The Novel Approach welcomes author Mary Calmes today to chat a bit about how Forging the Future, the final chapters in the Change of Heart series, came to fruition.
Enjoy the exclusive excerpt she’s brought along to tease you with, then be sure to leave a comment right here for the chance to win an e-copy of the book on its release day, Monday, June 29, 2015 (to be delivered right to your Dreamspinner Press bookshelf).
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I Meant To Do Something Else but the Muse Was Uncooperative
When the idea came about to write the last Change of Heart book, my plan was to continue on and write about a new couple after the fourth book, which was about Domin Thorne. I had ended Jin and Logan’s storyline with Honored Vow, and that was supposed to be it. Like, completely it. No more of the semel and his reah, my werepanther leader and his mate, it was over and done. I was ready to go with the new guys, I had them all picked out, Wick and Dov, and even introduced them at the end of Crucible of Fate. We were a go for a big splashy ending that would still be fun because there would be a new love in the mix. All was good.
And then I tried to start.
I tried for a year. A whole year, and then I tried the year after that. I was doing other things too, but I wanted to wrap up the werepanthers, so it was always on my mind. I don’t even know how many times I started that book. Twenty? At least twenty but every time I got to the middle of chapter two, I ended up deleting it all. It just didn’t feel right.
For me, the first chapter always feels sort of stilted anyway. In everything I’ve read and been told, (like helpful writing tips), you’re supposed to make the first chapter the best. That’s where you grab people, that’s where the hook is. But mine always sort of fizzle, and I think that’s because, unless I’ve written the characters before, I’m like that engine trying to get up over the hill to see what the men I’m writing about can become. I have friends who start in the middle if a book, others who begin at the end and write backwards, and still others who write events in the story and then connect them with word bridges. I just can’t do that. I have to write sequentially, starting at the beginning and moving forward, like I’m living the life of my character. That’s not to say that I can’t go back with a nice juicy flashback, but there has to be that same forward progression. This is what comes of being a pantser and not a plotter, because I seriously never know where something is going until I get there. I have a general idea of what I want to say and why, but that’s about all. So the fact that in this instance I couldn’t even just go, told me something.
When I need my head cleared, need to be put back on track, I talk to my editor. So when I told her the problem, explained that the story didn’t seem intimate enough, that there was one last thing I wanted to say about the semel-reah bond, and that I was having trouble seeing how the new guys would get what I wanted them to, she asked me a simple question: “Why not just write it from Jin’s perspective?”
But I finished Jin and Logan, it was three books, done, wrapped up with a bow. It was supposed to be new. I had a plan. There was a plan…
Clearly, my muse does not give a damn about what I think I should be writing. When I’m supposed to be writing marshals, I think about warders. When I’m supposed to be writing fun novellas set in Florida, I think about hitmen. So really, planning just doesn’t work for me. I try. It’s futile. So I said to my editor, do you think it would be okay if I wrote it from Jin’s perspective? Would it be weird, switching to Domin and then back to Jin? She thought the best thing for me to do was try and write it from Jin’s perspective and see if it came out any better. I was in chapter four before I knew it, and I called her and said, “Yeah, uhm, I think this is better.”
Writing Jin is like visiting an old friend, and while this is thee absolute end to the series, (I even wrote an Epilogue. I never did that before), it really couldn’t have ended any other way.
Blurb: Jin Church is back where he started, alone, wandering, and uncertain of his path. It’s not by choice but by circumstance, as he remembers he’s a werepanther… but not much else. He knows one thing for sure—he needs to find the beautiful blond man who haunts his dreams.
Logan Church is trapped in a living hell. His mate is missing, his tribe is falling apart, and he’s estranged from the son he loves with all his heart. His world is unraveling without his mate by his side, and he has no one to blame but himself.
If Jin can regain his memory and Logan can overcome the threats to his leadership, then perhaps they can resume their lives. The question is: Is that what they want? Back to the same house, the same tribe, the same troubles? They can choose from various roads leading to their future… or they can forge their own path.
Excerpt: I was hungry, so we stopped at Mr. B’s Bistro on Royal Street and had lunch. Even though I didn’t know them, Crane and the others, I felt safe. Their laughter wasn’t forced, they didn’t care that I was a reah. They cared about me, about Jin, because for better or worse, we were family.
“It’s so odd,” Artem sighed, gazing at me.
“You don’t smell like you,” he answered softly.
I regarded Crane. “What do I normally smell like?”
He squinted. “You smell like burning wood and the forest at night and rain… and a little like vanilla.”
“All that?” I laughed softly.
“All that,” he confirmed. “And when you’re using your power, the smells change.”
“Your nekhene power,” he explained.
Yusuke took hold of my hand, and I winced.
“Oh!” She let go quickly. “Are you hurt?”
“No, I—” I leaned back. “I’m sorry. I want to be close, and it’s a bit better when I touch you instead of you touching me, but there’s no getting around the fact that it hurts.”
“Touching hurts?” Crane asked, concerned. “When you hugged us, it hurt?”
He smiled wide, and I was simply dumbfounded. He was the oddest, most interesting man.
“Why in the world is that a good thing?”
His half laugh, half cough was funny. “It hurts Logan too.”
I jolted involuntarily. “It hurts him to touch people?”
“Yep. He says it feels like thousands of needles.”
“Exactly,” I whispered.
“Everyone but his son hurts him, and we all figured it was because Ilia has some of you in him, and now we just confirmed it.”
“What is he like?”
“Logan?” Crane asked.
He turned to his wife. “What’s Logan like?”
Her smile was beautiful as she focused on me. “He is the kind of man you pray to be able to serve—he’s like a great king from olden times.”
“Who always does what’s right,” Andrian chimed in.
“Yes,” Artem agreed. “He can always be counted on to make the best choice.”
“And he normally does it, except where you’re concerned.” Crane cackled. “With you, he has no idea what the hell he’s doing.”
Artem laughed. “No, he does not.”
Yusuke joined in. “You get under his skin, Jin, and it’s wonderful.”
“You make him so happy,” Andrian said, chuckling, “and crazed.”
“He’s very contained normally,” Yusuke sighed happily. “He’s unflappable, and then you get near him and he’s sputtering and cursing and growling, and the joy you bring him is just… magical.”
Crane nodded. “God, I’ve missed hearing him laugh.”
“Yes,” Artem agreed. “I’ve forgotten what that sounds like.”
Andrian reached toward me, probably to squeeze my hand in shared affection, but he stopped himself in midmotion.
“I’m sorry,” I said automatically. “I shouldn’t have mentioned anything.”
“Of course you should have, my reah,” Andrian soothed. “I just wanted to tell you that it will be really good to see Logan smile again. The scowl has been etched on his face so long, I was beginning to worry that it might be all we’d ever see.”
“You have to understand,” Yusuke said urgently, leaning forward. “Your semel is golden. His hair, his eyes, his skin—all of him is gold, and when the light is gone from him, he doesn’t even look like himself. He’s not Logan Church anymore.”
“No,” Crane muttered. “He’s not him. His joy’s gone, and with it his warmth and kindness and that strength that we all count on… it’s just not there.”
“Make no mistake,” Yusuke murmured, “he’s still a powerful, fearsome semel, but unfortunately, right now, that’s all there is. Even if he had a yareah, that person could soothe him a bit.”
“But because he has a reah, because he has you,” Crane explained, “the void you left is deeper and darker.”
It was so sad, and it was all because of me, because of whatever choice I’d made. I’d left him missing me and powerless to do anything about it, and more than anything, as lonely and lost as I was. I’d reduced a good, kind, strong man to a shell of his former self. All I wanted was to see him and touch him and repair the hole in his heart. I prayed he’d allow me to try.
“He works very hard not to show us all how angry and desolate and wounded he is, but he’s not the man he was,” Andrian made clear.
“It’s funny,” Crane said with a grin, “but everyone who meets Logan Church falls in love with him just a little. He’s bigger than life. He’s strong and honest, and you know he’ll protect you with everything in him, and it’s like he’s royal, you know? He’s like a king, as Yusuke said: you see him and want to serve. You want to be whatever he needs, if only for a moment.”
“Normally,” Yusuke apprised me, “he spreads warmth wherever he goes. But without you… Jin… that’s gone. He’s cold now.”
And what if, because of that, I’d broken him? Maybe, with my leaving, I’d doused Logan Church’s light forever. Or worse, perhaps he was slowly rebuilding his life in secret and me returning, not knowing him, broke his heart irrevocably so that he was useless to both his son and his tribe? How could I, in good conscience, even see him?
“Stop,” Crane said out of the blue, and all of us at the table regarded him. “Did you hear me?”
“Oh, you were talking to me?”
“Of course I was talking to you, doofus,” he affirmed, squinting at me. “You’re the only one who just slipped down the rabbit hole.”
“Logan,” he began, “needs you back. It’s not one of those things where maybe he’d be better off if you never returned. True-mates don’t work like that. Logan is not himself anymore. He’s simply not there. You’re the only one who can fix things.”
“He will be”—Artem choked out—“so pleased to see you.”
“Yes,” Yusuke pledged, her voice bottoming out. “He will be restored.”
But again, what if he wasn’t? What if me not remembering him was the killing stroke to his soul? How could I be responsible for that?
We were all silent for a few moments, and then I broke the quiet with a litany of fears.
“What if I can’t touch him either? What if he doesn’t recognize me as his mate anymore and I—”
“I wouldn’t worry about any of that,” Crane said, reaching across the table for my hand and squeezing it tight, instinctively knowing I needed the closeness at that moment more than I cared about the pain. “You’re his reah, he’s your semel. Nothing changes that, nothing matters but that. Have faith.”
It was all I had to believe in.