Celebrating our GH Sister, Diana Belchase

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

  1. Sarah and Diana Golden Heart 2012

    Sarah Andre and  Diana Belchase, 2012 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.golden heart

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!

Award Winning KaTs! Time to celebrate!

There has been a ton of great news at Kiss and Thrill this month. There have been literally an avalanche of award nominations for our members.  While all the KaTs have a slew of awards for books both published and unpublished, here are a few you might not yet have heard about that were announced in the last thirty days:

Sharon-WraySharon Wray  is a real dynamo. She writes Romantic Suspense, Historical, and just recently has branched into Young Adult. Over the years she’s accumulated eight Golden Heart nominations, won the Daphne du Maurier three times, and nearly every award in her path.  This month her new YA book, Wicker Hollows is up for both the Rosemary, from the Young Adult Chapter of the Romance Writers of America, that  same book is also up for the Daphne du Maurier — a really phenomenal event because there is no YA category in the Daphne and it is as rare as a solar eclipse for an YA to be a finalist.

Just recently, Sharon also won first place in the Marlene Contest Romantic Suspense division for her book Let the Heavens Fall.

 

9789012Sarah Andre. With her first book published just last year, Sarah is taking the publishing world by storm. Her book Locked, Loaded, and Lying has been nominated for the Booksellers’ Best Award — a recognition from book sellers across the country, and has also been named a finalist for the Golden Quill Award.

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Sarah is a multi-award winner and is also a two time Golden Heart finalist. Her newest book, Tall Dark and Damaged came out just last week, too!

lenapicLena Diaz is another veteran award winner. She’s been a Golden Heart finalist, won the Daphne du Maurier award more than once and is continuing her now fifteen book winning streak. This year Lena has been nominated for the Bookseller’s Award for her book, Arresting Developments.

Lena is once again nominated for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense for her book, Missing in the Glades.

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The rest of the gals at Kiss and Thrill (the KaTs) are proud of you as we know our readers are, too! Please join us in congratulating them on their success.

 

Burying Secrets in my Novel

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

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

Guilded Age Mansion

Not the actual house.🙂

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

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

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

Hawaiian coast

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon     B&N     iTunes 

Sarah’s website, Author FB Page and Twitter

Read an excerpt at the bottom of this page.

TALL, DARK and DAMAGED BLURB:

His Life Changed in a Heartbeat

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

Her Dream Job May Get Her Killed

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

A Decades-Old Secret Turns Deadly

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

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

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

Audio Book News, a Giveaway, and a Sale!

Hi KaTs! Rachel here to share some news. First, from today’s Publisher’s Marketplace:Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 7.46.08 AM

That’s right, 4 more Evidence books are coming out in Audio in September! I’m very excited about the audio release of BODY OF EVIDENCE, WITHHOLDING EVIDENCE, INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE, and COVERT EVIDENCE and utterly thrilled to be working with Audible.

Audio book lineup

The first book in the series, CONCRETE EVIDENCE, is already available in audiobook format. You can listen to a sample and find buy links here. While you are visiting my website, you can sign up for my mailing list, and I’ll let you know when the other books are available for purchase in audio.

ColdEvidence-FrontCover-Final-72dpiStarting Friday, April 22nd, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway to celebrate COLD EVIDENCE’s first 50 reviews on Amazon. As of now there are 52 reviews and a 4.8 star rating! I think that’s worth celebrating with some fun swag. Entry information and photos of the prizes (a Hobuck Resort hoodie and COLD EVIDENCE shopping bag) can be found on my Facebook fan page. But don’t worry, if you aren’t on Facebook you can still enter!

Enter the giveaway here.

This is what USA Today had to say about COLD EVIDENCE:

Cold Evidence is exciting, intelligent, angst-y and sexy, with a depth of conflict and plot I found mesmerizing. Grant achieves an ideal balance between romance and suspense while keeping the adrenaline surging, and just when you think the danger is done … she sets you straight with yet another twist.”

COLD EVIDENCEKindle | iBooks | Kobo | Nook

Finally, INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE is on sale for $0.99/£0.99 through May 1st!

INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE is an enemies-to-lovers story, and many readers tell me Alec is their favorite hero. Here’s a glimpse at why:

Smexy Books gave INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE a B+ and said:

This book really has a fun and engaging premise. I love black-ops/special-ops/military action and throw it into the woods of Alaska with a great heroine and some really bad guys – and I’m all set.

Adding:IE-frontCover-Final-r2-72dpi

 I really liked both of them – they are tough and they don’t let the other get away with anything. They have really good chemistry.

I also feel like the detail with the military training and weapons and the Alaskan landscape in general are really presented well. A lot of detail that makes everything very realistic – something you don’t always get in romantic suspense books.

INCRIMINATING EVIDENCE: Kindle | iBooks | KoboNook

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