Shattered Rainbows

Cv-shattered-rainbowsby Mary Jo

The Story:

Shattered Rainbows, book #5 in my Fallen Angels series, is currently free on most ebook platforms and will continue to be free for about another week.  I'm writing this blog partly to talk about the book, but also explain some of the marketing decisions that go into why a book might be free.

Shattered Rainbows is a favorite book of mine. (For the record, Romantic Times gave it a 4 1/2 star GOLD rating and it was a RITA finalist.) I could probably say that  almost anything I've written is a favorites, but that's especially true in this case. Lord Michael Kenyon is one of the most intense and tortured heroes I've ever written, and he has a lot of baggage to work through, complicated by the fact that he's a British Army officer and the battle of Waterloo is a key feature of the story. 

I have no idea why I'm fascinated by British military history in the Napoleonic period, but I keep coming back to it time and time again.  Partly that's because it was a 'good war,' fighting against an authoritarian Continental monster.  Lots of drama for stories!  Characters are tested in the crucible of battle, and in none of my books has that been truer than in Shattered Rainbows

 

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Audiobooks!  Angel Rogue & The Christmas Cuckoo

MaryJoPutney_AngelRogue_Audioby Mary Jo

FINALLY these two audio projects are available after a long time in process. Both are narrated by the most excellent Siobhan Waring, who has narrated four other of my Fallen Angels books. 

One of my goals has been to have all seven books in my Fallen Angels series available in audio, and with Angel Rogue, Fallen Angels #4, that goal has been achieved. 

I've always had a special fondness for Robin and Maxie, the protagonists of Angel Rogue.  Lord Robert Andreville is the black sheep son of an aristocratic family.  He first appeared as an ambiguous secondary character in the previous book in the series, Petals in the Storm.  After years of dangerous spying against Napoleon, he returns to his family home weary to the bone and with a bad case of PTSD before the term existed. 

 

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The Fallen Angels: Together Again at Last

by Mary Jo

Cat 243 DoverYippee!  This week, River of Fire is being released in e-book form, which means that all seven books of the Fallen Angel series are available.  (The seventh book, One Perfect Rose, was reissued by Kensington Books and has been available in an e-edition for the last two years.)

This series is the one that draws the most comments and requests for availability, but like most projects, it began in a rather haphazard fashion.  I’d just finished my Silk Trilogy, and while I loved the stories andOnePerfectRose the characters, the research required for the exotic settings was exhausting. 

Feeling flattened after delivering the third book, Veils of Silk, I decided it was time to return to the familiar fictional terrain of the Regency.  I’d still need to research each specific book, but it would be child’s play compared to digging for information about Central Asia and India in pre-internet days.

I hadn’t actually gotten as far as thinking of what I’d write when my editor called and said that Signet wanted my next book to be the launch lead for the new Topaz imprint, and she needed a basic idea for the story by the next day. SHRIEK! 

ThunderandRosesBut my muse performs best in dire emergencies and overnight she produced the concept for what became Thunder and Roses.  That was also the seed for the Fallen Angels—boys who’d met and bonded at Eton because of their disastrous families, and who had vaguely Biblical names, hence “Fallen Angels,” a charmingly bad boy series title.

Because Signet wanted to build the new imprint, they wanted more books faster than I can really write.  Which led to me revising The Controversial Countess, a long early Signet Regency, into a historical romance titled Petals in the Storm.  It fit into the series structure beautifully, and the trilogy became a quadrology.  <G>

But the Countess had generated a spin-off Regency with one of my favorite heroes, PetalsintheStorm-1so I revised The Rogue and the Runaway into Angel Rogue.  Dancing on the Wind, a new book, was released between Petals and Angel Rogue

Then came Shattered Rainbows, which would have been the last of the original trilogy, but you can guess what happened—the book generated two more spin-offs: River of Fire and One Perfect Rose.  At that point I quit since I felt that 7 books were quite enough for a trilogy. <G>  (You'll have gathered that I get way too attached to my secondary characters.  Especially if they're male and appealing.)

This is probably way too much information, but I do find a certain amazed satisfaction at looking back at how the series evolved.  I also found, over the recent months of proofing and production—that I still like the books just fine.  Though I fixed the typos and a few minor errors of fact (a reader informed me that Persians were not a cat breed in 1815 <g>), the characters and their stories still worked for me.  I hope they continue to work for other readers.

