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When a Setting Becomes a Character

Solace_In_Scandal_webWhen I was writing Solace in Scandal, an interesting thing happened.  The first half of the story is set at Wolfe Manor, a secluded estate in rural New York.  The hero and heroine are trapped on the grounds by the paparazzi.  It’s primarily Alex and Elena — and the setting.   The grand old mansion and its grounds were so key to the story, in essence they became another character.

The mansion itself is old and stately, rigid and cold.  It very standoffish as Alex and Elena first meet.  The lake house is much warmer and cozier.  Accepting.  Yet the grounds were what really came alive.  At times the woods and lake could be beautiful and inspiring.  When trouble lurked around the corner, those same woods could be dark and menacing.  The lake took on a foreboding quality.

With the autumn season in full force, the weather and settings were able to magnify the relationship brewing between Alex and Elena.  At times it’s stormy and dangerous.  At others, it’s secluded and intimate.  With few other characters to play off of, the setting had to step up – and it did.  Big time.  I don’t think the love story could have stood out so much if they’d been trapped in a penthouse or free to come and go.

What do you think?  Do you like “forced proximity” romances?  Do you think setting is important to a story?

I’m goin’ hoppin

I’m goin’ hoppin next week.  Where thing are poppin’…

I’m doing a blog tour for Solace in Scandal starting next Monday.  Click on the poster and you’ll see where I’ll be appearing.  Drop by the various sites and ask questions or let me know what you think about the story.  I’ll be giving away this pretty begonia cascade indoor fountain to one lucky poster.  Hopefully, it will bring someone some solace.

 

Solace-in-Scandal-fountain prize

Newsletter contest winners

Solace_In_Scandal_webThe winners in my newsletter contest have been selected.  Each of the following people have won a free e-copy of Solace in Scandal and have been notified by email.

Congratulations to:
Tina R.
Carolyn R.
Gayle P.
Cheryl M.
Sandy P.

If you’d like to be included in upcoming giveaways and learn all the latest about my books, just subscribe to my newsletter.  It includes all kinds of fun stuff.

Alex and Elena

Alex 3Writers like to try different techniques as they’re writing, or at least I do.   Sometimes the process is easier than others.  I’m always looking for ways to get my brain synapses firing.  With Solace in Scandal, I tried something new.  I posted pictures above my desk of people who represented my characters.  Some authors do this with every story they write.  This was a first for me – and I hesitate to even show them to you – because undoubtedly the characters look different inside your head.

That’s one of the things that makes reading so personal.  The pictures we see in our minds are ours alone.  We create personal visions of what we’re reading, and nobody else sees quite the vision that we do.  That’s why people making movies from books need to be so careful with their casting.  We each see things a certain way and we don’t want to jar that picture.  So I’m posting these with the disclaimer that they were my models. These were the physical representations of Alex and Elena in my mind’s eye.Elena

For Alex, I posted a picture of Stephen Amell from Arrow.  Sigh… It’s one of my favorite television shows.  I saw the Season 2 premiere tonight.  The similarities between the character of Oliver Queen and the character of Alex Wolfe didn’t strike me until I was watching tonight’s show.  They’re both rich and entitled and come from families that have disappointed them.  I don’t know if Alex can do those salmon ladder pull-ups, though!

For Elena, I envisioned Nina Dobrev from Vampire Diaries.  I’ll admit I don’t watch that show, but she had that innocent, beautiful quality that I was looking for.

As for the technique, having the pictures posted helped in the beginning, but I looked at them less and less as the book took form.  And, honestly, looking at the Green Arrow was just plain distracting, so that didn’t help my productivity at all!  I’d be really interested to hear or see what your visions of Alex and Elena are.  Anyone willing to share?

Inspiration

Writers often get asked what triggers their story ideas.  It can be a lot of different things:  the news, movies, television shows, overheard discussions, etc.  It’s really anything that strikes a chord.  It has resonance inside, whether it’s a scene that’s pictured in the writer’s head or even just a mood they feel.  That’s what happened to me this past weekend.  I was driving home from the Save the Cat workshop and trying to work through some issues I’ve been having with Roxie’s story.  That’s when a song came on the radio.

It was Emeli Sande’s My Kind of Love.  Oh My God.  I’d never heard it before, but the mood it gave off was perfect for what I’m trying to do with Roxie’s book.  Plot is important and characters are key, but if I can hit the chord that song was giving off, that story would fly.  Suddenly my worries faded.  I just need to keep that mood in mind as I’m writing.  And probably play the song a million times.  If I come even close, I’ll be happy.  Because that song is so passionate.

I’ve been inspired by songs before, but I’m curious if readers can see/feel that inspiration in my stories.  So I’ll share a bit.  Let me know what you think.  Do you see any links between these?

Hit the Ground Running by Jonny Lang …. inspired my novella Wanted in Red’s Sage’s Secrets Volume 9

Savin’ Me by Nickelback … inspired Solace in Scandal

 

 

Excerpt from Solace in Scandal

  An Excerpt From: SOLACE IN SCANDAL

© Copyright KIMBERLY DEAN, 2013.

Published by Mischief Books

Peace and calm.

Elena focused on her breathing as she tried to quiet her mind. She’d thought she’d been making progress towards that goal, but she’d worked too long on her dissertation today without taking a break and the effects were showing. She should know better by now.

Focusing on the tall trees across the lake, she inhaled fresh air through her nose and felt her lungs expand. It was that mystical part of the day where the sun sat fat on the horizon behind her and the night waited impatiently to move in. The beauty of nature surrounded her: a dense forest, a secluded private lake, and aromatic earth. Tranquility was practically reaching out to her, if only she could let it in.

Exhaling, she bent at the waist and planted her hands flat on the dock in front of her. The position lifted her hips and she felt tightness in her hamstrings. The disquiet in her mind was seeping its way into her body. She lifted her hips higher, pushing carefully against the tension, before dropping flat and arching up in the Cobra pose. The position opened her chest and released a kink in her back.

‘Mm,’ she sighed.

The leaves were heavy on those trees, she noticed, turning in color but not yet ready to fall to the ground. Some looked as if they were hanging on for dear life.

She knew how that felt.

Serenity.

From the prone position, she swung back up into Downward Dog. She blew the air in her lungs out through her mouth until her chest ached. The need for oxygen brought her concentration back and she relaxed her shoulders. She couldn’t let herself get worked up like this. She was safe here, hidden and protected. She’d come here to find answers to all the questions running around inside her head, but she’d found something she hadn’t expected. A haven.

In this, the unlikeliest of places.

Twisting into Warrior pose, she looked up to the house. It sat perched atop the hill behind her. The trees around it had been cleared, making sure there were no distractions from what was important. Wolfe Manor.

The sun was level with it now, making it almost glow, but it was impressive no matter the lighting. Built in the late 1800’s, the residence was a testament to human ingenuity and grit. Thick limestone walls stood four-stories tall, with a stair tower taking precedence out front. Turrets overlooked the corners, while two larger-than-life wolf statues guarded the main entrance. It was a mansion that made a statement.

Although that statement was being questioned after recent events.

Elena stretched her arms high overhead and felt the knot in her shoulder pop. It was ironic how she felt here, on this property. By all rights, she should feel anger and distrust. Outrage. The Wolfe family represented everything that the 99% hated – greed, opulence, excess, and unscrupulous entitlement. Yet while the manor stood proud and stately, its owners’ house of cards had finally fallen down. Deservedly so.

Although their deception had nearly pulled her down, too.

She shivered a bit under the cooling breeze. She didn’t understand that kind of ruthlessness. What made some people think they were better than others? That they could push the less fortunate down and not allow them to breathe? She never would have come here if she hadn’t been in dire straits, but Leonard had offered her refuge. The Wolves wouldn’t be needing the residence for some time, and the lake house had been empty before she’d moved in. Only the staff and groundskeepers remained.

Dear, sweet Leonard. Out of everyone, he understood the position she was in and how powerless she felt. He’d come to her rescue when she’d needed him most, and she didn’t know how she’d ever repay him.

She could start by taking better care of herself.

She focused on the lake again as a breeze stirred her hair and was surprised to see a thousand diamonds glittering back at her. The sun was glinting off the surface of the water now, making it appear as if lights were dancing on its surface. The beauty was undeniable. Pure, spiritual, and unexpected.

Yet that wasn’t what made her breath catch. ‘What?’

