Posts tagged with: romantic suspense

Choose your poison

For some reason, my husband got nervous tonight when he found me cooking dinner and reading a book on poisons. If only he knew how normal this is in our house…

Research is a passion of mine, as it is with many authors. At the moment I’m struggling with Christmastime poisons in regency England. In 1800, over 90 percent of poisonings were due to plant toxicity. Today, that percentage is down to 7 percent. Since I need to kill my villain, I need something that was deadly and available in England at that time. Mistletoe? Not very toxic at all for an adult human, although it would make anyone sick. Holly berries? The same.

Now, the English or European Yew tree is another matter. Found in many church yards all over the British Isles and France, a tea made from the leaves is deadly in only a few hours. Withered leaves are even more potent than fresh ones, and fortunately for my Christmas story, the yew keeps its leaves year round. But how am I going to disguise the taste? Hmmm.

English nightshade is another possibility. Although it flowers in the summer, the deadly fruit doesn’t show up until fall. Even the roots are deadly. This plant is known for belladonna, used in small quantities to make pupils dilate by the rich and famous in the renaissance.

Hemlock is another good choice. While Socrates famously drank it, a sneaky writer would put the leaves in a salad along with spinach. Not a good choice for a Christmas story, so let’s put this away for a later tale.

Privet hedges are all over England and give wonderful privacy. The entire genus Ligustrum plant is poisonous, particularly the blackish berries. However, a well-tended hedge won’t flower or have any berries. The plant thrives in the wild, so our intrepid villain could go on a stroll to gather his murder weapon.

This was in the days before autopsies, CSI laboratories, or even the germ theory of disease. Poisonings could be passed off as natural causes or terrible mistakes. It’s impossible to know at this distance how many poisonings were never suspected or ignored by relatives, neighbors, and the community. 

Makes you wonder why Mr. Bennett put up with Mrs. Bennett all those years when relief was right outside his door. 

Kate Parker makes her living by killing people, but only in her stories. The third Victorian Bookshop Mystery, The Royal Assassin, comes out in July. Bon Appetit!

Meet 2014 Golden Heart Finalist Denny S. Bryce!

Today we’re delighted to welcome Denny S. Bryce, a 2014 Golden Heart Finalist in the Romantic Suspense category with her contemporary novel CHASING DAMN.

dennybryceAsk Denny for a bio, and she’ll tell you, “I want to break it into acts. I’ve had three careers (and working on number four—writing romance:), and each has had its own beginning, middle and end (except the romance author who is just getting started:).” After college, she danced professionally in New York, New York, working with modern dance companies including Matthew Diamond and Alvin Ailey II. After a few years of loving the life of a struggling NYC artist “way too much,” she returned to Chicago (she’d graduated from college in Lake Forest, IL) and managed to get a job in public relations. Ten years into that career, she launched her own marketing and PR firm. And during that block of time, she started writing fiction (actually fan fiction in the Buffy/Spike fandom). Her first books were urban fantasies, then the romance took over and she was writing paranormal romance. She’s written romances in four genres—paranormal romance, urban fantasy, contemporary romantic suspense and a historical set in 1925 Chicago’s Bronzeville community. She currently lives outside DC next to a lake, not far from her grown son, who’s married and lives in the city.

Here’s a blurb for CHASING DAMN:

FBI Special Agent Nikki Chase is a brilliant ethical hacker, and the middle sister who doesn’t follow the rules. Nikki returns home after three years to search for her younger sister, a twenty-two year-old law student, she believes is missing. But other family members don’t agree, and she sets out on her own only to discover a connection between a cyber theft and her sister’s disappearance. Can she count on a one-night stand to help her solve a crime and save a life? Or will her inability to trust a man with more than her body keep her from making the right choice?

Ray Taylor, owner of a private security firm, is a government contractor for Homeland Security with a talent for persuading mid-level criminals to snitch on their bosses. He is determined to catch a sex-trafficking gang leader, but after a snitch commits suicide in front of him, he’s reevaluating his priorities. But when a one-night stand is the adopted niece of his next sting, he has to answer the question what matters most? His hate or his heart?

CHASING DAMN is a romantic suspense about an emotionally scarred woman and a determined private security consultant forced to work together to catch a cyber thief, but they soon learn the cyber gang leader wants more than data—he wants revenge.

Sweet! Those kinds of wounded, prickly, intense (and deep down inside vulnerable) heroines and heroines are right up my alley! Can’t wait!

And now a treat for today’s visitors: Denny’s a champion of the Romantic Suspense genre, and today she’s offering one lucky commenter a $10 Amazon gift card, which you’ll have to promise to spend on a Romantic Suspense!

