Category Archives: Author Spotlight

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.

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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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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?

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    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!

Lena Diaz Introduces the Darynda Jones of Romantic Suspense – BRYNN KELLY

Deception Island_Lena Diaz quote

Brynn Kelly Headshot

Can you tell that I LOVE DECEPTION ISLAND, the romantic suspense debut novel by incredible author BRYNN KELLY???

Those of  you who read paranormal romance know the name Darynda Jones. She’s the Queen of Voice in that genre. Well, I predict, with absolute confidence, that Brynn Kelly, will be the Queen of Voice in the romantic suspense genre. When I read Deception Island I was completely blown away.

EVERYTHING about this novel is fantastic: pacing, plot, characters, tone, twists, turns, and on and on. But what pulls it all together, what makes it a step above ANYTHING that I have read in recent times (including my own books, even though I’m green with envy admitting it) is her VOICE. The way she turns a phrase, word choice, dialogue, it’s all so UNIQUE and fresh and fun!

But don’t just take my word for it.

How many authors do you know who debut in HARD COVER these days?

Brynn Kelly’s debut novel, DECEPTION ISLAND, is available now, in HARD COVER.

For a publisher in today’s hard-to-sell climate to put a publicity machine behind a new author and introduce her in hard cover is unheard of, and it shows that her publisher (Harlequin-HQN) believes she’s the real deal.

Who else agrees with my fangirl-craziness about Brynn Kelly’s debut novel? Take a look…

“Intense and exciting, Brynn Kelly’s Deception Island is romantic suspense at its best!” -New York Times bestselling author Carla Neggers

“Captivating and cutting edge! Deception Island offers smoldering chemistry, cunning twists, and a whole lot of heart. Brynn Kelly delivers everything I love in a romance.” -New York Times bestselling author Heather Graham

“The romantic suspense genre just got a hot new talent …this thriller is expertly laced with psychological drama. Add in an unexpected and passionate attraction and you have one truly unforgettable tale.” –RT Book Reviews

“Sexual tension, mystery, and danger crackle off every page!”-New York Times bestselling author Laura Kaye

“In Deception Island, Brynn Kelly pens a raw, dark, emotional novel of danger and intrigue that will keep readers turning the pages.” –New York Times bestselling author Kat Martin

“DECEPTION ISLAND is a brilliant thriller that will have you begging for more. The plot is a maze of surprising and harrowing twists and turns that lead to a dynamic conclusion.” –Fresh Fiction

“It was rough, raw and real, with a storyline that hypnotized me and some of the best character development I’ve had the fortune of reading.” –The Romance Reviews

“Kidnappings and pirates and romance-oh my! Brynn Kelly’s fresh new voice is sure to become a mainstay among romantic suspense aficionados! Deception Island is a keeper.” -New York Times bestselling author Cindy Gerard

“Deception Island is the perfect book for someone searching for a hero with a dark past, enough passion for any woman’s deepest desires, and an amazing code of honor. The story, and the heroine with a wild heart and a fierceness to match, make this one you’ll never forget.” -New York Times bestselling author Sharon Sala

In Brynn’s own words…

Lena: By all appearances, it seems like you are an “overnight success” in the fiction world. Is Deception Island the first novel that you’ve written?

Brynn: Aren’t we all overnight successes in this industry? (grin) Deception Island is my third completed novel, and comes after ten years of serious tinkering with novel-writing, twenty years of journalism and non-fiction, several years of freelance manuscript copy-editing, and a childhood lost to reading and writing and daydreaming. So yes, totally an overnight success! It took that long to find my voice, figure out what I loved to write and develop the confidence and skills to (hopefully!) pull it off. I might revisit those earlier manuscripts someday, but for now I’m happy to write them off as my apprenticeship and leave them under the bed.

Lena: Can you tell us your “call story”, how you found out that you’d sold DI in a two-book deal to HQN? And when you found out you were going to debut in hard cover, did you faint, scream, what? Readers LOVE call stories, so please feel free to describe your feelings, what you were doing when you found out about the contract, etc.

