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Romance

Maisey Yates Gives Us An Excerpt from "One Night to Risk it All"

USA TODAY bestselling author Maisey Yates offers us a sassy heroine’s perspective who finds herself whisked away to Cannes by a sexy Greek while carrying another man's baby! Masiey Yates’ One Night to Risk it All is available now.

MaisyYatesIt’s hard to argue with a Greek billionaire. Which is why I’m here in Cannes, avoiding the champagne, thank you very much, as I’m gestating a human being. Which is not exactly where I thought I’d be in my life right now. Things like this don’t happen to Jane Cooper. I’ve been called Plain Jane (very original) for most of my life for a reason.

Plain Jane finds herself dateless on prom night. She finds herself waiting tables instead of using her scholarship for a university across the country so that she can stay close to home and care for her mother while she’s sick. Plain Jane does not find herself caught in some weird cross fire between two billionaire brothers.

But you know…life surprises us.

It was shocking enough, getting into this arrangement with Nikos Christakis, but then his older brother, Theo, showed up at Nikos’s mansion and demanded I accompany him to Cannes (something about an emergency).

Well, that wasn’t strictly the case. He tricked me.

Turns out he thinks I’m a gold digger, which would be funny if it weren’t so close to the truth. I mean, considering where I’m at in life, it’s a tough one to dispute.

Pregnant with his brother’s baby, holed up in a luxury house on his private island. And all for a chance to improve my circumstances. I can’t really argue with Theo’s accusations. But Nikos is aware of what I want, and more than that he was the one who proposed the arrangement, so it’s not like I’m evil.

Though it’s clear Theo thinks I might be. Every time we get close he moves away like he might get burned.

The scary thing is, when he’s close, I feel like I might get burned. He makes me feel warm, from the inside out. Like everything in me is melting. It’s disturbing to say the least. As if the early stages of pregnancy aren’t making my body weird enough, I have to negotiate whatever it is that happens to me when Theo gets close.

Last night, he almost kissed me. He was looking at me like I was the vilest thing to have ever crawled into his hallowed home, and then suddenly it all changed. The spark that was burning there, with hatred and distrust, caught fire and it burned out of control. Into something else entirely.

No man has ever looked at me like that before, and I can honestly say that, even though I shouldn’t have wanted to lean in and press my lips to his more than anything in the world.

But it didn’t happen. He came back to his senses, which was for the best because I was lost completely. He turned away from me, swearing, cursing his own name and mine. And he told me he could never touch me, because I belonged to Nikos. I belonged to his brother and was carrying his child.

I wonder if things would change if he knew the truth. If he knew that I really was doing this for the money. That Nikos has never touched me. That I’m pregnant because of a medical procedure, not because of passion. That I’m a surrogate, and not a mistress.

He would either turn away from me forever…or he would give in to everything burning between us.

And I honestly don’t know which one frightens me more.

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Q&A with Jill Shalvis

Romance editor Alyssa Morris spoke with author, and 2014 RITA nominee, Jill Shalvis about her popular "Animal Magnetism" series, the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference, and her love of writing relationships.

Then Came YouAlyssa Morris: First, I just finished Then Came You. I loved it. Wyatt is amazing. So I’m excited—can you tell us what’s next in the Animal Magnetism series?

Jill Shalvis: Well next is Wyatt’s two sisters, Zoe and Darcy.

AM: Yay!

JS: Darcy is next, I just turned her in. She’s a wild one. She’s like a tumbleweed rolling through town and she finds her happily ever after, of course, the hard way. As Darcy does everything.

AM: I was really hoping when I was reading it that that was where we were going.

JS: That’s where we’re going. And she comes out in April, and it’s Still the One. That’s the title. Zoe will come out in October but I don’t quite have a title for her yet.

AM: What in your own life provides inspiration for your novels? Is there a small town you go to or do you live in a small town?

