Sharon's INSPIRATIONAL Short stories of Faith and Romance can be found HERE or visit her
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Joelle Walker Meets Dracula at Vlad Castle

An eerie whistle swooshed through the Carpathian Mountains surrounding the fortress as Joelle stepped off the Transylvania train. She shivered in eager anticipation of the evening ahead. A party at Dracula’s castle. Oh, what an intoxicating thrill. Tonight was the night she would fulfil her fantasy. She was Mina, once smitten, twice bitten, soulmate of the charismatic Count Vlad. And she could hardly wait. The crisp night air awakened her senses, every nerve ending snapping beneath her flesh.

And then she saw it—the castle looming high upon a cliff overlooking the Black Sea, dark and foreboding. But darker still was the sky as the blood-red moon skittered across the hemisphere like the gleaming eye of a serpent. From the nearby forest, a werewolf howled, the cry of the wild sending chills dancing down her spine. Oh, how she longed to meet Dracula, her champion, her one desire. A few more minutes and she would be at his castle, his fortress—his sanctum.

Romania was so stunning, so surreal. Gothic cathedrals and chateaux graced the landscape of fertile vineyards and lush green hills. Then she spied the cemetery next to the castle and her blood heated. Suddenly, a flash of lightening splintered the sky with forks of brilliant white light. And in that brief second, a vaporous glow illuminated the headstone of Count Vlad. Joelle licked her lips. He would come tonight—he’d promised her eternity.

She entered the courtyard, the ambiance dark and sinister. A wisp of cold air rippled through her crimson bustle gown, blowing her hair askew. Two werewolf knights in armor guarded the gate, the gushing water in the fountain the only sound. A wolf crept from the woods and rubbed against Joelle’s leg, a low but appreciative growl erupting from his throat. Surged with adrenaline, heart pumping, Joelle pounded on the door just as the clock in the bell tower struck the midnight hour.

With a groaning hiss, the heavy mahogany door opened and Oliver stood there in all his glory, costumed as Count Vlad in his scarlet embroidered cape. He treated her to a wicked wink as he pulled her into the vestibule. And with a beguiling smile, his searing gaze penetrating, he recited the lines from Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Her heart all a flutter, Joelle, knowing every line to her favorite movie, didn’t miss a beat.

Dracula: “The green fairy that lives in the absinthe wants your soul but you are safe with me.”

Mina: I want to be what you are, see what you see, love what you love.”

Dracula: Mina, to walk with me you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.”

Mina: “You are my love. And my life, always.”

Dracula: “Then I give you life eternal. Everlasting love. The power of the storm. And the beasts of the earth. Walk with me to be my loving wife—

—forever.” Joelle and Oliver said in unison.

Joelle’s spine tingled as Oliver escorted her down the darkened corridor to the Gothic parlour where the party was in full swing. The powerful chords, the danse macabre that was Michael Jackson’s Thriller issued from the organ, the beat causing Joelle’s heart to palpitate. Sharon floated about, costumed as a vampiress in a mint green gown. Glass of Merlot in silver chalice, she greeted her guest.

Sharon: Joelle, welcome. You do Mina proud in that striking knock-off! Oliver, do bring a drink for our guest and some appetizers, please.

Oliver turns to Joelle, red cape flowing. He whispers something in her ear and she follows him to the bar and gazes while he shakes up the perfect Bombay martini. With a twinkle in his eye, he offers her the cocktail in a frosted long stemmed goblet. He grins, “There you are, just the way you like it. Very dry with two blue cheese olives.”

Joelle: Dragging one long, crimson nail slowly down Oliver’s arm, enclosing her hand over his, she brings the crystal goblet to her blood-red lips and sips. “Perfect, my darling…as are you.” She runs her tongue along her full lips and smiles wickedly. The heat in their gaze, palpable.

Reluctantly, Oliver disappears and returns to arrange snacks on the coffin table, ceviche, salsa and chips, shrimp cocktail and bruschetta with goat cheese and peppers, while Sharon and Joelle make themselves comfy in the wing back chairs.

Sharon: Well before the dancing gets underway and you meet more guests, why don’t I ask you a few questions about the Black Rose line of The Wild Rose Press. In real life, (Sharon tilts back her head and laughs melodiously). That is if you choose to go back to your real life after tonight, you are an editor of the paranormal. Sharon smiles. Not that there is anything paranormal about my world, mind you. But let’s start with the basics. What is a typical black rose story about? The setting, the characters, the time period?

