Lark Brennan Explores the Dark Side of the Caribbean

Lark Brennan

Lark Brennan

I am thrilled to introduce you to my critique partner of 10 years, Lark Brennan. On December 1st she’ll debut her multi-genre romance, DANGEROUSLY YOURS. (It’s a romantic, paranormal, suspense-thriller.) Lark is an outstanding author, whose wild imagination and unique world building will turn this industry on its head. Check this out:

Whales don’t just vanish, but marine biologist Lex Durand saw one do just that. With years of research at stake and driven by her bond with the whale, she seeks the help of scientist-in-hiding Bodie Flynn—a man with a mysterious past and a justified hatred of her brother. But while Lex was warned Bodie would be difficult, she never expects to find he has psychic abilities equal to her own.  

bookmark-1.5inx7in-h-frontBodie despises being trapped in Durand Tech’s version of the witness protection program, and when a gorgeous Durand heiress lands on his beach asking for help, he’s unhappier still. The last person he wants in his life is the sister of the man who ruined him, but the disappearance of Lex’s whales could be related to his own research and he isn’t above using her to get her data.  

As the dangerous force behind the changing seas becomes deadly, Lex and Bodie must put aside their personal agendas to track down a powerful foe. But when their attraction reaches a boiling point, facing their feelings may prove the hardest battle yet.    Dangerously Yours

Click cover to pre-order

Welcome, Lark, and congratulations!! Your authentic world-building even blew your editor away. How did you come up with this unique premise?

I was playing around with the idea of a family of powerful psychics when Lex Durand marched in—a 6’ tall, gorgeous animal telepath who runs a marine mammal research foundation. She had so much attitude, I had to write her story. Of course a romance about a marine biologist had to start with a whale vanishing on camera and Lex blackmailing a super-hot physicist into helping her find it.


What kind of research did you do to make delphic energy and dolphin behavior sound so authentic?

Delphic energy is a totally made up scientific explanation of psychic abilities—glad to hear it sounds believable. I’m sure real scientists would roll their eyes. As for the dolphins—I spent countless hours on the web, bought a dozen dolphin books then ended up contacting the medical director at the Dolphin Research Center in Florida. She answered even my stupidest questions brilliantly. The dolphin telepathy I made up. I’m sure I’m going to hear from animal telepaths that I got that wrong.

Your descriptions of the BVI beaches, restaurants, etc. are sensational. Did you visit or live there?

I lived in the US Virgin Islands for seven years and spent a lot of time sailing and diving in the BVI. It’s an amazingly beautiful part of the world. We sailed the BVI just last summer and I’m relieved to report the places in the book are still there.caribbean

I know you’re under contract for a series, tell us the date, title and any details about the next book.

IRRESISTIBLY YOURS comes out June 21, 2016. It takes place in Paris where powerful telepath Adrien Durand has been forced to take over his family’s international business empire and protection of the source of their power. A lovely American empath shows up and he suspects she’s a spy. There’s plenty of action and intrigue and smooching.

Nothin’ wrong with plenty of smooching! Tell us one thing you’re thankful for (so we can call this a Thanksgiving post.) ;)

I’m so grateful to have such wonderful and supportive family and friends, especially the generous authors who have made the rocky road to publication so much fun.

Favorite food you can’t say no to?

Can’t think of a food, but don’t test me with a glass of excellent Bordeaux. :)

“I’d love to be stuck on a deserted island with…” (can be dead or alive.) And the one item you’d take with you.

My husband’s not reading this, right? No contest– Chris Hemsworth. And the item? I’d be wearing Heidi Klum’s body.

Really, Lark? Heidi?

Really, Lark? Heidi?

Favorite novel or author, and why?

Wow, there are so many. Probably Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ NATURAL BORN CHARMER because I love every character and subplot in it—and it has Dean Robillard!

If you could have any other career besides your present ones and had the skill to do it, what would you be?

An astronaut!

(Wow, I’ve known you for 10 years and that came outta left field!) What question did I not ask that you’d like readers to know about you?

You didn’t ask about Jody and Buffy!! My two puppy-dogs are just great—sweet, loving, hilarious and a little naughty! Thank you for asking.Buff - Jode

A question for all of you—one commenter will get a $25 Amazon gift card:

Bodie and Adrien are clean shaven except when stubble catches up with them, but I’m seeing lots more men with beards these days. How do you feel about facial hair? What do you think is sexy in a hero—clean shaven, stubble, beard, other? While you’re thinking about men and hair—body hair or man-scaping?

On Saturday, December 5th at 4:30pm, Lark is signing at MURDER BY THE BOOK with best selling romantic suspense author Laura Griffin! 2342 Bissonnet St, Houston


Lark’s love of reading, writing and travel has led her to a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport – as well as several years spent sailing and diving in the Virgin Islands. Her travels have inspired her stories–romantic adventures set in some of her favorite destinations around the world. When not traveling, she lives in Texas with her brilliant husband and two adorable canine “children.”
You can find Lark at, and @larkh.


