Blog Archives

Tis the Season to Give and Give Back

Thanksgiving is over. We Americans were thankful for our blessings and then quickly pivoted to preparations for the season of giving (aka Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, etc.). It is also the season to give back. Today, I have my own opportunity to give back. As it happens, it is also a second chance because it was an opportunity that I passed up the first time it presented itself.

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What was the opportunity? (You were wondering that, right?) Modeling.

Yes, as surprising as it may sound, late last week I found myself suddenly in demand as a model. In a fashion show for a holiday luncheon benefit. An event I was helping to organize and planning to attend.

What I hadn’t planned on is the catwalk.

When the call to action came last week—We’re down three models; please help us out—the words on the tip of my tongue were all negative. I can’t. I ate too much pumpkin pie last week. I might trip on the catwalk. But before those words could launch into sounds of refusal, I remembered how much generosity, support, and kindness has been given to me this year. These same women who are dedicating their time, talents, and energy to organize the Northern Virginia Alliance League (NVAL) holiday luncheon to benefit Friends of Guest House, were also the same women who celebrated with me earlier this year when I announced that I had published my first book.NVAL

My heart has been full of gratitude at their enthusiasm and support expressed in word and deed. Not only have many of my NVAL friends bought Broken Places, they have also taken the time to write reviews on Amazon, to express interest in the writing and publishing process, to invite me to talk to their book groups, and to give copies of Broken Places to their friends.

It has truly been a wealth of blessings. I have a pretty good idea of how George Bailey must have felt at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. (Another holiday favorite of mine.) How could I say no to these friends who have given me so much? It was my time to give back. Keep your fingers crossed I don’t trip over my own two feet!

BrokenPlaces-FrontCover-Final-72dpiDo-gooders and second chances are two prominent themes of Broken Places so in the spirit of giving back, I will be donating half of my December Amazon royalties to Friends of Guest House, a 501(c)(3) serving women ex-offenders returning to the community after serving their time. Sometimes a helping hand can make all the difference. I think the mission statement from the Friends of Guest House website says it best: Help, hope, and new beginnings for Northern Virginia’s ex-offender women.

Here’s a list of other authors who are doing good while entertaining us with stories that give us the opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes, even if just for a few short hours.

  • Heather Ashby donates half of her royalties to Fisher House to support military families in the U.S.
  • JK Rowling is donating all global royalties for The Cuckoo’s Calling to The Soldiers’ Charity to support military families in the U.K.
  • Nora Roberts donates millions every year to the Nora Roberts Foundation to support literacy and children’s programs.
  • Debbie Macomber serves on the Board of Warm Up America which distributes hand-knit afghans, caps, and other items to tens of thousands of people in need.
  • K&T’s Rachel Grant and the authors of the Hometown Heroes book bundle are donating all royalties to Pets For Vets.
  • K&T’s Lena Diaz organizes the K&T donation as well as donating her own books and other items to the annual Brenda Novak Auction in support of Juvenile Diabetes research.

Wishing you and your family peace and joy in this season of giving! Christmas background with snowy fir trees

All month, the kindle edition of Broken Places is a free download for anyone who purchases the paperback edition through Amazon. Give a gift and keep one for yourself!

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

contentHappy Thanksgiving! Today I’d like to share some silly and not so silly things those of us at Kiss and Thrill are thankful for.

Carey:

BillandElvisSilly: I’m thankful I’m not a turkey.

Serious and Silly: I’m thankful for my husband’s Elvis impersonation. I swear it made me fall in love with him. 

Serious: I’m thankful for my three incredible children and the beautiful world we live in.

Lena:

photoSerious: I’m thankful that my son and daughter will be home for the holiday.

Silly: I’m thankful that my son and daughter will be home for the holiday. (Seeing a trend?)

Krista:Rosie in my chair

The GirlsSilly: I’m grateful for Rosie who always keeps my favorite writing chair warm when I’m not sitting in it.

