Friday, November 15, 2019

Freebie Friday for Billionaire Romance Fans!

If you are looking for a billionaire romance to read this weekend, Victorine Lieske has her boxed set of FOUR billionaire romances for FREE today! 

Download your free copy here 

Here's the back copy:

Book 1: Her Big Fat Fake Billionaire Boyfriend
Kenzie just wants to show up at her sister's wedding and not look like a loser. When she mistakes Camden for her date-for-hire, things spin out of control. Camden starts to fall for her wacky personality, but Kenzie has her heart well guarded. Can her heart take another chance at love?

Book 2: Her Big Fat Foxy Billionaire Best Friend
Miranda is devastated when she's dumped days before her wedding. She convinces her best friend, billionaire game designer Drew Tucker, to go with her on her dream vacation -- the cruise that was supposed to be her honeymoon. She doesn't realize Drew has been in love with her since high school, and this trip will be torture for him. Can he convince her he's not the same high school nerd?

Book 3: Her Big Fat Hunky Billionaire Boss
Katherine adores her job at the small town newspaper. When Damian, the handsome owner, shows up right before Christmas, she suspects he's there to shut them down. Things get complicated when her manager forces her to be nice to the man and show him around town. How can she be falling for the one who could cost her the job she desperately needs?

Book 4: Her Big Fat Dreamy Billionaire Ex
Felicity should have known something was up when she took the all-expenses paid job photographing the beautiful resort in Belize. When she arrives, she finds her ex-fiance, Aiden, is the owner, and Grams, her beloved almost in-law is the one behind the setup. But Aiden hasn't changed, and she can't allow herself to fall for him again.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Meet Author Gale Sears!

We had so much fun chatting with author Gale Sears last night. She is the author of a new middle grade book called The Fifth Favorite, loves brownies and was a theater major before she became a writer. I learned so many fun facts about her! If you missed the interview, you can see the video here (It was Gale's first time doing this sort of thing and I thought she did great!)

The Fifth Favorite is about 11 year old Allie who has a lot on her plate. Sixth grade is stressful enough, but Allie believes that she's her mother's fifth favorite child in her family of six. There are so many cute moments and true-to-life circumstances that will touch your heart.

You can pre-order your copy here

Here's the back copy:

Eleven-year-old Allie Whitman is dealing with stress about her sixth-grade science project, embarrassment about her chicken costume for Halloween, and fear of the Mad Woman of Tahoe Meadow. Added to this, she feels that she is her mother's fifth favorite in their family of six. She tries hard to up her status, but competing with her dad, a charming older brother, a brainy older sister, and a younger sister with autism; Allie laments that she may be stuck forever as low man on the totem pole.

The stakes escalate for Allie when her brother Paul, blackmails her into keeping a dark secret in exchange for his silence about one of her foolhardy decisions. When Paul's secret turns dangerous, Allie must decide between her mother's approval or saving her brother's life.

The Fifth Favorite is a clever story filled with lovable characters, a bit of mystery, and plenty of hope.

Gale Sears is the best-selling author of the well-loved children's story, Christmas for a Dollar. She has a degree in play writing and a masters degree in theater arts. She grew up in the magic of Lake Tahoe, which colors the story of The Fifth Favorite.                     

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Book Review & Giveaway!

Maggie's Place by Annette Haws is a gritty, funny, poignant look into the life of Maggie, a woman living out her "third act" in an apartment building, a teen, Carly, who is homeless and trying to survive, and a secondary cast of characters that will quickly win your heart. I loved Maggie's quirky neighbors and the author will make you feel as if these are people you'd want to be friends with in real life. There is an underlying suspense element, however, because Maggie has a secret that leads to some unexpected connections and consequences. I won't give any hints, but there are some great twists and turns!

This story is full of complex relationships and truly shows the messiness of life. There is a thread of hope in second chances and true friendship, but the book doesn't shy away from how mistakes affect more than just one person and heartbreak and loss can change a person forever.

Ms. Haws has an easy writing style and an entertaining wit that gave the book a lighter tone than the story would have otherwise had. There was a good balance of emotion and suspense that will keep readers turning pages. The depth of the characters is where the author's talent really stands out, however, and this is a story that will stick with you.

