Sunday, December 15, 2013

Megan's Legacy Tidbits

Can anyone guess the "model" for Luke on Megan's Legacy book cover?

Megan finds a stray kitten in Megan's Legacy. Fictional, yes, but based on a real event. Click here to read the excerpt.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Megan's Legacy Released

Megan's Legacy was released today. The book brings the eight-part Collective Obsessions Saga to a conclusion.

Megan is forced to discover the truth to set herself free from a legacy of family secrets and obsessions.

Megan Larkin, only child of Liam Larkin and Carly O'Reilly Sullivan, falls for Boston attorney Luke Castaneda. Locals try to warn Luke about Megan's family history of madness and tragedy, but he falls in love with the shy and retiring Megan, determined to make her his wife.

Other forces are at work to ensure the union never takes place, bringing another veil of evil over the Larkin's and their self-named city in the guise of a serial killer. . .

Megan's Legacy is available at Amazon and the Club Lighthouse Publishing web site. If you feel so inclined, click here to read excerpts from the book.

As I've said before, it's kind of bittersweet to see the Collective Obsessions Saga characters and storyline finally coming full circle, but the event is also very satisfying.

I posted the following blog entry back on March 18, 2011 (At Loose Ends):

A few days ago I wrote the final page for Megan's Legacy, and shortly thereafter sent the manuscript to my publisher. Considering I began writing the storyline a few decades ago, I'm stunned rather speechless that it's finished, once and for all. Even better, I'm very happy with the way the story ended. A few months ago I envisioned agonizing over the finale, but it didn't happen that way. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and that's where I took the story and its characters.

Sounds like a rather simple statement, doesn't it? However, completing Megan's Legacy also signals the end of the Collective Obsessions Saga. Having been consumed by the storyline and its characters for more than twenty years, it's a jolt to realize I no longer have to get up at the crack of dawn and work until midnight to make a dent in my planned vision for the books.

Just a year ago I thought I'd never see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet here I am. The rigid daily schedule I kept for so long is now history. I'm sure there will come a time when I'll impose the same schedule on myself for another project, but at the moment I'm a bit at loose ends.

One of my favorite regimens was to write longhand by night just so I could get away from the computer screen, and then type my notes by day. I'm not a natural typist, frankly, so writing longhand was enjoyable for me. I also had a few quirks that went along with the scribbles: round-stick grip black pens only, and countless pads of quadrille paper (five squares per inch on each side). I may have to start my next project sooner rather than later just to get back into my nightly swing.

To know that all eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga will be released this year and next is keeping my head in the clouds. It's akin to a natural high, and I'm not sure I'm ready to come back down to earth yet. But real life marches on...

I can't express it any better in the present day.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Neddy & Old Sod

Kevin Larkin is another one of my favorite characters within the Collective Obsessions Saga. He first shows up as an adult in The Twain Shall Meet.  Kevin is gruff, no-nonsense and completely unabashed about his rather lecherous romantic past. It also helps that he is tall, dark and handsome as well as humorous in stitches.

Kevin and his younger brother Liam share pointed barbs throughout the saga, although it is equally apparent that they feel great familial love for one another. Kevin always refers to Liam as "Neddy" (an Irish term for a fool), while Liam gleefully calls Kevin "you old sod."

When Kevin finally marries his longtime love Mariko Woods in The Twilight, the "dressing" ritual before the ceremony beings out the best in the two brothers:

EARLIER IN THE DAY, Liam snuck Kevin into the mansion, coordinating their entry with Shannon while Mariko was safely ensconced in her own room. The two brothers made a beeline for Kevin's bedroom on the fourth floor to prepare for the wedding. Shannon left them a tray with a decanter of cognac and two snifters in a thoughtful gesture, hoping it would help keep Kevin calm on his special day.

But Kevin declined a drink. "I had enough hooch last night, thanks. I want to be clear-headed when I lumber across the foyer in my twinky get-up."

"It wasn't much of a bachelor party," Liam complained. "Twenty men crammed into the keeper's cottage, taking shots of whiskey and playing poker. The Coven would have been better…"

"Yeah, but it would have been much harder to pry me out of the Coven," Kevin grinned. "This way we're close at hand and semi-sober." He pointed to the garment bag draped over his bed. "Grab my clothes, will you? Let's get this over with. I'm warning you, though, if you laugh at me in my get-up, I'll hurt you really bad. I'd like to see your bony little ass in one of these outfits."

