Baby, It’s Cold Outside Blog Hop

Security Specialists International, Book 2.5

Security Specialists International, Book 2.5

Welcome to the Just Romance Me “Baby’ It’s Cold Outside Blog Hop”!

If you began here, you might want to go back and start at the beginning HERE and visit all the wonderful authors’ blogs and get chances to win fabulous prizes.  What a way to start off the new year and stay inside nice and warm while hopping.

I don’t have any secret recipes for those cold nights — other than a nice shot of single malt scotch always works for me … so I decided to share a brrr-cold rescue scene from my romantic thriller — FREE for download novella — Storm Front, Book 2.5 in the Security Specialists International series.

Security Specialists International, Book 1.5

Security Specialists International, Book 1.5

You can download this novella and my other SSI novella, Stormy Weather Baby, Book 1.5, at my publisher’s site.  Yes, they are both free.  My gifts to you.  And if you like them, please give my other books in the SSI series a chance, Eye of the Storm, Cold Day in Hell, and my newest release, Weather the Storm.  They are all available for download at my publisher and Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and other online retailers. Print books are available at Amazon.

ON-BLOG GIVEAWAY(in addition to the one for the hop in general):

MAKE A COMMENT  — AND GET A CHANCE TO WIN A DOWNLOAD OF MY NEWEST SSI BOOK, WEATHER THE STORM.  Winner will be announced after the end of the blog hop.

Excerpt:

As soon as Earl felt the slack, he kicked off the side of the ravine and covered the ten feet or so with one kick-off. He hung over Tessa’s body for a second before making a controlled landing on the ledge next to her. The ledge was solid, thank the fuck.

“Tweeter, the ledge can hold us both,” Earl said. “Come on down.”

As Tweeter made his final descent, Earl tugged and received more slack and then bent over Tessa’s still body. She lay on her front, her face turned to the side. Her eyes were shut, her lashes lined with ice. Her skin was whiter than the snow she lay upon.

“Tessa?” No response.

He brushed the snow away from her face with gloved hands. Removing one glove, he checked for a pulse and found it. He sighed with relief. “She’s alive.” He checked her neck and determined it wasn’t broken as far as he could tell. “Neck doesn’t seem to be broken, but I want a collar down here. Tweeter, a hat … need a hat here.”

Most heat loss was from an uncovered head. He needed to get her warm ASAP. Hypothermia was the biggest danger at this point.

Tweeter hunkered down next to him and put his own stocking cap on Tessa. His climbing partner had on a balaclava just as he did and would be fine without the extra layer of wool.

“If you feel it’s safe, then lift her,” Tweeter said. “I’ll get this solar blanket under her so we can wrap her in it.”

Earl nodded. “Tessa, sweetheart? Talk to me.”

Still no response, and she wasn’t shivering. Not a good sign. Even unconscious her body would shiver to produce heat. Her lips were blue. Her skin looked dehydrated, and he remembered she had already shown signs of altitude sickness.

He felt under her coat and swore. “Godammit, she’s soaking wet.” He looked at Tweeter whose face was as grim as he felt. “Probably from the exertions of trying to climb out.”

Tweeter nodded. “No matter how she got wet, it isn’t good. We need to move, Earl.” The man grabbed the collar sent down to them and gently placed it around her neck.

“Let’s do it.” Earl lifted Tessa’s limp body into his arms and laid her on her back on the blanket Tweeter had spread on the ground.

“Fuck me.” Tweeter’s curse said it all.

Tessa’s clothing was torn and bloody.

They quickly wrapped her like a mummy in the high-tech sheet which would keep her from losing any more body heat.

“God, sweetheart, look at what you’ve done to yourself.” Earl lifted the edge of the blanket just enough to slide his hand inside. He quickly, by touch alone, checked her ribs, collar bone, and pelvic bones for breaks. Then he moved to her legs. “No obvious breaks that I can find.”

SSI had a fully equipped medical facility run by Lacey Jones, a trauma nurse and the wife of Quinn, Ren’s third in command. She could check Tessa out more fully later.

“She didn’t climb all the way up from the stream bed.” Tweeter looked over the edge of the ledge upon which they perched.

Earl retucked the blanket more closely around Tessa. He brushed the back of his fingers over her icy cold cheek. Her lashes fluttered—the first sign of movement from her since they’d gotten there.

Thank you, God.

“Looks like the SUV got hung up on a tree. I see an area where some roots are still hanging out from the side of the ravine. It’s fresh damage.” Tweeter turned to look at Earl. “She was lucky to have gotten out before the vehicle fell to the bottom.”

She had to have been terrified, but she’d done what she had to do. His woman had grit.

“Yeah.” Earl stroked her face once more before putting his glove back on. “We can find out exactly what happened later. Let’s move.”

The wind gusted even harder now than it had on their descent. Tweeter had to fight to stand upright on the ledge. Climbing out with an unconscious woman wouldn’t get any easier the longer they waited.

