Author Archives: Sarah Andre

All about Sharon Wray.

IMG_5582KaT member, Sharon Wray supplied all these photographs…take a look at them…aren’t they SO Sharon Wray?! She’s the most optimistic, genuinely kind and considerate friend/fellow writer I know.

I believe the entire romance writing world knows her because of her eight RWA Golden Heart nominations in six years, because she’s always volunteering for chapter positions or cheering others on through yahoo loop emails, and because of the hundreds of poignant photographs and heartfelt blogs she’s posted over the years.

We were hugely ecstatic but a bit confused when we learned her most important moment in being a writer (getting the coveted book contract offer from a publisher) was communicated in a Publisher’s Weekly announcement. (The rest of us usually type the news in all caps all over social media.) Sharon was in the middle of a hectic summer and getting ready for the RWA national conference, so she hurriedly told the overall story, but promised to tell the nitty-gritty details when she returned. And here she is:

Can you tell us about the moment you realized your publishing dream had just come true?

It was surreal. After I hung up on a Skype call with my agents (Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter), having accepted Deb Werksman’s offer from Sourcebooks, I sat at my desk shaking. After all these years (11!), I’d actually sold a book. And two more! I couldn’t even call my husband. I was so afraid to say anything to anyone because I was worried someone would  tell me it was all joke.

But now that I have a deadline, I know it’s not only not a joke, it’s a dream come true. I’m so grateful to my agents and editor, and I’m determined not to let them down.

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Explain ‘auction’ for those readers who’ve never heard the term associated with novels.

An auction is when a novel has two or more offers for publication from different publishing houses, and a literary agent negotiates the best deal for his or her author. Negotiations can include (but aren’t limited to) advances, subsidiary rights, marketing plans, release dates, etc. For the author, it’s very exciting and a crash course in all things publishing. Here’s a great article by Rachelle Gardner who explains it much better than I ever could!

What was your family’s reaction after you sold?

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Donut the Dog whose lack of interest keeps Sharon humble.

They were all so excited, including the dog, and they gave me hugs and we all cried. Then we went out to dinner to celebrate! And while at dinner, the kids asked about going to Disney World to really celebrate. Still thinking about that one. :)

When did you you know you wanted to start writing novels?

In 2004, my four-year old twins and I moved to Savannah, GA from Fairfax, VA (temporarily) to take care of my father who was dying of cancer. Taking care of my dad and the twins, while my husband was still in Virginia, was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do. There was little free time and lots of stress involved.

It was during this time that my sister-in-law Kieran Kramer (now a USA Today Bestselling author for St. Martin’s Press) suggested I keep track of everything going on in my journal. Kieran had always been a writer and was actively pursuing a romance writing career. And I’d always admired her talent and perseverance.

During the summer of 2004, I found that writing helped me find a place for all of my emotions and I slowly moved from non-fiction into fiction. I realized that all the stories I’d always had in my head needed an outlet. In 2005, after my dad’s death, I finished my first manuscript, joined RWA, and entered the Golden Heart (and didn’t final!). After that, although I was in the early stages of learning how to write, I was hooked!

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In those 11 years, you’ve done an incredible amount of research and learning writing craft. What “Ah-Ha!” craft resources do you recommend?

There are so many, but here’s a list of my favorites:

Laura Baker & Robin Perini’s Discovery Story Magic 

Laura Baker’s Turning Points (DSM part 2)

Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat

Alicia Rasley’s Emotion without Purple Prose

Kathleen Baldwin’s Scene & Sequel

Suzanne Johnson’s Plot Quilting 101

Margie Lawson’s Rhetorical Devices & Empowering Character’s Emotions

Tiffany Lawson Inman’s Madness to Method &  Writing Authentic Choreograph

Back to your contract details! Do you have tentative titles and publication dates?

The Series title is The Deadly Force Series which I love. I honestly don’t know yet about whether or not I can keep my original titles. I also don’t know my publication dates, but I hope to know soon.

Right now the first three books are titled:

When Next We Meet

Hope Craves an Execution

Pale in Her AngerIMG_5555

I thought this saga was planned for 6 novels. Are you cutting the series short or planning on another multiple book deal?

For now I’m writing the first three books in the series for Sourcebooks. Hopefully, if things go well, I’ll be asked to write the next three.

Can you give us the overall story line for the series?

The Deadly Force series is about Colonel Torridan and his group of elite ex-soldiers who operate a self-defense school while seeking the truth behind an operation gone wrong.

These men are devoted to each other, determined to seek the truth instead of justice, and willing to risk their honor, their lives, and their souls to save themselves and the women they love. And, in the process, protect the world.

