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 examiner.com 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 – http://www.queermusicheritage.com/fem-jbl.html. 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?

KaT Books on Sale for a Limited Time

It came to our attention last week that Lena and I both have discounted books at the same time. This was especially surprising as we both have sales very rarely, and for both of us, the book on sale is a full-length, 2015 release. This discovery led me to play with some KaT memes, because I’m a sucker for cats, plus my heroine in INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE has a furry friend named Gandalf the Grey, and Gandalf loves a good bargain. (Okay, that might be a stretch. Gandalf loves Isabel, hunting rodents, and intimidating Alec.)

Kat Meme - 2nd caption


Exit titleBy Lena Diaz

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.

Kindle |iBooksKoboGoogle PlayNook

IE title onlyBy Rachel Grant

When archaeologist Isabel Dawson stumbles upon an unconscious man deep in the Alaskan wilderness, her survival skills are put to the test. She tends his wounds and drags him to shelter, only to discover she’s saved the life of Raptor CEO Alec Ravissant—the man who may have covered up her brother’s murder to save his senatorial campaign.

With no memory of the assault that landed him five miles deep in the forest, Alec doesn’t know what to believe when he wakes in the clutches of the beautiful redhead who blames him for her brother’s death, but he quickly realizes he needs her help to uncover the truth about his lost hours.

Isabel never imagined she’d find herself allied with Alec, and he’s the last man she ever expected to find attractive. But the former Army Ranger-turned-politician proves seductively charming, and he’s determined to win much more than her vote. When their quest for answers puts Isabel in the crosshairs, Alec must risk everything—his company, his campaign, and his life—to protect her.

Kindle | iBooks

Both sales end soon!

Are there other books on sale you’d like to recommend to our readers? Feel free to post romantic suspense bargains in the comments.

How Story Structure Saved the Princess, the Knight, and the Lamb

Years ago, I came up with this presentation for a local writing group and blog. Since then, I’ve had tons of requests to share it again. So I’m posting it here for all of my K&T friends.

I love writing, but I hate plotting. I’m much more comfortable having no idea what’s going to happen, writing out of order, then putting all the pieces together like a puzzle. Of course this means tons of revisions and time. So, to increase my productivity, I’ve read every craft book ever written and taken online plotting classes. And while I’d still rather wing the writing, one of my favorite devices is Anne Lamott’s story structure mnemonic.

From A to E, it’s short and easy to remember. For those of you who don’t know it, I’ll give a short re-cap.

Action (which includes the inciting incident), Background (backstory, which is now woven throughout the story), Conflict (goals, motivations, and hindrances), Development (protagonist’s journey) and End–parts 1 & 2 (crisis and resolution). Since I’m also a strong visual learner, I’ve come up with a visual representation of Ms. Lamott’s device, with an added prologue (because I love prologues, especially in stories where the heroine is a four-year old with a vivid imagination).

And this is how Ms. Lamott’s Story Structure saved the Princess, the Knight, and the Lamb.


Once upon a time, there was a Princess who wanted to play “Save the Lamb from the Evil Witch.” Except she didn’t have anyone to play with. So, with a smile and a cookie, she asked her twin brother, the Knight, “Will you play with me?”

He responded with a mouth filled with chocolate chips, “Will there be fighting?”

“Yes,” she said. “With swords.”

He smiled. “I’m in!”


MVC-004S 2

“We have to hurry,” the Princess said. “We must save the Lamb from the Evil Witch who lives on the other side of the dark mountain. But first we need to find the unicorn.”

“Do we kill the unicorn?” the Knight asked.

“No. We feed the unicorn some magic acorns. Then she will tell us how to defeat the witch.”

“Okay!” The Knight grabbed his sword. “Let’s go.”



Once the Princess and the Knight got to the magic forest, the Knight said, “It’s dark and scary. Let’s feed the unicorn and get out of here.”

“First we have to find the fairies who will give us the magic acorns.”

He raised his sword high. “Let’s do it.”

“We can’t just ask the fairies for the acorns.”

“Why not? And when do I use my sword?”

The Princess sighed. “The fairies will have three riddles for us to answer, then we have to attend the magical fairy feast where they will try to poison us. But we can get an antidote for the poison from a talking rabbit who will betray us, but then become our mentor and guide and be redeemed.”



“I don’t understand,” the Knight said. “How come there’s so much talking? Where’s the action? When do I get to fight something?”

“After we get away from the fairies and the rabbit and find the unicorn, you’ll have to slay the dragon.”

“Whoa!” he said with a huge grin. “There’s a dragon?”

“Yes,” she said. “But don’t touch his gold. It’s enchanted.”

