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A native of Chicago, former police detective Chris Karslen grew up with a love of history and books. An only child, she spent a lot of time reading, developing ‘fictional friends’, and getting lost in the world of stories.

Naturally, her love of reading and books led to writing of her own, and when she retired from her police work she finally decided to fulfil her lifelong secret desire. In 2003, she sat down and wrote her first line—and she hasn’t looked back since.

ImageNow a fulltime writer, her mission is to entertain readers with her stories. “I want to share my love of certain things, like places, history, and time travel. It’s my way of saying, this is why I love England or Turkey or history, etc. I like using the characters to present a ‘what if’ question and have the reader join me in asking it to,” states Karslen.  

Karslen enjoys writing romance and adventure and her stories are full of action, mystery and suspense. Her latest novel, Byzantine Gold, is a romantic thriller set in Cyprus and the sequel to her first book in the series, Golden Chariot. For this series, she interweaves history and archaeology into her fiction. She’s had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa, something that no doubt has had an influence on her work. However, besides her modern romantic thrillers set in exotic locations, she also writes time-travel historical romances.

“I am not a fast writer,” says Karslen about her writing habits. “I have so much research with all my books that I start with an outline. That helps me set the parameters of the story. It also helps me to know what research I’m going to need the most and I can narrow what I have down. Once I begin writing, then the story changes as I go along. I’ll see an event on the page and a question will arise and I’ll build in a scene or character or problem that didn’t occur when I worked on the outline.”

Karslen tries to write every day and makes an effort to run errands and do other personal or household business in the morning and then sit down to write by midday. She writes until 5:00 or so. “That doesn’t mean I write all I’d like to put on the page, but I try.”

ImageShe advises aspiring authors to join a critique group, take classes, and go to conferences and seminars to learn the craft. She recommends the following books: Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction by Don Maass, and Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Deb Dixon.

She also advises to develop a tough skin and accept the fact that your early drafts may not be ready to submit right away. “Every new writer believes what they’ve written is perfect. Perhaps there’s someone out there this is true for but I can’t think of any. Hemingway said, ‘There’s no such thing as writing, only rewriting.’”

Her favorite authors include Bernard Cornwell, John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Joe Wambaugh, Julia Quinn, Julie Anne Long, and Deanna Raybourn. Among her favorite books you’ll find The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, Interview with the Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice, The Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell, The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn, the Pennyroyal Green series by Julie Anne Long, The Prey series and Virgil Flowers series by John Sandford, The Harry Bosch series by Mike Connelly and the Hollywood Station series by Joe Wambaugh. 

Karslen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse. Currently, she’s finishing the third book in her Knights in Time series, which she hopes to release this late spring.

Learn more about Chris Karslen and her work on her website and blog.

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A native of Chicago, former police detective and now romantic suspense author Chris Karslen grew up with a love of history and books. Her parents loved traveling, a passion they passed on to her. She’s had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.

Though her desire to write began in her teens, Chris spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies before she decided to pursue her dreams. Chris is the author of the romantic thrillers Golden ChariotByzantine Gold and numerous other romance novels.

Now a fulltime writer, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.

Learn more about Chris and her work on her website and blog.

Read my review of Byzantine Gold here.

Her mission as an author…

I want to entertain the reader with my stories. I want to share my love of certain things, like places, history, and time travel. It’s my way of saying, this is why I love England or Turkey or history etc. I like using the characters to present a “what if” question and have the reader join me in asking it to.

Her inspiration for Byzantine Gold

Charlotte and Atakan from Golden Chariot—I like them and wanted to show how their relationship progressed. I also liked many of the support characters. I wanted to bring them back. The best way is another shipwreck. I liked using Turkey, as I did in Golden Chariot but also liked the idea of keeping the setting in that region but not necessarily Turkish waters, but someplace a bit different. I needed it to be a place that Atakan still had authority. I set it in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The setting is beautiful and it still, for Americans, has an unusual flavour.

The next thing was what to do with Atakan and Charlotte. I had to resolve the issue of Tischenko and I welcomed the idea of fleshing him out more. I knew I’d set him on a path of revenge but I needed something more for the plot. Terrorism is a global problem. Artifact smuggling is one source of funding for terrorist organizations. I did not want to do the usual Al-Qaeda situation. I chose a terrorist organization that originated in Turkey and is in Iraq and Iran now too, the PKK. The extreme militant wing of the PKK presents an on-going problem in Turkey.

