Muse Wednesday: Cynthia Sax

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?

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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




Twitter: @CynthiaSax










Muse Wednesday: Rebecca Drake

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 or find her on Facebook at And Twitter @AuthorRDrake

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Muse Wednesday: Laura Benedict

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

“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

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Muse Wednesday: Hilary Davidson

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



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Muse Wednesday — Annette Dashofy

In the Bleak MidwinterWelcome to the first in a series of Muse Wednesday blogs leading up to the Bouchercon 2015 panel “Maintaining Pace in Mystery,” scheduled for Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm EST.

I have the honor of moderating the panel consisting of Annette Dashofy, Hilary Davidson, Laura Benedict, and Rebecca Drake. The ladies have enthusiastically agreed to share their Muses with you.

Leading off this Muse Wednesday series is author Annette Dashofy, author of the Zoe Chamber mystery series.


When Monette first invited me to blog about my muse, I thought what fun! But then I thought some more and it struck me what a complicated mission this was. Or maybe I was over thinking the whole matter. I’ve been accused of this in the past.

My inspiration has changed over the years, going back to books like My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara, and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion and Island Stallion series. Yes, I love horses, but what stuck with me about those novels was the sense of place. Setting.

I also devoured anything about the Wild West, especially those written by Zane Gray. Again, the stories transported me to another place.

But the novel that changed the direction of my youthful attempts at fiction writing was Where Are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark. Suddenly nail-biting suspense became vital in everything I read. And my fiction has been entirely crime related ever since.

As an aside, I met Ms. Clark a couple of years ago and had a chance to shake her hand and thank her in person for setting me on the path of mystery writer. She was as sweet as can be. A true Lady.

Fast forward a couple of decades to the point where I became serious about publication. I found another muse—Dick Francis. Still in love with horses and Walter Farley’s series, I penned two mysteries set in the world of Thoroughbred racing. Two agents and many rewrites later, that first series of mine remained unsold. I moved on to another series, my Zoe Chambers mysteries. I had completed a rough draft of the first, Circle of Influence, when my friend (and soon-to-be-debut author) Joyce Tremel put Julia Spencer Fleming’s In the Bleak Midwinter in my hands. I was enthralled. Like Circle, it had a rural setting, took place in winter, and had dual protagonists, including a small-town police chief. Unlike mine, Julia’s writing was exquisite! I immediately proclaimed (and continue to) that “I want to write like her when I grow up!”

Another aside—I met Julia for the first time at the same conference where I’d met Mary Higgins Clark and was equally fan-girl over her! I remain completely in awe of her skill with the English language.

To this day, she remains one of my muses. And I’ve added another, perhaps influenced by my early love of Westerns—Craig Johnson and his Longmire series. Any time I find myself stuck and trying to figure out how to show-not-tell emotions, setting, character, dialogue—just about anything—I crack open one of Julia’s or Craig’s novels and soak in their words, trying to learn by osmosis.


Annette Dashofy-small fileBio:

Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, published by Henery Press, was a finalist for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and for the David Award for Best Mystery of 2014. The second in the series, LOST LEGACY, was released in September 2014 followed by BRIDGES BURNED in April 2015. Her short fiction includes a 2007 Derringer Award nominee featuring the same characters as her novels. Annette is vice president and past president of the Pittsburgh Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She serves as vice president of Pennwriters, as well as being their 2013 recipient of the Meritorious Service Award. She also belongs to Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Annette and her husband live on part of what used to be her grandfather’s dairy farm in southwestern Pennsylvania with one very spoiled cat.


Featured Book: Bridges Burned, Book Three in the Zoe Chambers mystery series.


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Muse Wednesday Redux

It’s been awhile since I posted regular Muse Wednesdays. I missed them.  I love learning what set my fellow authors on the road to writing. But social media is a time suck and so I put the Muse blogs aside for only special occasions and the odd one-off author who actually seeks me out to do one.

So why bring them back now?  What’s special about the next four Wednesdays in September?