Do you believe in Serendipity?

Yes. I also believe in God’s timing. And in my case, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I have three books to write in the next two years, but the kids go off to college next summer. I was already worried about how I was going to handle that (I suspect I won’t be handling it well) but now that I have three books coming out, I know I’ll be too busy to cry or feel lonely.

The timing of Sourcebook’s offer isn’t an accident and I’m so grateful that when the twins do go off to school, I’ll have plenty of work to focus on (besides my husband and dog!). I’m also grateful this didn’t happen earlier. I wouldn’t give up the time I’ve spent with my family for anything in the world.

Three Books you’d take to a deserted Island?

JR Ward’s Dark Lover (Paranormal Romance), Stephen King’s The Shining (Horror), and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me (YA)

 Favorite foods you can’t say no to?

Oreos. Perfection in a small, round cookie.

Yummy. :) Do you have any advice for writers still waiting for the call?

Never Pillow

Never stop writing. But Winston Churchill said it best in his October 29, 1941 speech at his childhood school (he almost didn’t graduate).

“. . . never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

This quote–this speech–has never failed me in my darkest moments of self-doubt and worry.

Sharon, I think you know how much we’ve looked forward to celebrating your publishing contract, and how excited the eight of us are for you! Thanks for the pictures, and even formatting this for me, because that’s just the kind of friend you are!! –Sarah

Sharon-Wray

You can find Sharon here at Kiss and Thrill and DON’T miss her own blog www.sharonwray.com (it’s what a blog SHOULD be!)

She also loves to connect with readers on: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.

A Writer’s Dream-Come-True!

Sharon-Wray

We, Kiss and Thrill authors, are ecstatic to announce that one of our own has sold a 3-book deal AT AUCTION to Sourcebooks! Sharon Wray has always been one of the greatest supporters and cheerleaders of other writers, all while steadily toiling at rewriting/revising her own work. She is a multiple award winner, whose superior stories have stood out for so long that we’ve screamed ourselves breathless at this prestigious acknowledgement. Sharon is attending the Romance Writers of America conference this week, but feel free to post your celebratory comments, we’ll make sure she gets them! Here are ours:

Sharon, it may be a cliche to say it couldn’t happen to a nicer person, but in this case it’s true. No one is more deserving, more talented or has worked harder than you. I am beyond thrilled for you, and I know this is only the beginning of a fabulous career. Congratulations and much love!-Carey.

I’m so excited for you, Sharon. All of your hard work and persistence are paying off. Can’t wait to read your books!- Gwen.

Congratulations Sharon! I’m thrilled that your book is receiving the attention it deserves. You’ve researched every detail of this, rewritten, reworked, and caressed every line. I’m so proud of you and will be the first one up on my feet cheering when you win the Rita someday soon! Big proud hugs–Diana.

Sharon! I am so thrilled for you! Knowing how hard you’ve worked for this and how many ups and downs you’ve gone through in this process makes this moment that much sweeter. Your success is well deserved and I can’t wait to see your successes on the published side of the curtain! Much love, Manda.

Sharon, Congratulations on your debut sale! A series, at auction, no less! How cool is that? You’ve worked so hard for this. I’m so thrilled for you. Enjoy the ride. -Lena.

I am as excited about your news as if it were my own! For years I’ve been in awe of your amazing talent and your generosity towards other writers. Now it’s your turn. And I can hardly wait for the rest of the world to read your sensational romantic suspense stories. Your career hasn’t just started- it’s already racing down the success highway. Buckle up! -Sarah.

Sharon is an amazing talent and a generous, caring friend. I’m so thrilled that the world is going to discover a shining new star. Congratulations, Sharon! I cannot wait to see how bright you shine! xoxo Krista

Sharon, from the moment we met in 2011 I’ve known you would make a huge entrance onto the romantic suspense stage! I’m so happy for you, but I’m more happy for *me* because now I finally get to read your amazing books which I’ve been dying to read since I judged you in a contest (just weeks before our first meeting) and knew without a doubt you would win. And you did. See, I’m right about everything. 

Congrats sweetie!! I couldn’t be happier for you (and me)! -Rachel.

toast

 

Cheers, Sharon! Hope you’re enjoying RWA.

And the 5 Winners Are…

toastCongratulations to:

Shelly Chalmers

Amy Patrick

Sandra Owens

Nan Dixon

Loretta Wheeler

You’ve all won a digital copy of Lark Brennan’s new release: IRRESISTIBLY YOURS. For the latest gushing review, check out today’s USA Today HEA Blog!