JS: I actually grew up in a very large town, one of the largest, Los Angeles. And a small town to me was always a fantasy. In Los Angeles you can go and never be recognized. You could never see anybody you know. So, you go to the grocery store for days and never see anyone. I always wondered what it would be like, because you read in these small town things how you can go to the grocery store and you see your dentist and you go to the gas station and you see your next-door neighbor. So that was always the fantasy and that was why I started writing it. It’s just a coincidence that now I live in a small town and so, because I grew up in a big town and now live in a small town, I find all these small town idiosyncrasies funny, you know? That’s my inspiration.

AM: You’re kind of more primed to notice it?

JS: Correct. Because now I go to the grocery store and I see five people I know. You used to be able to go to the grocery store in your pajamas and bunny slippers and no one would care, but now you can’t because everybody knows everybody. So I enjoy pulling the humor out of those sort of things.

AM: I saw you’ve recently gotten into Supernatural.

JS: Oh my god! Can we talk about that for the next three hours?

AM: Are you still catching up?

JS: Yes I’m on season 5, and I resent [the RWA] conference because I haven’t gotten to see a single episode. Are you into it too?

AM: I haven’t gotten quite sucked in yet but I have a feeling it’s coming.

JS: Oh it’s coming. It’s addictive—you just can’t stop watching. Yes, I’m in love with Supernatural.

AM: I feel like I’ve had to put off watching it for a long time because I know that once I start--

JS: It will be all over, trust me.

AM: Do you feel like this will influence your work at all? Is it inspiring you to write a paranormal?

JS: Not necessarily paranormal, although I would love to do that some day very much. I would love to write witches. Or ghosts. But what I am finding is that the characters—at the core of Supernatural what really draws me isn’t the ghost, isn’t the demons, it’s the brothers’ relationship with each other. And that to me is so amazing and so touching—even though they are either beating the heck out of each other or they’re mad at each other. I have daughters and I understand and recognize that relationship. It’s OK to mess with your own sibling, but it’s not OK for anybody else to mess with that sibling. And I love the romance. I just love men and their relationships with each other. I always do that in my books. And I think that is what draws me to Supernatural. And you will see the influence of that.

AM: What’s your favorite part of coming to RWA?

JS: For sure going to the signings and meeting people who read my books. You know, we work alone all day long and you’re alone with your laptop and your characters and you don’t get a lot of feedback unless you go online and read reviews, and I don’t necessarily have the time for that. I have a very full life and I feel very separated from what readers do and think, so when I come to conferences, that’s my favorite part, is hearing feedback.

AM: So paranormal and witches…is there another genre of romance that you would like to try your hand at?

JS: Definitely paranormal, that draws me. That’s probably it. Other than that—I mean I love writing and reading contemporaries so I’m gonna stay there to the end of time. But some day I will dabble in paranormal, I think.

AM: I think it’s interesting now how a lot of people are kind of branching out from their genres and giving their own spin on something else. And I think readers really like seeing that.

JS: I do, too. And also, it’s always a mistake to write to the readers, but I am a reader at heart, so I feel like I have the same taste that readers have.

AM: That makes sense. Is there anything you’ve been reading lately that you really loved?

JS: Well I go through spurts. I’m a pop culture fanatic, frankly, I mean I love TV, I love books, I love magazines, I love movies. But I go in spurts. So either I’m reading or I’m watching TV. Right now I happen to be marathon-ing tv, but I’ll get back to books.

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Lauren Blakely On Writing For Romance & Young Adult Genres

Author Lauren Blakely (AKA Daisy Whitney) discusses the challenges writers face when balancing writing for more than one audience. Her latest romance release, "One More Night," is now available.

Lauren BlakelyJust as kids have a separate compartment for dessert that isn’t impacted whatsoever by the meal compartment, the same may be true for writers in different genres. 

Case in point: I write for middle schoolers, teens and adults, and part of that job entails using those separate drawers every day, and sometimes with every word. For instance, some words go in the teen-only drawer, and some belong in the adult-only one, and I don’t just mean the dirty words. 

