Last week my daughter, my mother, and I held fast to one of our favorite traditions: Going to Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest, the largest annual Young Adult Book Festival and book signing. With over forty authors and their publishers, publicists, and book store owners running the show, the event is geared to thousands of avid YA readers.
One of the things I love about this festival is that although you run from signing to session to signing, the authors have one goal in mind: to meet and spend time with their fans. The authors are accessible to their readers, showing up at ice cream parlors for chats about Harry Potter and sponsoring cupcake socials where the fans and authors play YA book trivia games. The authors even put on a variety show at the end of the festival where they sing (badly), dance (terribly), and read from their middle school journals (hilarious).
The event is sponsored by the Blue Bicycle Bookstore in Charleston, SC and Epic Reads. And it takes place in various historic buildings throughout the city. We caught Jay Asher in a tiny brick courtyard that was so quaint it looked like a movie set, then we saw Kiera Cass at the library society in an antebellum mansion south of Broad street.
We dragged a rolling suitcase filled with books everywhere we went and that was in addition to our two backpacks. My mother and I took turns standing in long book signing lines so my daughter could stand in a third. Between texting and begging people to hold our spots, my daughter was able to get over thirty books signed. Not bad considering many authors limited how many books they’d sign. There were even publisher tents set up with famous authors, like David Leviathan, running carnival games and handing out ARCs and cookies.
We spent time with authors such as Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Kiera Cass, Victoria Aveyard, Sarah Dessen, Jay Asher, Eoin Colfer, Scott Westerfeld, Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Bardugo, Renee Ahdieh, Lauren Oliver, and many, many others. By the time we were on our way home, we had two suitcases and two backpacks filled with signed books, a dozen ARCs, and a “Library Card” bag covered with autographs.
YA’LL Fest is a great experience, and it’s hard to tell who’s more excited to be there, the authors or the readers. So next November 10 & 11 we hope you’ll join us in Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest 2017. It’s sure to be a blast!
I am thrilled to reveal the cover of my upcoming release STOLEN right here on Kiss and Thrill as well as on my facebook page. If you haven’t already, please jump over and find me on facebook so we can chat and please sign up for my newsletter on my website. I’ll post links below for my social sites as well as a preorder link to STOLEN for those who are interested. I’ve also posted Chapter One below for those who want a taste of the story. Thanks for all your support and as always thanks for reading!
When Laura Chaucer, daughter of a U.S. senator, vanishes from her college campus, celebrated FBI profilers Special Agent Atticus Spenser and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Caitlin Cassidy are called in. Thirteen years ago, Laura and her nanny disappeared from her family’s Denver home. Laura was found alive, but her nanny wasn’t so lucky… and the killer was never caught. Laura could identify him—if only she didn’t have a deep, dark hole in her memory.
Now she’s missing again. Did the troubled young woman run away or has the kidnapper returned? As women who look eerily similar to Laura’s nanny begin turning up dead, the Chaucer family psychiatrist renders a disturbing opinion: Laura is unstable, a danger to herself and others. Who knows what terrible secrets lurk in the shadowy recesses of her mind? Cassidy and Spenser must solve one of the most infamous cold cases ever to uncover the answer: Is Laura a killer, or is a monster still out there, waiting to claim another victim?
Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains
Consciousness was the enemy and Laura Chaucer its captive. No matter how badly she wanted to flee into a dark, unseeing void, the menacing chill of the knife pressed against her neck forced her to keep her chin high and her eyes open. As her pulse raged, pounding against the deadly blade, she wondered, horrified, if it was possible for her throat to slit itself.
If only her mind would drop into an abyss. If only she could crawl into a black hole and escape awareness, at least then she wouldn’t suffer. Cowardice dragged her eyelids shut.
Stop running away.
From deep within, a voice demanded she bear witness to her own death.
Like broken wings beating against a gale, her eyelids fluttered up. Evil had been swirling around her for as long as she could remember, but she’d never had the courage to face it. Now, in her last moments, she must find the will. Before she left this twisted world, she needed to know the truth.
Who are you?
The answer she’d been running from her entire life loomed right behind her.
But the knife prevented her from swiveling her head to confront the bastard. A defiant move like that would surely cost her whatever precious seconds she had left. His breath, warm on her cheek reeked of booze, its stench curdling in her already woozy stomach.
Careful not to move her head, she braved a glance down and noted a wood floor.
Where am I?
