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

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Start a New Book #romanticsuspense #series #writing

I've started writing a new romantic suspense, a new series. I've decided to post weekly updates on the status of my WIP (Work In Progress). Feedback and questions are welcomed.

The setting for this series is based on a real life mining town turned ghost town turned tourist town. I fell in love with Jerome, Arizona years ago. In order to have more flexibility with the lay of the land and the history, I've renamed it Joshua. All the people in Joshua are purely from my imagination.

Joshua hangs on the side of Nefertiti Hill. Between the late 1800s and the early 1940s, Joshua was a booming, wild and woolly, western mining town. But when the ore and gold ran out, the town fell on hard times. By 1950 there were less than 100 people. In 1964, hippies descended on the town squatting in abandoned homes and buildings. In this group of hippies, is the beginning of the family I will tell the stories of in my series.

Not all of the original citizens were happy about the new arrivals. Some of those hippies took up permanent residence, ended up on the town council, and helped turn Joshua into the art and tourist center it is today. It is still just a square mile, hanging on the side of Nefertiti Hill and there are rumors of ghosts. There are still some of the original hippies and artists. And there are plenty of romantic suspenseful stories to tell about
Joshua and its inhabitants.

So, where am I with the first book in the series? I've sent off the first 67 pages of book one to my CPs (critique partners) for their feedback. I have all of my characters outlined and dying to walk through my pages. There's an old murder unsolved, there's a subplot that dates back to 1969, and human bones have been uncovered but not identified.

Magpie Mackenzie, of Magpie's Mercantile, has met Zack Peartree who reminds her of someone who disappeared twenty-eight years ago. Zack feels a strong pull to Magpie. I shouldn't do this, since it could very well change before the book is published, but what the heck. Here's my opening few paragraphs, for now anyway:

Laughter mingled with the jangle of the bell above the door. Magpie MacKenzie glanced over her shoulder from atop the stepping stool where she arranged music boxes on the top shelf of a four-tiered display.
Three women and two men tumbled into the shop, apparently anxious to leave the cold outside. The late afternoon sun now blazed through the front windows of Magpie’s Mercantile, but she guessed the warmth was severely neutralized outside by the chilly wind snaking through the mountains. What happened to the chance of snow? “Good afternoon.”
Magpie descended the stool, holding her long skirt up a bit so that her boots wouldn’t catch the hem as comments sprinkled the air.
“Oh, it’s warm in here.”
“What a great store!”
The sweet sense of pride that enveloped her whenever someone appreciated her shop never grew old. Although the entry into the mercantile was narrow, the space beyond was four times as deep as it was wide. As soon as the door closed behind patrons, they were immersed in textile creations on the left; music boxes, some small wooden instruments, and pottery displayed on the right. The counter nestled next to the music boxes and down the narrow aisle, deeper into the shop, customers found carvings, sculptures, and paintings.
Turning, ready to welcome her customers, she caught the gaze of a man at the rear of the group.
She froze.
Something about the way he angled his head to the left…the same habit Mark had had when he found something she said amusing. Longish black hair waved around his ears. His deep green eyes beneath thick, arched brows gazed into hers, and he smiled.
Her heart rose to the hollow spot in her throat.
It can’t be Mark. This man is much too young. Mark would be forty-five by now, two years older than me.

I'll check in next week and update my progress. I'll be working on dropping in some back story in the form of flashbacks. There's a story within the story in my mind. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#Wicked #Amusing #Romance by Laura Strickland


Please welcome today's guest, Laura Strickland, to a wickedly amusing first meeting. And if you have a story, be sure to leave her a comment...maybe your experience will spark some inspiration for her next novel!

Who among us has not gazed across the proverbial crowded room, set eyes on a stranger and felt that niggle of instant attraction? Who hasn’t subsequently (and perhaps subtly) maneuvered to get near that particular individual in order to start a conversation via some amazingly witty and scintillating line that will capture said individual’s attention? And who among us hasn’t bombed stupendously…

When it comes to meetings with the opposite sex, there are good beginnings, and some pretty wicked ones. A perfectly rehearsed intro turns to babbling gibberish when nerves enter the picture. An otherwise ordinary person can come off like a total fool or an arrogant lummox.

