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Autumnal Chillers | Wings in the Night

Original cover

It's autumn, and therefore time for thrillers and chillers. Obviously the first series I want to talk about as Fall rolls in, is Wings in the Night, one of the first vampire romance series ever published. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro was writing The St. Germain series (25 titles) and Anne Rice her Vampire Chronicles (14 titles) at the time, but those were outside the romance genre. Lori Herter released the first book of her Obsession series (4 titles) while I was working on my first. So she had the first true vampire romance series that I know of. And I had the second, Wings in the Night (24 titles so far.) So today I'm answering frequently asked questions about the series first book, TWILIGHT PHANTASIES, and giving some insider info that fans old and new might enjoy

Why spell Fantasies with a Ph?

When I first started Wings in the Night, I didn't know it would be a series, it was just a novel. I called it Twilight Phantasies after the poem Adonais, about the death of John Keats by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Here are the 12th and 13th stanzas from which the phrase came.

Another Splendour on his mouth alit,

       That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath

       Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit,

       And pass into the panting heart beneath

       With lightning and with music: the damp death

       Quench'd its caress upon his icy lips;

       And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath

       Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,

It flush'd through his pale limbs, and pass'd to its eclipse.

And others came . . . Desires and Adorations,

       Winged Persuasions and veil'd Destinies,

       Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations

       Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;

       And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,

       And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam

       Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,

       Came in slow pomp; the moving pomp might seem

Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.

Isn't that heartbreakingly beautiful? So I used the phrase twilight phantasies as my title, and kept the ph spelling as a shoutout to Kelley and by extension, to Keats.


Twilight Phantasies – The Short Story

A later cover

Twilight Phantasies was originally going to be a short story. I was an unpublished, aspiring writer, and I'd been told by non-writers who had no clue about the industry that it would be easier to publish a short story first. So I wrote my story as a short vampire romance and started submitting to various magazines that still published fiction, and immediately got an acceptance letter from one of them.

It was accompanied by a subscription form and a note that said, and I'm paraphrasing, “We love this story and will be thrilled to publish it in our magazine. However, we only publish work from our subscribers so here's a form.”  I don't remember how much the subscription cost, but I do remember that it seemed like a lot.

Fortunately, I had read this advice. I can't remember which author wrote it. I want to say it was Laura Kinsale, but it might've been Susan Wiggs or Anne Stuart, all of whom have given brilliant advice over the years. Romance writers used to be a supportive sisterhood. Anyway, the advice was in the form of a mantra that we were supposed to repeat in our heads anytime we had an offer. Part of it was this, “I do not pay people to publish my work. THEY pay ME.”  Another part of it was to be said out loud, and was something like, “Thank you so much for your offer. I'll get back to you in a day or two with my answer.” These were key bits of wisdom for a young author with stars in her eyes.

I knew better than to pay someone to publish my work, and cocky thing that I was, probably told them so. Then I decided to expand the short story into a novel, because I had fallen in love with it.


Twilight Phantasies – The Novel

When the novel was nearly finished, Silhouette Books launched a line called Silhouette Shadows, and the guidelines were exactly when I was writing. I sent Twilight Phantasies to editor Melissa Senate and it was farmed out to a junior editor who just reads through the pile of submissions and attaches a note recommending “Buy” or “Reject” to the manuscript before passing it on to the senior editor.

TP arrived on Mel Senate's desk with a “Reject” note. Fortunately, it included the following line: “Am I the only woman in the world who doesn't want to be seduced by a vampire?” And THAT immediately grabbed Melissa's attention because in her opinion, the answer to that question was YES. So she read it for herself.

She wanted to make an offer on the book, but it needed revisions and her boss said that because I was a first time author, the rule is, revisions first, contract second. So she sent me a revision note, advising me to cut cut cut cut several of the many scenes with the hero's sidekick Roland de Courtemanche and his young protégé Jamison Bryant in order to keep the focus of the story on its main characters, Eric Marquand and Tamara Day. So I began to revise.

My only remaining copies of the original paperback edition


Twilight Phantasies – The Plot

Eric was a vampire, saved from execution during the French Revolution by Roland. Tamara was a young women whose parents had been killed in a car accident that was no accident. She was then raised by the man who orchestrated it, a scientist who worked for the Division of Paranormal Investigations, a secretive government agency devoted to the study and elimination of vampires, a species the general public didn't even know existed. He was using Tamara as bait, since he knew that a girl with the Belladonna Antigen was very special. It is only those with the antigen who can become vampires. They tend to weaken and die young unless they are transformed and they can bleed out very easily all their lives. These ones are known as The Chosen. Vampires sense these ones and are compelled to protect and watch over them. And for every vampire there is one with whom that bond is particular strong. Eric has been watching over Tamara for her entire life, just as Roland had watched over him without his knowledge so long ago.

The editor found the premise irresistible.


