Monthly Archives: September 2012

Adventures on Dragon’s Tooth

I’m taking a break from our usual format today at Kiss and Thrill to instead share with you a real life adventure that could one day become fodder for fiction. As an archaeologist, I’ve had plenty of real adventure. Not the Indiana Jones kind, but still, noteworthy moments of finding particularly interesting sites or cool artifacts.

Like the time in Sint Maarten when a land crab surged from the sandy soil beneath my pit-partner’s shovel right after I said the soldiers who died there in the 1630s were going to haunt us. (Totally true, and one of my favorite field memories ever. Scared the heck out of both of us.)

This is a different kind of story, and a different kind of scary. So now, I invite you to join me on my summer vacation, as my family tackled a fearsome class IV river rapid known as Dragon’s Tooth….

[Note: Follow the embedded links to see photos of the rapid, or go to YouTube to see videos.]

This year, for my family’s summer vacation, we did something really special:  four days of whitewater rafting on the Lower Klamath River in Northern California.

I’ve never gone rafting for more than a day trip and so had never experienced rafting on a gear boat. Gear boats are larger, heavier, and have a big metal frame inside, in which our camping supplies were strapped down. Loaded with supplies, the raft held our family of four and our guide, Matt. Another, slightly smaller gear raft held the rest of our supplies and was piloted by Molly, a second guide.

On day two of our trip, we reached the biggest rapid we’d face, Dragon’s Tooth, and Matt—a wonderful man with fifteen years experience—gave us a choice: we could ride the rapid, or hike around.

It was early August and probably 95 degrees out. We’d been sitting by the river for an hour as Matt and Molly scouted the rapid. We hadn’t followed them down the path to see it for ourselves because we’d spotted poison oak along the route. As archaeologists, my husband and I have had poison oak so many times our immune systems go out of whack when we encounter the nasty stuff. So this is the choice that ran through my mind: walk through poison oak, or go over an exciting class IV rapid?

Seems rather obvious when looked at that way, doesn’t it?

Minutes after making our decision, we were back in the raft, wearing our helmets and lifejackets, and for this tricky rapid my husband and I were given paddles—the only time on the entire four day trip we helped paddle the big raft.

We entered the river slowly. We practiced paddling. We were set and paddled toward the slot between boulders.

All was fine, until we missed the opening by inches and stopped on top of a boulder. We were stuck. My husband was seated just above the drop. He tells me the fall, had we been able to slide forward, would have been steep and nasty. I think my nine-year-old son might have yelped in fear at this point, but I’m not sure. From where I sat, I know it didn’t look good.

[Linked photo note: we were stuck on the rock below the surface in the center of the frame.]

Matt had us all move to the right, toward my husband and son’s side of the boat, and we wiggled the raft free. “Paddle forward!” he yelled.

Truth here, this happened so fast, he might have instructed us to paddle backward. This all blurs together. But I do remember being instructed to paddle, getting back in my seat, tucking my foot in the slot and paddling as instructed.

Then we started to slide backward.

Okay. We’re going backward. Over the drop. No problem. There is another slot. We can go through it.

According to my husband, at this point he rolled backward from the raft. I didn’t see it. I was too focused on the river and my paddle. I don’t know if my kids screamed at witnessing their dad’s ejection from the raft. We are talking milliseconds here.

The boat pivoted, then surged into the rapid. But we continued to turn. Sideways, we washed down toward a huge boulder on the left—my side of the boat. The boulder loomed over my shoulder as we raced toward it. I braced for impact, as if we were in a car about to hit a brick wall. But that’s not how it works in a raft. In a raft, the water carries you up. With swift motion we slid up the side of the boulder, completely without impact. Then we arced over.

[Linked photo note: I believe the boulder to the right of the frame is the one that flipped us.]

As an author, I struggle with character arcs. As a whitewater rafter, I can say that an arc is a soft, graceful sweep along a jagged, fearful face. As we crested the point of no return my most profound thought was, “Oh. So this is how it’s going to go.”

And then I was in the water. This part is as jumbled in my mind as I was. If I were writing this as fiction, I would describe hitting the water, reorienting myself and breaking the surface to gasp for air. But to describe it like that here would be a lie, because I remember none of that.

I remember releasing the boat as we flipped, and I remember surfacing, but I don’t remember the moments I was underwater, I don’t know how I landed, or where. Because none of that mattered in the moment when it happened. The only thing that mattered then was my children, who were being tossed into the Lower Klamath River along with me.

