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The One That Got Away
By: Dana Marton

A while back my girlfriends and I were reminiscing about the one that got away. Doesn’t every woman have a special memory like that in her heart? Do you ever wonder what if?

One of my good friends is no longer wondering. When she recently found herself alone at 65, she looked up her first boyfriend on Facebook. They met. Sparks flew. “It was as if no time has passed at all,” she says. A month later, they’re planning on moving in together. She beams and walks above the ground, I swear. I keep telling her she should write a book about her story.

This theme seems to be all around me this fall. I recently released GUARDIAN AGENT, a story where Jasmine Tekla, the heroine, is trying to save her brother who’s been framed for murder. Using herself as bait, she draws away the commando team that’s hunting him, but they catch up with her during a high-stakes chase over Venice’s crumbling palace roofs. She’s more than stunned to realize that the man who finally subdues her is Gabe Cannon, her teenage crush. To save her family, she must convince Gabe that her brother was framed. But can she stop from falling in love with him all over again?

GUARDIAN AGENT is the first story in my brand new trilogy. The good news is, that all three stories are now available, so if you want to see how Jasmine’s brother turns his life around and finds love for himself, you can read AVENGING AGENT. WARRIOR AGENT ties up the trilogy, with another dose of suspense and romance, and a final twist that I promise you will not see coming.

All three are available for Kindle, Nook and all other ebook formats. They will be also coming to print by the end of the year.

Do you have your own, ‘the one that got away’ story? Make sure you post a comment! I’ll be raffling off 3 free books from my romantic suspense backlist among those who post.

Happy reading!

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The Faces Of Evil

OBSESSION is the first in my new Faces of Evil series. The series will span 12 books and I am very excited about the venture. Mid November will bring the second book, IMPULSE, in the series. My excitement about this series is, of course, primarily about the characters and their stories. But there are many other fun and liberating aspects. First, I’m self-publishing these books which gives me a great deal of creative control not only editorially, but with the covers and the release dates which will be very close together. My goal is for 2012 to herald the remaining 10 of the 12 Faces of Evil!

The series focuses on Special Agent Jess Harris and Chief of Police Daniel Burnett. Both are at major turning points in their careers as well as their personal lives. Jess made a decision after college to focus completely on her career. Now, twenty years later, her career is in the toilet and her short-lived marriage has fallen apart. The idea that she is alone and childless, another decision she made long ago, has suddenly hit her head-on as her career crashes. Suddenly she isn’t sure who she is anymore and all the “right” decisions she made years ago feel wrong somehow.

Enter the past. A case in Birmingham, Alabama, draws her home to advise local law enforcement. Five young women are missing. There is absolutely no evidence and no connection of any kind between the victims. Jess is glad to escape her present reality for the moment. The trouble is, the case in her hometown teams her with her first love, Chief of Police Daniel Burnett. But finding the missing is far more important and urgent than their volatile history. Jess’s slightly unorthodox methods clash with the southern good old boys who are none too happy to have the lady telling them how to do their jobs—but they all share a common goal and that is to find those girls alive whatever it takes.

As if all that isn’t messy enough, a part of Jess’s present has followed her to her past—to Birmingham. The serial killer whose case she blew isn’t finished playing with Jess.
I’m having a blast exploring chilling villains who you never see coming. Digging deep into the main protagonists as well as the ensemble cast of characters who are swiftly becoming like family to me.

I know it’s early, but I’m already celebrating the new year! I am so looking forward to 2012 and all the wicked, twisted Faces of Evil!

2 copies of OBSESSION will be awarded to 2 random commenters on Thursday, October 27th.
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Never Trust A Man Who Doesn't Like Dogs
By: Misty Evans

     Growing up, I often heard my dad say he never trusted a man who didn't like dogs. I extended his philosophy in my own life to include animals in general, but the dog-specific element influenced my story OPERATION SHEBA. When I started the story, Pongo, a gentle Rottweiler, showed up as Michael's pet. In many ways, he mirrored Michael's character: rock solid, well-trained, handsome and agreeable…until you piss him off.
      Pongo's presence acted as a way to spotlight Julia's character as well. When the need to sacrifice Pongo in order to save Michael and a group of hostages arises, she racks her brain to find a way to save both the people and the dog.
      I also used Pongo's kennel as a plot element. As spies, my main characters have to use common items in their environment to get the job done. Situations are never ideal, so forcing them to use their imaginations and view miscellaneous objects in a new light is a way to give them the upper hand against the bad guys. The kennel, Julia's iPod, and a hearse are all significant tools my spies use in the story. As an author, I love to play MacGyver as much as my characters.
      The final way I used Pongo to add depth to my story was a specific tribute to my father and his philosophy. One of the less admirable characters in OPERATION SHEBA, a power-hungry senator, doesn't like dogs. He's Michael's opposite in all ways so the trait fit him well. I didn't make a big deal out of it within the story, just mentioned it in passing dialogue between Michael and another character, but that tiny detail reveals as much about the senator's personality to me as any of his actions, thoughts, or words.
      The third book in my Super Agent Series, PROOF OF LIFE, once again uses Pongo as a litmus test for a special character. The dog's immediate affection for Dr. Brigit Kent rubs Michael the wrong way, but also gives Michael a reason to trust her. PROOF OF LIFE won 1st place in the Ancient City Romance Authors 2011 Heart of Excellence Reader's Choice Awards, Romantic Suspense Category. I think Pongo was part of the reason!
      Dogs have played a large role in real life for me and I value what they bring to my stories, but like all characters and plot elements, their purpose in the story can't be forced. It either fits or it doesn't. I've read books and seen movies where an animal - usually a pet - is dropped into the story without real purpose or clarity, often so the author can kill it off for shock value. If you've done a great job creating a bond between the pet and your reader and then you kill the animal off, beware. Your story will end up in the kitchen garbage disposal.
      From what I've observed in real life as well as fiction, dogs bring out the best and worst in people. My philosophy as an author is a simple take on my dad's wisdom: whether you're a writer or a reader, never trust a character who doesn't like dogs. 
      Misty Evans is an award-winning, multi-published author of CIA thrillers, paranormal comedies and other stories. She likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. To learn more about her super agents and zany witches, visit her at http://www.readmistyevans.com/ . 


What Makes A Hero Romantic?
By: Lena Diaz

What Makes a Hero Romantic?

Recently, two of my friends critiqued a scene I’d just written. Without seeing each other’s comments, they both highlighted the same line of dialogue, and they both said it was so romantic. I was surprised, because that line seemed ordinary, nothing special. What was it about that one line that sounded romantic? Neither of my friends could explain why it felt romantic. They just knew that it did.

I looked back through the scene, which was the first meet between the hero and heroine. I tried to figure out why that line seemed so special. All through the scene the hero was cold, almost to the point of being mean, because he despised the choices the heroine had made in her life. But at the very end of the scene, he couldn’t walk away without offering the heroine some kind of consolation. He had to say that one little line, trying to make her feel better.

That one line of dialogue showed the hero’s true character, his compassion. It gave the reader a glimpse into the hero’s true self. In that one line, we saw that the hero cared for the weak and downtrodden, even if he didn’t want to. The line itself wasn’t romantic. The reasons behind the hero’s words were romantic.

Let’s look at a scene where the hero and heroine dance together. By itself, the scene is nothing special. But let’s change it up a bit. Let’s say the heroine just got dumped by her boyfriend, very publicly, and he walks across the dance floor with another woman. Our heroine is sitting alone, humiliated. Other women she knows are giggling and making fun of her at the next table. They’re also flirting outrageously with our gorgeous hero.

Disgusted at how the women, and the boyfriend, treated the heroine, the hero asks the heroine to dance. He treats her like a princess, lavishing her with attention. By dancing with her, he gives her revenge against everyone who treated her so badly, and he helps her self-esteem.
Suddenly that scene is far more romantic. Or, at least, it is to me! The hero is no longer just a cute guy. He’s sexy, hot, appealing, romantic--not because of his looks--but because of the person he is inside.

So tell me, what do you think makes a romance novel hero romantic? Is it all looks? His voice? The way he gazes into a woman’s eyes, as if she’s the only person in the room? Or is it his character, his moral convictions, his compassion for others? Or something else entirely? I’d love to hear your opinions! 


World Domination!
By: Kylie Brant

Maureen mentioned her goal for this blog and it’s one I can really get behind: world domination by the romantic suspense genre.  And I’ve come up with a plan to assist toward that end, because that’s the sort of person I am.  Helpful.  And maybe a little bit evil J.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but romantic suspense as a sub-genre is ‘soft’ right now.  That’s editorial language for ‘we’re not buying it because the readers don’t want it.  We can tell they don’t want it because it’s not selling.  So take that romantic suspense proposal clutched in your hot sweaty little hand and hit the road.’  You only have to go to a bookstore and look at the suspense shelf (if they still have one) to discover months old books there.  Because there aren’t enough suspense books coming out in thirty days time to even make a decent display.

Writers understand that genre popularity is cyclical.  What’s hot for a few years hits a patch where you can’t give the books away.  Every genre seems to go through it (with the exception of paranormal whose overwhelming popularity doesn’t seem to be in danger of ebbing anytime soon.) 

