The Thrill Of Suspense and the Humor Of It All

Bob and I just finished and released the second book in the New Adult Scandals suspense series.  When Bob completes his first draft of our plot and character study, his anxiety is over.  As he would say, his book “is now in the hands of the professional, the real author, to do her thing and make it read like a book.”  Killer Date ramped up the suspense from book #1, Due Dates.  While Due Dates had to spend a lot of time on introducing the characters and the situation, Killer Date was able to jump immediately into the case…and the romance.  Once Reno, Jenny and Nick were hot on the trail, it became a race against time with a life-or-death finish.



As I neared the end of the rewrite, blow-out work and polish that I do to each book, Bob always asks, “How do you like the book?”  And I always say essentially the same thing.  “I can’t tell.  I’m too close to it.”

This kind of got Bob wondering if that ever happened to Alfred Hitchcock, the amazing filmmaker, director and writer who will forever be known as The Master of Suspense.  Much like an amateur golfer will dive into golf lessons and suddenly discover their 20 handicap can’t be improved without first tearing apart every aspect of their existing game, Bob explored how Hitchcock managed to improve the genre with each film.


The first thing Bob’s research discovered was this quote that clearly justifies how I feel when I finish a book.  Hitchcock admitted to an interviewer, “It’s only after a picture is done that one can judge it properly.”

Sort of sounds like “I can’t tell.  I’m too close to it.”  Right?  Maybe I’m on the right track.  But while my books pulse with suspense, they always have a touch of humor.  What would Hitchcock say about that?

He was credited to having said “In the mystery and suspense genre, a tongue-in-cheek approach is indispensable.”

Many have said that his films were the equivalent of a roller coaster ride in which the passengers scream wildly on the way down but laugh when the ride rolls to a stop.  He also said, “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible” and that “there is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”  I love roller coasters, and I love Hitchcock.  Now I understand why I my characters always have a sense of humor, even when they’re knee-deep in blood.


So blog fans, let’s look at the five most commonly found elements of humor buried in the foundation of Hitchcock’s stories.  He found a way to make his suspense unbearably fun for his audiences in five ways.

I appreciate the work of Bays J. M., 2007, Humor: Hitchcock’s Secret Weapon, Borgus Productions,  < in providing this information. 

Exploit trivial character traits

“I’ve always found that, in a moment of crisis a person invariably does something trivial,” said Hitchcock, “like making a cup of tea or lighting up a cigarette. A small detail of this sort adds considerably to the dramatic tension of the situation (Gottlieb, 1997).”


Create situations of irony

In the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “One More Mile to Go” (1957, directed by Hitchcock) a policeman has stopped a man because of a burned out tail light on his car, completely unaware there is a dead body in the trunk.  The more obsessed this policeman gets with fixing the light, the more uneasy the murderer gets.  Hitchcock pushes this situation to the level of unbearable absurdity as the policeman continues worrying about the light, and gets closer and closer to noticing the body.


Surround drama with a happy setting

“The more happy-go-lucky the setting, the greater kick you get from the sudden introduction of drama,” said Hitchcock. (Gottlieb, 1997)

One of the best examples of Hitchcock’s use of whimsical environment is in The Trouble With Harry (1955).  All is normal in this small town with grassy meadows, sunshine, and orange autumn leaves, until a dead body shows up.  Harry Warp becomes everyone’s problem – what can be done about Harry?

“It’s the juxtaposition of the norm, of the accurate average, against the fantasy… that’s what makes the thing interesting.”



Include a burlesque character

One of Hitchcock’s characters must never take murder seriously, mocking it in full delight.  The most memorable is probably Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn in Shadow of a Doubt (1943) getting laughs around the family dinner table figuring out various ways to murder without getting caught.  The shocking sense of humor often disturbs and confuses a gullible person nearby, unsure of whether they are serious.  In Stangers on a Train (1951) Robert Walker teaches a woman at a party how to strangle someone, and she gets quite a laugh out of it.  In Rope (1948) Constance Collier laughs hysterically at Rupert’s (James Stewart) idea of murdering people for sport.  In Rear Window (1954) Thelma Ritter is having a great thrill out of the possibility of a murder across the courtyard.


Balance laugh and tension

Hitchcock used a delicate combination of tension and relief in his suspense sequences.  Often a laugh was inserted at a key point to release some tension.  “…when you have comic relief, it’s important that the hero as well as the audience be relieved,” said Hitchcock. (Gottlieb) This assures that the audience maintains sympathy for the character.

North By Northwest (1959) is one of the best examples of the use of humor involving a chase.  Early in the film Cary Grant is intoxicated and becomes comical as he nearly drives off a cliff.  He looks down over the edge and laughs drunkenly as he pulls away.  Later when he is held by captors at a public auction he becomes a heckler in order to get picked up by the police.

From the suspense master who really knew people well and who said “The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture,” there are three interesting questions that will not be answered here.

