Eye of the Storm is FREE @iBooks

•October 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

eyecover_240_x_349Yes, the first book in my Security Specialists International is now FREE at iBooks for a limited time only.  So, if you have been putting off buying it, now is your chance to step into the world of my super hot alpha males and their kick-ass women.

Keely Walsh has three doctorates, five older brothers and has never met a situation she couldn’t handle. While consulting with the NSA, she discovers sensitive government information indicating her brother, a private security operative, is in danger. Keely travels to the dangerous Triple Frontier in South America to warn him and his colleagues and finds the last thing she expects–a man who sends icy shivers down her spine even as he lights every one of her fires.
Ren Maddox, co-owner of Security Specialists International, a security firm that works for large corporations and governments, is on an intelligence-gathering mission for the US government when a petite strawberry blonde armed with a Bren Ten and an attitude ten feet tall pops out of the Argentine jungle with a warning of imminent danger. The fact she is one hundred percent correct shocks him to his socks. The fact she is Tweeter Walsh’s baby sister and can fight like the fiercest Marine is beside the point. No one who looks like Keely should ever be in danger. And once he gets her out of the current situation, he’ll make it his life’s work to protect the feisty, sexy, little woman from any and all danger.
One alpha male. One determined and independent female. One hot, tumultuous relationship.

Here is the link to iBooks:

iBooks First in a Series Promotion

Look for Eye of the Storm in the Suspense Category.
Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 12.09.10 PM


Muse Wednesday: Cynthia Sax

•October 14, 2015 • 3 Comments

Lord Of ScoundrelsI am thrilled to have author Cynthia Sax sharing her muse with us today.  It’s so much fun to find other authors who like the same books — Lord of Scoundrels is one of my favorite Loretta Chase books and is a go-to, re-read, comfort book for me. So please join me in welcoming Cynthia to the blog as she shares why she chose this particular book as an inspiration for her writing. — Monette


I’ve been inspired by a zillion different authors. Barbara Cartland was my first introduction to romance. Christine d’Abo was my first introduction to erotic romance. Laurann Dohner was my first introduction to both SciFi erotic romance and stories with cyborg heroes (which is the niche Releasing Rage falls into).

But there’s one romance novel that I reach for whenever I feel a fit of the lazies, whenever I think ‘this story is tight enough’, and that’s Loretta Chase’s Lord Of Scoundrels.

Lord Of Scoundrels, a Regency romance, is a tight book. There’s not one throwaway scene in the story. Every scene is important. Every scene has multiple meanings. There are motifs and symbolism and very few wasted words.

The prologue is a flashback of the hero’s early life, specifically his hellion days at school. He’s not a teenager. He’s a very naughty little boy. Then, in the first chapter, we meet the heroine. She’s confronting her much larger brother, taking him to task for his behavior. He responds as a naughty little boy might and we KNOW she’s someone who won’t take any backchat from the hero (foreshadowing). She not only will challenge the hero but she’ll understand him.

And yes, I said prologue. Many editors hate prologues. I’ve never had one survive to final copy. Not having a prologue is one of those unspoken writer ‘rules’ yet here is one in the book I use as a benchmark for writing. It is needed. It adds value to the story. It proves that every rule can be broken if we do it well enough.

Lord Of Scoundrels also shows that every action can be acceptable as long as the character’s motivation is strong enough. Dain, the hero, is a terrible person. He doesn’t miraculously improve by the end of the story either. He stays true to his rather difficult nature. But we understand why he’s a terrible person and we understand why Jess grows to love him.

Shocking things happen in this story. They have a reason for happening. They aren’t merely a means to surprise the reader. But Loretta Chase ‘goes there’. She didn’t soften the story to be more marketable.

Lord Of Scoundrels is circular storytelling (which is one reason why the prologue is so important). It starts with a very naughty little boy and ends with a very different naughty little boy. Circular storytelling is a favorite construct of mine. It’s extremely powerful and I often use it.

This book is a basis for my mental revision checklist. I ask myself ‘Is this scene necessary? Can this scene do more? Can I use symbolism effectively here? How can I make this object or phrase or article of clothing mean something in my story? Can I make this character more intense? Is he or she true to his or her nature? Am I being authentic or am I making him or her ‘nicer’ in hopes that the book will be more marketable? Do I ‘go there’ and do I ‘go there’ for a storytelling reason, not simply to shock readers?”

Have you read Lord Of Scoundrels? What did you love about it?


Releasing Rage_CompressedReleasing Rage-Cynthia Sax

Half Man. Half Machine. All Hers.

Rage, the Humanoid Alliance’s most primitive cyborg, has two goals–kill all of the humans on his battle station and escape to the Homeland. The warrior has seen the darkness in others and in himself. He believes that’s all he’s been programmed to experience.

Until he meets Joan.

Joan, the battle station’s first female engineer, has one goal–survive long enough to help the big sexy cyborg plotting to kill her. Rage might not trust her but he wants her. She sees the passion in his eyes, the caring in his battle-worn hands, the gruff emotion in his voice.

When Joan survives the unthinkable, Rage’s priorities are tested. Is there enough room in this cyborg’s heart for both love and revenge?

Buy Now:

On Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Releasing-Rage-Cyborg-Sizzle-Book-ebook/dp/B00ZOL1DRO

On Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00ZOL1DRO/

On ARe: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-releasingrage-1850041-340.html

On B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/releasing-rage-cynthia-sax/1122455646


About Cynthia Sax:

USA Today bestselling author Cynthia Sax writes contemporary, SciFi and paranormal erotic romances. Her stories have been featured in Star Magazine, Real Time With Bill Maher, and numerous best of erotic romance top ten lists.

