Nov 29, 2011

Black Friday Blog Hop Winners

As you know we ran a Black Friday Blog Hop.
All the winners have been notified, but I thought I'd list them here also.
Ellis Vidler won an iPod Shuffle
Renee S. won
$15 GC and a mugful of goodies.

$20 Amazon gift card, and an electronic copy of my novel Demon Soul.
Kathryn Merkel
pdf of Within the Law Teresa K
and she won a framed copy of a poem "Safe Harbor

Kathryn M. won a t-shirt

Veronica Scott won a free download of Shelly Munro's backlist and a pdf copy of The Cabin

Michelle Bledsoe won a journal, pen and a bookmark

Nov 25, 2011

Black Friday Blog Hop

Today is the Black Friday Blog Hop for Marketing for Romance Writers.
Ten authors, then prizes. You should be hopping instead of shopping.

Here are the participants:
Chris Redding
W. Lynn Chantale
 Christine Ashworth 
Chelle Cordero
Tammy Dennings Maggy
Shelly Munro
Debra Holland
Jane Wakely
Smoky Zeidel
Ann Siracusa

Each author is offering a prize and winners will be drawn on Saturday November 26.

Happy hopping!

Nov 23, 2011

Cover Love

Never judge a book by its cover – that’s the old saying but I must admit, I for one will definitely take notice of a gorgeous cover, whereas one that doesn’t appeal to me, I might well not even pick up. Covers are so important, and authors on the whole don’t usually have a lot of input, although I have to say Penguin/Berkley were absolutely fabulous in taking my suggestions into consideration.

FORBIDDEN, book 1 in my ancient historical series, is set during the first century AD during the invasion of the Roman Legions into Cymru ~

Between a warrior and a princess comes an erotic passion as all-consuming as the hatred between their warring worlds…

The image I had in my mind for FORBIDDEN was deeply romantic, with the hero holding onto his heroine and with them both looking away from the “camera”. I had visions of them in a forest glade with a waterfall in the background. One thing I really wanted was for the hero to be dressed in his Roman regalia so it gave an instant visual of when the book was set and what it was about.

My editor loved my ideas but suggested it might have to be a bit sexier. So I thought I would end up with a half naked guy on the cover. Now don’t get me wrong – I love half naked heroes on covers! But I had this burning desire for the cover to show exactly what the book was about – and it’s about a Roman centurion, a Druid princess and a lot of the story takes place in the forests of ancient Wales. And yes, the waterfall has great significance!

When I saw the cover the art department came up with I just about fell off my chair. It was perfect. Just as I had imagined, but even better! I’m still in lust with Maximus’s biceps and Carys even has bi-colored eyes.

Trained in sensuality, a Druid priestess finds herself falling for the wrong man—the warrior who’s taken her prisoner… 

When we were discussing the cover for CAPTIVE, book 2 in the Forbidden series, I assumed it would be similar in design as the first book in the series. But Marketing wanted to go for a darker look and when I saw the cover for the first time I was completely blown away. Without even reading the book they had managed to convey Bren’s deeply ingrained sense of protectiveness and the overall feel was one of danger looming.

I showed a few writer friends and was amazed at the reaction. Several who write dark paranormal/fantasy said they would definitely pick CAPTIVE off the shelf – based entirely on the cover – whereas the FORBIDDEN cover didn’t appeal to them in the same way.

This really intrigued me because when I look at the FORBIDDEN cover I see the mist swirling around the forest and to me that gives a mysterious, mystical atmosphere. But the CAPTIVE cover does give a much stronger indication of the light fantasy element threaded throughout the book.

What is it about a cover that really grabs your attention? Do you prefer to see a gorgeous half naked hero on the cover of erotic romance? And what elements about either FORBIDDEN or CAPTIVE appeals (or doesn’t appeal) to you?


Check out the video!

Nov 16, 2011

Aithne Jarretta’s New Release ~ Kissing Santa

Hi. I'm Aithne Jarretta, your tweetin-fiend here at the MFRW Author blog (taking a brief break from Twitter) to share some tidbits about my newest story, KISSING SANTA. This tale blossoms in the heart of holiday spirit and love reunited. It's short, bittersweet and scrumptious.

Readers will find just a hint of paranormal (Santa Claus). Paranormal-lite is unusual for my stories due to my overindulgence in world building, but the reason is simple.

KISSING SANTA is inspired by several true events in my Christmases past. 

You see, I grew up in one of those neighborhoods where Secret Santas roamed the streets on Christmas Eve and handed presents to children from bright red sleighs pulled by modern-day vans filled with Santa helpers and plenty of gifts. (whew! Breathe ... Aithne!)

Reminiscences run deep and tug at the heartstrings. Mix those two magical elements with my three favorite story essentials; bittersweet separation, love's reunion and happy endings.... What you have is a story born of romance.

The last Christmas I was gifted with the magical Secret Santa visitation N.E. Ohio experienced a major snowstorm. Wind-chill factor and huge (yet beautiful) snowflakes nearly stopped Santa.... But now I'm giving too much away.

I'd prefer to share this magical moment that Lily, the heroine of Kissing Santa, has with her young nephew, Sammy.


Lily wondered at Sammy's odd behavior.
With an impish shrug Sammy faced the frosty window. Then he raised his right hand, placed it firmly on the glass and held it there for a long moment.
Watching him, Lily trembled from the cold. She crossed hands over her chest and rubbed sweater covered arms in an attempt to chase away the chill.  Little Sammy had been just over two years old when she left. No wonder she didn’t understand him—she didn’t know him.
Small shoulders beneath a holiday inspired red flannel shirt shook with mirth. He winked and pulled his hand from the glass.
A perfect handprint presented itself—a clear window to the exterior world. He leaned forward and demonstrated that she should give it a try. “See? It's just right.”
Surprised at his simple action, gratitude pooled around her heart. The little gift mellowed her like the warm scent of spiced cider.
She laughed softly and leaned down. There it was—the record breaking snow squall. Large snowflakes whizzed by on the bone-chilling wind. Their size and multitude completely obscured the street out front.
“He’ll still get through,” Sammy said with all the confidence of youthful innocence. “He’s Santa Claus.”

