#GuestPost: Stumbling blocks to writing a long series by Sherryl D. Hancock, author of #WeHo Series @vulpine_press

Hello Readers! Today I’m excited to welcome Sherryl D. Hancock, author of WeHo Series to celebrate release of 16th book in series, Darkness Past, on Books Teacup and Reviews to talk about Stumbling blocks to writing a long series. The series is packed with strong, kick-ass women who deal with real issues and overcome a lot of adversity. Check out this interesting guest post and more about book in this post.

Stumbling blocks to writing a long series:

Writing a long series means never having to say goodbye!

As a writer you fall in love with the characters in your books, and writing interconnected series means you don’t have to stop seeing your characters. When I wrote my first book in what was to become the WeHo series, When Love Wins, I had no intention of writing a series. My character Tyler Hancock was inspired by my wife and her time spent in the United States Air Force. She was negatively affected by the military’s stance on gays in the military (they weren’t allowed!). At that point I just wanted to get that story out there. My second book, When Angels Fall, didn’t have the same characters. It was only when I began visualizing my third, Break in the Storm, that I saw a way to bring back Devin and Skyler from When Angels Fall. Even then, I didn’t really plan a “series.”

One year out of high school, before WeHo ever came about, I accidentally began writing my first series of books. The very first book I wrote from beginning to end was called Building Empires, which turned out to be the first and second book of my MidKnight Blue series. Building Empires was so long I had to split it into two books, when I finally got published many years later! That’s when I fell in love with the main character Midnight Chevalier; I didn’t even know I liked women then! In Midnight I had a strong female character, a woman who took no crap from anyone, and who was tough enough to hold her own against anyone! I found that after writing about her exploits, I didn’t want her story to end! I wanted her to grow, change, live and love! I wanted other characters in the book to grow up, and become their own people.

When I began writing WeHo number four, Turning Tables, I saw how I could bring characters from my other series, MidKnight Blue, into my WeHo universe. Even bringing a supernatural element to the books, using a character I’d previously developed who has the gift of premonitions. I think that’s when the idea of writing a series starring recurring characters and centering them all in West Hollywood (WeHo), California really took hold. Thus, the WeHo series was born!

By the time I started the third Midnight Chevalier story, I realized that I needed to add characters who’d grown up in the previous two books. So I started adding new characters, while developing the ones I already had. Giving them love lives, letting them change and grow as people. As it turned out, the characters changed me too. As I explored the options for their lives, what they could do, how they could find love, I realized what was truly missing in my life: REAL LOVE! Right around the time I started to write the story about Kana Sorbinno meeting the love of her life, a woman, was about the same time I discovered my preference for women. As I explored the gay lifestyle for my characters, I learned more about myself.

It took me another ten years to finally end my marriage to a man, and live the life I’d wanted for so long. That’s when I met my soul mate, and a few years later, finally decided to write a lesbian romance! And we all know what that led to!

Now, you’re probably wondering… I thought she said this was about the stumbling blocks to writing a long series… Well, yes, there are stumbling blocks and that is MANAGING so many characters and trying to keep track of their stories. There are over forty women in the series! With more to come! It’s not always easy to wrangle so many personalities, habits, backgrounds, jobs, cars, and music preferences (if you read the WeHo series you’ll see I’m all about the music and the cars!). It only becomes worse when your publisher moves to audio books! Then the poor narrator has to come up with different intonations for each character.

How do I keep track of all of them? Well, I have a book, and that book has notes from the books, from research on the books. The book also has a list of characters by name, age, the vehicles they drive. I know that probably seems silly if you haven’t read the series, but the cars are featured heavily in many of the “group” scenes! I even have pictures in this book. The pictures are of women that inspire the characters, shots of the cars they drive, random things like an article for an apartment rental in New York, or a picture of the Colonel’s Insignia for Kai Temple in Quid Pro Quo, or a picture of a tattoo one of the characters has. The pictures can be anything I need or want to remember about the character.

