Joanne--Deals of the Day

Posted by Josie | 1:42 PM | 6 comments »

Hi everyone, What could be better than free kindle books written by outstanding authors? Answer: Nothing! :) Here are two offerings for today. Just visit the website to download. 'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy, by Leslie Langtry Love's Portrait, by Monica Burns Enjoy!

RWA winners!

Posted by Josie | 9:36 AM | 4 comments »

Hi Everyone, Although I normally post the Deals of the Day, I would be remiss if I didn't applaud our Golden Heart and Rita winners! In case anyone hasn't checked, please hop on over to the RWA website. Sincere congrats to everyone! You are all winners!


Posted by Autumn Jordon | 12:04 PM | 8 comments »

So how is your day going? Mine Ewww. I did sleep in late, partly because I was up at 5 AM yesterday and worked like a machine all day. And, I stayed up late last night to watch the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Sleeping in put me behind schedule at least two hours. However, I'm determined to slow down today while the sun is shining and enjoy the pool. My gosh, can you believe it, in less than four weeks the kids go back to school. Time is flying, which brings me to my topic, gathering and visiting.

Yesterday, my DH and I had a discussion. We remember the days, way back when we were kids, when people visited. They don’t do that anymore. They gather. I remember when I was a kid Saturday night and Sundays were for visiting. It wasn’t unusually for my aunt and uncles, along with my cousins, to drop in on a Saturday night or a Sunday afternoon and soon after a party ensued. Laugther and fellowship would go on for hours. Saturday nights, we kids, would play under the stars. Sundays we'd played ball, bike, and swim, and eat whatever was thrown together at the last minute from everyone's kitchen. It was a weekly occurrence.

Now, people don’t visit simply because they don’t know if the other person or family is gathering. What I mean by gathering is, they’re off to an event, gathering with strangers. Traveling twenty or more miles is no longer a big deal. We travel twenty miles without thought. And enlarging our travel circle has opened our lives to so many events, like sporting events, movie theatres, fairs, etc. I know we’ve stopped by friend’s homes only to find them away and friends have told us the same. It seems we need to make appointments in order to spend time with friends and family.

Sometimes, I truly miss the days gone by when the world turned a little slower.

I think I’ll make some lemonade and sit on rocker on the porch today, just in case a friend comes up the drive.

When I wrote Notorious Eliza several years ago, I had absolutely no plans for Miss Arabella Wilbanks, a secondary character who appeared only briefly in an early scene. She shrieked at her poor hapless maid, convincing Patrick, the hero of the story, NOT to propose to her. He went on to meet his heroine, Eliza. Exit Miss Wilbanks, stage left, never to be seen again.

Um… no. I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I have a soft spot for most of my characters. I want them to be nice people, or at least for their actions to make some sort of sense. I try to see things from their point of view even if they’re truly villainous—because even villains have motivation, and they’re more convincing as characters if the author knows why they do what they do.

But Arabella wasn’t a villain, and I couldn’t bear to leave her as a senselessly cruel mistress. I kept asking myself, “Why was she so horrid to her maid?” Patrick liked her enough to consider marrying her, so she must have been reasonably likeable and intelligent, and not the sort of woman who would mistreat a servant.

I can’t resist a mystery. What if… what if that bitch I’d written wasn’t the real Arabella? What if Patrick’s first assessment was right, and she really was a heroine—just not the one for him? Then and there, I knew I had to make her one. All I had to figure out was her motivation…

Ta-da!! Arabella became the heroine of my latest novella from Harlequin Undone, To Rescue or Ravish?
Here’s the blurb:

When heiress Arabella Wilbanks flees a forced betrothal in the middle of the night, the last person she expects to find at the reins of her getaway hackney is Matthew Worcester. It’s been seven long years since they gave in to their mutual desires and shared the most incredible night of their lives, but Matthew still burns with regret for leaving her without a word. He should escort her to safety, but the chance to reclaim and ravish her once more proves impossible to resist!

And an excerpt:

London, January 1802

Arabella rapped hard on the roof of the coach. It lurched around a corner into darkness broken only by the glimmer of the hack’s carriage lamps and stopped.

She put down the window. “How far are we from Bunbury Place?”

The jarvey got down from the box and slouched against the coach, a nonchalant shape with an impertinent voice. “Not far, love. Changed your mind, have you?”

“I have not changed my mind. I am merely asking for information.” She put her hand through the window, proffering the guinea. “I trust this suffices. Kindly open the door and point me in the right direction. I shall walk the rest of the way.”

He didn’t take the coin. After a brief, horrid silence during which she concentrated on thinking of him as the jarvey and not her once-and-never-again lover, he said, “Can’t do that.”

“I beg your pardon?” She pushed on the door, but he had moved forward to block it.

“It’s not safe for a lady alone at night. This, er, Number Seventeen, Bunbury Place—it’s where you live, is it?”

How dare he? “Where I live is none of your business.” She shrank away from the door and kept her hood well over her face.

“So it’s not where you live. Who does live there, then?”

Why couldn’t she have just told him that yes, she lived there? Must every man in the entire country try to order her about? “Let me out at once.”

“Sorry, love. When I rescue a lady from deathly peril, I see her home safe and sound.”

Some shred of common sense deep inside her told her this was extraordinarily kind of him, but it made her want to slap his craggy, insolent face. Home wasn’t safe for her anymore. Nowhere was safe, and meanwhile Matthew Worcester was playing stupid games.

“Cat got your tongue?”

She exploded. “Damn you, Matthew! Stop playing at being a jarvey. It makes me positively ill.”

There was another ghastly silence. It stretched and stretched. Good God, what if he actually was a jarvey? Surely he hadn’t come down that far in the world. A different shame—a valid one—swelled inside her.