Sign up for her dirty-joke-filled release day newsletter and visit her on the web at www.CynthiaSax.com

Website: http://cynthiasax.com/

Newsletter: http://tasteofcyn.com/2014/05/28/newsletter/

Facebook: facebook.com/cynthia.sax

Twitter: @CynthiaSax

Blog: http://tasteofcyn.com/









Thriller Deals: Buy 2 Books from Liquid Silver Books, Get 1 Free at Kobo

•October 3, 2015 • 5 Comments

KOBO RS Sale Banner Large

For a limited time only, you can buy 2 Liquid Silver Books from Kobo and get 1 free book.  Since all three of my Security Specialist International novels are a part of this super deal, I thought you should be aware of the killer deals.  The special offer only runs from October 6-11, 2015, so you’d better act fast. Here’s the link:  Kobo But 2 Featured LSB Books, Get 1 Free Sale 

Read to the end of the blog for a special give-away!!

If you aren’t familiar with my Security Specialists International series, here’s a brief explanation:

Security Specialists International, founded and co-owned by brothers, Renfrew “Ren” and Trey Maddox, is a security firm which specializes in troubleshooting for private corporations and governments, including the US. Kidnapping rescues and anti-terrorism are their specialties, but the firm will take any job which interests them and uses their operatives peculiar skills. The majority of SSI’s operatives are ex-Special Forces or law enforcement with a few exceptions.

Headquartered in Sanctuary, Idaho, a company-owned town, the SSI compound is surrounded by mountains and the Nez Perce National Forest. The rugged and isolated location provides both security and privacy for the firm’s training facilities and homes for the operatives and their families.

The men of SSI have one philosophy for work and love: go in hard and play for keeps.

Here are my featured romantic suspense/thriller novels at the Kobo Buy 2 Get 1 Free sale:

eyecover_240_x_349Book 1:  Keely Walsh has three doctorates, five older brothers and has never met a situation she couldn’t handle. While consulting with the NSA, she discovers sensitive government information indicating her brother, a private security operative, is in danger. Keely travels to the dangerous Triple Frontier in South America to warn him and his colleagues and finds the last thing she expects–a man who sends icy shivers down her spine even as he lights every one of her fires.

Ren Maddox, co-owner of Security Specialists International, a security firm that works for large corporations and governments, is on an intelligence-gathering mission for the US government when a petite strawberry blonde armed with a Bren Ten and an attitude ten feet tall pops out of the Argentine jungle with a warning of imminent danger. The fact she is one hundred percent correct shocks him to his socks. The fact she is Tweeter Walsh’s baby sister and can fight like the fiercest Marine is beside the point. No one who looks like Keely should ever be in danger. And once he gets her out of the current situation, he’ll make it his life’s work to protect the feisty, sexy, little woman from any and all danger.

One alpha male. One determined and independent female. One hot, tumultuous relationship.

MM_SSI2_ColdDayinHell_finalBook 2: Calista Meyers is a world-famous, soon-to-be-ex-supermodel. After arriving for a fashion shoot in Cartagena, Colombia, she realizes her agent has misled her about the nature of her last modeling assignment.

Paramilitary leader Jaime Cruz paid her slimy agent a lot of money to get Callie to his part of the world. Cruz has threatened to kidnap and kill her younger brothers if she attempts to leave the country.

What’s a Marine brat to do? Callie calls on her childhood friend Keely Walsh-Maddox and Keely’s husband Ren, the owner of Security Specialists International, to help her.

SSI sends operative Risto Smith to rescue Callie. The former Marine has had a thing for the model ever since he’d first seen her picture on a magazine cover. But he knows he isn’t nearly good enough for a lady like her. She’s an assignment and can be nothing else.

Callie knows Risto is just the man for her and decides to use the close quarters of their escape from Colombia to convince the stubborn male. When Risto leaves her in Panama and disappears, Callie is upset but not defeated. But after two months passes with no word from Risto and with her enemy Cruz in the US and back on her trail, Callie once again turns to Risto for protection.

This time, it would be a cold day in hell before Callie allows Risto to turn his back on their love.

Book 3: Research librarian Elana Fabrizzio was in the wrong place at the wrong time. While working her late night shift at the library, she overhears a man hire a mercenary to kill Keely Walsh-Maddox and other Security Specialists International operatives. Things go from bad to worse when the man kills a student and a security guard on his way out of the library.

SSI operative Vanko Petriv is in New York City on holiday and is redirected to Washington, D.C. to become Elana’s personal security. Turns out the man she overheard is the traitor SSI has been pursuing for quite a while. Her eyewitness testimony would eliminate the treacherous thorn in SSI’s side and rid the intelligence community of a traitor once and for all.

Vanko is instantly attracted to the courageous Elana and vows to make her his. Elana is surprised when she’s attracted to Vanko. Bad past experiences have made her leery of dominant men.

When another enemy from Elana’s past appears, Vanko does what is needed to keep her alive. Their burgeoning attraction is threatened from all sides, but true love weathers any storm.

MM_SSI_StormyWeatherBabyYou can try two novellas in the SSI series for FREE!!  Stormy Weather Baby (1.5) and Storm Front (2.5) are available at MM_SSI_StormFront_240x360Liquid Silver Books for zero dollars. Here’s the LINK  :)






MM_SSI4_StormWarning_300x400While SSI Book 4 Storm Warnings is not a part of the Kobo sale, it is available at many online retailers for the bargain price of $3.99 (for a 120,000 word novel!)