In keeping with the suspense theme, I invite you all into my secret, high-security underground computer surveillance lair for a highly confidential chat with Denny! (Don’t worry…the chairs are comfy and the coffee’s strong! Plus, the brownies should be out of the high-security oven any minute now.)


Welcome, Denny! Here’s my favorite starter question: tell us the story of your Golden Heart Call…

It was the best call ever (so far). I had turned off the Internet and settled in front of my computer to work on revisions for a story that wasn’t the romantic suspense I submitted for the Golden Heart. When my cell phone rang at 9:30 am I looked at the area code, I saw it was from the Midwest. Definitely not a Texas area code because yes, I thought GH calls came from RWA headquarters. And in PR, you pick up strange skills—knowing area codes is my thing:).  I answered the phone expecting to talk marketing stuff to a client when the woman on the other end asked for “Denny”. Outside of the writing world, only my mom and dad call me Denny:). And I didn’t recognize the voice.  So, I said, why are you calling me? (Manners went out the window). “Denny, this is XXX (no typo here:). I asked the caller six times, but I still don’t remember the name of the wonderful woman who called me. But if you read this, please let me know who you are, and I’m sorry for all the yelling. Yes, I might have raised my voice for five minutes saying over and over again, “Oh, my God!”

Tell us about your inspirations as a writer. Who’s got your back when the going gets tough?

I met a group of women four years ago at my first Washington Romance Writers (WRW-DC) retreat. Thirteen of us formed a group called the Waterworld Mermaids. The original crew included: Alethea Kontis (our leader:)!, Avery Flynn, Robin Covington, Loni Glover, Carlene Love Flores, Kerri Carpenter, Masha Levinson, Susan Andrews (aka Susan Jeffrey), Dana Rodgers, Diana Belchase, Kimberly MacCarron, Pintip Dunn, and moi. These fantastic women writers (our tag line:) have inspired me every day with their generosity, humor, fearlessness, frustration, determination, and awesome talent.

Ah, yes—I’ve seen the Waterworld Mermaids around the web. And, aside from the published folks, some of the names from that list should be familiar to anyone who’s perused lately….

Two of those women are also 2014 Golden Heart finalists, in fact, both are double finalists (Kim and Pintip – my critique partner:)! The rest of the group are authors you are familiar with (or should be:), or like me, authors seeking publication as others gear up to self-publish.

So yeah, although I sometimes point to a pretty face or a photo of a perfect set of abs as inspiration for a character’s looks, the real deal for me and writing are the authors that help me stay in the writing cave and loving it there (whether it’s a good day or a bad day).

Congrats to all of the 2014 Golden Heart Finalists! So happy to be a Dreamweaver!

Congrats to you, too, Denny! And best of luck in San Antonio! So, do you have a question for our readers to get the conversation rolling today?

Many of us love to write – which is a given – but writing ain’t easy. What and/or who keeps you grounded? Who helps you get through when the writing days aren’t your best days….

And don’t forget: It’s Buy Romantic Suspense Day:)!

To support romantic suspense authors, one lucky commenter will receive a $10 AMAZON gift certificate for which you’ll be honor bound to buy a romantic suspense!!!!


You can visit Denny at her website,; on Twitter @dennysbryce or on Facebook at or visit


Words are like a living entity, with the incredible ability to spread on their own. And partnered with today’s technology their range and speed are vast. They have the power to influence one, or many, and in doing so change the world. They have the potential to span centuries and thus persuade or motivate generations.

Think about that, because as an author that colossal sovereignty comes through you.  What a huge responsibility.

As authors, we spend considerable periods of time thinking about our characters and plot. Then we write. After which, we layer in emotions, senses and setting details. And of course, there is the endless tweaking of dialogue, sentence structure, hooks and much more. However, have you consider the message of your story?

I love to learn new things when I read, and I believe my readers do too. My all-time favorite book is Jean M. Auel’s Valley Of The Horses. Yes. It is a romance, at least it is to me. A beautiful love story. The novel’s setting is the primeval world. I applauded Miss Auel for her research. I can’t imagine the years she spent doing the work. While reading, I learned tons about herbs and ordinary plants and their therapeutic uses. I also learned a valuable safe aid tips, not to mention I discovered a fantasying past world.

In my romantic suspense stories, I’ve embedded true crime cases and safety tips in hopes my readers take heed and share the pointers, because one day my message might just save them from harm. Each of my contemporary novels contain messages relating to honesty with one’s self, strength of character and of family the their importance. My readers have responded positively to my messages in their reviews.

