Drop Dead Handsome by M.K. Scott – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The author will be awarding a prize to multiple winners such as $50 Amazon Gift Cards, $15 Target or Groupon Gift Cards and other GCs and books to randomly drawn winners via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Dilapidated Victorian house appears "haunted"The Painted Lady Inn is open for business and limping along in the B and B world. A high school reunion package assembles Donna’s least desirable classmates, including the backstabbing cheerleader, her narcissistic high school crush, and Arnie, whose cheesy poem had everyone calling her, hot mama. It’s all something she liked to forget. These are the normal guests.

An octogenarian self-proclaimed sleuth, Father Christmas, a dognapping couple, and a pair who is copying everything in the Inn to set up their own competitive establishment rounds out the group. Maria, the sister-in-law, has a matchmaking agenda for Donna. Daniel, her brother, finds himself serving as a referee with one guest’s multiple wives.

High school reunions can be murder. Detective Mark Taber is on the trail of the murderer, when he isn’t interfering in a smitten Arnie’s determined bid to woo the no nonsense innkeeper.

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Hello. Welcome to The Painted Lady Inn. Thanks for choosing the Lady for your weekend getaway.” She held the smile in place, questioning her choice of a name for her bed and breakfast. Daniel remarked it sounded like something out of a horror movie, as if it would come to life.

The woman didn’t answer, but took two more steps closer, then placed her bag on the floor. “I’m glad to be here before the sun sets.”

“You made it.” Her cheeks were starting to ache from continually smiling. Well, that and acting like a genial innkeeper. Why couldn’t she’d just be normal Donna Tollhouse?

“Yes, yes, I did.” The woman glanced around the foyer that had several open doors to the front parlor, library, and dining room. Her lips pursed as her eyes flicked upward.

No dust anywhere and the floors gleamed where they weren’t covered by a floral runner.

“May I have your name, please?”

The woman gave a nervous laugh, which seemed out of place.

“Lorena, Lorena Fitzgerald.”

Convenient, since she was the first name on the list. Her hand gripped the heavy reunion basket and held it out to Lorena. “Compliments of the inn for your stay.” The woman’s French tipped manicured hand wrapped around the basket handle beside Donna’s. “Enjoy the reunion.”

Lorena’s eyes widened. “There’s a reunion? What type?”

Donna had relinquished the basket unaware that her guest didn’t merit it. Too late to take it back too, especially since the woman was now poking through it making pleasurable noises. With her luck, the couple out antiquing would hear about it and expect one too. Well, she did have a couple cases of Reunion Red.

“Ah yes, the local high school is having a reunion. Thirty-one years.”

Lorena fanned her free hand in front of her as if overcome by the thought of a reunion. “Thirty-one years. Goodness, I’ve only been out of school barely twenty years.”

Taking a page from Detective Taber’s book, she ran a hand over her face, hoping to hide her smirk. Okay, the woman looked good, but not that good. A woman in her thirties would wear something a little more playful, edgy, or even more casual. The shoes and sweater set declared her mid-forty. Once she recovered her innkeeper face, she dropped her hand.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_DropDeadHandsome
M. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan’s daughter who manages a hotel provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.

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Cracking the Writing Code by Alice Archer – Guest Blog

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of Alice Archer’s debut novel, Everyday History.

Cracking the Writing Code
I write fiction under a pen name, but in my other life I work for a publishing firm as a non-fiction editor and writing coach. I’ve had a lot of conversations with a lot of authors going through the process of writing a book. They all don’t know how to do it at the beginning. They all freak out at some point. And they all figure it out by trying different things until they land on what works for them.

What worked for me when I sat down to write a first draft of my first novel – a het romance thriller that never made it past that first draft – was my promise to treat myself to the full set of extended-play Lord of the Rings DVDs if it did it. I didn’t have money for that kind of thing back then, but I really, really wanted those DVDs, so I worked my butt off to finish that draft. Finished it. Rejoiced (even though the plotline was a ridiculous tangle). Bought my DVDs.

The unexpected thing that happened after I collected my loot was that I referred to that draft, in my mind, as “my first novel,” which meant I’d proven to myself that I could write a novel. I felt free to move on to other big goals, like learning how to write a better novel, one I’d be willing to share.

Because I most enjoy reading novel-length stories that are deep and include a fair amount of complexity, that’s what I tend to try to write. But, geez, take a look at all those moving parts. Character trajectories and backstories. Scenes that serve multiple purposes. Recurring themes. Emotional triggers. Escalating anticipation. Sex scenes. A story climax that, hopefully, leaves the reader satisfied on multiple levels. The potential for dreadful writing seems off the charts.

As I tried to write something I’d want to share – a novel I’d want to read, all the many story elements kept flopping around and going wonky whenever I changed any one of them, because they were all interrelated. Everyday History is, therefore, the result of many process trials and errors. I know a heck of a lot more about how I write a novel, now that it’s finished, than I did when I started it, but I’m still in the stage of figuring out what works for me, how I can write a better novel. I suspect it’s less a stage and more a state of being, one that will likely go on as long as I do.

You might think that after decades of reading books about how to write, writing about writing, advising authors, and reading mountains of books I would be able to deliver a great tip for you right about now – some cool and riveting nugget of advice about how you could more easily write a novel; advice that’s more snazzy than what I do have to offer, which is, “I don’t know.” Or, more accurately, “I can’t know.” But you can.

When it comes to successful writing, experimentation is key. If the system you’re using doesn’t work, it’s not your fault, it’s the system’s. So chuck it and move on. Or tweak it and try again. You know that your system for writing is working when you’re more focused on the story you’re telling than on what you’re doing to get it out.

What works for me includes, among other things, using Word’s table of contents function to manage an ever-shifting story outline, ordering scenes using sticky notes on a wall, creating collages to explore the main characters and their relationship, and listening to music with lyrics as I write. The process is always evolving, because so am I.

In the following excerpt from Everyday History, which takes place fairly early in the story, Ruben tries to persuade Henry to help him do some experimenting.

Ruben rubs the back of his neck but recognizes the nervous gesture and decides to be direct. He lifts his head, straightens his shoulders, and looks Henry in the eye. “I want to know what it’s like to be with a man.”

“I’m sure you’ve had plenty of chances over the past six weeks.”

“Yeah. I explored a little, but I want to… cross the frontiers… with you.”

“Why?”

Ruben shrugs. “Because of the excruciating foreplay. Because I can. Because I like you.”

Henry nods and bends down to untie his boots.

“And you?” asks Ruben. “Why did you invite me?”

“You mean after not hearing from you for so long?”

“Yes.”

“Because of the way you look at me. Because I can. Because I need a vacation.”

“And?”

“That’s it,” Henry says.

“That’s it? I always assumed you’d want more.”

Henry kicks off his boots and straightens up. He steps closer, his expression inscrutable, and Ruben takes his hands out of his pockets. They stand a few inches apart. Henry’s breath is slow and easy against Ruben’s closed mouth.

