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Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

[ Edited ]

Please welcome New York Times best selling author and Romantic Times Award nominee for Best Romantic Suspense of 2010: SHANNON MCKENNA!

 

Shannon is joining us a part of our Kensington Publishing celebration!

 

 

 

 

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

 

 

 

 

This is from Shannon's website: http://www.shannonmckenna.com/

 

Hello! Welcome to my website, and thanks for the interest that brought you here. I'll take this opportunity to let everyone who cares know that I am indeed planning a story for Tam (I'm writing it now!) and that after her, Kev McCloud is waiting patiently in line. I can't be specific about the pub dates yet, but it'll happen. See more details about upcoming writing projects in the "News" section. And thanks for wondering!

And thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest.

 

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I started writing my first romance novel in secret. I was working a temp job in an insurance office in Manhattan at the time, and the office manager had made it clear that even if there was nothing to do, I still had to look busy-- never one of my big talents. I felt bad about the wasted time, though, and I needed something to round out my other chosen career, which was singing. Yeah, that's right. Most artists choose a more practical Plan B to back up their improbable Plan A. Me? No way. "Long Shot" is my middle name.

So I sneakily set up a Document 1 and a Document 2 with a spreadsheet on it. If my Boss du Jour walked by I could quick-like-a-bunny switch screens, and whenever the coast was clear, I went back to my story. Not that I was slacking, mind you. If there was work to be done, I did it. The sneakiness felt familiar, though, because I've been teased about reading romances since I was a kid. I think the day I finally grew up was the day I stopped trying to cover up what I was reading on the bus, train or subway. Let people think whatever they like.

 

It wasn't until I moved to Italy (details of that Long Shot provided later on) that I got serious about writing, though. I found myself with many long, quiet days alone with nothing to do, so I slogged my way bravely to the end of the manuscript and sent it out. Everybody rejected it-except for Kensington. I wrote for them for a few years, and then made a bid for an erotic novella for the new Brava imprint, and oh joy, they accepted it. Then I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. And so on, and so forth.

That's how I started. I can't think of anything I'd rather do. I never knew it would be so scary, and so hard . . . all that solitude and silence, a blank computer screen, and no one to blame. But still. It's worth it. It's great.

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

MY OTHER LIFE

I was originally convinced that I wanted to make it as a singer in NYC, so I was temping to support my music habit. I sang with various ensembles that performed medieval and renaissance music, I sang lead in a fabulous Celtic fusion band, I sang church gigs, I sang weddings and funerals, smoky cabaret and country/blues, Christmas carols dressed in a Dickens outfit in shopping malls, I was even a strolling madrigal singer at the Renaissance Faire in one of those cleavage-enhancing lace-up bodice thingies. I did everything I could possibly think of to make the rent. Those were my wild years. Then, Italy…which is a lot mellower than NYC. And oh. The food. Words fail me.

 

ROMANTIC ASIDE

A brief word about the Renaissance Faire. I never did a goofier, more ridiculous or worse-paying gig, but I have to say, the place was a sizzling hotbed of summer romance. Such a variety of gorgeous men in tights to choose from, and I've always loved historical romances. Yum.

 

Then one day, I saw a group of Italian musicians strolling by. They were all handsome, as Italians are wont to be, but the lute player was just delicious. His legs in tights surpassed all other legs, and those long, tanned fingers twinkled so deftly over the lute strings, it just made me quiver. His name was Nicola, and he didn't speak a word of English, but I was undaunted. I followed him around, dreaming up excuses to talk to him, insofar as I could. Then I saw him at the cast campfire that night, whipping up a delicious pasta dish over two tiny camp stoves for more than fifty people with such grace and flair, my knees sagged beneath me. What could be sexier than a man who can cook? After we devoured his bounty off paper plates, he played Bach for us on his classical guitar, naked to the waist in the flickering firelight, green eyes flashing. Hold me back. (No one did.)

 

The ultimate summer romance ensued, but he went back to Italy when the summer was over. I resigned myself to a bittersweet memory of What Might Have Been, but I couldn't stop thinking about him. A year later, I quit my job, broke my lease, put my stuff in a friend's basement, bought a ticket to Italy, and went to find him. Yeah, it was nuts…but we've been married for ten years. Really. Passion makes you reckless. Must've been the effect of all those romance novels.

 

Improbable though it may seem, it worked out fine. Now I live in Southern Italy, of all things, and oh, if I ever thought I needed a challenge or an adventure, this is certainly that. Someday I'll write a book about it. It'll be a sharp-edged comedy. But when it comes to love, Nicola will always be my inspiration.

 


 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

 

 

Ultimate Weapon 

 

 

Synopsis

"Dark characters and darker emotions. . .perfectly balanced by the heat they generate."--Romantic Times

 

The First Cut Is The Deepest

Covert operations are what Val Janos is all about. The man is mysterious and sinister, and lethally hot. Only Tamara can understand the strange intensity that drives him to win at all costs--and only she can match it.

Val has one weak spot: Imre, the frail old man who befriended him when he was a scared, hungry kid abandoned on the streets of Budapest. But Daddy Novak knows about Imre, and Imre's head is on the block if Val doesn't deliver Tam up to Novak's tender mercies. . .

A white-hot passion explodes when Tam and Val get too close. They both have too much to be afraid of, too much to hide. And now, for the first time, too much to lose. . .

