JoAnn Smith Ainsworth


Readers tell me that Lady Lynnet, the Anglo-Saxon sight-impaired heroine of my medieval romantic suspense novel, OUT OF THE DARK (ISBN 9781386717690), is inspirational.




Lynnet doesn’t make herself into a victim. She acknowledges the limitation of diminished sight but knows her other senses have become stronger. Acute hearing. Retentive brain. Heightened sense of smell.


How do I weave diminished sight into a medieval story?


When still a child, Lynnet lost a good percentage of her sight to disease. As an adult, while staying in the king’s London residence with her family, she gets disoriented and lost in the cellars. While there, she overhears three men in a distant corridor plotting a conspiracy against the king. She cannot see them, but she’s certain she can identify them by their voices. She joins the Norman sheriff in his investigation, despite putting her life in danger by doing so.


Let’s look at how she ended up in medieval times.


When faced with a blank sheet of paper, I decided to write a first novel having Anglo-Saxon characters. Why? Because Ainsworth is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning the property of Ains. It dates back to the 900’s A.D. in Britain. During research, I found those times too turbulent for a romance novel. For love to blossom, I needed peaceful times, not warring factions. Plus, my female character needed to have some say in the direction of her life to make the storyline work.


I found peace during the reign of the third son of William the Conqueror. It was also a time when Anglo Saxon laws still had some clout, during this early transition into Norman rule, and women had some say in who they married. Since the deceased queen had been Anglo-Saxon, I made my heroine into a distant relative of the queen so that it would be more difficult for her enemies to be openly aggressive.


Having decided on Britain in 1120 A.D., I then needed a problem which my heroine would have to rise above. I chose blindness.


I soon discovered that it’s difficult getting around a castle with no disability accommodations. She needed some sight. Consequently, I ended up making her able to see shadows and movement.


How did I come to choose lack of sight as my heroine’s challenge?


When I was a student, I did some temp clerical work for the Disabled Department at a community college. The department was run by a blind woman. She amazed me. These were the early days of accommodations for the disabled. In fact, she was helping design many of the future accommodations. In the meantime, she had to make her way around structures designed for people with sight. Through her, I saw how much of her life she could control, despite a disability.


She traveled around the campus and to local restaurants without a guide dog. She had a reader for her correspondence (these were the days before voice-activated computer software) but she set up and ran meetings, used the phone and directed office staff in their work despite a lack of sight.


I thought, wow, here’s a disability that’s not a disability if you work around it. I decided my heroine could find her way around a castle that she knew as a child when she still had sight—especially since I gave my heroine part of her sight back.


I wrote the whole manuscript by imagining what I would do if I’d lost my sight. When I was finished and before I sent the manuscript to a publisher, I contacted the Society for the Blind and asked for someone to review the manuscript. They referred me to the School for the Blind, which referred me to a retired, sight-impaired instructor. The manuscript had to be printed in 16 point type for her to be able to read it. It took almost a ream of paper. Two months later she had her recommendations on what to change. In a few cases, we couldn’t logically get Lynnet out of a situation, so I added a touch of paranormal to the storyline in the guise of a ghostly grandmother who points out which way to turn.


Why should this heroine inspire us today? She’s a woman who doesn’t give up or give in.


Her only weakness comes from the fact she believes her parents that she’s flawed and that, because of her blindness, unlovable.


The Norman sheriff proves them wrong.



Let me know if you’ve also found a story character that is truly inspirational.



As a blind woman seen as a flawed commodity, Lady Lynnet is used to the idea that she’s unlovable. But her parents’ plan to force her into a loveless marriage is too much. Wandering, upset and lost in the cellars of the king’s castle, the darkness doesn’t frighten her, but the murder plot she overhears chills her to the bone. Worse, no one believes her, and the only one she can turn to is a Norman sheriff whose voice sounds disturbingly like one of the conspirators.

Basil, Sheriff of London, is battle-hardened, fiercely loyal—and torn apart. He’s falling in love with the Saxon beauty, and he longs to show her she is worthy of love despite her physical limitation.

But the very corruption she is helping him root out may implicate his own half-brother. How can he turn his back on family—for an Anglo-Saxon woman?




JoAnn Smith Ainsworth is the author of six published novels. She earned a B.A. from UC-Berkeley, an M.A.T. from Fairleigh Dickenson University, and M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University. Ainsworth lives in northern California.


