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The View From Cloud 9!

All nine of us are up here and the champagne is overflowing!

Welcome, friends, as we celebrate blog-mate and close friend, Sharon Wray on her debut day. Every Deep Desire is book one in her Deadly Force series and a novel that garnered her one of eight RWA Golden Heart® nominations.

Like most things Sharon undertakes (studying wedding dress design in the couture houses of Paris, a mother of twins, a librarian and astounding photographer) she added her unique flair to the modern day romantic suspense. Every Deep Desire is a sweeping saga of haunted pasts, tortured secrets, epic yearning and a love that transcends all. K&T members thought this blog post should reflect a unique approach as well, so we’ve each participated in the interview. Grab some bubbly and join us!

Need-to-know questions from the great interviewer, James Lipton; “Inside the Actors Studio”:

  1. What is your favorite word?    Grace.
  2. What is your least favorite word?        Hurry.
  3. What turns you on?     Politeness.
  4. What turns you off?    Bad breath.
  5. What sound or noise do you love?      Garden water fountains.
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?     Barking dogs.
  7. What is your favorite curse word?       Damn.
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?              Home organizer.
  9. What profession would you not like to do?    Anything where I have to drive.
  10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?        “I missed you.”

When did you know you wanted to write novels, and when did you actually begin writing?

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 (my twins were four), I started reading romance novels again to help offset some of the grief. After reading Night Embrace by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Dark Prince by Christine Feehan, and Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann, I decided I wanted to write a novel myself. Except I had no idea how so I joined RWA in March 2, 2004. My debut novel comes out March 6, 2018.

This modern retelling of Romeo and Juliette is fascinating. How did Shakespeare influence you to create your strong heroine?

It was a trip to Verona and a guide took us to see the city’s most famous celebrities: Romeo and Juliet. We went to Juliet’s courtyard and Romeo’s palazzo, and she told us the history of this famous story. A history that included six earlier sources of the love story, including a mention in Dante’s Divine Comedy. But the detail that caught my attention was that she kept calling the story Giulietta and Romeo.

Apparently, in all of the prior source material that Shakespeare used, Juliet was the protagonist. The story belonged to the heroine!

Juliet’s statue in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy

When I got home, I read translations of all of the source material and studied the literary criticisms. Shakespeare had not only made Juliet the main protagonist, but that it was the first time in all of his works that a woman was the hero of a play. The reason why deserves a blog post all its own, but when you study the text you can see that Juliet is given half of all of Romeo’s sonnets. She makes plans and follows through while the men can’t control their tempers. She even kills herself like a man while Romeo uses poison—a woman’s weapon.

Mailbox where people leave their letters to Juliet in Juliet’s courtyard in Verona, Italy

Up until this time, within my own work, I’d assumed that the men in my Deadly Force series were the protagonists. The men had suffered terribly—violence, combat, POW camps, etc—so why wouldn’t they be the ones who had to change the most? But when I looked at the story emotionally (like I’d studied Romeo and Juliet), I realized that my heroines had the harder journey. They might not have undergone physical suffering, but their emotional journeys came with higher risks. Once I made my heroines the protagonists, the stories came together in a way I’d never expected. And Juliet, in Every Deep Desire, took me on a journey that left my breathless and exhausted. And all of the work to rewrite the books has been worth it.

Do you believe in serendipity? Your career (and how massively busy you are writing, editing and promoting the 3-book deal) is taking off just as your kids headed off for college. Is this the perfect time or do you wish you were well into your publishing career?

While part of me would like to already have ten books on the shelf, the truth is I wouldn’t have been willing to give up the time with my family that that would’ve required. I do think that God’s timing is perfect. Now that my twins are in college, I have the freedom to work, each day, as long as want. For the first time in 18 years, my time is my own and I’m spending almost every waking hour writing or with my husband.

What authors have been your greatest influence? And why?

I know the Bronte sisters are a clichéd choice, but clichés don’t become what they are for no reason. When I was in sixth grade I started Jane Eyre on Thursday morning and finished it on Friday at one a.m. When I woke up at noon on Friday, I started Wuthering Heights and stayed up all night, not finishing it until almost four a.m. Then I crashed. When I woke up later on Saturday, I remember going downstairs and feeling . . . different. I felt awake. I realized that life was much larger, and far more dangerous and exciting, than I’d ever thought possible. And the realization that I, too, might grow up and fall in love filled me such wonder and joy, I could barely breathe.

Tell us a bit about the overall story line for the series.

