Tag Archives: Gemma Halliday Publishing

A day in the life with Autumn Season by Dane McCaslin

Photo FinishedGreetings from Aloha Lagoon. My name is Autumn Season and I’m the resident photographer at the Aloha Lagoon Resort. Yeah – I’ve heard all the jokes before, but this is the kind of name you get when your parents are hippy leftovers. At least my name sounds fairly normal: my brothers are Trout, Quail, and Buck. Try living with one of those handles!

I happen to think that I live in paradise, and judging by the amount of visitors we get, I’d say a lot of you out there agree with me. Luckily for me, my boyfriend Jimmy Toki works at the resort as well. In fact, he’s the one who helped me get the job here. I was freelance for a long time, and I loved the fact that I could set my own schedule…when I had the work, that is. I certainly do appreciate the regular paycheck, you know?

I love taking pictures of nature, and our island has some of the most beautiful scenery on this planet. Orange bougainvillea grows rampant along the roadways and over fences, and a gorgeous sky blue Climbing Dayflower adds the perfect touch in public gardens. Add in the sandy beaches and the sparkling water, and you’ve got the recipe for paradise. And speaking of beaches, that’s got to be my fave place to shoot. I love it when there’s a wedding or a luau on the sand; I get to work on my tan and make money at the same time! What could be better, right?

It was at one of our luaus that I happen to catch a murder in progress via my trusty Nikon camera lens. I’d just focused in on a plate of food when the person sitting there fell over dead, face down in the poi. Needless to say, that was the end of the luau – and the end of my film. While I was off comforting one of the hula dancers, someone opened my camera and removed it. This was the beginning of a mystery that took me and Jimmy from one end of Aloha Lagoon to the other, from the beach to the resort.

Join me in Aloha Lagoon for some tropical adventure. You can find me doing my thing in Photo Finished, one of the Aloha Lagoon Mystery Series. If you can’t wait to head to the island, you can always find me on our resort’s website: Aloha Lagoon. Come on over for a taste of paradise. . .and mystery.

You can read more about Autumn in Photo Finished, the fourth book in the Aloha Lagoon mystery series.

When photographer Autumn Season gets a job photographing a wedding party at the Aloha Lagoon Resort, she’s ecstatic. But when one of the guests winds up dead, Autumn realizes she may have accidentally snapped a picture of a murder in progress! Now the killer will go to any lengths to protect his (or her) identity, and Autumn is clearly in his sights. With the help of her best friend, super hottie and head of the Aloha Lagoon Resort Security, Jimmy Toki, Autumn sets out to find the killer’s identity before the killer finds her. Stolen camera equipment, angry wedding guests, and a group of jealous surfers mix together to make for a deadly brew. Another luau, another body: Aloha Lagoon Resort might be headed for infamy instead of fame. And if Autumn doesn’t get to the bottom of it all soon, she may just be the next victim to wipeout!

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About the author
Dane McCaslin, USA Today bestselling author of the new Proverbial Crime mystery series, resides in the state of Arizona with her very patient husband. She has been writing all of her life: poetry, short stories, journals, letters (yes, those old-fashioned epistles that require pen and paper), and now she brings her talents to the cozy mystery genre.

In addition to being an author, Dane McCaslin is an educator. She currently teaches advanced language arts classes for grade 11; additionally, she teaches beginning writing classes at the local university. Being an educator is an important part of her life, and passing on her passion for reading and writing is one of her great joys.

All comments are welcomed.

A day in the life of Cassidi Conti by Traci Andrighetti

Hey, y’all! I’m Cassidi Conti, and I own a beauty salon in Danger Cove, Washington. It’s called The Clip and Sip, and the Victorian house it’s located in is also where I live with my makeup-artist cousin, Gia Di Mitri. Speaking of Gia, she’s on her way home from Christmas shopping, so I have to make this quick. Because when she’s around, no one gets a word in but her. Case in point, two years ago she stole my slot on Dru’s blog!

Before I tell you about my day, let me give you some backstory. From 1860 until 1955, the Victorian I own was a brothel for local lumberjacks, that is, until their wives set it on fire. Forty years later, my uncle Vincent Conti restored the building and ran a salon on the first floor. Uncle Vinnie was a ladies’ man who tended to more than his clients’ coiffures. And sadly, I think that’s what got him murdered, although I still don’t know for sure.

Since my uncle left me the property in his will, I’ve worked hard to restore the reputation of our family and the business. But every time my back is turned, someone reminds me of the Victorian’s past. The latest incident happened the other night. Right before The Clip and Sip’s holiday open house, someone sabotaged my rooftop sleigh display by replacing Santa’s toys with sex dolls.

Oh my gosh, I think I smell something burning upstairs. Hold on, okay? I’ll just be a second.

Yo, yous guys! Gia here. Don’t worry about the smoke smell. Between you and me, I burned an eyeliner pencil to sidetrack Cassidi for a few minutes. I don’t know why that girl thinks she’s the protagonist of this story, when it’s as plain as the nose on Rudolph the reindeer’s face that it’s me.

