Friday, February 28, 2014

Cover Reveal of My New Novel & First Chapter Sneak Peek! Come and See!

I am so THRILLED to reveal the cover the fourth and final full-length novel in my Hostage Negotiation Team series.

*drum roll*


Isn't it gorgeous? I can't wait for you all to read this one.  It will be released in May 2014 and is Captain Reed's story.

Here's a look at the series covers all together.  *stares at screen*  I have so loved writing these books!

And just because I love you and I'm so excited about cover reveal day, I'm going to give you a sneak peek of the first chapter of Ring Around the Rosie.  Let me know what you think!

Ring Around the Rosie
by Julie Coulter Bellon
copyright 2014 

Chapter One

Every time a hostage walked away from a situation unharmed it was reason for the Hostage Negotiation Team to celebrate.
Today was one of those days.
Captain Ron Reed, head of Hartford’s Hostage Negotiation Team, couldn’t stop smiling.  Coming off today’s case where three lives were saved gave him a rush he’d never experienced any other way.  His team was well trained, worked hard, and were good at what they did.
But they were celebrating more than a job well done.   Claire Michaels was his best negotiator, had saved three people’s lives today, and she was getting married tomorrow.  That thought made him slow his steps as he walked out of the station to the street. I’m not losing anyone just because Claire is getting married. She’ll still be part of the team, he told himself for the millionth time.  But deep down, he knew everything would be different after today. The team dynamic would change no matter what anyone said. 
Picking up the pace again, he crossed the street to Eli’s Diner.  How many times have I made this trip?  The twenty-four hour diner had been a refuge for Ron after tough cases and tiring days.  It had been more than just somewhere to get good food, but surrounded by his team, it had been a place to recharge as well.  Up until now, the team had all had empty homes waiting for them at the end of the day, so they’d gathered here for meals as often as they could.  The diner grounded them and gave Ron a way to have a pseudo-family.  And Claire, Colby, and Bart had become his family. 
He’d been a bit surprised when Claire had suggested having a little get-together of their team the night before her wedding, but he’d been glad she was feeling sentimental, too.  Their “family” was expanding and tonight was their last chance to be together, like it always had been, just one more time.
He entered the diner and the old-fashioned bell chimed to announce him.  He loosened his tie a bit and shrugged out of his jacket.  It felt odd not wearing a heavier coat in March.  Mother Nature was teasing him with warmer than normal days one week and chilly winter days the next.  Today had been warm, but consistent spring weather couldn’t get here fast enough for Ron. 
“Be right with you, Captain,” Cecily, the main waitress, said over her shoulder as she grabbed two plates and carried them to the front counter to serve a young girl and her mother. 
“Hey, I thought we agreed you’d call me Ron.” He smiled and took his usual seat at the end of the counter where he had a view of both exits. His eyes were drawn to the back of the diner covered in plastic sheeting.  Drywall dust peeked out from underneath and hammering noises came from the area.  “When did Eli decide to renovate?”
 Cecily came over with her order book in hand.  “It was the strangest thing. Day before yesterday Eli tells us he’s got a guy coming in to rewire the place for WiFi, renovate his office, and maybe knock out a wall to give us a little more seating. It was so out of the blue.”  She shuddered.  “The contractor guy gave me the creeps, though. I’ve steered away from the whole mess.”
“Maybe you should introduce us. I’ll put this guy on notice that Eli’s diner is special to a lot of cops in Hartford.” 
“I just might do that if he gets any weirder.  Can I get you a cup of coffee?”
“Yeah, thanks.”  He turned his attention to the little girl sitting a few seats down from him.  Her mother was talking on the phone while the girl twirled on her seat.  Every time she came around one full rotation, she giggled. 
“Beth, stop that,” her mother commanded, pulling herself away from her phone conversation for a second.  “We’re in a hurry, so eat your fries.”
The way the little girl’s face fell made Ron want to ask the mom to let her do it, but he kept quiet.  Who was he to contradict a parent? He’d never had children of his own.  The memory of his ex-wife Sarah and the one chance he’d had to be a father wormed its way into his mind, but he quickly pushed it back and locked it up. He couldn’t allow himself to go there.  Today was a happy day and he was determined to keep it that way, focusing on the family he’d built from his coworkers, not the one he’d lost.
Cecily brought his coffee out, and he busied himself with adding the cream. “You must be glad for a little lull before the dinner rush,” he said, nodding to the nearly empty diner.
“You have no idea.  It gets crazy around here.” Cecily brushed an escaping bit of hair back from her face and tucked it in her ponytail. “I heard tomorrow is the big day?” 
“Yeah. Today was her last day of work before she gets a week off for her honeymoon.  That’s where they all are now, finishing up some paperwork from a big case we worked today and making sure Claire is set to go.” Ron smiled and leaned forward on the counter. “That’s one of the perks of being a captain. You can farm out the paperwork.”
“Claire sounded so happy when she called earlier to make sure we had plenty of Dutch apple pie,” she said with a wink.  “And promised me a front row seat to the wedding if I had banana cream, too. Eli has spent every moment baking since then. Well, when he’s not with that contractor.”  She smoothed down her apron. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thanks. I’ll just wait for everyone else.” She nodded and disappeared into the back.
Ron’s gaze fell on the little girl now watching him.  She had ignored her mother and her fries were still untouched. Her mother was still on the phone begging someone to babysit for her.  He gave the girl a smile.  “Hey there.  Do you like pie?”
She just watched him for a moment, her brown eyes measuring him before she nodded.  “Banana cream is my favorite.  Is that a real policeman’s badge?” She pointed to his badge on his belt. 
Ron looked down and lifted the corner of the badge to the light. “Yes.  My name is Captain Reed, what’s yours?”
“I’m Beth and I’m five.” 
She started to say something else, but her mother got off the phone and stood between them, her back to Ron.  “Beth, why aren’t your fries gone? I told you we’re in a hurry today.  I’ve got to get you over to Dustin’s.  He said he’d babysit you until I get home tonight.”
“No, Mom, please don’t take me to Dustin’s.” He couldn’t see Beth anymore, but he could hear how small her voice sounded.  What doesn’t she like about Dustin?  With his job he’d learned long ago to listen to children when they used that tone of voice.
“It’ll just be for tonight, sweetie, then I’ll work something else out.  Now hurry up, we’ve got to go.”  She leaned over the counter to call to Cecily.  “Miss, can I get our check please? Right away?”
“Sure thing,” Cecily said coming back into the dining room. “I’ll be right with you, ma’am.”
Ron took a sip of his drink while he watched Cecily get the mother’s check ready.  Beth was eating her fries slowly, her long brown hair covering her face like a curtain as she looked down at her plate.  Such a difference from the giggling girl who’d been in that seat a few moments ago.  Her mom impatiently watched her eat the last fry.  “Come on, baby, let’s get out of here,” the mom said, as she helped Beth down from her seat. 
“I have to go to the bathroom,” the little girl said the moment her feet touched the floor.  It was obvious she was doing all she could to postpone their departure. 
The mom sighed dramatically before hustling her to the back of the diner.  “Can we hurry, please?” she said to her daughter as they passed the sheeting. 
The bell over the door chimed and Ron turned to see his team of Colby, Bart, and Claire walk in.  Claire was between the men, laughing.  She looked so peaceful and on a hostage negotiator, that look was something rare.  He was glad to see it.  Ron smiled and tapped his watch as they approached him.  “You’re late.”
Bart ran his hand over his unshaven jaw and shook his head.  “But we got all the paperwork done like you asked, Cap’n, and with what happened today, you know we worked a miracle on that.”