RiverofFire

The series is built around the later Napoleonic wars, with many of the characters involved as soldiers or spies, and then the transition to peacetime.  The first book was set in 1814, the last in 1818. 

Which brings me to River of Fire.  I don’t see the book on many lists of favorites, but I love the story.  The hero, Kenneth Wilding, has the broad shoulders and burly strength of a stevedore–and the soul of an artist.  Though he was heir to a viscount, at eighteen he became estranged from his father because of the wicked manipulations of his young stepmother.  With few choices, Kenneth enlisted as a common soldier.

Because he had education and leadership ability, he eventually received a field AngelRoguecommission and became an exploring officer, risking his life riding alone across Spain so he could draw maps and gather other information.  By the time Waterloo arrived, he was a captain.

With the war over and his father dead, Kenneth returns to an empty title and ravaged estate.  Then a stranger offers a devil’s bargain: financial salvation in return for Kenneth’s special subversive skills.

Reluctantly Kenneth enters the household of the greatest painter in England to unmask a terrible crime. Instead, he discovers something infinitely more dangerous: a tantalizing, creative way of life and an irresistible woman. Everything he has always wanted—and can never have.

Here’s a brief excerpt.  After proving that he knows and understands painting, Kenneth has just been hired as a secretary by Sir Anthony Seaton.   Sir Anthony’s daughter Rebecca does not approve.

    Rebecca thought wistfully of her father's previous secretaries. All had been pleasant young men of good family. Civilized. Easy to have around the house. Not a pirate in the lot.
    The captain said, "While I don't mind acting as a general factotum, I'm curious about why I'm needed for such work when you are so obviously competent."
    "I don't choose to spend my time as a housekeeper," she said in a clipped voice.
    Responding to her tone rather than her words, he remarked, "You don't like me very much, do you, Miss Seaton?"
    Good God, had the man no discretion? Well, if he preferred bluntness, she would oblige. She halted on the landing and turned to face him. He stopped a step below her, putting their eyes almost level. For some reason, that made her even more aware of his physical power. She repressed the urge to back away. "We've only just met, so how can I either like or dislike you?"
    "Since when is it necessary to know someone to dislike him? It's clear that you wish your father hadn't engaged me."
    "You look more like a marauder than a secretary," she said tartly. "And knowing my father, he didn't bother to ask for references. How did you learn about the position?"
    His gaze became opaque. "A friend of your father's told me."
    "Who?"
    "The gentleman preferred to remain anonymous."
    It was undeniably the sort of thing one of Sir Anthony's eccentric friends might do. "Do you have any letters of reference?" she asked. "Anything to suggest that you're not a fraud or a thief?"
    There was a faint tightening at the corners of his eyes. After a moment, he said, "No, though if you don't mind waiting, I suppose I could get one from the Duke of Wellington. He's known me for years, and I think he considers me respectable."

ShatteredRainbowsConventional wisdom says that books about artists and musicians don’t sell well.  Perhaps not, but I loved writing a book where none of the three major characters know how they feel unless they have a brush or a piece of charcoal in their hands.  <G> 

I’m an art school graduate, and while my major was industrial design and I was always a designer more than an artist, I love writing about creativity. 

I think of River of Fire as my "Creative Process book, historical division."  (The Spiral Path is my "Creative Process book, contemporary division."  It’s about moviemaking, not painting.)  Both books are not unrelated to what I feel about my writing. 

So for all of those readers who’ve asked about the Fallen Angels series over the years, the whole series is now available in e-book mode on numerous platforms.  Enjoy!

Now for a question.  It’s possible to do POD (print on demand) copies of e-books.  It costs money to set up, the prices are higher than mass market (perhaps $12-14), and the authors generally make less money.

Nonetheless, plenty of people don’t have e-readers, so a POD book would make print available.  I have an e-reader, but I prefer print myself.  So how do you feel about POD?  Would you be willing to pay more for a good quality print book that is otherwise available only as an e-file?  When I have the time, should I put the first few Fallen Angels books out in POD form?  I’d really like to know what serious readers think.

To commemorate the end of the long road to Fallen Angel e-books, I’m going to give away—a PRINT copy of River of Fire. <g> It will go to someone who leaves a comment between now and Thursday midnight.

RiverofFireMary Jo, adding that credit for the great covers goes to Kim Killon of www.hotdamndesigns.com 

Twins & Hellion: Dancing on the Wind

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

As I warned when I blogged about proofing two earlier books for e-editions, I find the process of rereading and returning to an earlier story makes me want to reminisce about research and how the story came about.

