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February 10, 2012 | Author Dame Jenna

spacer Today is my scheduled day to post on Deadline Dames. However, I find myself distracted by the Sekrit Project I just started working on this week. So distracted that I can’t seem to come up with the creative energy to come up with a good blog idea. (My creative energy is going into the Sekrit Project.) So I thought I’d take the easy way out and post a snippet from my most recent release, Prince of Air and Darkness (which, by the way, is on sale for $3.99 for the month of February).

My hero, Hunter Teague, is the son of the queen of the Unseelie Court, and he’s been sent to the mortal world on a mission to seduce Kiera Malone, who, unbeknownst to her, is the half-mortal daughter of the Seelie king. His pretext for getting close to her is that he’s a massage therapist in need of her website design services. He isn’t happy with his mission, but he has no choice but to obey the Queen of Air and Darkness.


Hunter’s nostrils flared the instant he stepped into his apartment. He recognized that stink, like poorly tanned leather. With a flick of his wrist, he unsheathed the knife he kept hidden up his sleeve. Cautiously, he moved farther into the apartment, his nose twitching as he followed the stench of goblin until he found the uninvited guest in the room that would one day be his massage studio. Already, the room sported a massage table, CD player, and a stack of CD’s with soothing, tuneless music on them.

Bane didn’t hear Hunter’s silent footsteps—he was too busy uncapping and sniffing the collection of massage oils and lotions Hunter had purchased. In fact, the goblin had no hint of his presence until the silver blade of Hunter’s knife was pressed into the flesh of his throat.

The goblin’s natural appearance was hidden behind a mortal glamour, and to top it off, he was disguised as a stinking, filth-encrusted street person. The stench made Hunter’s eyes water, and he hoped it wasn’t rubbing off on his own clothing.

“I don’t remember inviting you in,” Hunter growled in the goblin’s ear, increasing the pressure on the knife so that the blade broke through just the first layer of skin.

Bane didn’t move, but Hunter sensed no hint of fear from him: no tensing of his muscles, no quickening of his heartbeat. “Her Majesty would be displeased with you if you killed me,” he said calmly.

Hunter’s hand itched to draw the knife across the evil creature’s throat, but he didn’t want to imagine how the Queen would punish him for killing the most vicious of her courtiers. “It might almost be worth it.”

“You don’t have the balls for it, half-breed.”

With effort, Hunter reined in his temper. Bane had goaded him into more foolish acts in his lifetime than he could bear to admit. Just this once, he would refrain from taking the bait.

With a grunt of disgust, Hunter released the goblin and slid the knife back into its sheath. Bane put a little distance between them, then reached up to finger his throat. A thin line of blood beaded where Hunter’s knife had bitten. Bane examined the blood on his fingers, lips twisted into a snarl that showed a flash of fangs behind the glamour.

“If you were going to stick me, Prince, you should’ve done a better job than this.” He licked the blood from his fingers. “Barely enough to annoy me.”

“What do you want?”

Bane chuckled. “What do you think I want, Boy-o? I want to snap your bones, one by one, and hear you scream.”

Hunter met the goblin’s eyes. “Yes, well, I wanted to slit your throat, but I refrained.”

Bane’s chuckle turned into an all-out laugh. “The Queen will be highly pleased with both of us for our self-control.” He looked genuinely amused by their mutual desire to kill each other, and Hunter could do nothing but shake his head.

Neither a lifetime in the Unseelie Court, nor the Unseelie blood that ran through him, was enough to make him understand how these creatures could so greatly enjoy killing. It wasn’t that Hunter had never killed before. Most of the unfortunates he’d hunted for the Queen’s pleasure had been highly reluctant to be taken alive. Usually, he’d been able to subdue them, but there were times he’d “accidentally” killed his mother’s intended victim. There’d been a certain sense of satisfaction with those minor acts of rebellion—despite the inevitable consequences. But he’d never actually enjoyed the killing, not like these goblins did, not like his mother did. Of course, with Bane, he might be able to make an exception.

“Why are you here?” he asked with exaggerated patience.

“A little reminder from Mama,” Bane sneered. “Just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean she isn’t watching you. And she can always get to you if you displease her.”