He fist-bumped Colby, the stress of the day dissipating into the diner’s atmosphere.  It wasn’t just today, though. Bart had been different since his trip to South America and his father’s death.  It was like he’d laid some ghosts to rest and was more comfortable in his own skin.  Open to really being himself.  It also probably helped that Lucy was becoming a permanent fixture in his life lately.
“We’ve been so busy lately,” Colby added as he moved around the stool and sat down next to the captain.  “Hopefully nothing goes down tomorrow that would affect the wedding.” He gave Claire a teasing sideways glance, barely suppressing a laugh.
“Don’t even joke about that,” Claire admonished, rapping the wooden underside of the counter.  “You’ll jinx it.”  She sat on the other side of Ron and took the clip out of her hair, letting it fall down her back.  “I’m just glad we’ve made it this far.  We’re headed down the home stretch.”
“Rafe would take a priest hostage to make sure Claire marries him,” Colby said, reaching across Ron to pat her hand. “I think the second we’re all in the church he’ll bolt the doors so no one can go in or out until you’re officially his wife.”
Claire swatted his arm. “Believe me, he doesn’t have to take hostages to get me to marry him.  Now, you on the other hand, might need to resort to extreme measures to get Sophia in the same place as you are for more than a day or two.”
Bart’s laugh turned into a groan.  “I can’t believe you just said that. Let’s not have anyone take hostages for any reason okay? Deal? We want a crisis-free wedding day.”
Colby grimaced, all teasing gone.  “Well, she’s right about one thing.  Long distance relationships suck.”
“It’s only been a couple of months,” Claire pointed out. “And you guys visit every other weekend.”
“It’s not enough,” Colby frowned.  “I want her here. Close.”
“Believe me, we do, too,” Bart said with an arch of his eyebrow. “We’ve had to put up with you after a weekend of visiting her.  Your mood when you come back to work isn’t pretty. Like you don’t even want to be there or something.”
“I’m not moody,” Colby protested with a dark look and they all laughed, especially Ron.  Colby had been a bear to work with the last little while.  “Well, that will all change when she moves down here in a few weeks,” he amended.
Ron leaned back and looked at the three members of his team laughing together.  He wanted to imprint this moment on his memory forever, their teasing, their bond.  He was realizing more and more that he needed to cherish the happy times¾and remind himself that he wasn’t losing another family he’d built. 
The bell on the door rang again, interrupting his train of thought, and Ron glanced over to see a woman walk in and head straight for them.  He stood, blinking twice. He’d just been thinking of family and loss and his ex-wife appeared? What kind of karma was that?  “Sarah?”  Her named rolled off his tongue easily, as if they still talked every day and part of him still wished they did. The fact was, they’d barely spoken in five years. 
She didn’t waste time with a greeting.  “Why couldn’t you have just done all this through email?” She stood in front of him, calm and collected, her eyebrows raised while she waited for his answer.  When his tongue refused to work and he didn’t reply right away, she added, “We could have met somewhere and discussed Grandma’s will like adults. I don’t like being summoned to bring the Corvette all the way down here. I had to push back a client just to meet your time deadline.”
“What are you talking about?” She wasn’t making sense.  Looking at her, not a hair out of place, with a white blouse and navy pants as starched as her expression, part of him was tempted to try to provoke her out of that calm state she was trying so hard to maintain.  He knew what was under that orderly exterior¾a passionate woman that he still loved.  And that was why he needed to stay away from her.  She didn’t know it, but she still held his heart and had the power to hurt him.  That was enough reason for him to back away now.  With that thought, Ron retreated until his leg hit the stool behind him.  
She stared up at him, her blue eyes narrowed, the tips of her short blonde hair brushing her chin. “You know how much that car means to me. I really think we could have discussed this in a civil manner. Come to an agreement of some kind.” 
He reached out and took her arm, then pulled back at the zing he felt when his fingers touched her.  It had been so long, but the connection was still there.  He scrambled for something to say to cover his confusion at that fact. “I’m all for civil discussion. But I really have no idea what you’re talking about.”
She adjusted her purse on her shoulder.  He knew it was probably heavy since she kept so many odds and ends in there. He’d jokingly called it her “just in case” bag when they’d been married.
“Ron, I’m still on billable hours. And while I know my job as an accountant isn’t as exciting as you chasing down the bad guys, my time is valuable. Don’t play games with me. I got a message that you wanted me to bring the Corvette to the diner parking lot by 5:00 sharp.”
 Ron took a careful breath. He didn’t want to do this in front of his team. He didn’t talk about his ex-wife much and they were staring in curiosity. “How about we go to my office and talk about this in private?”  He turned to grab his jacket off an unoccupied stool.  “I’ll be right back, Claire,” he said in a low voice.  “You guys go ahead and start without me.”
Sarah moved between him and Claire, pressing her lips together as she took in Claire, Colby, and Bart sitting behind him.  “Am I interrupting a ‘work’ meeting for you?” She folded her arms, watching him carefully.  “Why would you call and interrupt my work day when you’re obviously busy yourself?”
Leaning down to be eye level with her, he counted to ten. “Sarah, I didn’t leave any message for you. I have no idea what’s going on. I just want to talk about this privately. It has nothing to do with interrupting anyone’s work day.”
Sarah’s head dipped to her chest as she inhaled slowly.  When she raised her chin, she exhaled with a little puff of air.  “I know your job and your ‘people’ always come first, before anything. Nothing ever changes. But I have a routine now that I like to stick with, okay?”  She waved her hand between them.  “Let’s settle the issue with the Corvette so we can both get back to our lives. My schedule is already way off now that I’ve got a dinner client to finish up with that I wasn’t expecting to have this evening.”
Ron clenched his jaw.  “I’m sorry, but that’s not my fault. Besides, having flexibility in your schedule is a good thing.”
“Not in my book.” She stared back at him with a mutinous expression, her slight pout showing her mask of calmness was slipping. 
He stared, tempted to reach out and touch that lower lip.  She was still so beautiful.  His hand started to rise, nearly of its own volition.
“So can we hurry this up?”  Sarah said, glancing down at her watch.
Ron quickly put his arm at his side, ignoring the stab to his heart.  What am I thinking?  Since the divorce she’d kept her distance, but that had made it easier to keep her in the dark about what she still meant to him.  Leading separate lives helped make the confusion and pain better somehow¾at least that’s what he told himself. 
“Fine, let’s go to my office and get this over with then.” Ron strode past her toward the door, deliberately not noticing little wrinkle in her brow she always got when she was puzzling something out in her mind and had questions.  How many times had he smoothed that little wrinkle with his thumb, right before he kissed her questions out of her?  He shoved the memory away.  Well, she didn’t want his touch anymore and it stung like a face slap when she was standing right in front of him.
He reached the hostess podium and turned back to look at Sarah, not far from his friends. His straying thoughts took in the fact that, right then, everyone he loved most in the world was gathered in the same place for the first time. And probably the last.
Sarah caught up with him, pulling her purse up on her shoulder again.  “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but¾

Her words were cut off by a blast of hot air and fire, an explosion so large it blew them all backward.  Ron hit the floor hard and lay there dazed and groggy.  Glass and debris rained down. Confetti-sized menus and napkins floated like snowflakes in slow motion all around him. For a second the entire world was a silent tunnel with him at the end of it.  It would be so easy to just close his eyes and let the blackness suck him down into unconsciousness.  But he couldn’t.  Not yet.  Get up. Get everyone out.

