Starting Over with Shirley Goldberg

I’m happy to welcome back Wild Rose Press author Shirley Goldberg. Today, Shirley chats about second acts and her Starting Over series.

Here’s Shirley!

Since my series, Middle Ageish and Eat Your Heart Out, is called Starting Over, my characters are familiar with second acts. Their first acts ended in breakups or divorce; one character is a widower.

They all reinvent themselves, change their work, their love-lives, but also their attitudes about themselves. One of the biggest challenges, when you are of a certain age––as the French call middle age or older––is acceptance. This means accepting oneself as well as others. The time for molding others––if that was ever possible–––is over.

In A Little Bit of Lust, we meet the two main characters, Lucy and Deon, and their friend, Phoebe, at O’Donahue’s, their Sunday afternoon hangout and dance spot. It’s named after Donahue’s, a restaurant in Madison, CT I used to frequent. Yes, on Sunday afternoons in real life. There’s nothing like dancing in the late afternoon when the sun is setting on the beach across the street, and you’ve got a great view from the dance floor.

To show how second chances happen when you least expect them, here’s a micro-scene from the beginning of the book. Lucy and Deon, friends for four years, are dancing.

“I haven’t felt like singing for…a while anyway.” Deon turned her gently and pulled her in again, sang about rivers flowing and fools rushing. “I am annoying you, aren’t I?”

“Not at all.” Dancing with Deon was…intimate. Lucy lifted her head. His lips were six inches away, full lips.

“You have Elvis lips,” she said and put her head back down on his chest.
In A Little Bit of Lust, the characters have to work hard to come together. No spoilers, but second acts are almost never smooth. What would be the fun in that for the reader?

Author Bio and Links

Shirley Goldberg is a writer, novelist, and former ESL and French teacher who’s lived in Paris, Crete, and Casablanca. She writes about men and women of a certain age starting over. Her website offers a humorous look at dating in mid-life, and her friends like to guess which stories are true. A Little Bit of Lust is her third book in the series Starting Over, although all her books are standalone. Shirley’s characters all believe you should never leave home without your sense of humor and she agrees.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub

***Middle Ageish and Eat Your Heart Out are on sale for $0.99***

Buy Links

Middle Ageish | Eat Your Heart Out | A Little Bit of Lust

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Help yourself to one (or more) of our favorite recipes: Appetizers, Beverages, Breads and Rolls, Desserts, Meat and Main Dishes, Salads and Soups, Side Dishes and Vegetables. All from the kitchens of The Wild Rose Press authors.

I’m happy to share my recipe for “Cranberry Muffins” on page 62.

Happy Holidays!

10 Facts that Inspired the Marketville Mystery Series

I’m happy to welcome back bestselling author Judy Penz Sheluk. Today, Judy shares ten facts that inspired the Marketville Mystery Series and her new release, Before There Were Skeletons.

Here’s Judy!

After a three-year hiatus, Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is back in Before There Were Skeleton, book #4 of my Marketville Mystery series. I like to consider these “Cold Case Cozies,” but while there may be no sex, violence or bad language, the plots tend to be more complex than a traditional cozy. I thought it might be fun to tell Joanne’s readers 10 things that inspired the stories. Here goes:

1. Marketville is a fictionalized and smaller-town version of Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, located about an hour north of Toronto. Considered a commuter community, Marketville is (according to protagonist Calamity (Callie) Barnstable), the sort of town where families with two kids, a collie, and a cat move to, looking for a bigger house, a better school, and soccer fields.

2. Marketville’s Cedar County, which includes the fictional towns of Lount’s Landing, Miakoda Falls, and Lakeside, is loosely (and I do mean loosely) based on towns in three municipalities/towns in York Region (Newmarket/Marketville, East Gwillimbury/Holland Landing/Lount’s Landing, and Georgina/Keswick/Lakeside). Miakoda Falls is the exception, inspired by my childhood memories of our family cottage on the Gull River between Moore Falls and Elliot Falls, with a hint of Fenelon Falls tossed in for good measure.

3. The idea for a series set in Marketville came to me while my husband and I were waiting for our lawyer to return from Newmarket court. We were there to update our wills and I wondered, “What if I was there to inherit instead? And what if there were strings attached?” By the time our lawyer arrived, I’d scribbled down what would become the first two chapters of Skeletons in the Attic.

