Sexy Heroes, Smart Heroines, Killer Romance

What characteristics do you prefer in romantic suspense?

a) Sexy Heroes
b) Smart Heroines
c) Killer Romance
d) All of the above

If you answered all of the above, I have a treat for you. (And if you didn’t, what is wrong with you???)

Today I have not one, not two, but three sexy heroes for our Kiss and Thrill audience to drool over, three smart heroines for you to root for, in three killer romances that I hope will keep you reading late into the night.

3 Sexy Heroes

Behind the Mask

First up, Hugo Martinez. I think the cover tells you everything you need to know, but for the sight-impaired I can say this might be the most alpha hero I’ve ever read. He’s hot, dark, and all hard edges. Brawny, overbearing, and hot. Did I mention he’s hot? Look again at the cover. I’ll wait.

Cold_Fear_CoverNext, we have Lincoln Frazer. I’ve been looking forward to Lincoln’s book ever since reading A Cold Dark Place. Lincoln wields his brain as much as his brawn in his hunt for a vicious killer. He’s polished and professional on the surface, but underneath he has a burning intensity that is so very appealing.

If you are having trouble picturing Lincoln, this should help. You’re welcome.

CovertEvidence-FrontCover-final-72dpiFinally, we have Ian Boyd. Ian is dedicated to his job, which he’s very, very good at. His job is lying. Ian hides his dark, deceptive side behind the charming persona John Baker, but Ian’s true self slips out in raw moments, like when a thug with a knife threatens the woman he’s trying very hard not to develop feelings for.

This is the cover model from Covert Evidence, and he’s an excellent fit for Ian. Let’s pause for a moment and enjoy.

3 Smart Heroines

Zelda. A forensic botanist and former CIA covert case officer, she’s got brains, strength, and fierce courage.

Dr. Isadora Campbell. An ER doctor and former Army captain, she knows how to use her intellect to get out of trouble and protect those she cares about.

Cressida Porter. A PhD student studying underwater archaeology, it’s academic research that brings her to Turkey, and her knowledge of Byzantine sites might just save her life.

3 Killer Romances

Named a Desert Isle Keeper at All About Romance, Behind the Mask by Carolyn Crane is dark, sexy, and intense. I can’t wait to go back and read the first three books in the series.

With edge of the seat action and suspense, Cold Fear by Toni Anderson is another fabulous addition to the Cold Justice Series. I am a devoted Toni Anderson fan.

Because it would be weird to praise my own book, I’ll let another author chime in: “With a believable plot, an exotic setting, a smart heroine and a sexy hero – Rachel Grant’s Covert Evidence is the definition of fabulous Romantic Suspense.” – New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author Toni Anderson

All three books are available now! 

Behind the Mask (Undercover Associates #4)

Cold Fear (Cold Justice #4)

Covert Evidence (Evidence Series #5)

Today from 4:00-10:30 Eastern / 1:00-7:30 Pacific, Carolyn, Toni, and I are hosting a Facebook party to celebrate our new releases. We have fabulous guest authors lined up and lots of fun games, excerpts, and prizes. Everyone is welcome. Stop by and comment for a chance to win ebooks and other prizes!

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Allison Leotta Kills

Allison Leotta’s newest thriller, A Good Killing, asks the question:

How far would you go to save your sister?

As the eldest sibling in my family, I must admit this grabbed my attention. AGoodKilling-cvr-thumbHow many times did my mother say it was my job to watch over my brother? Even now, I worry about him and know there is little I wouldn’t do to protect him.

Allison perfectly captures the deep bonds and complicated relationship between siblings. Her heroine, Anna Curtis, balances a job as a Federal prosecutor, a romance gone wrong, and a sister in jeopardy who might not be as innocent as she might like. The result? A fascinating page turner and possibly Leotta’s best book yet.

Allison is a master at keeping the thriller thrilling while bringing out the softer side of her characters. Best of all, she uses her own experiences as a former Federal prosecutor to make sure the details are correct. If you’re like me, and inaccuracy drives you nuts, you’ll adore the exceptional factual authenticity of Allison Leotta’s books.

To learn a little bit more about Allison’s books, here is an interview I did with her a while back. In it, she discusses her series and how she came to write it. I hope you’ll enjoy watching.

 

What makes the EXIT Inc. Series Unique?

On June 30, EXIT STRATEGY, the first book in my new romantic suspense EXIT Inc. series, will be released by Avon (an imprint of HarperCollins.) Readers have asked me just what is this EXIT Inc. anyway? Obviously, I hope you’ll read the books to find out. But for our KaT readers, I’m giving an exclusive sneak peek into the world of EXIT and explaining what sets this series apart from other series in RomanceLandia.

Exit Strategy High Rez Final

What is EXIT Inc.?

EXIT is an acronym for “EXtreme International Tours”. EXIT Incorporated is a privately owned company that offers guided outdoor tours all over the world. Or at least, that’s what EXIT wants you to believe. In reality, the tour side of the company is a front for the government sanctioned clandestine organization of highly trained operatives, called Enforcers, who will do whatever it takes–legal or not–to protect the United States and its citizens from terrorists and other criminals. Enforcers are often placed in the role of assassins and preemptively eliminate the bad guys before they can hurt or kill more people.

What makes this series different from other series?

There are a lot of brotherhood, assassin, or secret protector types of series out there, like Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series or Julie Ann Walker’s Black Knights Inc. series–which are both fantastic! But two main things set EXIT apart from the others.

One – The moral dilemma of assassins preemptively killing bad guys before they can strike again is explored in depth, pitting the heroes and heroines of these stories against each other and giving poignant glimpses into the hearts and minds of each character and why they make the choices they make.

