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Monday, February 24, 2014

What I'm Reading

Every week I introduce you to authors and their books. This week I’d like to share books I’ve really enjoyed and some books I’m looking forward to reading, in no particular order.

After participating in their wild and crazy Facebook party, I read the first Dix Dodd mystery by Norah Wilson and Heather Doherty, The Case of the Flashing Fashion Queen. If the title doesn’t give you a clue, this book is laugh out loud funny. A forty-plus P.I. and her gorgeous twenty-something assistant. While not as crazy as Stephanie Plum and Lula, this is definitely a series I’ll follow.

Split Second by David Baldacci, mystery. I loved the short-lived TV show "King and Maxwell." Until a friend informed me, I had no idea the show was based on Baldacci’s books. Split Second introduces the Secret Service agents (one former, the other on suspension) while solving two mysteries. Another series I’ll follow.

Sixth Sense (A Psychic Crystal Mystery) by Marilyn Baron, romantic suspense. She’s a psychic; he’s a cop who thinks all psychics are frauds. They’re forced to work together to solve disappearances. The conflict between them is almost as strong as their attraction to each other.

We’ll Never Tell and She’ll Never Rest by Jannine Gallant, the first and third books in the Secrets of Ravenwood series. Compelling romantic suspense, strong characters, a page turner. The books can be read out of order (as I did), but they made me want to read the one in between.

The Smuggler Wore Silk by Alyssa Alexander. This Regency-era romantic suspense kept me up way too late at night reading until my eyes blurred. Otherwise I would have read it in one sitting (er, lying in bed). Can’t wait for Alexander’s next book.

Psychic Warrior by Bob Mayer. Some mysteries start you off on the edge of a cliff and, like a snowball rolling downhill, keep building and building. Others start slower then grab you and don’t let go. Mayer’s books are the latter. An interesting concept. Soldiers who can project themselves psychically to gather intelligence hundreds or thousands of miles away from their bodies. Even better, using an avatar, they can battle the enemy.

Canyons of the Night by Jayne Castle. With any of Jayne Ann Krentz’s books (writing as herself, Jayne Castle, or Amanda Quinn), I’m a real fan girl. I especially enjoy the Jayne Castle futuristic romances. I devoured this book in one night then reread it the next day.

Hope’s Folly by Linnea Sinclair, science fiction romance. Another fan girl moment. I love all of Sinclair’s books, but this is my favorite. An old (according to him) wounded warrior and a young no-respect-for-the-rules self-appointed (should I mention head strong?) security chief who’s been in love with him since she was a child. Never mind the attempted assassination or the war waging around them in space. I’ll read Philip and Rya’s story again and again because of the characters.

Two holiday romances: Journey of the Magi by Barbara Edwards and Christmas Wishes by Patricia Kiyono. Heartwarming, feel-good books. Perfect any time of the year.

I’ve been catching up on some outstanding (classic?) science fiction and science fiction romances. Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet: Dauntless; Julie E. Czerneda’s A Thousand Words for Stranger; Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace (Jax); Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh; David Weber’s On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington); Andre Norton’s Sargasso of Space (Solar Queen series). Compelling stories. I can see why they are on everyone’s must read list.

I just wish writers wouldn’t write series because I always want to read the next book. Since I write series, as my mom would say, I’m the pot calling the kettle black. LOL

Besides the 200+ unread books on my Kindle (blame Free Books), I’m anxious to read Only If You Dare by Margo Hoornstra, contemporary romance; Summertime Dream by Babette James, contemporary romance; Lie Catchers by Rolynn Anderson, mystery; R.T. Wolfe’s Savage Deception, romantic suspense; the third book in Maris Soule’s PJ Benson Crows mysteries; Delayed Justice by Constance Bretes, romantic suspense; Lucky in Love by Kristen Brockmeyer, romance.

So many books, so little time.

What are you reading?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Sampler - Delayed Justice by Constance Bretes

Can two former lovers set aside their differences and work together to bring a criminal to justice? 