(If you want to read more of the chapter click here)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Do You Think of Street Team Marketing?

A phrase I am getting very familiar with these days is street team marketing.  I know it's been around for a long time, but it seems in the past few months I've heard it from several author friends.

What is a street team?

A street team is a group of people---readers, friends, reviewers, etc.---who love an author's books and agree to promote them in their corner of the universe.  That means spreading the word, using social media, providing honest reviews, in short, doing what they can to promote that author and spread buzz about their work.  In return, the author provides things like monthly drawings for the street team, insider info, signed books, ARCs, swag, something special just for them.

As a reader, word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and one that I rely on quite a bit, but with the advent of street teams, can I count of a friend's unbiased opinion if I know she is a member of an author's street team?

On the other hand, as a writer, I love the idea of having a team of people out there helping me spread the word about my books.  I love the idea of building online relationships with people like I've done here with this blog.

What do you think?  Would you consider being part of a street team?  Why or why not?  What would tip you one way or the other?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Word Count Wednesday & An Announcement!

I have been writing like there's no tomorrow.  This book is taking shape and I'm so excited!  I had critique group last night, and while we weren't critiquing anything of mine, there's just an energy when you get writers together and it translated into some major wordage for me today. Woohoo!  I got close to 8000 words this week.

And I am THRILLED to be able to announce that I will be revealing the cover for Ring Around the Rosie this Friday on my blog!  If you would like to post the new cover on your blog and get a sneak peek of the first chapter, you can message me at or leave me a comment in the comment trail.

How did your writing go this week?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Castle Recap--Everyone's Confessing!

I must say I had some laughs last night with Castle.  When the body is found, (an off off off off Broadway actor) the team finds a suspect fairly quickly and before Beckett can ask more than, "how do you know our victim," the suspect confesses. Castle tells Beckett when she comes out of the interrogation room, "eleven seconds before getting a confession, that must be a personal best." That made me laugh.

He's a bit disappointed that it's a seemingly open and shut case since the suspect knows things about the crime scene that only the killer would.  But then the twist, well, twists.  Another man has come in to confess to the crime and he knows the same thing the first confessor does.  Esposito and Ryan, however, have found alibis for both of the supposed murderers, so the case is far from solved.  They are running down leads and trying to connect the confessors to something solid since all of them have "haziness" when thinking of the last few weeks, when a third one comes in. The look on Beckett's face is so funny.

They do find a symbol that connects them all, and a company that belongs to the symbol.  The creepy president throws up a few red flags when he's interviewed and Castle starts to throw out alternate universe theories which were pretty funny. Beckett does the logical thing and interviews all three "murderers" who differ on tiny details.  She goes back to the crime scene with Castle and tests her theory that they didn't actually commit the murder, but the drugs in their system (found by the psychiatrist called in earlier) actually put them in a suggestible state and someone planted that scene in their memories.

Back to the creepy president's company with a warrant and they confiscate his files and question him.  He confesses that he was only trying to help the clients "murder" their anger, alcoholism, and shyness, but it all went horribly wrong and he already had lawsuits pending from a sweat lodge idea gone wrong.  Then the "fix" for murdering their problems went wrong when they tried to wipe the clients' memories with the drugs.  But he didn't kill the victim.  For that, Beckett turns to one of the victim's co-workers from the theater who killed him to avenge her brother's death from the sweat lodge incident mentioned earlier.  A little odd, and with a lot of coincidences, really, but tied up very neatly.  It was entertaining.

It was a twisty, interesting case with a few laughs.  At the end Alexis shows up to move back home and the family is back together.  With no Pi. Hooray!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Book Review: Hope Springs by Sarah Eden

Hope Springs is a book I've been anxiously anticipating since I closed the last page on the first book in the Longing For Home series.  There is a love triangle introduced in the first book that had me leaning heavily in one direction, and at the end of that book I had reason to believe that my favorite hero would win the lady, but I wouldn't find out until the next book.  I tried to weasel any hints from the author, Sarah Eden, but she played it cagey and didn't spill even one bean.

You can imagine my mood then, when I started Hope Springs.  I wanted my favorite guy to win!  Within just a few chapters, however, I put aside my bias and lost myself in the story.  Our heroine, Katie, is embroiled in a town feud between the Irish and the non-Irish that has escalated into beatings, thieving, and burning down property.  It all brings back memories of what she suffered in Ireland before coming to America, but Katie has an iron will and won't give up on trying to make things better for the people she's come to love in this town.  She has such a tortured past and is such a great character, I stayed up until 2 a.m. reading because this story is so compelling. (And for a mother of eight, that is a huge sacrifice and one I don't make for just any book!)

Of course, in the middle of this "war" Katie is still trying to sort out her feelings for the two men and Sarah Eden is masterful at pulling the reader in to experience every emotion the heroine has inside her.  I'm not going to give away which man she chooses or how the feud ends, but the emotional depth is so well done I closed the book with a happy sigh.  

This is a historical series that you don't want to miss.  It's authentic, it's layered, and has characters that are memorable.  Five stars from me!

Here's the back copy:

All is not well in Wyoming. Katie Macauley gave up her life-long dream of returning to Ireland in order to make a home for herself in Hope Springs, but her future has never been so uncertain. The town is more divided than ever, with both the Irish and the Reds stealing property, burning buildings, and endangering lives.

Katie’s heart remains sharply divided between her love for playful Tavish and steady Joseph, a decision she feels ill-prepared to make. In the midst of the growing unrest, temperatures drop quickly, too quickly, and Irish nightmares of famine and cold resurface as the little Wyoming town struggles to beat the harsh winter.

Katie makes one sacrifice after another to keep the peace and help see her loved ones through the difficult days ahead, but will it be enough? Can the town make amends before their hatred consumes them all? And will Katie find the love she has been searching for as well as a home to call her own?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Freebie Friday

I haven't read this book, but the description looks good so I thought I'd pass it along. It's Love Me Always by Marie Higgins.

