Nov 12, 2012

Writing Dark Stories

Writing Dark Stories
Toni Noel

I pitched To Feel Again to Leslie Wainger at a writer's conference, my first pitch for my first completed manuscript. The editor listened to about half my spiel and then commented, "This isn't a romance!" True. In the Harlequin/Silhouette sense, it is not a romance, but it is a love story about a man who helps a reclusive abused woman regain her confidence, a story I felt needed to be told that has a happy ending when the couple falls in love.

My editor at Desert Breeze Publishing agreed the story needed to be told and released To Feel Again on November 11th. The subject matter may be dark but the message is clear -- escape from an abusive relationship is possible. There is hope. Reach out for help.

Decisive Moments is my novel about a photographer and a reclusive architect. During their childhood the hero's brother had been abused by his father. A repeat of the abuse forces his mother to kill his father. Then she turns the gun on herself. Yes, this is a dark romance, but the hero finds a loving woman who brings the sunshine back into his life, so it, too, is a story of hope.

In Restored Dreams, Treasure was date-raped in college and begs the hero Buck to help her overcome her aversion to sex by making love to her. He refuses, and instead makes her fall in love with him.

I write about another kind of darkness in Fairy Dusted, my novel about a childless couple's efforts to conceive. While Jill suffers from empty-arms-syndrome, her husband Drew prays they never have a child. He secretly fears fatherhood until the near drowning of his nephew changes his life. Yes, this is a love story about imperfect people living unfilled lives deprived of goodness and light.

Authors can write dark stories without writing about serial killers and rape. The secret is in not going too dark, and in allowing your characters to come back into the light for the resolution.

In Homeward Bound, scheduled for release in 2013, the hero becomes the unwilling CEO of the family conglomerate when his father suddenly dies. A CEO is the one thing he vowed he'd never become when choosing his career path, but he can see no way out. His family is depending on him. The only change he's free to make in his life, he reasons, is in his living arrangements. Convinced a bachelor has no need for such a big house, he decides to sell and hires Krista, a novice interior decorator who grew up in foster homes, to stage his house for quick sale. Luke escapes the bonds of home ownership, but the sale of the home she poured so much of herself into shatters Krista's happiness.

As a writer, you can make the conflict as dark and unbearable as you like. Just be sure you create a character strong enough to withstand the pain.

You can hang out with Toni here:

And download her books here:

Or from your favorite eBook store.

Blurb: Reclusive Jenny Hamilton wants only to be left alone. Afraid to venture far from her modern cabin in the Eastern Sierras, this widow and writer endures a solitary existence caring for her animals until Tom Driscoll washes up in the creek. She rescues the unconscious man, and when his injuries heal, he helps Jenny overcome her fear of men, the result of an abusive marriage.

Tom saves her from the burly intruder intent on rape who traumatizes Jenny. Her earlier fears come flooding back, convincing her there is no man she should trust. She sends Tom away with the sheriff who comes to pick up their prisoner.

When Jenny realizes Tom has taught her to feel again, she reaches out to him. He rushes back to her side, and she promises never to send him away again.

Excerpt:  "What are you making?"
            The words caught in Tom's dry, throat and growled across the distance with such harshness those dainty fingers he'd enjoyed watching so much froze in midair. The attractive young woman pivoted her golden head and peered in his direction, her doe-like eyes widening. Wetting her lips, she blinked at him, making him regret he'd interrupted her weaving.
            "You're awake." Her whispered words fell from trembling lips.
            Dummy. You scared her with your sudden outburst. A smile might ease her fright.
            He tried to lift the corners of his mouth, but his dry, cracked lips stretched across his teeth. He winced, flicking out his tongue to circle his mouth, raking his parched lips with needed moisture.
            He cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
            Her hands settled in her lap. She clasped her fingers. Puzzled, he watched her knuckles turn white. She moistened her lips again, then chewed on the bottom one, her somber gaze never leaving his face. Those expressive eyes held a disturbing wariness he couldn't comprehend.
            "You hurt your head," she whispered.
            He tried to touch the spot that ached. Both his hands came up, connected by rope.
"What in blazes?"
            The fairy rose, her golden head moving from his line of vision. He lifted his head to follow her movements. Rockets exploded behind his eyes.
            He shut them again.
            Her footsteps faltered, then moved toward him. He opened his eyes.
            A pair of trim leather boots stopped beside him. The knees above the boots bent as she knelt in his line of vision and leaned back on her heels, considering him with a wary look.
            "Your fever made you delirious, so I tied your hands."
            Her words brought a bright flush to her cheeks. With the sun no longer shining on her head, her hair took on a darker shade, encircling her shoulders in a cape of chestnut satin.
            "Did I hurt you?"
            She nodded. "Last night. A little. Here, I'll untie you."

Bio: Toni Noel's love of books started in childhood, when her mother first read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to her. She helped start church libraries in two rural Tennessee towns and appeared before the City Planning Commission and the San Diego City Council to urge a site be purchased. As the neighborhood spokesman for the new library the City Councilman for her district invited her to turn the second shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking for the new library. Toni's fondest dream, to see one of her safe-haven-for-the-heart novels available for checkout there may soon be fulfilled. Desert Breeze Publishing will release in print form in November the author's first published novel Law Breakers and Love Makers.     

Toni Noel's Novels... Safe havens for the heart.


  1. Loved the excerpt, Toni. All your books sound wonderfully untuitive. Lots of luck to you.

  2. Thanks, Jean,

    Wish I was as into fantasy as you are. I'm not imaginative at all.
    Thanks, for stopping by.


  3. My thanks to Lynn Crain and all the hardworking people at Marketing for Romance Writers who make this blog possible.


  4. I love your new cover Toni!!!

    Congratulations on the new release!

    Lisa :)

  5. Thanks, Lisa,

    I love the cover, too. It perfectly portrays the contents of the book.




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