Guest-Post and Giveaway by Joan Swan (BLAZE Blog-Tour)

Today I’m welcoming another author for a Blog-Tour. This time it’s the lovely Joan Swan who is touring in honor of her upcoming second Phoenix Rising installment: BLAZE.

Joan Swan is an award-winning author of sexy romantic suspense and occasionally throws in a paranormal twist or two for some extra spark. In her day job, Joan works as a sonographer at UCSF Medical Center. She lives on the central coast of California in beautiful wine country with her husband and two daughters.

To keep up with Joan’s latest news & releases please visit her online:

Website / Facebook / Twitter /  Twitter Giveaways / Goodreads

Character is story; story is character
~ Scott Fitzgerald

First and foremost, we read fiction for escape.  We pick up a book to lose ourselves in another world, to watch compelling characters we care about fight for something they want or need so desperately they overcome obstacle after obstacle to attain it.

We read to feel emotion—the character’s emotions as they travel this journey.

As readers, we need to be offered an avenue to identify with main characters—with their fight or their circumstances or their personality or the way their handling a situation. There are many ways to open that conduit for readers to connect with characters, but they must be available for us to utilize them.

The sooner we can identify with a character, the sooner we can jump into the story with both feet. And boy, do I love that moment – the moment a character does something or says something that makes me think, okay, I’m invested, I care. I’m all in. Let’s go. I want to see what happens next. I have to see how this ends.

In BLAZE, we meet my heroine first, and she’s on a mission. Literally. We find her on the scene of a siege which has erupted after she attempted to retrieve a young boy who’d been abducted by the non-custodial parent. She has paranormal powers and senses that this boy is special to her, but doesn’t know why. Only that she must get him out before he’s harmed or killed.

Then I throw a complete wrench into her already tense situation by pairing her with the ex-love-of-her-life who she’s never gotten over. And then, just for good measure, I make the whole child custody issue that began the siege one big lie to trick my heroine into eliminating someone the enemy wants killed, but who they can’t reach.

Hopefully, there is enough character, action, conflict and emotion in there to grab the reader and hold them tight as the story unravels and races forward.

You decide:

     Keira O’Shay flexed and released her fingers around the grip of her Colt AR-15 assault rifle, her mind on the little boy inside the religious-cult compound. The boy she’d been tracking for over a year now.

     She squinted through the hundred-and-twelve-degree heat rippling off the hard, dry Nevada landscape. The ranch house and barns of the property danced in watery distortion, shifting like reflections in a House of Mirrors. 

     Fitting. From the very beginning this situation had taunted Keira with reflections of her own twisted past.

     Her commander, FBI Senior Special Agent Angus West, leaned his hip against the bed of an agency pickup ten feet away, arguing logistics with the incident commander from ATF while she and her team steamed like vegetables in their SWAT fatigues.

     Fucking departmental posturing. Fucking egos. Fucking waste of time.

     So much precious time already depleted in briefing, staging, arming, negotiating.

     Gunfire cracked through the air, followed by the clang, clang, clang of bullets against metal. The sting of anxiety burned across Keira’s ribs. The half-empty bottle of Gatorade exploded beneath the crush of her fingers, orange liquid drenching her hand. She chucked the shattered plastic at the dirt.

                 Crack. Crack-crack-crack.

     “Don’t return fire, you idiots.” She clenched her teeth to keep her voice low so the team, hovering beneath the shade of a single pathetic Joshua tree nearby, wouldn’t hear. “My boy’s in there.”

     Her stomach coiled tighter, something she hadn’t believed possible. She already felt like a bottle of champagne—shaken and still corked.

     Enough of this bullshit.

     She pushed off the SWAT van which acted as a barrier to the hostilities. The men supposedly in charge had ceased their dispute to watch FBI and ATF agents scuttle among pickups and outbuildings for cover.

     “Excuse me, sir.” From beneath the brim of her uniform ball cap, she trained her eyes on Angus. “What are we waiting for? A neon sign flashing ‘Armageddon this way’?”

     The ATF leader standing across from Angus sliced her with a critical sneer. One that indicated he had a dick the size of a peanut and had to compensate by making everyone else’s life a living hell.

     Angus’s gaze remained locked on the other man, his demeanor controlled as he raised his index finger to Keira.

     Don’t push it. 

     Yeah, she got it. Didn’t even need her clairaudient abilities to get that message as loud as the gunshots across the compound and as clear as the growing risk she faced with every passing moment.

     But, dammit, this waiting was killing her. She wanted that little boy. Wanted to see him. Wanted to touch him. Wanted to prove that the kid was real, and that she hadn’t spent the last year of her life chasing a ghost only to end up in the same haunted, hopeless, helpless place she’d started.

