Friday, August 31, 2018

When is Shopping Dangerous? by Laura Haley-McNeil

Please welcome Laura Haley-McNeil as our guest blogger today.

When I discovered online shopping, I was in heaven! I spend too much time indoors, so any chance I have to be outdoors, I’ll take it!

In my book Wherever Love Finds You, my character Ellora Duvall is a shopping fiend, and why shouldn’t she be? She lives in the best place to shop in the world—New York City. Who doesn’t like to go into a trendy boutique and walk out loaded with colorful bags and boxes and tissue paper? All that color and shiny paper is such a beautiful site! But after a brutal shopping trip, there’s that wisp of smoke that escapes the checking account that’s a reminder that having cash in the account makes shopping more fun.

Ellora likes to shop but her timing could be a little better. After she loses her job, she’s walking through the city with no place to go and nothing to do. Time for some therapy, and what better place to indulge than in a boutique where all the latest styles are modeled by headless mannequins? It’s so easy to say you’re just going to try on that dress and those pair of shoes, but what happens when they look good together and they look good on you? You whip out the credit card. Feeling renewed, Ellora grabs her shopping bags and joins the flock of pedestrians streaming down the sidewalk when she receives the phone call that she has to return to Colorado immediately. It’s an emergency! Sadly, Ellora looks at those freshly bought packages and wonders how she’ll afford the plane ticket after all this expensive therapy. Solving one crisis has led to an even bigger one. It takes some juggling, but Ellora is determined to make it work. After all, she’s not dating Zach Lowe anymore. She has all the time in the world.

Her expensive shopping trip leads from one crazy event to another and each of those events leads her back to Zach, the man who destroyed her life. The man she never wants to see again.

Ellora better put on her thinking cap. It may be the only way she’ll escape Zach is to start answering those help wanted ads in Montenegro! Happy travels!


It’s his game. He makes the rules. Rule number one—only he can break the rules.

Zach Lowe lives his life without relationships in business and personally. Getting involved doesn’t work well when you’re the Black Knight of Wall Street.

Ellora Duvall, the sweet kid who crushed on him in high school, waltzes into the world of corporate finance with the same wide eyed innocence she had in chemistry class. He hadn’t expected her to affect him the way she did, but he’s in control. A few weeks with Ellora will be pure pleasure, then he’ll move on. She’ll understand. He should, too.

Who broke his rules?

