Yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.

If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.

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SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.

Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.

It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.

So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.

Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.

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Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.

Romance novels?  Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.

I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.

Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.

What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).

The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.

If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?

Why was I so afraid?

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That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.

Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.

My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.

Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?

I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.

But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.

Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.

I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.

Formulaic?  Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.

Pathetic?  Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.

And the other word that’s not worth repeating?  Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.

I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.

Will I ever be loved?  Yes. With great passion.

Will I ever love another?  Yes. With great truth.

Are Happily Ever Afters real?  Yes. With great beauty.

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Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.

I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.

Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.

Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.

So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

I, and my books, promise.

Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?

I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.

Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.

(You don’t want to miss it!  My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray

Dirty Drafting: 11 Quick Tips from Jill Sorenson

We have a special treat for the authors and aspiring authors among our followers today, a guest post by Jill Sorenson, who writes gritty, action packed, sexy romantic suspense. I love Jill’s books, so I’m thrilled to gain some insight into her process. She has some terrific tips here that I intend to try.

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Dirty Drafting: 11 Quick Tips

Hello Kiss & Thrill! Thanks so much for having me back.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is just around the corner. I’ve never participated in this event because writing an entire novel in one month sounds like a nightmare to me. Drafting is my favorite part of the writing process. Why would I want to stress out and rush the most enjoyable step?

Writing fast is practically a requirement for romance authors, but the key for me is writing steady and delivering a quality manuscript. If you hammer out an incoherent mess in a month and it takes you six months to edit, you’re not getting to the finish line any faster than someone who works at a less frenetic pace.

rdirty-647x1024I wrote my latest novel in three months, most of it while my kids were home on summer break. That’s pretty fast for me. Some authors write a lot faster. I follow people on twitter who do “1k in 1hr” sprints, 5k days, even 10k days. I don’t know how they do it, so I’ll just tell you how I do what I do. If drafting is painful for you and you can’t wait to tinker/revise, try NaNo. If you prefer editing as you go and writing a clean first draft, read on.

There is no one true way, just different ways that work better for different people. I’ve heard fast authors say that anyone can learn to be fast, and I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone can improve their speed, but we all have physical and mental limitations. If you’re a genius, your brain might be supersonic. Or you might be a slow genius. I’m not any type of genius. I’m more of an Emma Stone in Easy A than a Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. I want to be a commercial success, not a critics’ darling. I don’t have the natural ability to write 5k every day or the luxury to write slow.

So here are my tips for steady drafting.

1. Edit as you go (if you prefer) but always keep moving. Your first paragraph or chapter might make no sense by the time you get to the end. Characters change and develop over the course of a novel. Do what feels right in order to move forward, but don’t get bogged down by small details. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It will never be perfect.

2. Outline before you start. This is an important one for me. I research and do a detailed outline several weeks in advance. I’m constantly plotting, reworking and looking things up as I go, too. Stay flexible, but have a plan. An outline is a solid foundation that you can build on. You can also throw it out if you have to. Having plan makes it easier to move full steam ahead and avoid painting yourself into a corner.

3. Write every day, or almost every day. Taking long breaks will steal your momentum. Steady, daily progress is good.

4. Know where you’re going. Even if you’re not a big plotter, you can jot down notes every day before you start. Just a few minutes of concentration can make the difference between flying over the keys and staring at a blank page.

5. Don’t stop for the day at the end of a scene or chapter. Some authors stop mid-sentence. It trains your brain to keep thinking about the next sentence/scene/chapter, rather than closing the mental doors when you close the screen.

6. Take notes after you’re “done” for the day. This is my favorite tip for increasing speed and productivity. I love writing freehand notes. I remember things I forgot to do, continually reassess plot points, and jot down ideas for the next scene.

7. Get enough sleep. This is a challenge for me. Sleep well and your brain will function better, faster.

8. Beware of children. They require a lot of attention and feeding. If a childless person tells me that anyone can write 5k per day if they just try hard, I will twist her nose off and feed it to my child.