Without permission Ruben’s lips part slightly. He swallows. “I mean, more than sex,” he whispers.

“I do. I want a lot more.”

“Like what?”

Henry’s expression shifts. He places the tip of a finger on Ruben’s chest and says, “Commitment. Responsibility. Monogamy.” With each want, Henry pulses his finger against Ruben’s heart. “I want a family. With someone. Do you want that anytime soon?”

“You want someone mature. Like a real grown-up.”

“Yes.”

They stare at one another.

6_29 EverydayHistory_BannerSquare_Bigger_DSPHeadstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.

Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.

About the Author:6_29 everyday history AliceArcher_AuthorPhoto_CollageAlice Archer has messed about with words professionally for many years as an editor and writing coach. After living in more than eighty places and cobbling together a portable lifestyle, she has lots of story material to sort through. It has reassured her to discover that even though culture and beliefs can get people into a peck of trouble when they’re falling in love, the human heart beats the same in any language. She currently lives near Nashville. Maybe this move will stick.

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Check out the other stops on the tour:

 

Jun 22 – MM Good Book Reviews

Jun 27 – Open Skye Book Reviews

Jun 29 – Prism Book Alliance

Jun 30 – Dreamspinner Press Blog

Jul 1 – My Fiction Nook

Jul 2 – Love Bytes

Sparkles by Michael Halfhill – Spotlight

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of Michael Halfhill’s debut novel Sparkles.

6_29 michaelA life cut short; unsolved robberies plaguing Philadelphia’s Jeweler’s Row; a cryptic message scrawled on a paper napkin; a Romanov prince; a young man held captive in Iran; a terrorist cell bent on revenge; and an opera company due to mount a rarely performed production of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast. What do these have to do with Jan Phillips?

One plunges Jan into a prolonged sadness. One leads him on a race to prevent a nuclear disaster. One offers Jan the promise of renewed love. One leads him to reluctantly wield his power as a Mundus master. One is bent on shattering thousands of lives beyond repair, while one unknowingly holds the key to the mystery that has baffled Philadelphia’s finest. Follow Jan as he untangles this Gordian knot that will alter his life in a way he never thought possible.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Jan wandered around the home he had shared with Michael in a quiet daze. He stared at the bare living room as if searching for something he had lost, at last coming before the huge wall of thick glass that overlooked the broad Delaware River. Jan looked at his reflection as if seeing it for the first time. Ever young; that’s how people described him. At forty-eight, Jan still possessed smooth pale skin, luminous gray eyes, and hair the color of new corn silk. His only flaw, if there was one, was his five foot seven inch frame. Yet that too was toned to youthful hardness. Even Michael would gently mock him, Don’t you ever age?

Jan gazed up at the velvet night sky as a light rain began to fall. The gleaming lights from the distant New Jersey shoreline broke through the window’s dense glass, but without their usual cheerful effect. They twinkled brightly, as if nothing had happened. But something had happened and no one came to tell him it was all a mistake and that Michael was alive and waiting for him downstairs in the car. His solitude was real and complete, and Jan found himself unable to live alone in the sprawling riverside loft. Even now, though empty of all their furnishings, the rooms whispered, screamed, laughed, and wept with him. Powerless to will them away, his mind clawed back from the walls years of conversations, as if they had occurred only moments ago. And then there was Mundus. Mundus—global, secret, immensely influential, with only three goals: peace, tolerance, and balance—it was the one constant in an inconstant world. The fourth-floor ultra secret command center that kept Jan connected with his Mundus global counterparts was safely relocated. There would be no need for him to return here.

Effendi?”

Jan turned to see Amal standing nearby, a light raincoat draped over his forearm. Dear faithful Amal. He had been with Jan for many years, attaching himself like a protective barnacle. An Egyptian and a devout Muslim, Amal was troubled by Jan’s behind-closed-doors relationship with Michael, yet he loved his master too well not to serve him. Although he had a room of his own in the sprawling loft, Amal chose instead to sleep on a cot just outside Jan’s bedroom door. He never complained. He rarely spoke.

“Forgive me, Effendi… we should… it is time to go.”

Jan took one last look at the deserted space. Was it his imagination, or did he just see Michael slip out the door?

About the Author:I was born in February 1944 three months before the end of WWII. Until the age of 16 I lived with my family in a small coal town in W.Va. I was raised a Catholic and as I child I was very devout. Until college, Capuchin monks and nuns—mostly from Italy and Ireland, meted out my education. That probably explains why my Latin has a decidedly Italian accent. When I was sixteen my father moved the family to Delaware. I finished college just as the Viet Nam War began to engulf our nation. I joined the army and trained as a tank gunner. After leaving the army I returned to Delaware where I built a career in analytical science. I retired after 37 years with the DuPont Company. I’ve traveled throughout Europe, Central America and Asia. All of my books derive from my experiences (at least emotionally) from my loathing of war and violence; my understanding of life choices and the consequences that flow from these—those we anticipate and those that are unexpected.

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Wild One by Jessica Whitman – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by the publisher to celebrate the release of Nacho Figueras Presents: Wild One by Jessica Whitman – the second book in the Polo Season series. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post to win a print copy of the book.

6_28 Whitman_WildOne_MMKat Parker thought she’d finally escaped being known as the housekeeper’s daughter in the class-obsessed polo town of Wellington, FL. With her first blockbuster screenplay, she’d become the Hollywood It girl-until with one flop suddenly she wasn’t. Heading home is her only option.

Kat knows she can write another hit…if only she can find the right story. What she finds instead is the drop-dead gorgeous celebrity athlete Sebastian Del Campo, who’s just as well known for his tabloid exploits as he is for his prowess on the polo field.

For Sebastian, everything in life has always come easily-wealth, sports, women. But the perennial party life is starting to feel a bit stale. Especially after meeting Kat. Her easy laughter and candid attitude make him aspire to something more meaningful for the first time in his life.

As Sebastian tells Kat stories of his grandmother Victoria, a woman who could be dripping in diamonds one moment and tearing up the polo field the next, Kat’s inspiration fires and soon the pair are back in Hollywood, working on a film together that could make or break both of their careers. And though the chemistry between the two is building, the film’s irresistible star has other ideas…

Enjoy an excerpt:

Kat and Sebastian took off their shoes and walked along the edge of the sea. The sand was wet and warm, and the water hissed in and out over their bare feet as the tide came in. The beach was empty, and the moon was bright, and when she looked at him, her gray eyes gleamed silver in the pale light.

She was, thought Sebastian, even more than he had imagined she would be. She was beautiful, of course, but in an effortless way. The beauty mark above her lip, the 2-inch scar on the inside of her elbow that gleamed silvery-white against her smooth, tan skin (a childhood accident, she told him, trailing her finger over it self-consciously), the way that her glossy black curls sprang out around her head like an unruly corona in the Florida humidity, the faint laugh lines that appeared around her pretty eyes every time she smiled…

And she was smart, and funny, and she told him scandalous, gossipy, hilarious stories about Hollywood and made him laugh so hard his belly ached. And when he flattered or flirted, her cheeks would flush pink and her eyes sparkled, but at the same time, if he went over-the-top, he knew that she did not buy his bullshit. Not even one little bit. Because nothing got past this woman. Nada.

