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Raising the Dead (Soul Broker 2) Teaser

Raising the Dead DIGITAL.jpgI’m super-excited to announce that the sequel to Waking the Dead and second book in the Soul Broker series, Raising the Dead, is in production with City Owl Press! Release Day is January 16, 2017!

Afterlife management is a tricky business, especially for a living soul broker.

Juggling normal life with her otherworldly responsibilities—like helping departed souls cross to the other side while collecting grief from the living through her empathetic connection—just got a whole lot more complicated for Vivian Bedford. Her guardian spirit bosses, who make the mafia look tame, don’t like the side jobs she’s been taking to help living souls in peril.

But they don’t know the half of it.

She’s been working in secret with Lazarus Darkmore, a grim reaper and unlikely ally against the guardians’ hold on her. When a rogue guardian sends an ominous message that threatens to expose the alliance unless she stops, she has no choice but to put her trust in the reaper. But can a creature as dark and terrifying as Darkmore keep her safe, or will his appetite for cruelty and terror be her undoing?

With a spirit world energy crisis looming and guardian spirits closing in, Vivian must choose—toe the line with the guardians, plunge into darkness with the reaper, or join a rebellion that could unleash hell on earth.

Excerpt:

In the meantime, here’s a snippet to whet your appetite for the Reaper’s dark machinations for Vivian Bedford. Confronted with a sticky situation with a rogue guardian spirit, Lazarus Darkmore, Reaper, is the only creature to whom she can turn for help. Can she trust him? And what will be the price of his service?

***

They settled into an awkward silence, at least awkward for Vivian. Darkmore closed his eyes and inhaled the spring air. When he opened them, he regarded the Greek columns of the Parthenon before him with interest. “The materials are not authentic, of course, but I have to admit, it’s a decent reproduction. If you don’t have any more burdens to share, my dear, I think I should like to see Athena. It has been centuries!”

Now or never.

“I’m fresh out of burdens, but if you wouldn’t mind some company, there’s something else I’d like to discuss with you.”

Darkmore’s eyes widened as he said, “Oh my, the honorable Vivian Margaret Bedford, spiritual intercessor for the city’s downtrodden, wishes to consort with a grisly reaper? Tsk, tsk, what would Ezra think?”

“Never mind Ezra,” she said. “I have a big problem and I need some information from you and…possibly your help.”

There. She’d managed to ask for his help. Now she waited for the axe to fall.

“I take it that this ‘problem’ does not deal with the realm of the living. Very well. I’m intrigued, which may compensate for the paltry sustenance you brought today,” he said as he offered his arm. “Come along then, my dear.”

With a sense of falling, she placed her hand on his proffered arm, and before she could blink, they were standing before the impressive statue of the Greek goddess of wisdom, all forty-two feet of her. She felt Darkmore’s cool arm making its way around her back to support her as she shrieked. To her surprise, none of the other patrons turned in response, or even registered their presence.

Motherfucker!

“Now, now, Ms. Vivian,” he purred into her ear, his cool breath making goosebumps erupt over her flesh. “Do try to calm yourself. We are in the presence of divinity.”

“Couldn’t we just go through the fucking front door like normal people?” Vivian gasped. Spirit travel seemed cool in theory, but in reality it just made her nauseous. Not to mention nervous.

“But then we’d have to pay,” replied Darkmore.

When he was certain that she could stand on her own, he released Vivian and moved closer to the base of the statue. He seemed to be lost in admiration, as he didn’t even flinch when a couple walking hand-in-hand walked straight through him. She figured that Darkmore was trying to scare her, or impress her, or both. Probably both. Vivian knew that guardians and reapers could pull off tricks like that with ease, though she wasn’t quite certain if his lack of a corporeal presence extended to her. She moved out of their way just in case.

“It is a pity to keep the doors closed. The goddess would shine with more splendor by the light of the sun,” Darkmore remarked.

He was right. Her headdress, toga, spear, and shield were gilded. Vivian was more than a little surprised, not to mention impressed. In all of her years living in Nashville, she’d never stepped inside the Parthenon. It was remarkable.

“I was expecting plain marble, and not so much makeup,” she said, staring in wide-eyed wonder.

“Oh no, it was ivory over bronze back in the day—I believe that’s the expression. Her very dress once held much of the treasury for Athens. Hence, the gold. The mighty did, and often still do, enjoy audacious displays of wealth. Though she isn’t quite on par with Phidias,” he said, inclining his head toward her and spoke in a low and confidential tone. “This likeness captures the pretense of her remoteness and frigidity quite a bit better.”

“Huh?” she said, astonished. Athena was real? She was going to ask him to elaborate, but was caught off guard once more when Darkmore transported them from the floor to the statue’s shoulder.

He laughed. “Parthenos indeed! She was many, many things, the goddess, but the title of ‘virgin’ was dubious at best. Now then, come a little closer and tell me all of your troubles,” Darkmore drawled, pulling her beside him.

Now that would be an interesting story.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” She had to admit, being a little closer to the reaper eased her fear of falling. She didn’t think gravity would affect them in their current state, but decided to take no chances with that either.

“Of course I am,” he replied nonchalantly. “After all, it is in my nature. And your troubles are always most interesting.”