Brynn: Let me tell you about this crazy twelve-hour period back in March last year. Several months earlier, I had entered Deception Island in the Golden Heart and my agent had submitted it to my dream publisher, Harlequin’s HQN Books. This is an imprint that rarely takes on a debut author, so it was a long shot, but holy cow, what an amazing place to start.

We’d had feedback that the editor we’d submitted to “loved it”, and was passing it around for second reads. The second reads turned into further reads, and it went around the building—and in fact around the world (as I later discovered)—until it felt as if everyone from the VP of publishing to the sales and marketing team to the janitor had read it. Every time we received an update, the hope and the tension rose.

It was beautiful torture—I told myself that the longer it took, the better were my chances, but of course the longer it took, the more devastating a “no, thanks” would be. And it could come at any time. I got to the point that I was relieved when a day passed with no word, because that was one more day hope remained alive. In the meantime, I was questioning whether all the effort and angst was worth it. Maybe I should quietly release the dream, quit writing, and live a calm everyday family life that wasn’t at the mercy of this emotional rollercoaster?

So back to that week in March. The Golden Heart finalists were due to be announced on the Friday in the US, and after all the waiting, my stomach was a pit of snakes. On my Friday afternoon (Thursday in the US), the phone rang. A US number. It was Tessa Dare! Deception Island had finaled, and they’d decided to tell me early because of the time difference! I had to keep it under wraps but I did quietly let my agent know.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. About 4am, I slipped onto the internet and found an email from my agent, Nalini Akolekar of Spencerhill Associates. She said there was news from HQN and asked when would be a good time to call. She used exclamation marks. Surely she wouldn’t use exclamation marks if it was a pass? I told her to call anytime, because … sleep? As if! I took the call in my lounge, in the dark, whispering so I didn’t wake the husband and kids. It was a two-book offer. And weirdly, after all that waiting and tension, I felt totally calm. I think Nalini was a little confused. But my overwhelming emotion was relief. Over the days and weeks that followed, I kept waiting for the ecstasy to hit, but somehow it never did. The feeling was more of a lifting of tension, and a quiet contentment that this dream I’d been working toward for so long was coming true, that all that work wasn’t for nothing, that I wouldn’t have to face the choice of giving up writing.

I had a similar reaction to hearing that Deception Island was being released in hardcover. I took a call from my agent while I was volunteering at a school fundraiser, standing on the veranda of the school hall in pouring rain. She said that HQN was so confident about Deception Island and they’d had such positive external feedback that they’d decided to publish it in hardcover. I said, offhand, “Oh, cool!” My reaction was so understated that Nalini said something like, “Do you understand what a big deal this is?” The funny thing is, I’m normally a very emotional person. I wonder if my brain is subconsciously shielding me after all the ups and downs of the writing and submitting process?

 

Some Ways That You Too Can FanGirl Over Brynn Kelly!

Author Website: http://brynnkelly.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/brynnwrites

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brynnkellyauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14537646.Brynn_Kelly 

Deception Island - Brynn Kelly 

A stolen boy

A haunted soldier

A cornered con woman…

Rafe Angelito thought he was done with the demons from his past—until his son is kidnapped. Blackmailed into abducting an American heiress, the legionnaire soon finds himself trapped in paradise with a fiery, daring beauty who’s nothing he expects…and everything he desires. But when he uncovers her own dark secret, Rafe realizes he’s made a critical mistake—one that could cost him everything.

Playing body double for a spoiled socialite was supposed to be Holly Ryan’s ticket to freedom. But when she’s snatched off her yacht by a tall, dark and dangerous stranger, the not-quite-reformed con artist will make a desperate play to turn her captor from enemy to ally, by any means necessary.

Yet as scorching days melt into sultry nights, Holly is drawn to the mysterious capitaine, with his unexpected sense of honor and his searing touch. When they’re double-crossed, they’ll have to risk trusting each other in ways they never imagined…because in this deadly game of deception, it’s their lives—and hearts—on the line.