We have the power to change others’ lives-save lives. We can change people’s perception of themselves, help them understand a different person’s perspective or perhaps handle a stressful, urgent situation in a much better way than they would’ve. We can change their beliefs about history, people, the world or the future. We can spur them to take action for a cause. When their life changes, they remember you.

Great stories share information as well as entertain. What is the knowledge that you want to share for the Greater Good with your readers?

Autumn Jordon is happy to announce the release of PERFECT HEARTS.

PerfectHearts2_1400 - Copy (533x800)Blockbuster Movies show it, Platinum Records praise it, great literature lauds it…every living soul searches for it. Good grief, Carrie Twines’ livelihood depends on it. Everyone in Black Moose, Vermont seems to be in love or in hot pursuit of it. Their bliss only reminds Carrie of what she lost as a teen when two geeky best friends became first loves—until heartache sent them on different paths.

Carrie returns to Black Moose to emerge from the shadows of her parents’ stardom and find a normal life, love and family, but the odds are stacked against her. However, her luck is about to change. As she contemplates the merits of spinsterhood, a game of chance brings her back to the man she’d walked away from years ago. He’s even more kind and sexy than he was fourteen years ago, but can she trust him with her heart again?

Luke McQuire is a man with two things on his mind: building his electrical business and evading the town diva, Olive Ann. But when Carrie shows up again like a lucky penny, he’s got more to think about—including why she left him in the first place. He’s a damn good electrician, but can he make sparks fly with the one woman he wants—the one woman who was able to resist him?

Readers loved PERFECT, and the rib-tickling, warm fuzzy feelings continue in PERFECT HEARTS.

Foreign Affairs: An Interrogation Report for Suspected Russian Spy

SUBJECT:  Ex-KGB Agent Nikolai Markov, hero of THE RUSSIAN TEMPTATION by Nikki Navarre

State secrets have never been this sexy.

State secrets have never been this sexy.

INTERROGATOR:  CIA Agent James Riley, hero of AN AFFAIR OF DECEIT by Jamie Michele

LOCATION:  CIA Interrogation Facility, Washington, D.C.

DATE:  Yesterday 

RILEY:  Given these anomalies in your travel documents and your, ah, colorful history, you’ll understand why we need to ask a few questions, Mr. Markov.  Mind if I call you Nikolai?

MARKOV (lighting a Gauloise cigarette): I’d prefer it if you didn’t, Dr. Riley. As I’ve explained repeatedly to your CIA underlings, my name is Nikolai Kirov, and I’m an independent security consultant. A simple case of mistaken identity, no doubt, that you seem to have confused me with this ex-KGB hit man I take it you’re looking for.

Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Chris Taylor

Today we’re delighted to welcome Chris Taylor, another of the fabulous Lucky 13s, and a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the 2103 Golden Heart.

Chris lives in rural Australia on 25 acres with her husband, five kids and two dogs. During the course of her career, she’s been a nurse, a lawyer, an English and mathematics tutor and is currently work part-time at her local high school as a learning support officer. She’s been writing seriously for nearly 4 years and has completed 7 books in a loosely-linked romantic suspense series set against the beautiful Australian landscape. Several of the books have already finaled in contests like the Emily and Australia’s prestigious RWA Emerald. Her Golden Heart finalist THE PREDATOR is one of these stories. It delves into the dark and horrifying world of online child predators.

Here’s a blurb:

Four years ago, Brandon Munro did the unforgivable: he betrayed the woman he loved in order to protect an undercover operation tasked with infiltrating a terrorist cell.

Alexandra Cavanaugh’s world fell apart with Brandon’s betrayal. Refusing to listen to his explanation, she fled their home, taking her secret with her. Now, four years on, she has built a successful life and career as an Australian Federal Police officer working in a High Tech Operations team hunting online predators. In conjunction with Interpol and the FBI, her team is in pursuit of a pedophile ring that has its origins in Belgium.

Fate intervenes when Brandon comes striding into Alex’s office and back into her life. Thrown together in a race to uncover a global ring of pedophiles stalking vulnerable school girls online, Alex and Brandon are forced to confront their past.

While both struggle with guilt and forgiveness and the resurgence of love, they are unaware of the predator who stalks close to home.

You can learn more about Chris’s books online at

Take it away, Chris!


Chris Edited for profileI’m so thrilled and honoured to be invited as a guest blogger with the Rubies and to join the haloed ranks of RWA’s Golden Heart Finalists. It was such an exciting moment to receive the call. Me, an ordinary, everyday, nobody-special writer from Australia. It made me realise dreams do come true and anyone can make it if they dream big enough.

