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I originally published this article in The Romance Reviews

Make Me Believe: Intensifying Your Story With Personal Values

Why do you write? Ask nearly any writer this question and the response will be a resounding chorus of John Keating’s, “We write because we must.” Well, Keating certainly had it right when he coined the famous answer to this question, but let’s delve a little deeper. In addition to purchasing your books and lauding your praises, what should your stories prompt readers to do? This can be as seemingly innocuous as opening their minds to new possibilities, or as life-altering as becoming an advocate for an important cause.

The Emotional Hook

To borrow a famous phrase from the music industry, “writing is a jealous mistress.” Our writing infiltrates every area of our lives, easily becoming a living, breathing entity, personifying our dreams, hopes, and beliefs. I invite you to take a few moments and consider your own personal, unique answer to this famous question – “Why do you write romance?” What beliefs, dreams, or ideals do you express in your stories? Love is the most powerful force available to us – so powerful, so imperative, that no good story is complete without love of something or love of some kind.

There is no better, more entertaining way to focus on the power of love than romance. In fact, for the romance writer, love and romance are synonymous. Yes, the plot is important, but romances fraught with tension-filled relationships move us to action. Love is the strongest motive, and the greatest reward. Our characters’ love for each other draws us, captivates our attention. The more intensely we feel their ups and downs, the more satisfying their happily ever after (HEA), and the more we believe in their cause, particularly when said cause is directly related to their HEA. Surely characters capable of such powerful devotion deserve our support, right?

Romance perpetuates energy, and that energy prompts us to act. We hope and dream with them, and even if our beliefs are diametrically opposed to theirs, we are more willing to listen to their point of view because, yes, you guessed it, they love. Their love creates an instinctive, combustible force in everyone exposed to it. Actually, every book we write, every story we tell serves as our platform, not only exposing our beliefs, but encouraging others to share them.

Causes and Beliefs in Action (Exhibits A, B, and C)…

So what are your values? What do you believe, and what draws you to a story, pulls you into the characters’ world and holds you captive until their happily ever after is achieved? Something makes you care about them, convinces you that they love, and that this love is worthy of your support. Suddenly, you want to see them happy. Is it her strength in the face of obstacles? His desire to protect her? In Gary D. Chapman’s “Five Love Languages,” each person learns to recognize love based on certain characteristics or identifying factors called a love language: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

Each of my series, “Dark Sentinels” and “Dark Progeny”  exemplifies a rather intricate set of beliefs, and at least one of Chapman’s five languages of love is always evident. “Dark Sentinels,” a shifter series spawned by my admiration for ASPCA, The Humane Society, and Defenders of Wildlife, is about a race of sentinel wolf shifters created to protect nature and wildlife in the face of near extinction (sound like some place we know?), and “Dark Progeny” is about the infinity of God’s forgiveness as the descendants of Nephilim attempt to restore their relationship with “The One God,” even when their actions go against everything they’ve spent centuries believing.

In each series, the causes or beliefs of the main characters are synonymous with their purpose and existence. Although each series is different, my beliefs and values are clearly woven throughout the stories, and my heroes have quite a few things in common; mainly, they show love through Chapman’s acts of service. They are protective, supportive, and willing to do anything in their power to help their heroines resolve problems.

Consider the new YA classic, “The Twilight Saga.” The perfectly beautiful, unattainable Edward falls in love with the apparently regular, somewhat clumsy Bella, and their love necessitates the partnership between two races that have hated one another for centuries. Here, the cause is actually introduced through Jacob, the third member of the love triangle. The underlying messages include destiny, forgiveness, and love’s power to accomplish what nothing else can.

Establishing Your Platform With the Perfect Characters

One of my favorite movies is “Sleepless in Seattle.” The movie is based on a story by Jeff Arch and reminiscent of “An Affair To Remember,” and the writers’ belief that neither time nor distance can destroy what is meant to be is clearly relayed throughout the movie. Seattle architect Sam Baldwin lost his wife a respectable amount of time ago, and his adorable son Jonah calls the radio station on his behalf. The heartfelt call strikes a chord across the nation, and Annie, a research journalist is so touched by the call that she writes to him from across the nation. Just in case you’ve never seen the movie, allow me to say the ending is delightful for any romantic, and the characters are perfect.

