Friday, April 17, 2015

Facing Your Fears… Sort Of!

With: Michelle Karl

Giveaway Alert!

One of the most common pieces of writing advice that every writer hears, at least once in their journey, is to “write what you know.” Whether or not you subscribe to that adage, there’s one thing that we all know—and probably better than we want to: Fear. We all know what it’s like to feel afraid, to feel that surge of adrenaline in your chest that starts your pulse racing and your heart pounding.

It’s a lot like falling in love, really. Maybe that’s why suspense and romance go together so well!

When I started writing Fatal Freeze, I asked myself: “What am I afraid of? What makes me shake and shiver, what is it that, when placed in a difficult and unexpected situation, would make everything so much worse?”

Spiders and snakes are common fears for some people—as are public speaking and heights—but you know what strikes terror into my heart? Boats. And the ocean. Boats on the ocean! All right, before you start laughing, hear me out for a moment! 

I think that when you can identify a fear and harness those raw emotions, a story becomes much more powerful. My hero and heroine in Fatal Freeze are trapped on an icebound ferry in the ocean, and just thinking about being in that situation makes me shiver and cringe in fear. Imagine if you were in their shoes, with a killer aboard. Yikes.

Throw a little romance into the mix, and that pounding heart is going to get a major workout! 
I’d love to know what makes you shiver and shake with fear! If you were on the run from a killer or placed in danger, what would make that situation so much worse? 

Commenters will be entered into a giveaway to win a copy of Fatal Freeze!


CIA agent Shaun Carter is on the trail of an international crime ring, and the sudden appearance of a woman from his past could jeopardize his mission. Missing persons investigator Lexie Reilly's search for a missing teen has put her in the criminals' crosshairs. Joining forces to take down this ring is their only chance of survival. Shaun vows to keep the beautiful investigator out of harm's way and help her find the lost girl. But when their ferry becomes icebound, they are trapped at sea with killers who will stop at nothing to keep them from discovering their secrets.

Amazon | Barnes and Noble

About the Author
Michelle Karl is an unabashed bibliophile and romantic suspense author. She lives in Canada with her husband, a co-dependent cat, and an opinionated parrot. When she's not reading and consuming copious amounts of coffee, she writes the stories she'd like to find in her 'to be read' pile. She also loves animals, world music, and eating the last piece of cheesecake. 

Visit her at, on Facebook (, or Twitter (! 

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST April 18th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Taking on the dark side.

Congratulations to "Mary P.", the winner in Kara Leigh and Jody's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

Looking at the story from the bad guy’s point of view...

When we first started our plotting and planning, which neither of us are programmed to do, so that in itself was a challenge, we discussed the idea of having the villain’s voice in the story. The antagonistic POV isn’t all that uncommon in mainstream romantic suspense, however it’s much rarer in Christian romantic suspense, so we knew if we were going to do this, we needed a really good reason. And we did!

Sharing our antagonist’s, Raymond Scotts, perspective would be an opportunity to fill in some of the gaps for readers so they weren’t quite as in the dark as our heroine, who suffers through most of the book with retrograde amnesia. This also gave us the opportunity to heighten awareness and increase tension. The audience knows bad things are coming even before our characters, because readers now have some insight into the mind of the attacker. 

Still, when choosing to share this point of view, we had to be careful that we knew what we wanted the audience to feel for Raymond. There are books where the villain’s voice allows the audience to feel empathy for their situation, even if they can’t stand the actions of that character. There are so many fantastic books that do the opposite of this as well. One of our favorites is The Search by Nora Roberts. We know exactly who the villain is and why he does what he does, but there is no empathy. Only a heightening desire to have the characters resolve the conflict before they come to harm. 

To make the point of view most effective for our story, we used short moments that showed the character’s frustration, anger, and darkness. We allowed the audience to see the escalation in less than a page until the very end. Hopefully, when readers get to the end, this knowledge of our villain will make the conflict and the precarious situation our mains find themselves in, even stronger.

