Friday, February 27, 2009

The Ritas vs. Elton John/Billy Joel

I make no secret that I'm a huge Elton John fan and yesterday I just found out that my favorite musical performer is going to be playing at the Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, MA on July 18th with Billy Joel. I have wanted to see the two of them perform for more years than I can say. Last time they swung this way, I had 2 small children and 2 more had JUST permanently moved in with my husband and I. I went from a family of 4 to a family of 6 overnight and we just didn't have the funds for such a spectacular treat. (Never mind what it would have cost for a babysitter for 4 kids ages 7, 8, 9 and 10.) Well those 4 small kids have turned into teenagers and the funds are pretty much like water through my fingers. But unlike then, I do make time to treat myself with some things I love.

Why is this important to a suspense writer? Why am I writing about this in my blog?

Because one of my other passions is reading and writing. One of the other treats I look forward to each year is the RWA National Conference and the RITA ceremoy. The RWA National conference is being held in Washington DC from July 15 - July 18. When I heard the news that Elton John and Billy Joel were performing I just about jumped out of my seat...until I heard the July 18th part. You guessed it. That is the same night as the RITA ceremony. This is the one night that romance authors of all genres recognize excellence in romantic fiction. And I look forward to it every year!

Right now I'm reading my RITA books and I'm loving them. I've discovered so many new authors by judging the RITA contest. I have one single title suspense book that I've had at my side since I started reading it and I know it'll be finished by the end of the day. This is a new author for me and I know I'll read more books by her in the future. The RITA ceremony, much like the Oscars for the movie industry, is a special night and a ceremony I've loved attending in years past. I love rooting for a book that I've read and loved. I love seeing the faces of people who've not only won the RITA, but who've finaled in the RITA contest. And I love seeing the unpublished authors who final and win in the Golden Heart contest.

But then...there is Elton John and Billy Joel. I can't be in Foxboro and Washington, DC at the same time. I'm hoping that as the day draws closer and the excitement about hearing who finaled increases, the sting of not being able to see my favorite performer will lessen. Right now I feel like I'm in a tug of war. The RITAS vs. Elton John/Billy Joel. 365 days in a year and my two favorite things are happening on the same night...
Until next time, many blessings. Lisa Mondello

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The PushMe/PullYou Force

Love is a remarkable power. It can drive you toward a goal or away from danger. For instance, I write because I love it; yet when I was a kid, my love and respect for my mother kept me out of a whole lot of trouble. In a suspense book, love can be the compulsion that pulls the hero and heroine together or the motivating drive for the plot.

In my next book, The Taking of Carly Bradford, my heroine’s basic motivation is love. Three years ago, Dee lost both her husband and son. Her love for her son, and her craving to prevent another mother from feeling her loss, propels Dee into an almost obsessive search for a missing eight-year-old girl. In the meantime, her love for her husband at first blocks her growing affection for the book’s hero, Tyler. Yet it’s Tyler’s increasing love for Dee that finally tugs her into a place of healing.

When these elements are layered over the mystery of Carly’s kidnapping, they add to the level of suspense: Exactly how far will Dee go to save Carly and what will happen to her – and Tyler – if she pushes the villain to the edge?

And, yes, I do push Dee and the villain to that edge. I had to.

After all, I write romantic suspense because I love it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is the month of Love. And at our church, we’re doing the 40 Days of Love. It’s been pretty cool to see how things relate so much to love.
My husband and I host a small group in our home. So we were reviewing that night’s DVD session, talking about patience, and all of a sudden, our teenaged daughter threw open her bedroom door and yelled down, “D’ya mind? I’m sleepin’ up here and that TV is blarin’!”
Patience. The very word was flashing on the screen at that time. Allan and I exchanged a look. How could we justify sarcasm, or yelling or getting mad? A miracle happened. We both kept our mouths shut.
Then, we did something that was equally incredible. We watched a romance movie together. Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m a romance writer. I should be watching tons of them, right? Well, I’m probably the only romance writer in the world who’d rather watch a Star Trek movie instead.
But I have to say, I absolutely loved the movie! It was such a perfect movie to compliment our 40 Days of Love. It’s called Fireproof, and I recommend it highly.
All right, I know the critics slashed it. But hey, that’s why they’re called critics. They hate everything. And I know that it wasn’t the most technically perfect movie. There were some mistakes, like the firefighter taking off his mask inside the smoky house. But it touched me. It reached out and showed me nuances and hidden meanings and I actually understood them all. I thought about the movie for days and realized that it doesn’t have to be a perfect movie to be a good movie. It just has to have heart, which this movie has.
It’s about love. God’s love, our love. They mix and mingle and sometimes they don’t mix at all. And Fireproof has touched the lives of some of our friends. One is doing the same thing done in that movie with his wife, hoping to win her back.
Watch it, invite friends over. Talk about it. The Love Month is almost over, it’s still the perfect time .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Suspense Research

This month we've been talking about blending romance with suspense and I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite research websites.

The Graveyard Shift


The Writers Medical and Forensic Lab

Monday, February 23, 2009

Scavenger Hunt: Can You Solve the Mystery

Without a Trace...
Will a young mother's disappearance bring a bayou town together... or tear it apart?
This exciting new continuity from Love Inspired Suspense brings a special challenge to its readers.
Can you find the clues to the mystery?
This month, we'll be looking BACK at Margaret Daley's contribution, What Sarah Saw, for special clues from the book. If you haven't read it, you can purchase it here. Stay tuned, because each week during the month of February, a new clue will be released. Find the icon depicting the clue, and email the url you found it on to to be entered in a drawing for a special prize from author Margaret Daley.
Week One Clue: Alligator
Week Two Clue: Puppy
You can find clues on the site as well as on our pages on Facebook and MySpace.
If you want to get a jump start on next month's challenge, be sure to pick up the next book in the series, Framed! by Robin Caroll.
Check out the scavenger hunt at eHarlequin with this link:
Scavenger Hunt

DiAnn Mills' Breach of Trust

Breach of Trust
By DiAnn Mills

I really enjoyed reading this romantic suspense. You get pulled into Paige Rogers’ world in a small town in Oklahoma. She’s the local librarian who can handle whatever is thrown at her because she was a CIA operative who “died” in Africa on a mission.