Here's the back copy and an excerpt:

No Way Out – Catherine Martin is trapped. Either she wed an elderly man and commit to a marriage without love, or continue living with the father who believes her guilty of murder and one foot outside the asylum. Catherine picks marriage to the Duke of Ashton, Grant Fielding. However, when she stays with the Fielding family before the wedding, she doesn’t plan on falling in love…with Grant’s nephew, Nicholas.

Destined for a lonely life – Nicholas Fielding loves his uncle’s soon-to-be bride, and has loved her since they were children. Now Nick must choose between his dying uncle's last wish to marry, and the woman who will make Nick happy for the rest of his life. No matter how hard Nick tries, he cannot stop his love for Catherine.

A flurry of accidents begins to happen around the Fielding estate and soon all accusing eyes turn to Catherine. When accidents escalate to murder, suspicions expound and even Catherine’s father believes she’s gone mad. Does Nick love her enough to discover the truth?

Nick walked through the hallway, heading toward the staircase when the sweet voice of a woman cursing floated through the air. He bit his bottom lip to keep from laughing. Obviously the woman thought she was the only one in the house. After he turned the corner and noticed the person in question was Catherine, he did laugh – and hard.

She jumped from his sudden outburst and stopped on the stairs. Her face flamed at least three shades of red, which made his laughter grow.

“The perfect Catherine has a flaw after all.” Nick leaned his hip against the banister and stared up at her. She looked extremely lovely right now; so pure and sweet, but mostly intoxicating even with a scarlet-colored face.

“I’m not perfect,” she snapped and straightened her back as she continued to descend.

He chuckled. “Yes, I know, but there for a while, I thought you were.”

She stopped on the step in front of him. “You…you…you were not supposed to hear that.”

“Obviously, but I’m very grateful you rewarded me the privilege.”

She huffed. “If you were a real gentleman, you would pretend not to hear, and you would certainly not tease me about it.”

She was so adorable right now, making him want to laugh and to be by her side for the rest of the evening. But it was more than that. He wanted her in his arms. Now.

No, he argued with himself. Being so personal would only cause him pain. He must make her mad at him. That was the only way.

Laughter quickly left him as he moved in front of her. Since she stood on the bottom step, it made her exactly his height. “What makes you presume I’m a gentleman?”

Confusion creased her brow. “Nicholas? What are you saying? Of course you are a gentleman.”

In one quick motion, he clamped his hands around her waist and roughly pulled her against him. She gasped. Was it in fear or excitement? He couldn’t be certain, but the sweet sound of her voice turned his insides to honey.

“I’m not going to lie to you and tell you I’m a gentleman. In fact, my sweet Catherine, I will warn you. Most women consider me a scoundrel, so beware. You don’t want to play your feminine games with me because if you do, you shall not escape unscathed.”

His original intent was to frighten her so she’d leave him alone, slap him, or say something hateful to make him stop. Instead, the heavy breaths fanning his face and the way she quivered told him she wasn’t frightened at all.

Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and suddenly the urge to kiss her overpowered him. As hard as he tried to fight it, he knew he couldn’t resist this time.

He roughly pressed his mouth to hers. It was a kiss meant to punish her. Instead, it tortured him. Her lips were so very soft. Pulling back, he hesitated. What was he doing? She leaned forward, her eyes closed. He was done for!

If you're interested in downloading a free Kindle copy click here

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Are Book Awards Helpful or Hurtful?

Well, I was going to review the book I've been reading, but I'm not quite done with it, so I want to tell you that my book cover for Pocket Full of Posies made it to the finals in the February Creme de la Creme contest for InD'Tale magazine.  (Thanks to everyone who voted for me in the semi-finals!)  If you are so inclined and want to vote again in the final round, you can go here  (We're down to the final three! Woohoo!)

I've been asked if winning contests and awards help with book sales and in my opinion, it does because it helps with exposure.  Recently, however, there was an article published about how awards negatively affect books because more people are drawn to the book.  More people read it, whether it's their particular taste of book or not, and with more people reading it that wouldn't normally, the ratings of the book decreases. The conclusion was drawn, then, that awards aren't necessarily a good thing for books.

When I read the article, I wondered how they could accurately study and draw such conclusions.  (You can read the entire article here to find out how they did it.) It also drew to my mind the old adage, "there's no such thing as bad publicity." Raising the profile of a book or author is the goal in most cases, to bring the stories to a wide audience.  Bad reviews will, of course, affect the ratings of the book, but I don't know of many people who rely solely on reviews before they purchase or read a book.  But does that fact invalidate the conclusions drawn in the article?  Maybe it's not relevant if we're only talking about ratings.

Regardless, as an author, I think awards can be validating, and if it draws people to read my book who wouldn't normally, I don't think that's a bad thing.  I like saying I'm an award-winning author.  I may change my mind about the whole thing if I get a bunch of bad reviews after an award because bad reviews can be hurtful.  A catch-22 I suppose.

What do you think? Are awards helpful or hurtful?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

Got some great word count in this week! Just over 4000 words. I'm so excited at how this story is shaping up.

I love it when the first few chapters get drafted and you can really start digging into characters and the story. One of my favorite parts is being drawn into that zone where you are free to just write.  Editing and polishing will come later and this is the time for freeeeeeeedommmm. (Said in my best Braveheart voice).

How did you do this week?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Telekinetic Castle Episode

Last night's episode was a little on the freaky side.  We open with two girls in a cab who are talking about their third friend who is late to wherever they're going.  The third friend calls them and while they're Facetiming, the friend has a trophy shelf fall down and then the friend is actually body slammed by an unseen force, sucked up to the ceiling and then she falls to the floor.  Dead.

Cut to Castle and Beckett who are trying to decide whether to have a band or a DJ at their wedding and what song is "their" song. Beckett thinks it's Witchcraft and Castle thinks it's Dancing in the Dark. I laughed at that one. They are realizing they really don't have a song and then the phone rings.  Enter our crack team to the murder scene of the young girl on the floor.  Castle notices blood on the ceiling rafters and the team discusses how a killer could have thrown the victim to the ceiling.  Castle offers the theory that perhaps the victim angered the Hulk.  Haha.

Espo has a talk with the parents who say that their daughter's ex-boyfriend wasn't happy with the break-up and Caskett goes to talk with him, but he only offers a little more mystery---the victim had been going out late at night and wouldn't say what she was doing.  He has an alibi anyway, so they move on to questioning the two girls who were in the cab and witnessed the murder.  They say they can't talk about it until Caskett has talked to the principal about the incident in the cafeteria.

The principal scene was hilarious because it's Castle's ex-principal from when he was a student at this prestigious school and got kicked out for taking a cow up to the roof. Oh man, I laughed at his face when the principal comes out and calls him Mr. Rogers.  He gets in a few digs at Castle and is unimpressed with his writing career.  The principal shows them the incident the girls were talking about in the cafeteria, with a bullying group of girls and then Jordan the bullied girl uses telekinesis to slam tables and chairs against the mean girls.  Caskett wants to talk to Jordan, but she has fled the school. They start investigating Jordan's life and come to find out she's been very interested in learning about telekinesis.  They talk to the guy at school that helps her out. He saw Jordan get in the subway, but that's all he saw.

