Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Little R and R by Margo Hoornstra

As you read this, I'll be unplugged and taking a little R and R. For a while, anyway. And not completely unplugged. **shudder** That would be too horrible to contemplate. Though the internet service may be sketchy, my trusty iPhone will still be working. Unless I hit a No Service area. **double shudder**

The graphic I found to lead this column doesn't really tell the whole story. You see, I won't be taking a break from my computer, oh no. That indispensable laptop of mine is going with me. As is the laser printer that fits neatly on the floor of the backseat.

After a busy few months, surgeries for both hubby and me, another hospitalization for him, a novella, For Money Or Love, finished for a box set, All In For Love, coming out June 1st, a final galley for, On the Surface, the first book in my new Brothers In Blue series proofed and returned to my editor to forward to my publisher for release this summer, we're going camping to take a little break.

Beautiful scenery.

Quiet times by the campfire.


Oh, wait. Cancel. Cancel. Not that kind of wild life. Although my husband did once scare up what must have been a bobcat - what he thought was really a rather large kitty - on one of our many walks.

This kind of wildlife.

Much better.

Can't forget the walks. Lots and lots of walks.

But...there's something else. Oh. Wait. I know what it is. A completed manuscript to critique for CP Extraordinaire. Got my Track Changes up and ready. Really ready!

Then there's the second book in the Brothers In Blue series, On The Force to finish and send in. Oh, and book three, On the Make, of which I have one chapter under my belt.

Yikes! My little R and R time is dwindling. And fast!

Guess I better get to it.

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

Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy birthday, Hercules ~ by Leah St. James

Hercules the Kitten turned one year old this past week. With that milestone out of the way, he can now officially be called Hercules the CAT. 

He can now join the ranks of the mature (read: more sedate) creatures of his species–you know, the ones that sprawl peacefully in splotches of sunlight splashed across the floor. The ones that leap onto your lap, perform a few pressy-paw moves, circle a bit, then settle down for a nap. The ones that have learned the ways of the world—what is prey and what is not.

Except it seems Hercules still has some maturing to do.

He does have the napping thing down. In fact, he naps all day. Our theory is that he does this so he will be alert enough to wake us each morning when his tummy signals it wants food. That seems to be about 4 a.m., and he has developed a two-step process which is alarmingly (hahaha) effective!

First step: Jump onto my dresser, lift up on hind legs and start scratching the crap out of the mirror hanging there. (It’s the mirror that my grandparents bought when they were first married. I estimate its age at about a century! Imagine the bad luck if that sucker shatters!)  Result: Me and hubby instantly awaken and groan.

Second step: Wait for one of us to stumble out of bed and approach the dresser, at which point Hercules leaps to the ground and races out the door to head downstairs (where his empty food dish awaits filling).

What seems to surprise him daily is when we slam the door shut after he leaves, forcing him to wait outside the door until we feel like getting up.

I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t they just keep the door shut to begin with?! We have tried that! But he seems to take it as a sign to scratch the crap out of the door until we get up and open it...at which point he runs in, jumps onto my dresser...you get the picture.

For some reason sitting outside after the dresser interlude doesn’t start him scratching. I don’t understand why. I guess he is a creature of habit.

As to the rest of the expected attributes of a mature feline?

He doesn’t sleep in patches of sunlight. He pounces on the shadows they create. His latest favorite spot is in our dining room and its big window with blinds. With the blinds open, the sun throws horizontal lines across the dining room walls. If one of us walks across the room, the beams and shadows will mix, making the perfect action scene for Hercules’ attention. 


Sometimes he just stares at the blank wall. The first time it happened, we thought he was seeing insects (ugh) or ghosts (yikes!). But no, just shadows playing across the wall’s landscape.

He doesn’t cuddle, at all...unless it’s cold out. Then he might sleep on our bed at night, curled into the curve of one of our body parts.

