Author Lena Diaz Just Had Her Baby!

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ArrestingDevelopmentsAnd the baby’s name is… ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS! Lena’s 12th published romantic suspense novel is out in paperback now. The ebook version releases on January 1st. This is the second of four books in the Marshland Justice series, featuring a quirky, lawless, fictional town called Mystic Glades, hidden deep in the Everglades off Alligator Alley.

Here’s what RT Book Reviews said about this book: “Diaz is on a streak with her latest. With a host of suspects and hiding places, Arresting Developments is packed with action, suspense and mystery–not to mention a charming hero.”

And here’s a full description of the story…

A mysterious beauty had nursed him back to health–and attracted the attention of some very bad men…

Somewhere over the Everglades, the airplane’s engine failed and Dex Lassiter plummeted into the swamp’s murky depths. Amber Callahan didn’t expect to find any survivors in the wreckage, but Dex was about as tough as they came. And too smart not to dig into why a woman like her had run away to settle in remote Mystic Glades. Or why a killer circled their every move. As floodwaters rose, deputizing Dex was just what this lawless small town needed. Because escape wasn’t possible. And the only thing Dex did better than starting things was defending them.

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

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

Romantic Suspense: It’s Not Just a Grown-up Genre

This year has been another busy year of reading and writing. And like last year, my reading list was filled with all sorts of Young Adult books.

Similar to the Romance genre, the YA genre is broken down into smaller groups. The first division is by age of protagonist (not age of reader!): Upper Middle Grade (age 13-14) Lower YA (age 15-16), YA (age 17-18), and Upper YA (age 18-19).

These age divisions are averages and some books, especially series, will cross the age barrier as the protagonist grows up, like Harry Potter.

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My daughter at a booksigning with YA author Alexandra Bracken.

The next division is by type: sweet romance, summer romance, suspense/mystery, thriller, speculative (incl. dystopian and magical elements), paranormal romance, sci-fi, realistic fiction, historical, fairytale retellings, as well as a few others.

Since I have a son and a daughter, I read a ton of YA in all of the genres. So this year, just in time for Christmas, I’d like to share some of my favorite YA books that had some sort of suspense and/or mystery with an underlying love story.

51xCj8tr7cL._UY250_The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

Amazon blurb: After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother–or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

SW: My kids and I read this book, and the sequel The Infinite Sea, in one weekend. And when we heard they were turning it into a movie to come out in 2016, we threw a party. This book won a ton of awards, too many to list, and they were all well deserved. A great science fiction/adventure with a compelling love story woven in so well that my son didn’t even mind it. This is a great book and series for the whole family. This book is YA Science Fiction with Romantic Elements.

The movie opens January 15, 2016 and here is the trailer!

51OkBYoIobL._UY250_I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Amazon blurb: When her best friend, Meg, commits suicide by drinking a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how did she miss the signs of Meg’s depression? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

SW: Anytime Gayle Forman writes a book, I cry. There. I’ve admitted it. Just like one of her previous books, Just One Day, I sobbed my way through the second half of this book. It’s heartbreaking and sad and wonderful. It’s an upper YA book, and there is an “adult encounter” between the heroine and hero, but it’s behind closed doors. Still, the adult situation and the topic of suicide was enough to make my daughter want to wait to read this book. (I usually read the Upper YA books first because I know what my kids like and don’t like at this age). But I have no doubt that once she reads it, it will change her forever. Gayle Forman is that kind of writer and I Was Here is that kind of book. This book is Upper YA Realistic Fiction.

51NQkyd6KeL._UY250_In the Afterlife by Alexandra Bracken

Amazon blurb: Ruby can’t look back. Fractured by an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Only Ruby can keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check. But with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby rises up as a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them–revealing the governments unspeakable abuses in the process–is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IAAN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

SW: This is the third book in a blockbuster series that my family and I just loved. This book is non-stop action with the fulfillment of a poignant teenage love story between Ruby and Liam. But the love part is subtle enough not to bother the boys (so says my son who hates romance in his books).  One of the many things I liked about this book is that the parents eventually take control of the chaos and help the teenagers heal. There is one brief behind-closed-doors adult situation, but I don’t think my son even noticed! Beware: once you start this series, you’ll have to clear your schedule to read all three books in the shortest period of time possible. This book is YA Speculative Fiction (Dystopian).