Serious: I’m grateful for my mom and sisters and all the laughter we share when we’re together.

 

 

 

Diana: 

Silly: I’m grateful for my DVR because it means I can take the time to talk to a friend or get interrupted by a family member and not worry about “missing” anything during my favorite show. The DVR puts me in control of TV, unchains me from the box, and means way less viewing time since it’s on my schedule, not theirs. Plus, fewer commercials. Yay!!Meissen+Figurine+Musee+Ariana (1)

Serious: I am grateful for my husband who is the love of my life, is always there for me, and thinks I’m great even when I’m not. What did I ever do to deserve him?

Rachel:

Silly: Rite-in-the-Rain notebooks for jotting down story inspirations while in the shower or tub.

matanuska glacierSerious: I’m thankful for all the wonderful people who fill my life and give it meaning, most especially, my husband, daughter, and son.

Gwen:

Gwen-ZoeSilly: I’m thankful to my golden retriever for forcing me to leave my home office a couple of times a day.

Serious: I’m grateful that I live where I can pursue my dreams and take that journey with the people I love most in this world.

Sarah:

Silly: I am thankful to Bonita Boarding and Kennel Camp for taking my little hooligans off my hands every morning.

704907FF-54A5-4030-8F6A-E32E8233DA9ESerious: I am thankful for the final safe return of my older brother, from 18 months in the US Embassy in Afghanistan. (In the picture he is holding Flat Stanley, some 3rd grade class drew and mailed it to him. Too cute!)

Manda: 

Silly: I’m thankful to Netflix and Hulu which kept me from losing my mind during my six weeks of mandatory IV antibiotic treatments.

Serious: I’m thankful for the doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and researchers whose hard work cured the infection in my heart so that I can keep on writing the books I love.Old+fashioned+TV (1)

Runner-up:  I’m thankful to my wonderful friends (Lena, Carey, Rachel, Diana, Gwen, Krista, Sarah and Sharon) who also kept me from losing my mind during those six weeks.

Sharon:

IMG_3154Silly: I am grateful for my Canon digital camera which lets me catch my children and their friends in all sorts of situations. All for future bribery/blackmail use, of course.

Serious: I am grateful for my husband and two children who have brought me more happiness than I deserve.

All of us are so grateful for your recovery, Manda. We love you!

If anyone wants to share a silly or serious thing they’re thankful for today, we’d love to hear it.

If Dogs Could Talk

If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one~Andy Rooney

Lena Diaz’s adorable dog Sparky

Maybe it’s just me, but I think it would be extra fun if dogs could talk!

Remember Andy Rooney and that delightful acerbic wit of his? I sure do. And I miss his brief, straight to the point rants on the television show 60 Minutes. His segments were fun, and I think a precursor of Jerry Seinfeld’s What’s up with that? routines.

So today in honor of Andy Rooney or Jerry Seinfeld or both, I have a What’s up with that? blog for you.

First the disclaimer: Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t make sense. Maybe you can explain it to me, because I feel confident that right here among us are readers who do it.

What is it? You ask. Well, this it. I scratch my head whenever I hear someone say: I really did not enjoy this book, but once I start a book I have to finish it.

Erm. I don’t get it.

Rosie 7

Krista’s adorable dog, Rosie

I realize there are some good reasons to finish books you don’t like. For example, your mother wrote it and dedicated it to you (Shannon I’m talking to you). Your critique partner wrote it (my critique partners only write awesome books, but I’m just sayin’ in case yours doesn’t). You agreed to judge it in a contest. You are a book blogger or agreed to provide a review. Your teacher assigned it, and there’s a quiz tomorrow. I’m not talking about these situations.

I’m talking about someone who feels they must finish a book because they bought it or started it, or just because they can’t quit anything.

Now I’ve sat through a few movies I didn’t like, but that was because I was with someone else, and I didn’t want to make them miss out on something they were enjoying. But I have never finished a book I didn’t like without a good reason. The world is littered with books I’ve begun but didn’t finish, and I don’t feel one iota of guilt.

