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

Contact me at:  Facebook or

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Dodged the Storm by Donna Michaels

Hi Everyone, it’s Donna Michaels coming to you from sunny Orlando! I’m down here celebrating my baby’s 21st birthday!

Here she is on Hogwart's Express at Universal Studios. What a fun ride. It was as if we were on the train to Hogwarts. Loved it!

Boy did we leave northeastern PA at the right time. There are currently 22 inches of snow back home. Eww! It was so bad my husband’s National Guard Unit was activated. Guess it’s a good thing he didn’t come down with us.

It’s only 42 degrees here in Florida as I type, but it’ll get up into the 60’s, so I’ll take that over the snowy 20’s back home. Hope you’re safe and warm.

Speaking of warm, if you need a good book to curl up to, I had a brand new release this month through Entangled! The Men of At Ease Ranch Continues with HER SECRET RANGER! I’m so excited to share Brick’s story, it was one of my favorites to write. J


Kissing the sexy soldier was a dare she couldn’t resist…

By-the-book event planner Beth Brannigan’s best friend dared her to kiss a cowboy. She should have said no. Instead, she said please…again and again. If her brother finds out she’s dating—okay, kissing—okay, sleeping with—one of his military buddies, he’ll kill her. Assuming he doesn’t kill his friend first.

Former Army Ranger Brick Mitchum isn’t a relationship kind of guy. But then he meets Beth and starts to wonder if maybe it’s time he settled down. She’s mysterious. Unpredictable. Curvy in every way he needs… And hiding something. He’s just got to figure out what.   


It was…him. The cowboy from two weeks ago. Seriously? What were the chances he’d walk back into her life at that exact moment? “Uh…”

“I know, right? And there’s not a wedding ring in sight. Now go over there and kiss him.” Her snickering friend pushed her after the hunk striding toward the livestock section of the fair. “Go on before he gets away. Or is that what you wanted?”

She gulped. Pulled herself together. The knowing tone in her friend’s voice revealed she expected Beth to chicken out.


Any other time, yes, she’d lose the dare. It was childish and irresponsible, and she didn’t have time for foolish games. But she did have time to help her friend de-stress. Her friend who was also her client. It was Beth’s duty to put her client at ease. So, technically, it was her duty to kiss the sexy cowboy whose body she knew as well as her own.

That was her story and she was sticking to it.

“Fine. I’ll do it.”

Rachel squealed and clapped her hands.

Grasping bravado with two fists, Beth set her shoulders, lifted her chin, and marched after the hot guy striding away from her down the fairway. So what if she’d decided he was part of her past? The opportunity was too good to pass up. Things like this never happened to her.

Zigzagging around fairgoers, she avoided running into two children wearing a blue coating of cotton candy, and closed in on her prey. Her confidence rose with each step. Not only had she received her first ever dare, she was actually in the position to have the upper hand on the challenge.

A flicker of guilt and a touch of anxiety mixed with excitement. She pushed them both aside and smiled when the cowboy suddenly stiffened and came to a halt. It was as if he could feel her presence as sure as she could feel his. Not wanting Rachel to see the guy’s expression, Beth didn’t give him a chance to turn around. She slid in front of him, her anxiety fading at the pleasure curving his mouth into a sexy grin, dimpling his cheeks.

“Hello, Brick,” she said.

Then she cupped his deliciously scruffed jaw, pulled his face down, and kissed the ever loving heck out of him.


Hope you all have a great day!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Photo Contest by Alison Henderson

As you read this, I am visiting my daughter in Chicago, taking her and her best friend to the outlet mall for a girls' shopping day. OG is at home, manning the fort. God help us all.

If you read my post two months ago, you know that OG gave me a new camera for Christmas. I've been playing around with it since then and have managed to take a few nice pictures. That's a good thing, because I recently learned the Carmel Valley Garden Club has decided to add a photo competition to the Garden Show the first weekend in May. There are several categories, and I think it would be fun to enter at least a couple of them.

Here's the photo I plan to enter in the Landscape category. I took it with my new camera, and I think it's stunning.

Where I need your help is deciding among several photos for the Wildlife category. Here are some of my favorites, all taken in my yard. If you had to choose one, which would you choose?