A candle nub flickered in the dark, its yellow light illuminating patches of dust caked on an uneven plank tabletop. Bare log walls surrounded her. Eager for more clues, she sniffed. The scent of rain and earth hung heavily in the air. He must’ve stolen her from her room and brought her to a cabin—a primitive one.
Who was he?
You know, the voice within insisted. Stop pretending you don’t.
“I-I don’t know anything,” she answered, as if he and her thoughts were one and the same. “P-please, just let me go.”
The knife slipped across her throat, leaving fire trailing in its wake. Blood, warm and sticky, dribbled down her chest. Her head became heavy. The room spun. It would be so easy to let her chin fall, to drift into blessed unconsciousness, to leave it all behind.
But that would mean dying the same way she’d lived: running from the truth.
It’s not too late. As long as you have one breath left, there’s still time to change your craven ways.
Watching the blood, already darkening from contact with the air, snake between her breasts, she took it all in, and a gasp agonized its way up her throat.
She was naked.
Bound around the waist, chest and ankles to a chair.
It all seemed so…unreal. But the scrape of splintered wood beneath her bottom, the shivers that wracked her body from the frigid air, told her this was no dream. This wasn’t another one of her ubiquitous nightmares.
If she closed her eyes now, she’d never wake up.
Her throat burned with the urge to scream. But sensing that might give him pleasure, she clamped her teeth together, stuffing her fear down deep. She inhaled a fortifying breath through her nose. Wiggled her freezing fingers. But when she tried to shift her arms into a more comfortable position, she found that they, too, were tied to the chair, just up to the elbows. He’d left her hands and lower arms free, giving her enough slack to cross her palms in her lap and cover herself. Tears of gratitude for this small kindness welled in her eyes.
Maybe he of the knife had a tiny, shriveled semblance of a heart.
He proved he did not by dragging the jagged blade across her neck again—a shallow retracing of its former path that produced exquisite pain and more hot red blood. The need to cry out shook her body so hard the legs of the chair rattled against the floor. Then he pressed the knife’s point into the hollow of her neck—that spot that ought to be reserved for a lover’s kiss. It was as if this monster could not decide whether he wanted to kill her with a long, decimating swipe or by a swift, stabbing impalement. She didn’t know whether he was deliberately prolonging her agony or working up his nerve.
A spasm of fear knotted her toes. Her vocal chords trembled from the impossible effort of restraint. Finally, she opened her mouth, releasing a hysterical noise.
He wanted to hear her scream? Let him hear her laugh instead. Her pulse bounded harder against the blade, but she no longer feared the consequence.
Whether he revealed himself to her or not, she suddenly didn’t care. It didn’t matter who he was. It only mattered who she was. Relief flooded her entire being, drenching her in joy.
Her death would be a victory.
Because it answered, once and for all, the question that had haunted her since the age of eight.
She was not a murderer.
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If you ever find yourself in Leesburg, VA, head south on Route 15. A few miles down the old Algonquin and Iroquois route, turn left into Oatlands Plantation. Oatlands Plantation was founded in 1798 on 3,408 acres. Once owned by the Carter and Eustis families, it’s now operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s also listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The mansion, which wasn’t completed until 1804, is one of the best examples of Federal estate architecture in the country.
Now claiming 417 acres of farmland and gardens, it’s a refuge in one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia. Besides the mansion which can be toured daily, there’s a carriage house with a gift shop and a wonderful open area where they serve weekend teas. The estate also houses one of the country’s oldest, still-in-use greenhouses and a sunken, walled garden in the Colonial Revival style (including a bowling green, rose garden, kitchen and herb garden, reflecting pool, and numerous dependencies) that rivals anything in Charleston or Savannah.
There’s so much history that I won’t even try to put it into a blog post. But I will say that my favorite things about the property are the interpretive tours and weekend seasonal teas. The annual Witches Brew Tea and the nighttime Paranormal tours are two the things my daughter and niece look forward to every year in the fall.
This year, due to the stress of my book deadline (Dec 1) and my kids’ college application deadlines (Nov. 1), I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make either of the these events. But this past Sunday, we put away our computers and books and headed west. One of the best decisions I’ve made in months.
So instead of boing you with more history, I’ve included a photographic tour of our weekend at Oatlands. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
One of the many water features found in the sunken gardens.
Entrance to Oatlands Plantation.
Late autumn herb garden.