But I’ll wager few introductions have been worse than that between the hero and heroine of my latest release, Last Orders: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure.  When they meet, the hero (Brendan), a policeman, is answering a report of a woman (Ginny) shooting up a tavern with a steam cannon. Read on and see if you can imagine a more unfortunate beginning to a romance:

Ginny glared harder at the tall, strapping hunk of man—police officer—who stood before her. She supposed being a police officer didn’t exclude him from being a man, but at the moment she felt a little fuzzy about it. In any case, he was much too good-looking, well over six feet, with a good set of shoulders, reddish hair, and features that had been entirely too well carved. And those eyes—just look at those eyes: bright blue and snapping with rage.

She detested handsome men.

He had to be the most detestable she’d ever seen. And his voice! That Irish accent of his caressed his words the way his tongue might well caress a woman.

“I do not wish to be arrested. What blame fool would want to get arrested?”

“Then hand over your weapon. You can reclaim it tomorrow at the station.”

How professional he was. How well he kept his anger under control. But Ginny could feel it, and she wondered what it would take to make him lose that control. 

“I’ve had this steam cannon since I was fourteen years old.”

“Well, you and it are going to have to spend the rest of the night apart. Dennis?” The officer jerked his head at the second cop—at least Ginny thought there were two and she wasn’t just seeing double. The two of them closed in on her again, one from either side. She raised the weapon, dimly aware it was a stupid thing to do.

The cannon had now fully charged; she could kill someone. The detestable police officer moved too quickly for her, wrested the cannon away, and handed it to the second man. Yes, there were two of them.

Ginny saw red. While the tavern’s patrons hooted some more, she drew back her arm and punched the detestable police officer as hard as she could, right in the face.

The blow—surely one of the best she’d ever delivered—barely rocked him back on his heels. The crowd gasped as one.

“Now she’s done it,” someone cried.

But, you know, romance has its own way of finding a path through anything (sort of like water). And fate has a twisted sense of humor. And sometimes even an awkward greeting…or a punch in the face…can lead to something wickedly wonderful.

So, what’s your worst-meeting story?

Last Orders: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure blurb:

Buffalo Police Sergeant Brendan Fagan, investigating a series of grisly murders spurred by clashes between humans and automatons, only wants to save his city. The last thing he needs in his life is a rule-bending, steam-cannon-toting, unpredictable female like Ginny Landry, a woman who could possibly bring down his career and the one woman he quite likely can't resist.

Ginny means to settle the estate of her mother, an infamous madam, quickly and get out of town. She has no intention of becoming involved with any part of her inheritance or falling for Brendan. In fact, she makes it a point never to date handsome men. But when her rash behavior brings them together, the attraction can’t be denied.

And when the city erupts in chaos, forcing her to choose a moral side, can she deny what’s in her heart?

Buy links:

Thursday, July 12, 2018

#Vacation #GiftCards #Books All Equal Fun

I'm four days back from a driving favorite kind...unless the destination is overseas. FDW and I traveled 4,000 miles from Arizona to Minnesota and back. We chose a different route each way, and on the way home we spent most of our time in the Rockies. I LOVE the mountains. While in Minnesota, we stayed with three different sets of friends in three different settings. It was a fantastic trip.

Now it's back to reality and writing. Because we left a few days later than planned, I'm scrambling to keep my schedule straight. I have some fun contests going on, and there are a couple of book signings on my horizon.

If you live anywhere near Prescott, Arizona, I hope you'll come by either or both of these fun events. I'll have the latest release in my Love and Murder Series available for the first time:

United Methodist
8944 E. Sommer Drive
Prescott Valley, AZ 86314

Chino Valley Memory Park
Rd 1 West & Butterfield Rd
Chino Valley, AZ 86323

As for the contests, don't miss out on these. Really easy to enter and you could win books, gift cards, and a Kindle.