Joelle: Ah, dear Sharon, I believe I can safely say there is no such thing as a “typical” black rose story. The settings and time periods range from the Ripper’s 19th century London and even long before, up unto the present and still far beyond—there are no boundaries. As for the characters, I believe most writers today have knowingly moved past the archetypical vampires, werewolves and shifters to inhabit their worlds with paranormal characters, consumed with unbridled passion and impetuous love—to feral savagery and primal obsession. Again—no boundaries. It’s said there are no new stories, yet, I firmly believe there will always be new twists to the old stories—I, for one, see them every day.

Sharon: And when you read the query and synopsis, do you know within a few lines if it is something you want or not?

Joelle: Oh, my, no, dear. We so appreciate the writers who choose to allow TWRP the opportunity to review their work, I think I speak collectively when I say that rarely is much purport put into the query letter or even the “dreaded” synopsis. In my years with TWRP—both the Crimson and now the Black Rose line—I have yet to reject a submission without at least requesting a partial. Although I’ve not received one, the exception would be if the synopsis actually indicates the story does not meet our romance ratio or, in fact, does not have the required HEA. But that is all spelled out clearly in our “queryus” guidelines.

Sharon: What do you look for? What makes your adrenaline pump when you know you have a smashing hit on your hands?

Joelle: If not the first sentence, then the first paragraph— or the first three paragraphs. No kidding. A great first line hook sends chills up my spine. Another thing is if I start reviewing a new submission, look down and I’m on page ten and still haven’t picked up my big red crayon—hey, I figure I just might have a winner on my hands. As for what I look for, although I’ve heard it said frequently that romance novels are generally character driven, I lean toward a healthy balance between plot and characters. In my opinion especially in the paranormal genre, it’s essential that the plot must carry its own weight. Often, when I’m working with an author on their excerpt, I remind them to search for a scene that whets the appetite of both the paranormal and romance reader—you must captivate both tastes. Of course, characterization is extremely important and possibly a bit different in a dark paranormal romance. In some romances in today’s market I suppose the hero can be a Beta male—sweet, understanding, empathetic, etc.—but I have a hard time envisioning a werewolf or a vampire as anything but an Alpha male.
And last but, by no means least, when a clean, well-formatted, grammatically correct manuscript comes across my desk, my heart goes all aflutter.

Sharon: Tell me a bit about the role of the vampires, werewolves and shape shifters?

Joelle: Simply put, Sharon, vamps, weres and shifters can play any role. They can be the hero, the heroine, the protagonist or the antagonist, most often, with a few mortals thrown in for good measure.

Sharon: Where does an editor draw the line between the Black Rose and the erotic reads of the Scarlet Rose?

Joelle: Well, Sharon, it’s the rare occasion that we, the staff editors, are in the position to make that decision. First, the author designates the line she/he feels the submission is best suited. The Editor-in-Chief looks over the synopsis to see if, in fact, she concurs and, finally, the query is forwarded to the Senior Editor of that line. Now and then, a submission is flagged and we are asked to make certain the story doesn’t overemphasize a graphic, strong sexual premise and “dark erotic journeys of forbidden pleasures,” …taking “ them down uninhibited paths that push the envelope.” That’s straight from Scarlet Rose’s guidelines, Sharon. Further, unlike in the Black where there is the promised happily-ever-after, Scarlet can merely imply the promise of one.

Sharon: About how long does it take you to review a full length manuscript?

Joelle: Admittedly, I’m slow-paced. That’s partially because I lightly edit as I review. For two reasons this works well for me—first, if I decide the manuscript is not yet ready for publication, I want to give the author feedback in the form of suggestions/comments as to why I’ve rejected the submission, particularly, if I’m requesting a resubmission. Secondly, if I suspect I will be requesting to contract the submission—well, heck, I’
m ahead of the game on line edits. Therefore, depending on how “clean” the manuscript is when it hits my desk, it will probably take me anywhere from three to four weeks to complete a review.

Sharon: What type of workshops or research would you recommend for authors wanting to break into this genre?

