Saturday, November 22, 2014

Her Perfect Life by Vicki Hinze

Her Perfect Life by Vicki Hinze

While flying a routine border patrol mission over Iraq, Air Force Captain Katie Slater's plane is downed and hurtled deep into enemy territory.

Everyone thinks she's dead.
 But Katie awakens to injury and captivity.

She remains a hopeless P.O.W. for six long years. Finally, aided by a compassionate guard, she is rescued and returns home. Finally, she is free!

But the perfect life she had left behind with her husband, Sam, and her children, Molly and Jake, has vanished. Sam has remarried. Her children, who barely remember her, have another mother they love. And Katie's former copilot, C.D. Quade, her rock and confidant, is tormented by the guilt of having left her behind. Nothing is the same.

Katie has lost everything. She must come to terms with the loss, with her imperfect past, and her uncertain future. During her years of captivity, she shuttered to survive. Now, what of her memories is real and what is tricks of the mind? Uncertain, she's determined to confront the truth. To put the military behind her, and take a chance on a dream of opening her own garden center. She finds peace in the garden. Yet many obstacles remain and even she is unconvinced she has the strength to start a new life. Can she begin again? Rebuild her perfect life?

Visit Vicki's website to read an excerpt from the novel:

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thoughts about Being the Best We Can Be by Carrie Louise, author

I believe that we all want to be the best that we can be.
For most of us, this is a need of soul and/or a need of ego.
Wanting to prove someone right or someone wrong provides a starting place.
Proving someone right is consciously or subconsciously based on messages affirming we can be anyone we want to be.
Proving someone wrong is subconsciously aimed at those who said we'd never amount to anything.
What we’re doing about this today has as many paths as there are human beings.
A goal of wanting to connect with the material side of life gives a person one kind of strength.
A goal of wanting to connect with one’s soul-self gives a person another kind of strength.
When faced with a decision, we are often faced with opposing beliefs.
Family, religion, society, peers, and teachers all make inroads into the beliefs we carry within. These beliefs are the origins of our behavior, our goals, and ultimately our degree of success.
Weeding out the unproductive beliefs and resulting behaviors while leaving only those that are productive helps us achieve lifelong happiness and the fulfillment of our goals.
Finding positive motivation is essential. Teachers, books, and gatherings are abundant and provide more than enough choices to encourage and support the life changes we desire. Financial consideration is balanced with the outcome.

Life, Soul Being Soul    Teen Life, Soul Being Soul
Life, Soul Being Soul without Drama

Fatal Chocolate Obsession (Death by Chocolate Book 5) by Sally Berneathy

Fatal Chocolate Obsession (Death by Chocolate Book 5) by Sally Berneathy

A bouquet of roses, a bottle of wine, a crystal butterfly…and a dead man in the alley behind Death by Chocolate. Gifts for Lindsay, left in the middle of the night.

Is her ex-husband Rick between girlfriends and pursuing her again? Did he leave the roses and wine? He has done the out-of-season Santa Claus thing before. But when the crystal butterfly appears, Rick is in the hospital after a brutal attack leaves him near death.

If not Rick, then who? Is it someone she sees every day? The tall man who refuses to look her in the eye? The short man who looks her in the eye too long? The skinny man with crossed eyes who might or might not be looking her in the eye?

As the body count rises, Lindsay begins to see danger everywhere. Lindsay, Fred and Trent must catch this psycho stalker before someone else dies. Not bad enough he kills people. He also murders the English language in the horrible poems he leaves for her.

Butterflies are free and so are we.
Come fly away with me for all eternity.
I’ll shelter you from harm,
and always keep you safe and warm.
Anyone who troubles thee
will feel the wrath of me.

Fanny Packs and Foul Play (A Haley Randolph Mystery) by Dorothy Howell Excerpt

Fanny Packs and Foul Play (A Haley Randolph Mystery) by Dorothy Howell

Amateur sleuth Haley Randolph returns in a hilarious novella from mystery author Dorothy Howell.
Fashionista and event planner to the stars Haley Randolph thinks the Thanksgiving Day feast she’s organizing for the wealthy young owners of the Pammy Candy Company at their Calabasas mansion will be easy—until the hostess is pushed to her death from a second floor balcony.