Hunter had never doubted that for a moment, but he wasn’t particularly surprised she’d felt compelled to send him the message. Nor was he surprised she’d chosen Bane, whom he hated above all others—excepting his mother herself—as the messenger.

“Well, now that your message is delivered, you can get the hell out of my apartment. I’ll have to fumigate just to get the stench out.”

Bane gave him another of his toothy, vicious smiles. “Sorry for the . . . inconvenience. But, since I’ve already inconvenienced you, perhaps I should stain the carpet with your blood while I’m at it.”

“If you thought you could get away with it, you would have gone for my throat already. Now, are you planning to leave peacefully, or will I have to throw you out?”

“I wouldn’t want you to get your hands dirty, Prince,” Bane said, starting toward the door.

Hunter tried to step aside, knowing that Bane would shoulder him out of the way if he didn’t. But it seemed that only a handful of days in the mortal world had already dulled his instincts, for he didn’t read the intention in Bane’s eyes until too late.

As Bane brushed by, he made a fist and poked a lightning-quick jab at Hunter’s groin. The pain drove Hunter to his knees, and for a moment he could barely breathe as his body clenched in agony.

“That’s for the little nick you gave me. Unfortunately, I can’t hit you any harder or you might have trouble performing your stud duties. But if the Queen ever takes the muzzles off of us, I’ll show you what I really wanted to do.”

Hunter had to fight too hard for air to manage a comeback.


Buy Prince of Air & Darkness for Kindle.

Buy Prince of Air & Darkness for Nook.

Posted in excerpts, Jenna Black | 2 Comments »

Why a Book is Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

January 20, 2012 | Author Dame Jenna

spacer One of the things I like to do when I’m not sitting in front of the computer is to work on jigsaw puzzles. I think I might have crossed the line into addiction somewhere along the line, based on how many puzzles I have sitting around the house in stacks and piles almost as big as my TBR stack. My husband and I work on one every day while I’m taking my lunch break.


In recent weeks, I’ve been struggling with the plot of my work in progress (Replica, my dystopian YA), and it occurred to me that plotting a novel bore some striking similarities to solving a jigsaw puzzle. You start out by looking at a seemingly overwhelming jumble of images and colors and shapes. When your eyes adjust a bit to the jumble, you start being able to pick out the edge pieces and fit them together. This part of the process resembles writing a synopsis–you’re laying out the shape of your puzzle, creating the framework in which the finished image will sit.

For me, putting the edges together/writing the synopsis is relatively easy. (Those of you for whom writing a synopsis is pure torture may now throw your rotten tomatoes at the screen. It’s okay. Hey, I don’t have to clean it up.) I can paint the big picture without having to figure out all those pesky details that will come back and stymie me later. (The example I always use when describing how I write a synopsis is that in a synopsis, I can write something like “and then the heroine escapes from the dungeon,” without having to figure out how the heck she’s going to pull that off. I leave the pesky details for the actual writing the book stage.)

My method for working a jigsaw puzzle once the edge is complete is to look through the box, stirring the pieces around, paying attention to what colors and patterns catch my eyes. I’ll then select the most distinctive ones and put those sections together.spacer

That’s pretty much how I plot my novels, too. I write down each of the plot points I’m most sure of on index cards, starting with the most prominent. I don’t worry about where exactly in the framework they fit, or how they connect to each other. I don’t even worry about what order they’re in, at least not at first.

Of course, after putting together the easy pickings, I’m left with a box full of pieces that look distressingly similar and indistinguishable. Pieces that look like they could go anywhere. (In other words, I’m left with all the hard stuff.) That’s kind of how I feel about plotting books, too. I’ve got these major events planned out, and I’m really excited to write them. But I don’t necessarily know how to get from one to another. I must trust that when I start writing, the way will become clear.

But just as some jigsaw puzzles are harder than others, so too are some books harder than others. Replica has been one of the hard ones for me. The big picture has always been clear in my head, but this puzzle seems to have more pieces than others. Figuring out how to get from one major scene to another, what all the little connecting pieces should be, has been a struggle. Kind of like doing this puzzle, in a fact:spacer

So much going on, so many variables, so many directions I could go. Sometimes, I sit down and work on a puzzle all through my lunch hour and get no more than a handful of pieces put together. I leave the table feeling frustrated, like I’ll never finish this one. But the miraculous thing is, often when I sit down the next day and stare at the same jumble of pieces that stymied me the day before, it all becomes clear, and they fit together easily. Just like sometimes with a book, I end up completely stuck on what should happen next, going into paroxysms of angst worrying that I’ll never figure it out. And then suddenly, the answer comes to me, and the way is clear.

