2.24.2014

Confessions Of a Hoarder

No, not that kind of hoarder. Not like that horrid television show. Ugh.

My mother is kind of a sort of hoarder. She’s been on her own since my father died, but when I recently helped her move, I discovered that she hadn’t thrown anything of my father’s away. I guess I can understand the sentimental attachment to some items, but others I think could have been tossed years ago. By my father. Oh my Lord, I think my father had saved every bank and broker statement he ever received since 1950. My mother continued the practice. Mounds and mounds of paper tucked in every drawer. Stacks on top of desks and tables. I have some shredding to do. Makes me think I should reevaluate what I hoard...um...I mean save just in case the IRS wants to peek at my paperwork one day.

There really is such a thing as a paperwork monster. Really. I just conjured a huge paperman that looks a lot like a snowman. The difference is...a snowman seems friendly but a paperman doesn’t. Hmmm... What if there was an evil snowman... Sounds like the plot for a suspense thriller...or something. Maybe Misty and the Killer Frosty. What do you think? Best seller?


What about that snowman? Does he look scary enough? No? Probably not. Killer snowman needs to look...evil.

I don’t hoard stuff really. I’m an obsessive tosser. Clutter makes me anxious. My family knows I’m angry or upset when I start cleaning. Back off, Mom’s in a mood. I confess there is one area where I am an obsessive hoarder. As a writer, I collect words and scenarios, bits of conversation, quirky sayings, and odd situations. I have a note on my phone where I quickly save weird stuff I overhear in restaurants. Or at Walmart (the bane of my existence). Those bits of strange human behavior find their way into my manuscripts. Because I have a mantra I live by. Are you ready for it?

NORMAL IS BORING; TWISTED IS BETTER.

Yep, I loved being warped, and I like my characters to have at least one quirky personality trait or one really weird habit. Makes them human. Like me. I never have cared much for the perfect hero or the pristine heroine. People are strange, and so my characters should be as well. I read a book where the only thing the heroine had ever done wrong was be jealous of her sister over something trivial. I mean, come on, really? I finished the book because it was a nice, sweet little fantasy, but the characterization did not strike a real human chord. I want characters with meat on their thick bones. I’ve read heroes who did everything perfectly. Whatever they attempted was a success, and the heroine adored the hero with googly eyes, her heart mushing to the ground around her feet. He’s handsome, he’s strong, he’s smart, he can play the guitar while chopping a cord of wood or punching out a bad buy while reciting love poems and running a multi-million dollar, international corporation without ever leaving the confines of his spacious, fifty room mansion. Other women lust after him but his heart belongs to the sexy, sweet, adoring female who can’t understand why he wants her. Please!

Interesting characters have scars inside and out, sooo I collect...um...scars. No, not on my body. I like to give my characters a scar, either physically or emotionally. I mean more than just a broken heart from a previous bad relationship. People experience heartache and trauma. I like to give my characters some drama in their past that their fractured heart needs to overcome to trust and love again.

Sigh. Okay, there it is. I hoard drama. The more the better. So I’m going to offer you this bit of drama from my edit in process entitled Cross Examination.

Tamara’s head slid off her forearm and banged on the desk. She jerked and tried to focus, pressing against the pain in her forehead. A thump evaporated the grogginess. She bolted upright. She’d never heard that particular noise in the house before tonight. She berated herself for falling asleep in the garret—so far away from Gabby on the second floor.

When a thud and a creak followed closely on the first noise, she was convinced an intruder was in her house. She studied the clutter on her desk. The importance of what she discovered pushed through her panic. She couldn’t leave the list behind. Its existence alone was perhaps enough to put her life in jeopardy, enough to put Gabby in danger. She had to protect her daughter.

Scooping up her research, she crammed the paperwork into a large tote she kept under the desk. She glanced at her laptop, but left it with the lid open. Reaching for the light, she stopped and then left it on as well. She had to leave everything just as if she intended to return. She quickly erased the open document from the hard drive before she removed the travel drive from the USB port, tucked it in her pocket, peeked her head around the door, and then started down the stairs.