Dancing on the Wind was published third in my Fallen Angels series, but chronologically, it takes place second.  The book originally published second, Petals in the Storm, was a former Signet Regency that I was able to revise quickly and fit into the series, and the publisher wanted that.  Now that I'm e-pubbing the series, Petals is officially Fallen Angels #3 and DOTW is #2.  So no, I’m not e-publishing the series out of order. <G>

MaryJoPutney_DancingontheWind_200pxVery seldom is there one specific incident I can point to and say, “That’s the plot trigger!” but I can with Dancing on the Wind.  The hero, Lucien Fairchild, Earl of Strathmore, is a Regency spymaster who would now be considered an expert in counter-espionage—that is, catching the bad guys in Britain so they won’t pass information to the French.

Yes, spies in Regencies are a cliché (though rather less so when I wrote DTOW) but they’re such useful plot devices!  I loved Lucien, who is gorgeously blond, dangerous, and mysterious, but what was his story?  And who was his mate???

Inspiration:

I found out when I was watching a rerun of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Captain’s Holiday”episode, in which Captain Picard meets a charming and unreliable (but hot) archeological thief named Vash. 

Captain's Holiday--Vash and Picard

Eureka!  Lucien’s story is about a sneaky man who meets a sneakier woman!  I love when a story manifests complete with a punchy tagline. <G>

Of course the core idea is just the spark.  An awful lot of scaffolding needs to be built around it to create a story.  Luckily, I had a thin and incredibly worn used book about the Hellfire Club.  Since DOTW was written pre-internet, I couldn’t do an easy search on line, but the book was full of glorious details that I used for my fictional Hellions Club, which is set several decades later than the original.

Boys will be boys:

Robes! Silly ceremony!  Orgies!  Obscene statues!  Ruined abbeys with underground Ruined abbeychambers!  It was a veritable feast of material to build a story around. 

Lucien, who is the tight, controlled sort, has to investigate the Hellions because he believes that some of the aristocratic members are passing information to the French. But as he investigates the Hellions, he keeps meeting, and sometimes rescuing, a mysterious young woman of many names and disguises.  Who is she, and what the devil is she up to? 

Stepback--DOTWShe won’t tell him and she’s driving him crazy, but Lucien is very aware, in his controlled Regency way, that she is seriously hot.  (The image to the left of him wearing her was the original stepback.)

Twins:

The heroine, Kit Travers, is on a desperate mission to save the life of the person she loves most in the world: her twin sister. This gave me a wonderful change to research and write about a subject that has always fascinated me.  Among my cousins was a pair of identical twins, so I’d always wanted to write about two people who look so much alike, but are individuals with different souls and different goals despite their similarities. 

I’d always taken mental notes of interesting twin data, but for DOTW, I had the opportunity to interview at length the identical twin sisters of a bookseller friend of mine.  They were not only bright and articulate and very aware of the aspects of twindom, but they were also rather psychic, and some of the remarkable connections between my fictional twins were taken right from the real ones. 

British Edition DOTWFor example, one of the real twins could walk into a store and know her sister had been in earlier that day.  They could lend energy to each other.  Sometimea Twin A would have to call Twin B and say, “I need more energy today so don’t try drawing on mine.” 

The more extroverted twin was a better transmitter between them, the more introverted one was a better receiver.  Amazing stuff—so if you read it in the book, no, I didn’t make it up. <G>

Here’s a Dancing on the Wind excerpt of one of the first times Lucien meets his woman of mystery.  He’s been at a tavern during a Hellion meeting, trying to ingratiate himself with the leader so he’ll be invited to join.  And there’s this barmaid he’d been noticing…

