Short Scene Critique: Forever Knight

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Meant to be a sneak peek into a Carina editor’s brain, and critiqued by a different editor each time, these critiques are posted twice a month.

The idea here is to give you a quick insight into how we might look at a manuscript as it comes across our desks on submission. We’ll strive to be critical but not mean. Because it’s only about 600 words, 2 pages at the most, the amount of feedback is necessarily limited—we don’t have access to more than a couple of pages!

We asked authors to submit one of four types of scenes: an action scene, a sex scene, the black moment or the first meeting between protagonists. This opportunity was limited to 400-800 words, but it provides both authors and those following these critiques with an opportunity to see editorial feedback deeper into a book.

It’s important to note that this manuscript was submitted specifically for the purpose of critique on the blog, we do not/will not use random submissions so no worries we’re going to pull your piece out of our submissions inbox and critique it.

The next opportunity to submit a piece for critique will be open soon, so please watch the blog or our newsletter for more.

This month’s editor providing critique is Carina Press Senior Editor Kerri Buckley.

 

The Short Scene

This was submitted by the author as a first meet scene between Renn, a dinner theater stunt jouster in the prime of his career, and Gabrielle, the newly-returned daughter of the man who owns the venue.

Author A described this manuscript as a romantic suspense, in which the heroine “fears falling for [the hero’s] charm as her mother had fallen for her father’s.”

* * *

Renn St. John loved his job. After three years of it, he still got an adrenalin rush every time he suited up for a show.

At least he had until Jack Varga, the owner of The Joust, had put him in charge of the dinner theatre in his absence. Only the Head Knight hated it more. With seniority, Dugan had thought he should be boss.

Renn trudged through the sand toward where Dugan and his horse hugged the arena wall, the knight clearly sweet-talking the serving wench laying out dinnerware for tonight’s show. Thick, black hair fell over her shoulder where her peasant blouse costume bared a lovely expanse of skin.

Dugan had a discerning eye…which wreaked havoc among the younger female staff as evidenced by the high turnover rate among wenches. Something Renn intended to head off with this latest hire.

Unencumbered by his show armor, Renn vaulted easily onto the ledge separating spectators from jousters. The serving wench turned from Dugan to him and, her heavy mane slipping back off her shoulder and exposing her face, he amended girl to woman. Deep brown eyes regarded him without humor. This wasn’t the usual college co-ed hire.

Though he sensed this woman could handle herself, he gave a nod in Dugan’s direction. “I should warn you, fair maiden, Dugan here has a way with the ladies, ladies being the operative word.”

Her dark eyes appraised him. “And you, do you likewise have a way with the ladies?”

Dugan’s horse nuzzled Renn’s shoulder. “I fear I have more of a way with horses.”

Dugan snorted.

Giving the horse’s ear a scratch, Renn met Dugan’s gaze. “Shouldn’t you be riding Tuck around the arena, familiarizing him to the routine?”

Dugan held Renn’s gaze a couple seconds too long. Challenge duly noted. Saluting, the Head Knight heeled the horse away from the wall.

Renn turned his attention back to the raven–haired beauty, half expecting her to have gone on about her job of setting out faux-pewter plates and mugs. Instead, he found her watching Dugan put Tuck through his paces.

“You’re new,” Renn said.

“I am,” she said without taking her eyes off horse and rider. “And that’s a Quarter Horse.”

“That it is,” Renn answered, puffing with pride. It’d been his suggestion to use the fast-off-the-mark breed for the jousting part of the show.

“An American made breed in a medieval period setting.” She arched an eyebrow at him. “A bit anachronistic isn’t it?”

He grinned. “You haven’t seen a Quarter Horse run a joust yet, have you?”

“That’s not the point,” she said, not a hint of amusement in her tone.

“Ah, but it is,” he said, determined to get a smile out of those ripe lips glossed a deep burgundy. “Quarter Horses hit full speed in three strides. Makes for quite a show.”

Bracing dinnerware tray to her hip, she faced him. “I know how speedy a Quarter Horse is in a sprint. That doesn’t make him any more suitable a mount for a medieval knight than would a Shetland pony.”

Going for humor, he retorted, “Actually, as old a breed as Shetland ponies are, who’s to say they weren’t used by a medieval knight or two?”

She scowled and continued laying out plates and cups.

“Some of those knights of old could be rather small,” he called after her, rising to his feet and striding the ledge after her.