Split Creek, Oklahoma is a quiet small town, not anything like what Paige was used to, but surprisingly she settled into her life, enjoying her job as the town librarian. But some of the people of the town aren’t who they seem to be. Someone is watching her for Daniel Keary, the shoo-in as the governor of Oklahoma and the man who wants her out of the way because she knows the type of man Keary really is.

DiAnn Mills has put together a story of opposites—a quiet life versus a life and death situation, a local high school football coach versus a high powered lawyer and the next governor of Oklahoma, lies and secrets versus honesty. She has woven together a story with intriguing characters who are thrust into fighting for their way of life and in the end their very lives.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Warren Detry killed his previous wife. Police officer Angie Delitano is convinced of it. She arrested the man herself, and testified against him in court. However, Angie's former fiancé, attorney Boone Walker, did too good a job with the defense. And now a murderer is free to marry Angie's sister. When Angie uncovers startling new evidence, she turns to the only person who can help before it's too late: Boone, the handsome, hardened man she once loved. But the deadly secrets they expose could lead Angie to her own early grave.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

murder and mercy

When the Barbour started up their mystery club, a few folks were startled that their Christian cozy mysteries had murders in them. How can killing fit into an inspirational book? The question amuses me because the most inspirational book of all, the Bible, is full of violence. As a matter of fact, the world is full of violence, wouldn’t you agree? That’s why we desperately need our Christian faith to give us something to hang onto in this treacherous world. So why put a murder in a Christian fiction book? Because it allows for the expression of that rock solid faith amidst the backdrop of spine tingling uncertainty. Faith doesn’t keep us out of trouble, and our books should reflect that fact. Plus, I need to confess, I do enjoy delivering that firm stroke of justice that often escapes evildoers in this life. In Christian suspense, you know the bad folks will be punished. You know spirits will be redeemed and the protagonists will wind up in a reasonably happy relationship. It’s what people long for in their day to day lives and we authors are blessed enough to deliver it in the pages of our books. Life and death, heartache and happiness, blend together in a soul satisfying read.

Killing me softly...really?

I have always written murder. It worried me. I am a normal person, mother, and wife. Yet, when I write, a dead body shows up. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t write romance and not have a dead body?

After I been around other writers who do mystery, and found they share my mind-set (notice I didn’t say twisted bent), I struggled with how could I write murder and Christian romance? What are most mysteries about? Greed, infidelity, murder, stealing—-bad behavior. Or in other words—sin. When you start thinking about all those sins, you can find vivid examples of them throughout the Old and New Testament. Murder--Cain and Able, infidelity—David and Bathsheba, jealously and murder—Absalom,greed—Ananias and Sapphiar. You name the sin, there is an example of it in the Bible.

When I write a murder, I can bring justice to the victim, and the characters learn how to deal with grief and the pain of that death. I had a heroine who miscarried a baby. She hadn’t deal with grief, but in her book she had to face her ex-husband, and both characters had to deal with their grief. It was a grief that had driven them to divorce. I had a reader tell me “thank you” after she read the book. The feelings the heroine experience the reader shared. Sometimes when I am writing, a lesson appears that surprises me, but I know the character needs that lesson. It is my prayer that what my characters go through could touch a reader’s heart and help and encourage them.

That is the best reward for my writing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why do we love suspense so much?

Maybe it is that "killing me softly" thing. Women love reading suspense novels. And all of us here love writing them. The woman in jeopardy story always has us on the edge of our seats. In today's novels, we try to make our heroines strong and independent but willing to let a man help them out now and then as long as he knows they are strong and independent. (And that drives him crazy at times.)

I have a suspenseful story to tell you. When my husband and I were first married and living in an apartment in Atlanta, Georgia, he worked the night shift for years. One night when my daughter was four or so and safely tucked into bed, I took a shower upstairs in the bathroom off the master bedroom. When I got out of the shower, I heard what sounded like someone rattling around downstairs in the kitchen. My heart beating rapidly, I wondered what to do. Should I call the police? This was before 911and our phone was downstairs. I thought, no, I can't get to the phone in the kitchen. And I had no weapons. The noise was growing louder and louder. I thought about running to a neighbor but I'd have to get my daughter up and the prowler might hear us. Finally, I decided I'd just go downstairs and around the corner and try to see who was in my tiny kitchen. I grabbed the first weapon I could find--a big old umbrella. My plan was to sneak downstairs and stab the intruder with the tip of that big, clunky umbrella or at least open it in his face and then run screaming toward the front of the house. Well, I came downstairs and tiptoed toward the kitchen at the back of the building, all the while breathing hard and so scared I was afraid I'd faint right there. Thankfully, I had left all the lights on in the kitchen. When I rounded the corner, umbrella held like a sword, to my surprise I found no one in my kitchen. I looked around, knowing there was no way anyone could have passed me to get to either of the doors out. Then I heard the rustling noise again, followed by a little sqeaking noise. I looked down and that's when I started screaming. A tiny mouse ran right by my bare feet! I did try to use the umbrella on him, but he was too quick. I did the only thing I could. I quickly opened the back door to the patio and shooed him out! He left pretty quickly because he was as scared as I was.

Talk about suspense. I will never forget that night or how I had to face my worst fears--a three inch intruder.