* * * * * * * * * *


If you enjoy trailers, play Kissing Santa's video. Comments are always welcome.

Today, I live far away from snowstorms. But as mentioned above, Readers can find me primarily on Twitter. The pulse of the flowing contact stream is what makes Twitter my favorite online place. I respond to all @AithneJarretta mentions and would enjoy having you join our conversation.!/AithneJarretta

Tweet this & Receive a Secret Santa Stocking-Stuffer:

RT Yowza! @AithneJarretta is Kissing Santa on the MFRWA Blog ;D #readthis #WW #99cents #MFRW

The stories I write are showcased on my newly revamped blog:


Thank you for stopping by. Before you leave, why not check out some of the other postings here. MFRW has many fascinating contributors and I'm sure you'll find something that matches you perfectly.

Peace & Love be with you always.
~ Aithne Jarretta
Home    Twitter    Kindle    Nook    Smashwords

Nov 15, 2011

An Interview with Coleen Kwan

Today we have the wonderful Coleen Kwan with us to tell us about her new release When Harriet Came Home from Carina Press. Join us in welcoming her to the MFRW Authors’ Blog. Welcome, Coleen!

Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they? (Please include the cover so we can post it as well.)

My debut novel, WHEN HARRIET CAME HOME, is a contemporary romance set in Australia. It’s a fun, sweet story about an ‘ugly duckling’ heroine who reluctantly returns to her hometown only to meet her old teenage crush. Here’s the blurb:

After ten years of exile, Harriet Brown is back in town. Things have definitely changed, but so has she. Now the confident owner of a catering business, she's no longer the shy, overweight girl everyone—including her hot teenage crush—used to ignore. In fact, she's determined to make peace with Adam Blackstone for her part in exposing his father's secret affairs and corrupt behavior as mayor.

But Adam has changed as well. No longer a pampered, rich pinup boy, he just wants to reestablish his family's good name. He reluctantly agrees to a truce with Harriet, and is surprised by how changed she is. He doesn't want to be drawn to her, but he can't seem to resist her allure.

As Harriet struggles to come to terms with her past, her adolescent infatuation with Adam morphs into something more serious… Will she ever be accepted again? Or will ancient history ruin the chance of a future full of possibilities?

The book is available from Carina Press, Amazon, and other ebookstores.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’ve recently sold my first steampunk romance to Carina Press! It comes out next year, but I don’t have a publication date yet.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?

I was lucky enough to receive a great first review from Naughty Cougar Tales. “I could not put this book down, I read until the early hours of the morning, until my eyes refused to stay open. As soon as I woke up the next morning, I did housework then got right back into the book until I finished it. The emotions, secondary cast and most of all Harriett and Adam kept me enthralled until the end.”

Do you feel humor is important in fiction and why?

I love a bit of humor in my characters, but humor is very tricky to write as it’s so subjective. I’m not very good at writing humor. A judge once wrote on my score sheet, “Your heroine, Tamsyn, reminds me a lot of Stephanie Plum… without the humor.” Ouch!
Please tell us about yourself (family, hobbies, education, etc.)

I live in Sydney, Australia with my partner and two children. I graduated from university with a science degree and for many years I worked in IT. About three years ago I quit my job and started writing. I’ve had a lot of setbacks and rejections, but writing is such fun I couldn’t stop. I made my first sale to Carina Press in February of this year, and it’s been a steep learning curve from then on, not just in terms of editing, but all the associated marketing and promoting. My favorite hobby is reading! Now that I write, I find I have much less time for reading, which is a great pity.
Are you a member of any author groups - RWA, critique groups, etc.?

I belong to Romance Writers of Australia. They’re a great organization. As an unpublished writer, I entered many of their competitions and learned so much from the judges’ score sheets. Through them I’ve also joined online critique groups, face-to-face groups, and attended online conferences.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I hope I’ll still be writing! I’d love to be multi-published, perhaps in several genres, but most importantly I hope I will still enjoy creating stories and characters.
How long have you been writing - have you always wanted to be a writer?

I dabbled a bit in my early twenties, but starting getting serious about three years ago. Although I’ve always been an avid reader, I haven’t always wanted to be a writer. It’s just evolved over the years.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

I hope readers will be transported away from their everyday lives, at least for a small time. I hope they will become emotionally invested in my characters, even if they hate them or want to strangle them, that’s good! The last thing I want is for my readers to be bored.

Where can your readers find you?

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online?

Nov 11, 2011

An Interview with M.S. Spencer

Please Help me today in welcoming M.S. Spencer to the MFRW Authors’ Blog.

Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they? (Please include the cover so we can post it as well.)

Three sisters, three lovers, and three spirits guarding a dangerous river. Add long-lost master artworks, stolen prototypes and a resident genius and you have a recipe for jealousy, sex, love and a little larceny. Triptych, due out November 9 from Secret Cravings Publishing, is a full-length novel of romantic suspense.

Miranda Cabot lost all interest in love after her husband Edward crashed into the Potomac River rocks called the Three Sisters. Her sister Honor likewise prefers her tower and her writing.  Not so the third sister Sybil, who longs for romance with a dashing Frenchman.  She advertises for said hero on Craig’s List and is rewarded with the Chevalier du Bon Arnaque, who comes to Washington from Strasbourg on unidentified business.

Miranda and Honor believe the Chevalier is a crook and ask their neighbors Dieter Heiliger and his grandson Corey, to act as chaperones. With three beautiful, strong-willed women in a house filled with three handsome, virile men, the inevitable result is an intricate web of jealousy, sex, and intrigue. Who will end up with whom, and will the Three Sisters take another life as the legend calls for?

Purchase Information:
Triptych, by M. S. Spencer
Published November 9 by Secret Cravings (
eBook, 65,000 words, M/F, 3 flames
ISBN: 978-1-61885-064-5  

What can we expect from you in the future?

I have a murder/suspense/romance in final draft, tentatively entitled The Torpedo Factory Murders. It’s the story of an artist who falls in love with the man who wants to destroy her beloved art center. Along the way they get mixed up in a complicated stew of murder and politics. At present I’m in Florida to research my next story, set at the famous Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.  It will involve intrigue, murder and suspense. And love. And sex. And international trafficking of exotic birds. And dolphins and sea turtles. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. 