Here is a book trailer for the series.

51aZJUIAE0L._UY250_Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Amazon blurb: With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

SW: From the first page, I had mixed feelings about this book. I’d read other books by Lauren Oliver and loved them (Delerium Trilogy, Panic, Vanishing Girls), but her debut book was hard for me to get into because I really didn’t like the heroine. Then my daughter told me that I’m not supposed to like her but that by the end I’d be crying for her. And my daughter was so right!

This book was spectacular and has been optioned for a movie. It is a teenage take on Groundhog Day, but much more poignant and powerful. The book does deal with powerful themes of teenage death and redemption and was emotionally hard for me to get through at times, but Lauren Oliver’s prose is so lovely that it carried me when I wanted to hide under the covers. This book is hard to classify but I would say it’s YA Speculative Fiction (Magical Elements).

61mRESZpMwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Midnight Sky by Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann

Amazon blurb: Destiny has chosen Skylar. Now it might destroy her.

Skylar is a girl with extraordinary power. A girl with a mission to use her Greater-Than gifts to stop the makers of Destiny from getting people hooked on their deadly drug. But Sky is still mastering her new abilities, and her first mission to destroy a Destiny lab leaves her best friend addicted to the drug. For a few days Cal will be able to walk again – until it kills him. Time is running out for Sky to save the world without sacrificing her friends, to become truly Greater-Than…

SW: This is the second book in the Night Sky series (my daughter and I recently interviewed Suzanne and Melanie Brockmann about the first book Night Sky), and I enjoyed it even more than the first. It’s another fast-paced, action-filled story with fabulous characters. The love story is lovely and moving and age appropriate (which I appreciate), but so are the relationships between all of the characters. In true Suzanne Brockmann fashion, you’ll end up loving the secondary characters as much as the primaries. The two books in this series would make a wonderful gift for any avid reader! This book is YA Paranormal Romance. 

51YlAW-EW8L._UY250_Forget Tomorrow by Pintip Dunn

Amazon blurb: Imagine a world where your destiny has already been decided…by your future self. 

It’s Callie’s seventeenth birthday and, like everyone else, she’s eagerly awaiting her vision — a memory sent back in time to sculpt each citizen into the person they’re meant to be. A world-class swimmer. A renowned scientist. Or in Callie’s case, a criminal.

In her vision, she sees herself murdering her gifted younger sister. Before she can process what it means, Callie is arrested and placed in prison. The only person who can help is her childhood crush, Logan, a boy she hasn’t spoken to in five years. Logan breaks her free, but can she trust him? He’s almost the same boy she remembers, but now he’s a whole lot hotter. And he’s got his own past to deal with. Callie’s falling for him, fast, but she soon learns he has secrets of his own. Secrets that mean they can never be together. Now, Callie’s on the run not only from the government, but also from her fate. If she wants any hope of a future with Logan, she must find a way to protect her sister from the biggest threat of all — herself.

SW: I loved science fiction as a teenager, and this reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s short story Minority Report, but much more updated and far more romantic. It’s a fabulous debut by a new YA author and well worth the time to savor. It’s a harrowing yet deeply emotional story that will keep you guessing until the very end. If you end up with an unexpected snow day, this is a perfect book to curl up with next to a fire with tea and leftover Christmas cookies. Because once you sit down to read it, you won’t get up until you finish. This book is YA Science Fiction Romance.