Former helicopter pilot DJ Poe is a woman used to working in a man’s world and comfortable as SSI’s first female field operative. It’s her instant attraction to the company’s computer specialist that has her questioning her ability to overcome her past and develop an intimate relationship with a man.

Stuart “Tweeter” Walsh already admired DJ for saving his brother’s life in Afghanistan, but when the tall, leggy, blonde goddess joins SSI, he falls instantly in love. All he has to do is convince the man-shy beauty to take a chance on him.

Take one alpha-male geek, add in one skittish female warrioress—throw them into close proximity and you have the perfect conditions for storm warnings.


Storm Warning Buy Links:






While you are browsing all the wonderful LSB books in the sale, please take a look at my crit buddy KaLyn Cooper’s romantic suspense books being featured. I can guarantee an exciting and suspenseful read.

ExplosiveCobination600x800Separately, Harper Tambini and Rafe Silva are lethal…together, they’re explosive.

ATF Special Agent Harper Tambini is kidnapped by a Colombian drug lord and forced to use her explosives knowledge to kill his competition before she can escape with the help of undercover CIA agent Rafe Silva. As they make their way through the rivers, mountains and jungles, their desire for each other detonates. But Harper reminds Rafe of his murdered fiancée, and the shadow world he wants to leave. Harper learned the hard way that men never stay, so now she doesn’t keep them around long enough to see if the sparks can light a fire that will last forever. In their short time together, can they crystalize a relationship, or will it all blow up?




300x450Christmas in Cancun is the first book in KaLyn’s HAWT Cancun series. 

Blurb: Busy building a new career with his catamaran company, former SEAL Jack Girard had all but forgotten about his grandfather’s quest to find the golden Mayan goddess statues until his brother’s beautiful widow, Jillian, and adorable daughter, Addison, arrive in Cancun with the research materials. His need to complete the family mission is almost as strong as his desire for Jillian.

Between raising her daughter alone and finishing her doctorate in Mayan anthropology, Jillian doesn’t have time for a man in her life. Although, after mourning her husband’s murder for two years, she’s ready for a man her bed.

An underwater Virgin Mary statue and centuries-old manuscripts lead the two of them through the Mayan Riviera and directly into danger.

During steamy Caribbean nights together, will they develop the ability to move on and discover the real treasure isn’t gold?

Read more about her books in the Kobo sale (and her upcoming books) at her blog. Click here.


Several of my fellow LSB romantic suspense/thriller authors are also being featured. You might want to give their books a try.

>>>  Meet Tara Quan and be sure to drop by her blog for more on the two books included in this sale. Click here. 

MoreThanStrangers_sMore Than Strangers

Jason Reynolds has his life mapped out, and it doesn’t include a smart-mouthed redhead on a mission to save the world. A security specialist at the top of his game, he is on the cusp of wealth and power. Love is a distraction he simply can’t afford.

Struggling to bury memories of an unforgettable night, Nulli O’Hara chases her dream to a city fraught with violence and death. Six months later, she becomes a kidnapping target, and Jason is the man sent to keep her safe.





A Christmas Together

Despite Dubai’s oppressive heat, heiress Brennan Caruthers is gearing up to throw a holiday party. She has almost everything a modern woman could want—a tight-knit circle of friends, challenging career, financial independence, and an impressive shoe collection. But when armed men attempt to kidnap her straight off a six-lane highway, she’s forced to revisit her past, and ends up spending the nights leading to Christmas with a man she’d rather forget.

Major Karl Reed can’t imagine a worse end to his year. Cover blown and mission details leaked, his Delta unit and their families have become targets of a vengeful criminal cell. After receiving news of a failed attack on his estranged wife, he rushes to the Emirates to whisk her into hiding. But when his damsel in distress digs in her stiletto heels and presents him with a better plan, he’s forced to become her unwelcome houseguest. Assuming he keeps them both alive, they might just celebrate their first Christmas together.

>>>Meet Annette Mardis and be sure to read more about the two books she has in this sale on her blog. Click here. 

HRshoretopleaseShore to Please

Tara Langley thought she’d found the love of her life, but he betrayed her with another woman. So she buried herself in her mission: convincing Gulf Shore Aquarium that dolphins and whales belong in the wild, not in artificial pools.

If Tara had her way, Paul “Flipper” O’Riley would lose the job he loves. Flipper is the head dolphin trainer, and the aquarium’s dolphins are his babies. While he’s open to having a real family one day, Tara is the last person he would choose to be his wife and the mother of his children.

These two should be sworn enemies, after all. He certainly swears at the sight of her. And his surfer-dude looks and lover-boy reputation aren’t exactly what Ms. Prim and Tidy had in mind when she pictured her ideal man.

But in the age-old way of opposites attracting, Tara and Flipper find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. There’s no possible way a relationship between them could work, right?

As the two try to find common ground amid the quicksand, Flipper and his coworkers become the targets of an increasingly more menacing campaign to force the aquarium to release the dolphins under its care. Will Gulf Shore Police Detective Joanna Tompkins catch the culprit before it’s too late?

HRshorefeelsrightShore Feels Right

Once a pariah among her coworkers, marine biologist Monica Sims has spent months reinventing herself as she seeks redemption. A history of failed relationships leaves her leery of romantic involvement, until she meets Cosby Williams, the new co-owner of Nauti-Toys watercraft rentals.