There are so many ordinary heroes in our everyday life. They’re not necessarily blessed with movie star looks, they’re not necessarily built like supermodels, but they are just as brave, just as deserving and more humble than many of the heroes we tune into on our TV screens and social media platforms on a daily basis.

These unsung, ordinary, everyday heroes have always called to me and it’s for this reason, I give them centre stage in my books. Given my legal background, it’s not surprising that I’m attracted to law enforcement and all of my stories contain at least one main character who is a police officer.

They are good looking (of course they are, these are a romance books, after all), but they are ordinary, everyday people, with ordinary, everyday flaws and imperfections, dealing with the myriad of stresses (big and small) that we all face during the course of our lives.

To keep it interesting, I like to write about topics that are confrontational and not necessarily popular. As mentioned above, in my Golden Heart story, The Predator, my hero and heroine are investigating online pedophiles. The story’s shocking and quite confronting, but I think it’s an issue that needs to be exposed and somehow dealt with.

Another story in this series is titled, The Wall and I deal with the issue of incest. In other stories, I have written about betrayal by a trusted friend, child kidnappings, suicide and serial killers.

Heavy stuff and not exactly the kind of thing you might expect in a romance novel, but as much as we might not want to believe it, scary stuff like this happens. I like to think my stories might help raise awareness in a small way to some of the darker sides of our society.  With awareness, comes knowledge, education and change and that can only be a good thing.

But I also believe in love and I truly believe love can conquer all. My stories are, above all, love stories. Despite the horror and the fear and the despair all around them, my unsung hero and heroine still find time for love. And of course, despite the seemingly unsurmountable odds, love wins out every time. (I am an optimist, after all).

Do you believe in the power of love? Do you believe each of us, either singularly or collectively, have the power to change what is not right in our society? I would love to know your thoughts.

Ruby Release: Finding Her Rhythm by Dani Wade

One of the joys of my Indie-publishing endeavors is being able to write a book how it wants to be written– let the characters lead me and follow them without restraints (or into restraints, if that’s where they want to go). My editors have led my Harlequin books in great directions, strengthening them and my skills. But there are just certain things Harlequin books don’t do. So Indie publishing lets me explore different aspects of my creativity.

In this case, I was able to follow the leading of my hero – my rock star hero.


When I first envisionsed Michael Korvello, little voices nagged at me. There’s a long-held rumor that editors don’t want Rock Stars. They aren’t popular enough. But still he hung around – that bad boy, brooding rocker attracted to the anti-thesis of his high profile lifestyle, his nanny.

I just couldn’t get him out of my mind, and before long, despite the push and pull of my first print release and new proposals, I had the full-blown story of a man who was lonely but afraid of revealing his true nature. And a woman so battered by life that trust had been all but obliterated – especially for a first rate performer.

So I chose to follow my characters and discovered a world beneath a world. The performer who wants to be seen and loved as a real man. A family who misses him. A woman who learns to trust him to protect her. A brother who teases and torments him, but who always has his back – on and off the road.

They took me on a journey and I enjoyed every minute! (Well, until I reached revisions.) A journey of a family trying to find each other again, and a man hell bent on using his sexual talents to teach a woman everything that she’s capable of, and everything they can be together.

So let’s celebrate those fun journeys we get to take when we follow wherever our characters lead! Share the last “fun” discovery you made about your book/characters while writing!

One commenter will win a giftie! An Amazon or B&N giftcard for a new journey of discovery.


A Valentine’s Day Ruby Release!

Ruby LoveThis year Valentine’s Day falls on the same day as our Winter Writing Festival check-in, so I’m celebrating a little early. Happy Valentine’s Day!

People in young relationships traditionally do something romantic and often extravagant on Valentine’s Day. However, as a relationship matures and becomes settled, we frequently become complacent and neglect to observe this holiday for lovers.

Sometimes it’s because we’ve become overly practical and decide we don’t need to be romantic on cue. As a result, some of us celebrate some other day when there’s no wait for a table at a good restaurant, roses only cost $9.99 a dozen, and heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are marked down to 50% off.  And then there are some who have trouble thinking of ways to be romantic and simply don’t do anything. If you’re like me and you married one of those individuals you might want to read a Ruby blog I wrote in 2010, Valentine’s Day Encouragement for the Romantically Challenged, for a bit of consolation.