     She didn’t understand the gravity of her needs. Only that they’d driven her from the moment she’d first seen his photograph. He was important to her. She just didn’t know why.

We don’t meet my hero, Luke, in his own point of view until midway into chapter two and are introduced to him initially through Keira’s gruff, frustrated and hurt eyes, but in a way I believe makes us like him all the same—the way Keira secretly still “likes” J him.

Again, you’re the ultimate judge:

     “Ransom, suit up.” The man’s growl stilted the conversation of several agents loitering around the back of an ATF van. “You’re going in.”

      Keira’s brain was still pushing around sniper, searching for a comfortable fit in some unused crevice when the name registered

     “What?” she asked Angus. “Who?”

     “I don’t know. Someone named—”

     “Ransom,” the asshole yelled again. “Get moving. You’re babysitting the Feebs’ prima donna.”

     Ransom? Her stomach jumped and went icy hot.

     The hostage she’d vowed to rescue and the cult leader she’d agreed to kill faded in her mind, replaced by memories of a man she hadn’t heard from in three years. A man who shared her complex past and still secretly held far too much of her heart.

     Lord, she could not afford to think about Luke right now. Besides the name had to be a coincidence, because Luke was not an ATF agent. He was a fire captain in northern California. He wouldn’t be at a government-run siege in the Nevada desert.

      Surely there were thousands of men by the last name of Ransom in the western United States. She scanned the ATF camp, focused on one group of swarming men, and swallowed hard. Okay, maybe hundreds named Ransom who were also tall, well-built, and blond like the one suiting up, his back toward her.

     There have to be, because Luke is not ATF. Shit, he’s not. 

     The man dropped a black bulletproof vest over his navy uniform T-shirt. He leaned down to tighten the holster securing a semiautomatic at his jean-covered thigh and grabbed a Ruger submachine gun handed to him by a colleague.

     Keira’s stomach jumped. Jesus, the fluid movements, the tilt of his head . . . they created a delicious, familiar pressure in her chest. Which terrified her. Please, no. Please, no. Keira held her breath as the man pivoted toward his commander.

      Before he’d fully turned, her stomach bottomed out. She knew the slant of that cheekbone. Knew the angle of that chin. Knew the slope of those lips. In fact, every inch of her body knew that mouth.

     No! Dammit. Luke is not ATF.

     But denial couldn’t erase the fact that he stood yards away, just as striking as the day she’d left him for the academy. Same intense blue eyes. Same long legs. Same wide shoulders. Same commanding presence.

     Same Luke.

You can read the entire first chapter here.

Who are some of the characters you immediately connected with – in either books or movies?  What makes you click early on with a character?

Joan is giving away a paperback* of BLAZE to a commenter. Answer the above question, leave your email, let me know if you are in the US/Canada or  not and you are entered.

*) For logistic reasons the paperback is for US/Canada winner only. If the winner is from outside the US/Canada a comparable prize will be chosen by me.

Joan Swan’s BLAZE Blog Tour Schedule

Tour runs from September 17 – October 6

September 17 – Grave Tells – http://gravetells.com/

September 18 – Book Reader Addicts – http://bookreaderaddictsgiveaways.blogspot.com/

September 19 – Pearl’s World of Romance – https://pearlsworldofromance.wordpress.com/

September 20 – Under The Covers – http://underthecoversbookblog.blogspot.ca

September 21 – Reading Between The Wines – http://readingbetweenthewinesbookclub.blogspot.com/

September 22 – Riverina Romantics  – http://riverinaromantics.blogspot.com/

September 23 – Reading on The Wild Side – http://readingonthewildside.blogspot.com/

September 24 – United By Books – http://unitedbybooks.blogspot.com/

September 25 – My Keeper Shelf – http://mykeepershelf.blogspot.com/

September 25 –  The Reading Café  – http://thereadingcafe.com/

September 26 – Ramblings From This Chick – http://ramblingsfromthischick.blogspot.com/

September 27 – I Smell Sheep – http://www.ismellsheep.com/

September 28 – Paranormal Haven – http://www.paranormalhaven.com/

September 29 – Just Romantic Suspense – http://www.justromanticsuspense.com/

September 30 – Just Romantic Suspense – http://www.justromanticsuspense.com/

October 1 – Close Encounters With The Night Kind – http://closeencounterswiththenightkind.blogspot.com/

October 2 – Book Monster Reviews / Literal Addiction –

                  Book Monster – http://bookmonsterreviews.blogspot.com/

                  Literal Addiction – http://www.literaladdiction.com/

October 3 – Books-n-Kisses – http://www.books-n-kisses.com/

October 4 – Readers Confession – http://www.readersconfession.com/

October 5 – Book Lovin’ Mamas – http://booklovinmamas.blogspot.com//

October 6 – Cocktails & Books – http://www.cocktailsandbooks.com/

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31 thoughts on “Guest-Post and Giveaway by Joan Swan (BLAZE Blog-Tour)