Anyway, I heard Cassidi telling you about our sleigh saboteur. I’m convinced that the culprit was a rival salon owner who blew in from L.A. six months ago and stole our clients. Her name is Ivy Li, and like the comic book character, she’s pure poison.

The subject of poison brings me to the point of this post. Recently, a mysterious woman came to town, and yesterday she had a manicure at Ivy’s salon, which, by the way, looks like a Greek version of Versailles. And after the woman’s nails had dried, she went outside and keeled over near the gold-breast-plated statue of Athena guarding the door, and she died.

But here’s the kicker. Cassidi and I got a note from the killer saying that the woman’s death was our fault. Of course, since she dropped dead at Ivy’s salon, how could it have been us? As it turns out, there is a way, and it has to do with Poison Poinsettia nail polish and a bottle of peach liqueur.

And the nightmare doesn’t end there. The killer also said that Cassidi and I are next on his list, and he doesn’t mean the one he’s sending to Santa. So we have to find out who this maniac is.

Or our Christmas could be canceled—for good.

You can read more about Cassidi in A Poison Manicure and Peach Liqueur, the second book in the “Danger Cove Hair Salon” mystery series.

It’s Christmas in Danger Cove, and all Cassidi Conti wants is clients. A rival salon owner has come to town and stolen The Clip and Sip’s business. Her holiday hopes go south, however, after someone sexes up the sleigh display at her open house, and an incident from the past makes the paper. Luckily, her tough talkin’ Texan aunt rides to her rescue, and she’s madder ‘n The Grinch in a gift shop. But when a nail client drops dead at her rival’s salon, and the killer sends unseasonal greetings to The Clip and Sip, Cassidi wonders whether an entire Texas cavalry could save her from the impending disaster. She has to act fast to figure out who the manicure murderer is, or her Noël could be nixed—forever.

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win copy of A Poison Manicure and Peach Liqueur, either Kindle/Nook (open to everyone) or print (U.S. residents only), winner’s choice. The giveaway will end November 28, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the author
Traci Andrighetti is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Franki Amato Mysteries and the Danger Cove Hair Salon Mysteries. In her previous life, she was an award-winning literary translator and a Lecturer of Italian at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned a PhD in Applied Linguistics. But then she got wise and ditched that academic stuff for a life of crime—writing, that is. Visit Traci at traciandrighetti.com.

All comments are welcomed.

A day in the life of Carrie Jorgenson by Catherine Bruns

Being a waitress is a draining job, both physically and mentally. Customers are often rude and it can be difficult to keep that smile plastered on your face all day. On the bright side, I fancy myself an actress so that part isn’t usually a problem.
Finding dead bodies, though? Yeah, that’s become somewhat of an issue for me.

My name is Carrie Jorgenson. I’ve lived in paradise (Hawaii) for almost four months and I’m finally starting to forget about my former life back in Vermont, which never actually was a life. But I prefer not to talk about the past anymore. My home and future are in Kauai now and I have a lot to be thankful for. Besides my fantastic boyfriend I have an adorable cat named Benny, an awesome little apartment and a full-time job at Loco Moco Café that I enjoy most days. And this Friday night is opening weekend at the Hana Hou Theater for Little Women, The Musical. I’m playing Beth—you know, the sister who contracts scarlet fever and dies. Oh, shoot. Maybe I shouldn’t have given that part away. . .

The ironic thing is that I’m in a musical and can’t even carry a tune. My coworkers Poncho and Vivian are always begging me not to sing karaoke at the cafe. But I love it and am improving, sort of. Last night I didn’t even shatter one drink glass. Success!

Keanu is a terrific guy and I’m so close to saying those three little words to him. Something seems to be holding me back, though. Keanu’s also my boss which sounds like it would be a problem, but it’s not. His parents? Eh, they’re a bit of a different story. They bought Loco Moco Café from Hale Akamu a few months ago. He’s the man whose dead body I found (waves hand) after work one night. Terry Church is Keanu’s dad and thinks I’m some type of gold digger. Yes, I heard him with my own two ears. It’s amazing the things you discover when hiding in a closet, let me tell you.

Anyhow, ever since Randolph Cremshaw walked into Loco Moco the other day, things have changed, and not for the better. You see, Randolph’s a mega popular food critic. He used to live in Hawaii and visits the island often. He came into the cafe and ordered our trademark loco moco, which is a yummy dish that consists of white rice and a hamburger patty with a fried egg on top, all smothered in mushroom gravy. Unfortunately, something went wrong with his order—let’s just say it was a flaming experience—and he’s using his powerful social media presence to inform everyone that our restaurant has “gone loco.” Nice, huh? That’s why Terry instructed me to bring Randolph a complimentary meal over to the Aloha Lagoon Resort, where he’s staying. Oh, and did I mention that Randolph enjoys having people bow and scrape at his feet? Sorry, not me, mister.

