Blog Archives

If Dogs Could Talk

If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one~Andy Rooney

Lena Diaz’s adorable dog Sparky

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be extra fun if dogs could talk!

Remember Andy Rooney and that delightful acerbic wit of his? I sure do. And I miss his brief, straight to the point rants on the television show 60 Minutes. His segments were fun, and I think a precursor of Jerry Seinfeld’s What’s up with that? routines.

So today in honor of Andy Rooney or Jerry Seinfeld or both, I have a What’s up with that? blog for you.

First the disclaimer: Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I feel confident that right here among us are readers who do it.

What is it? You ask. Well, this it. I scratch my head whenever I hear someone say: I really did not enjoy this book, but once I start a book I have to finish it.

Erm. I don’t get it.

Rosie 7

Krista’s adorable dog, Rosie

I realize there are some good reasons to finish books you don’t like. For example, your mother wrote it and dedicated it to you (Shannon I’m talking to you). Your critique partner wrote it (my critique partners only write awesome books, but I’m just sayin’ in case yours doesn’t). You agreed to judge it in a contest. You are a book blogger or agreed to provide a review. Your teacher assigned it, and there’s a quiz tomorrow. I’m not talking about these situations.

I’m talking about someone who feels they must finish a book because they bought it or started it, or just because they can’t quit anything.

Now I’ve sat through a few movies I didn’t like, but that was because I was with someone else, and I didn’t want to make them miss out on something they were enjoying. But I have never finished a book I didn’t like without a good reason. The world is littered with books I’ve begun but didn’t finish, and I don’t feel one iota of guilt.

 

So here’s my question: What kind of reader are you? Are you a wall-banger like me, who tosses the book at the first sign of trouble? Or do you finish a book no matter what? If you do, please tell us why. Ten dollar Starbucks card to one lucky commenter.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Erica Monroe

EricaMonroe

Erica Monroe writes dark, suspenseful (and well-researched) historical romance. In her atmospheric debut novel A DANGEROUS INVITATION, she takes us out of the ballroom and drops us straight into the labyrinthine alleys and gritty flash houses of London’s East End. Rather than manners and courtship, the first book in the Rookery Rogues series is a story of survival and the transformational power of love. Read on to find out you can become eligible to win A DANGEROUS INVITATION ebook…

Dangerous Invitation Cover

Torn from her life of privilege by her father’s death, Kate Morgan relies on her knowledge of finery to survive in one of London’s dark and depraved rookeries as a fence for stolen goods . The last man she ever expects, or wants, to see again is Daniel O’Reilly, the man who promised to love, honor and protect her, but who instead fled amidst accusations of murder.

One drunken night cost Daniel O’Reilly the woman he loved and the life he’d worked so hard to create. If he ever wants to reclaim that life—and Kate—he’ll not only have to prove he’s innocent of murder, but convince the pistol-wielding beauty to forgive his many sins.

With a killer on the loose, time is running out for them…

KH: Why did you choose to set Kate and Daniel’s story in 1832 during the short reign of King William IV rather than the more commonly used Regency time period between 1811-1820?

ERICA: I studied Victorian literature in college, and then I began to educate myself in the regency period when I started to write historical romances. The 1830’s represents the perfect merging of my two interests—it’s this strange period of social reform yet people are still trying to cling to what they used to have. The trade of corpses in the regency period is a big deal in the underworld, for a resurrection man could make far more selling bodies than he could in the honest work that might be available to an unskilled, uneducated laborer (read, not many jobs at all). The London Burkers (called that because their method of murder for dissection profit resembled that of legendary serial killers Burke and Hare in Edinburg, Scotland in 1828) were arrested in 1831. Two were executed, while another turned State’s Evidence and was released. I knew that I wanted to link my resurrection man villain to this case so I had to set it in January 1832 shortly after the executions. Mid-year 1832, the Anatomy Acts were repealed, and now surgeons had access to more bodies for dissection, so they didn’t have to use grave robbers to advance in their fields of study.

I found the idea of people being stolen from their graves to be sold as medical experiments to be utterly creepy and morbid, and admittedly, being a girl who grew up reading Edgar Allen Poe, I loved it. Resurrection men were considered to be one of the lowest types of thieves, reviled by everyone else in the London underworld. What better villains to use in the first book of my Rookery Rogues series, which centers on denizens of the London slum areas (called rookeries)?

KH: Your descriptions of daily life in the rookeries of London are vivid and create the dark, gritty atmosphere of A DANGEROUS INVITATION.  You clearly spent a great deal of time researching the history, culture and geography of the East End—Bethnal Green, Jacob’s Island, and the St. Katharine Docks.  What unexpected discoveries did you uncover that enriched or influenced the development of the characters and the suspense storyline?

