Posts tagged with: suspense

Introducing Nichole Christoff

My guest today, Nichole Christoff, is making her Lair debut.  I discovered Nichole when I saw a reference to her debut novel, The Kill List, on an RWA loop.  It sounded like my kind of book, so I grabbed it, devoured it, and started jonesing for more.  Nichole’s protagonist, Jamie Sinclair, combines the ability to kick serious butt with a very vulnerable heart.  Jamie’s fourth adventure, The Kill Sign, is out tomorrow, so Nichole is celebrating with us.

Welcome, Nichole! Who is Jamie Sinclair?

nichole-christoffJamie Sinclair is a private-investigator-turned-security-specialist with a long list of high risk, high profile clients who call her when calling the police is out of the question. Jamie is also the only child of a retired two-star general who’s now a US Senator. In many ways, she was the son he never had so she developed quite a skill-set during a childhood spent at his side. As a result, Jamie’s rough-and-tumble on the outside, but with a failed marriage behind her, she’s quite soft on the inside. There’s a vulnerability to Jamie and a strength I admire.

How did you come up with her background?

thekilllistcoverAs the spouse of a US military officer, I often attended events at embassies and diplomats’ residences. At the fringes of events like these, security teams, charged with keeping the diplomats and their guests safe, keep watch. These teams are mostly made-up of highly-trained men, but among them are highly-trained women as well. By the time I began to work out the crime in what would become The Kill List, I knew I needed a heroine possessing the professional capabilities of those interesting women who’d safeguarded me, if my protagonist were going to get the job done. And that’s how Jamie was born.

We love call stories in the Lair. Will you share yours?

Sure! One ordinary April afternoon, my awesome agent, Elizabeth Winick Rubinstein of McIntosh and Otis, called to say we had an offer from Random House’s extraordinary Kate Miciak. You might know Kate for acquiring and editing Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, plus she’s edited half the books on my keeper shelf. Kate and I got right to work on the first novel in the Jamie Sinclair series, and now the latest one, The Kill Sign, arrives December 6th!

the-kill-shotWhy do Jamie and Adam Barrett cross paths?

Jamie and Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett first cross paths in my debut novel, The Kill List, when her lying, cheating, army officer ex-husband begs her to track down the kidnapper who snatched the diabetic daughter he fathered with another woman. For the sake of the child, Jamie won’t say no to the job, even though it means returning to the army post where she grew up and putting up with her ex-husband again. But the FBI and Adam Barrett, the post’s military police commander, aren’t too happy to have a private eye like Jamie stepping on their toes.

Jamie, however, isn’t reckless. She’s smart and she’s capable, and Barrett’s a man who appreciates those qualities. Now, if Barrett gets his way, crossing paths with Jamie just might become a permanent arrangement.

the-kill-boxPlease tell us about the first three books in the series.

In all the Jamie Sinclair novels, Jamie faces professional challenges, but she also faces personal ones, too. We meet Jamie in The Kill List, and to keep a little girl safe, she’s forced to trust again. In The Kill Shot, Jamie’s overbearing father requests the one thing he’s never asked for in his life: Jamie’s help. But when Jamie takes her father’s case, she finds herself in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse that could cost her her life.

In The Kill Box, Jamie rushes to Barrett’s hometown when a cold case from his past threatens their future, but everything goes wrong when a killer sets his sights on Jamie, and she meets a man who just might give Barrett a run for his money.

How does The Kill Sign build on these?

For Jamie, the stakes couldn’t be higher in The Kill Sign. She’s at a crossroads in this novel, both in terms of her relationship with Barrett and in regard to her career. In both instances, she can see the road not taken, and she has to decide what she’s going to do about it.