The music is a whole other arena! I have so much music downloaded from what the various characters listen to. I have playlists for certain characters, or at the very least a playlist of a type of music. I have a classic rock playlist for when I need to get into the head of Jericho Tehrani (from Turning Tables) when she’s driving her Dodge Challenger Hellcat down the road. I also have a house music playlist for getting into the mind of Memphis McQueen (In Plain Sight)! Music is very important to me and can stir up so many emotions and memories. Many people who have read my series have told me how they discovered Breaking Benjamin, or Linkin Park because they read the names of the songs in the book and downloaded it. I love sharing my passion for music with my readers!

The most important thing about writing a long series, is enjoying the feeling when another book is ready to come out and people are anticipating it! I love seeing the excitement of my readers when I post that a new book in the WeHo series is coming out! It fuels my need to write, even if it means adding another name to the growing list in my book! I am starting a new series, about fire fighters working for Cal Fire here in California…maybe I won’t use the same characters over and over again, but maybe you’ll see characters you know too!

Book Detail:

Darkness Past (WeHo series #16) by Sherryl D. Hancock
Publication Date: June 22, 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: LGBT romance

Sierra Youngblood’s life is in danger. After being threatened and stalked by an old client, Kashena Marshal is assigned as her protection. But Kashena isn’t just any security officer, she’s an old flame that Sierra could never forget.

After years apart they soon discover they still share a spark, despite Sierra now being married to a man with a son. Eventually, she realizes she can’t live without Kashena and chooses to leave her husband. But when Jason turns violent, Kashena is forced to protect Sierra once more.

As the dust starts to settle, could there be yet more Darkness in the Past?

Series detail – https://www.vulpine-press.com/we-ho

About the Author:

Sherryl D. Hancock lives in Sacramento, California, and has been writing since she was a teenager. Sherryl’s bestselling WeHo series deals with a number of important topics, such as abuse and problems with mental health. Sherryl’s books are filled with strong, inspiring women in the hope of helping and inspiring others.

You can find her latest book, Darkness Past, here.


I hope you enjoyed reading this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about this guest post and if you have read any book in this series or are you going to add it to TBR.

Happy Reading!

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#BookReview : Breaking Storm (White Wattle Creek #1) by Vikki Holstein #BreakingStorm @VikkiHolstein @vulpine_press #RomanticSuspense #Publicationday #BooksTeacupnReviews

Breaking Storm (White Wattle Creek #1) by Vikki Holstein
Publications Date : May 8th 2020
Publisher : Vulpine Press
Genre : Romantic Suspense
Pages : 320
Stars : ★★★★★

When innocence is threatened, who will stand up?

Kelsey’s sole purpose in life is to keep four-year-old Pipa safe. Conceived in a violent, drug-induced rampage, Pipa is being hunted by the man responsible. He wants her dead, and no matter how far Kelsey and Pipa run, the brewing storm is never far behind.

Protection lies in Kelsey’s hometown of White Wattle Creek in the form of Ethan, the man who’d always been her safe place. The one she loved. And the one who broke her heart. But she not only has Ethan to face when she returns. The emotional abuse of her past and the truth surrounding Pipa’s existence both rain down on her from the clouds gathering overhead.

When Kelsey finally opens her heart to Ethan, her nightmares tip over into reality, and with Pipa’s future hanging in the balance, Kelsey must find the strength within to fight for their right to happiness … before the storm breaks. 

*** Note: I received e-ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Vulpine Press. ***

Breaking Storm was romantic suspense that revolved around Kelsey- who was trying to save her daughter Pipa and Brian- who was trying to mend relationship with his sister and seek justice against a drug dealer who had ruined many lives. It was about finding hope, happiness and home, having faith, believing in yourself once again, and getting back the control and confidence in life.

Writing was gripping, easy to follow, and emotive. I liked the fictional town White Wattle Creek. Its stories, people and close knit community was interesting to read.  Story was written in third person narrative from Kelsey, Ethan and Brian’s perspective.

Synopsis said Kelsey’s part of story really well. I was curious to find out what happened to Kelsey, how could Spencer-dangerous drug dealer- find her when she was so careful and didn’t leave any trails behind, what happened between Kelsey and Ethan that caused her heartbreak and made her run away from the town where she spent her whole life, and what secret she was keeping about Pipa and what happened to her in that five years.

What synopsis didn’t mention was there is another parallel story that merged just before climax. Story of Brian who was homicide detective and was trying to save his sister, Haylee, from her drug addict partner from the very beginning. Five years later Haylee was living with Brian with her three sons, still keeping the pain and abuse hidden behind tough, angry demeanor. Something went wrong between them when their parents died in car accident, Haylee wouldn’t let Brian in her life, share her emotions and pain, and wouldn’t tell him what happened with her. I was curious to find out what went wrong between them and what horrors Haylee might have faced, how Brian would make her believe in him and show how much he loved and cared for her, and what he would do to put Spence behind bars.

All characters were great. They had their flaws, pain and heartbreak, made mistakes but at the end they all developed to amazing person, found happiness and peace.

Kelsey was most favorite character. She faced a lot after leaving the town and even before she left the town. Her mother was abusive, hated her and said and did nasty things. But still she found her own family in Ethan and her friends. It wasn’t easy for her to leave the town. When the reason behind it was revealed I felt disappointed both in Kelsey and Ethan. What she felt was right and genuine as she was fragile at that time but it was no reason to leave. That was utterly naïve. But I like the way she found her independence, what she did for Jaiyden and Pipa. She was most courageous person in the book.

I loved her bond with Pipa. She was fiercely protective for her. She made Pipa feel loved and safe, made her clever, courageous and confident little sweetheart. Most of all I admired Kelsey for never hiding anything from Pipa, gone through hell to keep Pipa safe, and how she fought her demons in the end.

Ethan– I had mixed feeling for him. First, I didn’t like the way he handled situation five years ago and because of that Kelsey left and above all he couldn’t understand why she left. Second when she came back in town to him, to find a place to keep Pipa safe, he jumped to assumptions and didn’t believe what she said and then kept wondering why she wouldn’t confide in him. Third he kept pushing Kelsey so she would stay this time and reveal secrets. Fourth he didn’t understand she might need a space and independence. Okay in this part, I’m glad he stayed with her and didn’t let her bear the pain of loss alone but what Kelsey asked and said wasn’t wrong. All in all, he was bit stupid but I liked the way he cared and loved both Pipa and Kelsey, even after knowing secret related to Pipa and what happened to Kelsey.

Brian was another favorite character. I loved him for letting his sister and her sons in his house even though she rejected him before and after coming back to him. He was amazing with kids. His bond with his nephews was lovely and it melt my heart seeing them together as family. He was so patient and good. Poor guy kept feeling guilty for something he had no control over. I admired his dedication to make things right, get justice for Jaiyden and his sister, and help his sister in getting over pain and find happiness.

All secondary characters were great. I loved them for helping Kelsey and Brian, Haylee for telling her part and letting Brian in her life, Mark and Carol for support and little ones in the book. I hated Kelsey’s mother and Spencer, they didn’t even deserve hell.

The secrets and suspense were good. It kept me curious till the end. Best part was, the way author represented emotions, fear, and feeling of characters, how they were affected by abuse, and how they found their life back. Author handled heavy subjects like rape, abuse and domestic violence very sensitively without graphical description. All characters were realistic and relatable.

Climax was tense. I was waiting to see when and how Spencer will show himself and strike again and what will happen. The way he appeared was both expected and surprising at the same time. Expected because I saw it coming as soon as Kelsey made decision, surprised because I still couldn’t believe a person can hate someone to this level. I almost feared for Kelsey but she surprised me by fighting the storm, breaking it and made sure it never returns. End was great. I loved happy ending, a light after darkness belief, and what characters learned at the end.

Overall, Breaking Storm was intriguing, suspenseful, and emotive romantic suspense with amazing characters and family dynamic. I recommend this to fans of this genre.

Book Links:

Goodreads

Affiliate Link : Amazon.in | Amazon.com | Amaozn.UK | Book Depository

What do you think about the book and my review? Have you read this book already? Are you going to add it to TBR? Which is your favorite romantic suspense?

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#GuestPost : Home (After it Happened Book 9) by Devon C. Ford #Home #AfteritHappened @vulpine_press @DevonFordAuthor

Hello Readers! Today I’m pleased to welcome Devon C Ford on Books Teacup and Reviews to talk about the location inspiration for his new post-apocalyptic/sci-fi book, Home in After it Happened series. Check out the book details and interesting guest post below.

Home (After it Happened Book 9) by Devon C. Ford


Publication Date: March 27th 2020


Publisher: Vulpine Press


Genre: post-apocalyptic / sci-fi

Synopsis:

Safety is an illusion. Security is only a fleeting sense. Peace is a myth. 

Steve and the other survivors in the UK have rebuilt and healed after the brutal end to the reign of Richards. But removing a dictator was only the beginning… 

Years after a mistake of compassion and humanity, an enemy thought long gone returns to bring down a rain of violence and terror the likes of which they have never seen before. 

Their society, a peaceful one of trade and co- operation, has moved on from the bloody aftermath of the collapse, but that evolution blunts their teeth to be able to combat the new threat. 

The call to return to the rainy shores of England is strong for Dan and his fearless accomplices, so they return home to do what they do best: bring justice to a lawless world. 

About Series:

Set in the UK in the immediate aftermath of a mysterious illness which swept the country and left millions dead, After it Happened follows the trials of a reluctant hero, Dan, and the group he forms around him. They must battle the elements, find sufficient supplies and equipment to survive, and protect themselves against the most destructive force on the planet: other people.

Guest Post: Location Inspiration

A lot of fans ask me about the places in my books. Some of them are real, but most of them are figments of my imagination inspired by real places and changed to fit what I need for the story.

Following the mantra of writing what you know makes it easy to describe real places, but what to do when those real places limit your storytelling ability? How do you overcome that limitation to where your imagination wants to go?

In After It Happened, I did just that and based the early stories on places I knew well which allowed me to give that element of realism it so deserved. When the story evolved and moved on I found myself increasingly reliant on the internet to give me the visual backdrop of a canvas where I could paint my brushstrokes for the readers.

What to do when you’ve painted yourself into a corner? Two words.

Road.

Trip.

Minor spoiler alert, the story that starts in the rural centre of England moves south through the continent where pictures needed to be painted for the characters to play out their own story. I had to construct a set in which my imaginary actors could perform, and that required inspiration.

Now I’m not much of a people person – shock horror for a writer, I know – and even more so that I’m nervous of new places and not having a set pan to follow. I’m that person who arrives at the airport five hours early in case I don’t make the flight.

After a month of meticulous planning and creating an itinerary, I set off from home just after midnight to head south for le Chunnel.

From there, after half an hour sitting in my car as the train thundered along beneath the English Channel I emerged in the early hours in northern France with the same bizarre disorientation you get coming out of the cinema in the dark when you’d entered in daylight.

There I began what became an intimate and long-lasting personal relationship with the voice commands of my car’s navigation program. We very nearly split up when she unnecessarily took me on the Paris ring road as part of the return leg where I believe they were filming a new version of Death Race.

The first foreign leg, fraught with the confusion of being on the wrong side of the road, saw me driving from Calais to Bordeaux over about ten hours, with an additional ten percent of that spent stuck on a one-way system that gave me tantalising glimpses of the hotel I was supposed to staying at.