LarkBrennan_IrresistiblyYours_HR

Please click on the Contact Us page

and let me know your email address. Happy Reading!

-Sarah Andre

A Magical Shop in Paris Generates a Novel

deyrolleToday is release day for Lark Brennan’s second book in The Durand Chronicles. This is a series based on the psychic skills of the powerful Durand family and their war against the evil faction in the world; the Dissemblers, who thrive on creating chaos and death. IRRESISTIBLY YOURS is Adrien’s story, the most powerful member of the Durand family. What’s compelling in this fast-paced adventure/thriller is the inner demons he faces and the critical decisions he’s forced to make for the family’s survival. It’s a riveting read, and I’m pleased to welcome Lark back to KaT today!

Tell us where did you got the idea for IRRESISTIBLY YOURS?LarkBrennan_IrresistiblyYours_HR

On a rainy January day in Paris, my husband and I were strolling down the rue du Bac when a window display of framed insect specimens caught his eye.

We went into the charming little garden shop, browsed for a few minutes, and were about to leave when the woman behind the counter told us we absolutely must go upstairs.

We weren’t expecting much, but it was raining and cold outside so we climbed the worn stairs and emerged among Deyrolle’s incredible collection of taxidermy animals—featuring every species from elephants and giraffes to donkeys, wolves, rabbits, and even mice–all posed as though they are having a jolly time in the elegant townhouse. Then and there I fell in love with the place and every creature in it.54

I joked to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the man who owned Deyrolle could bring the animals to life when no one was around?” That imaginary man later became Adrien Durand, and IRRESISTIBLY YOURS is his story.

It was important that Adrien Durand’s ability to animate the taxidermy animals of the Maison d’Ermonie have a plausible and serious purpose that makes him uniquely qualified to be head of the family. The last thing I wanted was to write a Night at the Museum Meets Doctor Dolittle comedy.

Instead, the entire structure of the psychic world evolved around what the ‘animals’ are and the enormous stakes the family has in protecting them. Although the paranormal elements are an integral part of the world, the story includes suspense, international intrigue, a bit of pseudo-science and, of course, a love story.

Tell us a little about Adrien and Tate.

Adrien2 (2)

Lark’s inspiration for Adrien

One of the most powerful telepaths in the world, Adrien loved being a covert agent in the Durands’ war against their ancient enemies and hates being trapped in Paris running the family’s worldwide business empire. The one thing he treasures is his ability to connect with the beings who inhabit Maison d’Ermonie’s taxidermy animals—until Tate shows up and his world is turned upside down.

Tate is an animal telepath and empath from Indiana who has hidden her abilities in order to protect herself. The joy in her life comes from volunteering in animal rescue organizations where she can help animals with her unique abilities. When she meets Adrien, for the first time she doesn’t need to hide who she is–which makes it far too easy to fall hopelessly in love with him.

Are The Durand Chronicles a continuous story or does each book stand alone?

The books can definitely stand alone although I think they’re more fun to read in order. Each is a complete romantic suspense with a different Durand cousin as the hero or heroine.  There’s an over-arching story that threads through the series but it’s very easy to pick up at any point. Some of the characters from Book 1 appear in Book 2 and readers are introduced to new family members–all navigating tricky family dynamics.

LarkBrennan_DangerouslyYours_2500px

Released last year

The Durand Chronicles have been called a mash-up of suspense, romance, adventure, and paranormal. How would you describe the stories?

You forgot science fiction. :) I call them romantic suspense with a psychic element. The series takes place in the present in the Real World but unbeknownst to the general population, some people have genetic-based psychic abilities. The Durands are among the most powerful of those psychics.

Each book has a fast-paced suspense plot. For two centuries the Durands have been waging a covert war with a faction of psychics bent on controlling non-psychics by creating chaos, destruction and terrorism, and that conflict is always in the background. In IRRESISTIBLY YOURS, a new, unsuspected enemy sets out to destroy Adrien and his entire family using both psychic and legal manipulation—and manages to throw suspicion on Tate and divide the family in the process. 

Could you give us a short excerpt based on your visit to Deyrolle, so the readers can see the charming humor the animals bring to the story? (Readers: There really IS a horse to greet you as you reach the top of the stairs!)

Excerpt

Tate’s smile wilted as Adrien led her through the gallery of stuffed animals to reception. He was sorry to disappoint her but the sooner she was gone, the better. What had passed between them when he touched her was out of his control, and nothing in this place could ever be out of his control. That was who he was and what he was.

“Thank you,” she said. You and this enchanted place are what I’ll remember of Paris.