Chapter One
Ellora Duvall picked up her morning latte with an extra shot of espresso and merged into the throng of Wall Street suits packing the sidewalk. She dodged a gang of skateboarders and inhaled the exhaust-filled air as if it were the fresh Colorado mountain breeze she’d breathed since childhood.
It was Monday morning, she lived in New York, and she worked at the most prestigious equity firm on Wall Street. Life couldn’t be better, though her family insisted she should think about marriage.
Ridiculous. She was only twenty-two years old. She was starting her career. She was making more money than she’d ever thought possible. Marriage wasn’t an option, though once she would’ve considered it.
Her heart drummed, and her mouth went dry. She pushed thoughts of what-might-have-been out of her mind.
From the newspaper stand in front of her office building, she scooped up an investment newspaper and plopped several bills on the countertop. She scanned the headlines and pushed through the revolving doors into the marble lobby that echoed with the taps of script-embossed shoes crossing the tiled floor. It was the same headline she’d been reading since she’d graduated college over a year ago—STOCK MARKET CRASH IMMINENT.
She tucked the newspaper under her arm and raced to the elevators. The markets hit record highs every other day. A crash wasn’t possible.
The elevator doors slid open and she joined the mass of humanity cramming into the postage stamp sized space. She sucked in one last deep breath, tightened her stomach and faced the elevator doors.
The suits towered around her. Some spoke about their weekend, others sipped their coffees. All seemed charged and ready for the opening bell of the stock market.
“Ellora Duvall.” The voice behind her was deep and rich and made her spine go rigid.
Zach Lowe. Alarm blew through her. She hadn’t heard that voice since high school, but she’d memorized it along with his square jaw, his crooked smile and the mischievous glint in his eyes.
She jerked her head up. Raging hot latte squirted through the cap’s spout and splashed over her hand. She gritted her teeth. Yell in this cab filled with suits? Not on her life. She hadn’t looked to see who else was in the cab. She hadn’t realized she stood right in front of Zach. It’d be her luck that her company’s president would be in the elevator. And what would Zach think?
A handkerchief with a monogrammed Z wrapped around her hand and mopped away the coffee.
The elevator glided to a stop and the doors slid open.
“This is my floor.” Ellora stepped from the cab. When the doors closed, she’d race to the bathroom and stick her hand under cold running water.
And scream—from humiliation and pain.
The doors closed.
“You need ice on that.” Zach was standing behind her.
She whirled around. He stood in front of the mirrored doors that reflected his muscular form cloaked in a gray suit.
“You got off the elevator,” she stammered.
“Of course, I got off. You burned your hand. I feel responsible. Let’s take care of that. Now.”
“Zach, you don’t have to help me. I’ll just run some water—”
He said nothing. He stepped past her and strode through a sea of cubicles toward the break room at the end of the hall. Several heads rose above the cubicle panels and stared after him.
That happened to Zach in high school. When he passed by, every head turned.
The company president moved down the hallway studying a prospectus. He stopped and stared over his glasses at Zach.
“Zach Lowe.” He glanced at his watch. “I didn’t expect to see you today. Our golf game isn’t until Wednesday unless you’re having second thoughts.”
“On the contrary, George.” Zach shook the president’s hand and strode down the aisle. “I look forward to it.” He stepped into the break room.
“Hello, Mr. Miller,” Ellora murmured to the president. Her shoulders hunched, she scooted past him.
“Hello. Erica, isn’t it?”
“Ellora. Ellora Duvall. It’s nice to see you again, sir.” She turned to him. The smile she pasted over her mouth felt as if wires had been threaded through her cheeks. When he turned away, she raced to the break room.
“Come here.” Zach dropped a handful of ice into a plastic bag. Where did he find the bag? He lifted her coffee cup from her hand.
She set her briefcase and purse on a round table. “How did you know where the break room was, and how do you know Mr. Miller?”
“If you’ve been in one equities firm, you’ve been in them all. The break room’s always in the same place. As for George, he and I go way back.”
“How far back could that be? You were only one year ahead of me in high school.”
“And two years older since you skipped a grade.” His eyes grazed hers.
Ellora flushed. That and the fact that she had a December birthday made her the youngest in her class. She’d always felt awkward and she’d never really fit in.
“I didn’t even realize you worked in this building,” she said.
“Now you do. I’m going to wrap this bag around your hand.” He uttered the statement as if it were a warning. He gave her a full look.
Heated blood raced through her veins. “Zach, I don’t need—”
He took her hand and draped the ice bag over it. “Does that hurt?”
He had no idea. “A little.”
“Let’s take care of this.” He lifted his gaze to hers. “When did you start working for JRK?”
“Almost the day I graduated.” She couldn’t look away from the deep brilliant blue eyes that scooped air from her lungs. “I had planned to backpack through Europe with some friends, but when JRK offered me the job, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I mean, a chance to work on Wall Street and for one of the most prestigious firms. I accepted their offer and canceled my trip.”
“That was smart.” He said it in a way that spread warmth through her chest.
“What about you? I’d heard you were in New York.”
“Where’d you here that?”
Her throat dried. She couldn’t tell him he was the number one gossip topic whenever she got together with her high school friends.
“Somewhere.” She dragged out the word. “Which firm are you with?”
“Bell Equity.”
“The Black Knight of Wall Street?” She almost hiccupped. “Zach, they have a terrible reputation. They buy companies and fire employees. Maybe I should be afraid of you.”
“You can’t believe everything you read.” His smile seemed dry. “How does your hand feel?”
“Huh?” She’d almost forgotten why he was standing in front of her, looking into her eyes and holding her hand. “Oh, it feels better, so much better.” She pulled her hand free from his touch and took one step backwards. The void dropping between them felt as if they were floating in different galaxies. “It’ll be fine. Not damaged or anything.” Why had she said that? She wanted to slam her palm into her forehead. It sounded stupid—stuck-in-high-school stupid.
He studied her a moment. Something flickered in his eyes. “If you think you’ll need anything...”
“I won’t need anything but thank you for helping me.” She was talking too fast.
The corner of his mouth curved. “It was the least I could do. You should still keep ice on your hand.”
“I’ll do that.” She hadn’t even heard what he said.
“Congratulations on the Wall Street job. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
Her jaw froze. She couldn’t say anything.
For a moment she thought he’d touch his hand to her cheek. She could almost feel his heat.
He didn’t touch her. He didn’t do anything except nod and walk out of the break room.
And out of her life.
Ellora stared at the empty doorway. The break room felt cold and dark.
The heat in her chest had to be from the high school crush she had on Zach Lowe.
If that were true, why did it burn? She wanted to rush after him, ask him out on a date.
Date? Hadn’t she told her family she didn’t want to date? Didn’t have time to date?
But if she dated Zach...
He wouldn’t date her. His mother, Kim, had told her he’d never date her. Ellora had been high school geeky. Her family wasn’t in his class. Zach had been one of the cool kids. She’d heard about the girls he’d dated. She’d heard about how much fun he was at parties. She’d heard how all the girls wanted to be with him.
She and Zach had been in the same chemistry class and she was always helping him. Today, he’d helped her, and seemed happy to do so.
That meant nothing.
Kim’s cold words rang in Ellora’s ears. Her insides shivered. It was six years ago when Kim had cornered Ellora at her parents’ party. No one else was around. No one heard Kim’s warning. But Ellora never forgot the look on Kim’s face and the sharpness in her voice.
“Don’t get any ideas about Zach, hon. You’ll never be good enough for my son.”