Five years ago, Sami Parker's life was changed forever when she was injured in a bombing incident which left another young woman dead—a woman who happened to be the fiancée of Sheriff Makeeta Robertson, Sami's former lover. Initially, Sami was a suspect in the crime, but the sheriff was forced to release her due to a lack of evidence. The town, convinced that she got away with murder, turned against her.

At last an arrest has been made and the sheriff needs Sami's help to get a conviction, but can she trust him? Although wary and cautious, she wants to see this man brought to justice and wants to clear her own name once and for all. But the awakening feelings she has for Makeeta bring yet another problem. Then there's the secret she's kept for the last five years—one she may not be able to keep any longer, and one that may change the outcome of the trial.


Sami got in her truck at about ten in the evening to head to Milne City to get her mail. She pulled up in front of the post office, parking parallel to the building, and walked inside to her mailbox. When she returned to her truck, a sheriff cruiser pulled up beside her. She walked between the cruiser and her truck and Makeeta got out of the cruiser.

"Sami, what are you doing out here this late at night?" he asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" she uttered sarcastically.

"Why do you get your mail so late?"

"To avoid people like you," she retorted curtly and continued to her truck and opened the door. She fumbled with her mail and some dropped to the ground. Makeeta bent over to pick it up at the same time she did. He grabbed the mail first and handed it to her.

"I was going to call you next week. I need you to come down to the sheriff's office and see if you can pick out the perpetrator in a lineup," Makeeta said. She climbed into her truck and he leaned slightly on her truck door, preventing her from closing it.

"I already picked him out at the district attorney's office. You know that—you were there."

"Yes, but for added security, if you can identify him in a lineup, that would leave the jury with absolutely no doubt about the identity. We want to seal the case up and close any gaps or loopholes that the defense might grab on to."

Sami let out a sigh. "I don't know if I'm comfortable coming down to the sheriff's office to do this. How do I know you won't arrest me?"

Makeeta looked at her questioningly. "Why would I do that?"

"Gee, I don't know, maybe because you think I helped create the damn bomb that went off?"

"I thought we were past this, Sami. I cleared you of any suspicion of involvement in the case."

"Yeah, well, what I don't understand is why if you didn't believe me five years ago, you would believe me now," Sami said, holding her raw emotion in check.

"I don't recall ever saying I didn't believe you, but I had an investigation going on and I needed to rule everyone out." Makeeta's voice hardened.

"You didn't rule me out…you brought me into the station the minute I was released from the hospital. I had intense pain, needed my medication, and you kept me there for hours. Did you conveniently forget about that?" Sami asked, looking him up and down from her side vision. He still had a beautifully proportioned body. He wore a blue jean shirt, with his badge pinned to his pocket, and tight-fitting jeans. His face was ruggedly handsome, with shoulder-length black hair. "You should have sent one of your deputies out to talk to me two weeks ago, you should have known that I wouldn't be interested in talking to you about anything." She wanted to get this conversation over with so she could leave.

"I thought it would be easier for you if it was just you and me," he said quietly.

"After what you put me through, you thought it would be easier for me? What planet did you come from?" she asked incredulously. "Besides, you weren't alone, you brought the district attorney and another deputy with you."

"Okay, maybe I made a bad judgment call there," he confessed. "But I'm here now to ask you to come to the station and see if you can identify the perpetrator."

"When do you want me to come down?"

"As soon as you can," he answered crisply.

"All right, may as well get it over with. I'll be there tomorrow at ten, is that okay with you?" she asked sharply.

"Tomorrow at ten would be just fine." Makeeta smiled thinly at her.

"Okay, now if you'll excuse me, I want to get out of here."

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Connie’s Bio:  I was born and raised in Michigan. I graduated from Pontiac Catholic HS in 1974 and went to work shortly thereafter for the State of Michigan. I have been employed by the State of Michigan for over 35 years. I have a BA in Business Administration and an MBA in Leadership Studies from Baker College.  I have written so many papers for college, ‘how to’ procedural manuals, and casework manuals, I decided I wanted to do something fun and enjoyable, so I started to write romance stories about seven years ago and haven’t regretted it.

I met my happy ever after partner in 1994 when I answered his ad in a Christian singles magazine and we've been together ever since. In January, 1995, I asked him to marry me and we were married in April of 1995. We have no children, but we do have a houseful of cats, indoor and outdoor kind.