He’d read her thoughts and his instincts went on high alert. She sensed too much. “Would you like to have lunch?” he asked.

“I wish I could. I’m due at the convention center at one.”

“Tomorrow, perhaps? Here at twelve thirty?”

Her eyes lit up and he was rewarded with a lovely smile.

“I’d like that.” She stroked the horse’s neck on her way down the stairs. “It was nice meeting you, Maurice. Au revoir, Mr. Durand.”

His reply lodged in his throat. “Bye,” he managed as she disappeared down the stairs.

When the door below closed he whirled on the horse. “Maurice? How the hell did she know your name?”

The horse’s ear twitched. A good guess?

“I don’t think so.” He turned so he could address the room. “What’s going on here?”

Louis, a huge African lion, replied. Don’t you like her?

“I don’t even know her. And anyone showing up here with empathic abilities that strong is suspect. What if she’s a Dissembler?”

She isn’t, Maurice replied. She’s completely untrained and unguarded. You know that. You were in her head the entire time she was here.

“Forget it. I’m not looking for a woman.” Especially an empath.

The llama replied, Tate is different. She felt us. She likes us.

“That is not good. Even if she isn’t a spy, someone sent her here.”

Victor appeared in the doorway. “So who was the empath?”

“Some American tourist,” Adrien snapped.

“What’s your problem?”

He’s taking her to lunch tomorrow, a cheetah confided.

Victor grinned. “Really?”

Adrien groaned. “You’re on my side. Humans stick together.”

“She looked pretty hot to me—in a wholesome sort of way.”

“Drop it. What do you have for me?”

Victor handed him a business card. “His camera crew is due at two o’clock to plan the video shoot. In the ballroom.”

Which was in chaos. Adrien chuckled. “Then let’s go put it in order.”

They entered the ballroom and Victor leaned against the wall, awaiting directions.

Adrien crossed to the center. He stood among the stuffed animals and breathed deeply, focusing on tapping into the power of the Source below. The energy swirled and pulsed until the air crackled. Soon the power surged through him, growing, pounding, expanding until it filled his body and mind with light. Slowly he lifted his arms.

The energy flowed from the Source through him to the Guardians, pure spirits who had taken possession of the stuffed bodies over the past three centuries.

The animals began to move.dss

Thank you so much for sharing the incredible story-behind-the-story. Because I’ve been on this particular book’s journey with you from the first time you handed out pages in a critique group, I made a point of visiting Deyrolle a few years ago, and it was as magical as you described! The most remarkable part of wandering through rooms of vibrant, astonishingly alive-looking animals in the most darling poses was thinking: “Lark nailed it!”

On behalf of my eleven-year critique partner, I’d like to gift 5 digital copies of IRRESISTIBLY YOURS to 5 lucky commenters!

QUESTION: What quirky way does your pet communicate with you? (Can be an animal from your past.) 

Winner will be announced on Friday, June 25th!

 

 

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Lark Brennan

– Author Bio, Social media & Buy Links

 

Lark Brennan’s love of reading, writing and travel — including a few years spent sailing and diving in the Virgin Islands –has led to a string of colorful jobs and a well-worn passport. Her travels have also inspired her romance series, The Durand Chronicles, which takes place in some of her favorite destinations—Paris, British Virgin Islands, New Orleans and Scotland. Lark dreams of one day moving to Paris, and in the meantime lives in Texas with her brilliant husband and two adorable canine “children.”

You can find Lark Brennan at: www.larkbrennan.com

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Twitter: @larkh

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Celebrating our GH Sister, Diana Belchase

Hi, Sarah Andre here! For those of you who don’t know what the RWA Golden Heart® is, it’s the most prestigious contest in the nation for romance writers. A tiny percentage of entrants are called in late-March, and notified that their scores (judged by fellow writers) were high enough to qualify for the nomination. What exactly does getting a nomination mean? It’s the equivalent of getting an Oscar nomination! No joke. And guess what? We at Kiss and Thrill are thrilled to congratulate one of our own for this incredible career achievement–Diana Belchase! Let’s get to know her a lot better, shall we?

  1. sarah-and-diana-golden-heart-2012

    Sarah and Diana at the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony

    Tell us about the 2016 GH call!

Oh my goodness, it was incredible. Diane Kelly, the President of RWA, called me personally. It meant so much because I knew her, and because of that, this is the first time I can remember who called me this clearly. It still is very much a haze. I had forgotten that Friday was “THE” day we’d find out. So the call first went to voicemail and then when she rang back again, and she said “Hi, this is Diane Kelly from RWA.” I just went blank – wondering why she was calling me and I said, “Yes? Nice to hear from you.” So Diane repeated herself, “DIANA, THIS IS DIANE KELLY CALLING YOU FROM RWA.” She didn’t yell, but she did emphasize her words very strongly. All of a sudden the light bulb went off and instead of being more coherent, I was much, much less coherent. I remember trying so hard to not scream in her ear. I was absolutely surprised and dazed.