Two – Where other series cast the brotherhood organizations as the force of good, EXIT Inc. turns that completely around. The Enforcers come to realize that the company they’ve devoted their lives to may have been using them all along, and that EXIT Inc. may actually be a force of evil. Seeing how the heroes and heroines come to this realization and what they do about it is what makes this series so fun and exciting.

Is this series related to your Deadly Games series? Yes and no. The Deadly Games series has law-enforcement heroes and heroines primarily focused on hunting down serial killers. It’s very family-centric, with the heroes of each book being either a Buchanan brother or a close friend (such as Logan Richards in the first book) and is set in Florida and Georgia.

The EXIT Inc. series has bad-boy heroes, definitely not law enforcement, whose prey are hard core terrorists and deadly criminals far more dangerous than serial killers. While the Enforcers in these stories form a brotherhood, they aren’t a true family. And the books are set in the two places where EXIT Inc. maintains headquarters–North Carolina and Colorado.

The connection between the two series is that the last Deadly Games book–TAKE THE KEY AND LOCK HER UP–features Devlin Buchanan, who is an assassin for EXIT Incorporated. The book can be considered as a prequel for the EXIT series as it introduces the company and some of the primary players. The EXIT series is actually a natural spin-off that happened organically while I was writing Devlin’s story. And for fun, I feature many of the Buchanans in cameo roles in this new series. But you can read and enjoy the EXIT books without having ever read the Deadly Games books.

How many books will be in this new series? Currently there are three books planned: EXIT Strategy, No EXIT, and Final EXIT.

How often will these books be released? Unless the schedule changes, they will come out about every six months, beginning with the first book on June 30, 2015.

How can I buy the EXIT books? This series is in print and ebook. You should be able to buy these books in Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and many other “brick and mortar” physical book stores beginning June 30, 2015. You can also order print or ebook formats online pretty much anywhere–like Amazon, B&N, iBooks, and Kobo. AND YOU CAN PRE-ORDER RIGHT NOW!

* * *

I hope that answers some of your questions about this new series. Please let me know if you have more questions! EXIT STRATEGY is available for pre-order now. The description and buy links appear below.


EXIT STRATEGY

Lena Diaz launches her thrilling new series featuring the undercover vigilantes of EXIT Inc. with a skilled operative putting his life—and his heart—on the line for a woman in trouble

When Sabrina Hightower awakens to the sound of an intruder, she figures he’s there to rob her, murder her— or worse. She doesn’t expect to be carried off by a muscle-bound stud with male-model good looks . . . or that he came to rescue her.

Mason Hunt became an enforcer with EXIT Inc. to eliminate the bad guys—terrorists, militia groups, all those who would do America harm. But his latest target is innocent. If EXIT could lie about sultry, strong-willed Sabrina, what darker truths might they be concealing?

Going rogue in the rugged North Carolina mountains, Mason risks everything to keep Sabrina close, especially now that EXIT’s lethal assassins are chasing them down. The heat is on . . . but it’s nothing compared to the slow burn of seduction.


 

What other authors are saying about EXIT STRATEGY…

“Sexy romance and edge-of-your-seat suspense…EXIT STRATEGY is a book not to be missed!” –NYT and USA Today Bestselling author Cynthia Eden

“Taut, compelling… kept me hooked to the last page.” -NYT Bestselling author Mary Burton

“EXIT STRATEGY is a tension-packed read, an addicting mix of suspense and romance.” – Kendra Elliot

“EXIT STRATEGY starts out with a bang and never lets up. Perfect pacing, smart and sexy, this is exactly what you want in a romantic suspense.” – Award winning author HelenKay Dimon

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Lena Diaz
Lena Diaz
 is a country girl at heart who has planted her Kentucky roots deep into the sandy soil of north Florida where she lives with her hubby and a shetland sheepdog. FSU-grad-son and college-daughter visit when they can. Lena is an action movie and crime-TV junkie. She also loves gardening, and hiking in the beautiful Smoky Mountains in Tennessee whenever she can get away. EXIT STRATEGY is Lena’s 10th published novel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

And the winner of a $10 Amazon gift card from last week’s post, courtesy of Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron, is Nancy Stillings! Congratulations!!!!

Unforgettable: A Day Spent with Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron

Today I’d like to offer a warm Kiss & Thrill welcome to Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron. Heather, a veteran contributor here at Kiss and Thrill, has combined her amazing writing skills with retired Marine Corps Major Chris Bergeron for the fourth book in the Love in the Fleet Series Unforgettable.

Unforgettable lives up to its title. It’s an amazing book with beautifully drawn characters. Adam, Gwyn, Mike, and Cate have such emotionally touching journeys that when you’re finished with the book you’ll wish they were real, then be sad when they’re not. And that’s what gives this book a special spot on the keeper shelf.

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UNFORGETTABLE (Book 4 in “Love in the Fleet”)

The 9/11 spirits aboard USS New York are back! Their mission: help Adam, Gwyn, Mike, and Cate find their happily ever afters—and stay alive. As the only person who can see them, Lieutenant Gwyn Pritchard tries to help the spirits move on to the light. That is, when she’s not helping Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor heal from his PTSD—or falling madly in love with him.

Captain Cate Hawkins, has run from her unconventional childhood by becoming a Marine Corps pilot. But when a mission in East Africa goes awry, she finds herself in a race for her life. After burying the hatchet with Cate, Navy pilot Mike Nikolopoulos wants nothing more than to rescue his new love. If the spirits help him save her, they’ll finally be free to move on. But can Mike overcome a sudden fear of flying to find his way to Cate before terrorists repeat “Black Hawk Down”—with a female American pilot this time?