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pinterest by Diane Burton

In 2004, I quit writing. As I’ve mentioned before, Life intruded. A combo of events led to stress, more stress, and though I tried to write through it, I finally gave up. For the next four years, I barely kept up with email and my RWA chapter’s loop. No energy. No writing.

When I came back, sometime in 2009, so much had changed. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace. Huh? Blogging? I felt like the techno-clueless Gibbs on NCIS. My brother-in-law joined Facebook so he could show off his fishing skills. 😊 Hubs joined. I resisted. I’d heard so many horror stories about FB. After peeking at Hubs’ page, I saw the “light” and gave in. How wonderful to connect with family and long-lost friends. Gradually, I connected with fellow writers and saw other benefits of FB. Around that time, I also returned to writing—for fun, at first, then seriously.

When I joined an online group called Authors Helping Authors, I learned about the world of social media. Holy cow! I was overwhelmed and ignorant. A tweet? What was that? I was supposed to write a tweet for others to share? How was I supposed to do that when I didn’t even know what it was? With the help of patient people (like our own Alicia Dean), I learned. This old dog learned a lot of new tricks.

All right! I mastered (sort of) Facebook and Twitter. Cool. Then, I heard about Pinterest. A bulletin board where you pinned pictures? Huh? I’d heard about people doing that with pictures from magazines taped to poster boards. I didn’t have time for cutting and pasting. But how did that work online? I understood how it might be useful for crafters, mothers with young kids, but for a writer? No idea. Until I read a blog post about how authors could use Pinterest.

A whole new world opened up. A visual world. I created boards for each of my books then added pins of things that provided inspiration for the book. When I started, I worked backwards. The book was written when I added pins that went with it. For example, for my first book, Switched, (originally pubbed in 2001, re-issued in 2011) I added the following pins (pictures): a farmhouse and farmland (the story begins and ends on a farm), starships, Kaylee (the mechanic from Firefly because my MC is a mechanic), posters from the movie Vertigo (my hero has acrophobia). If I found pictures of actors that I’d choose to play the main characters, I added them, too.

Then I found more uses for Pinterest. Besides being “inspirations” for my story, the pins could be topics for blog posts. In my science-fiction romance, The Protector, my MC thwarts a trafficking ring then captures the ring leader. On my Pinterest board for that book, I added info on human trafficking. When I did a blog tour for The Protector, I wrote a post on human trafficking. I even have a board with pictures of the authors who’ve visited my blog with a link back to their post. (I really need to update that board.)

Once I caught up with the already published books, I began to use Pinterest for ideas for works in progress. That’s when the pins really did provide inspiration. The most fun I’ve had so far is finding wedding dresses for my work-in-progress board “Inspiration for Alex O’Hara #4.” Not just wedding gowns but bridesmaid dresses and mother of the groom dresses, and ideas for bachelorette parties.

Of course, I have more personal boards. Before we built our house, I looked for pins for the “home of my dreams.” I loaded my own pictures from vacations. Tampa Tourism used a picture I took of a dolphin in Tampa Bay for their board—without giving me credit, I might add. I have boards for travel, favorite places and those I want to visit, Dollar Store hacks for the home, recipes, quotations, and books.

But, here’s the kicker. There are only so many hours in the day. Writing is primary. Promotion, next. Can’t forget family and home stuff. Using social media to promote ourselves and our books takes time. I use Facebook and Twitter (add in Triberr, which amplifies the reach of blog posts into tweets). Other social media like Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Snapchat, etc. sound interesting take more time—first, to learn how to use it, then actually using it. At this point, I can barely keep up with what I’ve already joined.