Money-hungry relatives expecting to dish up a share of the candy company profits, an ex-lover, and a family secret make a tempting recipe for murder. It’s a feast of suspects as Haley gobbles up clues that threaten to turn this warm, welcoming occasion into cold leftovers—but with private detective Jack Bishop in charge of the investigation, things heat up fast.

Haley searches for the designer handbag of her dreams—but finds a hot new attorney instead—and a killer who knows revenge is a meal best served cold!

Bonus content! Includes an excerpt from another Haley Randolph mystery, as well as one of the historical romances Dorothy writes under the pen name Judith Stacy.

Chapter 1

“I’d die for a new handbag,” Marcie said.
I was ready to kill for one but didn’t say so. Marcie had been my best friend since forever. She already knew.
We were at the Galleria in Sherman Oaks, one of L.A.s many upscale areas, scoping out the shops and boutiques. Marcie and I shared a love—okay, it was really an obsession, but so what—of designer handbags .
All things fashion-forward were of supreme interest to us. But that was to be expected. We were both in our mid-twenties, smack in the middle of our we-have-to-look-great-now-before-it’s-too-late years. Marcie was a petite blonde, and I, Haley Randolph, was tall with dark hair. Marcie was sensible and level headed, and I—well, I wasn’t. But that’s not the point. We’re still BFFs and that’s what matters.
Since we’d exhausted all the places we should have been able to find a terrific handbag, we moved through the open-air shopping center past the stores, restaurants, and office spaces toward the parking garage. I had on a fabulous black business suit, since I was on my lunch hour, and Marcie had taken the day off from her job at a bank downtown so she had on jeans, a sweater, and a blazer. We looked great—perfect for a November afternoon.
“What the heck is wrong with all the designers?” I asked, as we passed one of the boutiques we’d already checked out. “All they have to do is design handbags. That’s it. And I haven’t seen one decent bag in months.”
“It hasn’t been months,” Marcie pointed out. “Only a few weeks.”
She was right, of course. Marcie was almost always right.
I was in no mood.
“You’ve been kind of crabby lately,” Marcie said, as only a BFF can. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” I insisted.
Marcie gave me a we’re-best-friends look which was usually comforting, but not today. My life had been a roller coaster for a while now, but I’d been doing okay with it. I had a great job as an event planner at L.A. Affairs and … and …and—wait. Hang on. Was that the only good thing I had going?
Oh my God. It was.
I still had my will-this-nightmare-ever-end part-time sales clerk job at the how-the-heck-does-this-crappy-place-stay-in-business Holt’s Department Store. My mom was driving me crazy—no, really, crazier than usual—over prep for her upcoming Thanksgiving dinner that I was expected to attend. I’d broken up with my hot, handsome, fabulous official boyfriend Ty Cameron. I was staring down the barrel of the single girl’s Bermuda Triangle of holidays—Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day—and lately it seemed that if civilization were dying, men would rather let it go than date me.
So was it too much to ask that a designer somewhere come up with a fabulous new handbag that would soothe my worries, boost my spirits, and keep me going until things turned around?
Apparently, it was.
“If you want to talk, I’ll be home late tonight,” Marcie said. “I’m having dinner with Beau.”
Oh, yeah, and Marcie had a new boyfriend—which I’m really happy about. Really.
“Have fun,” I said, which I totally meant.
Marcie had kissed her share of frogs, and while Beau might not be her prince, he was at least a really nice guy, good looking with a great job, and liked to go places and do things with her—which was why I was really happy for her. Really.
We waved good-bye and Marcie continued on toward the parking garage. I headed the other way through the Galleria and crossed the busy Sepulveda and Ventura intersection to the building that housed L.A. Affairs, an event planning company to the stars—and everyone else who mattered in Hollywood and Los Angeles. It was my job to execute fabulous parties for people who had more money than they knew what to do with so they spent it on extravagant, outrageous, mine-is-better-than-yours events, then left it up to me to, somehow, pull it off.