“If you’re trying to impress me with your wit, save it for some naïve girl,” she said without a glance.

“I’m not trying to impress, just get a smile out of you.”

“I’ll smile for the patrons I serve tonight during the performance.”

“That’d be my performance,” he said. “The one where I dazzle our patrons with a lightning fast gallop toward the point of a lance…aseat a Quarter Horse.”

She huffed and moved to the second tier of tables.

“They won’t give a fig what I’m riding,” he said, raising his voice, pivoting on the narrow ledge to keep up with her.

“Quarter Horses are anachronistic,” she repeated, slapping down a mug.

What was this woman’s problem? Was she some history teacher who’d lost her job due to budget cuts? Maybe an historian unable to find a job in her field?

“Look, lady, we’re just about having fun here.”

She wheeled at him, the mugs on her tray swaying. “Fun. That’s the be all and end all with you guys, isn’t it?”

The vehemence of her question drew him up. “You got a problem with fun?”

“When it gets in the way of responsibility, I do.”

He wanted to ask her why she thought fun and responsibility were mutually exclusive. What came out was, “Maybe The Joust isn’t a good fit for you.”

 

The Critique

Points right off the bat for the unusual, superfun setting. The Joust seems like an interesting microcosm, one ripe for soap operatic shenanigans, and I’m here for it. Renn in his knight costume and Gabrielle in her wench dress really sets the mood and paints a very vivid picture. And the series potential! This feels new and different and I was intrigued immediately.

I like that Author A has gone for an enemies-to-lovers setup, too. It’s my current favorite.  I also like that Renn’s first act is chivalrous (at least in spirit)—he knows the Head Knight is a cad, and he’s tired of it. It’s very…knightly.

What ends up happening, of course, is that Gabrielle can more than hold her own. And through her dialogue and actions, we start to get more of an understanding of Renn’s characterization. I can’t say I’m an enormous fan at this point in time!

Amending girl to womanstriding after her on a ledge… noting that he’d like to “get a smile out of” her. These aren’t my favorite hero behaviors to begin with, though I can be pressed to give a bit of a pass if we’re gearing up for some major grovel and hero-growth down the line. It’s wondering about what’s behind her vehemence when it comes to Quarter Horses (Was she some history teacher who’d lost her job due to budget cuts? Maybe an historian unable to find a job in her field?), though, that’s a major turn off. It reads like simmering misogyny, and compiled with what else we see of Renn in this scene, it’s a big red flag for me.

This guy is a bit of a jerk, and I’m just not sure I’m primed to root for him–or for this first meet to work out–based on what I’ve seen here.

 

Would I keep reading?

Yes, because I think Gabrielle is pretty great and I want to see how she puts Renn in his place and/if Renn is redeemed or how his character grows and develops.

I am also bit confused about the romantic suspense element. The query letter doesn’t hint at a suspense arc, but Author A specified the genre fit when submitting.

Do you have questions about my feedback or the Critique program? Your turn to add constructive feedback for the author in the comments section! Or email generalinquiries@carinapress.com.]

Authors entering their work for critique can choose to have the blog post comments open or closed. Comments are open, so please utilize them to ask questions or to offer your own critique, but please remember to offer useful criticism. Comments will be moderated and deleted if not deemed to be useful or appropriate.

 

Get Inspired! Authors Share Their Holiday Traditions

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’Tis the season to be merry and bright…spend time with family and curl up by the fire with a great book.

This year Annabeth Albert, Therese Beharrie and Mary Shotwell share what they love most about the holiday season, including some of their favorite books, movies and family traditions.

 

Annabeth Albert, author of the Out of Uniform series

I absolutely adore the holiday books and novellas that come out each year, and I have a habit of revisiting my favorites annually. For the last ten years or so, I’ve made it my personal tradition to read only holiday releases between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day and to treat myself to several new ones each week as my present to myself during such a hectic season.  My favorite holiday books include Anne Calhoun’s Breath on Embers, Z.A. Maxfield’s I Heard Him Exclaim, Amy Lane’s Turkey in the Snow and Heidi Cullinan’s Sleigh Ride.

 

Don’t miss Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert—available now!

Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert

One hard-nosed military police officer.

One overly enthusiastic elf.

One poorly timed snowstorm.

Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?

 

Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.

Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.

