? I guess that was taken from The Sands of Time. Angels at Midnight? The Other Side of Midnight and Rage of Angels. Dance of the Gods? Windmills of the Gods, of course!

No author who wants a long-term career wants to be a copycat of someone else. Trying to be the next Stephen King, the next Dan Brown, the next J.K. Rowling, or the next anybody never ends well.

I was thinking of this the other day. Collin and I were watching Iron Man 2. Tony Stark found himself butting heads at a Senate hearing with a longtime rival, dorky Justin Hammer. Hammer is a Stark wannabe, but he never quite makes the grade. Why? Instead of being himself, drawing on his own strengths and abilities, he’s constantly trying to be something he’s not: Tony. He fails because he lacks Tony’s genius, his charm, his wit.

Even when he shows up at the Stark Expo with a whole platoon of battle drones, doing a little dance onstage onstage–again, in an attempt to emulate Tony–Justin Hammer just ends up looking foolish. He’s trying too hard to be something he’s not, and it shows.

It never works….