Take “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” I learned from the readers of my adult romance that they don’t want to hear a romantic interest referred to as a boyfriend or girlfriend, whereas those terms are perfectly acceptable and quite the norm in teen lit. In sexy adult romance, the love interest is a “lover.” Maybe a writer can get away with “significant other,” sometimes she can use “partner,” and occasionally descriptive terms like “the woman he wanted always” play well. But when I used “boyfriend” in my third adult romance, Trophy Husband, readers told me the term felt too high school. 

Oops. I had forgotten to use the separate compartment for that word in that book.

Now, with five novels for teens, one more middle schoolers, and more then a dozen novels for adults under my belt, I am better able to balance the genres cleanly and easily. 

That balance extends beyond words, and encompasses more than the presence or absence of sex on the pages. Balance comes too in knowing when to tap certain emotions. The teenage experience can be quite intense with everything happening for the first time - first love, first dance, first kiss. On the flip side, many of my adult romance novels, such as Burn for Me, depict characters who have - naturally - more experience at life, love, work and so on. The emotions of jealousy, pain, love, lust, happiness, and joy are colored by the years. In Burn For Me, the hero and heroine have a flirty, playful banter, but it’s an adult banter that reflects how two 28-year-olds might talk, whereas the leads in my teen novel Starry Nights flirt in a more innocent and youthful fashion. 

Writing in different genres uses different muscles. I will often dip in and out of working on a novel for teens and a novel for adults in the same week and sometimes in the same day. The process, I suppose, is not much different than exercise. Some days you do cardio, some days you lift weights, and some days you do both. 

However, one element remains consistent throughout my novels and requires little balance – dogs. Nearly all my books feature a dog. Dogs don’t need different terms, or require different interactions, because dogs break down all boundaries and barriers. Dogs are universal. For the rare reader who might read across my books, she might notice the dog in my middle grade novel Ben Fox: Squirrel Zombie Specialist at Your Service is the same dog in my YA novel When You Were Here is the same dog in my new adult romance Every Second With You. The dog is my border collie mix making her appearance on page. 

Make no bones about it - a dog is a dog is a dog. 

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Author Jeaniene Frost Discusses Magic in Romance

New York Times best-selling author Jeaniene Frost shares her love of romance, magic, and mayhem in some of her favorite books!

Jeaniene Frost croppedEver since I first snuck in to watch Dracula as a child, I’ve loved the paranormal genre. A little later, swiping books from my mother’s romance novel collection made me a lifelong lover of that genre, and Wonder Woman first fueled my addiction to strong heroines (as a little girl, I even had Wonder Woman Underoos, which both dates me and embarrasses me now).  Therefore, it’s no surprise that my favorite things to read and write contain elements of all three.  

Take my latest novel, The Beautiful Ashes. My heroine, Ivy, gets thrust into the supernatural world when she finds out the hallucinations she’s had all her life are actually glimpses into other realms. The hero, Adrian, wants nothing to do with Ivy because of a destiny he’s determined to avoid, but the only way to get the vengeance he craves is to help Ivy navigate these realms in search of a weapon only she can use. Falling in love is the most reckless thing they can do, but it’s also the only way Ivy might be able to save Adrian from his fate. After all, nothing transforms a person more than true love, right?

When I’m not writing about strong heroines navigating their relationships with dangerous-yet-sexy alpha heroes against a backdrop of hazardous paranormal elements, you can usually find me reading about them. Here are some of my favorites:

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

When readers first meet Kate, she’s a magic-filled mercenary with a lot of trust issues. As the story (and series) progresses, you find out the many good reasons why Kate has had to keep everyone around her at arm’s length—among Kate’s many other secrets, she’s had to hide the truth about her lineage. Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta, is more than up for the challenge she poses. In her perilous life, Kate’s had to battle vampires, necromancers, shape-shifters, malevolent magic and more, but what I love most about this series is how her greatest challenge might be letting herself be emotionally vulnerable enough to love, and be loved, by Curran.

The Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

MacKayla, or Mac, starts out as a somewhat flighty, privileged girl whose biggest concern in life is dropping her cell phone into a swimming pool. That all changes when Mac’s sister is killed and she travels to Ireland for answers, not knowing that she’s going back to the place she really came from. To say that Mac undergoes a startling transformation in this series is an understatement. For several books, she’s both manipulated and saved by the enigmatic Jericho Barrons, a man practically drenched in secrets. Neither wants to get involved with the other, yet Mac and Barrons’s relationship is as inevitable as it is steamy. I loved watching the two of them get beneath each other’s skin. Shadowfever is also the first novel I ever read in ebook form because I was traveling when I finished Dreamfever and I couldn’t wait even one day to get to a book store to find out what happened next.

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander made me fall in love with two things: First-person narrative and Jamie Fraser (for some of you, I don’t need to say more because “Jamie Fraser” is enough.) If you’re not familiar with this series, you are missing something special. Our heroine, Claire, starts off as a married army nurse who’s inexplicably transported to eighteenth-century Scotland. Before she can say “time travel is real!” Claire is forced into marrying a handsome Scot who has no idea that his new bride is both from the future and married to someone else. If the setup sounds implausible, Gabaldon’s superb writing and meticulous historical detail will soon make you a believer, but it’s Jamie and Claire’s relationship that still has me hooked twenty years after I first read Outlander. Their love forever changes both of them whether they’re together or apart, and their relationship proves a line my character Bones once said in my second novel: “Time has no dominion over love.”

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2014 RITA Awards: The Inside Scoop

Editor Alyssa Morris gives us an insider view on the 2014 RITA awards.

After three days of conversation about the future of the romance in an ever-shifting publishing ClaimMe_CROPlandscape, the 2014 RITA awards celebrated romances of the past while honoring innovators of the present. Notably, J. Kenner took home the first ever RITA for erotic romance for Claim Me and the award for best Romantic suspense went to author Carolyn Crane for her novel Off the Edge. These awards reflect the widening romance market and the trends of the past few years, many wrought by the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey, the Crossfire trilogy, and other similarly steamy independent titles (which 50 Shades of Grey and the first Crossfire book both, briefly, were).

Eloisa James presented the lifetime achievement award to Bertrice Small, a truly remarkable pioneer of the modern romance whom James, quoting Dickens, described as “the founder of our feast.” James recounted an anecdote from Small's early career, when her first publisher told her to stay home and take care of her baby. Small was undaunted, convinced that she would last longer in the publishing industry than he. And, indeed, she did. Leaving the ceremony, many people could be heard discussing their desire to track down some of Bertrice's novels.

Throughout the ceremony, video interviews revealed the first romances read by blockbuster authors. Emcee Simone Elkeles read Nobody's Darling by Theresa Medeiros, Julia Quinn was inspired to write by Jude Deveraux, Sarah MacLean was also inspired by Deveraux, citing The Black Lyon as her first romance. Kristan Higgins stole her first romance novel from her grandmother, knowing she wouldn't be allowed to read it otherwise. With the recent and forthcoming e-releases of many of these classic authors' backlists, it feels as though we are due for a resurgence of their popularity and a return to more adventurous themes in the modern romance.

Other RITA winners included Sarah MacLean for her historical No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, Molly O'Keefe for her contemporary Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Jane Porter for her novella Take Me Cowboy, Carla Laureano for her inspirational romance Five Days in Skye, Susan Kearsley for her paranormal The Firebird, and Leah Ashton for her short contemporary romance Why Resist a Rebel. Finally, Laura Drake won best first book for her western The Sweet Spot. All of these and the nominated titles are well worth delving into, and they may even inspire readers to look back in time and try the romances that paved the way for them.

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Alison Kent on RITA Nominations

Romance author Alison Kent discusses the honor of receiving a 2014 RITA award nomination for her book, "The Second Chance Café." The official RITA award winners will be announced July 26.

Interested in RITA nominees? Read more from romance author Nancy Kerkness on her RITA nomination experience.

My name is Alison Kent, and I'm going to tell you all about the RITA experience. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular writing award, it's the highest peer-judged honor given every year to published romance novels and novellas by the Romance Writers of America.

This is how the RITA contest works. For every author I know.

