Friday, August 29, 2014

Brewing Up Murder {+ Giveaway}

9780425255513_large_Billionaire_BlendThe love of coffee lead me to a marvelous cozy murder mystery series which lead me to an amazing author who lead me to blogging. So I’m delighted today to welcome award-winning author Cleo Coyle here to talk about BILLIONAIRE BLEND, the 13th installment in her Coffeehouse Mystery series that was recently released in paperback.

Cleo will be joining us to talk about ‘Brewing Up Murder.’ In addition, thanks to Cleo and the lovely Danielle at Penguin Group, I have a copy of BILLIONAIRE BLEND to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Cleo as she brews up murder. Welcome, Cleo.

“Pluck” is a word I usually associate with chickens. On the other hand, Booklist was kind enough to describe my amateur sleuth as having pluck, a valid observation because Clare Cosi may be many things, but she is no chicken.

A divorced, single mom in her forties, Clare is like many of the women I grew up admiring in my big Italian-American family. Smart and determined with a sturdy backbone, Clare also has a generous spirit and enough ingenuity to cook mouth-watering feasts (and raise a daughter) on a shoestring budget.

By day, Clare manages a charming landmark coffeehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. By night, she is a relentless snoop, who displays quite a bit of pluck in BILLIONAIRE BLEND, the latest entry in my Coffeehouse Mystery series.

When a car bomb goes off outside Clare’s charming shop, she comes to the aid of an anonymous customer, an intense young man who turns out to be billionaire tech whiz Eric Thorner. Eric is so grateful to Clare for saving his life that he hires her to create the most expensive coffee blend on the planet. But as Clare is pulled deeper into Eric's world of cutting-edge luxuries and cutthroat rivalries, she begins to wonder: Is this brilliant CEO marked for termination? Or is he the one making a killing? 

To solve this case, Clare will have to bribe an NYPD bomb squad lieutenant; conjure up a menu for a “billionaire's potluck”; fix her daughter's love life; stop a Slayer while working with one; and stay alive while doing it. 

By the end of BILLIONAIRE BLEND, you'll have taken a trip with Clare to an exclusive millionaire’s club, flown with her to a bohemian Paris neighborhood, visited some of the most intriguing coffee growing regions of the world—and uncovered the dark motives behind several murders.
Because this is a “culinary” mystery, you will also have over 20 fantastic recipes to try in your own kitchen, including a list of Clare’s secret off-the-menu coffeehouse drinks, as well as tasty foods enjoyed by the characters in the book, namely: 

Clare's Billionaire Bars
Baileys Irish Cream and Caramel Nut Fudge
Perfect Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Chocolate-Bottom Banana Bars
French Apple Cake Squares
Italian Beignets
Copycat Twinkie Cupcakes
Make your own Kahlua
Skillet Lasagna
"Coffee Hunter" Ugandan Stew
Crunchy Almond Biscotti (easy food processor method)
Quesa Fundido (Mexican Hot Cheese Dip) and more...

One last note for new readers: Although BILLIONAIRE BLEND is the 13th book in my Coffeehouse Mystery series—now celebrating ten years in print—you can read it as a stand-alone novel. If you enjoy the characters, you can read more about them in the previous books. 

To download a free title checklist of all 13 Coffeehouse Mysteries, in order, including brief story summaries, click here

And please feel free to friend me on Facebook at or sign up for my newsletter by writing an email that says “sign me up” and sending it to CoffeehouseMystery(at)gmail(dot)com.

May you read with joy!
~ Cleo

Cleo, thanks so much for joining us today and sharing this look at brewing up murder. From the adventures Clare has been on, I’d say she is far from being chicken. Just a note to also say I was so sorry to hear of Turtle passing away. She was a beautiful cat.

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Cleo, here’s a little background that may surprise you.

CLEO COYLE is really the pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Their latest mystery, BILLIONAIRE BLEND, earned a starred review from Kirkus, a “Top Pick” honor from RT Book Reviews, and this month Berkley released the book in mass market paperback. 