Would you like to share an excerpt from one of the books?

thekillsigncoverI’d love to. This passage is from the newest novel in the series, The Kill Sign. After a dirty bomb destroys a riverboat casino and nearly takes Jamie and Barrett down with it, she tracks a notorious gambler to a private hunting lodge in the Deep South, and he sends his enforcers to get rid of her. His men pile into all-terrain vehicles to chase Jamie through the woods with guns blazing, and this is what happens next:

Instinctively, I leapt for thick brush and safety. Bullets tore the leathery leaves of a wild magnolia as I hammered past it, intent on finding a new way to the main road and my SUV. And just as I began to put some distance between my tender hide and the ATV racing along the lane, a second all-terrain vehicle burst from a thicket, digging into the leaf litter in front of me and cutting off my escape route.

I turned on a dime, fled down a slope where hardwoods grew few and far between. Cypress dotted the landscape instead. I stumbled and fell on the hip still sore from my encounter with Monique. Momentum carried me down a muddy embankment. I tried to right myself, but I tumbled.

Head over heels, I splashed into the shockingly cold waters of a marsh.

My arrival set off ripples through the scummy bracken. Cattails, the color of winter wheat, stirred and parted. A massive S-wave flowed toward me and one word formed in my brain: Gator!

Wow, talk about ending on a hook!  What do you enjoy most and least about writing?

I love to get lost in another world for a while, and for me, that’s what writing is. Of course, pushing through a complex plot problem can be stressful, but in the end, it’s always worth the effort.

What’s next for you?

I’m thrilled to say I have another Jamie Sinclair novel on the way. Also, I’m working on a brand-new project with a whole new cast of characters. I can’t wait until the day I can tell you more!

For more information about Nichole and her books, visit her website,  You can also connect with her on Twitter, where she’s @NicChristoff, Facebook, and Goodreads, and you can find her books at Random House.

Nichole is giving a copy of The Kill Box to one of today’s commenters.  You must live in the US to win.  So tell us, what’s your favorite book or movie about a strong woman or your favorite private investigator book or movie?






It’s AUGUST! Coming Attractions….

Hey everyone!  How’s your summer going?? How can it possibly be AUGUST already???

I hope you’ll join me and Banditas Suz and Nancy as we have a LAUNCH in the LAIR on August 8!  We’ll be joined by the always awesome J.D. Tyler because the four of us collaborated on a really cool anthology.

In the meantime, the book is up on all the platforms, so if you’re interested, take a look!  We’ll see you on the 8th!


A Lifetime of Storytelling – Special Guest Wes Sarginson

Cassondra: My mom says I was too young, and that I shouldn’t be able to remember, but I do.

I can just barely remember Walter Cronkite reporting the first moon landing because it was such a big deal that my parents stayed up late.  They never stayed up late. I was a tiny little thing.  

That’s my first memory of television news, and it made an impression.

I went on to study journalism, and to admire people who reported the news with integrity and earned the trust of the audience.  

Today I’m Wes Sarginsonpleased to welcome to the Bandit lair a man with that kind of track record.  

I met former NBC anchor Wes Sarginson two years ago in Atlanta.  It was clear immediately why this man has been so successful in his life’s work.  He obviously enjoys people and the tales of their lives. I could have listened to his stories all night, and I knew right then  that I wanted to introduce him to all of you here.

Wes’s career in tv journalism spans four decades, and before he retired, he was behind the news desks in Montgomery, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Tampa and Atlanta. 

He’s just launched his fiction debut, so it’s the perfect opportunity to bring him for a visit. Even better, his new thriller, Justifiable, is a collaboration with a long-time friend of the Bandits, Dianna Love.

Sven is behind the bar slinging drinks, so everybody get comfortable and please join me in the usual rowdy fashion as we overwhelm…uh….I mean…welcome… Wes Sarginson.

Cassondra: Wes, we’re all curious about your days as an anchorman. I know your first job as a teenager was in broadcasting, but did you have dreams of reporting the news when you were a little kid?

Wes: No, I didn’t plan to be a journalist. I was working my way through Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and got a call from NBC news in New York.

Cassondra:  This was in the early-mid 1960s, right?