I picked a Byzantine ship because I love some of the art and jewellery from the period.

Her hero and heroine…

Atakan Vadim is an agent for the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism. He has his PHD in archaeology. Fact: The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has a representative present at all legitimate archaeological sites in the country. Their job is to oversee the safe handling of recovered artifacts along with site safety and preservation.

He is from a middle class family and grew up near the town of Milas in the Mugla Province. His father was a career military man and his mother oversaw the family orchards in his father’s absence. Atakan has a married sister. He’s close to his family but can’t see them often due to distance. Istanbul is over 400 kilometres from Milas.

Atakan is a consummate professional. He is a reserved man unless he knows you well, then he shows his dry sense of humour and with Charlotte his very sensual side. He has a strong sense of honour and ethical code. He’s not a man driven to “obtain or possess” things. His apartment is functional although he has an interesting display of collectibles which are family heirlooms.  His apartment has a beautiful view of the Bosphorus Strait and that is more important to him than high end furniture. Nice suits are his one very expensive taste. He likes to dress well on the job.

Charlotte Dashiell is an American nautical archaeologist who just received her PHD. She’s outspoken and extremely determined in her pursuits, which sometimes disturbs, sometimes worries and sometimes amuses Atakan.

She’s the daughter of a Chicago policeman and a homemaker. Her parents divorced when she was a teen and her father remarried to a Chicago policewoman and her mother is remarried to a wealthy businessman. Charlotte also has an older brother who’s a member of the Chicago Police Department SWAT team She too is close to her family and tries to visit once a year.

Like Atakan, she is the consummate professional when working a shipwreck recovery team. She’s not overtly vain as her job requires her to keep her hair simple, she’s diving most days and not concerned with makeup. Conservation work on the relics is hard on a manicure. That said, she has a jealous streak when it comes to Atakan. She’s not above passing an acerbic comment or two when she’s introduced to a former girlfriend of his. When she has the opportunity, she does take pride in her appearance and dresses nicely.

Her guilty pleasure is belly dancing for Atakan. She takes lessons in Istanbul, where they live. Atakan is a big fan.

ImageAbout the cover art…

The overall concept was mine. Although most of the story takes place in Cyprus, Istanbul has such distinctive architecture and buildings I wanted something of it on the cover so a reader knows the story has a different setting. I wanted the shipwreck and divers because of the nature of the story.   This is what draws the characters to this place. I worked closely with the designer. I asked her to look at my previous cover, and the trailer for Byzantine Gold, which I was very happy with, and to look at my book boards for both this and Golden Chariot on my Pinterest page. She had the idea for the bullets and crosshairs in the lettering. She put all my wishes together and came up with a cover I love.

Her advice to aspiring authors…

Do join a critique group. You need other eyes to read your work. Your family and friends will avoid hurting your feelings and as a result are often not as honest as you need them to be.

Take classes or if you can afford it, go to conferences and seminars to learn the craft. If you can’t afford workshops, then buy books from the experts. Three I like and keep in my desk and reference are: Writing the Breakout Novel and The Fire in Fiction by Don Maass, and Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Deb Dixon.

Develop a tough skin and accept the fact that your early drafts (and that’s what they are, drafts) are not ready to send to an editor or agent or to self-publish. Every new writer believes what they’ve written is perfect. Perhaps there’s someone out there this is true for but I can’t think of any. Hemingway said, “There’s no such thing as writing, only rewriting.” Stephen King in his book, “On Writing,” said, he never lets anyone see his first draft.

Read books in the genre you want to write in. This is important. You need to have an idea of how stories in that genre flow, how tension and action and characterization is handled. Literary fiction is generally not the same style as a thriller. The readership of different genres have different expectations.

When you read a scene that is especially moving or well done, or one that stands out to you, then dissect it. See what it is that “makes” the scene work so well for you and try to do the same but with your own spin.

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Book Description

A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.

Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.

Read the first chapter / Purchase from Amazon 

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ByzantineGold 500x750 (1)Book description…

A sunken warship from the Byzantine Era carrying an unusual cargo of gold has been found off the coast of Northern Cyprus. News of the valuable cache has attracted the attention of a terrorist cell. They plan to attack the recovery team’s campsite and steal the artifacts. On the Black Market, the sale of the relics will buy them additional weapons.