I’m happy to report that I have reached the “the way is clear” stage on Replica. In my mind, I have the full picture of the rest of the plot, including how to get from one scene to another. I may have to make some changes as I go, may figure out that some of the pieces I thought fit together are actually mistakes, but I no longer find myself worrying that I’ll never solve the puzzle. So I guess that’s the final way that plotting a novel resembles assembling a jigsaw puzzle to me: no matter how hard the puzzle seemed along the way, no matter how many times I got stuck and pulled my hair out, I eventually manage to finish. And that’s good to know when I’m in the midst of the struggle.

Posted in Jenna Black, Writer's Life | 2 Comments »

My First Indie Release

December 30, 2011 | Author Dame Jenna

spacer This week marks the release of my first ever indie-published book, Prince of Air and Darkness. When I originally came up with the plan to e-publish this book, I thought of it as being a quick and easy task, taking an already-finished book and making it into something my fans could download and read. After all, I’d had a serialized version of the book up on my website for years, so there should be no pressure, and it shouldn’t take up too much of my time.

Pardon me while I take a few minutes to laugh hysterically.

I wrote the first draft of this manuscript years ago, before I’d ever sold a novel to New York. Now, I had had confidence in the book as it stood–otherwise I’d never have put the serialized version up as a free read–but when I started putting all those installments back together into one manuscript and read what I had, it was impossible not to tinker. After all, I’d written this book many years ago, and my writing style has changed since then. In the end, I spent a couple of months on rewriting it, and that’s almost as long as it takes me to write a first draft of a brand new novel.

My fabulous agent, who has been helping me out with this process, edited the manuscript, and that turned out to be one of the smoothest editorial processes I’ve ever had, mostly because she and I have been together since the beginning of my career, and she knows me so well. Great editorial is an artform, and having an editor who knows you and understands how you think makes the whole process so much easier. It takes time to develop that kind of relationship, and in the traditional publishing world, you often don’t have that kind of time to gel with your editor.

It turned out to be a lot of work, but I think this version of the book is far and away better than the serialized version. And, because this is an indie publication, I got to have way more control of the whole publication process than I’ve ever had before, which has been a heady experience. I didn’t like the look of the cover model on the first draft of the cover, so I had the artist start over from scratch. Whenever I’ve had to ask for cover changes with traditional publishers, there’s been a ton of angst involved, and there’s always been the worry that they would say “tough luck, you’re stuck with it.” I was almost giddy with power at being able to say no without any need to wheedle or cajole. (Okay, maybe that giddiness was from the difficult task of sorting through photos of cover models looking for someone I liked better . . .) I am thrilled with the final version of the cover, and based on how people commented on Facebook and Twitter, I think I ended up with a winner.

Another part of the adventure was that with an indie release, the author has to (or gets to, depending on your point of view) write the back cover copy. (Okay, this book has no real back cover, but I still think of it that way.) You’d think after writing a whole book, writing a few paragraphs of summary would be easy, right? (Okay, you’d only think that if you’d never tried it.) I struggled with it for days, coming up with one inadequate version after another. I finally got so frustrated, I sent out what I had to the rest of the Deadline Dames, begging for help. And I’m so glad I did. The Dames are the most awesome group of women ever. (So awesome, I dedicated this book to them.) Here’s what I came up with (with a lot of help fro the Dames, particularly Dame Jackie):

It’s not easy being the son of evil incarnate… 

Hunter Teague is the prince of the Unseelie Court, the dark half of Faerie. Raised in an atmosphere of unspeakable cruelty, Hunter has learned the lessons of his mother, the Queen of Air and Darkness, and he’s ready to put them to use. He’s on a mission, one that will shift the balance of power in Faerie forever: he will seduce the Seelie king’s mortal daughter and sire a child upon her—a child who will be heir to both the Seelie and the Unseelie thrones. Hunter has never met a mortal woman he couldn’t seduce…until now. 

