I am pleased to introduce the newest Love Inspired Suspense author, Kerry Johnson. Her debut novel, Snowstorm Sabotage, is out now. She has offered to give away 2 free copies. All you have to do is leave a comment for Kerry. Winners will be chosen Friday, October 29, 2021 and notified via email.
Keep reading to learn about about the author behind the book.
Some people believe that being a published author is glamorous, is that true?
Only if you’re J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steele. Giggle No really, at this point in my writing career it’s all about sitting in a chair and tapping those fingertips to the keyboard while ignoring laundry and dishes and all the books I want to read. Over and over and over again. Oh, and drinking lots of tea. If anything is glamorous in my writing life, it’s the tea.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
This is tough because it would be a tie. First of all, I’d say keep writing more stories. Don’t be like me and write one story then edit it for four or five years and lament over why no one wants it. Write more stories, in different genres to see where your voice fits best. The other important piece of advice is to join writing groups to connect with other writers. I can’t stress this enough. Those friendships will carry you through the toughest rejections and keep you humble on the mountaintop, too.
If you could do anything else, what would it be?
I would totally love to own a coffee and tea shop with a built-in bookshop and reading nook. I have no idea how to make most coffee drinks (I’m a tea lover), but the idea of a warm, cozy place to grab a chai tea and meet a friend, or grab a book and read (or write!), sounds wonderful.
What is your writing schedule like?
My kids are in school from 8-3:15, so after they leave, I get the dog walked, do my devotional, eat breakfast, work on email or household chores, etc… then I try to write or edit from 11- 2. I have to leave by 2:30 for pickup. Those few (quiet!) hours are so productive but they go much too quickly.
What is the theme or message of your book?
For my heroine in Snowstorm Sabotage, Everly, the idea of not being forgotten by God rang true. When life is difficult, there’s a tendency to buy into the idea that God has pushed us aside to focus on His other children. I wanted Everly’s character arc to show how that idea is false, and that God never forgot her. My hero, Isaac, struggles with low self-worth because of a rough childhood and being told he’s less than, so I wanted to show through his arc that God loves and values each of us equally, no matter our background or mistakes. I pray the reader takes these messages to heart as well.
Kerry Johnson has been conversing with fictional characters since her childhood in the Connecticut woods. A long-time member of ACFW, she’s a seven-time Genesis Contest finalist and two-time winner. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her engineer husband, two teenaged sons, her nine-year-old niece, and way too many books. She loves Jesus, long walks, all creatures great and small, and iced chai tea.
Today I’m talking with debut Love Inspired Suspense author, Deena Alexander. Please be sure to comment here or on my social media posts for a chance to win a copy of Crime Scene Connection. Deena is giving away 3 copies!! Lucky winners can choose from paperback or e-book. Winners will be contacted Friday, January 15th. (Winners must be in the U.S.)
Welcome, Deena! Let’s get started.
We all have our favorite place to write. Can you describe your writing space?
When we moved to Florida, my husband told me to design an office and he’d build it for me. I am so blessed that he is incredibly supportive of my writing. My middle son is working on writing a children’s book, and my youngest is being home-schooled, so I wanted a desk with three work stations, so we could all work together. I have a whiteboard hanging in front of my desk that I use as a story board, and a wall of cubbies for supplies. It’s perfect for me. And when I need quiet time to reflect on what I’m writing, I usually sit in my sunroom. I love the view and often see a variety of wildlife, which is nice from inside.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
The best advice anyone ever gave me was just sit down and write your book. It won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t matter. You will make changes every time you read through it, but you can’t get anywhere if you don’t write that first rough draft. I re-wrote Crime Scene Connection at least four or five times before it was contracted. The second piece of advice would be, jump at every opportunity to learn about writing.
What does a day in the life of an author look like for you?nWhat is your writing schedule like?
Ideally, I get up and write first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. Since my youngest is now home schooled, I usually work with him for a few hours first, then work on some plotting or my story board. After that, I go through and answer any emails I have, do any edits I’m working on, then finally settle down to write. It’s not unusual for me to write in the middle of the night, since I rarely sleep.
If you could do anything else, what would it be?
If I could do anything other than writing, it would be teaching dance, which I did for more than twenty years. I loved working with kids, and I often miss it.
What is your favorite genre of books to read?
I love romantic suspense and cozy mysteries.
Thank you for being here, Deena.
Thank you so much for having me. I’ve enjoyed visiting!
Crime Scene Connection
Deena’s debut novel, Crime Scene Connection is out now. Continue reading for a free chapter excerpt.