4. Calamity Doris Barnstable is named after Calamity Jane, famous for her nineteenth-century Wild West shows, and Doris Day, who played a very fictionalized Calamity Jane in a 1950s movie. I wanted a name that was both unusual and could be shortened; Calamity/Callie just worked. I wrote a bit about Calamity Jane in the Facts in Fiction section of my website

5. While the series starts with Callie as an amateur sleuth, by book two, Past & Present, Callie puts her new sleuthing skills to work, opening Past & Present Investigations. Her first case, looking into the murder of Anneliese Prei in 1956, was inspired by 1952 travel documents I found in my mother’s closet, shortly after her death. My mother’s first name was Anneliese, and Prei was her mother’s maiden name.

6. A Fool’s Journey, book 3, was inspired by a newspaper article I’d read about a young man who left home 15 years earlier to “find himself.” The article was accompanied by a photograph credited to Ontario Missing Adults. The character of Brandon Colbeck, the missing young man who Callie is hired to find, is a compilation of several missing persons’ profiles on the site.

7. In Skeletons in the Attic, first published in 2016, Callie is 36 years old. I’ve always admired the way John Sandford ages Lucas Davenport in his acclaimed Prey series and decided to do the same thing. In Before There Were Skeletons, Callie is now on the cusp of 42, still single, but finally accepting that her self-proclaimed “loser radar,” is actually a fear of commitment.

8. I’ve also admired the way authors like Michael Connelly and Tana French take major characters from one book/series and employ them as walk-on or minor characters in another book/series. The inclusion of The Glass Dolphin Mysteries protagonist Arabella Carpenter, her ex-husband, Levon Larroquette, and references to other Glass Dolphin characters in the Marketville series is inspired by their work, and it’s been great fun to include these characters in a meaningful way.

9. We sold our house recently and in packing up I found some of my husband’s old university yearbooks. That gave me the idea for a subplot in Before There Were Skeletons, where Callie delves into her mother’s (Abigail Osgoode Barnstable) teenaged past after her grandmother gives her the five high school yearbooks belonging to Abigail. Callie knows there’s no such thing as closure, but she finds herself looking for it anyway.

10. While the police often make public appeals for information about cold cases, sites like Ontario Missing Adults, Canada’s Missing, and the Doe Network provide a permanent plea for assistance, a portal for families who are looking for information about police processes, or who may be hesitant to make first contact with police. It is my hope that Before There Were Skeletons leads to the awareness of compiled websites, and possibly, information on, or the resolution of, a cold case.

About Before There Were Skeletons

The last time anyone saw Veronica Goodman was the night of February 14, 1995, the only clue to her disappearance a silver heart-shaped pendant, found in the parking lot behind the bar where she worked. Twenty-seven years later, Veronica’s daughter, Kate, just a year old when her mother vanished, hires Past & Present Investigations to find out what happened that fateful night.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable is drawn to the case, the similarities to her own mother’s disappearance on Valentine’s Day 1986 hauntingly familiar. A disappearance she thought she’d come to terms with. Until Veronica’s case, and five high school yearbooks, take her back in time…a time before there were skeletons.

Universal Book Link: https://books2read.com/u/mqXVze

About the Author

A former journalist and magazine editor, Judy Penz Sheluk is the bestselling author of two mystery series: The Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short crime fiction appears in several collections, including the Superior Shores Anthologies, which she also edited.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she served as Chair on the Board of Directors. A longtime resident of York Region, she now makes her home in Northern Ontario, on the shores of Lake Superior. Find her at https://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Training Service Dogs

I’m happy to welcome back psychotherapist and author Kassandra Lamb. Today, Kassandra shares interesting information about training service dogs and her new release, To Bark or Not to Bark.

Here’s Kassandra!

When I set out to write a cozy mystery series about a service dog trainer, I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. I assumed that, between my psychology background and having trained my own pets through the years, I’d be able to wing it when describing the tasks the dogs do and how my protagonist, Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) trains them.