 

So here’s my question: What kind of reader are you? Are you a wall-banger like me, who tosses the book at the first sign of trouble? Or do you finish a book no matter what? If you do, please tell us why. Ten dollar Starbucks card to one lucky commenter.

Thursday Winners!

Click cover to buy

Mona Kekstadt and Kim MacCarron are the lucky winners of BROKEN PLACES by Krista Hall.

Congratulations ladies! You may choose either an e-copy or signed paperback. Please click on the Contact Us link above and let us know how you’d like to receive the novel.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by on Tuesday to celebrate Krista’s debut. We hope you enjoy her novel too.

Next Tuesday Diana Belchase has a surprise up her sleeve. Could be a post, a video interview of yet another famous author-friend of hers or…something else. Come on back to find out!

AWARD-WINNING DEBUT RELEASE!

Click cover to buy

Click cover to buy

Can you hear us shrieking in triumph here at Kiss and Thrill? Today is DEBUT DAY for Krista Hall, one of our talented authors!

BROKEN PLACES is the romantic suspense novel that WON the prestigious Golden Heart® Award last year. (I should know, I read Krista’s acceptance speech to 2,000 romance writers!)

BROKEN PLACES is a riveting, authentic glimpse into Hispanic gangs in DC. The violent culture, lingo, signs and graffiti (also known as tagging) are so realistic I figured Krista had worked on a gang task force or dated an FBI hottie. No joke. There were scenes where my heart was in my throat for the danger the main gangbanger, Bandit faced.

It’s my honor to bring you Krista’s debut interview:

You are literally ‘realizing your dream’ today. How does it feel?

Exciting! Broken Places is a story that wouldn’t let go of me. I’ve been working on it for four years. I loved writing it and was determined to find a way to publish it in 2014.

What does Chingazos mean?fist-graffiti

Chingazos (or variant, chingasos) is Spanish slang for hard punches or blows. I added the word loco or crazy to emphasize the unpredictability of gang violence. My cover designer, Naomi Raine created this graphic for the Chingazos Locos gang symbol. What do you think?

Cool! T-shirts for all!

IMG_0467This story WON the prestigious RWA Golden Heart® Award. (A ceremony you were unable to attend.) Give us a glimpse of how you heard and what you did.

On Twitter. I was reading Sarah Wendell’s (@Smart Bitches) tweets as the awards were announced. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my name popped up and my twitter feed exploded with congratulations. (Thank you, K&T and GH sisters!)

Then I switched to a video feed and watched you OWN the podium, Sarah. You were awesome—so poised and elegant. I was not (T-shirt, running shorts, ponytail), but I was wearing my Lucky 13Lucky 13s pin. 🙂 I still owe you a bottle of Champagne. Make that two bottles. We need to celebrate your nomination for the 2014 Golden Heart® Award.

(Krista, this post is not about me…) 😉 Why did you title this novel BROKEN PLACES?

A couple of years ago, when my book group was reading The Paris Wife, I was inspired to reread Hemingway’s novels. There is a line from A Farewell To Arms that made me think of the characters in BP, particularly FBI Agent Cruz Larsen: “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

He wants to shake Trevy up so that she’ll “rip off those rose-colored glasses and take a good hard look at the real world. Then maybe she’d see what he saw. Violence that didn’t care about good or bad, innocent or depraved, right or wrong.”

Montrose Park Sundial, a pivotal location in the story!

Montrose Park Sundial, a pivotal location in the story!

What type of research did you do to make the gang behavior, lingo and violence so authentic?

There were some high profile MS-13 (a violent, transnational Latino gang) trials making local news when I started writing Broken Places so The Washington Post reporting was a trove of information. Also relevant interviews on NPR’s Fresh Air, Tell Me More, and the D.C.-based Kojo Nnamdi Show. (Yes, I’m addicted to NPR.) The Internet was useful for researching gang slang.

