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Heather Ashby’s Never Forget: A Suzanne Brockmann Recommendation

I am so excited to welcome back one of my favorite Golden Heart sisters Heather Ashby. Today we’re talking about her newest release  Never Forget and the most amazing author endorsement ever!!!

“A must-read for fans of military romantic suspense. This book is part of a series, but it stands very much alone. If you enjoy my Troubleshooters, Heather’s definitely an author to check out! Amazing book, amazing author, amazing series.”

                                                                                             – Suzanne Brockmann

NeverForget

HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always exciting to visit “Kiss and Thrill.” I’m thrilled to share Book #3 in my “Love in the Fleet” series with your readers.

 Never Forget

 With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?

When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard USS New York, she’s the only one who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns the spirits must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.

The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.

Passions rise to fever pitch when New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?

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SW: For my first question I just have to ask, “How did you get Suzanne Brockmann to give you a cover quote?”

HA: I asked Suzanne in person when she presented at our chapter meeting, so I had the opportunity to see her jaw drop when I told her about the USS New York and the 9/11 spirits on board. (Yes, there really IS 7.5 tons of WTC steel in the New York’s bow.) However, since Suzanne is well-known for supporting the troops, I’m sure the deciding factor was that I donate half my royalties to Fisher House Foundation in thanksgiving for my son’s safe return from war. BTW, getting her quote and endorsement on Facebook was a dream come true. It was her Troubleshooters books that got me through my son’s deployments (along with vast amounts of prayer and chardonnay!) And while reading her books, I was inspired to try my hand at military romance.

SW: You are so brave. I don’t know if I would have the courage to ask. When you first came up with the idea of the ghosts aboard USS New York, did you have any concerns or worries?

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HA: I sat on the idea for several weeks, questioning if it was okay to write about them. My concern was for the 9/11 families. Then it came to me that if I didn’t write this story, somebody else would, and I wanted to ensure it was written with the respect it deserved. I am a Navy veteran, Marine Corps daughter, Navy wife, and mother of an Iraq and Afghanistan combat Army vet. I felt I was qualified—and with the victims’ families always foremost in my mind—I jumped in with both feet and wrote straight from the heart.

I realized that if I could give the spirits a voice and empower them with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victim to victor. Just so you know, I worked on this book for two years and I still get goose bumps. Thus far my favorite reader review is this one on Facebook: “As a member of a 9/11 family, this book is truly inspiring. I’m filled with gratitude for this very special remembrance of my son.”

SW: What a wonderful review! How many people did you share your premise with while you were writing this? Or did you keep it to yourself?

HA: I shared with very few, highly-trusted individuals. For me to keep a secret like this for two years was a big deal, but I felt the story was too special to allow it to be stolen and sensationalized.

SW: How did you come up with your heroine? Why Welsh and the Royal Navy? She’s fascinating and so different from other heroines.

HA: Several years ago my husband and I entertained Royal Navy officers from the HMS Ocean. One delightful Sub-Left-tenant, suggested I write a romance about a Naval officer exchange program between the U.S. and the U.K., which meant two love story threads. In Never Forget, the love story on the British ship, HMS Atlantic, is the link to the first two books in “Love in the Fleet.” The other thread is detailed above in the blurb. Then I needed a reason why only Gwyn could see the spirits, and thought of a country that might have “faeries,” so I made her Welsh. She grew up with a mum who dabbled in “all kinds of woo-woo stuff,” so Gwyn rebelled by becoming a Royal Naval engineer, a profession which uses science and logic. She is therefore mortified when she reports for duty aboard New York and sees ghosts—meaning she has inherited the family “gift.”

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SW: Why were the prisoners in North Africa? Was there any significance in that choice? (It seems so eerily appropriate now)

HA: I chose North Africa because I needed both the American and British ships (with both sets of lovers) to be close enough to rush to the crisis. The USS New York would be on a routine Med cruise and the HMS Atlantic could race from Plymouth, England to join her in trying to free British and American hostages. My USMC advisor and I decided Tangiers was the perfect spot for the crisis because it was the espionage crossroads of the world in the 1940s and 1950s which plays into the story.

SW: Did you have any surprises while writing this book?

HA: The spirits were a total surprise. My stories are “homeported” at Naval Station Mayport, FL. In 2012 I learned that Mayport would be receiving three amphibious assault ships in 2014, so I decided to write about an amphib. While researching the new ships, I read about the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow of USS New York. I literally flew out of my chair, hands to open mouth with “OMG!OMG!OMG!” screaming in my brain!

Next I surprised myself by making one of the two heroes a Marine. I knew nothing about Marines and could just as easily have made him a Naval officer. But something spoke to me. My late father was a WWII Marine. He had some sad issues from his childhood and I decided to work them out through Adam Connor, my Marine hero. Then I was led to a fabulous newly-retired Marine, Christopher Bergeron, who was interested in helping. He said, “I spent my career writing amphibious assault training scenarios and never got to use half of them. I know exactly how to go into your fictional consulate and free those hostages!” Like I could turn THAT down! The fact that Chris doubled as the cover art photographer was beyond awesome!

There are several surprises in the crisis – which is a series of black moments. One scared the living daylights out of me! My brain kept saying, “Play it safe. This is too risky. You can’t do this.” But my ADHD gut said, “Go for it! This is the kind of thing that makes for blockbuster books and movies.” I figured if it was too risky, my editor would slap me on the wrist and make me revise. But she loved it! (It scared her too J)

Although Chris is new to writing fiction, he added in a few surprises that literally had me screaming out “OMG! I didn’t know that!” At first he just gave me Marine Corps “sand,” general information that I could turn into “sand castles.” But his confidence has gone through the roof as he realizes what a brilliant and creative writer he is (my words, not his J) We are exploring the very real possibility of co-authoring book four, Unforgettable.

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SW: Speaking of your covers, Heather, I see they’ve changed. Can you shed a little light on that.

HA: I changed publishers over the summer and am now working with the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Since it was imperative that this book have a respectful cover, we decided to go with military uniforms for the entire series. My hero son agreed to pose for the covers and Chris shot the photos. My retired Navy husband meticulously researched the ribbons and devices (A.K.A. “fruit salad”) to ensure that the uniforms reflected the age and experience of the hero in each book. It was a true family affair; even my daughter helped out. She suggested a key spy character – “The Lynx” – right before Never Forget went to press.

I feel like I’ve come full circle, Sharon. At 9:04 on 9/11, I knew my son would be going to war. It was one of the most frightening realizations I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to have him return safe and whole from combat. Now he helps out as we publish “Love in the Fleet” and donate to causes that support families who have not fared as well as ours in the War on Terror.

Now I’d like to leave a question with your readers: What were you doing when you learned of 9/11 and what was your initial reaction?

 

SW: One lucky commenter will win a copy of Never Forget by Heather Ashby!

HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always a pleasure to interact with your readers.

SW: You’re so welcome, Heather. It’s always a pleasure to have you here.

USSNYHeather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. She now writes military romance novels in the series, “Love in the Fleet.” Her debut novel, Forgive & Forget was voted “Best of 2013” by Suspense Magazine. Forget Me Not is currently a finalist in the Military Writers Society of America’s annual contest. She publishes with Amber House Books, who released Never Forget on September 9th. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.

You can find Heather at: www.heatherashby.comwww.heatherashby.com/Books.htmlhttp://amzn.to/1lFC9Ua, Twitter: @HAshbyAuthor, and www.facebook.com/HeatherAshbyAuthor?ref=

All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby.

Winner Announcement: And the winner of ALL GOOD DEEDS by Stacy Greena as well as ALL GOOD DEEDS swag  is JB Schroeder. Congratulations JB! Please use our contact page to claim your prize and let us know if you prefer an e-book or print on release day. Please include your email and snail mail addy.