Twilight Phantasies – The Offer

I did the revisions, cutting several Roland/Jamie scenes with tears, and I sent it back with a note explaining why the scenes should stay. The reply came with an offer. $4000 up front, 6% royalties on retail sales and 2% on bookclub sales. Terrible pay, honestly, but I was so happy! It was my second sale to Silhouette. The first had been made only a month earlier, for their romantic suspense line called Silhouette Intimate Moments with a book called Reckless Angel that Ms. Senate once called “The perfect Intimate Moments.” She told me that she used it as an example of what she wanted to see from up and coming writers. The sale of Reckless Angel (now titled RECKLESS and available HERE) came while I was doing the revisions on Twilight Phantasies, which would have been under contract if not for standing policy about first-timers. And it was that book that earned me a direct line to Melissa Senate, who would be my in-house editor for the next several years. So I have always considered TP to be my first sale, even though technically, it's Reckless.

Twilight Phantasies was scheduled for release about a year later, in October of 1993.


Wings in the Night – Birth of a Series

One thing I was still unhappy about, if you can call it unhappy, when I had two book contracts in about two months after trying for about two-thousand years. And I exaggerate only a little. However, I was very bummed about the scenes I'd had to cut. I felt Roland was too big a character to be treated so lightly.

Melissa Senate said, and I wish I could remember her exact words, but I can't. However I can tell you I had not even thought about it until she said it. “Just save them for the sequel.”

“What, now?” I asked, blinking like a virgin on a porn set.

“Roland can be the hero of Book two.” She tosses this out there and keeps on talking about whatever else we were talking about while my brain is going, Book two? Book two? BOOK TWO!

My brain was still in the old phase.  Submit, get rejected, revise, submit, get rejected, revise, submit, get rejected, repeat til you die. I hadn't yet realized that Silhouette was my home now. They were eager to see whatever I was going to do next, waiting for it, in fact. I had entered a whole new paradigm.

But even more importantly, it was her words about Roland being the hero of Book 2 that lit me on fire to write Book 2 and made me realize this was going to be an ongoing series.

When the cover art arrived months later, it included a happy little bat logo and the words “Wings in the Night.” I think the series name was Melissa's idea. And while my vampires didn't fly, I did eventually write a couple who could shapeshift, so it all worked out. I loved the series name. I loved having a series. I loved having a series that had a logo.


Out of the 20 titles published through Silhouette, Harlequin-Silhouette, and Harlequin, Mira, only three novels ever bore the little bat logo; Twilight Phantasies, Twilight Memories, and Twilight Illusions, Books 1, 2, and 3.


Twilight Memories – Rhiannon was the Villain

In my original idea for book 2, and indeed in the first few chapters I showed to my editor, Roland was to be matched up with a wimpy little mortal chick whose name I no longer recall. Rhiannon was going to be the vindictive ex who wanted to kill her.

But from the moment she appeared on the page, Rhiannon stole the story, and even if I didn't see it right away, the editors did. Both my editor Melissa Senate and her boss, conceiver and Goddess of Silhouette Shadows Leslie Wainger agreed. Ditch the mortal. Rhiannon is the heroine Roland needs.

As soon as I gave her my attention, Rhiannon came rushing through my psyche and blasted out my fingers onto the keyboard. She has been a force throughout the series ever since. Soon the challenge became how to not make her too strong. Invulnerable is boring. Like Superman, she needed her Kryptonite. Roland was that for her, as was the very source of her power, her age.

Rhiannon arrived with a pet black panther, Pandora, who remains alive and well still. I think Pandora will outlive me. I do not ever intend to kill the cat off in a story, and if I ever did, then the treatment of Shiva by The Walking Dead writers would have changed my mind. Screw you, Kirkman.


The Many Faces of Rhiannon

The original cover was close to my image, although I don't believe I ever put blue eyeshadow on her.

The re-release cover is just okay, IMO. I like the original better.

Below, Rhiannon as portrayed by model Samantha Behlog who I hired to pose for the cover of The Rhiannon Chronicles.

It was this version of Rhiannon on which my husband based the doll he made me for Christmas one year. He bought an existing doll whose face he thought was close to my description in the book and Behlog's performance, and he repainted the face, the makeup, the nails, and re-rooted the hair strand by strand.

The Rhiannon Doll and custom box

Rhiannon with Vincent Price, who is actually still alive and well and just a vampire. She was trying to make Roland jealous.


And of course, we must never forget the depiction of Rhiannon by actress Aja Nicole in the film adaptation of Embrace the Twilight, which was Book 8 of the series. There's a link to the film on the Wings in the Night Series Page.


So that's a little bit of trivia about Wings in the Night. I have lots more. Here's a little bit. 

  1. I thought the guy on the original cover of Book 3, Twilight Illusions, looked more like Vinnie from Welcome Back Kotter.

  2. I was furious at the baby blocks on Book 4, Born in Twilight. I mean, baby blocks on a vampire novel?

  3. Edge from Book 10 was based, admittedly and shamelessly on Spike from Buffy. Only no accent.

  4. Book 11, Blue Twilight, is the only one of the entire series with mortals as both hero and heroine.

  5. I spun my take on the actual Dracula in Book 13, Prince of Twilight

  6. My youngest daughter posed for the cover of Book 21, Twilight Guardians

Have questions? Ask in Comments! I love discussing this series, the flagship series of my entire career. 

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