What is your writing routine once you start a book?

By the time I sit down to write I’ve already spent hours thinking about the story, plotline and characters. Once I have a general picture in my head I’ll bang out an outline—listing the salient traits of the hero and heroine, what they do, etc. and a few sentences describing the plot. Then I make a loooong list of potential names for the principals.  I know now not to settle on a name till I’ve reached the third chapter of the draft.  The characters haven’t defined themselves well enough before that. I used to write bits and pieces of scenes & then try to fit them together but that was too complicated for my tiny brain, so now I simply keep writing from start to finish. Each day of writing begins with rereading the earlier couple of pages and fiddling with them. Then I find something else to do—check email, look for the cat, any activity I can think of that could be described as useful, if not productive. About 10 am I begin the serious writing.  Quit at eleven for my constitutional, back to work at 2 but a nap beckons. About four I wake up wand write madly for two hours, grumbling about all the time I wasted.  I wonder how many other writers find they are most creative when the dinner bell is about to ring?

What kind of research do you do? 

All kinds.  It’s so important to be accurate in the details when you write. I’m reading a thriller by Steven Berry now, and it threw me when he described a garden as brimming with mums, asters, and pansies.  I mean, really. I use the internet to recheck facts and maps, as well as for basic research. For example, for Triptych I had to look up train schedules for the Paris to Strasbourg route to fit my time-line. I also spend a lot of time on the ground wherever the book is set. My third book, Losers Keepers, is set on the eastern shore island of Chincoteague and, even though I’d visited it at least twice a year for some fifteen years, I went back and followed the itinerary of my heroine to make sure she didn’t make a wrong turn into a dead end when she was supposed to be following the bad guy.

Who, if anyone, has influenced your writing?

My father loved to write, although most of his published works were academic.  I inherited my love of writing from him, but my mother gave me my love of reading. When I was young I read everything I could lay my hands on, which has stood me in good stead now that I’m writing. I absorbed a great deal of literary structure, sense of place, and the richness of human nature from my reading. The strongest influence came from the English romantic writers—Austen, the Brontes, and Thomas Hardy, but also from Iris Murdoch, Dostoyevsky, and the early works of Anne Rice.

How many books have you written, how many have been published?

I have written six full-length novels so far. The first one, a murder mystery set in Yorktown, Virginia, sat idly awaiting an act of God for years, until it was inadvertently thrown out by my husband, may he rest in peace.  It was good practice (I mean the writing) and I would have probably reworked it at a later date, but unfortunately I wrote it before the existence of flash drives and off-site storage and all I had was one hard copy.  My second novel, Lost in His Arms was published in 2009, my third, Lost and Found, in 2010, both by Red Rose Publishing. The great folks at Secret Cravings took on my third, Losers Keepers, which came out in July, and will release Triptych November 9. My sixth, tentatively titled The Torpedo Factory Murders, is still a WIP. The seventh remains a twinkle in my mind’s eye.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Practice.  Like any skill, the more you practice the better you get. I’ve been writing all my life (granted, in fits & starts), but I’ve noticed a distinct improvement in my writing from my first published work to my latest. Write every day, even if it’s a grocery list or a haiku. A very good tool is a journal.  Try to write in it every night before bed to calm you and sort your thoughts out.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

No question: it’s rereading a passage and thinking, “Wow, that’s good! I wonder who wrote that?

If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?

Vienna. Absolutely. I have visited and lived in many places—in the Middle East, Europe
North America, and South America, but the week I spent in Vienna was the most magical. The food is wonderful, the architecture varied and eclectic, and the history romantic. But what I loved most of all was the music. It was everywhere—in the parks, spilling out of cafes, in churches and museums. I remember passing an orchestra playing Mozart in the street in honor of a store opening. How cool is that?

I love pizza with...

I love pizza with Phil. Oh, and with anchovies, jalapenos, and capicolla. The tomato sauce should not be sweet but abundant, the crust medium thick and the capicolla crisp.  Of course it’s very hard to find a restaurant that offers these ingredients. I found one and when I called to place the order, the order taker fell silent. Finally “Joe” said wonderingly, “I think you’re the first person to ever order this combination. And I’ve been in business for thirty years.”  I was so proud.

M.S. Spencer

Where can your readers find you?

Facebook Author Page:

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online?

My website is a freebie from Google and extremely difficult to edit, I try to keep it updated with links etc. and have even posted a lot of my poems there, but the blogspot is SO easy to deal with that I’m gravitating more to it.  At first I only posted news of blogs, interviews etc. but I noticed that the only posts that garnered comments were off-the-cuff remarks about events in my life or musings.

Nov 10, 2011

An Interview With Rebecca J. Clark

Today we have the wonderful Rebecca J. Clark here to tell us about her latest book. Please help me in welcoming her to the MFRW Author’s Blog.


Tell us about your latest book, including its genre. Does it cross over to other genres? If so, what are they? (Please include the cover so we can post it as well.)
My latest book is Her One-Night Prince. It’s a sweet romance I wrote for Bookstrand, about a shy, sheltered woman who wants to go to her 10-year class reunion as a changed woman. Don’t let the “sweet” tag put you off though—there’s still plenty of sexual tension and steam.

What can we expect from you in the future?
I have a book coming out in the spring or summer of 2012 from The Wild Rose Press. It’s a far cry from my current books, which are light-hearted and funny. Deliver the Moon is longer and much more emotional and angsty.

Do you have a favorite comment or question from a reader?
My favorite letter from a reader was for my first book, Borrowed Stilettos which is VERY steamy. She told me she and her husband hadn’t had sex in more than 6 months. Then she read my book and couldn’t wait to jump her husband when he got home. She told me my book changed their marriage.

Why did you decide to write romance novels?When I was a kid, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. Then, when I was 11, I read my first Harlequin Romance, and I was hooked. I loved how that little book made me feel at the end and how I felt like I was that beautiful, smart heroine. I became a die-hard romance reader right then, and I knew that was my life’s calling—to someday make readers feel the same way I did after reading that first romance.

