Writing a Series – 6 Tips for Success

~How to Extend the Story~

When I started writing my first romantic suspense Beneath the Skin, I had no plans to make it into a series. But it didn’t take long for me to start imagining the lives of the secondary characters and wondering if they could win true love too.

So when I pitched the book to Rhonda Penders at Wild Rose Press, I told her it was the first of a series of four books – The Skin Quartet.

Well, on August 18th, book 2 in the series Close to the Skin is scheduled to be released. Now I will find out if I have accomplished what I set out to do.

Writing a successful series is hard

To write a successful series, the author needs to accomplish 6 things.

ONE – Keep the details consistent

This one was a real challenge. No one wants to read a series where characters’ eye color and other characteristics flip around.

Not planning to write a series I hadn’t keep the best ordered notes for Beneath the Skin. I also had used Zara West Suspense Beneath the Skin Writing a series - 6 Tipsa variety of filing methods. I had a looseleaf, a bulletin board, word files, and Pinterest boards

When I hit Book 2 suddenly I needed a unified resource if I wasn’t going to spend forever trying to search out a detail such as a character’s favorite ice cream flavor. I hit upon using One Note (a free program that comes with Microsoft.  Evernote is a similar program, readily available)

But I tried a lot of other methods as well.  The results of what I learned are presented in my online workshop The Story Bible. (Note: I will be offering this workshop for From the Heart Romance Writers in September 2018).

TWO – Stay organized

Another important thing I learned was to keep all my data together. I originally had separate files for each book. This meant I was constantly moving from one to the other. I quickly learned that the best organizational method is to keep all the data for the entire series in one series file.

THREE – Keep track of the passage of time

Having a great Story Bible means that I can quickly locate a name or an age or a location or hair color. But it needs to be supplemented with a calendar. In my case, my series books are consecutive. That means that characters grow older in each book. Not by much -all together the span is about four years. But when one main character is only 14 in the first book, four years will make big difference in his life.

FOUR – Maintain the tone and conflict level.

I wanted to keep the same tone and page-turning level of excitement that reviewers praised after reading Beneath the Skin.

Since each book in the Skin Quartet deals with different characters who relate on different emotional levels., this one was a particular challenge. You want the characters to be unique but linked in some way even though time is passing and the characters are growing, maturing and changing.

In my case, I solved this problem by keeping the villains the same in each book. Because they change much less and are driven to the same end goal – tormenting the hero and heroine,  they provide a unity of motivation and consistency of character.

FIVE – Make the books stand on their own.

Close to the Skin by Zara West Writing a Series - 6 TipsDespite the fact that I was writing a series, I wanted to make sure that every book in the series could be read as a stand-alone. I hate picking up a book and not knowing what the author is referring to. In a recent poll I did on Facebook, every single commenter said they would not like to read book 2 in a series before book 1. However I have seen it done successfully.

But boy is it hard to do well. A series writer has several choices.

  1. You can summarize what has already happened near the start of the story. But that often slows down the reader and can prove annoying.
  2. You can give a few hints of past events and hope the reader will understand enough.
  3. You can tie the past events into the current characters’ lives as motivations or problems.

For Book 2 in The Skin Quartet, I have my main character suffering from post-traumatic stress following the kidnapping she experiences in book 1 Beneath the Skin.

For me, having each book follow the next in time was another great way to ensure the stories stand on their own.

A NetGalley reviewer has written that Close to the Skin works as a stand-alone. I hope other readers agree.

SIX End with a happily ever after.

Having been burned by several books which end in a cliffhanger, I was doubly motivated to make sure every book in my series had a happily ever after.  I decided that the best approach was to write a complete character arc for my romance couple. At the end of the book, their story is done – ending happily ever after.


Since Close to the Skin has not been released yet, I have my fingers crossed that I have succeeded in making both a great Book 2 full of characters my Beneath the Skin readers have come to love plus created a cast of characters who can stand on their own and draw a new reader in.

Note: Book 3 in the series Within the Skin is currently in production at Wild Rose Press.

Read about the whole series here: The Skin Quartet

Buy Links for Beneath the Skin

Amazon  |  B&N  |  iTunes  | KOBO  |  Wild Rose Press

Buy Links for Close to the Skin

Amazon  |  B&N  |  Wild Rose Press

How about you? Have you written a series? What did you struggle with?

Are you a reader of series? What do you like about them? What do you dislike?

