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Colleen Thompson: Passionate and Relentless

Have you ever met a multi-published, award-winning  author who is so personable, modest and cheerful you think ‘that’s exactly how I want to be when I’m that famous’?

Well, for me that author is romantic suspense writer, Colleen Thompson. She’s survived this crazy industry so long and experienced so many ups and downs in her career, yet manages to remain passionate about her writing and relentless to stay in the game and get her next story published! 

Although she probably doesn’t know this, Colleen’s the first person I met after joining the West Houston chapter of RWA. I tend to be uber-neurotic going someplace new, so of course I was way too early and sat at a table by myself long enough to think that getting up and going home was a really great idea.

Then Colleen came in, smiled that big smile and asked if she could sit with me. She went out of her way to make me feel welcome and not the dumbest writer ever for not knowing lingo like ‘Series Contemporary.’

Even under tight deadlines Colleen attends chapter meetings, pinch-hits a topic if our scheduled speaker cancels, teaches online classes and can always be relied upon to generously give her time to authors in all stages of their careers. Oh, and she still manages to co-host a blog, update her status on Facebook with lightning speed and posts pictures of darling rescue dogs in need of adoption. Yeah, I want to be just like Colleen Thompson when I grow up!

Welcome Colleen! Who are your favorite romantic suspense authors?

I first fell in love with romantic suspense reading Nora Roberts, Tami Hoag, and Sharon Sala. I still love those authors and have also come to enjoy novels by Karen Rose and Allison Brennan.

I know for some of your books you’ve actually gone to the small town (for your setting) or done an activity. What was the most interesting thing you did in the name of research?

A few years ago, I went flying in gliders while researching Triple Exposure, whose heroine is a glider pilot. Then I spent a fun afternoon brainstorming with glider pilots about ways one might sabotage a sailplane (what they generally call gliders) to make it crash. Thankfully, they all got into the spirit of the thing rather than calling the FAA to report me!

 More recently, I’ve spent time speaking with a forensic anthropologist about the life cycles of the various insects that feed on a decomposing human body.

…sorry to interrupt…but UGH! GROSS.

After reading and talking about it, I decided to forego the field trip—I could already imagine what it smelled like all too well. (I have what I call “smell-a-vision,” which makes me smell everything I read about or see on a TV or movie screen. This is awesome when I’m reading about blooming lilacs or baking bread. Not so much, when I’m researching decaying corpses. Gross!)

You have been in this industry a long time. If you were just starting today what would you do differently?

I would give serious consideration to some of the alternate routes available today.

Many mainline publishers are giving new authors the opportunity to break in to their electronic-only lines (and buying very few debut titles for their print-first lines.)

There are some very reputable smaller e-presses out there, too, some of which have been regularly putting their authors on bestseller lists. These don’t usually pay advances, but they give a writer experience in working with an editor and publicity team, and some authors are breaking out and into print or indy e-book success.

If I were writing something too different for the current market, I would also seriously consider indy publishing—but not until I had my work independently edited by a pro (not a friend or critique partner) and gotten myself a sharp, professional-looking cover. Then I’d spend six months to a year studying how to launch it right before diving in with self-publishing.

While your dream may have been to publish first with one of the big houses, don’t close your eyes to or be snobbish about other opportunities. With a lot of work, a lot of talent, and some good, old-fashioned luck, they really can work.

Tell us a little bit about Boxing the Octopus?

My good friend, New York Times bestselling author Joni Rodgers, and I met at a book signing and instantly bonded, after which we went out for coffee once every week or so.

She’s a memoirist, ghostwriter, and novelist, while I’m a mass market paperback original genre girl, so we’d had very different experiences, but each of us had respect for the other—and a lot of hard-earned respect for what it takes to stay in the game putting out books year after year.

During one of those talks, Joni compared grappling with the publishing biz to “boxing the octopus,” and I blurted, “That’s it! That’s our blog’s name!