In my opinion, rescheduling your personal Valentine’s Day to a more opportune time is great as long as you don’t ignore spending time with your sweetheart and showing him or her the depth of your love. My family moves holidays all the time to accommodate everyone’s schedule. We’ve permanently moved Mother’s Day to the Saturday night before to avoid the mobbed restaurants, so is it any surprise I moved Valentine’s Day?

I must confess, the WWF check-in day wasn’t the only reason I wanted to celebrate today. The other reason is I officially launched my debut novel, The Memory of You, last year on Valentine’s Day here on the Ruby Blog, although, the book was actually published on February 6th. (Incidentally, that book is presently FREE at Amazon to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Operation Homecoming.)

This year, I (and my alter ego, L.L. Kellogg) pushed hard to publish our seventh novel by February 5th, simply so I could say I published seven books in one year. Silly, I know, but it was my goal. And anyone who’s participating in the WWF knows how good it feels to meet an especially challenging objective.

The third reason I wanted to officially launch this book today is because the story actually opens at eleven p.m. on the night before Valentine’s Day. So without further ado (drum roll please), I’m proud to announce my alter ego, L.L. Kellogg, has just released  The Naughty Never Die,  Book 2 in the Seduction series.

The Naughty Never Die Book Cover SmallerAnyone who’s read Book 1 of the series, Hypnotic Seduction, knows there was a minor  suspense element in the story, however, it wasn’t substantial enough to categorize the novel as suspense. This new release was originally called Finding Trouble (the title under which it won the Ignite the Flame and Touch of Magic contests and became a Daphne DuMaurier finalist). It was SUPPOSED to be strictly a romantic comedy, too.

Much to my dismay, however, L.L., in her usual obnoxious way, took the story places I really didn’t want to go, because I DON’T WRITE SUSPENSE. But would L.L. listen to me? NO WAY. She insisted on bringing out the inner Snookie in my uptight, prissy Jersey Girl heroine and threatening her life.

(So maybe you can understand why I locked L.L. in her room today and refused to let her attend this launch party. You should’ve seen the floozy outfit she planned on wearing.)

Anyway, we once again ended up writing a fence-straddling plot. The romance half of the book is laugh-out-loud funny, whereas the suspense subplot is dark and edgy and scandalous enough to make our philandering politicians seem like choir boys. It’s still a Red-hot Romance that’s a Little Naughty and a Lot of Fun, but it’s definitely different than my other novels.

If only the good die young,

then New Jersey’s virtuous First Lady should be a cinch to kill.

Unless….deep down she’s really quite naughty.

The Beauty—a chronic people pleaser who’s had enough of her goody-two-shoes life

Since her mother’s untimely death, crusader Josephine Callahan has served as New Jersey’s First Lady. Acting as her father’s official hostess in the governor’s mansion is tantamount to living in a fishbowl, which makes S-E-X extremely difficult. On the brink of a nervous breakdown, frustrated Josie loses her usual good sense along with her cool and lets her assemblyman boyfriend sweet-talk her into an impromptu romantic getaway–something she would never consider if she had a clue someone is trying to kill her.

The Beast—an incurable bad boy who refuses to admit beneath his scars lurks a hero

A deliberately twisted message, via the governor’s spiteful assistant, misleads ex Special Forces officer, DJ Ryder, as to the true objective of his freelance assignment. He’s told to, not only track down the governor’s classy daughter and hold her in protective custody, but to also teach her a lesson by letting her believe she’s been kidnapped.

When Josie discovers the scarred, but still sexy, badass has played her for a fool, she retaliates by feigning a raging case of Stockholm syndrome, teasing the brute until all he can think of is the ‘hold her’ part of his orders. How can Ryder concentrate on keeping Josie safe when he’s busy avoiding the danger she poses to his heart?

Now that I’ve shared what my heroine, Josie, will be doing for Valentine’s Day, how about you?  What plans to have with your sweetheart?

Do you ever have trouble keeping your plot from going places you’d prefer not to visit—like the sick mind of a psychopath?

Leave a comment to be eligible for a drawing to win a $25 American Express Gift Card.

Don’t Let Your Savvy Reader Down

Romantic suspense readers are savvy.  They know their stuff.

Some RS readers enjoy reading stories set on foreign soils. The unfamiliarity of the setting might add to the reader’s intrigue. Or, this reader feels more comfortable knowing the danger the characters face is far away from their safe world. Others, on the other hand, might get an extra charge knowing the dangerous world unfolding between the pages could be set in their own neighborhood. These are the readers that sleep with their lights on and double check their locks. You the author must decide what is the best location for your novel, and know stuff.