“You recognized me,” he said at last. “What a surprise.”

Do you like it when characters you thought weren't so great turn out to be heroic after all? Have you ever read about an unsympathetic character you wished you could turn into a hero/heroine? (There are a couple of male characters in Georgette Heyer's romances about whom I feel this way.) If you're a writer, have you ever transformed a villain into a good guy?

I have two free downloads of To Rescue or Ravish? from to give away. Please leave a comment for a chance to win one!

Painting the Town Red--A Visit to New York City

Posted by Scarlet Pumpernickel | 2:33 AM | 21 comments »

For my granddaughter's thirteenth birthday, my daughter and I took her to her very first Broadway Play.

We left home very early Wednesday morning and arrived in New York around noon. We took a share-van ride into the city. During our van ride we met a very nice couple from South Africa who were visiting the US on holiday. It was interesting meeting them and hearing how it had been -2 degrees when they'd left home. In South Africa it is the middle of winter, so they were enjoying our warm weather.

We arrived at our hotel, unloaded our bags and immediately set out to find the office where we were to pick up ticket for the Wednesday night play. The nice man on the phone had assured me they were located right on Times Square and would be  only a five minute walk from out hotel. We walked up and down Broadway for nearly an hour without spotting the office.

While we were out, a storm came up. A big storm, lots of lightning, deafening thunder, gully washer rain and hail. We ducked into the Marriott Marquis, to get out of the storm. The last time I was in New York, which was during RWA's National Conference last summer, I stayed at the Marriott. So I was familiar with the Marriott. So were a couple hundred other tourist who gathered under their spacious drives. We saw reports on the news later about how bad the storm had been, but we were safe thanks to Marriott. Once we realized we were not going to find the ticket office by walking and looking for it, we returned to our hotel a couple blocks away from the Marriott and I looked through my computer until I found an email with a phone number for the ticket company. I called, got the address and we were ready to venture out again to pick up our tickets.

We were staying at the Millennium Broadway Hotel and I wish I could give them a glowing recommendation. The room was nice. It was clean and the bed was comfortable. The desk clerk at check in was super, the bellman who stored our bags was wonderful. The problem came when we went to the Concierge to ask for directions to the address to pick up the tickets. They man rattled off the directions, and became annoyed when I asked him to repeat them. He wouldn't write them down, when I asked him for a map, he said he didn't have one. Strike one against an otherwise nice hotel.  I managed to find a map from the hop on hop off bus and used it to find the location of the ticket office. We walked there picked up our tickets and returned to the hotel.

My granddaughter's favorite movie is "THE WIZARD OF OZ," so she selected WICKED  for her first Broadway play. I have to say that I was skeptical when she chose it, but I must admit I really enjoyed the play. It was a novel twist on the traditional story. The play was a pleasant surprise. My GD really enjoyed the play. She smiled and grinned and applauded. We left the theatre and walked over to Junior's for dinner. Another great choice. Our waiter was a delight and added the perfect little twist to an engaging evening.

Thursday morning we were up early and ready to pick up our tickets for the Hop-on/Hop-off bus tours. Again we went down to the Concierge to ask directions. This time the man was even less helpful than the night before. I fumed for a few moments, then went back over to the desk. This time there was a woman there. I asked her for a map, I could see the pad of maps sitting on the desk behind the counter. She first said she didn't have one. I gave her the look and cut my eyes over toward the pad of maps on the desk. She said, this is all I have. I told her fine, I'll take one of those. And again, when I asked for directions, instead of marking it on the map, she rattled off the directions, go to the corner, turn right go down to .. turn left and then turn right... You get the idea. Now maybe it's my southern ears, or my age or my IQ, but rattling off directions like that just doesn't work well for me. After all, I only graduation magna cum, so I guess I could be a bit slow.

No thanks to the Concierge, we found the office and picked up our tickets for the tour bus. Our first stop was to tour the Wax Museum. Granddaughter had a ball. I enjoyed it and my daughter tolerated it fairly well. If I could get the blog to allow me to post pictures I'd share some great shots from the museum. Will have to work on that.

Next we took the bus down to the ferry stop and picked up tickets of the cruise around Manhattan. It was a three hour tour and completely circled the island. We had great view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The cruise was fun, the GD enjoyed it. We ate hot dogs and chips with cheese.  Best of all, we could sit and watch the scenery pass. I highly recommend the cruise around Manhattan.

Daughter had arranged to have dinner with a friend who lives in NYC on Thursday night, so that left me and GD to fend for ourselves. We did the city lights bus tour and enjoyed the view of the skyline from across the river. The tour guide was very informative and we enjoyed the tour. One of the most interesting fact I learned from her was that Walt Disney was responsible for turning Times Square into the tourist destination it is today. He came there and saw the area was filled with X-rated movie theatres and very run down. Disney's vision for Times Square is easily recognized once you know his hand was behind the revitalization and restoration.

We had dinner after the tour at a small restaurant across from the hotel. The place was a pub and the food wasn't good. We were less than impressed.

Daughter arrived from her dinner date and reported the "Concierge" had struck again. When her friend arrived to pick her up, they stopped by the Concierge desk to ask for directions, her friend expressly asked the concierge to write down directions to the address because he wasn't familiar with the area they were going. The concierge ignored the request and instead rattled off the same sort of go to ... turn... go .... turn.... cross .... turn...Daughter's friend was as astounded as we were with this behavior.

Friday morning we got up, put our bags in storage and struck out with the Hop-on/Hop -off map to find the restaurant we'd had recommended the year before by the wonderfully helpful Concierge at the Marriott Marquis. Jing is on 9th at 46th. It has the best Asian in the city. GD loves California rolls and we'd planned to take her there for lunch. Jing's is officially my favorite Asian restaurant in NYC.