“How do you want to do this?” Tweeter eyed the climb. “Sides of the ravine are too rough to haul her up. She has enough lacerations.”

“I’ll take her on my back.” Earl began to fashion a rope harness with the extra rope he’d carried down. “You can tie her to me by my harness.”

As Earl quickly fashioned a torso harness with doubled lengths of rope, Tweeter hunched down by Tessa and commented, “I did this with Keely when we went rock climbing one summer in Montana.”

Earl put the make-shift harness on Tessa with Tweeter’s help and tightened it.

“Keely sprained her ankle,” Tweeter added. “She rode my back on the way up and out. But she was conscious and short and only weighed about ninety pounds at the time. Tessa’s almost six foot and weighs maybe one forty.”

“I can do it.” Earl brushed his lips over Tessa’s forehead. Other than the one fluttering of lashes, she hadn’t made any other motions the whole time they’d been there. “I’ve carried wounded soldiers on my back, with sixty-pound packs, up the side of mountains in Afghanistan in worse conditions than this.”

Those times hadn’t been a walk in the park, but they had been crucial and necessary. Carrying Tessa to safety fit into the same category—life and death.

He pulled the wool neck scarf off his neck and wrapped it around her lower face to give her more warmth. “You’ll have to get her on my back and then make sure she’s tied to me securely. The wind’s vicious.” He didn’t want her torn from him with a savage gust.

“I can do that.” Tweeter double-checked all the harness knots. “Knots I’m good at.”

At Tweeter’s last words, Tessa blinked and slitted her eyes open. What little body heat they’d managed to salvage for her had helped her rouse a bit.

Earl murmured, “Hey there, sweetheart. Welcome back.”

“Cold. Sick…” she muttered and moved her head from him to Tweeter and then back. “Where—” Her voice trailed off and she closed her eyes.

“Tessa! Stay with me, baby. Where do you hurt?” Earl sat and gathered her into his arms, adding his warmth to the solar blanket.

Her eyelids fluttered, but remained closed. She licked her lips, which were tinged blue and very chapped. “All … over. Sick … threw up.” She coughed, and Earl tilted her body so she could breathe easier. “Do I have … flu?”

Earl groaned. “No, baby.” She wasn’t completely with them. Delirium wasn’t good. He looked into Tweeter’s worried eyes. “Let’s haul ass.”

Then Earl spoke into his head set. “Ren, have someone get an IV ready. She needs fluids.”

She’d been sick before she left the Lodge; he’d smelled it in her bathroom. If she’d been sick again on the mountain, she was in danger of not only hypothermia, but hypovolemia and possibly hypovolemic shock. A deadly double whammy. He’d lost men that way on forced marches at high altitude in a war zone. He wasn’t losing her.

“On it,” Ren’s calm voice replied. “Price is setting it up now in the Hummer. We have heat packs ready to go also. Just get her up here. Weather’s deteriorating. A new storm front is moving in with blizzard warnings for the rest of today and tonight.”

“Roger that,” Earl replied. “Hold her up for a second, Tweeter.”

Tweeter took over bracing Tessa as Earl stood. “Okay, I’ve got her.” Earl pulled Tessa up and held her against his body, her front to his front. She was as limp as an over-cooked noodle. “Can you hold her upright while I turn and take her on my back?”

“Got it. Go.” Tweeter encircled Tessa from behind and braced her against his body.

Earl turned his back to them and stooped. “Lean her on me and brace her. I’ll pick her up and then you can tie her to me.”

“Got her, Earl,” Tweeter confirmed.

“W-w-what’s … happening?” Tessa slurred the words.

“Shh, it’s okay, Tessa. Earl’s giving you a piggyback ride.” Tweeter’s explanation was spoken in a gentle voice as he positioned Tessa for Earl to pick her up.

“Yippee.” Her tone held no inflection, and her voice was breathy. She could speak, but aphasia wasn’t far off. Without warmth and proper hydration, her brain would shut down unnecessary systems in order to protect the crucial internal organs to maintain life.

Earl reached for her legs, hooked his arms under her knees, then lifted her onto his back. Tweeter immediately began to secure her rope body harness to Earl’s climbing one. Tessa’s head lay on his shoulder, her cheek turned toward his neck. The scarf he’d wound around her face must have slipped, because he could feel her labored breathing against his neck.

“Tweeter, we’re gonna lose her,” Earl rasped. His fear for her well-being tinged his voice.

“She’s on,” Tweeter said. “Let go. I need to secure her legs to your waist, so they won’t impede your climbing.”

Earl straightened, and once he was sure her body was tied to him, he let go of her knees one at a time. Tweeter fashioned a sling to support her bent legs and attached it to her rope harness and then to the D-rings on Earl’s climbing harness.

“Her torso and legs are secure, but what about her arms?” Tweeter had come to stand next to him. “She can’t hold on. She’s unconscious again. Do you want me to tie her arms around your neck?”

“Yeah, but tie her wrists to the D-rings on my shoulder,” Earl suggested. If he were on level ground, he would’ve just held her arms around his waist, but he needed both arms for climbing.