800px-Selma_to_Montgomery_MarchesWes: (nodding yes) They wanted someone to go to Selma before the big march to Montgomery and asked if I would do it. I asked “how much will you pay?” They gave me their fee schedule. I asked if they would pay mileage for my car. They said they would pay ten cents a mile. I jumped on it. When I got there it seemed pretty exciting and I was hooked. After a few radio interviews NBC sent a stringer photog and I got a couple of tv stories on the air before the regular reporters arrived. I covered many civil rights stories after that.

 Cassondra: And that led to your interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at what would become a pivotal moment in history.  What was that like for you?

Wes: I think Dr. King took pity on me. I was very young and had no idea what to ask  him but he was a pro and if I didn’t ask the right questions he gave me the answers he wanted on the air. He led me in the right direction. It was a good thing that I have always been naturally curious because I listened to his answers and quickly developed a conversational routine of questions. Some reporters come prepared with a list and when they ask their list they often forget to do follow ups. After that first interview with Dr.King he would spot me at other events and often come over to talk. That was a real break for a young reporter.

Cassondra:  You went on to report many high-profile stories over the years, but you’re perhaps best known for your Wes Side Story segments, which were inspirational news items that often called attention to a person or organization that needed help.  Where did you get the idea for those segments?

Wes: *shakes head* It really wasn’t my idea.I had a general manager at the Tampa station, Jim Zimmerman, who was a former Marine. He called me in and said,”I like the way you write. Some of your stories make people react, even cry. I want you to do one every day. We’ll call them Wes Side Stories…”.

I told him, “I don’t like the name Wes Side Story.”

He answered, “I don’t really care what you like, that’s the name, and I want one every day at the end of your show.”

That’s the way it started. In ten years at that station, I think I missed having a Wes Side three times. On those days huge stories broke and I did my part of the show live in the location of those stories.Sarginson-Fast Eddie

Cassondra:  You published your first book in 1982 about Fast Eddie Watkins, a famous bank robber. The book is out of print now, but readers who are interested  can still find it from second-market vendors like Amazon. A brief snippet from that book reads,  “Eddie held up 61 banks and never harmed a soul.  The 46-year career of Fast Eddie Watkins had begun for a man who would soon become the only man listed on both the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Men list and Dun & Bradstreet’s list of up-and-coming business executives at the same time.”

 How did you get interested in Fast Eddie?

Wes: I was co-anchoring with Monica Kaufman on channel two in Atlanta at the time. We were having a rash of robberies and I was asked to do a series,so I talked with a top FBI bank robbery specialist. He said, “You can’t do a bank robbery series without interviewing E.O.Watkins.” 

Watkins just happened to be at the federal pen in Atlanta. I knew the warden from stories earlier in Michigan when he was a warden up there, so I had access. Watkins was a charmer and talked me into writing the book.

Cassondra:  And it did well.

Wes:  I think it made it up to number three on the NY Times Bestseller list. It was good enough to get a movie deal, but the movie company went bankrupt. I look back at that book and wish I had written it better…

 Cassondra:  Ah, the curse of all writers. Wishing we could pull it back and fix it.  And nobody feels that more than fiction writers.  In January you launched your fiction debut.  It’s a mainstream thriller in collaboration with Dianna Love.  Here’s the back cover blurb from that book:

Children are missing, adults are being murdered and a city is on the brink of exploding. 

The key to saving lives is a secret whispered in confession. 

Once a beloved, award-winning investigative journalist, Riley Walker now anchors for a television station rated the worst in Philadelphia. That’s how it works when a top newsman makes an epic mistake in front of the whole world. The busier Riley stays, the less he thinks about the one decision that will haunt him forever.  His vow?  Never get involved again.  That works until a killer uses Riley’s past against him, and targets a child the world has forgotten. Riley is the only one who can save him, but when Riley digs deep for the truth, he uncovers evidence fingering a powerful player no one will believe is guilty. Dangerous politics pit Riley against a serial killer, and threaten all he’s fought to regain

To save the life of a child and stop a killer on a savage murder spree, Riley must fight an enemy far greater than the tide of public anger rolling against him. He’ll have to face his own demons, and the horror of the child who died because the last time…Riley was wrong. 


