Title: Pieces of Autumn
Author: Mara Black
Genre: Dark Romance 18 +
Publish Date: July 31, 2014
Publisher: Indie Published
Genre: Dark Romance 18 +
Publish Date: July 31, 2014
Publisher: Indie Published
Event organized by: Literati Author Services, Inc.
Kidnapped off the street in some third-world country, sold against my will, while a desperate family back home waited and prayed and talked about me on the news.
I wish I could tell you that, because then you might understand.
What really happened? I walked to my fate with my eyes wide open. But before you say I deserved whatever happened to me, you should know. I was desperate. I was alone. I was afraid for my life. You would have done the same thing.
I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse.
But then, I woke up in darkness, unable to move. There was only one thing I was sure of: I wasn’t alone anymore.
And then I heard HIS voice...
“Never say that word to me.”
I had never heard his voice like that. Not once. My blood chilled in my veins. If I thought I’d ever been afraid of Tate before, it was nothing. Absolutely nothing compared to this.
I’d wanted to unnerve him, but instead, I seemed to have unhinged him. Unleashed something I didn’t understand, and didn’t want to.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“Too late,” he replied, his chest rising and falling rapidly with each breath. His tone was pure venom, pure sin, pure fucking evil. “Too late for apologies.”
In that moment, I had three choices.
I could fight him.
I could run.
Or, I could tie myself to the mast and meet him, measure for measure.
I chose the storm. With the hurricane himself standing there, his pulse pounding so loud I could almost hear it, I chose to stand tall.
What was happening? What was he about to do? I had no way of knowing, no way of guessing what he’d do. How he’d ruin me.
But I knew I could survive.
His hand lashed out and grabbed mine, lifting it to his face. Eyes half-lidded, he brought my fingers to his lips, my thumb pressing past them and up against his teeth. Finding resistance, for a moment, until he parted them and suckled it into the soft, wet heat of his mouth.
Mara Black is a connoisseur of love that lurks in the shadows .
Titanium: How I Wrote Autumn in "Pieces of Autumn"
Autumn Laramie is stronger than you think.
Dark romance heroines are difficult to write. Although Autumn spoke to me loud and clear when I started writing her story, I knew it would be a challenge to convey her the right away. She goes through a lot. She’s frequently in peril, and frequently afraid. But she never buckles. She bends, but she doesn’t break.
I often think of a scene in the second season of American Horror Story, when someone dubs the heroine as “one tough cookie.” She responds:
“I’m tough, but I’m no cookie.”
I’ve thought about getting that as a tattoo. It stuck in the back of my mind as I wrote Autumn, especially because of the unique nature of her strength. She is not necessarily brutal and violent, although she has her moments. Mostly, her strength is in perception. Compassion. Determination.
The hero, Tate, is deeply damaged. He is walled off, and lashes out violently from his pain. He needs someone who can see through all of that, and understand him - something that he doesn’t feel he deserves.
He needs forgiveness.
Who can forgive a man who’s done the unthinkable?
A dark romance heroine, far from being a damsel in distress, must be stronger than the hero. She must be capable of radical forgiveness. Radical acceptance. While the hero usually holds grudges, and cannot let go of his past, she must.
Although she is the “victim,” Autumn still has a moment when she understands that Tate has been a victim too:
And what was the point in ever letting someone else matter to me again? It could only end in tears.
I came close, with [my friend] Nikki. But when she left with Stoker, I felt that iron door deep inside me slam shut again. Tighter. More impenetrable than ever.
And that was why I stayed. Not just because I needed protection. Not just because of the dark flames that licked in my belly whenever he touched me.
It was because of this.
When I looked in the mirror, I saw my own reflection. But it was Tate who stared back at me.
Without making excuses, Autumn merely understands and accepts that Tate is not a monster. Just a man who’s been hurt. And while she would have the right to hate him, she chooses not to.
Like many people I’ve known, Tate is resistant to forgiveness. It’s easier to shield himself with his guilt, pretending to accept what he’s done, even as he hides from it. But when he sees that Autumn is strong enough to accept it, everything changes.