That is why I love suspense. It's that feeling of what's going to happen next? Who's after her and why? Will she live to find happiness with the man who's willing to fight for her? That's the fun of writing suspense and that's the joy of reading suspense. And sometimes, it's those little fears--those tiny as a mouse fears--that drive the real terror of a good story. But even now, when I'm alone and afraid in the house, I know I have a handy supply of sturdy umbrellas to use as weapons.
I guess I'm not the only one with such a tale to tell. I'd love to hear other stories of brave heroics (umbrellas optional :)

Lenora :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to Construct a Crime

by Linda Hall

During this month with its Valentine’s Day theme of ‘Killing me Softly’, (Remember that old song?), I thought I would begin with 'How I Begin,' that is how I sit down to start to write a Love Inspired Suspense novel - from scratch.

I’m at that stage now. My APRIL release SHADOWS ON THE RIVER will be out soon (Woo hoo!), and I’ve just completed another one for release next year. For the past few days I’ve been in the process of ‘crime construction.’

I always begin with the crime. I get my blank piece of paper and in capital letters with a red Sharpie, I write: THE CRIME in big letters.

And yes - if you remember my introductory posting from January - I do a lot of my writing by hand with colored ultra-fine Sharpies on one-side-clean sheets of paper that I get from the university. (So, the backs of what I write on can be anything from notices to faculty to stuff that students print off from the library.)

And then, red pen in hand, I brainstorm. I have to come up with a criminal, what he did, WHY he did it (really important) and how he either got away with it for all these years, or how he thinks he’s going to get away with it now. I will write down the timeline of the crime when he did what - even figuring in how long it takes him to get from Point A to Point B.

Story criminals need really, really good reasons to kill. Police officers will tell you that in reality most real murderers are “crimes of passion”, which means they’re done in the heat of moment with not a lot of forethought and planning. He was mad. A gun happened to be lying around. He picks it up and kills someone.

Our Love Inspired Suspense novels can’t be this way. Our criminals need to have very strong motives. The strongest I can think of is control. The villain is losing control of something important to him, something that he would kill to keep. And he ends up doing just that.

Often I will ‘brainstorm’ the crime with my husband or a friend. That part is fun!

Once I have my “crime map” finished I go back to the beginning of the book and write toward it.

Just as an aside, here’s the snow we had in our yard last week.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Killing me softly - with words

Killing me Softly – with words—

I love words! The way they sound, the way they go together, what they mean –the stories they become. I began reading at a really young age and as a child I remember being fascinated by the suspense stories, the who-dunnits, the mysteries. Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys were favorites. I loved the danger and the scary music.

With that kind of background, I suppose it was only natural for me to turn to suspense when I started writing. The thrill of building a story, the background for the characters and writing a bad guy…wow! Just the other day I sent my editor a thank you note for letting me have this job…LOL.

But one thing that seems to come up on a regular basis is the question – “Why do you write Christian Suspense?” Sure, I could write a book, focused on the mystery, the characters, and the plot, but to me, when you leave the faith element out, your characters become two dimensional. Why? Because we’re not two dimensional beings. God made us with a spirit so in order to have characters that don’t fall flat, it’s my opinion that an author must include the faith element.

I’m so blessed that I get to write about my Lord. Each book is like a devotional for me because as I’m writing all the action and suspense, I get to call on God for help, I get to thank Him for his faithfulness and goodness, I get to tell Him how awesome He is on each and every page of the story. It’s like one ongoing conversation with my heavenly Father. How incredible is that?

So, that’s why I chose Christian suspense—and why I like to kill my readers softly with a story that rocks and a God who loves.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

FRAMED! Interview

Today we're welcoming Ava Renault, the heroine of FRAMED! by Robin Caroll, February 2009. Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.
It wasn’t something I sought out, that’s for sure. I’m not quite certain what’s hit our town in southern Louisiana, but there’s been murders, people missing, attempted kidnappings . . . it’s been a scary place to live. But what pulled me into the midst was the murder of my brother, Dylan Renault.

2. So, during the book you met Max Pershing.
Actually, we were high school sweethearts, but during the book, we reconnected.
Tell us a bit about him. Max is a wonderful man. He’s kind and sensitive . . . honest and full of integrity. For him to be a suspect in my brother’s murder . . . well, that’s ridiculous.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness? My strengths is that I have a strong sense of loyalty to my family. My greatest weakness has been that I’m not as confident as I should be. I’m working to change that.

4. What scares you? Since
I lost my father not too long ago and just lost my brother, I’d have to say losing someone I love.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
That I didn’t stand up to my mother a long time ago.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?
Even though I’m asking God why He took both my father and brother—the two people I had for strength—I know He’s always in control.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?
Grateful that He touched Max’s heart and that He brought justice to the past.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
Proverbs 3:5. I chose this particular Scripture because often, Christians get caught up in life and when faced with a trial, we try to fix or solve it ourselves. Most of the time, this leads to great frustrations. We try to understand situations and bring about our own ideas for resolution. But during a trial, we can’t see the big picture. It’s beyond our own understanding. So this Scripture is a reminder to not lean on our own understanding, but to trust God with our whole hearts.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why? A chocolate soufflĂ© because it’s decadent, looks airy and light, but is rich and has such substance.

Thank you Robin for sharing Ava with us today. This second installment of the WITHOUT A TRACE continuity sounds exciting.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The prime suspect in her brother's murder: Max Pershing. He's the man Ava Renault has secretly loved since girlhood—against her controlling mother's wishes. The wealthy Pershings have a longstanding feud with the even wealthier Renaults. Still, Ava believes that Max is innocent…believes it strongly enough to give him her heart. But if he's not the killer, then who set him up? Who's the real murderer?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Killing Me .... Softly?

Carol Steward here to share why I love writing suspense. Christian romantic suspense to be more specific. What is it about this genre that works SOOOO well? Mystery, heroism, faith, and justice.