SW: Welcome to Kiss and Thrill today, Chris and Heather. First of all, I have to tell you how much I loved this book. Second, I’d love to know how you two met.

Heather: When I was brainstorming Book 3, Never Forget about Marines on an amphibious assault ship, I realized I didn’t know anything about either one. My husband was the pool captain at Naval Station Mayport and told me that one of his lifeguards had a mom and dad who met on an amphibious assault ship. Mom was Navy and Dad was a Marine. I invited them for lunch and the magic began.

Chris: LOL. Heather asked me if I could help her out with Book #3, Never Forget and this is what I said: “I spent over twenty years writing training scenarios for Marines and never got to use half of them. I already know how we’re going to rescue those hostages at that consulate.” I was so excited that somebody wanted to hear the crazy ideas I had in my head.

SW: I’m dying to know what it’s like working with a co-author? Can you tell us about your writing process?

Who are these beautiful women? Heather with a few of my K&T sisters--Gwen, Sarah and Lena!

Who are these beautiful women? Heather with a few of my K&T sisters–Gwen, Sarah and Lena!

Heather: It’s pretty interesting since we’re both Pantsers and Puzzlers. We do a basic brainstorm at the beginning – in person before Chris retired, and now via FaceTime. I start writing the book and send Chris a quick sketch of scenes or chapters I need him to run with. It usually entails the bad guy and any Navy ship or USMC technicalities—or emotional issues our Marine protagonist might have.

Chris: It works for me. Not sure I’m ready to sit down and write a novel by myself, but when Heather sends me a framework to fill in with military – or villainous – details, I go to town. Like she said, we’re Puzzlers, so we write the scenes that call to us first and fit all the pieces together later. Somehow a complete book emerges. That’s part of the magic.

Heather: I typically write the relationship portion of the books and Chris writes the bad guys and external conflict, but then more magic happens. We tend to bleed over into the other’s turf and fine-tune each other’s scenes. And it just works. Examples: Chris will add layers of emotions to the characters and think up unique things for the spirit characters to do to help the crew of the USS New York. Yet, once he started back to college he got very busy. I needed him to write a poignant scene in Never Forget between two Marines sharing about a buddy who had died. He wrote back, “I’m super busy. Any way you can run with this one? You’re doing a great job writing Marine emotions and camaraderie.” I took that as the ultimate compliment. In Unforgettable, Chris was drowning in mid-term exams when I needed the final amphibious assault scene written. I knew what I wanted, but no way did I know the details.

ae55d3d601552ac1024213d51370b5c8Chris: I told Heather, “Go ahead and scratch it out, then send it to me and I’ll Marine-it-up.”

Heather: Yet, when I was called out of retirement to teach middle school this past winter, Chris did almost all the writing for two months before his classes started. Then, like in a relay race, I took the baton and wrote the rest when his school began. One of the biggest compliments we’ve received was from our editor, the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. When she got the finished manuscript for Unforgettable, she said, “This book is seamless. I honestly can’t tell which one of you wrote which parts.” I hadn’t thought about it until this moment, but I think trust between co-authors plays a huge factor. That and the fact that there are no egos involved. We totally work as a team.

Chris: Speaking of trust, it’s great working with someone who encourages you to just write. I do my best “writing” while I’m doing PT. That’s military-speak for Physical Training. I’ll head out for a run, or a swim, or a long bike ride—or even skiing since I live in Michigan now—and the scenes will just form in my head. I get all the details like the steamy air our heroine is running through in Kenya, the buzz of the insects on the African plain, and even the shine of the villain’s gold tooth. All the thoughts tumble over each other in my head and when I get home, I dump them into the computer. I don’t worry about grammar or spelling or paragraphs or anything. I just write it down and send it to Heather. She’s always telling me, “Just send me sand and I’ll make sand castles out of it.” I think it really frees people up to write good, creative stuff when they don’t have to worry about mechanics or that some teacher with a red pen is going to point out your mistakes.

c20ae2e6b504df1d99abdcb06df2f836_r8f1SW: Where did you get the idea for this story?

Chris: When Heather and I brainstormed Unforgettable, she said, “The USS New York will be off Somalia, so I’m thinking about a conflict with Somali pirates.” To which I replied, “It’s been done. I think we should do ‘Black Hawk Down’ with a female American pilot this time.” I have the utmost respect for the female Marine Corps aviators I watched take to the skies during my career. They are one of the last groups to brave the old boy network and succeed. I kind of based our heroine on Lieutenant Colonel Sarah “Diamond” Deal, who I had the honor of serving with during my final deployment to Afghanistan. So Heather and I made up Captain Cate Hawkins. Heather wrote her back story and I picked up the reins to shoot down Cate’s MV-22 Osprey and have her running from al-Shabab at the Somali/Kenyan border. I’ve served in East Africa, so it was fun setting the scene for Cate as I repeatedly put her in danger. And, because she’s a Marine, she repeatedly gets herself out.

Heather: Unforgettable has two love stories in it. While Chris was endangering Cate, I was healing another hero’s PTSD. I gave Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor my late father’s issues of having his mother die in childbirth, then be the only survivor of a combat patrol. Talk about survivor guilt. Adam – and my dad – had suffered from it since birth—and war intensified it. (My dad was a World War II Marine who fought at places such as Guadalcanal and New Britain.) The healing aspect of this book is very important to us. My thought was that I may not have been able to heal my dad, but maybe we can guide another Marine—or soldier or airman or sailor or veteran—to seek help for his or her issues. We are already hearing from doctors and readers who are using the “Love in the Fleet” books as a tool for healing. This has been the high point of my publishing career.