As far as prey...anything and everything is game to Hercules. Paper–any and all types. Aluminum foil. Cardboard. Dental floss that misses the trash can. We have covered every scrap of paper in the house that we don’t want shredded. Stacks of printer paper now huddle under a winter blanket for protection. (I’m not kidding.) My husband says the cat is part billy goat. 

Check out the lower right corner.

For his birthday we gave him the unused lid to a paper carton. He has now chewed one side off. Hey, it makes for cheap gift-giving. (And all the extra vacuuming burns calories!)

Here he is this morning going nuts over a mesh apple bag.


So maybe Hercules will never quite grow up, but that’s okay. We love him just the way he is.


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. She blogs here on the 6th and 22nd of each month. You can find her posting occasional pictures and videos of Hercules on her Facebook page, along with other tidbits of her daily life. She loves visitors. Learn more about her writing on her website.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Blogging today

Blogging can get hard over the course of months, sometimes years of keeping the blog active. I participate in three blogs,
My own Barbara Edwards Comments, Paranormal Romance and Roses of Prose. Each has its own personae. 
I find myself searching for topics. I finally realized that subjects I wrote about three years ago can be recycled. 
The audience has changes. Readers and followers are interested in tons of subjects and seem to love articles with
I couldn’t think of a new topic so I’m posting a variety of subjects.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another peek outside my writing window

In the past year and a half, I've had the pleasure of seeing many wonders outside my writing window. I often find myself saying, "oh" and have come to realize how many intonations the word has.

Since I'm a terrible photographer and often too slow to grab the camera in the first place, these pictures barely represent all the wildlife I've seen. There's a beautiful red fox that is quite camera shy, but I'm determined to get his picture one day.

I added this next photo, taken last winter, of my sons standing by the creek in order to show its normal size. Note the bank is mostly grassy.

Then on April 29th, the entire area was flooded by torrential rainfall. Water completely covered the concrete picnic table. The swollen creek also crept, way too close for comfort, up toward my house.

 The force of rushing water was so noisy it sounded like a waterfall right outside my window. The power of it took out our footbridge, which had stood for over half a century. It also swept in deposits of rock and left them here and there along the creek bank. 
The size of some of the stones washed in is unbelievable.
The road to the east and the low water bridge to the west were completely covered with raging floodwater. We were unable to leave home for several days.

So, how many variations of "ah" did you experience while looking at my pictures? 

R.E.Mullins: author of romantic paranormal.  
check out my webpage for upcoming releases and buylinks.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Writing When You're Not Loving It by Alicia Dean

We all know that writing is often a struggle, regardless of what we're writing. But, I've found, (which really is a no-brainer), that when I'm trying to force something that I'm not enjoying, it becomes a dreaded chore. And, the results suck. For various reasons over the years, I've become involved in writing stories of a specific type or theme, due to special 'calls for submission' or a joint project with other authors, etc. 

It's difficult to write when you're not in the zone, when you're not enthused, but I always try to make myself power through. Sometimes, to my surprised delight, even the forced stories will click and I end up liking them after all.  An example is an anthology I became involved in where the stories had to be set in Africa, and had to be very short. I thought of and discarded a few plot ideas, and finally settled on one that I wasn't all that enthused about. But, I forced myself to keep writing, and I ended up with a story I don't hate. :) 

Has that ever happened with you? Do you have any tricks to making the words flow even when you're not feeling the love?

Below is a bit about the story, which should be releasing soon. (We had some glitches with a few authors in the anthology, but I believe all is just about resolved). I shared an excerpt a little while back, but this is a different excerpt, from the opening. 


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?