Post your comments below.


Zara’s Words for Readers & Writers

I have always loved words. Words are amazing things. They can make us feel happy. They can cut us to the quick. Loving words as much as I do, it comes as no surprise that I am a reader and a writer.

When I was a teenager I collected favorite words and phrases on index cards. I no longer have those cards nor the rusty metal file box I kept them in. In some ways it would be exciting to read them again and see what words would still have meaning for me.

Then again, perhaps it is for the best that they no longer exist. There is something frightening about our older-self meeting our younger-self and discovering that we have changed — or that we have not.

What I have learned about words since I was a teenager could fill volumes. Here are a few thoughts…

  • Single words can be powerful. They can encompass a universe of meaning or mark on our souls. Writers collect words. I have an overflowing looseleaf binder of words I love and use in my writing. Are you a word collector too?

Zara's Word Book

Salubrious | Toothsome | Euphony | Gobbling | Miraculous
  • Phrases make us think and feel. They add action and texture to the single word. They are similes, metaphors, bits of events and sensory splashes. I keep a small notebook in my purse and jot down phrases describing people, events, and nature whenever the inspiration strikes. Do you?
the hunched shoulders of a homeless man
the pervasive stink of disinfectant and alcohol
the sticky sweetness of a lollipop

licking a lollipop

  • Paragraphs form complete thoughts. As every high school student has learned in English class, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. In fiction, a paragraph might start with the setting, then an action, followed by a physical or emotional reaction, and end with an internal or external thought or decision. When I write a rough draft, I never think about paragraphs. But when editing, the paragraph is the thing. Each one needs to be complete and yet link the one before and the one after. Otherwise the writing sounds choppy, and the action gets lost. When paragraphs are well-written, the reader will never ever notice them.

It was a night for lovers. The city air had that clean, fresh Sunday-night taste. The factory emissions from the weekdays had blown away at last. Overhead, the stars twinkled like the children’s rhyme. Melissa slipped her arm into his and dreamed of romance and kisses and a future with this man as they walked along the river’s edge. He was everything a girl could want.

Snippet from Beneath the Skin

Beneath the Skin


  • Quotes convey the thoughts of others over time and space. They embody history, hope, dreams, and nuggets of wisdom. It is not surprising that quotes are widely re-shared and re-tweeted on social media. How many times have you shared a quotation? I must admit that I am a quotation junkie. perhaps, you have seen some of mine floating around the Internet. If not, I have posted a few below. You will find more on my favorite Quotes forReaders & Writers in my Google Plus Collections. Go take a peek and feel free to share  on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and anywhere else!

Of course not everybody loves quotes. Here are some quotations about quotations…

A quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious process. A.A. Milne
A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought. Dorothy L. Sayers
Quotation, n: The act of repeating erroneously, the words of another. Ambrose Bierce

What do you love about words?

Let me know. I love getting your comments & questions.



Forgive My Long Silence…

Dear Readers,

I have been busy. In June, my first romantic suspense Beneath the Skin was published by Wild Rose Press. I have just signed the contract for Close to the Skin, Book 2 in the Skin Quartet series. I have discovered that it is not the writing that is time consuming. I love writing. But doing the promo for the book takes hours! And the sad thing is, I am not really sure any of my Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest posts are actually helping people decide to choose my book to read.

There are just so many wonderful books out there, I know readers have a hard time picking from them all. I know I do. I read about a book every two days or so, and right now I have 112 books waiting to be read. Most on my Kindle, but also a nice tippy stack of real books. Then every once in awhile, I am drawn to reread a book.

I have posted 85 read books on Goodreads as part of my 100 book challenge. But I have to admit, I don’t post everything I read – only books I can give at least 3 stars but preferably 4 or 5. As an author I don’t think low stars help anyone and they sure hurt when you get them. I’m sure others will feel differently about that, but that’s how I feel.

Anyway, back to the promo problem. Here’s the mock up for a possible Facebook Ad. What do you think? Will it make people want to read this book?

Graffiti artists, tattooing, suspense, secrets, lies and murder. If you love books that keep you glued to the edge of your seat you will love The Skin Quartet Series!  Join Zara West’s Readers Club to stay on top of upcoming books in the series.

Book 1Beneath the Skin

Beneath the Skin

She can’t resist his touch. He can’t stay away. Can they learn to trust each other – before it’s too late?