 

 

There’s Something About a Man in Uniform

640px-Pararescuremen_extraction_-_081016-F-5957S-919Military romantic suspense is a wildly popular subset of romantic suspense (one of my favorites to read and write). But why are men in uniform so attractive? I know why I love them so much (especially the one I married), but I was curious what other readers thought, so I asked at a Facebook party a few months ago. Below is a list of the most common reasons the readers I chatted with cited for loving a military (or ex-military) hero:

  1. Self-sacrificing. This was number one, no contest. Apparently a brave man who’s willing to die for his beliefs and to save those he loves makes us weak in the knees like no one else. This probably also explains the popularity of other heroes in uniform like law enforcement and fire fighters.
  2. Intense/determined. Readers love a man who will stop at nothing to save the day (and the heroine). Oh, and when he turns that intense focus on her? Swoon.
  3. Honorable. A strong sense of honor and integrity is sexy as hell.
  4. Hot/muscular. Are you surprised this came in so low? As much as we enjoy the muscular physique that military training makes possible, it’s the man on the inside we really love.
  5. Loyal. A man who stands by those he cares about and keeps his word is a definite keeper.
  6. Alpha. The military is a hotbed of alpha males, and we love watching these tough guys exhibit the traits above. We love it even more when their tough exterior cracks and we see their soft heart on the inside.

I think the purest embodiment of these traits is the special forces hero. Suzanne Brockmann got romance readers lusting after Navy SEALs, first with her Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series for Silhouette Intimate Moments, and later with her single-title Troubleshooters series. After SEALs received publicity for capturing Osama Bin Laden and rescuing Captain Phillips, they became the vampires/dukes of the romantic suspense shelf.

They’re everywhere.

Occasionally the Army Delta guys or Rangers get some love too. With the possible exception of Marine Corps special operators, I think it’s the Air Force spec ops guys who are most overlooked, though that’s slowly changing.

504px-United_States_Air_Force_Pararescue_Emblem_%22That_Others_May_Live%22Air Force Special Operations Forces (SOF)? Yes, they exist. In fact, they might just be the toughest SOF group out there. You’ve probably even watched a few movies that featured them—specifically pararescueman—without realizing it (Perfect Storm, Black Hawk Down). In Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), Steve Rogers’ new friend, Sam Wilson, is a former pararescueman, though the way they describe his mission initially makes him sound like a pilot. Even the Captain is confused.

When I first started writing military romance, I wanted to highlight the Air Force’s lesser known SOF teams, all of whom go through similar training as SEALs or Delta Force, but also require additional education for their specialty. It takes nearly two years for them to get through their training “pipeline” and be ready to join a squadron.

The Air Force has three major types of special operators.

Deliver with carePararescueman (a.k.a. PJs or pararescue jumpers). Their motto is “These things we do, that others may live,” often shortened to “That others may live.” First tasked with rescuing downed pilots in Vietnam (often under fire), they are experts at combat search and rescue: inserting into hostile territory to rescue/return American or allied servicemembers. In addition to possessing all of the skills you’d expect from a special operator—weapons training, fast-roping, static and freefall jumping, combat dive techniques—every one is a trained paramedic with the skills to handle battlefield trauma.

Above all else, their goal is to do whatever it takes to save lives. According to AirForce.com, they must be willing to “…parachute, scuba dive, rock climb or even snowmobile into hostile territory to get to a wounded Airman…”

Their original mission has expanded to include picking up NASA astronauts who return to Earth via water landing, as well as participating in civilian search and rescue operations and humanitarian missions. Since 9/11, they have participated in more than 12,000 life-saving, combat rescue missions.

Kick-ass special operators with heart? Be still mine.

512px-JTACCombat Controllers. Combat controllers are also special operators, but instead of paramedic training, they become FAA-certified air traffic controllers. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “The mission of a combat controller is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments to establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control, fire support, command and control, direct action, counter-terrorism, foreign internal defense, humanitarian assistance and special reconnaissance in the joint arena.”

So, basically, they risk their lives to set up runways, control the air traffic in their area, and call in close air support for troops under fire (i.e. direct the assets in the air to take out the enemy). These guys are serious multi-taskers.

125th_STS_SOWT_takes_weather_readings_at_Fort_CarsonSpecial Operations Weathermen. Yep, you read that right. Special operators who are also meteorologists. Who knew?

