River of Fear
After ten years shouldering heavy responsibility as her siblings’ guardian, fern farmer Annie Brenton yearns for an exciting and carefree future. Despite the repeated threats of a stalker, she refuses to cower in her house and compromise her long-awaited freedom.
When widower Luke Erickson and his two young children turn to Annie for help and she takes them into her home, she believes her financial worries and stalker problems are solved.
Instead, the stalker ratchets up his violence, and her developing feelings for Luke turn her world upside down. As Luke’s past suddenly catches up to them, Annie is forced to make an impossible choice. Is loving a wandering sailor and his children worth the sacrifice of her freedom and the risk of a broken heart?
Thank you for being my guest, Kathleen. It's a real treat to have you here so soon after your release date. You brought a great blurb, and that cover! Wow! Tell us a little bit more about your latest work.
My new book, River of Fear, has personal meaning and is probably my favorite. The original idea grew from a chance meeting with a former co-worker during a layover at the Atlanta airport. While we caught up on events of the intervening years, she told me about another co-worker whose wife had died. Trying to deal with his grief, the man quit his job, bought a motor home, and took his two young children on a trip around the country to visit every national park. That man, mourning his wife and trying to comfort his children, touched my heart and became my inspiration for Luke in River of Fear. I wanted my former co-worker’s story to have a happy ending.
I changed his circumstances, making him a former SEAL able to square off with a stalker and putting him on the run in a sailboat instead of in a camper, then I gave him a ‘happily ever after’ in fiction, hoping he finds happiness again in real life.
River of Fear sounds fantastic. So after
finishing a manuscript like this, do you take time off or dive right into the next story?
finishing a manuscript like this, do you take time off or dive right into the next story?
I usually have another story or two percolating in my head while I’m finishing a project. I will have pages of notes and a rough synopsis for my next story waiting, and tend to dive right in. So in a way, the manuscripts overlap. I do take time off after I finish a first draft. I work on non-fiction articles or do research for a future project for a week or two while I let my draft ‘cool’. Then I’ll return to it with fresh perspective and start revisions.
So does that mean you having something 'cooling' now?
I’m polishing the final draft of a romantic suspense titled Deadly Memories. When I wrote Beyond Paradise (Samhain Publishing), readers wanted more about my secondary characters, two high school sweethearts. Deadly Memories is their story.
My next manuscript will be another RS, tentatively titled Valeria’s Ransom. I’ve written a thirty-page outline and have worked out the timeline. I’ve also drawn detailed maps of the imaginary islands where a large part of the story is set.
How cool! So it sounds to me like you enjoy crafting stories with an element of danger. Do you stick to the suspense genre or write across lines?
I’ve always written romance, but I have crossed subgenres. My first book, A Trade Wind Season, was a sweet, career romance published by Avalon Books. Next I wrote two spicy romantic suspense novels for The Wild Rose Press. My fourth book, Beyond Paradise (Samhain Publishing), is a spicy contemporary romance. My latest, River of Fear, is a hot romantic suspense. I also have an unpublished, futuristic romantic suspense I’m hoping to sell soon. Through writing across subgenres, I’ve discovered my niche and true love is romantic suspense. I’ll be restricting myself to adventurous love stories in the future.
Sounds like you are a seasoned professional. Share with us the most important lesson you learned in your path to publication.
Never stop learning. When I started writing, I believed I’d eventually reach a point where I would master the art of the novel and be able to quit studying technique. Now I understand my writing will never be perfect. I strive for excellence, try to make each book the best it can possibly be. But I realize practice and education are career-long necessities. A technique I read about five years ago and failed to understand may suddenly makes sense if I hear that same information next week. That new knowledge may allow me to improve my next manuscript. The more I learn, the more I realize how much is left to learn and how important continuing education is if I’m to keep my career moving forward.
Excellent advice. And I think something all writers should heed. Tell us, does your husband read your work? And if so, what’s his reaction?
My husband is a strongly opinionated perfectionist. His attention to detail has always served him well as an engineer and a private pilot, but asking him to read my first couple manuscripts was a recipe for disaster. When I gave him pages to read, he would spend hours diagramming every sentence, researching every comma, rewriting every sentence fragment, and ‘improving’ my word choices. Then he’d analyze my paragraphs for topic sentences and decide how I should reorganize the story’s flow. He would get angry if I balked at making every change he suggested.
