Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sharon Donovan - Excerpts and More

My journey to publication was filled with as many twists and turns that fill the pages of my books. After a twenty year battle with diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes which leads to progressive blindness, I lost the war.

Prior to the loss of my vision, I was a legal secretary for the Court of Common Pleas where I prepared cases for judges in Domestic Relations. Painting was my passion. When I could no longer paint, I began attending creative writing classes and memoir workshops. After a long and winding road, a new dream arose. Today, instead of painting my pictures on canvas, I paint my pictures with words.

I write what I read and read what I write. For as long as I can remember, my favorite genre has been romantic suspense. I’ve come to expect twists and turns to keep me guessing until I turn the last page. And now that I write in this genre, my goal is to draw my readers into my books by adding the following elements.

 Desolate setting

 Captivating storyline that will hook the reader right from the start

 Spine-tingling background music that will draw the reader into the story

 Quirky or obsessive character traits that will identify the character as unique

 Heroine that reader can empathize with

 Romantic hero with a “Don’t mess with me” attitude that isn’t above cutting corners

 Villain that we love to hate

 Dialogue interspersed with atmospheric description

 Twist and turns to keep the reader guessing

 Sizzling chemistry between the lovers

 The ability to make the reader cheer when the hero rescues the heroine at the last minute and whisks her away into the happily-ever-after

I’d like to show a few of these traits in excerpts from my books

The setting for Mask of the Betrayer is Red Rock Canyon, a desolate mountain range within miles of the dazzling Las Vegas Strip. Here is a scene to draw the reader into the setting, and portray the villain’s obsessive trait.

Pouring himself two fingers of finely-aged bourbon, billionaire business tycoon Michael DeVeccio walked on the verandah of his mansion and gazed into the foothills. The raw beauty of the Red Rock Mountains encompassed him. Miles of rugged terrain and lush forests full of petrified logs stretched as far as the eye could see. What a rush to climb to the top of the mountain and survey the dazzling Vegas Strip like king of the jungle.

Fishing a Marlboro from the pack, he tapped it three times on the parapet before lighting it. He inhaled deeply, allowing the nicotine to filter into his brain. Under the hunter’s moon, night predators slithered out of the underbrush, just on the periphery of the jagged twists and turns of the canyon. From deep in the woods, a coyote howled, its keening wail slicing through the quiet. Dominant and defiant, animals fought to protect what belong to them. He especially admired the sleek moves of the panther. With its keen eyesight, acute hearing, and uncanny ability to sneak up on its prey unnoticed, it pounced on its victim in one slick move. Michael understood the moves of the night predators. He was one of them.

Second to imagery, the first thing I focus on is music. Think about a scary movie. Right before a murder or something dangerous, the chilling music clues us in and has our hearts racing. Take the movie Psycho. When the screeching music starts, Janet Leigh is about to find out how twisted Norman Bates is. Just the sound of that screeching violin gets my blood pumping!

In Her Biggest Fan, I chose Moonlight Sonata to haunt the reader. As you read, you’ll swear you can hear the eerie spiking of piano keys because I have planted them in your head. Recalling the old thriller The Wax Museum, I used wax gargoyles with wings as props in the ballroom. To please my many muses, I combined my love of a psychological thriller with Classic Gothic and old Hollywood glamour. Then creepy music for atmosphere.

From the grand ballroom, the soft floating of piano keys drifted, louder and louder, faster and faster, reaching a spiking crescendo that shook the chandelier. And then all was quiet as the manor settled from the riveting climax that rattled the windows.

An eerie twine hummed through the corridor. Shocked by the scaling spike of piano keys, Tess’s knees wobbled. Floundering, she leaned against the wall for support.


Her mind raced. Could her dad be alive? Had he stage his own death? Tears stung her eyes. She had to find out. But still, she proceeded with caution. She sensed evil from deep in her soul.

Inching her way a bit deeper, she crept, her heart pounding. A door banged, sounding like shutters smacking the house. Then she felt a rush of cool air coming from the grand ballroom, dank with the smell of rain and something else. Burning candles.

As she got closer, the scent of jasmine grew stronger. The sweet smell permeated the air. It was as if her father were still alive, entertaining in the grand ballroom. Just as Tess reached the arched column to the massive hall, a bolt of thunder exploded in the sky, followed by an illuminating flash of lightning. Then all went dark.

Tess stood at the entrance, polarized. When the icy instrumental of Moonlight Sonata started all over again, goose bumps prickled her flesh.

On either side of the mahogany bar, standing candelabras gleamed, long white tapers flickering in the dark. Open terrace doors banged in the wind, bringing in the pouring rain. The air carried the mingled scent of jasmine and stale tobacco. Pleated silk drapes billowed out like wings.

Rain puddled the cherry wood floor that once sparkled beneath the mirrored ceiling and crystal chandelier. The ghostly sound of piano keys escalated as Moonlight Sonata played on the old Victrola. And in the center of the room, looking for all the world like guests of honor at a grand masquerade, two wax gargoyles danced cheek to cheek, costumed in feather masks as bizarre as the setting.

Her Biggest Fan
An edge of your seat chilling suspense
ISBN: 1-60154-813-3

In Mask of the Betrayer, the childhood nursery song Heigh Ho the Dairy-o sets the scene. I promise, these chilling lyrics will haunt your nightmares, the lyrics that have been programmed in Michael DeVeccio’s head, prompting him to kill.

a hunting we will go, a hunting we will go. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go. We’ll catch a fox and put him in a box. Heigh ho the dairy-o, a hunting we will go.

You can hear the chilling music here



Mask of the Betrayer

Book one in the Mask series

Filled with so many twists, turns and surprises, you’ll be hooked from the first chapter.

ISBN: 978-1-936167-06-7


The following excerpt from Charade of Hearts illustrates a heroine we can relate to as well as dialogue interspersed with atmospheric description.

Dominique opened her eyes, her lids heavy. She felt groggy and extremely disoriented, as if waking up with a severe hang over. The bright sunshine pouring in through the open windows hurt her eyes. Slowly, her pupils dilated and she looked around. She was propped up in a heavy wrought iron chaise lounge in the middle of a living room. Hills and tropical forests encompassed the home. Myna birds chirped and whistled, and the sweet scent of gardenias and hibiscus filled her senses.

Blinking several times, she tried to get up but couldn’t. Her wrists and ankles were bound to the lounge chair. A bolt of panic shot through her entire body. She jerked violently, her torso bucking upward. The chains binding her arms and legs rattled and clanked against the wrought iron frame before slinking onto the bamboo floor. Triple panel folding mirrors were at the foot of the chaise lounge. Like some bizarre carnival, it was a house of mirrors.

And that’s when she saw the enclosed tank behind her, reflecting in the mirrored panels. A sleek dragon moray eel slithered out from behind a rock and reared its ugly head, his horn-shaped nostrils flaring. Razor-sharp fangs faced backward in a large and expansive mouth. Dominique’s lips twisted into a grotesque gape that was mirrored in three dimensions. Her scream echoed through the open windows and through the remote forest engulfing this house of horrors.


“Look at you, Dominique,” He clucked his tongue, mocking her. “You can kick and scream until you’re blue in the face. But no one will hear you. It’s just you and me. And if you’re wondering where you are, you’re in one of the most desolate parts of the island. It’s a rather befitting death chamber, wouldn’t you agree, dear?”

The roots of her hair bristled. He was a madman, a slime bag that got off on taunting his victims before killing them. What should she do? Her lips quivered as the words rolled out. “It’s the blue diamond that you want. I’ll get it for you. Just let me…”

“Let you?” His dark laughter cut her off. “Don’t treat me like a fool, Dominique. Do you think for a second I believe the blue diamond is still in your possession?” he clucked his tongue again. “Tsk tsk. When I called you the first time, giving you a twenty-four hour notice, I gave you very specific instructions to follow. I warned you that if you went to the cops, I’d feed you to the sharks. But did you listen? No. The minute Detective Oliver Carvalho knocked on the door of your suite, the one you shared with his identical twin brother, the man you were engaged to, you thrust yourself in his arms and spilled your guts out.”

“No, I didn’t,” Dominique shook her head back and forth. “Please believe me. I…”

“Believe you?” he took a sip of his drink, the ice cubes rattling in the crystal glass. “Fat chance. But your new lover, Detective Oliver Carvalho will believe your screams when he hears you begging for your life. You no longer have either your camera or your mother’s precious blue diamond, do you? They’re both in police custody. And once lover boy hears your heart-wrenching screams when I set The Serpent free to slither up your voluptuous body, he’ll be sweating bullets to bargain for your life. We’ll call it a trade off. A blue diamond for a blue-eyed girl. But, sadly, by the time he finds you, your mutilated corpse will be all that remains. And once I have my hands on the blue diamond, my work in the islands will be complete. I’ll be gone without a trace.” His dark laughter ricocheted off the mirrors and into the forest. He gestured to the dragon moray eel. “And The Serpent is very hungry and will find you quite tasty to munch on.”

Charade of Hearts

Oliver’s story!


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wanda said...

How do I win a book?

Anne Patrick said...

Hi Wanda!
For a chance to win Sharon's book just leave your email address or make sure it's available through your blogger profile so Sharon can contact you if she draws your name.

Mary Ricksen said...

Sharon, every time I read something you have written, I wonder where that evil stuff comes from. You have such a tender soul, your kind nature is amazing. Your muse however, is full of the devil!!

Hywela Lyn said...

Hello Sharon and Anne, and Happy Easter.

Great post Sharon, and I think the elements you lay out for captivating the reader are a great guideline for anyone wanting to write a great story.

As much as your characters, I love the settings which are so different in each book and which suit the mood of that particular story perfectly, one really feels one is there,with the heroine, feeling what she feels and experiences.

Truly you really do 'paint with words'!