Urban ethnographer Susan Phillips’s book Wallbangin’ was a great resource. Not only did I learn a lot about gang culture and graffiti, but also a sense of what it’s like to insert yourself in dangerous places where you’re an obvious outsider, the struggle of working with people you’re afraid of, and the personal doubts about the ethical implications of using people’s lives to document societal and cultural phenomena. These are issues Trevy struggles with throughout the book. What is her responsibility to act in the face of the suffering she witnesses?

 The photo is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

The photo is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain. This is the make & model of Trevy’s car, which plays an important role!

What writing or publishing projects are in your future?

I’m working on the second book of the Broken Places trilogy. I’m also planning to revise my 2007 Golden Heart® (finalist) manuscript about a flower farmer in western Virginia who becomes embroiled in a political scandal that endangers her livelihood and life.

Krista Hall

Krista Hall

Now to the GOOD STUFF! Favorite movie?

Miss Potter. Until I saw the movie, I had no idea Beatrix Potter was such a trailblazer—a writer, illustrator, natural scientist, conservationist, and woman with IDEAS.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. Despite the whimsy of her drawings, think of all the subversive rule-breakers featured in her stories: The Tale of Two Bad Mice, The Fierce Bad Rabbit, etc. And the English Lake District where much of the movie was filmed is a visual feast.

Food you can’t say ‘no’ to?

The Chocolate Cupcake of Doom at Baked & Wired in Georgetown.

OMG! I’ll be on the next flight over! A dream trip for you would be…?

Three weeks in Australia and New Zealand with a weeklong layover in Kauai, Hawaii.

Doing book signings! What do you hope readers take away from your story?

Mostly, the enjoyment of a good read and I hope the message is an optimistic one: There can be sweetness after the storm. Do you know the R.E.M. song, Sweetness Follows? If Broken Places had a playlist that song would be on it.

 All the K&T members begged me to request this: Do you happen to have a picture of your darling new puppy, Rosie? 🙂Rosie 7

And now, readers, without further ado! An excerpt of BROKEN PLACES:

“Spare me the lecture, Doc.”

Trevy fastened the cover on the zoom lens of her camera and stuffed it back into her bag with short, jerky motions that betrayed her rising temper. “Don’t you see, if you’d only take the time to understand how these children fall victim to gangs–“

“I know more about it than you ever could,” Cruz said, revealing more than he’d intended. But the good doctor was too wrapped up in her thoughts to notice. “To you, everyone’s a victim. Christ, I’m sick of that mentality.”

“They are victims,” Trevy said, her hands forming tight little fists at her sides. She looked furious enough to hit him, but her voice was remarkably calm. “These children are living on the margin, between two cultures, if you will. Do you know what kind of extreme talent and resolve it takes for even one of them to climb the economic ladder out of poverty?”

“These children are killing each other.” Cruz turned his back on her. He didn’t like the look of the group of teenage boys across the street. They all seemed to have shopped at the same store with the same shopping list. Red sports jerseys, baggy jeans tucked into high-top sneakers, red bandanas in back pockets. LDRs or LDR wannabes, thugs in the making. He cut a warning glance at them and then stepped nearer to Trevy, blocking her from view.

Trevy paused a moment to glare at him before pulling out the notebook and tape measure she always carried in her satchel. She began measuring the images on the wall and jotting down notes. “Do you have a heart?” she asked, as if picking up the thread of a dropped conversation.

“Excuse me, Dr. Barlow, if I don’t feel like joining your pity party for a bunch of street thugs who are intent on turning this part of the city into a war zone,” he said, leaning close enough to smell her shampoo. The scent–light and clean, with a floral note–only made him angrier. “Two girls are dead. Save your pity for them.”

Comment for a chance to win one of TWO copies of BROKEN PLACES! Question of the day:

Have you ever started a project that took years to finish? What kept you going?

Check back on Thursday to see if you’re a lucky winner! (Signed paperback available only in the Continental US. Nook or Kindle e-book available for all.)

Where can readers find out more about you, Krista?