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 SW: You say this is the final book in the “Love in the Fleet” series, but do you two have plans for any future books?

Chris: We’re both pretty busy right now, but there is the possibility of another book. Just because it’s the end of the series, doesn’t mean we can’t write a prequel at some point. One of the couples in Never Forget and Unforgettable is a World War II U.S. Marine and a Royal Navy WREN. They are elderly ghosts, but I’d like to explore how they met in WWII and how Bud served as a spy throughout Europe during the war. Always got to have your next dream on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m just excited about finishing up college Freshman English. I have to say it was pretty darn cool to lay a copy of my first novel on my professor’s desk.

Heather: We think Unforgettable has something for everyone. Suspense, military action, healing, two love stories, and even ghosts. Below, please find a short excerpt from a chapter Chris wrote. It literally made me jump out of my chair when I read the entire scene. Thanks so much for inviting us today, Sharon.

Excerpt from Unforgettable:

As the sun set, Cate climbed down from the termite mound and slid through the tall grass silently. Thank God, she’d been correct about the small clearing she’d spied. It was a stream—or at least it was a stream when it rained. Right now it was a series of muddy puddles. She submerged one of her collapsible canteens in the muck and strained the water through gauze from her first aid kit. After dropping in two iodine tablets, she drank her fill.

She was still being pursued by al-Shabab, but at least she wouldn’t die from thirst now. She even allowed herself a small smile—but it was short-lived. When she raised her eyes from the canteen, sheer terror twisted her gut. Twenty yards away, two sets of amber eyes stared back at her in the setting sunlight. A pair of massive female lions stood frozen, their gazes fixed on her. Moving as slowly as possible, she reached to her side and drew her pistol. If they charged, she might get one or two rounds off, probably only wounding one—and alerting her pursuers at the same time.

Cate was screwed either way.

She prayed they were more interested in a drink of muddy water than the flight-suit-encased-Happy-Meal she was beginning to feel like. After staring for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only seconds, the lionesses lowered their heads and began to lap at the murky water. Cate hoped they would drink their fill and be on their way. She pressed her elbows painfully to her sides, trying to make herself as small as possible. Both lions turned suddenly and peered in the direction Cate had come. Something had alerted them. They slunk off into the brush.

Suddenly she heard a motor growing closer by the second and she took off running. How could those men drive through the tall grass and brambles? Soon she could make out the sounds of undercarriages and brakes squealing. Surely this had been what had scared the lions away. Cate’s heart thundered as he picked up her pace. At times they would get close enough that she could hear voices as they called out to her: “We know you are out here, Lady America. Make it easy on yourself and give up. We have water and food. We’re not going to harm you. You are worth more to us alive than dead.”

And then, in the moonlit-speckled dusk, she heard another sound that made the whole world stop: the slow, throaty growl of an animal. Cate froze, then lowered herself to the ground. In her attempt to move away from the vehicles, she’d forgotten about the other pair of pursuers. Was it possible she was being hunted by two different sets of predators?

She slid down and lay prone on her belly, then eased herself under the thorny limbs of the closest tree. It was quiet for a few minutes and Cate could hear nothing but the pounding of her heart in her ears. But that was soon joined by the same low growl as before. The tall grass moved in the moonlight. Had to be the lions slinking through the brush. One came into view, crouched low to the ground, and started walking slowly toward her. Cate would lose no matter what. If she shot at the big cat—and even if she could take it down—the men would be on her in an instant.

Her heart hammering in her throat, Cate cocked her pistol. The lion’s head swung to its left. It doubled back in the direction it had come and disappeared from view. She blew out a breath of relief, lying motionless except for the racing of her pulse.

Then she heard what the lion must have heard: sticks breaking as something moved in her direction. And she smelled what the animals had probably smelled, cigarette smoke. Where the lion had stood just moments ago, two men appeared in the gloom. They were armed with what looked like AKs. One had his rifle slung over his shoulder and carried a large machete. His cigarette lit up his face as he took a puff. The moonlight lit the rest of him. Given the mix of military hardware and dark fatigues, these were the men Cate had feared: guerillas of the al-Shabab terrorist group, hunting their American prize. The other man flipped on a flashlight and began searching the ground.

“We’re here to help you, Lady America. So be a smart American lady and let us take you to safety.”

Cate infinitesimally shifted the pistol so it was aimed at the two men. She was about fifteen yards away, not a great shot in the dark, but it might be the best chance she’d get. The first man crushed out his cigarette and began to walk forward. He was not acting as if he could see her, though. The brambles were probably reflecting the flashlight’s beam back at them, and her camouflage flight suit was doing its job. She would let him come as close as possible to get off a good shot.

As he closed the distance, Cate took careful aim across the sights. The pistol butt rested on the back of her hand. Her first shot must be deadly accurate.

Closer . . . Closer . . .

She took the slack out of the trigger and prepared to fire.

Closer . . . Closer . . .

A beast sprang from the left! The man screamed and loosed a burst of rifle fire in the air. With a sick, wet crunch, the lion bit clean through his throat and vertebrate. The man with the flashlight screamed, “Simba, Simba!” and ran into the darkness. The second lion pounced on the body on the ground, grabbing the lifeless legs in her teeth and tearing.

