Wednesday, May 29, 2013

When fantasy blends with reality













The simple adobe house in Honduras doesn't look like much. Typical construction, made from mud and rocks, with a clay roof. The woman sitting in the hammock, quietly rocking her little boy, seemed typical for the region as well. 

But as I talked with her, jotting down notes about her situation (she was poor, needed our help), my writer's imagination began to click in another direction.

Later, in the hotel room that night, I made notes about the house, the woman, and the area. And this house, with its thicket of trees and winding dirt pathway along the river, became the setting for a scene in Phantom Wolf, my new Nocturne paranormal. Shay and Kelly must hike through the forest, along the river, to access a remote village where children are being kept captive. They reach this home, meet the woman and she gives them temporary refuge when the bad guys come searching for Kelly.

It's not the first time traveling as a writer for a large international charity has influenced my romance novels. But perhaps it's the most memorable, because a good portion of Phantom is set in Honduras. 

When I began writing romance more than ten years ago, it was partly to relieve the intense stress caused by my job. Humanitarian work is extremely fulfilling - seeing the people I meet in the field receive help and improve their lives. But it comes with an emotional toll as well. Not all stories have happy endings, because life is not fiction. The grim times carve out a space in your heart, such as holding a starving child you instinctively know won't make it, wanting him to feel loved and comforted as he is dying, and hours later, he quietly slips away.

Writing romance has always been an escape for me. I try to do my best to create worlds where readers can slip into the story and lose themselves in the world of fiction. Sometimes there are pieces of reality in my books, glimpses into the real world of my demanding day job. But those glimpses are always resolved with a satisfactory ending.

This past weekend, as I worked hard on The Mating Hunt, reality once more slipped into the pages. The Mating Hunt is the second book in my Werewolves of Montana series. It's an erotic paranormal romance; the world is about sexy werewolves who like to hunt down their mates and claim them. 

But in The Mating Hunt, there are missing children Arianna suspects have been kidnapped. The children play a large role in the story, and Arianna's own childhood. One of the children is a toddler, thin, scared and unable to talk.

She's based on real child. I didn't meet her in person, but a coworker showed me her photos and told me her story.

When I saw the photos, something inside me just... shattered. In all my years of working in the field - almost 20 - I have never seen such haunting, sad eyes.

Even though my NGO took steps to help her, it wasn't enough. I couldn't get her out of my mind. So I wrote her into The Mating Hunt. Of course, there will be a happy ending for her. And it showcases Kyle's fierce, protective Lupine side, the one that will never allow an innocent child to suffer. 

I'm nearly finished with writing The Mating Hunt. The book is a sexy erotic romance, but it's more emotional than The Mating Chase

And when it's published, and you read about the little girl with big, haunting eyes and a sad expression, know that everything will be fine.

Because I always write happy endings in all my fiction books. 

Just as I try to deliver them in real life, too. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

4.5 stars for Phantom Wolf!