Goodreads

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

My website

Facebook

 

HAPPY DEBUT DAY, Krista, we are so proud of you! Here’s to soaring sales and a best-selling future!toast

Diana Miller Winner!

We’ve had a fun, busy week at Kiss and Thrill! First I want to thank Diana Miller and Shelley Coriell for joining us, and say to Krista Hall how much we all enjoyed being part of her cover reveal!

Before we get to our winner, here is a Golden Heart® Fun Fact – between the 3 women featured this week at Kiss and Thrill, they share 14 Golden Heart finals and 2 wins!

Diana MillerKrista HallShelley_Coriell_HR_Link_Photo

The winner of a $25 Amazon gift card from Diana Miller is:

bbbaddict 

To claim your prize, please contact us within ten days.

Rosie 7The excitement continues next week here at Kiss and Thrill, when Sarah Andre interviews Krista Hall for her debut release BROKEN PLACES. Fingers crossed there will be more puppy pictures!

BrokenPlaces-FrontCover-Final-310dpi

 

Diana Miller Braves the Actors Studio Questionnaire

Today is a special week here at Kiss and Thrill as we celebrate three fabulous romantic suspense authors with a special connection: all three are 2011 Golden Heart® finalists.

FatalTrust_final-200x300We host a lot of Golden Heart finalists here at Kiss and Thrill, but there is something really special about hosting women from the same year (and six of our K&T ladies finaled in 2011 together), because everyone who has finaled in the GH discovers that the true prize in this contest is the friendships that form with the other finalists. Diana Miller, Krista Hall, and Shelley Coriell are the best example of why—incredible authors and wonderful people I am honored and thrilled to know.

You may remember today’s guest, Diana Miller, from her visit to Kiss and Thrill with her debut novel Dangerous Affairs. I loved Dangerous Affairs and gave it five bubbly bathtubs for being a perfect sink-in-the-tub-and-enjoy read. Today I’m so thrilled to have Diana return so I can tell our readers how much I enjoyed her latest release, Fatal Trust, another wonderful 5-bathtub read.

5 bathtubs

Fatal Trust has everything I love in romantic suspense: a smart heroine, a strong hero, wonderful chemistry, and lots of surprising twists. It’s a rare book that will keep me up until two AM, and Fatal Trust was one of those. I will read anything Diana Miller writes and am eagerly awaiting her next release. (Seriously, Diana, send it to me. Now. I’m not above offering bribes.)

For this interview, Diana opted to face down my James Lipton impersonation and answer the questionnaire from Inside the Actors Studio, and she gives one of the best answers to the last question I’ve ever heard, on or off the show.

Today Diana is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter. Please check back on Friday to see if you are our winner!

Diana MillerWhat is your favorite word?  “Schokolade” (pronounced “shok-oh-lah-dah”) which is one of the few words I remember from high school German. It’s fun to say—actually sounds a little sexy—and it means “chocolate”.

What is your least favorite word? Phlegm.

What turns you on? Kindness (preferably accompanied by great pecs and a tight butt).

What turns you off?  Assholish behavior.

What sound or noise do you love? My daughter’s voice, although now I hear it mostly over the phone since she lives 1500 miles away and is getting married this summer, so she won’t be moving back. Trust me, they really do grow up too fast!

What sound or noise do you hate? Microphone feedback, especially from a microphone I’m using (public speaking is already painful enough without adding that).

What is your favorite curse word? At the risk of sounding like a writer, I think the perfect swear word depends on the circumstances and setting and how upset/angry/agitated I am (which is another way of saying that now that I no longer have young, impressionable kids around, I swear too much, especially when I’ve got a deadline).