Next we walked down 8th to the stop for the uptown tour. It started to rain. And rain, and rain! The wind whipped our umbrella around like a daisy in the wind.We were soaked in minutes. When we arrived in NYC the temps were in the very high 90's. Now it was cooler, around high 70's and we were wet. Finally we reached the bus stop. The bus driver gave up yellow caps to wear. The bus are double- deckers with seats only on top deck. No lower deck available. There is no cover on the bus. The seat were wet, but hey, so were we. We took seats and the bus took off. The rain whipped down, the umbrellas buckled, the wind blew like raging bulls. The poor tour guide tried, but there wasn't much he could do. "On the left is .... if you could see it through the rain. Over there is.... but it's raining too hard to see. You get the idea.

We had decided to take the bus to the Museum of Natural History. That was the next thing on the GD's list. She wanted to see where Night at the Museum was filmed. Apparently everyone else who'd gotten caught in Central Park in the rain had decided to take shelter in the museum as well. It was a mad house. Once we got our tickets, we proceeded into the exhibit hall, I sat with the elephants in the main hall and sent the DD and GD off to see the exhibits.

We decided to skip the tour bus and take a taxi back to the hotel. Nope, didn't happen. Apparently, taxi drivers in NYC don't have to work for a living. Every time one pulled up in front of the museum, they asked where they customer was going and then drove off without the customer. We saw this happen at least ten times. I personally approached one to have him drive off when I told him we wanted to go to the Millennium Hotel. The city definitely has a problem with taxi drivers. We wound up walking all the way from the museum back to the hotel. We were all worn out, wet and disgruntled when we finally made it back to the hotel. I'm still plotting ways to get even with those drivers who turned us down! Maybe a blog about them gone viral? An email to the mayor? Letter to the NY Times? Dream on.

We arrived back at the hotel, collected our bags caught our shared-van and headed back to the airport. There were several flight delays because of the weather and we were more than an hour late leaving, but we made it home safe and sound. As Dorothy's says, "There's no place like home."

The correct term for identical twins is monozygotic.  Monozygotic twins form when a single (mono) fertilized egg (zygote) splits into two parts after conception.  The result is two individual embryos. Since the two embryos are the result of a single egg/sperm combination, they have the same DNA.
An interesting fact I discovered while researching twins:  “For twin pairs where schizophrenia occurs, in 50% of cases both identical twins in a pair develop the disease, while only 10-15% of cases in fraternal twins show this pattern. This is evidence for a strong genetic component in susceptibility to schizophrenia. However, the fact that both identical twins in a pair don't develop the disease 100% of the time indicates that there are other factors involved.”

In Gemini Rising, my monozygotic twins, Alain and Alina, are male/female, which is biologically impossible.  But not in the imagination of a writer, right?  They are a bit androgynous but the male looks more male, and the female feminine.  I was asked on one blog what they looked like.  I saw them as tall, slender with pale blonde hair and tawny gold eyes.

Gemini Rising was released in print this month by Double Dragon Publishing and is available through their website.  The ebook is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Please visit my website for Vampyre Hunt, a spicy free read.

The trailer for Gemini Rising:


Alain tucked the in-flight magazine into the seat pocket and gazed out the scratched window of the 747.  Distance vanished on clouds fleeing beneath the silver wings, carrying him from a dark-eyed beauty to a fair-haired princess locked in an island castle.  From one life in the sun to a score of problems.

Someone was going to get hurt.

Already he hurt—a low throbbing like a toothache.  If he returned to Portugal, Alina would be devastated.  His father would disown him.  If he picked up his discarded heritage, a part of him would die and Maritza would grieve.  For a time.  He wasn’t vain enough to think the black-haired beauty would die without him.

The choice lay in his hands.

Damn life got complicated when he tried to declare independence from The Keep.  He shifted his long legs cramped beneath the airline seat.  He preferred not to think, but fragments of memory plagued the corners of his eyes.

A vivid picture of Alina supplanted images of recent days drenched white-hot by a Portuguese sun.  His twin’s presence was more corporeal than the woman sitting to his left.  Welcome or not, Alina was there inside him, the mere thought of her a compulsion.  He sensed her anticipation mounting as the miles melted.  Excitement tingled over him.  In self defense, he grasped at a memory of riding the splendid Lusitano stallions.  As he pictured Maritza framed in an arbor of roses, his heart dived.

My husband and I, along with our dachshund, recently moved from Florida to Boise, Idaho to be able to spend more time with our kids and grandchildren. Oh, the pleasure!

Because we were moving to a smaller house, we had a lot of sorting and giving away and planning and measuring to do. Oh, the pain!

Being able to find new homes for stuff we’d had for years? To get rid of STUFF? Oh, the pleasure!

To pack up the “keepers”? Oh, the pain!

You get the picture.  The ups and downs of moving.

We had to drive two cars across country, driving fast, playing dodge with 18-wheelers. Painful.

Seeing part of our big, beautiful country? Such Pleasure.

Even though we hope we never have to move again, my husband and I are glad we did it. Especially when a little voice says, “Hi, Mimi! “Hi, Papa!”

Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers and Visitors to Our Blog.  

 I have met wonderful authors at writers conferences. Those first few conferences I was agog when I actually spoke to the gods and goddess who created the stories I loved. I had borrowed their books from libraries and saved to purchase a few of them. I never expected to have those wonderful folks as MY guest on OUR blog.  To thank Erica, please comment or ask a question.

Welcome, Erica Spindler. Your generosity still astounds me and your books enthrall me.

Q: How did you become a writer?
Well, I've always loved to read. As a kid I'd stay up half the night, reading under the blanket by flashlight. But I was an artist, not a writer -- at the University of New Orleans I earned an MFA in painting, with a minor in printmaking.