Liam tried to keep a straight face as he helped his brother slip into the black montsuki haori full-length kimono, split between the legs, and baggy pants known as hakama. Kevin tucked a white sash into the pants, and then admired the Larkin family crest embroidered on the breast pocket of the kimono.

"Look at me, will you?" Kevin snorted. "I waited fifty-eight years to get married, and it's come to this. I'm going to face Father Hunter and all our guests looking like an Irish samurai. All I need is a sword swinging at my side to appear the part."

Liam couldn't hold back his laughter. After he regained a semblance of control, in part spurred on by Kevin's fierce glare, he offered a positive note: "At least Mariko made the outfit large enough to cover your frame comfortably."

"She is something, isn't she?"

Liam sobered, catching the solemn tone of his brother's voice. Clearing his throat, Liam stood behind Kevin at the bedroom mirror and looked at his reflection. "I know I've said this before, but I'm glad you found Mariko. She's the best. She's understated and serene, yet so funny and wise. I love her to bits, and she'll make a wonderful addition to our family. However, if you asked me ten years ago…I never thought you'd give up tall blondes and bleary bar flies for a tiny Japanese lady who brooks very little nonsense. It took you long enough, but you deserve all the happiness in the world. You've earned it, and then some."

"For once I agree with you, neddy."

"Just be happy," Liam insisted.

"I'm very happy, and thank you."

The brothers were uncomfortable with frilly sentiment, unused to sibling displays of deep affection, so they let their personal comments rest there.

Click here to read more excerpts from The Twilight.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Fiction in the Kitchen

The Larkin Community Cookbook has been updated with a new format and book cover.

The Larkin Community Cookbook is a compilation of more than forty recipes mentioned or prepared by characters in the "Collective Obsessions Saga" by Deidre Dalton. The eight-part series of fiction novels chronicles the extraordinary loves and intricate obsessions between two families sweeping a span of more than one hundred years, all set against the backdrop of a Gothic seaside mansion in Maine.

A number of characters found in the "Collective Obsessions Saga" are exceptional cooks. It begins with the first family chef Claude Mondoux, and carries on with the ill-fated Nicholas Bertrand, the much-beloved Mae Jensen and the drunken Cora Ann Hogan.

The diabolical Amber Whale executive chef Jack Sansovino is also a dab hand in the kitchen, where he brews more than just seafood specialties.
Various members of the Larkin family have culinary talent as well, including Shannon, Derek and Dana, who prepare mouth-watering dishes for family and friends. Derek also becomes a professional chef and opens his own elegant restaurant in Larkin City, known as The Silver Tassel.

Before her self-inflicted demise, Carly O'Reilly whips up delectable dishes for her highly successful Harbor View Catering Company, where she also sells homemade foodstuffs.

Click here to learn more.

Bon Appétit!

Friday, August 16, 2013

"The Twilight" Released

The Twilight was released today. Having a book published never gets old as I've stated many times before, so naturally I'm excited. The book is number seven of the eight-part Collective Obsessions Saga, so there's only one more novel to go before the series comes to an end (around Christmas with Megan's Legacy). It's kind of bittersweet to see the characters and storyline finally coming full circle, but also very satisfying.

Please Note: Let me qualify that The Twilight (named such about sixteen years ago), has absolutely nothing to do with vampires and the like, but rather the sunset years of a long relationship.

Shannon and Scott are happy in their long marriage, but a tragic loss forces her to delve into the past in order to face some ugly truths about her husband. Devastated, she retreats into her own solitary world. A stranger brings her out of self-imposed exile and shows her the beauty of unconditional love exists after all.

The Collective Obsessions Saga continues with book seven, The Twilight.

Shannon Larkin and Scott Page are happy in their long marriage, but a tragic loss forces her to delve into the past in order to face some ugly truths about her husband.

Devastated, she retreats into her own solitary world. A stranger brings her out of self-imposed exile and shows her the beauty of unconditional love exists after all.

Although hurt and disillusioned by Scott's secret life, Angie Page finds surprising happiness as a result of her father's duplicity.

Her brother Jamie finds unlikely harmony in his marriage of convenience to Désirée Sansovino. In despair over his father's deception, Jamie turns to his flamboyant wife for comfort with life-altering consequences.