As she descended the back flight to the floor below, she stopped and listened. Moved a few steps. Stopped and listened. Whoever was rummaging around her things no longer tried to muffle the noise he made. Thuds, bumps, and scrapes punctuated her fear. Her instinct screamed at her. Without a doubt, the intruder was Scott.

Did he think she wouldn’t hear him? Maybe he imagined her cowering in her room waiting for him to do his worst. Maybe he still thought of her as the submissive little woman, powerless to oppose him. Or perhaps he believed fear immobilized her as it so often had in the past. He was a fool and he didn’t know her anymore. She was stronger for having spent so much time away from him on her own, learning to cope with life’s everyday problems without him. Never would she allow a man to control her again as she had let Scott. Her emotions were her own. He would not dictate to her how she would react.

Gabby was in her arms before Tamara caught another breath. The tote dragged on her arm as she tried to lift the child.

“Mom—”

“Shhh…” She placed her pointer finger over Gabby’s mouth. Fear reflected in her daughter’s eyes. Surely Gabby heard what she had heard. Her heart hurt for her child. They had once before left in the middle of the night. That escape had been difficult for Gabby. She’d had a hard time sleeping for weeks after that.

Out in the hall, she didn’t have to strain to hear. He made no effort to hide his ascent up the front stairs. Tamara descended the back. On the landing, she paused once more. Something crashed to the floor in her bedroom. She imagined him pulling out all her dresser drawers. Yanking her bed linens from her unused bed. She slept in Gabby’s room for fear Scott would find her, that he might sneak into her house when she was unaware and snatch her child away from her. She had been right to do so, despite all the parenting books that told her not to sleep in the same bed with your child.

She rushed down the remaining steps and ran for the kitchen door, no longer mindful of the racket she made. As she passed the counter, she grabbed her purse. Her compact, lipstick, brush, and a few wadded up receipts spilled across the countertop from the open flap. She hadn’t left it unsnapped. Had he searched the contents? She stuffed the scattered items back into the handbag with one hand. One glance around the kitchen and she was moving again. She slung the purse strap over her shoulder, rushed toward the back door, and wrapped her fingers around the doorknob.

“Tamara,” he yelled down the stairs. “Where are you? Quit hiding from me.”

She cringed at the anger in his command for her obedience.

She never doubted the man in her house was Scott. She could almost smell the menace. His voice crawled all over her—a voice she had hoped never to hear again. She yanked the door open and rushed into the night, her child clutched to her chest, the weight of her purse and the paperwork in the tote pulling on her arm. She didn’t bother to slam the door behind her.



2.21.2014

All About Heroes Interview With Janet Lane Walters

Please welcome Janet Lane Walters to Suspense, She Writes. First, tell us a little about yourself, Janet.

As I usually say I've been writing since the dark ages, the days of typewriters and carbon paper. Actually I began in 1968 with short stories and graduated to novels when the short story market dried up. I took a break in the eighties to put four children through school and returned to writing in 1994 when I retired. In 1998 I discovered electronic publishing and was off and running and haven't looked back. I tend to be what I call an eclectic writer since I am published in mysteries, suspense, romance - contemporary and historical, plus paranormal stories. I also have a few non-fiction books dating from the days when I was a ghost writer for doctors. Under JL Walters I have a four book YA fantasy series. I've been known to dabble in music composition, Astrology and I do love to read most everything. As I tell everyone, housework is my hobby since that's what I do in my spare time. Not sure how many books I have floating around the internet but there are at least 30. The next book is always my interest.

As writers, we often become emotionally attached to our characters. Who is your favorite hero you’ve ever written?

I'm fickle. Usually my favorite hero is the one in the story I'm working on at present. I have favorite villains and a lot of great heroes. Lately my favorite has been Jules from A Spicy Seduction. He's tall dark and sexy and has a bit of a past that messes with his present.

Have you ever fallen in love with or had a crush on one of your heroes? Tell us about him.