That should have been the end of it, except then Randolph informed me that his Kona coffee wasn’t hot enough. Apparently, his nickname is “Kona Man” because that’s his favorite beverage. Seriously, who can afford to drink Kona coffee every day? It’s wicked expensive. Randolph ordered me to bring him a new carafe right away. So, I’m on my way back with the coffee and now my temper is as searing hot as his beverage. Let’s see if either one is to his liking.

Why no one has killed this guy yet remains a mystery. I mean, he’s nasty as all get out and leaves one-star reviews for everyone. I tap on the door to his suite, which is slightly ajar. He must have left it open for me. When I look inside, I spot Randolph lying on the floor. He’s gasping for air and trying to tell me something. Panicked, I drop the carafe and coffee flies everywhere. By the time I dial 9-1-1, it’s too late. Randolph’s gone and I’ve stumbled on another dead body—again.

This whole daily grind thing is getting to be a bit too much.

Death of the Kona Man is the sequel to Death of the Big Kahuna and part of the multi-author Aloha Lagoon series with Gemma Halliday Publishing. Note: The Aloha Lagoon books can be read in any order.

Carrie Jorgenson is living the dream in Hawaii. She has a steady job as a waitress at the Loco Moco Café, a hot new love interest in her manager, and the curtain’s about to rise on her role in a local theater production. But when she’s asked to deliver food to a guest at the Aloha Lagoon resort—who then drops dead!—her dreams quickly become the stuff of nightmares.

World renowned food critic Randolph Cremshaw has no shortage of enemies. He’s rude, patronizing, and famous for his one-star reviews. After the coffee Carrie delivers is discovered to have been poisoned, she and the café quickly rise to the top of the suspects list. A jealous co-worker, thefts at the restaurant, and a performance that threatens to blow up in Carrie’s face only make things worse. With an already full plate, Carrie is also forced into making a decision that may change everything for her. But this all pales in comparison when she comes face to face with Randolph’s killer and what might be the final curtain call. . .of her life.

Recipes included!

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win copy of Death of the Kona Man, either signed print (U.S. residents only) or Kindle/Nook (open to everyone), winner’s choice plus an Aloha Lagoon tote bag. The giveaway will end October 11, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the author
Catherine is the USA Today bestselling author of the Cookies & Chance mysteries. She lives in New York with her very patient husband, three sons, and assorted cats and dogs. Catherine has a B.A. in English and is a former newspaper reporter and press release writer. She also writes the Cindy York mysteries and the Aloha Lagoon (Carrie Jorgenson) mysteries. To find out more about future releases and giveaways, you can sign up for Catherine’s newsletter here. Please feel free to connect with her on social media as well: Facebook and Twitter.

A day in the life of Maria Dolores by Gin Jones

“Maria Dolores! Maria Dolores!” My young assistant, Cary Baines, burst through the flaps of the first aid tent to announce, “I found you, Maria Dolores!”

His enthusiasm was so infectious, I had to smile, even as I wished he wasn’t quite so good at finding me. Of course, his ability to track me down had probably saved my life over Labor Day Weekend when I’d confronted a killer. Besides, it wasn’t as if I were in a truly private space at the moment. I was seated in the back of the first aid tent at the folding table that served as the on-site office for the farmers’ market manager.

“The mayor wants to talk to you,” Cary said, before racing back out of the tent.

Mayor Edward Kallakala came through the tent flaps a moment later. “I wish I had half the energy that young man does.”

“Don’t we all?” I picked up my sling bag filled with emergency supplies—from duct tape and coin rolls to chocolate—and hugged it as if there were something in there for responding to an impromptu job performance review. We hadn’t spoken in the two weeks since Labor Day, and I’d been hoping to have some warning before I had to explain why there’d been another murder during my tenure as the market manager.

The mayor settled into a folding chair with as much grace as it were an ergonomic office chair on level ground. “You know that I supported creating the farmers’ market and I supported the decision to hire you as the manager.”

“I appreciate that.” Unfortunately, I could hear a but coming.

“And you know that I’ll be blamed if the market fails.”

I nodded. “But that won’t happen. People are forming strong bonds with the vendors. One woman told me her kids threatened a hunger strike if they couldn’t have fresh tomatoes from Tommy Fordham’s farm.”

The mayor waved his hand dismissively. “I’m not worried about the vendors. They’re amazing.”

Most of them were, at least. There was always a rotten apple or, in the market’s case, a rotten potato farmer, in every barrel. “So what are you concerned about?”

I held my breath, waiting for him to mention the various disasters that had occurred this summer. He couldn’t blame me for the earthquake, but everything else was fair game. Dark secrets, greed and resentment had all combined to result in people dying, and I hadn’t been able to prevent any of it.

“Two things,” he said. “First, a number of people have mentioned their disappointment that there’s no honey vendor at the market.”

“I’m working on it.” I tried to project confidence, but the mayor had hit on a sore spot. I’d been told by my least favorite vendor that my inability to sign a beekeeper to the market was proof that I didn’t deserve the job. “I’ve got some leads, but the local beekeepers are struggling to keep up with demand and don’t need additional distribution points.”