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I always wanted to be a soap opera star—you get to wear great clothes and shoes and spend your time with hot men, and you’ve got writers who make sure you never suffer the frustration of thinking of the perfect comeback five minutes AFTER the conversation ends. Unfortunately I have no acting ability, so I had to be satisfied making the heroine of my debut novel DANGEROUS AFFAIRS a soap star.  As a  (slightly) more realistic career option, I’ve always thought it would be fun to be a luxury hotel and resort critic.  Getting paid to stay in, enjoy, and evaluate places I can’t afford (preferably ones that feature fabulous restaurants)—how great would that be? And how do you get a job like that?

What profession would you not like to do? I’m claustrophobic, so my idea of hell is working as a coal miner or at any other job that requires being underground or in tight, windowless quarters.

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “I’m so happy you’re here. I want you to write my memoirs.”  FINALLY I’ll write something no publisher will dare reject!

To enter the drawing to win a $25 Amazon gift card, tell us what profession other than your own would you like to attempt, and don’t forget to check back on Friday to see if you are Diana’s winner!

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When she was eight, Diana decided she wanted to be Nancy Drew. But no matter how many garbage cans she dug through, conversations she “accidentally” overheard, and attics she searched, she never found a single mysterious letter, hidden staircase, or anything else even remotely mysterious or suspenseful. She worked as a lawyer, a soda jerk,a stay-at-home mom, a hospital admitting clerk, and a conference host for events ranging from Lutheran music to the International BB Gun competition. She spent long hours volunteering in a nineteenth century mansion allegedly full of secrets and a few ghosts. Still no luck.

Diana ultimately decided the only way she was going to inject any mystery or suspense into her otherwise satisfying life was by writing about it. A five time nominee for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award, she’s thrilled to be releasing her Golden Heart winner Dangerous Affairs, a romantic suspense novel that shows not everyone in her home state is Minnesota Nice.

As a way to avoid avoid housework, Diana mastered gourmet cooking and once roasted an entire turkey for her daughter’s kindergarten class. She now works out while watching the Food Network as motivation. In addition to food, Diana loves music, history, old movies, and traveling with her Norwegian-born husband.

Diana lives in the Twin Cities with her family and a Wheaten terrier puppy. She’s still on the lookout for some real life mystery and suspense.

Book Lists and Lena Diaz’s Tennessee Takedown

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Thank you for helping us build our 2014 TBR lists! We came up with some wonderful suggestions that will keep us busy all year.

These are some of titles on our list so far  (in no particular order):

Do or Die, Suzanne Brockmann  February 4, 2014

Hell for Leather, Julie Ann Walker, May 6, 2014

Dash of Peril (Love Undercover), Lori Foster, March 25, 2014

When Day Breaks, Maya Banks, June 24, 2014

Elle Kennedy, Midnight Pursuits, April 1 2014

The King, JR Ward, April 1, 2014

Dark Wolf, Christine Feehan, January 7, 2014

Styxx, Sherrilyn Kenyon, September 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green

Tenessee Takedown, Lena Diaz, February 1, 2014

The Bodyguard, Lena Diaz, April 15, 2014

Take the Key and Lock Her Up, Lena Diaz, July 22, 2014

Confession, Carey BaldwinMarch 11th, 2014

Labyrinth, Carey Baldwin, Sept 16th, 2014

Why Earls Fall in Love, Manda Collins , January 28, 2014

Why Lords Fall in Love, Manda Collins, July 28, 2014

Withholding Evidence, Rachel Grant, February 2014

Incriminating Evidence, Rachel Grant, Late 2014

Thankless in Death, J.D. Robb, September 17, 2013

The Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz

It Happens in the Dark, Carol O’Connell, August 2013

Lost in a  Royal Kiss, Vanessa Kelly, November 26, 2013

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, October 22, 2013

The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer, April 9, 2013

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson, April 2, 2013

Far Gone, Laura Griffin, April 15, 2014

Romancing the Duke, Tessa Dare, January 28, 2014

Sweet Talk Me, Kieran Kramer, March 15, 2014

Lena Diaz

And please join us next week when our very own Carey Baldwin interviews our very own Lena Diaz!

We can’t wait to hear about her upcoming release Tennessee Takedown from Harlequin!

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