The following morning, setting off bright and early after three too many fresh croissants, saw me taking a stunning drive down the Pyrenees towards the first of my research locations.

That drive will forever be etched into my memory as the challenging, twisting mountain roads left my face aching with repetitive strain injury brought on by continuous grinning.

Due to the many errors made by my navigational companion, which may have been me ignoring her for the sheer enjoyment of driving, I found myself crossing through into Spain accidentally and then back to France before an inspiring tunnel lead me to a wonderfully inexpensive fuel station.

Trying out my (appalling) best French, I was shocked to be answered in Spanish and found out I was, in fact, a visitor of Andorra. That happy accident led to an hour of exploration and the inspiration for the seventh book of the series, even if I didn’t know that yet as I was researching book five.

Reluctantly getting back to my plan, I took to the mountain roads again to race the course of one of the rivers leading to my objective, Villefranche de Conflent. Literally the confluence of two rivers where a medieval walled town sat beneath a high hill crowned by an impenetrable defensive position called Fort Liberia.

These two places became so influential, so crucial to the story that without being there, without climbing the hundreds of steps carved out of the mountain itself and without walking the same ramparts my characters defended, I would never have created the story as it now exists.

Twice more I visited the town, getting by with my best (still appalling) French along with much pointing and smiling, until I’d walked every inch of the town until I could feel the cobblestones under my feet as I slept.

On what became my last visit there I saw a painting in the museum of a watchtower in a place called Sahorre which captured my frivolous attention enough to create yet another vital element to my books.

After a quick google I set off, opting to take the long walk as I had with the steps leading to Fort Liberia, and climbed that steep hill to spend a long time looking out over a cloudy-filled valley offering me line of sight for miles. I soaked in every detail I could, letting it infuse me in a way that sounds far too bohemian even to me, but that’s what I did.

Waking the next day with a number of aches to remind me that climbing two mountains on the same day was ill-advised at my age, I headed south for the sea.

I may not live anywhere near the coast now, but I grew up near it and always felt an affinity for a sea view and can still recall the calming sensation I experienced when I dropped out of the high ground to look down on what would eventually become the place I call Sanctuary.

Looking at the seaside town of Collioure, with the crown jewel of another medieval castle sitting proudly to loom over the entrance, I saw how these places would come together in my mind to create the perfect setting.

Wandering through the town again, earning odd looks from locals, I sat on the sea wall looking inwards to the town to form every wall, every rampart, every building in my mind until I could see it clearly. Even as the sun set there I still sat, drinking it all in until it became, and always will remain, my ultimate happy place.

So my answer to the readers when they ask if the places are real? Yes, they are. Only not in the literal sense.

My advice to other writers? Get out from wherever you sit to write. Chase your story to the places it takes you and don’t be afraid to change the world to make it what you need it to be. You never know what your imagination will create.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/329jlVg

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2SYb6Hi

About the Author:

Devon C Ford is from the UK and lives in the Midlands. His career in public services started in his teens and has provided a wealth of experiences, both good and some very bad, which form the basis of the books ideas that cause regular insomnia.

Facebook: @decvoncfordofficial

Twitter: @DevonFordAuthor

Website: www.devoncford.com

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and post?
Have you read this book already or any book in this series?
Are you going to add it to TBR?

HAPPY READING!!

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#BookReview : Iron Heart (Iron Universe) by M.C. D’alton, Melanie Page #IronHeart @vulpine_press

Iron Heart (Iron Universe) by M.C. D’alton, Melanie Page
Publication Date: January 24th 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: Historical Fiction / Steampunk / Romantic Suspense

Edinburgh, 1859

Beauden Somerton is dying. Despite the efforts of his father and renowned medical expert, Dr Augustus Somerton, time is running out for Beauden. So, when the research of an enterprising young medical student catches their attention, they realise she may be their last hope.


Galena Tindale fears her unorthodox research has jeopardised her chances of graduating from Edinburgh Medical College. Still, she cannot turn down an opportunity to assist the infamous Dr Somerton in a ground-breaking attempt to save his son’s life. And, as she strives to mend Beauden’s failing heart, he succeeds in capturing hers.


But not everyone wants Beauden to survive, and it’s clear they’ll go to violent and destructive lengths to prevent his revolutionary treatment from going ahead. But how far will they go? Will Galena manage to perform life-saving surgery before it’s too late? Or will she be forced to live in a world that doesn’t include Beauden Somerton
?

*** Note: I received e-ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to Vulpine Press. ***

Iron Heart was steampunk romance that revolved around Iron Heart. It was about love, compassion, women’s position in Victorian era, men’s ego and their view towards women acquiring higher studies, medical inventions, greed and darkness in humanity.

Writing was great with smooth and fast pace. It pulled me in the world from the very beginning. If there wasn’t a title page or cover I couldn’t have guessed the book was written by two authors. Both authors did wonderful job in representing theme, world and characters. It was written in third person narrative from Galena and Beauden’s perspective.

It started with Galena’s moment of humiliation and hopelessness on failing to represent her research based on Bachvarov’s theory about replacing damage human heart tissue with suinae tissue that could mark her name in history. She was afraid she had lost her chance graduating from Edinburgh Medical College. But that didn’t last long as the famous medical expert, DR Augustus Somerton, was interested her research. He didn’t have much time. She was his only hope saving his son, Beauden Somerton. Beauden was born with critical heart condition, he would have died at age 5 but he lived as his father replaced his damaged heart with Iron Heart. But Iron Heart was failing, poisoning his body. Only Galena’s research combined with DR Augustus’ mechanical heart design can save his life.

Will Galena help him? Can she design a heart with Augustus that can give Beauden better life? Can she perform life threatening procedure? And then there is unknown narrator who didn’t want Beauden live and egoistic medical student who couldn’t stand Galena’s project and DR Augustus’ way of saving human life.

All characters were well written and developed. I loved the way author wrote protagonists. Galena was feisty and strong heroine who fought in all conditions bravely whether it was against bully or villain or performing life threatening procedure on her love. I loved the way she cared for Beauden and how well she got along in Somerton house.

Beauden was interesting character. I enjoyed reading his mindset and feelings. Though he had to compromise with life because of his heart condition, he never let bitterness and unfairness of life in his nature. He won my heart when he defended Galena in campus and in park, even though it could cut short his days. He welcomed the hanging threat of death bravely. He had soul and heart of gold, I mean literally.

DR Augustus was amazing in the book. All his research and the mechanism he made were wonderful. It showed to what length parents could go to save their Children’s life. At first I thought he wouldn’t accept Galena’s entry in his son life more than just his son’s doctor, he would behave like those aristocratic people of the era but he surprised me there. His decision in climax just filled my heart with admiration.

All other characters, staff and employee of Somertons were great. I’m glad I could know their importance in Somertons’ life.

The world was interesting. It was world where women were not respected for entering men’s profession, often bullied and told by male colleagues their place is at home and hearth; examining cadaver for educational purpose was considered unholy; any unconventional invention was not approved by society and considered unnatural; Medical students didn’t dare to follow Bachvarov theory as it used lesser species’ tissue and replacing heart with metal was considered monstrous. It was interesting to read people’s prejudice and beliefs. It made me think how they could oppose something that is going to save lives. I could imagine how first discoveries might have faced challenges.

Now that Bachvarov’s theory and Iron heart concept was fictional and so other contraptions like mirror messengers, unicarriage, and house system run by steam. It was pretty impressive though. I loved how it gave steampunkery touch. I don’t know when first prosthetic tissue valve was discovered but yes some part of the Bachvarov theory was true/plausible. Some other inventions/discoveries of the era were also used in the book like Grey’s Anatomy, dirigible, mechanical ventilator. It felt good to read heart’s anatomy and physiology once again. Readers aware of medical term and love idea of inventions would enjoy reading this.

I liked insight in the book about wickedness of human nature. Even though Beauden had iron heart, he was most human character while other normal humans acted like monsters. Greed for money and power, how low one can fall for their selfish gain was well presented.

I loved relationship between Galena and Beauden. It progressed a bit fast but I enjoyed reading their love, compassion, and admiration for each other. There was constant tension that tested their love and feelings, first with corroding iron heart and then unknown narrator and his plans. 

My favorite scene was surgery and action in climax. It made me nervous and skip my heart few beats. Of course it was bit reckless decision by Galena in climax but I liked how things took turn from thereon. Author could have ended it here making it cliffhanger but I’m glad to see the end of the story and getting the closer. I wonder what might be in next book of the series. And don’t miss authors’ note at the end. It represented book perfectly.

Overall, it was compelling, well written steampunkery historical romance with wonderful world and characters. I definitely recommend this book to fans of steampunk or speculative fiction.

Book Links: Goodreads
Affiliate Link: Amazon.in | Amazon.com |Book Depository

Let’s discuss!

What do you think about the book and my review?
Have you read this book already or any book by this authors?
Are you going to add it to TBR?
Which is your favorite steampunk book?

HAPPY READING!!

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#Guestpost #releaseday : Iron Heart by MC D’Alton, Melanie Page #IronHeart @vulpine_press

Hello readers! It’s Iron Heart’s release day and I’m happy to share guest from the authors of this new historical romance. Check out more about the book and interesting guest post about how collaboration worked for them.

Iron Heart by MC D’Alton and Melanie Page (Iron Universe Book #1)
Publication Date: January 24th 2020
Publisher: Vulpine Press
Genre: Historical Fiction / Steampunk Romantic Suspense

Synopsis:

Edinburgh, 1859

Beauden Somerton is dying. Despite the efforts of his father and renowned medical expert, Dr Augustus Somerton, time is running out for Beauden. So, when the research of an enterprising young medical student catches their attention, they realise she may be their last hope.

Galena Tindale fears her unorthodox research has jeopardised her chances of graduating from Edinburgh Medical College. Still, she cannot turn down an opportunity to assist the infamous Dr Somerton in a ground-breaking attempt to save his son’s life. And, as she strives to mend Beauden’s failing heart, he succeeds in capturing hers.

But not everyone wants Beauden to survive, and it’s clear they’ll go to violent and destructive lengths to prevent his revolutionary treatment from going ahead. But how far will they go? Will Galena manage to perform life-saving surgery before it’s too late? Or will she be forced to live in a world that doesn’t include Beauden Somerton?

Iron Heart is the first from the authors’ beautifully written Iron Universe series. Dive into 1800s Edinburgh to meet trainee doctor Galena as she embarks on a romantic love affair with the handsome and mysterious Beauden. But there is a limit on their time together unless Galena can figure out how to save her true love from his failing heart.


Guest Post: Collaborating Iron Heart

When we say we collaborate to write books, people do a double-take. We can understand that; there is a time honoured image of the artist/ writer, starving in his garrett, or Jane Austen sitting at her quaint little writing desk, writing ‘Pride and Prejudice’ longhand with a quill and inkpot. Writing is supposed to be a solitary activity. 

We are often asked how collaboration works. The answer varies from ‘brilliantly’ to ‘I have no idea!’. But work it does, at least for us. We think it is because we bring different things to the mix.

‘Iron Heart’ was the first book we collaborated on, and to be perfectly honest, we hadn’t really heard of collaboration, or considered it in any rational way. It just happened.

The idea for the novel was Michelle’s (most ideas are Michelle’s). She had been watching ‘Penny Dreadful’, dark, brooding, gothic – and she wanted to write a monster who was a hero. So, we started to email back and forth about what such a story would look like, fleshing out the characterisation, the setting, the conflict, and we agreed to give it a go. Neither of us, at that point, believed we were writing anything other than a short story or novella. Michelle wrote a draft of the first chapter and pressed send.

And here’s where the collaboration really began. Melanie took a look at that draft, poured a large glass of wine, and reworked it, adding a bit of backstory here, some scenery and description there, polishing the dialogue, bringing out character, conflict, mood. These are all the things a writer might do with the second draft of their own novel, but this was done within twenty-four hours. Then she sent it back. Michelle took the new information on board and her second chapter incorporated the developing characterisation, plot lines and so on. Thus began a pattern of practical collaboration.

The result is a seamless blend of two people’s ideas. Here is an example. Michelle wrote; ‘Galena raised her arms in defence as she lost her balance and fell over onto the cobble stoned road, knocking the wind from her lungs.’ And this is Melanie’s edited version; ‘Galena picked up her striped skirts and fled, pushing through the heavy oak doors that separated the enclave she had left forever from the rest of Edinburgh society. The cobbles were slick and putrid, but the tears swimming in her eyes made it hard for Galena to discern where she was going.’

In this collaboration, there is no division of labour, both of us are responsible, in some degree for all aspects of the story. Nevertheless, the plot, the characters, the technology are predominantly Michelle’s, the dialogue, the description, the detail are more Melanie’s. That’s not a hard and fast rule; Michelle wrote some really powerful imagery, Melanie occasionally added a plot twist.

 Not only was the story written by two people, we weren’t even in the same room (or same suburb) for most of it. We passed the story backwards and forwards by email, with one or both of us working on it most nights. We also had a running commentary going on Messenger. Sometimes it was ‘Please send something to write… I hate cricket.’ Or it was discussion of characters, structure, something like; ‘So I will prob shift stuff, shorten the timeframe. Maybe have B go past, call out, J gloating, G gagged and unable to reply… I’m off to get haircut. Talk later.’ We did meet at a coffee shop quite often, particularly towards the end, to work out what was going to happen. That usually consisted of Michelle saying ‘I think the characters will do X’, and Melanie saying… ‘but if they do that then what about…’

With people of such opposite personalities working so closely on a project, there were bound to be ‘differences of creative opinion.’ There were. Lots of them. Michelle is a big concept writer who relies on her muse to get the detail of the story. Melanie is all about the pernickety details. The key to effective collaboration is to realise that both are necessary parts of the whole picture and to accept the value of the other person’s contribution.

Michelle states, ‘For us, collaboration has been a Godsend. And it has to do with balancing our different strengths. Mel took my plot outline and breathed life into characters and descriptions. When I read Mel’s work, I can smell the soot in the air and hear the clip-clopping of the unicarriage. I can taste the port they sip from crystal glasses. That is her gift.’

But there is more to a story than beautifully crafted detail. Melanie’s comment was that, ‘Even though I plot out a story, it will never have the life, the courage and the sheer vibrancy that pours so spontaneously from MC’s brain. I shape it, colour it, polish it to a high gloss, but the core of the story is all her.’ And that is the issue. We are able to collaborate because our gifts complement one another and because we are committed to the story, not our own egos.

Since we wrote ‘Iron Heart’, we have contracted it to Vulpine Publishing, along with three other stories. ‘Iron Fist’ is currently in edits, the third story is the early stages of writing. Our collaboration has changed and grown too. ‘Iron Heart’, and its siblings are not stories that either of us could write on our own. Collaboration has helped make us, individually, better writers, but it has given us a deeper friendship and a lot of fun.   

About the authors:

MC and Melanie are both Aussie gals who were born overseas but now live their lives in quiet, leafy suburbs to the north of Brisbane. Their days are full of husbands, kids (and grandies), work and general craziness. They have medical and educational backgrounds respectively and both love wine and chocolate.

Iron Heart is available here from 24 January

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