Of all the social media that I’ve tried, Pinterest is my favorite. I figure if I’m going to use time not spent on writing, I might as well have fun doing it. If you’d like to check out my boards (and pins), here’s the link.

What social media do you like best?

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. She blogs here on the 16th and 30th of each month. She shares snippets from her stories every weekend on her blog.  Her latest release is NUMBERS NEVER LIE, a romantic suspense, available at Amazon, free on Kindle Unlimited. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My Favorite Reading Memory by Mackenzie Crowne

I’m a reader and have been since I was a very little girl. I distinctly recall the surge of power I experienced as I sounded out the word Mayflower on the side of a big rig parked beyond the window of the truck stop diner on one of my family’s many road trips. From then on, I was hooked.
As a teenager, I often found myself slogging through the halls of my small town high school, bleary-eyed from staying up way past midnight to finish just one more chapter. In my twenties, when I was part of the corporate world in Boston, I normally read through my lunch hour and the daily commute to and from the city was spent with my nose buried in the pages of a paperback. Later, once I’d become a mother, I learned the art of turning pages while juggling babies, bottles and diapers.

I have fond memories of reading wherever I happened to be, including some unusual places. My girlfriends love to tease me about the day they found me curled up with a book in a public ladies’ room at the Bellagio Hotel on one of our girls’ trips to Vegas. Then, there was the time I accompanied my husband to his company Christmas party. No, I didn’t bring a book along that night, but was reminded of another time I had while being introduced to one of his colleagues’ wives. The woman grinned and said, “I remember you. You’re the lady who brought a book to the Diamondbacks game the company put together last summer. I was so jealous,” she added and shot her husband a chastising glare. “I planned to bring my own book that day, but he wouldn’t let me.”

But, my all-time favorite reading memory is from my eighteenth year. Summer was in full swing and I was working at the local cinema. My best friend earned mad money slinging pizza dough at her parents’ sub shop. As it happened, we discovered we both had a rare day off, so we headed to the beach, of course. As usual, I brought a paperback romance along.

We arrived at about eight in the morning and set up our blanket and chairs. Then I started to read. Out loud, while my friend listened. We were interrupted a few times, by friends who stopped by to say hello and for a half hour as we walked down to the café to buy a sandwich, but ten hours later, I finished and closed the book. My friend and I shared a sigh and a grin, then both spent the night nursing the blisters of our severe sunburns.

And if I got the chance to do it again, I’d do so willingly. I’m not exactly sure, but I believe the book was a Kathleen E Woodwiss title, however, the title and author don’t matter. Only the memory does and the continued love of reading that day inspired.

My phone doubles
as a paperback.
Thirty years later, my love of romance still holds true and my favorite place to read is the beach. Unfortunately, shorelines are scarce here in Phoenix, which is another reason I’m thrilled my son and his fiancé have chosen a cruise for their wedding this December. I see some beautiful reading spots in my future, but in the meantime, my backyard pool is a fine alternative. 

(Yes, that's me poolside in my back yard.) 

What about you? Do you have a favorite reading memory or place to read?

When Mac isn’t lounging poolside with a new romance, she’s busy weaving happily-ever-afters for her characters, like Chef Meggy Calhoun, the heroine of The Billionaire’s Con, Mac’s small-town romance (inspired by her home town of Saugus, MA) available at The Wild Rose Press and wherever e-books are sold.

See all of Mac’s titles at Amazon and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

One #Plot Possibility by Sharon Ervin

Please welcome today's guest Sharon Ervin.

Allegedly there are only seven basic story plot-lines in fiction. The seven supposedly are: 1. Overcoming the monster, 2. Rags to Riches, 3. The Quest, 4. Voyage and Return, 5. Comedy, 6. Tragedy, and 7. Rebirth. If that is all there are, writers must embellish, enhance, and fantasize without plagiarizing.

“Pygmalion,” a stage play written by George Bernard Shaw in 1913, is about a man who falls in love with a sculpture he has created. There are many stories based on similar concepts: “Pinocchio,” “King Kong,” even “Frankenstein.” 
I loved “Pygmalion.” Even more, Hollywood’s embellishment in “My Fair Lady.” Both “Pygmalion” and “My Fair Lady,” were historically set. I imagined this love story revised, reversed, updated, and set in Dallas Texas. That’s how I happened to write, DO YOU LOVE ME? my fourteenth published novel released in May, 2018 from Intrigue Press.