 

Praise for Shannon McKenna and Her Novels

"Full of turbocharged sex scenes, this action-packed novel is sure to be a crowd pleaser." --Publishers Weekly on Edge Of Midnight

"Highly creative. . .erotic sex and constant danger." --Romantic Times on Hot Night (4 ½-star review and a Top Pick)

"Aims for the heart with scorching precision." --Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly

 

Bestseller McKenna (Extreme Danger) aims for the heart with scorching precision in this well-researched romantic thriller in which the erotic elements fit the action and the central relationship doesn't interfere with the plot. Glamorous Tamara Steele, a career criminal turned jewelry designer, is doing her best to be a good mother to her three-year-old adoptive daughter, Rachel, a Ukrainian orphan rescued from a black-market organ donor ring. Unfortunately, Tam's dark past is catching up with her: gangster Daddy Novak wants revenge for the murder of Kurt, his son and heir, with whom she was once involved; another crook, Georg Luksch, has hired Val Janos, a sexy covert operative, to deliver Tam to his bed so he can make her his love slave. Val and Tam emerge as fully fleshed-out characters as the smitten Val decides to help Tam rather than deliver her to the odious Luksch. McKenna fans will enjoy glimpses of her popular crime-fighting McCloud clan, whose members are also intent on protecting Tam and Rachel.(Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Pub. Date: April 2011

 


 

SHANNON MCKENNA is the author of the romantic thrillers Behind Closed Doors, Standing in the Shadows, Return to Me, Out of Control, Hot Night, All About Men, and Edge of Midnight. Her novellas were featured in the Brava anthologies All Through the Night, I Brake for Bad Boys, and Bad Boys Next Exit. After a bizarre assortment of jobs, from singing cocktail waitress to medical secretary to strolling madrigal singer, she decided that writing hot romance suits her best. She lives with her husband and family in a small seaside town in southern Italy.

 

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!


Ultimate Weapon 



By Shannon McKenna 
Kensington Books 
Copyright © 2009 

Shannon McKenna 
All right reserved.
 


ISBN: 978-0-7582-1189-7 



Chapter One Find the weak spot. Then exploit it. The brutally simple directive repeated in Val's head until it was meaningless babble. Val pushed the white noise to the back of his mind and clicked "play" on the footage he'd collected that day.

For the twentieth time, he watched the woman unload the wriggling toddler from the SUV and head toward the waterfront park playground. He had memorized their every move-the swings, then the slide, the merry-go-round, the jungle gym. Then came a horsie ride on the woman's shoulders through the trees. And the moment when she held the child up to swipe and grab the brown leaves that clung to the branches. He had memorized every nod, every smile, every hug.

The jeans, hiking boots, and shapeless down jacket the woman wore did nothing to hide the feline grace of her slender body. Her brown hair was twisted into a loose, thick dark braid. She wore no makeup. The child reached higher to grab for the leaves, giggling.

Children were always a weak spot-but not one he could bring himself to exploit. He hated when there was a child involved. It made him tense, anxious. It destroyed the hard-won professional calm that usually rendered him such an effective operative. Had he known about the existence of the child, he would have refused the job, no matter how Hegel blustered and threatened. The worst they could do to him was kill him, no? Let them try. Others had already, several times. Eventually someone would succeed. It wouldn't matter a damn who had done the deed after he was dead.

The job had seemed straightforward when Hegel presented it to him. Locate this woman who was in hiding-one of Val's specialties, considering his hacking abilities and his skills at social engineering. Deliver her to Georg Luksch, willingly, if possible, under false pretenses if not. Failing that, by any means necessary. Coercion. Abduction.

He did not like working for Luksch or having any dealings with the mafiya. Too much history, too many ugly memories. But Hegel had pulled rank, yanked strings. And Val had convinced himself that he could stay cool and just get the job done. Wrong.

The first thing he had done was to send out feelers to all of the best sources for fake identities. Using a judicious blend of threats and bribes, he had obtained a list of the passports that Steele had procured for herself and her daughter. A few telephone calls and some discreet hacking into Homeland Security databases had ensured that Steele was never going to be traveling with any of those documents, at least the ones he knew about. Now he wished he had not been so efficient.

He wanted her to escape. Damned unprofessional of him.

The room was cold, growing dark with the onset of the early January sunset. He wore nothing but a pair of baggy sweat pants, but he stayed motionless on the floor in a meditative position in front of the computer monitor, trying in vain to settle his mind down to the stillness necessary to perform his personal technique of data processing.

It was based on the way Imre had taught him to play chess years ago as a boy. Deceptively simple, but requiring profound concentration. He put the information, no matter how irrelevant or superficial, into a floating construct in his mind that Imre had named "the matrix" and held them suspended in a transparent form that he could rotate, turn inside out, disassemble, reassemble, contemplate from every side. Then he detached from it, floated away, and quietly observed.

Take three steps back and breathe, Imre had said.

That distance was the key element. It kept his mind loose, soft and open, leaving space for insights, solutions, realizations to arise.

Not tonight. He'd sat there motionless for hours while dark fell, and muscles cramped in protest. Solutions and insights were not forthcoming. He could not take three steps back. He was distracted. Angry that there was a child. Anger derailed the process. He had to stay cool.

And God knows, staring at Tamara Steele for days on end was no way to get or stay cool. He had never seen a woman so vividly beautiful. Her beauty was intensified by something burning inside her, a bright light, a driving force. She disturbed his dreams, unsettled his thoughts, stirred his body. And utterly destroyed his concentration.

Imre had earnestly explained that the matrix process worked for solving ethical problems, too, but that sermon had been wasted on the young Vajda, cynical, thieving hoodlum that he'd been.

Hmmph. An irrelevant thought. It had no place. It would not serve. He dismissed it, waving it away in his mind like a stinging insect.

He knew every detail of Steele's schedule, all centered on the child. Weekly visits to the pediatrician and child psychologist, trips to the Children's Museum, story hour for toddlers at the library, the Mommy & Me swim class, the playground at the riverside park. No variations to speak of, except for that unwary visit to Conor McCloud's house that had given him his opening.

She had her groceries delivered. No doubt she did her personal shopping via Internet. She spoke to no one but her daughter's doctors, visited no one, never went to a coffee shop or restaurant. He did not blame her. The child's schedule was already a dangerous level of exposure for her. As demonstrated by the amount of data he'd gathered on her in the two weeks since he'd finally pinpointed her residence.