As things heat up between them, Gulf Shore Aquarium responds to the stranding of a group of pilot whales. When a billionaire bachelor lends his private plane to the rescue effort, Monica catches his eye — and an obsession is born.

How will she cope with the unwanted attention? And will her past sins come back to doom her newfound happiness with Cosby?



>>>  Olivia Night writes International intrigue that will thrill you to your bones. More about her book in this sale on her blog Click here.

HRseductioninsierraleone-1Seduction ion Sierra Leone

In the mangroves of Sierra Leone, two strangers raised a world apart find themselves inextricably connected. Seduction in Sierra Leone, the first in a series of three novels, is a fast-paced tale of murder, lust, and love that transports the reader to a foreign and mysterious world of danger.

Aislinn Salameh, an American relief worker, is searching for purpose in her self- imposed lonely world. The stranger who enters her village on a blistering hot day looks more animal than man. She knows she should stay far away but can’t stop herself from being drawn to the mysterious man.

Brandt Fairlane is a man haunted by the sins of his past. Detached from others, Brandt has spent his life alone. His line of work is too dangerous for the luxuries of love and family.

When Brandt sees Aislinn and her haunting eyes, he knows he must possess her. But when Brandt’s past comes back from the dead and Aislinn is caught in the crossfire, it is up to him to keep her safe. In order to survive, they must learn to rely on one another. As they run for their lives, the heat between them becomes undeniable. Now, Brandt must not only protect Aislinn from a madman committed to stealing her away but he also must protect her from himself. Because if Brandt steals her body and her heart, he’ll never let her go.

>>>  Death is wrapped around and through Tiffany Hassett‘s book. Learn more on her blog Click here.

Template to be used to assemble cover art for Liquid Silver Books. It was created in PhotoShop CS6.

Darling’s Desire
Darling Roberts is going back to the lake house her mother disappeared from thirteen years ago. She needs to decide to stay or sell. The locals believe the place cursed, but her best friend thinks it would be a blast to spend the weekend there before heading to Europe. BFF Madison is determined to set Darling up even if that means dragging a recently widowed rock-and-roll drummer to the scene of a murder.

Ross Daniels has a secret. He can’t stand the pitying looks well-wishers have given him since his wife’s accidental death. The European leg of the Becket tour can’t come soon enough. A weekend stay at a mutual friend’s lake house seems like a decent way to kill a couple of days before hopping a plane, at least until he spends some time with temptation herself. Passions ignite and Ross feels his heart beginning to beat again. Darling isn’t who he thought she was and he can’t get enough of her sweet soul and lush curves.

Darling is determined to take charge of her life and the lake house is just the place to begin. Ross is a scrumptious distraction but she knows she has to keep things in perspective. Why would a world famous drummer want to hang out with her in a small town that even the locals want her run out of?


Hope you take advantage of this fabulous deal  And if you have read any of the featured novels on this page, share which ones and how you liked them in the Comments.  One random commenter will receive a download of one of my back list books.  

Happy Reading!!

P.S.  Some of my Rae Morgan books are also available on this special Kobo sale.  ;)


Muse Wednesday: Rebecca Drake

•September 30, 2015 • 1 Comment

The last in a series of Muse blogs leading up to the Maintaining Pace in Mystery panel, Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm, Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, is from Rebecca Drake.  If you are coming to Bouchercon, please come and see Rebecca, me, Laura Benedict, Hilary Davidson, and Annette Dashofy.


Harriet the SpyMy first muse was a nosy, streetwise bad-ass named Harriet M. Welsch, the titular character of Louise Fitzhugh’s children’s classic, Harriet the Spy. Harriet spied on her friends and neighbors, scribbling down their conversations and her own sharp observations in a notebook. I adored Harriet and while I didn’t have a nanny and didn’t know anyone with a house that had a dumbwaiter (read the book—I won’t spoil it for you), I did have a notebook, plenty of pens, and the free time that you only have when you’re a child.

This was in Bloomington, Indiana, a far cry from the Upper East Side of Manhattan where Harriet lived, but it was a walkable community in the 1970s, long before child abduction stories and 24-hour news cycles made people fearful of what is now called free-range parenting. This was an era when mothers routinely urged their children to get out and go somewhere, anywhere, but at home and under foot. My husband’s mother used to tell her kids, “Go blow the stink off you!” My own mother was more eloquent, but no less determined to get me and my siblings out of her hair. Every Saturday we were sent off to visit the library, walking distance from our house by yesterday’s standards, but an Uber ride by today’s. With nobody to monitor our progress, I was free to roam all over Indiana University’s campus spying on students or stalk the people browsing in shops along Kirkwood Avenue. Once I arrived at the Monroe County Public Library I faced a dilemma—did I use precious book selection time to keep spying or did I abandon my own writing to get immersed in other people’s stories? I usually split the difference, picking out a stack of books before heading upstairs to the adult section, where I’d crouch in one of their amazing 1970s egg chairs and swivel around squinting at patrons and scribbling notes about them, before being shooed back downstairs by librarians. Like Harriet, I was an insatiably curious kid who was always fascinated by human behavior, especially anything odd and abnormal or even vaguely suspicious. What was behind that woman’s hyena-like laughter or why was that man hiding in the stacks mumbling to himself?