What stuff?  Well, besides general setting, which is a no-brainer, and since we’re discussing romantic suspense, you need to know what law enforcement agencies are found in the region you’re using, and, very important, which agencies would be involved in your case at the particular time frame of your plot.  Nothing is more annoying to a savvy RS reader than the author using the wrong agency.

Has it happen?  Yes. It did for me and I promptly returned the author’s work.

Did you know…

…most cases are initially handed at a local level. Under certain circumstances state or federal agencies are involved. There are many partnership tasks forces in place. That is not saying the state and federal resources and data banks are unavailable to the local agents. Those data banks are always available. Always check state and local procedures to involve federal agents.

…the CIA and FBI are both members of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The CIA, however, is not a law enforcement organization. Its function is to collect information only regarding foreign countries and their citizens and analyzes the information vital to the formation of U.S. policy, particularly areas that impact USA national security. It is said, that the CIA is prohibited from collecting information regarding “U.S. Persons,” (U.S. citizens, resident aliens, legal immigrants, and U.S. corporations, regardless of where they are located.)

…The FBI is a primary law enforcement agency for the U.S. government, charged with enforcement of more than 200 categories of federal laws. The FBI task forces have proven to be a highly effective way for the FBI and federal, state, and local law enforcement to join together to address what are called concurrent jurisdiction cases, where a crime may violate local, state, and federal laws all at the same time. Task forces typically focus on terrorism, organized crime, narcotics, gangs, bank robberies, kidnapping, and motor vehicle theft.  To learn more about what the FBI investigates visit;

…Single-mission agencies such as DEA which is in charged with enforcing drug law and the ATF, which enforces federal firearms statutes and investigates arsons and bombings works closely with the FBI on cases where jurisdictions overlap.

…US Marshals Service (USMS) is the nation’s oldest and most multi-talented federal law enforcement agency. The Marshals occupy a uniquely central position in the federal justice system. Its mission is to protect, defend, and enforce the American justice system. It is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, and as such, it is involved in virtually every federal law enforcement initiative. The U.S. Marshals Service has been designated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the primary federal agency for apprehending fugitives that are wanted by foreign nations and believed to be in the United States. Additionally, the Marshals Service is the primary federal agency responsible for tracking and extraditing fugitives who are apprehended in foreign countries and wanted for prosecution in the United States.

…there were five branches of the armed services. Yes, five.  Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army and the Coast Guard. The United States Coast Guard is the one branch of the armed services that does not trace its chain of command through the Department of Defense. It falls under the Department of Homeland Security and as such it is responsible for protecting our shores and inland waterways.  As we all know, the Coast Guard does so much more.

When I brainstormed the plot for my most recent RS release, SEIZED BY DARKNESS, I knew three things. One, I wanted the story to be set in my backyard, northeast USA.  Yup, I’m a making-sure-my-doors-are-locked-and-gun-loaded kidda of girl. Two, the story was going to be about a kidnapping victim reclaiming her life, which meant the FBI probably had been involved in the case but since years had passed my heroine’s case was probably buried under thousands of others. Finally, I wanted the hero to be a part of an elite division of a U.S. agency. But which agency?

Since I was planning a series revolving around a top task force, I needed an agency that is constantly involved in a wide array of cases and the setting could be anywhere in the world. After some research, which led me to the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act of 2006, the decision was a no-brainer for me. I went with the US Marshals and my C.U.F.F. team came to life.

As a result of the Adam Walsh enactment, the USMS established the Sex Offender Investigative Branch (SOIB) in August 2006.  The USMS is the lead law enforcement agency responsible for investigating sex offender registration violations under the Act.  This information and more took my story on a different path—a more emotional one.

So far I’ve referred to USA law bureaus, but if you’re writing a foreign setting you’ll need to know the appropriate law enforcement agents there.  A simple search, as I posted below, can start you on your way to learning facts that will set your novel apart from others and ensure accuracy.

Did you know…

… it is the French DST, “Département de la Sûreté/SécuritéTerritoriale” (Department of Territorial Safety/Security), commonly referred to as la Sûreté that is equivalent to the American FBI.

…the equivalent to the CIA in China is guó ān bù 国安部. Qíng bào bù 情报部 is military intelligence.

…In Britain SOCA (serious organized crime agency) are the UK FBI equivalent. MI5/ 6 are the equivalent of the CIA. (Enter James Bond.)

Once you know the agency, you can gather details about the organization and their agents that will enhance your story and bring your characters to life. Taking the time to research will earn you the respect of serious RS readers.