In my spare time, I like to read, and watch education shows such as Discovery, Discovery Science, Investigative Discovery, National Geographic, HLN, and the History Channel.  I have a pad of paper next to the remote control in the living room to take notes that I find beneficial when I’m writing a suspense romance. I also like to travel out west.  Hubby and I have property out in Montana where we hope to build a log home on in the near future! You will find some of my romance locations are in Big Sky Montana. In fact, my new release, Delayed Justice, is situated in Montana.

I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mid-Michigan Chapter of Romance Writers of America.

I can be reached at http://www.conniebretes.weebly.com, cbretes@sbcglobal.net, facebook under the name of constance bretes, and twitter under the name of connie bretes. I know, I think I was having an identity crisis when I signed myself up for all this. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Life Less Ordinary Tour & Giveaway

Victoria Bernadine is on a tour celebrating the release of her debut book. She's graciously accepted my invitation to interview her. Victoria has a giftaway. More about that at the end of the post.

Welcome, Victoria. Tell us about yourself.

I’m a forty-something woman, living and working in Edmonton with my two cats, The Grunt and The Runt.  I recently returned to work after taking a thirteen-month sabbatical from the office rat race.  It was a great break, and I highly recommend it to everyone!

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’m not disciplined enough to have a work schedule.  A Life Less Ordinary was mostly written and edited at the back of the bus during my daily commute.  Forty-five minutes each way, so I had time to kill – LOL.  When I’m really caught in the throes of writing and editing, though, I write every minute I can.  That includes in front of the TV, in bed, on the couch, on a plane (part of A Life Less Ordinary was written on a plane on the way to the Dominican Republic)…anywhere.  Of course, it helps that I also write with paper/pen, so it’s easy to carry around and use it whenever or wherever the mood strikes me.

That all said, I do try to write something each day, even if it’s only a sentence or two.  This year has been a bit spotty due to off line events, but I hope things are going to start to smooth out now.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

A Life Less Ordinary was inspired by where I was in my own life at that particular moment when I started to write it.  Other books/stories have been inspired by actors, or by something on TV, or just a passing thought that flits through my head, or by somebody else’s stories about their life.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Hmmm…this is a toughie.  While A Life Less Ordinary is the first book I’ve published, it’s not the first thing I’ve written and shared with others, and not the first that would be considered novel-length.  I’ve been writing steadily since 2008 (fanfic, and in 2009, I started writing original fic).  If I were to limit it to my original fic, then I’ve written a novel, a novella, and a script before A Life Less Ordinary was finished.  That’s not counting the unfinished stuff.

My favourite?  Well, A Life Less Ordinary at the moment (since it’s on tour – LOL), but I have a lot of affection for everything I’ve finished, and everything I’ve started.

What do you think makes a good story?

Compelling characters and strong concepts.  I don’t need a lot of intricate plotting and intrigue (although I enjoy those as well, of course), but I definitely need to care about the characters I’m reading about, or one of them, at least.  As I always say about books/movies/TV shows where I dislike every character:  “I wouldn’t spend time with these people in real life, why should I waste my time watching/reading about them?”  I’m also willing to forgive a lot if the idea underlying the story is interesting.

What is the best part of writing for you?

That rush of creation.  No matter how bad that first draft is (and OMG is it bad sometimes!), it’s still something I’m creating from nothing.

Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, outline, or...?

I start with whatever scene or snippet of dialogue has popped into my head.  I may or may not start with a basic plot (“A 45-year-old woman has a mid-life crisis, and heads out on a six-month road trip.”), but sometimes I’ve started with a snippet of dialogue or a scene, and then figured out what’s going on.

With A Life Less Ordinary, it just so happened the first scene I wrote was also the first scene in the book.  That’s seldom the case – LOL.  I don’t write sequentially; I write whatever scene I’m envisioning, and then move on from there.  Most of the time I have no idea where/when the scene takes place in terms of the plot and timeline, only that the characters are going to get to that point.  Eventually.

Are your stories driven by plot or character?