“I’m sure you’ll find someone by the end of the season.”

It was more an order than a vote of confidence, and it made me nervous that his second topic of discussion would be even more challenging. “And your other concern?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t desperate,” he said. “And I’d appreciate your discretion. It wouldn’t look good if this got out.”

“As long as you’re not asking me to do anything illegal.” My friend Merle was a lawyer. The good kind, not a shyster.

“It’s nothing that Merle would advise you against.” The mayor glanced over his shoulder as if expecting Cove Chronicles reporter Duncan Pickles to jump out from behind the first aid supplies. Satisfied that no one was listening, he nevertheless leaned forward to speak barely above a whisper. “It’s my sister-in-law. She thinks she’s a really good baker, but she’s the sort who mistakenly uses salt instead of sugar. I do love home-made sweets, but I can’t eat hers, and I can’t be seen buying anything at the baked goods stall here. Could you possibly get me a fruit pie?”

“I can do that.” Relieved, I let my sling bag slide back to the ground.

I’d get the mayor a dozen pies if that was what it took to keep my job as the market manager for the next few weeks. After that, my career would depend on my keeping the final event of the season on Halloween weekend from turning into the Day of the Dead. I might need an extra sling bag or two for all my preparations.

You can read more about Maria Dolores in A Death in the Flower Garden, the first in the Danger Cove Farmers’ Market Mysteries, available now, and the second in the series, A Slaying in the Orchard, also available now, as well as in A Secret in the Pumpkin Patch (October 3).

Labor Day weekend starts with a bang in Danger Cove when a dead body is found in the orchard of Maria Dolores’ mentor and maybe-boyfriend, Merle! While it’s clear the murder took place long ago, the police are still keeping Merle tied up, leaving Maria on her own to run the local farmers’ market. She’s prepared for the petty squabbles, disorganized vendors, and even a rowdy group of costumed pirates—it comes with the territory. But what she isn’t prepared for is the fresh body found in an isolated corner of the market!

Maria would like to leave the investigation to the local homicide detective, but he’s stretched thin with two separate murders, and her nemesis—the farmer who lost out to her for the manager’s job—is demanding quick answers or else. With a nearly endless array of suspects, since the victim had upset just about everyone at the market, Maria has her work cut out for her! Can she prevent another murder in the market… or will she end up the next victim?

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win your choice of either a digital copy of A Slaying in the Orchard or a digital ARC of A Secret in the Pumpkin Patch. The giveaway ends September 23, 2017. Good luck, everyone!

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About the author
Gin Jones overcame a deeply ingrained habit of thinking and writing like a lawyer in order to write fiction. In her spare time, Gin makes quilts, grows garlic and serves on the board of directors for The XLH Network, Inc. Connect with Gin at ginjones.com.

All comments are welcomed.

A Day in the Life of Melanie Hamilton by Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens

My name is Mel. That’s short for Melanie. I earn my living from inking tattoos at The Mansion on Mystic Isle. It’s a resort across the river from New Orleans in the Louisiana bayou but not a resort like any you’ve ever heard of.

The Mansion is owned by Harry Villars. In fact that particular piece of property has been in the Villars family just about forever, since halfway through the eighteenth century. When it fell on hard times, Harry had it remodeled and turned it into a resort that caters to lovers and zealot fans of the supernatural and paranormal. He hired a whole slew of folks (like me) who could contribute to the bizarre atmosphere of ghosts and soothsayers—mostly it’s all fake. But I have to say that with a lot of the weirdness that goes on at The Mansion, there are days I truly wonder about that.

Me? I just design and ink tattoos—tattoos of fairies and other fantastical creatures, astrological signs, beloved family members who’ve gone on to the spirit world and might be haunting their loved ones, whatever the guests ask me to paint on their skin. And some of the things I’ve been asked to create you’d have trouble believing if I showed you the photos I took when I was done.

But the weirdest and wildest, the absolute piece de resistance was the time a woman in her sixties booked a week at the hotel specifically to have several sessions at Dragons and Deities, the tattoo parlor. That wasn’t the weird part, people came to the resort specifically for the ink all the time. If I say so myself, I’m kind of well known throughout the culture for coming up with innovative designs to match the very specific requests of the Mystic Isle guests.

The unusual part of this job was that the woman—to protect her identity, I’m going to call her Jane Doe—wanted a portrait of her husband on her chest so she could keep him closer to her heart.

“Don’t you have any romance in your soul, Mel?” you ask. “I think it’s charming,” you say. “What’s so weird about that?” you wonder.

The answers, in order are: Yes, I’m very romantic. Yes, wanting to keep your spouse close to your heart is charming. And finally, the weirdness of it comes from the content.

Jane Doe insisted she’d once been abducted by aliens, and during that time had been claimed by one of them and married in a formal ceremony. The two had fallen in love and had been happy living together in her Rocky Mountain high Colorado cabin. That is until E.T. phoned home and found out he’d been drafted. He’d left her with the promise to return and carry her back to his home planet where she’d never age another day and they’d live in matrimonial bliss for hundreds and hundreds of what she called Earth years. She was still waiting. That was when she showed me her dearest.

