Guest Post, Book Showcase and Giveaway: TRUE BLUE by Susan Rae


Read about author Susan Rae’s character inspirations and then read an excerpt from her latest book TRUE blue.





The Characters We Meet

As an author, I am often asked if my characters are based on actual people, or do I make them up. The answer is always yes and no. 

Usually when I create a character, I take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and mix it together to get just the right person I need for the kind of book I am writing. It’s like choosing the ingredients for a cooking recipe. First you decide what you are going to make: a main course, a side dish, or a dessert. You gather the main ingredients: meat, flour, pasta, vegetables, whatever the recipe requires; add the spices; and mix it all together to get the perfect dish. With characters, what do I draw those main ingredients from? Like most authors, I am always on the lookout for interesting people. I am an avid observer and listener. I study people’s qualities, what makes them like other people, and what makes them different. 

For TRUE blue, I had already created Andi and Joey DeLuca in heartbeats, book one in the DeLuca Family series. In heartbeats, Andi had to be a tough cop, but with a warm heart as she helped the hero and heroine solve the crime. I started with the idea of her, searched some magazines and sales catalogues until I found someone who I imagined her to look like, and then poured those qualities into her. Joey DeLuca, her husband, I developed similarly, but I put the responsibilities of the oldest DeLuca sibling on his shoulders as well. Coming from a family of six children, I knew something about that. As for the Italian part of the DeLuca clan, my husband comes from a large Italian family. No, I did not use anyone from the family specifically in the novel, but the family dynamics were there to pull from.

Sometimes, however, there is a person that impresses an author so much, that we know we just have to get that person into a book. That’s what happened to me with a character in TRUE blue. On a trip to Montana, I met a woman so fascinating and unique that I knew I had to include her in the novel. Of course, the character isn’t the exact person, but rather the essence of her–her style and panache and take-no-prisoners attitude. Yes, I could have saved her and used her for a main character in another novel, but I thought it would be fun to use her as a secondary character. It was also another reason to get Andi and Joey out of Chicago and to Glacier National Park where they could meet a version of this fascinating woman. If you read the novel, you will no doubt recognize who I am talking about. (Hint: her initials are C. M.) This character also reminded me of a childhood friend of mine who I have lost touch with, which is why I gave her the name Candace. So you see, she is really a combination of two people. Not the exact person, but a person with a feisty, independent attitude which I loved.

I’d love to hear about someone who has fascinated you and who you thought would make a great character for a novel! Please leave your comment below. 

Thanks for spending this time with me. To learn more about my writing and my books, please visit me at www.susanrae.com.


Until next time, 

Happy Reading, 

Susan Rae   

About the author:

I write because I can’t resist the challenge of taking the intriguing characters and storylines that pop into my head and fleshing them out into compelling manuscripts. I wrote my first melodrama in fifth grade for a Girl Scout Drama badge, not so different really than a romantic suspense novel. My love of characters lead me to pursue theater in college, and then brought me back around to creative writing. I received my BA in English from Columbia College, Missouri with an emphasis in creative writing.

One of my many roles on the road to publication was as a freelance feature writer. I love writing romantic suspense because it allows me to combine a sexy, passionate love story with a gritty suspense tale—in my opinion, the best of both worlds. It also lets me express my appreciation for the outdoors in the settings which I recreate on the page.

Freefall, my second novel, takes place in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine Forest and beautiful Door County. ICE blue returns to the busy streets of Chicago and the shores of Lake Michigan to continue the story of the DeLuca family which began in my award winning first novel, heartbeats. I am currently working on the third book in the DeLuca series, TRUE blue, due out in 2014, my characters must take a trip to Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park to solve a twenty-four year old murder.

When I’m not sketching characters or working out plot problems, you might find me on the golf course working on my handicap. I also enjoy traveling around the country seeking out new settings for my novels with my husband and my empty nest puppies, Ginger and Nikute. 


Connect with the author:     Website     |     Goodreads      |     Facebook 




True Blue by Susan Rae
ISBN:  9781619373679 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00KDIMR00 (Kindle)
Publisher:  Musa Publishing
Publication date:  May 16, 2014


Sometimes we must revisit the past to embrace our future. 

Twenty-four years ago, the murder of a Chicago police officer changed Joey DeLuca’s life. He lost his best friend and first love, Meghan McConnell, when her mother whisked her out of town. Now, on the eve of another officer’s death, Meghan is back and about to step into his life again. 

There is very little gray in Joey’s line of work as a Lt. Detective–it is either black or white, right or wrong. But Meghan’s insistence on finding answers to her father’s murder threatens those beliefs and throws his marriage to CPD Detective Andi, his career, and the entire DeLuca family in jeopardy when new revelations come to light. 

Can Joey save his marriage, solve the murder, and keep his family together all at the same time? 

The third book in the DeLuca Family Series, TRUE blue can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.




Read an Excerpt:

Chapter One

Lieutenant Detective Joseph Anthony DeLuca Jr. of the Chicago Police Department knelt beside the victim and lifted the edge of the plastic sheet to expose the bloodied head and lifeless torso. His gut clenched. This never got easier, but this guy was a cop, a detective under his own watch, and that fact irked him even more.

“How the hell did this happen?” he asked Sergeant Davis, the slain detective’s immediate supervisor.

Oh, yes, he’d gotten the quick initial briefing when he’d arrived on scene. A convenience store robbery in progress. Shots fired. Officers responding, but before backup could arrive, more shots fired, and then a car screaming down the street and Detective Mark Beattie, pursuing on foot, struck down, his body flying through the air on impact, his head smashing against the pavement when he landed.

“Why was he here in the first place?” Lieutenant DeLuca added, ignoring the sweat that beaded on his brow. The late afternoon heat was stifling. The August sun’s hot rays radiated off the pavement. It didn’t help the sick feeling in his gut.

“He was following up on a lead on a previous robbery attempt,” Sergeant Davis said, “questioning a woman in the apartment across the street. As near as we can tell, he must have heard the first gunshots and he ran outside to check it out.”

“We got the call at 3:47 for shots fired. According to witnesses, right after the first shots were fired, a man wearing a ski mask ran out of the store and took off on foot. Seconds later, another guy comes running out of the store, again wearing a ski mask. From what we’ve put together so far, when the second suspect came out of the store, Beattie called out that he was a police officer and told him to stop. About the same time, a car pulled up in the parking lot and a woman started to get out.”

“The suspect began shooting toward Beattie, and Beattie returned fire, but then the suspect ran toward the woman’s car. He grabbed the woman and threw her aside so he could get into the car. That’s when Beattie took off after him on foot, right about the time another car came racing down the street. The car slammed into him. Beattie didn’t have a chance. Near as we can figure, it was the getaway car.”

“The woman’s sitting in one of the patrol cars. She’s pretty shook up. Her eleven-month-old baby was in a car seat in the back. Both are okay. The suspect never made it out of the parking lot. It seems Detective Beattie got off a fatal shot before he was struck by the car. CSU is still working over the perp.”

Lieutenant DeLuca’s jaw clenched as his eyes focused on the bloodied features of his detective. Beattie was a good man, one of his best. He’d left a wife and two children, middle school age. Just last week, the man was telling him about a trip he was planning to take with his family to the Wisconsin Dells. He remembered the light in Beattie’s eyes as he talked about how excited the kids were.

“EMS worked on him for a full twenty minutes before calling it,” Davis continued. “CSU found a bullet hole in his neck and one in his chest. Not sure what really killed him—the impact, the gunshots, or smacking his head on the pavement. Take your pick.”

“What about the owner of the convenience store?” DeLuca asked.

“Deceased.”

Lieutenant DeLuca shook his head. “Are they done here?” He nodded down at Beattie.

“Just finished up, for now.”

The lieutenant eased the edge of the sheet down and said a silent prayer for his detective before looking up again at Davis. “Then let’s get him the hell off the street. Has his wife been notified?”