Buy Links for Deception Island (Or visit your local book store!)

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

iBooks

Harlequin has graciously agreed to give away one Hard Copy print book of DECEPTION ISLAND to a random commenter.

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

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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.

And the Finalists are…

popping champagne cork

2016BBAfinalist[1]Each year the Greater Detroit chapter of Romance Writers of America holds a published author contest called the BOOKSELLERS’ BEST AWARDS. Entrants’ books are judged by some of the toughest critics out there — Book Sellers. Winners are announced at an awards reception held during the RWA national conference in July, which is in San Diego, California this year. Winners get bragging rights, a really cool trophy, and even their editor gets a special gift to commemorate the event.

The finalists for this year’s contest were recently announced. Kiss and Thrill is pleased to say that TWO of our KaT authors are finalists this year.

SARAH ANDRE for LOCKED, LOADED, AND LYING! 
LENA DIAZ for ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS!

Congrats Sarah! Thanks, Lena, right back at you!


Here’s the scoop on Sarah’s novel, LOCKED, LOADED, AND LYING.

HE MIGHT BE INNOCENT. OR HE MIGHT BE VERY, VERY GUILTY…

LockedAndLoadedFinal coverOlympic skier Lock Roane was on top of the world: smashing world records, collecting medals, and basking in the love of a nation and his beautiful heiress girlfriend. It all comes crashing down after Lock discovers his girlfriend had an affair – then wakes from a drunken bender to find himself covered in her blood. Disgraced and dethroned, Lock awaits his murder trial with dread, not knowing if his girlfriend died at his own hands.

Journalist Jordan Sinclair is out of options. To satisfy her blackmailer, she must get the inside scoop (and its cash reward) on Lock Roane. An attraction to the arrogant athlete was not part of the plan. Neither is trying to find out what really happened that night. Now Jordan risks everything – including her life – to help the man she’s falling for. A man who just might be a cold-blooded killer…


Here’s the scoop on my (Lena’s) novel, ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS.

A MYSTERIOUS BEAUTY HAD NURSED HIM BACK TO HEALTH—AND ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF SOME VERY BAD MEN…

ArrestingDevelopmentsSomewhere over the Everglades, the airplane’s engine failed and Dex Lassiter plummeted into the swamp’s murky depths. Amber Callahan didn’t expect to find any survivors in the wreckage, but Dex was about as tough as they came. And too smart not to dig into why a woman like her had run away to settle in remote Mystic Glades. Or why a killer circled their every move. As floodwaters rose, deputizing Dex was just what this lawless small town needed. Because escape wasn’t possible. And the only thing Dex did better than starting things was defending them.


GIVEAWAY! To celebrate Sarah’s and my finals, KaT is giving away one ebook copy of both books – LOCKED, LOADED, AND LYING and ARRESTING DEVELOPMENTS – to two random commenters on the blog. The winners will be announced in the comments of this blog post on Monday, May 22nd.

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:

Website     Author FB Page     Twitter

Congratulations to KaT’s own 2016 GOLDEN HEART Finalist, DIANA BELCHASE!

  • popping champagne corkThe Kiss and Thrill ladies would like to congratulate one of our own, the fabulous DIANA BELCHASE for being a finalist in the prestigious 2016 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart awards!

Her manuscript, ESCAPE FROM THE HAREM, is a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category.

The Golden Heart is to unpublished authors what the Academy Awards are to actors and actresses. It’s an incredible honor that thousands of authors aspire to. But only a handful ever become finalists, and even fewer actually win. Diana has done both! She has won the Golden Heart before, and we’ll be rooting her on this year to win it again! But win or not, just being a finalist puts her at the top of the pack, the cream of the crop, a writer who stands out from others as being extremely talented with a very bright future ahead of her.

CONGRATULATIONS DIANA!

We all love you very much and are so proud of you.

Here is the announcement about the finalists, excerpted from the Romance Writers of America website.

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring and published romance fiction authors, announces the finalists for the 2016 Golden Heart® Awards. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts.

