Guest blog by Denise Moncrief, author of Laurel Heights
One of the nicest things a reviewer has said about my work lately is that she had to make sure she had something to snack on to keep from biting her nails. I loved that. To me that meant the paranormal romance kept her in suspense anticipating the next big moment. That was my intention, so I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do when I wrote Laurel Heights.
The book is the first in a series, so I want the second book, Victoria House, to be just as riveting. I found myself biting my nails. Haven’t we all watched a sequel only to be disappointed because it wasn’t as good as the first movie? What if I don’t succeed in delivering something just as suspenseful the second time around? Writing a series of paranormal romantic suspense has a few challenges, like keeping the hauntings scary, the romance delicious, and the action fast-paced. A one, two, three punch.
Adding a paranormal element is new for me, so I wanted to make sure there was just as much ghostly stuff in book two as book one. I took out my trusty calculator and began adding up the word count in each of the passages in Laurel Heights where someone had a paranormal experience. Then I went to my work in progress, Victoria House, and did the same thing. Does that sound pathetic? I don’t think so. It made sense to me to calculate word count so I could make sure I had the same amount of words devoted to the scary factor in book two as book one. I didn’t want to keep biting my nails wondering if my reader was going to bite her nails.
My dearly beloved spouse caught me with my calculator, and you know what he did? He laughed at me. It appears that no matter how much I use my creative side to produce romantic suspense, he thinks there is still a lot of the accountant in me. “You just can’t get away from the numbers, can you?” he teased. I whapped him on his muscled bicep.
How do I reconcile being an accountant with being a writer? (Okay, the word reconcile is a very accountingish word to use. Just saying.) Accounting makes sense to me. Assets equal Liabilities plus Equity. It has to balance. In a way, writing romantic suspense isn’t much different. Okay maybe it’s a lot different, but the genre requires balance as well. The suspense plot line must have as much weight as the romance plot line. Hopefully, I’ve mastered this delicate balance.
So why am I biting my nails? Because I added a third paranormal element, and the perfectionist in me wants to get the balance between the three elements just right, consistently from one book to the next. I’ll probably continue to count words to make sure everything is in balance, and maybe, just maybe I won’t bite my nails.
Murder, revenge, and nightmares. Can their love survive the haunting of Laurel Heights?
A dark cloud of deceit hovers over her family tree…
Left an estate by an aunt she’s never met, Laurel Standridge takes possession of Laurel Heights, hoping it will be the safe haven she needs to recuperate from her ill-fated relationship with Rand Peterson. Secrets long buried rise to the surface when her cousin James is murdered and dumped on the highway just outside the gates of Laurel Heights.
Her past trails her to the mountains of Arkansas…
Caught in an obligation Chase Peterson feels he cannot ignore, he agrees to help his brother Rand take back the property he believes Laurel stole from him, but Chase remains at Laurel Heights after he discovers Laurel took nothing of Rand’s away with her except nightmares, fading bruises, and a broken rib.
Unexplained disturbances shatter her hopes of a normal life…
Are the strange bumps, thumps, and bangs reverberating through the night caused by the murderer of Laurel’s cousin James, someone Rand has sent to exact his revenge, or a disturbed soul existing in another dimension, trying to communicate with the living? Drawn together by the intrigue surrounding Laurel Heights, Chase and Laurel become hopelessly entangled in a relationship that goes deeper than lust. Can their love survive the haunting of Laurel Heights?
Since Laurel had moved into her aunt’s house, she hadn’t fallen asleep once without pharmaceutical help. The sleeping aid usually lulled her into lullaby land, but the drug seldom got her through the night without a nightmare. She was quickly running out of the prescription and would have to resort to over-the-counter antihistamines soon. The doctor she had seen in Fairview wouldn’t renew her prescription. He hadn’t wanted to prescribe it anyway. She wouldn’t be going back to him.
She lay still beneath her comforter, listening to the unusual sounds coming from the lower floor. The house made a lot of noises, especially at night. She sucked in a ragged breath when it made a few more. Thuds and bumps sounded like footfalls. Was someone in the house or was she being paranoid? Every shadow reminded her of Rand. He was in prison and would be incarcerated for a very long time, probably the rest of his life, but he could easily send one of his loyal subordinates to find her.
She wrapped her fingers around the grip of the baseball bat she kept next to her bed and hoped she wouldn’t have to use it. Confronting an intruder with a hollow piece of aluminum seemed like a lame defense. She had been considering purchasing a gun, but hadn’t done so yet. Maybe it was time. She’d have to buy one under the radar because she didn’t want anyone doing a background check on her. Acquiring a shotgun shouldn’t be too hard. It seemed everyone in Arkansas owned a firearm of some sort.
She threw off the comforter, rose from the bed, slipped across the room with the bat over her shoulder, and opened the door to peer down the hallway toward the front stairs. Nothing moved. The house was quiet. Maybe a little too quiet. Only moments before, a symphony of strange noises had disturbed the night. It was as if opening her bedroom door had turned off the sound.
She stared at the back stairs directly across from her bedroom and considered going down to the first floor to check the door locks, but nixed the idea. Locked doors wouldn’t keep someone out of the house if they really wanted to get in. Better to barricade herself in her bedroom and keep the bat close by. She slammed the door shut.
No moonlight filtered through the flimsy fabric covering the window. The moon hid behind a thick cloud cover. She tugged at the curtains, pulling them tighter to keep out the night. Before she stepped away, she caught a glimpse of something not quite right. Peeking between the curtain panels, she stared across the backyard. On the other side of the grimy window, a dim light flitted back and forth inside the detached garage.
She shivered with apprehension. The structure was derelict, unlike her garage in California. The four-car garage had been attached to Rand’s half million-dollar house. They had been living in the two-story, five-bedroom house for at least a year, but the place had never seemed like home to Laurel. Everything belonged to Rand. By the end of their disastrous relationship, he had treated her like a possession as well. Actually, maybe he had all along.
Comparing her life then to her life now brought up memories of the beating Rand had given her and his attempt to attack her again. If Foster hadn’t shown up when he did, she’d probably be dead.
She glanced at the clock beside her bed. It was nearly four in the morning, the darkest hour of the night. Who could possibly be snooping around her place in the dark? Who would be in her garage at any hour? She contemplated calling the local Sheriff’s Office, but decided against it. She didn’t want cops involved in her personal business. No. She would find out who was messing around her property without involving local law enforcement. Eventually the intruder would show himself, and she would be ready for him.
Suspense, She Writes
Where the road to happily ever after takes a suspenseful detour. Fast paced twists and turns that keep you turning the pages. Romantic happily ever after moments that take your breath away. Paranormal romantic suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Want to know a little bit more about Denise? She’s a Southern girl who has lived in Louisiana all her life, and yes, she has a drawl. She has a wonderful husband and two incredible children, who not only endure her writing moods, but also encourage her to indulge her writing passion. Besides writing romantic suspense, she enjoys traveling, reading, and scrapbooking.
Accounting is a skill she has learned to earn a little money to support her writing habit. She wrote her first story when she was a teen, seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she had read. She’s been writing off and on ever since, and with more than a few full-length manuscripts already completed, she has no desire to slow down.
You can connect with Denise at