4.5 stars for Phantom Wolf, my June Nocturne, release date June 4!
“The Phoenix Force miniseries continues with another original story about a very special team of navy SEALs who possess paranormal abilities. In the second book, numerous Mages have opposing views on what action needs to be taken against threats to their kind. Now two individuals must risk their futures and possibility their lives in order to keep the situation from claiming innocents. The gifted Bonnie Vanak has constructed an intriguingly believable world for her supernatural beings, and PHANTOM WOLF is packed with hidden dangers throughout.
When Sam Shaymore and Kelly Denning were much younger, they thought their feelings were more important than what society dictated for their Mage classes. His Elemental Mage status meant he was seen as powerful while those who had Arcane standing like her had very few rights, but they were not going to let their hearts be ruled by these guidelines. Sadly, an unthinkable event was too much for their relationship to withstand and they parted ways.
Both have put their whole lives into their careers and not let anyone get close again. Sam is a navy SEAL on the Phoenix Force team, where his shape-shifting capability plus other talents often comes in handy. Kelly continuously tries to help Mage children, and hearing about the kidnapping of several has her going to rescue them. When her plan does not going according to her wishes, she comes to realize Sam is the only one who can help her. However, he and his teammates have been sent to Honduras to bring her back for not doing as commanded. Kelly tries to make Sam understand the allegations she has made are true, yet much in his life could be lost if he decides to assist her.
Stories where lovers are reunited are some of my favorites, and the emotional ties between Sam and Kelly are some of the strongest I have read. The incident that destroyed their relationship would be difficult for anyone to overcome, and so many of their conversations in the present have a connection to their past. The many disagreements they have over the differences in their classes are often conveyed with extremely earnest feelings, and I certainly felt the serious intensity of each word. The author makes it very clear as to how the perception of someone can cloud the judgment of another person, even when no personal knowledge is actually known. Bonnie Vanak has a knack for creating likable characters, and this couple touched me on so many levels at different times during the story. They made me feel the sadness over what happened in their lives, and some of these moments are especially poignant. When they shed a tear, I wanted to right along with them. There are also several light-hearted scenes, and the one where there is a reversing of roles really had me chuckling because of what they experienced. 
Both of them are very determined and stubborn, and I liked how Kelly never gave in regardless of the circumstances she had to face. She is a gutsy woman with commendable values, and her responses to each new incident had me enjoying her character even more. When she and Sam interact, I came to know him much better, too, and discovered just how much he keeps hidden from others. While they try to make themselves believe the emotional ties between them were severed while apart, it along with their sexual desire is just as strong as in the past. The eagerness they express when sexually intimate is off the scale, and just proves how much they still care. Some twists in the story are unanticipated and took me completely by surprise, proving Bonnie Vanak is skillfully clever. PHANTOM WOLF is constantly entertaining and remarkably fascinating. With so many hunky Phoenix Force team members, there will hopefully be quite a few more books in this enthralling series.”

Amelia Richards for CataRomance

Click here to purchase Phantom Wolf on Kindle.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Phantom Wolf in Nicaragua












I'm in Nicaragua this week for the day job, and decided to bring my June release, Phantom Wolf along for the ride. The book is in stores on June 4 and since Shay, the hero, has been sitting in my box of author copies, I figured he would like to get out and stretch his legs and visit a country he's seen in his duties as a US Navy SEAL. :-)  Part of Phantom is set in Honduras, another country I frequently visit. 

I'm photographing the book in places I visit in Nicaragua, from hiking up mountains to visit poor homes to orphanages. This photo was taken just south of Somoto, in a rural area with poor homes.

Right now I'm in Ocotal, which is a town that is about 15 minutes away from the border of Honduras. It's very dry and dusty here, and the rainy season has gotten off to a late start. 

This trip to Nicaragua has taken us all over the country. We started out in Managua, drove south to Grenada, then north to Matagalpa and now we are in Ocotal. 

Earlier this week we visited a girls orphanage in Grenada where many of the children have suffered trauma; either abuse, neglect or abandonment. Some of the stories are absolutely heart-wrenching. 

Celebrity Justin Long was visiting while we were there. Seems like a nice guy, and the girls loved the attention.

If you are interested in seeing the places where Shay ends up in Nica, please stop by and like my fan page on Facebook. Have a great week! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Meet Sam "Shay" Shaymore, Navy SEAL



He first makes an appearance in The Covert Wolf... excerpt below is from a scene where Matt, hero of Covert Wolf, has to make sure Sam "Shay" is not a Fae using glamour. 

Shay's story, Phantom Wolf, is out June 4 from Harlequin Nocturne. Enjoy!


Excerpt from The Covert Wolf.

copyright 2012 by Bonnie Vanak



When he opened the door, Sam stood in the hallway, a wide smile on his face. “Dakota.”
            Fisting his hand in Sam’s collar, Matt dragged him into the room,
 kicking the door shut with a boot. He slammed him against the wall, his
eyes wild, breathing ragged, as he shoved the gun beneath Sam’s jaw.
            “L.T.! What gives? Chill out!”
            “Talk. Tell me the code.”
            Sienna bit a knuckle, her heart racing.
            To his credit, the young SEAL didn’t flinch beneath the heavy pressure of Matt’s hard hand. “To country. To comrades. To protect. To defend. To conceal. To silence. To the death.”
            Silence hung thick in the air. Matt remained tense, but lowered the gun. “What’s my name? What am I to you?”
            “You’re Lieutenant Dakota, although right now I’m tempted to call you a complete and total asshole. Did you forget your meds?”
            Matt turned to Sienna. “Keep your eyes on him. If his body even flickers, tell me and I’ll put a bullet in his brain.”
            “Hey.” Sam’s eyes widened.
            “Shut up. If you’re Shay, tell me who gave you that scar on your left shoulder.”
            “You did. Saved my ass during the voodoo priestess op inGrenada.”
            “Why?”
            “She was sucking out my life force, and the bullet broke her hold. Damn it, L.T., what is this about? Want to get off me now? People will think we’re in love.”
             “Time, Sienna.”
            She glanced at her watch. “Ten minutes.”
            Matt lowered the SEAL to the floor and holstered his gun. His big shoulders remained tense as he blew out a heavy breath. “Sorry. Had to make sure. Even our team code…I had no way of knowing if it had been leaked, too. The Darksider Fae teaming with the pyro demons can’t hold a glamour long. And there’s no way they knew about your being shot.”
            His big shoulders remained tense. “No one knows details about your
little gem, except you and me.”
            “What the hell’s going on?” Sam’s gaze whipped between them both. “You look worse than yesterday’s leftovers. And why are you already here? ETA was 1500 hours.”



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Birthday bash contest winners!

Birthday Bash winners! Since I'll be in Nicaragua tomorrow for the day job, I picked the winners early. Congratulations to Skye, Samanta, Brooke and Lorraine!! Thank you for entering my contest, either on FB, here on my blog or emailing me with comments. Please email me @ bonnievanak@aol.com so I can send your prize! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Meet Sam "Shay" Shaymore, Navy SEAL

He first makes an appearance in The Covert Wolf... excerpt below is from a scene where Matt, hero of Covert Wolf, has to make sure Sam "Shay" is not a Fae using glamour. 

Shay's story, Phantom Wolf, is out June 4 from Harlequin Nocturne. Enjoy!

Excerpt from The Covert Wolf.
copyright 2012 by Bonnie Vanak



When he opened the door, Sam stood in the hallway, a wide smile on his face. “Dakota.”
            Fisting his hand in Sam’s collar, Matt dragged him into the room,
 kicking the door shut with a boot. He slammed him against the wall, his
eyes wild, breathing ragged, as he shoved the gun beneath Sam’s jaw.
            “L.T.! What gives? Chill out!”
            “Talk. Tell me the code.”
            Sienna bit a knuckle, her heart racing.
            To his credit, the young SEAL didn’t flinch beneath the heavy pressure of Matt’s hard hand. “To country. To comrades. To protect. To defend. To conceal. To silence. To the death.”
            Silence hung thick in the air. Matt remained tense, but lowered the gun. “What’s my name? What am I to you?”
            “You’re Lieutenant Dakota, although right now I’m tempted to call you a complete and total asshole. Did you forget your meds?”
            Matt turned to Sienna. “Keep your eyes on him. If his body even flickers, tell me and I’ll put a bullet in his brain.”
            “Hey.” Sam’s eyes widened.
            “Shut up. If you’re Shay, tell me who gave you that scar on your left shoulder.”
            “You did. Saved my ass during the voodoo priestess op in Grenada.”
            “Why?”
            “She was sucking out my life force, and the bullet broke her hold. Damn it, L.T., what is this about? Want to get off me now? People will think we’re in love.”
             “Time, Sienna.”
            She glanced at her watch. “Ten minutes.”
            Matt lowered the SEAL to the floor and holstered his gun. His big shoulders remained tense as he blew out a heavy breath. “Sorry. Had to make sure. Even our team code…I had no way of knowing if it had been leaked, too. The Darksider Fae teaming with the pyro demons can’t hold a glamour long. And there’s no way they knew about your being shot.”
            His big shoulders remained tense. “No one knows details about your
little gem, except you and me.”
            “What the hell’s going on?” Sam’s gaze whipped between them both. “You look worse than yesterday’s leftovers. And why are you already here? ETA was 1500 hours.”

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