I took the elevator up to the L.A. Affairs office on the third floor and walked inside. A florist on our approved list—who wanted us to keep booking them for events—had decorated the lobby with pumpkins, corn stalks, and mum plants.
Mindy, our receptionist, was at her post. She was somewhere in her forties, with a waistline that attested to her total commitment to the Food Network, and blonde hair she’s sprayed into the shape of a mushroom.
If it’s true that we learn from our mistakes, Mindy will soon be a genius.
“Are you ready to party?” Mindy exclaimed.
She’s supposed to chant that ridiculous slogan to clients, yet for some unknown reason I was continually bombarded with it.
“I work here,” I told her, for about the zillionth time. “Okay? I’m an employee. Here. You don’t have to keep saying that to me.”
Mindy made a pouty face and shook her head. “Oh, dear, someone is having a bad day.”
I walked away.
Just past the cube farm and the client interview rooms I turned down the hallway where the offices, supply room, conference rooms, and breakroom were located. I desperately needed to hit the snack cabinet. I was long overdue for a chocolate fix, and the mocha frappuccino—the most fabulous drink in the world—that I’d gotten after lunch at Starbucks—the most fabulous place in the world—had worn off.
I ducked into my private office—a great space with neutral furniture and splashes of blue and yellow, and a huge window with a view of the Galleria—and was about to drop my handbag into my desk drawer when my cell phone rang. It was Mom.
Oh crap.
“Good news,” she announced when I answered.
Mom’s news was seldom good—for me, anyway.
“I’ve figured out how to remedy my seating chart problem,” she said
Mom said it as if she’d just hammered out a peace treaty in the Middle East, and while she did wish for world peace—she was, after all, a former beauty queen—I’m not sure she was even aware there were problems in that region of the world.
Really, how could she know if it wasn’t covered in Vogue?
“Oh?” I murmured, as I dropped into my desk chair.
“I’ve been quite concerned about your sister lately,” Mom said.
To the untrained observer, it appeared that Mom’s seating chart and her concerns for my sister weren’t related. I knew the connection would be revealed—as long as I was patient enough to wait.
I’m not usually that patient.
“She hasn’t been herself since she broke up with Lars,” Mom said.
I had no idea who Lars was.
My sister was a little younger than me. She attended UCLA, did some modeling, and was a near perfect genetic copy of our mother.
I wasn’t.
“So,” Mom said, “I’m going to find a dinner companion for your sister on Thanksgiving.”
I lurched forward in my chair. She was going to—what?
“That way she won’t be lonely and sad,” Mom said.
She was going to set up my sister with a blind date?
“Someone from a good family, of course,” Mom said. “Young and handsome, well educated.”
What about me? She knew I’d broken up with Ty.
“Which will also solve my seating chart problem,” Mom said.
No way did I want my mother to set me up with somebody—but that’s not the point.
“I’m calling around now to see who’s eligible,” Mom said. “I’ll let you know.”
She hung up. I jabbed the red button on my cell phone and tossed it into my handbag.
Oh my God, I couldn’t believe this. My life was locked in a death spiral and this was what Mom wanted to do?
The office phone on my desk rang. It was Mindy.
“Hello? Hello? Haley?” she asked, when I picked up.
I drew a quick breath, trying to calm myself.
“Yes, Mindy?”
“Oh, yes, hello. I’d like to speak to Haley,” Mindy said.
Good grief.
“I’m Haley,” I said.
“Oh, jiminy, so you are,” Mindy said and giggled. “So, anyway, there’s a Mr. Douglas in the office—no, he’s on the phone. Yes, he’s on the phone, holding. He wants to come by and see you right now.”
A man wanted an appointment? In person? Immediately?
That could only mean one thing—he wanted to plan a surprise party for his wife or girlfriend. Somebody he desperately loved, thought the world of, wanted to impress and flatter, and shower with special moments.
No way.
“Tell him to forget it,” I barked, and hung up.
Two people had told me today that I was in a crappy mood. Well, screw them.
I grabbed my handbag and an event portfolio and left.