What an interesting question. I imagine I have crushes on most of my heroes. There's Simon from Rekindled Dreams who is the most alpha male I've written. Loved that he was tamed by a baby who wasn't his but the one belonging to his enemy and cousin.

How do you develop your heroes? Do you imagine their personality or their physical appearance first? Do they grow as personalities as you write or do you do a character sketch before you type the first word?

I use Astrology to cast all my characters focusing on the Rising Sign, Sun and Moon. This gives me the face they show the world, their inner nature and their emotional nature. Then I search for a name. Though I have all the info when I begin the rough draft, my heroes grow as I follow the plot line to make the story. Most of this is in my head rather than written down. One of my present projects has all my heroines being Cancers and the heroes are of the different signs. Right now I'm working on a Taurus hero, a music composer.

I like to give my heroes a personality quirk, just so they aren’t too perfect. Have you ever written a quirk for one of your heroes and what was it?

The quirk for my current hero is his obsessive amount of time he spends at the piano causing his hands to ache and needing help. Many times my heroes have quirky reasons for avoiding commitment until they find the right woman. One of my heroes in a fantasy romance can see and read lines of fire on the skin of others. So yes, they always have something that can be a roadblock to romance.

How do you name your hero?

I have a lot of naming books and I use them when I have trouble finding a name. Often the name pops into my head as I'm daydreaming about the character.

Who is your favorite hero in books, movies, or television?

Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. I've read the book maybe 16 times and watch the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice at least once a year. At present I've been following Sherlock and have found Sherlock to be fascinating.

Who is your hero in real life?

Would have to say my husband. He's a psychiatrist and has been known to tell his colleagues that my writing is an obsession he has no intention of curing.

Tell us about your most recent release and where we can find it. Who is the hero and what do you like about him the most?

This is a hard one to write since my latest release arrived on the shelves last week. This is a collection of short stories and novellas in which the heroes of four of the stories are transported to another world. They are princes of Rivand and all descended from the Riva family. They all have black hair and green eyes. They are captured by a witch who demands they love her and on refusal are transported to another world where they must find their way. Stephen saves a princess who has been turned into an amber dragon. Rafel is trapped in a tower and must choose one of two princesses. Ivor must compete musically to save a princess. Kristen has loved the heroine since he first saw her trapped in the amber gem. He must free his family from the curse she set on the Riva family.


Thank you for being here today, Janet. She has so many releases to choose from! Here is the blurb for her book Spicy Seduction released in December 2013.

Trusting others isn't in Jules Grayson's nature. With the firm belief that those he loves will leave him, he always leaves first. When a wedding and a business project force him to return to the Hudson River village, he finds the only woman who ever turned him down. 

Will the attraction to the best man at a wedding where she's the Maid of Honor lead Grace to break her vow of no man in her life until she is completely financially secure? And can their passion chase the dark shadows from their past? 

Here's an excerpt from Spicy Seductions...