“I’ve already sent one of our men over there.”

“We’re not releasing his name until I know his wife’s been notified.”

“Right.”

“Any chance the first guy out of the store is the same one that slammed into Beattie?”

The sergeant shook his head. “I don’t know. The timing’s pretty tight. So far, none of the witnesses have put the two together.”

“Then we’re looking for a third suspect.”

“I think so. I’ve got officers canvassing the area.”

Lieutenant DeLuca glanced around at the crime tape surrounding the scene, at the crowd of gawkers and media already assembled around the perimeter. He hoped their man got there before word got to Beattie’s wife. With today’s instant information age, he was sure the news of another cop killing in the city of Chicago was spreading like wildfire across the airwaves, as well as the Internet. He glanced again at the assembled media. They’d want an official statement soon.

“What about the hit-and-run?”

“We’ve got a description of the vehicle. Put an APB out on all channels. Nothing yet, but we’ll find him, Lieutenant.”

“You’re damn straight we’ll find him. What about the prior attempted robbery? Any leads there?”

“We’re checking the surveillance video. We’ll be putting a description of all the suspects out within the hour, along with the video. Of course, they’re all wearing ski masks, but who knows? Maybe we’ll get lucky and somebody will recognize them. The two robberies could be tied together.”

“Best guess?”

“Gang bangers.”

“In the middle of the day?”

“A dare. An initiation, maybe. Crazy what these punks are trying now.”

The lieutenant’s stomach burned. No matter how hard they tried to clean up the streets, some days it seemed like the gangs were getting the better of them.

His cell phone buzzed. He reached into the inside pocket of his suit coat and pulled it out. The caller ID indicated it was Andi, his wife.

Officer Andrea DeLuca was a detective, too. She would have heard about the incident already. She’d also know who was shot and that it wasn’t him.

Deciding he wasn’t ready to talk to her about it just yet, he let the call go to voice mail. 

Less than thirty seconds later, it buzzed again, this time indicating a text.

You okay?

He sighed and texted back.

Yes.

Are you going to be able to make it to the dinner tonight?

Damn, he’d pretty much forgotten about the dinner. His sister Angela and her boyfriend had invited the DeLuca clan, along with about fifty of their closest friends, to the soft opening of her boyfriend’s bistro. His sister had been pretty adamant about all of them attending.

He texted back, Chances are, not. Go on without me.

Understand. Love you.

He paused for a second and then typed, Me too, and hit send. Why did he hesitate? He didn’t exactly know. Things had been tense between them lately, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. Perhaps it was because he was up for a promotion soon and he was working long hours to try to not screw it up. Between that and Andi’s own dedication to their chosen line of work, it seemed they were spending less and less time together. He glanced back down at Detective Beattie. The team had returned and was now placing his body into a body bag. He frowned. Maybe it was time he and Andi did some re-evaluating.

He was about to slip the phone back into his pocket when it buzzed again. Glancing once more at the caller ID, he didn’t recognize the number or the area code. It definitely was not one of his fellow officers or a member of his family. Ignoring the call for now, he slipped the phone back into his pocket and scanned the assembling media again. No less than three satellite trucks had joined them.

According to his cell phone, it was 4:53—just in time for the evening news. Loosening his tie, he took a step toward them. The temperature was a searing ninety-seven degrees. Add in the humidity and the heat index, it had to be about one hundred and five. The heat didn’t help the tension in the streets. It was a well-known fact that crime, including homicides, went up when the temperatures rose.

He glanced up at the sky. They could use a cold front to come blowing through, complete with thunderstorms. It would be a welcome relief.

But there wasn’t a cloud in sight.







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Book Showcase: PRESSED PENNIES

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester
ISBN: 9781611881356 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781611881370 (ebook)
ASIN: B00J1K3TJO (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: The Story Plant


Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige’s father nearly destroyed Abby’s spirit. 

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they’re hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She’s very protective of the life she’s made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn’t know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you’ve dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love in its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart. 



Read an excerpt:

The night was beautiful, unusually mild for the season. “How about a walk along the river?” he asked. “The water fire is tonight.”

“What a coincidence,” she teased, and didn’t think twice about grabbing his hand when he extended it.

Hand in hand, Rick and Abby strolled along the river. Hidden speakers offered the eclectic sounds of primitive chants and tribal drums. Alluring smells of vendor delicacies wafted on unseasonably warm breezes. Side streets were cordoned off and police officers rerouted traffic. Amongst thousands of pedestrians, the walk along the river moved like a stream of warm pudding.

They felt comfortably alone in each other”s company, occasionally stopping to point out something they had spotted and wanted to share. 

Although Abby only had two glasses of wine, she felt lightheaded—almost drunk.

As if lovers were sworn to secrecy, other couples offered subtle nods in greeting—with Rick and Abby returning each gesture.

Steel fire pits sat several feet out of the water, lining the middle of the river every thousand yards. Old, wooden boats filled with thespians dressed in black threw fresh-split cordwood onto each. Like swarms of angry fireflies, a million sparks scurried into the air. Bright orange and red flames licked at the black sky, as strong smells of burnt oak and cedar reminded folks of cozy summer campfires and the love that could be shared beneath a starry sky.

At the end of the path, Rick summoned one of the many hawkers to buy Abby a single red rose.

She accepted the gift with a smile. “Good thing this isn’t a date,” she joked again.

“Good thing,” he repeated.

After hugging him, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you for this wonderful experience, Richard,” she said. “I mean it. This night has been absolutely amazing.”

“I only supplied half of it,” he replied, and hugged her again. “Thank you for the other half.”

Walking slowly, they started back toward their cars.

* * *

Once they reached the parking lot behind the Blue Grotto, Rick turned to Abby and cleared his throat. “Let me take you out again this weekend.” It was more of a statement than a request.

Abby shook her head and kissed his cheek. “I’d love to, Richard. Believe me, I would. But it’s not just about what I want. I still need to get Paige settled in. She’s not used to…”

He placed his finger to her lips. “Okay,” he said, “then when?”

She thought about it and shook her head. “I honestly don’t know.” She shrugged. “But what I do know is that our timing couldn’t be any worse right now.” She searched his eyes. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Richard. I wish…”

He looked surprised and devastated, all at the same time. “Not even as friends?” he asked.

She looked deeper into his eyes. “I’d love that, but do you really think that you and I could just be friends?”

He smirked, and then shrugged. “I don’t know.” He thought for a moment. “A different place, a different time, I think you and I…”

“Who knows what the future holds,” she said, stopping him from saying any more.

“Friends then,” he said, and kissed her cheek. “I understand.”

“Thank you,” she said, but she could tell by his tone that he didn’t understand at all. “I’ll be seein’ ya,” she said, and hurried off to her car while she still had the strength.

“Yeah,” he said. “See you around.”

* * *

With his head spinning, Rick got into his car and began replaying every second of their time together. As he drove away, he could still smell Abby on his clothes and hoped the scent would last. It had been an eternity since he’d felt this way about anyone.

* * *

When her mom returned home from her “dinner with an old friend,” Paige was sprawled out on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Abby took a seat beside her. Even with her heart pounding in her ears, Paige dared not stir. Abby pulled the blanket over her and kissed her forehead. “Night, babe,” she whispered, and quietly stepped out of the room.

Paige slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just the two of us, huh?” she whispered, and fought back the tears.



About the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (due out May 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 


Connect with the author:      Website      |     Facebook 


This showcase is brought to you courtesy of The Story Plant.




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Book Showcase: THE IDEA OF HIM by Holly Peterson

Have you ever wanted someone, something, so badly to be true that you’d overlook every shred of evidence to the contrary?

Enter Wade Crawford – the dazzling, urbane, hotshot magazine editor of Meter. With gorgeous hazel eyes, strong shoulders, a chiseled face, and long blondish hair, he was everything that Allie ever thought she wanted in a man and a husband. Until she realized he was anything but. 