Charlotte Dashiell, an American archaeologist, and her lover, Atakan Vadim, a Turkish government agent, are scheduled to be part of the recovery team that brings up the artifacts. While en route to Cyprus, they find themselves caught in the crosshairs of Maksym Tischenko, a Ukrainian contract killer bent on revenge. Charlotte, Atakan and Tischenko share a grim history. As a result, Tischenko is a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal—seeing them both dead.

Read the first chapter / Watch the trailer / Purchase from Amazon  /Author interview

My thoughts…

Being a great fan of nautical archaeology, exotic settings and long lost treasures, I absolutely loved this book. It is pure entertainment from start to finish. I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the first book in the series, Golden Chariot, and that was also a great read, but I have to say that this second installment was even better. The relationship between the hero and heroine–American archaeologist Charlotte and Turkish agent Atakan–evolves and deepens and their love scenes are a lot more playful, steamy and exciting. Karslen weaves the exotic aspects of the setting, the sensuality of the sea, and the sights and sounds of Cyprus to add even more thrill to their loving relationship. We also see a more complex human side to cold-blooded villain Tischenko that is quite interesting.

Then, of course, there’s the constant threat and danger, not only from Tischenko with his revengeful agenda but from a Kurdish terrorist who wants to steal the artifacts and sell them in the black market in order to support the PKK. I loved the tension-filled, underwater segments between Charlotte and the terrorist, as they dive together and she becomes more and more suspicious about his identity. He, of course, is pretending to be an archaeologist like the rest of them, when in reality he doesn’t know much about it.

The novel is written in multiple points of view separated by chapters, which works well with this type of thriller, making the action move at a quick pace. The dialogue is sharp and natural and Charlotte and Atakan are good at witty, darkly humorous comebacks and retorts.

If you enjoy romantic suspense or stories about treasures and archaeology set in exotic locales, I highly recommend you pick this one up. You won’t be disappointed.

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Jennifer Conner’s latest romantic suspense is a thrilling, steaming read that will be enjoyed by fans of the genre. 

Handsome, sharp-witted, and smartass Devan Burke is a detective working for the LAPD. In the evenings, he likes to keep himself wired up by ordering double espressos from the Naughty Latte stand’s drive-through, especially because of the pretty blond working there. Dev is a loner and blames himself for the death of a kid during a store shootout, during which he was also shot in the leg and, as a result, has been limping and using a cane since then.   

Beautiful and just as sharp-witted and smartass as Dev, Luci Lombard is working at the Naughty Latte stand in order to support herself through school at the University of Chinese Culture and Health Studies. 

One night, only a few minutes after Dev leaves the coffee stand, he receives a message that the place has just been robbed. Back at the stand, he finds a very distraught Luci lying on the floor with her hands tied behind her back. Fortunately, the assailant didn’t have enough time to rape her. Although the robber was wearing a mask, she remembers he was wearing cowboy boots and tattoos on his arm: strange octagon symbols mixed into a vine. Dev offers to bring her to the hospital and then home. 

Since she doesn’t have medical insurance, he very generously pays for her medical bills. To show her appreciation, Luci decides to help Dev with his leg problem so he can get back in active duty. She believes his pain and limp could be improved with the aid of a chiropractor and holistic medicine. Though Dev is skeptical at first, he decides to let Luci help him. Thus, their relationship begins to evolve, rising in intensity as their feelings for each other deepen.

But the man with the tattoos isn’t a simple robber. In fact, he’s a member of the Mafia. And he hasn’t forgotten Luci and is intent on finishing what he started… 

Shot in the Dark is a light, quick, very entertaining read filled with lots of romance and lots of suspense. Having read Conner’s work before, I know she has a soft spot for tortured, imperfect heroes with big hearts who at times suffer a disability. In this case, it’s Dev’s leg and how it affects his self image and self esteem, and how, with a smart and kind heroine, he outgrows those feelings of insecurity. Her heroines are intelligent and independent, yet feminine enough to turn to their heroes for protection when needed. A very nice combination. The story, which moves at a good pace, is mainly told from both from Dev’s and Luci’s points of view, separated by chapters, so the readers get to know the feelings and motivations of both characters. Some chapters are also told from the robber’s point of view. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, you’ll want to pick this one up. 

You can find more about bestselling author Jennifer Conner and her romantic suspense novels from her website athttp://www.jenniferconnerbooks.com 

Read more reviews and purchase the book from Amazon.

My review was first published in Blogcritics.

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Join Denise Robbins, author of the romantic suspense novel, Phish NET Stalkings (L&L Dreamspell), as she virtually tours the blogosphere April 2 – May 25 2012 on her first virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book!

