Saturday, October 3, 2015

Building a Hero

Giveaway Alert!

Being a fiction writer has a lot of perks. One of those perks is creating characters and giving them traits, looks and the life I want them to have. How fun is that, ay?

Fun, but not as easy as you’d think.

I typically start by “interviewing” the main characters of the story. I may have an idea of what they do for a living and what their background is, but I try to do this interview process before I’ve thought too much about the character. Doing it early means I’m surprised by some of the things that pop up.

This process worked just fine for me until David Hennings, the hero in The Rebel, came along. With David I had a big problem. David, you see, wasn’t meant to be a hero at all. David was supposed to be the jerky brother from The Defender, my second Harlequin Intrigue. While writing The Defender, I realized the heroine had a talent for wrapping her father and middle brother around her finger.

That needed to stop.

I got mean and tossed in a male family member who wouldn’t be played. Enter David, the jerky oldest brother who wound up having one scene in the book. His job was simply to be crabby to his sister in front of the hero. Then he could go away. Easy.

I came up with a scene that I thought did the job. For kicks, here is part of that scene from the hero’s point of view:

The phone rang and Gerald hit a button. “David?”

“Hi, Dad.”

“Hey, Dave,” Zac said.

Penny remained quiet. And when the hell had Russ ever experienced that phenomenon?

“Will someone please tell me what is going on?” David said, his voice sharp enough to chop wood.


Penny sat forward, moving closer to the phone. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you yesterday.”

“Ya think? I mean, a heads-up would have been nice before a marshal showed up at my office.”

Hang on here.

Russ stepped closer to the desk, but Gerald beat him to it. “Watch your tone. Things got hectic. You got what information I had.”

“Well, yeah, but once again the drama queen created chaos and we all suffered for it.”

Russ looked at Penny, who refused to even glance at him. She kept her focus on the phone, but her cheeks had gone hollow and she looked to be chewing on the inside of them. Apparently, she and David didn’t get along.

Zac sighed. “Dave, relax. It’s not her fault.”

“Right. It never is. I’m in Boston and I can’t get away from her drama. And you and Dad let her get away with it. Every time.”

In the thirty seconds Russ had known David Hennings, he despised him. Plus, he didn’t like his attitude regarding Penny. And if her father and Zac weren’t going to deal with that, Russ would. He reached over the desk, picked up the receiver and dropped it back in its cradle. The three occupants in the room went silent. Obviously people didn’t hang up on David. Too bad. Someone had to take control. “He’ll call back,” Russ said.

Zac elbowed Penny’s arm. “I like this guy.”

“No fooling,” she cracked.

Penny stared up at him, her big blue eyes round and, if his guess was right, amused.

Thirty seconds later, David was patched through again. “Did you hang up on me?” he hollered.

“David,” Russ said. “This is special agent Russell Voight. I hung up on you. Keep yelling and 
I’ll do it again. Your only purpose in this meeting is to listen.”


“I will not wait. I wasted five minutes of my life listening to you and I can’t get those five minutes back. Your sister did not call you yesterday because soon after being threatened by someone who ordered a mass shooting, I confiscated her phone to avoid a killer locating her. I took her to an FBI safe house where her client, also my very important witness, met us. She called your father using my phone and that was the only communication she had with anyone outside of the FBI or the U.S. Marshal’s office. If you have any issues with that, speak to me later. Right now, your sister’s client is waiting for me and I can’t question her without Penny. So, you will shut up and we’ll make this quick.”

“Russell Voight,” Penny said, “I think I love you.”

Boom. Jerky David had done his job and I was able to show the hero taking control of the situation. All while defending the heroine. A win-win. Yay, me!  I wrote the scene and sent David on his way, never intending to have to deal with him again.

After that, I didn’t give him a whole lot of thought. At least until three days after The Defender released and I received an email from a reader wanting to know when David would get a book of his own. What? She wanted that jerk to have a book? Really? A day or so later another reader emailed me asking the same thing. That made two readers out of thousands. Not a big deal.

So I thought.

The next reader email I received had a one word subject line. Guess what the word was. Go ahead, guess.


I’ll admit my initial reaction was to start screaming. I mean, seriously? This guy was a total jerk to his sister in the one and only scene I put him in. Who would even like a guy like him?

Letters continued to show up. Then one of my writer pals posted something on Facebook about how much she enjoyed The Defender.  She went on to say she hoped there would be a book for David.