Thank you SO much for being here today, Lark, my excitement for your debut is only second to yours! Welcome to the published world, my friend. Buckle up, your sales will resemble a comet. :)


A New Book is Born! MISSING IN THE GLADES, by Lena Diaz

Amazon | Barnes & Noble
MissingInTheGladesCoverMMPIt’s release day! My eleventh published novel, MISSING IN THE GLADES (An RT BookReviews Magazine TOP PICK! ), is out today in paperback. The ebook version releases on December 1st. This book ushers in a four-book series about a quirky, lawless, fictional town called Mystic Glades, hidden deep in the Everglades off Alligator Alley.

Here’s what RT said about this book: “Diaz gets high marks for character and relationship development. Top-notch suspense, action and close-call, edge-of-your-seat moments earn this well-written story a Top Pick.”

And here’s a full description of the story…

He was looking for a missing person. What he found was a beautiful stranger.

Looking for a fresh start, detective Jake Young headed south on a case that could help launch his PI business. He knew no amount of work would make him forget his tortured past, but maybe Faye Star could help. Caught up in Jake’s missing persons case, the distracting Faye was hiding a secret he was begging to find out. Expertly guiding him through the swamps, Jake’s job grew more complicated when someone started taking shots at the free-spirited beauty. As much as she protested she could take care of herself, Jake stepped in, refusing to admit how desperately he needed someone to save. Especially since he’d never be able to save himself…

I hope you’ll give MISSING IN THE GLADES a try. If you do, please drop me a note and let me know what you think of it!

Fun Fact: Jake, the hero of MISSING IN THE GLADES, was a secondary character in a previous book of mine, EXPLOSIVE ATTRACTION.

To learn about all of my books, visit my website.

Spies at the Met?

People ask me all the time:

Where does your inspiration come from?

How do you get ideas for books?

The truth is, I can get the mood or sense of a story from places as mundane as the grocery store or as exotic as trips overseas.


An example of this is from a recent trip to NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The fantastic exhibit, China Through the Looking Glass, had all the hamster-wheels in my brain running at full speed. In possibly the world’s best curated exhibit, the incredible Met staff arranged clothing that had been inspired by Chinese art, not in a separate clothing exhibit, but right in the midst of their Chinese art section.

It was amazing.

Covering three floors, sedate mannequins posed next to temple gods upstairs, while two floors below, in the Costume Institute, a drumming, rockstar vibe and blaring music highlighted dresses arranged against multi-media pop art. P1010081

Visitors could see how a lacquer screen influenced a dress, how decorative items guided the bottle for Opium perfume, or how the flutter of fans were reflected in the flounce of a ballgown. Even the drab uniforms of the Maoist period showed up in haute couture.


It had my little noggin smoking, too.

Look at the gold number by Guo Pei at the top of this post. What could you hide underneath that skirt? What are the observant statues thinking? One Buddha reclines seductively, the other looks down as if guarding his own secret.

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Who is the man in the hat silhouetted in shadow? Are they enemies or friends as the beautiful spy negotiates the party?


Could the flounces of this dress be hiding tools to break into a safe? Or gear to climb out a four story window? Are the figures behind her oblivious to her next moves, or are they watching, conspiring, waiting to pounce?

And this jacket appears to be something a James Bond-style villain would wear.  Do these long sleeves hide guns or perhaps poison blow darts?


And among the bustle and hustle of tourists of every description what transpires just out of sight. Is information being traded? Who is being followed, and who disappears into the tightly packed throng?

Hopefully you’ll see some of these threads weave into stories with the release of my book, The Spy in the Mirror, next yearUntil then, perhaps your imagination will run as wild as mine. Tell me which would you wear? And remember, in our imagination everyone is thin enough to fit!

For more posts like this, and updates about my book, please follow me at

(All images copyright 2015 Diana Belchase)


They Call Me Scout

Carey’s puppy, Scout, talks about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, GO SET A WATCHMAN and contemplates the question posed by Randall Kennedy in the New York Times Sunday Book Review:

Would it have been better for (Harper Lee’s) earlier novel (GO SET A WATCHMAN) to have remained unpublished?

IMG_6852[2] (1)They call me Scout.

Like my namesake before me, I know how to get into plenty of trouble, but I have a big heart. My human mother, Carey Baldwin, named me after the protagonist in her favorite book, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Last night at dinner, Carey’s mother-in-law complained that I am such a pretty girl, I should have a pretty name.

Why on earth would you name this puppy Scout? she asked Carey over a plateful of pasta.

I know the answer, and I’m proud of my name.

Scout is the person who taught Carey about justice, fairness and integrity. When Carey was ten years old, she read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, a tale told through the eyes of a young girl named Scout (Like me! Only I’m a puppy.) Carey was young too, and boy did Scout make an impression. The vivid images in this exciting story stuck with Carey throughout her lifetime: toys hidden in the trunk of an old tree, a Halloween costume designed to look like a ham, a pair of britches stuck in a fence, and a father who could put everything that was wrong with the world right again.

We live in a world with many injustices, but sometimes, unless we’re the ones getting the raw deal, we remain unaware. Maybe the injustice is happening far away from where we live or go to school, maybe it’s close by, but we’re afraid to look at it, or maybe we simply don’t understand what’s right in front of us. Like the black marble drinking fountain three feet away from the white marble drinking fountain in a certain fancy department store in Carey’s hometown. Only after reading TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD did ten-year-old Carey notice.killbird

Why are there two fountains? she asked her mother.