Here's the back copy:

Years ago, Mary Margaret Sullivan changed her name, boxed up her previous life, moved into the Eagle Gate Apartments, and hid her painful memories in her chicken-wire storage unit in the basement. But secrets have an inconvenient way of surfacing when least expected.

Three weeks before Christmas, an elegant man in a penthouse, a young woman named Carly—homeless and ill with pneumonia—and two calculating thieves invade Maggie's carefully reconstructed life, and in different ways, each is connected to Maggie's difficult past. As Maggie and friends nurse Carly back to health, hearts begin to heal with a hope for the future. But all is not as it seems. When faced with the shocking truth, Maggie must rely on her wits, her friends, and her own strength as never before.

Get your copy here

Don't forget to scroll down and enter the giveaway!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Hawaii Five-0---The One Where Doris Loses Everything

This is the episode that Alex O'Loughlin wrote, directed, produced, and starred in and there was a lot of hype surrounding it. I have so many thoughts and this is long, but I hope you'll indulge me!

We start out with a bearded Steve going down the middle of a Day of the Dead parade. He gets to his hotel room (Room #10---for the season perhaps?) where's he's attacked by three men and  . . .

Cue music.

We go to eight weeks earlier where we're in a Hawaiian parking garage. Steve meets with CIA agent Coen with Danny and Lou at his side. Coen tells them about a faction of the Sinaloa cartel run by Lucia Perez. The CIA and DEA have been trying to take her down for three years, and managed to penetrate her operation in Mexico. They got really close to her, but their officer was killed by his partner. For some reason, the director wants Steve to know that the officer who pulled the trigger was Shelburne--his mother. Steve immediately defends his mother and says the intel is bad, that there is no way his mother killed a fellow CIA officer. Coen is pretty stoic, maintains that they had a man on the ground who retrieved the slug from the body at the morgue and it came from Shelburne's government issued firearem. (Let me ask you this. If you are in deep cover to a cartel, why would you take a traceable GOVERNMENT ISSUED firearm that could identify you?) Coen is all very matter-of-fact that they want to bring Doris in safely and hear the story from her. Steve catches on pretty quick that they want him to go in and get his mom, oh and yeah, they want him to kill Lucia, too, since they can't do the job themselves for some reason. (Does the CIA not have snipers? There isn't anyone else who can get in there?) Coen says they're just offering him the chance to save his mom because otherwise, it's not looking good for her. Steve does wonder why Langley didn't contact him directly and guesses that this isn't a disavowed mission. Coen looks a little guilty while Lou guesses that if Shelburne's gone rogue there could be blood on the government's hands which they don't want. But they don't mind having Steve's hands bloodied. Coen says it's not going to end well for Doris if he declines and Steve points out that Doris gave up her life for her country and her family for the agency, but Coen doesn't care, to the people he works for, Doris is just a compromised asset. He tells him to read the brief, since it has all the details for infil and the name of his point man in Colombia. Steve immediately wonders why he would go to Colombia and not Mexico, but it's because Lucia has a lot of Mexican officials in her pocket and gets advanced warning of flagged operators or law enforcement specialists entering the country. Oh, and one other thing, Steve has to go it alone aside from point man in Bogota. He flies alone. He operates alone. Director's orders. And if he doesn't obey or attempts to re-enter the U.S. with Doris without killing or capturing Lucia, he'll have to talk to someone higher than Coen. (Why? Why would the director order that unless it's disavowed and a suicide mission for Steve?) They all watch Coen drive away, then turn to Steve. He's resolute and says he's got to go find Doris. (Steve is all about saving those closest to him.)

