Category Archives: Sharon Wray

The View From Cloud 9!

All nine of us are up here and the champagne is overflowing!

Welcome, friends, as we celebrate blog-mate and close friend, Sharon Wray on her debut day. Every Deep Desire is book one in her Deadly Force series and a novel that garnered her one of eight RWA Golden Heart® nominations.

Like most things Sharon undertakes (studying wedding dress design in the couture houses of Paris, a mother of twins, a librarian and astounding photographer) she added her unique flair to the modern day romantic suspense. Every Deep Desire is a sweeping saga of haunted pasts, tortured secrets, epic yearning and a love that transcends all. K&T members thought this blog post should reflect a unique approach as well, so we’ve each participated in the interview. Grab some bubbly and join us!

Need-to-know questions from the great interviewer, James Lipton; “Inside the Actors Studio”:

  1. What is your favorite word?    Grace.
  2. What is your least favorite word?        Hurry.
  3. What turns you on?     Politeness.
  4. What turns you off?    Bad breath.
  5. What sound or noise do you love?      Garden water fountains.
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?     Barking dogs.
  7. What is your favorite curse word?       Damn.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?              Home organizer.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?    Anything where I have to drive.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?        “I missed you.”

When did you know you wanted to write novels, and when did you actually begin writing?

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 (my twins were four), I started reading romance novels again to help offset some of the grief. After reading Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dark Prince by Christine Feehan, and Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann, I decided I wanted to write a novel myself. Except I had no idea how so I joined RWA in March 2, 2004. My debut novel comes out March 6, 2018.

This modern retelling of Romeo and Juliette is fascinating. How did Shakespeare influence you to create your strong heroine?

It was a trip to Verona and a guide took us to see the city’s most famous celebrities: Romeo and Juliet. We went to Juliet’s courtyard and Romeo’s palazzo, and she told us the history of this famous story. A history that included six earlier sources of the love story, including a mention in Dante’s Divine Comedy. But the detail that caught my attention was that she kept calling the story Giulietta and Romeo.

Apparently, in all of the prior source material that Shakespeare used, Juliet was the protagonist. The story belonged to the heroine!

Juliet’s statue in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy

When I got home, I read translations of all of the source material and studied the literary criticisms. Shakespeare had not only made Juliet the main protagonist, but that it was the first time in all of his works that a woman was the hero of a play. The reason why deserves a blog post all its own, but when you study the text you can see that Juliet is given half of all of Romeo’s sonnets. She makes plans and follows through while the men can’t control their tempers. She even kills herself like a man while Romeo uses poison—a woman’s weapon.

Mailbox where people leave their letters to Juliet in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy

Up until this time, within my own work, I’d assumed that the men in my Deadly Force series were the protagonists. The men had suffered terribly—violence, combat, POW camps, etc—so why wouldn’t they be the ones who had to change the most? But when I looked at the story emotionally (like I’d studied Romeo and Juliet), I realized that my heroines had the harder journey. They might not have undergone physical suffering, but their emotional journeys came with higher risks. Once I made my heroines the protagonists, the stories came together in a way I’d never expected. And Juliet, in Every Deep Desire, took me on a journey that left my breathless and exhausted. And all of the work to rewrite the books has been worth it.

Do you believe in serendipity? Your career (and how massively busy you are writing, editing and promoting the 3-book deal) is taking off just as your kids headed off for college. Is this the perfect time or do you wish you were well into your publishing career?

While part of me would like to already have ten books on the shelf, the truth is I wouldn’t have been willing to give up the time with my family that that would’ve required. I do think that God’s timing is perfect. Now that my twins are in college, I have the freedom to work, each day, as long as want. For the first time in 18 years, my time is my own and I’m spending almost every waking hour writing or with my husband.

What authors have been your greatest influence? And why?

I know the Bronte sisters are a clichéd choice, but clichés don’t become what they are for no reason. When I was in sixth grade I started Jane Eyre on Thursday morning and finished it on Friday at one a.m. When I woke up at noon on Friday, I started Wuthering Heights and stayed up all night, not finishing it until almost four a.m. Then I crashed. When I woke up later on Saturday, I remember going downstairs and feeling . . . different. I felt awake. I realized that life was much larger, and far more dangerous and exciting, than I’d ever thought possible. And the realization that I, too, might grow up and fall in love filled me such wonder and joy, I could barely breathe.

