Monthly Archives: October 2013

Happy Halloween and Grave Danger Winner!



To celebrate Halloween we thought we’d share pictures showing how some of us here at Kiss and Thrill dress up our homes for trick-or-treaters.


The first two photos show Sarah Andre’s romance-themed decorations.

Next up is Sharon Wray’s graveyard for the undead.



IMG_8440The witch will greet visitors at my house.

My husband just finished making the coffin, which is on the other side of the front door. Inside are eyes that will light up, make noise, and shake the box when you make a noise.


This week’s featured Kiss and Thrill title is Manda Collins’ WHY DUKES SAY I DO.

“I’ve been a Manda Collins fan since I first read her work, but I think Why Dukes Say I Do is the best thing she’s written yet.”

Read the full review here.

Grave Danger 72dpiThe winner of a print copy of GRAVE DANGER and a Walker-Ames House magnet is…

Sasha Bell!

To claim your prizes please use the contact us page within 10 days and be sure to include your US mailing address.

We have a great week coming up at Kiss and Thrill. On Tuesday Carey interviews Carla Neggers and on Thursday Julie Ann Walker returns for a guest blog!


jack-o’-lanterns carved by C. and J. Grant

The Walker-Ames Haunted House – Rachel’s Inspiration for Grave Danger

IMG_8412I recently attended a ghost tour of the historic logging town Port Gamble, Washington. The town was the inspiration for the setting of my book, Grave Danger, and I was particularly excited that as part of the tour, we were able to enter the Walker-Ames house, which was my model for the Montgomery Mansion. This was my second tour of the house, but the first late at night, with a group of people hoping to run into a ghost or two. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on your point of view) we didn’t meet any specters, but I was able to take some pictures of the interior of the gorgeous old house.

IMG_8416The house was pitch-dark during the tour (since we were looking for ghosts) so I couldn’t actually see what I was taking a picture of–had no idea how bright the wallpaper was, and objects will be off-center in some shots. The daylight shots of the exterior were taken at another time.

In the book Libby stands on the porch and looks over the town, imagining how Lyle felt when living there. Later, Mark has a conversation with Jason on the porch.

IMG_8378Upon entry into the house, there is an enclosed vestibule and then an interior door into the front hall. This second photo is the interior door, taken during the ghost tour.

IMG_8422IMG_8376Next is the entry hall, with center hearth. The stairway shot following is to the right of the hearth. In Grave Danger, this is the first room Libby enters and is disappointed to take in the cold, empty room, which could be warm and inviting, given the stained-glass windows above the stairs and rich woodwork of the staircase.

IMG_8371The curved windows are in the round room to the left of the entryway, and the next photo is of the hearth in that room. This is the room where Libby interviews the elder Montgomery family members.


The house is utterly gorgeous and it would be wonderful to see it fixed up in all its glory, except then people would live there and I wouldn’t get to go on ghost tours and take pictures, and be inspired.


So, tell me, have you ever been on a ghost tour? Or is there a particular tour you’d like to go on? I’m giving away a print copy of Grave Danger and a magnet with a picture of the Walker-Ames house to one commenter.

Heather Ashby’s Thursday Winner!

Thank you, Heather, for spending the day with us!

Heather Ashby 2013 03 07 - 0042-2-5

And now…the winner of an ebook copy of Forgive & Forget is Carmen Pacheco! Please refer to the contact page on this website for information on how to claim your prize.


Coming up on Tuesday, Rachel blogs about the Walker-Ames House in Port Gamble, Washington. Purported to be haunted, the house was also Rachel’s inspiration for the Montgomery Mansion in her book, Grave Danger. We hope to see you all there!

Heather Ashby: Stories of Love and Suspense on the High Seas

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Heather Ashby, a 2012 Golden Heart finalist and author of the Love in the Fleet series published by Henery Press (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite publishers!). Today Heather is talking about her debut novel Forgive & Forget, where star-crossed Navy lovers battle an al-Qaeda operative in order to find a paradise of their own. And because Heather is as generous as she is talented, half of her author royalties are donated to the Fisher House to benefit the military families they serve.Heather Ashby 2013 03 07 - 0042-2-5

Thank you for inviting me to Kiss & Thrill, Sharon, and thanks for letting me share about life aboard the USS Blanchard. Full speed ahead!

SW: Then let’s start with some awesome reviews!