I quickly discovered that, while my knowledge of behavior modification helped, I would need to do a considerable amount of research. Now, 12 books later, I’ve learned quite a lot about training service dogs, although I’m still far from an expert. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about training these dogs:

1. Pick the right dog.

Not just any dog can be a good service dog. The dogs need to have certain personality traits. They need to be intelligent, people-oriented and eager to please. But they cannot be easily distracted, particularly territorial, nor at all aggressive toward other dogs or strangers. Some service dog trainers, like my protagonist Marcia, prefer mixed breed dogs because they are often healthier and live longer. Otherwise, the breed usually depends on the needs of the eventual owner.

For example, Marcia trains dogs for military veterans, some of whom also have physical challenges. So she usually picks larger breeds that are strong enough to help a person who has fallen down and needs help getting up.

2. Teach/review basics like sit, lie down, come, and stay.

Of course, a service dog needs to have good manners, and teaching/reviewing these basics will give the trainer a sense of how easily the dog will learn the more complicated tasks.

3. Teach the on-duty signal.

First and foremost, the dog needs to know when they are on duty and should be paying close attention to their handler. The on-duty signal may be repeated at times to refocus the dog if s/he seems to be getting distracted.

For Marcia and the fictitious agency she trains for, I’ve borrowed the on-duty signal used by K9 for Warriors in Jacksonville, Florida—hand held parallel to the ground, palm down. The dog touches their nose to the palm to acknowledge that they are on duty.

4. Start with something dogs do naturally.

Dogs love to chase things, play tug-of-war, etc. Activities like these can be used as a jumping-off point when teaching a new task.

For example, to teach a dog to open cabinet or refrigerator doors, the trainer might tie a rope in a loop on the handle and encourage the dog to grab it and pull, giving a verbal command such as “open,” followed by a reward each time the dog pulls the door open. Then the trainer shortens the rope a little bit at a time, and repeats this whole process again, until the rope is wrapped tightly around the handle. Eventually, the trainer removes the rope and says, “Open.” A bright dog will grab the cabinet or fridge handle itself at this point.

5. Chunk it down.

More complicated tasks are broken down into sub-tasks and the dog is trained to do each of those. For example, Dolly, the dog in my new release, has been trained to “clear” a room and identify who is in the room, friend or stranger, before her phobic veteran enters.

Marcia and her assistant first taught Dolly to run into the room and around its perimeter, then come back to the door and sit. (The actual training of this dog occurred in the last book, One Flew Over the Chow-Chow’s Nest.) Next, they taught her to sit down in front of anyone who is in the room. Then they added a second person and taught her to sit for a few seconds, then go to the second person and sit there.

The toughest part of the task was getting Dolly to bark if she didn’t recognize the person’s scent. First, Carla, Marcia’s assistant, taught her to bark once on command. Then they had to recruit people the dog had never met to sit in the room. They gave the command to “bark” when the person was a stranger to her, but withheld that order when it was someone Dolly knew.

Since she is a border collie—thought to be the brightest of dog breeds—she eventually got it that she should only bark when she didn’t know that person’s scent.

6. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

As you can imagine, it would take a lot of repetition for Dolly to get that idea. But lots of repetition is also necessary so that the response to the commands becomes automatic for the dog (and later for his/her owner; the humans have to be trained, also, in how to work with the dog).

7. Always be clear about when the dog is on duty and when they are not.

The owner/handler needs to make a very clear distinction here. The dogs are taught a release signal that tells them they are off-duty, and the handler needs to expect the dog to be all-business until such time as that release signal is given.

But it’s also very important that the handler not allow the dog to be treated like a pet when they are on duty.

That is why one shouldn’t approach a service animal and try to pet or play with them. If you do that, you are making the owner/handler’s life more difficult, because they then have to work harder to keep the dog focused.

8. Make sure you are using the right rewards.

A word or two about rewards. Often the reward used is a food treat, but there may be other things used as well.

A lot of trainers use clickers. They teach the dog to associate the clicking sound with a treat, and over time, the click itself becomes a reward for the dog. I don’t have Marcia use a clicker because I honestly don’t know that much about them. Rather than make a mistake, I opted to have Marcia train for a woman, Mattie Jones, who is old-fashioned and doesn’t like clickers. (You can avoid all kinds of pitfalls when writing fiction, because it is fiction—you get to make stuff up.)