  • Early autumn, when the RITA registration opens, we rush to send our entry fee to RWA before the contest reaches its entry cap and we're left looking in from the outside. Through our tears.
  • Late autumn, when the deadline for receipt of RITA books approaches, we rush to send the copies to the RWA office before it's too late. Since I now live less than five miles from the national headquarters, I get to skip the postage and the post office lines and motor over!
  • Early winter, when the RITA judging packets hit our front doors, we rush to rip into the boxes, wanting to see what has arrived. It's like a late Christmas gift. Free books! New authors! Free books!
  • Late winter, when the RITA scores are due, we rush to the RWA website to submit them. Or at least I do. I'm sure there are some out there who are much more organized!
  • Early spring, when the RITA finalists are announced, we rush to get out of bed so we can then wait by the phone. The calls go out early. Twitter explodes with congratulations. Those whose categories have not yet been called try not to weep.

Funny how much rushing is involved when publishing is all about "hurry up and wait."

This year when the calls began, I was sitting in my kitchen coffee shop with my husband pretending the day was no different from any other. This is our morning routine. Coffee and Twitter for me. Coffee and Fark for him. I was reading the tweeted call announcements and cheering on friends. Then our house phone rang. The only unit we have is upstairs.

SecondChanceCafe_"That's my RITA call," I said, and didn't even move. My feet were propped up. I had my phone in one hand, my coffee mug in the other. There was no way I would be able to pry myself out of my cushy chair and get to the phone before it stopped ringing. My husband felt differently. He sprinted to my office and caught the call in time. I had entered three books in two different categories, but in my heart of hearts knew which had finaled.

How did I know it was a RITA call? For one thing, no one who knows us to talk to us uses the house phone, but it is the number attached to my official RWA membership. The real reason I was so sure, however, is because The Second Chance Cafe has been a magic book since the moment it became a Montlake Romance - and I can't even explain why. I did nothing differently while writing it than I did while writing any of the forty-plus books that came before. It was a matter of the right book and the right publisher at the right time.

I think that's called luck. And mine was twenty years in the making.

My first book was released in 1993, years before social media was a thing. It took days to find out who had finaled. Some years I didn't see the full list until the Romance Writers Report (RWA's official magazine) arrived with the announcement weeks later. There was no hearing the news as the calls were made, no getting to celebrate with friends on the spot.

I'm so glad it took this long (no, really!) because of that experience. Congratulations from readers and authors alike chirping on my phone made "call day" the best ever. Flowers arriving from my publisher brightened my kitchen coffee shop for days. Wearing a RITA pin and ribbon during the RWA conference will make the week fun beyond words.

I've enjoyed every minute of being a finalist and will do so even after the winner is announced. It's an incredible honor to have my book selected by my peers as one of the year's best romances. I'm thrilled to death to be able to share it with Amazon Montlake.

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When RITA Calls...

Romance author Nancy Herkness discusses her experience receiving a 2014 RITA award nomination for her book, "Country Roads." The official RITA award winners will be announced July 26.

On Wednesday morning, March 26, I received a voice mail from Claudia Dain, asking me to call her back. Now I know who Claudia Dain is—a fabulous writer of historical romance - but I’ve never met her in person and she certainly wouldn’t call me out of the blue. 

Then I remembered that it was the day the RITA finalists were notified. You may not have heard of the RITA awards, but to a romance writer, they are the equivalent of the Oscars. There’s a huge ceremony at the national Romance Writers of America conference in July, attended by over a thousand people.  The nominees get dressed up in long elegant evening gowns and are treated like visiting royalty.  Your editor sits at the table with you while your head shot and book cover are flashed up on giant screens as they read the nominations.  If you win, you make an acceptance speech and receive a gleaming golden statuette.

CountryRoads_Claudia’s message lit a little flicker of excitement in my chest, although I told myself her call had to be about something else. I had just signed up for a new marketing program sponsored by RWA.  Perhaps they wanted to discuss some aspect of that.