 In late 2006, we launched Boxing the Octopus, www.boxocto.com, to foster an ongoing conversation on the writing life. And I’m still not finished yakking!

Do you like movies that scare you or make you cry?

Ha! Seriously, I like scary books a lot better than scary movies, for some reason. I hate having stuff jump out at me onscreen, but I can read (and write) suspense all night.

While I don’t like emotionally manipulative tearjerkers, if they’re really honest and understated, they can be devastatingly beautiful. One favorite of mine is the Italian film, Life Is Beautiful. Set during the Holocaust, it features a loving father who convinces his little boy (to help him survive the concentration camp where they are taken) that the experience is all a game.

I laughed at the funny moments (believe it or not, there are quite  a few) and cried my eyes out at the ending, but loved it enough to recommend it to all my friends and family members.

Oh my gosh! One of my top favorite movies (only the Italian version!)

You’re married to a true alpha-hero, Mike, a fireman.  Does he get teased by his fellow firefighters given his wife is a romance writer?

Not that I know of, but since he’d just shrug it off if anyone made a dumb remark, I can’t say for certain. For the most part, his fellow firefighters have been awesome, buying copies for their wives and mothers and answering my research questions. One (actually an ambulance supervisor/EMT and not a suppression firefighter) took me for a ride-along one busy Friday night, where we visited the trauma center ER and scoped out all the dicey areas where I could never go on my own at 2am! I used a lot of that research in my book, Fade the Heat.

You used to write historical romance. (under the names Gwyneth Atlee and Colleen Easton.) Why the change to Romantic Suspense?

I loved, and still love, American-set historicals set around true-life events and have recently been bringing some of these older books back (under my Gwyneth Atlee historical romance pseudonym) in e-book form.

Unfortunately, the market for these books contracted in the early 2000s sank, putting a lot of authors (and my then-editor) out of work. I was reading and enjoyed so much mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense at the time that I wanted to try my hand  (after seven historicals, all of which included a lot of suspense elements) in this exciting new-to-me arena. I was instantly hooked—and found a more receptive home for my darker, grittier voice.

What’s up next for you writing wise (or speaking engagements)?

After Relentless Protector (Harlequin Intrigue) in September, I’ll be promoting Passion to Protect (Harlequin Romantic Suspense) which comes out in November. Meanwhile, my agents are shopping several new proposals, but nothing I can talk about at the moment, darn it!

OK, then on to my favorite topic…favorite food ever?

Snow crab legs with melted butter. But lumpy mashed potatoes, my favorite comfort food, runs a close second!

Mmm! I’m right there with you on the lumpy mashed potatoes. How can readers get a hold of your backlist, given that your prior publisher collapsed?

I’m very excited about a deal I’ve just signed with Amazon to bring back my nine single-title (full-length, as opposed to the briefer category books I enjoy writing for Harlequin) romantic suspense novels, which were in limbo with my former publisher’s (Dorchester’s) financial collapse. Already available in e-book form, the books will soon be out in paperback and hardcover formats. Readers have been asking for these books for two years, so this is terrific news!

That’s exceptionally good news and you REALLY deserve it, Colleen! Thank you so much for visiting us today. For more information on Colleen, please click here for her website: http://www.colleen-thompson.com/

Colleen will be answering questions today and is giving away a copy of her newest release “RELENTLESS PROTECTOR” to one lucky commenter. Stop back on Thursday to see if it’s YOU!

 

Dreaming of the Waltz & Robin’s Winner!

Diana at the Viennese Waltz

     I’ve always dreamt of being at a grand ball and waltzing.

     The image of tall, mysterious men circling a floor to the strains of Strauss, while their partners’ dresses billow behind them, is incredibly romantic – like a music box springing to life.

     Too bad it only happens in novels.

     So, when the invitation came for a true Viennese Ball at the National Museum for Women in the Arts, I begged my husband to go.  It was a wonderful cause and the fairytale event every girl dreams of.  Poor guy never stood a chance.  Imagine, a beaux art mansion in the middle of D.C., a candle-lit dinner on the mezzanine, overlooking the marble dance floor where a twenty-piece orchestra played.