How would they handle it? Where would they land? Would they be okay? Would they remember how to swim out (on their backs, feet first), as we’d practiced the night before?

After I surfaced, I think I knew right away that the raft was behind me. But I wasn’t looking for the raft, I was looking for my babies. As luck would have it, my son popped up right next to me. I was grateful to grip his lifejacket and pull him toward me. To know he was okay. The rush of emotion made me want to cry then, and I could cry even now, as I write this. My son was scared, but okay. I turned him face up and feet first to down the river. He didn’t know I had him and fought me at first. But I kept my grip. Nothing could pry him from my hand.

He shouted that he’d lost a sandal. Stupid Velcro straps. But I didn’t care about the shoe. I had him. And that’s all that mattered.

I instantly spotted my husband up ahead. He tells me that because he’d entered the river first, he’d had no idea the raft flipped until he looked back and saw our son and me in the water.

Husband and son accounted for.

But where is my twelve-year-old daughter?

I turned and looked upriver. There was the upside-down raft. There were other rafts and rafters on the banks, in the river. They’d seen us flip and were shouting instructions and trying to help. But I couldn’t see my daughter.

I screamed for her, asking where she was. I repeated the shouts with increasing urgency. I probably couldn’t hear the answers because I was yelling so loud. My husband yelled too.

Was she under the raft? Had she hit a boulder?

This moment will stay with me for the rest of my life.

My son called for his sister with the same urgency. My panic had become his. I wish I could have spared him this, but it wasn’t in me to be calm and reassuring just then.

My husband refers to this as his City Slickers moment. You know, the scene in the movie when Billy Crystal’s character comes to the realization of what his one thing is, the thing that gives his life meaning? It’s not like we needed this moment. But still, it happened. Dragon’s Tooth drove the point home.

Where is my daughter?

Of course, she was fine. She was on the other side of the raft. She’d surfaced underneath (as we’d feared), but was by the edge, and slid out from under and gripped the line. She was swimming next to our guide, who had called to us that she was okay, but we couldn’t hear.

She heard us calling out, so she knew we were safe. Of all of us, she had the best time when we flipped. All the excitement and adrenaline, none of the panic. She loved it.

That’s my girl.

Once we heard the shouts that she was fine, we swam to the side. I lifted my son out onto a rock, where he stood with his one barefoot and worried we’d lost all our supplies.  But we hadn’t. Everything was strapped down perfectly by our awesome guides. In the end, the only thing we lost was that one shoe, but we had a second pair of sandals for my son, so the loss didn’t matter.

We were all fine. Shaky, but fine.

With help from other rafters, our heavy, loaded raft was flipped back over. One dry bag, containing the pillows and sleeping pads, had taken in water. But the day was so hot, even the soaked pillow was dry before we went to bed.

That night we slept on a sandy beach by the river. The sky was cloudless and the moon didn’t rise for hours. I lay there, with my family around me, too in awe of the star-filled sky and the intensity of the day to close my eyes and sleep. We saw a few shooting stars.

Guess what I’m reading?

I loved every minute of our river adventure vacation. I’ll admit it was more of an adventure than I expected. We knew, of course, when we booked it that flipping a raft, or being tossed in the river was a possibility. The river is always boss. But knowing that and believing it could really happen are two different things. I honestly never thought we’d flip a gear raft. To put it in perspective, Matt has had only one other gear raft flip in 15 years.

There were so many fabulous moments on our four-day river adventure. Years from now I will remember sleeping under the stars; the bear we spotted on the bank; the fishing bald eagles; enjoying fabulous meals prepared by Matt and Molly; my daughter acing class II rapids in the inflatable kayak; my son’s laugh as we were drenched by rapids; and my husband’s exuberance as he jumped into the waterfall at the end of our morning hike.

I will remember and cherish it all. And I will remember Dragon’s Tooth and my City Slickers moment, and I will cherish that, too.

THURSDAY WINNER!

The Winner of Colleen Thompson’s Newest Romantic Suspense Release RELENTLESS PROTECTOR is: Deborah Dumm!

Congratulations, Deborah! Please click on the Contact  Us page and let us know where we can send you this terrific story.

And thanks to everyone who stopped by on Tuesday to greet Colleen, comment or ask a question. We really appreciate you!