Some dogs do not respond well to food treats, believe it or not. Then the trainer has to figure out what else will motivate them. In one of my books, I decided to have Marcia make a mistake (to make her more realistic) and pick a dog that is not all that teachable. His name is Rocky and she decides it’s an apt name, since he seems as dumb as a rock.

But, as all too often happens when writing fiction, the characters took over and wrote that scene a little differently than I’d intended. Marcia is trying to teach Rocky the on-duty signal by holding a treat against the palm of her hand with her thumb.

This gets the dog to initially touch her palm. After several repetitions, the palm is held out without the treat and a bright dog will almost always touch it anyway. Then she gives the dog a treat with her other hand.

Rocky, however, took the treat from under her thumb initially but then lost interest and did nothing the next time she held out her hand. I don’t know if what happened next was Marcia’s idea or Rocky’s—but she held her hand out without a treat, and lo and behold, he touched it. She quickly praised him and he wagged his tail furiously.

Every time, she held out her hand, let him touch the palm, then immediately praised him, he was delighted. Eureka! Rocky wasn’t dumb, he was just more motivated by praise then by food treats.

9. Do not give rewards other than when the dog does a desired task.

Whatever reward the dog responds to best should only be given when the dog is on duty and does a desired task. Again, this is to avoid confusion.

If the reward is a food treat, then those treats are only given under these circumstances. Never randomly at other times. In Rocky’s case, Marcia had to be careful that she only told him he was a “good boy” when he was on duty.

10. Make the rewards intermittent.

This is something I already knew about behavior modification. After the desired behavior is deeply ingrained, the trainer only rewards it some of the time, not all of the time.

Why is this? Because, believe it or not, intermittent reinforcement works better than constant reinforcement.

If the dog is used to getting a treat every time they do something, then the treat is not forthcoming for several times, they will stop doing the task. But if the dog only receives a reward some of the times they do the task, then they come to expect that a reward will eventually appear if they keep doing the task.

This new book is the next to the last in the series, and I’m going to miss these characters (two- and four-legged). But I’m also going to miss learning more about service dogs and their training. To me, it is a truly fascinating subject.

Blurb

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house, while training the recipient of her latest dog.

The border collie, Dolly has been trained to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed in a bombed-out building. But the phantom attackers in his psyche become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his master bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.

Was it suicide or murder? Marcia can’t see her client as a killer, but the local sheriff can.

Then the Marine reports hearing his ex calling for him to join her on the other side of the grave. Is his house really haunted, or is he hallucinating?

Bottom line: Marcia has lost a client to suicide before. She’s not going to lose another!

Buy Links

Amazon | Nook | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Author Bio and Links

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs—and being partial to eating—she studied psychology. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature, but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in North Central Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

Website | Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page |
BookBub | Goodreads

Excerpt Tour: She’s the One Who Gets in Fights

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author S. R. Cronin. Today, Sherrie shares her new release, She’s the One Who Gets in Fights.

Blurb

Do you know what your problem is?

Sulphur knows hers. This 13th-century woman has trained as a fighter all her life in hopes of joining the army. Then, within days, both of her older sisters announce plans and suddenly Sulphur is expected to find a man to marry instead.

Is it her good fortune her homeland is gripped by fear of a pending invasion and the army now goes door to door encouraging recruits? Sulphur thinks it is. But once she’s forced to kill in a small skirmish, she’s ready to rethink her career decision. Too bad it’s too late. The invasion is coming, and Ilari needs every good soldier it has.

Once Sulphur learns Ilari’s army has made the strategic decision to not defend certain parts of the realm, including the one where her family lives, she has to re-evaluate her loyalty. Is it with the military she’s always admired? Or is it with her sisters, who are hatching a plan to defend their homeland with magic?

The problem with being a woman who fights for what’s right is that now, she has to figure out what is.

(The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters consists of seven short companion novels. Each tells the personal story and perspective of one of seven radically different sisters in the 1200s as they prepare for an invasion of their realm. While these historical fantasy/alternate history books can be enjoyed as stand-alone novels, together they tell the full story of how Ilari survived.)