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Jacob’s Island, PD-US

R lee [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

R lee [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

ERICA: The new system of policing fascinated me—far more like the Scotland Yard we know and love than the original regency policing system. Prior to 1829, London did not have a centralized police force. You had a bunch of little districts and constables and a Night Watch that really bordered on useless. But 1829 and Robert Peel’s act brought forth a new structure, a more vigilant way of policing. This of course meant that some of the attitudes toward crime in the rookeries changed. The Bow Street Runners (think London’s first detectives) allowed flash houses (meeting places of thieves, often functioning as brothels as well) to exist because it was easy to get at informants when they were all congregated in the same police. The Met Police didn’t really believe in that—they focused on preventing crime instead of solving it. I use this distinction in my next novella, Secrets in Scarlet, which features the Met Police officer I introduced in A Dangerous Invitation. 

I also used the “Catholic Question,” which comes about throughout the 1800’s but really hit a breakthrough in 1829 when the Roman Catholic Relief Act was passed, which removed a lot of the restrictions that were still on Catholics in the UK. This and the Sacramental Test Act were huge in getting rights for Catholics. Prior to this act, Catholics could not hold office. The relations between the English and the Irish were already strained at best. I use this in A Dangerous Invitation as my hero Daniel O’Reilly is Irish, but he has been raised since childhood in Sussex. He feels like a man of two nations. Daniel has been the victim of racial prejudice, for in 1832 the Irish were considered not much better than dogs in the street by a lot of England’s population. This plays into his interactions with Kate and his feelings toward himself. He has to learn that he is indeed worthy of love.

KH: Peelers, dimber morts, crank…uh, translation please :-) Was it difficult to learn the street slang of the period?

ERICA: A Peeler refers to the Metropolitan Police Officers, called Peelers or Bobbies because of Robert Peel, who was the main person behind the bill establishing the new force. A dimber mort refers to a pretty wench, and crank is a cant term for gin (important because of Daniel’s struggle with remaining sober).

I actually really enjoy the slang. I’ve never had an aptitude for foreign languages, but thieving cant to me feels like a secret language based in English so I can understand it. It was important to me that my thieves sound like they grew up in the East End and not posh aristocrats. These are people deprived of formal education, growing up in neighborhoods where they pretty much had to steal to eat. They’re going to have their own set of words for things, jargon that’s been doctored so that the Police can’t fathom what they’re saying.

In writing A Wayward Man, my short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation, it’s been interesting to write the dialogue for Kate because this is before she ends up in the rookeries. She doesn’t know those slang terms and she hasn’t changed to coarser language. I paid a lot of attention to dialects, trying to properly mimic what people would sound like in different parts. I’ve no idea if I got it all right, but it “feels” more authentic to me, at least.

Illustrated Romance book cover images from Jenn LeBlanc

KH: What is your favorite slang expression?

ERICA: There are so many good ones, and some really, really vulgar ones. There’s about 57 different terms for prostitutes, most of which end up being quite depressing.

Some of my favorite ones that I find can be used in historical romance are “collar day” for being executed at Newgate prison, “dive” meaning to pick a pocket, and Drury Lane ague meaning venereal disease (given that prostitutes often frequented Drury Lane).

KH: What’s next in The Rookery Rogues series?

ERICA: Two things. One, I’ve got the short story prequel to A Dangerous Invitation coming out in February, and it is titled A Wayward Man. This starts before Daniel leaves London, three years prior to the beginning of ADI. It’s about 10,000 words and I will be offering it up for free.

After that, I’ve got Secrets in Scarlet, which is a novella. I hope to have it out sometime around late March.

SecretsInScandal-EricaMonroe-2

Here’s the blurb: When a girl is murdered at a factory in one of London’s rookeries, Thaddeus Knight comes in to investigate. But it’s not just the factory owners that Thaddeus wants information on–the devilishly intriguing Poppy O’Reilly is a puzzle he’d like nothing more than to solve. Protecting her young daughter is the most important thing to Poppy, and Thaddeus threatens the false identity she’s carefully constructed. The last thing she should do is allow Thaddeus close to her family, yet she can’t stay away from him. With danger around the corner, will the secrets of a scarlet woman lead to their undoing?

Can’t wait to read more? You can find Erica’s books on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, iTunes, and AllRomanceBooks.

What are the elements you look for in historical romantic suspense? Do you have a favorite time period? House parties vs Ballrooms vs Gaming Hells? Do you like your stories filled with members of the ton? Can a housemaid become a duchess? Tell us what you like to read! Erica is giving away an e-copy of A DANGEROUS INVITATION to one lucky commenter!

Kiss and Thrill Takedown

Lena DiazToday it’s my very great pleasure to take down…I mean interview…Kiss and Thrill’s very own Lena Diaz. Lena is a master story-teller whose stories will rev your heart and melt it at the same time. If you haven’t tried one of her books what are you waiting for? Her latest release, TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN is one of my personal favorites. The story opens with an electrifying office shooting and then never lets up. It’s a thrill a minute coupled with a luscious love story. I adored TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN. Please don’t miss it! (Print release is Jan 21st! Ebook release is Feb 1st!) And now for the interview. Don’t forget there’ll be a giveaway for commenters. More on that later, but now here’s Lena:

Carey: What’s your favorite way to kill a character?