With a deep breath, Vivian gave her account of the attack on Father Montgomery at the hands of the unknown rogue guardian as Darkmore continued to examine the statue. She was a little annoyed by his apparent lack of concern, though he at least nodded from time to time to let her know that he was still listening. He only gave her his full attention when she got to the part about healing the priest.

“You’re a healer? You are full of surprises, Ms. Vivian.”

“I only just found out, and I still don’t know how it works or if I can heal people with regular ills as opposed to zaps from your kind,” she confessed.

“It wasn’t my kind who did this,” Darkmore said. He didn’t seem upset, but he waited until she nodded in acknowledgment.

“So why would a guardian want to hurt someone close to me?”

“To get your attention, of course.”

“No kidding,” Vivian said sardonically. “What I mean is, why does this one want me to stop what I’m doing? I’m on their side.” She blushed and put her head down then, realizing her faux pas.

Damn my big fucking mouth!

“What I meant is, um…I’m working with them, you know? For them. I didn’t mean…look, I know from experience that it’s not all black and white, and I sure as hell know that guardians aren’t always the good guys.”

“Which brought you to me,” Darkmore said. He didn’t seem smug, or angry, or even surprised. He just seemed…interested.

Good thing. Maybe he’d help her if she kept his attention and entertained him. Taking a deep breath, she said, “I need to know what I’m up against, and I’d like to find out who this so-called rogue guardian is and how to get him off my back. Can you help me?”

“That’s not the relevant question, my dear.”

“Then what is the relevant question?”

“You want to know if I am willing to help you, and what it will cost.”

“Well, yeah,” she answered. She was beginning to feel a bit ornery. “You don’t work for free, though I would have thought you’d be concerned enough about your meal ticket to want me safe.”

“Well, there is that,” he conceded, smiling.

Vivian was not amused. “So, will you help me or not?”

“Yes.”

“What will it cost?”

“I shall have to think on it. Do you trust me?” Darkmore asked.

“No more and no less than I trust any other spirit,” Vivian answered honestly.

“It’s a start. I’ll be in touch.”

With that, he disappeared, and Vivian found herself back on solid ground, left to wonder about what the going interest rate might be for her line of credit with Darkmore. She shuddered, knowing full well what sort of collateral he’d hold. She stared at Pandora on the statue’s pedestal. Well, I hope that isn’t a bad sign. Hope was definitely the key word.

 

***

 

Like it? Leave a Comment and let me know if you’d like an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review!

 

Blurb:

 

Afterlife management is a tricky business, especially for a living soul broker.

 

Juggling normal life with her otherworldly responsibilities—like helping departed souls cross to the other side while collecting grief from the living through her empathetic connection—just got a whole lot more complicated. Her guardian spirit bosses, who make the mafia look tame, don’t like the side jobs she’s been taking to help living souls in peril.

 

But they don’t know the half of it.

 

She’s been working in secret with Lazarus Darkmore, a grim reaper and unlikely ally against the guardians’ hold on her. When a rogue guardian sends an ominous message that threatens to expose the alliance unless she stops, she has no choice but to put her trust in the reaper.  But can a creature as dark and terrifying as Darkmore keep her safe, or will his appetite for cruelty and terror be her undoing?

 

With a spirit world energy crisis looming and guardian spirits closing in, Vivian must choose—toe the line with the guardians, plunge into darkness with the reaper, or join a rebellion that could unleash hell on earth.

New Teaser Tuesday!

December, December, December! Happy Holidays and Almost 2016! Here’s a Teaser Tuesday to tug at your heartstrings. Vance Idol (a.k.a. Jersey Boy Vincent Violetti) and Lorelei make some deep emotional confessions in the calm before the storm.

 

Want to know what happens next? Grab a copy of Lorelei’s Lyric today!

 

***Excerpt***

 

“You okay, sugar?”
“Sure. I’m great. Why do you ask?”
“You should cut the bullshit, Lorelei. It’s not your style. Tell me what’s on your mind.” He hated to kill the mood, since they were having a really nice, really normal, low-key evening out. He’d asked her if she wanted to walk down to the bar at the local marina for some food and music. Sometime during their third tango between the sheets last night, he’d gotten the itch to see those long legs move across a dance floor with him.

 

The marina bar and restaurant was bigger than some of the hole-in-the-wall joints he’d played in the past, but not by much. It looked as though someone had stacked a few ramshackle kid clubhouses side by side over some wooden dock planks and called it an eatery. For what it lacked in size and amenities, it more than compensated for with some out- of-this-world steaks and a killer view of the lake at sunset. Most of the boat owners had docked their expensive toys and abandoned the marina for other watering holes, so he and Lorelei pretty much had the run of the place.

 

They’d enjoyed dinner and drinks, though naturally he’d opted for soda instead of alcohol and earned a smile full of pride and affection from his lady. Still, between her fidgeting and lowered gaze, he knew something was up. Whatever it was, it made his heart race and the hairs on the back of neck stand on end.