Entrance to the kitchen garden.
One of the many sets of staircases leading down to the rose gardens and reflecting pool.
I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween with few tricks and lots of treats! And remember, if you’re ever in Northern, VA, try to make time for Oatlands. You’ll be so grateful you did!
It wasn’t easy, but I persevered and got inside an FBI field office. What I saw was…
AMAZING! It was so cool to be there! And it was like breaching Fort Knox to get inside. Seriously.
I was part of a tour group from my local Sisters in Crime chapter, a non-profit organization of lovers of mysteries and thrillers (both readers and authors.)
Weeks before the planned visit to the Jacksonville, Florida field office, I had to fill out forms giving the FBI permission to perform a full background check on me. Since they approved my visit, I’m guessing they totally missed my questionable internet searches such as “how to kill someone and make it look like an accident.”
At the appointed time for the visit, I was told to leave my cell phone and anything that contained GPS tracking technology in my car. So, after divesting myself of all of my clandestine spying equipment, I went into the
maximum security prison office visitor’s booth.
All the walls inside were glass from about waist-level up. A security guard was behind a thick wall of glass to my left and was apparently too scared to come out, because he stayed behind that wall the entire time. He spoke to me by talking into a phone on his side. His voice came through a speaker in the ceiling on my side. First order of business, “The Speech”–the warning about leaving my guns and weapons of mass destruction at home.
Then he instructed me to open a heavy, thick metal door in the bottom part of the wall and to place my purse, my notepad, and my Driver’s License inside the little cubby area behind the door. Once I did that and my door was closed, he opened a door on his side and took my belongings out.
I was then instructed to pass through a metal detector while the guard sent my belongings through an airport-type of scanner. He also instructed me to pass through to the next glass-walled room, after buzzing the lock to open the door for me.
Next was “The Search”. He checked every nook and cranny inside my rather large purse. He felt it up so much that I’m fairly certain there will be dozens of baby purses in my home nine months from now.
Once satisfied that I wasn’t hiding any evil clowns, he placed the purse, my notebook, and a temporary ID into another metal cubby inside the wall. He kept my Driver’s License hostage until the tour was over. Once the door was closed on his side of the cubby, he again directed me through the phone/intercom to open the door on my side to get my belongings.
After all of that, I had finally achieved access to…the courtyard outside the actual FBI building. (sigh) Did I mention the entire facility is surrounded by super-high black metal fencing that could probably stop a tank?
From there, I had to go through another series of security measures. Here’s the short version.
- FOUR FBI agents escorted our tour group of nine people the whole time.
- EVERYTHING is secured and requires codes typed into keypads.
- Before going through a door, the door behind you has to be closed and locked.
- If one person needs to go to the bathroom, we all go to the bathroom. The tour group stays together no matter what.
What did I see while inside the building? Here are some highlights.
- Guns. LOTS of guns. Some of them on the hips of FBI agents. Others in an armory.
- I got to hold a Tommy gun. It was HEAVY.
- I got to hold some bullet-resistant vests. The one the FBI SWAT team wears is super heavy. I could barely hold it up.
- There is a Samurai sword in the armory. Don’t ask me why.
- There are bomb blast doors inside.
- They have commercial washers and dryers inside for the ERT (Evidence Response Team) and others to use. Why? Because when you go to crime scenes in really grungy areas you don’t want to bring the roaches home with you (shiver).
- There was a presentation from a special agent who was on one of the ERT teams sent to Orlando to investigate the night club shooting.
- The gun guy showed us all of those guns. Did I mention they were heavy? Oh – and he was CUTE.
- Best part of the tour? The gym. There were two very special agents working out when we went inside. VERY special.
- We met the Special Agent in Charge. How cool is that? He’s the top guy. In case you didn’t know.
- There was a presentation by a female FBI Special Agent who talked about her specialty, white-collar crime.
- Then we got to ask questions. Crazy questions. And they answered us without even blinking. Which is kind of scary if you think about it.
- Oh, and I forgot to mention. The FBI had a photographer following us around the entire time, taking tons of pictures. To what end, I have no idea. But we did get one picture to take home with us (thus the picture posted on this blog.)
- At the end of the tour, we got to go to a very important last stop–the FBI gift shop. I am now the proud owner of a set of handcuffs and lanyard that say FBI on them. I do have to say, their gift shop was a bit disappointing. Very small without a lot to choose from. I highly recommend the gift shop at the LAPD Police Academy instead. But that’s another blog post.