“Just as long as I can use my sword. Now let’s go find those fairies, slay the dragon, feed the unicorn, and save the lamb from the evil queen!”



“I’m done.” The Knight leaned against the barn door. “There was no dragon, no fighting, and I have a headache from all this backstory.”

The Princess started to cry. “I thought you wanted to play with me?”

“I wanted to use my sword. Not talk for three hours.”

The Princess stomped her foot. “But you promised!”

“Whatever.” The Knight shrugged and walked away. “I’m leaving to find the Good Queen. Maybe she has more cookies.”



The Princess and the Knight just couldn’t agree on how to proceed. Should he go play with Legos and find more cookies? Could she fight the fairies, dragon, and evil witch on her own?

Seeing no end to the conflict, the Good Queen (mommy) showed up with homemade brownies and lemonade (deus ex machina) and said, “I slayed the dragon, sent the fairies out to the garden, fed the unicorn, put the lamb down for a nap, and the evil witch is doing laundry. So all is well!”

“Long live the Good Queen!” yelled the Princess and the Knight.

So the Princess and the Knight ate brownies, took baths, and read books. Then they went to bed and ended their day with a Happily Ever After.

Now I’d love to know–do you plan your stories or do the wait-and-see? And if you plot everything out first, do you have a favorite structure? Since I’m fascinated by writers who know where their stories are going, I’d love to hear how you do it!

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray.

Cold War With Russia — Again?

Since moving to the D.C. area, I’ve become a wonk — yes that is an official term. While it can mean a studious or hardworking person — things I certainly hope I am, it mostly means a person who takes an excessive interest in minor details of political policy. It unofficially means the kind of person — often a female — who likes and remembers all the sticky details of a subject. Said female is often considered boring, overly studious, and generally not sexy in the least little bit.

In other words, a female wonk is the 21st century version of a bluestocking.

So when I was invited last week to Georgetown University to hear Ambassador Linton Brooks talk about the U.S. relationship with Russia, I immediately jumped at the chance.


Being on the Georgetown campus is amazing. I love surrounding myself with all these intent young people who are firmly lodged in the realm of ideas. They are students who want to make a difference. To be in that world makes me feel young and optimistic and as if the world is a  more hopeful place.

Imagine my dismay to hear that our relations with Russia are getting worse daily. I might have my head in the clouds, but when the Wall came down, and the U.S. and Russia decided to decrease nuclear arms, I thought we were once again friends. I thought the biggest fracas before Ukraine was the style war between Raisa Gorbachev and Nancy Reagan.

Ambassador Brooks worked on both the START and START 2 treaties. He made it clear that all opinions were his own and not of any official U.S. agency.  As he went over the current situation, chills ran down my back.


“Ten years ago no one cared about Russia as a threat. Even John McCain said, ‘Russia is a gas station’ … with atom bombs.”  But we are belatedly coming to realize Russia does matter. “Their interest is the same as ours in dealing with the issues of the Middle East. They are an important vote on the UN Security Council,” and they’re the only country that “could destroy Washington before the hour was up.”

Brooks then went on to say, “The Bush Administration said Russia is no longer a threat. Obama has tried to strengthen our relationship. But Clinton, Bush and Obama have all failed.”

Here are some of Brooks’ points in his words:

  • “The Ukraine annexation is the most important event in Russo-U.S. relations since the cold war.”
  • “It’s the first time since WWII that a country has been annexed.”
  • “It’s a violation of the Helsinki Act”
  • “But Ukraine is a symptom — the disease is much deeper.”
  • “Russians do not trust us.”
  • “Russians are misreading American character.”
  • Brooks does not believe that Putin is trying to recreate the Soviet Union.
  • “They believe we’re trying to destabilize them.”
  • “They believe we’re looking for first strike capability.” He goes on to say Putin especially believes this.

I don’t know about all of you, but this has me worried. I grew up in a world where the Cold War was real. It was the basis of a lot of great spy novels with thrilling plots and twists and turns. However, I’d give up every bit of the pleasure of reading those adventures for this not to be a repeated reality.


While I don’t have answers, and neither for that matter does Brooks, it’s important we understand the issues, that we know what is going on beyond our boarders, and that our new President, whomever that might be, will be knowledgeable and able to make inroads toward peace.

Despite his major faults, Nixon, a man not known for his social skills, single-handedly was able to convey the spirit of friendship to Mao Tse Tung and the Chinese people who, to this day, revere him and remember him with incredible respect. Even in the Beijing Dirty Market (now known as the Antiquities Market since the Beijing Olympics) I have often seen statues, pictures and even watches with Nixon’s face on them right next to identical souvenirs featuring Mao, who until this day is greatly loved.

Hopefully one day there will be similar things in the Russian stalls honoring the U.S. President who understood peace can only begin with trust.