 

Maybe now that she’d had time to think about what he’d told her the day before, about Maggie, maybe she was having second thoughts. Not that he blamed her. His baggage wasn’t pretty, and even he knew it would be a hell of a lot for anyone to take on. But she had seemed so sincere in her acceptance and desire. He hoped she’d be willing to give him a chance. Though he tried to stay calm and wait for her to open up, he couldn’t help but worry that she was preparing herself to tell him goodbye.

 

It would kill him if she did.

 

She looked up at him, her blue eyes blazing, and said, “We need to talk.”

 

Ah, hell. Here it comes.

 

Vance Idol had never begged for anything in his life, not even when he’d just been Vincent Violetti. Now he was prepared to say absolutely anything to keep Lorelei from walking out on him.

 

“Look, I know what you’re going to say, but before you do, let me tell you this. I know I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m committed to seeing this thing through. I can be a better man. I want to be a better man, Lorelei. For you.”

 

He hated the desperation in his voice, but he couldn’t help it. He was a man in love. He hated the glassiness in her eyes and the way her shoulders slumped even more. He didn’t want to guilt her into staying, but he couldn’t stand to let her go, either. Not without a fight.

 

“I, look, I know we haven’t known each other that long, and maybe you’re worried about that whole counselor- patient line we crossed, but if you could just trust me enough to give this thing we’ve got between us a chance, to give me a chance—”

 

“Vincent, I’m not really a counselor,” she blurted out.

 

“Lorelei, please—”

 

“Wait a minute,” she said, looking like a light bulb suddenly went off in her head. “You think I’m…you think I’m leaving you? You think I don’t want you?”

 

He cleared his throat and said, “Well, the thought had crossed my mind.”

 

“Oh, Vincent! It’s not that at all. I just….”

 

He breathed a huge sigh of relief, but decided to press on. Her confession gave him pause, though it wasn’t all that surprising in retrospect. Still, whatever she was, therapist or healer or even some New Age guru, she’d managed to reach into the very core of his heart and soul to find something of the man he used to be—the man he wanted to be again, because of her. And he wanted her to tell him all of her troubles and let him share the load, to show that he could give as well as take.

 

“Just what, Lorelei?”

 

“I have to tell you some things that you might not like. Some things about me.”

 

He didn’t know what shocked him more, the notion that he could not like anything about her, or the quiver in her voice. He wondered if he should let her know that he and Jack had talked a little about her family, assuming that’s what was bothering her. A man-hating mother he could handle. Hell, he could just turn on the rock star charm.

 

Of course, Mama might not find the details of his past problems all that charming, especially considering how he was still struggling with them, but he’d own up to it and work to earn her family’s trust.

 

He reached across the table and took her hand, rubbing his thumb over her knuckles. “Nothing you say will change how I feel about you.”

 

“How can you be so sure? You don’t even know what it is yet.”

 

He frowned, but didn’t let go of her hand. “Well, why don’t you just tell me now and we’ll start dealing with it.”

 

She looked back at him and her expression stabbed him through the heart. Sorrow, longing, and something akin to pleading painted her lovely features. He wanted to pull her into his arms, kiss and hold her and erase the uncertainty he read in her gaze.

 

“I’m done running, Lorelei, and I won’t run from you, no matter what you tell me. You’ve seen the worst of me, and you’re still here. You’ve brought out the best in me, too. I’m asking you to trust me enough to do the same for you.”

 

She drew in a gasping breath and exhaled with a shudder. Nodding, she said, “I’ll tell you everything tonight when we get back the lake house, I promise. But right now, I want to spend time just being with you. Please.”

 

“I have an idea,” Vance said. “Hold that thought.”

 

Strolling over to the classic jukebox in the corner, he fiddled with the machine until it allowed him to select a song. He made it back to the table by the time the first haunting notes of “Sleep Walk” floated out around them. The steel guitar chords thundered almost as loud as his heart.

 

He held out a hand to Lorelei and asked, “May I have this dance?”

 

Her blue eyes widened and she smiled. When she gave him her hand, some of the tension bled out of him and he was glad for it. He led her to the small dance floor next to the open windows that faced the water. Someone had turned on the string of white Christmas lights adorning the rail of the dock.

 

They were almost as bright as the light in her eyes.

 

He pulled her close as they slowly swayed to the bittersweet tune. Feeling her warmth, the slow cadence of her heart beating in time with his, surrounded by the cool air and lapping waves in the background, he experienced something he hadn’t in a long, long time.

 

He was at peace.

 

Pressing soft kisses along her temple, over her forehead, in her hair, he took a leap of faith and whispered, “I love you.”

 

A minute stretched out into eternity as his heart started racing. God, he didn’t want to push her, didn’t want to force a confession of love out of her by pressuring her, or worse. He couldn’t abide her pity. He came close to pulling away.

 

No, I promised I wouldn’t run. I’m not that man anymore.

 

Instead, he forced his breathing to slow and bid his body relax. When she leaned into him and rested her head on his shoulder, he sighed and let a wave of relief wash over him. At least he hadn’t scared her off. She moved her hands to his shoulders as she pulled back, her head lowered, not meeting his eyes.

 

Jesus, here it comes.

 

She looked up into his eyes. Hers were full of tears. Slowly, she slid her hands up to cup his face and said, “I love you, too, Vincent Violetti.”