Cate listened in horror to the sounds of slurping and crunching in the dark. She feared she would vomit and give herself away, but she didn’t dare move until she was certain the lions were sated. Then mentally thanking her two new girlfriends, Cate eased away from the bush and melted into the night.

SW: Thank you so much Chris and Heather for sharing that excerpt and for joining us today.

Now Chris and Heather would have a question for you: Besides marriage, tell about a partnership you’ve had in the past that worked like magic. Or one that didn’t work out, but you learned something valuable from the experience. OR tell us what you think of Chris’s excerpt. We have a $10 Amazon gift card for one lucky commenter. 

If readers want to start the “Love in the Fleet” series with Book # 1 Forgive and Forget, it is $.99 through May 14 at all online sites!

Or, if you’re ready for the fourth, Unforgettable is available at: Amazon: http://amzn.to/1PAHVCj  and  Nook: http://bit.ly/1FACsDv

Small HeadshotAward winning author, Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation in support of wounded warriors and their families. Her son serves as her cover model, helping to raise money for Fisher Houses around the world. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired Navy husband. Unforgettable is the fourth and final book in the “Love in the Fleet” series. www.heatherashby.com, Twitter: http://www.@HAshbyAuthor, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherAshbyAuthor?ref=hl

head shot ChrisCHRISTOPHER BERGERON is a retired Major in the United States Marine Corps, with twenty-four years of service. His ten deployments include combat tours in Desert Shield/Desert Storm; Somalia; Kosovo; Haiti; Fallujah, Iraq; and Helmand Province, Afghanistan. Chris’s travels have covered the globe, including more than twenty countries. He lives with his wife and son in Rockford, Michigan, where he is currently a Communications/Marketing student at Grand Valley State University. Unforgettable is his first novel.

All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby and Chris Bergeron

And the winner for P.A. DePaul’s giveaway from last week is Missy Clifton! Congratulations!!!!

Diana Belchase’s Triple Play–Three Daphne Nominations!

Festive and colorful fireworks display

Unassisted triple plays are rare in baseball—only 15 players can claim the accomplishment. In the romance writers’ world, unassisted triple plays are just as elusive. Today, I am proud to announce that K&T’s Diana Belchase has achieved an unassisted triple play—three nominations for the prestigious Daphne Award for excellence in mystery and suspense.

The Daphne Award, named after Daphne DuMaurier who wrote the iconic book Rebecca (“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”), is for published and unpublished authors of romantic and mainstream suspense, mystery, and thrillers. The unpublished division finalists were announced this week. Diana was nominated for:

Historical Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Diana Belchase for At Midnight

Inspirational Romantic Mystery/Suspense
Diana Belchase for His Brother’s Child

Mainstream Mystery/Suspense
Diana Belchase for By the Skin of Her Teeth

Not only is Diana a talented writer across multiple genres, she is also a skilled storyteller across multimedia. In addition to her fiction writing, Diana produces author interviews on her YouTube channel, writes a regular current affairs column for Montgomery County Media, blogs at DianaBelchase.com and Waterworld Mermaidsand is producing an upcoming cable TV show featuring author interviews.

Since I can’t share excerpts from Diana’s nominated stories, I thought I’d share three of my favorite Diana Belchase interviews that show how special she is and what a wonderful sense of fun she has.

Celebrating Earth Day with Shannon Baker: Aliens, Polygamists, and Hopi, Oh My!

To Sir with Love, An Evening with ER Braithwaite

Congratulations to Diana and all the Daphne finalists! The winners will be announced in July in New York City. We have our fingers crossed for another unassisted triple play by the super talented Diana Belchase!

Diana Belchase

P. A. DePaul’s Shadow of Doubt . . . Pure Action & Romance!

Today, I am so excited to introduce P. A. DePaul, an amazing romantic suspense author who Julie Ann Walker calls “A bold new voice in romantic suspense”.  P. A.’s first book, Exchange of Fire, has one of the best RS covers I’ve ever seen. So I was thrilled to see her recent release, Shadow of Doubtthe second in her SBG military romantic suspense series, has an even better one. And those fabulous covers contain action-packed love stories that remind me of the classic Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series and Roxanne St. Clair’s Bullet Catchers series.

So let’s get started with a short blurb about Shadow of Doubt:

When her secretly filmed tryst shows up on the internet, Michelle Alger goes on the run. She has no choice. Not only was her one-night stand the son of a US senator, but he’s been murdered—and she’s the number one suspect. With both the senator and an avenging drug lord on her trail, her life is in danger. There’s only man she can trust. He saved her once, but will he still be her hero six years later?

Captain Jeremy Malone and the rest of Delta Squad have the senator’s order: find the mystery woman who killed my son. But to Jeremy, she’s no mystery. Six years ago his team of Green Berets rescued her from the torturous clutches of a Colombian cartel, and he’s never forgotten her. His personal and covert mission: find Michelle before anyone else. When he and Michelle do meet again, the sparks are explosive and consuming. They’re also dangerous as hell.

Because with each new bit of evidence, Jeremy suspects that Michelle’s innocence may be a ruse—a beautiful trap set by a woman who has even more secrets yet to bare.

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SW: Welcome, P. A., to Kiss and Thrill!

PD: Hello Kiss and Thrill! I’m so excited to be here today. Thank you for having me!

One of the questions I’m asked a lot is about who inspired me to start writing. I usually blink stupidly at the poor individual while my mind is rapidly imagining every book I’ve ever read. Then panic sets in because I’m such a bookoholic, I know I’m forgetting as many as I’m remembering. Sidebar: I’ve always loved to read since the moment I could sound out the words on the page. Family trips to the library were my favorite and I always took the maximum amount of books out. So from that perspective the simple answer is: Everyone I’ve ever read inspired me. Some authors completely captivated me, sweeping me away into the worlds they created, while others made me slam the book down and think why would the author have the character do X instead of Y.