9. Exercise! I run almost every day, and I believe this has helped my output tremendously. It also helps keep me sane. If you spend too much time indoors, living with the imaginary people inside your head, you might end up with cabin fever, wielding a rubber mallet. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

10. Don’t force it. Sometimes you have to sit your ass in the chair and get it done. Sometimes you have to do the opposite. When you’re pulling your hair out, rewriting the same sentence fifty times, just leave it alone. Go do some laundry, get a snack. Switch to a notebook. Changing scenery can jog you in a new direction.

11. Keep a cuts file. I do this for every book, and it helps me when a scene isn’t working. I’ll save a copy of the problem section in my cuts file. Then I can delete and rearrange dialogue or paragraphs without worrying about losing any important bits. It’s a quick, efficient way to get unstuck and move forward.

So there you have it. 11 quick-n-dirty tips for those who prefer clean first drafts! As always, do what works for you, be passionate about your writing, and try to have fun. Remember that a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint. Find your own pace.

Are you a writer? Do you plan to attempt NaNoWriMo? Do you have any tips you’d like to share or thoughts on Jill’s tips? Share them. We haven’t had a craft conversation at K&T in a long time, and I LOVE talking craft.

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Jill SorensonJill Sorenson is the RITA-nominated author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels, including the Aftershock series by HQN. She lives in the San Diego area with her family. She’s a soccer mom who loves nature, coffee, reading, twitter and reality TV. Jogging keeps her sane. Riding Dirty is her first erotic suspense novel.

You can find her at www.jillsorenson.com.

Lost Heroes

Columbus Day hardly gets much notice lately. There are furniture store sales, some government offices and banks are closed, a parade in New York City that is no longer nationally televised, and he’s no longer held up like a hero to school children.

(c) Diana Belchase 2012 Palermo Museum

I feel sorriest for kids everywhere who, it seems, are only entitled to heroes out of Marvel comic books and not from real life. It’s fashionable to hunt down every mistake our forefathers made, to talk of their wrongs against society, to hold them accountable for the barbaric practices that were commonplace in their time period.

To tear them down until there is no shred of heroism left.

Granted, Columbus was far from perfect. Just like the other great men of history who entered the slave trade, unwittingly spread disease, conquered lands that were not their own, and took treasure they were not entitled to, so, too, did he. Some say he might not be the first European to find America. But whether you believe that or not, he was the first to colonize and make these lands known to all of Europe. In essence, he was the first non-native American.

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I think of the dangerous voyage my own grandparents made to come to this country. They didn’t speak English, didn’t have a place to stay, no job waiting, yet they crossed an ocean in a ship much like he did, taking a chance that there was someplace better in this world for them to be. Like the settlers that came after him, Columbus crossed the mighty Atlantic in a fleet of three surprisingly small wooden ships, losing one on the way. That took daring, and intelligence, and perseverance that is rare today.

How many people could do that?

I personally have trouble going out of state without GPS, how did this man do this with only the stars to guide him? No maps, no computer, no one who gave him oral directions. Out alone on a rough sea. hoping to see land, commanding a crew who believed they might fall off the edge of the world and might mutiny any moment. He did this a total of four times in the late 1400’s a remarkable 522 years ago. It was equivalent of being the first man on the moon.

Amazing.

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Columbus means a lot to me as an American of Italian descent. My culture is riddled with forced stereotypes: Mafia bosses, New Jersey Housewives, loud arrogant members of the Jersey Shore. We’re thought of as pizza chefs and mobsters. Less widely remembered are the incredible contributions people of Italian descent have made — with our hands building the infrastructure of the U.S. — tunnels, roads, and bridges — with our genius sculpting and painting the decorative parts of buildings in every major American city, and with our minds as scientists and leaders.

The magnificence of the Capitol dome, scientific inventions like the telephone (only in the U.S. do people not know the true inventor of the telephone is Meucci) are ours. We are doctors, lawyers, and teachers. We carry the culture and refinement of the Romans, Tuscans, and Sicilians in our blood. Places non-Italians love to travel and somehow snobbishly distinguish from the Italians who live in the U.S. We are Supreme Court justices and the guy who carries your mail.

We deserve a hero.

Perhaps that is why I am a suspense writer and love the RS genre so much. RS stories are at their core about heroes, some unlikely, some highly trained, all imperfect individuals who must summon an extreme level of heroism and courage few, like Columbus, possess.

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Isn’t it a shame this is how we celebrated Columbus’ 500th Anniversary?

Seven percent of the U.S. identifies itself as being of Italian descent. There are probably more, but so many of us have been taught to be ashamed and try to hide the fact of our ancestry. Among us there is no unified voice that asks for a month devoted to our history. We deserve that, too.

This month is Hispanic History Month. I have been aghast at how little I know of Hispanic history — of which Columbus is a key figure.  It is right and apt that this Italian American’s birthdate falls in the midst of this particular month. Without the support of Spain, Columbus would not have discovered the Carribean and Latin America. He would not have been Governor of Hispaniola. He is as much a hero for those of Spanish descent as he is for those of Italian.

But let’s not squabble. To me, he is a hero for us all.

We have a winner!

Thanks to everyone for making the release of JUDGMENT  a special day for me.  And now, without further ado, the winner of the one hour massage is Teen Books for the Kindle. Please use our contact page to claim your prize. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who commented!  Carey

A Cassidy and Spenser Thriller

A Cassidy and Spenser Thriller

Eustress: Help Carey Celebrate JUDGMENT’S Release

Hi Friends!

popping champagne corkI hope you are all having a wonderful fall! This is a special day for me, and I love celebrating it with you. I’m definitely eustressing today. Have you guys heard this term? I first learned about eustress way back when, in graduate school, but to simplify I’ll just use this definition from Wikipedia –which is right on the money:

“Eustress occurs when the gap between what one has and what one wants is slightly pushed, but not overwhelmed. The goal is not too far out of reach but is still slightly more than one can handle. This fosters challenge and motivation since the goal is in sight. The function of challenge is to motivate a person toward improvement and a goal.”

So Eustress, while uncomfortable, is really a positive thing. The source of my “good stress” today is the release of JUDGMENT, the first book in my Cassidy and Spenser Thrillers series, but more about that later.

ConfessionhiresFirst, I want to thank you all for helping to make CONFESSION a bestseller. I’ve loved being part of Harper Collins/Witness Impulse’s first year. And because of readers like you, CONFESSION spent six weeks in the top 100 Nook Books over at Barnes and Noble (reaching a best rank of #12 in the overall Nook store) as well as appearing on the Amazon bestseller lists in both Suspense and Romantic Suspense.

So I truly want to thank you, and I have a special gift for one lucky commenter. I wish I could give the gift to each one of you. But I’ll have to settle for one randomly drawn commenter.

And now for more on Judgment. I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be doing a new series featuring forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caity Cassidy and FBI profiler, Special Agent Atticus “Spense” Spenser for Witness Impulse.

The first book in the Cassidy & Spenser Thriller series, Judgment, releases today. Here’s the blurb:

 If these two rivals can’t work together…

Dr. Caitlin Cassidy is on a mission to protect the innocent. Fifteen years ago, she witnessed her father’s execution for a crime she’s convinced he didn’t commit. Now she works as a forensic psychiatrist to make sure that other innocents don’t meet the same fate.

Special Agent Atticus Spenser is hell bent on locking the guilty away. A brilliant FBI profiler, Spense loves, a good puzzle…especially when the solution takes a psychopath off the streets. But his nemesis, the enigmatically vexing Caity Cassidy, is one puzzle he’s never been able to solve.

…One of them is going to die.

When a young coed falls prey to a sexually sadistic killer, Caity and Spense are called in by opposing sides. But before the case can go to trial, the accused man is murdered in a brutal attack and Caity is critically wounded. Now Caity and Spense must put aside their differences and work together to uncover the truth—because the Man in the Maze is coming back for round two.

Thanks again for celebrating with me!

 

What kind of eustress have you experienced? Remember eustress is a positive challenge that pushes your limits and expands your horizons. One randomly selected commenter will win a one hour massage at Massage Envy or a local day spa if Massage Envy is not available in your area. This contest is restricted to commenters in the continental United States. Good luck, everyone! And thanks again!

 

Carey

 

Hometown Heroes Fun Facts

Originally posted on Rachel Grant:

HH_front_coverHometown Heroes: Hotter Ever After (A Pets for Vets Charity Bundle) can now be purchased at AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo!

If you are on the fence about purchasing the bundle, I’ve compiled some statistics to aid your decision making.

Cost  $1.99
Authors  17
Books  16
Pages in Word  4,118
Words  1,129,245
Characters (no spaces)  5,050,663
Characters (with spaces)  6,139,211
Paragraphs  43,297
Chapters  353
Happy Endings  16
If this were offered in print, estimated number of pages:  3,226
Number of Tweets it would take to tweet the entire set:  43,852
Reader cost per book:  $0.124
Reader cost per chapter:  $0.006
Reader cost per word:  0.0000018
% of net royalties going to Pets for Vets:  100

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What do you get if you buy HOMETOWN HEROES?

A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX by USA Today author Melissa Schroeder–When Anna falls for her best friend Max, it might…

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The Hometown Heroes Authors Take the Inside the Actors Studio Quiz

PetsforVetsLogoToday is the release day for Hometown Heroes: Hotter Ever After! This bundle includes SIXTEEN complete novels–some never before published–by SEVENTEEN fabulous authors (one book was co-written), with all the proceeds going tPets for Vets, an organization that matches shelter animals with military veterans.

16 books for only $1.99 with all net proceeds going to Pets for Vets!

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They’re all hometown heroes, guys from small towns who’ve made a name for themselves, big or small, who’ve withstood the odds and risen to the challenge, who are heroes in their own right.

A LITTLE HARMLESS SEX by Melissa Schroeder
CHANGE THE GAME by Lucy Monroe 
WILD RIDE by Nancy Warren
HEARTBREAK ON A STICK by Sabrina York
MADRONA SUNSET by Jami Davenport
BRACE FOR IMPACT by Allie K. Adams
HONORABLE SACRIFICE by Destiny Blaine
SHE’S WORTH IT ALL by Cathryn Cade
DECEIVING DANTE by Kate Davies
ROCK, RATTLE AND ROLL by Cari Quinn and Taryn Elliott
GRAVE DANGER by Rachel Grant
TURNING THIRTY-TWELVE by Sandy James
HIS ONLY DESIRE by Adrianne Lee  
EVEN HEROES CRY by Hildie McQueen 
THE VIXEN & THE VET by Katy Regnery
TROUBLE WITH A COWBOY by Sandy Sullivan

Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords

Once again, to learn more about the Hometown Heroes authors, I donned my James Lipton beard and put them in the Inside the Actors Studio hot seat.

What is your favorite word?

Lucy: Hugs! Allie: Any Allie’ism (words I blend together to create a new word). Currently, everything is fantabulous-o! This is as close as I get speaking Spamish (that means an attempt at Spanish but failing miserably—much like Spam is for meat)
Sabrina: Kerfuffle. It just sounds…tasty! Rachel: Schadenfreude
Jami: Win Adrianne: WINNER!!!
Destiny: Extraordinary Kate: Pleasure
Cathryn: Yes

What is your least favorite word?

Lucy: Slurs Allie: Can’t
Sabrina: The “C” word for lady parts Rachel: Fart
Jami: Lose Adrianne: Sexism
Destiny: Never Kate: Greasy
Cathryn: Can’t

What turns you on?

Lucy: Lovingkindness.  I’ve been known to get very amorous when my husband cleans the kitchen. Allie: Chillaxin on the couch with the hubs. I also have a thing for sexy shoulders.
Sabrina: Bacon. Yesssss. Simply bacon. Rachel: Captain America
Jami: A hot athlete Adrianne: Besides sexy men? True Friendship
Destiny: An intelligent man who knows how to work his swagger without coming across as arrogant Kate: Dinner on the table and no housework to finish
Cathryn: My husband’s shaving cologne

What turns you off?