     Sigh.

     My imagination has played this scene for so long it morphed into the first chapter of my spy novel.  My heroine sneaks into a very fancy, very private ball in modern day Budapest in a mansion overlooking the Danube.  (excerpt)  The adventure takes her to Hong Kong where she battles traitors and falls in love.  So, even if  the view was that of

Guests beginning to waltz. Later the floor was completely full.

New York Avenue, instead of Strauss’ famed river, last Saturday night really was a fantasy come true.

     It’s amazing how plots get inspired by these kinds of settings.  While other people worried about dance steps, or romancing their partner, my husband had to deal with me checking out alternative exits, stairwells, and figuring out who might make a good villain in my next book.  It’s wonderful when every event takes on the nuances of a Bond film.  Too bad it is more exciting in my head than in real life.

     And, oh the beautiful people!   Everyone wore black tie.  Some women went for full ball gowns, and military men, in perfectly fitted dress uniforms, sparkled with medals.  There were couples who put Fred and Ginger to shame, and then there were couples like my husband and me – let’s just say my toes will never be quite the same.  Still, I wouldn’t have traded him for any other guy in the room.

     By the time the evening was over, we’d met some lovely people, got the hang of dancing counter-clockwise, participated in the grand march, and learned the quadrille.

     And every now and then, behind billowing ball gowns and marble pillars, I may have seen my hero and heroine laughing, as they danced in the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Now without further ado, the winner of Robin Perini’s new release, Finding Her Son, from Harlequin Intrigue is … Rebecca York!  Please contact us within ten days with your preferred email address.

Stop by tomorrow because Roxanne St. Claire will be back with an exciting announcement on behalf of her fellow authors from the MurderSheWrites blog: Their exclusive e-book anthology Guns and Roses. And she’ll be giving away a free copy!

A Cinderella Success Story: The Fabulous Robin Perini!

Writing is hard work.

An author works on a manuscript for years, prays for an agent, begs for a sale.  More than anything it is a waiting game.  Waiting for time to finish, time to revise, waiting for an agent to get back to you, waiting for an editor to fall in love with it.

No one knows more about waiting than Robin Perini.  Devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes adventures, with love stories sure to melt hearts, she’s spent years perfecting her craft — and winning a few awards along the way.  

Did I say a few?  

Robin Perini

Robin finaled for the the prestigious Golden Heart a mere seven times.  Last year I was thrilled and honored to stand on the stage with Robin when she won the medal for Contemporary Series Romantic Suspense, and I won it for (Single Title) Romantic Suspense.  In a way that makes us sisters.  So, I was especially proud of my GH sis when she sold seven of her books in one single year.

SEVEN.

No one I know sells seven manuscripts, in one year, straight out of the gate.  If this tells you anything about Robin’s skill and perseverance, you will share my prediction that she is sure to become a major talent.  If you need proof, here is the beginning of her debut novel, In Her Sights:

“The trigger felt right.

     The sight was zeroed in, the balance perfect.  The Remington 700/40 fit her body and her mind like an old friend she could trust, and Jasmine “Jazz” Parker didn’t trust easily.  But she and this rifle were connected in a way a lover, friend or family could never be.  The Remington would never let her down.”

Then …

     “Slowly, deliberately, Jazz exhaled and, between heartbeats, squeezed the trigger.”

Wow.  With talent like that, how could she not have won the Golden Heart?  

Here is the book trailer for In Her Sights:

Robin is giving of her time, always encouraging fellow writers.  Her workshops are nationally acclaimed and she really knows her suspense first hand.  In fact, she competes in small-bore rifle silhouette shooting.  Today she is also gifting one special reader, who comments below, with  a copy of her latest release, Finding Her Son from Harlequin Intrigue .  