Love & Sarginson--JustifiableCassondra: The hero in this book is a tv news anchor, just like you.  Why did you want to tell Riley’s story? 

Wes:  I know there are time and money constraints, but if you just tell the obvious facts, television news will stay as boring as it is now.  I don’t think many reporters or anchors take the time to get into the people behind the stories. I took the time to do that with Wes Side Stories…I always felt I had to go behind the obvious…and I wanted to write about an anchorman who did that.

Cassondra:  So you talked about it to Dianna Love.

Wes:  Dianna pushed me to get this done … Dianna is the driving force behind all of this, and I hope she thinks it was worthwhile. I know I do.

 Cassondra: I absolutely love this book. The characters in this story are rich and interesting and I fell in love with them.  Readers in the lair will want to know that this is a mainstream thriller and NOT a romance, but there are certainly romantic elements, and a budding relationship between Riley and DA Investigator Kirsten Willingham Massey.  Of course, Kirsten and Riley are pitted against one another, and…well…that’s all I’ll say about that conflict.  

Of all thesupporting characters in this book, though, I particularly love Biddy.  Ron “Biddy” Bidowski is a former Navy SEAL turned cameraman, and Riley’s sidekick in this series.  Wes, I read that Biddy was a conglomerate of several cameramen you’ve worked with over the years. 

Wes:   I had three great cameramen and one female shooter. The four of them always had my back. Once we got in a confrontation with the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.  The female camera operator unlimbered her heavy film camera and sort of hit him with it . We both denied that later to save her job. It was so long ago I think I can talk about it now.

Cassondra:  Wow. I absolutely get the sense of that from reading Justifiable.  The spirit of it and the watching each others’ backs in tense situations.  That’s in there. Amazing.

Wes Sarginson anchorWes: I also had a huge teammate in Tampa. The newsroom called us Jumbo and Dumbo. He was six-five.  I’m six-two, so guess who was Dumbo?   

Then there was the former submariner…if there ever was a fight where we were outnumbered and clearly the underdogs, I would want Richard by my side. I shouldn’t give you his last name. It was Crabbe. He was often Crabby, but I love that man to this very day.

Cassondra: You’ve spent your life telling stories, and with the Riley Walker novels, you’re still doing that.  How is reporting the news similar to writing fiction?

Wes:  In both you are telling stories. In tv you just have to do it in under a minute and a half… in tv everything is quick…but if Dianna wasn’t the driving force behind the Riley Walker stories they would all be a thousand pages long.  You would need a forklift to move a case of books from one place to the next. Story telling is the same in long or short form. If you tell it well it will sell. If you don’t it will grow mold.

Y’all can read an excerpt of Justifiable at Wes’s website, or Dianna’s website.  Wes and Dianna will give away a signed copy of Justifiable to one commenter today, so tell us,  Bandits and Buddies..

Did your family watch tv news when you were little? 

Or did you listen to the radio?  Or did you get your news from the newspaper?

What’s your first memory of the news on television?

Do you remember any particular news reporters?

What’s the first major event you remember sitting down to watch, waiting for the reporters to find out and tell you what was happening?

Do you still watch the news on tv?

Or do you get your news from the internet?

Wes will be here today, and Dianna Love will be stopping in to visit too.  Do you have any questions for Wes or for Dianna?

Have you ever read a novel about a television reporter?

Selma-Montgomery march image is in public domain.  

The Patrician’s Fortune is in the House

Or rather, in the villa. 😆

That’s right! Today is launch day for the second book in my Patrician series, Damon’s story: THE PATRICIAN’S FORTUNE!