And now she walked alongside him, laughing and chattering about this and that in her husky, honey-sweet voice. Her legs were long enough that he barely had to adjust his stride, and her swinging hand kept grazing his arm and sending little shocks of pleasure through his body.

He caught her hand and pulled her toward him. “Besame,” he said softly.

She blinked. “Forgive my rusty Spanish, but doesn’t that mean-”

He cut her off by gently placing his mouth upon hers.

Her lips were soft and warm, and he searched them slowly, first with his own lips, and then with his tongue, just barely touching the outline of her mouth until she exhaled and stepped closer to him.

He loved kissing a woman this tall. He didn’t have to bend to her mouth at all, and it was so easy to pull her even closer and go deep. She tasted amazing, like sweet lime and champagne and a trace of salt, and she smelled of that same intriguing bittersweet caramel fragrance he had noticed the first day they met. He went deeper still, and she pushed up against him and made a soft, warm sound in the back of her throat, and suddenly he was flooded with an electric hunger so sharp that he felt that he might lose control.

And so he did what he had been fantasizing about doing all night. He led her away from the water and laid her down upon the warm sand and covered her body with his own.

She broke off kissing him. “Do you think,” she said hoarsely, “that we should find someplace more private?”

He pushed himself up and looked around. The beach was deserted. The only light from the restaurant was far behind. “I think we’re alone.” he said.

He gently kissed her face, and thought to himself that she felt so good, so right, and that he never wanted to be anywhere else. That he would stay here forever if she let him…

And then he laughed softly, because he really had never felt these things before. And honestly?

It kind of scared the living hell out of him.

About Nacho Figureras: 6_28 FigurerasNacho2_byClaudioMarinesco_RGB72Argentine polo player Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras has become one of the most recognizable and talented polo players in the world. He is currently the captain and co-owner of the Black Watch polo team. In addition to playing polo, Nacho has been featured as a face of Ralph Lauren and its Black Watch clothing and watch collection since 2000. In June 2009, he was voted the second most handsome man in the world by the readers of Vanity Fair and has appeared on numerous television shows, such as Oprah and Chelsea Handler. Nacho currently splits his time between Miami and Argentina with his wife, Delfina and their four children, Hilario, Aurora, Artemio, and Alba.

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The Quirks of Writing by Julie Burns – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Julie will be awarding 1 printed book of The Purse or 2 ebooks (The Purse and a second of their choice) from RRPI to a randomly drawn winner (international) via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The Quirks of Writing

To regular human beings, writers seem a bit odd. Why spend all that time coming up with a story and thinking, thinking, thinking? Doesn’t it get old? My answer is no. Never.

There are writers who write every day, and no matter what they write, they absolutely, without a doubt, must write! There are times when I have written every day while in the thick of the story, but most often, I am thinking about writing and not actually doing it. Many writers would scold me for not writing and that’s okay. Each writer is different. It doesn’t mean my goal is any less valid or attainable.

For me, I have to have pen and paper and a computer to write. Much of my book The Purse was written on paper and then typed on the computer. In the process of typing it from paper form, I came up with new plots, new characters, and new resolutions. A writer, artist, or any creative person will tell you the end is unknown. I had other ideas as I wrote my book, and the finished product is nothing like I originally intended.

During the process of writing, one of the tools I discovered was helpful was a dry erase board. I used three of them in my upcoming second novel, Dreamers and Thieves (February 2017). This helped me keep track of characters and was basically a timeline of events and happenings. I also kept track of hair and eye color so I would not forget as I wrote. Those discrepancies are important and easily missed in editing, but often noted by readers.

To be a writer means thinking differently than most. I will take my quirkiness and run with it.

When Lydia Blackwell visits her dying father for the last time, he reveals the deeply hidden truth about her mother. After the funeral, the stranger Derek Meade gifts her with a gorgeous antique purse. But before she has the chance to connect with the man who knew her father intimately, Lydia finds Derek murdered in his home.

Lieutenant Sonja MacIntosh is assigned to investigate Mr. Meade’s death, but her career on the force never prepared her for Lydia Blackwell. As Sonja works to solve the murder, Lydia takes the greatest risk of her life in leaving Chicago to search for clues to her mother’s past. Their instant attraction surprises them both, but even through the chaos Lydia can’t deny the intensity of her feelings for the strong willed Lieutenant.

Lydia’s possession of the antique purse throws her already chaotic life into a whirlwind of kidnapping, blackmail, vengeful mob bosses, and mind-numbing revelations. Through it all, Lydia must find the strength to accept herself – and those closest to her – despite their darkest secrets.

Enjoy an excerpt:

As she walked into the bedroom, the smell of her father’s cologne lingered even through all the sickness that had been in the air. Stepping over to the deep walk-in closet, Lydia opened the double doors to reveal her father’s suits, ties, and shoes. She made a mental note to have Rosita donate her father’s clothes so they didn’t hang like a shrine. She stared at every inch of the closet until her eyes fell on a small shoebox buried on the top shelf. Lydia retrieved the step-ladder from within a hidden compartment in the closet’s wall and stood on it to pull down the shoebox. Without thinking, she strolled over to her father’s bed, sat down, and went through all the memories kept in the cardboard box.

Many were just baby pictures of Lydia, and then she discovered a picture of her mother when she was pregnant. How beautiful she was; she looked so happy and carefree. What in the world could have happened? More questions, no answers. Lydia decided to keep the picture with her. Digging deeper yet into the box, she also found pictures of her father and Derek together. They made a handsome couple, though it was still difficult to believe her father had been involved with a man. At least true love hadn’t escaped him as she’d previously thought.

About the Author:

Julie A. Burns is a native Iowan born in Marshalltown, Iowa and raised in Davenport, Iowa. After her parent’s divorce at age 7, she took to writing, whether it was her diary or poems about people she met or situations that bothered her. After graduating from high school in 1983, she spent time working as a Nurse’s Aide in different nursing homes in Iowa. In 1989, she gave birth to a daughter, Brittany and raised her as a single parent. In the same year, she enrolled at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology in 1994. Since then, Julie has spent time working with developmentally disabled adults and the mentally ill throughout Iowa and also in Wyoming, where she lived for 6 years. Julie currently lives in Waterloo, Iowa with her spouse. When she’s not writing, she enjoys being a grandmother to 3 year old Sophie.

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Can’t Get Over You by Shirley Jump – Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Shirley Jump, who is celebrating the release of her latest release Can’t Get Over You with an exclusive excerpt. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a $25 Amazon GC.

6_28 shirley Cover_Image_CANT_GET_OVER_YOU_webTravel back to the loveswept world of Fortune’s Island with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump.