The 2016 winners will be announced at a black-tie awards ceremony at the 2016 RWA Annual Conference.

DIANA BELCHASEDiana at Viennese Ball 2-2012

Diana is a truly kind, intelligent, wonderful person and we are all so happy for her. Below is a list of just some of her writing accomplishments, in addition to this year’s Golden Heart final!

Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (By the Skin of Her Teeth)
Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (His Brother’s Child)
Daphne Du Maurier Nominee 2015 (At Midnight)
Golden Heart Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Golden Heart Finalist 2012 (Spy in the Harem)
Silver Quill Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Wisconsin Fab Five Winner 2011 (Spy in the Mirror)
Jack Reid Award 2010 (The Spy Next Door)
NEORWA Cleveland Rocks 2nd Place 2009 (The Spy Next Door)

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(Above three pictures courtesy of Sharon Wray. From top down, left to right – 2012 Golden Heart Finalist class; Diana with Lena Diaz at an RWA conference; Diana, Rachel Grant, and Sharon Wray at an RWA conference)

20110630 GH RS Finalists

(2011 Golden Heart Finalists, left to right: Rachel Grant, Diana Belchase, Gwen Hernandez, Sharon Wray, Sarah Andre)

And now for some words from some of Diana’s fellow KaTs!

“Congratulations, Diana! No matter what happens at the awards ceremony, you’re already a winner. I’ll be cheering for you.” – Gwen Hernandez

“Dear Diana,

You’ve worked so hard to reach this highest-of-writer pinnacles. The nomination is a testament to your patience and perseverance. You’ve faced down more hardships than any other friend I know, so take a moment to just sit with this awesome accomplishment. Enjoy San Diego! My most heartfelt congratulations.” – Sarah Andre

 

“Diana is such a hard worker but she’s also extremely talented and generous. So it’s wonderful to see her get the recognition she deserves. Congratulations, Diana!” – Manda Collins

 

“One of my fondest memories was spending the day with Diana on the Kiss of Death tour of the LAPD Academy. She lovingly forced me out of my shy shell and I had the absolute best time and made a friend for life. Diana is one of the smartest, kindest, most interesting people I know. And she’s one hell of a writer. Congratulations on your latest achievement, Diana!” – Lena Diaz

 

“Diana is one of the most generous women I know. Besides being a wonderful writer, she’s a true and trusted friend who will always answer the phone to help you with your problems (both plot-wise and personal). Her advice (again both with plots and personal problems) is always honest and straightforward. She has a way of knowing what needs to be said even if it’s not necessarily what one wants to hear. But because she’s so diplomatic and kind, you know her comments come from the heart. Her only intent is to help make your writing shine and offer a sounding board when life becomes overwhelming. Meeting Diana is one of the reasons I so value the Golden Heart contest. Without that opportunity, I never would’ve met Diana or any of my Golden Sisters. Sisters who, like Diana, have changed my life for the better. Congratulations, Diana! I am so very proud of you!” – Sharon Wray

Congratulations Diana! One reason I’m so happy for you is that I know you are always happy for others (including me). When others succeed, you are the first in line with a big grin and an atta girl! When others face disappointment or a setback (including me), you are there with a big hug, a sympathetic ear, and advice on how to move on to the next goal. I’ll never forget the way you helped me prep for my panel at Thrillerfest when I was a bundle of nerves, or all the fun we had at the FBI writers day, or introduced me to all your friends when I knew no one. In short, Diana, you are true blue and I’m so happy you are my friend. I can’t wait to hug you at RWA. I’ll be the one cheering loudly and embarrassing you in front of your peeps. Congratulations!” – Carey Baldwin

Abbie Roads: COVER REVEAL, excerpt!

AbbieNo f**king way was he going to die running. He stopped, turned and faced the truck barreling toward them. The tires ate up the ground at an indecent rate. He clutched Isleen tighter to his chest. For her sake, he wanted it to be a quick death. No more lingering. No more pain.

That thought infuriated him. None of this was right. They shouldn’t be on the verge of death. Again.