 

*****

 

As she leaned in to kiss him, Lorelei wondered if this was how the sky people felt when they spoke of soaring.

 

No, it couldn’t be. Nothing compares to this.

 

This man loved her, and she loved him back. That was a miracle. He’d heard her song and survived. That was a miracle. No other obstacles they faced would prove insurmountable.

 

When she pulled away from the kiss, she smiled at him and then steeled herself to face their next obstacle. “I’m ready to talk now, to tell you those things about me that you might not like.”

 

“I’m listening.”

 

She glanced around the restaurant to make sure they had enough privacy for the conversation they needed to have, and for Vincent’s likely reaction. Just as she turned back to face him, she sensed a change in the atmosphere around them, an energy surge that could only come from an elemental. Worse, it was an emotionally charged elemental, too, if the drop in air pressure, temperature, and choppy waves breaking in the roiling lake around them were any indication.

 

Oh no!

 

She pulled away from Vincent and rushed to the window so she could look out over the expanse of water. Seized by panic, her first thought was getting her mortal out of there. They had no car, so she’d have to convince him to take off on foot.

 

Spinning around, she took three quick steps and grabbed Vincent’s hand, pulling him with her toward the door.

 

“Lorelei, what the—”
“We have to go. Right now!”

 

“But I haven’t paid—”

 

She conjured some money and plopped it on the hostess stand on the way out. She registered his hesitation. He stiffened when she conjured the money, though she continued to pull him. She imagined his eyebrows were probably stuck somewhere in the vicinity of his hairline, but explanations would have to wait.

 

After they’d made it out of the restaurant and stood dockside, Vincent tugged hard on her hand and brought them to a stop.

 

“We have to go,” she urged. The hairs on her arm were standing straight up. Something major was about to happen.

 

He crossed his arms in front of his chest, nostrils flaring. “Not until you tell me what’s going on. You’re freaking my shit out right now, you know that right?”

 

“I’m sorry, I—”

 

“Gal, we’re in trouble,” said a familiar disembodied voice.

 

Lorelei spun around as Jack appeared. Vincent was about to get even more freaked out. Then again, she was having a hard time holding it together herself.

 

Vincent paled and his eyes widened when Ondine materialized beside Jack in a shimmering series of waves that coalesced into her human form. Well, almost human—her eyes flashed silver and her skin rippled with scales that hovered just beneath the surface. She was either agitated or influenced by the water energy surging around them. Lorelei’s own flesh itched to morph into her true form.

 

“Where the hell did you two come from?” Vincent asked, taking a step back and nearly tumbling over the side of the dock.

 

“Son, I ain’t got time to explain,” Jack said in a lazy drawl that belied the urgency of his request, “but y’all need to either high-tail it outta here or get ready to face the wrath of Lorelei’s Ma.”

 

Mother? Here?

 

“I didn’t tell her, my darling,” Ondine said. Her face was tight and she seemed almost… apologetic.

 

“Where do we go?” Lorelei asked.

 

Jack looked back and forth between her and Vincent. “It’d be faster if y’all hit the water. We can stall her for a little while.” He shrugged. “Maybe even talk her down.”

 

Fresh panic coursed through Lorelei. “But I haven’t told him yet. How’s this going to work?” she asked, nodding toward Vincent.

 

Jack took Vincent by the shoulders and gave him a serious stare down. “Vincent, you’re just gonna have to trust our gal here to see you safely home.”

 

Vincent’s eyes went wide with panic. “Can you just please tell me what’s going on? What are we running from?”

 

“You ain’t running, son. You’re swimming.”

 

Lorelei took Jack’s cue, grabbed hold of Vincent and said, “I love you. And I’m sorry.”

 

“Sorry for—”
She leapt and pulled him with her. Once airborne, she willed her fins to replace legs and summoned a protective bubble of air around Vincent’s body.

 

Then together they plunged into the depths of the lake’s dark water.

Happy 2015!

Since I did a wrapping-up-the-old-year-building-goals-for-the-new-year blog post around this time last year, I thought it would be fun to look at my goals from last year and see what kind of progress I made on them.

1. Finish and Edit Works in Progress

So at the beginning of 2014, I had finished (or so I thought) revisions for my works in progress: Waking the Dead, Nixies in Dixie, and Going Dutch. We’ve been hitting the submissions pretty hard this year, and while we’ve accepted no contracts yet, we had an offer on Going Dutch and some encouraging feedback from editorial passes on the others.

This left us with some decisions to make in terms of priorities and regrouping. Once more, my fabulous agents came through with great advice, which along with some fresh beta reads helped me bring up Waking the Dead to over 90K words! Revisions include:

1. Emphasis on better world-building and establishing the rules for corporeal spirits, living soul brokers, and afterlife management in the series. HUGE thanks to Jody Wallace for that. Those brainstorming sessions were invaluable. Someday soon, once WTD is published, I’ll publish one of these hilarious online jam sessions on the blog.

2. More emphasis on the heroine’s journey and the stakes involved, as well as shifting from Urban Fantasy to Women’s Fiction with elements of Magical Realism. I love the result – reminiscent of Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come.

3. The addition of a few more gut-wrenching scenes that had me in tears, as well as tightening the story and filling in some missing details caught by Debbie Herbert.