The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson
ISBN: 9780062283108 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062283115 (ebook)
ASIN: B00DB3D3A2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publication Date: April 1, 2014

Mary Crawford is a once aspiring screenwriter turned successful public relations executive, mother of two young children, and wife of a hotshot magazine editor whose power base spans the worlds of finance, fashion, culture, entertainment, and society. At 34, she finds herself at a crossroads: between the office and her home, her life has become an endless rotation of people pleasing-whether pulling rabbits out of hats for her mogul boss, entertaining advertisers and phony A-listers for her husband’s magazine, or making elaborate costumes for children’s school plays. At least, that is, until she meets a head turning, traffic stopping beauty at the bar of the famed Four Seasons Grill Room-where many of the novel’s players regularly convene-and shortly thereafter finds the same woman and her husband in an apparently compromising position in her own apartment.

And so begins the story of two very different women bound by similar missions-to uncover the crimes and betrayals of various men in their lives and finally put their own interests front and center. For Mary this ultimately means leaving a husband who is ideal in theory but not in practice, and deciding to risk security for self-fulfillment and a new life on her own. Like so many women, Mary fell for the man she married when she was in her twenties only to realize years later that it wasn’t him she fell for as much as it was the idea of him-the idea of a savior who would protect and provide and ferry her from her past into the future. But the guy who seemed so right at the time turned out to be nothing more than a fantasy.




Read an Excerpt:

CHAPTER 8 PULLED TOWARDS THE EDGE

While he was coming to quick terms with the idea that he’d finally found an attractive woman who cared about his world of nonstop news and gossip, right away, I knew that I too certainly liked the idea of this Wade Crawford man before me. He fit a need. His enthusiasm for life and work would soften my losses: my father in a plane to the ravages of an untimely blizzard and James to a burning obsession to save every child on the other side of the world. 

New York glimmered around us that night, the way it can when spontaneity falls perfectly into place. After dinner, Wade escorted me to two downtown parties filled with cigarette smoke and writers. Someday I hoped to be like his writer friends who wrote long magazine stories and books that they’d mined from their souls. It was clear from every angle that Wade’s non-stop joie-de-vivre was more than contagious. He was sheer fun, and full of the possibility of escape, of renewal even. 

He dropped me at my stoop at dawn, kissing me tenderly on the lips and disappearing into the early morning glow. As I watched him bounce down the street, all I could think was that he had Daddy’s electricity and confidence. And that suited me just fine.   


Read more from The Idea of Him by clicking here 



Meet the author:


Holly Peterson is the author of the New York Times and international best seller, The Manny. She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek and editor-at-large for Tina Brown’s Talk magazine. She was also an Emmy Award–winning producer for ABC News for more than a decade, where she covered global politics. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Newsweek, Talk, the Daily Beast, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications.





Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter

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Book Showcase: ON GRACE by Susie Orman Schnall

On Grace by Susie Orman Schnall
ISBN: 9781940716138 (paperback)
Publisher: SparkPress
Publication date: April 8, 2014 (Second edition)



Grace May is actually excited about turning forty in a few months. Now that her boys are both in school and she has a stimulating new writing job, the next chapter in her life can finally begin. She can’t wait to rediscover the intelligent woman buried under the layers of mother and wife. But when Grace suddenly loses her job and receives unexpected news, she stands to lose everything: her marriage, her best friend, and her sense of self. By her fortieth birthday party, Grace will realize who and what matter most. With laughter. With tears. With grace.



Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I am not planning on waking up tomorrow and feeling completely different. But I’m certainly not planning to feel the same as I do today and every other day. Tomorrow when I wake up, brilliant sunlight streaming through my windows, I’ll feel as if nothing can go wrong. It will be a momentous day. Sure, momentous is a big word, usually saved for things like fiftieth wedding anniversaries and retirements that come with gold watches, but I’ve decided that I’m going to use that word and own it. Momentous. I like the way it sounds. 

Today is the last day before I start the rest of my life, because tomorrow is the first day that both of my boys will be in school all day, every day. It’s been eight years since I’ve had my days to myself all day, every day. Eight years since I’ve taken my own wants and needs and put them first. I’m not one of those coddling, helicopter moms, but even us good-enough moms can’t really put our own wants and needs first. At least not all day, every day. 

So as I prepare for momentous, I’m getting all the last-day-of-summer stuff out of the way. Today is haircuts, prepping backpacks, and the last day of collecting colorful summer bugs in glass jars. We’ll take one last carefree bike ride in flip-flops and celebrate with a final late-afternoon trip to Longford’s for ice cream where we’ll probably see lots of other moms who can’t wait for tomorrow and lots of other kids who can. 

But for now, the boys are out back playing baseball with some neighborhood friends, and I’m standing in front of the open fridge, trying to figure out what the hell to make for dinner. When my phone rings, I check the caller ID and answer excitedly. 

“Hey, Cam!” I practically sing into the phone.

“Hey, Grace! How’s it going?” 

“Going great. I really can’t wait for tomorrow. I know I’m going to feel so free, and joyful, and in control of my own life,” I say. 

“Wow, that sounds promising! Good girl,” Cameron says enthusiastically. 

“One more day and then I can start getting my life back in gear.” 

“What exactly is out of gear?” Cameron asks. 

“Well, my marriage, my stalled career, my lack of any sort of fitness, and other miscellaneous things,” I tell her. “Not necessarily, but possibly, in order of importance. I kind of have a little plan formulating in the back of my mind.”

“How much of this is because you’re freaked out about turning forty in a few months?” Cameron asks. 

“I’ve told you, I’m not that freaked out about forty.” 

“You know, Grace, you’re allowed to not be excited about it.” 

“But I am excited. I see forty as more of an opportunity to regain control of my life. Sort of like New Year’s Eve. But with much less champagne.”

“Well, I’ll toast to that,” Cameron says. “And while we’re toasting . . . ,” she adds with an unmistakable lilt. 

“What? No! What?” 

“Yes!”

“Yes?” 

“Seven and a half weeks officially today.” 

“Oh, Cameron. Congratulations! And here I was rambling on and on about me, and you had such good news.”

“Grace, its fine. Really. I called as much to tell you about me as I did to find out how your day before the big day is going.”

“Well, I’m so happy for you.”

“I know. Sorry I didn’t tell you right away. But you know with my history and all, I just really wanted to make sure. And today is a day longer than I’ve ever been pregnant before. Not that I wouldn’t have told you if I had miscarried again. I just had some sort of weird superstition thing going on.”

“No need to apologize. I completely understand. But to make amends, will you meet me for dinner tonight for a proper celebration? Tengda at 7:30?” I ask. 

“Don’t you have to be home with the boys tonight? Last day of summer and all?” 

“I’m taking them on a long bike ride this afternoon so they’ll be tired. And they’ll think it’s more special anyway if Darren is in charge of bedtime. So Tengda?” 

“Raw fish.”

“Right, raw fish. Méli-Mélo then?”

“It’s a date. And you can tell me more about your so-called plan,” Cameron says. 

“I will. See you later. And Cam, I’m really so happy for you. Give my love to Jack.”

And with that, I do a little jig for my best friend who has been trying to get pregnant for five years. I boot up my laptop to email Darren the good news and the heads-up that I’ll be going out tonight. 

As I wash the lunch dishes, I think about the part-time job I’m starting on Monday. I’m going to be the new “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly, our county’s glossy and hip-enough attempt at New York magazine. Each week, I’ll file a 500-word article on something new and noteworthy in the county that’s perfect for families, and I can’t wait to start. It’s nowhere near my old salary, but it’s something. Plus, this job is more about the opportunity to rediscover the woman who’s been deeply buried under the labels of “wife” and “mother” for the past eight years. 