While the fictional Harriet was my inspiration to start recording these observations, I found my adult muse in English author Ruth Rendell. By the time I discovered her I’d read hundreds of novels and fallen in love with so many authors and their characters, but in Ruth Rendell’s, and her alter ego Barbara Vine’s, books I found the adult version of that pointed, sometimes wry and darkly comic, observation of human behavior that I’d first identified in Harriet the Spy. I realized that this was the type of author I aspired to be—I wanted to write books exploring ordinary people and the complications within their seemingly ordinary lives, which often became shockingly extraordinary in her gifted telling. The very first book of hers that I read was a standalone, The Tree of Hands, which dealt with child abduction—the crime at the The Tree of Hands original UKcore of the novel—but was also an exploration of mothers and children, attachment and grief. It wasn’t until I was thinking about my muse for this blog that I realized how deeply this book, which I read so many years ago, had influenced by own writing and especially my latest novel, Only Ever You, which explores similar themes.

I quickly read some of her other stand-alones—A Judgement in Stone, A Dark-Adapted Eye, A Fatal Inversion, The House of Stairs—before also devouring her Inspector Wexford series, my favorite of which is An Unkindness of Ravens. I’ve also read and adore her short story collections, especially The Fallen Curtain, The New Girlfriend, and The Fever Tree. Some of her stories have shocking endings and many of them continue to haunt me years after reading them. People often describe Rendell’s writing as “disturbing,” and it definitely can be—she takes an unflinching look at personality quirks and foibles, which either mask or become the catalyst for sinister and criminal behavior. However, in her Wexford novels, I think we get if not the warm fuzzy, definitely the warmer side of her characters. Reg Wexford is also a keen observer of human behavior, but his clear, if often stumbling, devotion to his wife and daughters and his constant struggles with weight, make him a likeable, relatable character in a way that some of her other standalone characters might not be. Like them or not, what you can say definitively about Rendell’s characters is that there are no cardboard cutouts among them. She was a master at exploring the psyche, and a prolific inspiration to writers everywhere—she wrote 66 novels and was still writing until she suffered a stroke and died this past May at 85. When I heard about her death I experienced the same pangs that you feel on the death of a friend, even though I never had the pleasure of meeting or even seeing her in person. This sense of loss was coupled with the unhappy realization that there would be only one more time, when her final book is released, to experience the sheer joy of spying a new book by her on the bookstore shelf. My only consolation is that because she wrote so many books, I can start fresh with her first novel and discover my muse all over again.


RebeccaDrake-150x150Author Bio

Rebecca Drake’s latest psychological thriller, ONLY EVER YOU, will be released by St. Martin’s Press in 2016. Her debut novel, DON’T BE AFRAID, was a lead title for Kensington in 2006. THE NEXT KILLING followed in 2007 and was selected by four national book clubs including The Literary Guild. THE DEAD PLACE came out in 2008 and was an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association (IMBA) bestseller. In 2011 “Loaded” appeared in PITTSBURGH NOIR, one of Akashic Books’ award-winning collection of noir anthologies. A graduate of Penn State, Rebecca is an instructor in Seton Hill University’s MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. More about Rebecca can be found at RebeccaDrake.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/rebecca.drake.writer And Twitter @AuthorRDrake

OnlyEverYouHighRes-197x300Pre-order Only Ever You at:
Barnes and Noble
Penguin Bookshop



Muse Wednesday: Laura Benedict

•September 23, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The third Muse blog in the lead up to the “Maintaining Pace in Mystery” panel set for October 10th, at 1 pm, in Raleigh, Bouchercon 2015, is panelist Laura Benedict.  Her muse is a classic — if you haven’t read the book, I’m sure you might have seen the movie. If you have no experience with either, you must try.  Both the book and movie are super.


highsmithstrangersIn the summer of 1990, I spent the five weeks leading up to my wedding living with my future in-laws. My soon-to-be husband slept in his old bedroom, which seemed about a half-mile away from where I was quartered in his sister’s childhood bedroom. What did I do during those long, lonely nights in my room? Why, I read like a madwoman, of course. The house—way out in the West Virginia countryside—was stuffed full of books; my husband’s father is a big non-fiction reader and loves history, and his mother is mad for mystery and suspense novels.

While I’d been writing for a couple of years, and had taken a few post-grad writing classes, I hadn’t yet found my material. That sounds a bit presumptuous, doesn’t it? Found my material. But it’s an important step for a writer. There are so many avenues to explore, and, truthfully, unless a novice writer already has a passion for one type of material, she should try her hand at several different ones before committing.

My temporary bedroom was full of mystery and crime novels by established writers: P.D. James, Ellis Peters, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Tony Hillerman, Ruth Rendell, Elizabeth George. I could’ve read a new writer every night for weeks. But once I discovered a Patricia Highsmith compendium on a bedroom shelf, I was completely smitten. I spent a scandalous day and a half tethered to my room with that book.

Have you seen the 1951 Hitchcock suspense film Strangers on a Train? That was all I’d heard of Highsmith back then. The film follows her novel up to a point, but I recommend both.

Two men, Guy Haines (a famous tennis player) and Bruno Anthony (a wealthy, boorish playboy), meet on a train and strike up a conversation. Sly Bruno brings the conversation around to murder, suggesting that Guy kill Bruno’s father, and that Bruno will kill Guy’s wife, Miriam (an unpleasant woman who won’t give Guy a divorce so that he can marry the sweet, lovely daughter of a senator—because Guy is famous, Bruno knows the gossip about him). Bruno says they won’t get caught because no one knows they know each other, and neither would have a motive for their respective murders.