Excerpt

I hoped Davor would return soon, but he didn’t. Weren’t there arrangements to be made for the wedding? For their life together afterward? Didn’t he want to spend time with his betrothed?

When I asked Coral about his absence, she turned serious and changed the subject.

“You must know about this military threat that looms over Ilari.”

I did. For nearly a year now, rumors had circulated about a horde of invaders coming from the mountains to the east. Word was they fought from horseback, swarming into places and taking over before the surprised victims could gather their weapons.

Some said they only wanted tribute, taking a small amount of farmed goods to supplement the bleak diet provided by their own cold mountains. Others said they demanded a near slavery that no realm should tolerate. Some reported these invaders burned everything to the ground, indiscriminately killing the helpless and harmless along with the soldiers.

The lack of consistent information had turned them into a frightening monster of mythical proportions. Yet, the reports all agreed on one point. They moved further westward every winter and soon we’d be in their path.

“Yes. I know of the Mongol threat. Ilari could face a tough challenge this coming winter or next.”

“The Svadlu especially,” she said. “They already take this quite seriously.”

“As well they should.”

I considered this threat to be an added incentive for joining soon. If I got trained and put into a fighting unit, I’d have a chance to help Ilari.

“Davor is a key part of this effort.”

“Really?”

“Yes. He’s been tasked with training the soldiers to meet this challenge. It’s why he can’t leave Pilk now, with so much happening.”

Well, this did make sense. I had no idea my hopeful sponsor bore such a responsibility.

“When will you see him again?”

I noticed the sadness on Coral’s face. Indeed, being the wife of a soldier was no easy thing.

“Probably not until the wedding.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that.” I meant it for her, of course. This should have been a happier time in her life but to be honest, I was sad for me as well, knowing I had nearly an eighth to wait before I could ask this stranger the question on which my entire life hinged.

Then, I saw the advantages of asking for an important favor around such an auspicious time. Doubtless Davor would be at his happiest and eager to please his new wife’s family. Maybe it was lucky I hadn’t had the opportunity to ask sooner. I couldn’t imagine a groom saying no to such a reasonable request from a new sister-in-law.

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords

Author Bio and Links

Sherrie Cronin is the author of a collection of six speculative fiction novels known as 46. Ascending and is now in the process of publishing a historical fantasy series called The War Stories of the Seven Troublesome Sisters. A quick look at the synopses of her books makes it obvious she is fascinated by people achieving the astonishing by developing abilities they barely knew they had.

She’s made a lot of stops along the way to writing these novels. She’s lived in seven cities, visited forty-six countries, and worked as a waitress, technical writer, and geophysicist. Now she answers a hot-line. Along the way, she’s lost several cats but acquired a husband who still loves her and three kids who’ve grown up just fine, both despite how eccentric she is.

All her life she has wanted to either tell these kinds of stories or be Chief Science Officer on the Starship Enterprise. She now lives and writes in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where she admits to occasionally checking her phone for a message from Captain Picard, just in case.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | Author Blog | Book Series Blog

Giveaway

S. R. Cronin will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Sherrie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Spotlight on Guns & Smoke

I’m happy to welcome authors Lauren Sevier and A. Smith. Today, they share interesting tidbits about The Fool’s Adventure World and their new release,
Guns & Smoke.

10 Interesting Things About The Fool’s Adventure World

1. The Fool’s Adventure series takes place in a dystopian America. The Culling, a nuclear holocaust, devastated every major country in the world. When the first bombs dropped on the United States Congress and the White House, a wave of nuclear bombs were dropped all over the world. While Guns & Smoke takes place in what remains of the American southwest, there are many, many places that we intend to explore in this world in this series and others.

2. After the Culling, social issues such as racial discrimination and sexual orientation were no longer as important. When the key focus of a population is surviving, everything else just sort of falls to the wayside. It was incredibly important to us to show the diversity of The Fool’s Adventure world from all sides. We live in a diverse world. It doesn’t make sense to not have characters who are people of color or characters that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s even more normal in this world than it is in modern America.