I met the Weekly’s owner/publisher, Matthew O’Donnell, in June at a friend’s beach club. He and his wife, Monique, had just moved to our neighborhood in Rye (a leafy suburb of New York City where you would be confident no one would steal your car while you leave it running to dart into the post office, but you never would leave it running because people would be all over you about the toxic fumes released from idling). When I told him I had been an editor at two different fitness magazines before I had my kids (when I was still, well, fit), he asked about my writing and why I wasn’t still working. 

I wasn’t sure what was the more pleasant surprise: the fact that I was actually having a meaningful conversation with a man other than my husband (something that doesn’t usually happen at these beach club gatherings where the men all gather around the bar to discuss the double S’s—sports and stocks—and the women hover nearby in their strappy summer wedges to discuss the double N’s—nannies and nips and tucks) or that I might have a connection at a publication I’d love to write for. And he was right, why wasn’t I still working? Well, I had two really adorable answers, but they were starting school in a couple months. 

So, I told him, “I put my career on hold, because I wanted to be home with my kids. But they’ll both be in school full time this fall, and I’ll be ready to focus on my work again.”

“Grace has done an amazing job with the boys,” Darren said to Matthew. “They’re lucky she chose them over her career, but she’s not one of those women who is going to be happy playing tennis every day while they’re in school. She needs more than that.” 

I looked at Darren and smiled, feeling so fortunate that he was so supportive. We had talked that afternoon about how I was feeling apprehensive about getting a job. How I worried I would feel overwhelmed managing both a job and my family. I knew I would be no good at all that Superwoman stuff. But I also knew that I ached to be creative again. To use my brain for more than just organizing soccer practice carpool schedules and finding innovative ways to sneak green leafy vegetables into mini meat loaves. 

Matthew and I talked for a while, and I told him I thought the magazine could use a section dedicated to things families could do together, besides just the events listings in the back. When he agreed with me and said that was something his editorial department had been considering, I boldly—with a little help from my Riesling—suggested that maybe I could be the one to write it. A few phone calls, emailed clips, meetings with the editor, and trial columns later, and I was hired as the “Family Life” columnist for the Westchester Weekly. 

I hear my cell phone ring so I wipe my hands on a dish towel and rush to find my phone in my disorganized purse. I find it just as the call is about to go to voicemail, notice it’s an unknown caller, and quickly touch the screen to answer. 

“Hello?” I say, completely unprepared for what’s about to come.



About the author:


Originally from Los Angeles, Susie Orman Schnall graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. Schnall has written for national and local publications about parenting and health. She lives in New York with her husband and their three young boys. ON GRACE is her debut novel.  

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Book Showcase: MIND ME, MILADY

Mind Me, Milady by Anne Rothman & Kenneth Hicks
ISBN: 9781622060269 (ebook)
ASIN: B00IVV22AG (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Barbarian Books
Publication date: November 2013


As the book begins, the life of thirty-five year old Eve Petersen is in upheaval. She is an attorney who is in the process of winding up her recently deceased mother’s law practice, and she has just broken up with her control-freak boyfriend. She now has a new client to protect: a sweet but troubled young woman named Susan, who is struggling to understand both her foggy memories of the past and her constant sense of unease and danger in the present. And, as if all that weren’t enough, Kate herself keeps receiving unsettling phone calls from an Upper East Side serial rapist who has named himself “the Gentleman.” Each time he calls, the Gentleman casually discusses his latest victim in his eerily even, British-accented voice, hinting all the while that Kate will be the next one. 



Read an excerpt:

It was almost noon when he looked out to the street and saw her stepping from the cab. A familiar pounding rush ran through him—a blood rush of fear, of anticipation. 

He could hear her running up the stairs as he had expected she would. She was an athlete, after all, and desperate for this apartment. Rent controlled, one bedroom, East Side, dirt-cheap. Run, Natalie, run. 

On the third floor she saw the door was open and came right in. This was one of the reasons he was drawn to her—her confidence, her self-esteem. There was not a tentative bone in her body. 

“Hello?” she called. “It’s me. Natalie.” She looked around, pleased by what she saw, no doubt; floors newly sanded and stained, walls freshly painted, kitchen appliances all scrubbed clean. For the rent he had quoted her, it was more than a steal. It was highway robbery. And she was carrying cash for a promised “bonus,” as she put it, because a bribe would be so tacky. 

She stepped into the bedroom and heard nothing as he slipped the wire over her lovely head, pulling it tight around her lovely neck. She struggled, but not for long. A knee pressed against the back of her legs forced her to the floor. Lovely legs. 

“Mind me, Milady,” he whispered in her ear in the British accent he affected for occasions like this. “Mind the Gentleman.” 

There was no choice. Denied breath, she was seconds from dying. 

Quickly, he placed a wide piece of tape over her eyes and another over her mouth. Two longer pieces bound her wrists and ankles. Only then did the wire slacken. Air rushed in through flared nostrils. What was she thinking? Was she grateful just to be alive? And how many more times would he have to bring her to the very edge of death before she learned who was in control? 

His hand disappeared inside her jacket. She tried to pull away. A whimper emerged from beneath the tape. 

“Mind me, Milady,” he repeated. “Mind your master.”



About the authors:

Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks first started writing books together while Anne was a student at Bryn Mawr College and Ken was a student at Haverford College — a long time ago, when, as their children like to say, dinosaurs roamed the earth. Ken grew up in Abingdon, Pennsylvania and Anne in both New York City where she was born and in Scarsdale, New York.

In 1973, they began to live in New York City while Ken was attending law school at Columbia University and Anne was working in publishing. They wrote their first novel together in 1976, hoping that it would be a success and Ken would not have to even start working as a lawyer. Alas, that book is still in on the upper shelf of their closet, but they kept at the writing business. In 1984, they published Theft of the Shroud, a novel, through Banbury books, distributed by Putnam. That same year they also published a series of 10 books based on the most popular boy’s and girl’s names, and a book about the stars for children. At this time, Ken stopped practicing law for two years as they devoted themselves fulltime to writing and their children. However, children need to eat and be clothed and go to school, and these things all cost money, so Ken went back to practicing law. Still, they continued to write, and rewrite, and rewrite some more. 

In addition to Mind Me, Milady, in 2013 Anne and Ken published Kate and the Kid, through Wings ePress. Another novel entitled Praise Her, Praise Diana will be published by Melange Press in 2014. A book for middle grade readers called Things Are Not What They Seem will be published by MuseItUp in early 2014 as well. Finally, Anne and Ken have also published two small-format photography books which are available on the Apple iBookstore – Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City and Picture Stones.

Between projects, they started a web site www.randh71productions.com. In case you were wondering about the address, “R” is for Rothman, “H” is for Hicks, and “71” is the year of their marriage. No secret codes or numerology anywhere. 


Connect with Anne and Kenneth on Facebook.  


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Book Showcase: OVER MY LIVE BODY by Susan Israel



Over My Live Body by Susan Israel
ISBN: 9781611881189 (paperback)  
ISBN: 9781611881196 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GQFBOBC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 18, 2014


Delilah is accustomed to people seeing her naked. As a nude model – a gig that keeps food on the table while her career as a sculptor takes off – it comes with the territory.

But Delilah has never before felt this vulnerable.

Because Delilah has an admirer. Someone who is paying a great deal of attention to her. And he just might love her to death.

The debut of a shockingly fresh voice in suspense fiction, Over My Live Body will work its way inside of you. 



Read an Excerpt:


I’ve gone from posing in one studio to posing in another in less than an hour. Ordinarily I don’t complain about the cold. I don’t move before I’m told to. I try to be the model I’ve never had the good luck to hire. But today I feel like I’m lugging around a portfolio of hypersensitivity along with my usual artist supplies and it’s not even justified. Here, I’m among friends.