Lena: My favorite method is whatever works but doesn’t leave many clues for the police. Wait, CHARACTER? Sorry, Um. Okay, I admit I’m quite the fan of a good gunfight. There’s just something sexy about the hero diving to avoid a bullet and doing that mid-air maneuver where he twists around and returns fire before he even hits the ground. (shiver) I’ve also used poison, knives, even fire. And in one of the stories I’m writing right now the hero is very dark with a tortured past. His weapon of choice? His hands.

Carey: Shivering back! Let’s talk hunks- who would you want to play Dillon in Tennessee Takedown, the movie? And who for Ashley?

Lena: A younger version of Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be the PERFECT Dillon. (swoon) He’s the actor who played Denny in Grey’s Anatomy. I love his physique–solid, without being a body-builder type. And he has that sexy stubble I love so much, with a voice that could melt butter and eyes that invite you to try him on for size. LOVE him. And since I’m on a Grey’s Anatomy thread here, Chyler Leigh (Lexie Grey) would be a great foil for Dillon. She’s smart, funny, and has that all-American girl-next-door appeal.

Fun Fact Alert regarding TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN: The fictional town of Destiny, Tennessee is one county over from fellow Intrigue author Paula Graves’s fictional town of Bitterwood. And the hero even mentions the Bitterwood sheriff in my book.

Carey: What’s your secret ingredient for an unputdownable book?

Lena: I wish I knew! If I did, I’d bottle it and sell it and make a blasted fortune! I do think the hero is the most important part of a love story, so I put a lot of work into making my heroes smart, funny, sexy and super-alpha. And when it comes to plotting my stories, I constantly ask myself what would most likely make sense to happen next at the end of a scene–and try to do something else. I like to be surprised when I read, so that’s what I try to give my readers.

Carey: Oh I love that twist of the scene! You’re so good at it. Do you prefer writing an action scene or a love scene…and why :-)?

Lena: Action, action, action! Action scenes are just plain fun because they show off some of the best qualities in an alpha male. They add tension and drama and get the heart racing. Love scenes can (and should) get the heart racing too. But, honestly, they are so incredibly difficult for me to write. I agonize over them, for many reasons. Mainly, they are an important turning point in any love story and have to occur at the right moment(s) to ratchet up the tension and change the conflict. I also don’t want to write anything “crass” that would turn off my readers. I want to treat this important part of a relationship with the dignity and respect it deserves, while drawing out every ounce of emotion that I can. It’s never easy, but when it works, it can elevate the story to an entirely new level.

Carey: I love both your love scenes and your action scenes. Guess that explains why! Can you tell us about the Deadly Game series and give us a sneak peek at Take the Key and Lock Her Up?

Lena: The Deadly Game series has that name because the titles of all the books are twisted versions of real childhood games (He Kills Me, He Kills Me Not; Simon Says Die; Ashes, Ashes, They All Fall Dead; Take the Key and Lock Her Up.) Each story focuses on bringing down a serial killer, and the heroes are all Buchanan brothers, except for Logan who is a best friend of one of the brothers.

“Take the Key” comes out this July and features Devlin, known as “Devil” to his brothers. Whereas the other Buchanan men come from law-enforcement types of backgrounds, Devlin has a dark, secret past that, well, let’s just say he avoids police every chance he gets. He’s a super tortured hero who walks a tightrope between his devil-may-care side he shows his family and the darkness that truly lurks in his soul. He’s definitely a reluctant hero, drawn into helping solve some abductions where women are imprisoned for years before ultimately being killed. This book goes back to my roots with the first book in the series in that it’s much more serious and darker than the other two books. Crossing my fingers my readers will love it as much as I do. Redeeming a seemingly unredeemable hero was a really difficult challenge but so worth it in the end.

Carey: I’m hopping with anticipation, Lena. And for good reason! Please tell us about your upcoming series with Avon.

Lena: I’m so thrilled to have sold a three book print series to Avon! The first book probably won’t be out until late 2015, and I can’t really share much about the series yet. But I will say that I sold it based on the tagline “The Bourne Identity meets The Firm.” And I can tell you that this series is a natural spin-off from Take the Key and Lock Her Up. Devlin’s past is integral to the basis for the entire series. He plays an important cameo role in the first book. And readers shouldn’t be surprised if other Buchanan men show up in these books as well!

Time for Lightning Round questions: 

Name your favorites:

Fast food restaurant - Outback! Love their green beans.

TV show - Law and Order SVU

Christmas gift you received this year - My son graduated from college! Best present ever.

Place to vacation - Gatlinburg, Tennessee. LOVE the Smoky Mountains.

Book of all time – I’ll let you choose one or your top three - Straight suspense-Coffin Dancer by Jeffrey Deaver. Romance-too many to name! Two classics I adore are Ashes in the Wind by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard.