Combat weathermen, are assigned to SOF teams from all services to forecast the mission impact of the weather in the area of operation. According to the Air Force fact sheet, “They collect critical weather, ocean, river, snow and terrain data, assist mission planning, generate accurate mission-tailored target and route forecasts in support of global special operations and train joint force members and coalition partners to take and communicate limited weather observations.” So, brains and brawn. What’s not to love?

Want more of these Air Force heroes? Here are a few books to check out.

Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez (yes, I’m shameless!) – Hero Mick Fury is a former pararescueman (my Men of Steele series revolves around several former PJ teammates).

Breakpoint by JoAnn Ross – Features former Combat Controller Dallas O’Halloran.

Cover Me by Catherine Mann – This is the first in her Elite Force: That Others May Live series featuring active-duty PJ heroes.

Want to learn more about the real heroes who inspire us? Try one of these nonfiction books.

None Braver by Michael Hirsh

That Others May Live by Pete Nelson and Jack Brehm

Guardian Angel by William Sine

Do you like a man in uniform? What’s the draw for you?


All images were obtained via Wikimedia and are in the public domain.

 

When Keeping Secrets is Deadly

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CLICK COVER for Buy-Link

Is this the smoking hot sex scene you submitted to a contest and won?

Ha, what a way to start! I was going to thank you for hosting me today, but…

Just kidding. 😉 Yes, the first big love scene between Mick and Jenna is the one I submitted to the Between the Sheets contest back in 2011. I received perfect scores from two of three editors/agents, but the competition must have been fierce because I took 2nd place.

2nd Place?! I find that hard to believe.  😦

Oh, hello K&T readers. Sorry to start the interview without formally introducing you to today’s author. You see, she’s one of our own and we are SO PROUD OF HER! Scroll down a couple of inches and Gwen Hernandez’s picture is on the left…there she is! Today is her debut of BLIND FURY. I had the honor (i.e., beat out everyone else pictured on the left) to read it in advance and host her today. I can assure you BLIND FURY is a fast-paced, can’t-put-down read. Ask my husband…his dinner was burned; a sure sign that this is an author headed for the best-seller lists.

So let’s get back to the interview: Tell us how you were able to make Mick so authentic? Specifically: suppressing the daily horror he faced fighting terrorists, the ‘itch’ to return to that life-or-death existence once he came home and the genuine brotherhood camaraderie/lingo?

I’m so glad you found Mick authentic. I read a lot of books, blogs, and articles about military and private security contractors (PSCs), but the book that really brought Mick to life for me was Big Boy Rules by Steve Fainaru. It’s about PSCs in Iraq and what motivates them to work in that environment. The Long Walk by Brian Castner, about a former EOD officer trying to leave the war behind, is another good one.

I also remember watching The Hurt Locker, and the opening quote is: “War is addictive.” For me, that summed up Mick’s struggle.GwenSigSauer

Some of my sense for how men interact comes from my reading, but it also comes from years of working in male-dominated fields or workplaces. Oh, and I’m an Army/Navy brat who spent time in Air Force training, and married an Air Force officer, so that helps too. 😉

One major mystery in BLIND FURY is a dark secret Mick promised to keep from the sister of his dying best friend. (And he keeps it from us, readers, it’ll drive you crazy!) This secret ultimately puts their lives in danger, but he promised. Did you know in advance what the (mind-blowing) secret would be, or did you hope to come up with something as you wrote the story?

I had a pretty good idea of what the secret would be when I started, though some of the specifics changed over time.

When did you conceptualize this plot and what triggered it?

I started this book back in 2010, and the initial spark came from reading Blackwater by Jeremy Scahill. He was writing about the scandal surrounding Blackwater (private security company) and its contractors, and I wanted to explore what it would be like to be a good guy working in that type of environment.

Any current actor/actress in mind for Mick and Jenna, when Hollywood calls (and they will!)

I would love it if Hollywood called (thank you!), but I’m awful at finding actors to match the vision in my head. Bodies are easier though. I think Blind Fury’s cover captures Mick’s physique quite nicely. 😉

You’re so very polite! I would have said: “I think BLIND FURY’S cover captures Mick’s smokin’ hot bod just fine!” 😉 

The cover mentions A Men of Steele Novel. What is Steele and how many novels are planned for this series?