One day, suffering with a bad cold, I went to the local K&B drugstore for some medicine. And the cashier dropped a free Nora Roberts romance into my bag. When I got home there was nothing worth watching on TV, and I had nothing else to do, so I began reading it.

I’d never read romance, and I was hooked! I read every romance I could get my hands on, in a kind of romance reading frenzy. It wasn't long before I decided to leave paints and brushes behind and try my hand at writing romances. As soon as I did, I knew I had found my true calling.

Q: Did you sell your first book? Have you always written thrillers?
No; I still have it in a drawer. I should have titled it Fatally Flawed -- I had used every romantic cliche. But on my third attempt I sold HEAVEN SENT , a romance novel, and was on my way. After about a dozen romances I literally stumbled into suspense.

I created a story titled Forbidden Fruit that had a minor subplot involving a serial killer in New Orleans. I had so much fun writing the cop/killer episodes that I had to write more of them. With my next book, Fortune, I included more thriller elements. As time passed, those elements took over.

With my most recent books--BLOOD VINES, WATCH ME DIE and DON’T LOOK BACK (June, 2013)--I’ve circled back to my roots, incorporating more relationship, romance and women in jeopardy elements, but still including the CSI stuff I love.

Q: What’s changed about your writing along the way?
Going from the romance genre to thrillers is more than a matter of exchanging love scenes for crime scenes. In romance, the reader is looking for a more sensuous--and more emotional--experience. In the thriller, pace is more important. To maintain that pace, I keep the plot complicated but the writing lean. No unnecessary scenery. Emotional baggage and angst have to be kept to a minimum--and focused on the life and death situation at hand. I often employ short chapters that end with a cliffhanger. Bye-bye leisurely, sensuous stroll, hello breakneck sprint.

Q: You have written both stand-alone novels and ones that feature recurring characters. Do you have a preference?
I enjoy doing both. My stand alone novels offer new settings and characters to explore. My recurring characters are like a nice visit home.

Q: Having become known for your stand-alone novels, why try recurring characters?
Before I had finished my novel COPYCAT, I knew that I wanted to bring its protagonists, Detectives MC Riggio and Kitt Lundgren, back in another story. It was similar with SEE JANE DIE’s Stacy Killian, though with her it felt like less of a choice because her character came on so strongly she nearly took over the novel. I literally told her to “Back off!” and promised her her own book, KILLER TAKES ALL.

The most unexpected revisit of characters was in LAST KNOWN VICTIM. When Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, KILLER TAKES ALL had just landed in bookstores. Suddenly, the story felt wrong; New Orleans had been changed forever. I realized I had to bring back Stacy, Spencer and the entire Malone clan - and pick them all up after the storm. How did they fare during the storm? How about after? How did the disaster affect their lives and relationships? It also gave me a chance to expel some of my “Katrina demons” through my writing.

Now, I routinely visit Stacy, Spencer and The NOPD’s Malone clan. I set so many books in New Orleans, it would just be weird not to.

Q: How would you describe your muse? How do you come up with your ideas? 
My muse is extremely friendly and not as temperamental as some. She has not refused me yet, thought she does need to be coaxed once in a while. When the going gets rough, I try to take myself away from the work for a while: shop, go to a movie, take a walk. It generally does the trick.

My ideas always spring from personal experiences or observations. For example, the idea for BONE COLD was sparked by a fan letter from a child; my most current novel, WATCH ME DIE, by an article about a New Orleans stained glass restoration artist and what she went through after Hurricane Katrina, BLOOD VINES, on a trip to California wine country, a comment a winemaker made about ways to kill people in the winemaking process. Next year’s release, DON’T LOOK BACK, was inspired by the recent high profile trials of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox. In both, the defendants’ odd behavior painted them guilty in the eyes of the public. Although I think Casey Anthony did get away with murder, I was intrigued by the idea of a character who looks guilty as hell, but is innocent; a character who is tried and acquitted, but remains guilty in everyone’s eyes. DON’T LOOK BACK’s Katherine “Kat” McCall was born.

I’ve come to call these observations or instincts my “dark gift’ -- just the place my twisted brain takes stuff, turning it into something pretty damn frightening.

Q: What do you love and hate about being a writer?
I really do love being a writer, pretty much everything about it. I get paid for making stuff up. I entertain people. I see justice done- the literary kind- every time the bad guy gets his and the hero triumphs.

What I don’t like--really hate--are the days the words won’t come. When I feel like I’m in a literary hole I’m trying to claw out of, and beating my head against the wall at the same time.
Luckily, those days are way fewer than the ones where the words flow without clawing or head banging. Whew!

Q: How much research do you do for your novels?
I research every part of a story that I know nothing or very little about; it may include police procedure, technical terms, or simply a locale. Detail is absolutely essential in the thriller and I’ll dig until I get what I need. I’ve found that nothing can provide that detail as well as a person actually in the field--be it the lingo of a psychologist or the day-to-day routine of a homicide detective. The professionals I’ve contact have been very open and helpful, if not a little curious about why a “southern belle” is interested in post-mortem stomach contents. While interviewing the New Orleans Coroner, he replied, "Now why would you want to know about that? It's nasty."

Q: Does living in Louisiana influence your work? Did Hurricane Katrina?
Katrina profoundly affected everyone who lived within her reach, basically the entire Gulf Coast. We’re all changed. Some are dealing with PTSD and depression, lingering uncertainty or fear, a heightened awareness of just how at the mercy of Mother Nature we are and how precious life is. And how fragile the brick and mortar lives we build around ourselves are. That heightened awareness, the in-your-face, everything can be swept away, you-are-so-not-in-control, has deeply affected me as both a person and writer.