Here is an official book trailer:

61rQHN6ZwSL._UY250_Champion by Marie Lu

Amazon blurb: The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

He is a Legend. She is a Prodigy. Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

SW: Oh. My. Gosh!!!!! This book, the third in the trilogy, made we weep for days. Then my daughter read it, and she cried. Now her best friend is reading it, and she didn’t want to go to school because she was up all night crying. This book, along with the entire series, is a perfect blend of action, adventure, and love. I have to admit that my son hasn’t read this yet, but when he heard it might be made into a movie he moved the books to his TBR pile. I have no doubt he’ll love it too, but for other reasons. There is enough danger and excitement to keep any teenage boy interested. There is one closed-door adult situation scene toward the end of the book, but my kids never even mentioned it so I’m not sure they noticed.  This book is YA Speculative Fiction (Dystopian).

Here is the official book trailer:

51zS7370ldL._UY250_Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Amazon blurb: The third installment in the mesmerizing series from the irrepressible, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

SW: This is the third book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series (The Raven Cycle) and my daughter and I think it’s our favorite (and we loved the first two!). This book is a paranormal romance with so many twists and turns that you have to keep reading because you have no idea what’s going to happen next. It’s the story of Blue Sargent, a local young woman with psychic abilities, and her relationship with a group of wealthy boys from nearby Aglionby Academy.

Together, they are determined to prove that the ancient Welsh King Glendower, and his sleeping knights, are buried somewhere in Virginia’s Shenandoah mountains. And those who wake him will be granted a wish. To add to Blue’s problems is the prophecy that she is cursed to kill the only boy she will ever love. And of course the boy she’s crushing on is one of the Raven boys. Fabulous series for both girls and boys, but I should note that it’s written at a higher reading level. While the story is very YA, Maggie Stiefvater writing is complex enough that some younger readers may not be able to keep up. This book is YA Paranormal Romance. 

So what books have you read that you loved this year? I still have gifts to buy so I’d love to know!

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray. Copyright 2015. 

All book covers courtesy of Amazon.

Quirky Q&A with Cathy Perkins: So About the Money

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Left-brain meets right-brain. Add in heart. Award-winning author Cathy Perkins skillfully blends all three in her newest mystery with a financial twist and a dash of romance: SO ABOUT THE MONEY.

When Holly Price trips over a friend’s dead body, her life takes a nosedive into a world of intrigue and danger. With an infinitely sexy cop—Holly’s pissed-off, jilted ex-fiancé—threatening to arrest her for the murder, the intrepid accountant must protect her future, her business…and her heart…by using her investigative skills to follow the money, before the killer decides CPA stands for Certified Pain in the Ass…and the next dead body is Holly’s.

How does Cathy do it? That’s what I wanted to know so I asked her a few quirky questions which she gamely answered for her third visit to K&T. Join me in welcoming the mastermind behind the Holly Price amateur sleuth romantic mystery series. (And be sure to read to the end to find out who won the Lark Brennan DANGEROUSLY YOURS give-away!)

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Krista passed along five sentences openers for me to complete for this guest post. Panic! My mind raced along with my heart. I have to be profound. Funny. Introspective. Yikes!

Wait a minute. I just have to be “me.” Whew. I know how to do that. So here we go. So-About-the-Money-2-200x300

1) I do my best thinking when… I’m moving. “Moving” can mean running, hiking or driving—anything that lets my mind relax. It may be getting into that zone that lets my subconscious toss out ideas that have churned around down there. Aside – the idea for So About the Money came while I was hiking with my husband along the Snake River in eastern Washington. As we pushed through some tangled foliage at the water’s edge, I peered over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” Yes, mystery/suspense authors think things like that.

2) I’m addicted to… coffee. Seriously, I don’t function without it. My husband is either an enabler or the best husband ever (my personal choice) because he always starts the machine when he gets up.

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3) In my spare time… Wait, you have spare time? Can you lend me some? I’m still rocking the day job while writing. Oh, and there’s the tree farm. And building the new house. And… But soon—really, really soon—I want to get back to the other creative outlets I adore—fused glass, watercolor, hand-sewing little girl dresses.

