Tag Archives: Romantic Suspense

Review: The Asset by Anna del Mar

Mary’s Review of The Asset by Anna del Mar
Romantic suspense released by Carina Press on February 1, 2016

The AssetAsh Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he’s gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother’s isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Like recognizes like.

Lia Stewart’s in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it’s loving him that might get them both killed.

Soon, Ash realizes he’s not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he’ll protect Lia until his last breath.

I picked this book up while it was on sale. I’m a sucker for a wounded warrior story and romantic suspense is my most loved genre, so it was an easy purchase. I didn’t read any of the reviews on this book beforehand but I probably should have. What I thought I was buying wasn’t what I ended up with.

Lia is sequestered away in a small town from someone horrible. I learned, from the blurb, that it’s the cartel but it’s not actually stated in the book until much later. She’s dealing with an extreme case of PTSD. She and the hero literally meet over the barrel of a shotgun. She’s so terrified of the stranger in front of her, Lia doesn’t even notice he’s on crutches. So yeah, her PTSD is bad. But Lia is also kind and has a soft spot for anyone in need. Once she realizes Ash is in serious pain, she does her best to help him – even while respecting his boundaries. He adamantly refuses to let her take him to the hospital and, after he passes out on her, Lia figures out a way to treat him anyway. She’s resourceful and smart, a heroine I connected with immediately.

Ash was the perfect offset to Lia. He’s grumpy and gruff, direct almost to a fault. He’s also dealing with a bad case of PTSD but has a much better handle on it than Lia. As a Navy Seal, he’s used to pushing through the pain but the raging infection in his foot is more than he can handle. The hospital isn’t an option – the doctors want to amputate and Ash knows he won’t ever be able to return to active duty if that happens. With no family left, he has no one to care for him. Accepting Lia’s help isn’t easy, but it’s better than the alternative and Ash knows it.

The first 60% of the book flows quickly but reads more like a contemporary romance than a romantic suspense. There was no indication whatsoever that anyone from the cartel was after Lia. She experiences some problems – with her neighbors, at the bar she works at – but her reactions were over-the-top and seemed directly associated to her PTSD.

So, okay. Fine. Romantic suspense is a broad genre and, depending on the author, the book can be packed full of trouble or have only a drop. In this case, the characters were great and the writing was smooth. I was invested in the story despite the fact that I originally wanted a suspense.

Then the suspense finally showed up and it ruined everything.

From the very beginning, Lia knows (even if the reader doesn’t) that a dangerous individual is hunting her down. Yet, she never, ever says a word to Ash. The entire time he’s recuperating in her home, he is in serious danger but completely unaware of it. Her decision rubbed me the wrong way when I realized the risk she’d put him in without giving him the choice – especially after he’d recovered enough to go somewhere else.

Once Lia finally shares her problems with Ash, he makes some decisions that caused me to dislike him. A lot. He repeatedly refuses to allow Lia into his plans but his actions have serious consequences for her. Lia isn’t much better. She’s so determined to protect everyone around her, she ends up making some TSTL moves. The couple I’d fallen in love with in the first half of the book never ended up working together and that was a huge disappointment. Additionally, the book takes a dive into some pretty gritty stuff that didn’t really fit with the rest of the novel. Lia’s backstory was dark – really dark –and its described in brutal detail. So be sure to check the trigger warnings on Goodreads.

Ultimately, this book didn’t work for me. I really loved the first half, however, and would be willing to try another by this author – just not another romantic suspense.

Grade: D

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

Exclusive Excerpt: A Deep and Dark December by Beth Yarnall

Hi friends! So I’m out and about and you know how this past ~year+ has been … so I’ve got open spots in the calendar! (Which considering I used to schedule two years in advance only makes sense…) But that’s fantastic, because it means that we have something from Beth Yarnall today! As you see she’s sharing an exclusive excerpt of her newest book that just came out Monday. Yup – A Deep and Dark December is now available! So everyone remember to congratulate Beth on her newest release!

A Deep and Dark DecemberSomeone is killing the residents of San Rey.
Graham is the sixth generation Doran to become sheriff of the sleepy central California coastal town. As long as a Doran has been sheriff there’s been no crime in San Rey, and Graham is counting on that peace and quiet when he returns home after years as an LAPD detective. But when he’s called to the scene of the murder/suicide of an old friend, he sets into motion a series of events that rocks the tiny town, and the only way to catch a killer will be to face his own dark past.
Buried secrets must be told.
Erin December has always felt like an outsider in close-knit San Rey. She comes from a family with unusual psychic abilities, which makes her an outcast in the small town. She’s spent her entire life keeping her own ability a secret—until the day she loses control of the visions, and is forced to watch a brutal murder through the killer’s eyes. Erin becomes the key witness to the first murder the town has seen in sixty years. But to help find the killer, she’s forced to reveal her biggest secret to the last person she thought she could trust—Graham.
To stop a murderer with secrets he’s killing to protect.
The December’s aren’t the only ones in San Rey with psychic abilities. As Graham and Erin’s attraction grows so does the killer’s need to protect his own secrets, turning his power on Erin and her family. Graham will do anything to protect Erin. But how do you catch a murderer who has the power to kill with his mind?