“Gotcha.” Tweeter quickly tied Tessa’s wrists to D-rings on each of Earl’s shoulders. “I made sure the ropes were around her gloves and loose enough not to cut off circulation.”

Neither man spoke the thought Tessa might not have any feeling by this point in any of her limbs. Paresthesia had probably set in once Tessa had gotten cold and then been exacerbated by her loss of fluids.

“Yo, on belay,” Earl informed the men on top.

“Belay on. Climb,” a Walsh twin said.

“Climbing,” Earl replied.

When he felt the tightening of the slack in his ropes, he found a foothold off to the right of the ledge and stepped off the ledge, first his right foot and then his left. He found his balance at a slight angle from the rock wall, and then, using all his upper-body strength and training, began to climb up the wall. The men on top picked up the slack and assisted, but much of the work was still on him. He used natural footholds when he could, but relied on the men at the top to make sure the rope stayed taut as he walked his way up the side of the ravine.

Tessa’s extra weight, coupled with gravity, made the climb a challenge. The wind didn’t help the situation as the gusts shoved him around on the unforgiving, cold, wet wall.

Earl ignored the strain on his hands, arms, and shoulders and concentrated on using all the skills he’d learned in the Army. He’d be sure to drop his trainers a thank you for pushing him to his limits during Mountaineering School. Failure had not been an option then, and it wasn’t one now.

Tweeter climbed easily and effortlessly at his side, using a hand to keep Tessa’s head from flopping around even with the neck brace.

The computer geek brother of Keely Walsh-Maddox might never have served in the military, but Earl would take the man climbing in a war zone any damn time. The man was a cool customer under pressure, and if Earl hadn’t been here, he didn’t doubt the youngest Walsh son would’ve gotten Tessa up the side of the ravine all by himself.

A slurred “sorry” was murmured against his neck. Tessa had roused again as she was jostled about on his back. Her bruised and lacerated front had to be hurting. He wanted to howl at the pain he was causing her.

“Shh, we’ll talk later, sweetheart.” Earl paused long enough to turn his head toward her face. Tessa had somehow raised her head and was looking at him through slitted lashes covered in ice crystals. He smiled with what he hoped was reassurance. “Close your eyes, Tessa. You’re safe with me.”

She blinked and buried her face against his neck with a deep sigh. She went even limper against him, and he began climbing faster.

Ren looked over the edge, his facial expression fierce, and spoke over the headsets. “You’re close. Price, Paul, and I have you. Tweeter, Loren has you. Let us do all the work once you get to road level.”

“Roger that.” Earl kept climbing. Tweeter echoed him a second later.

When he and Tweeter reached road level, two sets of hands pulled him and Tessa over the edge and onto the top of the small stone wall. Earl let Ren and Price unhook Tessa and take her off his back while he held on to the wall.

His body was wracked with shudders as the combination of fatigue and stress hit him. His rasping breaths showed as little puffs of white in the frigid air. He took the short respite to regain control over his body after the arduous climb in blizzard conditions. Even now, he could barely see ten feet in front of him, and the storm was getting worse.

Once Tessa was freed from his back, he swung over the wall and stood. Shoving the effects of the climb aside, he held out his arms to Ren. “Give her to me.”

Ren handed her over, and Earl jogged toward the Hummer they’d come in. It was barely visible through the sideways sheets of snow.

Pacing him, Ren said, “We set up the back seat. Lay her on the reclined one. Get the IV started, and then we’ll head back to the Lodge. Short clock, guys. The storm front is moving through now.”

“Roger that.” Earl lifted Tessa into the back of the Hummer. Price had beaten them to the vehicle and was ready to take her inside. Earl followed quickly and began to strip the wet clothing off Tessa.

Price moved to help, but Earl glared. “I got this. Thanks. Get the IV started, okay?”

Price nodded and began testing for a vein on the arm closest to him. He swore like the SEAL he’d been. “Shit, her veins are sunken. She’s too dehydrated. Her blood volume sucks. Butterfly it?”

“Do it.” Earl grunted as he wiped the chilled dampness off Tessa’s skin with one of the extra blankets in the Hummer and began to stuff Tessa into a man’s thermal long-sleeved shirt and long johns. “Somebody get some dry socks on her and warm gel packs on her extremities.”

He wasn’t sure who responded, but soon Tessa had on two pairs of men’s thermal socks with hot gel packs between the layers on the soles of her feet.

Tessa moaned in pain. He knew how it must feel—like hot pokers stabbing her feet―but she needed to get warmed up. He took care of the hand Price wasn’t working on, using two more socks with a hand warmer between them. With the butterfly stick going into the vein on the top of her hand, the IV fluid should help warm that hand up.

“Any more blankets?” Earl sat next to Tessa on the side that didn’t have the IV. He opened his jacket and the heat he’d built up climbing almost created mist in the cold air coming from outside the Hummer. He pulled Tessa with Price’s help into his arms and pulled his jacket over her as much as he could.