Jordan's phone records lead them to a warehouse building where "the doctor" an MIT guy who helps people realize their telekinetic abilities reveals that he has met with Jordan, and though he tries to protect her, she comes forward.  Caskett go in to question her (Beckett takes Castle for "protection," since they're all comparing Jordan to Carrie. Castle can't wait to tell Stephen King about their real-life Carrie, which was funny.) Jordan has no idea how she killed the mean girl, (I forgot her name, Heather maybe?) Anyway, she mentions that everything was fine until she saw Heather in the Russian lit section of the library early one morning. Then the girls started bullying her. Caskett go to the library and find a Tolstoy book hollowed out with two million dollars worth of bearer bonds inside.

The case takes some wicked turns, figuring out that her dad is a defense lawyer with a dangerous client that had some stuff stolen---along with several families from the ritzy high school. They start putting together that Heather was in on a theft ring and that's how she had twelve credit cards and was paying all her mountains of bills.  The thing is, she had an accomplice---the guy who helped Jordan the bullied girl.  Caskett goes to his house and sees Jordan there with objects flying all around her. Freaky.

Once they question him he admits to setting up the whole thing in the cafeteria with fish line and wires to make it look like telekinetic stuff going on.  Heather forced him to help her with a theft and to stage her "murder" to prank a friend.  He shows them the video of how they did it, "slamming" her to the ceiling and all, and Caskett are quickly putting together that whomever had this video set up her murder.  Cue the two friends from the cab.  They question them at the prom (neither Castle nor Beckett got to go to their prom---Castle had been expelled and Beckett was too rebel cool to go and went to a poetry slam instead). The friend confesses and Caskett go into the prom and dance, find "their" song as they do. (And I loved that song! I need to find out what it was.)  They end with watching Jordan and her guy dance and Beckett tells Castle they didn't find any fish line or wires or magnets at that kid's house. Is he really telekinetic then? Castle is all, you don't think? But she just smiles and says kiss me, which he does.

So, to sum up, freaky subject, touching Caskett scenes, a great murder with a twist that I didn't see coming. I enjoyed this one!  Did you see it?

Monday, February 17, 2014

What Did You Do For President's Day?

Well, I feel a bit guilty, but I didn't think too much about Presidents today.  We had a very busy weekend with three of my sons in basketball games/tournaments and another son's Eagle Court of Honor.  So, after all that, I took a day off. I read a book that I really enjoyed (I'll tell you about it on Thursday), played games with my family and just generally had a nice, mellow day.

What did you do today? Do you have any President's Day traditions?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day my bloggy friends!  I hope you are cuddled up with your valentine, or at the very least a great book with a hero or heroine that you love.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Critique Group Thursday

I had critique group at my house tonight and it was so much fun! I baked cookies (large ones!) and then we scooped ice cream on them.  Oh, it was so good.

Great food and a great manuscript to critique, with conversation about everything from Downton Abbey and Russell Crowe, to Noah and red bicycles.  We were laughing most of the night I think. There's just something about writers getting together to talk shop and how it always morphs into something else.  I really love the women in my critique group. They have become my close friends as well as some of the people I trust most to help me make my manuscript baby even better.  I really look forward to the times when we are together.

I've tried several different types of critique groups before, and I have been so blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life that I've met because of writing.  There's just an energy around writers that draws me to them and makes me want to sit at my computer and tap away for hours.  Like right now.  I think I will work on the Captain's story while all this motivation is running through my veins.

What motivates you to want to write?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

I remembered one of the reasons why I started writing.  I watched TV shows and movies that had horrible endings,(in my opinion) so I wrote stories that had endings that I could enjoy.

I know I've told the story before about how I was watching Return of the Jedi in the movie theater, totally loving all the action and the tension with Han and Leia, but I was so disappointed in the ending. That party with the ewoks should have been Han and Leia's wedding.  Sigh.  I went home and rewrote it how I thought it should have ended and just kept on with writing stories of my own.

Recently I've been rewatching a TV series that has another difficult ending for me.  I am so tempted to rewrite it to how I think it should have ended, just so I can have some sense of closure (and maybe a bit more romance, haha!)

So, how does this equate to my word count you ask?  It's motivating me to want to get this story out.  I like how my books end and I know the captain's story (and the ending to the Hostage Negotiation Team series) is going to be awesome if I can just get it down on paper and out of my head.

I got 1200 words this week.  How did you do?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What Are Your Castle Predictions?

So, we didn't have a new Castle last night to talk about, but I have a question for you.  Where do you think they're going with Castle and Beckett this season?

Will the season finale be their wedding?

Will something tear them apart at the last minute?

Near death experiences?

Traveling for a case or a honeymoon?

What are your predictions?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Book Review: In Tune by Gerald Lund

As you all know, I am a Sunday School teacher in my church.  This is a big calling for me and I prepare diligently for every lesson because at times, I feel unequal to the task of teaching something so important. This year our course of study is the Old Testament, and I have been putting a lot of thought and effort into not only learning the material, but improving the way I teach.

Gerald Lund's new book, In Tune: The Role of the Spirit in Teaching and Learning is a gem.  It is divided into sections, with each part illustrating the point of how to be a better teacher and a better learner and what role the Spirit can play.  I love that this book gently reminds us that the teacher isn't supposed to be shining in the limelight, but instead the teacher is a facilitator to helping everyone in the room to better understand and know the principles.  Everyone should be moved upon by the Holy Ghost so the Spirit can teach and testify to the student.  It is also a great reminder that every teacher is a student as well and we can't teach what we don't know.  I loved the ideas presented in recognizing the Spirit and how to use it more effectively in our lives. This is a great book for everyone who wants to become closer to our Savior in learning and understanding.

Here's the back copy:

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are all teachers. Not only do we have a glorious mandate to "teach all nations" the gospel (Matthew 28:19), we also have numerous charges to "teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom" (D&C 88:77). In formal and informal settings, as parents or leaders or friends, we are constantly teaching and learning.

Not only has the Lord commanded us to teach, but He has taught us what we are to teach and how we are to do it: diligently and by the power of the Spirit. But how do we know if we're "doing it right"? What signs can we watch for that the Spirit is actually present in a teaching setting?

In this insightful companion volume to Hearing the Voice of the Lord, bestselling author Gerald N. Lund brings his decades of experience working in the Church Educational System to the topic of teaching and learning by the Spirit. He discusses common misconceptions, important questions we should ask about our teaching, and the role of the Holy Ghost in the process.

"The Lord has given the responsibility to save His children to teachers," writes Elder Lund. "The charge is clear. It is specific. It is inspiring. And, gratefully, the Lord blesses us greatly when we strive to carry out His will."

Valentine's Day .99 Cent Book Sale! Don't Miss This One!

To celebrate Valentine's Day we've put together an amazing $.99 sale of clean romance books. Here's the catchy title: Finding Romance this Valentine's Day. But I think we should just call it: Awesome books for $.99. Please scroll through the list, each has a short description and buy link, they're all fabulous.
Hope you have a fun Valentine's Day!