One is for whites and one is for colored people. That’s illegal now, but the fountains are still there, her mother answered. Sure enough, Carey could see the faded paint outlining a rectangular space on the wall that had once been occupied by a sign prohibiting blacks from drinking from the white fountain.

Carey grew up in a time and place where segregation in school, housing, and life was outlawed…yet still largely practiced. She didn’t know very many people who were different from herself, so she didn’t “see” a lot of things. Scout and Harper Lee taught her to open her eyes.

Randall Kennedy says:

“In America in 1960, the story of a decent white Southerner who defends an innocent black man charged with raping a white woman had the appeal of a fairy tale and the makings of a popular movie. Perhaps even more promising, though, was the novel Lee first envisioned (GO SET A WATCHMAN), the story of Jean Louise’s (Scout’s) adult conflicts between love and fairness, decency and loyalty. Fully realized, that novel might have become a modern masterpiece.”

Scout answers:

“I think there’s a place for both books. I don’t believe we lost out because Harper Lee’s editor changed the time and setting of GO SET A WATCHMAN to that of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, or that Lee’s first attempt at the story should have remained unpublished. The truth is, Harper Lee’s vision and desire for fairness in the world comes through in both books. One is more polished, one has a hero, the other a flawed man and a conflicted daughter.

51G1qWt5-qL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Both are a window into the heart and mind of Harper Lee.

We need both books. We need all the windows we can get, because there’s simply not enough light in the world.”

Here’s a link to Kennedy’s full review of GO SET A WATCHMAN in the New York Times.

Have you read a book that has profoundly influenced your life?

P.S. The opinions expressed here are strictly my own.






Mothers & Daughters Rock the Night Sky: An Interview with Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

UnknownToday I’d like to welcome Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann, along with Ellen Wray, for a K&T first: A mother/daughter interview with the NYT best-selling mother/daughter writing team!

How did this all happen? It started with my daughter’s love of YA novels which led to the buying and borrowing of many(!) books.

That led to my reading and falling in love with the YA genre too.

Then came the announcement that my all-time favorite romance author was writing a new YA paranormal romance series with her daughter.

Once I told Ellen (an aspiring author herself) about the series, she asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do a mother/daughter interview with the mother/daughter writing team?”

To which I replied, “Yes!” And because Suzanne is known within the writing community for her generosity, I reached out to her and she said “Yes!” as well.


The Night Sky series debuted last October, followed by the prequel novella Dangerous Destiny. The second book in the series, Wild Sky, came out a few weeks ago. Upon Night Sky’s release, critics praised the novel for its witty dialog, strong female leads, realistically drawn characters, and a fabulous secondary cast  — not to mention a brilliant new YA world where kids with unusually strong powers must fight against those who would use them for nefarious purposes.

None of this praise comes as a surprise since these are the trademarks of Suzanne Brockmann’s adult romances. For her adult fans, this YA world is an extension of the world from Suz’s paranormal romance Born to Darkness. For younger fans, Melanie’s sharp insights into the minds of teenagers is as engaging as it is hilarious. The Night Sky series is a gripping, fast-paced adventure that Ellen and I have enjoyed experiencing together. And I’m so grateful to Suz and Melanie for sharing their YA world with us.

Now, on to the interview!


They could be hunting you.
Hunted. Kidnapped. Bled. Someone is snatching girls and draining them for a secret that’s in their blood. A hormone that makes them stronger, faster, smarter. A hormone that the makers of a new drug called Destiny will murder to get their hands on. These girls could be anyone. They could be anywhere.

They could be you.

When Skylar discovers she’s a Greater-Than, a girl with terrifying power, her life will never be the same. The only way to stay alive is to join the fight against Destiny and become the ultimate weapon.

Sharon: Thank you both for spending the day with us! I loved the heroine Skylar, but I fell in love with her best friend Calvin. How did Calvin (who is in a wheelchair yet has a brief moment where he can walk and dance) feel about having to go back into his wheelchair?

Suz: Calvin is a very optimistic person, but he’s also a realist. He knows that his wheelchair is a part of his life. So even though I’m sure he felt a little twinge of disappointment when his stint out of the chair ended, he adjusted gracefully right back to the life he has known for years.

Mel: All I can say is for anyone interested in the relationship Calvin has with his wheelchair, wait until the sequel, Wild Sky.

Sharon: I am reading Wild Sky now and loving the Calvin moments! Were you influenced by any specific YA books?

Suz: Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea books, starting with A Wizard of Earthsea, were among my very favorites growing up. And of course, like most of the world, I adore The Hunger Games trilogy!

Mel: I think I read A Wrinkle in Time between fifteen and twenty times. I loved it that much.


Sharon: For your YA reading, do you prefer physical books or ebooks? Ellen much prefers books to her Kindle. She surrounds herself with her favorite books while she sleeps!

Suz: I’m an e-reading woman. I’m in love with the convenience. (And I have a very old school Kindle, which is almost like reading a book!)

Mel: Either works for me!

Sharon: We caught the Star Trek references, but didn’t read any Joss Whedon references. Did we miss them? (Ellen and I are huge Buffy fans, except she’s Team Angel and I’m Team Spike.)