Giving the villain page time lets readers feel his anger, but also their panic. For us, our bad guy needed to tie up loose ends or what he was working toward would be ripped away. That’s a powerful motivator. Here’s an excerpt from DANGEROUS LOVE from the antagonist’s perspective.

Several local papers were sprawled out on the desk in front of him. He’d combed through each one of them hoping to find something about Alessandra. But there was nothing. He slammed his fists down on the desk. If he knew where she was, he could fix everything. But not knowing was keeping him awake at night, and that was just unacceptable.

“Yeah?” he said in response to the knock on his door.

“We found her,” Frankie said.

Well it was about time. Standing, he said, “I want her brought here, to me, immediately.” And this time he would ensure she was appropriately dealt with once and for all.

Frankie rubbed at the back of his neck, stalling. “Well, sir, she’s in Metro General
Hospital and according to our sources, she hasn’t been released yet.”

A string of expletives coursed through his mind, but he bit them back. This wasn’t supposed to be so complicated. It was supposed to be a simple hit job that he ordered and never had to think about again.

“I can get a couple of our cities finest pay-rolled uniforms to go check up on her,”
Frankie suggested.

“No.” He sighed. “No. This is already messier than it needs to be. I don’t want anyone else involved. You and Chuck handle this, like you should’ve in the first place.”

“You got it, boss.”

“Find out when she’s being released, and then wait for her so you can bring her to me.”
Frankie nodded.

“And what about that friend of hers? Kristy? Did you find her?” He had a feeling
Alessandra would run straight to said friend as soon as she was released from the hospital. Knowing his associates botched this once already, he needed to have eyes on Kristy. If all else failed, he’d have to use Kristy as bait to get to Alessandra.

A story can definitely be told well without this point of view, but it was fun to include him and it challenges writers to get inside all of their character’s heads. Even though we didn’t want to spend a lot of time with Raymond, getting to know his voice that well improved our ability to make Alessa’s fear more authentic. We knew, and so will the audience, what she was up against. 

We’d love to let you get a better sense of all of our characters, too, and will give away a copy of Dangerous Love to one lucky commenter. Tell us, do you like the bad guy POV in a story? Why or why not? What are some of your favorite books that utilize this technique? 


He’s fighting to forget his past while she struggles to remember hers...

Doctor Josh Parker lives with guilt about his wife’s death every day. He believes himself incapable of ever loving again, but when a mysterious woman arrives in the Emergency Room, brutally beaten and
left for dead, he starts to feel something he hasn’t felt in far too long: hope.

Alessandra Matthews has no memory of the events that led to her being hospitalized. Worse, she has no idea who hurt her or why. Although she’s uncertain of who she is, she is fully aware of one thing -- she’s falling for her doctor.

Sometimes, what you don’t know can kill you...

As Josh and Alessa work to solve the mystery surrounding her past, she soon realizes just how much danger she’s really in, but Josh refuses to let her face the darkness of her memories alone. With each of them
struggling to put their pasts behind them, theirs is a DANGEROUS LOVE.

Release Date: 
March 3, 2015

Book Links:
Barnes and Noble

Author Bios:
Kara Leigh Miller: Kara lives in Upstate New York with her husband, three kids, three dogs, and three cats. When she's not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she's spending time with her family or attending one of her many writers groups. An active member of The Romance Writers of America and the CNY Writers Haven, Kara is also Managing Editor for Anaiah Press' Surge and Romance Imprints. She absolutely loves to hear from her fans and fellow authors, so feel free to drop her a line anytime!

Jody Holford: Jody lives in British Columbia with her husband and two daughters. She is a fan of Nora Roberts, Jill Shalvis, Rachel Gibson, and Rainbow Rowell. In reading and writing, she likes characters who are flawed, but driven toward the pursuit of love and happiness. In November 2013, she published A Not So Lonely Christmas with Foreward Literary. In December 2014, she published Forever Christmas through Kindle Direct.