The Deadly Force series: Where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines redeem Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

The series is about a team of ex-Special Forces soldiers, accused of vicious war crimes, who are desperate to prove their innocence and find their enemies before they attack again. As these men struggle to rebuild their lives and redeem their honor, it’s the women they love who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

What is the tentative schedule for deadlines and publishing dates?

Every Deep Desire, March 6, 2018 (today!)

One Dark Wish, (book 2) is currently in revision and I hope to finish soon. This book is tentatively scheduled for publication January 2019.

Deadly Force 3, (book 3) is due September 1. (Yikes!!!!) Title and publication dated TBD. I just call this one DF3. (Poor, untitled DF3. LOL.) 

You, of all people, know what patience and perseverance means in this business. Do you have any advice for writers still waiting for ‘the call’?

Two things in particular: I wasted so much time wondering “if” it would ever happen that I wish I could go back and tell myself to worry less and laugh more. If you begin as you wish to proceed, things will work out eventually. Maybe not the way you expected, or in the time frame you wanted, but usually even better than you’d hoped. So write every day as if you’re published. Take classes, learn your craft, and build your network of writing friends. That way, when the time comes, you’re ready.

The second thing is an order from Winston Churchill. And for our purposes, the enemy is our own self doubt:

“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

 

All of K&T (except Manda!) at Lena’s booksigning

Sharon, we all wish you an unforgettable debut day and a bestselling series!

 

 

Thanks so much, Sarah, for hosting me today. It’s such an amazing thing to celebrate my debut with my Kiss and Thrill sisters.

He’s taking it all back
His honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves

Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he’s done…or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.

It took Juliet Capel eight long years to put her life back together after her husband was taken from her. Now Rafe is back, determined to protect her at any cost, and it’s not just her heart that’s in danger. The swamps hold a secret long buried and far deadlier than either of them could have imagined…

 

BUY LINKS: (Please don’t forget to help a debut author out by leaving a review!)

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble

iBooks

 

Carey, Lena, Diana, Sharon, Gwen, Sarah in NYC, 2015

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram Pinterest Goodreads BookBub Amazon Author Page

 

Diana, Rachel and Sharon

Rachel, Diana, Gwen, Sharon and Sarah

Sharon, Gwen, and Sarah before the 2013 GH/RITA Awards in Atlanta.

All about Sharon Wray.

IMG_5582KaT member, Sharon Wray supplied all these photographs…take a look at them…aren’t they SO Sharon Wray?! She’s the most optimistic, genuinely kind and considerate friend/fellow writer I know.

I believe the entire romance writing world knows her because of her eight RWA Golden Heart nominations in six years, because she’s always volunteering for chapter positions or cheering others on through yahoo loop emails, and because of the hundreds of poignant photographs and heartfelt blogs she’s posted over the years.

We were hugely ecstatic but a bit confused when we learned her most important moment in being a writer (getting the coveted book contract offer from a publisher) was communicated in a Publisher’s Weekly announcement. (The rest of us usually type the news in all caps all over social media.) Sharon was in the middle of a hectic summer and getting ready for the RWA national conference, so she hurriedly told the overall story, but promised to tell the nitty-gritty details when she returned. And here she is:

Can you tell us about the moment you realized your publishing dream had just come true?

It was surreal. After I hung up on a Skype call with my agents (Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter), having accepted Deb Werksman’s offer from Sourcebooks, I sat at my desk shaking. After all these years (11!), I’d actually sold a book. And two more! I couldn’t even call my husband. I was so afraid to say anything to anyone because I was worried someone would  tell me it was all joke.

But now that I have a deadline, I know it’s not only not a joke, it’s a dream come true. I’m so grateful to my agents and editor, and I’m determined not to let them down.

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Explain ‘auction’ for those readers who’ve never heard the term associated with novels.

An auction is when a novel has two or more offers for publication from different publishing houses, and a literary agent negotiates the best deal for his or her author. Negotiations can include (but aren’t limited to) advances, subsidiary rights, marketing plans, release dates, etc. For the author, it’s very exciting and a crash course in all things publishing. Here’s a great article by Rachelle Gardner who explains it much better than I ever could!

What was your family’s reaction after you sold?

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Donut the Dog whose lack of interest keeps Sharon humble.

They were all so excited, including the dog, and they gave me hugs and we all cried. Then we went out to dinner to celebrate! And while at dinner, the kids asked about going to Disney World to really celebrate. Still thinking about that one. 🙂

When did you you know you wanted to start writing novels?