It had taken weeks of data analysis and tedious waiting before the passive surveillance he'd been conducting upon the McClouds had paid off. Steele showed up one day on the long-range telecamera mounted to a tree in the park across the street from Connor and Erin McCloud's residence. With a toddler on her hip, to his blank astonishment.

The tech who was monitoring had called him, and by chance, he'd been near enough to hand tag her SUV with an RF device while she was still on the back porch having barbecue with her friends.

He had not mentioned the child in his reports. He was not sure why. There was no hiding her. Once the satellite had trained its cold eye on the woman's residence, everyone at PSS who was interested knew that the woman was caring for a child. They could see her with their own eyes, loading the kid into the car, playing with her on the beach.

Now that he'd found Steele's mountaintop home outside the small coastal town of Cray's Cove, his challenges were different. It would have been easier to conduct surveillance in a bustling city, although he'd need a team. But no one could follow her undetected in a place like Cray's Cove. Which was, he supposed, the whole point of hiding there.

As soon as he had tagged her SUV with the nearly undetectable RF device, things had proceeded smoothly. He analyzed her schedule, installed tiny surveillance cameras at key points in her trajectory. A wireless receiver in a series of rental cars parked a discreet distance from the establishments in question, and he could watch and listen to her in real time on his laptop, or even his Palm Pilot.

He'd forgone tech support, being as competent with the electronic equipment as any of PSS's tech specialists. He wanted no one breathing down his neck on this job. No spectators, suggestions, criticism. He preferred to work alone whenever humanly possible.

In fact, he preferred to do almost everything alone. It was easier to take those crucial three steps back without the noise and the chatter.

It had been an easy matter to breach security at the psychologist and pediatrician's offices to obtain copies of the child's clinical charts. He'd hacked into the database of the agency handling the adoption proceedings. He knew the entire dramatic story of the child who was soon to become Rachel Steele, and thanks to the remotely activated bugs under the psychiatrist's and pediatrician's desks, he now knew more than he had ever cared to know about the child's bowel habits, food allergies, rashes, hip and ankle malformations, vision problems, chronic ear infections, sinus problems, and sleep disruptions.

And he knew a great deal more than he was comfortable knowing about how much Steele cared about the child. It was important information for the matrix, but he resisted it. It disturbed him.

He knew what his target wanted the world to know about Tamara Steele, which wasn't much nor was it true. Her multilayered identity held up well to prolonged scrutiny. He would have had no reason to question it had he not already known that the woman was a con artist, thief, and killer. Skilled at bank fraud, real estate scams, money laundering, and various other criminal enterprises too numerous to count. And a talented liar.

Then again, what was truth? He was not judging her. His own life was a tissue of lies so thick and complex he no longer had any idea what personality traits he could actually claim as his own. It was all false scaffolding and beneath, blankness. Paper and cardboard.

He batted the distracting thought away, irritated. This kind of self-pitying reflection was stupid and irrelevant. He had no time for useless philosophical musing.

If the doctor's and psychologist's security was inadequate, Steele's own fortress was not. He knew the layout of her property from satellite images provided by Prime Security Solutions, the private security company for which he worked as a covert operative, but he could get no closer to her state-of-the-art security systems without being nailed.

What he needed now was a pretext for approaching her. With someone so paranoid and reclusive, that was impossible to devise.

He wondered what had possessed a career criminal like Steele to adopt a toddler. If it was a cover, it was a cumbersome, inefficient one, and the woman presently calling herself Tamara Steele had never shown herself to be anything but ruthlessly efficient in the past.

He let out a sigh, acknowledging defeat, and got up, bending his knees and shaking his bare feet to get blood moving. He snapped his fingers under the sound-sensitive lamp, illuminating the hotel suite. Val padded silently into the kitchenette and pressed the hot spigot of the water machine over his cup to brew a cup of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea. It occurred to him as he fished the tea bag out that he'd bought the same brand as he had last week, having liked it. The detail was seemingly banal, but lapses like these could kill a man.

He had to stay rigorous. He should have bought coffee, fruit juice, Red Bull. Anything else. No habits. It was one of the first lessons he'd learned as an operative. Habits were deadly. They soon became needs. An operative could not afford needs or even preferences. He had to be a blank slate, ready to be anyone, anything. Light and empty, flexible as a gymnast. Ready to jump in any direction. Imre's training helped.

But Imre had never meant for him to be a man made out of blank paper and cardboard. An empty man who could call nothing his own.

He breathed in fragrant steam, feeling oddly rebellious. So he was getting sloppy, but no one was watching. He was just a fly on the wall in the ass end of nowhere, watching Steele play with her new daughter, and inexplicably fascinated by it. If not for the fact that she would almost certainly kill him if she knew what PSS wanted from her, and that he might be required to abduct either her or her little daughter, he might almost have been enjoying himself.

That was the most alarming development of all.

Detach, he reminded himself. The woman was deadly dangerous. Some years ago, Steele had become involved with Kurt Novak, Daddy Novak's son and heir to his mafiya empire. During that period, which had led up to Kurt Novak's spectacular and theatrical death, Georg Luksch, Kurt's lieutenant, had developed a burning obsession for her.

Steele had not returned his regard. In fact, she had vanished like smoke on that bloody day and had shown no desire to be found.

Val had found her, but now he wished he had not. He didn't want to deliver her to Luksch, who was at best a criminal grown rich by trafficking in drugs, humans, and everything else, and at worst, a psychotic freak. But PSS was not inclined to criticize a client so immensely rich.

Val carried the cup back to the laptop glowing in the middle of the wood floor and sank down in front of it. His naked chest was covered with goosebumps, but the tea would warm him, and he didn't want to bother finding a shirt or turning on the heat.