Her writing was fiction,
until a killer made the danger very real…
A serial killer’s imitating crime scenes from Addison Keller’s bestselling novel, determined to make her the final victim. But with former police officer Jace Montana and his dog at her side, Addison might just be able to unmask the murderer. With time running out as the killer closes in, she must confront her past and unravel long-buried secrets…and hope they can all escape with their lives.
“No. Oh no.” Addison Keller scrolled past picture after picture, fear choking her. Oh, God, please don’t let this be happening again.
She jumped at her agent’s voice and fumbled the phone. “Uh…”
No way could she tell Ron about the email. He was already freaked out enough about the death threats she’d received. “Nothing. Just upset about all of this.”
“Stay where you are. I’ll be there within the hour.”
“No, Ron…wait. I—”
“Listen to me, Addison. This isn’t a joke. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but a news reporter has already made the connection to you, and the police can’t be far behind. They’ve already questioned you once, about the last murder, do you really want to deal with them again?” The pitch of Ron’s voice increased with the volume.
She scrolled back up to the first image. The email contained twelve photos. In the first two, the victim—if Addison allowed herself to think of the victim as a woman, she’d lose her battle against nausea—was still alive. The other ten had been taken after she was killed, the crime scene all too familiar, since Addison had created it in her novel.
“Ron, I don’t—”
“I’m already in the car, but even in the middle of the night, with no traffic, it’ll still take me an hour to get there.” His heavy breathing faded in and out over the spotty cell phone connection. He muttered something unintelligible. “I’ll never understand why you insist on living all the way out on Long Island.”
She ran a shaky fingertip over the woman’s hair on the computer screen. The same long dark hair as the rest of the victims Addison had conjured up. Guilt hammered her. If she hadn’t written that book, the killer might never have chosen these victims.
“Throw some stuff together. We’ll put you in a hotel somewhere if you don’t want to stay with me.” He ended the call without waiting for a response.
“No, no, no.” Without taking her eyes from the laptop screen, she tossed the phone onto the bed, wrapped her arms around herself and doubled over, tears stinging her eyes. She blinked them back. Crying wouldn’t help. She had to calm down, had to think. Had to remember what had happened when—No. She slammed the door on the memories trying to surface. Remembering her past wouldn’t help. It would only make this nightmare real.
She squinted and pulled the laptop closer. The attention to detail in the photos laid out the crime scene exactly as she’d imagined it. She had no doubt the murder weapon, a small handgun, would be found under the overturned kitchen chair. Right where she had placed it in her book.
Unable to tear her gaze from the screen, she fumbled a hand across the nightstand, knocking over her tea in search of the remote. When her fingers closed around it, she pulled it back and turned on the TV. Breaking News jumped off the screen, slamming into her. She turned up the volume.
“Details are just starting to emerge on the murder that took place earlier tonight in the exclusive suburb…” Yellow crime scene tape stretched across a lawn, and cops moved in and out of the house, creating a beehive of activity.
She tuned out the rest and hit the button to turn off the TV. It didn’t matter. She could, no doubt, describe the exact layout of the kitchen in the house pictured on the screen—even what wasn’t visible in the photographs included with the email.
It was only a matter of time before the police knocked on her door. Again. Only this time, that arrogant detective might do more than just glare at her with suspicion darkening his eyes. This time, he’d most likely arrest her.
A creak tore her attention from the computer screen. It was a sound she knew all too well. The third step had always creaked like that.
And the killer had already made it clear he was coming for her in his previous email. No way was she waiting around to give him a target.
She flung the blanket back, toppling the computer to the side, and launched herself from the bed. No time to get changed. She stuffed her feet into the UGG boots she’d toed off when she came upstairs. Where’d her cell phone go? No idea. Forget it.
She shoved the second-story window open, praying fervently it wouldn’t squeak, swung her legs over, gripped the ledge, then dropped to the ground. Ten feet. That was all the ground she had to cover before the thick woods would swallow her up. She ran. The pounding of her heart and the blood rushing through her head merged together, the thunderous noise drowning out any sounds of possible pursuit.
When she reached the woods, she slid as quietly as possible into the darkness, trying not to disturb the dense underbrush. Leaves crunched beneath her feet, and she fought desperately against the urge to flee. Bumbling through the woods in the dark on the carpet of fallen leaves would only draw the intruder’s attention. Instead, she slipped into the deepest shadows, with a desperate prayer the darkness would conceal her presence and the stranger would leave.
She pressed her back against a huge oak tree, then bent at the waist and braced her hands on her knees. Her chest ached, and she finally dared to take a breath. The salty scent of the sea, usually comforting, only fueled her nausea. She slapped a hand over her nose and mouth. Vomiting now would be a death sentence.
When she’d regained some semblance of control, Addison turned to face the tree. She pressed her forehead against the cool, damp bark. This can’t be happening. Except, it was happening. And if she couldn’t find a way to stop it, she was going to be the final victim of a deranged killer. Heaving in one more deep breath and holding it, Addison peeked around the tree, scraping her forehead on the rough trunk. She winced at the sting.
She couldn’t say for sure the shape silhouetted in her bedroom window was a man, but the broad shoulders gave a distinctly masculine appearance. A shiver crawled up her spine. Whoever it was didn’t seem to be in any hurry to follow her, ignoring the open window she’d obviously escaped through to focus on something in the room.
If it was the police in the house, she should probably go back and talk to them. And say what, that she was responsible for the murder of the woman who died earlier? Just like she was responsible for the woman who was killed last week. And the woman who’d be killed next week and every week thereafter until…
No. She couldn’t go back. Police officers were probably not in the habit of sneaking into people’s houses unannounced, in the wee hours of the morning. And there was a distinct possibility the killer was a cop—or, at the very least, someone close to the investigation. Someone who could be framing her right now while she cowered behind a tree watching him. Oh, please, Lord, help me get out of here alive.
She turned to flee and barreled straight into a broad chest. Her heart stopped and a vise gripped her lungs and squeezed hard.
A large hand covered her mouth before she could let loose the scream welling in her lungs. The man’s hot breath bathed her neck when he whispered, “Please, don’t scream. I’m here to help.”
She nodded, giving up any hope of escaping his grasp.
“We have to get out of here. Now.”
At least that was something they could agree on.
“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth and release you. Please, don’t scream.”
Heaving in a deep, shaky breath through her nose, she held his gaze and nodded again. Shadows concealed his eyes. Who was he? Cop? Accomplice? Murderer? Maybe he was just a good citizen who’d seen her climb out the window while he was prowling the neighborhood dressed all in black, had guessed she was in trouble, and come to her rescue. Yeah, right. She closed her eyes and let her head fall back against the tree.
He released his hold.
The instant his hand left her, she whirled to flee.
He caught her arm and leaned close. “You’re going to get us both killed.”
She chanced a quick glance over her shoulder. The dim light filling her bedroom window was gone, leaving the room in complete darkness. Panic gripped her. Where’d the intruder go?
Her stranger guided her against the tree, angling his body between her and anyone who might enter the woods from the direction of the house. “Connor Bynes sent me.”
Connor? She didn’t know her sister’s husband, but she thought he was in the military or something. Not a cop. That she knew for sure. It didn’t make sense. “Why?”
“I’ll explain later. Somewhere safer.” He surveyed the yard and the house and glanced over his shoulder at the route through the woods her mind begged him to take. Returning his gaze to the yard, he backed away and pulled a handgun from the small of his back, then pressed a finger to his lips.
Like she’d really talk right now.
Keeping the gun aimed past the tree toward the yard, he backed a few steps deeper into the woods and gestured her toward him.
Trust him or not? Was he the answer to her desperate plea for help, or was he a threat? None of this made sense, but neither did standing there waiting for a killer to find her.
A crash broke the unnatural silence of the night, followed by the barking of the neighbor’s Rottweiler.
Addison dropped to a crouch and studied the yard. Moonlight spilled through the trees, the soft sea breeze rippling the leaves and sending shadows skittering across the small patch of back lawn. Hopefully, the motion would be enough to cover their movements as they fled. A deepening shadow at the back of the house caught her attention. Someone?
She only hesitated another second, her gaze focused on the man standing before her, perfectly still, as if he had all night. This wasn’t the time for life-and-death decisions. Once she was somewhere safer, where she could think more clearly, she’d decide what to do. She stood and crept toward him, careful to tread lightly on the dead leaves, every crunch spearing her with a new pang of fear.
He turned and led her deeper into the woods. How on earth did he walk so quietly?
She struggled to keep him in sight and still watch where she was going. A twig beneath her foot snapped, the crack echoing through the night. She froze.
“Go.” With the need for stealth blown, he gestured her ahead of him. “Run.”
A blast of gunfire split the night, the thud of bullets tearing through the brush way too close.
A grunt at her back made her pause, a barely perceptible hesitation, but her stranger propelled her forward as he returned fire.
Branches clutched her pajama sleeves, tore the thin fabric, scratched her arms and back, and caught in her hair. Still, she ran, the sound of her stranger’s harsh breaths keeping pace just behind her oddly comforting. The next shot brought a sharp sting as a piece of bark ricocheted into her cheek.