ImageHigh-tech becomes high-risk in Denise Robbins’ novels. The New Hampshire based author uses two decades of experience in computers to explore the killer possibilities in technology. Denise integrates her knowledge of computers and technology along with secrets, intrigue, suspense, and even a little romance into all of her techno-romantic thriller novels. Readers and reviewers agree Denise writes stories that will keep you at the edge of your seat and clamoring for more.

Her latest book is Phish NET Stalkings.

You can visit her website at http://www.deniserobbins.com.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Official Tour Page 

Interview:                                                                                      

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself?

I’m a blonde go-getter who loves to spend her free time with family and friends, play in the dirt of her gardens, and spin tales of romance and suspense.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I devoured books. I still devour them. You should see my garage. I enjoyed non-fiction and any story that had horses in it. As a kid I read quite a few of the books my father would read.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Phish NET Stalkings revolves around online dating, and internet phishing scams.

When Jane East is looking for Mr. Right through an online dating service, she receives an e-card and unknowingly installs phishing software onto her computer. Along comes Cooper Chance, who helps her track the cyber phishing scammer, while she helps in his investigation of a man who attacks women using the online dating service.

There are many twists and turns, including the fact that Cooper is seen wearing ladies’ pink underwear, and the small problem of Jane’s intense fear of cops—caused by seeing her mother and granny Pearl murdered by men with badges. Of course, those men are still on the loose and searching for her. Can Cooper get past her guard in order to save her life?

 

ImageThe inspiration: Have you ever received an e-card or a link in your email from someone you don’t know? What about those emails supposedly coming from your bank? Are they safe?

Almost all of us who use computers nowadays have experienced the internet phishing scam to some extent. I wanted to make readers aware and show them what could happen to the worst extent and how to prevent it.

Agatha Christie got her best ideas while eating green apples in the bathtub. Steven Spielberg says he gets his best ideas while driving on the highway. When do you get your best ideas and why do you think this is?

My ideas usually come while I am crawling into bed or just falling into dreamland. Or in the shower.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?

My muse and I get along fairly well. Every once and a while she refuses to cooperate. When that happens, I write my own writing prompts to inspire her to want to write anything. If that doesn’t work, I get in the car and take long drives. That usually works.

Do you write non-stop until you have a first draft, or do you edit as you move along?

With some help from my father who is my first-round editor, I edit as I move along one chapter at a time and keep going. Once the story is complete, I go back and edit the full manuscript.

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

The age old adage of any publicity is good publicity.

As a writer, what scares you the most?

I’m most fearful that my books won’t be read.

How do you divide your time between taking care of a home and children, and writing? Do you plan your writing sessions in advance?

When it comes to writing, are you an early bird, or a night owl?

I’m an early bird. I get up on Sunday mornings before the rest of the world wakes up and I go find a corner in Panera then curl up with my laptop and write.

Do you have any unusual writing quirks?

I don’t think I have any real quirks, but I do seem to have a knack for always starting a love scene while I am sitting in the middle of a restaurant. Picture me with my laptop, flushed cheeks, and fanning myself in an air-conditioned restaurant. If you see someone like that it’s probably me writing my next love scene.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

Blog: http://deniserobbins.blogspot.com

Website: http://www.deniserobbins.com

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

My current work-in-progress is a story that takes place in Kenmare, Ireland. What happens when you mix an Irish pub keeper, her family, the Irish Republican Army, and an ex-ATF agent? Explosive!

As an author, what is your greatest reward?

My greatest reward as an author is when a reader takes the time to tell me they read my book and what they thought. That is the best feeling.

 

Author Bio: High-tech becomes high-risk in Denise Robbins’ novels. The New Hampshire based author uses two decades of experience in computers to explore the killer possibilities in technology. Denise integrates her knowledge of computers and technology along with secrets, intrigue, suspense, and even a little romance into all of her techno-romantic thriller novels. Readers and reviewers agree Denise writes stories that will keep you at the edge of your seat and clamoring for more.

To find out more about Denise Robbins or check out her latest books visit her website at http://www.deniserobbins.com. Now available are Phish NET Stalkings, Never Tempt Danger, Connect the Dots, Killer Bunny Hill, It Happens in Threes.

 

Phish NET Stalkings Blurb: All she wanted was to find love. Was that too much to ask? How difficult could it be to find one man, the perfect man for her?