Kiera Malone is a self-employed web designer and a self-professed cynic. She doesn’t believe in magic or soulmates, let alone her mother’s ridiculous claims to have slept with the mythical Faerie King. But when Hunter hires her to design a website, Kiera finds herself drawn to him in ways that seem almost magical. He’s gorgeous and sexy as sin, the kind of man any woman would swoon over—but her every instinct warns her there’s something dangerous lurking beneath his charming façade.

To succeed in his mission, Hunter must let himself get closer to Kiera than he ever planned. Soon, he finds himself burdened with the one thing a prince of the Unseelie Court can’t afford: a conscience. Now Hunter must betray either the woman who is slowly working her way into his heart, or the Queen of Air and Darkness…who would destroy him and Kiera both.

All in all, this indie-publishing thing has been a really good experience for me. I have no idea if the book will have any success, but I can say that I had a great experience putting it out. There were times when I was a little tense, as we were trying to get it out before Christmas and that caused something of a rush, but all and all, it was a much more relaxing experience than traditional publishing has ever been for me.

Of course, I still have traditional publishing contracts in the works. I am not even close to the point of turning my back on New York and the traditional publishing world. But I have enjoyed my tantalizing taste of indie publishing, and if this book enjoys reasonable success, I may well try again. Maybe with a brand new book. Or maybe even with a book in one of my existing series that are no longer under contract with New York publishers. (So if you’re one of those people who desperately wants me to write another Guardians of the Night, Morgan Kingsley, or Faeriewalker book, do what you can to spread the word and help make this indie release a success! That would definitely increase the chances of more indie releases down the road.)

You can buy the Kindle* version of  Prince of Air and Darkness here.

You can buy the Nook* version of  Prince of Air and Darkness here.

*For the moment, those are the only formats available. There may be others down the road.


Posted in Book Release, Jenna Black, Publishing Industry, Writer's Life | 4 Comments »

Dipping a Toe into the Indie Pool

December 10, 2011 | Author Dame Jenna


spacer It’s hard to believe how much the world of publishing has changed in the few short years since I first set foot in it. My first book hit the stands in 2006, and now here at the end of 2011, the landscape is completely different, thanks to the growth of ebooks. I don’t think I will ever lose my love of print books. I own a Kindle, and will happily read books on it, especially while traveling, but print is still my first love. I love the look and feel of print books in my hands, and I love the scent of them. Reading a print book is a full sensory experience (okay, maybe there’s no taste involved, since I don’t actually lick my books, but you get the idea).

But I like ebooks, too, and in today’s publishing environment, there are things an author can do with an ebook that she just can’t do with a print one. Which brings me to my big announcement. Around Christmas time this year, I will be releasing my very first indie ebook, Prince of Air and Darkness, a full-length paranormal romance novel. A little background about Prince of Air and Darkness. It was a book I wrote (using the title Embraced in Darkness) before I made my first commercial sale. It was actually the book that first piqued my agent’s interest in me, and so it is in large part responsible for launching my career, even though it was ultimately not the book my agent ended up selling. When I made that first sale, I had more than a year to wait before my book hit the stores, so I decided to use my unpublished book as a promotional tool, posting a serialized version on my website to build interest in my writing before my first “real” book became available.

Fast forward to the current ebook revolution. People have often asked me if I have plans to publish any of the books I have sitting in my desk drawers (for those of you who don’t know, my “first” published book was actually the 18th I wrote), and I’ve always said no. Some of them will most definitely never see the light of day. Some of them are meant to be the start of a series, and I don’t have time to commit to new series just now. But some of them, I still love, and the erstwhile Embraced in Darkness is one of them.

Over the  course of the summer, I had some free time, and I went back and read Embraced in Darkness with a critical eye, wondering if I might want to use it as a guinea pig for testing the indie waters. It seemed like an ideal candidate. After all, it was finished. Not only that, but it was a real, honest-to-goodness standalone book, so I wouldn’t feel like I was setting up reader expectations for sequels I wasn’t sure I’d have time to write. Perfect, right?

