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Muse Monday, Wicked Wednesday, Trippin' Thursdays,
and Fearless Friday as told by my guests and me.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Setting a #Mystery Series at a Commerce and Market Center By Karen McCullough


MUSE MONDAY
Please join me today for a great post from murder mystery author, Karen McCullough!

Wired for Murder, the second book in my Market Center Mysteries series has just released. It’s the sequel to A Gift for Murder, which was published in hardcover by Five Star, Mass Market paperback by Harlequin Worldwide and ebook by myself. Because Five Star cut its mystery line before this book was published (though it had received editorial approval), I decided to go ahead and publish it myself. 

A number of people have commented on the unique setting and I’ve been asked often why I chose it. 

As a former editor at several trade publications, I’ve attended a number of trade shows and talked to probably hundreds of people involved, from the staff of the centers where they're held to exhibitors, attendees, service people and other members of the press covering the event.  Although most appear to be the standard, well-dressed business types, the personalities behind the designer suits are often much more colorful. 

As anyone who has ever been to a trade show knows, they are a combination of circus show, street fair market, and high-stakes salesmanship. Exhibits are set up to attract and keep the attention of attending retail buyers, and the people who work at them can be just as brazen, pushy, kind, irritating, sweet, smarmy, loud and overbearing as the gimmicks they use to gain notice. 

At the very first trade show I attended I realized it would make a perfect setting for a murder mystery or a series.  The contained time period and place; the cast of characters, many of whom know each other and are often friends, competitors, enemies, and sometimes even lovers; and the high stakes, taken together provide the ingredients for a tense story. 

The setting would also help resolve one of the major dilemmas of an amateur sleuth story. The police are generally much more effective at solving crimes than civilians. They have access to resources way beyond what the rest of us can call on.  

But someone who worked at the Market Center and knew how the business ran, who met and talked to the people involved on a daily basis, might have a realistic chance to learn more about the situation that the police could hope to in the short space of time that a trade show takes. And if she’s someone like my heroine, Heather McNeil, someone who is a good listener and a good problem-solver, the kind of person people talk to and spill their guts to on occasion, it becomes much less of a strain on credulity to think she could uncover a murderer faster than the police might.



Blurb for Wired for Murder:
Heather McNeil, assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center, handles many of the day-to-day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there. The first day of the Business Technology Exposition provides her with plenty of opportunities to demonstrate her skill at settling disputes, refereeing arguments, and even breaking up fights.

When the president of industry-leader MegaComp has a very public argument with a man who accuses the company of stealing an important technical concept, she watches it but doesn’t have to intervene. Later, though, the accuser returns a phone call from Heather, and she becomes an unwilling audience to his murder.

Heather is more than happy to leave the investigation to the police, but she’s the person everyone talks to and she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who didn’t like him very much, including several who might have motives for murder.

Buy links:




Thursday, July 21, 2016

THE SOLUTION? GO TRIPPIN' #staycool #livingcheap

TRIPPIN' THURSDAY
In everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose...in our latest season, with only a vague plan and a touch of creativity, we're off on another adventure. Half of this twosome is retired; my half will probably never know what that means. I promise to share.
Dress cool and drink lots of water
Hot town! You betcha. While most of the nation is searing under the summer sun, I feel like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz, "I'm meeeellllting." But it's not because I'm getting doused with cold water. Tonto Basin, AZ is just as hot as the rest of country.
We're normally in Paulden this time of year, but as you probably know, we sold the farm. Not that it's
And more water.
a lot cooler there, but the house had an AC unit that could keep us cool. The bills would've been anything but cool. Which is the problem we're facing here. This RV wasn't meant to live in with the high temps. The AC runs round the clock and can't get below 85 degrees. So...we used some funds from the sell and got a portable cooler. We didn't want to spend TOO much, and guess what - we got a big expensive fan. Shipped it back to Amazon the next day. Not sure we'll try another. I know the cost will be more.

Keep cool anyway you can
What to do to enjoy the summer under such hot conditions, and how to do it cheaply? That's the trip! Our RV park has a clubhouse with WiFi. Around 10:30, we shut the RV AC way back and head to the clubhouse. It's comfy and cool.

We both go on the errands into town and enjoy the car AC. The gas is cheaper than running the AC at the RV. We keep the blinds down and fans running to maximize the AC in the RV. Normally a room temp water drinker, I keep a big glass of iced water by my
RV site looks cooler than it is
side all day. Our walks have to happen in the morning before 8:00.