It was a still photo of the alien from the movie Predator, in all his gruesome glory without the mask and in spectacular Technicolor. His grimacing green and yellow countenance, toothy fanged snarl (which Jane Doe insisted was a loving grin) and bizarre shell-like dreadlocks would have taken me a very long time over many sessions. The cost to Jane Doe would have been staggering, and the commission would have paid my half of the rent for a couple of months—but I just didn’t have the heart to do it.

She took it hard, telling me how much she missed him and sat crying inconsolably for a long time. It was heartbreaking.

I thought about calling someone to help her out of her strange fantasy world, but she seemed harmless enough, and after talking to her for over an hour (after all, she had booked the time), I felt confident that her hubby from another planet was her only leap from reality (even though it was a beaut, f’sure).

I decided to let her be, and to comfort her suggested that in this day and age of CCTV and government stalking everywhere she might be better off not letting on to anyone about her spouse, that it might turn out bad for him if she did.

She wiped her eyes and blew her nose and looked up at me with pure gratitude in her eyes. “You’re right, Miss Hamilton. You’re absolutely right. But I’d still like to have a tattoo to remind me of him.” She sat quietly for a few moments then squared her shoulders, and drew her mouth into a tight line before saying, “How about if I get one of Arnold Schwarzenegger instead?”

You can read more about Melanie in Mystic Mischief, the third book in the “Mystic Isle” mystery series.

Just when Melanie Hamilton thought things couldn’t get stranger at The Mansion at Mystic Isle, she finds herself in the middle of a true pirate treasure hunt! Fortune hunters have arrived Indiana Jones-style at the New Orleans resort where she and boyfriend Jack Stockton work, with their eyes on the prize of a long-lost and priceless letter stolen from the famous pirate Jean Lafitte. Two archeologists, a Hollywood camera crew, and a marauding gator suddenly have Melanie so busy she almost doesn’t even have time to quarrel with Jack over the arrival of his ex-girlfriend… Almost. But her romantic issues take a back seat when a dead body shows up at the home of the resort’s owner. Now it’s up to Mel and the rest of the odd crew at Mystic Isle to bring order back to the bayou and solve the murder. But if someone would kill once for a piece of parchment, would they kill twice? And could Mel wind up at the bottom of Davy Jones’ Locker?

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Giveaway: One (1) U.S. reader will win a frosted glass coffee/tea mug and print copy of Mystic Mischief; one (1) U.S. reader will win a 3-book set of Mystic Isle Mysteries; and two (2) readers will win a Kindle/Nook/Kobo copy of Mystic Mischief. The giveaway ends September 20, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the authors
Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package.

Connect with them at smithandsteffens.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

All comments are welcomed.

A day in the life of Izzy Lewis by Wendy Byrne

Since we last chatted last October, I’ve morphed from Isabella to Izzy. Gone is the woman who obsessed about everything from having perfect hair to the latest and best designer fashions. Now, I’m more comfortable having my hair in a ponytail and wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt. After coming face to face with a murderer and surviving, I figured it was time to stop sweating the small stuff.

As proof I’m a new woman, I’ve embraced my gift as an artist and learned to love painting once again. Rather than the stuck up social climbers I’d been hanging with in Manhattan, my BFFs are a group of women called the Qs who are in their 70s and 80s. I’m seeing a guy that I like a whole lot, and he isn’t a scum sucking, dirt bag. Win/win. I worry less and enjoy more. . .well. . .except for my penchant for discovering dead bodies.

I lived in Manhattan my whole life where there’s all manner of criminal activities 24/7. But I’ve reached a whole different level of mayhem now. If I didn’t know better I’d swear dead bodies and Iowa go hand in hand—at least for me—since nobody else seems to have this problem. I’ve lived here eight months and just stumbled across my second dead body.

What if I told you it got worse? My ex-husband appeared out of the blue, talking shade and sucking me into his mess. As the saying goes, I’ve got bigger fish to fry than him. The Qs and I are on a mission to find a killer while trying to keep our investigative efforts on the down low and avoiding my ex like the plague.

It started innocently enough. We’d just pulled into Winterset, Iowa where I’m the artistic director of a quilt show. The Qs were anxious to check out the inside while I went to the loading dock to organize the latest arrival of quilts. Needless to say, things didn’t go quite as smoothly as I’d planned:

Curious, I eased toward the back of the truck to see if there was some kind of display structure to help me organize. I figured while the workers were still MIA, I could get a lot done without their help.

I located some rolling display racks behind one of the boxes, complete with padded hangers. Sifting through the array of quilts I’d found in the first few boxes, I hung them up one by one, not bothering to sort yet. But I’d already run out of display rack space.

There had to be more racks somewhere amongst all these boxes. I shifted some of the smaller boxes around until I spotted a large box against the back of the truck. Since the box was too heavy and cumbersome to move, I ripped open a corner, peered inside, and spotted what looked like a blue moving blanket.