Character.  Well, I mean, the initial ideas are plots, but once I start writing and get to know my characters, they control it all.  I have a book where the story was completely hijacked by a character who was supposed to be secondary and rarely seen (although powerful when she was seen).  I adored her so much, I couldn’t stop writing about her, and the next thing I knew, the book was about her.

What two authors we would find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?

Well, pretty much anybody, since I read every genre and have favourites in all of them.  However, the two I love best (at the moment) are Terry Pratchett, particularly his Discworld novels, and Christopher Brookmyre, who’s work is dark and violent and amazingly funny.

Where can readers find you?

I have a blog at victoriabernadine.wordpress.com, which is mostly devoted to my book tours at the moment – LOL – but I also post about what I’m working on and some updates as to what’s happening in my life.

I also have a twitter account @vicbernadine, although I seldom tweet anything.  I love to talk, but I can’t seem to think of anything to tweet that might be of interest to anyone.  (I wonder if I should be worried about what I talk about in real life??)

Now, let's learn something about your debut book.

Blurb for A Life Less Ordinary

For the last fifteen years, Rose “Manny” Mankowski has been a very good girl. She turned her back on her youthful fancies and focused on her career. But now, at the age of 45, she’s questioning her choices and feeling more and more disconnected from her own life. When she’s passed over for promotion and her much younger new boss implies Manny’s life will never change, something snaps. In the blink of an eye, she’s quit her job, sold her house and cashed in her pension, and she’s leaving town on a six month road trip.

After placing a personal ad for a travelling companion, she’s joined in her mid-life crisis by Zeke Powell, the cynical, satirical, most-read – and most controversial – blogger for the e-magazine, What Women Want. Zeke’s true goal is to expose Manny’s journey as a pitiful and desperate attempt to reclaim her lost youth – and increase his readership at the same time. Leaving it all behind for six months is just an added bonus.

Now, armed with a bagful of destinations, a fistful of maps, and an out-spoken imaginary friend named Harvey, Manny’s on a quest to rediscover herself – and taking Zeke along for the ride.


Manny walked in her door, looking tired and feeling worn out. She wondered ruefully why the only thing not on a schedule was the time she could leave the office. She dropped her purse on the table and hung up her coat and keys. With a tired sigh, she walked into the living room and plopped into the armchair. She closed her eyes as Harvey walked out of the kitchen with a glass of white wine and began to rub her shoulders. He again looked impossibly handsome, this time wearing a sweater and jeans. She sighed in imagined bliss, and looked at him with sad eyes.

You have no idea how much I wish you were real.

In a blink, he was gone–and the phone was ringing. For a split second, Manny considered not answering it.

There’s your chance to talk to a real person, Harvey murmured.

Probably a telemarketer.

Probably Rebecca. Or Daisy. They’ll worry if you don’t answer.

All right, all right.

Manny heaved herself to her feet and walked to the phone.

Maybe I’m glad you’re imaginary after all.

She caught a glimpse of his grin as she answered the phone.

It was Rebecca, asking her to go out the next night.

“I don’t know…” Manny sighed.

“Oh, come on–you’ll have fun! And seriously–you haven’t gone out with us in months!”

“I’ve been tired…”

“You’ve been tired your whole life I think. You need to break out of this rut you’re in! Come out for a few drinks and dancing with me and Daisy. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet a good-looking guy and be swept off your feet into a red-hot love affair.”

Sounds like a plan to me.

Yeah, ’cause that’ll happen.

“I’d love to go dancing,” Manny said to Rebecca, “but the guy is just a figment of your imagination.”

“Only because you don’t put any effort into it. Seriously, it’s not healthy to do nothing but work and go home. That’s how people go crazy you know.”

“Huh. You mean next thing you know I’ll be talking to my imaginary friend?”

Harvey grinned wickedly and Manny abruptly turned her back to him.

“Exactly!” Rebecca said. “Come on–what do you say?”

“Okay, okay,” Manny sighed. “Tomorrow night–the usual place?”

“Yep–and sound like you’re actually looking forward to it, okay?”

“I’m sorry. I am looking forward to it–it’ll be fun.”

A Life Less Ordinary is available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords