I met a LOT of people when I attended the RWA National conference in Washington, DC in July, and of all those hundreds of people, Monica Burns was one of the most memorable. We’d been friends on Facebook, but we’d never met in real life. I think we met up first at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Bella breakfast. When Michelle asked everyone to tell a little about themselves, Monica’s story brought me to tears. We spoke afterwards, and then we kept running into each other in elevators.
You’ve heard of the elevator pitch? Well, I never did run into an editor or agent in or near an elevator, but it was as if Monica and I had radar that let us to those elevator banks at the exact same time. I introduced my critique partner, Gabriella Edwards, to Monica, and I’m pretty sure the earth shifted a little when that happened. By the time the conference wound up, I considered Monica Burns a friend.
Monica is a fascinating person to talk to, and she never fails to bring an interesting viewpoint to a conversation. She also has a talent for spicing things up, and that goes for her books, too! I’ve had KISMET on preorder for awhile, and now it’s just a matter of days until its release. Remember the name: Monica Burns. I’m sure you’ll be seeing it on a lot of book covers in the future.
PLEASE WELCOME THE AMAZING MONICA BURNS!
First, thanks for inviting me to blog, Anya. It was gracious of you to ask me, given I’m lousy at blogging and far too long-winded. LOL
Over the past few days, my friend Rosie and I have been having this debate via email about a writer’s old works. Rosie and I met at RWA’s National conference in Washington this past July at the same time I met Anya. I gave Rosie a copy of either my book Mirage, I can’t remember, which and after reading it, she immediately proceeded to acquire my small backlist.
Now my backlist isn’t that big at this point in my career, and what backlist there is, I’m not all that crazy about anymore. By this statement, I’m talking about the craft and skill that went into making the story, not the story line itself. I love each of the story lines I’ve had published, but with each book I’ve written I’ve grown in my ability to craft a story so there’s better character development, better dialogue, better everything so that a reader becomes immersed in the story.
And when I compare my initial work, Rogue in Disguise, to my upcoming release of Kismet, I am horrified that at one time I actually thought Rogue in Disguise was a well-written novella. I mean really, tell me what immediately comes to mind when you look at the acronym for my first published novella. RID? Yep, get rid of that novella. LOL Now that the novella is off the market, I’m not even inclined to put it up as a free read unless I get a chance to rework it and add some true character development.
Rosie OTOH has a different take, based on what she’s shared with me, she looks at my backlist as something she can glom. While she agrees with me that my earlier works aren’t as skillfully crafted, she says she loves the stories and the emotions in my earlier works.
I’ve heard some readers call authors hypocrites for wanting to keep their backlist off the market. I don’t think it’s being a hypocrite at all. I call it wanting to please readers. At least that’s why I want to do it. I don’t want my readers to feel cheated when they pick up an early work that was unedited (except by me) and read a great story told in a poor manner.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’m posting the first few pages of Rogue in Disguise and the first few pages from Kismet. While it’s difficult to point out the real flaws in RID compared to Kismet, I think you’ll agree that the Kismet excerpt is better crafted and a stronger piece.
From RID (Rogue in Disguise) © 2005
Ophelia’s heart sank as she stared at the handsome man across the room. Her gaze skimmed over him seeking evidence of the monster within. She snapped open her peach-colored fan and fluttered it in front of her as she studied him with care. Although she was too far away to determine the color of his eyes, she could easily make out the sensual curve of his firm mouth.
With a cynical tilt of her lips, she shook her head slightly. How on earth could this man be the heartless libertine her father had described? The man’s golden locks glinted in the candlelight as he nodded his head at something the man next to him said. There was almost an angelic look to him. Without shifting her gaze, she leaned to one side.
“Patience, are you certain this is the man father lost to? He doesn’t look anything like the rake and scoundrel Father described.” The dubious note in her voice prompted Ophelia’s sister to bristle just as crisply as the bustle beneath her skirt.
“Of course, I’m certain. Everyone knows who the Earl of Rotherham is.”
Ophelia arched an eyebrow at her younger sister.
“And when were you introduced to the earl?”
“Well … I’ve not been.” Patience tilted her head haughtily at the affront. “But it’s him, I tell you. He stole Sheffield Park from Papa, and if we don’t do something we’ll have nowhere to go.”
“Naturally, Father is completely blameless in this entire debacle,” Ophelia bit out as she sent her sister a scathing look. “After all, he was in his cups when he wagered our home and proceeded to lose everything at a game of cards.”
“Ophelia Sheffield! The man took advantage of Papa. You know he’s far too polite to refuse a drink, and the man kept plying him with wine.”
“Oh, of course. Father would never turn down a drink.”
Ophelia returned her attention to the earl as he sipped champagne from the flute he held. Firm lips pressed against the crystal as he drank. His long fingers encircled the fragile neck of the glass, evoking the sensual image of a strong hand trailing down the side of her throat. Excitement swirled in her stomach at the sight of his tongue flicking out to erase a droplet of wine from his mouth.
The man’s reputation with the fairer sex was legendary, and his prowess as a lover equally touted. A dangerous quality resounded in his sleek, muscular movements. She was entranced and alarmed all in the same instant. Although there was a reckless air in his mannerisms, she still found it difficult to believe this was the same man who’d callously ordered her father to vacate Sheffield Park in five days.
How could such a gorgeous specimen of man be such a heartless rake? Surely, the earl would let them stay on as tenants. Her father had to be wrong. Perhaps he’d misunderstood the earl’s instructions. It would not be the first time her wayward father had been mistaken. A grimace of irritation tugged at her mouth. Although for him to make a mistake in their favor would be a rare thing indeed.
In fact, in the two years since the quiet debut of his two daughters, Sir Thomas Sheffield had never erred in a positive way. He had merely reinforced Ophelia’s jaded view of noblemen. They saw fit only to indulge in reckless games of chance and debauched pleasures. With an imperceptible shake of her head, she watched the golden-haired man across the room. What a pity the man looked the part of Lancelot, but did not play the role.
“So are you going to approach him or shall I?”
Patience’s name had never been a reflection of her temperament. Ophelia frowned. They rarely moved in the same exalted circles as Rotherham, but tonight was an exception. Patience had been convinced they would be able to appeal to the earl’s benevolent side if they could just capture his ear. Now, watching the earl from a distance, Ophelia knew how fruitless it was to think they would have a moment alone with the earl. No. The only thing she could hope for was the ultimate act of desperation.
Fanning herself, she shifted her gaze from the earl to the dance floor. Vibrantly colored dresses sparkled under the chandeliers as dancers swirled around the dance floor.
“We shall do neither. I have a plan, but it will require your cooperation.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“I shall visit the earl tonight, and plead our case with him. I need you to make sure I have a way back into the house.”
“Ophelia Sheffield! You’ll be ruined.”
Marrakech, Morocco, 1893
Organized chaos. Allegra could think of no other way to describe the train station. The rhythmic sound of the Berber dialect mixing with the French language created a colorful cacophony of sound that engulfed her the moment she stepped onto the crowded platform. A whoosh of steam from the engine blasted its way out into the air, adding to the din.
It wasn’t any louder than London’s Paddington Station, but it was much more colorful and interesting. Spices and exotic fruits scented the air in a tantalizing fashion, while people pushed their way in and out of the one- story station house. A man, dressed in the flowing white robes of the Bedouins she’d read so much about, made his way along the platform followed by a woman dressed in a bright blue garment with a veil across her face. A porter dodged the couple and headed straight for Allegra. The small, wiry man came to a halt in front of her and bowed deeply.
“Mademoiselle Synnford, I am Ali. I come from Major Hastings and his bien- aimé.”
“Wonderful,” she said as she turned to see her maid directing the removal of their luggage from the railroad car. “Millie?”
“Yes, Miss Allegra.” The older woman turned her head toward her.
“This is Ali. He’s here to take our luggage to the carriage Isabelle’s fiancé arranged for us.”
Millie nodded before she gestured for the porter to see to one of the trunks sitting on the platform.
Allegra bit back a smile as her maid started to bark orders like a general commanding a strategic assault. Efficient and thorough, Millie managed everything in a way that always ensured a positive outcome. Over the years, numerous attempts had been made to lure Millie away from her and into the employ of others. Her friend would have none of it.
The shrill, high- pitched scream of a horse broke through her thoughts and she turned toward the sound. Hooves crashing against wood followed the animal’s loud shrieks. Over the past fifteen years, she’d learned a great deal about horses. She’d even acquired a sizable stable of thoroughbreds, which she ran at Newmarket in all the major events. Since her first riding lesson at the age of seventeen, she’d learned to recognize the difference between animals in distress and those that were merely high- strung. This particular horse wasn’t suffering, although it was clearly agitated. Curiosity got the better of her and she carefully made her way along the crowded platform toward the disruption.