Counterfeit Conspiracies (Bodies of Art Mysteries Book #1) by Ritter Ames Excerpt

Counterfeit Conspiracies (Bodies of Art Mysteries Book #1) by Ritter Ames

From USA Today Bestselling author, Ritter Ames, comes a story of international intrigue, priceless works of art, and high stakes romance...

Laurel Beacham grew up in wealth and society—until her grandfather died and her father gambled away the family fortune. Now with more pedigree than trust fund, she is the premier art recovery expert for museums that need to stay one step ahead of international thieves. Her latest assignment pits her against a mystery man, Jack Hawkes, who is not only her equal with blue bloods, but also seems to know where all the bodies are buried. Suddenly Laurel is racing against time to find a priceless art object before the enemy does, locate a missing art world compatriot with crucial information, and decide whether she can stay ahead of this new nemesis, who seems to know too much about her and her business.

Chapter One Excerpt

Clouds shrouded the moon. The Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo, snoozed by the rose bushes after devouring the tasty treat I had offered. Waves crashed in the distance and gave the crisp sea air a taste and smell of salt spray. The estate’s showplace lawn ended a hundred yards away at a private beach.
Like my previous visit, I wore head-to-toe black. For this jaunt, however, I hadn’t donned the ebony-beaded Vera Wang halter gown and Jimmy Choo stilettos I sported the last time. No, for the current foray my Lycra garb more closely resembled Catwoman, with my blond hair hidden under a dark hood. Night vision goggles finished off the ensemble. The difference between arriving invited versus an incognito—and illegal—entrance.
As I slipped through the mansion’s side door, the left wall security pad flashed. I patted the ring of leather pouches attached to my belt and removed a cute little gizmo I’d picked up in Zurich that resembled a garage door opener. Only this handy gadget decoded electronic security systems, rendering them harmless. The tiny warning whine never had a chance to turn into a scream; my device made friends and invited us to enter.
I slipped down the rear hall and up the staircase that my research had uncovered in a back issue of Architectural Digest. At the upper landing, infrared lasers protected the area from unwelcome visitors. I opened another pouch and withdrew a small, specially formulated aerosol can, and sprayed in a sweeping pattern. As the particles fell, laser lines were revealed in vivid detail. Seconds later, I’d picked the lock on the turret gallery door.
The last time I stood in that room the master of the house provided a guided tour and made a blatant pass beneath the gaze of a Dutch Master. My ability to deflect the Lothario took grace and diplomacy, plus restraint to curb my strong desire to disable his favorite body part. Still, the event had been worth the effort. A six month quest was over, and I had found my Holy Grail of paintings.
My father started this collection,” the slimy billionaire had bragged. “He made purchases while stationed in Europe in the mid-1940s. I added to the works and specially constructed this temperature-controlled castle safe-room.”
On this return visit—my acquisition finale—I slid into the darkened gallery. The circular space, lit only by the minimal luminosity filtering through a half-dozen narrow arched windows, allowed my shadow to mix with those already in residence. Night vision goggles allowed the glorious set of Rembrandts and French Impressionists to glow alongside the beauty I came to liberate.
It was a vibrant seascape, circa 1821, and a breathtaking scene of energy and clear passion. A little known work by a well-respected artist, which had been cherished by the family of its previous owner before eventually falling into the hands of the billionaire’s father. Gazing upon the work I could almost hear the buoy bell ringing in the distance, but the room’s current illumination left the scene too dark to see beyond the receding foamy water. I shivered as if the wind picked up; the painting was that powerful.
I heard a noise. A human-moving noise.
I had to hurry. I slipped a blade from my belt and ran it along the frame’s edge.
The moment the canvas was free, I heard the master of the house bark, “What are you doing?”
I spun to find him standing behind me. Holding his gaze, I sheathed my knife and dug into another pouch, then threw a capped vial into the darkness between myself and potential capture. The glass broke, and when the chemicals inside hit the air a dense smoke obscured all vision. But I had already calculated the distance to the nearest window, moved to it, and affixed a suction cup with a braided nylon line to the wall. The painting protected in one hand, my remaining gloved fist, fitted with brass knuckles, shattered the narrow pane. I slid through the turret’s slit-window, taking a few shards of glass along for the ride. Then I rappelled down the rough stone wall to the manicured lawn.
Zeus! Apollo! Robbery! Attack!” my impotent enemy screamed.