Victoria Lea has the new and improved version now, and we hope to get back on submissions soon. Fingers and toes crossed!

So what about the others?

I’ve put Nixies on the back burner for now in order to focus on Going Dutch. I love both, but paranormal romance is a really tough sell in the current market. I’m convinced there’s a home for my mermaids, but the better bet is getting the contemporary romance to a marketable length and getting it out there. So as of mid-January, I’ll be cracking my knuckles and getting busy adding another 20K word’s worth of laughs and romance to GD so I can get it to my agents pronto!

2. Learn All I Can About Marketing and Promotions

Thanks to my dear friend and critique partner, Sophia Jones, I was able to attend the Arizona Dreamin’ conference and learn more about marketing and promotions, including tips for self-publishing. Since that will likely become a part of my portfolio at some point, I was pleased to make contacts with representatives from InD’tale. These folks specialize in promoting self-published and small press published romance and have an impressive subscriber list.

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.43.11 PMMy second shot at marketing the Lyrical Press novella, this time with the power of Kensington Publishing Corporation, garnered a few more sales upon re-release. As a means of getting some more promo for myself as an author, I was fortunate enough to receive an invitation from Trish Milburn to contribute to a holiday-themed anthology of micro-stories. Mistletoe Magic, featuring an autistic hero and a heroine determined to reach his heart, was my contribution to Tiny Treats. I was thrilled to be a part of this project, which rocked the Amazon charts for freebies and anthologies (still #59 in Kindle eBook Holiday Romance). If you’d like a copy, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Smashwords, and GooglePlay.

Did I mention it’s free?

Even better, there will be another spring-themed anthology for St. Patrick’s day. I’m working on another story featuring the same pairing from Tiny Treats.

One big goal for 2015 is revamping my website for a fresh new look and some much-needed updates. Stay tuned!

3. Give Back

Probably one of the most rewarding parts of this journey has been encouraging other authors and watching them begin their own journeys. I was delighted with the release of Jeanne Hardt’s tender and heartwarming Civil War era historical romance, Marked. Having fallen in love with steamboats ala Mark Twain years ago, I found the setting as charming as the story, which I had the great honor to beta before its release. I’m so thrilled for Jeanne and can’t wait for her next River Romance book. In the meantime, I have a copy of From the Ashes of Atlanta in my Kindle queue!

I’ve had the great fortune to beta read for some of my MCRW sisters, and let me tell you, these ladies have some fantastic stories to tell: from Susan’s Bickford’s hot Italian hero hiding out in Tennessee to Page Pennington’s reluctant witch with a heart of gold to Caitlin Fryer’s larger-than-life swashbuckling pirate (you can check out some of Caitlin’s amazing artwork on her site, too!).

I enjoyed hosting many of my fellow Aponte Literary authors on my blog, including Debbie Herbert, Ariel Swan, Brynn Chapman, M.V. Freeman, Tanisha Jones, and D.T. Krippene. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these authors and their work and look forward to sharing  more of their work with my readers!

So for 2015? More, more, more! I can’t wait to help the authors in my network and to add to that network!

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.21.00 AMSummary

I’m counting 2014 as a success, and I’ll definitely keep the same goals for 2015. Well, I’ll add a wish for more fangirl dream moments like the one I had meeting Diana Gabaldon at the Arizona Dreamin’, Pocket Jamie in tow.

Squee!!!

So that’s my year in review and my hopes and aspirations for the coming year.

What are yours?

Welcome Jeff Lee!

I am delighted to welcome Jeff Lee to my blog today! I first encountered Mr. Lee’s fresh and laugh-out-loud-funny brand of satire during the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition, and I’m so glad I did! The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour remains one of my favorite books of all time, blending a cast of larger-than-life characters with improbable adventures, humor-a-plenty, and a dash of heart.

Jeff’s debut was also my introduction to Moe “Fish” Fishbein and his posse of unlikely bounty hunters/repo men. Fish being Fish, apparently he wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines. Jeff (wisely) followed his muse and followed up with Hair of the Dog, aptly described as THE MALTESE FALCON meets GET SHORTY. ‘With his armload of tattoos, Buddha-licious grin and old school Harley chopper, Fish is the go-to guy for showbiz A-listers with runaway spouses and agents whose celebrity clients have jumped bail.’

 

In Chump Change, the third installment of the series and described by yours truly as Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, Fish, Kenny, and Einstein are back at doing what they do best.

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00007]CROOKED TV PREACHERS. PSYCHO SHOWBIZ MOMS. NAKED ROMAN ZOMBIES. PORN STARS WHO TALK LIKE COLONEL KLINK.

You gotta love this town.

You think it’s easy being the Bounty Hunter and Repo Guy to the Stars? Just ask “Fish” Fishbein. If he isn’t trying to corral a heavily lubricated ex-rocker, he’s flying down the freeway in a repoed Wiener Mobile, chased by the pistol-packing deadbeat who owns it.

A bail bondsman hires him to track down a crew of unwise guys who blew off their court date to snatch L.A.’s monthly parking meter take — 300 grand in quarters. Then they start dropping like flies. And Fish has to catch the killer.