All the entries have to be 8" x 10", and OG has offered to print them for me. All I have to do is choose. 

Thanks for your input!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Peek into PROTECTED by Christine DePetrillo

Here's a peek at the heroine in PROTECTED, Book Two in The Shielded Series. She evolves quite a bit in this book, starting off as rather helpless, but then teaming up with the hero to "save the day."

Sasha Boisette heaved in a deep breath and let it out slowly as she sat at Mikale Warres’s desk, which had been moved to a new secret headquarters as soon as his death had been reported to her. She’d known her step-brother had been into some serious shit. He’d unleashed a plague. He’d had plans to repopulate the globe. He’d hunted down the one doctor who could stop him. He’d behaved like the villain in a cheesy graphic novel.
But he’d been her family along with his mother. The only family she’d had since her own parents had dumped her off in Boston.
Now she had no one. Well. That wasn’t exactly true. Now she had all the associates still loyal to Mikale looking to her for direction. She didn’t want the job. She was no leader, no warrior, no disillusioned chemist. Sure, she wanted a better life just as Mikale had, but he’d gone about it all wrong.
And now he was dead.
And he’d named her his successor.
What was he thinking?
Unfortunately, she couldn’t ask him. Sasha wanted to dissolve Mikale’s organization, but his followers were rabid in their dedication to his mission of cleansing and repopulating. When she’d had her initial meeting with his closest associates—the ones not being held at the Boston Police Department awaiting pickup from the government—they’d talked so adamantly about continuing his work.
There had been talk about unleashing a new plague, but none of them wanted to run the risk of getting the disease themselves. Besides, none of them were as smart as her step-brother had been. They didn’t know the first thing about manufacturing plagues. Another blackout was also tossed onto the proverbial table, but no one wanted to give up the restored power that had crawled back after Dr. Ashby’s cure was administered globally.
Heated arguments had raged on, and every time Sasha suggested working with the police or the government, glares lasered into her, and if glares were knives, she would have been reduced to minced female by now. She had to be careful among these wolves.
She’d understood where Mikale was coming from with his mission. He’d been wronged by Emerge Tech, the company where he’d worked so hard. He’d lost his mother. The world was in the dark. Everything had been a mess, so he’d done what he thought was best.
He’d strategized.
Of course, the plans he’d devised were crazy. Wiping out the human population except for a few choice members to repopulate the globe was completely insane. Sasha needed to find some people among Mikale’s associates who believed as she did—believed in finding another way to improve all their lives. Currently, she was a team of one. Not very mighty. Not likely to succeed.
Sighing, she gathered her long, black hair into a ponytail then fiddled with the feathery ends.
Tired. So tired.
Trying to lead and convert an organization of treasonous zealots was exhausting, especially when you didn’t agree with their objectives.
She looked up to see Firrus Almstead standing in the doorway to Mikale’s… no, her office. She didn’t want an office. What she wanted was a tiny house. Not a domicile, but an actual, old-fashioned home somewhere on the water, maybe a nice, quiet lake in the woods, and a single rocking chair on a porch.
Well, maybe two rocking chairs. Not that she had anyone to fill the second one, but one chair sounded pathetic.
And lonely.
“Where are we on the Podster fleet repair?” Firrus flexed his biceps as he waited for her reply. Impressive may have been a word used to describe those biceps. Hell, Sasha may have even been the person to use the word, but she didn’t care about those biceps now.
Not anymore.
Two years ago, she cared. She’d hardly cared about anything that didn’t relate directly to this man standing before her now. Firrus was over six feet of muscle with a shaved head that made his intense brown eyes all the more powerful. You couldn’t look him directly in the eyes for too long. The energy behind them was too much.
And that brown gaze was on her now.
She looked down to Mikale’s desk—a desk she would never consider her own—then met Firrus’s stare. “Last report said a third of the damaged Podsters have been fixed.” Though no one from the last battle where Mikale had apparently been killed had returned to the base, the Podsters were all programmed to autopilot themselves to the new headquarters in the event of an emergency. The crafts that had returned were in shitty condition to say the least.
“And the other two-thirds?” Firrus stepped into the room and took a seat on one of the black leather couches lining the far wall.