Kara Leigh Miller

Jody Holford

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST April 16th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Monday, April 13, 2015

First Lines

Congratulations to "Tammy Y.", the winner in Janie's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

Right now I’m working on a new book in my OMEGA SECTOR: CoRD (CRITICAL RESPONSE DIVISION) series which will release in 2016. I spent the last few days laboring  on the first chapter, which is generally one of my favorite parts of writing a book.  It’s such a great chance to set the mood, pacing and feel of the book right from the get-go. Generally, Chapter 1 comes very easily for me.

But I was struggling a little with chapter 1 of my current manuscript.  The story is tentatively titled THE FORENSIC ARTIST, since each book in this new series is named after a job found in Omega: CoRD. The heroine in this book is a forensic artist and the hero is a behavioral analyst/profiler.  They team up to stop a serial rapist on the loose in Corpus Christi, TX.  

I couldn’t find my start, and that was frustrating to me.  To try to help myself out, I looked at the first lines of the other books I’ve written.

Here are some of the first lines from my other seven books:

“Evan Karcz woke up the same way he had almost every day for the past year and a half: with Juliet Branson’s terrified sobs echoing through his dreams.” (Omega Sector, Book 3: UNTRACEABLE)

“Dude, I’m just saying, if you didn’t want a terrible job assignment then you probably shouldn’t have punched out your boss.” (Omega Sector, Book 2: COUNTERMEASURES)

“‘Good luck, man.’ The police file dropped right on top of Brett Wagner’s hands, completely screwing up the HR form he was typing in to the computer. (Upcoming PRIMAL INSTINCT follow-up CRITICAL INSTINCT)

“Cameron Branson had been telling the lies so long he was afraid they were becoming truth to him.” (Omega Sector, Book 1: INFILTRATION)

“FBI agent Conner Perigo knew throwing the file in his hand across the room would be childish and ultimately accomplish nothing except making a mess, but he was still tempted.” (PRIMAL INSTINCT)

“Pinned down behind his car with someone shooting at him from across the street was not how Omega Sector agent Derek Waterman had planned to spend his afternoon.” (Upcoming Omega: CoRD Book 1 - TACTICAL TEAMS SPECIALIST)

“Sometimes a man just wanted to be left alone.” (Omega Sector, Book 4: LEVERAGE)

I looked at these, and thought most of them are pretty good. But what I realized is that I have consistently started my books from the hero’s point of view.  As in, ALL of my books.

Sure enough, I had done that with THE FORENSIC ARTIST. Tried to start it with my hero’s point of view. And while I have no doubt Jon Hatton is going to make a wonderful alpha hero, I realized this book needed to start from my heroine’s POV.

“Sherry Mitchell was pretty sure she was the only tourist on the beaches of Corpus Christi, Texas wearing a long-sleeve shirt and jeans in the one-hundred-degree heat to try to help her relax.” (Upcoming Omega: CoRD Book 2: THE FORENSIC ARTIST)

I think that’s going to work great as a first line. Sherry’s career has been taking a toll on her, and she’s hitting bottom. Can she find it in herself to help stop a rapist even at the personal cost to herself? I hope you’ll check out this book when it releases in 2016.

But for now, check out my upcoming release: UNTRACEABLE  (Omega Sector, Book 3)

Posing as a married couple to save the world was easy compared to the very real feelings between them… 

As Bob and Lisa Sinclair, Omega Sector agents Evan Karcz and Juliet Branson were a formidable couple—until a brutal attack left Juliet traumatized. But with a powerful crime boss selling military secrets, the safety of millions depends on the undercover operatives. It's up to Evan to rehabilitate Juliet…and not fail her as he did on the mission that still haunts him. 

Evan's strategy is to be near Juliet night and day to practice posing as a loving couple. But soon he realizes there's a sizzling passion between them. And it's being threatened by forces stronger than they ever realized. With a killer stalking Lisa Sinclair, her "husband" knows he'd risk his cover—and his life—to protect her.