Obviously, Louisiana plays a big role in the stories I set here. But it sneaks into my stories sent in other locales, as well. For example, Louisiana snuck into BLOOD VINES through the kitchen door. While Sonoma, CA is far from New Orleans, LA it’s also a place in touch with it’s senses, a place whose culture revolves around food, drink and revelry. I fell in love with the area the way I fell in love with New Orleans, and that can’t help but come through in the writing.

Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life? How?
My mom. She taught me about unconditional love and hard work. She taught me that a woman can do or be anything she sets her mind to, and of the importance of believing in yourself.    She taught me about bravery, stubbornness and taking risks. And she taught it all by example. What a woman she was!

Q: What’s on your bucket list?
First, to see my kids grown and happy. Then, since I was an art major, I’d like to travel and see the works of art I studied--including the art and architecture of Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome. I’d love to rent a cottage in a vineyard or a casita in Santa Fe for a season, write and absorb the local color. It’s weird, but the older I get, the longer the bucket list.

Q: Besides writing, what are other forms of art and creativity do you indulge in?
I actually was an artist before I was a writer. My degrees are in the visual arts and I showed extensively before I “found” writing. Once I did, I gave up painting and never looked back--until recently. With a bunch of friends I went to a place called Corks and Canvas--where you drink wine (always a good thing) while everyone attempts to copy the same painting. (Ours was one of Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s Blue Dogs.) I had so much fun, I’ve decided to pick up my paint brushes again--with or without the wine.

Q: Who’s your present celebrity crush? Name a past (and hopefully embarrassing) celebrity crush.
Actually, my most recent celebrity crush was the embarrassing one--American Idol winner David Cook. Why embarrassing? Let me put it this way, just after DC won, my husband told our youngest son “Your Mommy’s a cougar.” (I am not!)

As for past celebrity crushes, they include a string of super cool, crime fighters: Michael Cole who played Detective Pete Cochran on the 70’s hit The Mod Squad, Jimmy Smits’ Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue and Bruce Willis’ sexy everyman hero in the Die Hard series. But the one who started it all, my first HUGE, super crime fighting celebrity crush: Mighty Mouse.

Q: Who is or was your favorite pet? What made him/her so great?
A brain-damaged, three-legged squirrel named Buddy. (I’m not joking.) I don’t know if he had fallen out of his nest or been stepped on as a baby, but he wasn’t your average squirrel. We found him and took him in and he quickly became one of the family.    (I assume Buddy used a litter box, but I’m just guessing because I have no recall about that part of living with Buddy--the innocence of youth.)
When we got up in the morning, he would too. We’d hear him coming down the hall with his step/drag/step gait. He liked to play and be petted. Who would have thought a squirrel could be so cool?

Q: Final question: What’s new for you? What’s next?
I’ve got some really fun stuff going on right now. I collaborated on an novella in 3 parts with thriller writer friends Alex Kava and JT Ellison. It’s titled SLICES OF NIGHT, a story that follows one killer as he travels through each of our character’s jurisdictions. I’m first with Stacy Killian in New Orleans, then JT’s Taylor Jackson in Nashville, finishing up with Alex’s Maggie O’Dell in Omaha. It’s available for download on Kindle, Nook, etc. We had so much fun, we’re planning another.
In addition, I own the electronic rights to six of my early romances. I’m in the process of updating them for release on Kindle and Nook. The first, CHANCES ARE, is available now. The second, WISHING MOON, I hope to have available for sale by September.

And, as I mentioned earlier, DON’T LOOK BACK is finished and due out in hardcover and ebook June, 2013.

Q: Anything else we should know?
I’m active on Facebook (Erica Spindler author) and Twitter (@ericaspindler). Come and interact with me there!

If you comment or ask a question, you will be included in the drawing for a copy of Watch Me Die!

Good Tuesday morning, I found a woman wandering by our door and thought she would be a good guest. She seemed confused, because she introduced herself as Emma Carlyle, then she called herself Lois Winston. Either she's confused or she's a writer. Please help us solve the mystery.

Hey, Lois,uh, Emma, tell us something about yourself. 

I began my writing life as a romance writer. For ten years I toiled away at love stories. Most of these manuscripts never sold, although many collected numerous awards in contests for unpublished authors, including finaling three times in RWA’s Golden Heart contest. Some almost sold, but at the last minute the deal would fall through due to changing markets, lines folding, or editors leaving.

Eventually, I did sell two of those books. One was more chick lit than romance, and the other was a romantic suspense. While I was waiting for additional romance sales, a certain glue gun wielding amateur sleuth hijacked my writing career, and I found myself writing what became my critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries.

Years passed, and those old romances lolled around collecting cobwebs in my Dead Manuscripts File. However, the publishing world has gone through a dramatic change in the last few years. All around me I started seeing friends indie publishing not only their backlists but manuscripts that had never sold to New York. Some were even writing new books specifically to indie publish. After hearing success story after success story, I began to think about those old manuscripts. I liked those stories, and other people had liked them, too.

So after much mulling, I decided to create Emma Carlyle, my alter ego romance self, and begin indie publishing all those romances under her name. Once upon a time, I never would have considered self-publishing, but times have changed. The stigma once associated with bypassing the middleman to get stories into the hands of readers has lifted.

My first indie book launched on Kindle three and a half weeks ago. Hooking Mr. Right was my most successful, never published manuscript, winning a slew of awards. I followed that a week later with Finding Hope. Both had finaled in Golden Heart. Now I’m offering them to the world for less than the price of a Starbucks cappuccino. More books will follow in the coming weeks.

Here’s a blurb of Hooking Mr. Right:
After writing a doctoral thesis that exposed fraud in the pop-psychology genre, thirty-two year old professor Althea Chandler has to sacrifice her professional integrity to save her family from financial disaster. She secretly becomes bestselling romance guru Dr. Trulee Lovejoy, a self-proclaimed expert on how to catch a man, even though Thea’s a miserable failure when it comes to relationships -- especially those with the opposite sex.