It looked promising, but I needed a closer look. I hoisted myself onto the top and looked inside with my trusty cell phone flashlight app. The sides started to buckle from my weight, and the box bulged at the bottom as the load shifted. I started to tumble and grabbed on to the corner of the box. The box ripped open, sending me sprawling to the bottom of the truck.

A blue blanket landed with a thump next to me. A shot of reddish fur peeked out the top, causing a girlish squeal to erupt from me. Since the fur didn’t move, I assumed the rodent was dead. But that didn’t make it less creepy.

I scrambled to a standing position, but just as I was about to walk away and wait for the manly types to deal with a dead animal, I spotted what looked like a pair of stilettos sticking out of the other side of the quilt. Scenes of déjà vu poked behind my eyeballs.

Do not faint.

You can read more about Izzy in Double Trouble in Iowa, the second book in the “Izzy Lewis” mystery series, coming September 5, 2017.

Amateur sleuth and artist Izzy Lewis’ life is getting more complicated by the moment. First, she has to deal with an ex-husband she thought she’d left in the rearview mirror. Then, she happens to discover a dead body while unpacking for a local quilt show. Now, the suspect in the murder is asking for her help in proving his innocence. Talk about a troublesome trifecta!

Despite the fact the accused is an ex-con, Izzy believes in his innocence and suspects the local detective is railroading the guy for personal reasons. With the help of the Qs—her Jessica Fletcher–wannabe band of seniors—Izzy sets out to uncover the truth. But with her budding relationship with her hot new neighbor on thin ice and a hyper-vigilant detective watching her every move, Izzy finds herself treading a thin line between sleuth and suspect. Can she catch a small-town murderer. . .or will Izzy be the victim of double trouble in Iowa?

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About the author
Wendy is a USA TODAY bestselling author who lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband. She loves to take long walks and think about plot twists and turns. Most days you can find her pounding away at her laptop spinning tales and inflicting mayhem on her hero and heroine until they beg for mercy. She writes everything from cozy mysteries to romantic suspense all infused with a touch of humor and, of course, the happily ever after.

All comments are welcomed.

My Musing ~ Deadly Tails by Beth Prentice

Deadly Tails by Beth Prentice is the second book in the “Unleashed” mystery series. Publisher: Gemma Halliday Publishing, August 2017

Chloe McDermott’s life in Westport is pretty close to perfect. She has a good job, a gorgeous boyfriend, Brody, and an adorable little dog, Theo.

But when Chloe receives a gift of an old chessboard from an elderly friend, her perfect life unexpectedly falls apart. Theo is dognapped, the chessboard is stolen, and her friend apparently commits suicide in his home. But when the autopsy reveals a murder, Chloe knows something doesn’t add up, and she suspects the old game board is at the center of it all. She enlists the help of her boyfriend’s hot-headed father and her flamboyantly fabulous BFF to get to the heart of the truth. Can she solve the riddle and find a killer before Theo is added to the body count? Or will she lose her little furry friend forever?

What an amusing book that tickled my funny bone. This fast-paced light whodunit was both entertaining and engaging. The narrative hit the right spot, pulling me in as I had to know what happens next. The mystery was well-crafted with suspects and clues that kept me in tuned to every scene and action. The situations the cast got entangled with was a hoot and I can’t wait for the next book in this delightfully appealing series.

A day in the life of Lizzie Jones by Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens

It’s been said Lizzie Jones is the very definition of an animal lover. My being a veterinary science student, a pet sitter, and volunteering at the vet clinic have made that accurate.

I’d taken extra time getting ready before heading to the clinic because my boyfriend, Tino Morales, was picking me up for lunch to celebrate his mamá’s birthday at the Lobster Pot. For the occasion, I’d worn my best and newest jeans and favorite blue sweater.

I was in the clinic’s back room, just about to put on a smock, when an agitated cry came over the intercom. “Lizzie, come quick!”

I bolted to the front. Holly, the receptionist, held the door open as Peter Buckley rushed in carrying Horatio, his German short-haired pointer.

“Lizzie,”—Peter thrust the big dog at me like the sixty-pound brute weighed no more than a sack of potatoes—“he’s hurt.”

Peter’s momentum and the weight of the dog staggered me, but I managed to stay upright, stumbling sideways like a drunken sailor before heading to an exam room.

“What happened?” I asked.

Peter fell in step beside me. His voice quivered. “We were out hunting. He went into the pond after a bird and came out bleeding—tree branch or something else cut him.”

Horatio was sopping wet and covered in mud from his nose to the tip of his tail, and since he was now plastered up against me, I was sopping wet and covered in mud too. His injured and bloody hind leg was up against my belly.

The dog shook and panted, whimpering deep in his throat. He tried to lick my face. Poor guy. My heart went out to him and Peter too.

Peter helped me lay Horatio gently on the table.

Horatio began to scrabble, trying to gain purchase on the slick stainless steel. I could see the gash on his right hind leg—trying to clot but still oozing.