Generally, how long does it take you to write a book?
I am not the right person to ask about this. One of the pros of writing for a small press is that I have no deadlines. I can write when I have time or feel like writing. But that’s also one of the cons of writing for a small press. If I had a deadline, I would meet it. But with no deadline, I tend to flit from project to project, working on whichever one I feel like working on at the time. If I focused on just one project at a time, however, it would probably still take me a good 6-8 months to write a full-length novel.

Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?
I have really wacky hours in my day job (I’m a personal fitness trainer and instructor), so my writing routine depends on the day. Some days, I work a triple shift, which means I’m fitting in my writing that day in 20 minute increments. Other days, I work just a few hours in the morning, which means I can write in a 1-2 hr block in the afternoon or evening.

What is your writing process?
I can define my process in just one word: a mess. Okay, that’s two words. I start out as a pantser, then finish as a plotter. I always start out with a premise and a title—I have to have a good title before I can start writing. And so far, my publishers have let me keep my titles. Next, I figure out who the characters are, their basic GMCs, then I start writing until I get stuck, usually on page 70 or so. By this time I know a little more about my characters and their problems. At this point, I plot out the rest of the book through the end. Then I write again until I get stuck, and repeat the whole process. Like I said, it’s a mess. I’m trying to become more of a plotter, but…

What about your family, do they know not to bother you when you are writing - or are there constant interruptions?My kids are both teenagers now, and they know if I’m sitting at the computer that means I’m writing, even if my fingers aren’t moving. My husband, however, hasn’t figured that out yet, no matter how many times I remind him. Luckily, he’s super supportive of my writing, and has gotten used to doing his own laundry and eating dinner at 9 p.m. most nights.

What do you do to relax and recharge your batteries?
Because I’m in the fitness industry, you can probably figure this out LOL. I work out to recharge. This might mean a long walk outside or on the treadmill, or strength training or Zumba class (which I teach twice a week).  I also like to play the piano and paint. And read as much as possible, of course.

If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?
That depends on your taste. If you like super steamy (as in, “I would never let my mom read this?” even though my mom did read it—YIKES!) then I’d suggest my first book, Borrowed Stilettos. If a bit sweeter is your cup of tea, then I’d suggest my newest release, Her One-Night Prince.

Are there any words of encouragement for unpublished writers?
Don’t ever, ever give up. If you quit today, how will you know that you might have sold tomorrow?

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
Mood can go from 0-60 in about 2 seconds without warning or reason.

Where can your readers find you?
Twitter: @rebeccajclark

Where’s your favorite place to hang out online?
Either Twitter or Facebook.

Nov 9, 2011

A Discussion with Author Julie Eberhart Painter on Branding

Today we have with us the wonderful Julie Eberhart Painter to discuss branding and how an author can establish their brand. Please join us in welcoming Julie!

Branding? What it really it
Julie Eberhart Painter

Branding?  What is it?  I wanted to know more about the term and its use since it apparently applies to us and our writing, not just large corporations or thos guys and gals in the pastures. 

Definition: Voice? Plot? Values? Reliability, a promise that I will wind up the details of my twists and turns in the plot.

Ah-ha. Branding is me. My integrity combined with my interests and values create my brand, because who I am contributes to and is incorporated into what I write, whether it’s a travel essay, a blog or flash fiction.

But how does my brand apply to my three latest Champagne novels?

In the contemporary Mortal Coil, a widow with a ten-year old daughter tries to save her nursing home residents from the Ponytail Perp. The cop assigned to the murder case and she become allies, friends, lovers, and more.  The brand here is sweet romance, family values, and sense of responsibility and altruism. I must b trusted to wrap up the details.

In Tangled Web, an innocent woman is seduced by what we would now call a player, but in 1935, was a user, a selfish rogue or a philanderer who takes no responsibility for their child. She rebuilds her life and moves from his influence to become a nationally known… The brand here is grit, suspense and eventually sweet romance and the promise that the author will not only wrap up the details but will not commit any anachronisms. 

Kill Fee, my October 3 release, is so named because it involves an environmentally sensitive article that strays into a murder plot and cover-up. Editors want it pulled, thus requiring that they pay the author a kill fee—in more ways than one. No one suspect is completely innocent. The all too possible story reflects back on the article writer and her entire life. By her side are her talkative mynah bird and her attorney, with no agenda but to be her helpmate. The brand here is sweet romance; loyalty, family values, humor and whimsy wrapped up neatly and logically.

All my writing has commonalties.  People have told me, “I found myself agreeing with your article before I saw your name at the end.” Or, “I thought that might be yours.”

Ellen Smith, our Champagne Books publisher pointed out to me that although the term Branding has been around for several years, newer writers are becoming more aware of it. This is why your Web site must reflect your brand, not just your latest or your favorite book. As Ellen said, “That way, when someone says (your name) they know exactly who they are talking about.

“Branding is especially important when building an author’s platform. It’s what brings your readers to you,” she stated.

This makes perfect sense when you consider how we wait to experience the next book by Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Dean Koonz or Stephen King, to mention only a few. They are reliable brands in their own genres.

Build your reliable brand and display it on your Web site. You don’t own it; you are it.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, in which she practices both medicine and law without licenses, Tangled Web, a story close to her heart, and Kill Fee. See Julie’s Web site at, look for Julie Eberhart Painter.