Suz: Believe it or not, Mel is (whispering) not a Buffy fan. She’s resisted all of my urging and pleas to watch it. I think someday she will, and then her head will explode from the shiny, but until then . . .

DangerousDestiny_Cover1-e1408135458693Sharon: (Not a Buffy fan? Yikes!) In Night Sky, you used one of my all-time favorite quotes of yours, “Do the best you can at the moment”. That quote has gotten me through some difficult times. Can you tell us the story about that quote or why you feel so strongly about it?

Suz: There’s a book called “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, which is a wonderful outline of a philosophy that I try hard to embrace. One of the agreements is “Always do your best,” to which I added “in the moment.” Because, obviously, your personal best is going to depend quite a bit on what’s happening around you. For example, your personal best while running a 5K is gonna be seriously different if you have the flu versus being completely healthy, right?

This comes in very handy when, as an author, your career spans several decades and dozens of published books. I’ve learned a lot since my very first book, Future Perfect, came out in 1993—in fact, I’m a much, much better writer now. But at the time, that book was my personal best, and because of that, I remain very proud of it!

Sharon: I love that philosophy! Thank you for sharing it. So, whose idea was it to write a book together?

Mel: My mom sent me a cryptic text a few years ago, asking me to meet her at our local Barnes & Noble. I did, and she sprang the idea of the two of us writing a book together. She thought it would be a good idea for us to walk through the store and see what was out there in the YA market. But she wasn’t sure what I would think about the idea of co-writing one. In case it wasn’t obvious, I JUMPED at the idea. J

Sharon: Aren’t moms wonderful? Right Ellen? J


Ellen tries hard not to roll her eyes, but fails. “My turn!”

Ellen: Why did you put in the song Anaconda by Nicki Minaj? I was really surprised to see it because there are parodies of it all over Instagram and school.

Mel: We tried to imagine what songs would still be around decades from now—and which of those very old songs Calvin would find the most amusing!

Suz: I’m pretty sure someone’s still gonna be singing those lyrics in 2115!

Ellen: I hope so! (grimaces) Do you have a writing playlist or a certain song you listened to while writing?

Suz: I’m a musician, so I have to write in silence. If music is on, my attention is completely taken by the melody and the words of the song, and I get nothing done!

Mel: I have lots of playlists for my other job (personal trainer) – especially for my long runs. But writing is something I need to do without music, too.

Ellen: How do you think strong heroines in YA literature, including Skylar, have influenced readers?

Mel: I know that when I was a young reader, I was inspired by strong female characters. I think that having that kind of role model made me as tough as I am. (The good kind of tough.) J

Suz: I hope hope hope that girls who read both Night Sky and the sequel, Wild Sky, will relate to Skylar and to Dana, too. In a society that so often sends a message that girls must attempt to look and act alike, Skylar realizes what Dana already knows: that being different – not being the same as everyone else – is a STRENGTH, not a weakness.


Sharon and Ellen reading Night Sky by an October bonfire.

Ellen: Buffy (and Angel) are two of my favorite characters ever. Do you think the current group of strong YA heroines started with Buffy?

Suz: There were strong heroines in pop culture before Buffy, but I have to say that, in my opinion, Buffy is by far the most important female fictional character in the past 20 years. For a smallish, cute, blonde sixteen-year-old to have her strength, courage, and all around kick-ass attitude blasted through so many stereotypes that I think (and hope) that she’ll continue to inspire girls for decades to come.

Ellen: Can you explain the dual writing process? Did you each write certain chapters or was one person responsible for dialogue and the other responsible for description? How did you revise and still love each other?

Mel: We made up our process as we went along, but the general plan was this: Mom and I got together and worked through a detailed outline of the story.

Suz: I’ve been an outliner/planner from way back. So, just like with all of my other books, Mel and I sat and talked and took notes for hours and hours before we started to write. We talked extensively about Sky. As our main character, we really needed to know her, inside and out. Mel spent some time on her own, too, writing some of Sky’s backstory from Sky’s point of view. What that did was really hone Sky’s voice so that we both knew exactly what she sounded like.

Meanwhile, I took all of our random notes about the plot and conflict (we mapped out about three books’ worth!), and I organized them into a structured story outline. And then we sat down again and thought about the best way to introduce Sky and Calvin, and we extensively outlined chapter one.

Mel: At that point, I wrote a first draft, and Mom revised it. (We did it at the same time, though – I would send a chapter, and Mom would revise it as I wrote the next chapter. Then I’d read the revisions before moving on to the next one.)

Suz: Every time we came to the end of the segment we’d outlined extensively, we’d do more brainstorming and figure out the details of the next series of chapters.

Mel: Of course, sometimes we’d shift things around. Sometimes Mom would say, “skip this next scene because I’ll write it—I see it so clearly,” and then I’d revise that scene that she wrote. But one thing was ABSOLUTELY constant – we did not sit together and write in the same room at the same time. We tried that only once. Nope. J

Suz: Yeah, that was awkward! We had to revise a bit of dialogue, and so I turned on my computer and we both pulled our chairs up to it and . . .

Mel: Crickets chirped!