About the Author
Janie Crouch’s debut novel PRIMAL INSTINCT has been nominated for a 2015 RT (Romantic Times) Reviewer’s Choice Award, “Best First Book” in the New England RWA Reader’s Choice Award and “Best Romantic Suspense” in the Carolyn Reader’s Choice Award.  Janie lives with her hubby and four kids in Stuttgart, Germany but ihr Deutsch ist nicht sehr gut zur Zeit. She loves travelling, adventure racing, and movies of all kinds. Find out more about her at

I’ve got a new line of I LOVE ROMANTIC SUSPENSE shirts coming available at the end of April. The winner will receive an I LOVE ROMANTIC SUSPENSE t-shirt and an advanced copy of my Omega Sector Book 3: UNTRACEABLE! (If you don’t win, be sure to get yourself a shirt HERE or some other I LOVE romantic suspense gear HERE.)

Enter by answering the following question:

What’s the first line from your favorite (or most recent) romantic suspense book?

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST April 14th. Please supply your email in the post. You may use spaces or full text for security. (ex. jsmith at gmail dot com) If you do not wish to supply your email, or have trouble posting, please email with a subject title of JRS GIVEAWAY to be entered in the current giveaway.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Arrow as Muse

Historical romance author Lavinia Kent and I have been writing a series of weekly articles on the television series ARROW for USA Today’s “Happily Ever After” blog. (LINK to ARCHIVE) I couldn’t be more excited about the show each week, not only because it’s one of my favorite shows out there, but because of the writing. ARROW writers are among the best in the business and I willingly let them take me along for the journey – even when they seem to be going down a path I question. But so far, they’ve come through each and every time.

If you haven’t seen the show, in a nutshell it’s a DC Comics universe creation focusing on billionaire Oliver Queen who was stranded on an island for five years and everyone presumed he was dead. While on the island, he learned to survive (among other things!) and when he returned, became a vigilante to protect his city and make amends for the sins of his father—his father’s dying wish.

Oliver Queen becomes the Arrow, and over the course of so-far three seasons goes from being a solitary vigilante who kills the bad guys to working with a team of people and killing only when absolutely necessary.

I love crime shows (Law and Order: SVU; The Blacklist; Bones; Castle; etc.) but because I write crime fiction, sometimes the shows are too close to my own style to help me improve my storytelling. So even though I don’t write graphic novels or action adventures, there are three reasons why ARROW is the perfect show for my muse.
  •      Character. Hands down, this show has terrific and complex characters. No one is all good or all bad. (Well, some of the villains are caricatures, but the recurring villains like Deadshot are very far more complex and believable.) They’re flawed and make mistakes and have victories and failures.
  •       Choreography. One of the most difficult aspects of writing is creating an action scene – or even a multi-character dialogue – and having it make sense to the reader. On scene, the director can show the action—the chases and fight scenes and roundtable discussions. But in print, we have to give the reader a few more clues so they can picture it in their head. Hands down, I’ve learned more about choreographing my action scenes by watching ARROW than any other show or book.
  •      Conflict. The best conflict stems organically from character. When two characters are both right – but on opposite sides – the story itself is far more dynamic. In addition, when characters who should be on opposite sides can work together for a common goal, the results are usually fabulous. ARROW creates believable conflict better than any other show. 
And, of course, watching good television is also fun and relaxing! Seeing Stephen Amell work-out in the Arrow Cave isn’t bad, either.

Do you watch ARROW? Thoughts? Are you as excited as I am for how the whole Ra’s al Ghul storyline will play out? Or, like me, waiting to find out who hired Deadshot to kill Andy Diggle? Oliver and Felicity – yeah or nay?

On another note, have you seen the new CW release, iZOMBIE, by the creator of VERONICA MARS? I love it!