Taking a deep breath, Erin knocked. If her vision were true, no one would answer. Please let Greg answer. Brushing the shards of flaked gate paint from her fingers, she was tempted to just pull out her cell phone and place the call she’d started at the office. But that’s not how it worked. If her vision was real, the scene had to play out exactly as she’d seen it.

Clutching her bag tighter under her arm, she knocked again. “Hello? Mr. Lasiter? It’s Erin from Kavender Investments.”
She felt stupid calling him Mr. Lasiter instead of Greg. He was only a year older than she was. She’d had a stupid unrequited crush on him her freshman year of high school. And now she was standing on his dilapidated porch, supposedly waiting for him to open the door so she could take the keys to his home. The home he’d grown up in. She shouldn’t feel guilty about that and yet she did.

Mr. Lasiter?” She rapped on the door again. “Hello?”

Inside, the house was silent. Outside, the only sound was the whoosh of wind, lifting the curling ends of her brown hair, bringing with it the briny tinge of the ocean and a chill that bit right through her wool coat. Just like her vision. If Erin was smart she’d follow her instincts and run back the way she’d come. But she had her father’s practicality and a bank balance that didn’t allow for fear.

She had to see this through.

Still no answer. She’d hoped so hard that what she’d seen would be as wrong as the way it had come to her. She closed her eyes and silently chanted the words of protection she’d been taught as a child, mentally drawing a shield around herself. Focusing her energy, she took three deep breaths, letting each of them out slowly, preparing herself for the possible reality of what she’d only seen in her mind.

She opened her eyes and turned the knob. Locked. She hadn’t expected that. Her visions

never wavered. For a moment, she didn’t know what to do. The wrongness poked at her.

Careful what you wish for.

Maybe there was a key. She searched the usual places—under the doormat, above the door, the light fixture, a dead potted plant—there.

Dusting the dirt from the key, she revealed a floral pattern. It was one of those novelty keys Fine’s Hardware had started carrying some time back. Erin had one herself. She dug her key ring from her pocket and compared the near identical house keys. The irony wasn’t lost on her. If it wasn’t for her job with Kavender Investments, Austin or Ramie himself might have knocked on her door with a check to exchange for the key to her house.

She pocketed her keys once again and fit the dirt-smudged key from the planter into the lock. It fit, turning easily in the knob. The door creaked on rusty hinges, the curse of coastal living.

Hello? Mr. Lasiter?” Her voice echoed off the walls of the near empty room.

Daylight made a weak effort to invade the space, casting no shadows. It was colder here, but not cold enough to mist her breath. The air lay still and ripe with wariness, as though the house had not yet made up its mind to accept her. Or maybe she was the one who refused to accept what had been so clear in her vision. She didn’t want to go into the house, didn’t want to be the one to make the discovery.

The layout was different from what she’d seen in her mind. Almost a mirror image, except for a door where there should have been a hall, and a fireplace where there should’ve been none. The differences were disorienting. It took her a moment to get her bearings. Different. Everything was so different from what she’d seen.

Why? What does it mean?

She called out for Greg again. No answer. She should leave. Right now. But her feet propelled her farther into the room as if controlled by someone or something else.

She swallowed at the lump of dread in her throat. She’d been drawn to the door at the far end of the room just like her vision and now there, standing before it, she couldn’t seem to stop her shaking hand from reaching out to open it. A noise from the other side made her flinch.

She swung the door open slowly, revealing the room inches at a time. “Greg? It’s me, Erin, fr—” She let go of the knob, clamping both hands to her mouth. The door continued on its own, exposing the scene.

Greg knelt over the body of a woman sprawled out on the floor in a thin pool of blood.

Behind him, the kitchen wall was dotted and streaked with more blood. He slowly raised his gaze. “I didn’t do it.” He swayed back and forth. His eyes, dull with shock, stayed on Erin’s. “I didn’t do it.”

Erin lowered her hands, resting them over her pounding heart. This wasn’t right. None of this was right. Greg was the one who was supposed to be dead.