Price wrapped two more blankets over Tessa and tucked a larger warm gel pack under the blankets at her waist to help with the warming. “Best we can do for now. You all set?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Earl rubbed his cheek over the top of Tessa’s head as it lay on his shoulder. He angled his face and kissed her cold forehead. “Hang in there, sweetheart.”

Price nodded, shut the rear passenger side door, and climbed into the front next to Ren. The other men had already started back to the Lodge to make sure all was ready to receive Tessa.

As Ren sped up the road, the Hummer’s heating system began to pour out its heat.

Earl was hotter than hell, but he could care less. Tessa had started to moan and shiver. The heating packs and the fluids and electrolytes were doing their job. He only hoped they’d gotten to her in time and had managed to forestall any permanent damage.

Price looked over the back of the passenger seat. “How’s her face? Any noticeable frost bite?”

Earl tipped up Tessa’s head and looked. He let out a sigh. “Looks okay. She must have just fallen unconscious right before we reached her. She climbed for a ways, so she had some circulation and heat production while she was exerting.”

“It was hard.” Tessa’s eyes remained closed and her voice was weak, but the slurring was almost gone. “Thought I was gonna croak. So sick. So tired.” She let out a sigh and snuggled into Earl’s chest. “Warm. Nice. Smell good.” Then she yawned like a kitten who’d tired itself out and relaxed bonelessly into him.

“God, baby.” Earl kissed the top of her head.

Price looked from Earl to Tessa and then back. “You claiming her?”

“Yeah.” Earl glared at the too-handsome man. “You got a problem with that?”

From what Earl had heard from the other SSI men, Price had nailed every eligible female over twenty-one and under thirty-five in Idaho County and points north to Coeur d’Alene. The man wasn’t getting anywhere near Tessa if he could help it.

“I don’t poach.” Price turned to look out the front as they approached the Lodge’s underground garage area. “But it’s her choice, ya know. I’ll be around in case she decides she doesn’t want to be claimed.”

Ren shook his head. “Price, do you have a death wish?”

“Nope, just sayin’ little Tessa hasn’t agreed to take on Big Earl.” Price sounded smug.

“She will.” Earl kissed her cheek and nuzzled her ear. “She likes how I smell.”

“She will.” Earl kissed her cheek and nuzzled her ear. “She likes how I smell.”

That admission had set it in stone as far as he was concerned. She recognized him on some primal level just as he recognized her. She was his, and he was hers, and all that was left were the details of how soon she’d move in with him.


JustRomance.me Bloghops

Muse Wednesday — Terry O’Dell

Sandra McDonaldI would like to welcome fellow author Terry O’Dell to Muse Wednesday.  Terry’s Muse is author Sandra McDonald, pictured at the left.  Let’s see how Sandra inspired Terry to take the plunge and write books of her own.

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I am not one of those people who wrote her first book in crayon. I did not grow up knowing I wanted to be a writer. I was a Psych major in college, with a Biology minor. In fact, I had my AARP card for a fair number of years before I even thought about writing. The whole writing thing came to be through a misunderstanding of a conversation with my son—you can find the whole story here. In fact, the one time I toyed with writing down a story that had been playing around in my head, I quit after about 3 pages—too much trouble to deal with things like punctuating dialogue.

But, thanks to my son getting me interested in Highlander, I was reading Highlander fanfiction and discovered Sandra McDonald, an author whose stories I really liked. As I read them, my thoughts were always, “If I could write, I’d like to write like that.” We hooked up on line, and I volunteered to beta read for her. She liked my approach, and we became on-line friends. One weekend, while my husband was out of town, I decided to try my hand at writing a story vaguely similar to the first one I’d played with. After I garnered the courage to send it to Sandra, she sent it back with comments about things like Point of View (what the heck was that?) and I decided that I was ready to learn something new. After all, I had no more room on my walls for needlepoint, my other creative outlet. And writing was a lot more fun than doing housework.

Sandra insisted I put my story on line, and the feedback was positive. Of course, if I’d known how low the bar was for positive feedback on that site, I might have shrugged it off. But I was hooked, and went on to write some more Highlander fan fiction (which is still out there on the web, but I’m not telling where!), before I thought it would be fun to see if I could write a totally original story, and Finding Sarah was born. I had a lot to learn, but thanks to Sandra and her patience and willingness to help a total novice, I dove into the craft.

Bio:

Terry Odell began writing by mistake, when her son mentioned a television show and she thought she’d be a good mom and watch it so they’d have common ground for discussions.

Little did she know she would enter the world of writing, first via fanfiction, then through Internet groups, and finally with groups with real, live partners. Her first publications were short stories, but she found more freedom in longer works and began what she thought was a mystery. Her daughters told her it was a romance so she began learning more about the genre and craft. She belongs to both the Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America.