Bella Bell has disappeared, and Melissa Dermot believes it’s all her fault. After all, the popular Williamsburg, Brooklyn tattoo artist has been helping her save abused women. But what Melissa doesn’t know is that searching for her friend will put her in the path of two men—one who wants her heart, and one who wants her dead.



“You.” Aristides Stavros loomed over her. “What are you doing here?”

She peered up at the artist’s twisted face and backed further down the steps. A doorknob poked her in the back. Panicked, she twisted it open and dashed into an unlit basement storeroom.

She stumbled forward into the dark, tripped over a metallic cylindrical object, and landed on her stomach. All the air whooshed out of her. Rectangular objects with sharp corners tumbled around her, jabbing her in the arms and neck. Rough cloth scrapped her skin.

On the staircase above her, the beast hovered in the doorway like a predator scenting his prey. For a second, he hesitated, then he dashed down the steps and moved toward her, huffing as he shoved objects out of the way. She pushed herself up on hands and knees and scuttled further into the dark.

Sto diavólo. Where are you? If you destroy any of these paintings, I will have your hide or at least my lawyer will.” He came closer. “Busy man, my lawyer, and to think I almost didn’t hire one.”

She scrabbled back and touched torn canvas. Heavens, these were his paintings—the ones that sold for thousands of dollars.

She was in deep, deep trouble.

——–Available Now!——–

 Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes | Wild Rose Press

Let me know what you think.



Favorite Places to Read

Where do you like to read? I’m a compulsive reader so I enjoy reading anywhere. I have been known to read while stirring the stew and in the few seconds it takes to microwave my tea. One of the reasons I like to read paperback books as opposed to e-books is that it is actually quicker to find and turn the pages in a paperback. Then again, e-books are a little more waterproof if you’re cooking. But I do think a paperback is safer when reading in the tub.

In honor of the release of Beneath the Skin, I will be posting suggested places to read  on Facebook and Twitter and this web page on a regular basis. I invite you to join in and post your favorite place to read, including a photo if you wish, in the comment section below or Tweet them to me at @zarawestauthor.

All those who comment or tweet will have their names put in a hat and a winner, chosen at random will receive an e-copy of Beneath the Skin. The winning Readers Club member will receive a basket of Beneath the Skin soap & lotion custom crafted by Laurel’s Garden. If you include a photo of Beneath the Skin in your tweet or comment, you will also get a $5 Amazon gift card.

Places to Read Beneath the Skin

In the Kitchen

Places to read - in the kitchen

In the Vineyard
Places to Read - in the vineyard
In Your Rocking Chair
Places to read - in a rocking chair
In an Apple Tree

Places to Read - in an apple tree

Don’t forget! Post your favorite place to read below or tweet it @zarawestauthor

Have a Successful Facebook Party

I’m having a Facebook Party for Beneath the Skin!

Today is my big day. Beneath the Skin will be released to the world! In celebration, I am holding my first ever Facebook Party. In preparation, I have done a ton of research. Below is what I learned goes into having a successful party.

Steps to a Successful Facebook Party

STEP 1 Choosing a Theme for Your Facebook Party

Consider having a topic or theme and color scheme or graphic image to unify the party and draw the interest of your readers. For my party, my book  Beneath the Skin is the topic and the color of the cover is purple and blue. But you could also feature a character or a setting or a special element from your book or book series.

Step 2 Choosing Prizes for Your Facebook Party

All parties have prizes. Consider prizes that will be easy to get to the winners. Gift cards always work well. Signed copies of your books is another common choice. I have chosen the following:

1st prize – A signed copy of Beneath the Skin, a canvas Beneath the Skin bag, a tattoo coloring book and colored pencil set, purple earrings, lavender lotions, a Zara West pen, bookmark, and Beneath the Skin temp tattoo.

2nd prize – A basket of all natural, organic Beneath the Skin soap (cucumber melon scent) hand crafted by Laurel’s Garden.

3rd prize – a $10 Amazon Gift Card

3 Runners up – $5 Amazon Gift Card

STEP 3 Setting up How People Win Those Prizes

Next, you need to determine how participants will win the prizes. You should assign points for the different activities and set a time frame. Some parties are run so there is a new game and new way to win every 1/2 hour or on the hour.

Since I am just starting out, I don’t think I will have a tremendous amount of competition so I want my Facebook party to be expansive. So for Friday, I have decided to post the games at 8 AM EST and leave them up the entire day till midnight PST so people can come and go and still get to play them all. At midnight June 17th PST, the person with the most points wins 1st place, next 2nd place and so on. Participants receive points as follows:

  • Join the party 50 points
  • Invite a friend 50 points
  • Like a post 10 points
  • Play a game 20 points
  • Win a game 50 points
  • Join or subscribe: For example, join Zara’s Readers Club  50 points (If you are already a member you get 50 points automatically)
  • Volunteer for Zara’s Street Team 50 points (Five will be chosen at random)

STEP 4 Selecting Games and Activities

Facebook Party Games are a lot like those played at birthday parties with some digital searching and selfies thrown in. Here some examples:

Roll Call: Time to get to know each other

  • Tell us you’re here and post your favorite ___
  • How do you know _____ (your name or the name of the book)?
  • Where are you from?
  • What do you like to read?
  • Post a selfie

Glamor Name Game:

  • Google search “your name +glamor shots” and post first picture that comes up


  • Google search “Romance Novel Covers” and post the cover that is your favorite’s
  • Name a romance novel that starts with the same letter as your first or last name
  • Name your favorite romance hero (heroine) and tell us why
  • Name your favorite romance genre
  • Name your favorite romantic movie

Keep the story going

  • Keep adding two words to my story starter
  • When I add THE
  • First person to add END wins


  • Choose 5 words from the list posted here
  • Direct Message them to me
  • When you see one of your words in my party posts, check it off your list
  • First to check off all 5, shout out BINGO in the comment section, and you win.

Scavenger Hunt

  • Here is a list of ___ facts found on my website, each on a different page
  • When you find one, post URL on the event wall
  • Each person to post a fact gets 10 points

Perfect Guest

Earn 50 points if you do the following

  • Participate throughout the day
  • Play every game
  • Post a selfie

Alphabet Soup: Movies/Romance novels/authors

  • Every 30 minutes I will post a letter, first one to post a movie star/novel/author whose first or last name starts with that letter gets 10 points

Door Prize

  • Every hour I will roll a die. The person who posted that number of times gets 10 points

Secret Word

  • I will post a “Secret Word” at the start of the party. Every time someone sees it in a post and announces it in the comment section, they get 10 points

Word Scramble

  • Post a scrambled word every hour.
  • First person to unscramble it gets 10 points

Tic Tac Toe

  • Chose three items in a row
  • Do all three and get 30 points

STEP 5 Ending the Party

After an exciting day, the party should wrap up with a summary of what was learned over the day, and an announcement of the winners. Don’t forget to take notes on what went well and what needs changing so you will be ready for your next Facebook Party!

I invite you to join my Beneath the Skin Book Release Facebook party and see how it works. Then let me know what your think!

Book release announcemnt

Your comments are always welcome!

How I made a Book Trailer for Beneath the Skin

How I Made a Book Trailer for Beneath the Skin!

Book trailers are the hot new thing in book marketing. With my background in making videos, I just had to try my hand at creating one for Beneath the Skin. It was terrific fun!

How I Made the Book Trailer

This is the first time I have used Windows Live Movie Maker. I have only used iMovie before. In general, the process was very much the same, but the choices for transitions and text features were different so I had fun trying out different combinations. But that all came much later.

To begin the process of making the book trailer for Beneath the Skin, I started out by watching hundreds of book trailers on YouTube. All I did was search on the term Book Trailer. That uncovered a wealth of examples.

The first thing I discovered was that there are tons of book trailers being created by students in schools. What a great take on the book report! Here is a great trailer for Roald Dahl’s The Witches made with PhotoStory 3.

The second thing is that the majority of trailers being made are for Young Adult books and are being produced by the major publishing houses who have created “channels” that will appeal to their readers. An example of this is HarperTeen. These often include interviews with the authors.

The third type are book trailers created by the authors themselves. Since I was making my own, I concentrated on the last, particularly those featuring Romantic Suspense novels like my own. I really loved the wonderful trailers done by bestselling author Casi McLean. You can check out her trailers here on her channel.

I wrote down the common features and what I liked and didn’t like about each one. Next I clicked second by second through several and recorded how long each image was on the screen and what was in each image. Based on that I came up with the following list:

Breakdown of a Romantic Suspense Book Trailer

  1. Most of the book trailers I examined were about 1 to 2 minutes long.
  2. Each one started with a title frame that usually included the author’s name, the book title and perhaps a teaser word or phrase.
  3. Most included a mix of action video and stills. Some also had color photos mixed with black & whites.
  4. The text was brief but hit all the major points: The romantic couple. The problem. What was stopping them, and what would happen if they didn’t solve the problem. At the end, there was usually a clip of where to buy the book and maybe the author’s website.
  5. All of them had music that flowed with the pictures.

Tips for Designing a Book Trailer

The following are a general set of directions for designing a book trailer. They do not cover the actual how-to-technology for movie editing software such as Movie Maker or iMovie. You can find numerous how-to videos on YouTube for these. Rather, these are design tips you may find helpful.

  1. Start with the music. Select a piece of music that matches the theme of your book. Because of copyright issues, I searched through free music offerings and was able to find several sites that had free-downloads. Bensound.com is one such source. Purple-Planet.com and Freeplay.com are others.
  2. Get pics and vids. Next collect a group of photos and video clips you think you might use and put them in a folder on your computer. One good source of copyright free pic and vids is Unsplash.com.
  3. Choose your movie editor. Now open your movie editor and upload the visual “clip” you want for your opening. Choose something that immediately sets the mood of your book.
  4. Title it. Insert your intro caption into the visual. Your name or website name plus “presents” and then your title makes it look professional.
  5. Treat it. Select your text treatment (How you want your text to move or change) and your transition treatment (How you want one clip to change to the next). Note: These are called different things in the different programs.
  6. Unify. To create unity use the same transition and text design (font, color, size, & treatment) through out the whole trailer. Keep the colors close in hue and value too, except when you want to shock. For example, a mystery book trailer might be done in all black and white, except for a splash of red at the very end when the “killer” consequence is named.
  7. Use music as your guide. Now here’s the trick to making it all work. Put in the music track. This will help you place and time the remaining pic/vids and captions so they flow with the rise and fall of the music.
  8. Build your show. Now using the movie software put in each pic/vid, the transition (visual effect), and text effect one by one. Note: 3-4 seconds is the longest any image should play. Longer and it gets boring. Shorter 1 and 2 second clips can be used to make things more exciting.
  9.  Check timing. Adjust the timing of each, and put in your ending “Where to Buy” clip. When you upload on to YouTube you will be able to select a URL the viewer can click on right at the end of the video to take them to your buy page.
  10. End softly. Insert a black clip and fade the music out at the end. Voila! You’re done.

Here’s my very first book trailer. I’d love your comments!

Beneath the Skin is Available for Pre-Order

Beneath the Skin is Here!

Look what arrived yesterday! A whole box of my hot off-the-press romantic suspense Beneath the Skin. I have published books before, but I think this was the most exciting of all my books. It has taken me seven years to move from non-fiction writing to fiction writing. I have taken hundreds of courses and workshops and made a trillion false starts. I wrote three other novels, before getting this one published. So yes, Beneath the Skin is special. The cover is also absolutely beautiful. Thank you Wild Rose Press for publishing my book!

Beneath the Skin’s First Sale

So what was the first thing I did when the boxes were delivered. Opened them of course! And I had to share. So I ran outside and caught the postal carrier lady who was gabbing with my daughter at the mailbox to show her what was in those heavy boxes she’d just lugged to my door. And guess what? She bought the first copy.

What’s Next?

I getting ready to release the book trailer for Beneath the Skin. This is a new challenge for me. Be looking for it. Meanwhile…

Pre-order Beneath the Skin from:

Beneath the Skin Order TWRP Button

Amazon buy button yellow

Beneath the Skin Buy Button B &N

Remember the release date  for Beneath the Skin is June 17th!

Beneath the Skin Coming June 17th

Calling all readers!

I have just heard. The worldwide release date for my romantic suspense Beneath the Skin is June 17th, 2016. On that date, Beneath the Skin will be available for purchase through Wild Rose Press as well as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major book distributors. It will be offered as an e-book and as a paperback. Pre-orders will be available two weeks before the release date.  I will let you know specifically when.

I have lots of exciting book release events planned.

Beneath the Skin Book Trailer: Coming soon to the little screen – Ari and Melissa

Temporary Tattoos for You: A former art student of mine, now an accomplished tattoo artist, will be designing a Beneath the Skin temporary tattoo to be produced by Tattly of Brooklyn. I will be giving these out at book signings.

Facebook Trivia Party: What do you know about tattooing, graffiti, and life in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? This is your chance to share and learn, win prizes and become eligible for future giveaways!

Graffiti Mural Day: Explore the fascinating world of street art. Learn the difference between a tag, a fill, and a one-liner. Design your own tag and add it to our mural. Time and place to be announced.

Meanwhile, here is another excerpt from Beneath the Skin:

“Ari shifted slightly, capturing her roving hand. His long, powerful fingers wrapped around hers. Melissa did not doubt they were capable of breaking bones, but they were also capable of the lightest of touches. She turned her head and looked at him. Ari’s eyes were open, a faint smile curving his lips. A well-satisfied man. A good time to root out his secrets, learn who he really was before she totally lost her heart.”

Let me know what you think…I love your comments!



heartkiss copy

Graffiti Art in Beneath the Skin


graffiti artist spraying a wall“Traditionally artists have been considered soft and mellow people, a little bit kooky. Maybe we’re a little bit more like pirates that way. We defend our territory, whatever space we steal to paint on, we defend it fiercely.”
Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara in Chang, Jeff (2005). Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation. New York: St. Martin’s Press. p. 124.

Anyone who has visited Williamsburg, Brooklyn knows that graffiti art is a notable feature of the environment. Whether you consider it vandalism or art, graffiti has been around a long time. Ancient graffiti has been found on Egyptian monuments,  at Pompeii, at the citadel of Sigirlya in Sri Lanka, at Tikal, and in the Catacombs of Rome.

Most ancient graffiti was scratched into the surface. Today most urban graffiti is done with marker and spray paint. In most countries, it is considered vandalism if done to public or private property without permission. Graffiti is often used to mark territory or make a social statement.

Graffiti art plays an important role in my upcoming novel Beneath the Skin. Near the beginning of the story, Aristides Stavros, a renowned fine artist,  meets a young graffiti artist who challenges him to an art contest. El Toro is the leader of a graffiti “crew” called T-Crew. Here is an excerpt from that scene:

Twenty some odd blocks south, Ari found himself in graffiti wonderland. Plywood fences covered in Full Monty murals stretched block after block. He stopped and reread the note El Toro stuck to his door.

“Right place, hombre,” El Toro said, slipping up beside him. He waved his hand. “Meet the judges.”

 Ari stared at the bunch of young men wearing baggy pants, sweatshirts, and multi-pocketed vests. There were four of them. A tall black kid, skinny as a lamp post, with a shaved head, called Fur Tree; two mixed-race twins with Hispanic accents and matching black T-shirts reading “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” who went by Neto and Solo;  and someone’s hyperactive teenage brother. The kid, introduced as Hanger On, swung back and forth from a stair railing, his too-large pants threatening to slip off at any second.

 Ari gave them his best scowl, and when they didn’t flinch, turned it to a smile. “So where’s the wall?”        

Try creating your own unique tag here.

Zaea West Suspense in graffiti

   How do you feel about graffiti? Is it vandalism? Is it art?

Please share your thoughts


Beneath the Skin is different

Now I read a lot of romantic suspense novels. I love them. Why else would I write them? I like the fact that there is mystery and threatening villains along with the love story. I like the complexity of the plot and the challenging of binding the romance so tightly into the suspense plot line that if you took out the romance  or took out the suspense plot the story wouldn’t work.

To do that you need a special type of hero and heroine and a very threatening villain. Most romantic suspenses, therefore, usually have at least one and sometimes both main characters working for the military, especially the SEALs,  or for the police or in some CIA or FBI undercover operation investigating a crime or trying to stop terrorists or other very bad bad people. Blood Code featured the CIA against a crazy Russian premier. Exit Strategy starred an ex-military guy protecting his assigned victim from being assassinated.

Beneath the Skin is different. My heroine is an anthropologist. The hero is a world-renowned artist living the good life. Not military, not undercover, not police. So why don’t they go to the police when Bella Bell is kidnapped? Unfortunately, both have something in their pasts that makes them wary of legal authorities, and by the time, they realize they are in too deep, it’s too late.

The book I am giving away for March is Low Pressure by best selling author Sandra Brown. The hero and heroine in this book are more like mine in Beneath the Skin. In this book, the heroine is a writer and the hero is a pilot. Like Melissa and Ari, they start looking for answers and end up running for their lives.