 The truck kept coming—twenty-five feet.

 Everything slowed, happened as if through the quicksand of time. A white dandelion floaty meandered on the breeze directly between them and the truck. His heart no longer ran a staccato rhythm. Duh…duhm. Pause. Duh…duhm. Pause.

 His life didn’t flash before his eyes. The future did. Isleen’s future. In an ethereal dream beyond time, her skin was gilded by firelight, her eyes void of sadness and fear, her body whole and healthy. She smiled, an expression so full of warmth and tenderness and undiluted joy that it plunked itself down inside his heart and wouldn’t leave.

 He ached to create that kind of smile on her face, but their lives were over and it all could’ve gone so differently if he’d only listened to her, believed in her, found her years before now. 

An excerpt from Race the Darkness

RACE THE DARKNESS—October 4, 2016

Cursed with a terrible gift
Criminal investigator Xander Stone doesn’t have to question you—he can hear your thoughts. Scarred by lightning, burdened with a power that gives him no peace, Xander struggles to maintain his sanity against the voice that haunts him day and night—the voice of a woman begging him to save her.

A gift that threatens to engulf them…
Isleen Walker has long since given up hope of escape from the nightmare of captivity and torture that is draining her life, her mind, and her soul. Except…there is the man in her feverish dreams, the strangely beautiful man who beckons her to freedom and wholeness. And when he comes, if he comes, it will take all their combined fury and faith to overcome a madman bent on fulfilling a deadly prophecy.cover

Jeez-Lousie! What a terrific premise! Welcome, Abbie, how did you come up with this?

My characters made me do it!

I’m a total write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer. I NEVER plan what’s going to happen. I’ve tried to plot. And failed. To me plotting takes the fun away. I could plot out a whole book, but then I wouldn’t want to write it because I already know what’s going to happen!

I usually just follow my characters wherever they take me. So far they’ve never let me down. So I’m not exactly sure how I came up with the premise. It’s just something that happens organically as I’m writing the book.

 

A lot of writers insert something (a person’s name, a street they used to live on) into their novel, kind of an ‘in’ joke for the readers who know them best. Did you do this? Can you give us a hint of one?

How did you know I did that? Lol. I guess all of us writers do it!

Here’s my little secret…

At the beginning of all three of my novels I have fictional epigraphs, and I always use my family’s initials and names. Here’s an example:

RACE THE DARKNESS:

Individuals with Auditory Perception Syndrome claim to hear more than sound. They allegedly possess the ability to hear thoughts. These assertions have never been scientifically proven and should be treated as an auditory hallucination.

~~Dr. M. J. Franklin, The Journal of Sound and Mind

M is for my grandma (Marge). J is for my grandpa (Joe). And Franklin was my great father’s name.

 

Full moon

You call this a dark suspense. Define what makes up the ‘dark’ and how difficult was it to write and switch back to your friendly, compassionate, funny self? (Or your other self- a counselor, and switch from listener, problem-solver to your creative side?)

The professions—writer and counselor—aren’t as different as you’d think. Or maybe the lines have blurred a bit for me since I do both.

 The two most important skills I use as a therapist are: Listening and creativity.

I listen to stories all day. As a story-teller I’m enthralled by every client who comes through the door! Everyone’s lives are so different. I listen to my client’s tragedies. I listen to their triumphs. Their stories inspire me. The terrible, awful, horrible things I hear—that’s what comes out in my writing and makes it dark. I didn’t even realize how dark my writing was until a prospective editor called it “romantic horror” and was concerned they would have to put warning labels on it!

The other part of what I do is creative work. I have to figure out how to get a client to buy into making change. I have to figure out how to show them their problem, but from a different perspective. You know that old phrase think outside the box? Every session challenges me to think outside the box because every client is different. There’s no cookie cutter answer for everyone.

 

Is this going to be a series?

Yes!

