The Evolution of a Trilogy by Grace Marshall (@gm_romance)
I’m celebrating the tour by giving away two print copies of the first book of the trilogy, An Executive Decision. Enter to win at the end of this post.
Sometimes the journey to a trilogy is a no-brainer, quick and clear, and sometimes not so much. The Executive Decisions Trilogy was a long time coming, and it evolved in a way I would have never imagined when the first ideas popped into my head. We were living in Russia at the time for my husband’s job. While he travelled to refineries all over the FSU by trains, planes and mini vans, I was sitting in our flat overlooking the Moscow River using my time, as a woman of leisure, to hone the skills I would need if I were ever to become a published author.
At the time I was totally convinced that I didn’t want to write romance and yet, I couldn’t stop myself. It was awhile before I gave in to that overpowering urge and not only started writing romance, but also started flinging the bedroom doors in those romances WIDE open.
The original version of An Executive Decision began its life as a novella-length piece called ‘Leaning the Business.’ I had finally given myself over to actually writing the dirty bits rather than just thinking them. ‘Learning the Business’ started as nothing more than an exercise in writing erotica. I wanted to set up a situation in which a boss hires a woman, who is very highly qualified for the position, but a part of her job is sex on demand with her boss. They affectionately refer to this part of her job as ‘The Executive Sex Clause.’ According to him, this is the secret weapon that keeps him sharp and on top of his game.
In spite of my best efforts to keep it simply about sex, as is often the case, characters can be unruly, and my two characters, Dee and Ellis, fell in love. I should have expected that would happen, since love is an essential element in most of what I write. I also found that the wonderful character who evolved to be Ellison Thorne had his own mind, and he would never have done anything so unethical as what I originally had in mind.
However, the idea of the Executive Sex Clause, the idea of busy executives needing an outlet for their pent-up sexual energy, needing a no-strings attached way of keeping their focus, still intrigued me. In order to make the story work, I needed to keep Dee and Ellis wrong-footed with a sex clause that started out as a joke, a crazy scheme cooked up by a mutual friend. If the implementation of such a clause could happen almost by accident and turn into Dee and Ellis’s own little secret weapon, then I’d have created a wild romp of a story that would be fast-pace, a little bit tongue in cheek and very sexy. Secrets always make for fun twists and turns of a plot, and the Executive Sex Clause seemed the perfect secret.
Once the story had evolved to romance and to a novel, the rest was easy. I fell in love with Dee and Ellis right from the beginning, and they were both such fun characters to write. I took out a lot of the sex, populated the plot with friends, family and nasty colleagues, polished it up and sent it off under the poorly-chosen name, ‘The Executive Sex Clause.’ Those were the days before 50SoG.
Almost a hundred rejection letters later, disappointed and more than a little disheartened, I decided to give it a rest and try my hand at something else. That was over five years ago. A lot has happened since then. I’ve published nine novels under two different names — K D Grace and Grace Marshall. Fifty Shades of Grey exploded onto the literary scene, and the time was right to revisit The Executive Sex Clause.
One lovely agent, who will always hold a warm spot in my heart, actually took the time to critique the full manuscript before sending back a very apologetic, but encouraging rejection letter. Her main criticism – too many characters.
Too many characters! That was the key to transforming The Executive Sex Clause into An Executive Decision and the Executive Decision Trilogy. The story was too big for a single novel. Five years ago, the story was too sexy and the plot a little too controversial, but in the post 50SoG era, the novel, rewritten as a trilogy has come into its own. I’ve upped the stakes and broadened the scope. The Executive Sex Clause grew into An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis, and The Exhibition. I put the sex back in and tempered the heat to a slow, hot sizzle, and voila! The timing was perfect!