Young woman read book relaxing on sofa in lounge

I read voraciously- you probably do too, and it suddenly struck me this week (after thousands of books) that I have an instinctive 4-tiered rating system.

1) There’s the poorly written story I stop reading when it takes too much effort or I find I’m dreading picking up my Kindle. (Dread should never be associated with reading novels!)

2) There are the stories that entertain me all the way through, but it’s still easy enough to put the book down and perform critical human functions like eating and bathing.

3) Then there are the amazing authors who consistently capture me into their world. You know the kind: the writers who make writing look easy. My impulsive story-craft critic never rears it’s ugly head…not even once. These are the stories you burn your family’s dinner trying to read ‘just one more page.’

4) And finally- the handful of authors (and I mean one hand, folks!) who are SO talented that I only pick up their stories when I’ve ‘earned it.’ Perhaps I finished a manuscript. Or I’m finally on vacation with nothing but that story in front of me. I begin them thinking it’s the 3rd-tier I just described. I say goodbye to my husband, because nothing will pull me from the novel. But the plot is profound, the characters and setting are so real that reading the story becomes an experience. In this 4th tier, the further I read, the more I begin to SLOW DOWN. Weird huh?

CRIMINALLast night I finished CRIMINAL, by Karin Slaughter, one of the top police-procedural thriller writers of our time. If she were in my 3rd tier I’d have finished the book in a day-and-a-half. But her phenomenal skill at story weaving puts her in the 4th tier. CRIMINAL took me a week to finish. Let me explain, because it’s so counter intuitive:

When an author is that enthralling I don’t want to be without the story. Those characters enrich my life. I also know I won’t get another new work for a year or more (all 5 of my top-tier authors rarely publish more than once a year.) Therefore, the more the story progresses and the more my soul has completely drowned in the author’s world, the more I’ll only read a chapter or two in one sitting. Miserly nibbling away, because I’m already sorry I’m this far into it. And maybe during the epic final battle (what we writers call ‘the black moment’) I’ll put that book down for a whole day. It’s masochistic, I know.

Ironically, I don’t tend to enjoy thrillers and I hate scary movies! Let me be frank: the thriller part of Slaughter’s Will Trent series is beyond horrific. Her antagonists’ twisted evil defies my imagination- and probably yours too. It’s airplanes-crashing-into-buildings shocking. It simply never occurred to you that a person could think up something this horrific to harm others. And Slaughter is 8 books in, folks. Will Trent and his female partner, female boss and girlfriend make up the gist of the story, but that’s 8 villains so heinous, so much more evil than Hannibal Lecter, that I guarantee they’ll each blow your mind. Nerd alert: It’s the kind of horror that requires me to watch three Bewitched sitcoms before sleeping, so her villain won’t seep into my dreams. :)


Karin Slaughter

Why on earth would I stick her in the 4th tier? Because her hero, Will Trent is so mind-bendingly flawed and so determined to move beyond his disabilities, his past and his faults. His boss has such incredible depth and secrets that in 9 books (I’m including COP TOWN) you aren’t even close to figuring her out- and you know it! His girlfriend is stoic and beautiful and has held up under massive human suffering. It’s the realism of these characters’ lives and their good-trumps-evil spirit that make me slow down and drag the book out.

Initially I did not read her series in order, but I recommend you do. The Will-Trent-experience is far more enriching when you know what happened and what character traits and secrets were revealed in the previous novel. Below is the sequence of the series. And in her brilliant creativity she’s begun weaving the boss, Amanda Wagner’s backstory within the series and as stand-alones, so I’m adding COP TOWN in as a must-read too.  Will Trent isn’t in it, but you need to know this part of Amanda to make CRIMINAL that much more of a 4th tier experience!

Name your top tier authors! One commenter will win a $10 Amazon gift card. (My way of paying for that author’s next book!)


A pic found on Karin’s FB page. Why yes, I am a stalker-fan. SO?


Karin’s Amazon Author Page

WILL TRENT SERIES (links to each book on her website.)

Rolynn Anderson: FEAR LAND

If you’re a KaT regular, you’ll recognize this week’s guest. We’ve hosted her three times and are delighted she’s back today for a spirited discussion about her newest release. Welcome Rolynn Anderson!



I’m tickled to be back on Kiss and Thrill with you, Sarah.  You’ve hosted coming out parties for three of my romantic suspense novels (LAST RESORT, SWOON and LIE CATCHERS).  Now it’s FEAR LAND, my fifth published novel. I am giving a portion of each sale of FEAR LAND to the Brain Research Foundation (TheBRF.org)

Sarah:  Given the story line, that is a truly wonderful gift! Tell us about your journey to write FEAR LAND.