For me, it's the perfect blend. When I was a child, one of my favorite books was Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish. I still have that book, and I still love it as much as I ever did. I can't wait until my grandchildren are old enough to share it with me. (pictured to the right) It's adventure filled story about three siblings who solve an old family mystery that has eluded generations of children before them. And of course, the mystery is heightened by the fact that the kids are ordinary siblings who bicker and fight, keep secrets, and overcome the odds of finding the treasures hidden by their great, great, great grandfather when he left for the Civil War.

In spite of that first love of mystery, the fast-pace of suspense and drama have captured my grown-up heart. Since my father was a deputy sheriff, I suspect that is where my initial interest in crime and justice was first born. We lived in a small town, and though life was pretty quiet, there were a few incidents that encouraged me to move from writing pure romance to suspense, where the hero and heroine overcome all odds to find true love, no matter what is falling apart around them.

My earliest recollection of true suspense was when I was about 8 years old. My family lived in and owned a small motel in northeastern Colorado. Dad had been a deputy in Wyoming, and after they bought the motel, he was asked to serve again as a deputy. Dad had just come home from work and was watching the news when he heard about a jailbreak in our hometown three hours away. My teen-age sister had checked some guests into a motel room right after school, and suddenly dad became suspicious. By that time, the car was gone, and it appeared the men had stopped to clean up and had taken off again. He grumbled all evening about "missing" them. Late that night, Mom and Dad shoved all of us kids to the far side of the house, called in backup, and took the revolver (hey, it was a long time ago) off the piano. He was barking orders to us, talking on the phone to the dispatcher, telling each officer where to position themselves, and putting his uniform back on. As soon as other officers arrived, Dad and the other cops surrounded the room, front and back of the building, and arrested the felons. What my parents didn't know was that I'd snuck back into their bedroom and was watching the entire (uneventful) arrest. Had I written it, it would have been far more interesting. What I still laugh about to this day is the fact that these felons had broken out of the very jail where we'd lived, (just like in old Westerns, the sheriff and deputy lived in the same building as the jail) and escaped to the motel where the current deputy lived. Truth is really not much stranger than fiction.

As a reader and a writer, I love when everything is going wrong in the story, danger is looming, and just thinking about the hero or heroine can turn them into a "superhero" who fiercely defends the other, beyond any of their normal abilities.

Like true life, writing suspense has a lot of conflict and things going wrong. And yet, reliance on God allows good to overcome evil and love to prevail. Had I not lived with a hero or two, or several, I probably wouldn't enjoy suspense so much. I know that God can use any of us to stand up to evil. And we can win. It's certainly more fun to write it than it is to live it, though God never lets a good suspense go to waste. :o) Maybe that's why quirky crimes have "happened" to me. God is simply providing motivation for me to share with all of you.

Happy reading, and writing. Stay safe out there!

Carol Steward

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Susan Meissner Comes to Visit & Giveaway

I am delighted that my friend Susan Meissner could join me for an interview. I got to know Susan a bit in 2008 at a couple of writer retreats and conferences. She has an amazingly sweet personality and a beautiful writing style. I have enjoyed reading her books, and am delighted to have a copy of Shape of Mercy to give away. Just leave a comment at the end, and I'll enter you in the drawing.

Your Rachel Flynn series stars and attorney. Why did you decide to jump into the legal mystery arena?

Harvest House was looking for a series from me, and I knew the only kind I could feel good about writing was the kind where there’s closure at the end of each book. Mysteries are great for that because a good one offers a great solution at the end. Even if the recurring characters have some issues that they take with them into the next book, the overall tone of the book is one of closure. I picked the legal genre in particular because I had just spent a couple years as a guardian ad litem for the State of Minnesota. A guardian ad litem is a court-appointed advocate for children involved in child protection and truancy cases. I spent a lot of time with kids, parents, social workers, attorneys and in courtrooms during those two years so I felt like I had the basic knowledge to tell an accurate story.

What was the greatest challenge for you in writing a legal series?

The greatest challenge was getting all the little details to ring true. You can’t just make stuff up when you’re writing about police procedure and legal proceedings. Every time I had a character in a courtroom, in a police station, at the attorney’s office, I had to double check every action to make sure it could actually happen that way. For example, in one of my books, I had a person confess to a murder. A confession alone is not enough to seal a guilty verdict. The evidence must bear that the confessor actually did it. So when my character confessed to killing someone, I still had to take that person through the court process. He didn’t go from confessing in a police station to a prison cell.

How did you conduct research to get the details right?

When I began the Rachael Flynn series and gave my lead character a position with the prosecutor’s office for Ramsey County in St. Paul, I knew I had to talk to someone who knew what that job would entail. My experience was only with county attorneys in a district courthouse in a rural community. I knew it was going to be different in the big city. I called the Ramsey County Attorney’s office and asked if there was anyone, anyone at all, who could spend 10, 20, or 30 minutes with me so that I could pepper them with questions. To my utter joy, a managing prosecutor who dabbled in writing himself offered to do just that. We talked for 45 minutes. When we were done, he asked me if I had to head out right away (I had 100-mile commute home). I said no. He said, “Do you want to go court?” I said, “You bet I do!” He took me to the felony courtroom for the afternoon docket. I got to sit in the front row with the other prosecuting attorneys. It was the perfect way to envision my own character coming into that room from the jail and answering the charges against him. I also sent many scenes to a lawyer friend of mine who works for a public defender’s office in Florida. Between the two attorneys, I had two knowledgeable resources for getting the details right.

Rachel Flynn has a slightly supernatural element to the plot, yet it works. How did you balance her foresight/dreams so that the plot isn't conveniently resolved by that element?
I wanted there to be something unique about Rachael Flynn, otherwise she wouldn’t be different than any other determined young woman in every other legal mystery. Giving her insights that come from God allowed me to make the faith element organic. I didn’t have to force theological issues or concepts into the dialogue and narrative. Those elements came naturally because Rachael was dealing with an obvious gifting by God on a slightly supernatural level.

