Monday, March 28, 2016

Real Life Influencing the Plot

Congratulations to "Janet K." and "Janice H.", the winners in Winter's giveaway. Thank you to all who participated!

The year 2006 sticks out very clearly in my memory. That was the year my husband deployed to Iraq, and the plot of Atonement, the first book in my McIntire County series, came to me while preparing for my husband to leave. It is also the year that horrific murders took place in my hometown.

The town where I’m from is a tiny rural town, too small to even be called a town, it’s considered a village. It’s a place where everyone knows everyone, is related in some form or fashion, and where murders just don’t happen. Yet on a tragic autumn morning an entire family was killed by the eldest son.

This was a beloved family; you were hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t like them. It’s not certain why the son did what he did, as he never truly confessed to killing them. The damning evidence against him was a lone 911 call made by one of his sisters, where she called out his name before he killed her. Their deaths rocked the tiny community, and most everyone you talk to today still gets choked up by what happened.

As a writer at the time, I felt like I couldn’t let this pass without somehow using this as a plot in a book. Yet, like in all real life situations, we have to be very careful with how we portray events like these in our books. We fictionalize as much as we can to protect the people involved, yet give enough of the emotional impact to the readers.

It’s a bit surreal to realize that Born to Die, the book this event managed to be placed in, is releasing the same year as the tenth anniversary of that senseless tragedy.

One other real life aspect I’ve added to the plot of Born to Die is the infamous pair of Bonnie and Clyde. Oddly enough, here in the past few years there are have been some Bonnie and Clyde wannabes, and it’s kind of weird to have been writing about it and read news reports on incidents happening across the country.

I’d love to talk more about the plot points in Born to Die, but I’m afraid I’d ruin it for you. So, here’s a snippet to check out. And then 2 commenters can enter for a chance to win to a copy each of Born to Die.


Winter will be giving away 2 digital copies of her latest novel, Born to Die.


She had avoided any chance of entering the timbered areas of McIntire County, where the stuff of nightmares dwelt.

But not tonight.

Tonight nothing that mattered to her—not her family, her past, or her pride—was as important as doing her job. And damn it, Deputy Cassandra Rivers always did her job, even when it was obvious the orders might get her killed.

She and her squad-car partner, Deputy Deacon Nash, had been sent to this side of the county—the heavily wooded side—to patrol for the culprits who’d dared to rob a bank yesterday. With every mile she traveled through the darkened timbers, sweat seeped from her pores, saturating the first layer of clothing.

“Calling all units. Robbery in progress at the Speedy Mart,1653 Elm St. Two unidentified suspects wearing dark clothing and black sneakers. Suspects are armed. No sirens or lights.”

“10-4, dispatch. Rivers and Nash responding. Approximately nine minutes out, over.”

Thank God for small miracles. She yanked that car around, and as fast as the slick road conditions would allow, she sped back toward town.

“Easy, Rivers. We’re one of several units responding,” Nash warned.

Damn this crappy weather. No doubt the gas station attendant wasn’t in a situation to wait for whoever was less inconvenienced to arrive at the rescue.

A few miles from the edge of town, the glare of headlights seemed to come out of nowhere. It took her brain a few seconds to realize that the oncoming vehicle was veering back and forth between her lane and the other, and those lights were a lot closer than they first appeared.

“Shit!” She reacted without thinking, hitting the brakes and throwing the car into neutral, then braced for impact, hoping the cow kicker covering the grill did its job to protect them. “Hang on!”

The front wheels hit a slick patch, and suddenly the steering wheel jerked right and the car skidded off the road into the ditch. The nose dove into a snowbank, spraying the windshield with a powdery shower and bringing the vehicle to a rapid stop. Cassy jerked in her seat, the belt locking her tightly in its grip. Glaring at the whooshing wipers as they cleared the moisture from the glass, she unclenched her fingers from around the steering wheel.

“Rivers, you okay?” Nash asked.

“Fine, but pissed off.” Shifting the car into park, she left the engine going and removed her belt.

“Those assholes are going to be in for a surprise.” She hit the lights, and as she tried to push her door open, it stuck in the snow.

Nash grabbed the mic and radioed dispatch. “Dispatch, be advised, responding unit has been in an accident and is in need of assistance, over.”

Cassy twisted in her seat to brace her feet against the door and forced it open wide enough for her to squeeze out.

