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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guest Author: Dani Collins with a Giveaway

I’ve missed the Ides of March, which would have been a better tie in to my book, The Healer. 

A quick Google search tells me the ‘Ides’ phrase started out as merely the time of the full moon, but that whole 29.53 rotation, rather than a nice round 30, got in the way.  The Romans kept the mid-month date as a marker to settle debts, but pretty soon Shakespeare’s soothsayer was Bewaring it, then ol’ Julius got a tingle down his spine.  

So the expression as we know it now suggests many of the elements that emerge in The Healer: an outstanding payment of a fine, power seeking, lies, conspiracies, the divergence of cultures.  People getting stabbed.

Which doesn’t sound like a romance novel, does it? 

I assure you it is!  I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t, ‘cause I’m all about the happily ever after.  Says so right at the top of my website: Pursuing Happily Ever After One Page At A Time.

It’s just sometimes I take the winding route.  Here’s why:

As a reader, there are days you want a quick fix of HEA.  That’s what my Harlequin Presents are for: get straight to the good part, gorge yourself on the all-inclusive extravagance, then promise to stay in touch as you return to your everyday life. 

There’s no shame in it.  We’re all pressed for time.  I love watching movies for exactly this reason.  In under two hours we go from Cute Meet, to Sexy Complication, through the Midpoint Hook, Swivel, Dark Moment and Joyful Defeat. 

Blissful sigh...  Okay, back to reality.

But sometimes you want the long-stay vacation. You want to develop relationships with the locals and learn about their culture and create attachments that stick in your mind.

That was my goal when I sat down to write The Healer.  I didn’t know much about what was going to happen in the story, but I did know I wanted to write the kind of book that a reader immersed herself into for days.  

And so we get an Ides of March puzzle-piece story where myriad small actions grow into a bigger picture of major consequences. And seriously, Vaun has such bad luck in the first chapter—mistaking Athadia for a Kerf like himself, when she’s actually an Alvian healer—well, that’s not exactly shamrocks and St. Paddy’s day, let me tell you.  It’s Et tu, Bruté? all the way.

Here’s a little more about The Healer to hopefully put you in the mood for a ‘big’ book:

Vaun frees Athadia from his Shote enemies, thinking she is a Kerf, like him, but she’s Alvian, one of the mysterious race of healers his people fear. As they begin to realize what she is, his men succumb to superstition and attack her. Vaun intervenes...

Athadia dodged the next blade that jabbed at her thigh and blocked a third with her forearm, feeling the cut streak deep. If she hadn’t been so taxed, she might have found her center and accompanying discipline, but the men closed in, stealing her concentration. She tripped over the hem of her oversized robe trying to escape another swipe and curled as she fell, protecting herself. A stab nipped into her side anyway.
A male bellow sounded and the sickening thud of a blow followed. She cringed, waiting for boots and pain, but nothing struck her. The sounds of fighting continued though, with cries of protest.
Working up the nerve to peek past her bent elbow, she saw the leader of these Kerfs using his fists to break up the mob, forcing the men back from her. One man babbled hysterically and pointed his sword tip at her, as though he wanted to skewer her to the ground. The big Kerf cuffed him.
Distantly, Athadia heard his fury in his sharp words, but turned herself inward, not bothering to attempt translation as she searched within herself, found shreds of calm and balance, mentally spoke her vows and repaired herself. When she became aware of silence, thick with hostility, she tentatively uncurled. Most of the men looked abashed. Some glared with mistrust. The leader wore an expression of angry remorse.
If she begged for freedom, he might grant it. Longing washed over her for The Circle, the closest thing to a haven her people had left. If she could rest and heal, consult with the Elders, she might try again to fulfill her purpose. If only it hadn’t been so long since she’d spoken. She wasn’t sure she could make herself understood. Perhaps if she just walked away. Surely the Kerf would comprehend that.
He reached to help her rise.
Hesitantly, she let him close his hand around her arm.
Alvian energy burst in her cells, buckling her knees as she tried to stand. She used both hands to catch at him and he steadied her while his own feet staggered, his expression shocked.
Like weak sunlight expanding through a break in the clouds, his gift washed over her, pale and lacking intensity because he was only a Latent, not a full-blooded Alvian. He emanated signals of exhaustion and taxed muscles and seeping battle wounds—a deep need for healing, but he was a glimmer of everything she longed for.
Her energy reached insistently for greater contact, craving Alvian healing. He’s Kerf, her mind insisted, but vows and a fundamental recognition prevailed. She let her body tip forward until she collapsed against him.
~ * ~
Lightheadedness struck Vaun as he absorbed her slight weight, nearly knocked off balance by this feather of woman. His blood heated in one mighty, restorative pulse. At the same time, melancholy homesickness rippled through him. He thought of his mother for the first time in years and experienced a sudden longing to hold his youngest son before Mekel grew too big to be lifted willingly like the older boys.
The strange, out of place thoughts were disconcerting. He dismissed them. Of course he wanted to see his sons and his brother. He wanted to ensure his village, nay his entire Kingdom, was safe. He wanted to report and devise a strategy to keep their corner of Kerf territory protected. He wanted to be home.
“You’re claiming her?” Gunar asked with shock.
Vaun realized his arms had closed around her. He hadn’t held a woman outside a bed since his wife had died, but he tightened his hold as he surveyed the frightened, hostile faces of his men.
“She could have knowledge of Shote armies,” he said, searching for logic behind his purely instinctive compulsion to draw her tight against him. “Information on their weaponry and intentions. And look at her. She’s just a harmless woman.” Near unconscious judging by the limp weight of her. Badly injured, perhaps? A slit in her sleeve showed a wet line of blood on her upper arm. Vaun smeared it, leaving an outline where the welled blood had been but the injury was gone. The hair on the back of his neck lifted.
Harmless, yet unable to be harmed.

To read about my personal journey to HEA as a published author (it took 25 years!) visit my website, find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.  You can also download a map of Kerfdom from my website along with a Reading Guide and Character Guide for The Healer.

You can find buy links for The Healer on my site or pick up The Healer through ChampagneBooks, AmazonUS, AmazonCA, Kobo, or ARe.

I’d love to give away an electronic copy of The Healer.  Leave me a comment telling me how you like to get to happily ever after.  Do you prefer to sprint to it or are there times you want to meander through an intricate storyline?


  1. Welcome Dani! What a great story! The excerpt is excellent. Don't you think it's fun to write in two different sub-genres?

  2. Oh Gosh, I'm out of control. Along with this and the Presents, I have a romcom that I indie published and an erotic romance with my editor. I'm never bored, that's for sure :)

  3. Holy cow! That would keep a girl occupied :-)

  4. Nice excerpt. Don't have a preference.


  5. It sounds like you have a host of sub-plots to work with in this story-I love a lot of story and intricacies! So I'd say I typically go for the longer stories. I do read novellas also, though, and can enjoy those just as much. It's just sadder that they finish so fast.
    Do you prefer to write long or short? Or is it something you'll bounce back and forth on depending on your muse?

  6. Oh, tough question, Dawn. Writing long is awesome, but the plotting is tough. At one point I had coloured index cards on the floor of the living room from one end to the other.

    Right now I'm so over committed that a 250 word blog seems daunting, so I'd say the shorter the better at this time, lol.

  7. Hi Dani,
    Great excerpt. In your interview, you mention that when you started writing you didn't know where the story was going to go. Does that mean you are a pantser? Would you mind sharing your best tip for a fellow writer?

    Thanks, and congrats on The Healer!


  8. Thanks Lyndee and great questions.

    I'm not a pantser, but I often need to write a few chapters blind so I can get to know my characters, then I shape the rest of the story, hammer out a decent synopsis, understand the arc of the romance... At least, that's my process now.

    With The Healer, I was really frustrated at the time with having NO time to write because my kids were quite young. I wrote every night in a notebook for fifteen or twenty minutes, but didn't actually have a chunk of time to get a big picture grasp on the story. I wound up finishing the first draft of The Healer for Nanowrimo a couple of years later. In preparing for that, I used Stephanie Bryant's 30 Days Of Worldbuilding.

    As far as best tips go, I'd definitely recommend her exercises for creating a fictional world. They also helped me identify lots of potential for conflict.

    Other best tip: hang in there and keep writing :)