Do you have a favorite strong heroine that other people might see as weak? Do you find yourself defending her frequently, and with strong words? :) Tell me about it in the comments!
Autumn’s song: “Titanium” by David Guetta, ft. Sia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cst7K_7jxYo
Advice for Aspiring Authors
Okay, that’s facile, but forgive me. I spent many years wanting to be a novelist, but I wrote zero novels. How does that work, exactly?
I know I’m not alone. Writing is hard. But if you’re serious about writing as a career, you have to take it…well…seriously. For me, learning about indie publishing was crucial to ending my years-long writer’s block. The thought of spending months writing a book, only to have it sit in someone’s slush pile for another couple of months…and then probably, statistically, be rejected with a form letter? Ouch. Who can feel inspired under those circumstances?
But knowing I could set out on my own - that was different. It helped me. Not everyone’s going to feel that way, but I think we can all find something to inspire us. Whether or not you believe in a muse, you’ve got to find a way to put that thing on a leash. If it doesn’t sit, stay, and heel on command, you’ll have trouble.
So just write. Turn off the internet, read, watch, or listen to something that inspires you. Write. Turn off the phone. Write. Even if it’s total crap, still write. You can edit later. Make words happen. Until you do, it’s all just a pipe dream.
Not just your writing (although you should - just don’t get mired in it!) You need to research your options for publication, promotion, and, well…pretty much everything that goes on behind the scenes. Authors have endless possibilities at our fingertips these days. Will you publish independently? Will you solicit traditional publishing? Or maybe some combination of both? What makes sense for you, and why?
Don’t make assumptions, and don’t make decisions based on things you kinda sorta remember someone telling you once. When you look at someone’s advice, ask yourself if they’re the person you should be listening to. What do they stand to gain from telling you what they’re telling you? What do they stand to lose if you make a different choice?
Take your advice from people who don’t stand to benefit from your decisions. If someone is selling something, they’re biased. Accept advice from those who give it for its own sake. Look at people who are doing what you want to do - specifically. Every genre is different, and every author is different.
But don’t compete.
I’ve long believed that writing and publishing is not a zero-sum game. There are far more readers than authors - and in most genres, far more readers than authors can possibly keep up with. We could all write a book every single day, and it still wouldn’t be enough to flood the popular markets. People love to read. It’s easy, it’s unobtrusive, and it’s a cheap hobby.
Compare yourself to the people whose careers you want to emulate. But don’t compete with them. If you are not accomplishing what they’re accomplishing, ask yourself why. It’s not because they exist. It’s because they are doing something you are not doing. Make friends with them. Together, you can raise the tide and lift all boats.
Recently, I landed a difficult yoga pose for the first time. It’s called crow, and it’s basically a crouching handstand. It requires more upper body and core strength than I thought I had. For months, I’ve been practicing and growing stronger, but I wasn’t making any progress on crow. I kept trying, but my arms felt too weak to hold me. I used a lot of excuses. I was too heavy, I needed more upper body strength. If I tried any harder, I might tip forward and land on my head.
Then, everything changed.
Did I suddenly sprout new muscles I didn’t have before? No, actually, right before I finally got the pose, I hadn’t practiced or worked out in over a week. I weighed the same as I’ve weighed for the past few weeks, when I’d tried and failed. The difference? I’d just come back from a big writer’s conference, where I was pushed out of my comfort zone, made important contacts, and managed to advance my career beyond what I could have dreamed.
The day after I got home, I approached crow with a different attitude. For the first time, I knew I could do it. I didn’t just hope, or think “maybe someday.” I knew I could do it, so I did.
Writing is like that. So is everything else in life. If you want it, you have to believe that you can do it. You have to let go of fear. You might land on your head, but you’ll never know until you try. Push yourself past that point of fear, that point where you’re not sure if you can hold your balance.
My Three Favorite Quotes from Pieces of Autumn
I’d like to tell you that I love all of my quotes equally, but it’s simply not true. I gotta play favorites. There are some moments in Pieces of Autumn that I enjoy more than others, so I thought I’d share them. But, shhh...don’t tell the rest of the scenes. They get jealous.
He laughed, ringing out loud and harsh in the room.
“You’re wrong,” he said, his voice low and rough. Dripping sex. “Compassion isn’t what you crave.”
This is my favorite dark romance trope. He knows what she wants, more than she does. Because it’s oh so wrong. The nice guys never get this, but the oh-so-bad boys definitely do.
The pain is a constant thing.
It’s not emotional. It is a deep and physical ache, lodged in my chest where no surgeon could ever hope to find it. It’s as real as a snake bite or a broken leg. It is not the sting of a whip or the heavy thud of a bat against my ribs, although I still have a twinge when I breathe in deep.
If all the broken things from my past were like vicious shards, embedded deep, an ache I’d grown used to - didn’t know how to live without -
Then Autumn was like a paper cut. Sharp and bright and sudden. Unexpected. Hurting more than it had any right to.
Tate’s point of view is relatively rare in the story, but this is one of my favorite moments. He’s essentially admitting that he’s in love with her. Because she’s different. Maybe the only thing he’s capable of feeling right now is pain, but at least she’s a new kind of pain.
My tone was vicious. He stared at me, his eyes widening slightly.
“It’s all bullshit,” I shouted. His eyes flashed with anger, but he didn’t move. “You’re hiding behind a mask. You want absolution, but you can’t face what you did. So your way of forgiving yourself is to decide that you can’t help it. This is just who you are. But it doesn’t work, does it? Because you know it’s not true. You know you can do better. You’re just afraid to.”
Every romance needs a moment where the characters finally cut to the heart of the matter, and say what we’ve all been thinking. This one was personally cathartic for me, and I think it’s something that a lot of people do - not just Tate. It’s always easier to wallow. To keep doing what you’re accustomed to doing. What Tate’s doing is not sustainable, and it’s Autumn who dares to tell him so.
What’s your all-time favorite quote from a dark romance? Tell me about it in the comments!
Love Among the Ruins: Pop culture allusions in Pieces of Autumn
My name’s Mara, and I have a problem.
I can’t help referencing pop culture in my books. Pieces of Autumn is no different, and I drew on a few different motifs that spoke to me while I was writing. You can figure out what they are with a little judicious Googling, but just in case you’re curious, here’s a breakdown of the biggest references in the book.
“The Circle Game”
Tate hums this Joni Mitchell song to Autumn during her fever dreams. It makes a good lullaby, and I decided Tate’s mother had probably sung it to him, just like mine did for me. Originally it was a purely sentimental choice, but I was surprised to realized how well it fit with the theme. The song’s refrain is all about how you can’t change the past - something that both Autumn and Tate struggle with.
“One Tin Soldier”
Once again, Tate’s propensity for ‘60s ballads comes out in this one from The Original Caste. It also reminds me of my own childhood, and the sorts of comforting songs you learn from your parents. As they discuss in the scene, this is a story-song about a mysterious “treasure” that is coveted by a rival kingdom. After killing the rightful owners of the treasure, they discover it’s not a pile of gold like they imagined, but instead a message: “peace on earth.” The chorus wryly tells us to go ahead and hate our neighbors, cheat our friends, and justify it in the name of heaven - but in the end, there’s no judgment day except the one we make for ourselves. I think Tate connects deeply with the message of this song, although he finds it difficult to live by. (As do we all…)
Love Among the Ruins
This is the most obscure reference, and thereby my personal favorite. ;) There’s a little-known TV movie called Love Among the Ruins, starring Laurence Olivier and Katherine Hepburn as star-crossed lovers who parted in their youth and never spoke again. Now, decades later, she’s back in his life, but only because he’s a powerful lawyer and she needs someone to defend her in court…against an accusation of “breach of promise.” (Which thankfully, no longer exists as a legal concept - but the supreme irony of the situation is that was exactly what she did to Mr. Olivier, when she disappeared without a trace after promising to marry him.) When someone asks her why she won’t apologize, Ms. Hepburn says: “When did sorry ever mend a harm?” I was very taken with the idea that Tate found this to be a formative moment, although he doesn’t remember the rest of the movie. (If you can get ahold of it to watch, by the way, I highly recommend it!)
Can you spot any other references in the book? Tell me in the comments! (No spoilers please.)