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A Deep and Dark December is $.99 for one week only. Available from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, ARe.

Thanks for sharing that excerpt with us, Beth, and happy release week! What’d you guys think? 😀

Teaser Tuesday: Running Hot by HelenKay Dimon

It’s Tuesday! And I started this blog feature back in February(?) of 2011 (Yeah bitches! We started Teaser Tuesday on teh interwebz right here at ALBTALBS!) So anyway, it’s been this way for three years+ years. Maybe we’ll change it, maybe we won’t. But today we have the fabulous HelenKay Dimon sharing an excerpt with us from her upcoming book Running Hot. Whee!

A hot new romantic suspense series, Bad Boys Undercover, featuring the fierce men of Alliance—and the only women capable of taming their hearts.

Camped out at a resort bar in Fiji, CIA operative Ward Bennett may look like he’s on vacation but he’s really deep undercover, hunting a dictator on the run. Ward may be on the job, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for the sexy female bartender. That is, until she drugs him.

When Tasha Gregory discovers the hottie on the barstool isn’t who he pretends to be, her MI6 training kicks into gear, and she has no choice but to take him out. Problem is, Ward’s not an easy man to put down for long. More than once, his interference almost blows her surveillance operation—and her ability to keep her heart to herself.

As the situation heats up, these two must decide whether they can trust one another—and quick. Working together might just make everyone safer, but getting close enough for comfort … might just get them killed.

Exclusive excerpt

She stood there with the unused zip ties hanging from her fingers. “We have a problem.”

“I can come up with six without even thinking about it very hard.” Without so much as breaking a sweat, Ward covered every footstep. Removed any sign humans once waited there.

Impressive work but not good enough. The stakes were too high. She knew it and now she had to make him understand it. “We can’t leave them alive.”

He nodded but didn’t take out his gun or do anything to suggest he agreed. “We need to watch the area from a distance so we can track movements in and out, count guards. Those sorts of things.”

She highlighted one of the “to do” items on the list. “We have to relocate.”

“You mean move?”

She wasn’t in the mood for a word debate. “I have a car. We need to pick it up on the way out.”

“Car as in the truck?” He shook his head. “If so, it sounds like they found it, which means they know what it looks like, and wherever we take it we’ll be tracked. Hell, with the number of people on this island, they could already know it’s yours.”

He assumed she would be dumb enough to use her own vehicle on this job. Typical. The guy needed a little work on his how-to-play-nice-with-others skills. “Wrong. Tasha the bartender hasn’t done anything wrong and doesn’t drive an SUV.”

“So, there’s nothing in that vehicle that will get your ass arrested or shot?” He leaned in closer. “If you’re as competent as I think you are, you’ve got weapons stored in there.”

That show of faith in her skills sounded better. Not great, but better than some of the men she got paired with. “My bum is fine.”

He frowned. “What?”

The man got thrown off by simple words. Lethal and stumbling for a British dictionary. For some reason, that combination when mixed with the lean body and escape skills snagged her interest. “The weapons are locked down.”

“They will take a blowtorch to the truck, and you know it.” Ward pointed to the lifeless bodies next to her feet. “These two are trained mercenaries. They were the scouting party. Can you imagine the skills on the experienced men in the group?”

Not a bad argument. “So, what’s the plan?”

After a quick check of the direction from which the two armed men came, Ward stood in front of her again. “Secure and hide the bodies as fast as we can, double back to take a look at the truck from an elevated, safe distance, and then once we know who is where and how many we have to shoot through, we hunt down Tigana.”

He’d clearly given the afternoon agenda some thought. She appreciated his planning. “Sounds like you’ve done this before.”

“Since the last part of the plan is to run like hell if they see us, you can assume that I’m a professional. Unless you think that’s an amateur move—then forget I said it.”

Oh my God, that smile. He aimed it at her, and her control puddled at her feet. She didn’t lose sight of her job, but she did entertain the idea of running her hands all over him if they ever finished this assignment and got to a safe place. “We have to move in on Tigana.”

“We have to live through the next few hours first.”

“You know how to kill the mood.” But those priorities made sense. They also reinforced her belief that they needed a more permanent solution for the men at her feet.

He leveled a serious flat-lipped stare in her direction. “Let’s hope that’s the last time you think that about me.”

“We’re not having sex.” The words shot out before she could stop them.

“Well, not here.” He glanced around the hard ground. “That would be stupid.”

“Not ever.” She tried to signal her brain to shut up, but the words kept dribbling out. Last thing she needed was for him to know she was thinking about sex.

