Shadows of the Past

Shadows of the Past is a reissue of Recklessly Yours, the third in Lark Brennan’s Durand Chronicles series, and finishing it kept me up until 2 o’clock one morning (and I had to go fetch the charging cable and plug my Kindle in for the last half hour). The series might best be described as paranormal romantic suspense, although the characters are all human and the paranormal elements are all psychic. This entry involves a decidedly non-Indian artifact found on the Blackfeet reservation in Montana and two Durand Protectors (who haven’t spoken in seven years) sent to investigate and retrieve it.

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Chantal Durand has been working as an archaeologist in Australia (where she was briefly jailed for shooting an ex-lover in the butt), but she’s called back to her Protector duties when a mysterious artifact turns up in Montana. Her psychic abilities are just what’s needed to find a clue to the origin and meaning of the strange piece of tile. As if landing in the frozen north without the proper wardrobe wasn’t trouble enough, she finds herself working with Tanner Hays, the last partner she wants. The last time they worked together, Tanner’s best friend was killed, and he still blames Chantal for that disaster. The search for the more powerful artifact connected to the tile leads to suspense and more than a few plot twists as Chantal and Tanner make their way through dangerous blizzards and even more dangerous opponents equally determined to find the missing treasure.

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If you’re in the Houston area in January, you can meet Lark Brennan and two other local authors signing their books at the wonderful independent bookshop Murder By the Book, at 1 PM on January 11, 2020 (wow, 2020 already!). Lark will be signing Shadows of the Past. Leslie Marshman will be signing her debut novel, Goode Over Evil (here’s my review). And multi-published author Christie Craig will be signing her latest release, Don’t Breathe a Word.

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See you there!

Romantic Suspense Times Two

Here are two great reads mixing mystery, suspense, and romance.

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When Texas Ranger Samantha Goode, the heroine of Leslie Marshman’s Goode Over Evil, returns to her home town of Crystal Creek, she’s only expecting to stay a day or two for her grandmother’s funeral. She’s shed no tears for the old woman who made her childhood miserable, but her grandfather and her Uncle Joe deserve her support.

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She knows there’s a risk of running into her old love, rancher Clayton Barnett—it’s a small town, after all. But she can deal with that. Clay doesn’t know why Sam left town without a word to him years ago, and she doesn’t intend to tell him now. Events around them make it hard to avoid one another, but will what they once had together ever return?

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Sam’s plans to head back to El Paso as quickly as possibly change when there’s a death at her uncle’s marina. The local police chief calls it suicide, but Sam and the county sheriff know better. Whatever happened, Clay’s autistic brother, Jordan, may have witnessed it. When Sam realizes that dangers from the drug cartel she’s been fighting have followed her from El Paso to the Gulf Coast, her fears for the people she loves mount.

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Goode Over Evil is a fast-paced roller coaster ride through small town secrets, drug smuggling, and murder, and well worth reading for fans of mystery and suspense.

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Shadows in the Deep is a reissue (new title and cover) of Lark Brennan’s Dangerously Yours, and well worth picking up if you missed it the first time around. The first volume in the Durand Chronicles, Shadows in the Deep is a very entertaining read, but a bit difficult to categorize: romantic suspense, certainly; paranormal elements, definitely; even a touch of science fiction, all in a fascinating Caribbean island setting.

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To outside eyes, Lex Durand is a marine biologist studying whales and dolphins. Only her close relatives in the large and powerful Durand clan know that she is an animal telepath, and that some of her study subjects have gone mysteriously missing.

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Her brother sends Lex to ask for assistance from Bodie Flynn, a near-recluse scientist studying newly discovered forms of energy which may just hold the clue to the disappearances. But Bodie used to be someone else entirely, and he blames Lex’s family for his current situation.

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The scientific puzzles are too much for either to resist (and pretty soon they’re having trouble resisting one another, as well). Off they go, via sailboat and seaplane, to one small island after another in pursuit of missing whales, reappearing (and possibly insane) dolphins, mysterious energy, psychic powers, and the occasional explosion.

And the Golden Heart® Goes to . . .

In mid July my friend Jo Anne Banker and I went off to the national Romance Writers of America conference in Denver planning to see lots of friends we only meet once a year, attend a few workshops, maybe speak to an agent or editor here and there, eat a lot, and sleep not so much.

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We’ve both been involved in the Golden Heart® contest for unpublished writers several times over the past few years. Jo Anne was a finalist in 2011 (that year she won in the Contemporary Series category), 2015, and 2017, and I was a finalist in 2011, 2012, 2013, and now in 2018. Between us we know a lot of GH finalists, which has become quite a sisterhood over the years.

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But having made the finals four times, with four different manuscripts, once (in 2011) in the Historical category and three times in the Paranormal category, I was not expecting to win. I write light, humorous paranormal stories, entertaining, I hope, but not dark or angsty. And humor may be the most subjective of fields. One judge might crack up over my manuscript while another wonders what on earth I’m trying to say.