Our mission, and yours, if you choose to accept it, is to revive the lagging sales in romantic suspense.  And I have an idea in mind that will do just that.

I think we need a character war to knock paranormal out of their favorite-genre status.

Okay, stay with me here.  This is imminently doable.  After all, romantic suspense authors have created hordes of homicidal maniacs and evil geniuses to do the heavy lifting for us.  We pit them against the zombies and vampires and sit back and let the battle commence.  How many homicidal maniacs does it take to eliminate a centuries old vampire?  Doesn’t matter.  We can just write more.  Therein lies the beauty of the plan.

Sure, some of the paranormal characters have magical powers.  And yeah, there’s that whole eternal life thing the vampires have going on.  But our characters are armed with chainsaws and wielding axes.  Hand out a few silver stakes and cloves of garlic and those vampires are dead meat.

I can see it now:  a bespectacled homicidal maniac dressed down in a cardigan and baggy khakis walking into the woods at nightfall arm in arm with said evil vampire.  The vamp thinks she’s leading her next meal to a nice secluded spot to start the blood picnic.  Her words drift behind them as they walk:  “Is that a chain saw in your pocket, or do you like me?”

One almost feels sorry for her.  Especially when the sound of a power saw fills the air.  You think a sharp pair of fangs is any defense against a Black and Decker CCS818?  I rest my case.

So think of the darkest, vilest most evil villains inhabiting your favorite romantic suspense novels.  They’ve been called to duty.

Those vampires are toast.

(Kylie Brant is the author of thirty-one romantic suspense novels, which harbor any number of villains ready to fight for world domination of romantic suspense.  The villain in her recent novel DEADLY SINS is the evil genius type and will make an excellent general in the evil army.)

What Makes a Good Setting for a Story

As many of you know, the fourth book in my Raines of Wind Canyon series, AGAINST THE STORM, will be out the end of October.  The book is set in the hustling, International port city of HoustonTexas

There are several factors that helped me choose that location for the story.  Being plot-oriented, I usually work through the story from start to finish, and then figure out where the best place is going to be for that story to work. Sometimes, however, as happened with AGAINST THE STORM, the character determined the setting. 

For instance, in the first book in the series, AGAINST THE WIND, Jackson Raines, the hero, lives in the fictional rural town of Wind Canyon, Wyoming.  AGAINST THE FIRE, his brother, Gabe’s story, was set in Dallas, and AGAINST THE LAW was in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Trace Rawlins, the hero of AGAINST THE STORM, first appears in AGAINST THE LAW.  He’s a former Army Ranger buddy of Dev Raines.  Dev solicits Trace’s help to rescue a little girl who’s been kidnapped and taken to Mexico.  The moment Trace entered the story, I knew I had to write about this cowboy hunk and find the right woman for him. Which meant, since Trace lived in Houston in LAW, Houston had to be the setting for the book.

Fortunately, a couple of years back, my husband and I lived in Houston for several months.  I grew to know my way around town, to know the restaurants and the shopping, to become familiar with the atmosphere of the city.  Which is amazingly small-town, considering the population.  Atlas Security, Trace’s company, became the focal point of the story, and will be the setting for other AGAINST books yet to come. 

But I digress.

The point is, the setting wasn’t picked by me, it was picked by character who lived there.
Since my books have always spanned a number of different locals, it helps that my husband and I travel quite a lot.  We know our way around the country and have lived and worked in a number of different places. 

Even if you haven’t been to a place for ten or twenty years, once you begin the research, it all comes flooding back.  The sights, the sounds, the smells, the sorts of people you encounter.  To help, I use Google Maps extensively.  They have street maps and satellite photos of different areas, and even cameras in various locations so you can actually see what it looks like!  Pretty amazing stuff.

Actually going there, of course, is the best way to choose a location.  And I truly believe there are places you really can’t write about without seeing it.  For me that was Europe.  Until I actually traveled overseas, I couldn’t image cities and towns that went that far back in time.  ParisLondonAmsterdam and the rural communities in European countries are the sorts of places you really need to visit in order to understand the way people in those areas live. 

If you can’t go, try to choose a location that fits your story and that you can relate to.  Wyoming was easy for me since I live in Montana.  Better yet, I’ve been there a number of times.  But even if I hadn’t been there before, it wouldn’t have been a big reach for me.

So pick a place that fits your character, your story, and is a place you know or can relate to.  Aside from that, have fun with it!  If you do, it will show in your writing and your readers will have fun, too.

Hope you enjoy my Houston cowboy, Trace Rawlins, in AGAINST THE STORM, and watch for other books in the series.  