For the month of July, Coffeetime Romance, click the link below:

Also until the end of the month, click the link below:

And there's only 3 more days to enter this one. Hurry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 9, 2018

#Fire Fight No Extra Charge by Jo A. Hiestand #booksigning


I love Muse Monday when it's amusing. Fire? At a book signing! Please welcome Jo Hiestand with a good story.
The St Louis Scottish Highland Games were in full swing. We were housed in a field, which gave plenty of legroom for caber tossing, hammer throwing, and sheep dog herding—space-demanding activities that pesky, shade-providing trees could hamper. But the uncluttered area left the massed pipe band marchers and us sellers with no shade and baking under the summer sun. Our vendors’ tents provided cover, certainly, but they also seemed to act as traps for the heat. Forget the fried-egg-on-the-sidewalk test; I swore I could bake shortbread on the ground in my tent. But I was there to sell books, not cook, and The Games were a good venue for my British protagonist with Scottish roots. And although Michael McLaren had hitherto sleuthed exclusively in England, my current mystery, An Unfolding Trap, was based entirely in Scotland. I had high hopes it’d sell well.
I’d just finished guzzling my third thermos of iced tea and discreetly flapped the hem of my tartan skirt for air circular when a man with a cigarette jammed into his mouth came up to the book display. I smiled at him; he evidently was interested in looking at McLaren’s newest adventure. But the man had his dog with him, and held the lead in his left hand. He looked like he wanted to pick up a book and thumb through it, but he didn’t want ash drifting from the cigarette and coating my book. So he removed the cigarette, crammed it into his pocket, and patted his dog as he told it to sit. He then proceeded to leaf through the novel. It didn't take long before I noticed smoke coming from his pocket and the fabric turning a dark brown color. I hinted, "Sir, I think your pocket's on fire." He glanced at me, then at his pocket, then uttered something I’m probably glad I couldn’t distinguish. He spat on his fingers and dabbed at the inferno. I handed him my bottle of water so he could take care of the inconvenience. He did and safely continued his browsing.
He bought An Unfolding Trap. If it was in gratitude for my firefighting expertise or his interest in McLaren, I'll never know.
An Unfolding Trap by Jo A. Hiestand
“An Unfolding Trap” excerpt

Ross leaned forward, closing the distance between them. “You’re sure you didn’t get angry when you found Lanny this afternoon?” 
Of course I got angry!  Who the hell wouldn’t? The bloody git killed a man, frightened a dozen others who were there, kidnapped Miss Skene, held her hostage--”  McLaren took a deep breath. “But I didn’t kill him. I tied him up so he wouldn’t escape, then phoned you when I could.” 
“An hour later.” The voice was flat, unimpressed. 
“Yes. An hour later. Maybe ninety minutes. I didn’t write down the time, but I phoned here, in the village.” 
“Why wait so long to ring us?” 
“Pardon?” The suspicion that things were turning horribly wrong whispered to McLaren. 
“Why didn’t you phone right then? Did you want to put some space between you and the killing so you could establish an alibi?”

 “An Unfolding Trap” blurb 
Since his infancy, Michael McLaren has been the target of his paternal grandfather’s anger. So when the patriarch sends an invitation to heal the rift, McLaren travels to Scotland, eager to meet and finally end the feud.
But the welcome never happens. In fact, the older man is furious McLaren’s appeared on the family home doorstep, convinced it’s some trick.  McLaren, however, is confused. If grandfather hadn’t sent for him, who had?  And why?
In Edinburgh, a man standing beside McLaren in a bus queue is killed in a hit-and-run accident. But McLaren wonders if the driver got the wrong person. And after an attack leaves him for dead on a wintry moor, McLaren’s convinced someone from his past is trying to murder him.
As McLaren trails the hit-and-run driver from the medieval ‘underground city’ of Edinburgh to the Boar’s Rock--the MacLaren Clan’s ancestral meeting place--the assaults intensify, and he’s plunged into a very personal hunt for a World War II treasure. The puzzle is fascinating; he just has to stay alive to solve it. 
Buy Links:

Monday, June 25, 2018

Magical, #Fantasy, and #Horses by Helen B. Henderson


It's a fantasy Muse Monday. Please welcome Helen Henderson!

On Mondays, the muse is supposed to tell a story and it’s supposed to be personal, so I’ll tell a tale about horses. The pony of my childhood was large enough an adult could ride him without their legs dragging on the ground. He was smart and loyal to his friends, just not necessarily to his human ones. This pony’s friend was a ram. Old westerners have said a mustang could track its chosen rider through storm and dark of night. I took the attributes of that childhood pony (and the horses I’ve since ridden) blended them with magic and legend to create the falaire. Larger than a true horse, the falaire have speed and stamina beyond a real horse with more than a few surprises in their nature and abilities. Maybe the ability to fly?