Bouchercon 2015 will be held in Raleigh, NC, from October 7-11th.

And once again, I have the distinct honor of being a Moderator for a panel entitled, Maintaining Pacing in Mystery.

The panel consists of published authors Annette Dashofy, Hilary Davidson, Laura Benedict, and Rebecca Drake.  Our panel is scheduled for Saturday, October 10th at 1 pm.  If you’re attending, we’d love to see you there.  If you aren’t, there is still time to register for this conference which is the largest mystery convention in the world. See the full scheduled of events and panels, HERE.

My four panelists are all at the top of their game in the mystery/suspense/thriller field, so I thought it would be fun to ask them who or what their writing Muse(s) are — and at the same time get some promo and advance excitement for our fabulous panel.  Yes, I am devious that way. 😉

The Muse Blog schedule is as follows:

September 9th –Annette Dashofy

September 16th –Hilary Davidson

September 23rd–Laura Benedict

September 30th – Rebecca Drake

I’ve already seen Annette’s blog and I love her choice.  And, no, I’m not telling, you have to come back next week and see who she picked.

And to remind you what a Muse Blog is all about, I am re-blogging my original Muse Blog which addressed why I write what I write:



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 have 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.


Muse Wednesday — Pauline Baird Jones

Brimstone in the GardenIt is hard for me to pick THE one book that made me want to be a writer, though like Monette Michaels, Mary Stewart played a large part in my love for, and my desire to write, romantic suspense.

Dateline: 1967

A 12 year old reader in search of a book noticed a book called Brimstone in the Garden (known as The Greenwood Shady in Britain). The author was not familiar to her, but the title intrigued, so she pulled it out and read:

“The River Starr begins its course as an insignificant trifle in Berkshire.”

Not exactly a grabber, but books sometimes started slow back in the day, and readers were okay with that. Like that opening line, the story started as a trickle but achieved excellent flow. Nowadays, readers are a lot tougher on slow starts. I’m glad I stuck with it, though. Otherwise I would never have “met” Cousin Clarry.

“Cousin Clarry arrived, looking larger than ever. She was of average height, but her great bulk made her appear almost as broad as she was long. She wore a voluminous tweed cloak, which Elinor remembered having seen on Aunt Winifred twenty years ago. Her hat was of the kind known as a straw boater, and was affixed by a piece of black elastic to the back of her collar.”

There’s more, much more to learn about Cousin Clarry and the denizens of Deepwood. They felt real to me then and yeah, they still do. Somewhere Aunt Clarry still lives.

I’ve reread the book many times (it is one of my comfort reads) and learned some important things about being a writer from the sheer craft displayed in this book.

First, characters matter. I know that’s a duh, oh-so-obvious point, but I have many times studied the seemingly effortless way Cadell brought her characters to life, looking for clues to how she managed it. Many of those techniques shouldn’t work with todays’ readers…and yet…when Cadell used telling, instead of showing, I never noticed until I went back to study her work. She made telling fun. She made showing fun.

The lady could write.

I always had the feeling that she chuckled while she typed. For my own writing, if I’m not getting a kick out of a characters—even my bad guys—then they get kicked to the curb. Why would the reader enjoy something I’m not?

The other thing I learned from her—and this goes against current marketing wisdom—was to follow my Muse to the stories. Cadell wrote what is loosely called “women’s fiction,” but her books wander widely between “simple” romances, gentle mysteries, and stuff I don’t think there is a genre label for them. One of her books is a journal, another told from a child’s point of view that is not a middle grade book.

As a reader, I followed where she led because I loved her writing. I loved the way she used words. I loved her characters and her quirky plots. I was willing to go where her Muse took her and be grateful for the ride.

The lady could tell a story.

I wanted to be “a lady who can tell a story,” but in my way, not hers.

As an author, I’ve tried to be true to her standard and true to myself. My books wander the genres like the T-Rex did in Jurrasic Park when the power went off. And though I try not to chomp things, I keep the stakes high. My goal is to deliver to the reader an adventure that only I could write.