The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

 

Therese Beharrie

Christmas means two things in our house: family and food. In my mind, though, those two things are slightly different: Christmas books and Christmas movies! Give me any Sarah Morgan Christmas book (I recently read One Enchanted Moment and LOVED it!) or Hallmark movie, and you’ll find me somewhere sighing with festive happiness.

 

Don’t miss A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie—available now!

A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie

Of all the weddings in all the world, Angie Roux had to be mistaken for a bridesmaid in this one.

Caledon, South Africa, is supposed to be just a stop on the way to Christmas in Cape Town, part of Angie’s long-avoided homecoming. She never expected to star in a bizarre comedy of errors, but here she is: convincing a handsome stranger to be her fake boyfriend for the day.

Ezra Johnson, the handsome stranger in question, turns out to be a pleasant distraction from both the wedding and thoughts of her first family Christmas without her father. And he seems to loathe weddings just as much as she does. He’s the perfect temporary companion.

But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours. Including a connection so strong it tempts them both into thinking of something more permanent…

 

Mary Shotwell

Hands down my favorite holiday movie has to be National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Clark Griswold so desperately wants to have a perfect Christmas experience for his family but nothing goes the way he envisioned. With a cast full of realistic characters (admit it, everyone has a cousin Eddie in the family), comedic high jinks and nostalgia, it warms the heart to see the imperfect Christmas exceed any ideal Clark could have imagined.

My mother and I have a tradition every Christmas. Right after Thanksgiving, she mails me a holiday-themed book (the likes of David Baldacci) to read by Christmas and we discuss it over the phone. It’s an early Christmas present and one that I hope to continue when my daughter is older.

 

Don’t miss Christmas Catch by Mary Shotwell—available now!

Christmas Catch by Mary Shotwell

Can an unlikely romance return the magic of Christmas to an entire town?

All podcaster “Cheery Charlee” Ridgeway wants for Christmas is to land her one-millionth follower. But first, she needs a really good story. Amid hundreds of submissions, one stands out: a plea from Cape Sunset, a small fishing village that hasn’t celebrated Christmas since Jack Fortner lost his fiancée four years ago.

It’s the perfect pitch, but who knew Jack would be such a downright Grinch—or so heart-stoppingly handsome?

Jack’s comfortable crab-fisherman routine is shaken when Charlee blows into town with bells on. It’s not long before the pretty podcaster is breathing new life into Cape Sunset, captivating everyone—including Jack, who’s feeling things for Charlee he once thought he’d never feel again. Not that he shows it.

Despite Jack bah-humbugging her every move, the show must go on. But the closer Charlee gets to Jack, the more growing her audience is the furthest thing from her mind. Thankfully, Jack has a few surprises waiting under the tree…including a love that will last a lifetime.

 

What are your holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!

 

Carina Press Has Your Male/Male Romances Covered!

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Whether you are looking for heart-racing romantic suspense, a holiday romance, a paranormal love story or an unforgettable contemporary romance, Carina Press has what you are looking for.

Here are 7 male/male romance titles we are buzzing about this season!

 

Better Not Pout by Annabeth Albert

One hard-nosed military police officer.

One overly enthusiastic elf.

One poorly timed snowstorm.

Is it a recipe for disaster? Or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for holiday romance?

Teddy MacNally loves Christmas and everything that goes along with it. When he plays an elf for his charity’s events, he never expects to be paired with a Scrooge masquerading as Santa Claus. His new mission: make the holiday-hating soldier believe he was born to say ho-ho-ho.

Sergeant Major Nicholas Nowicki doesn’t do Santa, but he’s army to his blood. When his CO asks an unusual favor, Nick of course obliges. The elf to his Kris Kringle? Tempting. Too tempting—Nick’s only in town for another month, and Teddy’s too young, too cheerful and too nice for a one-night stand.

The slow, sexy make-out sessions while Teddy and Nick are alone and snowbound, though, feel like anything but a quick hookup. As a stress-free holiday fling turns into Christmas all year round, Teddy can’t imagine his life without Nick. And Nick’s days on the base may be coming to a close, but he doesn’t plan on leaving anything, or anyone, behind.

 

Loving a Warrior by Melanie Hansen

BUD/S: six months of the most intense training there is. It’s survival of the toughest, and Matt Knytych is determined to come out the other side a navy SEAL.

Distraction is life or death. And just the sight of former marine Shane Hovland is enough to shake Matt’s concentration.

