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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?

 

Four Star Review of “Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin” From TRR

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Torin_final cover

Torin

[SUMMARY] [REVIEWS] [COMMENTS] [INTERVIEW] [VIDEO]
OFFICIAL REVIEW
1 people found the following review helpful Book Reviewed by Lynn (reviewer)
[ Review Posted: May 22, 2013 ] – See all my reviews
The struggle between the werewolves and the scientists who want to experiment on them continues in the second Dark Sentinels book, TORIN.Torin DuMont is a Sentinel for the werewolves that live in the protected Wild Lands in Florida. He is forced to seek the help of real estate attorney Stephanie Bates when land developers try to get their hands on Wild Lands. Torin and Stephanie, while appearing to be hostile towards one another, can’t seem to stop thinking about one another. And when Stephanie’s own problems put her in danger, she finds herself in need of Torin’s protection.Despite their best efforts to maintain a professional relationship, their mutual attraction can’t be denied. Even more disturbing than the land developers is the fact that Torin has to figure out why Wild Lands wolves keep disappearing. Torin learns of the problems other packs have had with Super Human, the scientists who want to experiment on shifters, and calls for support. Sable comes in to help Torin and his group, and at the same time helps Torin deal with his attraction to a human.

I enjoyed all of the new characters that were introduced and was happy to get some follow up on the status of Sable and Akila’s relationship from the first book. The brother/sister relationships are almost as fun to read about as the romances in these stories. The author does a great job expressing the love/irritation relationship of siblings. This was a great continuation of the Dark Sentinels series and I hope I get to read more.

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Hot off the Press! “Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin” by Dariel Raye is Live!

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Hi, Everybody! My new release, “Dark Sentinels Book Two: Torin” just went live at Amazon and Barnes & Noble today! To make things even hotter, “Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable” is on sale for 99 cents until the end of the month! Here’s a bit about the series 🙂

Who Are The Dark Sentinels?Torin_final cover

 Buy Book Two

Buy Book One

They lived millions of years ago, fatalities of fear and prejudice. Now, answers to a prayer for survival, they are among us again. Other shifters were nearly extinct, murdered by the thousands at mostly human hands. Capable of shifting at will, without the aid of the moon’s phases, they were born to protect them. Bigger, stronger, faster, and longer living, with highly developed preternatural abilities, they are prized outsiders among their packs. Prized for their ability to protect, yet destined to live as outsiders because of the very differences necessary to prevent the pack’s extinction.

Born to stand at the crossroads between pack-members and their slaughterers, Sentinels quickly learn that they are on their own – a different species. Born human, only two are born to each pack, male and female alphas, brother and sister. Pack members deny them mating privileges within the pack based on fear. No female wants to bear a sentinel because their lives are constantly at risk. When danger comes to the pack, they are on the front line, considered expendable.

When they reach mating age, they leave the pack for a time to find a mate – another sentinel. What happens when a sentinel develops feelings for a human? What happens when malevolent scientists learn how to strengthen humans by using sentinel blood?  As you can imagine, with their feral nature barely beneath the surface, their wolf barely sheathed, dark sentinel passions run high. Touch, affection, and loyalty are necessary for their survival, and they are willing to go to extraordinary measures, risk everything, and break every rule for love.

“Torin” Excerpt

Torin never understood his effect on humans. He wasn’t even sporting his usual scowl, but from the moment he’d walked in, the tension had been palpable.

“I have an appointment with attorney Bates.”

“Name, please?”

“Torin DuMont.”

“I am so sorry, M-Mr. DuMont, but I sent you a message yesterday morning.”

Torin wondered briefly if she realized she leaned away from him as her heart rate increased yet again. “A message?”

“Um, yes. I was asked to cancel your appointment because Ms. Bates has some urgent business to attend to this morning. I-I…well, I requested that you call to, um…reschedule.”

While Torin stared at her and said nothing else, she fumbled for a calendar.

She cleared her throat of the lump he’d caused and stuttered, “Um, Mr. DuMont, she can see you on—”

Torin glanced at the calendar and noticed she was looking at dates for next month. He interrupted, unable to restrain the growl in his voice. “I didn’t get any message, and I left work early to come here today. I’ll wait.”

Torin turned away before she could say anything, leaving her mouth slightly open when he moved to the opposite wall. He faced her, crossing his arms over his chest.

That bastard stepfather of mine! Torin was certain the asshole had received and erased the message telling him to reschedule.

Torin hated lawyers and couldn’t believe he’d allowed his childish desire for his stepfather’s approval to waste his time again. I shouldn’t even be here trying to help people who don’t give a damn about me. 

He watched the receptionist pick up the phone and overheard every word she whispered into the receiver following a distinct buzz from the adjoining office. “…Yes, he’s here. Obviously from the Wild Lands. Yes, I already told him…”

A sigh from the other end triggered a tingling sensation in his lower abdomen. Her voice was soft, almost musical. He blinked, then closed his eyes to savor the sound. Surprisingly, it calmed him.

“…Cindy, I can’t possibly see anyone else today. Just resched…”

Cindy, apparently the name of the jumpy little receptionist, stood and left her desk, heading in the direction of the lawyer’s office.

Torin didn’t have to leave his spot against the wall to overhear Cindy and the unavailable Ms. Bates, despite the fact that they were intentionally speaking softly.

“…I tried to reschedule, but he won’t…and he won’t leave either! Steph, you haven’t seen him. He’s huge, and he walked in looking pissed—not a good combination. I started to call for James to escort him out of the office, but I like James, so…”

Both women shared a laugh. “No, no need for all that. You offered him another appointment. If he chooses to wait, let him wait. I’ll deal with him if he doesn’t get tired and leave.” She laughed again. “I keep saying I need a peephole in this door. You’ve piqued my curiosity now. Wish I could work him in. I’m eager to meet one of these Wild Landers I keep hearing about but never seem to run into any.”

“For the most part, they pretty much keep to themselves, but believe me, you’ll know when you see one.” Cindy sighed. “Guess I’ll go back out here and try to work while he’s glaring at me. I doubt he’s going anywhere, Steph. He seems like the stubborn type.”

“Don’t worry, Cindy. If he’s still there when it’s time for you to leave, I’ll speak to him myself and try to reschedule. In the meantime, just ignore him. Maybe he’ll take the hint and leave.”

* * *

Torin stepped outside several times to stretch his long legs, finding fewer clients waiting for Ms. Bates on each return. He’d overheard everything the lawyer and her receptionist said, but it wasn’t what she had said that bothered him; it was the timbre of her voice itself—soft, smooth, and lilting—that elicited an immediate response. Puzzled by his own involuntary reaction, he wanted to hear more of it, like a cobra drawn helplessly and nonsensically to an oboe.

He sensed the sun had gone down before he stepped over to the small window and looked out. Even in the complete darkness, his eyes did not fail him, and he saw the grounds as clearly as if daylight greeted him. Finally, one man remained in the waiting room with him, but it was well after six p.m.

He picked up the pleasant scent of mint, lemongrass, and lilies and turned just in time to see shapely legs, a voluptuous body full of promise. The warm, mocha-colored face wasn’t bad either. Clearly, it was the owner of the musical voice. His wolf bristled beneath his skin, forcing an internal battle just to remain civilized. Confusion increased his frustration. He’d never reacted to a female this way before, and certainly not a human.

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

Visiting Kitty Barton Tomorrow For “Fridays With Friends”

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Hi Everybody! Tomorrow (Friday) I’ll be visiting with Kitty Barton! Come by and say “hello,” and if you haven’t met the “Dark Sentinels” yet, take a peek at my first book trailer!

Visiting With Cherie Reich, Tomorrow!

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Hi Everyone! I’ll be visiting with the multi-talented Cherie Reich tomorrow. She’s featuring my new release, “Dark Sentinels Book One: Sable” Stop by and say “hi.” Oh, and check out my book trailer while you’re there 🙂

Fun Character Development Post At My Blogger Spot!

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Hi, come see me at my blogger spot and leave a comment about your hero/heroine. We’ve all heard time and again that our characters should change over the course of our stories. If a character is the same at the end as he or she was at the beginning, what’s the point in telling the story? I’ve got something fun for you to try your hand at. I’m talking about a unique character development framework.

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