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Once theatre gets into your heart, it nestles there the rest of your life.

I don’t just mean going to see it, which of course is grand and epic in itself (and sometime life-altering too) but on the stage and behind it as well.

Spin the hands of the Way-Back-Clock to twenty years ago when I was a lowly freshman in community college and meet the shy boy who was looking for a class that would help keep his grades in the good (or passing, as it were) column. I saw a class offered in the registry entitled Intro to Theatre 101 taught by the incomparable Frank Barnhardt. Theatre, hmmm… I thought, I do like movies, and I really like seeing the rave reviews this teacher is getting on (well, maybe I was concentrating more on the ratings that said “easy A” and “Show up and pass” in the comment sections). What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would end up falling in love. Not with someone, but with the class.

Frank took us under his wing and peeled back the red fire curtain to show us the magic behind the stage. It was like being in my own DVD movie commentary. Only this was real.

I loved the class, my fellow students, and Frank so much I signed up for each class he taught through the rest of my time at the college. And never regretted a penny of the tuition or a second of the time.

So, it was with those thoughts in mind that I teamed up with Hero Bowen (a UK wordsmith and fellow lover of the theatre) to write Limelight & Larceny. It’s a series of stand-alone heist adventures featuring a lovable, if somewhat hammy, group of community actors.

If you ever stood on or behind the stage in school, or college, or heck, even in the real world where the people paid to see you rumble out the lines of Romeo and Juliet or The Glass Menagerie, then you should pick up Limelight & Larceny: The Crew-Building Con. If it doesn’t bring a fond memory or two flooding back into your heart, well, maybe these thieves stole it along the way.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, they were easy A’s, but maybe that was because I loved learning and earning every one of them.

There comes a time in the revision process where you fall out of love with your work. I was at that point for The Heart’s Bidding at about rewrite number fifteen. I was sick of rereading my work and never wanted to do it again.

Enter Xe Sands.

You bet I was ecstatic she had agreed to read the novel (she was my dream “get” for narration). Why? Well, let me share a little story with you.

Right at the beginning of the Covid lockdowns, I had to close my antique shop, putting it into storage for the foreseeable future. Maybe forever. It was an emotional decision, but one I don’t regret. The health of my mother and my employees is sacrosanct, after all. Nonetheless, it was as painful as any I had ever made. It took two weeks’ worth of seemingly endless days, moving and boxing, disassembling the business life I had built.

I needed something to keep my mind occupied while my body worked. I chose a long audiobook—The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia—and listened to Xe Sands narrate the book softly into my ears as I slung furniture into the back of the truck. It was the only thing that kept me sane.

In the end, Xe’s perfect voice became tied to the emotions of shutting down my store. It was an alchemical mixture of feelings so powerful I often found myself wiping my eyes as I would stand still in the hallway, a dresser balanced precariously on the edge of my two-wheel dolly. Her voice will forever be tied to one of the saddest weeks of my life and will only be one step behind my own mother’s for how it heals my heart to hear it.

Even as my dream came true with Xe agreeing to narrate The Heart’s Bidding, I still held a grudge against the book itself. That was, until I heard her read it. What happened next was nine hours of joy that I cannot give justice to in a simple blog post. Xe turned my words into something more than they had ever been. The characters came to life. I felt as if I was sitting across from them at the dinner table, eavesdropping on their lives. She made me laugh at moments I had forgotten were funny. She made me weep as the story reached its climax. And most importantly, she showed me that all the work writing it had been worth it.

So, thank you from the bid-calling bottom of my heart, Xe Sands, master of microphone, speaker of my heart’s secrets. You did the impossible. You made me fall in love with my words all over again.

Give the story a listen.

I was happy to open my inbox this morning and find a hot-off-the-press Kirkus Review for The Heart's Bidding! You don't know how freakin' amazing it feels to have a professional reviewer compliment my characterization after YEARS of critique partners telling me I had flat characters. I tried to focus on that aspect when writing this novel, and all the blood, sweat, and tears really paid off.

Here's a sneak peek of the review:

"Swan presents a wholesome romance between two adults just trying to find their places in the world. The real selling point for this novel is the characterization, as both the main and secondary players feel true to life. Kay, in particular, is fully believable and relatable as a college dropout doing her best to get by without losing herself in the process . . .
A light, leisurely novel with a wholesome love story."

I've also been a busy bee on my whirlwind book blog tour with so many amazing guys and gals. Huge thanks to Silver Dagger Book Tours for kicking off the event and to N. N. Light for a thoughtful five-star review, especially the part about how "the writing style is sublime with equal parts humor, romance, enduring the pitfalls of life, and overcoming fears."

You can read more of my juicy, tell-all interviews with Mel's Shelves and Find Your Next Reading.

And of course I've got to tip my hat to Laurie Cooper over at Pub-Craft for being my incredible marketing manager from the great place up north. She's officially earned at least 99.5% of my trust.

Stay tuned for a big announcement in the next few weeks . . .

© 2021 by Jordan Riley Swan

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