And we get out of town!

Last week, we went to Prescott and spent a few days with my mom. Although they're having warmer temps, it's dry and under 100 which is better than Tonto Basin.

I'm taking my mom to Laughlin on Sunday for a few days. Yep, it's hotter in Laughlin than here, but the casinos are actually cold. I got a deal at the Colorado Belle for two nights for $42 that includes 2 breakfast buffets, 2 morning rolls with 2 coffees, and two big brews. A deal!

Go trippin' - find water and clouds
In August, hubby and I will drive to Colorado to stay with the son's family for a few cooler days. It's a little hotter there than normal because of this heat wave, but maybe by then it will be back to normal. AC in the car and cool Colorado mountains. I'm good with that.

What are you doing to stay cool? Do you have some cool trips planned to escape the summer doldrums? Are you trippin'?


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Guy Ogan Writes Wicked



WICKED WEDNESDAY
Please join me in welcoming Guy Ogan to Discover Yourself. He writes wicked! And listen up, the first book in his "Immortal Relations" series, http://amazon.com/dp/B006ZCBT6G is FREE from July 20 though July 24!

In my first book of the currently three book "Immortal Relations" series, I have a former Spetsnas Officer* from the old Soviet Union days,  who fills all the criteria of "wickedness!"
In "Immortal Relations" ex-Spetsnas (Soviet Special Forces) Lt. Semenov, now a vampire has replaced the previous leader of the evil vampire gang. Semenov, a psychotic killer while human, seeks to steal weapons of mass destruction with which to destroy the guardian vampires and hold human societies ransom to force their governments to allow his vampires to feed at will.  

Representatives of the guardian vampires seek assistance from the head of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to destroy Semenov’s gang. Reserve Major Zikoff, Semenov’s former commander, has been called in to brief General Kolukov head of Russian Forces about Semenov:

"...the man was a stone-cold killer, delighting in murdering women and children. Semenov bragged that he had more blood on his hands than the rest of the Spetsnas Group combined. Semenov would actually hold up his hands to show how he had torn up the bodies of his victims. The only reason he wasn't court martialed for his heinous crimes was that Soviet leaders were desperate the world press not learn of atrocities routinely done in Afghanistan and Semenov did get results. When the intelligence troops heard of a village cooperating with the rebels, Semenov would attack it with MI-24s then land and butcher everyone. Men, women, children, sheep, goats, dogs, he killed everything...then he would burn anything left standing, leaving his "calling card" to serve as a warning!"

General Kolukov, who had gotten in Zikoff's face, looked a little ill, then quietly asked, "What was Semenov's calling card?"

Zikoff was sweating profusely now, "Semenov cut off their..."

"STOP!" the General yelled. "I want to hear nothing more of this beast Semenov! If I had been his commanding officer, I would have dragged him into the middle of the compound and shot him myself. What barbarian allowed him to continue in the Army?"

Zikoff looked like he was about to have a heart attack, so the General calmly asked, "Did you tell the headquarters about his atrocities?"

 Now, eyes filled with tears, Major Zikoff said, "Repeatedly, it is why I asked to give up my scheduled promotion to higher rank and be placed into the Reserves. I no longer felt I could be a party to his crimes and couldn't get the headquarters to stop him. I had told them that I believed Semenov to be criminally insane and that he should be sent to an asylum for treatment and to safeguard society."

The General then patted Major Zikoff on the shoulders saying, "You did your best, and you couldn't have done more without the backing of headquarters."

Major Zikoff broke down sobbing and sat down in a chair with his head between his knees. Through his sobs, he said, "So many women and children, so much unnecessary death...we had become worse than barbarians. I couldn't do that anymore...I could never do that anymore."

Everyone in the room had tears just listening to what had once been a great soldier, who had seen too much, done too much, and who seemed no longer alive, but looking out from the bottom of his own private Hell. No one approached him so Adam (none in the room knew Adam was a vampire) went over, kneeled down to look him in the eyes, and while he spoke soothingly to Zikoff, mentally gave him permission to forgive himself and allow himself a peaceful life. Zikoff was then able to get up, saying to those in the room he was sorry, asking the General if he could be excused. General Kolukov said, “Yes Major, you’ve aided us immensely. You tried to do the right thing, go home and rest. No one is ever going to bother you about this again…EVER!”

Kolukov had placed Zikoff under his own protection. Once the major was gone, with fire in his eyes, the General said, “I want this bastard Semenov ‘terminated with extreme prejudice!’ I don’t want even a piece of bone remaining; I want him utterly and completely destroyed!”

