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Friday, June 25, 2010

Keeping Things Fresh - Elizabeth Amber

Have you ever gotten series fatigue? That blah feeling that comes over you when you’re reading a 4th or 5th novel in a series and suddenly you think—I like this series, but this all seems a little too familiar. I’ve felt this kind of fatigue myself on occasion, both as a reader and an author.
When I began writing the 5th book in my Lords of Satyr series, I felt I’d neatly wrapped up the stories of the previous three half-satyr brothers (Nicholas, Raine, and Lyon) and their relatives. Well, there was that one Nereid, Elise, who was still emotionally and physically wounded at the end of Lyon. She deserves her own book, and I may write her story someday. But with a new 3-book contract from Kensington on my desk, I felt a strong desire for a fresh start.

I decided to begin a new trilogy within my existing Lords of Satyr series. Three books about three brothers--Dane, Bastian, and Sevin. My previous novels were set in 1820s Tuscany, and involved brothers, who guarded ancient secrets in a vineyard devoted to the worship of the Roman wine god. I love these brothers dearly, but I didn’t want them visiting my new family. So, with this 5th book (Dane), I moved the series up to the 1880s and I set it in Rome.

Why Rome? Because my background is in art history and archaeology, and the Roman forum excavations were in full swing in the 1880s. It’s a setting that’s rich with all sorts of mysteries surrounding the Vestal Virgins, Bona Dea, and other cults.
I knew this was the right thing to do because I immediately felt excited about it in a way that I hadn’t felt excited about lingering with the satyr lords in the 1820s.
On page one of my new release, Dane, The Lords of Satyr, Dane is losing his mind…at least for one night. It’s a very special night known as the Calling, when the satyr lords engage in a ritual devoted to the wine god, Bacchus. Because of a mysterious boyhood trauma, Dane harbors an alternate personality that seeks to protect him from the learning the secret of his missing brother's whereabouts. As his mind is taken from him, he’s in an olive grove on one of Rome’s famous seven hills, overlooking the Forum. Eva stumbles upon the grove, hoping to filch some olives for an unusual purpose—to create a potion that will disguise the fact that she’s the only female satyr in existence. Something she must hide, even from Dane. This won’t be easy because she cannot avoid him. She’s a matchmaker, whose job it is to find human wives for Dane and his brothers.
I hope you enjoy this excerpt:


Heart pounding, Mademoiselle Evangeline Delacorte struggled to fit the slender blade of the bronze key into the lock in the ornate ironwork gate. A difficult task when her lace-gloved hands were shaking so badly.


Her face was flushed, fevered with an unfortunate illness that came to her with regularity and ever-increasing force. Human females of her acquaintance might complain about their monthly flow to confidantes over tea in the privacy of their salons. Yet for her own safety and that of those she protected, she must remain silent on the subject of her own more unique monthly discomforts.


“Odette? Pinot?” she called, rattling the key in the lock with growing desperation. Why wouldn’t it catch? In contrast to her frenzied struggle, the lazy Italian moon eyed her just above the horizon. How long did she have? Fifteen minutes? Ten? She’d never cut her time so close. Just beyond the gate lay a small garden and then beyond that the door to her townhouse. In moments, she was going to fall apart.


Sudden illuminations splintered the sky above her, bursting like fiery snowballs. She started violently, and the key clanked to the cobblestone lane at her feet.


She cursed under her breath. “Must every night bring another celebration to this ridiculous city?” Bending, she swept her skirt aside and searched the ground on all sides of her.


Footsteps sounded and she glanced up, alarmed. Had the man from the grove followed her? But it was only a group of human revelers scurrying past, on their way to a Roman festa of some sort. Decades of excavations in the Forum along Via Sacra had caused a rampant fascination for all things mythological. They were dressed in costume. How ironic that they chose to disguise themselves as the very species that she and other ElseWorld transplants took such pains to hide.


The lone Bacchus among the group wore a garland of olive sprigs and held the arm of a delicate sprite. Accompanying them were several maenads, a fairy with wings that glittered in the dwindling light, and the Roman goddess of love, Venus. A faux Satyr was costumed in a dark demi-mask and a cloak. A large, multi-colored phallus meant to draw the eye bobbed at an upward angle from the codpiece he wore.


You’ll need me between your thighs. She shivered, recalling that man’s--Dane’s--words in the grove. Gods! How had he guessed when no one else had before in all of her twenty-two years?


Beside her foot, her hand touched metal. The key. When she stood again, a dour face stared back at her through the curls of iron in the grillwork of the gate. She flinched and lay a hand over her heart. “Odette! You nearly scared the life out of me.”


The mulatto woman’s eyes, startling blue against her coffee skin, narrowed on her. She’d had the uncanny knack of ferreting out Eva’s secrets ever since she’d been a girl. Would she guess what had just occurred in that small olive grove on Aventine Hill?