Very best and happy reading, Kat  



For several years I have been writing both historical novels set in Tudor England and romantic suspense set in modern day America.  Published since 1982, I have written almost 50 novels.  But in creating each one, my biggest challenge is in writing a strong middle of the book, which I have come to think of as the muddle of the book.  Each time I have to say to myself, “No sagging middle!” –and I’m not talking about middle age spread or the need of a diet.  The middle of the book must be lean and mean—it must move!

The problem is that, by the middle of the novel, I’m juggling a lot of characters, and in my romantic suspense novels, more than one character who might be the villain.  I’ve worked hard to get off to a grabber beginning.  I pride myself with those to get the reader immediately involved in the story and the main character’s dilemma.  I often know what the exciting, rewarding ending of the book will be—ah, but to get there with flair and excitement, that’s the task.

In a romantic suspense, it usually works to add something shocking, another death or murder, or to be certain the heroine is in a real mess in the middle of the book—and, of course, in a tense relationship with the hero.  Forbidden love, but they must still work together?  A tough past between them, but they need each other to solve the crime or stay alive? 

Revealing a secret a main character has been hiding can give some oomph too.  My agent likes to say, “All main characters are harboring a secret.” But even if you’re writing a “straight romance,” some jolt to the hero and heroine’s relationship can work wonders for the middle.

In the romantic suspense novel I’m writing now, RETURN TO GRACE, book #2 in my new Amish trilogy (Book #1 is FALL FROM PRIDE), a key character who could be the murderer in rural Ohio Amish country goes missing—simply vanishes.  No sign of a struggle, his car in the garage.  Although this man was trying to take over Amish farmland, the Plain People willingly go out on a foot search in snowy, hilly terrain for him.  The mystery of how and why he’s gone missing; the suspense of the search for him; and the reader’s being surprised the author would ‘get rid of’ one of the prime suspects, hopefully ups the ante and carries the reader through what could have been a sagging section of the book.  And, of course, this new problem pulls the reluctant-to-trust-each-other hero and heroine even closer.

Last winter I was on an author panel at SleuthFest, a Mystery Writers of America conference, in South Florida.  The panel was called “When You Get To The Middle.”  We discussed the danger of going overboard at this point with throwing in too much, such as new characters.  If controlled, this can work but is dangerous, as is the tendency to toss in another subplot.  Don’t try to get through the muddle of the book by cluttering it up.

If you’re really stuck in the muddle, it helps some authors to go to the end and write “backward” to the middle.  I reread my synopsis, even if I’ve deviated from it, to see if I’m generally on track or have missed something to spice up the middle.  I look at my list of “Escalating Events” which can push my character arcs along or turn up the tension.  (No, I don’t like writing synopses either, but they are necessary.  My contracts ask for a short synopsis so my editors get a general idea of the novel, and I get ¼ of my advance money when they OK it.  Also, they often do the cover art and cover copy from this early outline.) 

Can a secret your hero or heroine have been hiding be revealed in the middle and that will provide a twist or turn and propel the action onward? Can it be the muddle where the hero and heroine take their relationship to the next level?  If so, don’t deflate the tension between them until later. Each writer needs to find a way to navigate the middle of her individual vision for her novel but must stay aware that if a book bogs down, it’s probably going to be there. 

One danger for as yet unpubbed authors is that they have spent so much time polishing a great beginning of their novel that the middle stands out as much weaker and rougher.  I’ve heard editors say they are sometimes shocked at the difference between that fabulous opening section that has been smoothed out by time and critique groups and the muddled middle.

Something I’ve noted again and again, including right now when I’m in the muddle of a novel, is that, while I write that section, I try to keep my outer world very organized—as if that would help control the book itself. I drive my husband crazy over-cleaning and over-arranging things.  I straighten my desk, clean out a cupboard, the car’s glove compartment—anything to control something when the middle of the book seems messy.

The reader needs an extra boost in the middle, so it’s worth working hard for.  Keep the reader turning the pages!  Being aware of this whether as a writer or a reader is fascinating.  They say, once you’re a writer, you never really read only for pleasure again, that you’re always looking at how the story is constructed.  And propping up a possible sagging middle will keep the reader (and editor!) whizzing through the pages, unable to put that book down and looking for the next one. 

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Karen Harper is a founding member of two RWA chapters, COFW and SW FloridaRomance Writers.  Her new Amish Romantic Suspense Trilogy begins with FALL FROM PRIDE (Aug. 2011)and RETURN TO GRACE in March 2012.  Her previous rom/sus trilogy set in Ohio Amish country includes DARK ROAD HOME, DARK HARVEST and DARK ANGEL, a Mary Higgins Clark Award winner.  Visit her website at http://www.karenharperauthor.com/.

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