When not haunting coffeehouses, hunting ghosts, or rescuing stray cats, Alice and Marc are New York Times bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for NBC, Lucasfilm, Disney, Fox, Imagine, Marvel, and MGM. 

They live and work in New York City, where they not only write the bestselling Coffeehouse Mysteries, but also the popular Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. To learn more, and sign up for Cleo’s newsletter, visit her website:

Here’s a Coffeehouse Mystery series book trailer for your viewing pleasure.


This giveaway is for one print copy of BILLIONAIRE BLEND. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Monday, Sept. 7.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Cleo Coyle’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by during Cleo’s visit. In case you’re wondering about the opening line – Alice is the one who encouraged me to start this blog back in 2009. Do you like hanging out in coffeehouses? Clare creates all sorts of wonderful coffee blends. What’s your favorite coffee blend or do you prefer just plain coffee (with maybe cream and/or sugar)?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Off The Shelf: Dear Daughter {+ Giveaway}

Dear Daughter coverThe book I’m taking off the shelf today to talk about – DEAR DAUGHTER - is a thrilling debut novel by Elizabeth Little that tells the story of Jane Jenkins, glamorous and well-loathed celebutante, who was convicted of murdering her mother but has no memory of the night it happened.

Thanks to the lovely Angie at Viking/Penguin, I have a copy of DEAR DAUGHTER to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

DEAR DAUGHTER was released earlier this month and here’s what others are already saying about:

      Bestselling author Tana French called it “an all-nighter, and the best debut mystery I've read in a long time" and Kate Atkinson (author of Life After Life) called it “a really gutsy, clever, energetic read, often unexpected, always entertaining…In the world of crime novels, Dear Daughter is a breath of fresh air.”
      “Little makes a thrilling debut with this gripping read. Fans of Tana French and Gillian Flynn are going to enjoy the smart narrator and the twists and turns in the case. ” Library Journal (Starred Review)
      “Agatha Christie meets Kim Kardashian in this sharp-edged, tart-tongued, escapist thriller. . . A stylishly written tale that plays off our culture's obsession with celebrity scandal.” Kirkus Reviews
      “Janie keeps them all guessing . . .  An unusual protagonist who will intrigue readers who favor strong, smart women.” Booklist
      “Little effectively intersperses outside perspective in the form of emails, text messages, and other communications in Jane’s entertainingly caustic first-person narrative.” Publishers Weekly

DEAR DAUGHTER is sure to be one of the hottest debuts of the summer with foreign rights already sold in ten countries. This is a page-turning novel that explores how pathological and dangerous a mother and daughter’s relationship can become, just as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl did for a marriage.

Here’s a brief summary of the thriller:

        Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins, a sly and stunning celebutante at the height of her fame, was convicted of murdering her mother, even though she has no memory of that fateful night. Now, released on a technicality into a world utterly convinced of her guilt, Janie chops off her trademark hair and goes undercover. She follows her one lead to a small town in South Dakota, where she hopes she will find the truth about what really happened—even if that means confirming once and for all that she really is a killer.
        With the help of some new friends (and the town’s wary police chief), Janie follows a series of clues and pieces together the surprising picture of her mother's past that forces her to consider the possibility that her mother wasn't the perfect society philanthropist everyone believed her to be. On the run from the press, the police, and maybe even a murderer, Janie must choose between the anonymity she craves, and the truth she so desperately needs.
        As Elizabeth Little guides us through the events leading up to the novel’s shocking conclusion, we can’t help but root for the complex, deeply-layered Janie, even as we join her in questioning her own innocence.  A gripping, electrifying debut novel with an ingenious and like-it-or-not sexy protagonist, DEAR DAUGHTER follows every twist and turn as Janie unravels the mystery of what happened the night her mother died—whatever the cost.


Elizabeth Little is the author of the nonfiction books Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic and Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America's Languages. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and she has been a guest on NPR’s All Things Considered, The World, and Here and Now.

A graduate of Harvard University, she grew up in St. Louis and now lives in Los Angeles with her family.