 

After dating the losers of the century, Jane decides there has to be a better way. She turns to an online dating service. After all, they guarantee a ‘happily ever after’ or your money back.

 

Jane East, CEO of Not-So- Plain- Jane’s organic cosmetics wants to fall in love with a man who makes her toes curl when he kisses her. Unfortunately, the one man who makes her toes curl also wears ladies’ pink underwear and a badge. The pink underwear she could probably deal with, but the badge is a different story.

 

Ever since seeing her mother and granny Pearl murdered by men with badges, Jane has a fear of cops and anyone who carries a badge. Especially, because the killers are still on the loose and searching for her.

 

Former FBI Cybercrime special agent turned small-town Chief of Police, Cooper Chance, gets caught with his pants down and his family jewels tucked in pink ladies’ underwear with lacy frills when he meets the woman of his dreams. That’s not his only issue. The woman has a fear of cops. If he can get past her guard, maybe he can save her life.

 

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As a journalist, I try mightily to verify my facts, source all opinions, and present both sides of every issue. Quite frankly, making sure my magazine feature stories are grounded in fact is as important as stringing together the right words to tell them. I try to use the same discipline when I write fiction. heartdiamonds2Even the genesis of Heart of Diamonds, my romantic thriller about diamond smuggling in the Congo, was subject to rigorous fact checking.

The concept for Heart of Diamonds sprang from an article in Time Magazine about the cozy relationship between Pat Robertson, the famous American televangelist, and Mobutu Sese-Seko, the dictator who raped the Congo for more than thirty years. When I found out Robertson owned diamond and gold mines and timber concessions in the Congo—making profits from what amounted to slave labor, no less—Heart of Diamonds was born.

Before I went deeper, though, I checked out the original Time Magazine article and found other reputable news sources that confirmed the basic facts. The Robertson-Mobutu connection was quite real. Mobutu, as you might recall, was essentially put in office by the CIA. He ran the country (which he renamed Zaire) with an iron fist while he and his minions stole literally billions of dollars. He also had one of the worst human rights records in Africa, which is saying a lot.

You wouldn’t think Mobutu and Pat Robertson would have a lot in common, would you? Robertson is one of the most successful evangelical preachers of all time. He founded the 700 Club, ran for President of the United States, and has millions of followers who subscribe to his version of Christianity. Doesn’t sound much like the makings of a buddy movie.

But it could have been. Encouraged by Mobutu, who controlled everything in the country, Robertson was deeply involved in money-making ventures in the Congo. The Time article reported that one time in the late 1980’s, Robertson and his wife and their entourage were flown from Paris to Kinshasa on one of Mobutu’s personal Boeing 707s. Once in Zaire, Mobutu personally took them on the presidential yacht on a ride up the Congo River to visit one of his estates.

In addition to a relief program in the Congo, Operation Blessing, Robertson had a private concern called the African Development Company, which made investments in mining, lumber, agriculture, transportation and power generation, supposedly with an eye to plowing the profits back into humanitarian efforts. One of those investments was a diamond mine in a small town south of Tshikapa near the Congo’s border with Angola. That’s where I placed the diamond mine in Heart of Diamonds.

One of the men who ran ADC for Robertson was Bill Lovick, a former minister who had been dismissed by the Assemblies of God church in 1985 for questionable fund raising practices. Readers of Heart of Diamonds may find similarities between these men and some of the characters in the novel, notably televangelist Gary Peterson, the missionary Thomas Alben who runs the diamond mine, and Moshe Messime, the President of the Congo.

As I read more and more about these guys and the things they were doing in the Congo in the name of Jesus Christ, the more fascinated I became with the potential for a novel. Heart of Diamonds obviously isn’t their story—the smuggling scheme, the connection to the White House, the U.S. military involvement, and so on are completely fictional. But there is a basis in fact.

In addition to researching Pat Robertson’s escapades, I did a ton of reading about the Congo, it’s history, politics, flora, fauna, and people. The truths I read threatened to make my fiction seem tame.

I studied everything from 19th century tales of exploration and the cruelties of King Leopold’s colonization to the MUNOC reports on violence in North Kivu Province, from missionary accounts from the 1970’s to news reports on the excesses of Mobutu’s regime. I compiled several thousand pages of notes on events as real as they could be, let them percolate through my brain, and then I wrote Heart of Diamonds, a work of “fiction.”

By Dave Donelson, author of Heart of Diamonds
www.heartofdiamonds.com
www.heartofdiamonds.blogspot.com

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