* * *

Next morning, the painting and I slipped into the back of Greg’s shop for the new frame constructed per my specifications. A close facsimile to photos, and infinitely better than the garish gold number that restrained the seascape during its turret imprisonment, the burnished brass frame even evoked a nautical theme that conjured the look of a spyglass.
I changed into blue coveralls and left his shop with the newly-framed painting wrapped in brown paper. Magnetic signs attached to my van implied a courier service, as did the faked breast pocket insignia on my uniform. The drive to Mrs. Lebowitz’s tiny home was quick.
Yes?” she answered the door. A Holocaust survivor, the only one in her family to make it out of Europe alive, she was a child when the Allies freed her from Auschwitz.
My brown-wrapped package once graced her grandmother’s dining room. Before it was stolen by Nazis and purchased with fictionalized provenance by my adversary’s father.
Mrs. Lebowitz, I have a very special delivery.”

* * *

For the Love of Romance by Regan Black

Photo by Robert Proksa
As a voracious reader there are plenty of genres that regularly call my name, from fantasy to thrillers, but no matter the genre, most of the books on my keeper shelf have some romance mixed in. Watching interactions blossom into lasting relationships through the course of a story is pure joy to me.

As the holidays approach, stories with romance, holiday spirit, and a bit of intrigue are like a trifecta of happiness. To get lost in tales crafted by my favorite authors is both an indulgence and an escape. It's a renewal and a reward to follow the journey as characters struggle through highs and lows to reach their happily ever.

Delving into my own characters day in and day out is a different kind of joy. The details of the growing relationship and what becomes vital to each character, give me delightful surprises along the way. While the writing process is a different kind of struggle as an author, the happily ever after is no less rewarding.

To me, what makes romance so very special and consistently popular with readers, is the unique perspective each author brings to the story. Though characters, settings, and seasons vary, I think the magic and joy of romance stems from the universal truth that we all want to love and be loved in return.

If you need a little heat and romance to put you in a holiday mood try The Hunk Next Door or the Heroes for the Holidays collection.

Live the adventure!

Character Names: Guest Post by Author Patricia Green

What's in a name?
Photo by aldin
Did you ever wonder how a writer comes up with character names? I think everyone has a favorite name—the name they should have given their child. If only their last name wasn't Schmidlapp, Giovanni would have been such a nice choice. Sometimes writers use these favorite names for their characters. They might build the entire character around the name, in fact. 
I tend to build my characters and then decide what name fits. Not always, but I have that tendency. I think of whether that character would have a nickname, and how that would sound. Would it be one syllable or two? And if I've already built another character, how would they go together as a couple, or as villain and heroine? I virtually never have two names beginning with the same alphabet letter. I find that confusing to read, and I have read more than once that I'm not alone with that. Having Catherine and Camelia can make a person have to go back and reread to figure out who is doing what. Not a good dynamic between author and reader.

When I come up with last names, I think of ethnicities. Do I want my heroine to be an Italian-American? Would she be of Scots heritage? And how does that contrast or compliment my hero's ethnicity? I'm also really careful about the names of villains. I don't want them all to be of one heritage, or I start to look like I'm picking on one group or culture. When I wrote Eddie, My Love, I wanted to come up with a tech guy and I was aware that there are a lot of East Indian technical gurus in the US, so I gave my villain (a very clever tech guy) an Indian name. I wouldn't make all my villains Indian, of course, but for the purposes of realism in this story, it worked out very well. In my Journey Family series, because the action takes place in the western and southern parts of Texas, I included some Hispanic names. I tried to stay true to the regions by including them. That kind of inclusion helps round out a story, makes it more realistic.

Names are important and can really start off the relationship between reader and writer well or badly.

So what's your reaction to character names? Are you more likely to pick up a book with one of your favorite names among the leading characters?