Now a multi-published, award-winning author, Terry resides with her husband in the mountains of Colorado. You can find her online at:

Her website – http://terryodell.com
Her blog – http://terryodell.com/terrysplace
Facebook –http://www.facebook.com/AuthorTerryOdell
Twitter – http://twitter.com/authorterryo

Sign up for her newsletter
Booklover’s Bench, where readers are winners

DangerousConnections200x300Terry’s brand new release is Dangerous Connections, which, at the time this blog appears, may or may not be available at all the on-line bookstores. It’s the 5th book in her Blackthorne, Inc. romantic suspense series, and you can find links to all of them here.

Buy Links for Dangerous Connections

The blurb:

The Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops team is back with another action-adventure romantic suspense from Terry Odell. This time, it’s Computer Nerd meets Cartel Lord.

For Jinx, interacting with people is highly overrated. Computers are his life. On the job, he’s an intel gathering expert for Blackthorne, Inc. Off duty, he’s a shooter in computer role playing games. But what happens when he’s sent into the field to face real enemies with real guns?

Josiah Ignatius Nix—Jinx to all who know him—is the glue holding the Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops teams together when they’re on a mission. In the comfort of his basement office, with his favorite companions—his computers— a click of the mouse provides him with up-to-the-minute intel, which keeps the team alive.

Until the intel fails and a hostage rescue mission goes south. Both the hostage and team are captured, and the boss sends Jinx to the jungles of Mexico as an undercover field agent. The cartels have been kidnapping American engineers to build and maintain their private cell phone networks. Jinx’s skills make him a prime target for capture, a way to infiltrate the cartel and rescue not only the company’s client, but also the missing team of operatives.

Soon, he finds himself paired with Elle Sheridan, a cop whose missing sister is in the middle of a human trafficking ring. Will Elle be able to convince Jinx that Blackthorne’s mission needs to be expanded to include rescuing her sister? And if she does, will the two of them be able to stay ahead of rival cartel leaders and get out alive to make some private connections of their own.

Liquid Silver Books Celebrates the Birth of the Vampire Novel, May 24th to 27th

Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery, Book 1

Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery, Book 1

My publisher Liquid Silver books is celebrating the birth of the vampire novel. Bram Stoker published his famous Dracula in May of 1897.

From from May 24th through the 27th, vampire fans will save 35% off select vampire romance books.  To further celebrate this special holiday, Liquid Silver will be interviewing select vampires from the books on sale.

My Jurnik Golub from The Virtuous Vampire (one of the selected books) and The Deadly Seance,(not in the sale) two books in the Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery series, will kick off the vampire interview marathon on May 24th.

The other vampire interviews will be as follows:

May 25th — Ian  from author Rhonda L. Print

May 26th —Truman from author Elizabeth Finn

May 26th —Dracula, the original.

So, please join us all at Liquid Silver Books and meet the vampires.

Then go out and save 35% on select vampire novels including one of my Gooden and Knight books.  🙂

Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery, Book 2

Gooden and Knight Paranormal Mystery, Book 2

Muse Wednesday — Tina Whittle

9 muses

Like most mystery writers, I grew up marinating my brain in unsuitable material— Edgar Allan Poe, The Nightstalker, the lurid photographs in my mother’s nursing textbooks. I whetted my appetite for the edgy and unsavory in every medium that the library and late night movies would allow, but I also stole liberally from my mother’s stack of bodice-ripping romance novels. Soon my imagination brimmed with stories of carnal appetites savory and otherwise, populated with intrepid heroes and feisty heroines and more than a few corpses.

Such is my literary resume. But my Muse is a different creature altogether.

Separate from me, yet intimately collected, my Muse is my constant creative companion. I capitalize the word deliberately, as I would a proper name, because that’s how the relationship feels to me — like two individuals working for a common cause. I did not choose my Muse any more than I chose my best friend; our partnership evolved organically, and I work hard to honor and nurture it (which usually involves massages, good wine, and naps, so no hardship there).

I subscribe whole-heartedly to the idea of the Muse as an entity separate from the artist (I’m in love with artist Thalia Took’s image of the Greek Muses celebrating their individual and collected magnificence — imagine yourself in the center of that circle and you’ll feel the power, I guarantee). The Muses are here to engage our best selves. As writer Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love, describes it, “there’s a contract between you and the mystery.” She encourages modern day creatives to drop that idea of genius as something only a select few possess, and to think instead of genius as a separate intelligence that visits us in order to inspire and assist with some creative act.

This is exactly how working with my Muse feels to me — cooperative, mysterious, energizing. It’s a multi-sensory experience. Sometimes I feel as if I’m eavesdropping on my characters, jotting down their words and whispers. Sometimes the feeling is visual — a singular image, like blood on snow, that I just have to explore. And sometimes it feels downright spooky, like when I feel a pull toward a certain magazine or book only to flip it open to exactly the piece of research I’ve been desperate to find.

I can’t explain it . . . and I wouldn’t want to. Trying to cram the experience into a formula would ruin the magic. And it is magic — powerful, alchemical, transforming. Humans are storymaking creatures, and to be able to share in that age-old process is a gift and a privilege.

So take a bow, fellow creatives, and make welcome your own Muse. It will be the start of a beautiful relationship, I promise.

Bio:

Tina Whittle’s Tai Randolph series — featuring intrepid gunshop owner Tai and her corporate security agent partner Trey Seaver — has garnered starred reviews in Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal. Described as “cozy noir,” the third book in the series — Blood, Ash and Bone – is available now from Poisoned Pen Press. When not writing or reading, Tina enjoys golf, sushi, mini-pilgrimages, and spending time with her family (one husband, one daughter, one neurotic Maltese and a single bossy chicken). You can find the author online at her official website —  www.tinawhittle.com.

Dangerous Edge of Things cover1_darker cover1_blood

Muse Wednesday: Lori Armstrong

This Muse Wednesday’s guest author is mystery author Lori Armstrong. Lori is a fellow panelist of mine for the upcoming Bouchercon in Cleveland. Our panel – Murder, Mayhem,and the Mattress Mambo is scheduled for Friday, October 4th at 4:00 PM (EST). If you’re in Cleveland, come see her, me, Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, and CJ Lyons talk about all things romantic and sexy in suspense/mystery/thrillers.

When asked who influenced her to write in the genre she writes, she came up with the following essay. I was happy to see old friends in Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew – Lori Armstrong

Two questions I get asked more than any other, as far as writing, are:

  • Where do I get my ideas?
  • Who are most influential authors/books?

The first question usually receives a smart-ass response—I buy them in bulk at Costco. The second response is a no brainer—Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew.

Like most authors, my love of reading led to my love of writing. I can’t recall the first book I read on my own, but I remember the giddy sense of…WOW, I can read anything! And I loved going to the library and loading up on as many books as I could carry—which a suspect now was all they’d allow us to check out.

I’m a native South Dakotan, 4th generation on both sides of my family. Third graders in South Dakota in history class, spend most the year reading about how immigrants came to settle in this part of the country. One of the assignments was to read a Laura Ingalls Wilder book because it chronicled the trials and tribulations of a family finding a place in this new land, through the eyes of a child, about the same age we were. I started with the first book, “Little House in the Big Woods” and was hooked. I devoured all the books in the series and decided I’d been born in the wrong century. I wanted to be a pioneer. Laura Ingalls was resourceful, a hard worker, devoted to her family, sometimes mischievous but she exhibited that can do attitude we South Dakotans are so proud of to this day. For a number of years I’d go back and re-read the series until I got too old…oddly enough, when my daughters were old enough to read the books, I didn’t re-read them because I didn’t want to taint that childhood experience of discovery.

After I finished all the “Little House” books, I was perusing the school library, when I came across a set of books bound in pink. I’ll admit to being somewhat of a girly-girl from a young age, so I picked one up. The main character was a teenage girl who had her own car, cool friends, great clothes, a college boyfriend…and had adventures galore in her smallish hometown. Once again I was smitten.  I had another character to admire and aspire to be like—I just knew I’d grow up solving crimes. Nancy Drew was clever, kind, curious, and loyal. I tore through those books and actually convinced my mother to buy me the ones the library didn’t have. Yes, I still have those books, and like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I haven’t gone back and re-read them.

It might sound odd—sharing the author/books that have most influenced my writing, and then saying I haven’t re-read them since childhood. Yet, I’ve talked to other writers and other parents who have revisited those childhood favorites and because their perspective has changed, they find things in the books they never noticed that changed how they felt about the book. I’d hate for that to happen to me, so I keep the memories of the book alive by remembering how much I loved them and how they shaped what I wanted to write.

Besides, given my reading choices, I was pretty much predestined to write a PI series set in South Dakota, don’t you think?

Bio:

Lori G. Armstrong left the firearms industry in 2000. Her first mystery novel, BLOOD TIES, published in 2005, was nominated in 2006 for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel by the Private Eye Writers of America. The second book in the Julie Collins mystery series, HALLOWED GROUND, released Nov. 2006, was nominated for a 2007 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original, a Daphne du Maurier Award and won the 2007 WILLA Cather Literary Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction. SHALLOW GRAVE, released in Nov. 2007, was nominated for a 2008 High Plains Book Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award and was a finalist for the 2008 WILLA Cather Literary Award. The fourth book, SNOW BLIND, released in Oct. 2008, won the 2009 Shamus Award, from the Private Eye Writers of America, for Best Paperback Original. Lori is a proud fourth generation South Dakotan and lives in Rapid City with her family.

My Muse

Authors are inspired by many things. For me, it can be the odd article in the newspaper or online, an overheard conversation in a restaurant, people watching at the mall, a song — well, almost anything can give me an idea about a plot or a character. But many authors have one author or even one book that inspired them to write, influenced what they wrote.