The instructor of this class has drawn a chalk outline of where I’m supposed to lie and indicates the pose she wants me to strike, that of a classic come-to-my-casbah odalisque. I feel my calf muscles tighten as I scrunch up into the framework of the drawing on the floor. There are no new faces in this class, no surprises, I’ll be forgiven if I twitch or scratch an itch. Morgan, one of the best artists and my best friend, has brought poppy seed pound cake and stops what he’s doing to tiptoe over and feed me morsels of it. “Should be grapes,” the instructor says. Someone down the hall is playing Carmen on a boom box. “Should be Scheherezade,” Morgan says, winking at me.

The wink isn’t misunderstood, wouldn’t be even if Morgan wasn’t gay. 

We artists are like a cast ensemble in repertory. Many of us have seen each other nude in classes. I’m dressed in the part I’m playing. It’s when I change locations, freelance in other schools, that I’ve felt uncomfortable and I’ve tried not to do that too often. I try not to, but sometimes I need the money to buy extra supplies or pay off mounting bills and I have to do it, like I did last night. I sometimes say never again, never again! What do I need this aggravation for? I feel smarmy; it makes me fight with Ivan more. Except, like a new enrollee in some 12-step program, I’m learning to recognize what I have and haven’t the power to change and ironically now that I’ve decided to kick Ivan and his half of the rent money out, I’m going to have to pay more bills than ever, starting with the new lock I’m having installed.

“Delilah, you moved!”

I look down and see my arm and leg protruding from the smeared outline marking where they’re supposed to be. “I’m sorry.”

“Delilah rarely strays,” Morgan says with a smile, holding a pencil up to me to gauge the span of my body stretched out in front of faded brocade. Another artist, Keith, moves in for a closer look, so close that I can smell the eucalyptus cough drop lodged in his cheek that I first thought was an abscess. 

The others take turns approaching me, walking around me, appraising me with the dispassionate curiosity they would exhibit while looking at a piece on display in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The instructor, their tour guide, calls attention to my posterior as the center of gravity upon which all else rests. She points to my right shoulder with a well-sharpened Conté crayon and lightly touches it, then moves on to the sole of my right foot. My toes curl. “Notice how the light is distributed here and here, how opalescent these areas seem compared to this.” I feel the pencil glide along the base of my spine. “I want you to pay attention to these tonal differences in your drawings as if you were painting them because you will be.”

The door bangs open suddenly, unexpectedly; no one casually walks in and out of this studio. “Phone call downstairs for Delilah,” someone hollers, retreating down the hall.

“She can’t come to the phone right now,” the instructor bellows back. “Take a message.”

“Tell whoever it is I’ll call back,” I add, “unless it’s Ivan.” I know it’s Ivan.

One of the graphic arts students backs into the studio and looks around furtively, like one more step and she’ll be accused of breaking and entering. “He said he’d call back.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugs. “Beats me. He didn’t say.”

“Another member of your burgeoning fan club, Delilah. Maybe someone who’s seen your exhibits and wants to buy all your sculptures,” Morgan suggests, smudging the charcoal on the page with the heel of his hand.

“I wish.”

“Hey, you never know.”

I know it was Ivan on the phone. He’s the only person who has ever called me here. I can feel his heavy breathing impatience wafting all the way up from Wall Street. He knows a call from him will unsettle me, make me put my clothes on to rush to the phone at the very least and not be able to get back into the right pose and the right mood afterwards. He gets off on this. I’m not taking any calls until I’m through for the day.

“Delilah!” someone else calls. “Telephone!”

“Jesus, again? Doesn’t he take a hint?”

“It’s okay, take a five minute break, you’re marked,” the instructor says as I scramble to my feet clumsily. I grab a blue-and-white pinstriped man’s shirt from the back of Morgan’s easel and throw it on and pad down the cold corridor and down the stairs, pulling the shirt closed around me, grumbling, steeling myself for what I have to say to him and that is, “Leave me alone!”

“Is that any way to answer the phone?”

I look down at the way I’m dressed. Is that any way to answer the phone? “Who is this?” It’s not Ivan’s voice. He’s the only person who has ever called me here, but it’s not him. Someone he put up to calling me, though, I’m sure of it, one of his co-workers wearing an oxford shirt not unlike the one that I’ve got wrapped around me like a toga, only fully buttoned down and fit to be tied. “Get him to come to the phone.”

“You don’t want to talk to anyone else,” the voice declares. “It’s me you want.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t say that!” the voice snaps. “You do. At least you will.”



About the author:

Susan Israel lives in Connecticut with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette and she has written for magazines, websites and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. She’s currently at work on the second book in the Delilah Price series, Student Bodies




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Showcase Post: SUBMERGED by Cheryl Kaye Tardif


Psychological Paranormal Thriller

Date Published: 2/26/2013

From the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…

“SUBMERGED reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.” —Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn’t the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger’s calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.


More reviews:

“From the first page, you know you are in the hands of a seasoned and expert storyteller who is going to keep you up at night turning the pages. Tardif knows her stuff. There’s a reason she sells like wildfire—her words burn up the pages. A wonderful, scary, heart-pumping writer.” —M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction

“Tardif once again delivers a suspenseful supernatural masterpiece.” —Scott Nicholson, international bestselling author of The Home

“From the first page, Cheryl Kaye Tardif takes you hostage with SUBMERGED—a compelling tale of anguish and redemption.” —Rick Mofina, bestselling author of Into the Dark

“Cheryl Kaye Tardif’s latest novel SUBMERGED will leave you as haunted as its characters.” —Joshua Corin, bestselling author of Before Cain Strikes

“SUBMERGED will leave you breathless—an edge of your seat, supernatural thrill ride.” —Jeff Bennington, bestselling author of Twisted Vengeance



EXCERPT

PrologueNear Cadomin, AB – Saturday, June 15, 2013 – 12:36 AM

You never grow accustomed to the stench of death. Marcus Taylor knew that smell intimately. He had inhaled burnt flesh, decayed flesh…diseased flesh. It lingered on him long after he was separated from the body.

The image of his wife and son’s gray faces and blue lips assaulted him.Jane…Ryan.

Mercifully, there were no bodies tonight. The only scent he recognized now was wet prairie and the dank residue left over from a rainstorm and the river.

“So what happened, Marcus?” 

The question came from Detective John Zur, a cop Marcus knew from the old days. Back before he traded in his steady income and respected career for something that had poisoned him physically and mentally.

“Come on,” Zur prodded. “Start talking. And tell me the truth.”

Marcus was an expert at hiding things. Always had been. But there was no way in hell he could hide why he was soaked to the skin and standing at the edge of a river in the middle of nowhere. 

He squinted at the river, trying to discern where the car had sunk. He only saw faint ripples on the surface. “You can see what happened, John.”

“You left your desk. Not a very rational decision to make, considering your past.” 

Marcus shook his head, the taste of river water still in his throat. “Just because I do something unexpected doesn’t mean I’m back to old habits.”

Zur studied him but said nothing.

“I had to do something, John. I had to try to save them.”

“That’s what EMS is for. You’re not a paramedic anymore.”

Marcus let his gaze drift to the river. “I know. But you guys were all over the place and someone had to look for them. They were running out of time.”

Overhead, lightning forked and thunder reverberated.

“Dammit, Marcus, you went rogue!” Zur said. “You know how dangerous that is. We could’ve had four bodies.”

Marcus scowled. “Instead of merely three, you mean?”

“You know how this works. We work in teams for a reason. We all need backup. Even you.”

“All the rescue teams were otherwise engaged. I didn’t have a choice.”

Zur sighed. “We go back a long way. I know you did what you thought was right. But it could’ve cost them all their lives. And it’ll probably cost you your job. Why would you risk that for a complete stranger?”

“She wasn’t a stranger.” 

As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Marcus realized how true that statement seemed. He knew more about Rebecca Kingston than he did about any other woman. Besides Jane.