Only one problem: I wrote the book more than six years ago, and I’ve grown (or at least changed) as a writer since then. I may still enjoy books I wrote that long ago, but it’s impossible for me to read them without wanting to change things to match my current writing style and sensibilities. So what started out as an easy “let’s e-publish a book that’s already finished” became a months-long rewrite that was almost as much work as writing a book from scratch. (Funny how that happens!) I do think the updated version is much better and more sophisticated than the original, and I’m very happy with the finished product, though I had my doubts along the way as the “quick and easy” project kept getting longer and harder.

By the end of the month, I should have Prince of Air and Darkness available for the Kindle and Nook formats. I will have cover art and a book description very soon, and will post links on my website, Twitter, and Facebook when they’re available. (I was hoping to have the cover available for this post, but even indie publishing doesn’t always work as fast as you’d like it to!) If you’re wondering why I changed the title, it’s because Dame Keri has a published book named Embraced by Darkness, and I figured that was way too close for comfort. Besides, I kind of like the new title better because of how well it fits the book.

And now, just to make up for being late posting this, here’s a bonus. The prologue from Prince of Air and Darkness. Enjoy!


Hunter pulled his leather coat tightly closed and surreptitiously tucked his hands under his armpits. The breeze held a sharp November bite, and he had enough mortal blood in him to feel the cold keenly. He wished his mother had waited for spring to engage in this latest round of Court intrigue.

He slanted a glance in her direction. She was sitting beside him on the bench in Rittenhouse Square, looking serene and regal and not the least bit cold. The heavy mink coat that draped her body was for effect only. She must have felt his eyes on her, for she turned her head his direction.

Hunter abruptly looked away. No one, not even her son, wished to be the recipient of the full attention of the Queen of Air and Darkness.

“Are you growing impatient, my son?” she asked.

Her voice had a brittle, unsettling edge to it, and it chilled him more than the cold air. But showing fear in front of her was like waving a bloody steak before a wolf, so he stretched out his legs, crossing them at the ankles, and tried to look bored. “We’ve been out here almost an hour,” he said, not looking at her. “When is this little morsel going to make an appearance?”

“Sooner than you think.”

Hunter sat up abruptly and turned to see his mother smiling at someone in the distance. It was the same smile she wore when she ordered a particularly gruesome execution, and he felt an instant of pity for the recipient of that smile. Then, he followed her gaze.

His eyes were drawn instantly to the woman who held his mother’s attention. “Is that her?” he asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Queen nod. He pulled the brim of his hat down so that he could regard the target more closely without being seen.

His first impression was that she was rather unprepossessing. An ill-fitted puffy coat hid any shape she might have had, and her cheeks were apple red from the cold. Her jeans were threadbare, but not in a fashionable way. Frizzy red curls peeked out from under an ugly knit hat pulled down all the way to her ears, and a mismatched knit scarf was wrapped around her throat. Warm she might be, but he wondered if she’d ever seen herself in the mirror in that get-up.

She must have inherited more than her fair share of her mother’s genes, Hunter decided. He couldn’t discern even a passing resemblance to Finvarra, the High King of the Daoine Sidhe. He cocked his head at his mother. “Are you certain she’s Finvarra’s get?” he asked.

The Queen smiled savagely. “Quite certain, my son. From what I’ve heard, he was staggering drunk the night he sired her. I suspect he never even noticed her mother’s face, being entirely absorbed with her . . . other charms.”

Hunter made a face at the thought. On a number of occasions after a successful hunt, he’d celebrated by visiting bars in the mortal world. He’d gotten pretty drunk a number of times, but never so drunk that he would accidentally bed someone ugly. The target—Kiera Malone—sat down on a bench only a few yards away, pulling a book from the pocket of her coat.

“The woman must be mad,” he muttered under his breath. No mortal in her right mind would sit out in this cold just to read. His own feet felt like lumps of ice in his heavy boots, and he suspected his lips were an unappealing shade of blue.

“Well?” the Queen prompted.

Hunter shrugged. “Ordinarily I wouldn’t give her a second glance,” he said with a faint curl of his lip. “But I doubt bedding her will be overly unpleasant.” He tried to muster some enthusiasm for his Courtly duty, but malice didn’t come naturally to him, and if he wasn’t careful, pity and regret would sneak through his defenses.

The Queen snorted. “I was not enquiring about your enthusiasm for your mission. I was asking if you thought you could manage it.”