***$.99 price effective 2/10/14 through 2/14/14***

This Very Moment by Rachel Ann Nunes - Click here to purchase
Bill Dubrey is a sought-after plastic surgeon for LA’s prestigious and wealthy, and an equally sought-after bachelor. On the surface it appears he has it all—money, respect, and fame. Yet behind his aloof exterior lurks a tragic past that prevents him from finding lasting happiness.
All that changes on the day Kylee Stewart reenters his life. She alone knows Bill’s secret agony, and she is determined to help him face his past. During the years they’ve been apart, Kylee’s own life has been far from easy, but unlike Bill, she has turned to God in her need, finding a faith to which she desperately clings.
The tentative friendship they begin has Bill rethinking his stark future, yet he keeps his heart in check—afraid to commit, afraid to lose again. During Kylee’s darkest moment, when she needs him most, will he be there for her?

Tomorrow and Always by Rachel Ann Nunes
Click here to purchase
Anyone would think that Karissa and Malcolm have the perfect life. Young and successful, they've built their dream home on beautiful Kodiak Island in Alaska. But behind closed doors it's a much different story. Unable to have children and inactive in their religion, Karissa and Malcolm's marriage is beginning to fall apart. 
When Jesse and Brionney Hergarter move to Kodiak, Karissa senses a kindred spirit. With Brionney's friendship and support, Karissa feels a growing desire to return to activity at church. But this means confessing the one sin that has haunted her for years—the one sin that could drive Malcolm away forever.

A Portrait for Toni by Annette Lyon - Click here to purchase
Toni has no idea what she’d do without her best friend, Carter. Who else would she be able to vent to about her parents, her job at the dance studio, or her latest relationship woes? When Toni’s father lands in the hospital, Carter, as always, is there for her. 
That is, until he starts questioning Toni, saying he thinks she has an eating disorder. Then she starts dating Clint, the hot new guy at the studio, and somehow that puts a deeper wedge between her and Carter. When she’s hospitalized after an on-stage collapse, and Carter stupidly starts in with advice about food and weight, she sends him away—then instantly regrets it. 
One night after a performance, Toni tries to mend the hurt between them. Instead of finding Carter, she stumbles onto proof that he has feelings for her that go way beyond those of a friend. Toni is left with the very real prospect of losing Carter forever, unless somehow she can return his feelings—but that’s impossible. Isn’t it?

A New Dance by Lucy McConnell
Click here to purchase
For most people, letting go of a "what if" can be difficult - for Kiley Roberts it's almost impossible. As her final semester of college begins, a past relationship prevents her from fully opening her heart to Brandon, her almost fiance. When TJ unexpectedly drops back into her life as an assigned dance partner, Kiley's sure that it's a sign. Only she's not sure if it means she should put their past behind her or try for a future with the man with the broken heart.

Spy Noon by Jordan McCollum
Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble and!
Canada's the last place you'd expect to find an American spy, but CIA operative Talia Reynolds has problems piling up higher than a Canadian snowbank. When Elliott Monteith, her ridiculously handsome new coworker, shows up, Talia decides it's game on. She'll be the first to track down a dangerous counter-spy, and she'll give Elliott an unforgettable souvenir of his time in Ottawa: some humble pie.

Her plans don't work as well as she expects, though. Elliott's over-the-top flirting dredges up too many painful memories for Talia and undermines the confidence she's worked hard to regain. To do her job and keep her integrity intact, she'll have to keep her personal feelings at bay. Now Talia must find a way to work alongside Elliott—and maybe even trust him—to outsmart the enemy

Snowed Inn by Heather Horrocks - Click here to purchase
Mystery buff Vicki Butler plans to kill someone this weekend. Nothing personal, just business.
The killer grand opening weekend at her new Who-Dun-Him Inn is all fun and games---until an unplanned dead body makes an appearance.
With a murderer running loose, young widowed mom Vicki is forced to keep her family, guests, and actors safe while searching for clues. Her author guests, also the prime suspects, try their hand at solving this real-life whodunit, in the process hindering the investigation by local law enforcement officers. Things really go downhill when her twin Liz shows up, trailed by flamboyant Grandma Ross, who announces she’s seeking a boy toy among the suspects. When both a local younger man and an out-of-town newshound start sniffing around the inn---and her---Vicki realizes she's got more than just a murderer to worry about. Can she solve the mystery before the killer strikes again? Or will this case of opening-night jitters prove to be terminal?

Bah, Humbug! by Heather Horrocks - Click here for a free copy
 Lexi Anderson is an up-and-coming, Martha Stewart-type TV hostess whose two kids love the Jared Strong adventure novels, which happen to be written by their new neighbor, Kyle Miller. For the first time in his writing career, Kyle has writer’s block--until he sees the snowman on his lawn and realizes it’s the perfect solution to his plot problem. He digs in and discovers two things: one, his villain’s weapon will fit inside a snowman's body, and two, this particular snowman was supposed to be the backdrop for Lexi’s next show. From this improbable beginning comes friendship, but can there be a happy ending for a woman who is afraid to get close again and a man who has shadows from his childhood? Families join together and hearts are healed as this couple goes walking in a winter wonderland.

Click here to purchase
VL. Virgin Lips. You may not have heard of it, but where I live, it's a thing with a card, even if it is a figurative card. I was Brooklyn Hamlin, certified virgin lips, and I planned on clinging to that figurative card with all I had--while dating as many of the hottest guys at school as I could.
Maybe that's a bit strange. I mean, what teenage girl isn't interested in kissing? Locking lips definitely interested me, but the drama that came with it didn't. No kissing, no drama. Simple.
But on my sixteenth birthday, on my first real date even, the drama found me. His name was Luke Graham--cute, funny, and bad news for the whole female race.

The Princess Problem by Diane Darcy - Click here to purchase
In real life, she's given up on the fairy tale ending...
After having her heart broken twice, Alicia Dayne has sworn off men, decided to concentrate on her career, and is delighted to win a lucrative contract to make a commercial for Highborn Mattresses.
She could make the most awesome fairy tale commercial ever--except for Jonas Highborn, who isn't exactly thrilled with her Princess and the Pea ideas, and really doesn't want a prince in tights representing his company.
Though he's trying to keep his grieving mother happy by letting her have charge of the commercial shoot, and though Alicia's trying to keep in mind that this annoying guy is her boss for the moment, they can't seem to keep from clashing.
Throw in an overly-handsome prince, a matchmaking mama, and a stunning rose garden, and maybe, just maybe, Alicia can be convinced they have a chance at something real.
Because while she might not be a real princess, sometimes an ordinary girl's got to take a chance, even when it seems too good to be true.
When did Happily Ever After become so complicated?

Steal His Heart by Diane Darcy - Click here to purchase
What if keeping your job depended on keeping a secret? 
Daisy Manning has been testing security by shoplifting in Worthingtons Department store for five months. Not once in that entire time has she been caught by security personnel. Until today.
Kent Whitaker is disgusted by the beautiful thief he’s caught red-handed, and even more disgusted by his attraction to her. While he won’t allow himself to become romantically involved with a thief, he can certainly help out a friend by curing his daughter of bad habits. 
They both fight their growing attraction, Kent because dishonesty is the one trait he cannot tolerate, and Daisy because Kent is directly interfering with her long-range career goals. 
But when an unskilled matchmaker tries his hand at getting them together, the unexpected happens to them both as Kent gets distracted and Daisy steals his heart! 