Song on your ipod (go to most played and spill the actual song you’ve listened to most)  - Merry Go ‘Round by Kacey Musgraves.

Carey: Lena thanks for being such a good sport! And now I have to check out Kacey Musgraves. She’s new to me.

Lena: Thank you so much for hosting me, Carey!

Readers, for a chance to win TENNESSEE TAKEDOWN please leave a comment. Lena says: What I’d love to know from the readers is this: How dark is too dark for a romantic suspense? Do you enjoy stories where the hero is almost an anti-hero and has to be redeemed by the heroine? Examples of favorite dark heroes or stories would be awesome!  

You can find Lena on the web here: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Join her mailing list.

Carla Neggers: The Joys of Research

Today I’m delighted to introduce a guest post from one of my favorite authors, New York Times and USA Today bestseller, Carla Neggers. At the end of the post, look for a chance to win a ten dollar Amazon gift certificate from Kiss and Thrill. And now without further ado, here’s Carla’s wonderful guest post. Enjoy!

Neggers_Carla_11_col1-2Writing my Sharpe & Donovan series featuring FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan has allowed me to indulge my interests in art, whiskey, Ireland, the Maine coast, “my” city of Boston, sheep farming, ancient history — and food. Even FBI agents have to eat, right?

In Declan’s Cross, the third book in the series, Emma and Colin are taking a break in Ireland when Julianne Maroney, the ex-flame of Colin’s brother Andy, arrives on the south Irish coast to help set up a marine science field station. Julianne is, after all, a marine biologist. Only problem: the village Julianne has chosen is also the site of a celebrated unsolved art theft, the first of a serial art thief who for the past decade has eluded Emma, an art crimes expert, and her grandfather, art detective Wendell Sharpe. Emma and Colin are on high alert. Of all the quaint Irish villages, why did Julianne pick tiny Declan’s Cross? It can’t be a coincidence.

I love Ireland and have visited many times. My idea of “hands on” research! In fact, as I type this note, I’m tucked in a cottage on the southwest Irish coast working onHarbor Island, my next Sharpe & Donovan novel. In the name of research, I’ve sampled not only a wide variety of Irish whiskey but also many different versions of Irish rhubarb crumble. So good! I haven’t had a rhubarb crumble I don’t like. I’ve tried making it at home and, after some trial-and-error, devised my own recipe. I thought I’d share that with you.DeclansCross_188

Rhubarb Crumble

You will need:
About 4 cups of rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/8 tsp salt
12 to 14 T. butter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a glass or ceramic baking dish and add the cut-up rhubarb. 
Sprinkle to taste with 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (as much as 2 cups if you have a sweet tooth!). 
Combine remaining sugar, flour, oats and salt. (You can use just flour or any combination of oats and flours to make about 2 cups). 
Cut in butter until you have a coarse meal (you’ll still have small pieces of butter). 
Sprinkle over the rhubarb-sugar mixture and bake for about an hour or until the rhubarb is fully cooked and the “crumble” is brown. 
Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or with whipped cream.

FYI, I prefer my rhubarb crumble with unsweetened whipped cream with a touch of pure vanilla extract. I might have to have some tonight! (I also walk a lot in Ireland!)

Enjoy, and thanks for your time. For more information on Declan’s Cross and all my other books, please drop by my website — www.carlaneggers.com — and be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Last month I included the recipe for an easy apple-spice cake. All things in moderation, but rhubarb crumble and apple-spice cake are tough to resist. Fortunately, they freeze well.
Happy reading!

 

You can also follow Carla on Facebook and Twitter
Thanks to Carla for her lovely post. We hope you’re having a wonderful time in Ireland with your ‘research’ :-) !
Readers, since we’re on the subject of food, please tell us if you have a favorite comfort food- mine’s cherry pie, because my mom used to make it for me from scratch, and I remember the special fun of learning to bake with her. One lucky commenter will win a ten dollar gift certificate to Amazon. 

The Midnight Confessions of Ella Grace

Manda hbio-picere. You may not know this about me,  but one of the romantic suspense hero types that really cranks my tractor is the small town sheriff. So when I picked up the first book in Ella Grace’s new trilogy set in Midnight, Alabama and saw that the hero was…a small town sheriff, I was SO there. And when I realized that Ella Grace is the alter ego of Christy Reece, who writes angsty, nail-biting international romantic suspense, I HAD to know more.

So, being the Nosy Nellie that I am, I invited Ella to K&T so I could get the real scoop for me and for all of you out there who read and loved her Last Chance Rescue books as Christy Reece and who are well on the way to adoring every word that Ella Grace puts on the page. Without further ado, let’s welcome to the K&T lounge, the delightful, Ella Grace!

MC: Welcome, Ella! I’m so glad you’re here. I first started reading your Last Chance Rescue series cover_rewardunder your Christy Reece name and became a fan. That you’re also an Alabama girl just cements it!