She shifted her weight, and her foot hit against something. Before she could glance down, a hand clamped around her ankle. One hard yank, and her knee buckled. On the way down she reached for the gun Ward gave her, jerking at her clothes to free it and fire.

The shot stopped her. It rang out, echoing through the rough terrain. The grip on her loosened right as Ward grabbed her around the waist. She picked up the telltale metallic smell she’d been trained to detect and saw Ward’s weapon on the way back down to his side.

She leaned into Ward for an extra second, more out of shock from being caught off guard by the gunman than anything else. People rarely got the jump on her.

That would teach her to think about sex on the job.

She stood up straight and tugged on the bottom of her T-shirt. Retucked it into her shorts. “I got the impression you were going for minimal loss of life here,” she said as she stared at the two bodies, one lifeless and the other unmoving.

“No one touches you.” Ward’s eyes burned with a new intensity.

It sounded like a vow, and she took it as one. Too stunned to say anything else, she went with the first lame thing that popped into her head. “Okay.”

When the second guy stirred at her feet, she didn’t hesitate. Gun out and barrel down, she fired. The man’s face fell back to the ground with a thud.

Ward winced but otherwise did not move at her impromptu shot. He looked down at the man with the blood now pooling around his head. “Was that necessary?”

No way was she justifying saving them both from a shootout. Still . . . “We both know he’d have somehow gotten free and blown our cover, and that’s if he didn’t kill you first.”

Ward nodded. “Now he won’t be doing anything.”

A cryptic comment. One she jumped right over. “Right.”

“You’re in charge.” He let out a long breath. “So, lead.”

She almost felt bad about what she was going to say. “I’m happy you remembered that.”

If anything his frown deepened. “Why?”

“You need to start digging.” She skimmed the tip of her boot over the ground and listened to pebbles scrape against the sole. “We need these guys buried, and you should hurry.”

So what’d you guys think? Totally boring, right? :X

Hee! I love the premise of this series! I can’t wait to read it. And you know – there’s that new Bond movie coming out … 😉 You can pre-order a copy here!

Special Guest Author & A Giveaway: Shannon McKenna!!!

You guys! I cannot believe it’s already December! I can’t think about it. It’s also 2:23 AM and I kinda feel like I want to die but I have to get this done because it’s Shannon McKenna!!! Meltdown  and Out of Control are like two of my most favorite romances ever. If you’ve never read them, you must. Must. But anyway, I got Shannon to visit with us today, and she’s our special author of the month, and can you believe it – the last one of 2013!! Eep! But way to end on a high note, right? 😉 I had the chance to meet Shannon a few years ago and she is delightful.

Ms. McKenna opted for an “Author Interview” so … here we go! (I hope you enjoy – one of them made me cackle snort. :X)

Standing in the ShadowsHi, Lime! Thanks so much for inviting me to be on your delightful blog! I’m so pleased to be here! And hello to all of you reading!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done for research? what’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned while doing research? In general, or for this book?‬
Well, gee. I have been playing around with this mind control trope for several books now, because it fascinates me, and it’s a metaphor for the way I fear we are already being controlled, in subtle and not so subtle ways, by the media, by our addiction to our devices and our social media, etc. I have been unnerved by the ways we are expanding our mental function with devices, and I doubt it will stop there. My fantasies about neuroscience allowing people ever deeper into each other’s heads, challenging the very basic premise of what it is to be a human being, are becoming more possible every day. A couple months ago, I found this article.

I was so horrified! We as humans are just not ready to go where this research will inevitably take us (if it hasn’t already gone there, long ago!) No matter how many innocent applications this research might have, I am sure that greedy, opportunistic people are rubbing their hands together and thinking “ka-ching.” I call myself a “lazy conspiracy theorist,” which is to say, plenty paranoid, but I don’t really have the time to do the research to be a proper conspiracy theorist, having book deadlines and small children. So mostly, I’m left with just the sense of creeping menace, but no hard facts to back it up. So what do I do? I make up crazy stories about my worst nightmares, and then create heroes and heroines to defeat them utterly and rescue us all. Works for me.

Out of ControlHostile alien invasion, or zombie apocalypse? Which one do you think is more likely to happen? Which one is scarier?
Alien invasion, no contest! I do not stay awake nights worrying about either one, because I believe we are doing an admirable job of destroying our world and ourselves without any help at all from zombies or aliens, but I think that it is almost a certainty that there are other beings out there. The only reason I don’t say “an absolute certainty” is because I have not seen them with my own eyes. But the universe is so huge. It makes no sense, that we would be the only ones—but they must be so different from us, their agenda so unfathomable and unknowable. And they would probably also have the same personality ranges, from saintly good to twisted evil that we have here on Earth—why wouldn’t they? I believe there is always roughly the same percentages of people in any given place who are either doing their best to be kind and decent, or else just looking out for number one. With a handful on the far ends of the spectrum, a few noble righteous heroes, a sprinkling of hideous monsters. Can you tell I love sci fi? Heh.