Suz: After just a few minutes, one of us said something, “Let’s not do it this way.”

Mel: And the other said, “Oh, thank God!”


Two fans (Ellen and her cousin Emily) pretending to be Skylar and Dana from Night Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann.

Ellen: Wow. Are you familiar with fandoms and shipping? If so, what are your OTPs in the Night Sky world? What is Skylar and Milo’s ship name? Skylo? Milar?

Suz: I’ve bumped up against reader expectations in my romance novels, and while I am a fervent believer in OTPs upon winning (and earning!) an HEA, I like stories that give characters an opportunity to explore the romantic landscape in advance of that HEA.

Mel: I like your suggestion of Skylo! J

Ellen: Thanks! Can boys be Greater-Thans?

Mel: Yes, but many more females than males are G-Ts. You’ll learn more about that in the next book, Wild Sky!

Suz: We introduce one particularly fun new character in the sequel. (Can’t wait to hear what you think!)

Ellen: Will the backstory/worldbuilding be explained more in the next book? (my mom said this was explained more in your adult novel Born to Darkness, but I’m 16 and I’m not allowed to read that yet!)

Mel: Yes – Wild Sky goes into more detail about the world. But there’s always more to learn as Sky learns more! J

Ellen: Will Nicole (a character from Skylar’s past) make an appearance in the next book?

Mel: No, not in the next book, but you’ll find out more about Garrett in Wild Sky!

Suz: Yeah, one of the first rules of writing is “Torture your characters,” so we thought we’d do just that by forcing Sky and Cal to interact rather extensively with football-playing school bully Garrett!

Ellen: My friends and I love to note-card our favorite books. Do you have any suggestions for note-carding Night Sky? (favorite quotes or passages or one-liners?)

Suz: For me, it’s pretty much every one of Cal’s Would You Rather questions! (And there are more of those in Wild Sky!)

Mel: Ooh, I think that’s something that you should share with us! We’d love to hear your favorite lines!

Ellen: I’d love to share! Here are some of my favorite one-liners and quotes:

I lack both a phone and a give-a-d*mn. (p. 380)

And love was still coursing through the air like it had its own individual pulse, but something else was casting a spell that lingered as it blew through the lit candles and brushed against the red rose petals sprinkled across the bedsheets. It was desire. (p. 435)

And I know I complain a lot about my mom. But when it comes to taking care of little girls who’ve been kidnapped and nearly killed? She kinda rocks. (p. 481)

Would you rather . . . ? (Calvin’s question throughout the book!)

And he kissed me. And I’m not talking peck on the cheek, either. (p. 306)

I had so much crap on my mind that my brain actually hurt. (p. 194)

Because life was so dang dangerous now, unlike the incredibly safe and bucolic good old days of the twenty-teens, or whatever ancient but perfect decade Mom had grown up in. (p. 13)

I had a bad case of swamp butt, and my jean shorts were sticking to my backside uncomfortably. (p. 1)

Now Suzanne and Melanie would love to hear from you! Do you have a favorite YA book or character? Or a favorite book one-liner or quote? Or any question about what it’s like to work as a mother/daughter team?

Thank you so much, Suz and Mel, for spending the day with us and sharing your own creative stories. Ellen and I are reading Wild Sky and hope you’ll come back for another interview soon!

Unknown-1Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter, Melanie Brockmann, have been creative partners on and off for many years. Their first project was an impromptu musical duet, when then-six-month-old Melanie delighted Suz by matching her pitch and singing back to her. (Babies aren’t supposed to do that.) Since then, Mel has gone on to play clarinet and saxophone, to sing in a wedding band, and to run seven-minute miles. She is one of Sarasota, Florida’s most sought-after personal trainers. Suz has driven an ice-cream truck, directed an a cappella singing group, and can jog a twelve-minute mile if chased. She is the multi-award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of more than fifty books. Wild Sky is the mother-daughter team’s second literary collaboration and the sequel to Night Sky. Their next collaborative project is an indie movie called Russian Doll in which Mel will star, while Suz executive produces. Each strongly suspects that the other is a Greater-Than.

Suz and Mel love to hear from their fans and you can find them on various social media sites: FacebookSuz’s TwitterMel’s Twitter, Website

Night Sky and Wild Sky are available from the following retailers:

Book/ebook: Amazon/KindleBN/Nook, iBooks, IndieBound, BAM, Kobo

Audio: DownpourAudible, iTunes

All photographs courtesy of Suzanne Brockmann and Sharon Wray.

Five Surprising Things About Manda Collins

Manda Collins is fascinating. To the outside world, she seems like a quiet academic. But we, here, at Kiss and Thrill have uncovered the truth. Here are five surprising things you might not know about our resident historical romantic suspense author.


1. Manda has degrees in English and Librarianship — which means she knows how to find absolutely anything out. What kind of boxers or briefs did men wear in the Regency? She’s got it covered. What is the best kind of carriage for her horse-racing crazed heroine (Hermione) to drive in her newest volume in the Lords of Anarchy series? What a piffle to discover. Her mind is like one giant research volume on everything historical — and otherwise. And that love of detail shows up in everything she writes.


2. Manda has a rapier wit. Only she could take one of her heroines (Amelia from The Perks of Being a Beauty) and put her in a “Most Interesting Man in the World” Dos Equis commercial for her book trailer!                 