Opening scene from Kill Fee by Julie Eberhart Painter

Fall in central Florida, 2010
Penny closed the apartment door just as her pet mynah bird let out a disapproving squawk.
Pretty Penny, Pretty Penny. You’re not leaving me… again!”
“Keep that up and I won’t be back,” she said, locking the door on further discussions.
Penny drove over the causeway to the building where she spent her free day running an American Contract Bridge League duplicate game in Right House Towers. Her uncle had purchased the building that housed retired and relocated seniors as an investment. He didn’t live in it or run the game now. He’d recently turned over those duties to his niece.
Mondays were her days off from her job as an environmental biologist as an in-the-field inspector. She barely had time to indulge other interests.
Humming a little tune, she hurried into the small commercial kitchen and put the tin of cookies on the counter. She glanced at her watch. The bridge players would be arriving any minute; they'd expect the coffee to be ready. Deftly she swung the stepladder open and climbed aboard. Stretching upward, she reached for the can of coffee from the top shelf. Her perch started to totter on the uneven floor and she made an awkward descent just as Lyle Crowe entered the room and sprang to her rescue.
            “Steady there, Miss Penny, we don't need any disabled bridge directors, especially in this building.” His reference was to the assisted living upstairs. Their game room was large enough for bridge or dancing or an occasional meeting.
Penny grabbed for the arm of her friend and rescuer. Lyle had been recently widowed, but he was one of the younger players, mid-sixties. He'd just retired to central Florida from the Detroit police force. He still retained his official bearing despite the delicious temptations of the widows who wanted to fatten him up for the kill. He, however, kept a strict discipline. He’d made his adjustments to the single life, but he missed being in the thick of an investigation and consequently saw perpetrators in every juncture of his life.
            “You're looking mighty dapper this morning, Mr. Crowe. Thanks for the ‘save.’ ”           
Lyle's silver crew cut caught the light from the kitchen window. He looked saintly, standing there, smiling. No wonder the ladies thought he was a catch. “Any time, Miss Penny. We really should move the coffee tin to a more accessible shelf.”
            “Every time I put it back, by the following Monday’s game, it's up out of reach.”
            “Ah, a mystery! The culprit would have to be a tall, swarthy man, perhaps with long arms.”   
            “Don't let your training run away with you, Lyle. Most likely our prep is the president of the Tall Club, Chipper Duckworth.”
            “A likely candidate for our suspicions. I'll get on the case and report back.” He winked, then picked up the stool to put in the broom closet.
The large, adjoining room awaited. Though it held sixteen tables comfortably, it was seldom set for more than eight. It took too long to put everything away again before the early dances.
            Penny smoothed her blond hair, pinned up today. Her Uncle Connie liked it long. She’d do anything to please him while he still played in his old game.
            Connie, a spare looking Viking, had insisted she begin directing his bridge game after her fourth brush with true love.
            “It will give you something to do,” he'd stated. “Anyway, I need the help; it’s too much for me anymore. Your job isn’t that demanding, is it?”
            She didn’t consider her job with EPA easy. Even if they had stationed her here in the boonies, pollution could happen anywhere. With industry moving in and building increasing, she had plenty to oversee. The bridge game, however, had proven to be a lifesaver for Penny. But then, Uncle Connie was the type of man who provided lifesavers, a quality that made him extremely popular. Unfortunately, his popularity did not automatically extend to Penny whose youth grated on some of the players, especially the women. She’d overheard one of them say “She's just too pretty.”
            Her uncle maintained his independence by living in his big house on the beach. He still drove his white Cadillac. He was her favorite relative. Actually, he was the last of her family.
            A disturbance near the door into the main room, caused heads to turn. Amalia Ahmen had arrived. She was a German lady, close to ninety and extremely competitive.
            “Is zee coffee ready?” demanded Mrs. Ahmen, sniffing the air for her favorite American beverage. You know it’s not a morning of bridge without coffee to remind one of the old country, Chermany.
            “Soon, Mrs. Ahmen, soon.” Penny gave Lyle a pat on the arm and mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
            She hurried toward the table near the outside door to collect the fees. That job she didn't delegate because the older folks, who could count trumps without missing a beat, couldn't add three dollars and three dollars to save their souls, and she had to keep an accurate accounting.
            Although the game wasn’t scheduled to begin until 9:30, by 9:15, the room had filled with chattering seniors. Most of the players lived above the recreation area in the building's apartments.
            Penny enjoyed all the players, although she knew the women resented her relationship with “the boys.” Her love life was a bit of a muddle because she refused to marry someone weak and couldn’t seem to tolerate someone strong. So far, she’d ended up with a lot of consolation prizes, like her pet mynah bird, Bilgewater, who tended to repeat her love life history to her male visitors.
            At 9:25, she stood and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, find your places please. We have seven full tables. I'll run a seven-table Mitchell movement as your non-playing director today. We will play four boards per round.”        
            “No skips, no bumps, no errors,” offered Sam Bates, who sat muttering, as usual, during the announcement.
            Penny shushed him with a finger to her lips. He reddened, ducking his head. Sam had retired from a career in real estate. He and attorney had been instrumental in developing Peachtree City, Georgia, south of Atlanta. Sam had always been a gambler and high liver. Nowadays, he channeled his gambling prowess into an outrageous bidding style that left his opponents not only gasping, but usually much poorer. And, he had an eye for the ladies.       
            “Remember not to move your boards until I call the next round. Good luck everybody.”
            Penny walked to the director's table to count the money, write her monthly pound-of-flesh check to the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) and make out her deposit slip to take to the bank.
            Two boards into the first round she heard the familiar call, “Director!”
            “Coming.” She put down her pen, snatched up her trusty rulebook and walked to table six. “What's the problem?”
            “He,” Mrs. Ahmen, who was not accustomed to playing East-West, pointed to Justin Richards, sitting South. “He has the wrong cards.”
            Penny looked at Justin's cards, “What has the bidding been?”
            “That doesn't matter. He can't play four spades with those cards!”
            Penny moved around the table and stood behind Justin, who by this time was shaking like a Model T Ford. The hand he held didn't look unreasonable for a four-spade contract.
“Oh… I see.”
            “The dummkopf doesn't even know what hand he's playing, for Godt's sake!” Mrs. Ahmen's normally straight back was positively ramrod.
            “What have I done?” Justin looked up, his face turning from red to white.
            Justin's ever patient wife, Jenny chimed in, “I think what they mean, dear, is that we are all playing with the yellow cards and you have bid four spades with the blue ones.”
            “Ohmygod,” Justin turned pink and stuffed his cards back into the plastic tray, “What do I do now?”
            “Just take out the yellow cards, Justin. You're in four spades,” Penny said.
            “Vee will see about dat.” Mrs. Ahmen always thought there should be some redress when an error was made against her. Penny was not willing to do more than read the rule and if the woman still objected, she could take it up with the committee after the game.
The Richards, Jenny and Justin, were all that was gentle in the world. Justin, a retired chemist from Cleveland and Jenny, his mate of fifty-nine years, claimed that aside from bridge they devoted their time to keeping each other alive. Everyone should be so lucky in love, Penny thought.
            Poor Justin was still shaken and distracted. The Richards had been playing bridge together since the late 30s and supported each other beautifully. Penny often thought if any one of the men she’d dated had been as sweet and thoughtful as Justin Richards she might have married one of them.
            She walked back to the table and sat down. The game went on with no further interruptions until the next to the last round approached, Mrs. Ahmen called out once again at full decibels, “You can't do that, vee will see—”