EG: Hey Manda! Thanks so much for having me over. I’m excited to be here. And I always love talking to another Alabama girl.

MC: Bama gals have to stick together! Only we know how grateful to be for the existence of Mississippi! Speaking of locales…Your Last Chance Rescue series feels global in scope, with many of the stories taking place overseas, and the headquarters of the Last Chance Rescue organization calling Paris home. Your new Ella Grace stories are set in small town Alabama, which is about as far from Paris as you can get. What are the challenges of writing about people and places that are so narrow in focus? Do you prefer one over the other?

EG: At first it was a struggle to go from an international setting to a place that could be my own back yard. I love the exotic excitement of international settings. Depending upon how far you want to go in making the setting a part of your story, it can add a lot or a little extra flavor. My LCR characters are sophisticated, street smart, and somewhat edgy. They wouldn’t fare well in a sleepy little southern town, no matter how many murders take place there. So I felt the need to tone down the ‘world-weary toughness’ of the characters but still make them comfortable if danger came calling. Which it does.

When I first started writing the series, I wanted to stretch myself creatively so I worked to keep Christy’s voice out of Ella’s writing. My Christy Reece books tend to be dark and angsty. I don’t think I was totally successful, because there’s quite a bit of angst in the first two books and the third one is shaping up to be even more so. However the blend of Christy and Ella’s voice began to work quite well and became a good fit for the series.

When the town of Midnight finally came alive for me, so did the book. The story wasn’t really working until I finally named the town. I was going for a Southern sounding name but could never find one that I liked or wasn’t already a real city or town in the South. Then I noticed that certain monumental, life-changing events kept occurring around the midnight hour. That’s when the name Midnight struck me, and suddenly the town and it’s citizens came alive.

hcover-midnight-secretsTo create it further, I drew on my knowledge of small southern towns. I grew up in a small Alabama community where whatever you did was scrutinized and talked about almost before you did it. And I’ve lived in small southern cities where shady dealings of law enforcement was known and accepted as a way of life. Having lived in the South most of my life, I felt comfortable creating the characters, from the quirky and loveable Aunt Gibby, the nosey Inez, the humorless but somewhat mysterious Faye, to the hideous red neck characters of the Daytons and Hensons. At some point in my life, I’ve met them all.

It was so much fun creating this pretty little south Alabama town. I’d love to live there–well, except for the murders. :)

I can’t say that I prefer one setting more than the other. However, I do have to get in a particular mindset to write each series. And in its own way, it’s freeing to be able to ‘switch gears’ voice-wise.

MC: Midnight Secrets the first of your new series set in Midnight, AL introduces the reader to the Wilde triplets whose parents died under mysterious circumstances when the three girls were children. Midnight Secrets is Savannah’s story which reunites her with her high school boyfriend Zach. Reunited lovers is one of the most popular tropes in romance. What do you think draws readers to these stories? Do you have a favorite?

EG: I adore reunited lovers stories. Four of my LCR books are reunion romances. There’s just something about having that history, the remembered heat of passion. Reigniting the spark and watching it flame out of control is so much fun to create and watch. You know I love angst and what’s more angsty than past hurts or betrayals and working to overcome them?

MC: Choosing triplets as your heroines for this series is a bold move, and I love it. What was your reason for casting this series with triplets instead of just sisters? Was there something about the bond between multiples–and especially identical ones that intrigued you?

EG: I really wish I had an intelligent, well thought out reason for making the sisters triplets. I don’t. From the moment I sat down to write Midnight Secrets, I knew the sisters were triplets. However, once I got into the story, I realized how much fun I was going to have with it. The sisters are identical in appearance but how they reacted to their parents’ deaths became such a wonderful personality and character study. Savannah turns inward, becoming shy and bookish. Samantha hides her pain behind her popularity, letting no one know what’s going on behind her bright smile. And Sabrina rebels, making each issue that comes her way a battle she must fight and win.

And I do love the bond that they have. It’s not psychic or supernatural. It’s pure, untainted lovehcover-midnight-lies between siblings. I didn’t want the typical strife one might see between sisters. I wanted the girls to be best friends. When the world comes crashing down around them, they have each other. No matter who’s against them, they always have each other’s backs. Their relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the series.

MC: The second book in this series Midnight Lies, is Samantha Wilde’s story. What kind of trouble is on the horizon for this sister, the cop? Who is her hero?

EG: Samantha is a homicide detective in Atlanta, dating Quinn Braddock, who she thinks is the ‘most perfect man on earth’. However when his ex-wife is murdered and he’s found standing over her body, she begins to wonder if the perfection she thought she saw in him was a facade. She’s never really dealt with her parents’ deaths and all of that comes crashing down on her, making her question her judgment.

Quinn is an ER doctor and has been betrayed repeatedly by the people in his life. However, if there’s one person he knows he can count on, it’s Samantha Wilde. Imagine his surprise when he realizes she’s not sure of his innocence.