In 2004, my four-year old twins and I moved to Savannah, GA from Fairfax, VA (temporarily) to take care of my father who was dying of cancer. Taking care of my dad and the twins, while my husband was still in Virginia, was one of the most stressful things I’ve ever had to do. There was little free time and lots of stress involved.

It was during this time that my sister-in-law Kieran Kramer (now a USA Today Bestselling author for St. Martin’s Press) suggested I keep track of everything going on in my journal. Kieran had always been a writer and was actively pursuing a romance writing career. And I’d always admired her talent and perseverance.

During the summer of 2004, I found that writing helped me find a place for all of my emotions and I slowly moved from non-fiction into fiction. I realized that all the stories I’d always had in my head needed an outlet. In 2005, after my dad’s death, I finished my first manuscript, joined RWA, and entered the Golden Heart (and didn’t final!). After that, although I was in the early stages of learning how to write, I was hooked!

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In those 11 years, you’ve done an incredible amount of research and learning writing craft. What “Ah-Ha!” craft resources do you recommend?

There are so many, but here’s a list of my favorites:

Laura Baker & Robin Perini’s Discovery Story Magic 

Laura Baker’s Turning Points (DSM part 2)

Michael Hauge’s Identity to Essence

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat

Alicia Rasley’s Emotion without Purple Prose

Kathleen Baldwin’s Scene & Sequel

Suzanne Johnson’s Plot Quilting 101

Margie Lawson’s Rhetorical Devices & Empowering Character’s Emotions

Tiffany Lawson Inman’s Madness to Method &  Writing Authentic Choreograph

Back to your contract details! Do you have tentative titles and publication dates?

The Series title is The Deadly Force Series which I love. I honestly don’t know yet about whether or not I can keep my original titles. I also don’t know my publication dates, but I hope to know soon.

Right now the first three books are titled:

When Next We Meet

Hope Craves an Execution

Pale in Her AngerIMG_5555

I thought this saga was planned for 6 novels. Are you cutting the series short or planning on another multiple book deal?

For now I’m writing the first three books in the series for Sourcebooks. Hopefully, if things go well, I’ll be asked to write the next three.

Can you give us the overall story line for the series?

The Deadly Force series is about Colonel Torridan and his group of elite ex-soldiers who operate a self-defense school while seeking the truth behind an operation gone wrong.

These men are devoted to each other, determined to seek the truth instead of justice, and willing to risk their honor, their lives, and their souls to save themselves and the women they love. And, in the process, protect the world.

Do you believe in Serendipity?

Yes. I also believe in God’s timing. And in my case, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. I have three books to write in the next two years, but the kids go off to college next summer. I was already worried about how I was going to handle that (I suspect I won’t be handling it well) but now that I have three books coming out, I know I’ll be too busy to cry or feel lonely.

The timing of Sourcebook’s offer isn’t an accident and I’m so grateful that when the twins do go off to school, I’ll have plenty of work to focus on (besides my husband and dog!). I’m also grateful this didn’t happen earlier. I wouldn’t give up the time I’ve spent with my family for anything in the world.

Three Books you’d take to a deserted Island?

JR Ward’s Dark Lover (Paranormal Romance), Stephen King’s The Shining (Horror), and Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me (YA)

 Favorite foods you can’t say no to?

Oreos. Perfection in a small, round cookie.

Yummy. 🙂 Do you have any advice for writers still waiting for the call?

Never Pillow

Never stop writing. But Winston Churchill said it best in his October 29, 1941 speech at his childhood school (he almost didn’t graduate).

“. . . never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

This quote–this speech–has never failed me in my darkest moments of self-doubt and worry.

Sharon, I think you know how much we’ve looked forward to celebrating your publishing contract, and how excited the eight of us are for you! Thanks for the pictures, and even formatting this for me, because that’s just the kind of friend you are!! –Sarah

Sharon-Wray

You can find Sharon here at Kiss and Thrill and DON’T miss her own blog www.sharonwray.com (it’s what a blog SHOULD be!)

She also loves to connect with readers on: Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Instagram | Goodreads

All photographs courtesy of Sharon Wray.

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.

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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MissingintheGlades

ArrestingDevelopments2016BBAfinalist[1]

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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.

 

Meet the 2015 Golden Heart RS Finalists!