His harsh criticisms became toxic. I’d stare at my monitor agonizing over every word. The negative voices in my head killed my creativity. My writing ended up sapped of life and style. I realized that if he continued as my first reader, I would eventually quit writing completely. I chose to stop having him read my work instead.
So, the easy answer to your question is no. But I’m relating this story for aspiring writers. It’s important for them to know that the people we love aren’t always helpful or supportive of a writer’s career. When that’s the case, we have to acknowledge reality and move on. Do what I did: find a critique group where the criticism is helpful not hurtful. You’ll have a happier marriage and a more successful career.
Another sound piece of advice, my friend. Thank you for sharing that with us. And now for a snippet of River of Fear. And remember what Kathleen said above, this is a 'hot romantic suspense'? Keep reading, y'all! You WON'T be disappointed.
Luke sat at the table clad only in pajama bottoms. His muscular chest rose and fell. His tanned fingers brushed over the lip of a candleholder, and she thought about how his hands were always moving, caressing, exploring. She imagined his long fingers and strong hands moving over her back as she pressed against that solid chest.
She felt her cheeks warm and turned away. “Coffee?”
Busying herself at the counter with her back to him, she started a pot perking.
“You should have a smoke alarm upstairs,” he said.
“I do. On the wall next to the top of the stairs.”
“Why didn’t it go off?”
“I wondered about that myself. In the morning, I’ll check the battery.”
His eyes undressed her as she walked to the table and sat down across from him. “That robe and nightshirt should be green silk to match your eyes.”
Annie snapped her head up. “Excuse me?”
“You don’t have to wear sexy lingerie though. Everything you put on, I dream of taking off.”
Her heart started thumping double-time, and her mouth went suddenly dry. She’d secretly wanted him to notice her and approve, but knowing he actually had stretched her nerves taut. “And as a houseguest and virtual stranger you’re telling me this because …?”
“We’re going to make love one of these days.”
She drew in a deep breath and licked her lips. An hour ago, toweling him dry then feeling the caress of his eyes when he turned around, she’d had the same thought. But he was a drifter. He’d be gone in a couple weeks. She sifted through her brain for an appropriate response. Found none. “Don’t I have any say in this?”
He eyes locked with hers. His lips curved into a sexy smile. “You know I’m right.”
She did. And her pulse raced as her mind’s eye supplied arousing images of them together.
But she wasn’t going to admit anything to him, especially now when he had that smug look plastered on his face. “For your information, I’m not that easy.”
“Easy has nothing to do with it. I can see it in your eyes. I can feel the sparks in the air. You’re burning inside, just like I am. Before long, everything is going to erupt. It’ll happen.”
Desire flickered in her middle. She shifted in her seat.
He reached out and took her hand. “Seeing you in your room tonight almost drove me crazy.”
Annie pulled her hand back and hid it in her lap.
“I’ve been trying to resist you,” he went on. “But every man has a limit to his restraint. And this near miss with the fire tonight reminded me that the time any two people have together can be cut short at any minute.”
She swallowed. Although the coffee had stopped perking, she was glued to her chair.
He leaned toward her, ran his fingers up her arm, softly traced the line of her jaw.
Her palms were moist, and her pulse was in overdrive.
He shifted closer to kiss her and she met his warm lips half way.
His fingers explored the sensitive skin near her ear. A hot surge of need blazed along her spine. He drew her closer, inch by inch. His hand slid down her throat. Lower. He gently cupped one breast. Even through two layers of clothing, his slow caress seared her skin.
A sentry inside her head shouted a red alert. She’d only known him a few days and things were moving too fast.
She clutched the edge of the table before a haze of desire could blanket her brain. Trembling with the effort, she summoned up the strength to draw away.
His hand left her breast and he captured her eyes.
She jerked her gaze away from his, frantic to escape before she did something she might regret. “Ah…the coffee has stopped dripping.”
He looked half sad, half amused. “Does that mean you’re not ready to light another fire?”
Kathleen Mix is the author of five novels. Her latest romantic suspense, River of Fear, is available from The Wild Rose Press. (http://www.thewildrosepress.com/kathleen-mix-m-221.html) She is an avid sailor and spends summer weekends skimming over Chesapeake Bay. Visit her website at http://www.kathleenmix.com for excerpts from all her novels, sailing articles, and pictures of her boat.
Remember if you eave a comment, you will automatically be entered into Kathleen's drawing to receive a FREE copy of Secret Stranger.