However, I ran downstairs and told my husband about the message. It was a delaying tactic because I was afraid to call Claudia back, afraid it would douse that tiny flame of thrilling anticipation. Of course, my husband told me to call her back immediately!

I did and that tiny flame of hope turned into a raging bonfire of stunned joy as Claudia, in her role as an RWA board member, told me that my second Whisper Horse novel, Country Roads, had been nominated for a RITA award in contemporary romance. She patiently listened to me hyperventilate in her ear before she congratulated me and told me I’d be getting more details soon.

As soon as I hung up, I raced back downstairs to my waiting husband where I shrieked, kissed him, and began dancing around the room like a lunatic.

I’ve been dancing off and on ever since.

As soon as the list of RITA finalists was made public, a flood of congratulations poured into my email inbox, onto my Facebook page, and into my voice mail.  My publisher sent me a beautiful bouquet of red roses. In fact, I was stunned by how much attention and good wishes came my way. It warmed the cockles of my heart.

Next was a mad scramble to secure hotel and airplane reservations to San Antonio, Texas, for the conference and ceremony.  My proud husband decided I should travel like a movie star, so he used all our frequent flier miles to upgrade me to first class.

Then there was the shopping. Being Queen for a Day means you have to attempt to look like one.  My daughter and I set off on a tour of all the bridal salons in the area—and this is northern New Jersey, so there are a lot of them—and found the perfect evening dress, one that makes me feel like a star of the silver screen. We added sparkly shoes and glittering rhinestone jewels to make the ensemble even more glamorous.  (I considered a tiara but decided that was a little too over-the-top.) Nothing is more fun than shopping for a fancy outfit with your daughter!

Kindleblog-RITApic-Herkness_750A few days ago, the mailman delivered a little white box from RWA. I opened it to find my RITA finalist pin, a small silver replica of the figurine the winner receives, as well as the official invitation to the RITA reception. The dancing commenced again, because this was the first physical manifestation of my nomination.

Of course, winning an award is not what drives me to write. I do it for the joy of putting my stories into words and sharing them with readers. I find happiness sitting in my attic room in front of the word processor, conjuring up vibrant characters, taut dialogue, and gut-wrenching emotions. Nothing gives me more pleasure than hearing from a reader that my books have touched her heart in some way.  But it’s fun to have an unexpected reason to put on a pretty dress and high heels. 

The truth is: I don’t expect to win the RITA. Equally true is the fact that I’m totally fine with that. Just being nominated is such an amazing honor and validation. It means my peers consider my book among the absolute best of the best when it comes to a romance novel. Knowing this is more than enough to send me twirling into a pirouette whenever I think about it.

Now I have to go write my acceptance speech...

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Guest Post by Karen Harper: Small Towns Are Scary

91rRsF9%2B8KL.__AA300_[1]New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper walks us through the twist and turns of her romantic suspense novels that take place in small towns where eccentric characters abound and the enemy is too often “us.”  It’s someone the heroine knows and trusts, someone who is keeping deadly secrets.  What a great contrast:  a charming Americana ambience vs. fear and terror.  And often, with a small police force, average citizens must help solve crimes which seem worse in a rural than an urban setting.

In my new Appalachian suspense novels, small town, rural settings really up the ante for an average woman facing fear and crime.  When a murder or kidnapping occurs in such a charming place, the shock is magnified over that of urban crime, where we almost expect something to go wrong.  A long-deserted, picturesque barn can provide a setting more scary than an empty urban apartment building.  Many Americans long to escape to the country, but danger lurks there too, the kind that seems more dreadful set amidst fields and forests, quaint stores and down home restaurants.    

In Shattered Secrets, the first book in The Cold Creek trilogy, (with Forbidden Ground and Broken Bonds to follow at two-month intervals) danger hides in the tall cornfield surrounding a charming, old farmhouse.  Appalachian foothills loom over the rural area and small town of Cold Creek where young girls have been disappearing for decades. 

I love setting terrifying events in lovely settings because being pushed into a grain silo can be as deadly as a bullet in my suspense novels.  Fear is much more primitive and unsettling.  In a way, this is Stephen King territory, but in my books, there is a dangerous love story also woven throughout and an uplifting ending.