While it is wonderful to see any author find success, when that person is as nice as Robin, it is special.  After working so hard, she is finally on her way — and just like Cinderella — she’s making an incredible splash and, I hope, having a ball.

(Tune in tomorrow, Wednesday 29th to find out who won and hear about Diana’s adventures Viennese waltzing!)

So, without further ado, Robin Perini asks:

How Long is Too Long to Leave Your Christmas Tree Up?

by Robin Perini

I love Christmas.

Not the hubbub or the shopping, but the meaning behind the season, the reminder to think of others and not ourselves can be joyous.

I know for many the holiday season can be a very tough time of year, but I am lucky. I have the most amazing family, and spending time together at Christmas is one of the highlights of the year. Usually that means travelling.

Even though I don’t spend Christmas at home, I still decorate. I put up a nativity scene, decorate the fireplace mantle and then put up a tree. I get to pull out Christmas ornaments from when I was a kid, and every one has a story behind it.

I love putting up the tree.

Robin's Tree

I hate taking it down.

I’m not quite sure why it requires so much effort to take the tree down compared to putting it up. And this year has been tougher than most, because there’s a lot going on in my life. Day job, family obligations, book deadlines…trying to work out on occasion. I’m sure you know the feeling.

So, we are now at February 28, and I still have my Christmas decorations up in the living room.

So, how long is too long to keep the Christmas Tree up?

I was thinking about this earlier today. You know the Gretchen Wilson song, Redneck Woman ? There’s a line in the song,

“And I keep my Christmas lights on, On my front porch all year long.”

Does that apply for trees, too?

I know I should take a deep breath and just put it away, but frankly, it’s a priority C on my ‘To Do’ list. And since I can’t seem to get to all my As and Bs each day. The Cs just sort of…well…don’t get done.

A few days ago a friend came over and just stared at the decorations in stunned disbelief. I shifted uncomfortably on my feet, and blurted out…My October Harlequin Intrigue® is called Christmas Conspiracy. I’m using it for inspiration.

Yeah, that’s it! That’s why my Christmas decorations are still up. Once I finish the book, surely I’ll have time…

Hmmm. At what point does taking down your Christmas Tree go from priority C to priority A. I have to wonder if July 4th – Christmas in July? At that point, do I leave the Christmas tree up all year long, too?

Hmmm…maybe I could take off the decorations and replace them each season with something…well…seasonal. Clovers and hats in March; flags and ribbons in July.

So, any advice, dear readers? How long does your tree or decorations stay up after the holiday season? Any holiday? How long is too long?  Comment or help me find the time to take care of my C-priorities, and you get a chance to win a copy of my latest release, Finding Her Son from Harlequin Intrigue.

So please join Robin and those of us at Kiss and Thrill by commenting below.  Remember the chances of winning depend upon the number of entries.  Good Luck!  And go out and buy Finding Her Son which rolls off the presses this week! (click here for an excerpt But make sure you come back and comment or you won’t be entered in the drawing!)


AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA YORK

Sometimes things just don’t go well.

Rebecca is a fellow member of two of my writing groups.  Knowing the interview/blog was coming up, I had my husband snap a photo of the two of us at a party we attended together.  Rebecca wore this drop dead elegant faux leopard coat, I was in my holiday best.  The photo he got had my hair standing on end and both of us in the midst of smiling.  We ended up looking as if we were gnashing our teeth!  I called Rebecca and told her we couldn’t use the photo and she laughed.  Her husband, who is an excellent photographer, apparently hadn’t gotten a good shot of her that day either.  Oh well.  That’s life, and I’m sure rotten photos plague bestselling authors even more than they do me.  After all, how often have I been in the paper compared to the incomparable Rebecca York?  Glad she could send this lovely photo of herself instead.