His voice pierced the darkest corners of her heart.

Waitress Jillian Matheson needs a life makeover. The first thing on her “Get it Together” to-do list is breaking up with her fiancé, Zach Gifford, a struggling rocker who refuses to grow up. With Zach on the sidelines, Jillian pursues the dream career she’s secretly craved for decades and finds romance in the arms of a hot, mysterious visitor on Fortune’s Island. There’s just one kink in her plans. Zach’s band has a regular gig at The Love Shack where she works. And, she can’t deny the effect of his velvet-cloaked voice, a voice that can still reach places she no longer allows his hands to touch.

She’s the only song he ever wanted to sing.

Zach thought he had everything figured out—a music career on the edge of a breakthrough and a gorgeous fiancé—until Jillian left her engagement ring on his amp one night and walked out of his life. He is sure that he can get her to remember their shared passion and realize that they belong together, until a new man enters the picture and begins to sway Jillian’s heart.

Is it ever too late for true love?

Just as Zach begins to break down Jillian’s walls of resistance, a dark secret from his past comes to light and threatens to ruin their second chance at love. With shattered trust pushing them farther away from each other than ever before, can these two wounded hearts find their way back to each other before the last song?

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt:

Secrets were the hardest thing to keep on an island, especially one the size of Fortune’s Island. Jillian Matheson had lived there pretty much all her life, growing up among the small population that stubbornly hung on through the brutal Cape Cod Bay winters. She’d gone to a school that was run out of a converted house, reading Big Red and learning the Pythagorean Theorem alongside the same couple dozen kids from kindergarten to graduation.

In the summer, the population of Fortune’s Island swelled, like a pregnant spider about to deliver thousands of beach-hungry babies. As soon as Labor Day drew to a close, the island emptied out, and life settled down again. After Jillian passed the craziness of her early twenties and grew up a little—okay, a lot—she found she craved the quiet, the…space. The miles of empty beach, the lazy shopping trips with shopkeepers more than happy to pass the time talking about the weather, the late mornings snuggled under the blankets while the wind blew angry breath.

It was also easier to find a quiet place to be alone, which was what had brought Jillian to the rocky outcropping at the southern end of the island today. The beach there tapered down to a smattering of sand, where sharp-edged rocks married each other in topsy-turvy angles. Jillian knew, if she picked her way a few feet further down, she could find one large flat rock, as big as a picnic table, and high enough that the incoming tide never did much more than lick the underside of the stone.

She had spread out a blanket, then settled her acoustic guitar across her waist. She’d bought the Ibanez secondhand in a shop ten years ago, with her first official paycheck from The Love Shack, the cozy seaside restaurant her parents owned. Jillian spent hours on this rock, teaching herself how to read music, how to pick out the notes, and then finally, strumming snippets of songs. It had taken almost a year of these stolen moments against the rocky wall before Jillian had taught herself to play “Hotel California.”

She’d moved through the entire Eagles catalog, then the Beatles, then a little Led, before she got the itch to write her own songs. The first few had been the typical unrequited love/misunderstood teen bullshit most high schoolers wrote about. Like Taylor Swift with a bad attitude. But now, her music had evolved, becoming something that filled her soul, exposed the nooks and crannies that she kept hidden from the world.

This summer, she’d finally gotten serious about her dreams and, in the space of a few days, turned her life upside down and inside out. She’d broken up with Zach, her fiancé, and fired off a college application. For the past month now, she’d been taking the ferry over to Boston three mornings a week to study contemporary music composition at the Boston Conservatory. Before work, she’d steal away to her space under the rock to practice her own songs and study for her classes in music history and theory.

Music was her secret, the one thing she had never shared with her best friend Darcy, or Zach, or her brother—not even with her parents. She sat on the rock and she sang, and she held the secret close to her chest. Doing that made it seem more precious, more…hers.

The Conservatory had allowed recorded audition tapes as part of the application process, and Jillian had done just that, sitting here on her rock, letting her iPhone be the only witness to her singing. Zach would have told her to let her voice be heard, but he’d always been the more outgoing of the two of them. The one who had no problem performing in public.

Zach. He was the last person she wanted to think about. It had been almost three months since she’d given back his ring. After eight years together, he’d let her go as easily as letting the wind catch a balloon. She told herself it didn’t hurt, but it did.

A lot.

So she wrote about it in songs and told herself she was okay. Totally okay.

Thunder rumbled in the sky, and dark clouds moved across the sun, casting the beach in gray shadow. Rain droplets began to sputter, falling onto the white lined paper before her. Jillian gathered up the guitar and her notepad, then climbed down the rocky path. She jogged up the sandy trail to her car, then stowed the guitar in the trunk, put the engine in gear and took a right, heading toward The Love Shack.

The skies opened up just as she turned onto the road. Her cantankerous Hyundai sputtered and coughed, but kept chugging. Jillian patted the dash. “Come on, Sylvia. Hold on for just a few more months, okay? We had a deal. You make it to February and I’ll use my tax refund to fix you up.”

The rain pounded too fast and too hard for her wipers to keep up. Puddles formed in the road, then spread a river across the rutted worn path. She should have stuck to the main road, but this way was shorter, usually faster. Sylvia shuddered, then the engine stammered. Jillian pressed on the gas, urging the car up a little hill, but the water was pouring down faster than the wheels wanted to go, and halfway up the hill, Sylvia died. Not a slow, quiet death, but a herky-jerky, coughing death spiral.

Jillian cursed and steered toward the side of the road, though the car had already stopped moving. Great. She was stuck here, on this remote road, a mile from work, in a Noah’s Ark-worthy storm. She flipped out her cell phone, and too late realized she’d forgotten to charge it.

Damn.

She rooted under the front seats, hoping she’d remembered to stow her umbrella, but all she found was a few old French fries and an empty water bottle. Shit.

Guess that meant she was hoofing it. She cursed again, then got out of the car, hunching her shoulders against the downpour, though it did no good. The rain fell in sheets, soaking her hair, running like a waterfall off the end of her ponytail and down her bangs, then streaming down her face. Within seconds, her tank top and shorts were soaked, and her sneakers were sodden. She was cold and wet and pissed off. It was going to be one hell of a long mile.

She broke into a light jog, though for Jillian, about the only running she did was between the kitchen and the dining room at work. She heard the low rumble of an engine behind her, and spun around, thrusting out a thumb. On the mainland she wouldn’t hitchhike, but here on Fortune’s Island, she knew pretty much every single soul.

Almost as soon as she put out her thumb, she put it back down. The low, dark Mustang was one she knew well. As well as she knew its driver.

Zach.

Jillian spun back toward the road and kept on running. With any luck, Zach would drive right past her. Didn’t he understand that she just didn’t have the energy to deal with him? That every time she saw him, it still hurt like hell?

Just keep driving. Just keep driving.

The car drew up alongside her, and she heard the whine of the power window going down. Damn it.

“Jillian! What are you doing out here?” Zach called to her.