            Penny was on the spot to take the heat away from Uncle Connie. “What's the problem, Mrs. Ahmen?”
            “Your uncle seems to think he can lead from any hand he vunts to… tell him!”
            Penny looked at the board and around the table. There were only three cards left to play from each hand.                
            “Whose lead is it?”
            “Nordt's,” supplied Mrs. Ahmen, not giving up control of the situation.
            “Uncle Connie, lead from the board for the nice lady.” She smiled at her uncle who nodded back.
            “There. My trick!” With a decisive snap, she pounced on the trick like a cat on a skink.
            Conrad Olsen shrugged his shoulders. “I never doubted it for a moment, dear lady.”
            Before the last round was announced, Penny asked if anyone wanted more coffee before she threw it away. It was her habit to offer it, although her uncle was usually the only taker. She liked to get a head start on cleaning up the kitchen before the scores came to her for entry into the computer. Everyone had to be out of the clubroom by 1:00 so that the next meeting, scheduled for 1:30 could assemble.     
            Uncle Connie, being of Norwegian descent never turned down a cup of coffee. There were only ten ounces left, enough to make a cup without disturbing the sludge in the bottom.
            “Here, I'll pour it for you. Your hand is shaking today. Are you all right?” Penny felt a stab of concern for her eighty-year-old uncle who was so thin you could almost see through him.
            “Thank you, sweetheart,” he smiled up at Penny, the skin around his rheumy eyes crinkling into familiar lines.
            After pouring her uncle’s coffee, Penny walked into the kitchen and dumped the grounds into the garbage disposal. She hosed down the inside of the percolator and put it on the counter, then placed the Folgers can on the first shelf, within easy reach. “Now stay there, you.” She closed and locked the cabinet and returned to her director's table.
            “Move when ready for the last round,” Penny announced. She remained standing so that she could collect the pickup slips.
            The players moved their boards and placed themselves at their last table positions.
            Ten minutes into the play, Penny, looked up when she heard a strange noise. A crowd had gathered around her uncle's table. Fear clutched her heart as she rushed toward them.
            Uncle Connie lay sprawled back against his chair. Players were holding him so he didn’t drop to the floor. “Connie, you’re scaring us.”
“Come on fellow. Move. Are you all right?”
            Penny could hardly breathe as she reached the group of concerned seniors. “Out of my way!”
            The old folks parted.
            “Uncle Connie, Uncle Connie! What's wrong?” Oh, God, she thought, I can't lose him. Not yet. But she could see that her uncle was very gray, his lips were already turning blue. Penny looked around, helplessly, “Do something!”
But every one of his old friends was in shock and not moving.
~ * ~
            Penny didn't remember calling the ambulance. By the time it arrived, some of the bridge players had left. Each had their own way of dealing with death. Penny felt frozen inside. Intellectually she knew her uncle could not have lived forever, but she never expected to see him die suddenly at her game, a place of pleasure and friendly competition.
            Mrs. Ahmen, never at a loss for words and certainly not about to give up her good scores, fussed. “Vill the last round count? I vus winning, you know; took two tops from Marvin Fudge.”
            “Madam, please! Show a little respect!” Lyle Crowe said, coming to Penny's rescue again. “I can't believe you can be so insensitive.” He grabbed her arm to lead her away. 
            “But I don't often beat Marvin,” she sputtered.
            Marvin had a reputation for always winning—not necessarily without bending the rules.
            Sisters, Marge and Maybelle McNish had stayed behind to comfort their director, although Penny suspected that they were really there because now that the pair had retired, they had nothing interesting or exciting in their lives.
            “Shame on you, Amelia, talking about bridge at a time like this. Go upstairs to your apartment. We’ll stay and see who murdered the dear man.”
            “Murder? What murder?” Lyle asked.
            The McNish sisters giggled to each other. Maybelle's snowy white hair quivered around her head as she chattered on, her audience following her every word, “Well, the police were called, weren't they?”
            “So exciting!”
            “The police are always called.” Lyle took Maybelle's arm and whispered in her ear, “You have to watch what you say around the police. If they think that there is any possible reason in the world to do an autopsy, they'll order one. We don't want Penny to go through that, now do we?”
            Marge and Maybelle were known as the McNish sisters, because no one could remember all the husbands they had each married and buried. People just remembered their original old family home and called them the McNishes. Their family had kept property in central Florida since the glory days of St. Augustine when “to winter” was turned into a verb.
            “An autopsy?” Maybelle’s sister, Marge asked. “That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. The man was old, for heaven's sake.”
            “We're old, Marge.” Maybelle knew that calling her sister old always made her mad, but it usually shut her up.           
            Marge shook her head; not a hair moved. Lacquer kept her hair helmeted in its original blond hairdo just as it had been on her first honeymoon. Unfortunately, it only made Marge's face appear more wrinkled, but when she surveyed herself in the mirror her cataracts placed a film between her mind and reality. So long as no one reminded her of her age, she thought of herself as young.
            “You're old; I'm just a chick!”
            “A chick? Indeed,” sneered Bella Rosencrantz, the expert on age.
            “I guess you would know, having just turned ninety-four.” Maybelle laughed, thinking that she didn't look a day over ninety-three. Bella's appearance could only be described as “the wreck of the Hesperus.”
            Unfortunately, the police officer in charge of accompanying the transporting the body had heard murder mentioned and approached Penny. “Ms. Olsen, I understand that this was your uncle who died here? Are you in charge of this card game?”
            Penny thought he looked as if he were about to accuse her of running a gambling casino too close to shore. “Yes, sir, I run the bridge game here once a week. It's a franchise from the American Contract Bridge League.”
            “Thank you. And people pay to play; the prize is a non-monetary award? I like to get my facts straight, in case there is an investigation?”
            “Why would there be an investigation? My uncle was an old man, seventy-nine, almost eighty.”
            “Well… I heard someone mention murder. Did he seem to be acting strangely before he died?”
            “Officer, uh, Dexter?” Penny read his badge. “I wasn't with him when he died; I was across the room.”
            “I distinctly heard someone say murder. Can you think of any—”
            “Oh, they're just talking, Officer Dexter. They don't always make good sense.” Penny twirled her finger around her ear. “If you get my drift?”
            “Un-huh, I get it, but I'll still have to ask the group here to give me their names before they leave; and please supply me with the names and contact information of the others who have already gone home.” He turned his back on Penny and pulled out his measuring tape.
            “Is that necessary? These old folks are in shock; they don’t know what they’re saying.”
            “Sorry, just routine procedure. The coroner will take your uncle's… remains. Detective Harper would slap me upside my head if I didn't follow through according to procedure. Did he—your uncle—leave any instructions?”
            “A few minutes ago his ‘remains’ as you so sweetly put it, were my favorite and last living relative. I have no idea what his wishes were, or if he knew he was—” Penny sighed. “He came here like he always did on Mondays to play bridge.”
            “Sorry, ma'am, but we have to ask these questions. I’m sure when the coroner is finished with his examination, he’ll return your uncle’s... your uncle to you.”
            “Take him to Ashes and Waters.”
            “So, he specified cremation?”
            “I guess. They were long-time friends. I never saw his will. He was a very private person.”
            Officer Dexter questioned the milling players, who began to take their leave. Sirens filled the air with a cold, shrill scream as the police car led the ambulance from the parking lot. An eerie quiet descended in the room, which only hours before held laughter.
            Penny took her printed bridge scores and put them in her purse. Then she slowly finished putting the equipment away. She turned off the air-conditioning, put out the lights and left the building.
            The police had swathed the  front of the building in crime scene tape.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