3. She lives with three cats named Stephen, Tiny, and Toast, and her sister, and a dog named Charlie, and is crazy about all five of them — equally.  ;-)

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4. Manda is so popular, people started preordering the third book in the Anarchy series, Good Dukes Wear Black, even before the second one, Good Earl Gone Bad, was released!

5. Historical isn’t the only genre Manda writes in. She also has a contemporary romance about lawyers titled Legally Yours.



Here’s the blurb from Good Earl Gone:

Marriage? To a gambler? You must be joking! Yet Lady Hermione Upperton has never backed down from a challenge. When her spendthrift father offers her at the gaming tables, she is given a difficult choice–wed the Earl of Mainwaring, an infamous gamester with no respect for her skills with the reins, or face charges for the murder of a member of the infamous Lords of Anarchy. Either way she’ll have to clear her name. Can she count on her husband’s help the way she has begun to count on his kisses?

All Jasper Fawley, the Earl of Mainwaring, wanted was a night of cards. But by the end of the evening he’s walked away with a fortune–and a bride who’s suspected of murder. Jasper knows Hermione is passionate about her unorthodox membership in the Lords of Anarchy, but he’s certain she would never kill to keep it. Can he protect his headstrong wife from prosecution and a ruthless killer without endangering both their hearts in the process? 

Want to read more? Click here to read an excerpt.

Congratulations on the release of Good Earl Gone Bad, Manda!



Congratulations to Sandybar57, Celia Fowler, Jacquie Biggar, Erika Kelly and Rebecca James! Each of you has won a digital copy of JULIE MULHERN’s cozy mystery: THE DEEP END. Please click on the ‘Contact Us’ tab and let us know the appropriate email address.

JULIE MULHERN: Diverse, Dedicated and a lot of Dead Bodies.

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

Julie Mulhern- photo by Larry Levenson

Rarely have I read an author who writes in two completely different voices. Julie Mulhern’s series: The Country Club Murders is a cozy mystery set in the 70’s, and filled with laugh-out-loud snark. Naturally when I picked up the first book in her new Haunting series, A HAUNTING DESIRE, even though I knew it was historical with a touch of paranormal, I still expected similarities in writing style. Nope. You’d never know the same writer wrote this solemn, eerie, twisted suspense involving Voo Doo and some grisly, dark New Orleans scenes that have you biting your nails like a teen. The two series are SO far apart in voice, style and spectrum on the mystery genre that I’m left thinking Julie Mulhern is either exceptionally talented or has a split personality.

As a dedicated KaT reader, I’m sure you recall reading about Julie after her debut last February when we featured her novel THE DEEP END. Next week the second book in The Country Club Murders comes out: GUARANTEED TO BLEED. 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Let’s check back in with Julie and see how she is able to pull off such completely unique writing styles in the romantic suspense genre:

  • You write a series that’s a hilarious snarky cozy and another series that’s historical, paranormal suspense. How hard is it to switch hats?

Actually, switching between two different genres is good for me. When I’m writing the mysteries, I get a break from turn of the century New Orleans and vice versa.

That doesn’t mean I’m not constantly having ideas for the wrong book. I am. I’ve started files.

  • Which series is YOUR fav?

What a question! A bit like asking a mother which child is her favorite. Right now I am editing A Haunting Need (book two in the Haunting series) and writing Clouds in my Coffee (book three in the Country Club Murders). I love them both. That said, it’s easier for me to write mysteries.

  • We interviewed you in February for your debut release. Tell us how well The Deep End has been doing.

THE DEEP END coverThe Deep End had a great spring and a wonderful summer, somehow managing a top spot on the Goodreads’ 2015 Best Beach Read list. I took screen shots of my book wedged between “Me Before You” and “The Rosie Project.”

Lynn Farris of said of The Deep End, “This certainly isn’t your grandmother’s cozy mystery, and I loved it. This is a cozy mystery with an edge. Ms. Mulhern walked a fine line in this mystery with a tantalizing topic while still being acceptable to most cozy readers.”

Mystery readers who don’t want gore seem to respond to it.

  • Are you a plotter or panster? What kind of research have you done for each? (You already answered or The Deep End, but it never hurts to refresh memories.)

I write to plot points. In an 80,000 word novel that means INTERESTING things better be happening at the 8,000, 20,000, 40,000, 60,000 and 72,000 words marks. Ish. I generally begin knowing my plot points but have no earthly idea how I’m going to fill in between them. Those misty spaces are where the magic happens.

As for research, I believe you mean RABBIT HOLE. I love it. Recently I needed to know how much it cost to rent a condo for a week in Vail in 1974 and found myself flipping through the virtual pages of a decades old ski magazine ($400 if you’re wondering). I’ve discovered Thea Porter caftans, renewed my fondness for Tab, and listened—willingly (once)—to “Seasons in the Sun.” I’ve also watched every movie Steve McQueen made in the 70s—that was no hardship.

Sometimes the research finds me. A New York Times article led me to this website – I fell in love with The Jewel Box and knew I had to place a scene there.

  • What are future release dates and titles?