Please join our very own Rachel Grant next Tuesday as she regales us with her recent whitewater adventure!

Rachel Grant

Colleen Thompson: Passionate and Relentless

Have you ever met a multi-published, award-winning  author who is so personable, modest and cheerful you think ‘that’s exactly how I want to be when I’m that famous’?

Well, for me that author is romantic suspense writer, Colleen Thompson. She’s survived this crazy industry so long and experienced so many ups and downs in her career, yet manages to remain passionate about her writing and relentless to stay in the game and get her next story published! 

Although she probably doesn’t know this, Colleen’s the first person I met after joining the West Houston chapter of RWA. I tend to be uber-neurotic going someplace new, so of course I was way too early and sat at a table by myself long enough to think that getting up and going home was a really great idea.

Then Colleen came in, smiled that big smile and asked if she could sit with me. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome and not the dumbest writer ever for not knowing lingo like ‘Series Contemporary.’

Even under tight deadlines Colleen attends chapter meetings, pinch-hits a topic if our scheduled speaker cancels, teaches online classes and can always be relied upon to generously give her time to authors in all stages of their careers. Oh, and she still manages to co-host a blog, update her status on Facebook with lightning speed and posts pictures of darling rescue dogs in need of adoption. Yeah, I want to be just like Colleen Thompson when I grow up!

Welcome Colleen! Who are your favorite romantic suspense authors?

I first fell in love with romantic suspense reading Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, and Sharon Sala. I still love those authors and have also come to enjoy novels by Karen Rose and Allison Brennan.

I know for some of your books you’ve actually gone to the small town (for your setting) or done an activity. What was the most interesting thing you did in the name of research?

A few years ago, I went flying in gliders while researching Triple Exposure, whose heroine is a glider pilot. Then I spent a fun afternoon brainstorming with glider pilots about ways one might sabotage a sailplane (what they generally call gliders) to make it crash. Thankfully, they all got into the spirit of the thing rather than calling the FAA to report me!

 More recently, I’ve spent time speaking with a forensic anthropologist about the life cycles of the various insects that feed on a decomposing human body.

…sorry to interrupt…but UGH! GROSS.

After reading and talking about it, I decided to forego the field trip—I could already imagine what it smelled like all too well. (I have what I call “smell-a-vision,” which makes me smell everything I read about or see on a TV or movie screen. This is awesome when I’m reading about blooming lilacs or baking bread. Not so much, when I’m researching decaying corpses. Gross!)

You have been in this industry a long time. If you were just starting today what would you do differently?

I would give serious consideration to some of the alternate routes available today.

Many mainline publishers are giving new authors the opportunity to break in to their electronic-only lines (and buying very few debut titles for their print-first lines.)

There are some very reputable smaller e-presses out there, too, some of which have been regularly putting their authors on bestseller lists. These don’t usually pay advances, but they give a writer experience in working with an editor and publicity team, and some authors are breaking out and into print or indy e-book success.

If I were writing something too different for the current market, I would also seriously consider indy publishing—but not until I had my work independently edited by a pro (not a friend or critique partner) and gotten myself a sharp, professional-looking cover. Then I’d spend six months to a year studying how to launch it right before diving in with self-publishing.

While your dream may have been to publish first with one of the big houses, don’t close your eyes to or be snobbish about other opportunities. With a lot of work, a lot of talent, and some good, old-fashioned luck, they really can work.

Tell us a little bit about Boxing the Octopus?

My good friend, New York Times bestselling author Joni Rodgers, and I met at a book signing and instantly bonded, after which we went out for coffee once every week or so.

She’s a memoirist, ghostwriter, and novelist, while I’m a mass market paperback original genre girl, so we’d had very different experiences, but each of us had respect for the other—and a lot of hard-earned respect for what it takes to stay in the game putting out books year after year.

During one of those talks, Joni compared grappling with the publishing biz to “boxing the octopus,” and I blurted, “That’s it! That’s our blog’s name!

 In late 2006, we launched Boxing the Octopus, www.boxocto.com, to foster an ongoing conversation on the writing life. And I’m still not finished yakking!

Do you like movies that scare you or make you cry?

Ha! Seriously, I like scary books a lot better than scary movies, for some reason. I hate having stuff jump out at me onscreen, but I can read (and write) suspense all night.

While I don’t like emotionally manipulative tearjerkers, if they’re really honest and understated, they can be devastatingly beautiful. One favorite of mine is the Italian film, Life Is Beautiful. Set during the Holocaust, it features a loving father who convinces his little boy (to help him survive the concentration camp where they are taken) that the experience is all a game.

I laughed at the funny moments (believe it or not, there are quite  a few) and cried my eyes out at the ending, but loved it enough to recommend it to all my friends and family members.

Oh my gosh! One of my top favorite movies (only the Italian version!)

You’re married to a true alpha-hero, Mike, a fireman.  Does he get teased by his fellow firefighters given his wife is a romance writer?

Not that I know of, but since he’d just shrug it off if anyone made a dumb remark, I can’t say for certain. For the most part, his fellow firefighters have been awesome, buying copies for their wives and mothers and answering my research questions. One (actually an ambulance supervisor/EMT and not a suppression firefighter) took me for a ride-along one busy Friday night, where we visited the trauma center ER and scoped out all the dicey areas where I could never go on my own at 2am! I used a lot of that research in my book, Fade the Heat.

You used to write historical romance. (under the names Gwyneth Atlee and Colleen Easton.) Why the change to Romantic Suspense?

I loved, and still love, American-set historicals set around true-life events and have recently been bringing some of these older books back (under my Gwyneth Atlee historical romance pseudonym) in e-book form.

Unfortunately, the market for these books contracted in the early 2000s sank, putting a lot of authors (and my then-editor) out of work. I was reading and enjoyed so much mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense at the time that I wanted to try my hand  (after seven historicals, all of which included a lot of suspense elements) in this exciting new-to-me arena. I was instantly hooked—and found a more receptive home for my darker, grittier voice.

What’s up next for you writing wise (or speaking engagements)?

After Relentless Protector (Harlequin Intrigue) in September, I’ll be promoting Passion to Protect (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) which comes out in November. Meanwhile, my agents are shopping several new proposals, but nothing I can talk about at the moment, darn it!

OK, then on to my favorite topic…favorite food ever?

Snow crab legs with melted butter. But lumpy mashed potatoes, my favorite comfort food, runs a close second!

Mmm! I’m right there with you on the lumpy mashed potatoes. How can readers get a hold of your backlist, given that your prior publisher collapsed?

I’m very excited about a deal I’ve just signed with Amazon to bring back my nine single-title (full-length, as opposed to the briefer category books I enjoy writing for Harlequin) romantic suspense novels, which were in limbo with my former publisher’s (Dorchester’s) financial collapse. Already available in e-book form, the books will soon be out in paperback and hardcover formats. Readers have been asking for these books for two years, so this is terrific news!

That’s exceptionally good news and you REALLY deserve it, Colleen! Thank you so much for visiting us today. For more information on Colleen, please click here for her website: http://www.colleen-thompson.com/

Colleen will be answering questions today and is giving away a copy of her newest release “RELENTLESS PROTECTOR” to one lucky commenter. Stop back on Thursday to see if it’s YOU!

 

Winner of NIGHTWATCHER…..

And the winner of the autographed copy of NIGHTWATCHER by Wendy Corsi Staub is

TRISHJ

Congratulations, Trish J!

Please go to the Contact Page to send us your U.S. mailing address within the next 10 days.

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Multi-published RS author Colleen Thompson joins us next Tuesday and will be giving away a copy of her newest release RELENTLESS PROTECTOR to one lucky commenter.

Wendy Corsi Staub ♥ New York

Another sleepless night…NYT bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub‘s newest psychological thriller will not only keep you up at night, but also keep you guessing till the end as she takes you on a dark, twisty journey on the flipside of normal. Wendy joins us to talk about NIGHTWATCHER, the first book in her New York trilogy (Harper, August 28, 2012).

“In memory of the thousands of innocent souls lost on September 11, 2001, and in honor of my beloved New York, the greatest city in the world.” NIGHTWATCHER Dedication

Krista: Why did you choose New York City on September 11, 2001 for NIGHTWATCHER’s setting?

Wendy: The initial premise came to me within a day or two of the attacks, when I heard on the local NYC news that crime was drastically down all over the city—robberies, assaults, murders, etc., were all but nonexistent as people came together in an unprecedented way. But there was absolutely no way I was going to write about it when it was all so raw.  I promised myself that I would wait at least a decade to revisit the plot, and that is exactly what I did.

Krista: “Anything is possible” is the optimistic philosophy of NIGHTWATCHER’s 24-year-old protagonist Allison Taylor, a Midwestern transplant working as a style editor for a NYC fashion magazine. After the attacks on the Twin Towers, these words take on a more ominous tone as her world view shifts. How did 9/11 change your view of the world?

Wendy: New York is my world—I fell in love with this city on my first visit with a school group at thirteen, moved here out of college, and have lived here (now in the suburbs) for over twenty-five years. In fact, I once worked in one of the twin towers. So in a way, I’ve found myself thinking, “there but for the grace of God…”  On that  particular morning, my husband was headed for a meeting in a building adjacent to the WTC, and I was on my way to meet my editor, who worked in the Woolworth building a few blocks north. The planes struck before I left home, and before my husband left his midtown office, so we were safe. But on that ordinary morning, thousands just like us, people who were going about their daily business, people who never dreamed that they were in the path of a deadly terror attack, lost their lives. For me, the random luck people experienced on that day—good and bad—drove home the cliché about living every moment to the fullest because you just never know.

But one of my favorite things about New York—and New Yorkers, and Americans, really—is a resilient, gutsy spirit. After the initial period of jitters and fear, I was, like most New Yorkers, determined to proceed with life as I knew it. If the first responders and the people who escaped those burning towers and the people who lost loved ones could get up in the morning and start a new day, the rest of us had no choice, did we? Of course we don’t—we can’t—ever forget, but we can—and must—go on with business as usual, living wholeheartedly and taking elevators to high floors and boarding planes without hesitation.

Krista: The serial killer in this book is called the Nightwatcher which sounds scary and threatening in the context of the novel, but I remember another nightwatcher in those months after 9/11: the US Military. The constant drone of fighter jets circling Washington, especially at night, brought me a sense of safety. Did you think about the duality inherent in the term Nightwatcher when you chose it for the first story of your new trilogy?

Wendy: I’d love to be able to say yes, of course, that’s absolutely it. But to be honest, I had originally entitled the book NIGHTCRAWLER. The sales team vetoed it at the eleventh hour and I needed a new title, pronto. I was brainstorming with my husband as we were driving somewhere that day, and our then-thirteen-year-old piped up from the back seat, “How about NIGHTWATCHER?” It was perfect. It was also too late to give him official credit in the book, so I’m proudly doing so here. And of course, it works well on so many levels, particularly the one you cite.

Krista: In your thrillers, you peel back the public façade of families to examine the ugly underbelly of private dysfunction and illness. What is it about families that interests you as a writer?

Wendy: Most of us have a family of some sort; most of us have someone who means the world to us, someone we would stop at nothing to protect. Nearly all parents, for example, have a powerful primal instinct to keep their children safe from harm. And nearly all of us feel safest when we are at home. That theme works its way into all my thrillers—danger crossing that sacred threshold, violating the safe haven, threatening all that my characters hold dear. Thus, the walls come down: my readers find it possible to step into my characters’ shoes, and to think “this could happen to me.”

Krista: NYT bestselling author Lisa Jackson wrote, “If you like Mary Higgins Clark, you’ll love Wendy Corsi Staub!” I read recently that MHC has her own profit line on Simon & Schuster’s operating budget. How does it feel to be compared to the grande dame of the psychological thriller?

Wendy: That was a pinch-me moment, to be sure—Mary Higgins Clark wrote the first two thrillers I ever read, in sixth grade: WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN and A STRANGER IS WATCHING. I already knew I wanted to become an author at that point, but had never read a suspense novel. Thanks to her, I was instantly hooked on the genre, and went on to devour every book she wrote. Flash forward a couple of decades, when, as a New York Times bestselling author myself, I was a finalist at last year’s MWA Edgars for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark award. I had met Mary a few times at that point, always briefly at industry events, and had found her to be a gracious class act. But on awards night, we really got a chance to talk.

I got to tell her what an inspiration she had been since my childhood, and she told me that she had read LIVE TO TELL and found it “absolutely terrific.” THAT was probably the biggest pinch-me moment of my life—and there’s photo evidence! 

Krista: I read on wendycorsistaubcommunity.com that you hate—I mean strongly dislike—chocolate. For real? So what is your guilty pleasure?