Burned by a failed marriage, Luke Bennett finds himself pursued by Dr. Lovejoy toting women after a gossip columnist dubs him New York’s most eligible bachelor. When he at first mistakes Thea for one of the women out to snare him, sparks fly, but the two soon find themselves battling sparks of a less hostile nature, thanks in part to an alley cat named Cupid.

Luke believes he’s finally found an honest woman. Unfortunately, Thea is anything but honest. She’s got more secrets than the CIA and a desperate gossip columnist out to expose her.

Cupid definitely has his work cut out for him.

And here’s an excerpt from Hooking Mr. Right:

Hooking Mr. Right
by Emma Carlyle
© 2012 Lois Winston
“The trouble lies in the Y chromosome.” Thea took a sip of her coffee and glared across the black Formica-topped desk at her editor, waiting to pounce on Grace if she challenged her statement.

“How so?” Grace leaned back in her chair and sipped her own coffee. Over the rim of the cup an amused expression played across her face.

“Simple genetics, really. Women have two X chromosomes. Men have an X and a Y. Do you know what the definition of Y is?”

Grace set her coffee cup on her desk and raised her eyebrows. “No, but I suppose you’re about to tell me.”

“Y is an X with a broken leg.”

Grace stared at her as if Thea had lost more than a suitcase in her recent, abrupt move from San Francisco to New York. “And your point?”

“Broken! Don’t you get it? Defective!” Thea slammed her hand onto a pile of unread manuscripts teetering on the corner of her editor’s desk, nearly toppling the unwieldy stack onto the floor.

Grace grabbed for her cup, barely averting a brown tidal wave.

“Ergo,” continued Thea, waving her hand in the air to punctuate her explanation, “there is no doubt that women are superior to men. No defective genes. Obviously, man was a rough prototype. God looked at Adam and said, ‘I can do better than that.’ Then he created Eve.” She placed her cup on the edge of the desk, leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms over her chest, and offered her editor a triumphant smile.

“So this explains why you cancelled your wedding and high-tailed it out of San Francisco? Defective male genes?” Grace shuddered. “Do me a favor, will you, Dr. Love? Keep these newly developed, radical theories to yourself. Unless, of course, you want to go from the New York Times Bestseller List back to an auditorium-size classroom packed with bored freshmen.”

Doctor Love. Thea winced at the nickname the press had dubbed her secret alter ego, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy. In truth, she did wish she could return to the classroom and the comforting monotony of teaching Sociology 101 to less-than-eager first year students. Not that she possessed an all-consuming passion for her chosen career in academia, but with everything she had lost over the past few years, at least she’d still have her integrity. However, she could no more turn back the clock and regain her compromised professional ethics than she could restore her family’s lost fortune. At least her popular how-to guides for finding the perfect mate had kept the collection agencies at bay.
“Some love expert! I couldn’t even keep my own fiancé from sleeping with my sister.” Thea raised her head and challenged Grace. “Now aren’t you glad I chose to publish under a pseudonym? Think of the public relations disaster I’ve averted. News flash: Doctor Love Causes Coitus Interuptus after Catching Sister and Fiancé in Flagrante Delicto on Eve of Wedding. Update at eleven.

“Too erudite and wordy.” Grace brushed away the imaginary headline with a wave of her hand. “Who’d understand all that Latin?”

Thea grimaced. “I can think of at least two people.” Her brainy, Stanford-educated younger sister came to mind. As did her sister’s equally brainy, MIT-educated research partner who also happened to be Thea’s ex-fiancé. Too late Thea had discovered Steve and Madeline were engaged in far more than metaphysical debates while researching distant solar systems and spatial anomalies.  

“Yes, well...” Grace fidgeted in her chair, her gaze dropping to her lap.

“It’s okay, Grace. I’m dealing with it. Putting three thousand miles between myself and them helps.”

“Out of sight, out of mind?” Grace raised her chin and met Thea’s eyes. “Come on, I know you better than that. You’re hurting.”

Thea exhaled a deep sigh and shrugged. “Guilty as charged.” She glanced over at the large scheduling calendar covering half of one wall in Grace’s office and laughed. The sound hung in the room, echoing with pain and resonating with irony.

“Just think, three weeks ago today my biggest concern was that the rehearsal dinner was getting cold because Steve was off in some corner deconstructing the theory of relativity. I used to dream we’d someday travel to Stockholm to pick up his Nobel Prize.” She leaned forward, propped her elbows on the desk and scowled at her nearly empty mug. “It just never occurred to me that the award would be for causing my world to stop spinning on its axis.”

Grace reached across her desk and patted Thea’s hand. “Trust me. You’re better off finding out the truth before the wedding rather than afterwards.”

“Speaking from experience?”

“More than I like to admit. Maybe I should take some of Trulee’s advice.”

“Get real! If you have any sense, Grace, you’ll let me out of my contract and forget about that third book. Finding Mr. Right? Hooking Mr. Right? I’m a fraud. I don’t know the first thing about how to get a man and keep him. I’m a thirty-two year old sociologist with a lousy track record when it comes to the male species. How can you trust me to write credible books on the subject when I can’t even trust my own judgment where men are concerned?”

Grace shrugged. “Maybe we both need to follow your advice. Others do and swear by your books. Besides, I’m not letting you out of your contract. Trulee Lovejoy is the best thing to happen to this company in years.”

“Trulee Lovejoy.” Thea shook her head. “What was I thinking? How did I ever let you talk me into that awful pseudonym?”