Book two of The Country Club Murders, GUARANTEED TO BLEED, releases next week on October 13th. This is the book that features a scene at The Jewel Box. It also sees the return of Ellison, Grace, Mother, Aggie, Anarchy, and Hunter. I adore this mystery and am thrilled to see it venture out into the world.

Book three, CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE is slated for early May, 2016. I’d best get writing!

A HAUNTING NEED will release in April, 2016 (if I ever get these edits done).


QUESTION OF THE DAY FROM JULIE: As I mentioned, I’ve been watching loads of Steve McQueen movies and my favorite from the 1970s is Papillon. That said, my favorite movies from the 70s are The Sting, Blazing Saddles (after twenty years of marriage, my husband made a Mel Brooks fan of me) and Star Wars. What are your favorite 70s movies? FIVE COMMENTERS WILL WIN A DIGITAL COPY OF THE DEEP END!

Finally, readers, if you don’t believe me on how DIFFERENT Julie’s style is, please enjoy the excerpts below:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]FIRST EXCERPT – In Guaranteed to Bleed, Ellison has a couple of awful dates (believe me, I’ve had worse). So in honor of my 20th wedding anniversary tomorrow (hurray, no more dating!), I thought you’d like to join her on one…

The scent of Aramis overwhelmed the aroma of my coffee. I looked up.

“How are the two prettiest ladies in town?” A man wearing the ugliest plaid sports coat I’ve ever seen—burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium deep yellow—stood in front of us.

Mother smiled. Daddy stood and thrust out his hand. Quin Marstin shook it. I looked from Mother to Quin to the empty seat at the table. Oh dear Lord.

“We’re so glad you joined us.” Mother’s smile didn’t mean a thing. The expression certainly didn’t touch the rest of her face. Was Quin a last minute addition because Hunter hadn’t wanted to come? “Please sit.”

Quin sat.

Next to me.

When we were in high school, Garret Hargrove Marstin V, more commonly known as Quin, was the class president, the starting quarterback for a football team that won the state championship and the boy named most likely to succeed. As far as I knew, our senior year was the apex of his life. He’d been young, popular and almost every girl at school had wanted to date him. The world had changed. Quin hadn’t noticed.

He leaned back in his chair and grinned at me. “Ellison, looking good, babe.”


Next to me, Daddy tensed. Across from me, Mother washed away a sour-pickle expression with a deep sip of Bloody Mary. I shifted in my chair, inching as far as possible from Mother’s idea of a set up. Had she lost her mind? “Thank you,” I murmured.

The man positively reeked of cologne. What’s more, I’d bet, hidden beneath his white shirt, boring tie and that appalling blazer, there was a gold chain with a medallion nestled among his chest hairs. Bleh.

“How’s single life treating you?” Given that I was single because my husband had been murdered, I wasn’t quite sure how to answer. True, Henry had been a cheating low-life and I didn’t exactly mourn his passing, but…

He scooted his chair closer to mine. “Chick like you, you don’t have to stay single long.”

Across the table, Mother choked on her drink.

Quin leaned toward me and his Aramis assaulted my nose again.

Maybe his sense of smell was gone. Maybe when he looked in the mirror, he didn’t see the thinning hair. Then again, how could he, hidden beneath a toupee the way it was? Maybe he didn’t notice the thickening waist that threatened to become a paunch. The man remained a legend in his own mind.

I inched farther. So far, I risked falling off my chair. Maybe Daddy would catch me. Although…he looked frozen in horror. No help there.

“What are you doing now, Quin? For a living, I mean.” I asked.

Clipping coupons off the bonds his grandfather and father had amassed. We all knew it. Then again, cutting along a straight, dotted line is something of a skill.

He sat up straight, grinned, then leaned against the back of his chair. “I’m thinking of investing in a chain of incense stores. Not too late to get in on the action. You interested, Harry?”

This time Daddy choked on his drink. I patted his back and looked for a waiter. With everyone choking, we were going to need more ice water.


And, one of my favorite scenes from A Haunting Desire…AHauntingDesire2

“There’s not enough water to make tea and read the leaves. It’ll be the cards.” With a rustle of her patched skirt, Granny led Trula into the cabin and settled into her seat at a table scarred by hot pans, dripping glasses of rum, and time.

Trula sat across from her in an uncomfortable straight-backed chair.

Behind Granny, a narrow plank painted a vibrant shade of blue groaned beneath the weight of a large crucifix, the curve of a snake’s skeleton, a small painting of the Virgin, tightly wrapped gris-gris, a cascade of crimson lace, brightly colored beads, painted stones, and a bottle of rum. Several candles burned and flower petals floated in a glass bowl filled with water. Next to the altar’s dense opulence, the rest of the simple cabin appeared drab.

“Are the wards holdin’?” Granny asked.

“I saw a boy.”

“Did he cause any mischief?”


Granny snorted. “The wards only keep out ghosts who mean you harm. I reckon that boy didn’t aim to cause trouble.”

The wards didn’t work against all ghosts? Until Zeke Barnes beat Carter Wayne, she’d never seen a single one in her home—it was a phantom-free haven. The wards made living in a city beset by ghosts bearable.