Pedro Rivera is as an unpolished hero, who needs only a caring hand, skills, and a bankroll to turn him into Peter Rivera, the man he wants to be. Once he meets Savanna Cavendish, Pedro needs only to convince this aloof, CEO, socialite to take the challenge. He guilt trips her into agreeing.

True to earlier, similar plots, however, as Savanna falls for her “creation,” she is horrified, believing it somehow immoral to love a man created for her by her.

Pedro and Savanna meet in the opening chapter. Here are samplings from the book.

The Set-Up: 
He looked menacing, the man in the massive earth mover shouting down at the laborer sent to fetch him. Savanna Cavendish was glad their words were swallowed by the noise of all the equipment. She glanced at Carol Ashby, her traveling companion, whose eyes were locked on the figure aloft in the machine. 
The messenger pointed toward Savanna’s stalled Lincoln and the angry-looking man squinted her direction. He glared up and down the endless conga line of traffic mincing its way through the single-lane highway construction area. Shaking his head and scowling, he relented and climbed down from the machine. 
Savanna shivered, ridiculous in the ninety-seven-degree Texas morning. She looked at Carol, then back at the angry worker the foreman had assured would repair her car. The worker’s long black hair was tied in a ponytail. That, his size, and the Fu Manchu mustache made him appear sinister as long, determined strides brought him closer. The sleeves of his work shirt were lopped off at the shoulders exposing biceps the size of small boulders that rolled and rippled beneath his sun-parched skin as he buttoned his shirt and jammed its tail into his khaki work pants. Obviously he was an alpha male.

The Meeting:
Pedro planted himself in front of the car, pressed one grimy paw to the clear-coat finish and slid his fingers under the hood in search of the safety catch. Savanna didn’t realize she’d gasped until he shot her a look. 
His eyes startled her, not because of the venom she had expected to see, but in the spectacular color she had not. The man’s eyes were an iridescent, moss green. All the Mexicans she knew had dark eyes, brown, sometimes black, but never this astonishing green. He clenched his jaw and his amazing eyes narrowed against the glare off the windshield as he released the safety latch. He flung the hood up and ducked inside, tapped and tightened and thumped, then pulled two wires, touched them together, bent to examine something else, raised his head and growled unfamiliar words at the foreman, who nodded and turned to Savanna.

The Problem:
“You need an alternator.”
Savanna addressed the mechanic. “Where can I buy an alternator?”
The foreman intercepted the question. “Ma’am, Pedro speaks Spanish.”
Savanna turned her attention back to the foreman. “Where do I find an alternator?”
“A dealership or a parts store. Any shade-tree mechanic can get you one.”
She scanned the area. “Okay, so how do I get there? More importantly, how do I get my car there?”
The mechanic mumbled something, his words delivered in a husky baritone. The foreman answered him looking puzzled, then shifted his gaze to Savanna. He seemed uncomfortable about what the mechanic had said.
“What?” she asked. 
“Pedro here will take you to get the alternator and he will put it in for you.” 
She turned the beginning of a dutiful smile toward the volunteer before the foreman added, “But he says you must pay.”

The Future:
Work completed, Pedro declines the cash Savanna offers in payment. Instead, he asks Savanna, through their interpreter, to pay by allowing him exposure to her American household; to help him learn and develop skills so he may one day have a company of his own. Reluctantly, she agrees. He moves into her world, and the plot gets complicated.


About the Author:
A former newspaper reporter, Sharon Ervin has a degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. She is married, the mother of four grown children, and works half-days in her husband and older son’s law office in McAlester Oklahoma.


Monday, August 27, 2018

Looking Ahead -- With Nostalgia by Betsy Ashton

Certain times of the year are causes for nostalgic thoughts. Fall is one of those special times, when one thing ends and something else begins. No, not the augment of all things pumpkin. Not the first leaves that drop to the deck, to pile up on the driveway. Not the first hint of color when the days grow shorter and nights grow longer. No, fall brings memories of going back to school.

I loved the beginning of school each year. New dresses, all starched and pretty. Brightly polished Mary Janes. A tiny book bag with new supplies I received at school. Elementary schools in those days didn't send out lists of things parents had to purchase. Oh, there were some, like new boxes of crayons and #2 pencils smelling so sweet when we sharpened them. I didn't know they were made of cedar. I didn't care. They were new, as were their erasers.