It’s a grisly idea, yet terribly clever. Bruno is a psychopath, but Guy is a pretty good guy who would never imagine murdering anyone. He has even remained married to Miriam after she became pregnant by another man. He leaves the train after saying something patronizing but not serious to Bruno. Bruno misunderstands and thinks that they have a deal. Not long after, Guy learns Miriam has been murdered. When Bruno comes to Guy looking for kudos, ready with instructions for getting into the Anthony home to murder his father, Guy is stunned. He tells Bruno that he won’t do it, that he never meant for Miriam to die. Unfortunately, Bruno has stolen Guy’s lighter, and threatens to use it to implicate Guy in his wife’s murder. Guy has to do something…I won’t tell you more. If you don’t know the story, I can’t recommend it enough.

One of the things Highsmith does frequently and very well is put an average person in a morally-charged, thrilling kind of danger. One moment a character is sitting on a train, or throwing a dinner party, or on vacation in Greece, and the next moment they’re running for their lives. The 1950s was a time for intense realism in both books and film (okay, so the dresses weren’t necessarily so realistic), and morality was always in question. But I just love that sense that life can turn on a dime—and rarely in a pleasant way. There’s something more to Highsmith, though. Her villains are rarely thoroughly villainous. They are terribly human, and they sometimes get away with their crimes.

Highsmith’s pacing is perfection. She marches the reader right up to the edge of reasonable behavior and gives a little push—and we tumble into the story, compelled to follow her, peeking between our fingers at the awkward encounters, the necessary murders, the shamefully easy criminality.

There has never been another crime writer like Highsmith. I’ve read just about everything except her previously uncollected stories (I don’t think it’s fair to posthumously publish stories that a writer purposefully left unpublished.), and re-read her style book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction about once a year. Her prose is simple and declarative, yet wildly intense. It’s that intensity that I yearn for in my own work. That sense that really bad things can happen to just anyone, and they probably will. Once immersed in that world, I could hardly imagine wanting to write anything but suspense. Everything else pales for me—science fiction, romance, historical fiction—I want that constant tension. As a writer, I want to keep both myself and my readers guessing.

And a little postscript—Yes, I married him! We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary this past July. So Patricia Highsmith is sort of our marriage muse, as well.

Laura Benedict is the author of five novels of dark suspense, including CHARLOTTE’S STORY and BLISS HOUSE, the first two books of the Bliss House trilogy. Her work has also appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, PANK, and numerous anthologies like THRILLERS: 100 Must-Reads, and THE LINEUP: 20 Provocative Women Writers. She lives with her family in Southern Illinois.

Visit her at laurabenedict.com.

“Murder, sexual obsession, and misogyny explode in the final scenes, bringing all the simmering evil to the surface in a shocking finale, that, like all good horror stories, is probably not the end. You just can’t look away from this bombsite—nor forget it. Dripping with southern gothic atmosphere.”—Booklist,starred review, Charlotte’s Story

Charlotte’s Story Buy Links:








On Writing: Rosanna Leo’s Venture into Contemporary Romance

•September 21, 2015 • 2 Comments

Note:  From time-to-time, I’ll be blogging about writing.  Some of these blogs will feature an author and his/her body of work, some might address an aspect of the writing process (probably as I am dealing/struggling with it in my current work-in-progress), and some might simply be me being a fan-girl over an author’s current release.

The opinions I express in these blogs will be subjective.  I’m not trying to take that step back and be objective, because reading and writing is very personal to me. My approaches to writing, editing, and critiquing have been formed over a long life of reading, graduating with a degree in English, several professional editing positions, and twenty years plus of writing fiction.

Today’s  premier “On Writing” blog is about Rosanna Leo, a best-selling paranormal and fantasy author, who has a new contemporary romance coming out with nary a shifter or a god or goddess in the mix. Vice will be released tomorrow, September 22nd by Samhain Publishing.

So, the question is — can a popular paranormal romance author make the shift to contemporary and take her fan base with her?  My opinion is “yes.” Read on and find out why.


Remember what I said above about being subjective in these blog pieces?  So, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me just say I’ve known Rosanna Leo for years – as a fellow author at Liquid Silver Books, as someone whose books I’ve critiqued and bought and read, and as a friend on social media. So, I might be a tad bit prejudiced, but then again  … not. Why?

Because … Quality always tells.

Vice_EPUBI like and appreciate Rosanna’s writing whether it’s her paranormal series Gemini Island Shifters or her myth-based fantasy series … and her recent venture into contemporary romance with Vice hasn’t changed my opinion; in fact, it has strengthened my admiration for her work.

When Rosanna finished Vice, and before she submitted it to publishers, she asked me to read it.  She had concerns; she wasn’t sure her fans who loved her shifters and gods and goddesses’ books would follow her into contemporary romance, especially one addressing serious emotional issues due to gambling addiction.

Understanding those concerns (I had similar ones when I took the side trip into scifi romance), I agreed to read the book and give her my honest opinion.  After I finished, this is the author blurb I gave her to use in promotion BEFORE it was submitted or accepted by a publisher:

Rosanna Leo’s Vice is the story of Kate and Liam, two people damaged by their pasts who meet as adversaries and quickly become lovers.  The sex is burn-the-sheets hot. Their interactions are fraught with deep needs and even deeper desires. But explosive chemistry isn’t everything. How Kate and Liam find their way out of the soul-sucking clutches of their pasts and into a future together makes for one powerful and emotionally satisfying story.  I’ll read anything Ms. Leo writes. She’s that good.