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So my expectations for the conference revolved around meeting the Persisters (the 2018 “class” of GH finalists) and reconnecting with the women (although a few men have been Persisters PinGH finalists over the years, there have been none in my classes) I’ve met through the contest in previous years. The Golden Network, the RWA chapter for GH finalists, holds a retreat every year at the beginning of the conference, a morning of inspirational pep talks, panel discussions, and socializing, always one of my favorite conference activities. And of course, we planned to attend at least a few of the enormous number of workshops going on nearly nonstop from Wednesday afternoon through Saturday morning.

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The presentation of the Golden Heart Awards came at lunch on Thursday. As a finalist I had a seat up front and a ticket for one friend, so Jo Anne and I settled in together to eat and watch the awards. (Two other members of the Houston Bay Area Chapter were also finalists: Leslie Marshman in Romantic Suspense and Sara Neiss in Short Contemporary.)

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“Do you have something written down?” Jo Anne asked me. “An acceptance speech?”

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“Of course not,” I said. “No way I’m going to win. I’ve read blurbs for the other entries. They’re all great, much more serious and inventive than mine.”

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“Eat your lunch,” Jo Anne said. “You don’t want to go up there with food in your teeth.”

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“I’m not going up there, Jo Anne,” I repeated. “Not a chance.”

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By the time Pintip Dunn, the Emcee of the program, reached the Paranormal category (after three industry awards and four GH categories), I had finished lunch and was curious to see what my selfie—I’ve never gotten around to having a professional head shot taken—would look like on the jumbotron (there were about two thousand people at the lunch, and very few of us could actually see the stage).

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Pintip read off the finalist manuscript titles and their authors as they showed on the jumbotron, and then opened an envelope and read, “And the Golden Heart goes to . . . Jinn on the Rocks by Kay Hudson.”

 

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I was stunned. I managed to stand up and make it to the stage without falling off. Someone took pictures of Pintip handing me the little jeweler’s box containing the—my—Golden Heart necklace and the envelope with the announcement—just like the Oscars!—and then I found myself at the podium, looking out at that huge crowd, many of whom were cheering, bless their hearts.

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“I Am Stunned.” I know I started out with that. I know I thanked my local friends who were there (making Gerry Bartlett temporarily famous for nagging me . . . and taking me shopping), my chapters, my GH groups. I think I went on to talk about RWA for a couple of minutes, but I honestly don’t remember that part. I’ll have to watch when RWA posts the recording of the ceremony. Apparently I did all right—at least I didn’t fall off the stage—because friends and total strangers told me so.

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I had intended to go to a workshop after lunch, but somehow I didn’t make it. I managed to get up on the stage again that evening, with the rest of the GH winners, when we were recognized during the RITA® Awards for published books, but fortunately we weren’t expected to say anything.

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The rest of the Conference was anything but a letdown. I went to workshops, met with Necklaceagents, had meals and visits with friends, and even got some sleep. I didn’t need to visit the local pot dispensary to stay high—I was floating. And playing with that necklace, half afraid someone would pop up and say, “Oops, we made a mistake, give it back.” I wore it for a week, and I’ll wear it again, often.

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The only disappointment at the Conference was the RWA Board’s announcement that next year will be the last Golden Heart Contest. The publishing industry is changing faster that anyone can measure, yes, but we don’t understand this decision. RWA has always been supportive of its unpublished members, and those of us who have benefited, made friends, finished manuscripts because of the Golden Heart hate to see it go.

 

Fall Must Be Coming

When I left for the weekend Friday morning, I looked in vain for any sign of the hurricane lilies that pop up near the front of my yard every year.  Not a hint.  I was afraid that another very dry summer had shut them down.  But this noon when I returned from a weekend on Galveston Island, there they were, three or four full blooms, and quite a few more stalks at various stages.  According to a Q&A piece in this morning’s Houston Chronicle, mine are probably Lycoris radiata, also known as naked ladies because the foliage only appears after the blooms fade.  They’re late this year; they usually bloom in early to mid September, at the peak of the Texas Gulf Coast hurricane season.  According to our local weather reporters, our section of the Gulf Coast has been struck by post-September hurricanes only three times in the last hundred and fifty years.  The last one was a smallish storm called Jerry, which passed directly over my house in October 1985, the only time I’ve ever walked out my front door into the eye of a hurricane.

First Lilies

I spent the weekend on Galveston Island with friends from the Houston Bay Area chapter of RWA, talking about writing.  There was some actual writing involved, and quite a bit of wine.  Also some football games on the big TV in the living room, but the two or three dedicated fans were kind enough to leave the sound off.  Well, the TV sound was off, but there was quite a lot of yelling, too.   Colleen Thompson took this picture of me, and Cheryl Bolen and Leslie Marshman did the organizing.  Leslie won our eternal gratitude when she talked Sean at Mario’s Ristorante in Galveston into delivering pizzas, even though we were a bit outside their usual delivery limit.

Windsong