Grab a sangria, a goblet of wine, the gladiator or cabana boy of your choice and recline upon the Roman couches and join me in celebrating.The Patrician's Fortune front cover small (4)

Damon Primax, spy to a Roman senator has held my heart for a long while. I didn’t even know he existed until in the midst of writing THE PATRICIAN, he strolled in and dang near stole the show!  He is clever, wry, self-deprecating, a man forged from life’s experiences with a secret yearning for more than he feels he deserves. He doesn’t believe in luck, most of his having been bad until Julia Manulus’ enters his life. And then…..

Stuff happens 😉

Here, try the snail canapes Paolo made. (HINT: It’s really chicken salad) and enjoy an excerpt:

Julia paced in front of her father’s favorite sedan chair, kicking the hem of her ochre stola out of the way with each agitated turn. What was taking Kaj so long? Had the criminal balked at the preparations? If he objected to the simple matter of a bath, what would his reaction be to her proposal?

She paused mid-turn, twisted her ring.  He might refuse, call her mad. Julia rolled her eyes and resumed her pacing. Of course he would agree. Live or die, the choice was simple.

Wasn’t it?

Oh, this was ridiculous. She was used to handling matters of importance and used to making important decisions. Her household functioned smoothly because her servants and family trusted her. She had never failed them and she would not begin now.

It would be a simple matter of establishing from the very start with the ruffian that she was the mistress and demanded obedience and compliance. He was a common criminal while Julia was the daughter of a noble Roman house. There was nothing more to it.

Then why was her stomach tied in knots?

Footsteps echoed along the corridor, slowing as they approached the door. Julia sat in her father’s chair, arranged the folds of her tunic and lifted her chin. This meeting would be brief, long enough for him to grovel at her feet, express his gratitude for his rescue and listen docilely to his role in her plan.

Kaj entered first, the fierce look on his face sending fresh waves of uncertainty crashing through her. He must have had a difficult time getting the man’s cooperation. Criminals were violent, crude and void of moral standards. She twisted her ring. She hadn’t considered that the man might not be ethical.

Julia pushed the doubts away. The decision had been made and she would not back away from it. Stubborn is what her father would call her and she supposed it was true though she preferred determined. Either way she took after Octavian in such matters and that was a point of pride.

Kaj bit out an unintelligible order over his shoulder. Julia took a deep breath and focused on the door determined to keep her revulsion concealed. Instead, her breath caught in her throat.

The man who strode into the room bore no resemblance to the beaten, debased creature of seven nights past. He was the most striking male she’d ever seen. He reminded her of a sculpture she’d once admired of the war god Mars. His nose was straight, adding to the aristocratic features of his face with its firm chin, squared jaw and full, sensual mouth.

His hair, the shade of nutmeg now that the grime had been washed away, had been trimmed, chopped off in a ragged line just below the nape of his neck. Combined with the long layers that brushed across his eyes, it gave him a tousled look as though he had just arisen from a long night’s sleep—or bed play. 

Dear Jupiter.

She took a steadying breath and continued her visual inspection. He could stand to gain some weight, though in truth the leanness of his frame added to the sleek hard lines of his body. A warrior’s physique on a criminal? A tremor of unease flared within her.

At Kaj’s barked command he halted. Legs braced apart, broad shoulders pulled back he looked like a general on the verge of battle. It wasn’t difficult to imagine him dressed in armor, sword at the ready.

With effort, she banished the image from her mind and concentrated. Criminals were not supposed to be heart-stoppingly handsome. Julia searched his features for some flaw, some outward sign of his corrupt nature. Her heart tumbled in her chest when he turned and pinned her with a glittering, silver gaze.

 Julia fought not to squirm under his intense scrutiny, watched as he scanned her in a leisurely fashion. She felt the rush of heat to her cheeks when his gaze lingered on her breasts. The corner of his mouth lifted into a crooked smile.

“Goddess. At last we meet.”

Sigh…..Oops, sorry (makes mad dash for slipping Sangria glass) I went to my “happy place”.

So celebrate with me! Bring your usual snacks, grab a drink and let’s party!

One commenter will gain “fortune” and win a download of  THE PATRICIAN’S FORTUNE!