 Although strange people and unique criminals can certainly abound in the big, bad city, I have found small town and rural characters to be more eccentric, unique and therefore, fascinating.  Often the villain is someone known to the main characters, which means betrayal and treachery on an intimate, personal level.  Sadly—tragically—the enemy is too often “us,” someone trusted and perhaps loved. 

I’m always thrilled when readers tell me they had no clue who the murderer or kidnapper was until the last chapter.  One of my favorite reviews said it best: “Harper, a master of suspense, keeps readers guessing about crime and love until the very end.”  (Booklist, starred review, on Fall From Pride.)

The isolation of people in small towns and the surrounding rural fields and forests means help is not just a quick phone call away as in the city.  In some rural areas with rolling hills, especially in the Appalachians, cell phones don’t work.  Even with moonlight and starlight, it can be intensely dark in the country at night, and, of course, really dark scenes work well too.  I’ve also written two trilogies set among the Ohio Amish, who only use lanterns and don’t want to call the police, even if they have a public phone nearby.  And getting help in a horse and buggy can mean a long ride on a dark road.

 Police in rural areas can be a great distance away, even if someone in danger can get through to them.  In my Maple Creek trilogy, my Dark Road Home trilogy, and now in the new Cold Creek trilogy, the small police force tries its best, but danger seems much more terrifying in what should be a safe setting, especially if the heroine, with the hero’s help, must save her own life. 

An old, abandoned insane asylum, a defunct coal mine, an Indian burial mound—you may never look at small town and rural life the same way again if you read a Karen Harper romantic suspense novel!  Keep the lights on at night and your window locked.  Enjoy!

Author Lindsay McKenna's Cinderella Story

Romance author Lindsay McKenna discusses her new release "Never Surrender" and character transformations.

NeverSurrenderCROPAs a romance writer, I’m always attracted to Cinderella stories where love transforms my characters, even in the most dire of times. Never Surrender is a Cinderella story that captures both the dark and the light of that beloved tale. Bay is thrown into a torturous situation, but through the undying love of Gabe Griffin, is able to heal and be the woman, and live the life, that destiny holds for her.

Baylee Ann Thorn is in love. She is a navy combat corpsman, part of a supersecret Pentagon project:  Operation Shadow Warriors. When ordered to work with a US Navy SEAL platoon out of Afghanistan, Bay met the warrior she would fall in love with, Chief Gabe Griffin.  

Because of her commitment to the top-secret program, one of forty women trained in combat to see if they could handle it, she is to be deployed one last time to Afghanistan before she marries Gabe. Their parting is bittersweet. Instead of the woman being left behind while the man goes overseas into combat, it is reversed. Gabe is fearful for her and that she’s been sent to an army special forces A-Team, not to the SEALs, as he’d hoped.

Bay comes from strong stock, the Hill people of West Virginia. Born and raised on Black Mountain, her marine corps father, Floyd, taught her to shoot at twelve, to track and live off the land. When Bay is captured by a Taliban leader, it is a combination of her own background and what Gabe has taught her as a SEAL sniper that will make the difference between her living and dying.  

Gabe gets orders cut to go over to Afghanistan to join the hunt to try and find Bay among the Hindu Kush mountains. He knows what the Taliban will do with a military woman and he has to control all his wild, anguished emotions and concentrate on finding her alive.

Bay is traumatized and tortured. It is her Hill backbone of steel combined with her fierce love of Gabe that gives her the strength to escape her captors and make a break for freedom. She knows if she’s caught, they’ll kill her.  But after what she has suffered already, death is a reprieve. Still, it is her love for Gabe that drives her to try. In the early-morning light, Bay hides from the Taliban, who are hunting her down. But she’s her father’s daughter and knows tracking and backtracking. She uses Gabe’s sniper SEAL knowledge to hide out in plain sight.  