As to the role of the falaire. The head stallion of the falaire was the mount—and friend—of Lord Dal, archmage and leader of all wizards. And as such, the stallion was in the thick of the action for he treated Dal as one of the herd.

Like the first book in the series, Windmaster Legacy started out as a sword and sorcery fantasy. And like its predecessor, Windmaster Legacy ended up bearing the additional label of romance. But not the kind where the meek heroine is rescued by the swashbuckling hero. Before she met the archmage, Ellspeth was a ship captain and leader of men. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors, Ellspeth is a woman to walk beside a man, not behind him.

The excerpt below blends the two tales, human and falaire as we see the golden falaire, Zethar, protecting her rider, Ellspeth.

If you like adventure and romance in your fantasy worlds of imagination, and like to hang out with wizards, you’,re invited to check out Windmaster Legacy. Or if you prefer to fly with dragons, there are the Dragshi Chronicles, but that’s a story for another time.

Windmaster Legacy

Blurb:  Ellspeth and the dark-haired archmage Dal, escort his mother to her ancestral lands. His mother is fatally wounded when mercenaries under the control of the rogue mage, Bashim, attack. Ellspeth is captured and her sole hope for escape is Nobyn, an untrained wizard going through the throes of awakening magic. However, Nobyn is under a rogue mage's total control.

Dal must make an impossible decision -- Rescue Ellspeth, save his mother, or thwart the rogue mage’s plans. As archmage, Dal might be able to survive killing the future of magic, but as a man could he live with the knowledge he caused the death of a loved one.

Amorphous shapes detached from the stygian shadows along the wall. Magesight turned what had been unrecognizable blurs into armed men. Dozens more spilled out of the open gates of the compound or leaped up from the low ditch that bordered the road. Their yells resounded off the wall and sent the herd of true horses scrambling. 
Hands grabbed at Ellspeth. Her sword slashed. One of the grasping hands fell away. Without a command, Zethar spun on her haunches. The mare reared and with a scream of anger struck out. A chime sounded as a sword hit the street. Zethar’s front feet dropped to the cobbles. Her iron-hard rear hooves kicked backward. Two of the shadows grunted and folded to the ground.

About Helen Henderson:  Although the author of several local histories, and numerous articles on the topics of American and military history, antiques and collectibles, Henderson’s first love is fiction. Her work in the museum and history fields enables a special insight into creating fantasy worlds. The descendent of a coal-miner's daughter and an aviation flight engineer, her writing reflects the contrasts of her heritage as well as that of her Gemini sign. Her stories cross genres from historical westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of romantic fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and The Windmaster Novels. In her books, she invites you to join her on travels through the stars, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Saying No to a Major #Publisher by Judy Alter #Indie


Please welcome Judy with a most fearless story in the publishing world!
Ten years ago, when I first turned my attention to writing mysteries, I was bewildered by the publication process. I had written extensively for young adults on a variety of subjects as well as several historical novels for adults about women in the American West. I thought I knew the ropes, but I soon discovered the mystery world is a territory unto itself.
Take the search for an agent: it can last years, and I heard horror stories of authors who’d been rejected over a hundred times. My agent for westerns had died several years earlier. I did query others, but I knew that a writer’s relationship with an agent is like a marriage, so you better get it right the first time (and boy, did I get it wrong at least once). I never found an agent with whom I clicked. Besides, I was pushing seventy and did not have years to spend looking for an agent. I had stories to tell, and, like every author, I wanted instant publication. I’d paid my newbie dues years earlier.
When I was active in Western Writers of America, Inc. (I’m a past president), I met several agents, and I knew one was with Kensington, a major publisher for mysteries. I wrote him about my first mystery, thinking he might suggest a mystery editor. He replied that he was now editing cozy mysteries. I should have been leery, because his letter indicated he considered this a demotion. But he agreed to read my work. As we’re advised, the proposal also included a brief synopsis of my planned second in the series.
This unnamed editor wrote back that he liked the manuscript I sent him, but he really liked the idea of the second novel better. He wanted me to revise so that the second novel became the first in the series. I took a deep breath and considered.
Here it was—an “almost” offer from one of the important houses. Most beginners would jump at the opportunity to at least negotiate with the editor. I didn’t. I said “Thanks but no thanks.” The back story was built into the first book, and I liked the way it flowed and introduced the main characters. Instinct told me it was good. The editor lost interest in the first book, and I ended publishing with a small press that went out of business after I’d done six mysteries with them. Today I am an indie author.
Do I regret it? Not a bit. If I’d signed with Kensington, I’d have been subject to the pressure that goes with working with a major publisher—produce so many books a year and maintain certain sales goals. As it is, the novel, Skeleton in a Dead Space, was the first of a series that will, come October and publication of Contract for Chaos, have eight titles and will keep on going. In addition, I write the Blue Plate Café Series (four culinary titles) and the Oak Grove Mysteries (two academic titles). And I write at my own pace, without pressure (except my own) to meet sales goals.
So that fearless step I took almost ten years ago turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’m for listening to instinct every time.