  1. This is your third nomination, and you won the Romantic Suspense category in 2011. How is this a different experience?

The first time I won in 2011 it was a surreal experience. I was thrilled, but I didn’t fully understand what the Golden Heart® meant. Being in the world of finalists was such a different experience – we were competitors, yet became really good friends. In fact, we started a blog together! And making those friends has been one of the best experiences of my life.

In 2012 when I finaled a second time, it was a total relief. Frankly, I thought the first time around was a fluke – i.e. the right combination of judges and just plain luck. Of course, that is always true to a certain extent, but down deep I felt unworthy the first time out. The second nomination said, despite all the rejections and near misses at being published, I did write well enough for people to like my work, and it meant the world to me.

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The coveted Golden Heart medallion

Now, in 2016 as a third-time nominee, it has come at a moment when I really needed a burst of confidence. It’s been a long waiting game, bittersweet seeing so many of my Golden Heart® friends get published — I’m thrilled for them, but have been feeling a bit left behind. This nomination reminds me that even if editors think “there are too many female spies on the market” (really would we ever say there were too many male spies on the market?) that there are at least eighteen people out there who have read my work and like it. Eighteen glorious people who might one day buy my books.

This time is so much sweeter because I know so many more writers and people online. To have blogmates, like you, want to honor me by interviewing me is something I’d never believed would have happened to me. Seeing so many fellow GH nominees, now published, and up for RITAs® at the same time is amazing! It is great to cheer for them, to support them, and to know they are rooting for me, too. Most of all, I am honored, so deeply and incredibly honored to be among the smart, fabulous Golden Heart® nominees once again.

  1. Can you give us a blurb or excerpt of SPY IN THE MIRROR?

Her contact is dead, her bureau chief is missing, and the guy she’s in love with might be working for the enemy.

After watching her parents’ car explode like the final blast of a dying star, rookie spy Trina Bianchi becomes determined to follow in their footsteps, to hone her skills, and to track the man who ordered their deaths. But as the desire for vengeance consumes her, can anyone crack the ice of her heart? Will she ever be happy or allow herself to love?

Sent into her first big mission in Hong Kong, Trina is ordered to do the one thing she isn’t good at – make friends. Why can’t she just plant bugs, climb buildings, and break into safes like usual? Instead, she must enter posh, British ex-pat society in order to uncover the murderous traitor killing agents and selling U.S. military secrets.

Soon she’s juggling a lecherous boss at her cover job, catty socialites, playboy financiers, and ducking bullets – losing her heart to the one man she can never have.  Will she succeed before someone launches a U.S. nuclear weapon against the American people?

  1. Wow, that’s pretty riveting! How did you come up with the BORN TO SPY series idea?

Every story starts with a germ of an idea taken from real life. The Spy in the Mirror came to be because of the Cox report – investigating how U.S. secrets ended up in the hands of China. Escape From the Harem came from an article about Prince Jeffrie inviting American starlets to his palace and then not letting them leave. But most of all this series came about because it was what I wanted to read and couldn’t find: a woman who was as capable as James Bond, but dealing with the things he never did – a family, insecurity, choosing between insatiable vengeance and love.winning-the-golden-heart-2011

  1. If this goes to Hollywood, who do you envision playing your h/h?

It is totally ridiculous but I’d love Taylor Swift to play Trina. And Trina is a dark brunette, and Taylor is blonde – but when she played both roles of geeky neighbor and sexy, have-it-all cheerleader for her You Belong With Me video, I said, wow, that’s Trina – the geeky girl who can transform herself into anyone she needs to be.  I haven’t thought about who the hero would be, but his song is definitely Chris Daughtry singing What About Now.

  1. Do you write full time? If not what does your day look like?

I write as much as I can between the craziness of daily life. And that is a good chunk of every day, but also includes blog posts and writing and producing my TV show, BookSmart which currently airs only in the D.C. area but hopefully will soon be expanding it’s market. (Ssshhh!) We just got a new director and a new studio so I’m very excited about that. Of course, my fiction is my first love and that takes up a good part of my day, too.

  1. Favorite food you can’t say no to?

Brussels sprouts. Okay cringe and laugh, but I absolutely love them! I love chocolate ice-cream, too.