I’ve written The Executive Decisions Trilogyas Grace Marshall rather than K D Grace because the focus of the story is the romance. And though the sex is hot enough to melt metal, it’s a little more subtle than what you would expect from K D Grace. However the chemistry between Dee and Ellis is anything but subtle, even before the two actually meet, and the comedy of errors that results in the two shell-shocked colleagues implementing the Executive Sex Clause. An Executive Decision is a fast-pace romp of big business intrigue, corporate espionage and the ultimate in mergers and acquisitions that happen when the heart takes control. It’s been extremely satisfying to finally be able to share Dee and Ellis’s story with the world, and even more satisfying to see Kendra and Garrett, and Stacie and Harris reveal their sizzling stories in Identity Crisis and The Exhibition. Yup! The Executive Decisions Trilogy was a long time coming, but very well worth the wait.
An Executive Decision Blurb:
Book 1 of The Executive Decisions Trilogy
Overworked CEO Ellison Thorne has no time for sex, let alone romance. The only answer, at least where his retiring business partner Beverly is concerned, is a no-strings sex clause in her replacement’s contract, designed to make Ellis’ busy life easier – and hotter. But she’s joking, right?
When Dee Henning takes over Beverly’s job, sparks fly between her and Ellis, but work takes priority in driven Dee’s life too. Can one night of passion in a Paris hotel room prove Beverly’s Sex Clause is their secret to success in the boardroom and the bedroom, and what will happen if that private clause becomes public knowledge?
An Executive Decision Excerpt:
At last Ellis pushed his chair back and looked up at her. ‘Marston refused the proposal.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Dee said again.
‘Not that it was a huge surprise, but I could have done nicely without him berating me for hiring someone incompetent and irresponsible to take Beverly’s place. That didn’t exactly make my day. What the hell happened?’
She felt the heat rising up her spine and onto her ears. ‘I overslept.’ She forced the words out into the chilled room.
‘Yes.’ She nodded imperceptibly, feeling the scrutiny of his glare.
For a long moment he just stared at her. She forced herself to meet his gaze and held her tongue, afraid if she tried to say anything she’d burst into tears, and she despised women who cried.
‘That’s it, then? You overslept.’
She nodded again, swallowing hard.
‘Well that’s a relief.’ He leaned forward in his chair and rose almost as though he were going to leap over the desk and pounce. The tension in his body was palpable. ‘I was afraid you were lying on the freeway somewhere in a pool of blood. I’m so relieved that it was nothing so dire, and that you simply overslept.’ With each word, his voice grew louder until he wasn’t exactly yelling, but neither was there any way she could miss his message as each word drove her deeper into her chair until she felt as trapped as if she had been tied there.
‘I’m sorry,’ she forced a whisper through the roadblock in her throat, but the stinging behind her eyes warned that a swift exit would be necessary if she were to avoid the flood.
‘Sorry? You’re sorry? Tally had to pick up the slack. Do you have any idea how that looked? Just when I was starting to make progress with Marston, just when the man was beginning to listen to reason, you oversleep. You made Jamison’s deal seem all the sweeter, that’s what you did. Now, tell me what the hell’s going on.’
He moved from behind his desk and paced the carpet in front of her like a bull ready to charge. ‘You’re supposed to be working to shore up the situation with Scribal. I told you up front that’s your major concern at the moment, then not only do you oversleep and miss an important meeting, but I find out you’ve been working on something else behind my back.’ Before she could respond, he turned on her. ‘Is Trouvères what you’ve been staying up half the night and missing meetings for? When I hired you, I never thought you, of all people, would neglect your responsibilities.’
‘I’m not neglecting anything. If you would just –’
He interrupted her. ‘Don’t think just because I gave you this job, you suddenly know it all. I took a big risk hiring you.’ He stopped pacing and rooted himself in front of her, close enough that she had to strain her neck to look up at him. ‘You want to do something; you bring it to me first. You’re not ready to make that kind of decision on your own. You don’t have the experience it takes to…to… You’re not Beverly.’
His words were a hard slap, felt more than heard above the roar in her ears. She wasn’t sure the ragged breathing her brain finally registered in the chasm of silence that followed his tirade was his or her own.