Joelle: Read, read, read. My love for the supernatural began with Poe and then Stephen King’s Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot—and I haven’t stopped reading any and everything paranormal since. Although, I must admit, I am decidedly more discriminating now than I was in the beginning. If a writer wants to break into the genre, research who
the big names are and read their works. Or, better still, go to (shameless plug) because we have some extremely talented authors in our Black Rose line. Further, if the writer is a member of RWA, she might look into joining the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter, which offers plenty of good workshops and I imagine their loop is quite informative, as well. And did I mention—read, read, read.

Sharon: I’ve recently attended a writers conference. And word is, the vampires and fantasy and futuristic are all still very hot reads. Do you see this ending any time soon?

Joelle: No, not at all. In August I believe it was, Charlaine Harris, author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, had an unprecedented nine books on the NY Times Best Seller list! Not to mention, its great HBO spinoff, True Blood. And i
f you believe what Stephen King says (I personally hang on his every word!), in his book, On Writing…or, maybe it was Danse Macabre…in times of turmoil— social unrest, wars, political upheaval, depressions/recessions—(I think our current times might qualify…) the reading masses repeatedly turn to the supernatural. Why? Partially escapism, I suppose, or perhaps the supernatural is less frightening than reality.
Help! Sharon, stop me! If I keep waxing on and on, everyone’s gonna leave the party!

Sharon: OK, enough work. Oh, Oliver, more drinks o
ver here. Now let’s talk a bit about you, an up close and personal with Joelle Walker. What do you do in your spare time?

Joelle: (Laughing hysterically, covering her mouth with a black lace hanky and, finally, clearing her throat) …Uh, yes, spare time—that would be the
hour for dinner and casual chit-chat with (looking over her shoulder and lowering her voice) my DH, then another half hour of quality time with my minions—Choc, Sunny and Dexter…another time, Sharon. Perhaps an hour of mindless TV or quality reading, then it’s back to work. Spare time, right…

Sharon: You have a huge love of Francis Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Do you know I belong to a wine tasting group and about a year ago, we had an event at a recording studio and the theme of the evening was Coppola. All his music played all night long and we sampled some of his vintage wine. What fun! Do you enjoy some of his other movies or is it Dracula, hands down?

Joelle: Great question, Sharon. Coppola happens to be one of my all time favorites. Would’ve loved to have been at your wine tasting party. Personally, I believe “Wolf” with the forever awesome Jack Nicholson and the ethereal Michelle Pfeiffer is probably right up there in the top five paranormal romance movies. The ending—breathtaking! Then, “Godfather”—all three. And, the seemingly, never ending helicopter scene with its unimaginable background score, “Apocalypse Now”—“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Brilliant. And last but not least, “The Outsiders,” written by S.E. Hinton about warring teenage factors in my home state of Oklahoma. It opened the door for so many great actors, including the late, great Patrick Swayze.

Sharon: What is your favorite Halloween memory?

Joelle: Well, I was only four but I remember it cle
arly, even treasure the ‘before’ picture to this day—smashing my evil, older cousin’s prize jack-o’-lantern from atop my dad’s car after the dirty no-good brat locked me in a dank, dark cellar for over two hours. Priceless!

Sharon: I’m very superstitious and adore legend and lore. I just can’t get enough of them and am a real sucker for good luck charms and spells. LOL How about you? Do you have a favorite superstition you can share?

Joelle: Well, y’know, I must admit I believe there’s something to the number 13. I lived in a high-rise once on the twelfth floor…and the next floor up was the fourteenth. And that’s creepy enough, but a guy jumped from the 14th…right past my
balcony! Ewww. Wish I hadn’t even thought about that…
On the other hand, when you add 13 together, you get—voilà—4, my lucky number.

Sharon: What kind of music do you like?

Joelle: You know, strangely enough, the blues always has a way of lifting my spirits…

Sharon: Ah, and here comes Oliver with dessert.

With a sweeping bow, Oliver presents the crème brulee with rum sauce. With a glazed look in his eye, he feeds a bite to Joelle.

Joelle: She grasps the silver spoon in one hand and draws it to her mouth—with the other hand, she dips her fingers into the decadent dessert, throws back her head and slowly draws the mousse from her delicate throat down into her ample cleavage. Oliver leans closer, emitting a low, guttural growl.

Sharon: Well, uh, I’d say it’s time to do some dancing. It’s a party, after all. Joelle, thank you for being my guest of honor. You’ve been a delight, and have given us some very beneficial tips for submitting to the Black Rose line.

Joelle: Oh, darling, my pleasure indeed.