Maybe it’s the city’s armed and dangerous Parking Meter Czar. Or his brother-in-law, a corrupt televangelist who needs some serious coin to bankroll his foray into Bible-based porn. Or the Rev’s wife and co-minister, who’s bat-shit crazy about toddler beauty pageants. Or, it just might be the defrocked talent agent who’s dying to make Fish a reality TV star.

With more than seven tons of quarters at stake, bodies are dropping faster than turn-downs on America’s Got Talent. And if Fish and his hog-riding buds, Kenny and Einstein, don’t nab the killer in a hurry, they could get eliminated themselves.

 

Chump Change is author Jeff Lee’s third book in his Fish Fishbein series, following The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour and Hair of the Dog. If you enjoy the whacko characters, situations and fast pace that Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard bring to the party, check out all of Fish’s big adventures.

 

Here’s my review:

I’ve been a Jeff Lee fan ever since Vonda Mae Ables set off on a girls’ road trip with her two best gal pals and one good-for-nothing boyfriend’s dead carcass stashed in the RV’s freezer. The Ladies Temperance Club’s Farewell Tour introduced us to Moe Fishbein and his fellow bounty hunters/repo men. These unforgettable side characters got some much-deserved page time in Hair of the Dog.

Now they’re back on the hunt for some petty-yet-deadly criminals in Chump Change. The perps steal an armored car full of parking meter change, missing a court date in the process. Enter Fish, Kenny, and Einstein. What starts out as a simple middle of the night bad guy grab turns into Barnum and Bailey’s when scheister lawyer-turned wannabe reality show producer ‘Arnie babe’ turns up with a camera crew. Not that Moe isn’t Hollywood material, but this is a serious liability to the element of surprise.

And the dead body on the back porch isn’t helping either.

Since their quarry keep turning up dead, Fish, his crew, and Detective Carlos Santana (LOL) follow the trail back to LA’s crooked Parking Czar, a sleazy televangelist with a penchant for porn, and the local mob scene. Think Carl Hiaasen meets ‘Get Shorty’ with a body count, and you’ve got one helluva story. Definitely recommend!

 

And now for the good part – a chat with one of my favorite cyberpals, ABNA alum and wonderful writer, Jeff Lee.

 

Moe, Kenny, and Einstein are quite the trio, and as near as I can tell, the only honest and ethical dudes in your La-La land fictionverse. Who or what inspired these characters (confession – I’ve been wanting to ask for years if The Three Stooges played a part)?

 

Funny you should ask about Fish, Kenny and Einstein. People who’ve known me for a long time swear that those characters represent different parts of what makes me, me. You’ve got three bright guys (OK, the jury’s still out on the contents of Kenny’s cranium) who, while they may not have much respect for a lot of the system, they try to get by the best they can without stapling, folding or mutilating any major statutes. All this, while taking as much time as possible for a little V-twin therapy and a healthy chortle from time to time.

 

Gotcha! They do say that every character represents some aspect of the author’s psyche, so I’m convinced yours is a quite a wonderland! Speaking of La-La Land, the Los Angeles setting is a vibrant and vital part of your series – practically another character in it’s own right, from glitz and glamour to seedy underbelly. How much of this imagined L.A. was inspired by the real city?

 

I spent my whole career as an advertising copywriter and creative director – almost forty years – in L.A. And look, every city is a melting pot, right? They all have their diverse neighborhoods; their high rent districts; their soft white underbellies. But the City of the Angels comes factory-equipped with a level of gonzo-ness you just won’t find anywhere else. Maybe it’s the Kardashians and all the red carpet interviews. Maybe it’s the fat and gluten-free bottled water. If you keep your eyes and ears open, there’s an inexhaustible wealth of sights, sounds, people and places just begging to be satirized – or at least chuckled at. That’s why most of my L.A. locations are real, like the deli full of standup comics and gigantic, full-color “Jewish Porn” photos of cold cuts on rye; or the Malibu seafood restaurant with the Harley-eating potholes in the parking lot and menu selections right out of “The Rockford Files”. You gotta love this town.

 

Indeed, and you’re totally giving me the itch to visit L.A. again. I adore so much about your stories, but I think the over-the-top side characters and antagonists are my favorites. From sleazy lawyer-turned-reality-show-producer ‘Arnie Babe’ to Televangelist and Bible-based porn broker Reverend Dr. George Stonewall Rogers to his wife, stage mom from hell Janelle Rogers, you create some of the most memorable monuments to human vice. How do you come up with these characters and their quirks?

 

All I can say is I like my villains to be memorable. And the best way to do that is to make them just ever so slightly ridiculous. Look at the news — or anything on the History Channel pertaining to Hitler, the Third Reich or even Bernie Madoff. Our villains all tend to be serious guys who demanded to be taken seriously. (OK, maybe with the possible exception of Mussolini and Hermann Goering – they were pretty damn comical to watch.) I mean, when was the last time you heard a joke begin with the words, “A priest, a rabbi and Michael Corleone walk into a bar…”? And since all villains need to have a fatal flaw, I like to give them something the reader can recall in the middle of an afternoon meeting and bust a gut laughing.

 

I’d say you’ve exceeded those expectations, my friend! Care to drop a few hints about what’s up next for Fish and the boys, pretty please?