  1. Obviously we find suspense to be very appealing.  What is so appealing about uncertainty?  In our everyday life uncertainty is anything but an inherently pleasant experience.
  2. If suspense is uncertainty, then why is it possible to enjoy seeing a movie or reading a book more than once?  Have you ever read a book two or more times or sat down and watched the same film more than once?  You already saw the movie, you know what is going to happen, but were you still sitting on the edge of your seat. How can this be?
  3. Why is it that we can care so much about the fate of a movie or book hero that we know perfectly well does not exist?

I can’t give you the answers, but it should be in your book.  I try very hard for it to be in all of mine.


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The Thrill Of Suspense Across The Ages; Marketing An Author’s Brand

As a New York Times bestselling fiction author, once, and having authored and had published 32 books with total sales over nearly 3.5 million across way too many years to remember, Bob and I joined the Romance Writers of America [RWA] deep in the heart of Texas, on July 23–26, for the 2014 #RWA Conference in San Antonio.  I had stepped away from the #RWA organization after being a National Board member and went to Hollywood to write for the big screen which can explain my time away from the organization and writing books.  The biggest change I noticed was the high quality expertise surrounding the 2nd major task of any successful best selling author, marketing.

In 2012, my husband Bob and I relocated to the #Austin area and we went back to writing novels.  The trip to San Antonio was a short drive and the week was a great time to get away.  We had released 8 books in two years, so it’s not like we’ve been goofing off. What they didn’t realize was how much we would learn about marketing our books and, more critically, our brand.

Whether you’re being published through a large publishing house or self-publishing your books, the effort, skills and intuition needed to market your brand and your books is nearly equal.  So we came back and went to work to sharpen our message to the book market in general and to work on finding and communicating better with our readers and fans.  The result was that we now have a consistent reader facing message.  Bob always knew that an advertising slogan is a short, memorable group of words used in advertising campaigns to draw attention to one distinctive feature,” Bob continued.  “Our passion is suspense so our slogan had to be The Thrill Of Suspense Across The Ages.”

We have three different active suspense series currently.

The Young Adult series, CUL8R [See you later for the non-texters], is all about the 15 to 18 year old reader.  It is a time travel series with the last book, RIP, taking place in 1911 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park Colorado who were very supportive of our work. Having RIP on the shelf with the another famous work of fiction by Stephen KingShining, is a real rush.

aaThe New Adult series, Scandals, is about the 18 to 26 year old generation.  There are two books published thus far, Due Dates and August, 2014 release of Killer Date.  “Millennial “kids, mainly in 18 to 26 year old group, have a great deal of organic suspense built in based on our five sons.  The stories and heroes of these books will keep your heart rate up.  Our NA books are not YA with sex or YA with training wheels removed.  These are bonafide adult suspense stories with twenty something’s talking on the heavy lifting in the story.

0000picFinally, and with one foot still in the romance industry so Kathy doesn’t co-write this series with Bob, the Denver After Dark series is heavy on the suspense and deep into the romance, hence Romantic Suspense.  The 2nd book, Cries In The Night” recently was a finalist in the 2014 #ColoradoHumanities book awards and was recognized in the Amazon 2014 Breakthrough Novel Award.


The activities we’ve undertaken to implement what we learned is that The visual image and simple message on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, the webpage, our email address and template and this blog must all look and feel the same.

Our readers can simply see what we’re about and that’s important. The #RWA San Antonio experience helped us hone our message. These are writers that sell millions of books in a couple of years which took me twenty years to accomplish. With the marketing activity undertaken this first week back we can check marketing off our to do list...for a couple of days.

We was skeptical of the value add of the week at the conference.  Kathy knew what was coming as she used to eat and breath this stuff.  Now Bob’s a believer and more importantly he is seeing the upside to marketing and marketing through a prism to help focus all that we do.  We’ve been fortunate enough to win awards and contests and have earned amazing reviews and ratings…maybe now new readers will have an easier time finding us.  Now it’s time to write.


So you’ll see this image from here on…




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The Thrill Of Suspense

Are you a fan of Thriller, Suspense or mystery fiction and enjoy my books?

My first 23 books were conventionally published but the week in San Antonio at#RWA14 was an eye opener now that we’re back into publishing for two years with our last 8 books. Times have changed in #Authorworld and #marketing.

Today, actually today was ten years ago, authors have #street #team! Who knew? Not me but now I’m excited.

What’s a #street #team? Wikipedia says a #street #team is a term used in marketing to describe a group of people who ‘hit the streets’ promoting an event or a product. ‘Street Teams’ are promotional tools that have been adopted industry-wide as a standard line item in marketing budgets by entertainment companies, record labels, the tech industry, corporate brand marketers, new media companies and direct marketers worldwide. Add Books under the media companies.

Naturally this is a voluntary position and my few but might members are readers, bloggers and fans of suspense and thriller fiction in either or both #YA or #Adultage groups.