  1. (Whew! Saved by chocolate ice cream…) What question should I have asked, that you would like readers to know about you?

That I’m very grateful to have you interview me today and that I’m so proud to be a member of Kiss and Thrill. Thank you so very much.

Thank you so much for answering these questions, and know that every one of us is rooting for you!

Want to know Diana even better? Check out her website  and Facebook page!

Burying Secrets in my Novel

Sarah AndreExcept for making my Houston personal trainer the psycho in my first romantic suspense (hey, I could’ve cut him into pieces and stuffed him in garbage bags!) there was no ME in the story. I’m not an Olympic skier, (surprise!) nor a journalist, I’ve never been to Aspen…it all came straight from my imagination.

I can’t say the same for my new novel: Tall, Dark and Damaged, released last week. I set the story in Winnetka, IL, a sleepy suburban town north of Chicago. I took my 7-year-old-self’s memory of my grandparents’ sprawling  house on Sheridan Road, overlooking Lake Michigan, and evolved it into a billionaire’s lost-in-a-maze mansion. There’s some creepy Gothic-toned scenes of a tight, spiraling back staircase (like right out of a Hitchcock film,) and my grandparents’ house had that…dumped out into the kitchen. Even had a hidden door halfway down that housed a secret passageway to a set of bedrooms. (Also in the story.)

Guilded Age Mansion

Not the actual house.🙂

Both feature a boathouse carved into a cliff-side that resembles a castle. The cliff was a shocking 30 foot drop from an expansive back lawn to the sand, which used to terrify me as a child. Even worse, the stone stairs to climb down to the beach were steep, narrow and weathered-smooth. I play the visceral fear up in the novel. 

My copy editor cautiously advised me to make up a soda name when I explain the hero’s family fortune came from his great-grandfather inventing Orange Crush. The thing is–my great-grandfather invented Orange Crush.🙂 Clayton J. Howel. (Wikipedia it!) Unfortunately, he sold the patent immediately or I’d be writing this from a cabana in Monaco!😉

The epic thunderstorms over Lake Michigan would slam the surf into the cliff, and the reverberation would shake that enormous house to it’s foundation. Naturally a scene had to occur during the savage weather!

Hawaiian coast

This is actually in HI, but you get what I mean.

Quite a few character names were borrowed from friends and family (ex., cousins I used to play with in that house. The nanny my parents hired when we lived in England.)

A significant subplot occurs surrounding an area called Rogers Park, which  is a real place, my uncle lived there many years, and he was a catalyst in correcting the story’s Chicago details. He and his sister, my Aunt Mary, read a full version in 2010, but sadly they’ve passed away now. I named them and my grandparents in the dedication.

I’m not sure this is very usual- taking a memory you had as a child and enriching details but burying many secrets and hidden meaning within the pages. However, it’s a story that touches my heart because it wasn’t just created out of my imagination. In many ways I lived it. Except, of course, for meeting a white-hot, emotionally damaged hero.😉talldarkdamaged-andre-ebookweb version 2[2]

I hope you enjoy this romantic-mystery/suspense/thriller. Would love to hear what you think!

Amazon     B&N     iTunes 

Sarah’s website, Author FB Page and Twitter

Read an excerpt at the bottom of this page.

TALL, DARK and DAMAGED BLURB:

His Life Changed in a Heartbeat

Disinherited as a teen, Devon Ashby returns home twelve years later as a ruthless CEO, brilliant at negotiating deals, but emotionally stunted. In an instant all he’s struggled to build implodes. Amid the turmoil of saving his company from a hostile takeover, his engagement to a business partner’s high-society daughter hits the rocks. Compounding his troubles, he encounters his high school sweetheart, whose heart he smashed. The vulnerability she awakens leaves him at greater risk than all the crises he faces.

Her Dream Job May Get Her Killed

While restoring art in a billionaire’s private gallery, Hannah Moore is unwittingly drawn into the dysfunctional family’s confidences. When she discovers the rich developer behind her and her sick aunt’s eviction is the family’s black-sheep son—the lover she’s never gotten over—her desire turns to fury. Always one to avoid conflict, Hannah must stand up to Devon and the growing menace of someone who thinks she knows too much.

A Decades-Old Secret Turns Deadly

When a family member is murdered, Devon and Hannah become ensnared in sibling greed, festering jealousy, and a tragic secret that’s divided the family. Amid their reigniting passion they race to expose the killer before they become the next victims in this cat-and-mouse game of survival.

Tell us about a vivid childhood memory you have surrounding a house or location. One commenter wins a $25 Amazon gift card!