Gifts and Consequences by Daniel Coleman
Click here to purchase

Jonathan decides to honor the wish of his dying wife – that he give away his fortune – but his methods are dangerously unconventional. He takes extreme measures to witness human struggle and watch the discovery of hidden strength. But when Jonathan goes too far, he faces consequences of his own.

The Colony by Cami Checketts - Click here to purchase
To protect her sons from the mistakes of her past, Brinlee Trapper escapes to a secluded mountain home. But there are dangers lurking in the mountains she has never encountered. The little family is saved from injury by Jed, a mysterious hunter. Brinlee is drawn to him, but she worries about his involvement with a peaceful commune hidden deep in the mountains behind her property.
Lance, Brinlee's attentive neighbor, has his own troubled history. Between his obvious attraction to Brinlee and his developing love for her children, Brinlee finds it more than difficult to guard her heart against this tender intrusion.
While Jed offers a life of excitement and freedom, Lance holds the key to the family Brinlee always wanted. When it comes time to choose, she learns that both men have secrets that could shatter her fledgling trust in men and the wrong decision could leave more than her heart exposed to danger.

Blog This by Cami Checketts - Click here to purchase
Will protecting children throughout the world cost Natasha her own family?
Devastated by the loss of her brother, Natasha Senecot works to expose the dangers of Matthew Chrysler's violent video games, succeeding in bankrupting and humiliating him.
Chrysler retaliates and sends a hit man after her. Natasha is forced to fake her own death to protect her children, but after witnessing another tragedy, Natasha won't hide any longer.
In a race against time, can Natasha expose Matthew Chrysler before his assassin murders her family and shatters her world?

All Fall Down by Julie Coulter Bellon - Click here to purchase
Ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down . . .

That simple rhyme turns negotiator Claire Michaels’ current hostage situation into an international incident. Claire just wants to help get everyone out safely, but as the crisis escalates she realizes she’s dealing with an al-Qaeda operative who has the means to become another bin Laden---with the potential to attack America. Claire has her own personal reasons for wanting to stop al-Qaeda, but time is slipping away as negotiations break down. Can she overcome her scars of the past in order to get the hostage out alive and possibly stop an assault on U.S. national security?
Navy SEAL Rafe Kelly is on leave to recover from a knee injury he suffered during his tour in Afghanistan and he doesn’t expect to be fighting terrorists on his home turf. But when he is taken hostage and his brother is kidnapped, Rafe teams up with a hostage negotiator in order to stay alive and get his brother back. The terrorist is always one step ahead of them, however, and the situation quickly turns from desperate to deadly. Will Rafe be able to save himself and his country without anyone he loves getting caught in the crossfire?

The Reluctant Bachelorette by Rachael Anderson - Click here to purchase
Luke Carney has no idea what possessed him to move back to Shelter Springs, Colorado, to set up his veterinarian practice. His parents had long since left, the small farming community is on the brink of extinction, and only one close friend from his childhood remains--Taycee Emerson, his best friend's little sister, who isn't so little anymore. Then there's the matter of Shelter's Bachelorette, an online reality dating show created to raise some much needed funds for the town. 

Unknowingly cast as the bachelorette for her town's charity event, Taycee Emerson wants out. Especially when she discovers her old teenage crush, Luke Carney, is one of the bachelors and it's up to the viewers--not her--to decide which bachelors stay or go. Coerced into participating, Taycee does what any self-preserving girl would do. She launches a subtle attack on Luke's good name with the hope of getting him voted off the show. Unfortunately, Luke's an eye-for-an-eye kind of guy, and when he discovers what she's up to, it means revenge.

Fair Catch by Cindy Roland Anderson - Click here to purchase
Ellie Garrett never planned on being a divorced, single mother—she also never planned to get married again. Ever. Her ordinary life changes when the house across the street is sold. The new owner is Nick Coulter—quarterback and MVP for the Sacramento Defenders. Oh yeah, he’s also one of People magazine’s top 100 most beautiful people and America’s most eligible bachelor. So why would she pick him to have her first crush on since her divorce? 
 Recently retired from the NFL, Nick is more than ready to find a wife and start a family. He's tired of his high-profile lifestyle and moves to Pleasant Wood, Colorado, hoping to finally settle down and focus on his foundation Kids Come First. It would just feel nice to be a normal guy. Of course being rebuffed by Ellie the first few times he meets her makes him feel a little too normal. 
As Nick and Ellie become acquainted, their mutual attraction is hard to ignore. But Ellie’s been hurt before by her womanizing ex-husband. She’s not sure that Nick has left behind his playboy reputation. Can she risk falling in love with the celebrity football player or will she miss her chance at scoring big in the game of love?

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SHE OWNS THE KNIGHT by Diane Darcy, Amazon Bestseller! *Over 50 4 & 5 star reviews on Amazon*
HEART OF THE OCEAN by Heather B. Moore, Amazon Bestseller!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Dauntless Authors and Friday Bargains!

The Dauntless authors are having a book sale today through Feb. 13th and are also including an Amazon gift card giveaway!

There are eleven books from several different genres, so head on over to the Dauntless blog to take a look and enter the giveaway.  You know you want a good book to read this weekend!

Click here

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Researching and Writers

I love researching. I really do.  I love learning new things and making my stories have a thread of realism in them.

Lately I've been researching military law, special response teams, and diners.  Doesn't that sound fun to you?

I even like organizing it.  Live interviews, articles, on-site stuff.  I get all happy inside looking at my research because I know it makes my writing stronger and my story something my readers can get lost in.  Although sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.  I've had readers say that a certain event couldn't have happened in reality, not realizing that it was actually based on real events.  I just want my stories to be as accurate as I can make them, so I do careful research to assure that it is.

The problem becomes when I get lost in the research. I could keep going with it forever.  I can call it pre-writing, but really, once I have the details that I need, that's when I should stop.  But it's hard!

It's a fine line between researching and procrastinating, and I'm still looking for the magic bullet that will tell me to stop.  A thread of realism is what I need, nothing more than that.  Then I can look forward to seeing how the thread will work in my story and the writer's rush I get when I see a well-written page.

But maybe I'll just look up one more thing . . .

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Word Count Wednesday

This has been a busy and productive week!  I have been researching and started writing the first chapter of the Captain's story and I'm pretty jazzed about it.

I love the research part of it, but I have to be careful not to get so immersed that I procrastinate the actual writing.  It was so motivating, though, to see how I can fit the puzzle pieces of my story and research into the book.

I wrote 840 words, which might not seem like much, but it's the precursor to bigger and better things this week, I can feel it!

How did you do?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Castle--in the Fashion World

Last night's show was a little lighter than what we've had recently and showed some character development that made me go awwwww.