Peter’s hands trembled as he tried to calm his dog.

“Doc Whitaker will take care of him.” I laid my hand on his, barely finishing before the door opened and Dr. Adam Whitaker, blond and movie-star handsome, rushed in.

He took a brief moment to question how the injury had been sustained then bent low over the dog. “Hold him for me, Lizzie.”

Poor Horatio went crazy trying to get up, like maybe he’d make a break for it. I spread myself over him. Adam examined the cut.

Now I was covered in mud and slime, and as I struggled with the terrified squirming dog, I caught a whiff of myself. I reeked of stagnant pond scum and wet dog.

Eventually Horatio’s leg was stitched up, and he was settled into a kennel until the anesthesia wore off.

I was heading to clean up the exam room when Tino walked in.

I couldn’t help noticing he looked great—hair perfect, face smooth and clean-shaven. He wore a pair of black jeans and a crisp white-collared shirt under a khaki blazer.

I spread my arms to display my favorite blue sweater and newest, best-fitting jeans in all their mud, blood, and dog hair and saliva glory.

“There was an emergency,” I said simply. “I. . .I. . .I’m so sorry. I know this day is important to you, and I feel like I’ve let you down.”

I was stone cold crazy about Tino Morales, my hot as a chili pepper, gentle as a Buddhist monk Latino, and the idea of disappointing him stung.

There was no way I could join Tino and his family. In my smelly, sorry state, I didn’t figure he’d even want me riding in his car.

“Let me down?” Tino stood blinking his beautiful brown eyes at me, his smile never wavering. “How can you think that? How’s the animal?”

“He’s doing well.”

“That’s good.”

Doc Whitaker walked out, quickly sizing things up. “Peter came in before you could change?”

I nodded.

“And you had plans for lunch?”

I nodded again.

Tino started to speak, but Doc Whitaker beat him to the punch. “Tino, how would you feel about escorting a woman dressed in scrubs to lunch?”

Tino grinned. “Scrubs? Lizzie’s beautiful no matter what she’s wearing, even mud and dog hair.”

My heart swelled.

“Lizzie,” Adam said, “why don’t you go in the back for a quick shower and pick out one of the newer sets of scrubs. That way Tino can show you off for the kind-hearted woman you are.”

“Do we have time?” I asked Tino.

“Of course,” he said.

Later when we walked into the Lobster Pot, Tino’s family was already there. No one seemed to notice the scrubs with puppies all over them—no one but the waiter.

He asked, “And what can I get for you, Doctor?”

I began. “Not doctor.”

Tino finished. “Not yet, but soon she’ll be the best veterinarian in the state.”

I leaned over, kissing him.

“Nice,” he said. “BTW, you look adorable in those scrubs.”

“Well,” I said, “at least I smell better.”

You can read more about Lizzie in Divas, Diamonds & Death, the 15th book in the “Danger Cove” (Pet Sitter) mystery series.

This little piggy may not be coming home.

This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. And this little piggy got kidnapped, and her diamond collar was swiped, and then there was a murder and false accusations. . .and. . ..and. . .oh my goodness!

Pet Sitter turned sleuth, Lizzie Jones is excited about the upcoming Second Chance Animal Rescue fundraiser. The celebrity draw, Sabrina Ramirez, is a pet psychic famous for her TV show The Critter Communicator. Sabrina arrives with her entourage that includes Rosie, an adorable teacup pig that Sabrina treats like royalty, Sabrina’s buff bodyguard, her devoted nephew, and unexpectedly, her estranged ex-husband.

When Sabrina needs a pet sitter Lizzie is thrilled to take on the job. That is until the little piglet is pignapped on Lizzie’s watch—along with her diamond collar! But things go from bad to worse when the fundraiser turns deadly and Lizzie’s granddad is high on the murder suspect list. Lizzie jumps headlong into clearing her granddad’s name and finding the pignapper and the killer. Are they one and the same, or is she looking for two separate types of swine? And will she find them first. . .or will the killer be the one frying Lizzie’s bacon?

Buy Link

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Giveaway: Two readers selected at random will receive their choice of any of Jean and Sally’s books (e-book, everywhere or print, US only). Leave a comment below for your chance to win. The giveaway ends August 21, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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Meet the author
Sally J. Smith and Jean Steffens, are partners in crime—crime writing, that is. They live in the Valley of the Sun in Arizona, awesome for eight months out of the year, an inferno the other four. They write bloody murder, flirty romance, and wicked humor all in one package.

Connect with them at smithandsteffens.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

All comments are welcomed.

A day in the life of Theo McDermott by Beth Prentice

This morning had started like any other day. I’d opened one eye and looked up as Chloe stirred next to me, pulling the blanket away from me as she moved, allowing the cool morning air to sweep over my body. As she threw her legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing her eyes as she did so, I figured it really was time to get up. Rolling onto all fours, I pushed my butt in the air and stretched. Once that was done, I shook myself, fluffing my glorious fur until I resembled a fluff ball. Morning routine complete. . .tick.