Adam knew that, as a vampire, Semenov had super-human strength and was a trained Spetsnas killer, but Adam wondered if the General couldn’t have prevailed against Semenov in hand-to-hand combat at that moment. He had never seen such deadly anger in a human before.

General Kolukov spun aground to his Chief of Air Staff and said, “If it takes nuclear weapons, I will get the President’s permission, I want these infiltrators utterly destroyed.”

* This character is based on reports from rebels who had survived such Spetsnas attacks.

I think you will agree that Semenov represents absolute "Wickedness!"

Monday, July 18, 2016

HOT TOWN...MISSING MUSE

MUSE MONDAY
Hot town, summer in the…country. Doesn’t have the same impact as city. Sounds almost nice, lazy, warm summer day. Ha! Not here. We’re at the RV Ranch and sweltering. My muse has found herself a quiet, cool corner somewhere in the recesses of my mind and abandoned me. I’m just not a hot weather sort of person. 

I have to find a way to shake it off, transcend the lethargy that overtakes me when the temperature is tipping over the one hundred mark. I have a book to edit and another to write. My editor has sent me the first round of edits for book four in the Love and Murder Series, The Power of Love and Murder. The sooner I get these done, the sooner you can see it on your virtual book shelf or hold it in your hands. Here’s the first draft of the blurb. I’m sure it will get tweaked before it makes the cover edition. 

For thirteen years, Penny Sparks has managed to hide from the political powers who murdered her family. When she unwittingly exposes her true identity, not only is she marked for death, but the people closest to her risk meeting the same fate. 

Jake Winters is out of rehab and coming to grips with his demons. A woman named Penny comes on the scene, and Jake believes he has someone who can help him find life after rock star status…until her secrets blow up his world. 

With a government agent turned hitman closing in on her, Penny and Jake race to expose the presidential contender behind the murders of her family. Even if they win the race with death, the murder that stands between them could end their hope for a new life.

Book five, The Deep Well of Love and Murder, is still in the research stage. Some authors love this phase of writing a novel. Me? Not so much. I’ll do as much as I need to get started, and delve into it as I go along, finding what I need to make the detail authentic. We’ll be back on the Meadowlark Ranch for this one. I’m looking forward to checking in on Phoebe and Mason, Margie and Dirk. We’ll reconnect with Laura Katz from books one and four, who will be the main character. 

So wish me luck in dealing with the heat and operating with little help from my missing Muse.

Friday, July 8, 2016

A FEARLESS DECISION or HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND? by Alice Orr


MUSE MONDAY
Today on Fearless Friday, Alice Orr gives us the account of her fearless decision. And we're glad she followed through. Tell us about it, Alice...
Have You Lost Your Mind?
Marissa asked that question at her usual indiscreet volume. I responded by wishing I could tell her to pipe down, but that would only encourage her to attract more attention. Marissa loved attention. We’d settled into the palm-shaped bar seats that are the trademark of a popular bistro on Manhattan’s posh Upper Eastside.
I usually felt decadent in those seats, as if I were allowing my backside to be publicly caressed in a giant, black leather embrace. Right then, I only felt uneasy. It takes talent to create a lull in the conversational rumble of a place like this in a city like New York at cocktail hour, and Marissa's comment on my mental health had done just that, at least among our closest neighbors.
She’d played minor characters in a couple of minimally successful off-Broadway productions, and she really knew how to project. I could tell she was truly enjoying this particular theatrical moment as she lifted her Kir Royale from the gleaming black marble bar in a perfectly staged motion.
My Pomegranate Cosmo remained untouched on its dark red cardboard coaster. Marissa had already twice pronounced Cosmopolitans out of fashion, first for the amusement of the bartender and a second time to emphasize she was all about fashion, as if I could possibly have forgotten. What prompted her to question my sanity was the opposite of fashionable in her opinion.
"Let me make sure I heard you correctly," she went on.
Marissa swiveled her palm seat at an oblique angle so she could appear to be talking to me while actually scanning the room for better companion material. Her legs were crossed, which hiked her narrow skirt far enough above her knee to show her health club tightened calves and expensive spike-heeled pumps to best advantage.
"You intend to close down a successful business and move to the dark side of the moon?"
"There's more to it than that," I said.
"Oh, yes. How could I omit the punch line? You are off to Nowhereville to become a babysitter. I can hardly imagine a more brilliant career move."
A flash of anger warmed my face, and in that instant I understood why I was sharing one of the most cataclysmic choices of my life with someone I could barely tolerate. I’d set up this scene for Marissa the actress to follow my cues, and she didn’t disappoint. I could have bet a bundle she’d say something smug and infuriating, then make an equally safe side wager on my reaction.
I’d clamp on my best suit of ego armor and mount an impregnable verbal defense. All of which Marissa would fail to notice, but that mattered little to me because she wasn’t my real target audience. The armor and defensive attitude were strictly for my own benefit in my battle to convince myself Marissa was wrong, that I had not in fact lost my mind.
Until that afternoon, Marissa and everybody in my life had known me in the same context I knew myself, as a literary agent with my own firm. I’d worked hard for that identity. Yet, I was casting it aside, along with the city on Manhattan Island I loved in the marrow of my bones, and trekking to a very different island in Puget Sound to help raise our two-year-old granddaughter.
No wonder Marissa tossed me an insincere smile and sauntered off toward better conversational pickings. I downed my unfashionable Cosmo in a long, single gulp. Everything she’d said was true, except for what she left out. I was a grandma now, and that identity ran deeper than my bones. It had taken over my heart and soul. And, yes, maybe it had caused me to lose my mind.