  1. Connection with & emotional investment in the characters is definitely an integral part of an enjoyable read! I’ve read plenty of books with great plotlines that are superbly written and I’ve only been lukewarm about because I couldn’t care less about the hero/heroine– and, for me, the heroine tends to be the problem! [Maybe I think like a bloke? :P] I’m pretty easy when it comes to enjoying characters, but if he’s a total wanker and she’s a complete idiot from the beginning (or vice versa), it’s never going to happen. Some characters I’ve immediately connected with? Jill Shalvis’s entire Lucky Harbour cast– there’s just something so relatable about every single one!

    Looking forward to BLAZE!

    stalkers00(at)yahoo(dot)com… and yes, I’m Stateside :)

  2. For me it is very often the first sentence or page that draws me in. Something must happen, or be observed that I am curious about.
    Like Jean Johnson – A soldier’s duty. The heroine totally captivated me, and I have totally nothing in common with her.

    International.

    auriansbooks at gmail dot com

  3. I connect with characters who seem real to me. If I have experienced what that character is or had experienced, I can empathize with them. Thanks for this wonderful post and awesome giveaway!!
    ehaney578 at aol dot com

    • Hi Elizabeth! That is key. And though we may not have been able to experience the same situation as say, Keira in her inability to go in and get her boy, we’ve all had to stand by and wait for a boss’s go ahead when we could clearly see time was wasting! We all know frustration. That relateablity is critical!

  4. I tend to connect with characters that fire up my imagination. They will display character traits that draw me in – witty, sincere, intelligent, rogue.

    BLAZE looks like an amazing read.

    INTERNATIONAL

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

    • I LOVE authors that can take me to that next level, while keeping me attached to something I can relate to! It’s a thrill to be stretched in that way, isn’t it? Authors like Suzanne Brockmann and Dean Koontz and James Lee Burke and Sandra Brown….I could go on and on… :) Masters!

  5. I think one of the things that makes it easy to get to know me is that I connect on an emotional level with a lot of people and that happens in books, too. I may not be able to relate to a specific event of a character but I can surely relate to emotions they might be feeling! I can’t wait to read Fever and Blaze. I loved Intimate Enemies! Thanks for the fun post about your characters. :)

  6. Perhaps it’s the easy answer, but I love characters with a sense of humor–the quirkier the better. It’s the same in real life!

    If an author can get me into a character’s head space well enough, though, I’m in it for the long haul. :)

    julieguan AT gmail DOT com
    USA

  7. I like characters that have a lot of depth and dimension. That their feelings show frequently and that they have some kind of vulnerabilty
    luvfuzzzeeefaces at yahoo dot com

  8. I think I will more connected with the characters which is more real and likeable. That’s what really drew me in to the story.

    pinglecoon at gmail dot com

    INTERNATIONAL

  9. I connected with the couple from The Notebook. I felt their love was really strong and endured many things and still they found their HEA. Another of my favorite couples is from the Night Hunstress book series. I really like Bones and Cat together. They have fun :) Usually if a story is emotional I tend to connect with the characters more.

    US/CANADA
    Cambonified(at)yahoo(dot)com

  10. Oh, I cannot wait to read this one! (Please don’t enter me in the contest, I’ve already got a copy on the way!).

    I tend to connect with female characters that experience similar feelings to me – I cannot say similar situations, because let’s face it… I read PNR and UF and don’t have a life anything like those heroines! But if I’m reading a book and something is really on my mind and I the heroine feels similarly, the book and character really resonate with me.

  11. I love characters that make me think, that aren’t average, usually that have some kind of flaw.
    Congrats on the new release. Blaze sounds fantastic. Can’t wait to read it.

  12. Congrats on the upcoming release, Joan. I saw the Dark Knight Rises and felt a connection with the Seline Kyle/Catwoman character. She does what’s necessary to survive.

  13. For me, it’s whether or not I can relate to them. I like characters that seem like they came right off of the streets as apposed to coming from a book. If they feel scripted, then I tend to have a hard time connecting to them.
    Booksniffersanonymous @ gmail dot com

  14. Loved the excerpt!! There are many books and movies that I have connected with the characters. One of my favorite movies that had my emotions in a twist was What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams. To me, that is an amazing movie with an equally amazing message! One of my favorite authors, Elisabeth Naughton, writes characters that I can always connect with, especially in Wait For Me!
    Congrats on your upcoming release, Joan!! It sounds like an awesome addition to the series. :)
    trb0917 at gmail.com

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