Rebecca York

Doesn’t she look mysterious against that black background?  I couldn’t let Rebecca get away without asking her a few questions today!  She graciously set aside some time to let me ask away.  At the end of the interview, please scroll down and see the lucky person who will receive one of Rebecca’s Harlequin Intrigues.   Oh!  Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for Daphne du Maurier winning author, Roxanne St. Clair, and our own Sharon Wray!  So…. Here we go….

AN INTERVIEW WITH REBECCA YORK

1.  You’re known as one of the premier authors in romantic suspense, how did you start writing in this genre?  What drew you to it?

My first published book was a kids’ science fiction novel called INVASION OF THE BLUE LIGHTS. Then a friend asked me if I wanted to write romances.  I love relationship stories, but I wanted that danger element too, so I proposed a romantic suspense series that everyone turned down. (Some said, “We like this.  Put in more suspense.”  Others said, “We like this.  Put in more romance.”) It turned out to be just what Dell was looking for in the mid-80’s, which got me in on the beginning of modern romantic suspense.

2.  What other genres did you start out in?  Do you ever long to go back to them?

As I said, I started with science fiction.  In a way I’ve gone back to it with all the paranormal I write.  I’ve also written 15 cookbooks, but I’m too old for all the physical labor of  recipe testing.

3.  Your characters are unforgettable.  You write your male characters, many of whom are paranormal creatures, in an exceptionally believable way.  What is your secret to making them seem so real?

I think it’s making them as human as possible. Giving them the emotions, fears and conflicts that we all have.  They may have superhuman traits, but we can always identify with their feelings.

Rebecca’s newest book is Dark Moon

4.  What is your favorite flavor of ice-cream?  Sprinkles?  Nuts?  Whipped Cream?

This is hard.  I love chocolate but also coffee and strawberry. Also peach if I can get it. I don’t like a lot of goop in my ice cream.  Just plain, please.  I will admit that when we were in Italy last May, we often had gelatto instead of lunch.

5.  Your husband is so visibly supportive of your career — he’s awfully cute, too!  So many female writers — and women in general — don’t have that kind of support.  Any words of advice?

Naive me at the age of 18 picked the right guy.  Apparently I could recognize quality when I saw it.

6.  Congratulations on the Romance Writer’s of America Centennial Award, for having written over 100 novels!  A little birdie told me you’ve written way more than that.  How many novels have you written and what does the award mean to you?

Hum, I guess I’ve written about 115 or 120 novels.  And those cookbooks. I think of the award as recognition for a lot of hard work.

7.  You’ve been on the USA Today bestseller’s list forever — and I mean that in a really good way <G>.  How did it feel the first time it happened?  How does it feel when it happens now?  How many books must sell to get on that list?

I have no idea how many books it takes to get on the lists.  How did I/ do I feel?  Excited.  It’s always wonderful to know people like my work.  And I’m hoping they want to read my Decorah Security series that I’m publishing as e-books.  They’re already up on Amazon and B&N.

Now for the lucky winner!  Remember you have ten days to send us your email address.  ………..DRUM ROLL PLEASE ……….

The winner is:  Gabby Diangelo.  Please send us your email address within ten days to qualify.

REBECCA YORK, FIRST LADY OF SUSPENSE

We’re so lucky today to have with us, Rebecca York, winner of the RWA Centennial Award, USA Today bestselling author, with more than 100 books in print.  Rebecca’s books deliver in three ways – suspense, paranormal, and romance.  Handling those three plot arcs can be like wrestling an octopus for an average writer.  Then, again, Rebecca is anything but average.  Her plots thrill, her characters defy normal parameters, while being incredibly realistic, and her romantic elements sizzle. 

 Rebecca graciously offered to blog for us today.  She will also be giving away one of her favorite Harlequin Intrigues to a lucky commenter today! 

 Tomorrow I’ll be interviewing Rebecca and announcing the winner.  So, make sure you come back and join in.

 Now, please help me welcome, Rebecca York! 

 

REBECCA YORK

 

I’ve always thought that one of the best ways to connect with my readers is through related stories.  I’ve done that with my long-running 43 Light Street series for Harlequin Intrigue and my Moon books for Berkley.  And I wanted to use a similar format with the Decorah Security series, which I launched in December with three titles.