“You know her?” Zur asked, frowning.

“She told me things and I told her things. So, yeah, I know her.”

“I still do not get why you didn’t stay at the center and let us do our job.”

“She called me.” Marcus looked into his friend’s eyes. “Me. Not you.”

“I understand, but that’s your job. To listen and relay information.”

“You don’t understand a thing. Rebecca was terrified. For herself and her children. No one knew where they were for sure, and she was running out of time. If I didn’t at least try, what kind of person would I be, John?” He gritted his teeth. “I couldn’t live with that. Not again.”

Zur exhaled. “Sometimes we’re simply too late. It happens.”

“Well, I didn’t want it to happen this time.” Marcus thought of the vision he’d seen of Jane standing in the middle of the road. “I had a…hunch I was close. Then when Rebecca mentioned Colton had seen flying pigs, I remembered this place. Jane and I used to buy ribs and chops from the owner, before it closed down about seven years ago.”

“And that led you here to the farm.” Zur’s voice softened. “Good thing your hunch paid off. This time. Next time, you might not be so lucky.”

“There won’t be a next time, John.”

A smirk tugged at the corner of Zur’s mouth. “Uh-huh.”

“There won’t.”

Zur shrugged and headed for the ambulance.

Under a chaotic sky, Marcus stood at the edge of the river as tears cascaded from his eyes. The night’s events hit him hard, like a sucker punch to the gut. He was submerged in a wave of memories. The first call, Rebecca’s frantic voice, Colton crying in the background. He knew that kind of fear.  He’d felt it before. But last time, it was a different road, different woman, different child.

He shook his head. He couldn’t think of Jane right now. Or Ryan. He couldn’t reflect on all he’d lost. He needed to focus on what he’d found, what he’d discovered in a faceless voice that had comforted him and expressed that it was okay to let go. 

He glanced at his watch. It was after midnight. 12:39, to be exact. He couldn’t believe how his life had changed in not much more than two days.

“Marcus!”

He turned…






Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an award-winning, international bestselling Canadian suspense author. Her novels include Submerged, Divine Justice, Children of the Fog, The River, Divine Intervention, and Whale Song, which New York Times bestselling author Luanne Rice calls “a compelling story of love and family and the mysteries of the human heart…a beautiful, haunting novel.”

She is now working on her next thriller.

Cheryl also enjoys writing short stories inspired mainly by her author idol Stephen King, and this has resulted in Skeletons in the Closet & Other Creepy Stories (collection of shorts) and Remote Control (novelette eBook).

In 2010 Cheryl detoured into the romance genre with her contemporary romantic suspense debut, Lancelot’s Lady, written under the pen name of Cherish D’Angelo.

Booklist raves, “Tardif, already a big hit in Canada…a name to reckon with south of the border.”





Giveaway:


KINDLE FIRE + REsQMe Emergency Tool (featured in the novel and was donated by the company)
*The Kindle Fire HD or Kobo Arc 7 will be awarded IF I make New York Times or USA Today bestsellers lists, so the more people share my event, the better chance I’ll be giving one away. The other prizes will be awarded no matter what happens.


This Blitz is brought to you by Reading Addiction Book Tours

Showcase Post: EVENING STARS by Susan Mallery

Evening Stars (Blackberry Island #3) by Susan Mallery
ISBN:  9780778316130 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781488710117 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FNJVSX6 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication date: February 25, 2014

Small-town nurse Nina Wentworth has made a career out of being a caretaker. More “Mom” than their mother ever was, she sacrificed medical school—and her first love—so her sister could break free. Which is why she isn’t exactly thrilled to see Averil back on Blackberry Island, especially when Nina’s life has suddenly become…complicated. 

Nina unexpectedly finds herself juggling two men—her high school sweetheart and a younger maverick pilot who also wants to claim her heart. But as fun as all this romance is, Nina has real life to deal with. Averil doesn’t seem to want the great guy she’s married to, and doesn’t seem to be making headway writing her first book; their mom is living life just as recklessly as she always has; and Nina’s starting to realize that the control she once had is slipping out of her fingers. Her hopes of getting off the island seem to be stretching further away…until her mother makes a discovery that could change everything forever. 

But before Nina and Averil can reach for the stars, they have to decide what they want. Will Averil stay? Will Nina leave? And what about the men who claim to love them? Does love heal, or will finding their happy ending mean giving up all they’ve ever wanted?




Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

In a battle between Betty Boop and multicolored hearts, Nina Wentworth decided it was going to be a Betty Boop kind of day. She pulled the short-sleeved scrub shirt over her head and was already moving toward the bathroom before the fabric settled over her hips.

“Don’t be snug, don’t be snug,” she chanted as she came to a stop in front of the mirror and reached for her brush.

The shirt settled as it should, with a couple of inches to spare. Nina breathed a sigh of relief. Last night’s incident with three brownies and a rather large glass of red wine hadn’t made a lasting impression on her hips. She was grateful, and she would repent later on an elliptical. Or at least vow to eat her brownies one at a time.

Ten seconds of brushing, one minute of braiding and her blond hair was neat and tidy. She dashed out into the hall, toward the kitchen where she grabbed her car keys and nearly made it to the back door. Just as she was reaching for the knob, the house phone rang.

Nina glanced from the clock to the phone. Everyone in her world—friends, family, work—had her cell. Very few calls came on the antiquated landline, and none of them were good news. Nina retraced her steps and braced herself for disaster.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Nina. It’s Jerry down at Too Good To Be True. I just opened, and there’s a lady here trying to sell a box of crap, ah, stuff. I think it’s from the store.”

Nina closed her eyes as she held in a groan. “Let me guess. Early twenties, red hair with purple streaks and a tattoo of a weird bird on her neck?”

“That’s her. She’s glaring at me something fierce. You think she’s armed?”

“I hope not.”

“Me, too.” Jerry didn’t sound especially concerned. “What’s her name?”

“Tanya.”

If Nina had more time, she would have collapsed right there on the floor. But she had a real job to get to. A job unrelated to the disaster that was the family’s antique store.

“You let your mom hire her, huh?” Jerry asked.

“Yes.”

“You know better.”

“That I do. I’ll call the police and ask them to pick up Tanya. Can you keep her there until they get there?”

“Sure thing, kid.”

“Great. And I’ll be by after work to pick up the stuff.”

“I’ll hold it for you,” Jerry promised.

“Thanks.”

Nina hung up and hurried to her car. After her cell connected to the Bluetooth, she called the local sheriff’s department and explained what happened.

“Again?” Deputy Sam Payton asked, his voice thick with amusement.

“Did you let your mom hire this employee?”

Nina carefully backed out of the driveway. Jerry’s humor she could handle. He’d lived here all his life—he was allowed to tease her. But Sam was relatively new. He hadn’t earned mocking rights.

“Hey, tax-paying citizen here, reporting a crime,” she said.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m writing it down. What’d she take?”

“I didn’t ask. She’s at the pawn shop. Too Good To Be True.”

“I know it,” Deputy Sam told her. “I’ll head out and see what’s what.”

“Thanks.”

She hung up before he could offer advice on hiring policies and turned up the hill. The morning was clear—odd for early spring in the Pacific Northwest. Normally the good weather didn’t kick in until closer to summer. To the west, blue water sparkled. To the east was western Washington.

As she climbed higher and higher, the view got better, but when she parked across from the three Queen Anne houses at the very top of the hill, pausing to enjoy the spectacular combination of sky and ocean was the last thing on her mind.

She hurried up the steps to the front porch that was both her boss’s home and her office. Dr. Andi, as she was known, was a popular pediatrician on the island. Make that the only pediatrician. She’d moved here a year ago, opened her practice in September and had been thriving ever since. She was also a newlywed and, as of two months ago, pregnant.

Nina unlocked the front door and stepped inside. She flipped on lights as she went, confirmed the temperature on the thermostat and then started the three computers in the front office.