“Copy that,” she heard the dispatcher reply as she fumbled through the drift. Nash would give their location.

Flashlight in hand, she scanned the area, making sure not to peer into the stand of trees at her back. Oh, how nice. The asshole who’d ran them off the road hadn’t bothered to stop and was now a faint red glow in the distance. The mound they’d plowed into was mid-calf deep, and by the looks of the tires, the car was stuck good. They’d need a wrecker. Upon making another pass toward the road, the flashlight beam glinted off metal. Cassy paused, her heart hurtling into her throat as the light revealed the secret in the dark.

Red taillights reflected from a truck that had smashed into the fat trunk of a tree. The driver’s side door hung open at an awkward angle. Her brain blanked, ripping her back to those moments, those seconds of lucidness when she’d realized that open door meant her life or death.

A grunt of exertion hurtled her to the present. Cassy coughed as she realized she’d been holding her breath. There would be no going back to that night, or the day that followed. She was here, now, and that meant someone was hurt and needed her help. She looked over her shoulder at her partner. “Nash, we’ve got another accident.”

That truck … it looked familiar. She hurried, best as she could through the snow, to the crushed vehicle. Behind her, she heard her partner following. Panting by the time she reached the truck bed, Cassy placed a hand against the side and sucked in air. Finally able to breathe, she lifted her flashlight.

Dark, dripping stains marred the window and the door’s interior. The coppery scent of blood was strong—either the cold was keeping it fresh, or the accident had occurred in the last hour. On closer inspection, they found more blood on the steering wheel and seat, smeared down the side of the truck into the snow.

“Where’s the driver?” Nash asked.


Trouble’s on the run in rural Eider, Iowa, and Deputy Cassy Rivers’s heart is in the line of fire. Two years ago, she barely escaped a harrowing experience at the hands of a maniac—and not without scars. Now a series of random robberies leads to the brutal death of a fellow officer, and she must put her trust in the one man who broke her heart.

FBI agent Boyce Hunt knows commitment isn’t for men with pasts like his. He left Cassy once to protect her from the blackmail and manipulation he faces from his mother’s criminal enterprise. But when they reluctantly partner up to capture the modern Bonnie and Clyde terrorizing McIntire County, their attraction flames to life once more, pulling Boyce between two loyalties.

Will they risk their hearts again, even if it means losing everything?


Winter Austin perpetually answers the question “were you born in the winter?” with a flat “nope.” Living in the middle of Nowheresville, Iowa, with her husband, four teenagers, and two crazy dogs, Winter is trying to juggle a career while writing deadly romantic thrillers.

Find Winter Austin at, on Facebook, and on Twitter @WinterAustin_

Giveaway ends 11:59pm EST March 29th. 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.


  1. The book sounds really good. I love finding new authors to read. Thanks for the giveaway. debbiemac73 AT yahoo DOT com.

  2. This is just the type of book I love! It sounds great...thanks for the chance.

  3. This is just the type of book I love! It sounds great...thanks for the chance.

  4. looks and sounds fabulous! Congrats on the new release and thanks for sharing :)

  5. Thank you so much for sharing... this truly sounds interesting!

  6. Perfect excerpt!! Just enough to pull us in and leave us panting for more!! Definitely check this one out. My TBR pile is ginormous! Thanks for giving us a chance to win. Trishleroy49 at gmail dot com

    1. I'm all about growing the TBR piles. :D

  7. You must be asked that question about your name at every introduction. 2006 was indeed memorable for you.


    1. Every tie, along with: "I know a Summer, April, Spring, ect, but you're the first Winter."

  8. Enough with the jokes about your first name...I like your name, Winter! To introduce myself to you, I'm a romantic suspense junkie. I like the adrenaline, adventure/action and romance together to make for an exciting read. Needless to say, this is my favorite blog and I'm glad I "met" you today. There is so much anger, evil and tragedy in our lives today that you will have endless ideas for stories in the future...goodie! Thanks for telling us about Born to Die.

    1. I'm a romantic suspense/action junkie myself, thus why I write the way I do. ;)

  9. As a bonus! The first book in the series, Atonement, is on sale right now for $.99 at every e-retailer.

  10. sounds interesting

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  11. This one sounds really good! I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the chance to win it.

    mlawson17 at Hotmail dot com

  12. Interesting that you took a real event & fleshed it out.

    Janet_kerr@msn dot com