You've written about ten books. How do you find a fresh angle for each?

It’s actually getting harder, not easier to write new material. That surprised me about writing. Each time I finish a book I raise the bar for myself. Each subsequent book has to have an angle I haven’t touched before and that gets harder! Part of landing on new material is being uber observant. I try to take everything in. I read newspapers and news magazines to stay on top of cultural and societal changes – these often suggest a new premise for a novel. Once I have a new premise in mind I ask myself why it matters. When I know that, then I know what angle to take. Without it, I’ve nothing but an idea.

If you could write any book you wanted and know it would land on the bestsellers list, what would you write?
I guess I am really hoping The Shape of Mercy goes to that special place called the bestseller’s list. That book means a lot to me personally. I think there is so much to be learned from the times in our history when we’ve let snap judgments rule our thinking. If we loved more and judged less we’d find ourselves on a different kind of planet. It would still be flawed, and so would we, but it would be different. We’d be different.

The Shape of Mercy is your latest release and a beautiful story of three women from different times and generations. How did you come up with the germ of an idea and then weave their stories together?

I read an article a couple of years ago about a woman petitioning a Massachusetts court to exonerate her great-times-eight grandmother who was accused and convicted of witchcraft during the witch trials, was released when the hysteria ended, but whose name was never cleared. Reading the article brought back memories of reading The Crucible in high school and being in a play called “To Burn A Witch” when I was in junior high. The men and women hung in Salem in 1692 were all later declared innocent. They died proclaiming devotion to God and refusing to confess to an allegiance with Satan, even though a confession would have kept them from execution. That is remarkable to me. And there was a story there to be told. Heroism is always story-worthy.

What did you learn from Rachel and Mercy as you wrote their stories?
I saw myself often in Lauren as she transcribed Mercy’s diary and she came to realize how much she truly didn’t want to judge people but she did. She just did. We all do. We see a homeless man begging on the streets and we make all kinds of assumptions about how he got there and what he would do if we reached out to help him. We see a pregnant teenager or an obese child or a woman wearing diamonds and Jimmy Choos and we assume the teenager has no morals, the child has no restraint and the woman is wealthy and therefore has no worries. We believe these things because group-think tells us it’s so. Jumping to conclusions seems to permeate culture, regardless of the generation. Whatever the crowd says, we too easily believe. My lawyer character Rachael ran into the same problem with bias because she dealt with people accused of crimes, or suspected of crimes, often because of stereotyping. We assume too much, too often.

You're a big proponent of pre-writing. What is it and why do you think it's so helpful for writers?

Pre-writing is like packing your car for a long trip. You check all the belts and fluids, you put air in the tires, you pack a suitcase, you take some food that travels well, you pinpoint good places to stop for rest along the way and you bring a map with you of where your destination is so you can get there. Pre-writing is envisioning your story before you write it. It’s getting to know your characters on an intimate level before you write a word of story, it’s mapping your plot, figuring our your key transitions, researching your setting, your character’s jobs, their homes, their schools, their personas, before you write. It’s packing your car for a long trip. I didn’t start out to be a writer who pre-writes. In the beginning of my career as a novelist, I really wasn’t aware that I was one.

I wrote my first novel in 10 weeks, my second in eight, and my fifth was written in 30 days. People were asking me right and left how in the world did I write so fast. I needed a better answer than, “That’s just how the stories come out of me.” So I studied how I wrote and I realized how much upfront work I did before writing one word of actual story. And I learned that pre-writing – planning, plotting and preparing – allowed me to write at an accelerated pace. Not only that, but I didn’t hit walls, I didn’t have multiple drafts – just one – and I didn’t have boatloads of edits to do when the manuscript was complete.

When someone approaches you wanting to learn more about writing, what do you recommend they do if they seriously want to pursue the dream of seeing a book in print?

If publication is your goal, there are two things you must do. 1. Write an irresistible book, and 2. Put yourself in places where you can meet editors and agents so that you can show them your irresistible book. For the latter, that’s easy. You need to invest in attending a writer’s conference that’s nationally known and brings in the editors from publishing houses you want to publish for. That’s the place to meet editors and agents face to face. The former is hard, hard, hard. You must be writing all the time, reading all the time, growing in your skills as a writer, writing all the time, subjecting yourself to critique, responding positively to it, honing your craft, listening to experts, and writing all the time. The more you write, the better you become at it. The more you learn from other writers, the better you become at it. I actually suggest this aspiring writer start with an easy goal: “I want to learn more about writing!” Save the goal of, “I want to be published!” for after she or he has mastered some easier ones.

Susan’s bio:
Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. A devotee of purposeful pre-writing, Susan encourages workshop audiences to maximize writing time by planning ahead, mapping the writing journey and beginning from a place of intimate knowledge. Her books include The Shape of Mercy, the Rachael Flynn Mystery series, and A Window to the World, named by Booklist magazine as one of the Top Ten Christian novels for 2005. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at her San Diego church.

Writer or juggler?

Am I a writer or a juggler?

Tonight I'm not so sure.

You see, on my desk next to my laptop sits the revision letter for my next Love Inspired Suspense, Trial By Fire. I am so excited about my editor's thoughts on this book. Once again, they only make the plot stronger. Always a good thing! And the revision is due back to NYC by March 2.

On the floor next to the desk sits a red magazine holder thingy (very technical term!). It's filled with research on the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, the historical backdrop for A Promise Forged, the book due July 1. Why is the research next to the desk? Because I just finished the synopsis and submitted it to that wonderful editor a couple nights ago.