Gabe’s world comes apart and is haphazardly sewn back together again when he finds Bay and is able to rescue her from sure death at the hands of the Taliban. On a medevac flying to Bagram’s hospital, he realizes the harsh truth and the daunting recovery it will take to get his Bay back to him.  

Bay slowly returns over time, with the patience and love of the man who will not give up on her for any reason. She works to transform the dark evil that has stolen a part of her soul and return herself to the light and love that Gabe holds for her.    

Love is the most powerful human emotion in the world and Bay’s heart allows her to begin the long road to her recovery, to reordering her life, with Gabe’s steadfast belief and love. The stresses, the challenges, are daunting. Together, they learn to empower themselves to create the life they had dreamed of having, no matter what the ashes of the past have decreed.

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Kendra Elliot's Thrillerfest Homecoming

Author Kendra Elliot comes full circle as her Thrillerfest nomination for "Buried" has her finally saying, "I'm an author."

KElliot_CROPFive years ago I attended my first Thrillerfest Conference in New York City. I was unpublished, but I wasn’t a total newbie; I’d been honing my craft for a few years, had a few manuscripts under the bed, and had paid close attention in my local writing groups and conferences, trying to figure out this odd world of publishing. When I noticed the Romance Writers of America conference was in Washington DC a week after Thrillerfest in NYC, I made plans to attend both in one long trip back east.

One of the main reasons to attend conferences is to rub shoulders with the authors you admire. My highlight that year was standing guard for Lee Child’s signing line. I was a serious fan. I’d volunteered for the signing and had been assigned to keep his rowdy autograph seekers under control. I spent most of the time holding up a nearby wall as I chatted with one of his editors. She asked if I was an author, and I said, “No, I’m a writer.” She asked the difference, and I told her that I felt I couldn’t call myself an author because I wasn’t published. She nodded, but gave me an odd look.

I didn’t go to the awards banquet. I wasn’t an author, so what would be the point? I’d never been to NYC. A good friend made certain my friends and I saw the highlights of New York, turning it into an amazing experience.

The next few years brought changes to my writing life. I got an agent. I sold. I quit the day job and sold again. My publisher put out four of my books in eighteen months and bought more.

Fast forward to Spring 2014. I was chatting with a writer buddy on Facebook when someone from my publishing house posted on my wall, congratulating me for an award nomination. I assumed she was talking about a Romantic Times nomination I’d heard about four months prior. I replied, asking which award she meant.

Her: The Thriller award

Me: WHAT??

Me: Are you sure?

Her: My phone won’t let me post the link. Of course, I’m sure.

I found the announcement, saw my name, and burst into tears.

It wasn’t possible. The thriller awards are for the BIG, IMPORTANT writers. I scanned the list of names. …Lisa Gardner, Stephen King, AND FREAKING Lee Child in the hardback category. I was listed in the paperback category along with my good friend and mentor, Allison Brennan.

I don’t belong on this list. Where are all the other authors? The real authors?

In my head, I was still the newbie. Possibly I was perceived as being successful in publishing, but I was terrified that someone would figure out that I was a sham. That my books weren’t that good or deserving of praise. Even though I’d sold over a half million books in two years, I still had doubts. Big ones. When people ask me what I do for a living, I still struggle to say “I’m an author.” It feels like a lie.

Would the self-doubt ever go away?

Another good writer friend (yes, I have a lot of good writer friends. The writing community is a close, supportive one) sympathized with my doubt, assuring me that it was normal for a large percentage of writers and sent me this quote

The sign of intelligence is that you are constantly wondering. Idiots are always dead sure about every damn thing they are doing in their life.― Jaggi Vasudev

It made me laugh, but it also resonated deeply.

I wasn’t an idiot for my doubt, but I couldn’t let it control me.

I frequently use the full circle as a theme in my books. Toward the end of a story, my characters often return to a key place or event in their life, but the second time they are armed with new skills they’ve learned in their journey.

So I will return to New York City for another amazing experience. This time as a recognized author in my genre, and I’ll hold my chin up and smile at that awards banquet, proud that this book has received important nominations from the romance and thriller communities.

I’m an author.

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