Oh, come on! Seriously! I immediately emailed my friend and asked her what the fascination was with a guy who’d been so mean to his sister. Her response? “Easy. We want to see him redeemed.”

Gah! Leave it to me to completely miss that possibility. Over the next few weeks I thought about David and his relationship with Penny. Could I redeem this guy after all the awful things I made him say about his sister? And could I do it in a way that my readers would connect with?

I had to turn jerky David into hero David.

I started by going back to my process and interviewing him. I knew he was the oldest sibling in a family of criminal law attorneys. I knew he got along well with Zac (the middle sibling), but not Penny. I knew he lived in Boston.

I started my interview with all of these facts and after about thirty minutes, David started to spew. Eeeee-doggies he had some complaints about his sister. And you know what? Some of those complaints were warranted. After completing the interview, I promised David his side of the story would be heard.

To do that, I had to make readers understand him and his actions in The Defender. Not only did they have to understand him, they had to accept him. No. Forget that. If he was going to be a hero in a romance novel, he had to be way more than likable.

Always one to enjoy a challenge, I went to work. When I finished the book, I sent it off to my editor with my fingers crossed that I’d done my job. I also remember feeling incredibly thankful to the readers who wrote to me asking for David’s story. I learned so much about human nature and sibling rivalry and well, patience, while writing his story.  I found myself once again thanking David for being a jerk in The Defender. If he hadn’t been so awful to his sister, I wouldn’t have had the chance to stretch my wings as a writer and redeem him.

Readers, has there ever been a character you’ve wanted to see redeemed?


Bad to the bone…in all the right ways 

A brilliant civil lawyer, David Hennings has always been the outsider—at odds with his wealthy family, shunning relationships, defying convention as a sexy leather-jacketed biker. Which is why sculptor Amanda LeBlanc agrees to his request to reconstruct a skull from a cold case murder. The instant heat between them is scorching. 

But once Amanda takes the job and gets too close to the rebellious attorney, her carefully balanced life is upended by a series of methodical attacks. Someone doesn't want her to finish the job. Now David will risk everything not to lose the woman he unknowingly put in jeopardy.

About the Author
USA Today bestselling author Adrienne Giordano writes romantic suspense and mystery.  She is a Jersey girl at heart, but now lives in the Midwest with her workaholic husband, sports obsessed son and Buddy the Wheaten Terrorist (Terrier). She is a co-founder of Romance University blog and Lady Jane's Salon-Naperville, a reading series dedicated to romantic fiction. For more information on Adrienne's books, please visit To get the inside scoop on Adrienne’s new releases and VIP reader giveaways click here. For information on Adrienne’s street team, Dangerous Darlings, go to

Connect with AdrienneWebsite / Newsletter / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Street Team

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

First Star

With: Ann Simas

Congratulations to "Jo-Anne", the winner in Ann's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

People often ask me where I get the ideas for my books. I know this isn’t an uncommon question and I’ve wondered the same thing about books I’ve read.

The real answer is: from everywhere. That includes dreams, news items, my imagination, word-triggers, and real-life events. In the case of First Star, it was the latter.

Years ago, I worked in the District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Program. One of the case files that came across my desk concerned a local real estate agent. A man had become infatuated with her via her picture in her homes-for-sale ads, so infatuated, in fact, that he began to stalk her.

The case made local news and intrigued my always active imagination. In my writer’s mind, I knew there was a book in there somewhere, but of course, my stalker would have to be a lot more threatening than the real-life stalker, who pretty much stuck to peeping from a perch in a tree and leaving innocent (to his mind) little gifts for his victim.

The thing is, I like to have a lot of things going on in my books, so First Star couldn’t simply be about a woman in jeopardy. First and foremost, my female protagonist (Alex) had to have a love interest, whether she wanted one or not. Her love interest (Kell) had to go unwillingly into the relationship, whether he wanted to or not. And then there was the fact that Alex, twenty-five years later, is still grieving the loss of her twin sister.

As you have guessed, even though Alex might consider herself an ordinary woman living an ordinary life, she and her life are far from ordinary. To compound matters, she doesn’t expect to fall in love with Kell or his little girls, aged 3 and 5, nor does she expect to inadvertently learn the secret of what really happened to her sister years earlier. She also doesn’t expect her stalker to escalate to the point of threatening physical violence against her or Kell and his daughters.

This book was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist, which, as you can imagine, gave me an opportunity to do the happy dance a few times. Set in scenic Bend, Oregon, First Star is full of romance and suspense. And that’s all I’m going to say, except that I’ll be giving away a copy of First Star at the end of this blog period (your choice, paperback or ebook)!