Sitting on top of the revision letter for Trial By Fire, is the 1943 calendar scrawled with notes for the baseball team and the plot pivot points for the book I turn in April, A Promise Born. This book has spies, WAVES, Bombes, and all kinds of fun 1943 World War Two elements.

Then there's the textbook for the class I'm teaching at Purdue right now. I should be preparing for that class instead of writing this post. And don't forget being a wife and mom, homeschooling my kids, being involved in my church and community, and all the other roles I fill. Times like this I feel like a juggler. Trying to keep everything going and doing it all well.

The only problem is I've narrowed down my life to the things I love. Why do I love doing so many things!?!?!?! :-)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


by Debby Giusti

The publishing house just sent me the cover and back-of-the-book blurb for my next book, PROTECTING HER CHILD, a May release, which I wanted to share with all of you.

Wealthy heiress Eve Townsend is close to death. But before she dies, she has to know: what happened to the daughter she gave up for adoption twenty-four years before? Did she inherit her mother’s life-threatening disease? Medical researcher Pete Worth is ready to find answers by tracking her down. And when he finally locates Meredith Lassiter, he finds her widowed, pregnant and on the run. The smugglers who killed her husband want her dead…and Pete is the only one standing in their way.

Want more info? Think pregnant heroine on the run, a fatal disease she and the baby may have inherited, killers who want her dead, a hero whose weekend trip to the coast of Georgia may cost him his life, and an inheritance that could pay off the national debt.

The book is dedicated to my dear friend Pat Rosenbach. She introduced me to her friend Eva, who had Von Hippel-Lindau Disease, which is featured in the story. I'll have more information about the disease and what scientists hope to learn from VHL in future posts.

Happy writing! Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm Giving You the Look...

Killing Me Softly…

I did a three-day book signing this past weekend at the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. Here’s a dialogue that I engaged in many times:
“What do you write? ”
“Christian suspense.”
“Christian suspense?”

The potential book buyer’s gaze goes curious. I can almost hear the word: oxymoron.

Killing Me Softly…

Recently, here on the Craftie suspense site, many of the authors have discussed their favorite suspense writers. Interestingly enough, about 80% do not fall in the Christian inspirational suspense genre. Why? Well, Christian inspirational suspense is fairly new. Most of us credit Dee Henderson for its birth. Most of us credit a misjudgement of what “Killing Me Softly” means for it slow trek to avid readers hand.

Who reads Christian suspense? Should be everybody. But, it’s not. Quite a few people define Christian suspense as Jessica Fletcher meets Ben Matlock and they fall in love and attend church (They also get married in Atlanta because in Cabot Cove everyone has been murdered).

No, No, No. Christian suspense is not the above.

Lisa Gardner, a very well-known suspense writer, often provides this definition of romantic suspense:
As a general rule, romantic suspense is a book that has both a romance element and a suspense element... and works both on developing key relationships as well as advancing some kind of intrigue...)

Christian suspense is no different except that one of our books key relationships has to do with faith and we authors do not add sex scenes or pepper the book with foul language.

I'm going to provide a comparison.
At my house, my mother was the live-wire. I remember one time, when I was just 16, we’d had a fight. I stormed out of the house, with my car keys, and got into the old station wagon the parental units insisted be my first car (Dad said if I hit a brick wall, I’d hurt the brick wall and not the car. How he knew I’d hit a brick wall… I still don’t know). I jumped in and drove down the street - mad, grumbling - and looked in the rear-view mirror. Mom was chasing me, not in her car by on foot, and was keeping up. (Yup, it was a little scary.) Dad, on the other hand, had the look. Enough said. He didn’t chase me. Even if my back was to him, and I was flying out the door with my car keys, the look would hook into my back and my toes would go heavy, and I’d stop. Dad’s look killed me softly. No less effective than my fifty-something mother chasing me down the street.

Christian inspirational suspense has the ‘look’ and more, and that is why Killing Me Softly will take Christian inspirational fiction to the top.

Go ahead, buy one.

I’m giving you the look.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

On the Killer's Trail Interview

Today we're welcoming Neil Alexander, the hero of On a Killer’s Trail, by Susan Page Davis, February 2009.

Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.
It took me five years to earn detective status in the Portland, Maine, Police Department. My unit usually gets the high profile cases. The Christmas Day murder didn’t seem to fit that standard at first, but my captain and I were the only two detectives available to investigate old Mrs. Riley’s death on Christmas morning. And then another homicide case, with the same M.O., came to our attention. Next thing we know, an embezzlement case comes along and we’re up to our necks in intrigue. And my captain’s sister-in-law, Kate Richards, actually helped solve the crimes, though there were moments when it seemed she would just make more work for us, and maybe get herself in deep trouble.

2. So, during the book you met Kate Richards. Tell us a bit about her. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?
Actually, I’d met Kate the previous summer. Oh, yeah. We were a hot item for a few weeks. But then our relationship fell apart and she left town. I was shocked to see her arrive at the crime scene on Christmas Day. Her brother-in-law (also my captain) warned me in no uncertain terms to stay away from her. He hadn’t forgiven me yet for hurting Kate last summer. But here she was, rookie reporter for the biggest newspaper in town, trying to make a splash. I had to work with her, and…well, I’ll just say the attraction was still there. People said I broke her heart. Well, I ask you, doesn’t MY heart matter?

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?
Six months ago I’d have said my greatest strengths were my charm and intellect. My greatest weakness was women. But that was then, see? This is now. My greatest weakness is when the old pride surfaces. My strength now is God’s unlimited power.