 

Writing Chump Change, I had such a good time with reality TV I’m thinking seriously about taking another shot at it. But we’re still in the very early stages here.

 

Ooooh, I would LOVE to read it! How have you found Indie publishing?

 

Interesting question. I’ve both worked with a publisher and as an independent (make that self-published) writer. The people at the publisher were nice, warm, very polite and supportive. But since they were a small publisher, there was no budget or resources to publicize or market my writings. (I understand that with major publishers, it’s the same story.) So, I was the one who had to get it done – and I did it exceptionally badly.

As an indie writer, I still have to find an audience for my work, as well as pay for designers and take care of the actual publishing part myself. But I love the independence, the feeling that I, alone, am responsible for my voice as a writer.

 

It’s definitely a process, and I can relate to muddling through the murky waters of marketing and promo. As for being responsible for your voice, you’ve got a lot to be proud of there. Your writer’s voice really shines! Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!

 

I mentioned before that I had been with a small independent publisher. Unfortunately, they decided go out of business a couple of weeks after publishing one of my other books. Which meant everything I had written for them was now out of print and unavailable on Amazon, or any other book selling site. We’re talking two other titles: Hair of the Dog, which was another very funny Fish Fishbein novel. And Bird Boy, a Stephen King-like cautionary tale about extreme teenage bullying and where it could lead.

My next step will be to self-publish both books, once I get Chump Change going.

 

I do hope you can get those titles back out soon. I loved Hair of the Dog! Random question just for fun – dark chocolate or milk?

 

Both. If you’re talking shaving a little over a slice of homemade cheesecake, it’s gotta be dark.

But then again, there are times when only a Kit Kat will fill the bill.

 

Hmm, dark chocolate and Kit Kats – you’re speaking my language. Top three absolute favorite books?

 

One for the Money by Janet Evanovich

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Anything written by William Goldman

 

Excellent choices! I adore William Goldman, too, and do hope he gets around to The Princess Bride sequel 🙂

Thank you so much for the wonderful interview! To learn more about Jeff, please visit his website. You can also connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. Chump Change is available now Amazon, along with The Ladies Temperance Club Farewell Tour.

Conferences, Fangirling Diana Gabaldon, and Fun with Critique Partner and Gal Pal Sophia Jones

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.24.48 AMI’ve been quite fortunate. As a (relatively) new author, I’ve found tremendous support and a wealth of opportunities through my network of colleagues near and far, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of my favorite authors over the past 5 years of my writing career. Thanks to author, critique partner, and dear friend Sophia Jones, Diana Gabaldon is now on that list.

 

I highly recommend attending conferences and author/reader events, large or small, to aspiring authors. After all, Killer Nashville not only expanded my network, it provided the means of landing my wonderful agents. Aside from those benefits, conferences serve as a balance to the often solitary business of writing. Arizona Dreamin’ did just that – with workshops on craft, editing, marketing and promo, as well as two REALLY useful how-to sessions on avoiding procrastination and successfully executing writing sprints, the conference was both informative and flat-out fun!

 

And, of course, I had a blast being a fangirl! I fell in love with Diana Gabaldon’s epic Outlander series, and James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, after marathoning my way through the first seven books. No easy feat, as the books are freakin’ HUGE. So I was over the moon excited at the prospect of meeting the woman who birthed some of the most compelling and memorable characters I’ve encountered.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.21.00 AMShe proved to be as witty, engaging, and entertaining as her characters, and gracious with her advice to writers in the audience. I was inspired and heartened to learn that she, too, began her writing career in the midst of juggling her primary career as an academic researcher with the demands of motherhood – this resonated with my own journey and gave me hope that I *may* not be quite so insane as I’d first been told when I started writing (while juggling an academic research career, two small children, and a husband who spends half of the month traveling). Or, if I am a bit insane, at least I’m in good company.

 

She was quite amused and (I think) pleased with my Pocket Jamie, and was gracious enough to pose for a photo after signing my copy of The Outlandish Companion Vol 1.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.23.12 AMShe shared details about the upcoming television adaptation, including her nickname for Sam Heughan (‘Sheugs’), and told us she’s been quite pleased with the footage she’s viewed so far. With that seal of approval, I’m even more excited for the August 9th premiere. She also promised more Lord John books – much to my delight when I asked the question – and mentioned plans for a series involving Master Raymond, prehistoric time traveler and Claire’s ancestor. This confirms the information under FAQ: About the Characters on her website, and based on the novella in which he and the Comte St. Germain appear once more, I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

 

And I’ll definitely read it!

 

Thanks to author and organizer, Morgan Kearns, and her team for this wonderful event, and to Sophia Jones for hosting me in her beautiful home city of Phoenix, Arizona (and for the day trip to Sedona). She also took me to The Tilted Kilt, which seemed quite appropriate given the occasion.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-14 at 6.23.55 AMAfter a marathon session reading Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (after which my husband declared ‘Hooray! I can have my wife back now!’), I’m still in love with the series, characters, and look forward to the next installment. As usual, Diana Gabaldon leaves us with as many questions as answers (though the convergence of several plot lines was quite satisfying). No spoilers, but be prepared for some major heartbreaks, as well as more than a few moments of reckoning, and an ending that will tug at your heartstrings. Basically, all the things you know and love about the Outlander universe but better than ever!