Steele refers to Steele Security, which admittedly is a pretty loose connection in Blind Fury. Mick’s friend, Kurt Steele, has a company that provides personal security and security assessments. In this book, Kurt and some of his guys help out Mick and Jenna, but they’ll be the heroes in the later books. I have a least four stories in mind so far.

Any tentative publishing dates and titles we can look forward to?

Right now I’m working on a short novel starring Jenna’s friend, Tara, who will get her happily ever after with a new guy at Steele. 😉 Her book, Blind Justice, should be out by May of this year.

Beyond that, I’m hoping to get Blind Ambition (Dan’s book) done before fall, and one more as-yet-untitled book (Kurt’s story) out early next year.

Saying goodbye as he deploys to Greece.

Saying goodbye as he deploys to Greece.

(Readers: get to work thinking up a Blind __ title.)

Because of your husband’s work your family has moved many times. Where have you lived and which place was your favorite? Why?

If you go back to my childhood, the list gets really long—if I had a theme song, it would be “I’ve Been Everywhere” by Johnny Cash—but my husband’s Air Force career has taken us to Oklahoma, Ohio, California, Virginia/DC, and Alabama. We’re back in Virginia now, but hoping to get to California again (or Europe). I’m a west coast, beach girl at heart.

Meeee tooo! Fingers crossed you’re transferred to Orange County and I can live in your garage apt. (Hey, a girl can dream!)

As Supreme Goddess of Scrivener (software for authors), you’ve been famous in the writing world long before this debut release. Which was easier—writing fiction or a detailed, humorous Dummies book?

Ha, I could get used to Supreme Goddess. 😉 Not sure about famous, but maybe known in certain circles. (See Readers? She’s so very polite! She’s crazy-famous to us writers.) Writing Scrivener For Dummies was definitely easier. My sense of humor is a good match for the Dummies line, and I wrote a lot of technical documentation in the years before I turned to writing for fun. Plus, I can outline like a champ for nonfiction, but I’m a complete seat-of-the-pants writer with my fiction. That was quite a shock to this left-brained gal, but I’ve learned to go with it.

Found it!

Found it!

On to the nosy, mind-your-own-business type of questions our readers have been waiting for! Novel you are presently reading?

I’m between books, but I just finished Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. Loved it.

Food you make a pig of yourself eating?

Corn tortilla chips. And Justin’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Sometimes together.

(Tiny gagging sound.) How…uh…unusual. Favorite movie or TV show?

I have such a hard time picking favorites, but my current TV obsession is BBC’s Sherlock.

Meeee tooo! Benedict Cumberbatch (sigh.) I even like saying his name…

Well, I know you’re a private person, so I’ll stop being nosy (perhaps Carey can throw in her famous ‘lightning round’ in the comments section…snort!) On a serious note: We are SO thrilled for your romantic suspense debut, Gwen, and I personally cannot recommend this riveting story enough!

And now you’ve officially finished your very first K&T romantic suspense interview! 🙂

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Sarah!

Gwen is giving a free copy of BLIND FURY to one lucky commenter. Answer both of these questions (if you dare!): “Have you ever had an important or huge secret to keep? Did you keep your promise or spill the beans?”

Check back on Friday to see if you won!

CLICK HERE TO READ THE BACK COVER OF BLIND FURY.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FOR GWEN HERNANDEZ: Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Gwen Hernandez

Gwen Hernandez

Please join us February 27th, when Sharon interviews Heather Ashby. Heather will tell us everything about her newest release, Forget Me Not, and her sexy hero, Sky Crawford.

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Cover reveal! Blind Fury by Gwen Hernandez

Happy Valentine’s Day! A day that celebrates romance seemed like the perfect day to reveal the cover of my upcoming romantic suspense, Blind Fury. So, what do you think?

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I’ll be back to talk about Blind Fury in more detail when it releases on Feb 25th. Want to make sure you don’t miss release day, and be entered for a chance to win? Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/oLFjv.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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