“You didn’t ride clear out here in the middle of the night because of the wards.” Granny’s head was wrapped in a bright tignon, a red shawl draped over her narrow shoulders. Her hands, roped with age and bent like claws, caressed a tarot deck.

“I’m worried about Cora James.” Trula bit her lip. It wasn’t exactly a lie.

“Cora’s in a safe place. Don’t you worry your pretty head about Cora James.”

The tension in Trula’s shoulders eased. “Where is she?”

The old woman grinned. “I done told you. A safe place.”

Trula closed her eyes and breathed through gritted teeth. If she wanted information from Granny, she’d catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “If you speak to her, would you please tell her the police are all over the district looking for Belmain’s murderer?

Granny laughed softly. “The New Orleans police aren’t gonna catch that killer. Least half those men couldn’t catch fish in a barrel. This ain’t somethin’ they understand. Darkness is roamin’ round the city.”

Trula shuddered. Eulie Echo had warned her about Baron Samedi, now Granny had as good as confirmed her suspicion that a spirit committed the murders.

“Cora’s not the only reason you rode clear out here in the middle of the night.” Granny’s faded eyes glittered in the dim light.

“I’m worried about my own girls as well.” That wasn’t a lie, either. She did worry about the girls. The man who’d invaded her thoughts wasn’t worth mentioning. Trula scrubbed at her tired eyes. Had he followed her?

Granny’s disbelieving laugh grated on Trula’s last nerve. “Maybe. But that’s not why you came. The cards have answers for you.” She shuffled the ornate deck and fanned it on the table. “Pick three.”

For more information on Julie Mulhern, please visit her website:


Dog On KaT: Rosie Sniffs Out Her Favorite Animal Sleuth

Private Eye Rosie

Dogs are natural sleuths, especially scent dogs like my chocolate Lab Rosie. She is curious about everything. Her inner monologue on a walk: That bush smells different today. Hey there’s a silver wrapper in the grass, maybe it will taste good. Oh yum, a banana peel! Squirrel! What’s in that bag? Does that person getting out of his car want to pet me? Wait, I don’t want to go that way. Look, there’s a bug on the sidewalk. Where’s it going? Is it food? Hey, I’m not done eating that…Rosie vs Beetle

But you don’t have to know a dog like Rosie to enjoy the crime-solving antics of Rosie’s favorite dog sleuth Chet the Jet of the Chet and Bernie mystery series by Spencer Quinn (aka Edgar Award winning author Peter Abrahams). Chet is a K-9 school drop out and the faithful companion of down-and-out private investigator Bernie Little.

Cozy mysteries with animal sleuths are not uncommon. What sets this part-cozy-part-hard-boiled mystery series apart from others in those genres is that the P.I.’s cases unfold in the first person narrative of Chet the dog. Author Spencer Quinn does an excellent job imagining a canine inner monologue while leaving all the deductive reasoning to Chet’s human partner Bernie. If Rosie could read, I suspect she would find Chet to be a very relatable protagonist.

“What is it, Chet?”

I smelled all kinds of things, but that wasn’t the point. The point was those smells brought back a memory of this grate and what had fallen in: one of the sharpest memories I’d ever had, so sharp my side hurt.

“What are you barking about?” Bernie got down on his hands and knees and peered through the grate. “Can’t see a goddamn thing. Can you?”

Nope. But I didn’t have to: I knew what was down there. I pawed at the grate. Bernie gazed at me, then went to the car and came back with the flashlight. I loved the flashlight, how it poked holes in the dark, and always got a bit excited when we were using it.

“Stop charging around like that.”

I stopped, returned to the grate. Bernie was kneeling again, shining the light down through.

dog-on-it-cover-663x1024As you can see, the tone of the series is warm and humorous, but there is a brush of darkness that adds depth. Like any fictional detective, Chet encounters real danger and adversity. Chet must outsmart some truly evil villains while navigating a world of humans and machines that is often beyond his ability to understand. Even well-meaning humans can be a danger to a dog. In DOG ON IT (the first book in the series), Chet has a very close call with death when he is separated from Bernie and put in an animal shelter. No one wants to adopt him, and Bernie doesn’t know where he is.

A cold place, with lights that were much too bright shining on machines I didn’t understand. The lawn mower is one of the worst, and these, not much like lawn mowers, somehow looked as bad. I turned back toward the metal door: closed.

And Chet’s relationship with Bernie is rich with emotion while not straying too far from Chet’s doglike thinking.

I knew men could cry—had seen Bernie tear up that time Leda came and packed up Charlie’s stuff; did I mention that already? At that moment I came close to making— What would you call it? A connection, maybe, a connection between Bernie’s situation and—

But it didn’t happen. I spotted a Cheeto under the bed. Munch munch and it was gone.

If DOG ON IT sounds like your kind of read, you’ll enjoy the other Chet and Bernie Mysteries too. Even the titles are fun!

Chet & Bernie Book Covers

Thereby Hangs a Tail; To Catch A Thief; The Dog Who Knew Too Much; A Cat Was Involved (Prequel, short story); A Fistful of Collars; The Sound and the Furry; Paw and Order; and Scents and Sensibility.

You might also want to check out Chet’s blog and, of course, his FaceBook page.

What animal sleuth mysteries do you like to read?


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