He clicked the footage he'd obtained yesterday. The toddler's swim class. He took a sip of the hot, bitter tea and skipped through the footage to his favorite part. Here he was again, allowing himself to have favorites. Like the tea. An uncharacteristic indulgence.

From one moment to the next, it would distort into a need. And from that, an obsession. He had always wondered what an obsession would feel like. It would seem that he no longer had to wonder.

She came out of the women's dressing room, silent and graceful as a slant-eyed female panther among the crowd of chubby, chattering women with their squealing offspring. She led the wobbly-legged, huge-eyed little girl carefully by the hand.

Her body was stunning in the black maillot. He always watched the exit from the dressing room, having grown addicted to the hot rush of delighted surprise that it gave him no matter how many times he saw it. He skipped through the class, which he had already watched ad nauseam, to the moment that she lifted the dripping child out of the water and vaulted out in turn onto the pool's edge, poised in the perfect equilibrium of a predator's crouch. The curves and hollows, the highlights and shadows of her wet body. High, lush breasts, the discreet mandolin curve of hips and ass. Endlessly long, strong, shapely legs.

He'd seduced many women in his career, and some of them had been very beautiful, but he'd never reacted like this to mere visual stimuli. Or any stimuli, in truth, visual or otherwise. He liked sex, but he took his usual three steps back from it-particularly in the context of a professional operation. From the beginning of his career with PSS, they had required him to use his looks and body as a means to an end. His sexual technique was flawless, but he stayed cool. Always.

(Continues...)

 

 



Excerpted from Ultimate Weapon by Shannon McKenna Copyright © 2009 by Shannon McKenna. Excerpted by permission. 
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. 
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site. 
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Fade to Midnight 

 

 

Synopsis

 

Gone But Not Forgotten

Davy...Connor...Sean... Three brothers who have conquered their demons, but they've never forgotten their long lost brother, Kev, whom they believed to be dead. When the McCloud brothers discover Kev is alive, they won't rest until they find him...

 

Beaten and tortured almost to death, Kev Larsen was found eighteen years earlier in a warehouse alley. He survived his brutal ordeal, but his memories before that night were completely erased. When he nearly dies from trying to save someone from drowning, the brain surgery he has to save his life triggers fragmented, terrifying memories. With only these memories and the name of his torturer to guide him, Kev is determined to unlock the secrets to his past.

 

Edie Parrish has always been good at not letting anyone get too close to her. If someone were to learn of her unusual gift, her life would be immediately jeopardized. But when Kev Larsen discovers who she really is, Edie has only one choice: to trust him. And soon, Edie can't resist her consuming desire for him-even though she knows she'll have to pay a price for it.

Now Kev and Edie must race against time and place their faith in each other to stop a deadly legacy...


Publishers Weekly

Kevin McCloud, believed dead for 18 years, resurfaces in fantastic fashion in McKenna's latest red-hot McCloud sizzler (Edge of Midnight; etc.). After recovering from an injury suffered while trying to prevent a drowning, Kev, now 40-ish, begins remembering what happened leading up to the traumatic events that left him an amnesiac and is lured back into the dark web cast by the evil scientists intent on completing the now-dead psycho scientist Christopher Osterman's devious mind-control invention. When Kev meets graphic novelist Edie Parrish at a book signing, they forge a connection that's deeper than romantic; as it turns out, Edie has psychic powers, a history with Osterman, and believes Kev may have inspired the hero of her graphic novel. McKenna's steamy style, sci-fi twists, and possible family reunion makes this the best McCloud update yet, but readers who aren't already well versed in the series will want to start with the earlier volumes. (June)

 

 

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

 

Fade to Midnight


By SHANNON MCKENNA

BRAVA BOOKS

Copyright © 2010 Shannon McKenna 
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-2865-9 


 

Chapter One

I am fucked.

The thought flicked through Kev's head, calm and detached. The roar of icy water filled his ears. The current would pull him loose in counted seconds. Seconds measured by the pounding pulse of blood through his brain. Each throb hurt like a raving motherlover, but there was nothing like imminent death to take a guy's mind off a headache.

His little angel's face flashed through his mind. His dream companion, his spirit guide. Her big eyes looked sad, and scared. He'd known since he got out of bed that today was going to be the day. He'd had that prickle, as if someone were looking at the back of his neck. Not surprising, since he'd set the day aside for high-adrenaline sports activities, his chief joy in what passed for his life. One would think, having gotten a clue from the Great Beyond that death lurked nearby, that a reasonable, sane person would spend the day on the couch, watching reruns. Cruising the mall bookstore, reading about mindfulness or voluntary simplicity. Lying low in a multiplex, watching a nature documentary. Sipping a green tea latte. Well out of sight.

Not him. The reasonable, sane parts of himself were out in space. Along with his memories and his normal and natural fear of death. Danger? Bring it the fuck on. He should be dead already anyway. Look at his face. Kids ran screaming to mommy when they saw his bad side.

Cold had numbed the pain. He no longer felt his hand, clamped around the boughs of the dead tree. He did not feel the compound fracture in his other arm. His injured limb flopped in the water, sucked by the current, a few yards from the head of the falls. His broken bone tented out the nylon of his jacket, pinkish with blood. But he doubted he'd be using that arm again, once the water flung him over the brink.

Whatever. He'd been smash totaled years ago. Living on borrowed time. Half a brain, half a life. No clue at all.

Don't start with that. Just shut the fuck up. He did crazy shit like this for the express purpose of keeping himself too zapped with adrenaline to indulge in self pity. That was why he hung off the edge of cliffs, hang-glided treacherous air currents, rafted badass rapids. When he was that close to death, he felt buzzing, connected. Almost alive.

Since Tony found him he'd had some mechanism functioning that damped his emotional volume way down. High enough for function, but no more. Probably caused by the trauma to his brain that had caused the amnesia, and rendered him speechless, back in the bad old days.

Whatever it was, he was bored with it. If he could, he'd join the military, fly fighter jets. Playing with toys like that, yeah. Talk about a coping mechanism. But the military wouldn't want a guy with crossed wires, a questionable identity and a black hole in his mind to fly their hundred million dollar toys. They'd put him to work cleaning engines. If they took him at all. No, he had to make do with high-risk sports. They kicked his ass into high gear, and he liked that gear. The color, the noise. The buzz of being awake to it, aware of it. Giving a shit.

He'd gotten what he wanted. But he was going to pay big. He stared at the top of the falls. Clouds of vapor rose from the thundering tons of water crashing down, hundreds of feet below. How many hundreds? He tried to remember. Several. Well over three. Whoo hah.

Not that he was afraid of dying. At most, he was curious. Sorry he'd never unravel the great questions of his existence, at least not as a living man, and who knew what happened after? He'd never speculated. His present mortal existence was problem enough, for as long as he could remember. Roughly half of his life. He didn't know how old he was. Tony put him around twenty when he'd saved Kev from the warehouse thug eighteen years ago. So he was fortyish. Give or take.

At least the boy was going to make it. Kev was immobilized by tons of rushing icewater, but out of the corner of his eye, he saw activity in the trees choking the cliffside shore. Rescue proceedings were underway. Other people besides Kev had been at the point when he'd put ashore, where he'd seen the kids spin past, oarless and out of control. Only a guy with a black hole in his brain would be suicidal enough to jump in after them at that point in the rapids, but he'd taken no time to ponder that implacable truth. He just went for it.

And then, a long, hopeless wrestle with nature while the water got wilder, the roar of the falls louder.

While death approached, smiling. Happy to see him. His old pal.

Maybe he'd subconsciously wanted it. Bruno threw that death wish crap in his face a lot, whenever he got cracked up doing daredevil sports. Could be. Not worth worrying about, though. Particularly now.

The kids had capsized by the time he caught up. Kev saw a bobbing head and scooped one out of the water by sheer, blind luck. Then they plunged into a trough, the raft flipped, and they were tossed like twigs, the boy flailing, choking. He'd clamped the kid against him, struggled, kicked. He'd wanted to save that kid. Wanted it ferociously. He was played out, now, though. In fact, he felt strangely serene.

The other boy was gone, over the falls. That was fucked, and he was sorry. Rescue was on the way for the other one, but the greedy way the water sucked at the tree told him the hard truth.

He was going down. Anytime.

He forced his head to turn, checked on the kid. Sixteen or so. A drowned rat, clinging to the lucky side of the rock that split the top of the falls into two long, thin tails, hence the name, Twin Tails Falls. The weight of rushing water pinned him against the bulwark of the rock. He couldn't move if he wanted to. But he'd live. That was good.

It wasn't strength or skill that had smacked them up against that jutting rock. Just chance. And then, just as fast, bam. That bastard came up so fast, he barely shoved the kid out of the way before the tree trunk snapped his arm, smashed God only knew what else in his thorax, knocked him loose-and then spun out perpendicular to the falls, catching on a rock across the torrent. It formed a barrier, trapping him against a temporary dam. But not for long.

Smashing him, then saving him. When it worked loose, it would fuck him again, definitively. He'd ride that bastard out over the cliff.

The story of his life. Something inside him laughed, with stony irony. Wasn't it always the way. Like Tony, who'd dragged Kev out of his own rapids years ago, and kept him there, brain damaged, shambling and speechless. Washing dishes, mopping floors for room and board at the diner. Lying on a sagging cot, watching paint peel in the windowless mildewed room behind the diner where he'd slept. For fucking years.

The rope thrown out to save him. The same rope that he strangled himself on. It was almost funny. Except that it wasn't.

The tree was about to go. The branches stuck on the rocks on the other side were wavering, wild water bending the flexible limbs, teasing them loose. The tree shuddered, rolled. The water sucked and insisted.

Any time now. He composed himself, tried to pay attention, to be present for it, to breathe. Difficult. So cold. So much water. The kid's mouth gaped, begging Kev to do something. As if he could swim against that current, even if he weren't fucked-up. He had as much strength left as a broken doll. A final swell shook the tree loose. The ponderous slow motion made those last moments of clinging stretch out, infinitely long.

He struggled to stay conscious. The last wild ride. He'd better enjoy it. He wondered if he'd know, once he was dead, who he'd been before. What he'd done, who he'd known. Who he'd loved.

Probably not. This was all he got. It would just have to do.

Whoosh, the river rolled him under the tree and spat him far out into vastness. Endless space, above, below. Turning, head over ass.

The angel flashed across his mind. Those big gray eyes, so achingly sweet. A sharp sting of regret that he didn't understand. And another face, too, scowling his disapproval as the immutable laws of physics had their stern way with him. A face he saw in his dreams every night. A young guy. His face maddeningly familiar.

Kev had been having a dream argument with that guy, that very morning, he suddenly remembered. The man had been scolding him.

"Dying is easy. You told me that yourself," the guy said. "It's living that's hard. Meathead. Hypocrite. You piss me off."

So that was how he'd known today would be dangerous.

Part of his mind hooted and shrieked with unreasoning joy at the icy rush of air and water on his face. Whoa. This shit is fun. Another part pondered acceleration rates of falling objects, wind shear, probable force of impending impact on the rocks below. He calculated it down to ten digits after the decimal in that last, eternal instant- And hurtled into a blank, white nothing.

 

Goddamnit to hell. Thick, stupid, useless cow.