Sasha gripped the edge of the cold, steel desk and wheeled her chair back and forth, not wanting to go to the couches, not wanting to look at Firrus, not wanting to remember how things had been between them. It was over now. Men like Firrus had the incredible ability to take something and become so singularly focused on it that the rest of the world melted away. Unfortunately for Sasha, she had not been that something Firrus had become focused on. Mikale’s mission had been instead.
And it still was.  
“The remaining two-thirds will be finished up soon, I’m sure.” She stood, not wanting to seem like a sitting target.
Firrus shook his head. “You can’t wait for things to happen, Sasha. You’re in charge now. You tell people what the timeline is.”
She shrugged one shoulder then scolded herself for doing so. That seemed weak and noncommittal, two words she didn’t want Firrus to associate with her.
 “What’s the rush, Firrus?” She rounded the desk and made her way over to the couches after all. Best to show him he had no power over her. She’d moved on, and as he’d said, she was in charge. “Most of our people are still brainstorming next moves. No one is ready to hop into the Podsters and launch the next offensive.”
Thank goodness.
The longer the associates quibbled amongst themselves, the longer she had to figure out an alternate course of action. It would come to her eventually.
“But once a new plan is agreed upon, we need to be ready to roll.” Firrus leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees, and ran his hands over the smooth skin of his shaved head. “Sasha, why don’t you let me handle things? I know, in detail, what Mikale’s vision was. I can implement the right steps. I can bring about the world he wanted. The other associates will listen to me.”
A twinge tightened her heart over the confident authority in his voice, but she couldn’t let Firrus get to her no matter how Alpha he was. No matter how much she wanted someone to swoop in and rescue her from this situation.
She shook her head. “You know Mikale was wrong in doing what he did. He wasn’t a god. He didn’t have the power to decide who lives and who dies. Neither do you.”
Firrus shot to his feet. “Don’t I? We’re surrounded by less than average humans out there.” He pointed to one of the blacked-out windows in the office. “How long before we devolve so much we’re back to walking on all fours and grunting to each other?”
He paced to the darkened windows then swiveled on his heel to pace back to her. “Sure, the power’s back on. Yes, they’re rebuilding the city. Okay, the world is getting back on track, but none of it is happening fast enough and how long before it all comes crashing back to the ground? A simple unplug shut us all down. It won’t take much to throw this mini-Renaissance into the toilet. We need more drastic and permanent solutions.” He stopped in front of her.
Too close.
Sasha could smell his familiar scent and an unwanted longing flared inside her. How could she both crave Firrus’s touch and cringe over the possibility of it? She knew all too well the man had fabulous hands, but unfortunately those hands had rarely touched her.
“And none of Mikale’s tactics made the world any better, did they? He’s dead. Some of his people are in police custody. We live like fugitives, Firrus. How is that a good thing?” Why was she the only one around here who saw the absurdity of this entire organization?
“Rainbows and kittens aren’t going to fix anything either, Sasha.” He gripped her shoulders and she flinched. He immediately let her go, staring at his hands as if he wasn’t sure how they’d gotten on her shoulders in the first place. Jamming them into the pockets of his cargo pants, he said, “We have to keep true to Mikale’s wishes. We owe him that.”
She nodded if only to keep Firrus calm and hopefully get him to leave. A mega headache was quickly blooming in her skull, and a headache never made anything better.
“Check on the rest of the Podsters at least.” His voice held an irritating note of disappointment, as if Sasha hadn’t met his expectations.
He didn’t exactly meet mine either.
But he always forgot that part. “I’ll check on them, but I’m sure I’m going to get the same answer I gave you.”
Firrus mumbled something Sasha couldn’t quite hear, which was probably for the best. Without a look back, he exited the office while she stood in the middle of the room, blinking into the silence.
Blinking into the silence. Yeah, that pretty much summed up their relationship. At the end of it anyway. It hadn’t started out that way. In the beginning, there had been passion and excitement and connection. Firrus had been everything Sasha wanted. Strong, intelligent, sexy, determined, she hadn’t been able to find a single thing wrong with him when they’d first met.
Then everything was wrong with him.
She’d introduced him to Mikale. Like a good brother, Mikale had put Firrus through the So You Think You’re Going to Date My Sister interview. Firrus had scored such high points Mikale actively encouraged Sasha to date him.
So she had.
           Then she married Firrus, and everything went to shit.