The new Max Revere thriller is out this week! COMPULSION is book two in my investigative reporter series. COMPULSION received a Top Pick from RT Book Reviews, and Catherine Coulter said, “Don’t miss Max Revere’s roller-coaster new thriller. Talk about grit and courage, Max never gives up!” For more information, check out my website,

Thanks Maureen for hosting me today!


Investigative reporter Maxine Revere has a theory: that the five New York City murders for which Adam Bachman is being tried are just part of his killing spree. In probing the disappearance of a retired couple who vanished the prior summer, Max uncovers striking similarities to Bachman's MO and develops a theory that Bachman wasn't working alone.

Max wins a coveted pre-trial interview with the killer, whose disarming composure in the face of her questions is combined with uncomfortable knowledge of Max's own past. She leaves the room convinced, but unable to prove, that Bachman knows exactly what happened to the missing couple. The D.A. wants nothing to jeopardize his case against Bachman and refuses to consider Max's theory. With no physical evidence, Max has to rely on her own wits and investigative prowess to dig deep into Bachman's past. The picture that Max puts together is far darker and more deadly than she ever imagined.

As Max gets closer to the truth, she doesn't realize that she's walking down a road that has been paved just for her. That every step she takes brings her one step closer to a brilliant, methodical sociopath who has been waiting for her to make just one small mistake.

And when she does, he'll be there waiting.

Max Revere returns in another gripping, pulse-pounding thriller from New York Times bestseller Allison Brennan.

About Allison:
New York Times and USA Today bestseller Allison Brennan is the author of twenty-three novels and several short stories. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, she lives in Northern California with her husband Dan and their five children.

Crime fiction, mysteries, and romantic suspense have always been Allison's favorites, so it's no surprise that her romantic thrillers have a dark suspense edge. Reviewers have called her books "terrifying," "mesmerizing," "fast-paced," "pulse-pounding," "wonderfully complex," "layered," and "a master of suspense - tops in the genre." As Lisa Gardner says, "Brennan knows how to deliver."

Writing three books a year is more than a full-time job, and so is raising five kids, but Allison believes life is too short to be bored. When she's not writing, she's reading, playing video games, watching old movies or new television shows, driving to or attending volleyball / basketball / football / soccer / baseball / softball games, and on occasion even makes it to the gym where she enjoys people-watching more than exercise.

Allison is currently writing the Lucy Kincaid series about an FBI recruit. The seventh book, COLD SNAP, is on sale now. DEAD HEAT will be out on June 3, 2014. Also, she's thrilled to announce a new hardcover mystery/thriller series starring investigative reporter Maxine Revere that launches March 25, 2014 with NOTORIOUS.

Advance praise from Sandra Brown: “Brennan’s NOTORIOUS introduces readers to a new and fascinating heroine worth rooting for. She’s an investigative reporter who’s not afraid to kick butt, climb a tree, or go to jail in pursuit of her story. She’s savvy and smart and takes no prisoners. Buckle up and brace yourself for Maxine Revere.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Forsaken the final book in the Fallon Sisters Trilogy and Giveaway

Giveaway Alert!

"Forsaken is a striking end to P.J. O’Dwyer’s Fallon Sisters Trilogy, a provocative, well-crafted romantic suspense series that’s dark, dangerous, and addictive.”
—USA Today

A trifecta of trouble for one man, and a horse race meant to be won . . . by one woman.

On her own since the age of sixteen, after the death of her dear ma, Irish barmaid and racetrack groom Dani Flynn works three jobs to stay afloat. Only it’s the third one—the one along the docks after midnight—that just might find her at the bottom of the Irish Sea. Running for her life with a thumb drive that could bring down all of Parliament, Dani does the sensible thing. She hops a freighter, destination unknown, and spends a week on the high seas.

Curse or Divine intervention, Dani can’t decide which when she finds herself docked in the U.S. penniless, illegal, and within two hundred miles of a farm called Grace. Swallowing her pride and twenty-six years of resentment, she makes her way to the one man she swore she’d never have anything to do with—her da.