She’d passed almost five coaches when she saw a railcar designed to transport cattle and other animals. A wide plank ran from the straw- strewn floor of the car down to the platform so animals could be led off the train. Another shrill whinny erupted, followed by a violent thrashing of hooves on the sides of the car. Excited shouts filled the air, and in the next instant, a white Arabian stallion bolted down the wooden ramp and onto the platform with a young boy valiantly clinging to its halter rope. The already crowded platform exploded with panicked shouts as the horse released a shrill cry and reared up on its haunches before falling back onto all four legs.
Despite the panic around her, Allegra could only stare at the magnificent animal. It was the most beautiful horse she’d ever seen. Not even her champion thoroughbred, Seabreeze, could compare to this stallion. She was still caught up in the beauty of the horse when someone charged past her, knocking her off balance. Several more people rushed by, bumping her aside as they raced toward safety. Her balance precarious, she had almost righted herself when a man shoved her out of his path— she staggered to one side then tumbled to the ground.
Eyes rolling wildly in its head, the stallion reared up and brought its front hooves crashing back down in a vicious blow near where she lay. The boy still struggled with the animal, but he was no match for the stallion’s strength. The realization sent fear streaking through her as a pair of hooves pounded the wood floor of the platform, which reverberated beneath her with the force of the blow. The horse seemed close to gaining its freedom, and she froze as the animal reared up over her head. In that breathless instant of terror, a dark shadow abruptly blotted out the image of the uncontrollable horse. The man took charge of the animal and brought it under control. His voice low and hypnotic, he soothed the animal in the language of the Bedouins.
As the horse slowly grew quiet, she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Dazed, she pushed a loose strand of hair away from her face with a trembling hand. The strand of lace that had ripped away from the cuff of her sleeve brushed across her cheek causing her to study it ruefully. She was extremely fortunate it was the only damage to her person. Gratitude swelled in her for the man who’d come to her rescue.
She was just about to stand up when strong hands gripped her waist and lifted her to her feet. The light scent of bergamot tinged with an exotic spice teased her nose as she stared up at the man towering over her. It was impossible to stifle her gasp as the rest of her senses absorbed the full impact of his close proximity. When she’d arrived in Morocco yesterday, she’d seen men who epitomized the romantic image her travel guide had painted of a Bedouin sheikh. But this man defied all those impressions. Dressed entirely in black, his kaffia was draped across his face so all she could see were his dark brown eyes.
A rush of heat warmed her skin at the intensity of the look in his hooded gaze. She was accustomed to being in the presence of powerful men, but never one such as this. This man possessed a raw, savage mystique about him that sent her heart skidding along at breakneck speed. He was at least six feet tall, with wide shoulders and equally strong hands. Hands that only just now were releasing her. Even with her limited knowledge of the nomadic tribes of the Sahara and surrounding regions, she knew his height was unusual for a Bedouin. Instinct told her it was an advantage he used on a regular basis, just as he was doing now.
Transfixed, she couldn’t remember the last time a man had intimidated her. But this one did. The invisible, unrestrained aura of his maleness enveloped her. Here was a man of power. A man who bowed to no one. A man who conquered everything in his path. Including her. A shiver raced down her spine as she took a quick step back from him. His gaze narrowed and she realized her trepidation showed. With one hand pressed to the base of her throat, she swallowed hard.
Okay, that excerpt from Kismet gets straight to the point, yet pulls you in descriptive wise. Rogue in Disguise meanders its way around to a point somewhere near the end of the chapter. So you be the judge. Feel free to dissect, praise, choke or chew whatever you like when reading these two excerpts. I am you’re willing submissive when it comes to a critique of these two excerpts. *grin* Oh, and if you liked either one of these excerpts, stick with me until this coming June when I rawk your socks with my first paranormal. I think readers will fall in love with the book and my Sicari men, and you can actually get a sneak peek here.
Here is a link to Kismet and the excerpt to Assassin’s Honor; I think readers will fall in love with the book and my Sicari men, and you can actually get a sneak peek:
Meet Monica! – Book Signings
January 7, 2010
Borders – Richmond, VA
9750 W. Broad St
Glen Allen, VA 23060
January 16, 2010
Barnes & Noble
Valley View Mall
4802 Valley View Blvd NW Roanoke, VA 24012
2009 EPPIE Best Historical Erotic Romance
|Dangerous 2009 EPPIE Finalist||978-1-60504-121-6||01/09||Samhain Publishing||$16.00|
|Forbidden Pleasures (in print only)
2006 EPPIE Finalist – Love’s Revenge
2005 Reviewer’s Choice Award – eCataRomance – Love’s Portrait
The brilliant Christina Wolfer has put together a video of some highlights of the famous (notorious?!) Chest Collection and set it to music.
Be sure to check out her beautiful website, too: http://www.christinawolfer.com/