The real question I think for me to answer is: Which author jolted me so hard, my mind became consumed with “I can do this”? That answer is: J.R. Ward. She wrote a compendium to her Black Dagger Brotherhood series and within those pages was a chapter encouraging anyone with the desire, thought, wish, whatever to just go for it, even if the person never sends it anywhere. I read that chapter before bed and woke up the next morning with an idea for a book. And so began my writing career.

My first completed novel never actually saw the light of day sadly. That story still carries a very special place in my heart and I’m hoping someday the world will want to read about a twenty-one year old boy who dies in a robbery gone wrong and finds out there is an entire world he’s never known existed, and a war raging between heaven and hell…and he’s one of the keys to victory.

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I will admit it took me four years (and many manuscript versions, re-writes, and new drafts…not to mention tears, frustrations, and wondering why I thought I could do this) before I sold my first book to a small press publisher. Guardian Redeemed is a paranormal romance about angels, demons, and the humans caught in between. Perversely, in the hurry-and-wait world of publishing, it only took six months before I sold my Romantic Suspense SBG series to Penguin in their Berkeley InterMix line. In this series, SweetBriar Group—or SBG as the operatives like to call it—is a corporation the rest of the world believes is an environmental company, but is really a front for a privately funded clandestine agency. Delta Squad is one of SBG’s Black Ops teams. It’s made up of men and women who have their ups and downs, good days and bad days like the rest of us. They laugh, fight, cry, and squabble but in the end, they are a fully functioning, extremely cohesive group who are closer than family. They’ve learned to rely on each other to the point they’re considered the best of the best.

Now I want to take a moment and pay forward the advice that meant so much to me. If you ever had an inkling, an idea, a crazy thought that maybe, just maybe, you have a story to tell…do it. You never know what you can accomplish until you try. There are so many excellent online courses through powerhouses such as Writer’s Digest and/or writing associations such as Romance Writers of America (RWA), you can learn everything you need to know to start. As J.R. Ward said (and I’m paraphrasing) even if you never present your book to a publisher, at least you have a novel you’d like to read.

SW: And in case you’re still not convinced to give this series a try, here are a few quotes that might change your mind.

Praise for Shadow of Doubt

“Nonstop action and heart-melting romance on every page! P.A. DePaul is a bold new voice in romantic suspense.”— Julie Ann Walker, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author

Praise for Exchange of Fire

“If you enjoy military action, suspense, steamy romance, and a little danger, this is the series for you.” —Library Journal

“A pulse-pounding thrill ride from start to finish that will leave you clamoring for more.”—Elle Kennedy, author of the Killer Instincts series

“A dynamic tale…fast-paced and riveting, with surprises at every turn of the plot.”—Fresh Fiction

“This book was everything I love about romantic suspense.”—Smitten with Reading

SW: Thank you, P. A., for spending the day with us and we wish you tons of success with your SBG series!

Now P.A wants to hear from you! Have questions about writing? Want to know something about the SBG series? Just want to say hello? Awesome. Please comment so we can chat!! And there are a few prizes for lucky commenters. P. A. is offering one e-copy of Shadow of Doubt, a very cool SBG T-shirt, and various SBG swag!

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P.A. DePaul is a multi-genre romance author including paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense. She originally hails from Carroll County and Baltimore County, Maryland, but also lived in Macon and Warner Robins, Georgia. She currently resides in a beautiful community just outside Philadelphia. Shadow of Doubt, is the second novel in the SBG series. You can find the first: Exchange of Fire, at all major E-Retailers. You can also learn more about her at www.padepaul.com, www.facebook.com/padepaul, https://twitter.com/PADePaul, http://www.pinterest.com/padepaul, http://www.goodreads.com/PADePaul, and https://www.tsu.co/PADePaul.

 And the winner of Sarah Andre’s $20.00 Amazon gift card is Patti Straight! 

The Nine-Year-Long Rollercoaster Ride

Over here at Kiss and Thrill, it’s no secret that we loooove romantic suspense. We began this blog in 2011 specifically to share other authors, books and plots with you. Back then, only three of our members were under contract. Now, due to the myriad of publishing options, we’re all carving out a path that’s right for us. And after nine years of writing, I too will achieve that coveted title: published author. My debut, LOCKED, LOADED and LYING will be available on JUNE 16th!

Most authors will tell you: the whole writing-publishing experience is like a rollercoaster ride. The highs are true adrenalin rushes, the kind where you throw your arms in the air and shriek until you’re hoarse. Could be over winning writing awards or having a literary agent call and gush for twenty minutes about your novel before offering to represent you. There’s no other job or achievement (for me) that surpasses the thrill of creating characters and conflict, and sharing ‘my baby’ with the world. 

Along with the rush of those highs come the lows, which are just as powerful. Harsh judge comments on a contest entry, reading all those agent/editor rejections sure do emulate the G-forces of a rollercoaster. As in: it sucks the breath right out of you, leaves you stunned and glued in place (usually a fetal position on the floor.)

Nine-whole-years of crazy ups and downs, folks. :)snowy river

But the rollercoaster has click-clacked back to the loading platform, I’ve gotten off, and am shakily standing in line for a whole new ride. When I had absolutely NO topic for today’s blog, Sharon Wray suggested I write about the ‘standing in line’ part. The transition between signing a contract and actually selling a book on Amazon, B&N, etc.