4. What scares you?
The idea that people might be hurt because of me. Like Kate. I know now that I treated her abominably last summer. We’ve sort of gotten past that, but I have other concerns now. She likes to be in the middle of things, and I’ve let her tag along a few times when I was investigating this murder case. What if the killer goes after her next? Now, that’s scary.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
My past. I’d always listen to my Oma (she was my dear old Dutch grandmother). I wish I were half as good a boy as she thought I was.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?
I’m a new Christian who’s trying not to mess up again.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?
Stronger, but still learning. Little by little, I’m finding out how God expects a man to live.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant.
“A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10 is the Scripture. While not actually mentioned in the story, it touches the heart of it. People are stealing money that would have provided for helpless animals. They want to squander it on themselves. Their greed leads to other sins. While the people who know them think they are kind and unselfish, they’re actually cruel and wicked.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?
I’m Dutch to the core, so I guess I’d be strudel. Apple strudel. Hey, I’m hungry.

Intriguing story. Thank you Susan for sharing Neil with us.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


A sweet, elderly lady is killed on Christmas Day, and nothing else—not a single wrapped gift around the tree—is disturbed. Detective Neil Alexander can't figure out the motive. Rookie reporter Kate Richards wants the story, but Neil has little to share. Until there's another murder. Same M.O. Same ballistics. There has to be a connection. And Kate is determined to find it. Neil is impressed with her dedication, but he worries about where it will lead. They're on a killer's trail. And keeping Kate safe means keeping his heart off-limits.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Creating Suspense without Special Effects...

Ever watch a really suspenseful Hollywood movie and find you can't STOP watching because you're so riveted by what's happening on screen? How does the hero make it through the tunnel unscathed just as the truck explodes, sending fire and debris raining down upon him. How does a tiny figure that can fit into the palm of your hand suddenly grow to mammoth proportions? How does a shot with a few actors in costume suddenly become a scene filled with menacing Orcs numbered in the thousands?

Special effects have become a staple in many Hollywood movies. It seems that almost anything can be created with the help of a blue screen, a computer and a sound studio. Special effects have become so popular that in 1939 an OSCAR category was estatblished dedicated to special effects, one for visual and one for audio. Visual and audio effects help to create an overall movie experience. Color, sound, movement all work together to build drama and suspense because they naturally dazzle the senses.

What about suspense books? Writer's don't have the luxury of writing their prose against a blue screen for a Hollywood film specialist to manipulate into a great action scene the reader can see. Or to have the reader hear that ticking clock or the blood curdling scream the heroine lets loose when the villain finally finds her. Books don't have soundtracks that go along with them. (Although I do admit to making a soundtrack for each book when I write them.) The only thing writers are armed with are words. Granted, those words are powerful...if we allow them to be.

Here are some tricks you can use to help build suspense while writing:
  • Let the reader see the Hero and Heroine in a safe environment before the action starts. For instance, in Cradle of Secrets, Tammie Gardner is in her office grading papers at the University she works at. She has no clue that her world is about to be turned upside down so when it does happen, the reader has already connected with her on a "safe" level and feels how devastating the news she receives really is.
  • Use setting and season along with the 5 senses to create drama. Too much information can bog down your story, but slowly feeding the reader information as the story moves along will help create the image in the reader's mind that danger is afoot. Your readers aren't going to be able to see the small cabin high in the hills or the fact that it is snowing, but you can show them with words that the lights flicker because of old wiring and that it is snowing heavy. So when the power goes out, the reader doesn't know if it is weather related, outdated electrical, or that the power has been cut by the villain. In the dark, anything could happen and it adds to the drama and suspense of the scene.
  • Let the reader in on a secret that the hero or heroine doesn't know. This is especially helpful if you are writing in two different points of views. Let the hero talk to someone else about a particular danger or piece of evidence that the heroine is not aware of. That way when the scene changes to the heroine, the reader knows this information and can anticipate danger before the heroine does, adding drama and suspense.
  • Foreshadow with foregone conclusions that are erroneous. Ever hear a scrape against the window and automatically think that a bush or tree branch is moving in the wind? Most people will explain away little details as being nothing. Of course you (and sometimes your reader) will know that the little piece of information is really a foreshadow of something that is to come.

There are so many ways to build suspense using words. You don't need special effects or a high-priced recording studio to make it happen. When you write suspense, allow your words to become powerful by building the scene in the readers mind. Use all the senses to allow the reader to see, hear and smell the danger ahead.

Until next time, many blessings, Lisa Mondello

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Growing into the Killing

The first thing I ever tried to write was a biography of Daniel Boone. His story captureed me because of the wilderness adventure blended with his romance with his wife Becky. I was only seven, but already fascinated by characters. I created any number of imaginary playmates, including Trixie and Dixie, the twins who ran the gas station (aka the sand mound between two Southern pines) where I “fueled up” my bike. By ten, Robin Kane had caught my imagination, along with the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the Power Boys.

I returned to romance in my teens, then a few advanced English courses convinced me that I should aim “higher” – even though I wasn’t sure what that meant. I tried mainstream short stories, science fiction, and non-fiction. I sold a few pieces and worked a lot at the day job.

Finally, in a “trust your gut” moment, I took a chance on an old romantic suspense story . . . and it sold to Steeple Hill. I’m been pushing that plan, which seems to be His plan, ever since. My third book, The Taking of Carly Bradford, releases in May, and the fourth, Field of Danger, in November.

In romantic suspense, I’ve found the perfect home for the gifts God has given me. It helps that I love building suspense in a story while coaxing the hero and heroine a bit closer together. And it doesn’t hurt that I’m entranced by forensics and investigation techniques as well as the astonishing ways people find to hurt or kill each other. I never stop asking “Why?”

Or dreaming about the next murder mystery, and the intriguing hero and heroine who will be working together to solve it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Shh, killing going on.