HUNT THE DAWN—December 6, 2016

Lathan Montgomery has a unique ability to solve cold cases. When he links a group of unsolved murders and discovers an active serial killer, the mind-hunters at the FBI refuse to open an investigation. Lathan is determined to find the killer himself, but his search gets stalled when he rescues a woman from an attacker. The more he gets to know her, the more devotion, tenderness, and passion overwhelm him in a way he’s never experienced. But the killer is on the offensive and kidnaps Lathan’s only love. And he never keeps his victims alive for long…

 

Untitled Series: STAIN OF MERCY (temporary title)—2017

The son of a serial killer falls for his father’s only surviving victim. Will she be able to see the man he truly is and not how much he resembles his father? Or will the past become the present and destroy them both?

 

Your career sounds formidably busy and mentally taxing. When do you find the time to write?

I write for an hour before I go to work in the mornings. If I have a cancellation or a no-show at work that’s bonus writing time for me! Whoot! Whoot! Then I spend two to four hours in the evening writing before I have to go to bed and do it all over again.

On my days off, I spend all morning and afternoon writing. I’ll take a break for supper and then write in the evenings until bedtime. I live a very boring life. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I love being a writer!

 

When did you know you just had to write novels?

When I turned thirty-five I realized I wasn’t happy with my life. I had a great husband. A great job. Two awesome and ornery dogs. So why wasn’t I happy?

I thought I needed a hobby. So tried painting and sewing. I made necklaces, candles, and soap. All in the name of avoiding doing the one thing that really wanted to do.

Write a romance novel.

Why was I avoiding it?

I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to begin. And I was worried everyone would think I was stupid for wanting to be something more than a mental health counselor.

I started taking on-line classes. I went to workshops. I attended conferences. I read books on writing. For nearly two years, I kept my writing a secret from every except my husband.

From the day I sat down and started writing my first chapter, writing has fed my soul. I can’t imagine life without it.

 

Favorite movie and why?Mohicansposter

When I was eighteen-ish. The Last of the Mohicans starring Daniel Day-Lewis came out. Never in my life have I seen a movie in the theatre as many times as I saw that one! ME TOO! I think it was an epic 16 times before it left the theater.

I fell in love with the history. With the love story. With Daniel Day-Lewis. I loved how he protected his woman—even when she didn’t understand he was protecting her. I loved that he would kill to keep her safe. What could be more romantic? J

And seriously—have you seen a picture of Daniel Day-Lewis from that movie? <swoon> I ended up with the biggest crush on him!

Until…

I saw him in Gangs of New York. That cured my crush.  😦 Me too.

 

A food you can’t say NO to is—

My mom makes this candy called Butter Crunch. It’s a melt in your mouth toffee that she ices on both sides with chocolate. OMG! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I could eat Butter Crunch all day, every day, for the rest of my life. I would weigh 800 pounds, but I could eat it forever.

When she makes it for me I can’t stop myself—I have to eat it all! I can’t even meter it out over a number of days. Nope. I’m an eating machine when it comes to Butter Crunch. Mom has strict instructions to NOT make it for me. But sometimes she does anyway.

 

Novel you’ve read that had the greatest impact and why?

What? Only one? No way. I can’t do it.

Will you settle for a series? J.R. Ward’s ‘The Black Dagger Brotherhood’ series.

Wrath, Rhage and Zsadist are my FAVORITE Brothers! But I love them all.

I love that the books are romance novels, but they are heavy heavy heavy in male point of view. I love that! It gave me permission to do same in my books! Those were my favs too (it’s like we’re twins, only you’re so much younger!)

Thanks so much for visiting us today, Abbie, and we wish you all the best on debut day!

 

Race the Darkness will be available on October 4th
Amazon: http://amzn.to/22nGnVk
B&N: http://bit.ly/1pwghOK
BAM: http://bit.ly/1RmOgoN

About Abbie:
Abbie Roads is a mental health counselor known for her blunt, honest style of therapy. By night she writes dark, emotional novels, always giving her characters the happy ending she wishes for all her clients. Her novels have finaled in RWA contests including the Golden Heart. Race the Darkness is the first book in the Fatal Dreams series of dark, gritty romantic suspense with a psychological twist.

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