"You can't go back there."
He ignored the young woman and opened the door. Heat, a touch of vanilla and rum hit him. The aromas formed a collage with the other scents with no single one stronger than the others.
The baker stood beside a marble-topped counter. She wore a long apron tied at her slender waist. Temptation to see if his hands could span her waist nearly made him forget his reason for being here. A white net covered hair as dark as his. Would her face match the delectable rear view? She held a plastic bag and swirled icing on a cupcake. The door closed with a loud snap.
Without turning, she held one of the confections. “Try this and let me know what you think.”
Jules accepted and smiled. The voice belonged to the woman of the brief phone calls. During those moments he’d conjured a face to match the husky tone. The image belonged to the only girl who had turned him down.
What if? Such an occurrence would be beyond belief. The thought stirred his dick.
Cool it, dude.
Jules bit into the pastry. The spice, rum, pineapple, dates and cherries blended to perfection with the cake.
“What do you think?”
Her question pulled him from a sexual haze. What about sex with me licking icing from your breasts? Had he said that aloud?
“Well?” She turned.
He nearly dropped the rest of the cupcake. Here was the face from his memories and the star of his teenage fantasies. Alarms clanged. Trouble. He drew a deep breath and smiled. This time he intended to reach his goal.
“Actually it’s great. Fruitcake flavor but light. The spices and fruit blend perfectly.”
****
A frown creased Grace’s forehead. Did she know this man? Something resonated in her memories but a name didn’t bob to the surface. He resembled the faceless man of her fantasies. Had the same hair color, not long but short and styled. Was he someone she’d seen on TV, except she usually watched cooking shows, not sports or movies?
“How did you get in here?”
“Via the door.”
His crooked grin brought a name closer to the surface. Did he look like someone she should recognize? “And Bonnie let you come back?”
“The arrival of some customers diverted her.”
Grace sucked in a breath. Who was he? He was too young to be one of the men her mother had dragged home. “Do you really think the cupcake is good?”
“I do.” He finished the last bite and crumpled the paper. With a flick of his wrist he tossed the small wad into the trash bin across the room.
His smooth voice flowed over her skin like a swatch of velvet. Whoever he was, he’d talked about her treat like a man who knew food. Was he a rival? Had he come to steal her recipes? He certainly hadn’t come to ask for a job. Not when what he wore looked custom made.
“What will you call this one?”
Grace stepped back. The cold marble of the worktable edge pressed against her back. “Fruitcake.”
“Not like any I’ve ever tasted.” He grimaced. “Hate holiday parties when the hostess presses dark dense stuff she’s ordered by mail or baked.”
Grace laughed. “I’ve eaten some of them. For me, this is trial sixteen.”

You can find Janet at the following social media sites..

Twitter http://twitter.com/JanetL717



2.15.2014

So You Want Me To Write a Sequel to Crisis of Identity, Huh?


Crisis of Identity was such a fun book to write. I wrote Tess' character bold and daring, giving her spunk and sass. Heather at Sizzling Hot Book Reviews said, "The absolute, best thing about Crisis of Identity was Tess. She was awesome! There is no better word to sum up her personality. She was funny, brave, and completely ready to kick some butt if need be. She was my kind of heroine. She didn’t need a man to take care of her, she did it on her own, and did it with style. By far, hands down, my new favorite female character."

Since its release, I've had several readers (and reviewers) bemoan the fact the story seemed...um...unresolved. One reviewer went so far as to say if I intended to write a sequel she didn't intend to read it. Boo on her. Her loss, I say. Others have hoped for a sequel, and those readers gave me the encouragement to resolve the issues left dangling in Crisis #1.

I can understand why readers would want more. Really, I do. Tess is a hard character to say goodbye to and I gave her a happy for now ending when she deserved a happily ever after. And at the risk of giving up spoilers ****SPOILER ALERT**** I don't think Trevor was the guy to give her the happily ever after her heart craved, despite his ultra-charming, testosterone-laden hotness. I mean, who can resist a bad boy in a cowboy hat.

Well...as it turns out... No, I'm not going to tell you the how and the why. You'll have to read the sequel and find out for yourself.

So I knew if I was going to write a sequel about the further adventures of Tess, I would have to get back into her character, and I realized that might not be the easiest thing to do considering Crisis of Identity was released over a year ago. I started writing and stalled out. Picked up the story again a few months later and couldn't get very far. I needed Tess to be the same, spunky kick butt character, but...with a little more maturity.

You see, the trouble was I had learned a few things about writing romantic suspense between then and now. Romantic suspense is a fine balancing act between the romance plot line and the suspense plot line. Veer too sharply one way or the other and readers of the genre get kind of...testy. Suspense is generally a plot-driven genre. Scene after scene of tense, edge of the seat action, one heart stuttering moment after another. Romance on the other hand is very much character-driven. Romance readers want the writer to wallow their characters in emotion and feelings, analyzing their every mood and sentiment toward the object of their affections...or lust. Can you see how diametrically opposed those two concepts could be?

So the romantic suspense writer not only strives for balance between romance and suspense, but must also be acutely aware that her plot-driven suspense must be supported by in-depth characterization typical of character-driven romances. Deep point of view. A tricky balancing act.