- My hijacked Driver’s License was returned to me at the visitor’s booth at the end of the tour in exchange for my temporary FBI badge/sticker. Bummer. I wanted to keep the sticker and would have gladly forfeited my license in exchange.
Oh, and did I also mention that when anyone leaves the FBI
fortress compound employee parking lot, they have to punch in a special code to get the gate to open? I guess if you forget the code you have to live in the field office forever.
If I had to describe the visit in one word, I’d say INTENSE.
Now I’m off to correct the myths and errors in my current novel that includes some references to the FBI.
Lena Diaz is an award-winning author of romantic suspense for both Harlequin and Avon. Her books have been translated into French, German, Norwegian, Turkish, and Japanese and are sold in many countries around the world. With fifteen books published so far, she has three more scheduled to come out in 2017, and two (so far) scheduled to release in 2018. Lena lives in northeast Florida with her husband of 30 years, her son, her daughter, and her daughter’s cat–Weasley (yes, he’s named after a Harry Potter character.)
Learn more about Lena Diaz by visiting her website.
Thank you Kiss and Thrill for letting me repost this from my other website. I hope that all women out there get the skills to remain safe.
The theme of this blog is Top Secret Washington because of all the special things I get to do behind the scenes in D.C., but it’s also called this because of my spy series. I love empowered women who can take care of themselves — something I’ve always wanted to be, but don’t always achieve. Part of that takes skills — survival being the dominant skill set we all need, primarily as young women.
Here are some tips:
- Don’t walk and talk or text on your cell phone. Pay attention to your surroundings. Same goes for music on earbuds. Don’t get lost in the melody and forget where you are. Paying attention can save your life!
- Notice if anyone is watching you. Scan the area. Be vigilant.
- Walk with purpose, carry keys splayed between your fingers as a weapon. Don’t be so overloaded with packages you cannot defend yourself if…
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NEVER GO BACK! TOM CRUISE AS JACK REACHER! AGAIN!
I’ve read several of the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child in the hopes that I’d love them. After all, his books have received incredible acclaim and there are like a gazillion in the series–which is crack for a reader to have that many books to gobble up. Alas, after reading several, I haven’t quite fallen in love.
In 2012, he brought Jack Reacher to the big screen in the movie not so cleverly titled, JACK REACHER. I really enjoyed it, even though I was skeptical going in. After all, the book hero Jack Reacher is a huge guy. Literally. I think he’s six-feet-six or something. And Tom Cruise, well, isn’t. But just like Tom Cruise won me over starring in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, even though his body type was completely different than the Lestat vampire in Anne Rice’s books, it worked. Completely. Of course it didn’t hurt that Brad Pitt was a co-star. But I digress.
Now, Tom cruise is starring in the second Jack Reacher movie, NEVER GO BACK. And I, for one, am looking forward to it. (To see the movie trailer on IMDB, click the picture.)
Yes, Tom Cruise is Scientology-Jump-On-Oprah’s-Couch-Crazy, but he’s also HOT. In my humble opinion. And even though I wouldn’t want to meet him in person, on screen he’s exceptional. There are few actors as good as him, again, in my opinion.
So, are you looking forward to the newest Jack Reacher movie? Or are you a die-hard Lee Child fan and believe that Tom ruins the character of Jack since they are about a foot apart in height? And if not Tom Cruise, then who would you want to see starring in the movies?
Just for fun, I’ll randomly pick a commenter to win a Kindle copy of HOSTAGE NEGOTIATION, my current release (details about the book appear below). I’ll announce the winner in the comments of this post, no later than Tuesday, September 20.
Many women went missing outside Mystic Glades. She escaped.
When he took the job, Zack Scott heard about the horrors waiting in the swamp. So when Kaylee Brighton dashed into the road like the devil was on her tail, the new police chief gave her a safe place to recover. Imprisoned for months, Kaylee could lead Zack to her captor. Though Zack swore to protect her, only Kaylee knew the darkness that awaited them if she returned. She couldn’t begin to understand what drove Zack, but she knew the importance of having him by her side. Because it wasn’t enough for Kaylee to have escaped. Now it was time to take back her life.
I hope you’ll give my MARSHLAND JUSTICE mini-series a try. You can see the whole series, and all of my books, highlighted on the BOOKS page of my website.