When my friends and I said good-bye to summer, to long days spent in the sun as free-range children, and settled indoors in classrooms, we had to relearn not to squirm in our seats or whisper that really great thing we just had to tell our best friend sitting next to us. We had to wait through 50-minute periods until we had a brief recess where we could run and shout and expend some of our pent-up energy. We learned that blackboards were really green, and that chalk was dusty. We learned to read and write cursive. We learned that things we took for granted might not be as welcome in a classroom as they were at home.

My grandmother read aloud to me beginning when I was a year old. By age three, I was reading along with her. I started kindergarten with a third-grade reading level. And that was something my teacher couldn't tolerate. She tried to order my tiny grandmother to stop teaching me to read. That genii had left the lamp long before Miss Whatever-Her-Name-Was tried to intervene. My grandmother taught school for 45 years. She taught phonics. This new style of teaching sight reading was something she wouldn't allow. And so I always read ahead of my classes. Tough.

Today, parents are sent lists of what to buy at the local office stores. Elementary school kids look forward to their first Chromebooks as early as first or second grade, depending on the school district. My grandsons will begin kindergarten and second grade this year. They spend a lot of time with screens already. I hope their teachers also cursive writing, use an erasable board, and help them use pencils. No matter what anyone says about pencils being old-school, out of date, whatever. They may be analog, but they can't be hacked.


Betsy Ashton is the author of the Mad Max mystery series, Unintended Consequences, Uncharted Territory, and Unsafe Haven. She also wrote a dark psychological suspense novel, Eyes Without A Face, about a female serial killer, who unpacks her life and career in first person.###

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Where to go from here?

I finished my last manuscript and I am in that in-between place. I started playing with ideas for another story (based on the Little Mermaid: man, that is one twisted story!), but I got stalled on that one. I'll return to it soon, I think, but it wasn't what I wanted to work on right away.

I reviewed a book I wrote last year. It was good; I mean, I like it a lot. I was going to do book 2 and book 3, but I've decided to write an epilog instead and tie it in with another series I have going.

So now I'm going to re-read that other series and tie the four books there with that book I wrote last year. I own the rights to those books, so easy to update them, but I am hesitant to delve into that alternate reality right now. Once I go there, it's hard to come back, if you know what I mean.

I also want to review some older books of mine that will have rights returning to me and decide how to rework those. I hate looking back, if you know what I mean, but I think I need to, at least at some point. However, I still want to write at least one or two more books this year, so delve I shall into the old books. This is one of those decision points for me, and I am rather looking forward to what might come of it.


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Next Phase for Sleeping with the Lights On by Brenda Whiteside

I have two books going to audio. I’m not sure which will break first. This whole process is taking way longer than I thought it would. It seems to me, Sleeping with the Lights On will be my debut audio venture, so in preparation I’m sharing a couple of my character studies from the book.

Every character in my stories have their own page of traits and information. The hero and heroine for Sleeping with the Lights On:

Heroine: Sandra Holiday
Age: 50
Description: Sandra is a green eyed, blonde. More than likely there's gray under that blonde, but we'll never know. Her hair still touches her shoulders in soft waves. At 5'3", she is petite and just slim enough. She prefers jeans, but wears form-fitting skirts to work.

Characteristics and Personality: Sandra hates to clean. She has a positive attitude in spite of feeling like she’s accomplished little in life. A die-hard romantic, she’s in love with love.

Background: Sandra was born in Phoenix, Arizona. She married young and it didn't last two years. Her marriage to her second husband, Carson Holiday, lasted five years. Why not longer? See Carson's background below. For the last eighteen years, Sandra has had some colorful relationships from a radio DJ that was too young for her to the Iranian who disappeared and was found dead in the Salt River. Her love of travel keeps pointing her toward careers in the field, but it seems every time she gets close, some man distracts her from her goal. As Sandra says, "Always a sucker for romance, but romance never lasts, and I'm left without a career."

Not in the book: She excelled in English class but didn't have much time for her other studies. Community College held her interest for as long as it took to get her Associates of Arts degree. One night, in Las Vegas Nevada, she met Carson Holiday who was performing on the casino stage at the Sam's Town Casino. He spotted her at the bar, playing video poker with a girlfriend on each side of her. She was twenty-seven. They were married three months later.

Additional Information: Sandra hates to clean. She still has clothes from high school. Beaujolais is her favorite wine, and Starbuck's is her favorite coffee. She has a sister named Abby who is taller, married, and her best friend.

Hero: Carson Holiday
Age: 50
Description: Dark hair, blue eyes with a 5’7” muscular frame.