If you haven't already checked out The Shielded Series, you can get started for FREE in ebook with SAFE, Book One then follow that up with PROTECTED. Book Three, SECURED is due out soon! 


SAFE, Book One, The Shielded Series, FREE in ebook!
PROTECTED, Book Two, The Shielded Series, available now!
SECURE, Book Three, The Shielded Series, coming soon!

Monday, March 13, 2017

You'd think I'd know by now

I work on this series once a year, usually at the first of the year. These are characters who have been with me for 6 books now, and I feel like I know them well.

As I've noted before, I have three distinct POVs going in this series: his, hers, and one that alternates between a different his/hers. Chapter 1 is hers, chapter 2 is his, chapter 3 is his/hers. I would love to write this consecutively (1, 2, 3) but I've reminded myself that I can't and still keep the distinct voices needed. I need to write Chapter 1, Chapter 4, Chapter 7, etc., in order to stay true to voice, and that means I need to jump forward and back in the plot in order to do that.

Okay, I re-discovered that one.

Here's the other thing I've re-discovered. It's not what I want to have happen. It's what is happening. By this I mean: I want these people to have a nice life and happy times and get along all the time and just hit the occasional bump.

But that's not what's happening in this world. Not everybody supports them. Some people want to kill them. They don't know who their friends are.

It's not what you want the story to be. It's what the story is. I wrote this on a slip of paper and have it taped to my computer.

Once I remembered, I knew I didn't have to look for conflict, I didn't have to invent worries, and I had more than enough to propel me forward.

But my question is: don't you think I'd know this by now?


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Oh, Ernest, Say It Isn't So!

From action on the battlefield to the running of the bulls, the works of famed author Ernest Hemingway have taken us on amazing adventures. But Hemingway's own life was full of adventure, too, including a little-known chapter when he was apparently a player in the world of international espionage. 

In 2010, while Nicholas Reynolds worked at the CIA Museum, this Oxford-trained historian discovered information for a book he penned with a deeply researched and captivating narrative. Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy, reveals his discoveries for the first time, bringing to light the whole story of this hidden side of Hemingway's life: his troubling recruitment by Soviet spies to work with the NKVD, the forerunner to the KGB, followed in short order by a complex set of secret relationships with American agencies, including the FBI, the Department of State, the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a precursor to the CIA.

A double agent? Oh, Ernest, say it isn't so!

Although, in direct contradiction of my own words, I find the idea exciting. Think of the books we could write with that premise. Take me, for instance. An aging--okay, okay--OLD fluffy romance author traveling the world doing research and spying at the same time. Think of the situations I could get into. Well, I could. And I bet you or any of your characters could, too.

Take the time I was in Berlin and went off on my own while Calvin happily sat in a Starbucks, sipping on espressos and writing. The only German I knew was please and thank-you. I mean, one must be polite wherever you go. But Pollyanna here felt she could handle any situation with a smile.

I stumbled upon a Jewish synagogue guarded by German police. There was a new exhibit of pre-WWII Jewish treasures, buried from the Nazis, recently unearthed and cleaned up that were now on display. Neo-Nazis had threatened to bomb the synagogue where I later found out Einstein and the family of Mandelsshon, German composer, once worshipped. As I went through the metal detector, a guard spoke to me in a harsh tone.

I smiled.

He repeated his statement.

I smiled.

He motioned for a female guard, who was bigger than Atalla the Hun, and she glared at me while repeating the same phrase.

I smiled.

She yelled it.

I nervously smiled. My facial muscles had started to cramp. What in the world was wrong?

She finally grumbled, shrugged, and waved me on.

That night when we had dinner with Kelly, Calvin's son, and his Berliner wife Katrin, he inquired about our day. I told him about my experience at the synagoguee. Kelly asked what the guards kept repeating. I told him. Both he and Katrin started laughing. "Vonnie, they were telling you your zipper, your fly was down."

I didn't smile. "You mean to tell me I walked through 3 floors of a temple with my pants hanging open?" How could I have missed that little faux paus?