Ava Cheung refocused her mind to a laser point. So much information streamed through the human nervous system to make a body move smoothly through space. So much of it was automatic. One couldn't fathom how much until one tried to provide the impulses for someone else's body, using one's own will while simultaneously suppressing theirs. Mandy was responding poorly. Shuffling, clumsy. Ava could not get the girl to shut her mouth and keep it closed. The drooling was driving her crazy, and it was all the more grotesque with Mandy's sexpot beauty, her heavily lashed blue eyes vacant behind the goggles, her pupils vastly dilated by the X-Cog prep drugs.

Ava fancied that X-Cog master-crowning required a skill level comparable to what it must take to play an instrument at a professional level. It required intense concentration to make the crowned person move and speak naturally. Unless you upped the doses, which lowered the subject's resistance, but melted their brains in a scant hour. Not cost efficient. One had to be a virtuoso, like her, and Dr. O, of course.

This rendered the X-Cog interface less commercially feasible. How many people were willing to put in the hours to hone a new skill? People were lazy, contemptible slobs, as a rule. They needed things to be easy.

Ava was committed to finding a way to make X-Cog accessible to anyone with the money to pay for it, and Mandy was the umpteenth effort to that end. But a virtuoso needed a decent instrument to play. Not a thick, dull, unresponsive piece of shit.

Ava yanked off the master crown and flung it onto the table, more forcefully than she should have, considering how much it cost to develop and produce. The streamlined silver cap was very different from Dr. O's heavy, clunky design, which had given her tension headaches. Dr. O hadn't bothered with aesthetics. Dr. O had been a results man.

The new design was her own graceful innovation. Everything essential was there, but the end result was a light-as-air tangle of flexible wires and sensors on a light mesh cap. Both master and slave crowns were designed to be easily concealed beneath a hat, scarf, or wig.

Ava's brilliance was wasted on Mandy. The dumb little bitch was going straight into the shredder. Mandy whimpered as Ava wrenched goggles and crown off the girl's head, yanking out long blond hair. She whipped the master crown glasses off. Stupid, talentless cow. Crowning her was like trying to send nervous impulses through a lump of clay.

Ava smoothed glossy black hair back and stared at Mandy, who swayed on her feet, gaping. The girl was dressed in the silver spandex jog bra and shorts that Ava had mandated as a uniform for X-Cog test subjects. She liked her girls to look sexy and sharp. But Mandy looked anything but sharp, with drool trailing off her chin.

The look on the girl's face disgusted her. She slapped Mandy. The girl stumbled against the table, looking vaguely confused.

Ava slapped her again, harder. And again. Smack. Smack. Blood trickled from Mandy's nose, from her split lip. The girl's hands crept up, tried to cover her face. Ava struck Mandy's ears, whapped the back of her head, knocking her forward. Mandy thudded heavily to her knees.

"Back off, Av. That's millions of dollars you're kicking around."

Ava spun around, and shot a poisonous look at the man who had just walked in. "Mind your own fucking business, Des."

Desmond jerked his chin towards Mandy. "She is my business."

"She's a worthless piece of shit," Ava hissed.

"Don't take your frustration out on her." Desmond's arrogant, know-it-all tone made her want to put out one of his bright blue eyes. "You thought that upping the burn would give you more direct control with the crown at a lower dose of the drug. You were wrong. Too bad. Honest mistake. We won't make it again. Grow up, Ava. Move on."

"But the basic idea is sound! Next time, I'll recalibrate the-"

"No." The curt word cut her off. "We reached the point of diminishing returns weeks ago. No more cutting, no more burning."

There was no arguing with Des when he got that tone. He was the one with the money, the contacts. He'd funded her whole show, since Dr. O bit the dust. But bumping up against the limits of her power over him made her bad tempered. She kicked Mandy's buttock viciously. The girl lurched forward with a pathetic grunt. "Don't lecture me," she said, sulkily. "I'm the one who's clubbing with the stinking masses to troll for test subjects! Wasting time I should spend on research, bumping and grinding with Ecstasy whores like her!" She kicked Mandy again, making her whimper. "I need to delegate this tedious shit!"

"I'm trying, babe, but I don't understand why you're so set on wiping them. I enjoy crowning the ones who aren't burned or cut much better. It's that inner resistance that makes it exciting, you know?"

Ava snorted. "It's not about excitement. You've never tried to crown a subject into anything more complex than sucking on your dick. Try making one of them type a string of code, and see how far you get. You can compel a girl to blow you by putting a twenty dollar gun to her head. You don't need a ten million dollar X-Cog crown. I want to market X-Cog to defense contractors. Understand? Are you with me here?"

"Fellatio is actually a pretty complex motor process." Des sounded faintly hurt. "Particularly when you're hung."

Ava rolled her eyes. "Please. Leave the neuroscience to me."

Des waved that away. "I've got good news and bad news."

"I don't want to hear the bad news," she said pettishly.

"Then I'll tell you the good news, first." He nudged Mandy thoughtfully with his toe. "We need a steady supply of high quality, hand-selected lab rats. We also need someone to deal with our disposal issue. Remember Tom Bixby, from the Haven?"

Ava grimaced. Bixby had been one of Dr. O's rich pets. One who'd survived and thrived after Dr. O's Brain Potential Program. Off to Harvard with Dessie. She still remembered his hot eyes, his groping hands. "An arrogant prick, as I recall. That's your brilliant idea?"

"He runs his own private military company. Bixby Enterprises. It's gotten huge. I think X-Cog would be extremely interesting to him. And we would have multiple layers of security, since he's Club O."

Ava's lip curled. "But he's a dickhead."

Des's eyes rolled impatiently. "Don't be a spoiled baby. Offering him a partnership would solve all our problems in one move."

"And create a lot more," she said.

Des's eyes narrowed. "I've set up a demo. You will be good, Ava."

Well, look at him. Throwing his weight around. Trying to whip her into line with his big dick. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Tell me the bad news," she said. "Maybe it'll cheer me up."