Lucy: Meanness Allie: Being an arrogant asshat. If he’s a jack wagon, even his shoulders can’t save him.
Sabrina: Bullies. Can’t stand them Rachel: Smoking
Jami: People texting and driving Adrianne: Meanness
Destiny: A belligerent drunk who thinks he’s cute Kate: Dirty laundry (or housework in general)
Cathryn: Feeling fat

What sound or noise do you love?

Lucy: Babies giggling Allie: That swooshing sound my Mac makes when I send a manuscript off to the editor.
Sabrina: The oboe. Haunting. I also love the cello. Rachel: My children’s laughter
Jami: Wind in the trees Adrianne: My cats purring
Destiny: Ocean tides Kate: Laughter
Cathryn: Zach Brown’s voice singing

What sound or noise do you hate?

Lucy: Fists hitting flesh. I hate abuse and have opened my house to more than one woman or teen at risk. Allie: The sound of a low, ominous growl behind you when you’re out hunting right after you’ve spotted fresh cougar tracks (yes, that really happened)
Sabrina: The nasal whine of a mosquito hovering around me, plotting to suck my blood. I wish no harm to any creature on earth…except mosquitoes. They can all die a heinous miserable death. Rachel: Traffic
Jami: Traffic Adrianne: Tinnitus
Destiny: The sound of a circular saw in use Kate: Any heavy equipment that squeals/whines
Cathryn: Whining… doesn’t matter who

What is your favorite curse word?

Lucy: Bollocks Allie: Fartnarker. That’s totally a word and fits any situation. It’s not even an Allie’ism.
Sabrina: Blurg (I channel Tina Fey in 30 Rock sometimes). I am also partial to “frick.” Rachel: Fuck
Jami: Shit Adrianne: The F word
Destiny: I take the 5th Kate: Douchecanoe
Cathryn: Hmmm, can’t say it here

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Lucy: Psychologist Allie: I want to write full time. Currently I have a Stinkin’ Day Job. If I could write full time, I’d be fartnarkin’ fantabulous-o!
Sabrina: Glassblower. Sigh…I dabbled with glass at one time and loved it. So beautiful. Rachel: CIA Case Officer or superhero
Jami: Interior designer or bartender Adrianne: A singer, but the world would cringe.
Destiny: Stripping. Just kidding. Psychologist Kate: Actor (I was in the drama program in college and always regret not sticking with it)
Cathryn: Chris Hemsworth’s movie set hair stylist

What profession would you not like to do?

Lucy: Sewer management Allie: Pretty much anything on Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs” show
Sabrina: Housecleaner. Exhibit A: My house Rachel: Wearing a hot dog costume and passing out flyers.
Jami: Cook Adrianne: Toll Booth money taker
Destiny: Retail salesperson Kate: Septic Tank cleaner
Cathryn: Middle school teacher (been there)

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

Lucy: Well done. :) Allie: Take a left at the first cloud. You’re mom and dad are there waiting for you.
Sabrina: O Myself, Sabrina. I loved your books! Rachel: I’ve decided to make an exception for you.
Jami: Welcome, my child! Adrianne: Kim’s been waiting for you.
Destiny: For a minute there, I wasn’t sure you’d make it but it sure is good to see you. Now let’s dust off those wings and find your halo. Kate: Welcome!
Cathryn: Whew! You made it!

GIVEAWAY

Because all proceeds go to charity, this week’s giveaway is a little different. The first TEN eligible commenters win a digital copy of HOMETOWN HEROES, gifted from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iBooks. I will notify you in the comments if you are a winner and prizes will be awarded upon receipt of winner’s email address and choice of vendor (winners will be asked to provide that information via email, using the CONTACT US page).

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The winner of a digital copy of Never Forget by Heather Ashby is…

Ellen Lindseth

Ellen, to claim your prize, please use the CONTACT US page within ten days.

Heather Ashby’s Never Forget: A Suzanne Brockmann Recommendation

I am so excited to welcome back one of my favorite Golden Heart sisters Heather Ashby. Today we’re talking about her newest release  Never Forget and the most amazing author endorsement ever!!!

“A must-read for fans of military romantic suspense. This book is part of a series, but it stands very much alone. If you enjoy my Troubleshooters, Heather’s definitely an author to check out! Amazing book, amazing author, amazing series.”

                                                                                             – Suzanne Brockmann

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HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always exciting to visit “Kiss and Thrill.” I’m thrilled to share Book #3 in my “Love in the Fleet” series with your readers.

 Never Forget

 With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?

When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard USS New York, she’s the only one who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns the spirits must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.

The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.

Passions rise to fever pitch when New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?

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SW: For my first question I just have to ask, “How did you get Suzanne Brockmann to give you a cover quote?”

HA: I asked Suzanne in person when she presented at our chapter meeting, so I had the opportunity to see her jaw drop when I told her about the USS New York and the 9/11 spirits on board. (Yes, there really IS 7.5 tons of WTC steel in the New York’s bow.) However, since Suzanne is well-known for supporting the troops, I’m sure the deciding factor was that I donate half my royalties to Fisher House Foundation in thanksgiving for my son’s safe return from war. BTW, getting her quote and endorsement on Facebook was a dream come true. It was her Troubleshooters books that got me through my son’s deployments (along with vast amounts of prayer and chardonnay!) And while reading her books, I was inspired to try my hand at military romance.

SW: You are so brave. I don’t know if I would have the courage to ask. When you first came up with the idea of the ghosts aboard USS New York, did you have any concerns or worries?

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HA: I sat on the idea for several weeks, questioning if it was okay to write about them. My concern was for the 9/11 families. Then it came to me that if I didn’t write this story, somebody else would, and I wanted to ensure it was written with the respect it deserved. I am a Navy veteran, Marine Corps daughter, Navy wife, and mother of an Iraq and Afghanistan combat Army vet. I felt I was qualified—and with the victims’ families always foremost in my mind—I jumped in with both feet and wrote straight from the heart.

I realized that if I could give the spirits a voice and empower them with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victim to victor. Just so you know, I worked on this book for two years and I still get goose bumps. Thus far my favorite reader review is this one on Facebook: “As a member of a 9/11 family, this book is truly inspiring. I’m filled with gratitude for this very special remembrance of my son.”

SW: What a wonderful review! How many people did you share your premise with while you were writing this? Or did you keep it to yourself?

HA: I shared with very few, highly-trusted individuals. For me to keep a secret like this for two years was a big deal, but I felt the story was too special to allow it to be stolen and sensationalized.

SW: How did you come up with your heroine? Why Welsh and the Royal Navy? She’s fascinating and so different from other heroines.

HA: Several years ago my husband and I entertained Royal Navy officers from the HMS Ocean. One delightful Sub-Left-tenant, suggested I write a romance about a Naval officer exchange program between the U.S. and the U.K., which meant two love story threads. In Never Forget, the love story on the British ship, HMS Atlantic, is the link to the first two books in “Love in the Fleet.” The other thread is detailed above in the blurb. Then I needed a reason why only Gwyn could see the spirits, and thought of a country that might have “faeries,” so I made her Welsh. She grew up with a mum who dabbled in “all kinds of woo-woo stuff,” so Gwyn rebelled by becoming a Royal Naval engineer, a profession which uses science and logic. She is therefore mortified when she reports for duty aboard New York and sees ghosts—meaning she has inherited the family “gift.”

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SW: Why were the prisoners in North Africa? Was there any significance in that choice? (It seems so eerily appropriate now)

HA: I chose North Africa because I needed both the American and British ships (with both sets of lovers) to be close enough to rush to the crisis. The USS New York would be on a routine Med cruise and the HMS Atlantic could race from Plymouth, England to join her in trying to free British and American hostages. My USMC advisor and I decided Tangiers was the perfect spot for the crisis because it was the espionage crossroads of the world in the 1940s and 1950s which plays into the story.

SW: Did you have any surprises while writing this book?

HA: The spirits were a total surprise. My stories are “homeported” at Naval Station Mayport, FL. In 2012 I learned that Mayport would be receiving three amphibious assault ships in 2014, so I decided to write about an amphib. While researching the new ships, I read about the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow of USS New York. I literally flew out of my chair, hands to open mouth with “OMG!OMG!OMG!” screaming in my brain!

Next I surprised myself by making one of the two heroes a Marine. I knew nothing about Marines and could just as easily have made him a Naval officer. But something spoke to me. My late father was a WWII Marine. He had some sad issues from his childhood and I decided to work them out through Adam Connor, my Marine hero. Then I was led to a fabulous newly-retired Marine, Christopher Bergeron, who was interested in helping. He said, “I spent my career writing amphibious assault training scenarios and never got to use half of them. I know exactly how to go into your fictional consulate and free those hostages!” Like I could turn THAT down! The fact that Chris doubled as the cover art photographer was beyond awesome!

There are several surprises in the crisis – which is a series of black moments. One scared the living daylights out of me! My brain kept saying, “Play it safe. This is too risky. You can’t do this.” But my ADHD gut said, “Go for it! This is the kind of thing that makes for blockbuster books and movies.” I figured if it was too risky, my editor would slap me on the wrist and make me revise. But she loved it! (It scared her too J)

Although Chris is new to writing fiction, he added in a few surprises that literally had me screaming out “OMG! I didn’t know that!” At first he just gave me Marine Corps “sand,” general information that I could turn into “sand castles.” But his confidence has gone through the roof as he realizes what a brilliant and creative writer he is (my words, not his J) We are exploring the very real possibility of co-authoring book four, Unforgettable.

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SW: Speaking of your covers, Heather, I see they’ve changed. Can you shed a little light on that.

HA: I changed publishers over the summer and am now working with the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Since it was imperative that this book have a respectful cover, we decided to go with military uniforms for the entire series. My hero son agreed to pose for the covers and Chris shot the photos. My retired Navy husband meticulously researched the ribbons and devices (A.K.A. “fruit salad”) to ensure that the uniforms reflected the age and experience of the hero in each book. It was a true family affair; even my daughter helped out. She suggested a key spy character – “The Lynx” – right before Never Forget went to press.

I feel like I’ve come full circle, Sharon. At 9:04 on 9/11, I knew my son would be going to war. It was one of the most frightening realizations I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to have him return safe and whole from combat. Now he helps out as we publish “Love in the Fleet” and donate to causes that support families who have not fared as well as ours in the War on Terror.

Now I’d like to leave a question with your readers: What were you doing when you learned of 9/11 and what was your initial reaction?

 

SW: One lucky commenter will win a copy of Never Forget by Heather Ashby!

HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always a pleasure to interact with your readers.

SW: You’re so welcome, Heather. It’s always a pleasure to have you here.

USSNYHeather 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. She now writes military romance novels in the series, “Love in the Fleet.” Her debut novel, Forgive & Forget was voted “Best of 2013” by Suspense Magazine. Forget Me Not is currently a finalist in the Military Writers Society of America’s annual contest. She publishes with Amber House Books, who released Never Forget on September 9th. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.

You can find Heather at: www.heatherashby.comwww.heatherashby.com/Books.htmlhttp://amzn.to/1lFC9Ua, Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor, and www.facebook.com/HeatherAshbyAuthor?ref=

All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby.

Winner Announcement: And the winner of ALL GOOD DEEDS by Stacy Greena as well as ALL GOOD DEEDS swag  is JB Schroeder. Congratulations JB! Please use our contact page to claim your prize and let us know if you prefer an e-book or print on release day. Please include your email and snail mail addy.

 

 

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