Wendy: Believe me, I have too many to count. A sweet tooth just doesn’t happen to be one of them, and chocolate, in particular, gives me a headache and makes me nauseous. Ugh. Other than that, name your poison: Wine? Coffee? Salty-crunchy anything? Rare red meat? Sushi, Chinese food, Italian…Bring it on!

Krista: Tell us a bit about the next two novels of the NIGHTWATCHER trilogy: SLEEPWALKER and SHADOWKILLER. When they will be published?

Wendy: The very last scene of NIGHTWATCHER is a twist that opens the door to SLEEPWALKER’s plot, and the same is true of the final twist in SLEEPWALKER, which leads into SHADOWKILLER. Like NIGHTWATCHER and my other thrillers, these books feature elements my readers have come to expect from me: villains hiding in plain sight, multiple viewpoints, and of course, plenty of surprises.

SLEEPWALKER goes on sale just weeks after NIGHTWATCHER, on September 25. The novel opens on the ten-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Allison is now a happily married mom living in the suburbs, but the shadows of the past are never far off. A new series of murders bear striking similarity to the NIGHTWATCHER—same MO, same signature–but he can’t have committed them. Only a few people know the details of the original crimes: most notably Allison—and her husband, who has been sleepwalking lately with no memory of his nighttime escapades. Because this book was set in a real time frame of fall 2011, and was written before those months came to pass, I found myself having to rewrite the book to reflect reality: Osama Bin Laden had been killed, an earthquake and hurricane had struck New York, a suburban blizzard canceled Halloween. All of those events served to enhance my plot—particularly the storm-related power outages!—but by the time I had rewritten for the third or fourth time last fall to reflect reality (a major part of the plot unfolds around Halloween), I was praying for an uneventful November, both in real life and fiction!

SHADOWKILLER comes out a few months after the first two books, on January 27, and is written in two parts. The first half flashes back to the year 2000, when we meet our main characters in the “past” and follow the paths that led their lives to collide for better or worse. Seemingly minor plot points from NIGHTWATCHER and SLEEPWALKER will now catapult into the action, and there are some twists that will have careful readers slapping their heads in the old “I never saw that coming—but I should have!” The second half of the novel picks up in 2012, with Allison and her family picking up the pieces from the SLEEPWALKER plot.

Now it’s your turn to ask Wendy questions about her new trilogy. What was the first suspense novel you ever read? Wendy is giving away an autographed copy of NIGHTWATCHER to one lucky commenter. Check back on Thursday to see if it’s you!

Please take a moment to remember….

And the winner of the Joyce Lamb drawing is…

Mary!

Congratulations, Mary (Sept 4, 7:51am comment),

YOU’VE WON AN E-COPY OF FLASH HEAT BY JOYCE LAMB!

Please click on Contact Us and let us know your email address to send your Amazon or Barnes-and-Noble ebook certificate (specify your preference please).

Thank you to everyone who commented on our interview of Joyce Lamb this week, and to those who shared our link on Facebook and Twitter. We appreciate your enthusiasm for Kiss and Thrill and author Joyce Lamb!

And now for a sneak peek at next Tuesday’s Kiss and Thrill guest…

WENDY CORSI STAUB!

Another thriller from Wendy Corsi Staub promises another sleepless night! Next Tuesday the New York Times bestselling author answers Krista’s questions about NIGHTWATCHER, the first book in her New York trilogy set on the eve of 9/11.

Find out how an East Coast earthquake, a blizzard that cancelled Halloween, and other world events in 2011 had Wendy rewriting the second book in the trilogy.

Join us on Tuesday with your own questions for Wendy and a chance to win an autographed copy of NIGHTWATCHER.

Lamb, Well-Done (Joyce Lamb!)

There has been a bit of strife here at Kiss and Thrill.  Lena Diaz and Diana Belchase have been engaging in an all out war.

It started innocently enough,

Lena lobbed a cyber spitball. Diana retaliated with an e-eraser. But when the poisoned quills began splaying terse notes across electronic desktops it really became too much.  Someone had to win the honor of interviewing Joyce Lamb and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

In the ultimate battle, the two authors initially went separate ways. Lena interviewed Joyce on paper. Diana mounted a sneak attack and did a video interview.  Finally, in a shocking revelation, they realized, that like chocolate and peanut butter (okay you have to be my age to get that joke), they work much better together than apart.

Whew.  It was getting scary there for a while folks!