Maybe, just maybe, some new writer fifty years from now (ouch!) will be inspired to become an author because of something I wrote. Hey, I’m an author. I can dream.


My bio:

me-smallPauline Baird Jones had a tough time with reality from the get-go. After “schooling” from four, yes FOUR brothers, she knew that some people needed love and others needed shooting. Pauline figured she could do both. Romantic suspense was the logical starting point, but there were more worlds to explore, more rules to break and minds to bend. She grabbed her pocket watch and time travel device and dove through the wormhole into the world of science fiction and even some Steampunk.

Now she wanders among the genres, trying a little of this and a lot of that, rampaging through her characters’ lives like Godzilla because she does love her peril (when it’s not happening to her). Never fear, she gives her characters happy endings. Well, the good characters. The bad ones get justice.

rr-web_medPauline released her 13th novel, Relatively Risky, in 2013. She’s not superstitious about it, well, maybe a little. She’ll be glad when #14 is officially out. But the whole loving/killing thing that needs to be done? Doing it fictionally is just better for everyone. And particularly for Pauline, who hates the thought of getting strip searched and jailed.


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.


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.


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:

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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.

Muse Wednesday — Yuri Bellamy

Blood LinesI’d like to welcome my friend and also my critique partner, Yuri Bellamy, to Muse Wednesday. I was thrilled to see he likes Tanya Huff’s novels almost as much as I do. And having critiqued his wips, I can see her influence on his books.  So, let’s see how Ms. Huff’s books inspired Yuri to write.


Thank you for having me as your guest today, Monette. I’ve had several muses over the years, including multiple LSB authors, but the one I am most excited to talk about is paranormal author Tanya Huff.


I first read Tanya Huff’s Blood series in paperback as a teenager and was immediately enchanted by her unique combination of mystery, paranormal, and romantic elements. Her Blood series involved an unconventional love triangle between a female cop, her partner, and a vampire named Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry the VIII, and I loved every minute of it. Her vampires were unapologetically into dining on blood (no vegetarian vamps here!), her supernatural villains were nasty, and her humor was smartly witty and top-notch. However, while her sexual tension was excellent, the love triangle between Henry, the heroine, and the male cop was not the focus of the story. It was merely a “side bene,” and by the time I finished the series I realized I wanted the romance to end on a, well, far more romance-y note than it did (all of Tanya Huff’s books are fabulous, BTW, but she does not write romance).

At the same time, I had already started writing my own stories, and I now believe my passion for writing paranormal romances with multiple partners formed while I was reading Tanya’s novels and those of other paranormal authors who incorporated love triangles in their writing. However, I quickly realized that writing love triangles that stayed love triangles was not for me. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was writing was more akin to what I now know as polyamorous, or ménage, paranormal romance – and ménage romances are still a favorite of mine to this day, both for writing and reading.

So that’s my story of my love affair with Huff. She is a master of her unique combination of genres, and I consider her a big influence on not only my passion for writing about relationships with multiple, often paranormal, partners, but also my choice of subject matter. Like her, I have made it my mission to create very distinctive worlds which include all kinds of supernatural beings and themes: angels, demons, shapeshifters, and hell (although unlike her I have never written about a portal to hell in a basement!). And like her, I have a soft spot for situational irony and idiosyncratic characters in my stories. Case in point: where else are you going to find a hero as tortured, wickedly fun, and intense as my demon lord Misery (who will appear in my upcoming novel Misery Loves Company)?

When his past, present, and future literally collide, demon lord Misery Illich must venture through a truly hellish series of trials while keeping two unexpected companions out of harm’s way. But when he starts to fall in love with one of these terribly fragile, tempting humans, he will face the great challenge of all: Protecting his heart.

I am currently running a free promotional, bi-weekly serial which I co-write with Nulli Para Ora, which stars the character of Misery.

 One of the latest posts can be found here:
You can also see the previous installments once you are at the site.