The air. It had just changed.

It felt heavier… pricklier… It was subtle, but the hair at the back of her neck rose. It was the sensation one got in a quiet old house when a floorboard squeaked and nobody else was supposed to be home.

She was being watched.

The awareness destroyed her rhythm and the inner peace she’d fought so hard to obtain. Her first thought was predator. She scanned the area around the lake and the rocky beach behind the dock. What roamed these woods? Coyotes? Red foxes? Deer? She couldn’t think of anything dangerous, yet the feeling remained.

She finished the sequence she was going through, but turned reflexively when she felt the air behind her snap. ‘Ah!’

A man.

Looking up, she spotted the source of the disquiet. Suddenly, the benefits of the yoga disappeared. She recognized him on sight. Alex Wolfe. In the flesh. The most dangerous predator of all.

‘Oh, dear God.’ What was he doing here?

Their gazes connected and she felt a jolt. Even with him hundreds of yards away and up the hill, she felt his attention and it was solely on her.

Her stomach tightened and, for the first time, she felt the chill of the evening. With the sun going down, it was getting brisk. Too brisk to be wearing a skimpy sports bra and thin pants. She pressed her hand against her bare stomach, but was surprised to find her skin hot. Tingly.

Sweet heavens, he was something.

His hair was shorter than it had been in the last newspaper picture she’d seen of him. So short, it was almost spiky. His face wasn’t as clean-shaven, either. He had that rough stubble that only male models and movie stars could seem to pull off.

And, apparently, billionaire felons.

His expensive shirt and pants fit him impeccably, yet the power radiating from him wasn’t only the power associated with wealth and status. The disgraced entrepreneur was lean and chiseled. He’d done more on the inside than read books.

Warning signs flared in Elena’s head, and she knelt to pick up her yoga pad. She’d learned to listen to her gut. The exercise usually sped up her pulse, but right now, it was racing. He shouldn’t be here – or she shouldn’t. Her hands felt clumsy as she rolled up the springy foam. When she looked up again, he was still staring. Energy crackled in the air between them. She could feel the charge all the way down to her bare feet and her toes curled against the sensation.

Sex. The man practically radiated it.

Goosebumps rose on her skin.

She didn’t know him. She’d never even met him, but she wasn’t stupid or naïve. Men found her attractive, and she recognized lust when she saw it. With the way he braced his hands against the marble railing and leaned towards her, the wolf seemed ready to pounce. When he uncoiled from his ready position and folded his arms across his chest, her stomach sucked in even further.

‘Mm,’ she whimpered. She also recognized when the feeling was mutual.

Her response was inappropriate – unthinkable – yet she couldn’t stop staring at him. Her nipples tightened, and she held her yoga mat against her chest to hide her reaction. The sun was gone, and its trailing streaks of light were dimming fast. The noises coming from the woods were getting louder. The chirps of crickets… The hoots of owls… A hot shiver went down her spine, and she started moving to the lake house.

She’d come here to retreat, but had she just ended up in the wolf’s den?

One last time, she cast a glance up towards the main house. Her ponytail swung over her shoulder with the movement and she felt the caress of a hot look slide down her bare back. He was still there. Watching. Wanting.

Quickly, she moved inside and locked the door.

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Solace in Scandal blurb

So what’s this new book about, you ask?  It’s a pretty intense erotic romance about this…

 

Greed and lies bound them together, but will the truth tear their love apart?

When Elena Bardot suffers the backlash of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by her father, she retreats to the abandoned estate of his partners in crime.  Wolfe Manor is lush and private, a perfect place to lick her wounds – until the notorious prodigal son returns.  Disgraced billionaire Alex Wolfe is aloof, imposing, and sexy as hell.  Elena knows she shouldn’t want him, but attraction overrules her head.

Life behind bars has changed Alex.  He doesn’t have time for the complication of a gorgeous little brunette – especially one with her name – but the tension between them escalates.  Lust overwhelms their resistance, and the sex is hot and cathartic.  They’ve both been betrayed by family, hurt by society, and cast as villains.  Alone together, they take solace in slow kisses and sensual nights.  Yet while Elena may be content to hide from the world, Alex is driven to reclaim his place atop it.  This time, he’s determined to take her with him.

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