4) Smart women are… everywhere. “Smart” comes in so many varieties—I hope all of us can appreciate what everyone else has to offer. Book smarts, people skills; natural leaders and nurturers. Life is so much better when we focus on what women do well and help each other succeed.

5) Traveling… is my favorite thing. I love exploring new cultures and new places. My personal bucket list includes items big and small, local as well as international. Diving the Great Barrier Reef, Soap Lake’s mineral springs, and seeing Qin Shi Huang Di’s terra-cotta army in Xi’an, China.

What about you? Is there a place you’d love to visit?

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So About the Money by Cathy Perkins

Holly Price never expected to be back in Richland, Washington. She bolted out of the small town in eastern Washington for college—with no intention of returning. She also never expected her father to have a mid-life brain-fart and run off with his yoga instructor. His defection stranded Holly’s mother both personally and professionally. Without Holly’s CPA license, her mother would have to close the family accounting practice.

And absolutely the last thing Holly expected was for a hike with Alex Montoya to turn into the date from hell, but when he’d invited her to Big Flats, she’d heard “hike,” while he meant “hunt.”

Excerpt:

She peered forward and behind. “Alex,” she called, louder this time. “Where are you?”

She might be the commitment-phobe in this relationship, but surely Alex wouldn’t leave her out here. Everywhere she looked, dangling leaves and dried canes blocked her path. The sharp staccato of a dog’s excited bark broke the silence. Duke—ahead and to the right. The dog must have found the wounded pheasant.

She edged past a mushy spot. A harsher tang that reminded her of the dead fish they’d passed earlier grew stronger with each step. Nose covered with her hand, she rehearsed choice phrases to unleash on Alex when she finally found him, starting with a sarcastic, “Thanks for your concern,” before descending rapidly to “asshole.”

Something big rustled in the dense undergrowth behind her. Heart pounding, she spun around and peered into the thicket. They had coyotes out here. And drug grower/dealer guys. The only person they’d seen between the gravel parking area and this jungle was an Aryan Nation skinhead dude. Her heart stutter stepped. Oh, crap. What if this was his territory?

The noise from something plunging through the brush grew louder, closer. Blindly, she turned and crashed through the tangled foliage.

The rushes ended at a mound of dirt. She staggered into the clearing, her gaze zeroing in on Alex. Leaning over something on the ground, he tugged at Duke’s collar. The dog struggled, twisting his body in a muscular objection.

“Alex. Thank God.” Her knees felt weaker than she wanted to admit. “I heard something in the bushes back there.”

“Probably a deer. Stay back.” He wrestled the dog to the side.

His brusque tone shattered her mini-panic.

Well, don’t I feel silly.

A quick glance around registered the details. A drooping cottonwood canopied the clearing. Sunlit water lapped at the muddy shore. Gulls whirled overhead in a protesting flurry, lingering in a swirling complaint of dirty white feathers. The clearing looked like a teenagers’ party spot. Tattered food wrappers and empty beer bottles littered the ground. Filthy, torn clothing formed a soggy heap at the water’s edge.

The wind gusted off the inlet, carrying a stench across the clearing.

“Phew.” As bad as it smelled, she wondered if a dead fish was caught in the trash. A few birds remained near the river, their wings raised high, voices screeching defiance.

The pile of clothes had female-shaped contours. Eyes narrowed, Holly gave it a closer look. A pale, mud-streaked foot extended toward her. “Is that a woman?”

***

Visit Cathy Perkins on Facebook, Twitter, and Cathy’s website.

For more Cathy Perkins K&T interviews:

The Two (Suspenseful) Sides of Cathy Perkins & A New Kind of Mile High Club with Cathy Perkins

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Congratulations to DARCY WOODS for winning the $25 Amazon gift card from Lark Brennan! And a special thanks to all of you who helped us celebrate Lark’s debut DANGEROUSLY YOURS last week. DANGEROUSLY YOURS debuts today!

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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.

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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 larkbrennan.com, www.facebook.com/LarkBrennan 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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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 DianaBelchase.com

(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.

xo,

Scoutscout

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!”

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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.

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