Rolynn:  Trauma is the topic, the many shades of anxiety. Most of us experience a trauma or two in our lifetimes, suffering symptoms from mild depression and a few nightmares to full-blown post traumatic stress. My own response to a trauma interested me, but I also wanted to know more about PTSD and high suicide rates among soldiers.  I wondered if some children were born anxious. Were all forms of trauma curable? 

Sarah:  Wow, that’s fascinating, but it kind of sounds like a thesis, not a suspense novel.

Rolynn:  I know! We novel writers are researchers at heart. I like to learn and teach with each novel I write, as well. I think the reader will learn a lot about trauma in my novel, but I hope the plot makes it a page-turner.

Sarah:  Start with the hero, heroine, so we know we’re looking at a fiction piece.

Rolynn:  Yes, ma’am! My heroine, Tally Rosella, is a child psychiatrist who has finished one study of anxious kids in Washington State and will begin a second study at a big California college. Her new neighbor, Cole Messer, an Army Major who will teach ROTC at the college, is good at hiding the effects of combat trauma. He’s single-parenting a highly anxious boy; Cole wants to enroll his son into Tally’s new study.

Sarah:  Ah, a couple with conflict, but clearly Tally’s the strong one, here.

rolynn_smallRolynn:  Nope. Now I introduce a modest paranormal feature. You see, Tally hears mind-rants from adults who have strong (usually negative) feelings toward her. These men and women might be perfectly polite, even flirty with her, but their minds are ranting nasty tunes.

Sarah:  Ooo, I wish I had that feature! That must make her a powerful psychiatrist.

Rolynn:  You’d think so. She couldn’t take on a patient who rants at her, because it interferes with her objectivity. That’s why she works with kids. Their minds don’t yell at her.

Sarah:  Now add the suspense…

Rolynn:  I’ll avoid spoilers here. Bottom line: Tally encounters devious colleagues, spurring her on to ‘use’ her elementary mind-reading skill. Trouble is, evil people have a way of taking advantage of good folks, and soon, Tally, Cole and Cole’s son are in danger.

Sarah: Yep! Now we’ve got the suspense. Where can we pick up this mystery?

Rolynn: Amazon Kindle  

BTW, LIE CATCHERS comes out in re-release through Amazon Encore today! And for my other books and events, check out my website.


Here’s the blurb on FEAR LAND:

Tally Rosella, an acclaimed psychiatrist who helps children fraught with anxiety, avoids adults because their brains rant at her.  But the chance to start a second child study and connect her findings to PTSD, sets her squarely among devious colleagues at a big California university.

Army Major Cole Messer, Tally’s new neighbor, won’t admit that trauma from combat tours in Afghanistan, destroyed his marriage and hampered his ability to lead.  As a teacher of college ROTC and single parent, he’s focused on enrolling his highly anxious son in Tally’s study and getting back to active duty.

Someone is dead set against Tally’s presence at the university, and blowback from her battles with co-workers put Cole and his son in jeopardy.  Watch what happens when people struggling with shades of anxiety collide with corrupt, revengeful foes.

Here’s today’s question: How astute are you at ‘mind reading?’  Whose mind would you like to read better…and why?  Commenters are entered into a giveaway of an e-copy of FEAR LAND!

Faint RolynnCOMING THIS FALL: FAINT (the 3rd in Rolynn’s Funeral Planner’ series.)

How did funeral planning morph into crime-solving?  Ask free-lance embalmer Trudy Solomon or Pete McDonald, a blind forensic investigator.  They’re solving mysteries of the deceased for their pregnant boss, Jan Keller, while her journalist husband, Roman, is benched by a ten million dollar defamation suit.

A dead client goes missing, and investigating his disappearance forces Trudy and Pete to confront their fiercely independent styles.  When danger stalks them, will they blend brains, brawn and belief in one another?


Summer Lovin’

Boy diving into swimming pool

After surviving my first New England winter, I find myself appreciating summer even more than usual. Here are a few of my favorite things about the warm season, humidity aside.

There’s no snow!

Snow in front of house

Everything is green again.

Minuteman National Park, MA

Going to the farm for fresh produce.

Pick Your Own produce board

Farm produce

Farm produce

cherry tomatoes




With luck, a trip—or two or three—to the beach.

Shell Beach sunset


Flowers on farm

Sweet William flowers


Being able to grow plants inside and out. (Our house is so dark in the winter that my houseplants have to crowd around the living room window just to survive.)

coleus plant

dianthus flowers

Did I mention the lack of snow?

Snow on front walk

What are some of your favorite things about summer?

Join us next week when Rolynn Anderson stops by to chat about her new book Fear Land.


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