“If I remember correctly, I had a little help from a lady named Margarita. Several ladies named Margarita, actually. Besides, I’m hurt. You insisted on an alias, and I came up with the perfect nom de plume for you. After all, who would you believe when it came to matters of the heart, Dr. Trulee Lovejoy or Dr. Althea Chandler?”

Thea scowled. “Right now I’d suggest you might have better luck with Lassie.”

Perhaps you’ll give Hooking Mr. Right a try and let me know what you think. You can find it at:
  Want to read more about Emma and her other books? Check out her website at

Other than the Union-Pacific and the Omaha Exposition Exhibits at the Durham Museum, there was a pioneer exhibit, also...a conestoga wagon, a pioneer homestead...and an accompanying exhibit of the Native Americans living in the area when the settlers arrived.


My first impression of a conestoga wagon was:  How could anyone have survived in something like this during the winter?  In a place where it could get down to -50 with the windchill? Or the summer?  No heat, no place for a stove or fire, no ventilation, except when the sides were rolled up and that only let in burning air.  The entire thing, while it might have been called the "Sailing Ship of the Prairie", wasn't much larger than a camper trailer and about six feet wide.  Imagine trying to decide which items from your former home were the most-needed to put in it, as well as leaving room for yourself, your husband, and however many children you had to sleep inside at night. 

The side of the conestoga were about five feet high, with rounded iron staves reaching up and over from one side to the other and covered by canvas which has a drawstring in each end to pull it shut.  The photo of the interior was taken using only the light in the exhibit so you can get the feeling how close, cramped, and claustrophobic the inside is.  Along the outer sides, barrels containing flour, sugar, salt, and other staples were attached by iron rungs.  Sometimes, fragile items such as dishes or other glass, or some precious object that just couldn't be left behind, were stored inside the flour, etc., to protect them from the jolts and jounces they would experience as the wagon rolled along, striking potholes, hillocks of prairie grass, and other obstacles in its path.  The tailgate could be lowered to load and unload items and to serve as a table.

On the Oregon Trail in its path through Nebraska's sandhills, there a place called "Windlass Hill" where the wagons were actually pulled up the incline by a windlass, which was a cylinder with a crank and handle.  Chains were attached to the wagon and the crank was turned, pulling the wagon up the hill.  This was done by hand.

The Oregon Trail tracks are still visible, but erosion is slowly erasing them and eventually, they'll be gone.  It gives one an eerie feeling to see those ruts in the earth and know that the wagon wheels of people who braved a new and hostile land, lived and died there, made them and some day even that monument won't exist.

The wagons were generally pulled by teams of four oxen, though it also took just as many horses to move one of the heavy vehicles.  The wagon seat was unpadded and made of wood.

(An aside,  a good many of the men who later drove the mule-team conestogas carrying supplies, etc., smoked cigars, and that's where the slang term for a cigar, a "stogie", originated.) 

The home shown in the exhibit is a log house, instead of a sod home, which many utilized when settling on the Great Plains.  Those were constructed of rectangles of sod mortared together, and often had prairie grasses and flowers growing out of the walls and roof.  Since the houses sometimes didn't have windows, they were dark, close places. 

The home in the exhibit appears to be a fairly luxurious one.  It's one room, of course, with a stone fireplace, around which two rocking chairs are set.  The bed has ropes strung across the frame to hold the feather mattress.  A chest holding blankets is at the end of the bed and pegs on the walls hold clothes.  (A chamber pot sits just beside it so there's no traipsing to the outhouse in the middle of a winter night. ) To the right is the bed, across from that in the near corner is the eating table, with a cabinet and hutch holding dishes and cookware.  Some homes had a smaller floorplan, with an open upper loft where the inhabitants slept, accessible by a ladder.  This one is about 20x18.  In the opposite corner from the table is the kitchen, in this instance, a cast-iron stove and a woodbox for the kindling.  This is a definite sign that the owner was a little more prosperous than both, since the lady of the house didn't have to cook meals in the fireplace but had a real stove to use.

I enjoyed this exhibit but for the wrong reasons, I imagine.  Thinking of the lack of facilities and utilities, I was very glad to return to my apartment with its electricity, air conditioning and heating, electric stove, and refrigerator.  Think of living without all that.  People did it, and have for a very long time, since these are such modern inventions, but it was never brought home so frankly as in this exhibit. 

When someone says pioneers are hardy stock, it's the truth.

My neighbor owns a blueberry farm. Great for me because I love, love, love blueberries. I can’t pick enough to satisfy my craving for them before the season, in our area, is over. The low bush blueberry flourishes in the forests of Maine, making Maine the largest producer of the fruit in the world. LOL, I might need to make a trip north.

A large portion of the calories in this food comes from sugars. One cup equals 84 calories. Yikes! I eat them like popcorn, so no wonder I’ve been fighting the scale.
The fruit does have awesome health benefits, however. Blueberries are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It is also a good source of dietary fiber, and a very good source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Blueberries are packed with antioxidant power, which comes from high levels of anthocyanins, a type of plant compound.

Also, Research has shown that blueberries have improved insulin sensitivity in overweight men and women, and lower blood pressure levels in pre-diabetic men and women without raising blood sugar. The key may be the anthocyanins, which have been shown in several laboratory-based animal and cell studies to cause blood vessels to relax and increase production of nitric oxide that helps in maintaining normal blood pressure.

Berries also have anti-inflammatory effects and may be a memory-protecting food. Good news for me, because some days I wonder where I left my head.
The resveratrol found in blueberries may help prevent macular degeneration, a disease of the retina and the leading cause of blindness in people older than 65, according to vision researchers. Like the cranberry, blueberries might help prevent bladder infections by preventing bacteria from attaching to the walls of the bladder.
Who knew this little blue fruit could do all this.

One of my favorite recipes is a blueberry custard pie. It is yummy, but remember, if you do try it, like any other fruit pie, it contains sugar and should be enjoyed with that in mind.