3. A lot of things we consider normal are hot commodities in The Fool’s Adventure world. Because of the changing climate as a result of the nuclear bombs, coffee beans only grow in the humid climates of the Borderlands. Chocolate is something only the very rich can afford. Forget about having new clothes or fresh, organic food. Typically, you take what you can get and you’re happy with it, because it means another day of surviving instead of starving in the street.

4. Gangs reign supreme. When the government was destroyed and no one else stepped up to seize power, small factions of men and women came together to take control. Some of the more popular gangs are The Hanged Men, The Crimson Fist, and The Black Judges. Others don’t have official names, but utilize symbols to strike fear in the hearts of men.

5. Across the country, in the places that the nuclear bombs dropped, people began seeing strange creatures appear from within the crater sites. Some claim to have seen giant gator-dogs, great, snapping-lion-turtles or panther-scorpions. Our main characters in Guns & Smoke may even have a run in with one of their own crater beasts.

6. Glowroot is a nasty, spiny little plant that grows inside the crater sites beyond the fences. When it’s distilled, it has a faint phosphorescent glow and stains your lips blue. It is highly addictive, and one can find glowroot dens in their favorite cities.

7. There are eight rules to being an Outlaw:

○ Don’t fall in love.
○ Never go anywhere without telling your crew.
○ Keep your word. Outlaws may steal, lie, and cheat. But if you make a promise, you keep it.
○ Where there’s danger, listen to your commanding officer.
○ Never overstay your welcome.
○ Pay your debts.
○ No one gets left behind.
○ Know your weapons. If it’s supposed to keep you alive, you should know it inside and out.

8. Due to radiation, people who survived the Culling or have been affected by the radiation have suffered from physical deformities. They’re considered undesirable by the general population. It is rumored that they spread disease or bring trouble wherever they go. This could be, in large part, because they struggle for basic resources to survive, that they have had to possibly still or kill for basic necessities.

9. The fringes are those places around the edges. Burned out towns, small cities that never recovered after the Culling, where no one except for the undesirables or fugitives would live. It’s a hard place where resources are scarce. It’s even more “kill or be killed” here than the rest of the world. Usually marked with a white ‘X’ so that travelers know that it’s unsafe and to stay away.

10. Paper money lost all its meaning after the Culling. After plundering cities, homes, and other places for precious metals, a new system took place. Those metals were melted down and shaped into bits. There are brass, copper, silver, and gold. Gold bits are incredibly rare and worth a lot of money. Along with bits, they also utilize the barter system, and negotiate for things that can be traded instead of paid for.

ADDITIONAL FUN FACT

Today is Lauren Sevier’s Birthday!!!!! She’s a brilliant co-author and friend and we want to wish her a great next year.

Blurb

In a world where safety is a luxury and honor is found only among outlaws, two people attempt to outrun danger lurking around each corner and the tragedies that define them.

Bonnie is an outlaw on the run. Beautiful but dangerous; her dark past stalks her like the crater beasts that roam the desert. As the notoriously cruel outlaw Jones sends his henchmen to track her down and retrieve the gun she stole from him, Bonnie hopes she can stay one step ahead. Because if he catches her, a fate worse than death awaits.

Jesse always dreamed of leaving the farm to explore the ruins of the big cities. He just never imagined he’d be forced to flee after strange men burned down his rural mountain town and murdered everyone he loved. Responsible for his kid brother and searching for an uncle he’s never met before, he isn’t sure he can navigate the perils of life among con artists and thieves long enough to find him.

Their two paths collide as they find themselves thrown together on the adventure of a lifetime.

Together, they may just discover that life is about more than just surviving.

Excerpt

“I didn’t mean what I said earlier, about turning you over to Sixgun. I was just…” He struggled for the words.

“Hurt?” I offered, and he nodded. “I know. I have a talent for pushing people away.”

“I still shouldn’t have said it,” he muttered near my ear, his arm tightening around my shoulders to hold me closer.

“Do you really think I’m stupid?” I asked.

“No, I think you’re the smartest person I’ve ever met,” he said, with all the conviction with which he said everything else. I smiled against his shirt. “Did you really climb into my bed because you thought I was upset about the train?”

“No,” I croaked, hiding my face as best I could. “I don’t have nightmares when you hold me.”

“I don’t have nightmares when I hold you either,” he admitted.

So I let him. I let him hold me all night. We didn’t speak, we just leaned against each other until the sky began to lighten and the shadows of our pasts seemed to fade into the distance.

Author Bios and Links

Lauren Sevier & A. Smith are long time friends and co-authors from southern Louisiana. Guns & Smoke, their first joint publication, began as a “short” story after having too much wine on girl’s night. Nine years later it is now the first novel in a Dystopian/Western Romance series. The duo has plans to publish several series together in the future. A. Smith spends her time with her two rescue dogs and rescue cat surrounding herself with books and Labyrinth paraphernalia. Lauren Sevier collects antique tea cups and tries to stay sane, though as the mother of a toddler she fails brilliantly most days. She also has a growing collection of crowns and tiaras and likes to act silly on TikTok. Look for more thrilling novels from The Fools Adventure series in the future!

Lauren Sevier

Website | YouTube | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads

A. Smith

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Newsletter | Goodreads

Giveaway

Lauren Sevier and A. Smith will be awarding a $20 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.
Find out more here.

Follow the authors on the rest of their Goddess Fish tour here.

New Release: Santa Baby by Peggy Jaeger

I’m happy to announce Peggy’s Jaeger’s new release…

Blurb

It’s Christmas Eve morning in the tiny New England town of Dickens.

Santa’s arrival is imminent, and a hint of snow is in the air.

Amy Dorrit is just about to open her popular diner for the breakfast rush when she discovers an abandoned baby on her back doorstep.

Amy knows she should call the authorities and turn the infant over to them, but she just can’t. Thoughts of her own abandonment as a baby flood through her and she wants to keep the little one out of the hands of the authorities until the mother – hopefully –returns.

But will the mom come back? And if she doesn’t, what is Amy prepared to do about the baby who has, already, claimed her heart?

Excerpt

As she moved through the breezeway connecting the diner to her apartment, Amy heard a mewling sound at the back-alley door. Her cook, Willie, often left scraps out for strays, especially in winter, and sometimes when she took the trash out at the end of the day, Amy would find a mamma cat searching for something to feed her kittens.

Amy opened the door, expecting to see a hungry animal looking for a handout, and got the shock of the century when she found a baby carrier, complete with a crying infant nestled in it.

She gasped, her head flicking right, then left, to find the person responsible for leaving a baby out in the frigid night air.

“Hello? Is anyone here?”

The still sleeping and silent town surrounded her as shoe impressions in the fresh snow indicated the baby hadn’t been there for long.

The infant’s howl echoed in the quiet.

“Oh, you poor thing. Let’s get you out of the cold.”

Book Trailer

Universal Buy Link: https://books2read.com/u/3R8lVG

Add it to your Goodreads WANT TO READ list:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57957986-santa-baby

RECOMMEND IT TO OTHER READERS on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/santa-baby-a-dickens-holiday-prequel-dorrit-s-diner-by-peggy-jaeger

Bio

Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes Romantic Comedies about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them. If she can make you cry on one page and bring you out of tears rolling with laughter the next, she’s done her job as a writer!

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, she brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she’s created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

When she’s not writing Peggy is usually painting, crafting, scrapbooking or decoupaging old steamer trunks she finds at rummage stores and garage sales.

A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, Peggy is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

As a lifelong diarist, she caught the blogging bug early on, and you can visit her at peggyjaeger.com where she blogs daily about life, writing, and stuff that makes her go “What??!”

Where to find Peggy…

Website/Blog | Twitter | Amazon | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Instagram | BookBub | You-Tube

Checking In With Your Boundaries

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In a recent interview on Spirituality & Health magazine, therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab shared what she considers the four most important words in our increasingly chaotic world: Set Boundaries, Find Peace. Those words are also the title of her recent release.

Here’s a thought-provoking excerpt from that interview:

It is a spiritual practice to tune into yourself and consider the why of your feelings. What’s trying to come up that I may be trying to push down? What’s trying to be released that I need to let go of? Often, when we’re having uncomfortable feelings, there is a boundary that needs to be addressed.

Of course, we can’t live a life without uncomfortable feelings. But what are they trying to tell us? What things do we need to practice to deal with that feeling better, or even reconfigure the trigger for those feelings?