To learn more about this award-winning author, visit



For more, visit:

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth

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Reviews of Out of the Dark: (251 words)

Out of the Dark is a medieval with a tightly woven plot and vivid descriptions of time and place. It is strong with intense characters, a murder plot, and a love story making JoAnn Smith Ainsworth an author to be appreciated. I loved it. —Lettetia Elsasser, Reviewer, Affaire de Coeur Magazine



In Ainsworth’s suspenseful and entertaining tale, there are a number of well fleshed-out and intriguing characters, including the ghost of the heroine’s grandmother. The story moves quickly and is exciting without a lot of blood and guts. —Susan Mobley, Reviewer, RT Book Reviews



I enjoyed Out of the Dark. I especially found the relationship between the tough mother and the intellectual father intriguing. —Enduring Romance



An interesting book.  Lynnet is not made out to be a weakling despite her blindness. —Joyfully Reviewed



Out of the Dark is an absolutely fantastic book….The supporting characters are well written with a rational for all they do, however twisted. The dialogue is structured to match the time but does not require an Old-English translator. —Anya, Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance



This is a heart pounding read…truly an intrigue that keeps the reader to the final scene. —Reviewed by Patricia from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club



Fresh exciting medieval romance with suspenseful plot.…. she packs enough history into this medieval romance to please medieval lovers…. If you are a medieval junkie, OUT OF THE DARK has a fresh sense of originality that will undoubtedly make romance a special treat. —Reviewed by Merrimon, Medieval Book Reviews



“Oh, my…You’ve been Asked to Give a Keynote Address!” By JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

Panic sets in when you’re asked to be the keynote speaker for a nearby, regional conference. You’ve never given one. You don’t know how to begin.

Be at ease.

The speech is not unlike writing a book. The beginning sets up the topic. The middle covers key points and breaks those points into sub-points. The ending summarizes and reinforces these key points. Sound familiar? Easy peasy, right?

Well, maybe there’s a little more to it.

For one thing, a keynote address is an “inspirational” speech. You need to inspire your audience to participate in conference meetings and workshops and to pursue their writing dreams. The speech sets the mood for the conference. Match your delivery style to the tenor of the event—is it celebratory, serious or in-between? Generate enthusiasm.

Know your audience. What will they be expecting to take away from the conference? You achieve an inspirational effect by supporting collective beliefs, values and sentiments.


Where to start? Let’s tackle that by looking at what goes into the beginning, middle and end.



The opening of your speech should leave no doubt as to what you’re going to say. Just like with any book, the first words must hook the audience. They should inspire your audience to want to listen to you.

Use this time to establish your credentials. Also, identify a common bond between you, your topic and your audience. This will establish rapport and good feeling.

Use the rest of your brief beginning to introduce the main points which will carry your middle. Show the conference topics for having timeliness and relevance to their lives. Use only material that relates to the rest of your speech in some way; e.g., don’t use jokes, anecdotes or illustrations that have nothing to do with the points you want to get across. They should directly relate to the points and sub-points you want your listeners to retain.



Just like with a book, you must frame your keynote speech to your listeners’ interests—not yours. Use vivid word images to build a scenario your audience can see in their own minds.

People are interested in knowing about you. Anecdotes are very effective way to reveal who you are as a person and give your audience a chance to get closer to you. That reminds me, follow any abstract concepts with concrete examples, like quotations, personal experiences or statistics. These make abstract ideas more tangible.

To provide your audience with a logical approach to understanding your message, structure your content with a “pattern.” You could compare the past and present with some conjecture about the future. You could contrast before-and-after situations, introduce alternative viewpoints, or introduce a problem and offer a solution.

Just like in books, your audience needs a clear understanding of where you are going—i.e., transitions that move them from one point to the next and tie it all together. Confusion, doubt and uncertainty have no place in a keynote address. Use pauses to create suspense and orient your listeners to transitions in your subject points.

And here’s a friendly reminder. The middle is where you really need vocal variety to keep your listeners focused and attentive. Bring music into your voice. No monotone.


The ending: 

Hey, you’re on the home stretch—the last one-quarter of your speech. Time to summarize and to inspire.

Remember, the goal of your keynote address is to “mobilize” your listeners. You want them ready to participate in and to support the aims of the conference. Like with the ending of your book, summarize your key points and sub-points. Emphasize those points you want your listeners to take with them throughout the conference. Make them feel good about being at this particular conference.

End with a Call to Action. Inspire them to get the most out of the workshops and encourage them to strive to reach their goals as writers.

There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? It’s as easy as writing a book!


During WWII, the US government recruits psychics to find Nazi spies on the East Coast.


Opening herself to ridicule by revealing she’s clairvoyant is the last thing U.S. WAVES Lieutenant Livvy Delacourt wants, but when Uncle Sam needs her skill to track Nazi spies, she jumps in with both feet.


Expect Trouble released as an audiobook in September 2017 from Audible, Hoopla, Overdrive, and other audiobook distributors and clubs.


It was Runner-up, 2016 Shelf Unbound Award, and Semifinalist, East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Award.





JoAnn Smith Ainsworth experienced WWII food rationing, Victory Gardens, and blackout sirens as a child. She lived in Philadelphia during the ’50s and she attended the Berkeley Psychic Institute in the late ’70s. These experiences bring authenticity to her historical paranormal suspense series.


She is the author of six published novels. She earned a B.A. from UC-Berkeley, an M.A.T. from Fairleigh Dickenson University, and M.B.A. studies from Pepperdine University. Ainsworth lives in northern California.

To learn more about this award-winning author, visit




For more, visit:

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth

Facebook:  JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page ( and Profile Page.

Goodreads Blog:


Contact her at