A twisted fairy offers you perfect health. You’ll never be sick or get a migraine again. The catch is you’ll break a bone every three years until your 70th birthday. Nothing crippling, but still a break. (Anything from a femur to your pinky toe.) Do you take the offer?
Hell, no! I’ll take my chances with colds and flu and whatever else happens! And what about after I’m seventy? I hope to live to be a hundred! That’s a long time that I wouldn’t be covered! A whole generation! (I had a great aunt that lived to be 104. My great grandmother died at the age of ninety-four after having eighteen children. Who knows if I inherited their tough Ukrainian sinews or not? Only time will tell.

All About MenWhat five dead authors would you invite to a dinner party if you could?
Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, Louisa May Alcott and Sappho. Big hen party. Wow, what a mix.

Do you have any writing rituals or superstitions? Either for before you begin a book, while you’re writing it, or around the time the book is released?
Not a lot of them, but I am very nervous about talking about a book to anyone before I have at least finished a first draft, as if the energy of another person’s attention could derail that delicate point of contact between my subconscious mind and the blank page. It’s so important to be able to write bad, stupid horrible shit without being judged for it—the minute someone looks at the writing, they start to have opinions that need to be fended off. It’s a mysterious thing.

Assume reincarnation. You have the power to bring Hitler back as any animal/creature you want for his next ten lives. What do you pick? (Or would you switch it up? And if so, what?)
Wow, that’s tough! Ten lives? That would hardly be enough to work out the karma that guy took onto himself! But it’s a complicated question, because he was totally insane. My first thought is that he should definitely be reborn into lives in which he has to experience just what he dished out, but that is problematic, since it requires envisioning more concentrated cruelty. My mind boggles at the task. Maybe I’d just take him back to animal form. Let him be an ox, pulling a heavy plow for a hundred lives or so, and then a sheep chewing on the grass a few hundred more. Just let him take a big, loooonnnggg time out, and chill the hell out before he tries again with human form.

Tasting FearWhat is one question you always wish as an author people would ask but nobody ever does?
I don’t believe in having expectations, insofar as it is humanly possible. (This is my ideal, zen-calm self! I realized, as soon as I wrote that, that I have all kinds of expectations; about toilet seats being put down, and undies getting into the laundry, and homework getting done on time, and violins getting practiced, and people obeying traffic signals, but hey. I try) Longing for validation from people is just setting myself up for suffering and pissiness, and dissatisfaction in general. I’m just happy that people read my books. They don’t need to have any curiosity about me or my process at all, as long as they enjoy the end result!

If you were a serial killer, who would be your target? And what would be your modus operandi? [What would be your “calling card,” and what memento from each victim would you take?] (Is your target = old men, young men, school children, college aged women, etc.)
Um. Blinking, stupidly. I just can’t go there! I tried to watch Dexter, because I think that actor is brillaint, but I just couldn’t bond with a guy that would do that. And I do plenty of blood and guts in my stories, too! This is a tough one, because I have really internalized the concept that curses come home to roost tenfold, so you better watch out what you put out there into the universe. I’m such a wuss! I don’t want to take any chances!

Another issue is, if I create a character, I have to be able to love him or her, probably because s/he is just another facet of myself. I can’t imagine an instance in which I could love a serial killer. My imagination just won’t stretch that far! It thwacks right back in my face, like a rubber band! (ouch!)

Baddest Bad BoysTell us two truths and a lie. (The catch is you’ll have to tell us what the truth is eventually in the comments. :D)
Let’s see . . . My favorite kid’s book is Anne of Green Gables. I love sexy high-heeled shoes. And I grew up in a in a hippie enclave, in a fragrant cloud of smoke.

Who/what is your favorite cartoon character of all time? Why?
Letterman, from The Electric Company! Who’s faster than a rolling O, more powerful than silent E, and able to leap capital T in a single bound? God, I loved that show when I was little. It taught me to read early, which influenced my destiny!

You have to listen to only one genre of music for the rest of your life. What do you pick?
Classic sixties and seventies rock. I just love the stuff. Gimme that old time rock and roll—that kinda music just soothes the soul!