Handcuffed, frisked, and charged with assaulting a police officer isn’t casting her in a warm glow of endearment nor keeping her illegal status under wraps. But when a little scrap of paper called a birth certificate proves her claim, she’s met with open arms and even finds a home away from home at a Thoroughbred training center. Except it’s not her family’s blessing she needs. Nor a maddening attraction to the one hell-bent on sending her home—the cop she sunk her teeth into while trying to escape. The sparkling shores of freedom may not be enough to keep her past from catching up with her. Especially since blending in and keeping a low profile proves difficult when Mr. Law and Order, in the form of a gorgeous American sheriff, is doing his best to unearth her past.

Kevin Bendix never came out on top as a kid against the Fallon sisters. As the Sheriff of Washington County, it’s not as simple as taking his licks and calling it a day, especially now that there are three. Win or lose, he’ll uphold the law and defer to his training. He knows a liar when he sees one. Only Dani Flynn isn’t your average lawbreaker. She’s female and all of about five-foot-two with a face of an angel and a body of a sinner.

He’ll get to the truth. It’s his job. But in the end, he could lose more than his quiet way of life. It’s not only his heart she’ll steal. Loving this woman could cost them both their lives.

“1,000% recommended. Touching and true, this novel [Forsaken] will stay with me for a long time. Don’t miss it. It deserves to be at the very top of the bestseller charts.”
—Laurence O'Bryan, bestselling Harper Collins author of
The Manhattan Puzzle, translated into ten languages

“Money, privilege, horses, and the luck of the Irish are all bound up in a saga of high stakes in Forsaken.”

—Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Reviews


He pulled her hand down and kept it in his. “Irish, we need to get a couple things straight.” He looked pointedly at her. “When I ask you to do something it’s because there’s a good reason—not because I’m some prick who gets off on ordering a woman around.”

He was talking about last night at the party. She realized now how stupid she’d been, but at the time, she was upset and trying to avoid him. “It was lucky you came after me. Otherwise I don’t think I would have found me way out of the woods.”

“You knew I would.” He dipped his head. “Just like you know I’ll never lie to you.”

Meaning he knew she was keeping secrets of her own.  Dani fidgeted under his intense gaze. “I’m . . .”

“Afraid. I get it.” He shook his head. “I know I’ve said this before, but eventually you’re going to have to trust someone.” He lifted her chin with his finger. “That someone is me.”

She nodded. “It’s not so easy. I don’t want to remember. I want to forget.”

His hands went around her bum, and he took a step closer so he stood between her thighs. “Then be honest with me from here on out about this,” he said, the rasp of his voice urgent before he leaned in.

His eyes remained open like he might miss some telltale sign in the depths of her eyes as he moved closer. If he did or didn’t eventually shut them, she couldn’t say, because hers were closed the moment he pressed his firm, perfectly sculpted lips to her mouth. Dani tingled and drew her arms around his neck. He was older, experienced, yet trembling in her arms. Kevin Bendix could teach her the finer points of lovemaking, she was sure. His kisses were deep and ardent, making her stomach flutter with the newness of a budding, starry-eyed relationship. But tonight, under a nearly full moon with only the gentle breeze as witness, Dani learned that he was just as vulnerable as she. 

The revelation brought tears to her eyes. She didn’t want to hurt him. Dani pulled away, whisking a tear from her cheek. “You’re going to make me fall in love with you.” She gave a nervous laugh and caressed the rough angles of his face. “It’s not fair, you know. Being so bloody handsome and kissing a woman like you really mean it.”

P. J. O’Dwyer donates ten percent of all book and jewelry sales to horse rescue to help in their mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and education.

Author Bio

P. J. O’Dwyer is an award-winning author of young adult and romantic suspense. She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America. When asked where she gets her story ideas, she laughs ruefully and says, “It helps being married to a cop.” She lives in Maryland with her family.

Connect with P. J.