Des stared at her, nostrils distended, cheeks reddening. Anger turned him on. A fact she often turned to her advantage. "I was at a Parrish Foundation board meeting today," he said finally. "Parrish is taking over where his bitch of a wife left off. Getting rid of Linda distracted him for a while, but the party's over, everybody out of the pool. He's engaged a panel of financial forensics experts to examine every penny of Parrish Foundation money spent in the past three years. And to vet all future projects. No more cutting it close."

"Oh, God," Ava moaned. "I'm so close to a breakthrough!"

"I know, but what can you do. He's as much of a pit bull as his ball-busting wife, may she burn in hell. The Morality Police don't want anything naughty going down, after Dr. O's big scandal."

"Fucking hypocrites. 'Helix was a victim, too,'" Ava mimicked.

(Continues...)

 

 


Excerpted from Fade to Midnight by SHANNON MCKENNA Copyright © 2010 by Shannon McKenna. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Watch for Shannon's new hardcover release, BLOOD AND FIRE, in September 2011!

 

 


DIARY ENTRY – ADVENTURES IN ITALY

 

The sun is pounding down, and I’m having a fantasy expatriate morning, starting with a stroll through the beautiful medieval “old town.” The sun is blindingly bright on the pale gold-tinged “tufo” stone that the town is build out of. Brightly painted fishing boats bob in a sea that fades from aqua to deep blue to a narrow streak of indigo on the horizon. The shutters are brilliant green, the geraniums explosions of red in the window-boxes and terraces. Wet sheets dangling from every balcony sway in the breeze and create hot clouds of sweet smelling humidity over our heads. Maybe later we’ll go swimming, but right now the most urgent thing on my mind is coffee.

We head straight to our favorite coffee bar. As luck would have it, we encounter Ciccio, our travel agent, or sometime travel agent, I should say. Sometimes he gets bored and runs away with a touring show of “Evita!” or “Jesus Christ Superstar” or “Saturday Night Fever” for a few months. Then he returns and re-opens his agency, regaling us with tales of his affairs with beautiful dancing girls and a sheaf of photographs of himself on stage as Herod or a Bee Gee, or some such.

Ciccio has taken it upon himself to be my image consultant, as it is patently clear to any who look at me that I am in desperate need of one. When he heard that I was on the verge of a website, the solitaire on his pinky glittered and winked with his gesticulations. “Molto bene, that you registered the domain. But the site? That you must do like I—“ and he smote his broad chest with a large fist “—like I say. You have to create a Personage. Do you understand what I mean by a Personage?”

I know a trick question when I hear one, but I was momentarily dazzled by his pink-tinted Prada sunglasses and the white gold serpentine chain around his neck. “Uh, no,” I faltered.

“Of course you don’t,” Ciccio said indulgently. “What do your readers know about you?”

“Practically nothing,” I admitted. “How could they know anything? I’m too new.”

Ciccio grinned his relief. “Excellent, excellent. So you could tell them anything. Anything at all. What an opportunity, no? You could be a countess in a castle by the sea. You could be an international spy.” His eyes swept over my usual summer uniform; freckles, a crumpled linen skirt, a tank top, sand-encrusted flip-flops, hair wound back into a scrunchy. He shook his head sadly. “You don’t want them to know the real you. You write erotic thrillers, no? You have to be thrilling. Inscrutable. You have to have . . . mystique!”

I was rescued from the necessity of a reply by Salvatore, the barista, who presented me with a wedge ofpastiera. It’s a delicious pie made of eggs, ricotta, wheat-berries, candied fruit and orange-flower water. “Your espressino is getting cold,” he reproved me. “I sugared it for you.”

I’m always touched when Salvatore sugars my espressino. It’s a mark of familiarity, a gesture that imparts to me, the valued customer, that I’m here so often that he knows exactly how I take my coffee. I’ve never had the heart to tell him that he puts in twice as much sugar as I like. It would spoil the tender moment. Besides, the coffee’s so wonderful, it would be ignoble to complain. One learns not to quibble about such details when one lives abroad.

In a matter of moments, I’m flying high on a caffeine and sugar buzz, and I begin to actually consider Ciccio’s suggestion. I contemplate putting a fake photo in my website. Some vampy girl, legs up to her chin, dressed in black leather and spike heels. Sloe eyes, bee-stung lips, belly button proudly displayed. It sounds like the beginning of a romantic comedy, and in an instant, I’m writing the synopsis in my head. The hero is played by Hugh Grant—no, wait. Hugh Jackman, now we’re talking. He’ll pursue the image in the fake website photo for some reason, and the real writer behind the website, played by a frumped up Sandra Bullock in horn-rimmed glasses, will embark upon an escalating series of misadventures to cover her tracks, which will culminate in them both learning the Importance of Being True To Yourself, yada yada, while finding true love and all that good stuff along the way. Yeah.

Yikes. Maybe I’ll write that story someday, but I don’t want to live it! Pretending to be something you’re not is stressful. Besides, my sweetie already knows the truth about me, and he appears to be handling it.

So if you’re interested, here’s where you’ll find odd bits and pieces of the Shocking Truth about living in Italy from time to time, when book deadlines permit. No countess in a castle by the sea, or international spy. No black leather, spike heels or belly buttons. Just me, and my adventures in a foreign land, where truth is always stranger than fiction . . . and the coffee is simply awesome.

But for now, I’d better get to work on the next book, so that this website will have a right to exist.

Til later, then, with much love,

Shannon McKenna

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

From the Kensington site:

 

 

I started writing my first romance novel in secret. I was working a temp job in an insurance office in Manhattan at the time, and the office manager had made it clear that even if there was nothing to do, I still had to look busy-- never one of my big talents. I felt bad about the wasted time, though, and I needed something to round out my other chosen career, which was singing. Yeah, that's right. Most artists choose a more practical Plan B to back up their improbable Plan A. Me? No way. "Long Shot" is my middle name.