She kept on jogging, never even flicking a glance in his direction. The rain poured into her eyes, made her blink furiously so she wouldn’t trip. “Going to work.”

“It’s raining.”

She scowled. “Thanks for the weather report.”

“Come on, Jillian, get in. Don’t be stubborn.” His voice dropped into those soft, cajoling tones that had always melted her resolve before.

“I don’t want a ride from you.” She kept on going, swiping the rain off her forehead, slicking back her bangs. Her sneakers squished with every step, and she was pretty sure her shorts had gained five pounds of water.

“You’re getting soaked. You’ll get sick.”

“That’s just an old wives’ tale.” She stepped up her pace, even though the car could easily pass her. She wanted to be there already, to see the sign for The Love Shack come into view so she could duck inside and not have this conversation. Maybe she was being childish, but she didn’t care. “Just go wherever you’re going, Zach. I’m fine.”

“You’re drenched. You’re cold. And you’re being an idiot.” He let out a gust. “Get in the car, Jillian. Please.”

She stopped running and pivoted toward the open window. Zach was leaning across the inside of the car, his arm draped over the passenger’s seat. He had big brown eyes, the kind that reminded her of a strong cup of coffee, and a lean, tall frame that still caused her pulse to race. He was smiling at her, that smile she never used to be able to resist, and for some reason, that just made her madder. Like he thought a grin could change everything. “I don’t need you or your car, Zach. Just leave me alone.”

“Jillian—”

“Don’t Jillian me. And don’t call me an idiot, not when you are the biggest idiot on this island.” All the frustration and anger she’d been bottling up for the past few months spewed to the surface. “I am done letting you talk me into anything again, Zach. And especially done with getting close to you. I don’t care if I’m walking in a hurricane, I don’t need or want a ride from you. Or anything else. Ever again.”

“You’re not letting me talk you into anything, Jillian. For God’s sake, you’re barely talking to me at all.”

She threw up her hands. “That’s what broken up means, Zach. It means I’m no longer at your beck and call, when you want to crash somewhere at two in the morning or bitch about the band over coffee. It means I’ve moved on, and so should you.” She’d done no such moving on in terms of dating, but he didn’t need to know that.

She wanted to move on, she really did. She wanted to forget about Zach, forget they had ever dated, act like the last eight years hadn’t happened. But it was impossible. Her every memory was so entwined with him. Every store she passed, every restaurant she saw, every corner of her apartment, had something attached to Zach. All she wanted was detachment, and that was pretty damned hard considering she saw him four days a week at The Love Shack and he lived less than a mile from her apartment.

That was part of what had pushed her to enroll at the Conservatory. She’d needed new faces, new places, new memories. A world that didn’t center around Zach. The only problem? Going to a music school to forget about dating a musician was pretty much the most masochistic thing she could have done.

“Jillian, just get in the car,” Zach said. His dark hair was a little long, dusting along the collar of his T-shirt. She almost reminded him to make an appointment with Saul, the island barber. When they’d been dating, Zach would get so involved with his music that he’d forget to eat, or forget to shave. She used to think it was cute that she had to remind him to get a haircut. But eventually she realized it just meant his music was more important than anything else. Including her.

“Come on,” he said now. “I’ll give you a ride to work.”

He hadn’t answered her point about moving on. Because he already had? Or because he hadn’t listened? And why did she care? They were over, done, and just because seeing his face made her heart hurt, didn’t mean she was getting back together with him anytime soon.

“I don’t need anything from you, Zach.” She repeated the words for herself as much as for him. “Not anymore.”

Then she broke into an even faster run, praying he’d leave her be and just keep going down the road. And at the same time praying that he wouldn’t.

About the Author: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shirley Jump spends her days writing romance and women’s fiction to feed her shoe addiction and avoid cleaning the toilets. She cleverly finds writing time by feeding her kids junk food, allowing them to dress in the clothes they find on the floor and encouraging the dogs to double as vacuum cleaners.

Look for her Sweet and Savory Romance series, including the USA Today bestselling book, THE BRIDE WORE CHOCOLATE, on Amazon and Nook, and her new Sweetheart Club series for Berkley, starting with THE SWEETHEART BARGAIN.

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Of Cats and Cozies… by T.C. Lotempio – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. T. C. Lotempio will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Of Cats and Cozies…..

Most of the mysteries on my bookshelf, I confess, are cozy mysteries. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the genre, cozies are a subgenre of crime fiction where the crime and the detection takes place in a small town. Remember the old Murder She Wrote series? That’s a good example of a cozy. The detectives in such stories are nearly always amateurs (cue JB Fletcher) sometimes retired lawmen or women. The majority of the detectives are of the female persuasion, and often hold jobs that bring them into contact with the other residents of their town. More often than not they’ll have a contact on the local police force who’ll help them out with a clue or two.

The killers aren’t usually hard boiled serial killer types, and once unmasked, are most often taken into custody with little or no violence. If there is violence, it happens off-screen…no grisly murder scenes depicted in any cozies! Foul language is also kept to a minimum. The murders are generally members of or related to someone in the town wherein the murder occurs and the motives – greed, jealousy, revenge – often are deep rooted.

Cozies frequently revolve around a theme – for example, Diane Mott Davidson’s revolves around cooking, Parnell Hall’s around crossword puzzles, Monica Ferris’ needlework…you get the idea. Animal lovers are also well represented, as well, which brings me to my cozy mystery series, debuting in December from Berkley Prime Crime…..think Jessica Fletcher with a cat and you’ve got it!

My series is the Nick and Nora mystery series. Nora is Nora Charles, ex-crime reporter turned restaraunt entrepreneur. She’s returned after a 12 year absence from reporting on crime in Chicago back to her hometown of Cruz, California, to take over her deceased mother’s sandwich shop. Shortly thereafter, Nora finds a surprise waiting outside her door – a stocky, black and white cat. She takes the cat in and names him Nick (after Nick Charles, the Thin Man, of course). She later finds out that the cat did in fact belong to a PI, Nick Atkins, who is currently MIA – she also finds out that Nick has many talents, among them the ability to spell out words with Scrabble tiles – plus, he’s got a nose for scenting out crime.

Here’s the teaser, taken from the back of the book:

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Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them…

Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too.

Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.

The saga continues in Book 2, CLAWS FOR ALARM, with Nora’s search for Nick’s missing owner derailed by her sister’s getting jailed for the murder of her art professor. But, who knows what will happen in book 3, CRIME AND CATNIP, due out this December?

I hope you’ll join Nick and Nora on some of their adventures, but even if a crime solving cat isn’t your cup of tea, I’m sure that there are many other cozies out there that are. Sample the genre today – I think you’ll be very pleasantly surprised!

Enjoy an excerpt:

Nick trotted along beside me as we made our way deeper into the warehouse. Suddenly, he froze, tail upright, the hairs puffed and fluffed out like a giant fan.