The brash and grumbling Kevin Larkin finally marries his long-suffering girlfriend Mariko Woods, bringing a much-needed jolt of love and happiness to the family. But will it last?

The Twilight is currently available from Amazon and Club Lighthouse, with Barnes & Noble and Kobo Books editions to follow shortly.

Click here to read excerpts from The Twilight, or visit the book's official Facebook page for more. The Twilight also has pages at Pinterest and Scribd. Or for fun, take The Twilight Quiz.

 Seven down, one to go! I never thought I'd be saying that...

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fictional Cookery & Mayhem

Over a period of more than one-hundred-forty years, the Larkin family employed four live-in chefs within the Collective Obsessions Saga. They all had specific character oddities, but were unique in their own ways: two were beloved, one was barely tolerated, and one met an insidious ending.

Claude Mondoux was the first chef, and perhaps the most cherished by the Larkin family. The following excerpt is from chapter eleven of Quixotic Crossings:

March 1936
Larkin City, Maine

CLAUDE MONDOUX HAD EXPERIENCED disturbing dreams of late. Winter was drawing to a close, so the bracing air from the sea was beginning to mellow and little buds of spring were blooming all over the estate. Yet Claude could not shake his winter doldrums, and the nightmares that plagued him for months continued unabated.

The dream was the same each time. Claude envisioned his old friend Colm Sullivan burning and writhing in the fires of hell, with Molly Larkin standing off just in the distance, untouched by the flames. She watched her former lover suffer, without a shred of compassion or concern written on her face. The injustice outraged Claude, and he tried to find his way to Colm through the fire. "Mademoiselle Molly should be suffering, not my beloved Beauty Man from Ireland," Claude thought angrily in each dream. But every time Claude was in reach, Colm slipped away farther and deeper into the flames, screaming in pain as the fire licked his flesh. Molly then laughed, head thrown back, and Claude had the overwhelming desire to wring her neck with his bare hands….His driving desire throughout the dream was to bring Colm to safety and to allow Molly to burn alone in her rightful place in hell.

He always woke from his dreams in a cold sweat. He was never able to finish the horrific episodes, and he never reached Colm to save him.

It was St. Patrick's Day 1936 when Claude awoke in his bed, clammy from his ritual nightmare. He lay in bed for several minutes, trying to orientate himself to the real world. It was early as long shadows still crossed the room, but he could hear birds chirping outside his bedroom window.

He sat up and swung his long legs to the floor, grunting in pain. His arthritis was particularly painful this morning, and he cursed his old age. He turned ninety-one two months ago, and he was still shocked that he had come this far. In his youth, he never imagined living so long but he was not ready to give up yet.

Claude was followed by the unfortunate Nicholas Bertrand, who found himself on the receiving end of Patrick Larkin’s psychotic rage on Halloween night 1947. The following excerpt is from chapter fourteen of Quixotic Crossings:

Halloween 1947
Larkin City, Maine

Gripping the knife in his hand, Patrick crossed the threshold quietly, following the muted light to the bedroom. Despite the coolness in the air, he could feel perspiration gathering in beads on his forehead. He hesitated for a brief moment, wavering just before he reached the bedroom door.

"Do I really want to do this?" he asked himself. "There will be no going back if I move forward. But how can I leave it as it is? Nicholas Bertrand had no right to touch my wife. He had no right to think of her as anything more than his employer…"

Imagining his wife in the arms of the family chef removed the waning clarity from his mind. Nicholas had to die and Colleen had to suffer for it, even if that meant Patrick giving up his own life to meet that end.

Nicholas and Colleen lay in each other's arms under the soft coverlet of the bed. They were not asleep, but dozing in warm rapture after their love play.

Patrick stared at Colleen's serene face, hoping to will her to open her eyes and look at him. But her eyes were closed as she rested her cheek on her lover's shoulder, her hand draped across his chest. Patrick resented the happy glow on her face, the obvious contentment that bespoke not a care in the world. She had never been that way with him - rather she had always seemed apprehensive and then dutiful, in a hurry to leave his presence in their long-forgotten marital bed.

Colleen was content. She was blissful in Nicholas' arms, where she wished away the unpleasantness of her marriage and circumstance. She knew they were taking a chance in being together because of Patrick's recent behavior, but she and Nicholas ached to be alone. Surely this once before the divorce wouldn't mar their future.