“I’ll read anything she writes.”  That sentence was my answer to Rosanna’s concerns about her fan base abandoning her – they shouldn’t.

The book was good, probably the best work I’ve ever read of hers, and Samhain acknowledged that by contracting it.

What makes her paranormal and myth-based fantasies so good also translates to her first contemporary:  Rosanna knows how to plot, knows how to tug the reader’s emotions, and, simply put, knows how to write a damn good book.

Quality always wins.

And you know it wins with me since I don’t usually read straight contemporary romance, especially where there’s a potential for angst.  And Vice had the angst-potential in spades. First, there’s the heroine Kate who’s emotionally damaged by a parent’s addiction to gambling and refuses to have anything to do with gambling in any way, shape, or form. Enter the hero Liam who, after a troubled and mostly loveless childhood, found success and self-worth through his ownership of  casinos. Add in the instant physical attraction between Kate and Liam which might not be enough to overcome their emotional baggage, and you have the recipe for angst to the nth degree.

The fact that Rosanna still pulled me in and kept me reading until the HEA is a testament to her writing ability.

Here is what I said to her in my page and a half (single-spaced!!) comments on the story – – Note: Slight Spoiler Alert:

The emotional damage of Liam and Kate comes across strongly. I’m happy– and was relieved quite frankly — they found their way through the hot sex and to their real feelings. I got worried when Kate’s vaunted empathy and patience ran out and she couldn’t let Liam work through the issue she couldn’t live in his world of Vice. I think he was on his way there, but she’d had enough. Her damage from her father was just too much – she couldn’t lose anything else and not gain something she needed (losing her friends was the kicker). I understood why she left.  It was a very effective crisis – and my stomach hurt.

BTW I don’t read angst stories usually — and this story has a lot of it — but you also temper it with the very real physical attraction and love that comes through when they interact.  I chuckled at some of their early repartee — Kate picketing his casino was a hoot and then befriending his security was priceless. I loved that Liam protected her even after she left him – that was true love if I ever saw it. And she’d have come around to going back sooner if she’d read he was selling his businesses – so you’re handling of that was well done– it made them coming back together so much stronger.

So, the angst worked in this case – it was not made up or fabricated as many authors often do – I felt it and hurt for and with them and was very very happy when I got to The End and they were together.

In Vice, the emotions read true, not made up to the point of over-wrought drama such as the soap operas I used to watch when I was home sick from school. It takes a very good writer to handle the characters’ extreme emotions and traumatic pasts and their evolution out of them and not fall off that tightrope into melodrama.

Rosanna brings to her contemporary writing the same voice, the same deft handling of plot and characterization, and the same straight-forward writing style she uses in her paranormal and fantasy books.

So, to all the Rosanna Leo fans of her paranormal and fantasy novels, give Vice a try. I’m fairly sure you’ll get the same satisfying read from it as you do her other books.  And if you are new to Rosanna’s writing, you can’t go wrong with Vice – it’s a winner.

Quality always rises to the top.


He’s much more than a bad habit.

As a Vegas singer and volunteer counselor, Kate Callender has experienced life on both sides of Sin City’s bright lights. The thrill of performing, and gambling’s devastating effect on the addicts’ families.

Liam Doyle is just the kind of man she despises—a handsome, enigmatic businessman with a knack for seducing customers into his casino hotels. Determined to put a lid on his growing influence, she prepares to picket the opening of his newest casino, Vice.

When Liam spots the lone protester hassling his customers, annoyance wars with instant attraction. And he quickly discovers the leggy redhead not only can’t be bought, she tempts him the way the sound of a roulette wheel lures a gambler.

They are natural enemies, but when a vile attack sparks Liam’s protective instincts, they begin a sexual odyssey that dances on the edge of addiction. Dangerously close to losing control…and losing themselves.


He meandered toward her and forced a smile. “You seem to have had a busy day.”

She whipped around and her eyes widened. He saw her give him a quick once-over. Did she like what she saw? Interesting. There was some perverse satisfaction in that.

“It has been busy.” She narrowed her hazel eyes at him. “Do you work here?”

So, she didn’t recognize him. Good. “Yes, ma’am, I do.” He crossed his arms over his chest and nodded, noting how her gaze dropped to his exposed forearms. Her lips parted. Clearly, working out had its merits. “And word inside is you’ve upset the big boss.”

Her nostrils flared as she dragged her gaze away from his arms. “About time.” She put her sign down and picked up her purse. “Do you know Liam Doyle?”

“I’ve heard one or two things about him.”

She stepped closer and her lips did the most amazing thing, curling into a flirtatious semi-smile. “I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share them with me? The other guy kept on sucking up about him as if he was wearing a wire.” She paused. “You’re not wearing a wire, are you?”

He laughed out loud. He couldn’t help it. This was way too much fun. He sidled close to her, leaned in conspiratorially, and put a hand on her elbow. Her very soft elbow. “I’m not wearing a wire. But are you sure you want to know the truth about Doyle? I don’t know if you can handle it.”

She gawked at him and then at his lips. Her voice came out in a whisper. “Try me.”

He murmured in her ear, taking note of her lilac scent. “Well, I hear at midnight he sprouts black wings and horns. And he’s always searching for innocent maidens to add to his coven.” He bit on his bottom lip, suddenly wishing he was gnawing on hers.

At first, her eyelids did this fluttery thing that made his imported pants spring to life. But then she blinked and began to laugh. “And here I thought I was dealing with a mere businessman. I didn’t realize Doyle was cousins with Lucifer.”

“What’s your name?”

She regarded him from out of the side of her eye, her mouth still bearing the same flirty grin. “What’s yours?”

“Consider me a friend who wants to give you some advice.”

The smile disappeared from her face. “And what would that be?”

“Don’t mess with Liam Doyle. He doesn’t take to it kindly.”

The coquettish shine in her eyes hardened. “Is that a threat?”

“No, sugar. That’s not my style.”

“What exactly do you do here? Are you in security?”

“Never mind that.” He waved his hand. “Look, you’ve had your fun. Why don’t you run along home now?”

She reached for her sign and tucked it under her arm. “I will go where I damn well please. And you can tell your friend Mr. Doyle to expect me tomorrow. Maybe next time he’ll be brave enough to confront me himself.” She turned on her heel and walked down the manicured pathway leading to the taxi bay.

Liam stared at her ass as she walked away. Brave?

Game on, sugar. He’d show her brave.

Preorder/buy links:

Samhain Publishing: https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5577/vice


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Vice-Rosanna-Leo-ebook/dp/B00Y05TZ02/ref=la_B007X5P4I8_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434484524&sr=1-2


iTunes: https://linkmaker.itunes.apple.com/en-us/details/997241784?q=vice%20rosanna%20leo&country=us&media=all&genre=all


Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/vice-20


Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vice-rosanna-leo/1121969539?ean=9781619227194


ARE: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-vice-1840843-149.html


Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Rosanna_Leo_Vice?id=rB91CQAAQBAJ&hl=en


Author bio:

Rosanna Leo is a multi-published, erotic romance author. Several of her books about Greek gods, selkies and shape shifters have been named Top Picks at Night Owl Romance and The Romance Reviews.

From Toronto, Canada, Rosanna occupies a house in the suburbs with her long-suffering husband, their two hungry sons and a tabby cat named Sweetie. When not writing, she can be found haunting dusty library stacks or planning her next star-crossed love affair.

A library employee by day, she is honored to be a member of the league of naughty librarians who also happen to write romance. Rosanna blogs at www.rosannaleoauthor.wordpress.com


Author Links:

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Rosanna-Leo/e/B007X5P4I8

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5826852.Rosanna_Leo

Tsu: http://www.tsu.co/RosannaLeo

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rosannaleo/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rleoauthor1

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/LeoRosanna






Muse Wednesday: Hilary Davidson

•September 16, 2015 • 1 Comment

HD_for_MOFor the second Muse blog leading up to the Maintaining Pace in Mystery Panel on Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm  at Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC, panelist Hilary Davidson is sharing a very personal muse.


It’s not hard for me to name my muse. Actually, I dedicated my most recent book, Blood Always Tells, to her. The inscription reads, “In loving memory of my grandmother, Maude Elizabeth Dallas, for teaching me that if you’re going to sin, sin big.”

My grandmother was quite the dame. When I was growing up, I took for granted her red lipstick and varnished nails, her sharp suits and high heels. Her hair was dyed dark and always perfectly set, and she never lost the Northern Irish accent she brought with her when she immigrated to Canada.

She wasn’t like other grandmothers. She enjoyed knitting, but she did so while watching pro wrestling. She never told me to behave, but she did tell me about the time she punched out a guy on a street corner for making an obnoxious remark to her. My grandmother was a voracious reader who sometimes read two books in a single day. She bought me armloads of books, including a complete set of Nancy Drew novels from the 1930s, with blue cloth covers and pen-and-ink drawings inside. She also passed along issues of The National Enquirer, and introduced me to film noir.

As far as my grandmother was concerned, Barbara Stanwyck was the greatest actress who ever lived. Her favorite actor was Tyrone Power, on whom she had a huge crush. (It’s no coincidence that Lily Moore, the amateur sleuth in my first three novels, has an ex-boyfriend who looks just like Mr. Power.) The classic movies we both loved were shown on television late in the evening. Sometimes we would snap them up on videotape. We would often debate the merits of a movie’s ending. The classic Double Indemnity was a favorite, though we both took issue with the femme fatale suddenly going soft at the very end. (My grandmother’s cynical explanation is still the best: “That’s what you get with men making movies. They always think the woman goes swooning for the man in the end. Good luck to them.”)

My grandmother passed away sixteen years ago, but I think about her every day. There’s a photograph of her on my desk that keeps me company as I write. She gave me a love of reading — and in storytelling — that is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Being Irish, my grandmother had a litany of sayings, and one of her favorites was, If you’re going to sin, sin big. She believed that you had to put your heart and soul into whatever you did, because once you went off on your own path—in a big way or a small way—you were going to face the consequences for it. Those are words I live by.


Hilary Davidson has won the Anthony Award, the Derringer Award, the Crimespree Award, and two Ellery Queen Reader’s Choice Awards. Her debut novel, THE DAMAGE DONE, published by Tor/Forge, launched a series featuring travel writer Lily Moore, which continues with THE NEXT ONE TO FALL—set in Peru—and EVIL IN ALL ITS DISGUISES, about a missing journalist in Acapulco. Toronto-born and New York City-based, Hilary is also the author of 18 nonfiction books, as well as dozens of short stories, which have been published in Thuglit, Ellery Queen, Beat to a Pulp, and other dark places. Her latest book is the hardboiled BLOOD ALWAYS TELLS, her first standalone novel. Visit her online at www.hilarydavidson.com



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