The third time Autumn Baines died was the most painful, the most horrific. She’d been warned that would happen. Each of her deaths would continue to get worse. This time it had been a high speed car accident where she’d been trapped for hours, pinned beneath the steering wheel, gasping for breath, begging for help. The paramedics had arrived and performed a long, agonizing extraction, but she died in the ambulance before they reached the hospital.
She shuddered and banished the disturbing image, focusing on the now. Her guardian angel, Milo, sat across the table. The glow around him was so intense, had he not been black, he would have faded into the whiteness of the room. So much white—walls, chairs, floor, desk. The first few times she’d been in this room, the starkness had been blinding, but she was growing used to it.
He frowned disapprovingly. “Back again, I see.”
She lifted her hands, palms up. “Well, you know, dying is so much fun, I can’t resist.”
“You joke, but you know that, eventually, you’ll use up all your chances. And then…”
“I know, I know. Eternal damnation.” Her tone was light, but her heart pounded, and her stomach clenched in terror. As much as the thought horrified her, why couldn’t she do what she needed to do to avoid it? What was wrong with her?
Sympathy flashed over Milo’s face, then he schooled his expression into neutrality. Sounding like a judge handing down a sentence, he said, “Autumn Baines, after your first death, due to your selfishness and acts of unkindness, you were sentenced to eternal damnation. However, based on the—”
“Come on,” she interrupted. “It’s not like I haven’t heard this before. Twice.”
“Yes, but you know we have to go over it again. That way, you can’t claim you weren’t given all the facts.”
She smirked. “Like, I could take God to court?”
He gave her an exasperated look. “Just let me do my job, okay?”
“Fine.” She sat back in the chair and crossed her arms, waiting. It wasn’t like she was in a hurry to begin her third life anyway. So far, they hadn’t been exactly paradise. Paradise, hmmm…now that was something she could get behind. Maybe they were sending her to the Bahamas this time. She listened patiently, her hope growing that they’d give her a nice little hut on the beach with a horde of cabana boys to see to her every whim.
“However,” Milo continued, “after reviewing your life, it came to our attention that, while you had never performed a selfless act, you also had never, in your twenty-eight years, had one single person to love you.” He looked up at her, no doubt to gauge her emotions.
The words were cruel, but she knew Milo’s intentions were not. He was kind-hearted and sympathized with her plight, but he needn’t bother. So what if no one, including her own mother, had ever loved her? She’d known plenty of people who had been loved, and they were unhappy—many were even more screwed up than she was. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

WILDE HORSES ~ Last in a Series by Jannine Gallant

WILDE HORSES, my 4th and final book in the BORN TO BE WILDE series releases on May 23rd. I'm excited, of course, but also a little sad. It's tough saying good-bye to the Wilde family after spending a couple of years with them, writing their stories. I always have that bit of nostalgia when I end a series. Am I the only oddball who feels this way? As a writer, do you miss your characters? If you're a reader, do you hate to see a series end?

To get you in the mood for WILDE HORSES, here's an excerpt. I'll call this one movie star meets cowgirl...