    By one in the morning, most of the Hellions had left and Lucien was thinking that it was time to go home himself. Then he saw the most vocal of Sally'syouthful admirers, Lord Ives, lurch to his feet and purposefully follow the barmaid out of the room. Though she seemed quite capable of taking care of herself, Lucien was unable to suppress his protective instincts. After saying good night to those of his companions who were still awake, he rose and quietly followed Sally and Ives.
    The old tavern was a maze of flagstoned passages. Briskly the barmaid went down one, heels tapping, and turned left, then left again, ending in a storeroom half filled with kegs. Apparently unaware that Ives was close behind her, she set her candle on a keg, then stooped to draw off a pitcher of ale.
    Lucien paused in the shadowed passage. If his assistance wasn't needed, he would fade away. It would be bad for his pose as a rake if he kept defending beleaguered damsels, and where the Hellions went, damsels were beleaguered regularly.
    As the barmaid straightened, Ives asked in a slurred voice, "If you won't run off DOTW reissuewith me, pretty Sally, will you at least give me a quick tumble before I go home?"
    She started, the ale sloshing from her pitcher, then said good-naturedly, "Even if I was willing, which I'm not, I doubt you'd be much use to me, lad. Alcohol may increase the desire, but it takes away the ability."
    Lucien was startled to hear a Shakespearean quote from a barmaid. Still, there was no reason why Sally shouldn't enjoy the Bard as much as an aristocrat.
    Less literary, Ives said, "If you doubt my ability, try me and I'll prove otherwise."
    Her carroty curls bobbed as she shook her head. "My man is called Killer Caine, and he wouldn't like it one bit if I spread myself around." She gave Ives a playful push. "You go home to your bed, lad, and sleep off the punch alone."
    "Give me a kiss, then. Just a kiss."  Before she could reply, he pulled her into an embrace, his mouth crushing hers and one hand squeezing her bounteous breast. Lucien guessed that Ives meant no real harm, but in his drunkenness he didn't realize his own strength, or notice that the woman was struggling to escape. Unpleasantly reminded of the chambermaid at Bourne Castle, Lucien decided to intervene.
    He started forward, but before he could enter the storeroom, Sally stamped hard on her admirer's foot.
    "Ouch!" Ives yelped and raised his head. Keeping his hand on her breast, he asked reproachfully, "Why did you do that?"
    "To get rid of you, lad," Sally said breathlessly.
    "Don't go," he pleaded, his hand kneading the ripe globe that filled his palm.
    She shoved against his chest and managed to break his hold. Before he could embrace her again, she snapped, "'Tisn't me you want, it's these."
    Reaching into her bodice, she wrenched out an enormous bust improver and threw it into her assailant's face. "Have a good time, lad."
    Ives released Sally and rocked back on his heels as the soft, pillow-like object bounced off his nose and fell to the floor. After staring in befuddlement at the undulating cotton curves, he raised his gaze to the barmaid. The folds of her bodice now fell loosely over a chest of modest dimensions.
    To his credit, the young man began laughing. "You're a false-hearted woman, Sally."
     "It's not me heart that's false," she said pertly. "Now get along with you so I can do my work."
    "I'm sorry—I behaved badly," he said. "Will you be here next time the Hellions meet?"
    She shrugged. "Maybe yes, and maybe no."
    Blowing her a kiss, Ives left the storeroom by the other door, which led toward the front of the tavern. Sally was watching him go when she heard Lucien's chuckle. She jumped, then spun and spotted him in the shadows. "If it isn't old Lucifer himself," she said waspishly. "Did you enjoy the show?"
    "Immensely." He moved forward into the storeroom. "I had thought you might need help, but obviously I was mistaken."
    "Lucifer to the rescue?" she said with heavy sarcasm. "And 'ere I thought you wanted a piece of my padded arse."

Bits and Pieces:

**The title, Dancing on the Wind, is a period euphemism for being hanged and is a good description of the peril both characters are in.

**I chose Lucien’s title, Lord Strathmore, because back in my designer days, I’d sometimes ordered Strathmore paper for different design projects and I liked the name.  It wasn’t until much later that I realized that there is a real earldom of Strathmore in Scotland, and that the Queen Mother was a daughter of an Earl of Strathmore.  Oh, well.

**If you're wondering why most of Lucien's head is cut off in the gorgeous new e-book cover by Kim Killion, it's because blond male cover models are really hard to find, so off with his hair!

**Mechanical toysThe mechanical toys that are a plot thread were inspired by reading the title of a book on mechanical toys that was listed in the Hamilton remaindered book catalog.

**To my great delight, Dancing on the Wind won the RWA Rita for best long historical the year it came out.  Alas, the conference was in Hawaii so I wasn’t there.  But the golden girl herself is sitting on a bookcase watching me. <G>

MaryJoPutney_DancingontheWind_200pxI’ll give away a print copy of DOTW to someone who leaves a comment between now and midnight Saturday.  Do you have any more questions about the makings of the story?  I’ll be happy to answer them!

Mary Jo