#excerpt #MFRWAuthor #Thursday 13 #Thursday13 1001 Nights Press A. Catherine Noon A.B. Gayle A.C. Arthur A.D. McLain Abbie St.Claire AC Katt Adam Mann Adele Downs Adelle Laudau Adera Orfanelli Adite Banerjie Adriana Kraft Aidee Ladnier Aileen Fisher Aithne Jarretta Akaria Gale Alethea Williams Aletheia von Gottlieb Alice Orr Alison McMahan Allison Knight Ally Shields Amber Kallyn Amber Polo Amy Quinton Ana E Ross Andrea Cooper Andrea Parnell Angela Benedetta Angela Benedetti Angela Drake Angela Quarles Angela Scavone Angela Smith Anita Philmar Anna Alexander Anna Durand Anna James Anne Ashby Anne Carrole Anne Kane Annemarie Brear anthology Ashley Ladd Ashley York Author Interview Author Spotlight Autumn Piper Ava Martell Avalon Alexander Avril Ashton Ayla Ruse Azure Boone BA Tortuga Barb Caffrey Barbara Donlon Bradley Barbara Edwards Barbara Lohr Barbara Meyers Barbara White Daille bdsm Ben Tanner Berengaria Brown Berkley Heat Bet Trissel Beth Barany Beth Caudill Beth Rhodes Beth Yarnall Betty Jean McLain Bev Irwin Black Opal Books Blaine D. Arden blog hop Blushing Books book bundle Book Hooks book party Book Spotlight BookStrand Romance Boroughs Publishing Brannan Black Breathless Press Brenda Jernigan Brenda Novak Brenda Sparks Brenda Whiteside Brina Brady Brita Addams Bruce Jenvey Brynna Curry C.C. Marks C.R. Moss Calisa Rhose Campbell Hill Publishing Candace Sams Cara Carnes Caridad Pineiro Carina Press Carly Carson Carmen Stefanescu Carmen Webster Buxton Caroline Clemmons Caroline Warfield Cassandra Carr Cat Grant Cat Johnson Catherine E. McLean catherine gardiene Cathie Dunn Cathy Perkins Catrina Barton Cecilia Tan Celine Chatillon Cera duBois Champagne Books Changeling Press Chanta Rand Chantilly White Charmaine Gordon Chelle Cordero Cherise Sinclair chick lit chris redding Christi Williams Christian Phillips Christian Romance Christina Routon Christina Tetreault Christine Fairchild Christine Young Christmas Cinsearae S. Clare Dargin Coleen Kwan contemporary romance Contest Entry Cora Blu Cora J. Ramos Crimson Romance Cupid Publishing Cynnara Tregarth Cynthia Cynthianna D Dominik Wickles D.X. Luc Dahlia Dewinters Dani Wade Dariel Raye Dawn Montgomery Dax Varley Dean Pace-Frech Debra Andrews Decadent Publishing Delaney Diamond Denise Devine Denise Patrick Denyse Bridger Desert Breeze Publishing Desiree Holt Dev Bentham Diana Rubino Diane Burton Donna Gallagher Donna June Cooper Donna Maloy DP Denman Dreamspinner Press Dystopian Eden Winters Ednah Walters eKensington EL Esch Elaine Cantrell Elise VanCise Elizabeth Kolodziej Ellora's Cave EM Lynley Emerald Emily Ryan Davis Entangled Erika Kelly Erin McRae Erin O'Quinn erotic romance erotica Etopia Press Evernight Publishing eXtasy Books fantasy Fated Desires Featured Author of the Month Flame Arden Flossie Benton Rogers Frances Pauli Gail Olmsted Gail Roughton Branan Gale Stanley Georgie Lee Gerri Bowen Ginger Simpson giveaway GLBT Glenn Maynard Greta Buckle Guy Ogan Gwenna Sebastian H. Lewis-Foster Hachette/Forever Harlequin Heartspell Media Heather Curley Heather Long Heaven O'Shey Helen Ellis Helen Henderson historical romance holiday romance Holley Trent Hywela Lyn Indie Published Ines Johnson inspirational romance interracial Irene Preston Iris Blobel J.C. Conway J.F. Jenkins J.L. Sheppard Jackie Leigh Allen Jacquie Biggar Jami Gray Jana Richards Jane Leopold Quinn Jane Toombs Janet Mullany Janie Franz Jannine Corti Petska Jasmine Hill Jaymi Hanako Jean Joachim Jeanne Barrack Jenna Storm Jennette Green Jennifer Britt Jennifer France Jennifer Lynne Jerri Hines Jerrie Alexander Jerry Race Jessi Gage Jessica Cale Jessica E. Subject Jianne Carlo Jill Blake JJ DiBenedetto JJ Keller JM Maurer JM Stewart JMS Books Jolie Pethtel Joselynn Vaughn Joyce Holmes Joyce Palmer Juli Revezzo Julia Talbot Julie Eberhart Painter Juliette Springs June Kramin June Shaw Jupiter Gardens Press K. Lynn K. Starling K.A. M'lady K.E. Saxon Karen Blake Karen Cino karen cote Karen Lopp Karen McCullough Karen Michelle Nutt Karenna Colcroft Kathleen Rowland Kathryn R. Blake Kathy Kulig Katya Armock