After storing her purse in her locker, she logged in to the scheduling program and saw that the first appointment of the day had canceled. Andi would appreciate the extra time to get herself moving. She was still battling morning sickness.

Nina did a quick check of her email, forwarded several items to the bookkeeper/office manager, then walked to the break room for coffee. Less than five minutes after she’d arrived, she was climbing the stairs to her boss’s private quarters.

Nina knocked once before entering. She found Andi, a tall, pretty brunette with curly hair, sitting at the table in the kitchen. Her arms cradled her head.

“Still bad?” Nina asked, walking to the cupboard.

“Hi and yes. It’s not that I throw up, it’s that I feel like I’m going to every single second.” She raised her head and drew in a breath. “Are you drinking coffee?”

“Yes.”

“I miss coffee. I’m a wreck. I need to talk to my parents about my ancestors. Obviously I don’t come from hardy stock.”

Nina took down a mug, filled it with water and put it in the microwave. Then she collected a tea bag from the pantry.

“Not ginger tea,” Andi said with a moan. “Please. I hate it.”

“But it helps.”

“I’d rather feel sick.”

Nina raised her eyebrows.

Andi slumped in her seat. “I’m such a failure. Look at me. I’m carrying around a child the size of a lima bean and I’m throwing a hissy fit. It’s embarrassing.”

“And yet the need to act mature doesn’t seem to be kicking in.”

Andi smiled. “Funny how that works.”

The microwaved dinged. Nina dropped the tea bag into the steaming water and crossed to the table.

The eat-in kitchen was open, with painted cabinets and lots of granite. The big window by the table took advantage of the east-facing views in the old house. The mainland shimmered only a few miles away.

Andi had bought the house—one of three up on the hill—when she’d moved to Blackberry Island. Undeterred by the broken windows and outdated plumbing, she’d had the house restored from the framework out. During the process, she’d fallen in love with her contractor. Which had led to her current tummy problems.

“Your first appointment canceled,” Nina told her.

“Thank God.” Andi sniffed the tea, then wrinkled her nose and took a sip. “It’s the ginger. If I could have tea without ginger I think I could get it down.”

“The thing is, the ginger is the part that settles your stomach.”

“Life is perverse like that.” Andi took another sip, then smiled. “I like the shirt.”

Nina glanced down at the pattern. “Betty and I go way back.”

One of the advantages of working for a pediatrician was that cheerful attire was encouraged. She had a collection of brightly colored fun shirts in her closet. It wasn’t high fashion, but it helped the kids smile and that was what mattered.

“I need to get back downstairs,” she said. “Your first appointment is now at eight-thirty.”

“Okay.”

Nina rose and started toward the stairs.

“Are you busy after work?” Andi asked.

Nina thought about the fact that she was going to have to go by the pawn shop and pick up what Tanya had tried to sell, then spend several hours at Blackberry Preserves, her family’s antique store, figuring out what had been stolen, then tell her mother what had happened and possibly lecture her on the importance of actually following up on a potential employee’s references. Only she’d been lecturing her mother for as long as she could remember, and the lessons never seemed to stick. No matter how many times Bonnie promised to do better, she never did. Which left Nina picking up the pieces.

“I kind of am. Why?”

“I haven’t been to Pilates in a week,” Andi said. “It’s important I keep exercising. Would you go with me? It’s more fun when you’re along.”

“I can’t tonight, but Monday’s good.”

Andi smiled. “Thanks, Nina. You’re the best.”

“Give me a plaque and I’ll believe it.”

“I’ll order one today.”



About the author:

With more than 25 million books sold worldwide, New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is known for creating characters who feel as real as the folks next door, and for putting them into emotional, often funny situations readers recognize from their own lives. Susan’s books have made Booklist’s Top 10 Romances list in four out of five consecutive years. RT Book Reviews says, “When it comes to heartfelt contemporary romance, Mallery is in a class by herself.” With her popular, ongoing Fool’s Gold series, Susan has reached new heights on the bestsellers lists and has won the hearts of countless new fans.

Susan grew up in southern California, moved so many times that her friends stopped writing her address in pen, and now has settled in Seattle with her husband and the most delightfully spoiled little dog who ever lived. 


Connect with the author: 

Website      |     Facebook      |    Google+     |     Twitter 





Giveaway:

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to offer one lucky reader a paperback copy of Evening Stars by Susan Mallery, courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA. This giveaway is limited to residents of the United States and Canada. To enter please use the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, March 4, 2014 and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014.


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Book Promotional Post: SCARLET REVENGE

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Scarlet Revenge – PROMO Blitz

By Ann McGinnis

Date Published: January 21, 2014

Romantic Suspense

The FBI doesn’t know what to do with Analyst Caycee Scarlet. She’s brash, brilliant & brutally relentless when tracking a serial killer. But she also has a temper, problems with authority figures and recognizing the chain of command.

Things go sideways for Caycee when she uncovers a lead that saves the Omega Killer’s latest victim. Rather than working the system and making nice with her pompous boss, sparks fly and she gets into an altercation with the lead Special Agent on the case, resulting in a transfer to another assignment.

Caycee finds herself transferred to an FBI interrogation facility where she assesses the most dangerous of criminals in custody. She struggles to get over the loss of her dream job, but her new boss, handsome Special Agent Gil Graham, may soften the blow. Sparks, of a different variety, fly between the Special Agent and his new Analyst, as they work together to crack the most difficult cases.

Just when Caycee’s wounds are healing from her expulsion on the Omega Killer team, she is dragged back into the thick of it. Caycee and her new team are front and center, focused on an interview of a bombing suspect, when Omega comes looking for revenge. His attack wounds her team, leaving Caycee with only one option for help—the devastatingly handsome bombing suspect. It will take all of Caycee’s wits, and a kiss for luck, to stop Omega and save her co-worker.

EXCERPT

Chapter One

Our steps echoed down the stark hallway. Clean. Institutional. And utterly amazing. Caycee Scarlet was finally walking along the hallowed hallways of the FBI. It was a good day for me.

“Say nothing, Scarlet,” Special Agent in Charge Tony Wilkes ordered. He threw me a look over his shoulder. “Even if someone asks you a question, keep your mouth shut.” He laughed to himself. “No one will ask you a question.”

Wilkes had already made it clear that I was the newest member of the Omega Killer Task Force. As such, I should listen more than talk, act fast when given orders, and let the seasoned team members guide my every move. It seemed like the equivalent of an FBI-whipping boy. Or girl, in my case. I didn’t care. Everyone started at the bottom. I was ready to put in the time needed to earn their respect.

At least, I looked good in a form-fitting black suit. It was more than I could afford, but I figured I would live in the outfit. Besides, it sent a message. I valued my appearance, even if I had to dress like a man, I’d still look like a woman.

I’d had the suit cut to fit my curves, which were on the athletic side. My auburn hair pulled into a no-nonsense ponytail. It hung past my shoulders, showing off my best feature – my eyes. As a window into my soul, they were unflinching. I did admire my own intelligence, probably a character flaw, but hopefully that wouldn’t show in my eyes. The traits I wanted to show: no nonsense, quick witted, relentless.

“You get the crap jobs,” Wilkes said, acting as if his honesty was attractive. A few hours in the gym and hair implants, maybe. Not that I didn’t find bald men attractive, just not this one. “I can’t lie,” he continued, “we’ll be throwing you every crap job that this case delivers, but you’re on a big case. That don’t happen to many newbies.”

I wasn’t that new, but I guessed he didn’t count the eight months of testing and background checks. I did. Or my training at Quantico. It all counted to me.

The agency gave us two years to prove ourselves. After that, candidates either earned their spot or were let go. I couldn’t imagine putting in all that time and failing.

I had a feeling success would require long hours and serious ass-kissing. I just needed to find someone with a cute ass. It sure wasn’t Wilkes.