When Colleen opened her eyes she thought she was dreaming. Patrick stood over the bed, his silhouette inky and his face almost obscured by the shadows in the room. Nicholas was unaware of him, his face turned to her with his eyes half-closed.

Before Colleen could open her mouth to speak and warn, Patrick plunged a knife into Nicholas' neck. Colleen felt her lover's body tense. In slow motion, she saw herself recoil and then try to scream as she met Nicholas' bewildered eyes.

He stared at her in shock, in disbelief. She reached for him and felt the wet stickiness of his blood.

Then Patrick plunged the knife again - and again. Back, head, rollover, heart, lungs….

Colleen pulled away, screaming. She scrambled to the other side of the bed. Her own body was covered in blood, her hair wet and stuck to her face, but she was sure Patrick had not stabbed her. From across the expanse of the bed, she looked at Nicholas and began screaming again.

She could no longer see his face. His dark hair was matted, obscuring view of his features. His bloodied limbs were lifeless, like oars adrift in a pond. She thought she could hear him moaning, but there was no movement of breathing, no signs of life.

"Why isn't he fighting back?" Colleen thought dazedly. "Why isn't Nicholas thrashing about, or yelling at the top of his lungs?"

"Because he's dead," another voice whispered in her ear.

Patrick stepped away from the bed. He, too, was covered in blood. He still held the knife in his hand, staring down in wonder at Nicholas Bertrand. He heard Colleen's sobs in the back of his mind, but her anguish had no affect on him. He dropped the knife on the floor, and then turned to walk away.

Colleen watched her husband, incredulous that he was leaving her there, acting as if he had just taken a walk on the beach.

"Patrick!" she screamed from her place on the bed.

He stopped but did not turn around.

"Why?" she wept hysterically. "Why did you do this?"

There was silence, a long pause. Colleen could hear the wind and rain against the glass window pane next to the bed as she waited for an answer.

The finally he spoke: "You're an adulteress," he said tonelessly. "The rest of your life will be spent in misery, remembering your lover, and what your treacherous actions cost you."

Colleen was speechless. Suddenly it did not matter what Patrick said, or why he killed her beloved. Her reality was the bloody form of Nicholas, who such a short time ago was warm and loving in her embrace. Now he was gone from her forever. In the blinking of an eye, her only chance of true happiness was destroyed by the nemesis known as her husband, the once-reputable man who made her life miserable for daring to seek happiness away from him.

Patrick heard his wife's sobs as he left the chef's suite of rooms. The further he walked away, the more muffled the sounds became. He smiled slightly as he reached the foyer. Colleen's misery was now complete.

It wasn’t until 1951 that Nicholas was replaced by Larkin City widow Mae Jensen. She was kind-hearted and generous, very much part of the Larkin family until her natural death in 1989. The following excerpt is from chapter six of Enthrallment:

August 1989
Larkin City, Maine

LESS THAN THREE MONTHS after the death of Phoebe McGarren, Mae Jensen died in her sleep. The Larkin family cook had shown no signs of illness, but rather passed away suddenly in her rooms at the mansion.

The hot summer was winding down at the end of August, just after the Larkin Fair Days, when Kevin discovered Mae dead in her rooms. He arrived home one Saturday morning after spending the night with a female friend in Larkin City to find the kitchen deserted. Mae was typically an early riser, who had the coffee brewing long before the rising sun.

The hallway to the cook’s rooms was dark and quiet. Kevin made no pretence at being stealthy but rather ambled his bulky frame along at a steady pace. When he came to the closed doorway of Mae’s suite, he paused, listening for signs of activity. Nothing. He knocked loudly, several raps in quick succession. When he received no answer, he put his face closer to the door frame and bellowed:

“Mae, for God’s sake, I’m dying out here. Are you sleeping the day away or can we possibly get some coffee brewing in the kitchen?”

Silence greeted him. Muttering under his breath, Kevin opened the door slowly, almost fearful of finding Mae in the altogether and shrieking in panic when she spied him. Neither scenario unfolded, but he was puzzled by the dark stillness of her rooms. He passed through the sitting area and stood in the doorway of the bedroom.

He saw Mae’s form in the bed, her head facing the wall away from his view. He stared at her for a moment, looking for signs that she was breathing. He wasn’t sure what prompted him to think she might not be breathing, but the eerie quiet in the room made him uneasy.

He stepped toward the bed, reaching out gingerly to shake her shoulder. She moved with the motion but did not waken. Kevin walked around to the other side of the bed to look at her face, gasping as she came into full view.

Mae was the color of ash, her eyes open and staring, her mouth slightly twisted into a grimace. He knew she was dead before he touched her again, and the knowledge filled him with dread. He placed his fingers to the pulse point in her throat, unsurprised to find no rhythm to indicate her heart was beating. She was gone. Considering the color and coldness of her skin, she had been dead for several hours.

“Damnit,” he swore, hanging his head. Mae had been such a permanent part of the family for almost forty years. It was unimaginable that in one short night she was gone from them.

“What is it about this damned house?” Kevin wondered aloud. “It’s as if death and dying likes to roost here, waiting and watching for its next victim.” He knew it was the hang of last night’s alcohol speaking for him, so he stopped talking and stepped away from the bed.

After a moment, Kevin left the room.

The chef post remained vacant until 2002, when Cora Ann Hogan was hired to take over culinary duties. Coarse and uneducated – with a penchant for heavy drinking – Cora actually took the job in order to spy on the Larkin family. The following excerpt is from chapter eight of The Twilight (due for release this summer):

November 2003
Larkin City, Maine

CORA ANN HOGAN SPENT a pleasant afternoon at the mansion. Family members were supposed to be in Larkin City all day, attending the opening trial date of Andrea's lawsuit. Cora never had the house to herself - there always seemed to be someone about - so she enjoyed the time knowing it would never last.

After the noon hour, Cora went into the drawing room and poured herself a brandy from the sideboard. She never dared do that before - she was usually in the drawing room to serve the family rather than to help herself. She sat on the divan, in the same place Shannon often held court, and sipped the fine-quality liquor.

Cora imagined being the mistress of such a fine house, to have others wait hand and foot on her. In her mind Cora saw the elegant and elaborate bedroom suites upstairs, lying on her own silky bed amongst the fine furnishings and lazing away the day. "Those that have it don't know how to use it," she thought. "Look at the Larkin's - they're swimming in greenbacks but they're up early and out working. Why bother when the money comes from a black hole?"

Coming out of her fanciful reverie, Cora drained her brandy and returned to the kitchen, washing the snifter. Wouldn't Miss Hoity-Toity Shannon be furious to see her sitting like an equal in the drawing room, drinking fine liquor? Cora chuckled at the thought.

Today would be a tough one for the Larkin family, Cora realized with glee as she rummaged through the refrigerator for something to eat. Andrea would surely win her case and receive a portion of Scott's estate, and then Cora's life would finally change. She could leave the toil in the mansion and live a life of ease. Not for the first time, Cora wondered how the court proceedings were going.

She fixed herself a sandwich and gobbled it down, contemplating what to fix the Larkin's for dinner. Since none of them were courteous enough to call her and let her know when to expect them, she had no clue when they would arrive at the mansion.

She opened the freezer door and pulled out a large package of pork chops. What if Andrea won her case today? "Then I won't have to cook these people another damned morsel. They're an ungrateful lot, anyway." Deciding to play it safe, Cora seasoned and floured the pork chops and cooked them in a large skillet on the stove. She threw together a mixed green salad and a casserole dish full of potatoes au gratin. "Just in case," she said aloud.

As the food finished cooking, Cora noticed it was nearing six o'clock. She placed the dishes in the oven to keep warm and then brewed a pot of coffee. Just as she was setting the coffee tray with mugs and saucers, she heard the back door open and the tramping of many feet.

Cora turned from the counter and faced the Larkin clan. They stood in the kitchen, still wearing their coats, regarding her in return. Cora failed to notice their gazes were anything but friendly.

"Dinner is ready if you're all hungry," Cora managed to say, somewhat intimidated by the group of them. "Or if you'd rather, there's fresh coffee."

Shannon stepped forward, removing her coat and draping it over the back of a kitchen table chair. "Miss Hogan, you no longer work here," she said coldly. "Pack your belongings and get out."

Cora felt the blood drain from her face. "Excuse me?" she stammered.

"You heard me loud and clear," Shannon continued evenly. "Your employment here is at an end. Because of the filthy state of the quarters we so kindly let you use, severance pay is out of the question. Your final wages will be used fumigate and re-paint the cook's suite of rooms."

"I don't understand," Cora insisted plaintively. "What have I done wrong?"

"Deception and lies," Shannon spat. "Miss Hogan, we've been aware of your relationship to Andrea St. John since Thanksgiving. The fact that she's your daughter came out in court today, as did Andrea's plan to snare my husband and her ploy in getting you to work here."

Cora stood open-mouthed, unable to speak.

"That being the case, your daughter did not receive one red cent," Shannon said with finality. "Your granddaughter, on the other hand, will receive a trust fund that cannot be accessed by you or Andrea. So you see, all of your plans were for naught." She turned to Brose. "Will you escort Miss Hogan to the cook's quarters so she can pack her things? And please make sure she doesn't try to steal anything."

Cora followed the giant Brose Larkin to her rooms, still not comprehending what had just happened to her.

Back in the kitchen, the family was relaxing and taking off their coats, congratulating Shannon on her performance.

"I've wanted to fire Cora since the get-go," Shannon declared. "Today was doubly sweet because we are rid of her mendacious daughter as well."

"Let's all sit down for dinner now," Dana suggested. "I'm starving."

Shannon shook her head. "Not on your life. I refuse to eat another meal cooked by that woman. We can throw her food away - I won't even force it on the dogs." She winked at Dana. "What do you say we whip up some pasta and break out a dozen bottles of good Chianti wine?"

More to come this summer, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Revisiting Larkin

Just when I think writing new material for Collective Obsessions is behind me…

The next book due for release in the saga is The Twilight (tentatively scheduled for early summer). Last week, it was decided some new scenes needed to be added for two specific characters, so I put my "collective" hat back on.

Having thought I put all of the characters to bed with the physical completion of Megan's Legacy in 2011, it was odd to suddenly jump back into the saga mindset (especially considering my work schedule of late with Bloodlust, which has nothing to do with the saga). However, after a few hours, I began to enjoy myself. Keep in mind it took an on-off period of more than twenty years for me to write all eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga, so revisiting my fictional places and characters was actually rather pleasurable.

While all eight books in the saga were complete and contracted in 2010-2011, they have been incrementally released by my publisher since.
  1. Passion Forsaken (released 2011)
  2. Quixotic Crossings (released 2011)
  3. The Twain Shall Meet (released 2012)
  4. Enthrallment (released 2012)
  5. The Keeper's Journal (released 2012)
  6. Hearts Desires (released 2013)
  7. TheTwilight (coming in 2013)
  8. Megan's Legacy (coming in 2013)
It kind of reminds me of movie releases. Films are made one year, and then released the next or the one after that. You work on a project for a long time, giving it your heart and soul, and then move on after it's finished. Revisiting the project a year or more later – whether it's a book or film - is almost surreal.

Whatever the case, I managed to write the requested new scenes for The Twilight within four days and delivered them electronically to my publisher.

So now it's back to my Bloodlust writing schedule.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hearts Desires

In the past, there has typically been about a six-month interval between releases of books in the Collective Obsessions Saga. It's not my doing, but rather done at the discretion of my publisher. Therefore, I was more than pleasantly surprised when Hearts Desires was released today, just two months after the publication of The Keeper's Journal.

The Collective Obsessions Saga continues with book six, Hearts Desires.

Brose Larkin finds himself falling in love with a local "tomboy" who bests him at every turn. Despite having known her since high school, she is the antithesis of his ideal woman in her simple attire and direct manner. Brose knows he has met his ultimate match in Bridget Gallagher.

Shannon's son Jamie Page begins to understand his lifelong yearnings but fears his family will never accept them. His first love affair with a nefarious character nearly costs his life, but brings to light his hidden desires.

Jamie's sister Angela Page suffers an emotional collapse after discovering she cannot have children. She holes herself up in the attic at the Larkin mansion, much like her ancestors Molly and Patrick Larkin did before her.

Happiness continues to elude the family, as if a dark shadow of evil has settled over the Larkin estate.

I'm also pleased with the book cover, which depicts two main characters in the specific storyline: Jamie Page and Jack Sansovino. The back photo frame of the dog is significant as the pooch figures prominently in a final scene with Jack in Megan's Legacy (to be released around the end of 2013).
With the release of Hearts Desires, there are only two more books to go before the Collective Obsessions Saga is finally complete (The Twilight and Megan's Legacy). The long journey has almost come to a full-circle. Quite literally, it's a dream come true.

Character Comparisons: I'm fairly liberal in my political and social views, so same-sex relationships and marriage have always been issues I consider to be basic human rights. It shouldn't be an issue at all in 2012, frankly. We are all free to choose our own path in life, and it's not up to anyone else to restrict our choices or to pass judgment. Judge not lest ye be judged…Or is it people who live in glass houses should not throw stones?

Throughout all eight books in the Collective Obsessions Saga, there are only two central male characters that are gay in relation to the Larkin family. This wasn't something I did on purpose, but rather the characters just happened to blend into the storyline with their lives already written in my imagination. In other words, the two specific characters simply - and inadvertently - worked out that way. They are also related by blood (second cousins twice removed), but never actually meet as they appear in different time periods.

The first man was Jean-Claude Sullivan (grandson of Colm Sullivan from Passion Forsaken), who appeared in Quixotic Crossings, followed by The Twain Shall Meet and Enthrallment.

Fate continues to entangle the Larkin and Sullivan families amidst madness, murder and obsessive love. Colm and Molly's grandson Jean-Claude Sullivan finds his life driven by greed and perversely tainted pleasures. Beloved family chef Claude Mondoux watches helplessly as Colm slowly loses his mind in ghostly visions of Molly, while Colleen Larkin seeks love in the arms of another man with deadly consequences...

Jean-Claude was married with a son (George Sullivan aka Ben Webb) when he meets Mason Berger, his co-worker at the Larkin Gazette. Jean-Claude's storyline occurs between 1934 and 1985, the earlier portion of which was not known as a time of sexual tolerance. Jean-Claude and Mason are eventually forced out of Larkin City. They begin a new life in Paris, where they are able to live together relatively free of harsh judgment.

It didn't take George long to fully understand the true nature of his father's relationship with Mason Berger. He was slightly repulsed but not overly shocked, having suspected Jean-Claude's inclinations for a long time just by the tone of his letters and the affectionate mentions of Mason. The more time he spent with the two men the more he realized how instinctive their relationship was.

Jean-Claude and Mason seemed to flow together. They finished each other's sentences, or they sniped at each other playfully, just like an old married couple. In truth, the two men were married in a spiritual sense, their unconditional love evident in every touch and vocal gesture.

The second gay man is Jamie Page, son of Shannon Larkin and Scott Page, who appears in parts three through eight of the Collective Obsessions Saga. However, Jamie's sexuality is not really explored until Book Six: Hearts Desires (which takes place from 1996-2000).

Jamie's first romantic experience comes about in the form of Jack Sansovino, who first appeared in Enthrallment as Carly O'Reilly's sous chef. During a Christmas party in Enthrallment, Jack spikes Carly's drink with Flunitrazepam (aka roofie, date-rape drug) and then takes her to his flat, where he rapes her. He also allows several of his "buddies" to take turns with her. The "buddies" are actually bookies and loan sharks to whom Jack owes money. He permits them to rape Carly repeatedly in order to erase his gambling debts to them.

Now back to Hearts Desires – it is the first of my books to be classified in the LGBT genre. Hearts Desires also falls into family epic and romance, where it sits with the other titles in the Collective Obsessions Saga.

Jack Sansovino knew Jamie Page was staring at him. He saw the young man from the Amber Whale kitchen as he cooked lunch dishes, and took a particular interest in his flawless handsomeness and quiet demeanor. When Jack entered the dining area, he deliberately walked toward the window overlooking the harbor. The lunch crowd had been fast and furious, and he was ready for a break, but his real reason for venturing out was to get a closer look at the solitary diner.

Jack paused just to the left of Jamie's table, pretending to take a long look out the window into the harbor. He crossed his arms and drew a great sigh, knowing the action would attract Jamie's attention.

In Hearts Desires, Jamie is unaware of Jack's sorted past and falls promptly in love with him. Jack is not gay, but hooks up with Jamie in order to take advantage of his wealth and prestigious family name. The deception takes a psychological toll on Jack, so he begins to drink and gamble heavily again. He beats and rapes Jamie in a drunken rage one night, and then flees Larkin City a wanted man.

Not to worry, though. Jamie finds gentle love with another man in The Twilight, which is part seven of the Collective Obsessions Saga (due for release this summer). While I don't want to give too much away, Jack ultimately gets his comeuppance in Megan's Legacy, the final book in the saga.
Hearts Desires is also about the unlikely love match between Brose Larkin and local road crew worker Bridget Gallagher, as well as the emotional upheaval suffered by Jamie's sister, Angie, when she discovers she cannot bear children. In addition, readers of Hearts Desires will get a first glimpse of the gaudy but heartfelt Désirée Sansovino, Jack's younger sister.

Read excerpts from Hearts Desires >

Hearts Cover History

This was the "working" cover for Hearts Desires for a long time, pre-book release:

The red room was indicative of a bloody scene where Jack Sansovino rapes Jamie Page and then beats him to a near-pulp. The incident takes place in the bedroom of Jamie's cottage, a short distance from the Larkin mansion.

The second cover was rather vague, but I liked the design anyway:
The final cover was rendered by my publisher, and features Jamie, Jack and Jamie's dog in frame:
I was a bit uneasy about having two bare-chested men on the cover at first. Not because the men happen to be gay, but rather suggestive nudity - even with women - is just not my cup of tea. Passion Forsaken is another example of partial nudity, although I was relieved when the woman on the cover was not shown completely bare-chested.

None of the books in the Collective Obsessions Saga are heavy on sex scenes. How many ways can one write a romantic interlude for a connecting series of books that span 140 years? I tried to be creative as the storyline progressed, which sometimes resulted in violence or mild kinkiness, but the scenes are a backdrop rather than the focus.

However, I've come to appreciate the cover for Hearts Desires. Not so much for the half-naked men depicted, but for the inclusion of the dog in a framed picture behind them. The image threads into the final part of the saga (Megan's Legacy) in subtle fashion, which will only be realized by readers when they finish the last book roughly ten months hence.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Not So Fictional Pets

Even though I'm a fiction writer first and foremost, more than once I've integrated the physical appearance or character traits of real people into my writing. These people can be family members, friends or complete strangers who just happen to catch my eye during the course of a normal day. The aforementioned people rarely recognize themselves after I've written fictional accounts around their characters, unless I choose to tell them about it.

Animals and treasured pets also figure into the mix on occasion. My beloved pooch Foofer, who passed away in 2007, makes his appearance in The Keeper's Journal where he is discovered abandoned by Jamie Page. Jamie, who is also a veterinarian, adopts Foofer. The two become inseparable, exemplifying the master and devoted canine relationship. That being said, there is more to Foofer's seemingly casual presence in the book, which is scant when compared to the unfolding human drama in the storyline. Foofer is Jamie's vigilant protector in Hearts Desires (due for release in spring 2013), where he distrusts his master's new friend Jack Sansovino with keen canine instinct.
However, Foofer's true purpose becomes quite clear in Megan's Legacy, the final book in the Collective Obsessions Saga (due for release near the end of 2013).

My demonic feline Kiki also appears in Megan's Legacy, where she is found abandoned by the main character Megan Larkin. Kiki is mentioned fleetingly throughout the book, but she is part of the dramatic saga finale albeit in subtle fashion.
I have yet to find a fictional place for my darling Rainee, the Black Lab mix I adopted in Spokane in 2004. I've felt bad about it, wondering why something for her hasn't come to mind. Not to worry, though. I recently came up with the perfect story-bound scenario for her, although it probably won't see the light of day for a few years.
Rainee is streamlined, elegant and behaves with purpose. Even as a puppy in 2004, she feared nothing in her path (including Foofer, who at the time was 109 pounds to her wispy but lively 13 pounds). Her main focus is food, followed by her desire for daily trips in the car. She loves nothing better than to stick her head out the window as we tool down the road, although I'm careful not to give her too much leeway. She's a living doll.

Since Foofer's passing, Rainee and Kiki have been at odds with one another so I have to keep them separated for the most part. Both seem to think they inherited the mantle of dominance after Foofer left us, which has resulted in several hysterical confrontations.

Both female, neither Rainee nor Kiki give an inch to each other.  I love them both to bits, so it's our way of life for now. I liken it to having two very different – and difficult - children. The more difficult they become, the more I seem to treasure them.
Unconditional love is a wondrous and rare thing.