Kay Dee Royal Kayelle Allen Kaylin McFarren KC Klein Kelley Heckart Kendra James Kenra Daniels Kensington Keta Diablo Killarney Sheffield Killian McRae Kim McMahill Kimberly Dean KindleUnlimited Kingsburg Press Kissa Starling kristen ethridge Kristina Knight Kryssie Fortune L.A. Remenicky L.A. Sartor L.C. Chase L.C. Giroux Lace Daltyn Lauren Linwood Laverne Thompson Lazy Day Publishing Lee Rowan Leta Blake Libby McKinmer Liese Sherwood-Fabre Limitless Publishing Linda Banche Linda Bond Linda Hoover Linda McLaughlin Linda Mooney Linda Rae Sande Lindsey R. Loucks Liquid Silver Lis Anne Harris Lisa Carlisle Lisabet Sarai Livia Quinn Lizzi Tremayne Lizzie T. Leaf Lloyd A. Meeker Loose Id Lorelei Confer Louisa Masters Louise Lyndon Luanna Nau Luanna Stewart Lucy Francis Lynda Bailey Lynda Coker Lynda Kaye Frazier Lyndi Lamont Lynette Sofras Lynn Cahoon lynn crain Lynn Gale Lynn Montagano Lyric James Lyrical Press M.K. Gilher M.S. Kaye M.S. Spencer Mackenzie Crowne Madeline Archer Madeline Pryce Mae Clair Maggi Andersen Mahlee Ashwynne Malia Mallory Marci Boudreaux Marcia James Mardi Maxwell Margaret Fieland Margay Leah Justice Margery Scott Margo Bond Collins Maria Alexander Maria-Claire Payne Marianne Rice Marie Harte Marion Webb-De Sisto Martha O'Sullivan Mary J. McCoy-Dressel Mary Montague Sikes Mary Morgan Matthew Lang Meg Benjamin Megan Kelly Melinda Curtis Melissa Fox Melisse Aires Melody Jerva menage Mercedes King Meredith Bond MFRW Author Banner Day Mia Frances Michael Monaghan Michaela Rhua Michelle Roth Mickie Sherwood Miguelina Perez military romance Miriam Newman ML Skye MLR PRess Molle McGregor Mona Karel Multicultural Romance Musa Publishing Muse It Up Publishing N.N. Light Nancy Corrigan Nancy J. Cohen Nancy Marie Bell Naomi Bellina Neil S. Plakcy New Adult New Release Nicky Penttila Nicole Graysen Nicole Hurley-Moore Nicole Zoltack Normandie Alleman North Shore Press Notion Press novel novella P.A. Estelle P.J. Dean P.J. MacLayne P.S. Singer P.T. Macias Paisley Brown Paloma Beck Paranormal Romance Patricia Preston Patricia Yager Delagrange Pauline Baird Jones Peggy Jaeger Pender Mackie Penny Estelle Phaze Books Pippa Jay PJ Fiala R Costelloe R. Ann Siracusa R.E. Mullins R.M. Sotera Rachael Slate Rachel Haimowitz Rachel Wilder Racheline Maltese Rae Renzi Raven de Hart Reana Malori Rebecca Hunter Rebecca J. Clark Rebel Ink Press Reet Singh regency romance Renee Michaels Renee Reynolds review Rhonda Hopkins Rhonda Jackson Joseph Rianna Morgan Robert Costelloe Robin Glasser Rolynn Anderson romantic comedy Romantic Mystery Romantic Suspense Rosalie Redd Rosanna Leo rose anderson Roz Lee Rue Allyn Ruth Casie Ruth Kaufman Sabrina York Sadie Grubor Samara King Samhain Publishing Sandy Nachlinger Sapphire Phelan Sara Walter Ellwood Sarah Jae Foster Savannah Chase Savannah Morgan scifi romance Secret Cravings Publishing Selena Illyria Self Published Shannyn Schroeder Sharon Clare Shashauna P. Thomas Shauna Knight Shauna Roberts Shelley Munro Sheri Fredricks Sherry Ewing Shirleen Davies Silver Publishing Siren Publishing SKN Hammerstone Sloane Kennedy Snap Dragon Press Soul Mate Publishing Sourabh Khanna spanking romance Stacey Brutger Stacy Eaton Stacy Juba Starla Kaye Steampunk Stephanie Queen Stevie Woods Stormy Night Publications Sultry Summers Susan Behon Susan Frances Susan Jaymes Susan Sofayov suspense Suz deMello Suzanne Rock Suzzana Ryan Sydney Jane Baily Sylvia McDaniel Synithia Williams Tamara Hoffa Tami Brothers Tara Lain Tarah Scott Tasarla Romaney Teagan Oliver Tena Stetler Teresa Reasor The Wild Rose Press Thea Dawson thursday13 Tiffany Daune Time Travel Romance Tina Donahue Tina Gayle Tmonique Stephans Toni Noel Torquere Press Totally Bound Trevann Rogers Tricia Schneider urban fantasy Ursula Sinclair Ute Carbone V.S. Tice Vicki Batman Vicky Burkholder Victoria M Noxon Victoria Pinder Vijaya Schartz Viola Ryan w. lynn chantale W.M. Kirkland Wendy Lynn Clark Wendy Soliman Western Romance Whiskey Creek Press Wild Child Publishing Willa Blair women's fiction Yolanda Ashton Young Adult Zeenat Mahal Zrinka Jelic