     Movement caught his attention as a small figure exited the side door of the barn. Wavy dark hair cascaded from beneath a tan cowboy hat. When she turned to face the collection of vehicles, the curves beneath a pink, short-sleeved shirt revealed a petite woman, not the young girl he’d imagined when her brothers talked about their little sister. Jeans hugged slim hips, and her boots crunched gravel in a no-nonsense stride as she headed his way. The frown that drew dark brows together over deep blue eyes made it clear she was less than thrilled by their presence.
     With nothing else to occupy his attention, curiosity got the better of him, and Blake strolled out to meet her. Her steps slowed as she met his gaze, and a round O shaped pink lips before she pressed them together.
     He held out a hand. “I’m Blake Benedict.”
     After a moment, she gripped his palm for a brief shake. “Eden Wilde. My family owns this ranch.”
     “Nice to meet you. The spread is beautiful, exactly the way Sawyer described it. I’m glad the producers chose it for our location shots.”
     She pointed toward the pasture. “Is there any way your people could make a little less noise with that equipment? Those horses are nervous enough without all the clamor.”
     Gorgeous and spunky. Her wide blue eyes held not one hint of starstruck reverence. A refreshing change.
     “I suppose I can ask them to keep it down.” Blake couldn’t hold back a grin as he tried to remember the last time someone had ordered him off on a menial errand. “Once the staging area is set up, I’m sure it’ll get a little quieter.”
     Behind them, a generator fired up with a roar. Out in the pasture, the assortment of scraggly horses kicked up their heels and ran.
     Those amazing eyes narrowed. “Are you kidding me?”
     He glanced over his shoulder. “Sounds like that’s coming from the food truck. They have to keep their refrigeration system going…” His voice trailed off as she silently mouthed a single obscenity.
     Maybe spunky wasn’t the right word. More like unabashedly brazen.
     “I knew this was a horrible idea.” The muttered words were audible, even over the din.
     “I’m afraid the buses all have generators, too. Uh, the noise shouldn’t be too bad from the house. I’m pretty sure that’s why the crew chose this spot for our base camp.”
     Eden closed her eyes and pressed fingers to her temples. He’d almost swear she was counting beneath her breath.
     “I guess I’ll have to move my horses to a different pasture.” Spinning on the heel of one leather boot, she stomped away.
     “Wow.” His slow smile grew with each determined step she took. When she disappeared around the corner of the barn, Blake headed back to his bus, which would be his home away from home for the next month. After opening the storage bin beneath it, he pulled out a lawn chair he carried toward the pasture, then set it up facing the mountains some distance to the west. Taking a seat, he let out a sigh. Maybe the wide-open spaces would help him clear his head. Lately, responsibilities and obligations tugged at him from every direction. He needed time to simply chill.
     And if a dark-haired spitfire added entertainment value, so be it.


The Wilde brothers may be attracted to all things fast and furious. But their spirited sister can’t be tamed when it comes to matters of the heart . . .

The beautiful vistas and peace and quiet on her family’s Wyoming ranch are a balm for Eden Wilde’s soul—and inspire a gentle touch when it comes to breaking the wild horses she loves. Though there’s no hope on the breathtaking horizon for her love life. Until her sanctuary is invaded by a movie studio shooting their latest blockbuster starring Hollywood’s man of the moment.

After a personal tragedy plays out in his real life, movie star Blake Benedict finds himself falling for the wide-open spaces and easy going pace of Wyoming—and for Eden. Around her, he feels safe shedding his public persona and letting down his guard. But then accidents begin to happen on set, mishaps that could end Blake’s career—or his life. And Eden will be forced out of her comfort zone to save the Hollywood hero from an enemy he never saw coming . . .

Pre-order WILDE HORSES now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, KOBO. Check out my website for info on my other BORN TO BE WILDE titles. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What It Takes To Be Betsy by Betsy Ashton

Most of you who know me or who have been following me know I'm independent and stubborn. That's a double understatement. So, three weeks ago on April 25th when I fell and broke my wrist, I knew I was going to need a lot of help. My dear husband stepped up to taking care of me along with all of his own tasks. He had no idea what being me entailed.

I broke the right radius, the bone that allows the wrist to turn. I had surgery one week later. 

Now, I'm profoundly right-handed, so I knew teaching my useless left hand to do anything would be a long and winding road. It was and is. 

Let's start with what I'm doing now: writing a blog entry. I'm typing with my left hand, backing up constantly to fix typos, and trying to keep my thoughts clear. Yes, my brain struggles to fend off the anesthesia muzzies. I figured out how to hunt and peck the letters. Then there was a contraption called THE MOUSE. I didn't reset the buttons, because it wouldn't have done a darned bit of good. I'm getting better at mousing. I'm so proud of me. I'm feeling cocky enough to trying to cut and paste, but not until I feel like being bought to my knees in frustration.