See how easy it is to come up with story ideas for your writer turned spy? I'm in the process of spiffing up a romantic suspense I'd written about five years ago. I need to update technology and insert more humor. In what was once Mona Lisa's Room, soon to be NIKO: Licensed to Kill, a simple American art teacher goes to Paris and does the same thing I did in the first two paragraphs. From then on my imagination took over.

A grim-faced guard stepped in front of Alyson Moore when she raised her camera to take a picture. “Madame, in the Louvre, we do not photograph the Mona Lisa.” His lips fashioned a thin line of disapproval.
 Alyson’s eyes scanned the crowd, for even as the security guard admonished her, scores of other tourists, their arms upraised, used cell phones to snap photos. “Am I the only one trying to take a picture here?” Without waiting for a reply, she pocketed her camera, and the snippy, tight-assed guard moved on.
She shouldered her way through the early morning crowd in the Salon Carrẻ to get a closer look at the painting encased in bullet-proof glass. Seeing Da Vinci’s masterpiece was a dream come true. No one, not even an overzealous guard, would spoil her time with Mona.
Once the museum opened its doors at nine sharp, and Alyson passed through security, she hurried to see this woman of mystery. The throngs of people already crowding the room surprised her.
She slipped between two men and stepped closer to the leading lady of the gallery. Alison’s nose twitched from the sweet and sour blitz of assorted perfumes and various degrees of hygiene. Murmurings of adulation echoed off the gallery walls as if the Mona Lisa were a five-hundred-year-old rock star. How had one painting achieved such stardom?
If the ever-present guard wouldn’t allow photographs, she’d sketch some of Mona’s fans standing, spellbound by her enigmatic smile. When she finally tugged her large sketchpad free from the tight confines of her yellow leather bag, other items fell and scattered.
Alyson crouched to retrieve pieces of charcoal, just as the man standing next to her bent to place a black shoulder bag, the style European men were so fond of carrying, on the marble tile floor.
Their eyes locked.
“Excuse me, you’re standing on my things.” Alyson pointed to his shoe. The man, face damp with perspiration, scowled, raised his foot and snatched her navy scarf, hotel keycard and passport, crushing them into a ball. He stuffed the wadded scarf into her outstretched hand and stood.
Alyson reached, fingering for the last charcoal pencil that rolled beyond her reach. She straightened and realized the man in the dark green t-shirt was walking away. The tattoo of a scorpion on the back of his neck. “Sir? Sir, you’ve forgotten your bag. Monsieur?
He didn’t respond.
She called after him again.
The man disappeared into the crowd.
The museum guard approached. “Is there a problem, Madame?”
“Yes, that man left his shoulder bag here.” Alyson indicated the black canvas bag on the floor. “He set it down at the same time I dropped some things.” She held out her navy scarf to show the guard and suddenly it hit her that her scarf was empty. She shook it out to make sure. “My hotel key and passport!” Pulling apart the sides of her shoulder bag, she rummaged through its contents, hoping against hope she’d shoved them inside without thinking. Still, with her passport the same shade as her scarf, she assumed it was wrapped in the scarf’s folds. “I don’t believe this. He took my keycard and passport. Why would he take my things and leave his bag behind?”
The guard’s eyes widened for a second. “Madame, you are sure the man left this bag?” He pressed a button and spoke into a speaker attached to the lapel of his uniform, a scowling gaze intent on Alyson.
“Yes. He…he was setting it on the floor at the same time I squatted to retrieve my fallen items. I asked him to move his foot since he was standing on them.” Alyson groaned as realization sunk in. She was in a foreign country with no passport. Oh, hell!
The guard cautiously unzipped the shoulder bag. Yellow wires. The man depressed the communications button again and spoke rapid-fire French. Pandemonium erupted. Armed guards rushed toward the abandoned black bag. Once the word “bomb” was uttered, visitors screamed as they stampeded from Mona Lisa’s room.
Suddenly, Alyson stood in the eerie deafening silence with only the pounding of her heart and the cocking of guns reverberating in her ears—she and the black bag containing explosives surrounded by eight armed guards. Holy shit!
I'm not sure when I'll have this book ready to self-publish, but I'll be sure to let you know.
I can't get over it. Old Ernest a spy. Who-da-thunk-it!
You'll find me at