A Villain for Vanessa and all of Alice’s books are available at http://www.amazon.com/Alice-Orr/e/B000APC22E/ and other online retailers.
A Villain for Vanessa by Alice Orr 
A story of tangled roots and tormented love.                                
Two families are shaken to their roots. Vanessa Westerlo must find her roots. Bobby Rizzo is torn between Vanessa and his true roots. They are all tormented by love – past and too present. Meanwhile a man has been murdered. And that is the most tormented tangle of all.
A Villain for Vanessa is Book 4 of the Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series set in remote Riverton, New York. This story features the Kalli family and the fortunate people who find safety and welcome at the Kalli homestead on Riverton Road. A Wrong Way Home is Book 1 of the series and A Year of Summer Shadows is Book 2. A Vacancy at the Inn is Book 3 and introduces the Miller family of Riverton Road Hill.

"Alice Orr is a brilliant writer who has a number one best seller in her pocket," says one Amazon reviewer. Alice loves to write. Especially romantic suspense novels and blog posts. She’s been a workshop leader, book editor and literary agent. Now she lives her dream of writing full-time. So far she’s published fifteen novels, three novellas and a memoir – either traditionally or independently. Alice wrote her nonfiction book, No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells, as a gift to the writers' community. A revised edition is now in progress. Amazon says, "This book has it all." And calls her novels, "Delicious well written suspense spiced with a love story." Most of all, Alice is thrilled to hear from readers. Visit her at her website http://www.aliceorrbooks.com. Alice has two grown children and two perfect grandchildren and lives with her husband Jonathan in New York City. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

A WHOLE 'NOTHER KIND OF FIREWORKS!

MUSE MONDAY
Is anyone really reading blogs on the 4th of July? This is one of those holidays people are out and about...on the lake, camping, having droves of friends and family over for barbecue, and heading to that one place you can see the best fireworks.

But if you are spending a little time on the computer and looking for a blog that doesn't tax your mind too much, I thought I'd throw out some one liners (or two) from my books that speak to a different kind of fireworks.

My books are about much more than fireworks, but I combed through and found a few for this 4th of July Muse Monday.

The Art of Love and Murder
1) She climbed on behind him, settled her legs along side his. He adjusted his position, pushing back against her ever so slightly. She fidgeted against the leather seat, low-slung tremors made her smile. Her hands rested at the junction of his hips and legs as the engine roared to life. The hum vibrated through her, she hugged her legs against his hips and her hands felt the taut muscles along his sides as they pulled onto Route 66.

2) “My kind of early morning woman.” He moaned as she took him in without comment. 

She fell forward and rocked, her mouth next to his ear. “Shh!” she whispered. “Don’t talk, Sheriff, you might wake me up.”

Southwest of Love and Murder

1) “Have you ever done it on the saddle?” Her cobalt blue eyes sparkled in spite of her pallor.
“Jesus, Phoebe.” He gripped her bottom tighter. If ever he’d had a fantasy, she’d hit on the one.
“No.” His voice rasped and he cleared his throat. “Not yet.”
2) “I’m not sure how being a woman-starved cowpoke and smelling like his horse would make a man more virile.” He rubbed his chin and feigned a serious expression. “I can tell you this naked rancher is pretty damn full of raw nature…” He flipped the corner of the blanket off his hips. “And he’d be happy to demonstrate his stamina to a certain bohemian author. Several times over.”