Hunter stiffened at the implied insult. He might not have the seductive power of a full-blooded fey, but he’d yet to meet a mortal woman he couldn’t seduce. “Of course I can manage it!” he snapped. “She’s homely enough that she’ll be panting like a dog the moment I turn on the charm.” It was an uncharitable assessment—while she might not be beautiful, she certainly wasn’t homely—but it was the kind of disdain his mother expected of him.  He’d learned at an early age that failing to meet her expectations carried a heavy price.

The Queen’s eyes glittered dangerously at his tone, and Hunter tensed. That glitter usually preceded a particularly painful disciplinary action. Disdain for the mortal, she would encourage; disdain for herself, she would punish with her trademarked cruelty.

“I will have difficulty performing my duties if I am in pain,” he told her in a mild, bland voice that sounded much calmer than he actually was. Only a fool would be calm when the Queen of Air and Darkness was angry with him.

Her cold, beautiful face broke into a smile that did nothing to warm her aspect. “Why, Hunter, dear, what makes you think I would hurt you?”

His insides twisted at the malevolence of her gaze. Being her son offered no protection, although other members of the Unseelie Court grumbled about perceived privileges. Hunter had known from the time he was a little boy that she would not hesitate to execute him—slowly and painfully—if he ever displeased her. Just as she had executed his father when the foolish mortal had tried to take Hunter away from the Unseelie Court.

It took all Hunter’s effort to keep his hatred from showing on his face. No matter what he said or did, she would undoubtedly keep him alive and relatively unharmed until he had done her wishes and fathered a child on Finvarra’s bastard daughter. But he mustn’t give her any reason to dispose of him afterward, either. His life might not be the stuff of dreams, but he was rather fond of it nonetheless.  And Hunter had plans for the child his mother had ordered him to sire, plans she would find very distasteful indeed. So he fought the hatred that roiled within him, fought to keep his expression bland and thereby soothe her ire.

The Queen reached out and touched his cheek with her bare hand. He knew better than to flinch, no matter how much the touch of her hand made his skin crawl.

“My beautiful son,” she murmured, with something that could almost be taken for affection if he didn’t know better. “You will have Finvarra’s bastard flat on her back in no time, I’m sure of it.”

He was sure of it as well, and though a small, human part of him pitied the woman whose life he would destroy, he shoved that pity down into the darkness of his soul. He could not afford pity, nor kindness, nor conscience. He was his mother’s creature, beaten and shaped into the mold of an Unseelie Prince. Her creation, her sword arm, her puppet. If the role chafed, that was just too bad. His destiny had been sealed the moment he was born.

The Queen’s hand slid from his cheek, and he glanced once more at his target.

Kiera Malone was looking right at him, and he froze like a rabbit. There was something odd about her gaze, something strangely knowing. His pulse quickened and he found himself unable to look away. Had he doubted for a moment that Faerie blood flowed in her veins, the otherworldly look in her eyes quelled that doubt. Then she blinked and turned away, frowning, and she looked once more like the mortal woman she was.

“Let us prepare you for the attack,” the Queen said, rising gracefully from the bench.

Two goblins, clothed in Faerie glamour that made them look like street-dwelling mortals, rose from nearby benches, darting suspicious glances around the square as if assassins might be lurking behind any tree. When the Queen strode purposefully toward the apartment building where Kiera lived, Hunter hurried to follow, the goblins falling into step behind them. They were the Queen’s bodyguard, but Hunter couldn’t help feeling like they were in equal part his own jailors, keeping him trapped in his mother’s company when his soul screamed for release.


Posted in Book Release, excerpts, Jenna Black | 3 Comments »

The Change-up

November 18, 2011 | Author Dame Jenna

spacer I love my job. No, really, I do. But sometimes, it drives me absolutely batsh*t crazy.

You want to know why? Because every time I sit down to write a book, I have a completely different experience. You’d think with thirteen books on the shelves, I’d have this writing thing down to a science. You’d think I’d sit down at the beginning of the project and know exactly how I was going to attack it. That I would have an actual, you know, process. One that’s tried and true, that works consistently every time.

Pardon me while I take a moment to savor the beautiful fantasy.

Of course, it never works that way. Not for me. Every time I sit down to write, it’s a new experience, and tried and true techniques th is neither affiliated with the authors of this page nor responsible for its contents. This is a safe-cache copy of the original web site.