AJ’s Awesome Blueberry Custard

Preheat oven to 400°.
Make a pie crust for a deep dish 9 inch pie pan.
Mix together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 egg yolks (set whites aside).
Then add 2 1/2 cups of blueberries.
Beat 2 egg whites until stiff. Fold 1/3 of stiffen whites into mixture at a time. (DO NOT MIX- FOLD)
Pour slowly into unbaked pie crust and place in oven. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes then turn down to 375°. Bake until top is nice and brown and when you insert a knife it comes out clean.



Posted by Mona Risk | 12:18 AM | 13 comments »

Today we celebrate and enjoy our freedom.

Today our houses display the American flag.
Today we count our blessings as Americans.
Today we proudly sing God Bless America...

Today we relax and have fun with our families
Today we admire the beautiful scenery of the ocean, or the mountains, or the cities...

Whether our ancestors came two hundred years ago, or whether we are a first generation of Americans and pioneers, we should list our accomplishments with satisfaction and pride.
Every time I travel I enjoy discovering new countries and new cultures, but I can’t help feeling relieved and relaxed when I return home, and I always say God Bless America, my home, sweet home.

I invited several relatives and friends for a lunch on the beach. We will have a swim in the afternoon. At night we will watch the city fireworks on the ocean.

And here are a few famous quotes:

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. ~Thomas Paine

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis
Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have. ~Harry Emerson Fosdick
Let freedom never perish in your hands. ~Joseph Addison

In honor of the 4th of July and the American Revolution I'm featuring my Colonial American Romance Novel ENEMY OF THE KING, a fast-paced Adventure Romance--my version of THE PATRIOT, only better :) But don’t take my word for it: “AN AMAZING AND VIBRANT LOOK INTO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION…THIS SEXY HISTORICAL IS A MUST READ!”~Five Cups From Coffee Time Romance & More!

1780 South Carolina, spies and intrigue, a vindictive ghost,  the battle of King’s Mountain, Patriots and Tories, pounding adventure, pulsing romance…ENEMY OF THE KING.

***Banner and images by my talented daughter Elise!

Story blurb:

1780, South Carolina: While Loyalist Meriwether Steele recovers from illness in the stately home of her beloved guardian, Jeremiah Jordan, she senses the haunting presence of his late wife. When she learns that Jeremiah is a Patriot spy and shoots Captain Vaughan, the British officer sent to arrest him, she is caught up on a wild ride into Carolina back country, pursued both by the impassioned captain and the vindictive ghost.

Will she remain loyal to her king and Tory twin brother or risk a traitor’s death fighting for Jeremiah? If Captain Vaughan snatches her away, he won’t give her a choice.
Book Excerpt:
Captain Vaughan escorted Meriwether back over the path she and Jeremiah had walked not long ago. Yet everything changed.  Apart from the staggering disclosures Jeremiah had made and their impassioned encounter, dragoons and Loyalists now accompanied their return. She and Vaughan led the way. Jeremiah followed slightly behind them in the middle of the pack. The clink of swords and tread of boots betrayed her silent companions, as if she could forget they were there for an instant.
Meriwether hadn’t any idea what Jeremiah had in mind by way of escape, only that a way must be  found. Wild to reach the kitchen and the Daws family, especially Keith, she half-trotted at Vaughan’s side, her satin slippers wet and ruffled hem dipping in puddles along the path.
“Why the hurry, Miss Steele?” Vaughan asked as he slid his fingers up her bare arm.
She shrank from his touch and reined herself in.  “No reason,” she said and shivered.
“You’re covered in goosebumps. We can’t have  you taking a chill.” He stopped and the assembly halted as he removed his coat to drape the resplendent garment around her shoulders.
The wool was still warm from him and the tight weave had kept the rain from soaking through, but she had no wish to be so familiarly outfitted by the bold captain. “Thank you, sir,” she made herself reply.
Jeremiah said nothing. He didn’t need to. His anger radiated from behind her like a scorching hearth. “This way, Captain, please. I must speak with the cook,” she said.
“If you like. I’ve no objection to instructing cooks.”
She knew Vaughan wasn’t easily fooled, however. She must tread with care and refrained  from tugging at his sleeve as he walked with her over the brick path between the herb and vegetable beds in the kitchen garden. Ordinary things like beans and squash seemed out of place at such a dire time. It would be more fitting if the earth opened up and swallowed their most unwelcome visitors.
A gust of wind blew hair into her eyes, and she battled her flapping skirts down with her hands.’
Vaughan chuckled. “Would that it were not so dark and I could better see you, Miss Steele.”
“Would that I had a sword to better slay you,” Jeremiah growled.
“What makes you so certain you would triumph if you did?” Vaughan flung over his shoulder.
“Try me and see,” Jeremiah challenged in turn.
“Why bother? You’ll soon have Cornwallis to deal with.”
And you have me to battle before you take him, Captain, Meriwether vowed.
Tumultuous passion, pounding fear, and the urge to break free from Vaughan all seethed inside her. Like a hunted fox, her senses were heightened. The stars seemed brighter, the wind crisper, and the tang of smoke from the chimney sharper.  Pungent aroma rose from the feathery dill as the wet foliage spattered raindrops against her. Forever after, whenever she smelled dill, she would remember this night.~
***Intriguing ‘bad boy’ Captain Vaughan is the hero in the sequel to Enemy of the King I’m at work on entitled A Traitor’s Legacy.
***ENEMY OF THE KING is on a rare sale. Normally 4.99, the ebook will be .99 at Amazon KindleBarnes & Noble’s NookbookFictionwiseand All Romance eBooks from July 3rd through the 17th! The Wild Rose Press has never put this novel on sale that I can remember, so it's 'kind of a big deal.'