Background: He was born and raised in Texas.

Not in the book: Carson attended college in Las Vegas, majoring in accounting. He was always a singer/songwriter/musician, but made sure he got an education for a backup. He chose Las Vegas for school because of the possibility of performing live in casinos. His father died when he was four. His mother raised him and his two brothers.

Characteristics and Personality: He has a voracious sexual appetite, but would never cheat on a wife or a girlfriend. When he feels he’s growing tired of a woman, he divorces her and marries another…at least that’s the old Carson!

Additional Information: He wears western shirts and a black cowboy hat. His favorite boots are gray animal skin. He’s been married six times.

I’m getting impatient for the release. I’ll be sure to shout it out on this blog when I know. In the meantime, you can get the print or eBook copy wherever great books are sold on line.

After two failed marriages and countless relationships, Sandra thinks she’s met the man to end her years of less than perfect choices; choices that not only derailed her travel-related career plans, but also left her single and broke.

Carson Holiday, a Las Vegas country crooner with swoon-inducing good looks, spent his adult life pursuing a recording contract and love, never holding on to either. After eighteen years, he drops back into Sandra’s life, reigniting an attraction he can’t deny.

When Carson reappears, Sandra must choose again. As life confronts her with yet another turning point, will her decisions find her eternally sleeping with the lights on – or will she finally discover a way to turn them off?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

How to Kill a Character, Let Me Count the Ways by Margo Hoornstra

Right now, I'm deep in the soggy middle of, On The Make, my latest work in progress. Book 3 in my Brothers in Blue series, and going down fast.

In a nutshell, my heroine is pregnant and someone does not want that baby born at any and all costs. In fact, they'll even resort to murder to prevent it.

So far, she's survived being run off a steep embankment in her car.

And I plan to have her shot at soon in a faked robbery attempt.

Other than that, what else can I use to hasten her demise? In the covert, we want this to look like an accident realm.

Any ideas?

On the other hand, out and out murder may not be the answer at all. Maybe a series of less obvious lethal mishaps would suffice. A severe fall here, hit by a car there.

What do you think?

While you're helping me come up with ways to do in my heroine, here's a free download of a murder mystery short story I wrote based on a radio script my father once wrote. (To those of you who have seen this before, I apologize.)

Manhunt was a radio show broadcast out of Detroit based on police files of actual cases. "The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent."

Yeah, that show was the forerunner of another long running television show titled Dragnet.

Hearts and Flowers is one of those stories.

But, if you wouldn't mind, think while you're reading. I'll be waiting for your suggestions.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

That time I got my first whole-body Leah St. James

A few years back my bossan incredibly smart, caring and generous womangave me a gift certificate for a massage therapy center. Although the not-too-subtle hint that I needed to de-stress was appreciated, I had never had a massage (other than a hand massage while on a cruise two decades ago, and a chair massage one decade ago), so I tucked the gift into my stash of gift cards to be used someday when I got up the nerve.

The following year she gave me another...and the next year another.

Sensing a trend there, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out, but I didn’t want to go alone for this first-time experience.

My original plan – to go with my oldest/best friend following my son’s wedding last year – was foiled when I threw my back out while resting on a chaise lounge on the beach after the wedding. (Yes, I apparently stress myself out even while relaxing at the beach.)

Several months passed, and when work became even crazier and fast-paced than usual, I knew I needed help and decided a relaxing massage might be just the ticket. So I asked my daughter-in-law (a middle school teacher who could use some de-stressing herself) if she’d want to join me. She thought it was a great idea, and we decided to go while she was off for summer vacation. She kindly did the research and made a reservation for us.

By the time the big day rolled around last week, I was sooooo ready to put myself into the hands of an expert at relieving others’ tension. I took the day off work, and as I kissed TPM (hubby) goodbye, he said, “Enjoy yourself with Louie of the magic hands!”

“Ha-ha-ha,” I answered with a snort, “Try Louise.” Then I got in the car for the 90-mile drive to meet up with my DIL. We went for a yummy lunch, strolled around a craft store for a few minutes, then headed for our appointment with the massage therapists.

“Oh, by the way,” she said as we crossed the parking lot and headed toward the front door of the place, “they only have male therapists today. I meant to tell you but I kept forgetting. I hope that’s okay.”

I give myself a lot of credit for not stopping and running in the other direction. In fact, I kept walking, although a few of my steps might have stuttered.