The usual thriller or detective series has one main protagonist who comes back book after book.  Romantic thrillers are a little different because it’s not just about the peril.  The focus is on the developing relationship between the hero and heroine as well as on the action plot.  It’s also the story of a man and a woman falling in love against a background of suspense and danger, and it isn’t until after they’ve dispatched the bad guys that the reader is sure they’re going to work out their complex relationship.

That’s a challenge for the writer.  But also fun.  You’re always weaving the two plots together so that if you pulled out either one, the story would fall apart.  And with the Decorah Security series, there’s another element as well.  All of the agents have paranormal powers–or they’re dealing with a paranormal case.

Bringing the first three Decorah Security stories to publication was a year-long project for me.  And though DARK MOON is the third book in the series, it’s the one I wrote first because I thought of it as a transition between my Berkley Moon books and the new series.

DARK MOON Cover

DARK MOON features the main Decorah Security players, Frank Decorah and the in-house staff who have secondary roles in all the stories.  We also meet a guy who’s going to be the hero of a future Decorah novel, even though he’s playing the part of a bad guy in this story.

The spotlight is on agents Cole Marshall and Emma Richards, who are sent on a desperate mission to rescue Karen Hopewell, a young woman kidnapped by a business rival of her father.  But Bruno Del Conte is no ordinary businessman.  He lives on a cruise ship that’s been converted into a sexual playground for the rich and kinky.

Going under cover, Cole and Emma must play the role of lovers while they search for Karen.  On the ship, they’re threatened by a mutiny in progress and also by Del Conte’s security chief who digs into their backgrounds to find out who they really are and why they’re on board.  At the same time, they struggle with the intensity of the personal relationship neither of them thought they wanted.

And, oh yeah, just to complicate matters, Cole’s a werewolf who fears Emma will discover his secret in the worst possible manner.

I finished DARK MOON, let it sit, and went through my three or four edits.  But I was nervous about the story.  After more than 130 books with major publishers, this was my first indie project, and I didn’t want anyone to say, “It’s not up to her usual standards.”  It helped me to send it to a beta reader who came back and said she loved it.  But I wasn’t ready to loose the book on the world quite yet.  I hired a professional editor, who made some suggestions and line edited.  And of course, my faithful proofreader, my husband, made sure nobody would see my dyslexic spelling and typing errors.

Meanwhile, I was working on CHAINED.  Originally it was a stand-alone novella until I realized it fit perfectly into the Decorah Security universe.

It’s the story of Isabella Flores, a woman on the run from thugs who want to kill her.  When she hides out at a ranch her father owns, she hooks up with Matt Houseman, the ghost of the Decorah agent she loved and lost.  Both are surprised that their relationship turns sensual.  And when the bad guys find Isabella, Matt helps save her life.  But is he really a phantom?  And can Isabella turn the tables and bring him back to life?

Sedona Research

Continuing with the series in reverse order, I edited CHAINED, then wrote AMBUSHED.  Since it’s a short story, I made it the introduction to the series.  Decorah operative Jordan Stone is guarding Elizabeth Bannerman, the only witness against an alleged terrorist.  When Jordan and Elizabeth are ambushed, they hide from armed men out to assassinate her.  And when it looks like they may not survive, they both acknowledge the sexual attraction that’s been simmering between them.  Jordan is determined to save Elizabeth’s life, but can he cope with his strong feelings for her?

I worked on the Decorah Security series while writing two Harlequin Intrigues, SUDDEN INSIGHT and SUDDEN ATTRACTION, which come out in January and February 2012, respectively.

But now it’s launch time for Decorah Security, and I’m excited to see how this new venture works out.

Thanks so much Rebecca!  Don’t forget to tune in tomorrow for an interview with Rebecca and to find out who won an copy of her Harlequin Intrigue!

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