I am currently working on First Star Afterstories, which is a follow-up book containing two novellas about two other couples introduced in First Star. The Afterstories will be released in Winter 2016. This is what happens when you fall in love with the secondary characters! I had the same thing happen when I wrote Chloe’s Spirit, another RWA Golden Heart Finalist. I had to write Chloe’s Spirit Afterstories. Those novellas are entitled Second Chance and Foolish Heart.


Alex Dumont isn’t looking for a man, but unexpectedly she finds one at the grocery store. The problem is, as her relationship with Kell Sagen becomes more serious, so does the stalker who’s been hounding her for months. As if a new love and a mad man haven’t complicated her life enough, she learns the shocking truth about the sister her parents told her had died twenty-five years earlier. When her stalker turns violent, Alex fears for Kell’s life and the safety of his daughters. To protect them, she decides to distance herself from them. In the stalker’s eyes, is it too little, too late? Alex is about to find out.

Available at:
Also available on Amazon wherever Euros are spent.
CreateSpace Store:

I’ll be giving away a copy of First Star at the end of this blog period (your choice, paperback or ebook)!

Author Bio
Ann Simas lives in Oregon, but she is a Colorado girl at heart, having grown up in the Rocky Mountains. An avid word-lover since childhood, she penned her first fiction “book” in high school. She particularly likes to write a mix of mystery-thriller-suspense with a love story and paranormal/supernatural elements.

An award-winning watercolorist and a budding photographer, Ann also enjoys needlework and gardening in her spare time. She is her family’s “genealogist” and has been blessed with the opportunity to conduct first-hand research in Italy for both her writing and her family tree. Some of her Italy photos are displayed on her home page at The genealogy research from century’s old documents, written in Italian, has been a supreme but gratifying and exciting challenge for her.

Social Media
Author website:
Ann Simas, Author on FB:
Ann Simas on Goodreads:

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Oct. 2nd. 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, September 30, 2015

Hands Full of Ashes

With: Kim Hotzon

Congratulations to "Trish", the winner in Kim's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated.

Olivia makes a promise to her dying husband. It is a promise that will take her on a journey to Africa, where love, hope and betrayal will shatter her heart, like ashes in the wind.


A romantic suspense novel inspired by a journey of love in Africa.

Permission was what she sought. Olivia desperately wanted to push forward with her burgeoning relationship with Roger. The desire to be loved, held and protected was an unwavering force, pulsating relentlessly. Danni's abduction weighed on her every day, but she needed to allow herself, on some level, to keep on living, however marginally it would prove to be. In the brief time she had known him, Olivia had received continuous support from Roger. He had put up with her crying spells, her morose state of mind, for days on end. 

Now it was time for her to release part of her soul. Yesterday belonged to the past. There was today. She would not think yet about tomorrow. She removed the leather pouch from around her neck and put it away, in her backpack. The dual chamber of her heart existed together, side by side. One for Jack. There is room for another. Let Roger take his place. As she lay on the bed beside him, she felt a pull of electricity surge between them.


Olivia promises to fulfill her dying husband's wish - to scatter his ashes around the world. Wading through grief and depression, she journeys to a remote orphanage in Uganda. Living amongst the children in their threadbare surroundings, she vows to fight for the children's lives as she begins to fight for her own. While Olivia develops a passion for humanitarian work, the lonely director of the orphanage develops a simmering passion for her.

Just as time begins to heal the wounds of Olivia's fragile heart, her world is shattered when she is involved in a violent encounter with an armed rebel group in the picturesque mountains of Uganda. Olivia flees to the safety of Rwanda, where she learns the truth of her husband's unimaginable betrayal.

As Olivia hovers on the brink of an emotional collapse, her broken soul is reawakened with a startling new love - but her life is about to take another dramatic turn as she struggles to survive in a region left torn apart by civil war. It will take every ounce of Olivia's courage to hang on to those she loves the most but it may come at a great cost to all of them.

One reader will have a chance to win an e-book copy of Hands Full of Ashes! I would kindly ask the winner to leave a review on Amazon!

About Kim Hotzon

Born in beautiful British Columbia, Kim developed a passion for writing at an early age. Her interest in people led her all over the globe, including a two year stay in Japan and a humanitarian trip to Rwanda.

She loves to write contemporary romance stories that feature strong women who deal with compelling issues. Kim enjoys adding unexpected twists, usually involving a dangerous and dramatic backdrop. Her first novel, Hands Full of Ashes, was inspired by her trip to Africa.