 

So I sneakily set up a Document 1 and a Document 2 with a spreadsheet on it. If my Boss du Jour walked by I could quick-like-a-bunny switch screens, and whenever the coast was clear, I went back to my story. Not that I was slacking, mind you. If there was work to be done, I did it. The sneakiness felt familiar, though, because I've been teased about reading romances since I was a kid. I think the day I finally grew up was the day I stopped trying to cover up what I was reading on the bus, train or subway.

 

Let people think whatever they like.

 

It wasn't until I moved to Italy that I got serious about writing, though. I found myself with many long, quiet days alone with nothing to do, so I slogged my way bravely to the end of the manuscript and sent it out. Everybody rejected it-except for Kensington. I wrote for them for a few years, and then made a bid for an erotic novella for the new Brava imprint, and oh joy, they accepted it. Then I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. And so on, and so forth.

 

 

That's how I started. I can't think of anything I'd rather do. I never knew it would be so scary, and so hard . . . all that solitude and silence, a blank computer screen, and no one to blame. But still. It's worth it. It's great. 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Please give SHANNON MCKENNA a big B&N welcome!

 

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darkangel_1988
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

[ Edited ]

Shannon

 

 


 

My Book Giveaways

http://www.darkangel88.com/

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davi-strand
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Welcome, Shannon! I'm a big fan and I always wonder where you come up with your story ideas. Where do you find inspiration?

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Shannon - I've been a huge fan of your books for years! I think I've read them all, and your new releases are always must-buys for me. I am SO excited that you're joining us, I'm happy dancing all over the place!

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TiggerBear
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Welcome Ms. Mckenna! It's great to have you join us!:smileyvery-happy:

 

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ShannonMcKennaAuthor
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Hello, and thank you all so much for the lovely welcome!

I so appreciate the interest and the greeting, and will be delighted to answer questions.

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ShannonMcKennaAuthor
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

My inspiration? You mean, besides the need to pay my mortgage?

 . . . 

Well, it takes a long time for me to get revved up, that’s for sure. I scribble ideas in a notebook for literally months until I hit on something I think of as a decent starting place. And once I get that starting place, the first few chapters are an eternity, because everything about the story is still up in the air, and everything that happens is a decision that I have to make that could determine the whole story, and the omni-potentiality of it all is absolutely crippling! Then, later on, it is both easier and harder, when the story starts picking up momentum and I have to deal with the consequences of all the decisions I have made! One thing that I cannot do is compose directly onto a keyboard. I have to write the first draft in a notebook, no matter what. I just sit there, jaw dangling and a thread of drool dripping onto the keyboard if I try to skip that part. So that probably doubles how long it takes me to write. But hey, what can you do.

 

And often the seed idea is just a fleeting thought or feeling or image. For instance, in BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, I was reading a LInda Howard novel, set in New Orleans, and a character who was not even the hero, just a shadowy mysterious character, was watching the heroine as she stood by her father's grave at a funeral. The image stuck in my head, and turned and bounced there like a rock in a rock tumbler for a couple of years, and eventually, I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Which has no funeral, and is not set in New Orleans. It was just the way that scene made me feel. Very mysterious.

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ShannonMcKennaAuthor
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

Thank you so much, Becke! I am never so honored by when I find out that I'm a "must-buy" for someone, because my own must-buys are so few and so important. So thank you for the profound compliment.

 

And I finally managed to figure out how to post . . . I jsut not have found an easy way to get back to the thread without having to exit out of everything and then climb back in with the link you sent. Hah! Oh well, I'll figure it out eventually I suppose.

 

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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

 


ShannonMcKennaAuthor wrote:

Hello, and thank you all so much for the lovely welcome!

I so appreciate the interest and the greeting, and will be delighted to answer questions.


 

Hi Shannon - Sorry I'm late. I'm juggling things this morning (I'm a garden writer in my day job, and I have a couple deadlines this week.)

 

I'm so glad you were able to sign in okay - a couple of our regulars have reported problems today.

 

If any of the rest of you are having problems, send me a personal message here or (if you are unable to do that) you can contact me on Twitter, too: Becke_Davis.

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becke_davis
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Re: Please Welcome Author SHANNON MCKENNA!

 


ShannonMcKennaAuthor wrote:

My inspiration? You mean, besides the need to pay my mortgage?

 . . . 

Well, it takes a long time for me to get revved up, that’s for sure. I scribble ideas in a notebook for literally months until I hit on something I think of as a decent starting place. And once I get that starting place, the first few chapters are an eternity, because everything about the story is still up in the air, and everything that happens is a decision that I have to make that could determine the whole story, and the omni-potentiality of it all is absolutely crippling! Then, later on, it is both easier and harder, when the story starts picking up momentum and I have to deal with the consequences of all the decisions I have made! One thing that I cannot do is compose directly onto a keyboard. I have to write the first draft in a notebook, no matter what. I just sit there, jaw dangling and a thread of drool dripping onto the keyboard if I try to skip that part. So that probably doubles how long it takes me to write. But hey, what can you do.

 

And often the seed idea is just a fleeting thought or feeling or image. For instance, in BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, I was reading a LInda Howard novel, set in New Orleans, and a character who was not even the hero, just a shadowy mysterious character, was watching the heroine as she stood by her father's grave at a funeral. The image stuck in my head, and turned and bounced there like a rock in a rock tumbler for a couple of years, and eventually, I wrote BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Which has no funeral, and is not set in New Orleans. It was just the way that scene made me feel. Very mysterious.


I love your story about the Linda Howard book (which I have read, too) influencing BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. I'm a long time fan of hers, too, and I find that in her books AND in yours - characters and settings that really hook me in. And, my favorite, really intense emotion between the hero and heroine.