The real breakthrough is not, “Oh my gosh, I have an issue with anger.” The real breakthrough is realizing that when I put myself in situations where there are no boundaries, I have an issue with anger.

Source: Spirituality & Health, February 2021, p. 49

Book Blast: The Coach’s Wife

I’m happy tow welcome award-winning author Barbara Casey. Today, Barbara shares her new release, The Coach’s Wife.

Blurb

The Cinderella Coyotes of State University are in the Final Four, poised to win the NCAA National Championship in basketball—the culmination of March Madness. For Marla Conners, she’s proud of her husband Neal, and his achievement of coaching a collegiate team to the pinnacle of his career and the ultimate victory for his team. Yet, Marla’s idyllic life is about to be viciously attacked and torn apart by a different madness—her husband’s reputation ruined, a university disgraced, and she finds herself on trial accused of first-degree murder.

The Coach’s Wife is rife with spine-tingling suspense, conspiracy, deceit, and murder, sizzling and seductive passion, right down to the last second buzzer-beating heroics. This is also a candid and vivid behind-the-scenes portrait of Division One college basketball, university politics, money and corruption, and all the lives that are blessed and ruined by it all.

Excerpt

Another deafening roar exploded from the coliseum, and when it did Marla threw down her partially smoked cigarette and ground it into the polished tile floor with the toe of her shoe. Quickly she reached for another cigarette from the opened pack in her small red handbag. She lit it, sucked the smoke into her mouth, held her breath, coughed, and then slowly released it. Marla didn’t smoke, but when she paced up and down the hallways of basketball coliseums, puffing on cigarettes seemed appropriate. It gave her something to do with her hands, and it helped keep her sane.

“God, how I hate this.” Gale Simmons, the gray-haired woman pacing in the same direction as Marla, was married to one of the assistant coaches at Piedmont State. She, along with several other women—also wives of coaches, some of them wives of players—were known as the hall walkers. They were the women who met on a regular but unscheduled basis the last two minutes of every game, pacing the halls, smoking, or pretending to in Marla’s case, and trying to give each other encouragement. Unable to watch the most crucial time of the game—that last two minutes—they paced in heart-pounding agony, listening to the fans erupt in cheers or boos, and to the announcer scream out the play-by-play over the public address system.

It didn’t matter which team they supported. The bond they shared went beyond the game and winning or losing. It was after the game that most mattered. If their team won, it meant going through the torture one more time, but at least their husbands would be happy. If their team lost, it meant their husbands would go through weeks of depression and as their wives they would have to put up with an impenetrable wall of silence broken only by an occasional negative outburst—usually directed toward them. Each of the hall walkers had experienced it. And it was that experience more than any other that cemented the friendship between them.

With thirty seconds to go, the score is 76 all. This is a hot one, folks. Let’s see what the Seawolf pack is going to do. Sydney Rob makes an inbound pass into the back court to Jerry March—the clock is moving, folks. Jerry lobs the ball back over to Rob. Rob passes it over to Miller in the right court.

Interception by Darrell Washington! Holy cow, sports fans! The Seawolf’s Sydney Rob loses the ball to the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest has the ball. Washington bringing it down court. Fifteen seconds on the clock.

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU

Author Bio and Links

Barbara Casey is the author of several award-winning novels for both adults and young adults, as well as book-length works of nonfiction true crime, and numerous articles, poems, and short stories. Her nonfiction true crime book, Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly, has been optioned for a major film and television series. Her nonfiction book, Assata Shakur: A 20th Century Escaped Slave, is under contract for a major film. In addition to her own writing, she is an editorial consultant and president of the Barbara Casey Agency. Established in 1995, she represents authors throughout the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. Barbara is also a partner in Strategic Media Books Publishing, an independent publishing house that specializes in cutting-edge adult nonfiction. Barbara lives on a mountain in Georgia with her three cats who adopted her: Homer, a southern bobtail; Reese, a black cat; and Earl Gray, a gray cat and Reese’s best friend.

http://www.barbaracaseyauthor.com | http://www.barbaracaseyagency.com

Giveaway

Barbara Casey will be awarding a $25 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn commenter. Find out more here.

Follow Barbara on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.