You have the opportunity to be part of any TV show for one episode. (One that is on or off the air.) Which one do you pick, and what is your role?
I want to be in Prison Break . . . I want to be rescued by dreamboat Michael, mmmmm, and then break him out of prison with my intrepid brilliance, and go live with him on a desert island forever. Hell with Sarah. She was such a sad sack, always moping around. Kick her to the curb. Recast it, with me, me, me! Ahem. (cough)

What’s the most unique/strange silly skill your possess?
I can make a seriously awesome pancake man with chocolate chip eyes for my kids. Or a pancake teddy bear, too, when put to it. I have even been known to make pancake aliens, to return to the alien theme. I guess I have an affinity for aliens.

One Wrong MoveWhat’s the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to you at school? What about at a conference?
I haven’t been to enough conferences to have embarrassments to recount, sadly, but how about the time I was caught reading a very erotic spoof of the Lord Of The Rings that I’d picked up from home, on my playground during recess, in the second grade. I believe the playground monitor caught me reading a very spicy interlude between Dildo Baggins and the seductive Queen of the Elves. They called my parents. Very bad scene. It was pretty embarrassing for my mother, but I think I weathered it all right. And just look how I turned out in the end! (cackling)

Which fairy tale would you most like to be in? least? Why? Which character would you want to be?
I’m really fascinated these days by the tale of the Frog Prince. I recently read this essay about zen meditation that talked about the trope of “finding the golden ball,” which requires the collaboration of some unattractive or scary or icky creature from the watery depths, like the frog, or the scary witch, or whatever; it depends on the culture, and the version of the tale. The essay asserts that around the age of eight or so, we lose that “golden ball” which represents the wonder and innocence of our childhood, and then we spend the rest of our adulthood trying to recuperate the mature version of that marvel and wonder. But in order to do so, we must make peace with the deep, scary, wild, unattractive aspects of ourselves which come from the barren wilderness or the cold watery depths. We have to kiss the frog, so to speak. So I’m just here to state, to everyone concerned, that I’m fully ready to kiss any and all frogs who come along. I want that golden ball. I really, really want it. It’s why I’m a writer. It’s why I love this crazy stuff so much. Not only do I want my own golden ball—I want my stories to help everyone else find their golden balls, too. Golden balls for everyone!

Thanks for the wacky and wonderful questions, Lime! I wish everyone many wonderful books and magical golden balls charged with wonder and mystery (Christmas balls, too!) for the holiday season to come!

Thanks so much for being such a good sport, Shannon! Now, I want to know – have any of you read Shannon McKenna’s books before? Do you like romantic suspense? And books with a lot of heat? (Sexytimes of omg yes.)

Fatal StrikeLara Kirk lives in a shadowy world where reality and fantasy are one. Her captors have poisoned her body with concoctions that enhance psychic abilities – and they seem to be working. To escape, Lara has formed a deep attachment with a man whose virile, sensual presence in her mind is her only comfort. She’s not even sure if he’s real – until the six-foot-five-inch powerhouse bursts in to rescue her…Once freed, Lara has no choice but to trust Miles with her life as they run from enemies too twisted to imagine. But they’re also fighting a dangerous attraction that could kill – or save – them both. Either way, it’s going to be a hell of a ride…

And pssst One Wrong Move is on sale right now for just $1.99! Amazon tells me that’s 75% off! Come on – I saw you ogling that cover. Admit it. 😛

You know the drill – ask Shannon any question you like. Be it about her books, writing, or you know, try to top one of the crazy ones I asked her. 😉 I like being entertained. And someone will win a copy of Fatal Strike! Yay! And so you know what you might be getting…

Debut Author Laura K. Curtis on Why She Loves Serial Killers … >.> In Fiction

Hi friends! Today we have my buddy Laura K. Curtis visiting with us! She is all sorts of awesomecakes, and guess what? Her debut book is out today! Whee! So not only is she a debut author, it’s also release day! *sing songs* So I hope you’re extra welcoming with her. 😀

Why I Love Serial Killers (In Fiction)

In college (lo these many moons ago), I double majored in English and Psych. I didn’t learn nearly as much about either one as I hoped to, but I did learn that people, whether on paper or in reality, are endlessly fascinating. In fact, I probably learned as much about the workings of the human mind and heart in my lit classes as I did in my actual Psychology coursework.

The MentalistHere’s one thing I know: we’re all a little neurotic. I mean, seriously, do you know anyone who’s not just a little off? I certainly don’t. And I’m not at all sure I want to. Quirks are what make people interesting.

But serial killers…well, their quirks are well beyond the average. They set everyone else’s neuroses into perspective and allow the more normal relationships in the stories that feature them to coalesce in that normative light.