So...dear readers, I worked hard to bring you a sequel to Crisis of Identity (Crisis #1). The sequel is entitled Crisis of Serenity (Crisis #2) and I expect its release sometime in 2014. Right now, it's with my beta readers. Once I do some more editing, then I'll submit it to my publisher. More news on its upcoming release as it becomes available.

Meanwhile....

Here's the blurb....


Tess Copeland lives a quiet life in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Thanks to the government’s witness protection program, she enjoys the freedom of never having to glance over her shoulder to see if someone is following her. Life has become safe, serene...and boring. Her heart longs for something more than just existing...until a ghost from her past shatters her serenity.

Once upon a time, Tess was stuck between the FBI and the men the feds were trying to take down. Jake Coleman is the U.S. Marshal who extracted her from the jam she was in with the FBI, a man she could have fallen for...hard...if she had let herself. It’s been a year since she last saw Jake, and in all the months that have passed, he’s never tried to find her. The longer he keeps his distance, the more she wonders why his absence hurts so much.


When a stranger comes to town searching for her, all of Tess’ old fears are resurrected. Asking Jake for help with her current crisis might lure him into a dangerous trap involving murder, kidnapping, and revenge. When Jake and Tess come face-to-face with the past, they will have to use all their wits to survive.

Ooops, yeah, I let a plot twist slip in that blurb, didn't I? No mention of cowboy Trevor. Wonder what that means, huh?

So here's a little excerpt, just to tease you. Enjoy.

My stomach contracted in a spasm of anxiety. Iverson knew where I worked. It wouldn’t take much digging to figure out where I lived. When would he show up at my front door? Would he break into my apartment and hide out there, laying in wait for me like the criminal that he was? He should have never been released from custody. The Colorado cops should have held him until they found all the evidence they needed. Surely they could have arraigned him on some trumped up charge. He had blood all over his hands—maybe not literally but figuratively.

By the time I dodged traffic crossing the street, trudged across the parking lot, and inserted the key into the lock of my apartment door, I was convinced Iverson had found out where I lived and he’d pounce on me as soon as I entered. I slammed the door open and put my hand on Joyce’s head to protect her from whatever was about to happen, but nothing had disturbed the apartment’s serenity since I left early that morning. Even my neighbor’s usual bass-heavy music didn’t penetrate the thin walls.

Joyce tugged at my ear. “Hungy,” she whined.

“Shhh, sweetie. I’ll fix you something in a minute. Aunt Tess has to change her clothes and get out of these shoes.” I sighed. “Actually, Aunt Tess needs… I need to sit down for a minute.” The tension coiling in the back of my head made me dizzy.

I dropped my bag on the small dinette table, sat Joyce in her high chair, plopped onto the worn sofa, and put my head in my hands. My life seemed so pathetic—me and my sister’s child, squashed together into one room and a bath with a worn dinette set, a ramshackle portable crib, a used hide-a-bed, and a 19” TV. The furnace rumbled as if to punctuate the dismal nature of our pitiful existence.

The phone rang, shattering my pity party into a billion pieces. I counted my pennies, so I wasn’t able to hide behind the shelter of Caller ID. Even that little extra would have made a dent in my limited disposable income. I wanted to yell at the anonymous caller. No, my car warranty hadn’t expired. I had no car. No, I didn’t have $6,000 of credit card debt. I had no credit card. And no, I didn’t want to contribute to a worthy cause. I needed charity—although I would never accept it. Since I had sworn off ever running a con again, I swallowed my pride and enrolled Joyce in the WIC program, but I refused to take anything from anybody for myself.

I let the blasted beast ring. There was nothing I wanted from anyone, except to be left alone.

My hand slid beneath the sofa cushion and latched onto a more certain means of security than witness protection. The texture of the gun’s grip should have felt like cold comfort, but it didn’t. I wasn’t supposed to own one. It was part of my immunity deal with the feds. They didn’t know me. They didn’t live my life. The day after I moved to Gatlinburg, I bought the gun anyway. Iverson’s presence in Gatlinburg meant I needed to start carrying it with me wherever I went.

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