After their break-up, Samantha returns to Midnight and Quinn follows her. But all isn’t rosy. They’ve hurt each other badly and their earlier relationship put more emphasis on their physical attraction than it did on getting to know each other. This is something they have to rectify if they’re going to move forward. Into the mix comes another murder and once again Quinn is considered a suspect. This time Samantha stands by her man, unaware that the killer has set his sights on her as his next victim.

MC: Who are some of your influences? Your favorite authors, romance, suspense or otherwise?

EG: I grew up reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. (MC: Hi fives! Always love meeting other Nancy Drew fans!) I loved the excitement and fun of puzzling out the mysteries. Some of my favorite romance and suspense authors are Linda Howard, Karen Rose, Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood and Allison Brennan.

MC: Do you have any more projects underway? Tell me about them!

EG: Yes, I’ve started a new series called Grey Justice. The first book, Nothing To Lose, features a young woman who has everything she’s ever dreamed of and then loses it all because of one family’s corruption and greed. She’s determined to see that they pay. Enter a mysterious man who offers to help her in her quest but has his own agenda and another man who’s number one goal is to save her from herself, even if it costs him his life.

I’m also continuing my Last Chance Rescue series, with at least three more books planned. And another book in the Wildefire series for Sabrina Wilde, the third triplet.

MC: Ella, thank you so much for visiting us today! I can’t wait to read your next book, no matter which of your personae is writing it!

To learn more about Ella Grace and her Wildefire Series or Christy Reece and Last Chance Rescue, check her out on the web, on her LCR Facebook Page, her Ella Grace Facebook Page, or @EllaGraceBooks on Twitter.

So, gentle readers, do you like your Romantic Suspense with an international flavor or a downhome flair? Tell us which one you like best, and give us an example! One lucky reader will receive a copy of Ella Grace’s latest Wilde Sisters book, Midnight Sins.

Amanda Brice’s 2013 Summer Reading List for Tweens & Teens

Summer vacation is looming in my house. That big blank spot on the calendar, which I am woefully unprepared for. I have two kids, 13 and 10, girl and boy. Both voracious readers with very different tastes. Five more days of school, then we enter the abyss.

In a panic, I turned again to my friend, the brilliant author Amanda Brice for help. My daughter has read and loved all of Amanda’s Dani Spevak mysteries, and while I really wanted Amanda to write a few dozen more of the dance-world set mysteries before next Tuesday, that wasn’t really feasible, so instead she compiled this list of mysteries for Tweens and Teens.

We are opening up the comments today for middle grade and young adult book recommendations in any genre. On Thursday I will post a PDF of all the books recommended by Amanda as well as all the recommendations from our readers, so be sure to come back on Thursday for a library/shopping list. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Amanda’s PAS DE DEATH plus one of the books recommended by Amanda (winner’s choice) for the voracious reader in their life!

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Thank you to Rachel and the rest of the Kill & Thrill ladies for hosting me today. I had so much fun making summer reading suggestions last year, I’m delighted to make this an annual tradition. Here’s to great summer reading for years to come!

Now that school is out (or will be shortly), moms and dads across the country are faced with the task of what to do with their kids for the next 2 months or so. I can’t help you with summer camps or childcare of occupying their every waking hour, but in keeping with the suspense theme of this blog, I can help provide you with a list of awesome YA and middle grade mysteries!

These books are in no particularly order, so please don’t try to interpret it as a ranking of preference. But they are just some of my faves, and I hope they’ll come your kids’ faves, too.

For the Tweens:

Chomp by Carl Hiassen

Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.

When his dad takes a job with a reality TV show called “Expedition Survival!”, Wahoo figures he’ll have to do a bit of wrangling himself—to keep his dad from killing Derek Badger, the show’s boneheaded star, before the shoot is over. But the job keeps getting more complicated. Derek Badger seems to actually believe his PR and insists on using wild animals for his stunts. And Wahoo’s acquired a shadow named Tuna—a girl who’s sporting a shiner courtesy of her old man and needs a place to hide out.

They’ve only been on location in the Everglades for a day before Derek gets bitten by a bat and goes missing in a storm. Search parties head out and promptly get lost themselves. And then Tuna’s dad shows up with a gun . . .

It’s anyone’s guess who will actually survive “Expedition Survival”. . . .

The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

The first book in this groundbreaking multimedia series sends readers around the world on the hunt for the 39 Clues. Written by #1 NYT bestseller Rick Riordan, and backed by $100,000 in prizes!

Minutes before she died Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her decendants an impossible decision: “You have a choice – one million dollars or a clue.”

Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world’s most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 Clues hidden around the world will reveal the family’s secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what’s important: hunting clues or uncovering what REALLY happened to their parents.

NOTE: Each of the books in this series is written by a different famous author: Gordon Korman, Peter Lerangis, Margaret Peterson Haddix, David Baldacci, Clifford Riley, etc.

Last Shot by John Feinstein

Steven Thomas is one of two lucky winners of the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association’s contest for aspiring journalists. His prize? A trip to New Orleans and a coveted press pass for the Final Four. It’s a basketball junkie’s dream come true!

But the games going on behind the scenes between the coaches, the players, the media, the money-men, and the fans turn out to be even more fiercely competitive than those on the court. Steven and his fellow winner, Susan Carol Anderson, are nosing around the Superdome and overhear what sounds like a threat to throw the championship game. Now they have just 48 hours to figure out who is blackmailing one of MSU’s star players . . . and why.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow’s nest, being the ship’s eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there’d been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

Nancy Clancy: Super Sleuth by Jane O’Connor

Kids who grew up with Jane O’Connor’s Fancy Nancy picture books can spend some quality time with their BFF: Nancy Clancy is now starring in her novels!

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth is the first in a series of delightful middle-grade mysteries. Sassy Fancy Nancy is now a detective. When one of her classmate’s most special possessions disappears from school, it’s up to Nancy to save the day. With the help of her friend Bree, she follows the clues to an unexpected source.

Fans of Nancy Drew’s Clue Crew will be happy to see a new Nancy join the ranks of super sleuths.

Gone by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE.

Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what’s happened.

Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents—unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers—that grow stronger by the day.

It’s a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else…

For the Teens:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

Paper Towns by John Green

When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers. (Winner of the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult Mystery.)

I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

protect the diamonds

survive the clubs

dig deep through the spades

feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He’s pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That’s when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That’s when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

A 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and recipient of five starred reviews, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love by the author of the extraordinary international bestseller The Book Thief.

Investigating the Hottie by Juli Alexander

Peterson. Amanda Peterson. When my life suddenly turns into the Princess Diaries meets Mission Impossible, can I do in a week what I haven’t managed to do in all my fifteen years—reel in a hottie?

When Amanda spends a week with her aunt, Christie, she learns that her aunt is a spy. Christie admits that Amanda has security clearance and has already started her training. When her aunt asks her to investigate a teenage hacker, Amanda thinks that spending time with a nerd should be doable despite her social ineptitude. Unfortunately for Amanda, the hacker is a hottie.

Also Known As by Robin Benway

Being a 16-year-old safecracker and active-duty daughter of international spies has its moments, good and bad. Pros: Seeing the world one crime-solving adventure at a time. Having parents with super cool jobs. Cons: Never staying in one place long enough to have friends or a boyfriend. But for Maggie Silver, the biggest perk of all has been avoiding high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. Then Maggie and her parents are sent to New York for her first solo assignment, and all of that changes. She’ll need to attend a private school, avoid the temptation to hack the school’s security system, and befriend one aggravatingly cute Jesse Oliver to gain the essential information she needs to crack the case . . . all while trying not to blow her cover.

Demons of the Rich and Famous by Tawny Stokes

Supernatural possession is the new “disease” and teen exorcist Caden Butcher is the cure…

Caden Butcher, known as the whiz-kid exorcist to the stars, loves the Hollywood limelight. Or at least that’s what he wants people to believe so he can earn enough cash from his high profile exorcisms to take care of his ailing father. The problem is, not everyone’s happy with Caden’s star status, particularly Remy Martin, a high ranking member of the International Order of Exorcists, who suspects the truth, that these Hollywood exorcisms are staged with the help of Caden’s demon BFF, Dan.

So when a real exorcism goes bad and a nasty demon jumps bodies, the crap hits the supernatural fan. The Order strips Caden of his exorcism license right before he discovers the unleashed demon is one he knows well, very well. This demon is hell bent on destroying Caden’s life and everyone else who gets in his way. Now with the help of his demon buddy, and Caden’s girlfriend Aspen Spencer, a necromancer in training, Caden must defy the Order, track down the rogue demon and send him back to hell before it’s too late.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

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Thank you, Amanda, for putting together such a great list! Now it’s time for me to add my own recommendation:

Pas De Death by Amanda Brice

pas de deux: (NOUN: pl. pas de deux)
1. A dance for two, especially a dance in ballet consisting of an entrée and adagio, a variation for each dancer, and a coda.
2. A close relationship between two people or things, as during an activity.

pas de death (NOUN: yeah … totally made up)
1. A dance of death.
2. When Dani Spevak stumbles over a dead body and gets into another crazy situation.

Aspiring ballerina Dani Spevak is back home for the summer, recovering from an injury. What was supposed to be a simple day trip into New York City to visit her friends at the Manhattan Ballet Conservatory turns deadly when Dani discovers that the world of professional dance can be cutthroat — literally.

Please give us your recommendations for teens and tweens in the comments, all genres welcome! One lucky commenter will get a copy of PAS DE DEATH and their pick of one of the books Amanda recommended.

Lena Diaz Dragged Out in Public & Forced to Speak!