Deena grew up in a small town on the south shore of eastern Long Island, where she met and married her high school sweetheart. She recently relocated to Florida with her husband, three kids, son-in-law, and four dogs. Now she enjoys long walks in nature all year long, despite the occasional alligator or snake she sometimes encounters. Deena’s love for writing developed when her youngest son was born and didn’t sleep through the night, and she now works full time as a writer and a freelance editor.
Today I have an interview with Love Inspired Suspense author, Sharee Stover.
Theresa: Out of all the characters you’ve written about, is there one that is your favorite?
Sharee: The heroine in Grave Christmas Secrets is my favorite character (so far). Dr. Taya McGill is a forensic anthropologist with quirks and fears but she’s incredibly brave and authentic.
Theresa: That sounds like a very interesting profession to write about!
Have you ever won any awards for your writing?
Sharee: Yes! I am a triple Daphne du Maurier finalist, winner of the 2017 Wisconsin Fabulous Five Silver Quill Award, and my debut, Secret Past, won Best First Book in the 2019 National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards.
Theresa: That is an impressive list! And well-deserved!
Do you take time to plot/outline your books? Or do you just jump right in?
Sharee: I really wanted to believe I was a pantser for a long time…alas, I have come to accept that I am a plotter to the nth degree. However, this proves beneficial on those days when I’m struggling to write. I have a very thorough synopsis that acts like a playbook and gives me the ‘what happens next’ boost I need.
Theresa: I can relate. I think I’m a mix of the two, also. What kinds of research do you do for your books?
Sharee: Research depends totally on the story, but I’ve done everything from hiking the Manitou Springs Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado to interviewing a real forensic anthropologist with my one hundred and one questions. I’ve had the privilege of talking with police K9 handlers and ATF agents. And I’ve attended many writers’ conferences where FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement entities were present to answer questions. One of my favorite conferences is the Writers Police Academy which is a huge knowledge base. And of course, there’s always Google searches. I also do a lot of reading both fiction and non-fiction.
Theresa: I have always wanted to attend the Writer’s Police Academy. I tend to rely on Google and books, too.
Share something fun your reader wouldn’t know about you.
Sharee: I’m not sure it’s fun, but one unique thing about me is that I am a two-time cornea transplant recipient. It’s been over 15 years since my last surgery, and I’m grateful every single day for my vision!
Theresa: What a blessing! Thank you for sharing that with us and for being here to answer questions. It was great having you today!
Read on to Sharee’s new release, Grave Christmas Secrets
Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Forensic anthropologist Taya McGill disagreed with Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote. In her experience, the dead were horrible secret keepers. Rather, she’d dub them mysterious pirates hoarding a treasure trove of clues. And as a general rule, far more reliable than most living people she’d encountered.
Taya cherished the incredible honor of speaking for the dearly departed, even when an active crime scene overtook her nonexistent Christmas plans. The excavation freed her from the holiday hustle and bustle she detested more than the insufferable game and parks officer reigning as security over the site.
He’d gone, for now, but if his previous behavior was any indicator, there’d soon be more rounds in futility. Those who misjudged Taya’s petite five-foot, ninety-pound stature for weakness learned the hard way that her stubbornness came packaged like dynamite and equaled her determination.
Dr. Taya McGill would never again succumb to a uniformed bully.
“It’s just you and me, friend. You’re safe to share your secrets,” Taya said, brushing back dirt from the exposed skull. Her coworkers mocked the unconventional method of talking aloud to the victim, but the process worked for her. And since she spent the majority of her time alone, who did it bother, anyway?
Unpredictable weather had hindered the recovery of the human remains, hindering the dig’s progression. The frigid winter temperatures had banked at a high—if that was a relative term—of negative four degrees. The radical increasing wind speeds over the past hour had further complicated things. No overhead streetlamps illuminated the onyx sky. Rolling hills and the occasional farm nestled in an endless snow-covered landscape surrounded over three hundred acres of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Park in the northeastern corner of Royal, Nebraska.
She shivered and tugged the zipper of her down-alternative parka as high as it would go, tucking her nose in the warmth. It was after midnight, but Taya’s ongoing battle with insomnia provided her the excuse to continue working. The victim buried in the shallow grave deserved justice. As did those mourning her.
Taya leaned down and paused with her brush midair. She’d already exposed most of the skeletal form and prepared to collect the remains for transport to her laboratory at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Something red near the thoracic vertebrae peeked through the earth. With a delicate swipe, she uncovered the object. A small deflated latex balloon.
Taya sighed. The find wasn’t unusual. Addicts ingested the balloons as a method of muling illegal drugs. Was that this victim’s story?