Tell us a bit about the overall story line for the series.

The Deadly Force series: Where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines redeem Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

The series is about a team of ex-Special Forces soldiers, accused of vicious war crimes, who are desperate to prove their innocence and find their enemies before they attack again. As these men struggle to rebuild their lives and redeem their honor, it’s the women they love who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

What is the tentative schedule for deadlines and publishing dates?

Every Deep Desire, March 6, 2018 (today!)

One Dark Wish, (book 2) is currently in revision and I hope to finish soon. This book is tentatively scheduled for publication January 2019.

Deadly Force 3, (book 3) is due September 1. (Yikes!!!!) Title and publication dated TBD. I just call this one DF3. (Poor, untitled DF3. LOL.) 

You, of all people, know what patience and perseverance means in this business. Do you have any advice for writers still waiting for ‘the call’?

Two things in particular: I wasted so much time wondering “if” it would ever happen that I wish I could go back and tell myself to worry less and laugh more. If you begin as you wish to proceed, things will work out eventually. Maybe not the way you expected, or in the time frame you wanted, but usually even better than you’d hoped. So write every day as if you’re published. Take classes, learn your craft, and build your network of writing friends. That way, when the time comes, you’re ready.

The second thing is an order from Winston Churchill. And for our purposes, the enemy is our own self doubt:

“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

 

All of K&T (except Manda!) at Lena’s booksigning

Sharon, we all wish you an unforgettable debut day and a bestselling series!

 

 

Thanks so much, Sarah, for hosting me today. It’s such an amazing thing to celebrate my debut with my Kiss and Thrill sisters.

He’s taking it all back
His honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves

Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he’s done…or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.

It took Juliet Capel eight long years to put her life back together after her husband was taken from her. Now Rafe is back, determined to protect her at any cost, and it’s not just her heart that’s in danger. The swamps hold a secret long buried and far deadlier than either of them could have imagined…

 

BUY LINKS: (Please don’t forget to help a debut author out by leaving a review!)

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble

iBooks

 

Carey, Lena, Diana, Sharon, Gwen, Sarah in NYC, 2015

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram Pinterest Goodreads BookBub Amazon Author Page

 

Diana, Rachel and Sharon

Rachel, Diana, Gwen, Sharon and Sarah

Sharon, Gwen, and Sarah before the 2013 GH/RITA Awards in Atlanta.

YA’LL Fest 2016: Where All the YA Fans and Authors Meet Up!

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Last week my daughter, my mother, and I held fast to one of our favorite traditions: Going to Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest, the largest annual Young Adult Book Festival and book signing. With over forty authors and their publishers, publicists, and book store owners running the show, the event is geared to thousands of avid YA readers.

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with Sarah Dessen

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with Jay Asher

One of the things I love about this festival is that although you run from signing to session to signing, the authors have one goal in mind: to meet and spend time with their fans. The authors are accessible to their readers, showing up at ice cream parlors for chats about Harry Potter and sponsoring cupcake socials where the fans and authors play YA book trivia games. The authors even put on a variety show at the end of the festival where they sing (badly), dance (terribly), and read from their middle school journals (hilarious).

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with Kiera Cass

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The event is sponsored by the Blue Bicycle Bookstore in Charleston, SC and Epic Reads. And it takes place in various historic buildings throughout the city. We caught Jay Asher in a tiny brick courtyard that was so quaint it looked like a movie set, then we saw Kiera Cass at the library society in an antebellum mansion south of Broad street.

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with Leigh Bardugo

We dragged a rolling suitcase filled with books everywhere we went and that was in addition to our two backpacks. My mother and I took turns standing in long book signing lines so my daughter could stand in a third. Between texting and begging people to hold our spots, my daughter was able to get over thirty books signed. Not bad considering many authors limited how many books they’d sign. There were even publisher tents set up with famous authors, like David Leviathan, running carnival games and handing out ARCs and cookies.

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with Sabaa Tahir

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We spent time with authors such as Veronica Roth, Maggie Stiefvater, Kiera Cass, Victoria Aveyard, Sarah Dessen, Jay Asher, Eoin Colfer, Scott Westerfeld, Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Bardugo, Renee Ahdieh, Lauren Oliver, and many, many others. By the time we were on our way home, we had two suitcases and two backpacks filled with signed books, a dozen ARCs, and a “Library Card” bag covered with autographs.

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YA’LL Fest is a great experience, and it’s hard to tell who’s more excited to be there, the authors or the readers. So next November 10 & 11 we hope you’ll join us in Charleston, SC for YA’LL Fest 2017. It’s sure to be a blast!

Oatlands Plantation: A Halloween Tea & Haunted History

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Oatlands Plantation, Leesburg, VA

If you ever find yourself in Leesburg, VA, head south on Route 15. A few miles down the old Algonquin and Iroquois route, turn left into Oatlands Plantation. Oatlands Plantation was founded in 1798 on 3,408 acres. Once owned by the Carter and Eustis families, it’s now operated by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s also listed on the National Register for Historic Places. The mansion, which wasn’t completed until 1804, is one of the best examples of Federal estate architecture in the country.

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Statue in reflecting pool garden.

Now claiming 417 acres of farmland and gardens, it’s a refuge in one of the fastest growing counties in Virginia. Besides the mansion which can be toured daily, there’s a carriage house with a gift shop and a wonderful open area where they serve weekend teas. The estate also houses one of the country’s oldest, still-in-use greenhouses and a sunken, walled garden in the Colonial Revival style (including a bowling green, rose garden, kitchen and herb garden, reflecting pool, and numerous dependencies) that rivals anything in Charleston or Savannah.

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Carriage House with the gift shop and tea room.

There’s so much history that I won’t even try to put it into a blog post. But I will say that my favorite things about the property are the interpretive tours and weekend seasonal teas. The annual Witches Brew Tea and the nighttime Paranormal tours are two the things my daughter and niece look forward to every year in the fall.

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Parterre garden and late autumn hydrangeas.

This year, due to the stress of my book deadline (Dec 1) and my kids’ college application deadlines (Nov. 1), I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make either of the these events. But this past Sunday, we put away our computers and books and headed west. One of the best decisions I’ve made in months.

So instead of boing you with more history, I’ve included a photographic tour of our weekend at Oatlands. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

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Oatlands Plantation, back of the house.

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Memorial garden.

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Kitchen garden and dependencies.

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Entrance to the sunken garden.

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Pump house.

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Reflecting pool.

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Reflecting pooi statue.

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Autumn touches.

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One of the original wells in the parterre garden.

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One of the many water features found in the sunken gardens.

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Front exterior of the mansion.

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Entrance to Oatlands Plantation.

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Late autumn herb garden.

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Fish pond.

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Mrs. Eustis’s tea garden.

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Bachelor’s cottage.

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Entrance to the kitchen garden.

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Entrance to sunken gardens.

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One of the many sets of staircases leading down to the rose gardens and reflecting pool.

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Witches Brew Tea at Oatlands Plantation.

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Last of the hydrangeas in the parterre garden.

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I hope you all had a wonderful Halloween with few tricks and lots of treats! And remember, if you’re ever in Northern, VA, try to make time for Oatlands. You’ll be so grateful you did!

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

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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!

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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.

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Cheers, Sharon! Hope you’re enjoying RWA.

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense Finalists!

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Today is one of my favorite blog post days of the year. It’s the day the Kiss and Thrill authors introduce the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists. And this year’s RS class includes two previous winners and a double finalist. All of the stories are different with as many twists and turns as a Daphne Du Maurier novel. And they all sound wonderful!

Because I know many of these women personally, the following list is in alphabetical order by author last name. 🙂

dianaDiana Belchase is celebrating her third Golden Heart nomination. The first book in her Born to Spy series, The Spy in the Mirrorwon the Golden Heart in 2011. Escape from the Harema sequel to The Spy in the Mirror, is a finalist in this year’s Romantic Suspense Category.