So, here we present our Kiss and Thrill threesome — er — Joyce Lamb well-done — okay, a joint interview of Joyce Lamb by Diana and Lena doing what they both do best — together!

Lena: Thanks Diana! I forgive you for the e-eraser throwing (rubs bruise on side of head.) And welcome, Joyce Lamb, to the Kiss and Thrill blog today. It was so fun meeting you at RWA nationals in Anaheim this year.

Diana: Yes, Welcome Joyce!  

Joyce: Thanks so much for having me, Lena and Diana!

Diana: We’re so glad you could be here today.  I’ll let Lena run with the questions in print since we did the video below.  See you in a sec!

Lena: I guess the most obvious question is – Who is Joyce Lamb?

Joyce: Well, that would be me and about a hundred old ladies living in the South. I have a Google alert set up for my name, and it’s shocking how many times I get an e-mail saying I’m mentioned somewhere, and it’s in an obit for a Joyce Lamb who lived/lives in the South. I’ve died a lot lately!

Lena: Yikes! I think I’d turn off my Google alerts if I was seeing my name pop up in obituaries (shiver). How long have you been writing?

Joyce: I wrote my first novel at 17 on my dad’s old electric typewriter. I’d graduated from high school early and immediately started college but with only a few classes at first. I got really bored really fast. So I entertained myself by writing. So, hmm, let’s do the math … I’ve been entertaining myself for 29 years. I suppose all that’s changed is the technology.

Lena: What genre(s) do you write?

Joyce: Romantic suspense. I love action/adventure movies and TV shows. So I write what I love to watch and read.

Lena: Me too! Give me some Die Hard or Criminal Minds any day. Love it. What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?

Joyce: They might be surprised to learn that I’m a full-time copy editor at USA Today in the Money section. As far from romance fiction as you can get! I do the Happy Ever After blog in addition to the copy editing, which can be a real handful. But I love it. And if anyone needs me to explain credit-default swaps, I can do that.

Lena: Thanks for the fun offer to talk credit-default swaps, but we need to get back to the interview. Please tell us about the USA Today HEA blog – how it came to be, your role in it.

Joyce: It was all about timing. True Vision (True #1) won a Daphne du Maurier award last summer, right about the time USA Today hired a digital books editor. When he introduced himself and congratulated me, I grabbed my moment and pitched the idea for a romance novels blog that would be the first ever on a mainstream newspaper’s platform. We already had a very popular video-games blog, so I pitched it as “romance novels are to women what video games are to men.” He loved the idea and here we are.

Lena: Congrats on the Daphne win! And I absolutely love the USA Today HEA blog. Can you tell us about your current release?

Joyce: Flash Heat came out in e-book format in June. It’s about a newspaper photographer who has in her possession an incriminating photo that someone is desperate to keep secret. The very hunky star reporter helps her figure out who, what, where, why and how, and along the way they have some pretty funny conversations and some steamy sex. Cole and Bailey are among my favorite couples that I’ve created. Their banter is a lot of fun.

Lena: Sounds like a lot of fun. Let’s get a little more personal for a moment. I’m going to insert some pictures of your kitty-cats, just because they’re so cute I can’t help it. And you can go ahead and tell us about your biggest fear.

Joyce: Dying in a plane crash. I’m not afraid of flying, though. Nervous, sure, but not fearful. I’m just afraid of the plane going down. Once when I fell asleep on a plane, I awoke to that intense sense of falling, like you get when you plunge down that first steep incline on a roller coaster. The plane had hit an air pocket and lost about a thousand feet in altitude all it once. Freaked me out big-time. So now I’m afraid of that sense of falling.

Lena: That would have terrified me! Let’s lighten things up a bit. What would your dream vacation be?

Joyce: Two weeks in a fancy beach house with my closest friends and family.

Lena: I’m more of a mountain girl myself, but then again, I live near the beach so maybe I’m jaded. Do you believe romance books present an unrealistic view of love and relationships?

Joyce: I think romance books present a “fictional” view of love and relationships, for the most part. Just as spy novels and movies present a fictional version of spying. It’s fantasy. Entertainment. And we all know the difference!

Lena: Okay, let’s go with something a bit deeper. What’s your opinion of the current trend to take classic literary works and write new books using those characters? Example – Jane Austen Fan Fiction?

