A Writer’s Dream-Come-True!

Sharon-Wray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

toast

 

Cheers, Sharon! Hope you’re enjoying RWA.

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.

 * * *

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.

 * * *

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.

And the 5 Winners Are…

toastCongratulations to:

Shelly Chalmers

Amy Patrick

Sandra Owens

Nan Dixon

Loretta Wheeler

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

LarkBrennan_IrresistiblyYours_HR

Please click on the Contact Us page

and let me know your email address. Happy Reading!

-Sarah Andre

A Magical Shop in Paris Generates a Novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us a little about Adrien and Tate.

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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?

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

    Sarah and Diana at the Golden Heart Awards Ceremony

    Tell us about the 2016 GH call!

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

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

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

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

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The coveted Golden Heart medallion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

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