We passed three large rooms filled with personnel. One looked to be the size of a football field filled with cubicles. “You’ll be in here,” Wilkes waved, “but first I want you to see the Dugout.”

He led me to a large conference room, its walls filled with crime photos, running news feeds and a huge whiteboard for pertinent case data. “The Omega Killer is priority number one,” Wilkes said, opening the conference room door for me. “This is where the main players are at bat.”

I slowed at the door, sensing a real sports theme to the way he liked to operate. Perhaps one day, I’d be his most valuable player. It looked competitive, though. Wilkes’s team already consisted of veteran agents and analysts. They seemed a cohesive group, working in unison to stop a psychotic killer.

Wilkes quickly ran through Omega’s deadly stats, but he didn’t need to bother. I knew the case inside and out. Killers were my hobby.

I made the mistake of saying that to a date once. I never saw a man escape faster, admonishing me by exclaiming: “You’re sick, truly sick.” Hopefully, my academic interest in killers wouldn’t repel men in the FBI.

Not that I was here to find a man, but I was twenty-eight and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somewhere in this organization was my perfect match. After all, I needed a man who liked to catch killers.

“Are you listening to me?” Wilkes sounded irritated.

“Yes, sir,” I answered. “The Omega Killer marks his victims’ forehead with the sign of the Omega. All indications are that it signals the moment he’s ready to make the fatal cut, into his victim’s left breast. Such a wound, based on other serial killers, suggests Omega has mommy issues, but I personally believe that it signals a desire to find love.”

Wilkes made a face at me. Clearly he did not care for my analysis. “That’s not what I was talking about. Geez, he wants to find love? Table that thought, quickly, and get back in the game.”

He raised his arms, showing off the Dugout. “Welcome to the nerve center of our investigation. We call this the show,” he said, then clapped his hands together to get the room’s attention. “Everyone, this is Intelligence Analyst Caycee Scarlet.”

The agents, analysts and techs turned from their work. Some at laptops along one side of a long mahogany conference table and others working on reports across from them. Several agents were standing, talking in a small group. They barely looked over at me, too busy for someone below them on the FBI food chain. The analysts nodded an acknowledgement. Matter-of-fact. No smiles. No words of welcome.

I gave a half-hearted nod to the room, hoping I’d make a better impression later. Probably much later, if I was reading the total lack of interest correctly. It must be the pressure of catching Omega. Tension hung in the room. With twelve victims to date, catching the killer had them all wound up.

Wilkes pointed to a side table stacked with boxes. The top one filled with old cell phones, victim personal effects and police reports. “We need them properly catalogued. You know, a searchable database. I’m told you were the most anal student in your class. Go at it.”

His voice trailed off, but I didn’t know if he’d stopped talking or I’d stopped listening. Maybe a little of both, because I read the whiteboard. One of the hand-scribbled numbers was written incorrectly.

Without thinking, I went over to the board and used the heel of my right hand to wipe off an area code. Everyone in the room stopped working and screamed at me.

“What have you done?” Wilkes shouted louder than anyone else.

I came out of my trance and blinked at him. Whatever I said next could make or break me, so I said nothing.

“Every piece of information is vital to solving the case,” he scolded. He turned to the room. “Can we fix it? What was that number?”

Blank stares.

I quickly picked up a dry erase marker and wrote the numbers back on the board. It was only three digits.

Screams went up all around me again.

“What?” I asked. “That’s the number I erased. But it’s wrong. It’s a phone number, right? Someone transposed the area code. 3-7-1 is not an area code, but 7-3-1 is New Jersey.”

No one screamed at me that time, but their looks were deadly.

“Is that right?” Wilkes asked the room. His eyes darted from the whiteboard to the closest agent. He wanted confirmation before his head exploded.

“Shit,” the agent said.

Wilkes grabbed his head.

The agent couldn’t look at me. “She’s right, sir.”

“Okay, we’re okay, fix it and double-check everything that goes on the board, people,” Wilkes barked.

The agent took the dry erase marker from me and fixed the numbers. Wilkes waved two fingers at a petite woman with raven hair twisted into a bun. “Take care of this.” He pointed at me.

FBI Analyst Nina Dunbar instantly responded. She rolled her eyes and grabbed a stack of boxes, indicating with her elbow that I was to take the rest. “Follow me,” she sighed. “Consider this your first and last favor.”

I shot a glance at Wilkes, but he already had his nose in a file folder, barking orders to the closest agent. He had no time for me. No one did. I exited the conference room, utterly deflated by my welcome to the FBI.



Ann McGinnis


 photo Ann20Photo_zps844d346c.jpgAnn McGinnis started writing romantic suspense to combine two things— thrillers & foreplay! Connect with Ann and upcoming news about the Scarlet Suspense Series:

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On Pinterest: pinterest.com/scarletsuspense

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Showcase Post: HOUSE OF GLASS by Sophie Littlefield

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield
ISBN:  9780778314783 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781460327067 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00FNJVSYU  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 25, 2014
Publisher:  Harlequin Mira


Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen’s control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come…

On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses’ home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe — even if it means risking their own lives.

A taut and emotional tale of a family brought together by extraordinary forces, House of Glass is a harrowing exploration of both the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, and the power of tragedy to teach us what truly matters.




Read an Excerpt:

Chapter Six

“Oh, God,” Livvy said, a split second after they heard the lock at the top of the stairs. She was standing apart from her parents, her arms hugging her body. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes. “It smells so bad down here!”

   Ted reached for Livvy, and she fell against him. He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her close, and she sobbed against his chest. Jen picked Teddy up and rocked him gently, whispering that he shouldn’t worry about Livvy, that his sister would be just fine.

   After a few moments, Livvy’s sobs subsided and she pulled away from Ted. She went to stand near the shelf where all her trophies were lined up — Mini Marlins swim, eight years of soccer, a few for softball, one from the American Legion speech contest back in middle school. Jen could see her shoulders trembling.

   “Honey, it’s going to be okay,” Jen said, handing Teddy to her husband approaching Livvy cautiously. She had to keep her calm, had to make her believe she and Ted had things under control. “Once they get what they want, they’ll go.”

   “But what do they even want?”

   Jen put her hand on Livvy’s shoulder and gently turned her so she could look into her eyes. “Anything they can sell, I would guess. There’s the silver, my jewelry, the computers–any number of things. They’ll take it and they’ll go.”

   She could see Livvy trying, wanting to believe her. She tried to make herself believe it, so her face would convince Livvy.

   “I need to talk to Daddy,” she said, as calmly as she could. “Can you play with Teddy and keep him busy for a few minutes?”

   Livvy nodded. She looked a little better, some of the panic gone from her eyes.

   “His old toys are in here,” Jen said, getting a cardboard box down off the shelf. “I haven’t had a chance to get them over to St. Vincent De Paul’s yet. Go ahead and get them out. Whatever he wants.”

   Livvy talked softly to her brother, kneeling down on the cold concrete floor next to him and peeling the tape off the box. Jenn and Ted went to the box. Jen and Ted went to the far side of the basement where the old living room furniture was stored, the pieces that Ted kept meaning to put on Craigslist. Ted lifted the old lamp shades off the couch and brushed off the cushions. When they sat down, he took her hands in his.




Meet the author:

Sophie Littlefield grew up in rural Missouri, the middle child of a professor and an artist. She has been writing stories since childhood. After taking a hiatus to raise her children, she sold her first book in 2008, and has since authored over a dozen novels in several genres. Sophie’s novels have won Anthony and RT Book Awards and has been shortlisted for Edgar, Barry, Crimespree, Macavity, and Goodreads Choice Awards. In addition women’s fiction, she writes the post-apocalyptic Aftertime series, the Stella Hardesty and Joe Bashir crime series, and thrillers for young adults. She is past president of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter. Sophie makes her home in northern California.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter


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