Several years ago, I was asked to contribute an essay about my muse for an anthology. The anthology was called Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today’s Mystery Writers, edited by Jim Huang and Austin Lugar (Crum Creek Press, 2006). The book won an Anthony Award for best critical work, awarded at the annual meeting of the World Mystery Writers, Bouchercon.

To preview the upcoming Bouchercon in Cleveland in October, I asked my fellow panelists on the Murder, Mayhem, and the Mattress Mambo panel (or as we like to call it the “I Used to Love Her, But Had to Kill Her” panel) to write an essay on which author or book inspired them to write. Each Wednesday in September, I will post one of these essays.

  • September 5th — Lori Armstrong
  • September 12th — Heather Graham
  • September 19th — Jordan Dane
  • September 26th — CJ Lyons

To kick off these essays, I am sharing my contribution to the Mystery Muses collection:

MARY STEWART’S THE MOON SPINNERS

Monette Michaels

            In the summer of 1964, I picked up The Moon Spinners.  From the opening line, Mary Stewart had this twelve-year-old girl hooked: “It was the egret, flying out of the lemon grove, that started it.”  Such a simple line filled with questions. Who is the narrator?  Where was the narrator that she chanced to see an egret fly from a lemon grove? And what exactly had started?

From that little line, I traveled with Nikky Ferris, a young British woman, on a journey of discovery and danger. When Nikky takes that first step off the beaten path to Agios Georgios, she didn’t know it yet, but she has changed her life forever.  As she makes her way into the rugged mountains lining the Greek coastline, I tasted the dust Nikky’s shoes cast into the air.  I smelled the lemon flowers as she wends her way through the grove.  I shivered at the coolness of the mountain water when Nikki pauses to rinse her hot, dusty hands.  I shared her sense of isolation and the building anticipation that something was going to happen.  When Lambos drops into her path, knife in hand, my heart rate jumped right along with Nikky’s.  What had started out to be a pleasant little getaway with her aunt in a sleepy little Greek seaside resort, has now become a life and death matter as Nikky’s future becomes inextricably intertwined with Mark and Colin Langley’s lives – – lives that had been changed forever when the brothers stumbled across murder in the wilds of Greece.  And I was with her every step of the way.

What amazes me, now that I also write novels, is that the set up in The Moon Spinners is done so effortlessly and in less than two chapters. There are no wasted words or lines in a Mary Stewart book.  Just as the fabled Moon Spinners spin the moon, Ms. Stewart spins her story, effortlessly and inexorably pulling in her reader.

So what is it about Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels that has captured several generations of readers and influenced a generation of authors?

For me, other than the amazing settings and sense of place, it is her ability to create an atmosphere that holds you breathlessly in its thrall from her novels’ first words until the last. Her usage of words rivals a poet’s.  No doubt about it:  Mary Stewart is a master wordsmith.   Added to her perfect selection of words is a superb sense of pacing.  Each word, each line of text builds upon its predecessor, building tension and  providing relief, only to escalate again until the final climactic scene.  Her plots are a perfect balance of description, suspense, and romance and as seamless as a Mobius strip.  This is why myself and a whole generation of authors has attempted to emulate Mary Stewart’s style.

In my romantic suspense novels, I sweat every word, every line, striving to recreate the  suspense-romance symmetry, the perfect pacing of a Mary Stewart novel. My villains are driven to commit evil.  The heroes are strong; the heroines, just as strong or stronger. Fate throws them together, changing their lives for better – – or worse, as the case may be.  In my books, as in Stewart’s, good always triumphs over evil, but sometimes the line between the two is a bit smudged.  From lean first lines to the end, I strive to take my readers on just as breathless a ride as Mary Stewart always gave me.  Do I do this as gracefully and seamlessly as she did?  I only hope so.  Time will tell.

Copyright, Monette Michaels, 2006. This essay  is not to be reprinted without the express permission of the author. Worldwide print anthology rights are held by Crum Creek Press.

Great Romantic Suspense Beach Reads

Welcome to the Love’s A Beach blog hop from the folks at JustRomanceMe.  If this is your first time on the blog tour bus, you’re in for a treat.  If you’re a regular welcome back!

If you started here, you might want to go back and begin HERE. That way you will take the blog tour bus from the beginning, won’t miss any of the great blogs, and then have the chance to enter for FREE to win great prizes provided by the participating authors including a Nook with Glowlight loaded with books. Oh, and winners will be announced at Gem Sivad’s place on Sunday, August 19th at 7 pm (EST), during a live chat with many of the authors and fellow hoppers.

Oh, and if you read all the way to the end — there is a chance to win a FREE book on this blog, also!

What do I like to read in the summer? What books would I take to the beach? My favorite genre to escape it all — and let’s face it when you’re at the beach, you want to escape your usual 24/7 life — is the romantic suspense/thriller/mystery genre.

And it just so happens, I will be moderating a panel of some of the bestselling romantic suspense/thriller/mystery authors this October 4-7, in Cleveland, Ohio during Bouchercon. Our panel is titled the “I Used to Love Her, But I Had to Kill Her” panel, named after a song from Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Guns ‘N Roses.  The subtitle of the panel is “Murder, Mayhem, and the Mattress Mambo.”  Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, CJ Lyons, Lori Armstrong, and myself will be discussing how sex plays a role in suspense/thrillers/mystery books.

Here are some sneak peeks into what this panel is all about– and  I’m sure, like me, you’ll find the perfect book for that lazy day on the beach — or wherever you go to escape every  day life.

From bestselling author, Heather Graham, comes the third and final book of her Krewe of Hunters Trilogy (publication date 8/28/2012).

Blurb:

  Philadelphia mansion plays host to uninvited death

1777: In the throes of the Revolutionary War, Landon Mansion is commandeered by British Lord “Butcher” Bedford. He stabs Lucy Tarleton-who spurned his king and his love-leaving her to die in her father’s arms.

Now: After the day’s final tour, docent Allison Leigh makes her rounds while locking up…and finds a colleague slumped over Bedford’s desk, impaled on his own replica bayonet.

Resident ghosts may be the stock-in-trade of stately Philadelphia homes, but Allison-a noted historian-is indignant at the prospect of “ghost hunters” investigating this apparent murder.

Agent Tyler Montague knows his hauntings and his history. But while Allison is skeptical of the newcomer, a second mysterious murder occurs. Has “Butcher” Bedford resurfaced? Or is there another malevolent force at work in Landon Mansion? Wary, yet deeply attracted, Allison has to trust in Tyler and work with him to discover just what uninvited guest-dead or alive-has taken over the house.Or their lives could become history!

For more on the Krewe of Hunters Trilogy and all the other fabulous books Heather has authored, visit Heather Graham’s website.

From bestselling author, Jordan Dane, comes the third book in her Sweet Justice series, The Echoes of Violence (pub date 9/2010).

Blurb:

The Echo of Violence The man she’d trust with her heart could sabotage everything…

When terrorists attack a Haitian missionary school, brutally killing their hostages and posting videos of the senseless murders online, time is running out. Sentinels’ agent Alexa Marlowe is forced into an unlikely alliance with a relentless mercenary. But he is no stranger.

Jackson Kinkaid witnessed the raid, and only he can track the killers to their mountain stronghold. Guarding a dark secret, rumored to sell his services to the highest bidder, Jackson is not the same man Alexa once knew. And although he can lead her to the terrorist leader she’s been ordered to take alive, how can she be sure he won’t sabotage her mission to save the one person who got him through the worst nightmare of his life?

For more books from Jordan visit her website.

From bestselling author CJ Lyons comes the print re-release of her best-selling e-book with new material, Blind Faith (July 31, 2012).

Blurb:

When her husband and son are murdered, she thought she’d lost it all. But for Sarah Durandt the nightmare is just beginning…

Sarah has just witnessed the execution of the man who confessed to killing her husband and son, among others. She leaves with no closure as the killer has refused her repeated requests to reveal the site of her family’s graves. Sarah returns home to her small town of Hopewell in the Adirondacks Mountains and vows to search until she finds Sam and Josh.

Her hunt leads her to a trail of lies and unearths a new killer. In a race to save everything she holds dear, Sarah is forced to place her faith in the man who betrayed her…her husband.

Note: This new edition contains material not found in the original e-version which hit #2 on the New York Times Bestseller list!

Want to see more from CJ Lyons? Visit her website.

From bestselling author Lori Armstrong comes the second book in her Mercy Gunderson mystery series, Mercy Kill (pub date 1/2011 ).

Blurb:

Former Black Ops Army sniper, Mercy Gunderson isn’t adjusting well to the laid-back rhythm of civilian life on her family’s ranch in South Dakota. To fill her time, Mercy accepts a temporary bartending gig at a local watering hole. Yet her attempts to settle in back home are tested when Titan Oil, a Canadian company proposing to run an underground pipeline through Eagle River County, sends Jason Hawley, Mercy’s former Army buddy to the area to convince ranchers to get behind the project.

While local business owners support the pipeline, Hawley’s presence riles the landowners and Mercy is torn. After ugly threats and multiple altercations escalate tensions in the county, Mercy discovers Hawley’s brutally mutilated body in the bar parking lot. When it appears Sheriff Dawson cares more about campaigning for re-election than investigating the case, Mercy vows to find Jason Hawley’s killer—even if she has to run against Dawson for sheriff to ensure justice is served.

But Mercy soon learns her former military pal had plenty of secrets. Her search for the truth brings unwanted exposure to the county’s dark side and risks deadly repercussions for the entire community.

Visit Lori’s Website.

And finally we come to my most recent top seller, Cold Day in Hell, Book 2 in the Security Specialists International series.


Blurb:

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.

To find out more about my books?  Check out the book pages on this blog or go to my website.
Thanks for visiting my little piece of the blog tour — please comment and share your favorite romantic suspense/thriller/mystery, and I will award one person a FREE download of Cold Day in Hell!
Have a book-filled rest of the summer! — Monette