“Bold and steamy with a suspense taken from today’s headlines and a love that breaks all rules.”
 ~ Cathy Maxwell, NY Times bestselling author of Devil’s Heart

“A thrilling novel…takes the reader into adventure on the high seas that involves suspense, danger, and intrigue, as well as forbidden love. This is a FEEL GOOD read that rings true in every regard. It is especially exciting to know this the first in a series. I’ll be eager to read the rest!”
 ~ Susan Brandenburg, St. Augustine Record

“A fantastic debut! Heather Ashby kept me entertained all the way through with engaging characters and a story that had me right there living it.”
 ~ Kim Law, author of RITA-nominated Sugar Springs

Forgive & Forget

SW: These are amazing reviews, Heather. You must be so excited. Can you give us a description of Forgive & Forget?

HA: Because her mother had always boasted, “I have something better than a son—a daughter with balls,” Navy journalist, Hallie McCabe, isn’t afraid to use them to protect the man she loves—and the five-thousand crewmembers aboard their aircraft carrier. Her chutzpah enables Hallie to find paradise with Lieutenant Philip Johnston on shore without him discovering she’s an enlisted sailor stationed aboard his ship—at least, for awhile. Her most challenging test however, occurs when Hallie faces an al-Qaeda operative intent on destroying the USS Blanchard so he too can find Paradise.

SW: How long did it take to write, and how many manuscripts did you finish, before you got published?

HA: It took me three months to write Forgive & Forget, and then two years to revise and rewrite it when I discovered I had no idea what I was doing. Head-hopping? What’s that? Scenes are parts of chapters? People have visceral reactions before they verbalize surprise or passion? Characters have arcs? Although I’d kept journals all my life and had two completed memoirs, F&F was my first stab at fiction.

SW: Which comes first: the characters or the story?

HA: The first two books in the Love in the Fleet series were character first, while the final two are story first.

SW: What drew you to the forbidden work affair type of story?

HA: Um, they say your first novel is essentially autobiographical. Although we never worked together, I did meet my husband in the Navy. He was an officer. I wasn’t.


SW: Although I’d love to know more, I won’t pry. 🙂 How does their affair complicate the scary suspense/terrorist plot?

HA: I don’t believe it does. No one is aware of the threat until it is upon them (except for the mole aboard the ship and the reader.) Once it is upon them, both hero and heroine fleetingly think of the other in possible danger, but then resort to the code: “Ship, Shipmate, Self.” All thoughts of self or friends or lovers are tucked away as they do what they are trained to do to save the ship, then those shipmates they can save, and lastly concern for self or self-interests.

SW: I know the villain you started with changed dramatically throughout your revisions, becoming much scarier and ratcheting up the suspense and danger. Can you tell us how your villain developed and why you had to change him?

HA: I lived in the Middle East and wanted to use my knowledge of setting and culture to describe my plotting terrorists. (Which actually disturbed me, since all we met in the Middle East were peaceful, family-oriented people.) I have an awesome editor who saw that the scenes with these men plotting in some undisclosed Middle Eastern locale came across as stereo-typical. She urged me to delete most of them and have all the information about the plot be shown through my traitor’s point of view as he goes about his business on board the USS Blanchard. Now that got scary. The idea that “one of their own” was the catalyst for the attack. And what really scared me was, once I got into the bad guy’s head, I discovered he was one of the crazies on the news who seems to be functioning in society, all the while he has lost his grip on reality. *shivers.*


Photo courtesy of Heather Ashby

SW: Can you describe the challenges of writing realistic terror plots that could show up on the nightly news?

HA: Because I wrote my villain as a disgruntled sailor instead of a religious fanatic, it downplayed a convoluted terrorist plot that might show up on the news. He works in tandem with al-Qaeda, but most of the focus is on why he wants personal revenge. One of my military advisors recommended that I make my villain an Islamic extremist because “it remains a very real threat and would read authentically.” I think readers are tired of that and – as sad as it sounds – a unique villain who has gone over the edge is more likely to grab the readers’ attention, because that  is what is in the news these days. (*Note to Navy: If you see anything that my villain does that really could harm our sailors or our ships, please take care of it so it doesn’t ever happen. Thank you.)

SW: Can you describe Hallie and Philip? What internal and external conflicts keep them apart, how are they different, how do they complement each other?

HA: Hallie is a lady, but a gutsy lady. Don’t push her, because she knows how to take care of herself and how to get what she needs in life. Philip is the ultimate gentleman— something Hallie would love to have in her life. A nice guy, a stable guy, and a trustworthy guy—unlike her father. Philip is Mr. Integrity. However, she fails to tell him she is an enlisted sailor in the Navy because if she does, he will walk away, because of his integrity. He’s an officer and it would be breaking the rules to date her. She never lies, except by omission. She believes she is protecting him because, according to the regulations, he can only get in trouble if he knows she is enlisted. Before the ship deploys, a sailboat plays an integral part in the story. When Hallie tells Philip he is like an anchor for her, giving her stability, he replies that she is his sails, taking him to places he’d never dreamed of going before he’d met her. Places like…paradise.