Breaking news …

Diana and Lena

Diana Belchase and Lena Diaz at last year’s Golden Heart Awards

Multi-award winning author, Lena Diaz, was dragged out of a conference in Anaheim last summer and actually forced to speak — on film, no less — by the audacious Diana Belchase.

Despite her fervent protests, Lena was beaten into submission in the most terrifying and horrific manner by her blogmate.  Subjected to the greatest inequities, deprived of food and water until she capitulated, you, the viewer, will see here, the abject misery and torment to which an author can be subjected — not only by the nature of her profession, but in the name of so called friendship.

We ask you to judge, both the perpetrator and the victim.  Leave your verdict in the comment section and for your efforts, one of you will win an e-copy of Lena’s newest release, Explosive Attraction, for your effort.  But be warned — if you consider this a bribe, and the verdict turns unduly in Lena’s favor, Diana has vowed to retaliate — by searching out and videoing each of you… (insert loud menacing echo here).

MUUHAHAHA

Okay, now that that’s over (I just couldn’t resist!), I do have real news.  At a recent conference, it was heard that Lena is a new rising star who not only is doing phenomenally in the states but is taking Germany by storm as well!  All I can say is YIPPEE!

I can’t think of a more deserving person — after all this is the gal who went to the finals for the Beacon, the Golden Heart, and the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, and  WON both the TARA and the Daphne Du Maurier awards  — and she is an amazing person, too.

Lena Diaz, with author Robin Perini, and Diana Belchase during a tour of the LA Police Deptartment

Lena Diaz, with author Robin Perini, and Diana Belchase during a tour of the LA Police Deptartment

What do I mean by an amazing person?  Well, a top mother who fights for her kids in every way, someone who works to spread the message about diabetes and raise funds for research, a friend who always has your back, someone who, while working full time, donates her off-hours to her community and fellow writers.  On top of all that, she’s so modest I could barely get her on camera!  LOL.  Oh, and she still manages to find time to turn out the most incredible fiction I’ve ever read.

ExplosiveAttractionsmlTake her newest book, Explosive Attraction, Lena starts with the hero and heroine and a serial killer on page one and doesn’t stop.  Each page is filled with plot twists, sexual tension, and a story that will keep you riveted until you get to the very end.  Not only that, but it’s written beautifully.  Take a look at this excerpt:

“Even with heels on, Darby had to stand on her tiptoes for a good view of the picture. In the middle of a large, empty room, a man sat in a chair, his posture stiff and oddly strained. The low quality of the photograph reminded Darby of one of those cheap, do-it-yourself picture-printing machines found in drugstores. She squinted, wishing the exposure wasn’t so dark. “He looks familiar.”

“You know him?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe.”

She reached for the picture but he pulled it back.

“Fingerprints,” he reminded her, holding the edges with his gloved fingers. When she lowered her hands, he held the picture in front of her.

She tapped her nails against her thigh. “Why would he have his picture taken sitting in the middle of an empty room?”

“That’s a concrete floor. And those are industrial-style windows across the back. Probably a warehouse.” His jaw tightened. “And he’s not sitting there because he wants to.” He pointed to the arms of the chair. “He’s tied up.”

She let out a gasp and leaned closer to get a better look. Recognition slammed into her, stealing her breath. Was this some kind of joke?

“You know him,” Rafe said, not a question this time.

“Who is he?”

“An attorney, Victor Grant. He used to be in private practice, but he made assistant district attorney last week. I saw him at the courthouse just yesterday.”

He set the photograph down to reach for the envelope again. When he pulled out the watch, she realized it didn’t have a wristband connected to it. Rafe’s eyes widened and he let out a vicious curse. He grasped the watch in one hand and yanked his cell phone out of his jeans pocket with the other.

“What’s wrong?” Darby hated the alarm in her voice, but what had seemed like a harmless prank a few minutes ago now seemed like something far more sinister.

Rafe issued rapid-fire instructions into the phone to someone named Buresh. In answer to Darby’s earlier question, he held the watch down where she could see it.

A stark, digital readout flashed against the white background, displaying 00:00:15. The last number was decreasing—fourteen…thirteen…twelve…”

This is a book you do not want to miss, so please remember to enter  our prize drawing by leaving a comment below  The winner will be posted on Thursday when Lena returns, this time to interview author Angi Morgan and hear about Angi’s newest release.

Winner Winner! You’re Gonna Dig It!

FrontCover-Final-300dpi

 The winner of a signed copy of

CONCRETE EVIDENCE from Rachel Grant is Carrigan Fox!

Congratulations, Carrigan please contact us here in the next 10 days with your snail mail address so Rachel can send you your book.

Next up:

I’m so excited about this interview. Lena Diaz will be interviewing debut author Rachel Kall. I’ve been anxiously waiting to read Ms. Kall’s debut, LEGALLY UNDERCOVER . I’m only sad I’m not eligible for the drawing to win :-( .

LegallyUndercover200x300-4

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