A Legacy of Love and Murder
1) The pause was long enough to see the deep brown of her eyes with a curious green rim and to feel the warmth of the hot-blooded American woman whose body brushed his as she passed.
When she lifted her chin higher, bringing her lips to his, the message her kiss sent matched the desire he’d been fighting.

2) The door closed. The kiss grew intense, and she had the sensation of being tasted. She was dessert.


Sleeping with the Lights On
1) “Sandra, when a gal’s figure fills in the spaces to make it a woman’s
body, a man can lose all common sense just lookin'."

2) The mere touch from  him was so lethal he may as well have been walking his fingertips up my legs and under my skirt, dancing across my panties, causing me to squeeze my thighs together in defense or arousal or both.

The Morning After
1) A moan. The man rolled to his back, kicking off covers. Abigail gasped. Her gentleman visitor wore only a bow tie and black socks.

2) The heat of his body mapped the identical heat of hers. Her breasts tingled with the contact, and she rubbed against him to spike the sensation.

Now, go enjoy some fireworks!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Secret Lives and Private Eyes by Heather Weidner



MUSE MONDAY
Please welcome my guest Heather Weidner to Discover Yourself. Heather, where do you get your story ideas and inspiration?

Thank you so much for letting me visit today. I write mystery novels and short stories. And I’m often asked about where my ideas come from.

Settings
I write what I know and where I know. Most of my short stories and my Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series are set in Virginia. I’m a transplanted beach girl from Virginia Beach, but I’ve lived in Central Virginia since the early ‘90s.
The people and landscape are diverse. We have large cities, vast stretches of rural areas, mountains, and beaches. And we have over four hundred years of American history – a setting ripe for interesting characters, murder, and mysteries.

Characters
My characters are made up, but if friends, family, and coworkers look closely, they’ll see phrases and idioms that they frequently use. Sometimes, I’ll even merge the characteristics of two or three real people to make an interesting character.
My sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, is a private investigator, and she makes up personas for some of her investigations. I use names of friends and family for aliases, police, and waiter names. And I’ve been known to pay homage to my favorite authors and pop culture icons in minor character names.

Story Ideas
I keep a small notebook with me wherever I am. I jot down notes, snippets of dialog, and great names. As I do research, watch TV, or people-watch, I’m on the lookout for ideas and interesting activities to add to my stories.
My short story, “Spring Cleaning” (Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II 2016) came when we moved our offices at work. The moving company brought in large rolling bins for packing, and that gave me idea for some office spring cleaning when I realized the bin could hold a body.
Sometimes, I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, "Washed up," (Virginia is for Mysteries 2014) a beat up suitcase washes up on Chick's Beach, and it's filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real case where suitcases filled with body parts did wash up on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.

Resources
I am fortunate to be the daughter of a retired police captain. He is my best law enforcement resource. He answers all my weird questions like, “Daddy, what does a meth lab smell like” or “What’s the best way to dispose of a body?”

I also found an amazing tribe of writers with Sisters in Crime and Guppies. They are a wonderful group of sisters and misters who are so generous with their time and advice. My local chapter has great programs. We frequently bring in law enforcement, writing, and publishing subject matter experts for seminars and workshops. Last month, author Jeanne Smith presented “Body Disposal Workshop for Writers.” She is an amazing resource, and I have pages and pages of notes for the next book.

My story ideas come from a variety of sources. And you never quite know where your next bit of inspiration will strike. Happy reading!
 

Secret Lives and Private Eyes is a fast-paced mystery that will appeal to readers who like a strong, female private investigator who has a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations. Business has been slow for PI, Delanie Fitzgerald, but her luck seems to change when a tell-all author hires her to find rock star, Johnny Velvet. Could the singer whose life was purportedly cut short in a fiery car crash still be alive? And as if sifting through dead ends in a cold case isn’t bad enough, Chaz Wellington Smith, III, a loud-mouthed strip club owner, hires Delanie to uncover information on the mayor’s secret life. When the mayor is murdered, Chaz is the key suspect. Now Delanie must clear his name and figure out the connection between the two cases before another murder – probably her own – takes place.
Author Biography:
Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in Virginia is for Mysteries and Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II. Currently, she is President of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, and a member of Guppies and Lethal Ladies Write. Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. Visit Heather at www.heatherweidner.com, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Author Links:
Website and Blog: www.heatherweidner.com