Photo courtesy of Sharon Wray

SW: What does Hallie want more than anything? What does Philip want more than anything?

HA: Remember when I said I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote this book? It may be clear here. Besides a general need to do their part in the war on terror, they’re looking for The One. Philip wants a loving woman in his life who plays by the rules and appreciates his nice guy/gentlemanly/integrity-filled attributes. Hallie wants a loving man in her life who she can count on. However, once the suspense unfolds, more than anything, they want to save the ship, their shipmates, and each other.

SW: Your book feels so real, the descriptions of the aircraft carrier, the people who work on it, the sounds, the overall feel of living on board a ship. But as a Navy veteran, did you have to take any creative license with the military aspects of the story?

HA: I took little creative license with the military aspects. My original goal was to write books to entertain our women in the fleet, so authenticity was paramount to me. But I also wanted civilian readers to enjoy the story and see what life is like for our sailors when they deploy. So I stayed away from using too many military acronyms, but did not “dummy it down” so my active duty readers would roll their eyes. The best compliment I’ve received is from a retired Navy Chief who served on aircraft carriers. She said, “I went into the book looking for flaws, but I couldn’t find any(*Heather pumps fist*) I have awesome military advisors to thank for their final edits.

It’s been great chatting with you, Sharon. Thanks again for the invite. I’d like to give a book away to those who comment and/or answer the prompt below. I will send the winner a choice of Forgive & Forget or an ARC for the sequel, Forget Me Not. (It’s about the hot aviator sidekick from Book 1 J)

Now I’m curious how other suspense writers and readers feel about bad guy plots that could conceivably end up on the news. *shivers again*

 Heather Ashby 2013 03 07 - 0065-EditHeather Ashby is a Navy veteran whose mother was one of the original WAVES in World War II. After leaving the service, Heather taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for her son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation – Helping Military Families. She lived in Atlantic Beach Florida with her retired Naval Engineer husband. Forgive & Forget is the first novel in her four-part Love in the Fleet series.

Heather loves hearing from readers and can be found on Email, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads


Travel wish list and next week’s guest

On Tuesday, I mentioned some of the places I’ve been. Here are a few places I’d like to read about and then visit (or vice versa).

Chicago: Home to the V.I. Warshawski mysteries by Sarah Paretsky that I used to devour. Current home to Julie Ann Walker’s awesome Black Knights Inc. series. I’ve driven and flown through Chicago, but never really stopped for the full tour.


Credit: Autho giorces. Chicago Grattacieli via Wikimedia Commons

Alaska: I recently read Nerd Gone Wild By Vicki Lewis Thompson, but really, I just want to go to Alaska.

Credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Andrea J. Leahy ([1] from [2]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 1st Class Andrea J. Leahy ([1] from [2]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Australia and NZ: I don’t care if any books have ever been set in these countries—though I know plenty have—they’ve been on my list forever. Gorgeous scenery, interesting history and architecture, fabulous accents, and rugby players. Need I say more?


The Great Barrier Reef. By NASA, by MISR (originally uploaded to en by User:Seth Ilys) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Peru: Several of fabulous romantic suspense author Cindy Gerard’s books are set here. And I’ve wanted to visit Macchu Picchu since I was ten.

By Martin St-Amant (S23678) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Martin St-Amant (S23678) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I could go on all day, but I won’t. 😉 Feel free to share your own wish list. And even more importantly…

Heather Ashby 2013 03 07 - 0042-2-5Please join us next Thursday when we welcome Navy veteran Heather Ashby, author of the best-selling debut novel Forgive & Forget about star-crossed Navy lovers protecting those they love from an al-Qaeda operative.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Have a great weekend!

Will travel for books

Used bookstore in Bath, UK

Bookstore in Bath, UK

Reading a book is, for me, like taking a mini-vacation. Even when life is good, who couldn’t use a little escape from days filled with writing deadlines, appointments, carpool, kids’ homework, grocery shopping, and cleaning (assuming I were inclined to clean)?

What I like even better is to combine reading with travel. I don’t just mean reading on the beach—though, don’t get me wrong, I’m fully on board for that any time—I mean reading about places you’ve been and visiting places you’ve read about.

It’s fun when an author sets a book in a town or region you’ve lived in or visited, and you can clearly “see” every location the characters move through. One of the many reasons I love to travel is for that extra layer of familiarity with a book or movie’s setting that makes you feel like an insider. And nothing beats visiting a place you’ve read about dozens of times and finally seeing it with your own eyes.