Joyce: I’m torn on this. I find it fun, but I also think fan fiction shouldn’t come with a price tag. It’s OK to enjoy playing with the story and the characters. Share it with your friends and online, but making money off of it turns me off. I don’t imagine that if Jane Austen were still around she would be all that pleased to know that writers are not only making money off of something she worked really hard on but are also denying her the control she should have over the world and characters she created. If a writer bought “fan fiction rights,” if there was such a thing, then fine. Then the author has a say on who and what other writers can do. Mind you, fan fiction in general is a-OK with me! I enjoy a lot of it. What’s not OK with me is making money on it.

Diana:  Okay, I can’t wait any more.  You all must see this interview Joyce and I did in California just a few weeks ago!  Joyce was up for the Rita with not one but two books — against Nora Roberts and Cherry Adair (who btw only had one book each) — how’s that for making it big time!

Lena: Ahem. Gee, thanks for cutting me off there Diana. What, my PRINT interview wasn’t good enough for you? Hm?

Diana:  Actually your interview was great, Lena!

Lena: (blushes) Oh, okay. Sorry about that snarky comment there. Um, back to our wonderful guest. Actually, I thought it might be fun to show a sneak peek from Joyce’s latest release – FLASH HEAT. Below is an excerpt from chapter one that gives a really fun look at the interaction between the hero and heroine – AND – introduces the villain! Enjoy!

“Would you come on?” he called over his shoulder.

“I’m coming,” she replied, irritated at how breathless she sounded. She was in excellent shape. She played tennis every other day, and it wasn’t just hitting the ball around. It was cutthroat, I’m-serious-about-this-crap tennis. On days when she didn’t play, she rode her bike at least twenty miles, up hills and everything. Her muscles were toned, her body trim. But trailing a good twenty feet behind Cole—who moved fast and silently—made her feel out of shape and clumsy.

Of course, it did give her the opportunity to admire one of his better features. The man might be an ass, but he also had a damn fine one. Add to that long legs, a flat stomach—she was sure that a work of sculpted art lurked beneath the crisp shirts he usually wore—and he was indeed a very well-constructed man.

Dark good looks went with the fantastic body. His short, almost black hair always looked as if he’d just gotten out of bed, but rather than looking messy, it was sexy as all hell. Long thick lashes framed blue eyes the color of the water in the Caribbean—and showed just as many shadows.

He rounded the street corner ahead of her, bypassing the barricades blocking vehicle access to the closed street, and Bailey kicked her pace up to a jog. She imagined him standing next to the senator, both already in hard hats and each tapping a foot while they waited. She was just a few steps from the intersection, glancing into the front window of an indie bookstore she’d always meant to visit, when the strap of her camera bag caught on something.

Off-balanced, Bailey spun, more startled than afraid. But then she saw the man in motorcycle leathers and shiny black helmet. He seized the strap of her bag and dragged her back several feet into an alley that separated the bookstore from a hair salon.

“Hey!” she yelled, struggling against his strength.

He slammed her hard against the peach stucco, and a gloved hand that smelled of cigarettes cut off her next scream.

She could do no more than slap at his jacket and helmet until he trapped her between his body and the unyielding wall and held her immobile. Terror nearly choked her. Oh God oh God oh God …

He tugged at the camera bag, but the way she’d put it over her head made it impossible for him to simply tear it away from her and run.

She clasped the strap to her, instinctively protecting the expensive equipment, but then she heard a snick and saw morning sunlight reflect off a blade. White noise began to roar in her head.

He’s going to kill me.

Lena: (shiver) Wasn’t that great???? Here’s the cover for Flash Heat. 

Diana:  Well you have to admit, any way you get Joyce Lamb, on video, in a print interview, in her USA Today blog, or especially in her books True Shot, True Colors, True Vision, Flash Heat and so many others, she is fantastic!

Lena tell them about the prize!

Lena:  Joyce has graciously agreed to give away one digital copy of her novel, FLASH HEAT, to one lucky commenter. Joyce would love to answer any questions you have. And she’d like to know what would YOUR dream vacation be?

Lena:  Thanks again Joyce! You’ve been a wonderful guest.

Commenters: Don’t forget to stop by Thursday and find out if you are a winner! One lucky commenter wins an ebook copy of  FLASH HEAT (via Amazon.com gift certificate) from Joyce Lamb!

You can learn more about author Joyce Lamb at her website, or check out the Happy Ever After USAToday blog!