We started out with a fashion editor's assistant being murdered and when Castle and Beckett go to question the editor, she recognizes Beckett.  Kate was the only model who ever said no to the great Matilda King. They try to recreate the victim's last day---including her firing by Matilda.  Ryan and Espo talk to the roommate and during the interview, Ryan figures out the apartment has been bugged.  When the gang is trying to figure out why anyone would bug a fashion assistant's home, Castle pipes up, "because she's La Femme Nikita and her job is just a cover." Haha. Love his theories.  They eventually find out someone at her fashion magazine was bugging her---her boss Matilda King!  It's "company policy."  Wow.

Lainey tells them the victim was strangled with a blue scarf.  And Matilda fired two assistants who got into a brawl about it and guess what? The other fired assistant has a blue scarf on in the pictures that captured the brawl.  The case has so many twists and turns with the team finding out everyone at the company got a blue scarf for a gift so the murderer wasn't the other sacked assistant.  It also turns out not to be Matilda either who was having drinks with Oscar de la Renta.  Their attention turns to the victim possibly selling company secrets to the rival fashion magazine, but they are also quickly cleared.  The team turns to the fact that someone was sabotaging the victim with moving around calendar times and such, making her look bad at her job.  They trace it back to a designer named Yumi who has stolen the victim's designs.  (He was a tad stilted in his role, I thought.)  Anyway, this leads to him making a deal and rolling on the real murderer---Matilda's right hand man Julian who wanted her job.  Matilda fires him and Beckett arrests him.  Boom baby!

I think the most interesting part of the episode, though, was when Castle and Beckett finally find a venue that they can agree on for their wedding.  While Beckett is running the case, Castle goes to check it out and they only have dates available in the fall of 2015.  Castle doesn't want to wait that long to marry her, and while he and his mother are still oohing and aahing over the venue (it was pretty) a date this spring opens up.  Castle quickly calls Beckett to see if he should put down a deposit.

Meanwhile, Matilda had Kate try on a wedding dress and she's looking in the mirror with a happy look on her face, then suddenly goes all pensive.  She takes Castle's call and is hesitant and looking like she's backing off. I have to admit I groaned because I thought we were past all this nonsense.  It gets all awkward and isn't really put to bed until the end when Kate comes to Castle's home and says they need to talk.  She tells him when she was looking in that mirror she was thinking of her mom and how much she would have wanted to be a part of all this---the planning, the dress, meeting Castle. It was actually quite poignant and really set the scene for how much Beckett has grown over the seasons in regard to her mother.  They talk about getting married sooner rather than later. I half-hoped Castle had put a deposit down regardless of Kate, but I guess not.  They'll have to find another venue, but at least neither of them want to wait.  It was a really sweet ending between them.

So all in all a good case, with some great couple moments.  Did you see it?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Four Carla Kelly Books Reviewed Today!

I did a book signing with Carla Kelly once and was surprised by the mountain of historical knowledge inside this tiny woman. Yet, she's still relatable and friendly.  I started reading her books after that day and today I want to tell you about four of them!

Safe Passage

Safe Passage is about the Mexican revolution when LDS Saints were fleeing the country and one man, Ammon Hancock, who is estranged from his wife, finds that his wife didn't make it out with the rest of the saints.  He goes back to save her and the adventure he has along the way kept me turning pages long into the wee hours of the morning.  I honestly didn't know very many details of the revolution and how it affected even the lowliest servant.  But this book is much more than a history lesson.  It has humor and romance and fear and guilt and sucks you into the lives of these people until you feel like you know them as well as your best friend. This book was recently named a Whitney finalist as well and it is well-deserving of the honor.

Here's the back copy:

It's 1912, the beginning of the Mexican Revolution-and the Mormon colonists must flee to the United States. When his estranged wife is mistakenly left behind, Ammon Hancock goes back to rescue her. But when he finds her, he must coax her to follow him to safety... and maybe even love him again. This revolution could be the very thing that ends their war of hearts

Miss Billings Treads the Boards

This one was a bit of a departure from Ms. Kelly's normal books in that there's not a lot of history, nothing very nautical, no really tortured hero---it's just lighter somehow.  It centers around a woman whose circumstances bring her to the stage and a wacky cast of characters.  She's trying to save their livelihood and save her own reputation while getting embroiled in the problems of a "missing" marquess who needs her to pretend she's his wife until he can sort out the matter of a relative trying to kill him.  It's farcical and yet still has magical moments.  It's also full of missteps for the characters, but is all's well that ends well? You'll have to read to find out.

Here's the back copy:

Miss Katherine Billings was cast in a most unlikely role for a vicar's daughter. But beautiful Kate was an impoverished orphan—and her only escape from a lecherous employer's embraces was to go upon the stage.

It was dangerous enough that a charming French playwright wanted her as his leading lady, and an ambitious impresario demanded that she bare her charms to an eager audience.

But when a magnificent marquess, Lord Henry Grayson, proposed that she join him in a masquerade of mating in a mock marriage, Kate found that putting on an act in public could be even more perilous in private...if the act was an act of love

Marriage of Mercy

I just finished this one and stayed up way too late to see how it would end.  There was a twist that I really didn't see coming and I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep until I figured everything out!  This one has our heroine, Grace, as an orphan put upon the mercy of the bakers of the village. Her own father was a baronet who spent far beyond his means, so when he died, Grace was nearly penniless.  The bakers take her in and she befriends an old noble man who likes her unique pastries.

When he passes his will is read and there's an interesting gift left to Grace---she can have the dower house and thirty pounds a year if she'll just get his illegitimate American son out of the POW prison and care for him until the war ends.

Grace decides to take the unusual inheritance, but from the second she meets the POW son, nothing goes as planned.  The son is dying and with seconds to spare before the unrelenting prison warden figures things out, Grace is asked to take one of his men and save them.  But how can she ever choose?  It's a love story between two people torn by the war of 1812 and the countries and circumstances they find themselves in. For my gentle readers, this one has some intimate scenes, but they are very brief.

Here's the back copy:

From riches to rags, Grace has had to swallow her pride and get a job as a baker. But everything changes when she's the beneficiary of a surprise inheritance.Her benefactor's deal comes with a catch: give up her life of toil and live in luxury only if she marries his illegitimate son, a prisoner of war. It's an offer she can't afford to refuse. But her husband-to-be is dying, and he begs her to take one of his men instead—to marry purely out of mercy….

A marriage of convenience with a complete stranger… Could this arrangement ever work?

Miss Milton Speaks Her Mind

I've just started this one and so far it has all the elements of a good Carla Kelly story---great background, two people with emotional obstacles to overcome. That's one thing about Ms. Kelly's stories that I like is how her characters seem so real with the problems and emotions they need to work through. This one is starting out with that same style for sure.

Here's the back copy:

A lovely young woman is the guardian of her cousin's son, whom she has cared for since his parents's death, and loved as her own. Her wealthy relatives question the true parentage of the boy, placing his inheritance and their future in jeopardy. Then a handsome mill owner offered to tutor the young boy, catching the eye of his guardian, as well. But could she really find love while harboring a scandalous secret than no man could know