It began with a phone call from my agent. “Entangled Publishing just sent over a contract for your book.” (See rollercoaster high symptoms above.) Then came months of pins and needles waiting while she negotiated my terms, and I suffered the torture of keeping this secret to myself. Which, of course, I didn’t. ;)

When I finally did sign the contract, oh boy, did I blurt the news! Unfortunately, the editor who’d loved my story, and initially sent over the contract to work with me was no longer there, so I was assigned to another editor. Yikes! I’d heard horror stories of writers changing editors and the new one did not like the plot, the voice or the writing.

Youth Olympic Games 2012Wasted energy! My new editor, Anya Kagan, was insightful, patient and saw the big picture–whereas I obsessed on a word or scene level. It became a team effort to spit-shine that manuscript. There were 1st edits (major revisions that instantly drew the reader’s sympathy to my hero’s plight, and upped the stakes he faced.) I returned those in a month and within 10 days 2nd edits were in my Inbox. Less changes, but a suggestion to delete an entire chapter that ‘explained’ my heroine, and wasn’t very interesting. Why not feed snippets of her secrets within the first 100 pages? Brilliant!cabin

3rd edits consisted of changing one sentence. (Yay me!) Then on to Copy Edits, where another editor, who specializes in fact-checking, read through the story and made suggestions. Could my hero (a US Olympic Alpine Skier) have competed in the 2006 Torino games? (Sure that was a long time ago, but Torino is also a major subplot. And don’t forget, I’d written the story back then!) Turns out, Bode Miller competed there, and he’s already competed this year, with a DNF (did not finish.) Case closed, I got to keep the Torino Olympics in the book. Whew!

Hooded man hiding gun behind his backOff the story went to be formatted into a book, and then we were Proofreading the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC.) Any changes here meant catching spelling errors, a word that was supposed to be italicized, etc., not to revise. I seriously had to reign in my inner editor (who’s still criticizing each paragraph, even after all these years!) By this time, if you’ve kept count, I’d reread this entire novel 5 times in 3 months. So to proofread it that slowly and with such care, made me honest-to-God hate the plot, the characters, every $@&# word on every page, and OMG-why did I ever think I could write?!  :) I hear that’s normal…

Next was creating my dedication and acknowledgements pages. After nine years I had a lot of people to acknowledge, because in the publishing industry it DOES take a village! Thanking all these people who’d done so much for me, in a page the whole world could read, warmed my heart. AND it was one more step toward authenticity…what a rush! Interestingly, I put much more time into it than I expected. I wanted to get the words absolutely right, the tone perfect. ASPEN road sign

I have one more step to look forward to: seeing what the Entangled graphic artist creates for a cover, which will happen in early May. Once I have the cover I can decorate my Facebook and Twitter pages, set up an Amazon Author page , update my website and invest in ‘swag.’ (Fun giveaways.)

You’ll notice I didn’t tell you much about LOCKED, LOADED and LYING. Why? Because there’s plenty of time and many blogs where my cover, official back-cover blurb, and plot points will be broadcast.

Love coupleFor now I leave you with 2 clues 1) these pictures are all broad hints: An heiress is murdered in Aspen and all evidence points to her boyfriend, my insanely hot hero, Lock Roane. He was too drunk to remember anything that night, but given his past history of blackout violence, it’s not a big leap for him to believe he did kill her.

On the eve of his felony murder trial he saves the life of a young woman in a blizzard, not knowing she’s his biggest media nemesis. And when Jordan Sinclair regains consciousness she will lie through her teeth to keep it that way (you’ll find out why.) As she recuperates she gets to know the personality he doesn’t show the camera and begins falling for him, but her tangled lies hamper their growing attraction. And sizzling sexual tension wreaks havoc in their frantic attempts to uncover the grisly events of what exactly happened on that fateful night.

And 2) “An impressive debut! This book has everything readers crave: believable, endearing characters, an intriguing conflict and plenty of heart. Don’t miss LOCKED, LOADED & LYING.” Brenda Novak

So that’s my standing-in-line story. Off to buckle up for the next ride!

WHAT WERE YOU DOING NINE YEARS AGO? COMMENT FOR A CHANCE TO WIN A $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD! WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED NEXT TUESDAY.

 The winner of a $10 gift card and e-copy of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP  goes to Julie Oest!

Blessed Are Those Who Weep

Giveaway alert: a Nook or Kindle copy of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP and a Starbucks card are up for grabs.

Today I’m thrilled to welcome my wonderful friend and fellow Witness author, Kristi Belcamino, to the blog. Kristi has a fascinating and heart-wrenching story to tell you, so I’ll let her do most of the talking, but I just have to say a few words about her new release BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP.

This story grabs you by the throat from the beginning and never lets go. The heroine, Gabriella Giovanni, leads you through a maze of compelling characters and twisting events until you arrive at an ending that will leave you breathless. But it’s not the heart-pounding ending you’ll read for. It’s Gabriella herself. A heroine who’s brilliant yet vulnerable, brave yet all too human. Pick it up today, then kick back with a glass of red wine, a hanky, and a do not disturb sign.

Here’s the blurb:

San Francisco Bay Area reporter Gabriella Giovanni stumbles onto a horrific crime scene with only one survivor—a baby girl found crawling between the dead bodies of her family members. Reeling from the slaughter, Gabriella clings to the infant. When Social Services pries the little girl from her arms, the enormity of the tragedy hits home. Diving deep into a case that brings her buried past to the forefront, Gabriella is determined to hunt down the killer who left this helpless baby an orphan.