“What’s wrong?” I whispered, even though I knew he couldn’t answer. We stood in silence for a moment, and suddenly, I did hear something. A very faint sound, from far away . . . like a door closing.

“Come on,” I hissed. I lifted my head, sniffed at the air. It smelled pretty stale, but there was another scent, cigarette smoke. I racked my brain, trying to remember if I’d seen either Julia or Samms smoking.

Nick’s tail swished, and he pawed at arrows painted on the ground. He trotted ahead of me at a brisk pace, and I fell into step. We followed the painted arrows along a white-tiled hallway down to a door with a shade pulled all the way down. A sign placed haphazardly in the window proclaimed it CLOSED.

I tried the door, which seemed to be stuck. I looked at the doorframe, which appeared to be less than sturdy, and checked it for alarm wires. Seeing none, I raised my leg and gave the door a swift, hard kick. It clicked open an inch, and I pushed it all the way open. We walked into a tiny office not much bigger than a postage stamp. A large metal desk and battered file cabinet took up the majority of the space. Another door at the far end stood partway open. Nick suddenly tensed, and I saw the hairs on his back rise. His tail fluffed out, and he started to growl, deep in his throat.

I frowned. “What’s wrong? What do you sense?”

Nick reared up on his hind legs and then shot through the partially open door. I had no choice but to follow. The room I now found myself in appeared to be a slightly larger version of the previous office. Nick crouched in front of a large metal desk, and as I entered, he shifted his body slightly. I caught a glimpse of two feet, very still, shod in the pair of eggplant Louboutins I’d admired earlier in the evening.

“Oh crud,” I cried. “Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.” I walked around Nick and peeped around the edge of the desk. I saw a twisted figure in a white raincoat bunched up around shapely legs, a tumble of dark hair covering its face, the neck bent at an unnatural angle.

“Shoot,” I said.

“MA-ROW!” Nick yowled.

I heard a sound behind me as Nick dived under a nearby chair. My heart started to beat wildly in my chest. The last time he’d pulled something like that I’d been caught next to a dead body and hauled off to the police station. His fat rear had barely wiggled out of sight before the door slammed back and I found myself looking first down the barrel of a .45 and then, as I raised my gaze, at the grim, unsmiling face of Detective Leroy Samms. He looked at me, then at the feet, then back to me again. He lowered his arm, slipped his gun back into his shoulder holster. “Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.”

I responded almost automatically. “He didn’t drag me. I walked in on my own.”

One eyebrow quirked. “Pardon? It’s an expression, Nora.”

“Oh, sure. I knew that.” The queasy sensation in my stomach was getting stronger, and I really felt like gagging. I started to push past Samms, but his strong fingers reached out and encircled my elbow in a grip of steel.

“No need to run off.”

I pressed my palm against my cheek. “I—I’m not. I just felt a little . . . squeamish.”

“Of course you do,” he said, still not cracking a smile. “I’ve got some Pepto back at the station. Fix you right up. Then we’re going to have a chat, you and I.” His grip on my elbow tightened. “Ms. Charles, you’ve got some explaining to do.”

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_ClawsForAlarm

Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio is the national bestselling author of Meow If It’s Murder, the first in the Nick and Nora Mystery series. She has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.

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Chaos Bound by Sarah Castille

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6_27 Chaos-Bound-by-Sarah-CastilleRex” Savage, a junior member of the Sinner’s Tribe Motorcycle Club, will stop at nothing to get revenge. But falling for a beautiful woman with dangerous ties to his sworn enemy was never part of the plan…

Raised by the Black Jacks, Naiya Kelly grew up fast, furiously, and with little to lose. But now that she’s put her MC days behind her, she is free to do what she wants—until she meets a man who imprisons her, body and soul. She swore she’d never give her heart to a biker, but Holt is the most passionate, protective man she’s ever known. But will Holt be forced to betray his one true love to exact his revenge?

See where it all began with book 1 of the Sinner’s Tribe series, Rough Justice

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Is this because of what happened last night?” Holt wasn’t usually so direct. He had never been a confrontational kind of guy. Usually, he would go with the flow, but right now he was seized by an urgent sense of desperation. He couldn’t let her go, and it wasn’t just because he needed her to lure Viper.

“No, of course not.” She turned away, tightening her grip on the bag, her hair swinging over her cheek, hiding her face.
Yes.

“It was good you . . . stopped.” She stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows over the valley spread out below them. “I mean, you have things you have to do, and I have things I have to do, and they aren’t things we need to do . . . together.”

Together. Fuck. She’d thought about them together. Although he was pretty damn sure she hadn’t thought of them together the way he had all fucking night long.

“Naiya.”

“I made breakfast. It’s on the stove.” She slung the bag over her shoulder. “Happy revenge.”

No fucking way. “It’s not safe out there.”

“It’s not safe in here.”

“I couldn’t be gentle with you,” he said. “I’m a hard man, Naiya, and the shit I just went through just made me harder. I don’t have sex. I don’t make love. I fuck. And when I do, it’s hard and it’s rough, and that’s not what you need.”

“You don’t know me.” Her face tightened. “You don’t know what I need.”

The hell he didn’t. He could read the longing on her face; he could hear it in her voice. It was the same longing that had gripped him since he met her. The old Holt would have let her walk out the door because it’s what she wanted to do, and who was he to rock the boat? He didn’t know where that Holt had gone, but the man he was now was not letting her get away.

Without taking his gaze off her, he ripped the bag from her fingers and tossed it on the couch. Then he cupped her face between his hands and covered her mouth with his.

Ah God. Her lips were as soft as he imagined, her mouth as lush. Her lips parted on a sigh, and he touched her with his tongue. She tasted of honey and coffee, warm and sweet. He wanted her, wanted this woman with the broken soul, wanted to fix her, show her the beauty of trust and surrender, open her up and fill her with joy. Yeah, he wanted to fuck her bad.

“Holt.” She pulled back, her chest heaving. “I don’t want this. I just broke up with Maurice. We were together two years. It just feels . . . wrong.”

Didn’t feel wrong to him. In fact, nothing had ever felt so right. He tagged her with an arm around her waist and crushed her against him, the way he’d seen Jagger and Cade do with their women, the way he’d seen Tank with Connie. Dominant. Controlling. And damn it felt good. Taking what he wanted. Being in charge.

And yet at the back of his mind, he was assessing her responses, the way she leaned into him, her soft sigh, the flutter of her lashes, and the little hints that told him she was on board and that he wasn’t stepping over the line. He had a strong feeling Viper had crossed that line, and if he caught her, he would cross it again.

Naiya leaned in, melted against him. Pleasure rippled through his body, and his cock hardened in an instant. He dipped his head, drank her down, delighting when she moaned and tangled her tongue with his.

She broke away again, her lips plump and swollen from his kiss. “I should go . . . I was just leaving . . .”

Deeper. Rougher. He slid one hand through her hair, tugged her head back, and held her still as he fed off her hidden desire. Her hands came up, pressed against his chest. Holt tensed, thinking she would push him away. Instead, her arms wrapped around his neck and she pulled him closer, straining upward as she kissed him back with a passion that belied her words. She wasn’t leaving. Not now.