Sent on a cruise ship as bait for a ring of kidnappers, Trina Bianchi has been guaranteed the trackers in her clothing, and the team of operatives following her, will keep her safe. When the mission goes haywire, she ends up abducted for real— imprisoned in a Sultan’s harem along with seven other American women. 

Armed with nothing more deadly than a steak knife, Trina must rescue her fellow captives. But when she makes the ultimate sacrifice, only her boyfriend, billionaire Preston Grahame, can save her and help her bring a terrorist to his knees.

SW: What a great premise, Diana! Can you tell us more about how you came up with it?

DB: I love spy stories and am seriously addicted to James Bond. But something about male spies leaves me yearning for more. Why is Bond such a womanizer? What happened to his late wife? I wanted to write a story with an alpha female who has problems in life like we all do — best friends with breakups, dating quandaries, and family issues. She is also the character that lets me explore all the things in life I’m too scared to do — skydiving, climbing mountains, wearing slinky dresses and dancing with mysterious men. It’s been a hoot writing this story and I can’t wait to see my characters finally come to life when the book gets published.

Each of my books is based on a nugget or gem of fact. When I’m inspired by the news, stories immediately start spinning in my head. For Escape from the Harem, I was horrified by the worldwide incidence of female abduction. 136 women are sold into sexual slavery every hour! Add to this another news article about a young woman who went missing on a cruise ship, and a prince from Brunei who was keeping actresses and models hostage in his palace after inviting them for a holiday, and the wheels started spinning. While my books are not dark, the ability to draw from the truth, to inform, and to use what is real, sparks my imagination and hopefully makes my stories interesting.

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2015-10-17 CRW Glam Party -cropOur next finalist, Tracy Brody, won the Golden Hear in 2015 and this year she’s a double finalist in both the Romantic Suspense and Contemporary Romance categories.

THE SNIPER’S SECOND SHOT – Contemporary Romance:

Sergeant Mack Hanlon thought he could beat the odds, despite knowing that a Special Ops career and a stable, successful marriage don’t go together as well as peanut butter and jelly or even guns and ammunition. His wife left him and the Army life, but when Mack meets Black Hawk pilot Kristie Donovan, he believes he’s found a woman who can support him and his career choice. However, he soon finds he’s battling more than regulations prohibiting romantic relationship between the ranks.

After losing one husband in combat, Kristie’s sworn she’ll never fall for another man in his dangerous profession. Mack’s persistence and charm in pursuing her are accomplishing his mission to win Kristie’s heart until his ex-wife threatens to expose their relationship if Mack won’t let her move out of state with their girls. Kristie ends their forbidden romance to protect their careers and keep Mack from losing contact with his daughters. But, after insurgents bring down Kristie’s aircraft and take the crew hostage, Mack’s team rushes to rescue Kristie and her crew. If he can save her, he still has to find a way to give them both a second shot at love.

SW: Can you tell us more about how you researched this book? It sounds fascinating!

TB: This book was inspired by the CBS television show “The Unit” and originally planned as a single title. When an online friend asked if I was going to write a series, like Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series, I originally said no. But as I wrote the book, I fell in love with each of the guys on the team and began thinking of stories for them. I named my team, the Bad Karma team after the MP company of my friend (and awesome source for military info) Dale, who I met through a fan board for the show “The Unit.”

The first draft of this book was 142.250 words. Yes, it’s okay to laugh. It’s now at 94K with probably over 100K words cut with other deleted scenes through numerous rewrites. To have this book now be a Golden Heart finalist after all it’s been through is pretty special and I still love the characters and their happily-ever-after.

 SW: I’m glad I’m not the only one who writes long books.  Tracy’s second finaling book, In the Wrong Sightsfinaled in the Romantic Suspense category.

A patient’s deathbed confession landed nurse Cassidy O’Shea in witness protection. However, her unauthorized trip to Fort Bragg for her ex-stepfather’s funeral necessitates putting her under temporary protective custody after learning he’d actually been murdered. The Marshal Service turns to her late stepfather’s friends, the Army Bad Karma team, to keep her safe.

A dedicated soldier, AJ Rozanski is supposed to be protecting Cassidy, not falling for his former mentor’s stepdaughter. But her acceptance of his career choice is a refreshing change from his parent’s disapproval of his military service and his ex-fiancée’s inability to handle his erratic deployments.

Cassidy going back into Witness Protection puts an end to their hopes for something beyond a few days and romantic nights together—until an assassin locates her and she flees to AJ and the Bad Karma team. Can they give her back her life—and a future with AJ?

SW: I love this plot line. How does AJ’s story fit into the series?

TB: My hero, AJ, was not originally part of my Bad Karma Team. His story idea came to me while I was working on the second book in my series and bumped up in priority over several of the others on the team. I went back in and add him into scenes for the first two books in the series.

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headshotOur third finalist is Diane Holiday who finaled with her book Love in Hiding. 

Prima ballerina Sarah Baker needs to disappear. She flees cross-country to hide from an obsessive stalker and winds up working side-by-side at a horse ranch with a former Navy SEAL. On the run, with a fake identity, Sarah isn’t looking for love. All she longs for is a normal life and to dance again.

Bruce Thompson is a horse trainer who runs a therapy program for amputee vets. He has no interest in another relationship after the tragic death of his wife. That is, until Sarah shows up and jump-starts his guarded heart. But Sarah has secrets, and he intends to find out what threat might follow her to the farm. His protective claws come out as he is determined to keep her and his clients safe.

While Sarah and Bruce fight their sizzling attraction, an unknown threat lurks in the midst. This one, closer to home. Will they find love and uncover the deadly plots before it’s too late?

SW: I love Women in Jeopardy novels! Can you give us a hint as to where it takes place?

DH: An interesting fact is that I am an avid boater and love the beach. I drew on my experience of boating on the Chesapeake bay to describe some of the romantic scenes in the book.

* * *

Arianna James - Author PhotoArianna James is next with her book The Truth is in the Tango

 Simone Richman is a by-the-book CIA operative, but when her sister is facing jail time after being conned out of over a million dollars of her employer’s money, Simone’s family loyalty forces her into a rogue mission to track down the missing funds. A money trace leads her to the Buenos Aires-based company of Nate Beldin, a man suspected of conning the rich and powerful out of art, jewelry, and cold hard cash until he supposedly gave it all up to walk the straight and narrow. When Simone gets to Argentina, she finds the situation is far more sinister than a simple con job—with Nate at the center of it. And as she gets to know him, delving deeper into his past and present, one thing becomes painfully clear: she’ll have to choose between her love of the law and the love of her life.

SW: This story sounds like it could be a season of Homeland! And I love the tango aspect. Did you do a lot of research for that?

AJ: When I was writing the manuscript, it was so important to me that the tango scenes (of course my characters actually tango in the story!) were accurate that I watched hours and hours of videos – everything from professional ballroom tango to genuine Buenos Aires street tango to tango lessons. I even almost signed up for ballroom dance classes!

* * *

Novak_Melanie HeadshotOur next finalist is Melanie Novak with her book Ruby Red.

When a multi-million dollar ruby belonging to Marie Antoinette is stolen from Lamont Auction House, Addison Merritt’s career—and the survival of the boutique house—is on the line.  Addison teams up with sexy U.S. Marshal Michael Wright, but they are not the only ones looking for Rosette’s Ruby.

And others are willing to kill for it.

As the danger mounts and time runs out, Addison takes a bold gamble and risks everything—including her heart—to recover the ruby.

SW: I love books with historical mysteries woven in. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea?

MN: I first got the idea to write a novel about a female auctioneer after spending a few Saturdays on the western Pennsylvania estate auction circuit.  I was helping friends auction off the contents of some very old, very beautiful country homes and farms. I was fascinated by the things people would buy.  I saw a man in his fifties buy ten boxes of dirty naked baby dolls.  I saw women pay hundreds of dollars for antique salt and pepper shakers.  The auctioneers had the incredible ability to whip people into bidding wars over everything from gorgeous hand carved furniture to broken VCRs. This was a unique skill.  The ability to determine an item’s worth, the showmanship, the fast talking.  And what did it say, all those items being passed from one estate to another?

I thought for sure there was a book there.  But Ruby Red came out much different than I’d first imagined.  My heroine, Addison Merritt, auctions off historical artifacts, famous paintings, and one-of-a-kind jewels to the aristocrats of New York.  The book became about how she refused to let her career—or her life—go under when she discovers that the most valuable piece in her collection—a ruby once belonging to Marie Antoinette—is stolen.  It became a novel about bad guys and car chases instead of a quiet novel about what happens to our possessions after we’re gone.

But I still like to imagine Addison, long before the novel opens, cutting her teeth and learning her craft selling log splitters, snow shovels, and costume jewelry to those bidding in five and ten dollar increments rather than millions. And I’m still mad I couldn’t figure out a way to work those dirty naked baby dolls in.

***

Layla Reyne - Author PhotoFinally, I ‘d like to welcome Layla Reyne and her book Four Tragedies.

University professors are dying in Hanover, North Carolina, and their murders bear a striking resemblance to the deaths of Shakespeare’s wronged heroines. Police Chief Charlie Reddmann is on the case, which becomes complicated when her ex-fiancé, FBI Agent Hayes Keller, joins the investigation.

Hayes was forced to leave Charlie behind two decades ago when his parents threatened to expose a secret that would destroy her family. Since he’s been gone, Charlie’s done everything in her power to keep that secret buried and protect, at all costs, the son Hayes doesn’t know exists. But as the case Charlie and Hayes are investigating leads closer and closer to home, the tightrope they’re both now walking is stretched taut under the weight of their past and their secrets. If it snaps, the free fall will be deadly.

SW: What a fascinating premise! Can you tell us more?

LR: The fictional town of Hanover featured in Four Tragedies (and the planned series to follow) is a mashup of the coastal Carolina towns where I spent many summers growing up. If you’re familiar with Wilmington, Southport and Oak Island, you’ll definitely recognize some landmarks! Another fun fact… Four Tragedies is a story I started in college, and I’m still carrying around the same paperback, scribbled-on version of Shakespeare’s plays from my freshman year almost two decades ago.

Congratulations to the 2016 Golden Heart Romantic Suspense finalists!

Now it’s your turn? What is your favorite type of Romantic Suspense story?

2016 K&T Summer MG/YA Booklist!

I’m so excited about this summer’s K&T Middle Grade and Young Adult reading list! There are a ton of new releases and some favorites recommended by readers.

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Since there are so many new books on the list, below is just a small selection of what I’ve added.* But there are stories for every tween and teen. Zombies, proms, cute meets, friend and family drama, aliens, fairies, fairy tale retellings, and a lot more from popular, indie, and debut authors.

For the complete printable list in a downloadable Word document, please click here: Summer 2016-mg_ya-list

All of the books are available at Amazon, most at Barnes and Noble, and many at the public library.

Now for a sampling of the 2016 summer titles!

Young Adult Romance

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Young Adult Paranormal Romance

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Young Adult Romance Anthologies

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Young Adult Realistic Fiction

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Young Adult Science Fiction

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Young Adult Action/Adventure/Dystopian

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Young Adult Fantasy

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Young Adult Novellas

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Middle Grade Action/Adventure

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Middle Grade Non-Fiction

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Middle Grade Relationships

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Shares and Tweets are welcome!

I hope you all have a great summer of reading.IMG_5066

Now, I’d love to know if you have any books you’d like to add to the list!

Disclaimer: Some of these books are (or once were) controversial. Some older YAs have closed-door adult situations, and others (YA & MG) deal with harsh issues such as suicide, bullying, war, poverty, and loss of a parent. As a librarian, reader’s advisor, and mother, I’ve learned that tweens and teens tend to read within their comfort zone, both emotionally and reading-level wise. All of these books offer a chance for parents and kids to discuss which topics are appropriate now and which books are best left for another summer. But I hope you all find books that will give your family a summer of new adventures and imaginary friends.

*The books listed in this blog post and on the list are in no particular order, just grouped by general topic or subgenre.

All covers courtesy of Amazon. Feature photos courtesy of Sharon Wray.

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)

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(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

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