But Odette only darted a meaningful look at the moon. Clucking, she lapsed into the colloquial mix of her native ElseWorld and an obscure Italian hill-country dialect as her hands worked the stubborn lock from inside. Then, “You late, Mademoiselle! I sent Pinot out looking for you,” she said, referring to the diminutive pixie who served them as a combination coachman, majordomo, and bringer of gossip. “I worry you could be out there dead like the others, floating in the Tiber River.”


“Obviously I’m not. I’m careful.” Eva wrung her hands. “Hurry, will you?”


Finally the gate budged. It swung open with a protesting shriek--one they did not oil away for it offered advance warning of visitors. At last she was admitted into the garden. As Eva darted inside, Odette peered both ways down the street, eying those that idled there as she shut the gate again. She hadn’t yet gotten used to the fact that they no longer dwelled in the dubious district they’d inhabited in ElseWorld rather than their current, more respectable address on Capitoline, the smallest of the Seven Hills of Rome.


Odette swung the gate shut with a bang and followed behind her, her step ungainly. “Where you been?” she demanded suspiciously.


“I followed the map in Maman’s book to the grove.” Eva paused long enough to stuff the handful of olives from her pocket into Odette’s hands.


“This all you could get? It won’t see you through the month.”


“I’m lucky to have gotten that much. The land has been occupied.” Eva threw behind her as she scurried through the garden’s small courtyard and toward the house.”


“By who?”


“Not now.” Eva shook her head, nodding toward the two wide-eyed girls who stood barefoot in the doorway. Clad in white linen nighties they almost appeared to be apparitions. They weren’t of course. But they weren’t entirely human either.


“Mademoiselle! You’ve come!” said five-year-old Mimi. She bounced on her toes in childish excitement. Next to her, eight-year-old Lena was nervously stroking the end of her braid over her lips, looking as if she were nibbling a paintbrush.


“Vite, bebes! Come inside—all of you.” Eva scolded softly. Bending to give them slapdash hugs, she gently tugged the braid from Lena’s mouth offering her a reassuring smile. Then she skirted the pair and ducked inside.


Lifting her skirts high on either side of her, she raced up the stairs in an unladylike manner. On any other night, Odette would have scolded her.


But tonight she only called to her from the bottom of the staircase, “All is as you like!” Behind her, the girls peeked from either side of her aproned skirt, fascinated as always by any hints of what was to happen to Eva during this mysterious monthly event.


“Off with you!” Odette shooed the girls toward their room on the opposite side of the house.


“Do as she bids you,” Eva called. At the top of the staircase, she rushed down the corridor and flung herself into her bedchamber.


Shoving the door closed with an elbow, she half-fell against it, the weight of her body slamming it shut behind her. Her head fell back and she wrenched open the neck of her bodice. Her corset had become a device of torture. Breath was strangled in her chest, struggling to escape. She ran her fingers down hooked fastenings popping the uppermost of them open. Released from their decorous silken prison, her breasts swelled within the deep vee. Ah sweet freedom!

But tonight, these four walls would serve as another sort of prison. One that kept the world out and rendered her safe within. The solid oak doors and plastered walls here were thick and the windowpanes doubled. Whatever happened here would be buffered from the outside world and from the two girls who’d become her family. When she’d come here three months ago, a neighbor had told her that a madwoman had been kept here in this chamber in an earlier century. And would she not turn mad herself soon? She supposed she was fortunate that her lunacy would only be of a ten-hour duration. From dusk to dawn.


Dane, The Lords of Satyr is an RT Top Pick, a Night Owl Romance Top Pick, a Recommended Read at Kwips & Kritiques, and has garnered numerous 4.5 and 5 star reviews. Fresh Fiction called Dane “Another smash hit.” See more buzz at http://www.elizabethamber.com/reviews.html

Read another excerpt at http://www.elizabethamber.com/excerptDane.html

Excerpt copyright 2009-2010 by Elizabeth Amber

5 comments:

Armenia said...

Congratulations, Elizabeth, for having Dane picked as an RT Top Pick.

Can't wait to start on this trilogy. I've heard great reviews!!

marybelle said...

I'm blown away by the statue of the satyr. Incredibly beautiful!! Where in the world I wonder?

marypres@gmail.com

Carol L. said...

Elizabeth,
I absolutely love this series. The pictures are just incredible. Congrats on another great release.
Carol L.
Lucky4750@aol.com

practimom said...

Hey Elizabeth,

i LOVED Dane! congrats on the release. i know it is set 60 years of the other brothers, but do they know of each other?

Christy M

Michele L. said...

Oh wow! A big congrats on the new release! Your books are always fantastic! Love'm!