Not ever.

About the Author:6_27 Sarah_castille  New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, Sarah Castille, writes contemporary erotic romance and romantic suspense featuring blazingly hot alpha heroes and the women who tame them. A recovering lawyer and caffeine addict, she worked and traveled abroad before trading her briefcase and stilettos for a handful of magic beans and a home near the Canadian Rockies.

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Book 1, Rough Justice:

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Book 2, Beyond the Cut:

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Book 3, Sinner’s Steel:

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The Role of Critics and Criticism by Colleen J. Shogan – Guest Blog and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Colleen J. Shogan will be awarding a $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

The Role of Critics and Criticism

Anyone who writes, acts, or produces creative content has to deal with critics and criticism. The two are actually distinct, at least in my mind. Criticism can be quite helpful to a writer. After I’d written a draft of my first novel in my mystery series, Stabbing in the Senate, I sent it to a handful of agents. One wrote back to me and said he liked it, but there were some big flaws I needed to fix. He offered me valuable criticism. If I hadn’t changed the beginning of the book to fast-forward to the action, I don’t think it would have ever been picked up for representation or publication.

I’ve found that fellow mystery writers typically offer this type of constructive criticism. The best criticism points to examples, perhaps in other books, which can show the writer how to move forward. General comments, such as “this is bad writing” or “show, don’t tell” means nothing if there isn’t concrete instruction for improvement.

Critics are a different story. They often label creative enterprises as “trite” or “shallow” without providing evidence detailing why their opinions are valid. Literary critics engage in this type of behavior at times, but in this day and age, everyone has credentials to be a critic. All that’s required is an Amazon or Goodreads account.

If someone writes a negative review, I don’t ignore it. I read the review and oftentimes, the reviewer has a point. There’s nothing wrong with those types of exchanges, because hopefully as writers, our work continues to get better as time goes on.

What is disappointing is when a critic asserts an opinion without substantiating his or her thoughts with examples or explanation. When that happens, I find it helpful to watch this scene from the Academy Award winning movie, “Birdman.” In it, Michael Keaton goes off on a critic who is threatening to trash his new play. His diatribe is probably the best invective against an unhelpful and mean-spirited critic. Keaton’s character also reminds creative people that we have the more difficult job because we actually produce content for other people to enjoy and consume. That task is ultimately more burdensome than reacting or opining.

Ignoring criticism isn’t a viable option, especially if the goal is to write more interesting stories over time. However, ignoring critics that assign nasty labels without substantiated claims is recommended.

MediaKit_BookCover_HomicideInTheHouseDuring a government shutdown, Kit’s congresswoman boss is found standing over the dead body of a top staffer she tangled with in front of the press. The police are about to name her as the prime suspect. The weapon was the Speaker’s gavel, an item entrusted to the congresswoman the previous night. The killer knows Kit is on the case. Can she solve the mystery in time to save her job and her life?

Enjoy an excerpt:

Smartphones are great time wasters. I fiddled with various apps as I waited. The next level of “Angry Birds” was within my grasp when I heard footsteps and voices across the hallway. I got up and stood in the doorway to greet my boss.

From the look on her face, she was not pleased. She charged like a linebacker to the exit of the Speaker’s lair with Jack Drysdale on her heels.

“Stop, Congresswoman Dixon. You’re not listening to reason!” From behind, Drysdale placed his hand on Maeve’s left shoulder in an attempt to prevent her from leaving the suite.

Maeve had impressive reflexes. She turned her body toward him and grabbed his wrist with her right hand. “Don’t touch me! Is this how the Speaker’s staff treat members of the House?” Her voice was loud and filled with vitriol.

The gaggle of reporters who had been relaxing inside the anteroom trailed behind me. This was better than a boring pen and pad session. One of them murmured, “I think that’s Dixon from North Carolina.”

This was not a good development, but Maeve didn’t know that the press had a front row seat to her implosion.

Maeve clutched Drysdale’s wrist for several seconds until she let it go. Apparently her physical assault didn’t intimidate him. He ran ahead and stopped directly in front of her.

Stretching his arms out wide to slow her down, Jack made his last stand. “I apologize. I shouldn’t have done that. Please come back in the office so we can sort this out. You’re a valuable part of this caucus and the Speaker wants to work with you on this deal.”

Maeve shook her head. “You guys in House leadership are typical politicians. You can’t take no for an answer. I’m not ready to make a decision. Now get out of my way.”

Unmoving, Drysdale locked eyes with Maeve. She didn’t look away and squared her shoulders. I could almost feel the tension around me as the reporters anxiously waited for the outcome. What was Maeve going to do? Knee him in the groin if he didn’t back down?

After a moment that seemed like an eternity, Drysdale gave in and stepped aside. I breathed a deep sigh of relief and hurried into the hallway to catch up with her. As we exited the corridor, I glanced back to the doorway where I’d been standing. Every reporter was on his or her phone, ostensibly calling in the most salacious story of the shutdown thus far. A junior member of Congress and the Speaker’s top aide had nearly come to blows in the Capitol. A high school reporter could make that story fly.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_HomicideInTheHouseColleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She writes the Washington Whodunit series published by Camel Press. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service. She is currently a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

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Two Cozy Mysteries from Lyrical Press – Spotlight and Giveaway

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This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding digital copies of both books on the tour to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

MediaKit_BookCover_MurderAtTheMansionFortunes, fineries, and foul play . . .

It’s whale-watching season in Redwood Cove, and B&B manager Kelly Jackson’s battening down the hatches for the tourist rush at Redwood Heights—a Victorian-style estate owned by her boss. And due to recent jewelry thefts, her duties include keeping track of the many dust-covered artifacts spread throughout the property. But when Kelly finds Sylvia Porter’s lifeless body, menial tasks don’t seem so terrible.

Enlisting the help of a ragtag group of brainy retirees, aka the “Silver Sentinels,” Kelly’s on the hunt for clues hidden behind the mansion’s glamorous façade and for a killer who may want to make history of her next!

Enjoy an excerpt:

“Welcome, everyone. My name is Lily Wilson, and I’ll be leading the tour today. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them. There’s a sign-in sheet on the check-in counter. We’ll be starting at one o’clock, which is in five minutes.” She turned in my direction and said, “I’d like to introduce the manager of one of Resorts International properties, Kelly Jackson. She’s in charge of Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast.”

The members of the group smiled an acknowledgment. A short man in a denim shirt and khaki pants raised his hand. Lily smiled at him and asked, “Is there something you’d like to know?”

He pointed to the entrance to the parlor. “What is that shield above the doorway?”

“Redwood Heights was built by Reginald Brandon. That’s the family coat of arms,” Lily said. “There is an official Brandon crest on file. However, Mr. Brandon wanted to design his own to reflect life in the West. On his shield he chose to put the silhouettes of two rearing stallions, symbols of strength. Rifles instead of swords crossed over the top of them—the weapons of that era. Tall redwood trees filled in the area behind them and were the source of his wealth. You can see his motto for loyalty and honor on the banner.”

