JoAnn Smith Ainsworth's Sweat Equity. 

Seeking a career change late in life, the East Bay resident started writing bodice-rippers.

Wandering lost in a castle's cellar, a blind Saxon beauty overhears a murder plot. After a night of passion with a low-born lass, a dashingly handsome Norman lord craves more. When writing her historical romances Out of the Dark and Matilda's Song, East Bay novelist JoAnn Smith Ainsworth didn't skimp on sensual details. In the latter book, the lord seizes the lass' hand "in both of his, creating a tormenting prison. While raising it to his waiting lips, he gently caressed its smooth skin with an insistent thumb," then "pressed the tip of his tongue to her skin as if to explore its elemental nature."

And that's before they hook up. It's a pretty heart-pounding passage from a UC Berkeley graduate who calls herself "a senior citizen author."

Laid off from her job as a Silicon Valley database administrator when the dot-com bubble burst, "I opted for Social Security, but not for retirement," Ainsworth said. Having dreamed since childhood of writing fiction, she finally had the time to try it. "I chose to write romances because paperback romances were a $1.2 billion industry at that time. ... Sales of these 'happily ever after' stories have risen during these stressful times to $1.37 billion," said Ainsworth, who will be at Borders (39210 Fremont Hub, Suite 211, Fremont) on Saturday, June 12.

These days, she's working on two Western romances and a paranormal-suspense trilogy. In the first paranormal book, the US Navy hires five psychics to locate Nazi spies and explosives in World War II-era Philadelphia. The second "moves beyond the psychic into black wizardry and Pennsylvania Dutch hex curses," Ainsworth said.

The series' third book "moves the psychics to war-torn London, where the hero and heroine don't realize that their friend has been assigned by the Nazis to murder them if they find the Book of Cures, which will defeat Hitler's occult group powers."

Although Ainsworth is neither telepathic nor clairvoyant, "I am old enough to remember when scientists couldn't see anything smaller than an atom," she said. "Now, subatomic particles are studied. These particles were there all the time. We just didn't have the instruments to see and measure them.

"I follow this concept when I write my paranormal novels. Just because I've not experienced it doesn't mean it can't happen. Besides, I create a paranormal world that rises from the needs of the story. It's all out of my imagination. It's all about the story. Scientific proof I leave to others."

And while Ainsworth didn't grow up during the Middle Ages, skills she learned from rural grandparents who were born in the 19th century have found their way into her books. When, as a preteen, she helped her elders pump water, haul wood, clean chamberpots, beat rugs, and can vegetables, "I wasn't thinking: I could use this in a novel someday." Yet some sixty years later, that firsthand knowledge "made creating historical novels a logical choice." 2 p.m., free. 510-797-9799 or

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