Many romance writers are busily packing bulging suitcases for next week’s Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. So what better time to get you psyched for the RWA Awards Night, next Saturday, July 25th. WHY? Because this year RWA is streaming the event LIVE (click the word that night to be linked immediately, or go to http://www.RWA.org!) Now you too can be a part of that magical night of glitz, glam and stunning ball gowns! And one of these remarkable writers will walk up to the podium (in front of 2,500 fellow writers) and accept the coveted 2015 Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense! Let’s meet these lucky women:

Brynn%20Kelly2s

BRYNN KELLY

DECEPTION ISLAND (to be published in mid-2016 by HQN Books!)

In DECEPTION ISLAND, a rogue French Foreign Legion officer and
a Californian conwoman become unlikely allies in a deadly battle
against 21st century pirates and slave traders, in the steamy jungles and azure waters of an Indian Ocean paradise.

As their lives are plunged into danger, their damaged hearts and minds reluctantly begin to open to the possibility of finding love in the most unexpected of places. When loyalties are tested and damning secrets revealed, will their fragile trust in each other be enough to pull them through?

FIRST LINE: Time to get this over with.

Extra detail: I didn’t realize the French Foreign Legion still existed
until a couple of years ago, when I came across a Vanity Fair article about modern-day Legionnaires. What a fascinating concept for a novel—what would prompt a man to walk away from his life, and even his identity and native language, to risk his neck for another country? Thus my hero in Deception Island, Capitaine Rafe Angelito, was born.  

 

                                                                                                                      JESSICA DARAGOJessica Darago - Author Photo

SCANDAL

Renée Norton isn’t sure how she wound up here, in the empty attic of a Bloomsbury town home with a disassembled cell phone in one coat pocket, an SD card full of homemade porn in the other, and her dead best friend’s blood all over her hands, but she knows she has to act fast, before she winds up dead herself.

Cut off from the police and the American embassy by her suddenly violent diplomat ex-boyfriend’s quick maneuvering, she’s left with only one ally, an ex-MI6 agent who calls himself William Gillette. Clever, charming, and—Renée suspects—more than a bit off his rocker, Gillette was not only smart enough to track her down, he’s also discovered her most closely guarded secret: that “Renée Norton” is just another role she’s been playing. And though the last thing Renée wants is to place her trust in another man, she may not have a choice: If her enemies catch up with her, it’s not just her secrets on the line, but the lives of millions.

FIRST LINE:

The mirror showed Renée everything: It covered half of Vilém’s bedroom wall and caught the whole rest of the room in its gaze, from the gaping maw of the walk-in closet to the drapes that shut out the wet, dark London morning and even—especially—Renée herself, sprawled naked and sated on the rumpled bed.

Extra Detail: Every writer should have a Jimbo—though at times, his intervention feels as much like a curse as a blessing. One day—May 2, 2010, to be precise—he simply asked me if anyone had ever written a story about the murder of Sherlock Holmes. I said I didn’t know.

A half hour later, I had a plot; a new setting and context; I had new identities and arcs for the characters representing Watson, Mycroft, Morstan, Lestrade, and Moriarity. I had a way to resurrect my Holmes from the dead—because Sherlock Holmes always comes back from the dead. Because I am, down to my core, a romance novelist, I knew this book would really be about Holmes and the woman. And it would be the most important story I know how to tell: How to go on loving each other when the whole world tries to stop us.

So this is not a book about the murder of Sherlock Holmes…but it almost was. And if those kinds of ideas excite you, I recommend talking to Jimbo.

 

Arlene%20McFarlane%20picARLENE MCFARLANE

MURDER, CURLERS AND CREAM

Valentine Beaumont is in for a hair-raising shock when her spoiled client, socialite Portia Reynolds, is strangled right under her nose. Unfortunately, a dead customer in the beauty industry is not exactly a drawing card, and Valentine feels obligated to find the killer. She learns Portia had more kinks than curls in her personal life and, as she untangles the mystery, she finds out just how nasty Portia was. With Guccis on her feet, a bag of tools-of-the-trade over her shoulder, a hard-nosed cop on her back, and a kooky cast of characters in her midst, will Valentine survive her own investigation?

FIRST LINE“You wound a perm rod around a man’s what?” Detective Michael Romero stood in the middle of the Mediterranean-styled salon, hand on his gun hip, stunning blue eyes piercing me with a look that said now he’d heard everything.
Extra Detail: I combined my experience in the beauty industry with my love of rom/com mysteries, and the Murder, Curlers series was born.

 

                                                                                                                TRACY POOLEIMAG0130%20-%20Copy%20(2)

 A SHOT WORTH TAKING

After stopping terrorists from detonating a dirty bomb, Special Ops soldier Tony Vincenti and FBI linguist Angela Hoffman intend for their next joint mission to involve under-the-covers work, only someone wants to cash in on a contract on Angela’s life. With little evidence to support their suspicions of who is trying to kill her, Tony must convince Angela to violate her own ethics to expose the would-be assassin before they can get a shot at a future together.

FIRST LINEThe fun factor of camping out with eight of even his closest friends only lasted the first month or two, max, of a deployment.

Extra Detail: This is the second MS in my Bad Karma Spec Ops series. When I wrote the first book, I didn’t originally plan a series until a friend asked if I was going to do a series around the team like Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series. At first I said no due to other book ideas brewing in my head, but I changed my mind and fell in love with the rest of the team. This story was adapted from a spec movie script I’d written previously. The (current) first line was actually inspired by an Army helicopter pilot I supported.

 

sharon wray

SHARON WRAY

HOPE CRAVES AN EXECUTION

When Sarah Monroe, a strong-willed historian, travels to a rural Savannah sea island to solve the last unbreakable Revolutionary War cipher, she draws the attention of a ruthless arms dealer. Now her life, and the secret hidden within the cipher, is at the mercy of ex-Green Beret Major Nate Walker. Nate, a man who suffers from seizures, memory loss, and regret, will do anything to save his men and take down the arms dealer even if it means betraying the woman he loves.

FIRST LINE:  Sara Munro adjusted the hood of her field jacket and frowned at the hand-written sign nailed to the ancient oak: Trespassers will be shot. Then prosecuted. No kidding.

Extra Detail: Once I was a Latin student studying ciphers used during the reign of Elizabeth I. (I’d been reading too many Jean Plaidy novels!) Years later, I found an assignment I’d done – a Latin-based substitution cipher based on a Puritan poem by Anne Bradstreet that had been popular during the 18th Century. And suddenly a tortured ex-Greeen Beret, Nate Walker, popped into my head and told me the woman he loved was a historian who studied General Washington’s ciphers and there was one she couldn’t solve. They needed to figure out what the cipher protected before an arms dealer unleashed a weapon last used during the Revolutionary War. Nate’s desperate appeal led me down a writing rabbit hole that ended with this story and led me to my series.

 

SHARON WRAY sharon wray

EVERY UNWORTHY THING

When Madeleine Ashton, a Charleston, SC couturier and socialite, is targeted by an arms dealer in search of a 17th Century secret hidden in tunnels under her city, her last hope to save her family is Alex Mitchell: ex-con, ex-Army Ranger, and the baddest boy she’s ever met. Alex, besides being forsaken by his family and damned by the price on his head, has a secret — he used to work for the arms dealer. And when he’s given the opportunity to do so again, he must choose between a life of unlimited money and power or the prim, proper woman who has stolen his heart.

FIRST LINE:  Alex Mitchell hated waiting.

Extra Detail: When I was sixteen, my future mother-in-law took me on a tour of Charleston, SC. The tour guide told stories of the pirates who plagued Charleston during the 17th and 18th centuries. These ruthless men blackmailed the populace, used secret tunnels to hide their treasure, then ran underground smuggling operations during the Revolutionary War. Years later, I met Alex Mitchell, an ex-Army Ranger just released from prison, who told me the “pirates” were back in Charleston. The woman he loved needed my help to stop a weapons smuggling race between a brutal arms dealer and Alex’s own brother. Hence the next rabbit hole that led to the third book in my Black Ops Brotherhood series. 

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.

Yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

If you’re a romance writer, then you are probably aware of the drama going on regarding the question how much romance is necessary for a story to be classified a romance novel. I think of it as the Great Controversy.

If you’re a reader, hopefully you haven’t noticed.

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SInce I’ve always had more romance than plot in my manuscripts, the Great Controversy is something I hadn’t thought much about. Not because I didn’t care but because I know what happens when you try to quantify the subjective.

Fools run errands and those wild geese you’re chasing bite back.

It’s like trying to eat a spaghetti sandwich. It’s possible, but you’re left with a mess and you’ve lost half of your noodles.

So, this summer, I let the Great Controversy go. I left it to others who are more articulate than I to work out the answers. Then I forgot about it.

Until I went to the airport for my flight to San Antonio for the annual RWA Conference and met the Angry Young Man.

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Tall. Shaved head. Sharp tongue. His dark tattoos threatened to slash me, but it was his words that cut.