I have to admit to being a bit confused by the term "killing her softly". And I do admit to wanting to wait to read what others thought it meant. But I’m the impatient sort.
Oh, but Killing Her Softly is a good theme for suspense writers for the month of February. I keep thinking of that old song, Killing Me Softly. You know, it goes on to say, ‘with his words’
Well, I have to say that our blog subject makes more sense when I think of those extra words. Thinking of my hero, I can see how some women, especially a few of my heroines are killed by words.
In my upcoming book, Fatal Secrets, book #5 in 2010’s Love Inspired Suspense series, I can honestly say that my hero inadvertently kills the heroine. With his words, of course.
Ahh, but fortunately, we are fiction writers who believe in happily ever after endings.
And my hero saves the day when he realizes the affect his words have had on my poor innocent heroine.
But that’s pretty much the only soft killing done in my books. I have to confess that I’m a bit of an adventurous killer, always looking for a blockbuster movie style attack, rather than that suspenseful Alfred Hitchcock style of murder.
Though old Alfie did have a certain cool flare, didn’t he? I would love to write something so quietly desperate, so dangerously cunning, that all the villain would have to do is appear and my readers would be biting their fingernails.
Hmm, this is getting a few ideas to rattle around this ol’ head. Of course, there’s no guarantee that I won’t throw someone off a cliff, like in Deadly Homecoming, or have the villain appear at the door one day when there’s no one but the heroine around, as in Keeping Her Safe.
But maybe there will be a bit of quiet, soft killing before that big, murderous cliff scene.
I hope you have a nice, quiet Valentine’s Day, with lots of sweet chocolate, and a nice, trusting hero hovering behind you. Tee-hee.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Romance and Suspense: a good mix.

We all love when the hero brings down the villian but we even more love when the hero gets the heroine. Because not only is the hero battling against the villian but he is battling to win the heart of the heroine. And conversely she is battling to overcome the villian and win the heart of the hero. So really you have two battles going on. Each important and suspeneful, driving the plot and building the characters.
As every reader of romantic suspense knows, good will triumph over evil and the hero and heroine will be together in the end, but its the journey that takes us there which keeps us entralled.
Some of my all time favorite Romantic Suspense books are :
Invisible Recruit by Mary Buckham
Danger Ground by Justine Dare
Presumed Guilty by Tess Gerritsen
Reluctant Hero by Lenora Worth

Do you have some favorite romantic suspense books you'd like to share? I'm always on the hunt for a new favorite.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Killing Me Softly

We discussed having a theme this month that tied in with Valentine's Day and came up with Killing Me Softly. I asked what does that mean. Lashing me with a feather boa? Okay, what I think it really means is how do we melded writing suspense and romance. It's the love/hate tug-of-war. Actually those two emotions are closely connected. Look at all the divorces in this country. When those people married, they were deeply in love, and when they divorced, often they hated the other. It's sad that when the police investigate a murder they often look first at the family members as possible suspects.

But what I really wanted to write about is how easily it is to mash the two elements into a romantic suspense story that rocks. Intense emotions are churning in a person when he/she is in danger. As a writer you can use that to tap into the love story between the hero and heroine. You've already got strong feelings flying around, why not attraction and love? You can't have a book so suspenseful and intense that you don't give your reader a few pages to breath deeply and assimilate what is going on. What better way than to have two people fall in love. I love the two elements being together. Through all the "bad" things happening, there is hope of something beautiful coming from it: two people falling in love.

What do you think about mixing romance and suspense in a story?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Evidence of Murder Interview

Today we're welcoming Ryan Davidson, the hero of Evidence of Murder, by Jill Elizabeth Nelson, released in February 2009. Wow, you've just had quite an adventure.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be in the midst of such suspense.

A decade ago, I was a young college kid struggling for independence from an overbearing father. I didn’t see how my problems could get any worse . . . until I arrived home from spring term to find my whole family murdered. When new evidence suddenly surfaced in the unsolved case, you bet I leaped into the investigation with both feet. I knew good and well that nobody but me cared enough about the cold case to run a stone killer into the ground—if he didn’t get me first.

2. So, during the book you met Samantha Reid. Tell us a bit about her. What was your first impression? When did you know it was love?

Oh, man, she’s a cutie, smart too. And gutsy and loyal, but I didn’t find that out until later. At first, I felt bad that I scared her. Our initial encounter wasn’t under the best of circumstances. But then I got a little angry that those big green eyes of hers made me feel like she was looking straight through me. That she could see everything I thought and felt. How could anyone have a clue? I had no idea how familiar she was with the devastation of violence, but that’s another thing I found out later. I knew I was a goner in love with this terrific lady when I thought I might lose her the same way I lost my family.

3. What strengths/skills do you have? What is your greatest weakness?

I’m an outdoorsman, even though I’m headquartered close to a city. And I’m a good businessman. I’ve combined the two skills into a houseboat rental outfit that gives me the nomadic lifestyle that keeps me aloof from emotional entanglements with other people. Most folks would say the fear of emotional entanglements—and the potential for devastating loss—is probably my greatest weakness, though I’ve often figured at it as a strength. Sam had a lot of work to do to change my mind.

4. What scares you?
See the above answer.

5. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

We’ve already talked about my biggest fear, so I guess it would be my tendency to let anger shoot off my mouth for me.

6. Where are you in your faith at the start of your story?

I’m a backslidden believer. I was already questioning my childhood faith as a college kid, but what I found when I came home that awful night turned me away from God. I figured if He was real, He sure didn’t care about me or my family.

7. Where are you in your faith at the end of the story?

I decided to stop judging God for the evil actions of people. Sam’s faith helped me believe again that God loves me, no matter what happens.

8. You've got a scripture at the beginning of the story. Tell us why this scripture is significant?

Nothing man or devil can do can separate us from the love of God, as long as we don’t allow it. That knowledge makes all the difference to me.

9. If you could be a dessert what would you be and why?

I must be apple pie. Honest, homegrown, nothing fancy about me. But I figure I’ve got the kind of substance that will stick with you for a while.

Sounds like a great read. Thank you Jill for sharing Ryan with us.