Talking Romantic Suspense: Writing a Series


Several years ago, when I realized I wanted to make writing a career, “trilogy” was the buzz word. Series were sought-after by publishers because they could rapidly build an author’s name, as well as their backlist. It seemed a logical business move to structure the stories in my head into a series—especially since I’d always enjoyed reading series by other authors, falling in love with their characters and looking forward to “seeing” them again like old friends. But how do you create a series readers will become hooked on?



A series, by definition, contains items that are related. Therefore, a series of books has someone or something that ties it together.

A Person

For instance, J.D. Robb’s “In Death” books and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series center around a character (in these cases, the heroine) who is the main character in each book. The romantic elements come from that character’s romantic life, and show the growth of the character over a broader time spectrum.

A Place or Thing

On the other hand, one can center a series around an idea, a family, an agency, or some other entity separate from the characters. In romance, this typically involves the wrapping up of a different couple’s love story in each book. Suzanne Brockmann has several romantic duos in each book of her Troubleshooters series, but one is always wrapped up at the end of each book, and they all center around her Troubleshooters agency.

Because I enjoy books that can stand alone and have a romantic conflict all wrapped up nice and neat by the end of the book, I chose the second route and created an agency named SSAM (The Society of the Study of the Aberrant Mind) that bound my books together. This way, I have the freedom to pick and choose heroes and heroines with different skillsets, different reasons to be tied to SSAM, and different personalities for each book. I didn’t want to be tied to the same characters for an extended time period, though many of my heroes and heroines are secondary characters in past and future books. I like that sense that each book is a family reunion of sorts, where readers can catch up with their favorite characters.



Just like with individual books, there should be change and maturation over the course of the series. If your series is focused on a primary character, each book should display some growth in that character, with a more extensive growth arc over the series of books. For the second type of tie-in… well, if characters can grow, then agencies, towns, and families can, too. In this case, the central tie-in element is, in fact, a character in many ways.

The growth arc I created for the Mindhunters series is closely tied to the founder of SSAM – Damian Manchester, who has a point-of-view as a secondary character in each book. His past pain, current struggles, and ultimate resolution are revealed gradually, with a piece of the puzzle in each book, until the end book, in which I hope to give him peace at last.



Each book should be able to stand on its own. Readers tend to get irritated when they realize they’ve purchased a book, but will have to go purchase other past or future books to get the rest of the story. The nice thing about a series, though, is that promoting one book often impacts the others.  More bang for your advertising buck.



  • Keeping it straight. As the series continues, it can be difficult for an author to keep all the facts, character traits, family relationships, and events in line with previous books. See Tamara Hogan’s earlier post about creating a series bible.
  • Keeping it fresh. The author should create new challenges in each book, but also tie them into previous and future books without being too repetitive.
  • Making each book stand alone. Start each book as if the reader hasn’t read the others, and doesn’t need to. This includes “sprinkling” in the series backstory as if it was character backstory. You don’t want the reader to think they’ve missed some key piece of the series, but you don’t want to spend page after tedious page giving the history of the series either.
  • Selling early books. I’ve been told that some readers wait until the entire series is available before buying any of them. This can, of course, affect your sales, but if it’s true, it should result in a nice jump in royalties when the final book is released.
  • Keeping the tension high. Maintaining that sense of the “ticking clock” and imminent danger is necessary for romantic suspense, but readers expect resolution, too. Keeping both over a series of books can be a unique challenge.
  • If you write the same-main-character type of series (a la Stephanie Plum, Eve Dallas, or Harry Potter), one challenge is showing character growth over the course of each book, and then over the course of the series.


  • Publishers like series. In fact, with my digital-first publisher (Carina Press), series are sometimes more likely to be put into print form (in this case, by the parent company, Harlequin). I’ve seen this happen with my Mindhunters books.
  • Readers like series. At least, this reader does. I like to get invested in the characters I read about, and see multiple aspects of their lives. It’s almost as if they’re part of a family. And if they’re in several books, even if they’re not always the main characters, I get a multifaceted, 3-D picture of them.
  • Authors like series. Writing a series gives you a chance to really delve deep into plot and character development, and you don’t have to do character development from scratch if the character has already appeared in a previous book, but you have more space to flesh them out, too.
  • As mentioned above, promotion of one book is promotion of all of the books.


What is your favorite series (from any genre – romantic suspense or otherwise)? What common denominator linked the stories within that series? When you read, do you prefer books that are part of a series?


Anne Marie Becker has always been fascinated with people and how they “work”—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Psychology, and Counseling.  Now, her roles as wife, mother, writer, and domestic goddess satisfy her curiosity.  She explores the dark side of criminal behavior and the saving powers of love and hope through her Mindhunters series. For more about Anne Marie and where to connect with her, please visit her at

Talking Romantic Suspense: Intimacy and Love

In Romantic Suspense there are two distinct stories. The suspense and the romance.