Cooking is out of the question. I have a freezer full of homemade soups and stews. We laid in a stack of Lean Cuisine and plenty of fresh veggies for salads and for roasting on the grill. Terry is good in the kitchen. Normally, I cook and he cleans up. Now, he's doing it all. I'm so lucky. Eating itself can be a challenge. As one of my friends said years ago about his toddler: "it's not pretty, but it's effective." Only twice since the break have I wished for a bib. At least, clothes and hands wash. Speaking of laundry, I've never been good at folding fitted sheets, but at least I have an excuse. Wonder how long I can milk this for sympathy.

Personal hygiene has been easier than I thought. A baggie over the mallet bandage first and the brace now, rubber bands to keep the water out, and an elbow to help with shampoo bottles work to keep me clean. Pedicures take care of toes and feet. Forget makeup. I'm out and about in native skin. And bless the people who developed battery-operated toothbrushes; they are my heroes.

To the people who have come to my aid--the nice young lady who helped me put groceries in the car, the barista who put lids on my coffee so I don't pour slop hot liquids all over, and the sweet young girl who carried two lattes to the car--I appreciate your kindness and am in your debt. 

To Joesephine at the Westlake Library, the "scene of the crime," who fetched ice, called Terry, and took me to get emergency treatment, you're my hero for springing into action and not getting sick when you saw how out of alignment the wrist was. I promise to share your kindness forward, right after you rename the building "The Betsy Ashton Library at Westlake."

Two weeks after surgery, I'm in a brace like the kind we wear for carpal tunnel and start physical therapy next week. Keep an eye on Facebook for updates. And if you see Terry looking harried, give him a smile and a hug. He's my super hero.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

And Then There Was One by Donna Michaels

Well, it's finally happened. My son is officially a college graduate! Zach is one of my twin boys, and the last of my three sons to earn a degree. It may have taken him a little longer than his two brothers, but once he finally found the right major--Asian Studies--he switched colleges, moved all the way across the state and earn his degree. This past Saturday, he graduated. Yay!

In a separate small ceremony from his department later that day, Zach was also presented with a certificate in Chinese studies. He was the very first student in the history of his school to earn one. I'm so happy for him, and one darn proud mama!

We spent the morning and half of the afternoon clearing out and cleaning out the upstairs of the house he shared with two other male students. Boy, even though I have four children, I was still surprised at how much stuff three guys...ah...accumulated. Lets just say, I'm glad that's over. lol

Now, we're down to one child left in college. My baby, my daughter Jestina. She'll graduate next May with a major in Acting/Directing and minor in writing. Just in time for RT. I'm already tired just thinking about it. :-)

But, I can't afford too much downtime. I have deadlines and heroes waiting for me to deliver their HEAs. It's all good though, I'm excited to get back to these heroes.

I'd love to introduce you to one. Meet Brogan O'Neil. He's a handsome former SEAL I'm writing for the Brotherhood Protectors Kindle World created by the wonderful, amazing Elle James!! What an honor! I'm still pinching myself. :-)

The inaugural launch is only weeks away on June 8th!!

If you'd like to keep apprised of all the launch books, cover reveals, contest, and chatter, join Elle's FB group

Thanks for reading,


Monday, May 15, 2017

Old Book, New Look by Alison Henderson

Boiling Point isn't an old book--it's been out less than eight months. In book terms it's still a baby, but I decided it needed a face lift. 

Why? Even though I designed the cover myself, I'd never been fully satisfied with it, and sales haven't been what I'd hoped. Its sales are consistently about 60% of the figures for the first book in the Phoenix, Ltd. female bodyguard series, Unwritten Rules. There could be a number of reasons for this: readers want to start a series at the beginning, readers tried the first book and didn't like it enough to read the second, or whatever. But I had to ask myself, what if part of the problem is the cover?

I've received lots of positive feedback on the cover for Unwritten Rules since its release. Everyone seems to love the legs and the flirty tone. It's a good reflection of the style and tone of the story and has even attracted male readers!

So what was wrong with the original cover for Boiling Point? It wasn't close enough stylistically to Unwritten Rules. I looked at every image of a stone mansion I could find, hoping to find one that would make a good background and reminded me of the setting. Nothing worked. I settled for the condensation image because it suggested steam, which tied in to the title. I also looked at every single image of every variation of "woman with a gun" I could think of. I ended up with the recumbent figure because it was one of the few in which the gun was far enough away from the face to crop the head. In a series, it is important to have design continuity: same fonts, same color scheme, same figure style. I would have preferred a standing figure but couldn't find another that worked.

My cover re-do was actually inspired by our own Jannine Gallant. She found the perfect image for the mansion background. It looks exactly like the one in the story, and I swear it wasn't available a year ago when I started looking. Sadly, the seated figure looked just plain silly with it--like the woman was sitting on the driveway. It did encourage me, however, to take another look at "women with guns." 

Lo and behold, the stock image sites had added tons of new images, and I found the perfect one! The new figure of a woman in a short skirt and high heels with a gun behind her back is an excellent companion to the one on Unwritten Rules, and her cheeky pose mirrors the humorous tone of the book. 

One of the best things about being an indie author is the ability to make changes whenever I want to try something new. I'm thrilled with the new cover, and I hope readers have the same response. If I don't see any improvement in sales, I can always tinker with the blurb next!


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wrong Time Period by Christine DePetrillo

Do you ever feel as if you’re living in the wrong time period? I do. Often. I mean, I like the modern conveniences of today. I enjoy the fact that I can hop online and get the answer to absolutely any question. I was happy to wave goodbye to the days of hauling my bottom to the library to research stuff. I much prefer Googling in my pajamas. I love my microwave and flat iron and car. I like that I can get medication to stop spring allergies from commandeering my respiratory system. I love my Kindle and the limitless books it allows me to have at my fingertips.

But... sometimes I picture myself living in the past. Not my own past. Not back to the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, but the past past. Like medieval times mostly. Knights and castles, kings and queens, outlaws hiding in Sherwood Forest… that kind of past.

I’ve been rewatching the BBC 2006 TV series Robin Hood starring Jonas Armstrong, although I can’t say I was—or am—consistently rooting for Robin. I’ve always been a little infatuated with Guy of Gisborne, played by Richard Armitage because… well… Richard Armitage.

In leather.

And the only thing better than leather on Richard Armitage is black leather on Richard Armitage.

He plays a dark, broody Guy who always seems to be seething just under the surface. He claims to be powerful, but isn’t really much more than the sheriff’s lackey. Then there’s the way he looks at Marian like he wants to consume her even though he knows she’s not on his side. There be heat in those gorgeous blue eyes. Heat that would most likely have me saying, “Sorry, Robin, but I’m busy tonight.”

Another show that reminds me of my love of medieval times is Reign on the CW. It’s about Mary, Queen of Scots, so I’m fairly certain there won’t be a happily ever after in the series finale, but I’ve still been watching faithfully since the beginning. The costuming on the characters is phenomenal, blending historical accuracy with a sprinkle of the modern. I just want to spend an afternoon trying on the dresses and jewelry… and crowns. This show also has its supply of hunky lords to ogle—a critical element of any worthy production.

I may have had a past life during medieval times. I mean, I’ve got the hair for it. Of course, it wouldn’t have always been clean…

What time period would you like to visit? What appeals to you in that period?



Maple Leaf Series, Books One to Six, available now, Book One always FREE!
The Shielded Series, Books One to Three, available now, Book One always FREE!
Wolf Kiss, Warrior Wolves Series, Book One, coming soon

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Your writing posse

I'm scheduling this post because on my regular post day I'll be out of town, helping out a friend after surgery (that's the plan -- here's hoping all goes as planned!)

She's a writing person, someone I met through the RWA chapter I belonged to at one time (I still do, but I'm long-distance now). Kathy and I have known each other for about 10 or 12 years, and she was with me when I was trying to get published, with me as I've been published, and has helped me brainstorm books, critiqued plots, and commiserated with me when sales slumped. She's been my Beta Reader and critique partner for all those years, and she's been invaluable in helping me learn my craft.

There's something special about your writing posse. These are the people who Get It. They know what drives you, and they understand your frustrations and your ire and your envy and your concerns. They also know why you write because it's why they write, too.

I have Groups of friends who seldom intersect. There's the Gardening Group, the Work Folks, the Writing Posse, the High School Friends. My friendships are like a big Venn diagram without any intersections, and I don't mind that at all. It's awesome to hang out with a bunch of gardening folks and slip into that mode, or a bunch of writing people and talk shop. They all nurture a facet of Me (I make myself sound like a multi-personality crazy person, and maybe that's not too far wrong).

But I have to say there's something special about the Writing Posse. I'm invigorated by them in a way that really keeps me going. So cherish your writing peeps and nurture them, too. They'll keep you going during the Bad Times and help you celebrate during the Good Ones.

Send positive healing thoughts are way so Kathy can get back to the keyboard fast--we have books to brainstorm and write!


Friday, May 12, 2017

It's That Time of Year Again by Vonnie Davis

It's almost the middle of May. I couldn't put if off any longer. That rite of passage into Spring, the one that includes a pedicure was long overdue. It was badly needed to ready my toes for summer sandals and flip flops. I know by experience it's not a quick in and out visit to the mani-pedi shop.

No, after months of thick stockings and boots or fuzzy bedroom slippers, my toenails required some heavy-duty attention. A flimsy fingernail file or standard toenail clippers just wouldn't do the job. Not with my toenails.

It was a tad embarrassing. The nail technician's gaze bounced from my feet to my face and back to my feet again. He raised his thin arms heavenward and left them drop to his sides while he screamed curses in a foreign language. Two co-workers scurried over to his side, their shocked expressions ricocheting from my toes to my nail technician's pinched face. You know the look. Like when someone's sucked two lemons dry.

He marched to a storage cabinet. His elbows jerked erratically before pulling out his special manicure tools for horses, elephants, and Vonnie Davis's feet.

Then he and his two helpers set to work on my toenails. Each wore two masks. Sparks flew. Dust covered my hair. My face. Finally, the job was done. They soaked my feel and followed that with bottles of polish. My nails are now fit to show off.

Now, like Alyson, the heroine in NIKO: Licensed to Kill, I was ready for summer heels. I don't plan on running in mine, though, especially when they're brand new . . .

When Niko ended the mind-blowing kiss, he pulled her closer, if that were possible, and whispered in her ear. “We’re being followed. Hold my hand and run.”

Run? Melting came to mind, but running? How could she run when he kissed her until the bones in her legs turned to jelly? Plus, she was wearing expensive new high heels. His arms squeezed her for an instant. “Now."

He grabbed her hand, and they took off. They dodged throngs of pedestrians and at one point, Niko hurtled over a poodle, its protective owner shouting in French outrage, calling him a fool. “Fou! Fou! Mon chien, mon chien!"

Alyson had done her fair share of running, especially after her break up with Robbie, the stranger she was married to all those years. Running was a stress reliever; so were the StairMaster and martial arts. Still, those activities were done in sneakers or barefooted, not high heels. Stilettos, no less. Oh, and the thong, damp thanks to him. She couldn’t ignore the damn thong chafing her in places she didn’t want to think about. She’d kill Zoey when she got back home.

“Faster, Aly!”

“You put me in four-inch heels and expect me to run fast? You bossy Frenchman with a foot fetish.” She stumbled, and he caught her by the arm.

“Typical woman. Kiss her once, and she figures she has the right to bitch at you.” Niko’s head turned, evidently scanning the area as they sprinted.

She tried jerking her arm free of his tight grasp. “So help me, God, if that terrorist doesn’t kill you, I will.”

He pulled her around two uniformed nannies pushing toddlers in strollers. “Promises. Promises.”

“Yeah, well look how nice my hips sway now, asshat, running in these damned heels.”

Niko quickly glanced up and down the wide tree-lined street and with a slight break in traffic, ordered, “To the other side. Now!”

They bolted across the six-lane boulevard and its well-manicured median. Two motorbikes rumbled past, nearly hitting them. Horns blared as several Renaults and Audis barreled down the street. Niko shoved her out of the way and she fell, her hands and knees scraping on the asphalt. Brakes screeched and there was a dull thud behind her. She glanced over her shoulder just as Niko rolled across the hood of a silver car. He never broke stride. “Run, dammit!”

She struggled to get up. Niko’s hands wrapped around her waist and set her on her feet again. “Go!”

A delivery truck swerved toward them as if to run them down.

In a blur of movement, Niko drew his weapon.

He dove and rolled clear of the truck’s path, shooting the driver between the eyes.

Glass shattered.

Passersby screamed.

The truck jumped the curb, striking a tree.

Sounds of metal crunching and a tree branch cracking obliterated—for a few horrible seconds—the pedestrians’ shrieks.

Still on the move, Niko barked orders at the observers. A man nodded and reached for his cell phone.

“Quick. In here. While we’re hidden by the truck.” Niko wrapped his hand around her arm and tugged.

Alyson trembled, the back of her hand covering her mouth and her eyes glued to the man slumped over the steering wheel of the truck not five feet away. Blood flowed from his forehead.

Her stomach twisted. She was going to puke on the spot. Niko’s grip on her arm tightened. “Move it, Aly! We’re still being followed.”

 “But…but…” She looked over her shoulder at the steam rising from the damaged radiator as she jogged. Dear God, she was running with a murderer. He killed some poor nameless truck driver with one well-aimed shot. For God’s sake, why?

The bell over a door jingled as Niko nudged her into a small shop crammed with framed art prints and old books. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing. He was one of the terrorists. Mohammed Bazel. Same organization as Dembri. Hide in here. I’ll be back.”

Alyson’s stomach clenched, her heart in her throat, as she tried to catch her breath. Would this nightmare ever end? “Wha…what will you do?” Would he kill again? He made an instantaneous identification and in a split-second killed a man.

What if he’d been wrong? What if…

“Monsieur, me dire pourquoi?” They both spun to find a diminutive woman with a horrified expression on her face. She gestured at Niko’s gun.

Niko flashed his badge and evidently asked the lady if she had another exit. She pointed to a faded red curtain hanging over a doorway. “Aly, stay here until I call you. I have to get the other guy.” He bolted from the back of the shop.

Police sirens pierced the air. Screams and loud talking added to the uproar outside. At this moment, Paris didn’t seem so charming. Suddenly, Paris seemed very cold and full of evil menacing shadows. She wrapped her arms around herself, digging deep for calm to stop the trembling and keep her shit together.

“Vous avet un problem, jeune dame?” The silver-haired lady fingered a strand of pearls at the neckline of her navy and white suit. In the midst of this hellish situation, Alyson felt a moment of shoe-sisterhood when she noticed the woman wore navy stilettos on her tiny feet. The elderly woman’s smile was tremulous, wary. Poor thing, we charge into her quiet shop like Bonnie and Clyde with a gun drawn. She probably thinks we’re going to rob her.

“A problem? Yes! A man, a terrorist is after me! Ah…French…I must speak French. I’m sorry. Excusez moi.” She put her fingertips to her temples willing her brain to work. At this moment, she could barely think in English, much less pull her limited French from her scrambled, terror-filled mind.

She gave a quick glance outside the shop window as blue police vans and an ambulance parked around the delivery truck. A man had been killed because of her. “Ah…the Mona Lisa…”

The woman grabbed Alyson’s hand. “You are her? The American who saved the Mona Lisa? The woman raved about in the news? You saved our tresor, our treasure? Oui?” She breezed kisses on both of Alyson’s cheeks and smiled. “Come. I hide you. Marie-Claire will keep you safe.”