I enjoyed her explanation. It added another dimension to an object that had just been an interesting piece.

A tall woman with a long brown braid down her back pointed to a picture. “Is this Mr. and Mrs. Brandon?”

“Yes, that picture is of the Brandons,” Lily replied. “The woman in the picture is the second Mrs. Brandon. As with many wealthy families and historic estates, there are questionable stories in their past. Redwood Heights is no different.”

“How so?” asked the woman.

“We don’t have any pictures of the first Mrs. Brandon. She was the belle of glittering New York high society who found herself in remote Redwood Cove. She disappeared not long after arriving. Some say she ran off with a lover. Rumors cropped up that she took a sizeable amount of Brandon’s money, changed her name, and left to enjoy San Francisco’s growing attractions.”

The cadence of Lily’s voice took the story beyond a runaway wife. Her tilted head and arched eyebrow led you down a path of mystery and intrigue. The visitors moved a little closer.

Lily leaned toward them and whispered, “Some say she never left at all.” Her words lingered in the dead silence.

Everyone was still—frozen in that past time. Goose bumps popped up on my arms. Someone coughed, and the spell was broken.

“After a time, Brandon married again. They had no children and, alas, the house went to a distant cousin.”

I’d been mesmerized by the tale. Snapping out of it, I looked around. Sylvia still wasn’t there.

“The tour will meet in the parlor. Restrooms are down the hallway to your right,” Lily instructed the group.

I walked up the carpeted stairs to the second floor, running my hand over the smooth oak railing. It had taken hundreds of polishings to develop the fine patina and rich glow.

Sylvia’s room was the first door at the top of the staircase. I knocked quietly. When there was no response, I knocked harder. She must really be a sound sleeper. I tried the door, but it was locked. I rushed downstairs, retrieved her room key, and glanced at my watch. If Sylvia hurried, she’d still have time to make the start of the tour. Arriving back at her door, I knocked again.

“Mrs. Porter, it’s Kelly. The tour is starting in a couple of minutes.” I got no response, so I unlocked the door and peeked in. Sylvia was sitting in front of her dressing table, her back to me.

I opened the door a little farther. “Mrs. Porter?” I stepped inside the room. In the filtered light from the curtained windows, Sylvia’s image reflected in the mirror. Her eyes were closed, and her head rested on her shoulder. She must have dozed off before making it into bed for a nap.

My attention was drawn to a brooch on the left side of Sylvia’s blouse as I approached her. I hadn’t noticed it before. It was a lovely piece—a large egg-shaped pearl surrounded by a burst of red.

I touched Sylvia’s shoulder. No response.

“Mrs. Porter?” I gently shook her.

Sylvia’s head rolled forward and hung down. Her dangling hair covered the side of her face.

I gasped, and my heart began to pound. I looked more closely at her. The burst of red wasn’t part of a pin—it was blood.

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_MurderAtTheMansion

Janet Finsilver and her husband live in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loves animals and has two dogs—Kylie, a Rhodesian ridgeback, and Ellie, a boxer/coonhound mix. Janet enjoys horseback riding, snow skiing, and cooking. She is currently working on her next Redwood Cove mystery.

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MediaKit_BookCover_TeaCupAndCarnageThe quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .

Shop owner Kathi Corbin says she came to South Cove to get away from her estranged family. But is she telling the truth? And did a sinister someone from her past follow her to South Cove? When a woman claiming to be Kathi’s sister starts making waves and a dead body is found in a local motel, Jill must step in to clear Kathi’s name–without getting herself in hot water.

Enjoy an excerpt:

Limping home, I saw Greg’s truck parked at City Hall. I went in through the side door that took me to the police station. Amy kept going, heading home to shower before returning to her job as city hall receptionist.

Greg stood by Esmeralda’s desk and raised his eyebrows when he saw me. “Rough workout? I’m glad I was too busy to go today.”

“Oh, you’ll get yours. Don’t think demon trainer didn’t notice you were gone.”

“Okay. So why are you here?” He pushed a curl back out of my face. “Too far to walk home after the workout?”

“You’re just mean, you know that right?” I sank into the couch. It did feel amazing just to veg for a second or two. Okay, so Greg could have been right about my real motives for the impromptu visit. “Actually, I wanted to know about your call-out last night. I’m assuming this was a murder and not an old guy dying in his sleep.”

“And you deduced that from?” He watched me closely.

Shrugging, I sank deeper into the cushions. No wonder Greg didn’t mind sleeping in his office every so often. The couch was amazing. “No one blabbed, if you’re thinking of blaming Toby. You didn’t call, and you’re still wearing last night’s clothes.”

He chuckled. “You’re right. I guess I’m more transparent than I thought. We don’t know much about the murder, except the guy checked in a few days ago under a false name. Of course, the motel doesn’t ask for any verification or even a credit card. Cash only out there.”

“So he’s not a local.” For some reason, this made me feel better. Sure, it was sad someone had died, but people died all the time. I just didn’t want it to be one of my friends.

“Not that I can tell. But I think it’s the biker who’s been racing up and down Main Street. He fits the description.” Greg shrugged and grinned. “And, there’s a bike parked outside his room. Yep, I’m a trained investigator, I notice these things.”

“Big guy?” I thought about how the elderly woman had almost been smashed by the rider just a few days ago.

“Nope. He’s tall, maybe six feet, but if he weighs more than a hundred fifty soaking wet I’ll buy you dinner.” Greg groaned as he stood and walked across the room to his desk. He pulled me to standing. “I hate it when you do that.”

“Do what?” Now that I was upright, my stomach growled reminding me I hadn’t eaten all day. I dug into my tote and pulled out a protein bar.

“Trick me into telling you more than I should.” He pointed to the door. “Out of here. I’ve got work to do.”

I took a bite of my protein bar as I walked out. Pausing at the door, I turned back to look at him. He was already typing into some document. “I take it I won’t see you for dinner?”

“Not tonight. But I’ll be over on Sunday at the latest.” He paused. “Are you working the festival that day?”

“Just the morning shift. We’re closing the main store and only running the food truck that day.” I adjusted the strap on my tote, feeling the weight on my screaming shoulder blade. I walked out of the office and wondered how bad the murder had been. Just because it was a stranger that lay in the morgue, didn’t mean someone from South Cove hadn’t been involved or known the guy.

Or why else would he have been here?

About the Author: MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_TeaCupsAndCarnageNew York Times and USA Today best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho expat. She grew up living the small town life she now loves to write about. Currently, she’s living with her husband and two fur babies in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. Guidebook to Murder, Book 1 of the Tourist Trap series, won the 2015 Reader’s Crown award for Mystery Fiction.

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MURDER AT THE MANSION: AmazonAppleGoogle, KoboNook

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