What do #street #team members do?
* Share or re-tweet or re-post on Face Book, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest. Any and all are appreciated
* Receive FREE books of ALL releases and then post reviews [honest reviews only]
* Receive small gifts of appreciation long the way
* Some of my existing Street Team are also Beta Readers
* Blog opinions and articles about any or all of my book series
* Making me aware of opportunities to reach readers and fans

This is new to me as well so we’ll likely slog through this CROWD MARKETING together but it was exciting to hear about this “new” 1990’s idea that started in the music industry and now has over taken author world.

Thanks first to Scott, Kristie, Pat, Betty and Steve for the energy to move forward. Ronnie, if you’re reading this we’d love to have you as a member representing the youngsters at age 70. Finally, to the presenters at #RWA14 who brought it home for us, a special thank you to #bellaandre #marieforce #barbarafreethy#pennysansevieri #cathrinebybee #jenniferprobst to name some of the stars of the #rwa14 conference in San Antonio!

Interested? Let me know. I am looking for more active members. Write me at




TWITTER: @93nightwriter



SCANDALS Book #2 – KILLER DATE 18 days to go

BLOGGERS / REVIEWERS….Your FREE ARC available on 8/4/14. Write Kathy at

18 Days and Counting for release of book #2, KILLER DATE. Today’s excerpt is after he meets Jenny at SCANDALS.

Book #1, DUE DATES, on sale on Amazon for $0.99 at

These are being blogged to catch you up on the release PR for book #2, Killer Date in our Scandals series.

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TWITTER: @93nightwriter



#suspense #newadultromance #newadultfiction #romancenovels #austin#romance #thriller #thrillersandsuspense #thrillernovels #rwa

San Antonio RWA 2014 Conference; Little romance, all writing…Great Time!

What do #BDalton #BordersBooks #CamelotMusic  #CrownBooks#MediaPlay #Waldenbooks  have in common?  They were some of the book retailers that helped me to sell over 3 million books back in the day.  When I returned to writing books in 2012 after a long absence writing for the big screen  I realized that I was not the only the one reading on a Kindle!  Duh!?!

So off to the #RWA 2014 National Conference Bob and I went to in San Antonio to search for better ways to self publish and get our 9 suspense titles in #YA #NA and #Romantic  Suspense fiction titles in front of readers. 4 and 5 star reviews and contest finalists and gold medals don’t cut it.

What an eye opener!!!!!!

First.  I used to site these conferences back in the day as an  #RWA Board Member and these gals did an AMAZING job.  VERY impressed.  They should be applauded so clap clap clap times 1,000

Second, where the hell are all my friends from back in the day?  Nevermond I digress. Let’s ignore the that one for now.

IMHO here’s some of the absolutely amazing presentations.  Just giving them a 5 star on the conference app isn’t enough.

Five Strategies for Building Reader Loyalty…#SherriBrooks #StellaCameron   #CissyHartley   #JayneAnKrenz

Spotlight on #Ballentine  #Bantam #Dell

Spotlight on #Pocket and #Gallery

Six Goals of Online Book Promotion #LauraKaye  This was over 5 stars but the app limited my feedback.

The Keynote speaker was #SylviaDay  Not to make her feel bad but her perspective really tied my two very different book author experiences together!  Thank you Sylvia.

The Care and feeding of the social media beast   #TyraBurtin  #JanaOliver   Another app limiter…way over 5 stars.

Strategies for intermediate and advanced publishers  #BellaAndre   #BarbaraFreethy  These authors are now where I left writing years ago and their experience was amazing to hear!  Too bad it didn’t last a full day!

Promotion Platform and Players  #CathrineBybee #jenniferprobst

How to sell books by the truckload on Amazon #pennysansevieri  We had no idea the depth and involvement required to be sure we get our books in front of our future readers. Penny was awesome.

I’ll have more for a later post but I need to catch up with Karma, Kiwi, Alex and Betty.  Three dogs and my Mom.  Oh yeah, my Mom is a member of my #streetteam  and reading 5 to 8 books a week gives her a broad perspective.  She’s #betareading our August release in the#SCANDALS #NewAdult series, #KILLERDATE  .  A romantic suspense with the romance in between the action.  Think #romancingthestone with kidnapping and drug cartels and five 20 somethings who are still dealing with the fact they have the same biological father.

Thanks again #RWA!







TWITTER:   @93nightwriter




Conventions, Awards, Book Signings….time to get ready

Getting ready for agents, editors, fans and judges in two states and three cities.

Here’s the cover planned for book #3 in the Denver After Dark suspense series, Graveyard Shift.  Now all I have to do is finish book #2 in the Scandals New Adult Suspense series…so here’s the cover for Killer Date followed immediately by the start of Graveyard Shift.

first draft of paperback cover   KILLER DATE draft

 Graveyard Shift will be hard to follow as book #2, Cries In The Night, made it to round #2 in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel competition this year.

CRIES IN THE NIGHT 09012013 Amazon  amazon 2014


And of course they are all new adds to my book mark being ordered this week.


Always looking for feedback…