JB Schroeder’s Trial by Fire (ahem, red pen).

JB

JB Schroeder, Author of Unhinged

Hi Readers- Sarah Andre here! In the small world department: I sat next to a friendly woman at a recent luncheon, who turned out to be the mother of a romance writer. Not only did I know her daughter’s name, JB Schroeder, among the thousands of authors, but she was a guest on Kiss and Thrill last year, hosted by Lena! Naturally I invited JB to my house when she came to visit her mother and the hours flew. We talked about writing as if we’d been best friends for years! When I heard she had a new release coming out I invited her back to K&T- let’s catch up with what JB’s been doing, shall we?

Hey girl! You and I had a discussion about certain books kicking our author butts, but being better writers in the end because of all that hard work. Locked, Loaded, and Lying was that book for me. Yours, is Unhinged, which is also releasing today, May 24. Congrats!

Thank you! Yes. I wanted to try something unusual with Unhinged, but didn’t pull it off so well in the first draft. It went through four major overhauls—essentially re-writes. And then came the revisions! But it was all worth it! The story is better for it, and I was determined that my second book to hit virtual shelves would be just as good as the first (Runaway). According to my Review Crew ARC readers, I succeeded in that! Hooray!

Yay- I can hardly wait to read it, JB! As a struggling pantser I’m dying to know what techniques others have learned in their trial by fire. Tell me three writing challenges you learned from re-writing/revising Unhinged.

Red Herrings don’t necessarily make twists—sometimes they are just distracting.

When I started Unhinged I had three possibilities for the villain, and I thought I intertwined it all pretty well. But my critique partners felt that one characters role be condensed to reduce confusion. Later, my editor strongly suggested that same character be eliminated entirely because she wasn’t really necessary! It changed a lot in the book, but you find other ways to do what you need to, and make better use of the cast that is there. In other words: do more with less!book

Sometimes it’s all about the reveal.  This ties in closely to my red herring problem. You don’t have to keep the villain’s identity secret. Even if the reader knows fairly early WHO the villain is, they still love the journey. For one thing, its exciting to know more than the characters know. Just like watching a movie, gripping the edge of the chair, and thinking “Oh no, sister, bad idea. Do NOT go into the basement!” For another, the fun is in the HOW. How does the villain create trouble, how do the protagonists find out what they need to, and of course, how do they stop the villain? In Unhinged, I actually mapped out on a timeline exactly what could be revealed when for maximum effect. And I’ve been hearing a lot of OMG’s from my readers in all the right spots, so I know it worked!

Villains need motivation too. My first draft of Unhinged had the villain just plain crazy—which was super fun and allowed for a lot of creative license. But my agent pointed out that that level of loco meant the villain couldn’t possibly pull it all off. I needed a serious motivation and goal for the villain, not to mention a reason behind the crazy. It took weeks, but when I finally came up with THE IDEA—everything came together: goal, motivation, conflict, numerous juicy bits to reveal, and even an awesome twist.

Oh my gosh, this sounds SO exciting! And I absolutely LOVE your cover and the series name. I  know you’re a graphic artist who does covers and this is your own creation…I’m green with envy. Thank you for joining us, JB! We wish you all the best in your new release, and come back to visit us soon! (Both K&T and my house.)🙂

So thrilled to celebrate release day with the fab ladies of Kiss and Thrill. Thank you, Sarah!

Unhinged is available on Amazon here

And you can connect with JB on her website.

Our Beloved Graveyard Queen Returns!

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Amanda Stevens

Readers: Think back a few years ago–I went bonkers for the first three novels in the Graveyard Queen series, about Amelia Gray, a graveyard restorer who stumbles across clues and gravestone symbols to catch killers. She also sees ghosts, and believe me-they aren’t the cute Caspar kind! 

Well The Visitor, book four, was released this month and I read it (with constant goosebumps) in one  sitting. I’m delighted to welcome back one of the most prolific Gothic thriller writers in modern times: Amanda Stevens.

Hi Amanda. There’s a four year gap between your last Graveyard Queen novelWhat have you been doing during this time?

The Prophet was the last of the original three books in the series.  Since then, I’ve written three more books—The Visitor, The Sinner and The Awakening.  Life threw me a huge curve-ball in 2013 and it took me a while to get back into writing.  But I’ve worked my way back and I think the next Graveyard Queen trilogy echoes my struggles.  It’s been a dark and twisty journey for both Amelia and me.

I’m thrilled that über-hottie John Devlin is playing a bigger role in this story, and looks to be a major conflict for Amelia in The Sinner! Did you always have his dark and haunted background mapped out or has this growing issue with his grandfather and the family business come to you as the novels have progressed.