Just then, the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Annie Lennox filtered through the room. And as Love Song for a Vampire played, Oliver swept Joelle into his arms and held her close as they danced the night away.


Sharon Donovan said...

Welcome Black Rose Editor of The Wild Rose Press--Joelle Walker! Joelle, that was some dance with Oli...ah...I mean Dracula! Wow, we should all dance in your shoes! And while we wait for your fans to arrive here in this most befitting of parlours, Oliver will be serving green tea, coffee, Bombay Martinis, shaken with two bleu cheese olives and all the dark chocolate, double dipped strawberries, salsa and dip and whatever else he is brewing up with his delightfully skillful hands. And I agree. There is something so surreal about all of Coppola's movies. When I walked into the party that night at the recording studio, the theme song from The Godfather was playing while the clips ran on the screens. Very atmospheric, wouldn't you say?


P.L. Parker said...

Good Morning Ladies: Vlad the Destroyer - hmmmm, not my pick for a romantic hero, although from what I understand, the Romanians love him. He was a research project of mine at one time. Scary guy. Good interview (as always Sharon). Keep them coming.

Hywela Lyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hywela Lyn said...

*sigh* typos. Let's try that again!
Great interview Sharon and Joelle, very entertaining and enlightening and fascinating to learn more about a Black Rose editor, and I see Oliver is on form! *grin

Sharon Donovan said...

Welcome to the haunted mansion, Patsy and Lyn! Make yourselves comfy while we wait for Joelle to saunter on in. And here comes the dashing Oliver with a tray of refreshments and a wicked wink. Sharon holds out her goblet, smiles and bats her eyes. Refill, darling!


Autumn Shelley said...

Thanks for the insights, I'm hanging on every word! And thanks for affirming my theory that vampires are not the new 'old news'. Who doesn't love True Blood?

Sharon Donovan said...

Hey Autumn! Welcome to the mansion. Here comes Oliver with a beverage. Sit down and wait for Joelle to join us. Oh Oliverrrrr....more treats please...


M.Flagg said...

Hi Sharon. Hi Joelle. I enjoyed your post. You have great taste in music. I love Anne L. And isn't dancing with Oliver the absolute best??

Thanks for the insights into the Black Rose line. It's a great place to be. And the affirmation that vamps aren't going out of style? Oh, yeah. I totally agree.

Party on, Joelle. Bye, Sharon. Love to Oliver (sigh...)

Sharon Donovan said...

Hey, Mickey! Welcome to Joelle's party. Grab a seat and wait for our guest of honor. I agree. Isn't that song lovely?

Joelle said...

Dear Sharon...lovely guests. My apologies for such tardiness. All this partying is wreaking havok with my work schedule. And I do so hate to get out before the sun goes down...why is that, do you suppose?
Oliver, dear heart, one of your special martinis, please? I'm parched.
Micky, ah, Annie Lennox—I simply cannot get the lyrics from Love Song for a Vampire out of my head..."Come into these arms again and set this spirit free." Oh, be still my heart!

Joelle said...

Gee, Sharon, did everyone go home? Not that I mind having Oliver's pampering all to myself...And you are certainly lovely company. But...
To P.L.—I bet you've not seen Copplo's Dracula. Whoaa...Gary Oldman in his Victorian top hat and those lavender-tinted shades! Call me weird, but I find him très sexy.

Joelle said...

Well, Sharon, I do appreciate the invitation to your awesome chateau—the exquisite hors d'oeuvres and Bombay martinis, à la Oliver extraordinaire—but I suppose it's time to bid you a bon soir. I do hope I've imparted some "imho" information to your vast following.
Oliver, oh, Oliver? I'm ready for my tour of the chateau, darling!
Ta, ta, chere Sharon.

Sharon Donovan said...

Oliver materializes from the dark shadows, his fangs all a glow. Looking quite dashing in his lavendar shades and top hat, he extends his arm to Joelle. The rose-scented candles flicker once before the mansion is shrouded in darkness, the only sound the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Annie Lennox as Love of a Vampire fades into the night.

Helen Hardt said...

Wow, great post! I have to agree, vamps are as hot as ever.

And Oliver, aren't you supposed to be at my party? LOL

Melanie Atkins said...

Great interview, Joelle! Sounds like you're loving the Black Rose line. Enjoyed reading this. : )

Sharon Donovan said...

LOL Helen. Oliver moonlights with me at the roast! Fear not, he is all that and more!