Now, that’s not to say that you can just toss a serial killer into a book or movie or television show and I will automatically like it better (I’m looking at you, The Mentalist…you could have left the Red John episodes out), but when a serial killer is well-written, he provides a certain balance that sharpens the other characters. One show that does this consistently is Criminal Minds. I’ll never forget the episode about the comic book artist who has a psychotic break—yes, he killed a lot of people very violently, but in the end you felt sorry for him. That’s an achievement.

Out of ControlAnd I love a rampaging killer in a romantic suspense. Shannon McKenna brings the crazy really well, I think. Her villains have some normal motive—a desire for power or for wealth—but then they take it totally over the top. Of course, her heroes and heroines are totally over the top, too; they have to be in order to go toe-to-toe with the lunacy of the villains.

When it comes to nature vs. nurture, I’m a believer in both. It’s not enough for me that a character is just plain nuts, I have to know how he got that way. But just a “bad childhood” won’t do it for me, either. Especially since so very often in romance, either the hero or heroine also has a troubled past. What’s intriguing to me is why the hero turned into the hero when the villain turned into the villain.

So bring on the serial killers…and the heroes and heroines who fight them. I’ll be sitting here in the safety of my living room, gobbling them up.

And I know you all want to hear about Laura’s book… so here you go!

TwistedLucy Sadler Caldwell is a successful true-crime writer. But the one story she’s never been able to come to terms with is the murder of her own mother–until now.  She’s returned to Dobbs Hollow, Texas, the hometown she fled seventeen years ago, to finally expose the real killer.

After a bullet took out his knee in Houston, Detective Ethan Donovan found himself without a lot of options, which is how he ended up as Chief of Police in Dobbs Hollow. Lucy sure isn’t asking for his help–she’s not big on trust–but he can’t help feeling a strong desire to come to her aid.

And though Lucy is armed to the teeth, she will need all the help she can get. When she starts digging into the past, she unearths a psychotic killer who will stop at nothing to silence her forever…

Guess what else? Lots of giveaways!!! Laura is giving away something every day on her blog. Seriously – check it out here. But more? Someone who leaves a comment here at ALBTALBS will win something as well! ‘Tis the season and all, yes?

So I hope you all respond to her post (comments of substance win me over…) And offer Laura many congratulations and felicitations on her fancy new book! Yay!

Indie Author Spotlight: Rachel Grant

Can you guys believe it’s been four months? Time is just flying by – but as you see we’ve got an Indie Author spotlight, and the delightful Rachel Grant was kind and awesome enough to step in at the last minute. (So thank you!)

Concrete Evidence1. What made you decide to self publish?
My husband is a federal employee and his salary was our family’s sole income. Last January, fear of sequestration—it looked like he would lose 20% of his pay, possibly for as long as six months—pushed me to jump into self-publishing even though my agent still had one of my books out on submission. I could no longer afford to wait for New York.

2. What do you wish you knew when you started self-publishing that you know now?
This is a hard question, because I’ve learned so much—but I couldn’t have learned it without going through the process—so I don’t know if it’s possible to know the ins and outs of self-publishing ahead of time.

3. What are the pros and cons of self-publishing?
Pros – I’m in control of my product. No one stands between the published book and me. Mistakes are all mine, but I can also fix them quickly. In August, when two weeks after publication it was clear my new release wasn’t reaching my existing audience, I was able to call my cover designer and we had a new cover with better branding uploaded at all vendors a week later.

Cons – I’m the one making final decisions, and I’m not a marketing professional. Creating and changing covers is scary, because they are so important. Even though I loved it, I also had a gut-level concern about the first cover for Body of Evidence. I should have listened to that.

4. How did you find your audience? What have been the most challenging issues in self-publishing?
I was amazingly lucky and benefited from some marketing emails sent by Amazon right out of the gate. I have no idea how it happened, but I’m grateful.

Definitely the most challenging issue is to expand my audience and keep the books visible after the 30-day new release period, which is so favored by Amazon’s algorithms.

Grave Danger5. [If you have been previously,] Would you go back to traditional publishing?
I wasn’t traditionally published and ended up being very eager to self-publish the book my agent had on submission, but if I were to receive a good offer from a traditional publisher, I would seriously consider it. I no longer feel the need for validation from NY, but I’d love to reach more of the print audience.

6. There is the perception it is faster to get a book to your fans if you are self-published – do you think this is true?
It’s definitely true that I was able to release each of my books far faster than a traditional publisher would have. But it still takes me a few months after a book is written, critiqued, and polished, because after that I go through multiple rounds of edits with an editor and proofreader, cover design, etc. I have my own production process to ensure the quality of the work.