Kim spent many years teaching young adults with learning disabilities at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and she currently resides in the sunny Okanagan with her husband and two children. When not writing, she can be found plying the local ski hills, or getting lost in her kayak in the surrounding lakes.

You can get in touch with Kim by visiting her website or follow her at:





Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sep. 30th. 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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Case of Who Dun ‘It

One of my favorite writers is Agatha Christie. There is something to be said about a good mystery, a novel that makes you think. While I don't quite write in the same genre as Agatha, I want my book to keep you guessing, to make you think, not only about the who dun 'it but the characters, and in my case, the setting itself. Let's face it, where your book takes place doesn't only set the mood, but can drive the story.

I, unlike my husband, enjoyed visiting Vegas, the city where Sin on the Strip is set. But I'm a people watcher, while he is not. Besides the larger than life everything, what amazed me the most was the collectible stripper cards that are freely given to the passersby on the street, anytime, anywhere. Best to hang on to your child lest he reach out and take one, thinking to add it to his Pok√©mon collection. It would give trading a whole new twist…and the grandparents cardiac arrest. And I have to add there is something oddly soothing about all the lights. Maggie, my heroine, agrees. Nothing bad can happen to you when the lights are on.

Of course, Maggie knows better, but she'll take reassurance anywhere she can get it.

Glitz and glamour aside, there is a fine edge to the city, and an invisible line that many feel quite comfortable crossing when they're in Vegas. They do and say things they wouldn't dare try anywhere else—like the Internet live, no longer intangible but alive and breathing. The many wedding chapels are only one example of the let's go for it virus that infects visitors and the city itself.

But as Maggie knows only to well, there is a dark side. 

Keeping the women who worked for her at the club away from trouble, and trouble away from them, wasn’t easy. The street was an eager villain, only too happy to end the lives of anyone simply trying to survive. 

And what happens when the lights go out?


What happens in Las Vegas always burns bright, especially after hours. In this sizzling new series, the city's 24/7 glitz hides one woman's darkest nightmares—and one investigator's seductive secrets...

Control is everything to gorgeous Maggie Anderson. Her exclusive club gives abused and troubled women a refuge from Vegas's merciless streets—and helps her reclaim her shattered sense of freedom. But now someone is brutally murdering those she fights so hard to save. And baring her deepest fears to the one man who insists on protecting her could be the one move she won't survive…

Elite private investigator Christian Beck knows this particular serial killer's MO—and his own wrenching failure to find him—all too well. But staying two steps ahead of Maggie's determination to uncover the truth pushes his well-honed skills past the limit—and ignites his most naked instincts. Now every clue is a lie, each irresistible desire a lethal trap. And the closer he and Maggie get, their shattering secrets will either save them—or torch their lives to glittering ash…

Amazon | Apple | Google | Kobo | Nook 

Lucy Farago knows there is nothing like a happy sigh at the end of a good book. With the encouragement of her loving husband, she wrote her first manuscript. An unpublished historical, it sits in a file on her computer, there to remind her how much fun she had learning the craft and becoming part of an industry whose books make you believe anything is possible. A big fan of Agatha Christie, she set out to write her first romantic suspense novel. Thrilled to be a published author, Lucy also teaches yoga, enjoys cooking, and saying what other people are thinking. In her fantasy world, her beautiful Siberian husky, Loki, doesn’t shed and her three kids clean up after themselves. Alas, that fantasy will never see fruition. 
Photo Credit: Weber Photography

Monday, September 28, 2015


Congratulations to "Liz D." the winner in Laura's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!


In the ninth romantic suspense novel in the New York Times bestselling Tracers series, author Laura Griffin brings back her elite cadre of forensic experts as they hunt down the most brutal serial killer yet.

Special Agent Tara Rushing arrives at a grisly murder scene and quickly discovers she’s got a serial killer on her hands. The killer is meticulous, making sure to wipe up even the smallest traces of evidence…but the Delphi Center experts are on the case.

The local sheriff has a suspect all picked out—ex-Marine and current security expert Liam Wolfe. Despite all her digging, Tara knows very little about Liam when she shows up at his sprawling Texas compound, which serves as headquarters for Wolfe Security, and she’s surprised by her intense physical reaction to him.

As she and Liam grow closer, Tara finds herself depending on his skills and expertise to help her track a killer. But when another body turns up, Tara must decide if she can trust the man who’s quickly stealing her heart.


Evenings were the hardest, the time when everything unraveled. Catie’s mind overflowed, her chest felt empty, and the craving dug into her with razor-sharp claws.

Her shoulders tensed as she pulled into the park. All her life, she’d been addicted to work and approval and success. Now she was simply an addict.

Her high-performance tires glided over the ruts, absorbing the bumps as she eased along the drive. She turned into the gravel parking lot and swung into a space. Forty-six days.

Resting her head on the wheel, she squeezed her eyes shut. Her throat tightened, and she fought the burn of tears.

“One day at a time,” she whispered.

She sat up and gazed through the windshield. She’d never thought she’d be one of those people who gave themselves pep talks. She’d never thought she’d be a lot of things. Yet here she was.

Catie shoved open the door and popped the trunk. She tossed her purse inside, then rummaged through her gym bag, looking for her iPod. On second thought, no music. She slammed the trunk closed, locked the car, and tucked the key fob into the zipper pocket of her tracksuit. She leaned against a trail marker and stretched her quads. A few deep lunges and she was ready to go.

She set off at a brisk pace, quickly passing the dog walkers and bird enthusiasts who frequented the trail. Her muscles warmed. Her breathing steadied. She passed the first quarter-mile marker and felt the tension start to loosen.

The routine had become her lifeline. She registered the familiar scent of loblolly pines, the spongy carpet of pine needles under her feet. She put her body through the paces, then her mind.

It was Wednesday. She was halfway through the week, another daunting chain of days that started with paralyzing mornings in which she had to drag herself out of bed and force herself to shower, dress, and stand in front of the mirror to conceal the evidence of a fitful night. Then she faced the endless cycle of conference calls and meetings and inane conversations as the secret yearning built and built, culminating in the dreaded hour when it was time to go. Time to pack it in and head home to her perfectly located, gorgeously decorated, soul-crushingly empty house.

But first, a run. Or a spin class. Or both. Anything to postpone the sight of that vacant driveway.

Almost anything.

Catie focused her attention on the narrow trail. Thirst stung her throat, but she tried to clear her mind. Rounding a bend, she noted the half-mile marker. She was making good time. Another curve in the path, and she came upon a couple jogging in easy lockstep. Twenty-somethings. At the end of the trail, and still they had a bounce in their stride. The woman smiled as they passed, and Catie felt a sharp pang of jealousy that drew her up short.

She caught herself against a tree and bent over, gasping. Shame and regret formed a lump in her throat. She dug her nails into the bark and closed her eyes against the clammy onset of panic.

Don’t think, Catie, Liam’s voice echoed in her head. Be in the moment.

God, she missed him. Liam was way too smart and way too intense, and he didn’t know how to turn it off. And she liked that about him. So different from David.

Liam never belittled her.

He knew evil lurked in the world, and he faced it head-on, refusing to look away, even relishing the fight.


Catie’s head jerked up. She swung her gaze toward the darkening woods as awareness prickled to life inside her.

The forest had gone quiet.

No people, no dogs. Even the bird chatter had ceased. She glanced behind her, and a chill swept over her skin.

Look, Catie. Feel what’s around you.

She did feel it. Cold and predatory and watching her.

David would tell her she was paranoid. Delusional, even. But her senses were screaming.

She glanced around, trying to orient herself on the trail. She wasn’t that far in yet. She could still go back. She turned around and walked briskly, keeping her chin high and her gaze alert. Strong. Confident. She tried to look powerful and think powerful thoughts, but fear squished around inside her stomach, and she could feel it—something sinister moving with her through the forest, watching her from deep within the woods. She’d felt it before, and now it was back again, making her pulse quicken along with her strides.

I am not crazy. I am not crazy. I am not crazy.

But . . . what if David was right? And if he was right about this, could he be right about everything else, too?

A sound, directly left. Catie halted. Her heart hammered. She peered into the gloom and sensed more than saw the shifting shadow.

Recognition flickered as the shape materialized. With a rush of relief, she stepped forward. “Hey, you—”

She noticed his hand.

Her stomach plummeted. All her self-doubt vanished, replaced by a single electrifying impulse.

Catie ran.

Laura will be giving away a signed copy of any previous title from the Tracers series.

About the author:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author LAURA GRIFFIN started her career in journalism before venturing into the world of romantic suspense. She is a two-time RITA Award winner (for the books Scorched and Whisper of Warning) as well as the recipient of the Daphne du Maurier Award (for Untraceable). Laura currently lives in Austin, where she is working on her next book.

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST Sept. 28th. 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.