“Good morning Dude,” said Chloe, rubbing me behind the ears. Oooh that felt good. Just a little scratch would be better. . .yep right there. . .that’s it. I blew out a blissful sigh as she kissed the top of my head before making her way to the bathroom.

My name is Theo and apparently I’m a Chihuahua. My doppelganger was on television last night, and they kept calling him The Rock. Looking at him was almost like looking in the mirror. He was tall, strong and all the girls swooned when he smiled at them. I have that same effect on the women. One look from me and they’re putty in my little paws. Which is really how I came to live with Chloe. You see, she was supposed to hand me in to the animal shelter, but I used my big puppy dog eyes and she couldn’t resist. And really, it’s worked out the best for both of us. I get treated like a king and she gets my little kisses. Win, win!

Chloe’s a parcel courier with the local post office and most days I get to ride along with her. That means I get to travel in the van, and get to meet the residents of Westport. Today started like any other work day. We went to the sorting shed, I was given lots of treats, pats and tickles from her co-workers, and then we were on the road, the wind blowing in my face—from the air conditioning vent that is. There’s no way I’m sticking my head out the car window—what do you think I am? A dog? Pfft! The first disappointment came when Chloe stopped at Jimmy’s house and I had to wait in the car because it was raining. I quite like Jimmy. He’s retired now and has nothing better to do than buy me treats. But instead of getting spoilt, I had to stand on a stack of packages, my paws resting on the van door, pressing my nose against the cold glass window, watching them. I whimpered quietly—alright it wasn’t quiet. It was quite loud really, not that they seemed to notice me. The men sitting in the car opposite us noticed me though. They’d been watching Jimmy’s house as we pulled up, but as soon as I started to howl, they turned their full attention to me. Maybe that was the point where I should have quietened down, because I’ve since realized that sometimes in life, it’s better to go unnoticed.

You see, the day changed dramatically after that. When that same car pulled up in our street at home, and the guy got out and spoke to Chloe, I knew he wasn’t a good man. I knew that someone had to scare him away from her. I was the Rock. It was my duty to keep her safe. But Chloe had placed me inside our home, so I couldn’t get to him, to warn him that I was on the job. Thankfully, whatever Chloe said to him made him go away and life returned to normal. Until another man showed up, opening our gate and strutting up the front path. I had the perfect view looking down on him from the window seat in the bedroom. He had that look about him and I knew he wasn’t good. I needed to show him that I was the boss and I would protect Chloe, even if my life depended on it. Which it turns out, it may just.

I tried to tell the man to go away. I tried to tell him that he was not welcome. I ran down the stairs, growling, barking, and baring my teeth. I was ferocious! But instead of running away, instead of being scared, he opened the door, picked me and left, taking me with him.

As Chloe’s screams echoed in my ears, the home I loved disappeared in his rear-view mirror.

Shivering and shaking, I reassessed my plan of action. Maybe I wasn’t ferocious, maybe I wasn’t strong, but I could be darned annoying when I put my mind to it. I stepped over to the man, used my big puppy-dog eyes and tapped him unrelentingly with my paw. Give him a night of this treatment, and I’d be home before I knew it.

You can read more about Theo in Deadly Tails, the second book in the “Unleashed” mystery series.

Chloe McDermott’s life in Westport is pretty close to perfect. She has a good job, a gorgeous boyfriend, Brody, and an adorable little dog, Theo.

But when Chloe receives a gift of an old chessboard from an elderly friend, her perfect life unexpectedly falls apart. Theo is dognapped, the chessboard is stolen, and her friend apparently commits suicide in his home. But when the autopsy reveals a murder, Chloe knows something doesn’t add up, and she suspects the old game board is at the center of it all. She enlists the help of her boyfriend’s hot-headed father and her flamboyantly fabulous BFF to get to the heart of the truth. Can she solve the riddle and find a killer before Theo is added to the body count? Or will she lose her little furry friend forever?

Buy Link

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Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a signed copy of Deadly Tails. The giveaway ends August 12, 2017. Good luck everyone!

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About the author
Beth Prentice is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the Westport Mysteries. Killer Unleashed, her GHP debut novel, received a bronze medal in the 2016 Readers Favorite International Book Awards.

She was born in Manchester, England, but after moving backwards and forwards across the world 13 times in 14 years she decided that at the age of 18 that Australia was to be her home. She now lives on the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia where every day is a good one. She is the lucky mother of two grown up children, and, along with her ever-patient husband, she is the proud but sometimes flustered owner of four dogs, a cat, and a canary. She has always had a love of reading, and even though her background is in accounting, she has now discovered her love of writing. Her main wish is to write books you can sit back, relax with, and escape from your everyday life. . .and ones that you walk away from with a smile! When she’s not writing you will usually find her at the beach with a coffee in hand, pursuing her favorite pastime –people watching!

Connect with Beth at bethprenticenovels.com, on Facebook and on Twitter.

All comments are welcomed.