“Oh?” I said, as calmly as I could. “Well, hahahaha, I guess we’ll find out!” (That second part did come out on the manic side.)

We went into the place, checked in and filled in a form that dictated where we did and did not give the therapist permission to touch.  (For me, nothing in the torso area....NOTHING.) Then we got the run-down of how things would go: You get five minutes to disrobe, the therapist comes in, works on you for 50 minutes (so long??!!), then you have five minutes to get dressed again.

“Ready?” the young woman asked?

“Yes!” we said enthusiastically while inside I was screaming, HELP MEEEEEEEE. SOMEBODY GET ME OUT OF HERE!!

Now, I'm no prude. In fact, anyone who has read my stories know they can be steamy, but it’s not like I’m living the lives of my heroines! While Leah the author craft heroines completely at ease with their bodies, Leah the person is pretty modest when it comes to clothing and showing skin. I don’t cover myself like a nun, but Saturday Night Live's Church Lady might be close. Aside from that, I’ve been married to the same man for almost 40 ears. I wasn’t even 20 when we started dating and never looked back. So the idea of having a STRANGE MAN’S hands touching my skin, all say I was nervous is like calling a stroke a spike in blood pressure.

I got into the room, undressed in about ten seconds, threw myself onto the bed—under the sheet and cloyingly hot blanket—then immediately started sweating. As soon as the STRANGE MAN came in, I said, “Can I get rid of the blanket? I’m dying of heat!”

I knew I risked exposing more of my silhouette, but I figured it was better than sweating like a pig. And the sheet was opaque! And I was still wearing my undies!

The blanket came off and he turned the lights waaaay down and got started.

Let me say right off that the  therapist was a complete professional and gentleman – and super gentle with his hands. He did nothing to cause me any discomfort. I was creating enough discomfort in my head for us both! He started with my scalp (which was lovely), then worked his way to my neck and shoulders, my tension/stress collectors. He even did some stretching, and it felt glorious.

Then he moved around to my side and fumbled with something at his waist. I heard a metallic a man’s belt! My eyes flew open and I started yelling What-the-expletive!!! in my head...until I realized it was a lotion dispenser attached at his waist.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I’m great!!” I said, channeling Tony the  Tiger.

I calmed down while he slathered some calming goop all over my shoulders and arms (me trying not to think of the under-arm flab he was encountering).  Then he carefully covered me to my neck with the sheet, moved down the table and pulled the sheet away from my right leg.

My eyes flew open again. I don’t know why I hadn’t considered my legs would be part of this deal, but I hadn’t!  Here I am, 90 percent unclothed with nothing but a sheet separating me from this STRANGE MAN and he’s massaging me from my toes to my thighs. AND I HADN’T THOUGHT TO SHAVE MY LEGS IN ADVANCE!

I tried to comfort myself with the fact that I hardly have leg hair anymore (Is this TMI??? Sorry, I can’t stop myself), but there are still bumps and lumps and other evidence of several decades of life and ... let’s just say I wasn't blessed with Tina Turner’s legs (or talent).

Did I mention during this entire time I could hear my DIL chatting away and laughing with her therapist? (In my room, aside from the few minutes after I asked him to share how he got into the line of work, and the new-agey background music, dead silence reigned. I tried telepathically communicating with DIL to learn her secret but got nothing from her. Drat.)

Finally, after every inch of my body (aside from the torso) had been stroked, kneaded and gooped, my therapist stopped and told me our time together had come to an end.

I thanked him profusely, dressed and  ran to the rest room to see if my hair had turned white in those 50 minutes. When I met my DIL in the lobby, she said she’d had an “amazing” time and asked how I did.

I thought for a moment and answered (truthfully) that it had been a really good experience. Self-inflicted neurosis aside, I had spent the past hour with someone focused solely on making me feel better, my muscles were definitely looser, and the tension in my shoulders had dissipated.

Am I still obsessing about the bumps and lumps he’d seen and touched? YES.

Am I telling myself he’s like a doctor, seen it all, so I shouldn’t be embarrassed? YES, but it’s not working.

Will I go back for another? Probably, but if I do, I’ll make sure a woman is available.

Does that make me old-fashioned? A fuddy-duddy?
Maybe, but I yam what I yam.

I’d love to hear your stories or experiences with male or female massage therapists! Am I alone in my neurosis?


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. When she calms down, this experience will be filed away in her “what-if” file for a future story. Learn more about her writing at, or visit her on Facebook where she occasionally shares pictures and videos of her son’s two-year-old (male) cat.