There’s a reason why people flock to Harry Potter-themed tours of London and DaVinci Code tours of Paris and London. We love to connect with the books we read, and setting helps us do that.

The Thames

The Thames

Now that I’ve been to New York City, I can picture the financial district, Central Park, and Brooklyn and understand where they all are in relation to each other.

Broadway & Wall Sts

Broadway & Wall Sts

I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. suburbs twice now, which is a great place for fans of thrillers to live or visit. Just about everything Vince Flynn or David Baldacci has ever written is centered in and around D.C., not to mention our very own Rachel Grant’s book Concrete Evidence.

The Capitol

The Capitol

Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries became even more enjoyable after I lived on California’s central coast. Once I’d spent some time in Santa Barbara, I understood how her fictional town of Santa Theresa could be so small (by my suburban girl standards anyway) and yet have so many wealthy residents and so much crime. And I loved it when Q Is For Quarry took lead character Kinsey Millhone to Lompoc, and up my way to Santa Maria.

It’s rare to read a romantic suspense with Navy SEALs without getting some San Diego highlights. I lived there for two years in college and have visited several times since. I can picture most of its beaches, imagine walking by the famous Hotel Del Coronado, and—thanks to my Navy dad and Air Force husband, even remember strolling on the sands of Naval Air Station North Island.

I did not, unfortunately, encounter any Navy SEALs. Sadly, I didn’t even know they existed when I lived there. 😉

Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado
Photo by Ctorbann (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m a firm believer that it’s not a great year unless I’ve used my passport, so I get a special thrill out of reading books with foreign settings that I’ve visited. And this summer was especially fun because I’m such an avid reader of Regency historical romances set in England.

Not only was it my second visit to London, but this time we did a whole UK tour. Ever wondered what Gretna Green—where lovers often eloped in the early 19th century—looks like?

Gretna Green blacksmith's shop

Gretna Green blacksmith’s shop

Countryside near Gretna Green

Countryside near Gretna Green

Or the fashionable Mayfair district where all good families seem to reside during “the Season”?



Just after returning home from our trip in August, I read The Arrangement by Mary Balogh. In the very beginning, the hero “hides out” from his family for several weeks in the Lake District, specifically Lake Windemere. Hey, I was just there! Maybe you can imagine my excitement.

Lake Windemere

Lake Windemere

When Regency ladies take leave from their country estates to visit the milliner in York, or dowager aunts head off to Bath to “take the waters”, I can picture the narrow streets where they shopped and the yellow stone of the quaint city along the Avon.

The Shambles in York

The Shambles in York

The River Avon in Bath

The River Avon in Bath

And speaking of the UK, fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s Isabel Dalhousie series should take a trip to Edinburgh. I couldn’t have imagined what a fabulous mixture of ancient and modern, urban and wilderness this seaside town would be.

Old Town Edinburgh

Old Town Edinburgh

Reading books about places I haven’t been opens new worlds to me. Reading about places I have been enriches the experience and the memories, taking me down new streets and giving me a deeper understanding of the city or landscape.

I’d love to hear your own experiences of favorite trips that enriched your reading, or books that made you feel like an insider.

Winner of Kathryn J. Bain’s Beautiful Imperfection!

Thank you again, Kathryn J. Bain for joining us this week!


And now…the winner of an ebook copy of Beautiful Imperfection by Kathryn J. Bain is…SHERRY GLADDEN! Please refer to the contact page on this website for information on how to claim your prize!

Kathryn J. Bain’s Beautiful Imperfection

Today I’d like to introduce you to one of my chaptermates from First Coast Romance Writers, inspirational romantic suspense author Kathryn J. Bain!


Kathy began writing more than twelve years ago. Her fifth book, Beautiful Imperfection was released on September 29.

She is the former President of Florida Sisters in Crime and is currently the Public Relations Director for Ancient City Romance Authors.

To survive and pay bills, she has been a paralegal for over twenty years and works for an attorney who specializes in elder law.

She has two daughters and a dog named Gretchen. Her first grandchild, Hope was born in May, 2013.

Kathryn grew up in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. In 1981, she moved to Boise, but it apparently wasn’t far enough south, because two years later she headed to Jacksonville, Florida and has lived in the sunshine ever since.

Below is the gorgeous cover for her newest release, Beautiful Imperfection, along with the back cover copy.


When witnesses to a mass murder start dying, breast cancer survivor Teddy Federline must push aside her anger and trust an ex-boyfriend to ensure she lives long enough to testify against the killer.

Detective Sloan Michaels still has deep feelings for Teddy but realizes that after the way he left her years ago, he has a lot of making up to do. Now, he must keep his focus on the case and off the woman he loves. If Sloan doesn’t keep Teddy safe, he’ll never get a second chance. 

Lena:  You write inspirational romantic suspense. Can you tell us a little about that? What can a reader expect when comparing your stories to mainstream romantic suspense?

Kathy:  Inspirational fiction has certain rules. No curse words, no sexual content, and Christian faith has to be worked in or present in the story.  However, in Beautiful Imperfection, there is what might be considered a partial nude scene. My character Teddy Federline looks at herself in the mirror, naked from the waist up. She’s gone through breast cancer and feels deformed. I thought people had to see what she was seeing. Of course, it’s minor and there is nothing sexual about it. The scene is more to let the reader get a feel for what Teddy was going through.

Lena:   Tell us about your newest release? What inspired you to write it?

Kathy:  Beautiful Imperfection features Teddy Federline who is going through depression after having gone through breast cancer. While out with a friend, she stops a mass murder in progress.  Witnesses to the murders start  getting killed so Teddy is put into protective custody with an ex-boyfriend who dumped her years ago. And of course he’s even more perfect than she remembered.

I chose to use breast cancer as my “scar” because I wanted something that wasn’t considered a “normal” mark. For readers of suspense you know that the hero might have been shot and has the scars to prove it. A woman was attacked and has the scar of the knife across her throat. These are considered “cool” scars in this genre. They are very common. I wanted something not so common and that only Teddy could see. I also wanted it to be more internal than external. Teddy wears a sweater to “cover” herself, though no one can see the scar with her other clothes on. It’s her emotional baggage that comes more into play than the breast cancer.  

Lena:   In addition to inspirational romantic suspense, you write “humorous fiction”. Again, tell us what that means. Do you prefer one genre over the other? Does that humor come through in your inspirational stories too?

Kathy:   Humorous fiction is where you have to make people laugh from page one to the end. Too many times a story will bill itself as humorous but halfway through the book the humor stops, and the book takes a serious turn.

Too be honest, my favorite genre to write is suspense, but after a couple of serious books, I need a break. I try to put humor in my inspirational stories. I have a character in my Lincolnville Mystery Series that adds a lightness to the books.

One reason I write secular in addition to inspirational is no inspirational publisher would have let me use the line, “It’s hard to keep a secret when you have nipples.” (from Knight & Day)

Lena:  (chuckle) What’s the next project readers can expect from you?

Kathy:   I have a suspense book Repent that I’m shopping around. (Someone is tossing people off tall buildings in Jacksonville). I’m also finishing my third Lincolnville Mystery Series titled One Last Breath.

Lena:  Sounds cool! Remind me to stay away from tall buildings when I go downtown. How do you research your stories? Do you have any fun or interesting research tidbits or experiences to share?

Kathy:   I do a lot of research online. For Beautiful Imperfection, I got a lot of information from Abigail Sharpe (author of Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy) who has gone through breast cancer. She was a wealth of wonderful information for my character.

Lena: Do you watch any crime dramas on TV? If so, what are your favorite shows and characters from those shows?

Kathy:   I love Castle and NCIS, though I’ve gotten behind on NCIS. I love the camaraderie of the characters with each other. They come across real.  

Lena:  LOVE NCIS. Or, more precisely, Mark Harmon. Yum! What would surprise readers the most about you?

Kathy:  Nothing. I live a pretty dull life. Other than writing, I’m a paralegal for an elder law attorney. I live with my dog, have two daughters, and my first grandchild was born in May. 

Lena:  Congrats on the grandchild! Now it’s time for a verbal fire drill. Think fast.

* Cats or Dogs?
Definitely Dogs. I just don’t get cat people.

* Beaches or Mountains?
I moved from Idaho to Florida. That should answer this question pretty well.

* Favorite food?
Chili-cheese fries (Mudville at St. Nicholas in Jacksonville has the best!)

* Favorite TV show?
Judge Judy. Love her, love her, love her

* Chicken or Steak?
Steak, medium rare. Any other way is just bad taste.

* Favorite book ever?
Too many to choose one. I’m a fan of Janet Evanovich and Dean Koontz. Impossible to choose just one of their books. And don’t get me started on C.J. Box, John Sanderson, Tess …

Thanks for joining us Kathy!

Kathy is gifting one lucky commenter with an ebook (Nook or Kindle) copy of Beautiful Imperfection. Just answer the following question.

What is the most courageous thing you’ve had to come through so far in 2013?

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