Romance novels?  Pathetic. Formulaic. Pornographic.

I stepped away quickly, not wanting to engage in an argument before boarding a plane.

Yet, despite his derision, his eyes held desperate questions.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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My heart hammered and I felt nauseous. I hate conflict. And I had no words at the time, especially since we were on the same flight and might have to sit next to each other. But I was disappointed in myself. How could I aspire to be a romance writer when I couldn’t even defend my profession? I didn’t want to go to RWA anymore. Even if it meant missing the Golden Heart ceremony.

What difference did a Golden Heart final make if I couldn’t take away the pain in that man’s eyes?

Stuck with a non-refundable ticket and in desperate need of chocolate, I snuck away to the far end of the gate area. I searched my carry-on for my emergency dark chocolate with almonds candy bar. Instead, I found my RWA badge carefully tucked around my signed copy of Letters to Kelly by Suzanne Brockmann (which I take to every conference as my good luck charm).

The book dismissed me as a coward. My Golden Heart pins glittered, accusing me.

If my words couldn’t heal the Angry Young Man, then whose would?

Why was I so afraid?

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That’s when the truth slammed her fist into my stomach. The Great Controversy had stolen my confidence. All this worrying about my books not being romantic enough had made me doubt my stories, my writing, my career aspirations. I’d thought that by ignoring the Great Controversy, it wouldn’t touch me.

Like a true introvert, I’d just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I’d left my heart’s gate unguarded and self-doubt had crept in.

My desire for chocolate died, and I watched people move in and out of gates, down hallways, dragging baggage and pillows and kids. But in many of their eyes I saw an emptiness. A sad kind of desperation.

Were they just weary travelers? Or were they in the same kind of pain as the Angry Young Man? Just less obvious?

I heard loud voices nearby and looked up. The Angry Young Man was arguing with the flight attendant manning the departure door. I couldn’t hear his words, but his dark voice made everyone turn. For a second, we all held a collective breath, all held together in the moment. A minute later, a security officer escorted the Angry Young Man away. When he passed me, I met his gaze.

Will I ever be loved?

Will I ever love another?

Are Happily Ever Afters real?

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I wanted to reach out and tell him that everything would be alright. That I had the answers to the questions in his eyes.

But he disappeared around the corner and everyone retreated back to their private space. Each person separate again, lost in their own thoughts. But something inside me had shifted, and I took out one of my Golden Hearts and pinned it to my sweater.

Although no one else would know what the pin meant, those mirror-image question marks holding the shape of a heart confirmed what I knew to be true.

I took strength from the heart’s beauty and found truth in its form.

Formulaic?  Romance novels bring order and comfort to the chaos and suffering of the human condition.

Pathetic?  Romance novels offer hope to the seeking, soothe the ill, and give solace to the grieving.

And the other word that’s not worth repeating?  Romance novels prove that true love given and true love received can change the world.

I’m still not sure if my stories meet the requirements of the Great Controversy, but I learned something that day in the airport. The power of a romance novel comes not just from its level of romance, but from its graceful ability to answer the questions of the Angry Young Man.

Will I ever be loved?  Yes. With great passion.

Will I ever love another?  Yes. With great truth.

Are Happily Ever Afters real?  Yes. With great beauty.

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Maybe, instead of asking the question of how much romance is in a romance novel, we should be asking if a novel fulfills its promise to the reader. A promise written with great passion, great truth, and great beauty. A promise of a happy ending.

I am proud to be a romance writer. I am proud that my stories offer a mix of adventure, suspense and love. I am proud that my manuscripts–like those written before and those yet to be–end with the same three simple words.

Three simple words which, almost invisible on their own, carry a force unlike any other.

Three simple words which, when strung together, hold the weight of a golden heart, the answers for an Angry Young Man, and the power to heal the world.

So yes, Mr. Angry Young Man. There is a Happily Ever After.

I, and my books, promise.

Now I’d love to know what is your absolute favorite romance of all time?

I will be offering two books for two lucky commenters: The first, in honor of my last K&T interview with Heather Ashby, will be an e-copy of Heather’s newest release Never Forget.

Second, in honor of my K&T interview coming up, I will be offering an e-copy of Night Sky, a new Young Adult novel by Suzanne Brockmann and her daughter Melanie Brockmann.

(You don’t want to miss it!  My fourteen-year old daughter and I will be interviewing Suzanne and her daughter Melanie for our first ever mother/daughter and mother/daughter interview. It’s going to be tons of fun!)

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray

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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