Everyone is back at Chatting Table to take a closer look at what Steve is facing. This faction of the cartel brings in an estimated twenty tons of product to the U.S. every month. There's some pictures of Carmen Lucia Perez and a lot of dead bodies, then a few of Doris.  No one outside of the cartel has ever gotten that close to Lucia and lived, so while they don't really know what the plan is, Doris is doing this her way and breaking tradecraft rules which is freaking out the CIA. Steve is sure they will put out a termination order on her this time if it doesn't go the way they want. So, what's the plan? Steve is going to meet his point man (who looks like a heavier-set Bruno Tonioli from Dancing With The Stars.) He's going to get him over the border into Panama with no footprint, then he'll board a cargo plane to Mexico where a CIA safehouse and weapons cache await him. (Yep, it's not going to go well for PointManBruno, I can already tell.) Tani is looking at the battalion of guards and saying it doesn't look like a one man op, more like a suicide mission. Steve says that if he can't hold the line, then Junior can come down and watch his six but ONLY if he reaches out. Danny sums up that he's going to the cartel's backyard to take out the most heavily guarded human being on the planet and walk out with his mother who's there voluntarily. He gives his standard response to almost all of Steve's plans and says it's beyond crazy. Steve looks disappointed and asks if that's Danny's official position and Danny says he doesn't an official position since it's his mother, he's going to do what he's going to do and WALKS AWAY! (Honestly, Steve deserved better than that.) Steve asks Lou for his thoughts and Lou says it's his mother and if he doesn't go down there and see for himself, he'll regret it for the rest of his life. I agree.

Cut to a car in Northern Colombia with PointManBruno. They're bouncing along (it's not as light as the Hawaiian shots and it definitely creates a different aura for the setting and characters.) Steve offers to drive, but PointManBruno wants to run through the plan one more time. Steve will be dropped at a fishing port, a boat will take him to Panama City, then once in Panama, he'll board a small cargo plane to Mexico City and from there he's on his own. Bruno gives him some money for the pilot, before they're stopped at a checkpoint. Bruno gives Steve a gun out of the glove box and it's a tense standoff at the checkpoint. One of the guards takes off his safety and Steve tells Bruno to drive! The guards are shooting at the car and Bruno is shot in the neck and dies, the car careens off an incline and catches on fire. Steve barely makes it out before it explodes and he runs away.

The next scene is at a small airstrip outside of Panama where a plane is waiting. Steve climbs out of a truck while his driver talks to the pilot. The pilot takes the money Steve hands him and lets him board. It's dark inside, with only little dots that look like bullet holes, that suddenly turns into the night sky in Hawaii. It was a really cool effect.

Eight weeks later we're back in Hawaii, and Junior has called everyone in to HQ. He meets them at the Chatting Table and shows them how he's found Steve, despite the fact that he told them not to look for him. Junior just can't sit around wondering if he's dead or alive so he put in late nights sifting through satellite footage, looking for shadows that would show a man is over six feet tall. He shows footage of Steve making the same loop through an open air market twice a week. Danny doesn't think they should do anything since he specifically told them he wanted to do this alone, but Junior reminds him that Steve said he could watch his six. Junior is sure the only reason Steve hasn't called is because he doesn't want to jeopardize anyone's safety, especially his own and Doris's, but they all know what he's up against, so just bless him and the SEALs to go down and help him out. This is the move even though Steve can't say it. (And once again, I agree. I love the initiative Junior took to find Steve, too.)

Steve is on a rooftop surveilling his mom and some cartel members. They have a man in his boxers on the edge of a dock when Lucia arrives. She takes his mother's gun and shoots the man who falls into the water. Steve looks taken aback. Jump to the Port Authority Harbormaster building where Steve is posing as a maintenance man. When Doris walks by he asks her what's in the bag and if Lucia has her running around paying off her people. Doris does NOT look happy to see him at all. Asks him what he's doing there, how long he's been tracking her. He asks her about the murdered guy at the port and she says she didn't murder anyone and he has no understanding of what's happening here. Steve asks about her partner, but she doesn't have time to explain and tells him to get out of the country and she'll contact him ASAP. Steve refuses. He may not know what's going on, but he has his theories, he knows her, and he can't walk away. He won't leave without her. (Just go with him, Doris!) She admits that her mission went sideways but swears that she's staying dark for the right reasons and his life will be compromised in ways she won't be able to help him if he doesn't leave the country immediately. Steve returns with "My life was compromised the day you walked out of it." (Ooh! What a great line. And so true.) He says there's a rear entrance through the restroom and they're going to walk out together, but when he takes her arm, she pistol whips him, then stands over him and says if he blows this for her and they survive, she'll kill him herself. Turning, she greets a man and they walk down the hall together. (They were lucky they had the whole building to themselves for that convo. The Harbormaster sure isn't very busy!)

So now we're back to Steve going through the Day of the Dead parade from the beginning and fighting those three men in his hotel room. This time we see that it's Junior and his SEAL buddies, though. They finally ID themselves and turn on a light. Steve is surprised to see them and asks Junior, what are you doing here? What'd I tell you? But Junior says it's been so long he couldn't remember. (Ha! I love Junior) He fills them in that he had to make the cartel believe both he and Bruno were dead so he's been living in a hole for two months. (Although if he means that hotel room, it's actually pretty nice.) Junior explains that he found Steve the same way Steve would have found him, but came down to ask why he hasn't moved in yet? Steve has been listening to the chatter and taking notes, but Doris is rarely alone. Luckily he had a convo with her today and even though he threw her a lifeline, she cut the rope, so he wants to pull her out. Then Steve says something very interesting. He says, "Something is very wrong here . . . Let's just say I've seen things that tells me that she's unstable and needs to be removed." (So are they going with Doris is losing it? That what that implies to me. I guess we'll see.) Junior says that since she didn't leave with Steve she must believe she has everything under control. Steve says she doesn't and they're going to go in and pull her out and comb through the details afterwards. (That's not going to go well.) Steve shows them a cache of bomb-making materials and says they're going to hit up the gun cache and give Lucia an early morning wake up call. Before they go, Junior calls HQ and Danny asks if he's got "the animal" with him. (I seriously hate that he calls Steve that. Please writers, give Danny something else to call his best friend, okay?) Everyone is relieved to hear Steve's voice and they fill him in that Coen released the full unredacted files on Lucia and they found out Doris went to Switzerland under an alias ten weeks ago and the agency lost track of her after she left Zurich, so Doris might be in deeper than we thought. With that info in hand, they're on the move.

Junior asks Steve if he's ready to discover the truth and Steve gives a thoughtful pause and tells him about this dream he's been having every night. In it, he wakes up and Doris is sitting on the edge of the bed, reading to him like when he was a kid. He's looking up at her and the book is Moby Dick. He can see her lips moving but he can't hear her, so he says her name and she keeps reading and he panics and starts yelling and then realizes she can't hear him either. She shuts the book and smiles and kisses his head and leaves. Every night he wakes up drenched in sweat. Finally he tells Junior he's not ready to lose her and prays to God his decision to go in there is the right one. (There is so much symbolism in the Moby Dick book. Ahab went after the whale that hurt him and became obsessed with it until nearly everything and everyone around him was lost or dead. So, is Doris Ahab? And her job is the whale? Or is Steve Ahab, hurt by his mother and trying to find/save her no matter what? So interesting to think about! And it was brilliant that neither of them could hear the other. Sums up their entire relationship, really.)

 At 430 hours, the SEALs are laying down the mission. They only get one shot at it and from Steve's monitoring knows they're meeting someone today called Rosita, whoever she is. Steve tries to thank them for having his back and says that what they're about to do is insane on every level, with chances of success extremely low (like pretty much every SEAL mission, really) and they're going up against people who, if this goes south and they get their hands on them, they'll wish they put a bullet in their heads. Junior lightens the mood with "I guess we'll get tortured together" and the other SEALs tell him nice speech. (It really was). They're good and ready to go. The sun comes up and a contingent of cartel cars comes in, with a trailer that has a mini-sub on it (to use as a drug shuttle). There's also a 900 foot container vessel named Rosita coming in, too. They've got fifty targets and Doris in their sights. Junior pulls the blocks away from the tires of a van that starts moving toward the entrance where the cartel people are congregated. The guards start shooting and when the van rolls to a stop they go to the back to check it out and the team blows it up, taking out a lot of guards. They move in. There's some awesome explosions, a great firefight, lots of action. Doris and Lucia head to the back of the building. One of the SEALs is shot in the arm, but the cartel men are being picked off.

Steve gets inside and his mom finds him. He asks her where Lucia is, but she's just staring at him. She suddenly pulls her gun and shoots a man behind Steve, then points it at him. He seems surprised, but calm, and tells her, "That's how this ends? you're going to kill me now? Go ahead and pull the trigger, confirm my instincts." That wakes Doris up. She asks him what his instincts are as she laughs, guessing that the world she lives in is no longer black and white and she's changed. Steve tells her he's probably the only person who's ever known her. He knows things about Lucia that she doesn't, he's read the file and seen the victims. Doris is annoyed that he called her Doris (which is telling) and that he'd be so arrogant to assume that she didn't do the research and know as much as he does. How does he think she got this far? Steve asks her if she killed her partner and was looking for a payday. Doris sort of loses it and says she has to get out of this life that she has nothing to show for all her years in the agency. She had a whole life of fear and guilt for nothing. Lost her husband, children, and identity. Steve isn't impressed that she went for the payday, but she's not done. She is walking the edge here saying that everything is so clear and simple for him (he sarcastically says, yeah, my life is a cakewalk)  and he has no idea of her loss, that she had a family who never understood her or the sacrifices she made for them. Steve can't buy that, says even though he loves her, she never made those sacrifices for them. Doris is so upset that he ruined the one chance she had to break away and do something good, that she doesn't care what he does anymore. (And you see what Steve meant when he says she seemed unstable. She really does here!) Steve asks one more time where Lucia is while she mumbles that all she needed was this one payment. Then Steve is shot by Lucia and falls backward.

There's a ringing sound when he comes to and Lucia orders him to lay down his weapon. She has Doris in a headlock and is holding her in front. Steve lays down both of his weapons while Lucia asks who he is and why he killed all her men but won't kill Doris. She admits that when she killed Doris' other CIA friend, she thought their troubles were over. Lucia (who actually doesn't look all that tough. I think Doris could have taken her) is choking her and tells Steve he can watch her die so he quickly admits he's her son. Lucia knew that they'd missed him in Paramillo then, (how did she know he was coming? Hmm...) She admires his patience and thanks him for his honesty, then stabs Doris and says they can watch each other die. She cocks her gun and points it at Steve, but Doris pushes Lucia's hand away so the shot goes wide and Junior shoots Lucia. Steve shouts mom and runs to her side, calling for a field dressing. He tells her not to talk and that he's got her. Doris raises her hand to his face and smiles, saying, "I love you so much. I'm sorry, baby. I"m so sorry." (That seemed like the real Doris to me.) With one last stroke of his face, he tells her he loves her and she's gone. Junior puts his hand on Steve's shoulder as this haunting music plays. The focus goes small, like when something traumatic in your life happens, your focus just gets smaller, all you can concentrate on to get through it is right in front of you. Junior wants him to get up while Steve is looking at the rafters and blinking. His hands are still on Doris's and he's reluctant to let go, but finally does. (Joe's wound was also in the side and he was reluctant to let go of Joe as well. A nice parallel?) Junior helps him into the car while the other two SEALs get Doris's body. He watches, unfocused.

Next, a very broken Steve is sitting outside a hangar at the Joint Base Anacosta Bolling in Washington D.C. He's still bloody and watching over the bodies, with only a blanket around his shoulders. A contingent of cars drive up and a bunch of suits get out. One touches the coffin and Steve grabs him by the throat. Another steps in to break it up and Steve sits back down while they take pictures and fingerprints of Doris and Lucia. Steve watches, signs the paper in front of him and they zip up the body bags again. Before the guy leaves he tells Steve that Shelburne outfitted that sub and Lucia's Bentley with audio and tracking devices. She stayed on target until the end. She did her job. Steve watches the coffin taken away and just stares when the guy says, "I'm sorry about your mother Commander. After the cars drive away, he  bows his head. (So, Doris might have wanted a payday and was walking the edge of reality, but she was still doing her job. Will that be harder for Steve to process?)

Back at a D.C. hotel room Steve is staring at the Capitol building through a window. He hears a knock at the door, and it's Danny who wants to make sure Steve makes it back to Hawaii. Danny looks at an official paper on the table that thanks Steve for his past and present service to our country and for unyielding commitment to national security. Steve gets him a beer and they sit. Danny tells him that the DEA got a big score and because of him two tons of cocaine won't be hitting the streets. Danny says he's sorry about his mom and Steve thanks him. Danny also offers that the bureau retrieved Doris's laptop and cell phone and she opened three accounts in Zurich---one of them was under Joanie McGarrett and had half a million dollars in it. The other two were for him and Mary, but didn't have any money in it yet, so this whole thing was about making sure they were set up financially, so she was trying to do something good. (Since she couldn't be there emotionally or physically, she wanted to make up for it with money?) Danny asks if Steve is okay and Steve philosophizes with, "Define okay for me." He wishes Doris would have realized that all she had to do was get on an airplane and come home and from the minute she walked out of his life the only thing he ever wanted was to have her back in it.  So he doesn't know if he's okay, but he does know that life isn't on our terms. We never get to choose how it's going to look, only what we do with the information when we get it. The whole Five-0 thing happened when he buried his father, Joe White last year, now his mother, so he doesn't know how he feels, but he does know we don't get life on our terms. It's life on life's terms or not at all. He walks away and Danny asks if the bed is big enough for two since he just did ten hours on a coach flight next to a mouth breather. Steve says no, he gets the couch.

So, Doris lost her edge of reality and then her life. She blamed her job, and one thing that came to mind when I heard those lines was when Steve was talking to the CGI Jack Lord (Season 7 I think?) and said his job had taken everything good from him and he wondered if the job was even worth it. Apparently, Doris had the same thoughts. But my question is why was Doris still in the field? At her age, she should have been training agents at The Farm or some semblance of a retirement. Another thing that this episode reminded me of was when Steve had his final stand with Joe, Joe went down after he shot the guy who was shooting at Steve, just like Doris hit Lucia's arm so she couldn't shoot Steve.  Both of them were trying to save him. Steve was broken after Joe, broken after Doris. He couldn't save either of them and that has to eat at him since he's always trying to save/take care of those around him. Now all of his parental figures are gone and hopefully the show doesn't gloss over this big of a loss.

I enjoyed this episode, the different lighting, the focus choices, they were all symbolic and added to the feel of the scene.  I loved the action, the emotion, the symbolism, and the McJunior scenes. At the end of the day, though, Steve has lost his dad, his mom, his aunt that raised him, and Joe. I really hope the show will give him a bit of happiness after all this.

What did you think? Did you watch?

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Veterans Day Freebie For You!

I am so grateful to our military men and women who serve and sacrifice, my grandfather among them. Since most of my books involve the military, I've had the privilege of getting to know some service members while I research. One of my most treasured experiences was when I was put into contact with a Marine who was stationed in Iraq at the time. His unit would gather around the computer after they’d come in from their mission of disarming roadside IEDs and they would patiently answer all my questions. One of the things they told me during those sessions was that they missed having candy from home, like Skittles. So I arranged a Skittles for Soldiers food drive at all my booksignings and was able to collect 900 lbs of food and hygiene items for our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan---just to make sure our soldiers knew they weren’t forgotten and were appreciated. I will never forget how it felt to lift the spirits of those soldiers even if it was just with candy and supplies. I really hope this Veteran's Day, all our veterans know how much their service is appreciated. To honor them, I am giving away Ring Around the Rosie for free (you can download your free copy here) and offering Second Look at only .99 cents (you can get your sale copy here).

May we never forget.

Friday, November 8, 2019

My Audio Book News!

I am SO excited to announce that my Christmas story, Truth or Dare, is coming out in audio book! I loved this story and my narrator, Tristan Wright, does an amazing job bringing it to life. If you are an audio book fan, you won't want to miss this one!

It should be available on Nov. 21st and as soon as I see it on Audible and iTunes, I will let you know!

Have you listened to any good audio books lately?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Win a Family Pack of Tickets to The Forgotten Carols!

Have you ever been to The Forgotten Carols? Our family loves this Christmas tradition! It's a sweet story about an overworked nurse who finds the true meaning of Christmas with a very unique situation. The music and message is unforgettable!

Get ticket information here

And you can win a Family Four Pack of Tickets! Just enter the giveaway below.