Shane came to BUD/S training ready to prove himself—again. Semper Fi is forever, but he needs a new start. Not this dangerous heat with a man he barely knows.

Everything they’ve ever wanted is riding on a thin, punishing line. And they’ll have to fight for more than just each other if they want to make it through intact.

After all, the only easy day was yesterday.

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Double, Double Toil and Trouble: Our Authors Share Why They Love Halloween!

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It’s that time of year when ghosts and goblins come out to play, and we couldn’t be more excited. Halloween is one of our favorite holidays of the year. Everything from the movies, the books and the children in costumes to the delicious food. Nothing screams pumpkin everything like Halloween, and is there anything better than chocolate in bite-size pieces?

This year Kari Cole, Tracy St. John and Sean Michael share what they love most about this amazing time of year including family traditions, movies they love to watch and food they love to devour.

 

Kari Cole, author of the Mated by Fate series

Most of our family traditions revolve around food. Halloween is no exception, but it isn’t the bags of chocolate candy we love the best. We pick our own pumpkins and apples and buy fresh cider and still-hot-from-the-fryer cider doughnuts. Then we spend the next few days roasting pumpkin seeds, baking pies and making sausage-and-apple risotto. Mmm, I love Halloween.

Touch the Sky by Kari Cole

Don’t miss Touch the Sky by Kari Cole, available now!

Keep to yourself. Focus on the job. 

Sheriff Vaughn Ellis’s very existence as a rare double-shifter defies the natural order. It also makes it extremely difficult for him to get close to anyone. To trust anyone. It’s nothing Vaughn can’t handle, until a seductively sweet woman arrives in Black Robe, and suddenly he can’t think about anything but her.

The product of a witch/werewolf pairing, Hannah Cochran gets the odd-wolf-out thing. But when she uncovers a major threat to the lycanthrope world, she finds herself playing nice with the sexy sheriff. Abiding by the law isn’t usually Hannah’s style, but nothing catches her breath quite like the commanding attraction she feels toward Vaughn.

Working closely together only intensifies their fated connection, making it impossible to deny—or resist. Hannah fears that getting involved puts Vaughn in danger. But when she becomes the target, it’s Vaughn who’ll have to decide which rules he’s willing to break to save the woman he can’t live without.

 

Tracy St. John, author of the Warriors of Risnar series

What I love about Halloween is the movie horrorfest my husband and I enjoy through the entire month of October. Everything from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to The Exorcist is gleefully devoured each night, culminating in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining on Halloween itself. Keep an eye on Danny’s sandwich during his first scene with his mom…either the continuity editor was off that day or that kid was starving.

Worlds Collide by Tracy St. John

Don’t miss Worlds Collide by Tracy St. John, available now!

Engineer Velia Farrah always wanted to see an alien up close. Now that she’s assigned to study the top secret portal linking Earth to other worlds, she’ll get her chance. But when a fierce, gold-skinned alien from Risnar leaps from the portal and whisks her back to his home planet, “up close” takes on a whole new meaning.

Believing Earthlings had killed his fellow warriors, Jape Bolep is determined to destroy Earth’s access to Risnar once and for all. Grabbing a curvy handful of a human wasn’t part of the plan, but he has no intention of letting her distract him from his need for vengeance—no matter how much he aches to make her his.

Both are ready to do battle over right and wrong and good and evil, and their combustible relationship burns hotter than the sun’s surface. But distrust and treachery from all sides leave Velia and Jape in a fight against their own people to keep each other alive—and to ultimately save both Earth and Risnar from total destruction.

  (more…)

A Few of Rhenna Morgan’s Favorite Fall Things

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by Rhenna Morgan, author of Ancient Ink and Men of Haven series

You’re totally doing the Julie Andrews sing-along in your head right now, aren’t you?

Well, go ahead. Let it play in the background while you peruse below, because October is hands down my favorite month of the year, and I’m about to unload the five primary reasons I love it!

 

#1 – Pumpkin Spice Everything

Okay, I’ll admit this one gets old kind of fast, but remember—I live in Oklahoma, and we just don’t mess around with summer. You really feel the heat July through August, and much of September. So when I start seeing pumpkin spice lattes on the Starbucks board, my inner survivalist knows it’s officially time to start saving on the air-conditioning bill and pull my sweatshirts out from the back of my closet.

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