Sign up for my newsletter to be eligible for the drawing

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Zara West’s Author Bio for Beneath the Skin

There is nothing more difficult then writing about yourself. Nobody likes to brag. Nobody wants to pat herself or himself on the back. So composing a bio about myself to include in Beneath the Skin was a real challenge.

I decided to do some research on what authors are supposed to include in their “About the Author” page.

  1. Neil Patel advises you to remember that the bio is not really about you, but about your reader. What does your reader need to know about you? What makes you qualified to write this book?
  2. Heather Hummel emphasizes including awards you’ve received for your writing. An award-winning piece of writing has sparkle.
  3. Chris Robley warns that a little bit of personal history goes a long way.
  4. Cameron Pierce says emphasizing the places we are gives our identities a greater richness.
  5. Anne R. Allen urges us to make it newsworthy. Share something spectacular or unusual you have done.
  6. Roni Loren suggests a touch or humor and something personal.

So taking all this good advice into account, this is what I came up with. And I must have done something right because I am happy to say that it was approved by Wild Rose Press.

Zara West loves all things dark, scary, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zara spends winters in New York where the streets hum with life, summers in the Maritimes where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.

An accomplished artist by training and passion, she brings a love of art to every book she writes. When not marooned on an island or chasing after Greek shepherds, Zara tends her organic herb garden, collects hats and cats, and whips up ethnic dishes for friends and family.

A member of RWA, Zara is an award-winning author of both fiction and non-fiction. This is her first romantic suspense.

When You Are a New Romantic Suspense Writer

Beneath the Skin is my first romantic suspense. This is a genre that I have always enjoyed reading. A romantic suspense has two interlocking plot lines. There is the love story which wends it way through the novel, pulling the protagonists together and apart until they meet their Happy Ever After or Happy for Now ending.

Then there is the suspense plot which is a combination of thriller and mystery with always murder or the threat of murder hanging over the protagonists or someone they love.

The challenge for the new author of romantic suspense is to twist these two plot lines together so tightly that if one were removed the other would fall flat.  Think of movie Romancing the Stone without the love story, and you get the idea.

In the coming weeks, I will be reviewing a number of my favorite contemporary romantic suspense novels and comparing them to my own. I will even be giving copies away to readers who make comments on my posts. Some of the authors I will be reviewing are: Marie Force, Nora Roberts, Laura Kaye, Karen Rose, Lauren Layne and many more. Do you have some favorites?

Please send me your suggestions for romantic suspense authors I should review!

Beneath the Skin Book Cover Just Released

The book cover for Beneath the Skin is here!

Beneath the Skin Bookcover showing East River, bridges, two lovers

Back Cover Blurb

Ex-Olympic wrestler and reclusive billionaire artist Aristides Stavros has one mission—to rescue his sister, a popular tattoo artist from the old enemy who has kidnapped her. But at every turn, he is confronted by anthropologist Melissa Dermot. Is she just an innocent girl in over her head, or is she working for the international crime boss holding his sister?

Only one thing is certain–when Ari holds the beautiful Asian-American in his arms, questions of guilt and innocence fade against an undeniable fiery attraction. But can their wild passionate love survive the tangled web of long-buried secrets, intentional deceit, and murderous revenge that lie just beneath the surface?


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Zara West loves all things dark, scary, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Zara spends winters in New York City where the streets hum with life, summers at the shore where the sea can be cruel, and the rest of the year anywhere inspiration for tales of suspense, mystery, and romance are plentiful.

zarascriptheartkiss copy

Beneath the Skin

Can love exist without trust?

I am so excited. My novel, Beneath the Skin, a romantic suspense, will be published by Wild Rose Press sometime next year. I have started this blog to track the progress of the book as it goes through the editing process.

Here is the storyline:

Beneath the Skin is the story of long hidden secrets, broken trust, and hope and love reborn.

Set in the hipster culture of contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the novel spans all levels of New York society from p the crews of graffiti artists who emblazon every wall and the tattoo artists who emblazon everyone’s skin to the rarefied lives of world-renowned artists, multi-millionaires, and international crime lords.

A Williamsburg, Brooklyn tattoo artist is missing, and Melissa Dermott blames herself and her desire to help abused women. But what Melissa, an NYU graduate anthropology student studying tattooing, doesn’t know, is that searching for her friend Bella will dredge up deeply buried secrets, putting her heart and life at risk. Because two men are also looking for Bella, and Melissa must choose which one to love and which one to flee.

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