The phone rang into the charged atmosphere and Ellis jerked it from its cradle in a strangle hold. ‘This had better be good, Lynn. Wade? What the hell does he want? Can’t it wait? We’re not finished yet. I can what?’ He heaved a sigh of resignation and slammed the receiver back down. ‘Wade wants to see you right now. He says I can get back to you on this, and believe me, I intend to.’ He nodded toward the door. ‘Well, go on, at least don’t keep him waiting. Pick up the notes on the meeting from Sandra.’
She stood on trembling legs and turned to go. As she reached for the door, he called to her. ‘Dee, I strongly suggest you make no more attempts to prove Marston right about you.’
Sandra joined her in the hall. ‘I have the meeting notes for you.’
‘Just put them on my desk. Wade wants to see me.’
Sandra nodded. ‘Yes, I know. I told him he did. And I told him to give you a few minutes in the ladies to freshen up first.’ She offered a reassuring smile and turned on her heels.
Still breathing like a freight train, Ellis watched Dee disappear shutting the door behind her. He grabbed up the phone and called his secretary. ‘Lynn, hold all my calls. I don’t want to be disturbed. How long? Until I say otherwise, that’s how long.’ He slammed the receiver down, snapped his laptop shut and stormed down the hall to the lounge.
He shoved his way out of his jacket and tossed it across the wingback chair, then practically strangled himself in his efforts to loosen his tie. From the coffee table he grabbed up the remote and plunged the room into the wild raucous ride of the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Then he dropped onto the sofa struggling to breath, struggling to regain control, struggling to figure out what the hell had just happened. All through the meeting, when Dee didn’t show up, he was terrified that something horrible had happened, terrified that he would lose Dee the same way he had lost Beverly. And the relief he felt at seeing her. Jesus, the relief was like nothing he’s ever felt before.
If Lynn hadn’t called, if Wade hadn’t demanded Dee’s presence … If Ellis had had one more second with her, he would have yanked her up from the chair and fucked her senseless right there in the middle of the day with all of Pneuma Inc just outside his door, fucked her as though he might never get another chance, fucked her as though his life depended on it, and that’s exactly how it felt. He wiped cold sweat from his forehead and struggled to breathe. If he’d lost her, Jesus! He couldn’t even bear the thought.
Christ, he couldn’t go on like this. It felt like he was always either avoiding her or jerking off thinking about her. And damn if he wasn’t thinking about her all the time; the shape of her, the feel of her, the sass of her. He’d never wanted anything so badly. And then … and then she screws up so royally that all he wanted to do was punish her, to turn her over his knee for giving him such a scare, to … to … to fuck her until she couldn’t walk.
About K D Grace/Grace Marshall
Grace and KD both believes Freud was right. In the end, it really IS all about sex, well sex and love. And nobody’s happier about that than she is, otherwise, what would she write about?
When she’s not writing, Grace is veg gardening. When she’s not gardening, she’s walking. She walks her stories, and she’s serious about it. She and her husband have walked Coast to Coast across England, along with several other long-distance routes. For her, inspiration is directly proportionate to how quickly she wears out a pair of walking boots. She also enjoys martial arts, reading, watching the birds and anything that gets her outdoors.
Grace and KD have erotica published with SourceBooks, Xcite Books, Harper Collins Mischief Books, Mammoth, Cleis Press, Black Lace, Erotic Review, Ravenous Romance, Sweetmeats Press and others.
K D’s critically acclaimed erotic romance novels include, The Initiation of Ms Holly, Fulfilling the Contract, The Pet Shop. Her paranormal erotic novel, Body Temperature and Rising, the first book of her Lakeland Heatwave trilogy, was listed as honorable mention on Violet Blue’s Top 12 Sex Books for 2011. Books two and three, Riding the Ether, and Elemental Fire, are now also available. She was nominated for ETO’s Best Erotic Author 2013 and 2014.
Grace Marshall’s sizzling hot romance novels, An Executive Decision, Identity Crisis, The Exhibition are published by Xcite Books.
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