Devlin’s evolution is interesting to me because from the very first moment he stepped out of the mist in The Restorer, I knew he was more than just a haunted police detective.  He had something really, really dark in his background, something that he might not admit even to himself.  Something that initially led him to Dr. Shaw and the Institute for Parapsychology Studies and then repelled him from all things paranormal.

So to answer your question, I didn’t have his background mapped out, but it was always there in the back of my mind so that all I had to do was flesh it out when I needed to.  That’s been another interesting thing about this series—sometimes I’ll drop something about a character’s background or even mention something in passing that doesn’t seem to be all that important to the current story and then I get to the next book and I realize that I’ve been subconsciously dropping clues and setting up backstory all along.  I think it’s all there in my head and has been since the very first book, but I didn’t know it until I needed it—if that makes sense.
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Unitarian Churchyard in Charleston–so lush, so Southern, so Gothic. There’s a scene in The Visitor that takes place in this churchyard. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.

The Sinner looks to be an epic clash of forces. Is this the end of The Graveyard series or have you signed for more?

The sixth and final book (for now) is The Awakening, which will answer a lot of questions and resolve a lot of issues, but I don’t think Amelia’s story can ever be completely wrapped up.

 Do you plan to go to San Diego (this year) or Orlando (next year) to attend RWA the conference?

I’m not going to San Diego this year and I don’t have any plans as yet for Orlando, but that would be a great conference to attend because The Graveyard Queen will be ending and hopefully I’ll be launching a new series by then.MagnoliaCemeteryCharleston

A shot of a baby crib memorial in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.  This grave inspired the plot for The Awakening–the 6th Graveyard Queen Book. Photographer: Amanda Stevens.

What has changed in publishing these four years now that you’re back in the fray? Deadlines tighter? Self-marketing expectations? A shake up in the editorial crew?

Believe it or not, I’m still working on the same contract I had before I took a step back so nothing has changed for me personally as of yet.  But in that four-year period, my publisher was bought by HarperCollins so I’ll soon find out what that means in terms of a new contract and new expectations.  I’ve had the same editor for twenty years and she and my agent have been incredibly understanding and supportive. I’m optimistic about a new contract and about my career overall, but I’m also realistic.  Four years in publishing is a lifetime.

I know you shy away from public speaking, but if you gave a workshop what do you think you’re most expert at to share with new writers?

Writing is so instinctive to me that I have a hard time trying to explain the process.  I really don’t know how I do any of it.  But I suppose I would stress the importance of creating atmosphere and a sense of place, a sense of dread.  I subscribe to the Alfred Hitchcock school of suspense that less is more.  What you don’t see/read can be far more disturbing than a lengthy description of blood and gore.

What books have you read recently that leave you in awe? (Doesn’t have to be romance.)

I still think about Michael Gruber’s Tropic of Night even though I read that book some years back.  Talk about atmosphere and a sense of dread!  Currently, I’m reading The Saints of the Lost and Found by T. M. Causey, which has a wonderful premise.  I love a good premise!  One of the most memorable has to be The Farm by Tom Rob Smith.  It’s an older book that I found while browsing Half Price Books.  The back cover synopsis sold me.  

Describe a relaxing day for you.

I live a pretty stress-free life these days so a typical day for me is several hours of writing with a little gardening thrown in and then an evening of binging on The Walking Dead or whatever series I’m into at the moment.  Lunch and dinner with friends, a day at the beach now and then.  It’s all good.

Favorite recent movie and why?

Mad Max: Fury Road.  Beautifully shot, non-stop action, breathless stunts and an amazing cast.  My son was in town when the movie came out and we went to see it together.  He’s a filmmaker so I always love hearing his take and whatever inside information he’s gleaned out in Hollywood.  That movie left us both so gobsmacked, we went back the next day to see it in 3-D.  Another beautifully-shot movie is Crimson Peak.  So Gothic and dark and lovely.

TheVisitorAlthough the indie option is out there for all writers, many still seek the traditional path and/or are still trying to get an agent. What advice do you have for them?

Gosh, it’s been so long since I went through the process and so much has happened to me personally and to the industry as a whole that I don’t feel at all qualified to offer advice.  I mean, I’m a dinosaur.  But for someone wanting to go the traditional route, I imagine perseverance is still key.  Keep sending out those query letters, keep polishing that manuscript and never stop working on your craft.  Probably the best thing you can do for your career and your sanity is to develop a thick skin.  Writing is personal, but publishing is a business.

Connect with Amanda here:

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