 

All in all, it was a great conference, a great experience, and I hope to be back for more next year!

Summer Lovin’ Blog Hop – 5 Great Ideas for Hot Summer Date Nights

Welcome to the Summer Lovin’ Blog Hop. 
Over fifty authors and bloggers have joined together to give you the chance to win an
awesome bundle of books and to read some great posts. Be sure to go to each blog  and comment
with your email to up your chances of winning. Each comment counts as an entry!
Our lovely bloggers are also offering individual prizes so be sure to check them out.

 

SummerLovinBlogHopAh, summer love. What could be sweeter on a sultry summer night? Whether sharing a romantic walk on the beach, picnicking in the park, or heading out to catch a movie at the drive-in (yes, those are coming back in style), warm weather plus longer days means love is in the air…and the water, and the grass, you get the idea.

Speaking of ideas, here are five more summertime date activities for you and your special guy. These outings won’t break the bank, but they’re sure to inspire some bow-chicka-bow-wow time. Why not use those hot summer nights to ‘step into’ your favorite romance novel/novella while turning your man into one of those dreamy heroes you just love to read about?

1. Go on a night hike – pick a nearby park and either join a hiking meetup, or just head on out with your special guy and hit the trails in the evening. Stars shine brighter away from those city lights, and there is something magical about gazing at the moon through a dark canopy of leaves. Plus, makeout sessions under the cover over darkness? Delicious!

I enjoyed incorporating a hot-and-steamy outdoor makeout session for my characters in Red Shoes for Lab Blues – naturally, this required some in depth research. Thanks, hubby!

2. Head out to the State or County Fair – Cotton candy, ferris wheels, and prizes waiting to be won by manly men willing to demonstrate their skill and might, this is old-fashioned fun at its finest. Bonus points for snuggling in the Tunnel of Love.

3. Hit an ice cream parlor – banana splits, as the name implies, are made for sharing. There is something so intimate and sexy about feeding one another and sharing food. Of course, if you’d like to get more, er, creative, get it to go so you and your guy can have fun finding new places to spread whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

4. Mini-golf – an oldie but goodie, this is a fun and inexpensive way for you and your man to indulge in a little friendly competition. And if you happen to need a little help setting up your stroke, just ask your guy to slide in behind you and work on those critical…positions.

5. Go rollerblading/biking/kayaking/*insert favorite outdoor sport activity here* – exercise and fresh air provide so many benefits, and healthy people have healthy love lives. Take advantage of summer weather by getting outdoors and getting active together. One of the best parts of getting hot and sweaty: sharing the shower!

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 12.41.33 PMWhat about you folks out in cyberspace? What are your favorite summer date night scenarios? Feel free to share them in the comments, or whatever happens to be on your mind, for a chance to win some great prizes!

The wonderful hosts of Love, Lust, and Lipstick Stains are offering a huge bundle of eBooks as a grand prize (Red Shoes for Lab Blues is in there), and I’m offering three lucky commenters a pair of super-cute red shoe charms.

Be sure and check out other author bloggers and comment for a chance to win the grand prize. To find them, just click on the cute little blue guy below.

SummerLovinPrizePic

Spreading sunshine

IMGA2734What? I’m somebody’s sunshine?

Thanks to M.Q. Barber, fellow Lyrical Press author, for the nomination, and to Sophia Jones for tagging me, too. I ‘met’ both of these amazing authors through fanfic, and they’ve both spread their writing wings with original material that will thrill and delight readers everywhere – can’t wait for that debut, M.Q.! And, she just signed a contract for the second in her series:)

The goal is for bloggers to bestow a sunny flower to other bloggers “who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” These ladies definitely count, as do those mentioned within their blog posts.

So… here goes. Answers to questions that will hopefully spread some sunshine:

Favorite Color: Any shade of red will do, as you might have guessed from the title of my debut. You’ll find plenty of burgundy in my closet.

Favorite Animal: Well, I’ve always been a cat person. Love my two fluff buckets, even though they spend most of the day doubling as couch cushions. Still, let’s make this interesting… I’m also a sucker for iguanas. Aside from visiting the locals at the Nashville zoo, I took about a zillion pictures of the glorious green reptiles on our various trips to Aruba. You think that’s weird, my daughter wants a pet armadillo! Guess she gets her weirdness from Mama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Favorite Number: Positive numbers in my bank account 🙂

Favorite Non-alcoholic Drink: Pink lemonade

Facebook or Twitter: I spend far too much time on both, but probably more on Facebook.

Your Passion: Reading, writing, and gathering all the life experience I can so I can share it in my stories. Thanks, Sophia, for helping me add skydiving to that list, and to hubby for our scuba diving adventure.

Giving or getting presents: Oh I looooooooove chasing down the perfect gift for friends and family! Giving is the best 🙂

Favorite Day: Those rare and glorious weekend days when I can sleep in and/or nap.

Favorite Flowers: Lilies

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Now for the fun part – check out these folks for a heaping helping of web-based sunshine:

M.Q. Barber

Sophia Jones

Jessi Gage