Strong, well-developed characters espouse your beliefs for a reason. Perhaps something happened during childhood, to another loved one, or maybe they were simply born to this cause. Back story plays a very important role in establishing your characters’ reasons for believing and behaving as they do, and sometimes using your own experiences can make a good story unforgettable.

There is no better way to share a cause than with a story, and a cause that you fervently believe in can add fire and intensity to any novel. Causes, values, and beliefs can serve as micro or macro-plot points, and in a series, a good cause can be the main component linking each story to the next. Let’s face it – we enjoy a good fight, the age old battle between good and evil, and people who fight for or against something inspire us to do the same. So, what do you believe in? Love’s power to transcend time, overcome hatred, heal?  Which characters are best suited to share your beliefs with the world? Why do you write romance?

 

Satin Sheets Four-Point-Five Star Review of “Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin”

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Susan’s Satin Sheets Romance Review of Torin by Dariel Raye

Torin_final cover

Dark Sentinels Book Two, Torin by Dariel Raye

Book Length: Approx. 146 pages
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Amazon Buy Link

Blurb:  When greedy land developers set their sights on Dark Sentinel land, Torin turns to attorney Stephanie Bates for help, but she’ll need his protection to stay alive long enough to save his land.

Real estate lawyer, Stephanie Bates, has risen to the top of her field through meticulous sacrifice and goal setting. She has no time for distractions – and that includes pets, messy relationships, and loose ends.

Torin DuMont is a forensic scientist who chose the profession to avoid dealing with people as much as possible. Raised by a stepfather who hated him, he’s been forced to live a life of solitude, fueled by anger and distrust. When wolves and shifters start turning up dead, Torin must battle an enemy bent on destroying those he was born to protect. His greatest challenge, however, is Attorney Bates and the surprising affect she has on his heart.

Susan B. Anna’s Review
One thing I can always lead off with when writing about Dariel Raye’s, Dark Sentinel series is her  great and incredible way of reeling one in.  Torin, which leads us to another pact alpha male with an agenda to save his homeland from greedy developers, never imagined falling for the uppity attorney Stephanie Bates he wants to acquire to help him preserve it.  The minute they mEet they each got under each other’s skin and the sparks between them was evidence enough that a passion will soon develop in a very hot and sultry way for the two.
Torin soon sees their relationship as rare and valuable as Stephanie soon has him longing to only get closer to her.  When Stephanie’s life is threatened, Torin can’t help but be her night and shining armor, and offers to protect her.  Torin, Book Two was a wonderful page turner and I absolutely adored how Ms. Raye brought these particular characters to light.  The Dark Sentinel men/alpha’s are not only described as hot, but, seductive, protective and very loyal to their families as well as their mates.  Truly a hot read.
 Dark Sentinel’s Torin is definitely entitled to a rating scale of…
4.5 pillow
and is absolutely…
 sizzlling candles

Mother Nature is Fighting Back!

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Torin_final cover

Meet the “Dark Sentinels.”  Weary of shedding tears over the senseless murders of her children, thoughtless abuse of her resources, and blatant disrespect for her authority, she had to take drastic measures. Mother Nature created sentinels to protect and preserve nature, their first priority to stand vigil against those responsible for the destruction of wildlife.

Two sentinel wolf-shifters are born to each pack – male and female. Larger, stronger, and faster than other shifters, they risk their lives daily to restore balance between man and nature. Unfortunately, their very strengths have gained the attention of arrogant beings bent on exploiting their abilities for selfish gain.

Forced to leave their packs for a time to find mates, the sentinels are no longer able to avoid human contact. Dr. Sable Adler, of “Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable,” alpha of the Washington pack, one of the largest packs in the United States, was the first sentinel to fall in love with a human female. He’s a calm-natured Libra, while Torin DuMont, of “Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin,” is a hot-headed, bad-tempered Scorpio alpha who resides in the Florida Everglades.

Like Sable before him, Torin is about to find himself in uncharted territory when he seeks the legal counsel of Stephanie Bates, an uppity human lawyer who needs his help more than he needs hers…

“Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin”

When greedy land developers set their sights on Dark Sentinel land, Torin turns to attorney Stephanie Bates for help, but she’ll need his protection to stay alive long enough to save his land.

Real estate lawyer, Stephanie Bates, has risen to the top of her field through meticulous sacrifice and goal setting. She has no time for distractions – and that includes pets, messy relationships, and loose ends.

Torin DuMont is a forensic scientist who chose the profession to avoid dealing with people as much as possible. Raised by a stepfather who hated him, he’s been forced to live a life of solitude, fueled by anger and distrust. When wolves and shifters start turning up dead, Torin must battle an enemy bent on destroying those he was born to protect. His greatest challenge, however, is Attorney Bates and the surprising affect she has on his heart.

Get your copy Valentine’s Day!

Dariel Raye’s Sunday Review: “Soul Weaver” by Hailey Edwards

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Soul Weaver

Soul Weaver

“Soul Weaver” is a paranormal romance with the belief in soul mates at its core. The love  story between a heroine nearly disabled by fear, and a fallen angel indentured to serve hell through eternity sounds impossible, but constant, innate conflict builds as the relationship between the unlikely couple develops.

In addition to the plot twists and world building, the hero and heroine were genuinely likable. Chloe, the heroine, is agoraphobic, thus fearful of going outside. Nathaniel, the hero, fell from heaven for lying in an attempt to protect his brother. Simply put, they both have major baggage.

Nathaniel is literally a weaver of souls, and an assassin for hell. In Edwards’ world, the wings of fallen angels become frayed over time. Certain souls have committed acts that make them vulnerable to hell. These souls are taken, then woven together by Nathaniel and given to other fallen angels to replace worn wings.

When Nathaniel witnesses a near fatal accident involving Chloe, he goes against every law and rule to save her, to the point of giving her a piece of his soul to ensure her life and recovery. This has never been done before, so he has no idea what to expect, but he soon finds out.

Nathaniel is drawn to Chloe, and finds himself protecting her from his brothers, particularly the brother he fell from heaven to save!  He keeps secrets from his angelic brothers, his boss, and Chloe. Chloe’s agoraphobia doesn’t help, either. Her lack of faith in herself, coupled with the inability to go outside, makes her an easier target, rife with nightmares and trust issues.

Edwards’ play on soulmates, development of a flawed, but very likable heroine, and unique take on the world of fallen angels makes this a story you won’t want to miss. The world building is thorough and intricate, and the plot twists kept me guessing. Personally, I like that. In addition, the love scenes are hot and emotionally intense. An easy 4.5 stars.

A Review of Kym Grosso’s “Kade’s Dark Embrace”

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Kade's Dark Embrace (Immortals of New Orleans)

I received this book free with my Amazon Prime membership. I only read and review books that I enjoy, so sit back a minute and let me tell you about this one.

Sydney is a tough, independent Philly detective who ends up sharing a serial killer case with a headstrong alpha vampire named Kade. Of course, Sydney is pretty headstrong herself, so the two clash and sizzle immediately.

When beautiful women start turning up dead and made to look like dolls, Det. Sydney Willows finds herself paired with vampire elite, Kade Isaacson from New Orleans. When two strong personalities come together, the battle for control is expected, but neither the hero nor heroine is prepared for the romantic sparks that ensue.

Turns out the villain in this tale is a former lover of the hero’s, who wants him back, no matter the cost – or at least that’s how she wants it to look. Rumor has it that she’s actually after all of his power, and she’s not particularly keen on sharing!

Overall, I enjoyed this paranormal romance with vamps, werewolves, mages, voodoo, witches, and even an apparition. The heroine, of course, is human, but lives in a society where humans are aware of the supernatural, and even have agencies governed by and for the supernatural. In fact, one of Sydney’s best friends, Tristan, is a werewolf who stole my heart away from the hero, Kade!

Sydney’s overstatements of independence became annoying at times, as did Kade’s condescending, somewhat overbearing nature, and some of the sex scenes were a little stilted in my opinion, but perhaps that’s because my expectations were too high.  Anyway, if you like alpha males, strong, capable women, and enjoy reading about serial killers, you’ll enjoy this one, and it really has a worthwhile ending. Don’t read the ending first, but the perfection of the ending brought it to 4 stars! I look forward to reading more about other characters introduced in this installment, such as Luca, Tony, and definitely Tristan. Keep ‘em coming, Ms. Grosso J

Read “Dark Sentinels” First Chapter!

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Visiting with renowned author Zenobia Renquist tomorrow! If you haven’t read it yet, stop and read the first chapter of “Dark Sentinels” as the book tour continues! Also, to see the remainder of the tour stops, click here for my blogger site.  You can also catch a glimpse of my “Dark Sentinels” hero for Book two 🙂