A lover of all things paranormal, romance editor and writer Yuri Bellamy has always loved books involving dark fantasy themes and paranormal men (preferably multiple!). He primarily writes heterosexual and ménage romances at this time, but expects to release gay romances in the future. His upcoming paranormal romantic suspense, Misery Loves Company, will most likely be available in early 2014.


To follow all the latest news on Yuri, please visit his Facebook page:

And feel free to follow his official Twitter page, where he occasionally hosts chats with characters from his works and shares all kinds of romance publisher and author-related news:

Muse Wednesday — Patricia Rasey

I am thrilled to have my friend, Pat Rasey, here this week. We’ve known each other since the early days of e-books (before Kindle and before Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet — yes, the ICE AGE of e-books). The fact we are both still here to talk about it is a wonderful thing; the fact we are still writing is a credit to our stubbornness and love of books. Let’s see who inspired Pat to keep on writing.


Thank you for having me on your blog for Muse Wednesday, Monette. I appreciate it. What fun to talk about my muse and what keeps me writing. I actually have two authors that have been my Muse over the years.

th_6b35432aea7a08928823d342568d4f49_TDO_bkcSandra Brown has always been one of my favorite authors. I not only loved the stories she told, but the sensuality she put into them. I love the buildup, the sexual tension, and then the delivery. She wasn’t an overly sexy author, nowhere near what one might consider erotic, but when I read her work, I could feel the sexual tension coming off the pages. She was an expert at pulling the reader in and stringing them along. Her later work isn’t as sexy as her earlier work as she headed more into the suspense, leaving behind her romantic roots. I still love to read her, but I’d much rather have the sexy undertones and buildup. I miss that in her work.

My latest muse is good friend Lara Adrian and her hot Breed series. I’ve known from early on that she was meant for the big time. Her writing, even in her early days, was pretty flawless. We met while we were both unpublished and we became quick friends that has lasted through the years. I don’t mind saying at all, that if it wasn’t for Lara’s influence and her insistence that I keep writing, I probably would have given up on the business a long time ago. Writing isn’t an easy business to get into. For most of us, we have to keep our day jobs to pay the bills. Lara wouldn’t let me give up on myself. And I love her for that.

Her midnight Breed heroes are definitely all alpha, paired with strong-willed heroines that don’t tame these otherworldly vampires, but complement them. Her writing is dark and sensual. Something I tried hard to put into my work over the years. I’ve always been a dark writer, but I was starting to lean more toward the suspense side of things and leave behind my romantic roots. That’s when Lara convinced me to write about vampires … and make then sexy. So with the creation of Viper, my first book in the kissOfMidnight150pxSons of Sangue series, I traveled back to my roots for not only the love of dark but sexy books as well.

I felt it was time for me to return what I loved about Sandra Brown’s early works and the darkness I craved in Lara’s works. There is nothing light-hearted about my vampire bikers. I wanted hot, sexy, and dangerous men who love a challenge when it comes to their women. They aren’t above breaking the law or the rules when it comes to their women.


SendSuzPhotographyIMG_0628A daydreamer at heart, Patricia A. Rasey, resides in her native town in Northwest Ohio with her husband, Mark, and her lovable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Todd.

Ms. Rasey is a three-time recipient of the Word Weaving Award for Literary Excellence and a three-time winner of the prestigious RIO Award Of Excellence. She is also a three-time EPPIE finalist and was a 2001 nominee for Romantic Times Magazine’s Best Electronic Book. Additionally, Twilight Obsessions and Twilight Visions, two anthologies she was a part of, was nominated for the PEARL, the Paranormal Excellence Award in Romantic Literature, in the Best Anthology category. Her short story, In The Mind of Darkness won the P&E 2002 Horror short story category.

When not behind her computer, you can find Patricia working, reading, watching movies, or MMA. She also enjoys spending her free time at the river camping with her husband and two sons. Ms. Rasey is currently a third degree Black Belt in American Freestyle Karate.


Buy Pat’s Newest Book, Viper, Book 1 in her Sons of Sangue series.


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