Dallas developer Silas Fletcher sees endless real estate opportunities in Wheeler, Texas if only he can “grow” the town. Blue Plate Café owner Kate Chambers likes her hometown just the way it is, thank you very much, without big box and chain stores. When Fletcher tries to capitalize on a thirty-year-old unsolved murder, Kate know she must fight for her town, and she uses historic preservation of the old bus depot as one of her weapons. A suspicious death and a new murder make her also fight for her own life.
Links for Judy: 


Twitter @judyalter 

Also available from Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other platforms.

Monday, June 18, 2018

#Cooking Up a #Mystery by Cornelia Kidd


It's always interesting to see where a story originates for an author. Cornelia Kidd, aka Lea Wait, is sharing how her latest came about.

About eighteen months ago my agent asked if I’d be interested in writing a new mystery series set in Maine. I was already writing two mystery series, both under the name Lea Wait, but this new series would be under a new name.

Was it time to re-invent myself? Why not? I chose the name ”Cornelia Kidd,” the maiden name of my paternal grandmother, and dove in. I’d already set two mystery series in Maine – one along a tidal river (the Shadows Antique Print series), and one in a working waterfront town (the Mainely Needlepoint series.)

So I decided that the new series, which the publisher was already calling the Maine Murder Series, would be set on an island; an island connected to the mainland by a drawbridge, so it wouldn’t be too isolated.

Protagonists? I’d always had one main character (albeit with friends and relatives) but this time I decided to have two. Two sisters who had never met, or even heard of each other, until chapter one of the first book in the series, now titled Death and a Pot of Chowder. Anna would be in her thirties, an islander by birth and heritage, married to a lobsterman and the mother of a fourteen-year-old. Her sister, Izzie, was twenty-three, had grown up in Connecticut, recently graduated from the Culinary Institute and, oh, yes. Her mother was Korean American.

Add in a murder (of course,) some conflicts (naturally,) and a happy ending ... until the second book in the series. Include recipes. I’d never written a culinary mystery and this seemed the right time. And because I love connections to the past, so does Izzie, and each chapter includes an old quotation or recipe from a nineteenth century book on cooking and housekeeping.

Death and a Pot of Chowder debuted last week. And Anna and Izzie will be back next year.

Excerpt from Death and a Pot of Chowder

            No Quarry Island fisherman had been lost at sea since I was five or six. Everyone on the island had been at that funeral. I hadn’t known the fisherman whose sternman hadn’t been able to haul him up after his foot caught in the trapline that pulled him overboard. But I never forgot his story.
            Every May I cried during the Quarry Island memorial reading of the names of every man who’d been lost at sea since a boy had been hit by a book and knocked into the rough North Atlantic in 1689. It was a reminder that island life was challenging, and the sea couldn’t be trusted.
            “Maybe they’ll find him,” said Izzie. “Maybe he’ll be fine, and waiting for you at home.”
            Izzie didn’t know lobsters and ropes and waters. “Maybe.”
            I wasn’t usually the praying sort, but this wasn’t a usual day. I kept saying Carl’s name over and over in my mind. He had to be all right. He had to be.
But I was a lobsterman’s wife. I lived on an island. I knew the odds.
They weren’t good.

Links:  Lea Wait/Cornelia Kidd’s website: (includes link to free prequel of Death and a Pot of Chowder)
            to buy hardcover:’faCyXPe
            to buy ebook for Kindle: