Thursday, March 23, 2017

Now It's the Hero's Turn by Margo Hoornstra

 Beautiful Niagara Falls

At the risk of boring readers silly with my attempt at promo for the box set, All In For Love: A Lucky 7 Anthology coming out in June, I have more to share. As many know by now, my contribution is titled For Money or Love. Having introduced Lindsey Carr in my last couple of posts, I figured Dan Montgomery should have at least a bit of time in the spotlight.

Please join my characters at the LaBonne Chance Casino in Victory, New York near the always beautiful Niagara Falls with more from For Money or Love.

She’s one woman he can’t afford to lose...

Mega-millionaire Daniel Winston Montgomery lives to work. Money means everything to Dan, and he’ll do whatever it takes to preserve his wealth. His brilliant top assistant, Lindsey Carr, is essential to his firm’s continued success. Though, truth be told, he needs Lindsey far more than he she needs him…

Computer Brainiac Lindsey Carr wants more out of life than being no more than boring tech support. Convinced Dan and his company will survive just fine without her, she tenders her resignation. He’s never required more from her than her superior analytical skills, except for that one time she won’t let herself think about…

Unwilling to let Lindsey go, Dan must fight to keep her in his life. In a clash of priorities, will he choose money…or love?

Here's a taste of the story from Dan's point of view:

“Don’t worry, Rory.” Dan Montgomery flattened his palms on top of the large black lacquered conference table and leaned toward who was clearly his most exasperating client. “We’ve run into this type of glitch before. It’s a relatively easy fix.”

“I sure as hell hope you’re right.” The man across from him reached into the pocket of his grey pin striped suit coat for a handkerchief he mopped across a flushed forehead. “Check that. You damn well better be right.”

 “I know I am.” Dan flexed his elbows to move in closer and wished to hell Lindsey was here to back him up.

Blunt fingers shoved the sweat dampened material into his pants pocket. “Every second that software of yours doesn’t work right is costing my employers money.”

“I get that. Your up time sucks.”

Rory’s brow creased far enough to draw down the top of his bald head. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Uptime. The amount of time your systems are functioning properly.”

“Which is not nearly enough. But, it’s the down time I’m concerned about. I got a boatload of that. I talked my people at La Bonne Chance into buying your high priced product and it’s not working right.”

Dan did his utmost to stay in control. Correction! Upware 6.8 is not being utilized right. If Lindsey were here, she’d have a tactful way to say user failure. Teeth gritted, he took time to swallow before opening his mouth. “As soon as I can remote into your system and get an in depth look, we’ll have the issues you’re having identified and repaired.”

“If you can accomplish that in the next couple of days, you’ll save me more than a few million bucks.”

“Won’t be a problem.”  As Rory talked, he’d mentally formulated a probable solution. Now all was left to do was bounce the concept off Lindsey. Get her to fine tune the process, then start implementation. With a wrist flick he checked his watch. As a tribute to his confidence in their star programmer, Dan took a chance as he went on. “With any luck, we’ll have it done yet today.”

“I got no use for luck. What I expect are results.”

A sharp retort thundered to the forefront of Dan’s tongue. He bit it back. To think I got dressed up for this. When Rory called the day before to say he’d be over for a face to face meeting, Dan figured he’d better suit and tie up for the occasion.

“Name one time we’ve not given you results.” He slammed both hands down hard on the table top. An array of empty coffee cups in its center rattled.

Eyes wide, Rory’s head jerked back as if Dan had just taken a swing at him. Then he blinked and smiled. “I guess I deserved that.”

Arms folded over his chest, he made no comment one way of the other. The fact Rory was one of his initial clients when he first started out afforded him a pass. This time.

When Dan kept silent, Rory spoke up again. “I do appreciate you not holding a grudge when we dropped your product. Temporarily.”

Dan shrugged then and uncrossed his arms. “You made a business decision. That’s all.”

Rory’s head came up. “The damned board of directors made a business decision. A bad business decision when they decided to take the cheaper bid from your competitor. I was out voted.”

Dan seriously questioned whether Rory’s version of his casino’s desertion as a client was entirely true but didn’t call him on it. “Either way, we can get you re-established with an updated download.”

“You’d come by personally to oversee that, right?”

To a casino? Oh hell no.

Dan held in the knee jerk reply then couldn’t answer right away. Not that Rory would grasp the concept, but these days most of their clients were miles away from Victory, New York. Some even in other countries. Personal, on site visits were hardly the norm at UpTech. “Depends on my schedule.”

Rory shrugged. “I was kind of looking for that assistant of yours to be here this morning. Lindsey.”

That makes two of us.

“She doesn’t generally come in until nine.” And I wasn’t about to ask her to come in early for you.

“Wish I’d known that. I missed seeing her.”

Dan’s nod was automatic. Same as always when someone mentioned Lindsey’s value to his company. “She does contribute a lot.”

The man moved his hand to graze over his belt buckle. “That too.”

“Looks like we’re done here.” Coming around the table, Dan raised his right arm to circle his client’s shoulders then maneuvered both of them toward the conference room door.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and the stories I write, please visit my website

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Curse of the Grammar Nerd ~ Leah St. James

The first thing I do on Sunday morning (after reading the Roses of Prose blog, of course!) is open the Sunday paper. I know, I know, I'm a dinosaur. But since I work for the organization in my "day job," and I answer calls from readers who are generally ticked off about one thing or another, it behooves me to arm myself with knowledge before heading to the office on Monday morning. (Although I read the eNewspaper on my phone, so maybe not such a dinosaur?) :-) 

I start with the "centerpiece" stories on the front page (A1), move to the publisher's feedback column on A2, then work my way back to the editorial and letters to the editor, and so on. This Sunday I made it all the way to A5 before I found my first uh-oh moment.

It was a headline about a third of the way down the page. I couldn't get to the story itself because I got stuck on the headline:  "Virginia is for felons? 1980's petty theft law lingers," by two reporters from the Associated Press.

Did you catch it, the misplaced apostrophe? At least I assumed it was misplaced, because here's what I learned about how apostrophe placement/usage affects the meaning:

1980's = something "belonging to" or attributed to the year 1980
So as I read it, it would mean the law was enacted in 1980.

1980s = the general time period between 1980 and 1989
So the law was enacted in the decade of the 1980s.

1980s' = Well now I'm just confused....

I know, most of you are probably shaking your heads thinking, WHO CARES, LEAH? It's the story that counts! You've probably already read the story while I'm stuck at the headline, trying to decide the exact meaning of the stupid apostrophe! I can't help it though. That's just how I'm wired. 

As a kid I excelled in English and grammar, scoring way at the top of the standardized tests. At my first job in the FBI, I was pulled from the typing pool to work on a team writing staff commendation letters because I scored high on my grammar placement test there. (My first professional writing job!)

But what was a blessing back then has turned into a curse in these days of lackadaisical spelling and grammar rules--because errors are everywhere. I see them in television commercials, in the little news tickers running at the bottom of news programs, in the closed captioning on television shows.... Trust me, there is an endless supply of grammar goofs in the world, and each one annoys the you-know-what out of me.

None of us like finding errors, especially copy editors, and we have an especially talented group. One young woman, close to my heart, has a sign on her desk that reads:  "I'm silently correcting your grammar." (I want one!)

So I chalked the error up to the fact that it's a wire story. Our editors are so busy proofing/editing the locally produced content, they might not be able to pay much attention to the wire stories. But I must say I felt vindicated when Googled it and found that other news outlets ran the same story but with the correct (in my opinion) headline!

(This is from the Boston Herald online.)

Now I'm trying to figure out how to respond to the critics who have probably already called our feedback line with comments like:  "You morons! There's no apostrophe in that headline!! This is why no one trusts the news anymore!!"

Finally, to put it out of my mind, I read the story (which is about how Virginia has a terrifying low dollar threshold for a theft to be classified as a felony rather than misdemeanor) and decided a misplaced apostrophe in a headline is probably pretty low on my worrisome threshold.

For fun, here are a few quotes about grammar. They made me smile. Maybe they'll give you a chuckle as well!
Sometimes with 'The New Yorker,' they have grammar rules that just don't feel right in my mouth.
Author David Sedaris
Anarchy is as detestable in grammar as it is in society."
Author Maurice Druron
"Texting has reduced the number of waste words, but it has also exposed a black hole of ignorance about traditional - what a cranky guy would call correct - grammar."  
Author Richard Corliss

Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. As much as she loves the use of proper grammar, she tries really, really hard to be respectful of others' need to flout the rules! Learn more at You'll also find her posting odds and ends about her life on her Facebook page.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Turtle Release on St George Island by Barbara Edwards

I love being on St George Island. 

One of the best events is when the nature center at Gulf world releases turtles back into the water. This time we had 23 Kemp's Ridley sea turtles and one Loggerhead,

The cold stunned sea turtles have been rehabilitated since December 9.

The sea turtles were closely monitored until re-acclimated to appropriate water temperatures. 

When they began eating and diving normally they were cleared for release.

This year the event attracted crowds of people interested in the turtles.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

In Honor of Women

                         March is Women's History Month

Here is a link to an excellent website listing some great women. Pick a name and get to reading. The list is certainly not all inclusive but it's a start...

Below are a few suggestions to get you started.

Portrait of Nancy Astor, about 1926Nancy Astor, First Woman to get a seat in the British House of Commons.

Harriet Tubman
     Harriet Tubman, Led over 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railway

Hyperpyron of Alexios I KomnenosAnna Comnena (Komnene) Byzantine Princess and reputedly the first woman to write a book on history.

Nefertiti, Queen of Egypt Egyptian relief of Akhenaten and Nefertiti holding their daughters, 14th century BCE

Emma Goldman mug shot
Mug shot of Emma Goldman, anarchist, an ardent proponent of birth control and free speech, a feminist, a lecturer and a writer.

Oprah Winfrey, 2010First Black syndicated host of a talk show and first black woman billionaire.

In the center: Dowager Empress of China, Cixi. In front of her: Empress Xiao Ding Jing.
Empress Cixi (Tz'u-hsi) Contrary to tradition and policy, she took power as Empress in China

Sonia Sotomayor Attends Formal Investiture Ceremony At U.S. Supreme CourtSonia Sotomayor, first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court.

Fascinating women - and there are so many more. Which historical woman is your inspiration or favorite?

REMullins author of vampire/romance novels

and coming soon: COLD HEARTED VAMPIRE

The Wild Rose Press

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

My African Safari by Alicia Dean

No, unfortunately, I did not actually GO on an African Safari. What I did was write a story in the setting of an African Safari. See, I was asked to be part of an anthology of short stories that were all set in Africa. They could be anywhere in Africa, any premise, suspense, paranormal, etc, as long as they were romance. (I just finished the story, which originally had a deadline of January 26 - and it only had to be 8,000 words. Fortunately for me, a few others were behind as well. Mine ended up being almost 14,000 words. I hope that won't be an issue.) 

Anyway, I considered and discarded a few plots, until I came up with the one I used. During my research, I discovered lots of interesting facts, but one of the MOST interesting was that, I would dearly LOVE to go on an African Safari. I know that's a no-brainer for most, but for me, that was never anything that appealed to me. It does now, although I'm sure I'll never go. I'm not really an 'animal' person, but seeing these beautiful creatures in such a gorgeous setting would be amazing! 

Have you ever been on a safari? Would you like to go?

Below is a glimpse into my short story. The snippet is unedited, so please overlook its poor quality. :) I worry a little, because my heroine is not a very nice person in the beginning. I hope readers will stick with me until she's redeemed. 

After dying for the third time, unloved and unlovable Autumn Baines is running out of chances to avoid purgatory. For her latest life, she’s sent to the Serengeti, where she’ll have to perform a selfless act and find someone to love her. She sees her chance with the arrival of widowed father Logan McBride and his teen daughter.

Faced with an opportunity to make a tremendous sacrifice, she’ll have to decide…can she forego her eternal happiness to give them theirs?

Excerpt: *Revised after Anni's tips, and a few things I noticed :)

Milo drove them to a watering hole where a small herd of zebras drank from the pool.
Jayden perked up visibly. “Oh wow.” Her voice was awe-struck. “They’re beautiful.”
Her earlier combative attitude had fled, and she was suddenly a child filled with wonder. Logan’s expression looked more relaxed. 
Autumn unexpectedly shared the girl’s sentiment. Her heart swelled, and adrenaline rushed through her blood.  They really were beautiful. And she was right here, in person, no more than ten feet away from the magnificent creatures. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad gig after all. After the group had looked to their fill, Autumn said, “Let’s see if we can find some lions.” She searched the surrounding area. Lions were easier to spot this time of year with the greenness of the foliage. During the dry season, they tended to blend in with the yellowish grass.
Jayden gasped out, “Look, Logan!”
Autumn followed her gaze. A giraffe had joined them, walking alongside the vehicle. Autumn’s pulse jumped with excitement. The animal was glorious…and close enough to touch.
Logan’s face lit up, but he was staring at his daughter more than the giraffe. “It’s amazing.”
“Yes.” Jayden’s voice was barely a whisper.
The giraffe ambled away, and Autumn took up the speech like she’d planned the giraffe’s visit. “Such a close look at wildlife is not as rare as you might think. One on of the tours, three leopards parked themselves on top of our land rover.”
“Oh my God, what did you do?” Sharee spoke up for the first time. Autumn was surprised she and Denise had even made it this morning. They’d hit the wine, hard before, during, and after dinner. They were most likely nursing monstrous hangovers.
“Uh, we waited patiently, and quietly, until they decided to go away. I’m not about to argue with a leopard.” Laughter rose, and Autumn grinned at her audience. She had no idea where that had come from. Even though it hadn’t actually happened, the memory of it was as real as if it had.
As did the group, Autumn became more enamored as the day progressed.
They saw hippos, who stuck their heads above the water, then slowly sank beneath the surface, as if bored by the human gawkers. A gorgeous cheetah crouched on a large rock, waiting for prey to wander by. They even spotted a lion, lazing among the tall green grass.

During it all, Logan watched Jayden with a mixture of sadness and love. Jayden alternated between exclamations of glee and sullen bouts of silence. What was the girl’s deal? Her dad had paid a fortune for the trip, and she was treating him like he’d killed Justin Bieber. The tension between the two was palpable. Their dynamic gave Autumn a genius idea. She could accomplish both tasks with these two. A lonely, single dad, a rift between him and his daughter. A perfect opportunity to win their affection. Logan had subtly flirted with her. She could turn up the charm, make him fall in love. The selfless act might be more difficult. But, if she could mend fences between them, that would count, wouldn’t it? It was certainly worth a try.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Dreaded Sagging Middle by Jannine Gallant

No, I'm not talking about my middle, which certainly isn't as firm as it once was...but let's not go there. I'm talking about the middle of my manuscript. My books are about 90,000 words. I hit the 50,000 word mark and came to a bumpy halt in my current work in progress. I know how it ends and have enough exciting action planned for the last 20,000 words (hopefully), but that gives me 20,000 words to get to that point. (This is a series with each book required to be roughly the same length, so shortening it isn't an option.) I have a couple of events scheduled for this middle section, but I've been diddling around for days writing the first one and getting nowhere. It finally occurred to me that I'm not moving the action plot forward. It's stagnating, waiting for the exciting end. The build-up of my villain has happened. It's too early to spring the really creepy part, and the feeling of danger has tapered off with a whine and a whimper.

What to do? What to do? I think all authors go through this sagging middle phase in their writing. Or maybe they don't, and I'm just lame! It's not because I haven't made a rough outline because I finally broke down and did that. But these two big events on the schedule (a wedding and an overnight getaway for the hero and heroine) serve to progress the romantic conflict. They do zip, nada, zilch for the suspense. The problem is my book is romantic suspense. Readers expect to be kept on edge! So, what's the solution to prop up my suspense?

I turned to my trusty CP, Margo, who suggested making something happen to give the villain a sense of urgency that causes her (yes my villain is a woman) to lash out. A very good idea. Now I just have to figure out what and how. But since none of my potential bad girls have a reason to be at the wedding in progress (and I certainly can't drag all of them there), I'm still stuck. Deep sigh. So, what do all you authors do to claw your way out of the sagging middle of a manuscript. I could use a few brilliant suggestions!

My latest release, WILDE THING, doesn't have a sagging middle. I promise. Nor does the first book in the series, WILDE ONE, currently on sale for 99 cents. Get your copy now! Visit my WEBSITE for more info on my other straight-up books that don't sag. Happy reading!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Immigration Chaos by Betsy Ashton

Whites, browns, yellows, blacks
Screeching, shoving—
Gang warfare @ the bird feeder

It's that time of year again. My bird feeder is collapsing under the weight of all the birds migrating north and immigrating to summer ranges where I live.

Who knew the mixed flocks could eat through ten pounds of seed every day? And more, if I filled a second feeder, but I don't. One is enough right now. One is all my kitty can monitor. No, she doesn't eat birds, but they keep her mesmerized for hours, both when she's inside on her perch and outside on the deck under the feeder.

Who knew cardinals could be so grumpy early in the morning? Bright red and looking miserable with hunched shoulderc, the male glared at me this morning. He was sitting next to the feeder, which he and the missus had drained of food. He was not amused until I refilled, and he had his turn to get a bellyful.

Who knew the mixed flocks would arrive so early? I didn't. Is this a sign of global warming, or the result of a shared message on the bird underground—plenty of food at the log house in the woods by the big lake?  Could be either. 

Who knew smaller woodpeckers and nuthatches actually come to bird feeders? I've seen plenty of nuthatches over the years, but the small woodpeckers were a welcome addition. At least I welcomed them. Not too sure about the grumpy cardinal.

Who knew titmice (titmouses??) were bullies? I always thought the blue jays were the bullies, but they aren't here yet. I've watched titmice dive bomb the kitty when she was peacefully minding her business on the lower deck under the feeder. I've watched them beat the Carolina chickadees away, so that they had to snatch a beakful and head for a branch. No sitting on the feeder perch and eating his fill for the saucy male chickadee.

Thank goodness the pileated woodpeckers wait until the carpenter bees drill holes in our house. Then, they rat-a-tat their way into the nest. The bees leave perfectly round holes; the woodpeckers leave ugly gouges. This week has been too cold for the carpenter bees. Glad the woodpeckers have been hammering on trees further down the block. What a wonderful wake up call at dawn.

Who knew how much fun it could be watching the warring birds beat each other nearly silly over a beakful of seed? 

I'm so glad squirrels don't have prehensile tails, of the grumpy cardinal would be even grumpier.


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max Unintended Consequences and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery. She has a new short story in 50 Shades of Cabernet. Her works have appeared in several anthologies and on NPR.