But one by one the clues all lead to a dead end, and Gabriella’s obsession with finding justice pulls her into a dark, tortuous spiral that is set to destroy everything she loves …

The Story That Did Me In

By Kristi Belcamino

I’ll never forget the story that did me in.

The one that slayed me and changed my career path entirely. The one that ultimately led me to quit my job as a newspaper reporter.

It was about the perfect family destroyed — shattered — by tragedy.

As a crime reporter, I had been blithely cruising through other people’s tragedies for years. I was moved and haunted by many of the stories I covered — some which caused me to drink and smoke too much — but I was still able to do my job and more importantly, I still loved doing my job.

My two close friends at the paper were just like me. We thought nothing of talking about “floaters” and “decomps” and those words were sprinkled into our ever day conversation.

Not much rattled us. Dead body? No problem.

In fact, I’ll never forget how excited I was one day to get a new copy of a homicide investigator’s manual in the mail. It was chock full of graphic photos of various modes and manners of death, including close-range gunshot wounds to the face and explosions and people crushed to death. Not pretty.

But that didn’t stop my friend C and I from taking the book to a Chinese restaurant and flipping through it over lunch.

C also had seen more autopsies at our county morgue than probably any reporter in the history of our newspaper. She was soft-spoken, drop-dead gorgeous, and fearless.

I only saw one autopsy. A guy about my age who overdosed. I can recognize the smell of a dead body to this day.

C and I were regular visitors at the morgue and I soon got a reputation at the newspaper. Every time an intern started, the editors would tell me to take them to the morgue that first week.

I wonder how many interns were traumatized by the experience? I took one young woman on a day when a young man who died in a motorcycle crash was on the slab as we walked into the room. The first thing we saw was the giant chunk of his skull that was missing at the top of his head.

But none of that bothered me. Not really.

Then I gave birth.

The flood of hormones transformed me into another person. Suddenly, everything I reported on was much too close to home.

All the evil that I had kept at arm’s length seemed to follow me home at night.

I would immerse myself in the seediest, darkest part of life and then come home to the very definition of innocence in my baby. I was having a hard time reconciling these two worlds, but then it got worse.

Right before Christmas, a mother in a wealthy suburb and her two children, who I think were less than a year apart, were walking on a beautiful fall day to get ice cream. They were on a parkway, where a wide sidewalk was separated from the road by a patch of grass.

The kids were either in front of or behind the mother when a suspected drunk driver went careening off the road and plowed into the kids, killing them both.

Not long after, the parents invited the press to talk to them in their luxurious home in a rich subdivision. I sat with other reporters in their living room and looked around at the beautiful couple in their beautiful home.

The mother, who I had imagined would be curled up in the fetal position with dirty hair and slobber on her wrinkled clothes, looked more put together than I ever had in my entire life.

She was gorgeous. Her husband was gorgeous. Without knowing their story and looking at them in their fancy home, you would think they had everything.

And yet, they had nothing. Not anymore. Some drunken fool had taken away their life.

The million dollar house was empty and hollow, haunted by memories of children playing and laughing.

Later, my editors asked me to do a story about what this couple’s Christmas was like. I refused. Or rather, I simply kept forgetting to do it.

I couldn’t force myself to call them. I knew what their Christmas was going to be like. Or at least I suspected. It was going to be a hellish nightmare, just like the rest of their days were right now.

So, I suppose it could have been any story that fall — any tragedy that struck me to the core — but that was the story that did me in. Suddenly as a mother, I couldn’t dip into and out of other people’s tragedies anymore. I just couldn’t do it.

I had always cared about my job and cared about the victims of tragedies and tried to do them justice in the best way I could, but I couldn’t do it anymore. When I became a mother, the emotions struck too sharp and too deep for me to continue doing my job properly.

I quit my job a few months later.

But I am forever changed by my former life as a reporter. I have seen things that help me put everything into perspective.

Luckily most of the people I know live very sheltered lives. When they complain — and cry — about trivial things, I try to understand. II tell myself they don’t know. They don’t understand.

They don’t know how lucky they are. They have a little bubble around their lives. They feel invincible. And maybe it is necessary to feel that way to go on day to day.

But I know something different. I know that bubble doesn’t protect them from tragedy. Tragedy is not picky. It is not discerning. It has a laissez-faire attitude in who it strikes. There is no rhyme or reason.

That’s one thing I know.

I’ve sat in too many living rooms of people who know the same thing.

This knowledge may seem like a burden to some. And in fact, up-close knowledge of that as a crime reporter was more than I could handle as a new mother.

But with hindsight, I realize this knowledge is not a burden, but a gift.

It is a gift because it reminds me to pick my battles, put minor setbacks in perspective and to never, ever take one moment of this precious life for granted.

Kristi Belcamino is a writer, photographer, and crime reporter who also bakes a tasty biscotti.

As a reporter, she’s flown over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, and attended barbecues at the morgue. Her first novel was inspired by her dealings with a serial killer.

During her decade covering crime in California, Belcamino wrote and reported about many high-profile cases including the Laci Peterson murder and Chandra Levy’s disappearance. And because of her police sources, she was one of the first reporters in the country to learn that the passengers on Flight 93 had fought back on 9/11. She has appeared on Inside Edition and local cable television shows. Her work has appeared in such prominent publications as the Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News, and Chicago Tribune. She now works part-time for the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a police reporter.

Connect with Kristi on her website, facebook, or twitterprofilecowboy2

Readers leave a comment or question for Kristi. One lucky person will win an e-copy of BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO WEEP and a $10 Starbucks card. Good luck!

 

 

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