7. Do you read the reviews on site or blogs?
Yes, even though they terrify me. I look forward to the day when I have so many reviews, I don’t even notice when new ones pop up. 😉

8. What advice might you have for someone who is considering self-publishing?
Hire an editor. Be professional. Don’t rush to put out a book that isn’t ready.

9. Have you noticed changes to self-publishing since you started?
(I haven’t been self-publishing long enough—my first book came out in April.)

10. Do you think there are any particular new trends that are emerging?
Fingers crossed the next trend will be for romantic thrillers with an even balance between the suspense and the romance. Also, I want archaeologist heroines to be the next big thing. 😉

Seriously, in romance, the push seems to continually be for books to be hotter. I enjoy a good hot book too, so I understand this. My books are sexy, but there are limits—there isn’t time for more sex when my characters are on the run. But I’m writing romantic thrillers, so my style fits my audience. If I were writing contemporary or new adult, I’d up the heat factor to fit the current market.

Body of Evidence11. Have you encountered the sentiment that self published books “aren’t as good”? If so, how do you go about overcoming that impression?
Honestly, I haven’t come across that in the reader community. The only times I’ve heard that sentiment is from other authors—and that has largely been on blogs or news articles that were not directed at me, and the authors are big names who have a lot to be thankful for from traditional publishing, an no reason to explore self-publishing. I ignore them.

Over the last several years, New York stopped publishing debut and mid-list romantic suspense authors, limiting my choices as a reader. The great thing about self-publishing is now I can find amazing romantic suspense at a great price. I’m not limited to the handful of authors that New York was willing to sell me.

More choices is always a win for everyone.

Yay! I hope you found her answers interesting, and educational. If that’s your thing. Do any of you read romantic suspense? Do you have any questions for Rachel? Let’s hear them!

*ETA: Rachel has very generously offered one person who comments her/his choice of one of her books in the e-format of her/his choice!

Guest Kathy Ivan: Paranormal Is My Normal

My darlings, please give a warm, warm, welcome to Kathy Ivan. She is a jewel among women. (I totally messed up on her blog date and she was incredible gracious and understanding, and had no problem with me scheduling her over a month after the originally agreed upon time. Try to find that in other authors. It’s not easy.) So I hope you’ll look into her books, and definitely show her some love today!

Thanks so much for letting me spend the day with you.  I’m thrilled to be a part of your blog.

Let me be honest.  I love the paranormal worlds in romance fiction.  Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, psychics and zombies, I love ’em.  Give me a paranormal romance and I’ll devour it faster than you can blink.  It’s definitely one of my favorite genres to read.  Throw in some steamy romance and I’m a goner.

Never thought I’d write it though.

Romantic suspense—that’s what I write.  The suspense, developing the plot.  Having the heroine and the hero race against the bad guy, overcome all the obstacles thrown in their way, follow the clues, have lots of sexy times along the way, figure out the mystery, defeat the villain, profess their love and live happily ever after.

Story after story, this was my premise, my formula.  The problem—something was always missing.  I didn’t get the satisfaction, the extra oomph I’d get from reading all those paranormal romances with their otherworldly specialness.  So I decided to go for it and combine the two genres I loved, romantic suspense and paranormal.  Desperate Choices was born.  My heroine is a psychic living and working in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  Her ex-beau is a private investigator who comes asking for her help.  His godson is missing.  And the story was off and running.  It unfolded with just enough of a paranormal element added into the suspense that it was believable and the readers loved it as much as I did.

Desperate Choices became my first published book (from Carina Press) and it won the 2012 OKRWA International Digital Award for long suspense.

My latest story, Second Chances, is a paranormal romance, introducing you to the world of Destiny’s Desire lodge in the Colorado Mountains.  It’s the first in a series, reuniting soul mates destined, though they’ve be separated due to outside interference.  They’re helped to be together with a little assistance from the Fate-Keeper who runs this special place.  The first novella is available now and book two will be out in Spring 2013.

For some people normal is normal and that’s okay.  I’ve learned the hard way when it comes to my writing world, paranormal is my normal.

Bio:  An avid reader of all types of romance, Kathy writes both romantic suspense and paranormal romance.  Kathy makes her home in the heart of North Texas doing her best to deal with the Texas heat.   She’s a member of Romance Writers of American (RWA) and the Dallas Area Romance Authors (DARA).

And guess what? Ms. Ivan is also giving away one of her books! The winner can choose a digital edition of either Desperate Choices, or Second Chances. What do you have to say to that? 😀