RWA defines romantic suspense as a romance novel in which suspense, mystery, or thriller elements constitute an integral part of the plot.

You need a strong suspense story and a strong romance. Then you weave the two together perfectly. Today I’m only going to talk about developing quick physical and emotional relationships.  

 In this genre the action moves fast and the story takes place over a relative short period. I write contemporary thriller/action adventure and the stories take place over a couple of weeks. BIG PROBLEM. An author has to weave in a plausible romance and bring it to a satisfying conclusion (don’t forget part of a romance definition is the HEA) in short timeframe.  Not easy.

 If your characters are meeting for the first time on the pages of your story how can that plausible relationship develop so fast? What about the sexual aspect?  Characters getting under the covers fast is crazy tricky. Of course if the characters have a history, good or bad as long as they have a touch point of knowledge, it’s less complicated.

 If you plan on writing sex for a hero and heroine who just met it is important you know yourself and your own boundaries.  Know what YOUR comfort zone is. If you can’t conceive of, or don’t agree with characters getting hot and sweaty together fast, for goodness sakes don’t do it.

For example I’m not comfortable with a 24 year old woman meeting a man,  two hours later being in bed and two weeks later being in a happy ever after relationship. Nor am I comfortable with someone that age knowing the man she’s just met is the one that fast. It would be impossible for me to give her the experiences that would allow her to make these decisions. Be clear here. I am NOT saying someone that age is incapable of making that decision, I’m saying I can’t write it to happen fast.   

Ergo, I write with heroes and heroines over 35. They have experience. To my way of thinking -my comfort zone- they are more capable of making a decision about going into a sexual relationship after a short time and handling any blow back. A 36 year old woman who has been around and experienced a lot in her life knows the ramifications of hooking up.

 You MUST know your characters.  What they will and will not do and why. I mean the down deep why.  While these issues are vital in every story, it is even more important in the fast pace RS genre.  You must know what circumstances will drive your heroine to hit the sheets quickly.  BTW I say heroine because I firmly believe she is the one who makes the decision as to the when and where.

 In my first book the H&H go home together after they first meet. I totally knew my heroine. What event formed her values and beliefs and was behind all her decisions. The day the H&H met, she suffered two huge setbacks in her story goal. Going with him that night breaks all her personal rules but she decides to console herself with some sexual healing. Give in, just once, to her own needs and the reader knew this. She leaves his bed before he wakes thinking she will never see him again. In a few days this comes back to bite her. It also begins the resolution to her story goal. 

 As for the HEA in this story, these two people were NOT looking for a relationship but found something in each other that filled a void they didn’t know existed. As the author, I knew it did. Knowing your characters inside and out allows you to understand what they fear, what they want, and what they need. You use it to get them to work out their problems together and rapidly establish a bond. With each other’s help they face their fears, they change, and are rewarded with love and in the suspense novel get the bad guy in the process. This is an over simplification but I hope you get what I mean. 

 When the H&H have a sexual history getting them into a speedy relationship is always easier. In my third book, two experienced intelligence officers from different agencies have an affair that lasted more than a year. He broke it off for his own misguided reason. They come together again working to find the same bad guy. With their history, the sexual tension lasts for only so long before they give in. Their HEA is very complicated. Again, I know them completely.

 Another way is to use what some call survivor sex. After two people share a near death experience sharing the life affirming act of sex is always a possibility.  As an author, you can put friends, detective or business partners, who have worked together for years and know each other completely into that death experience and life affirming sex after. The act changes a relationship to full blown love and HEA. On the surface this looks to be the easiest choice. Honestly it’s the most difficult for me to write. To get a good balance of conflict you really have to know your H&H.

 I can probably come up with a hundred more scenarios but this is already too long.

Bottom line

  • Dig deep
  • Know yourself
  • Know your characters inside out.

What do you think?

Rita writes books about extraordinary women and the men they love. To find out more visit her web home

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The Latest Comments

  • Marianne Hull: The genre is paranormal romance with shifters. It’s going to be a novella, I think, so there...
  • Autumn Jordon: Marianne, I’m not sure what genre you story is, so my suggestion might be totally off, since I...
  • Marianne Hull: I’m finding this very restrictive, but it does boil the story down to essentials. He walks away...
  • Lydia Stevens: Ooh! I like that! It definitely speaks to the immediacy of the conflict! Thank you! 🙂
  • Autumn Jordon: Happy to help.