For more information about Elizabeth and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


This giveaway is for one print copy of DEAR DAUGHTER. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Friday, Sept. 5 

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Dear Daughter’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope I’ve enticed you to check out DEAR DAUGHTER as it is an enthralling read. Does the ‘no memory’ aspect of the murder tempt you to find out more?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Little Night Murder {+ Giveaway}

A Little Night Murder coverAn accidental murder causes major gossip in the newest Blackbird Sisters mystery, A LITTLE NIGHT MURDER, by Nancy Martin. I’m delighted to welcome Nancy here today to share a bit of ‘gossip’ about herself.

When the daughter of aging Broadway diva Boom Boom Tuttle is found dead in place of her mother, the original target, Nora Blackbird and her wacky sisters have to deal with the drama of the high-profile murder case in this 10th installment of the Blackbird Sisters Mystery series. Thanks to Nancy and the lovely Kayleigh at Penguin Group, I have a copy of this fascinating tale to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Here’s a brief summary of A LITTLE NIGHT MURDER:

Murder under the stars...
          Nora Blackbird—pregnant at last!—is spending summer afternoons wallowing in the Bucks County pool of her best friend, Lexie Paine, who has just been released from prison. At night, Nora is covering Philadelphia’s high-society events for the local newspaper. And this time she doesn’t have to look far for a good story.
          Next door, a Broadway show is in rehearsal at the estate of Toodles Tuttle, the long-deceased but ever-legendary composer. Reigning over the estate is Toodles’s diva widow, Boom Boom. The demanding old broad still rules with an iron fist, and considering the chorus line of enemies she’s racked up over the years, her death has been a hotly anticipated event. So imagine everyone’s dismay when it’s her beloved daughter, Jenny, who drops dead—from a cause that is anything but natural—just as the lights are set to go on for the lucrative new Toodles musical.
          Yet murder is only an overture to the drama to come....
          Nora’s sister Libby, a soon-to-be-grandmother, has gotten herself into a sticky situation, wooed by both a lowly bug exterminator and a cheesecake-loving Broadway impresario. Edgy sister Emma has a dangerous new boyfriend who may jeopardize her show-jumping exploits. And the love of Nora’s life, Mick Abruzzo, has been desperate to prevent Nora from meeting the most notorious member of his mobbed-up family—his mother.
          Now Nora has to deal with the bump-and-grind of her personal life, and also bring the curtain down on a daring killer—before he forces her to exit stage left, permanently.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Nancy as she graciously answers some gossipy questions. Welcome, Nancy.

Mason - Where do you do most of your writing?  

Once upon a time, I saw a photo of Mary Higgins Clark in her lovely study--yellow chintz everywhere, tidy bookcases, an immaculate desk, sunlight streaming from tall windows. But alas, I write in a recliner with my laptop on my knees, in my living room, which is very pretty and has lots of light, but no chintz. And my books and Post-It notes are thrown all over the place. I have a view out the window to see what's going on in the neighborhood.

Mason - Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work? What do you love most about your workspace? If you have a desk, do you have any favorite objects on your desk or things you use often?  

My desk is where the desktop computer is, where I do my business, but not really much writing. We bought this house because it was built by a federal judge, and I commandeered his library for my office, so I am surrounded by books--some dating back to when I was a kid and first fell in love with stories. I have the fat, single-volume encyclopedia my dad took to college in 1939. In it, Hitler is a small-time politician, so it's good for history, but not much else. 

Hanging across from my desk is a photo of Mr. Rogers who was a friend of the family. (Among my favorite Mr. Rogers lines:  "Girls are fancy on the inside." Which I choose to think of as a different kind of metaphor than he intended.) At my elbow, I keep a statue of Buddha with the hope his serenity will influence me, and on the other side I have a silver urn stuffed with pencils and a magic wand from a birthday party and a magic feather that fell from the sky into my lap many years ago, and I took it as a sign I should keep close. The rest of my desk is littered with Post-it notes. I keep Post-It notepads all over the house and write little snippets of dialogue on them as they occur to me, or maybe strong, pithy words that I noticed in my reading. By the end of a book project, I am ankle-deep in Post-It notes. My desk is currently awash in them.

Mason - What’s your writing beverage? What do you love to drink while you’re writing?  

My favorite beverage used to be gin and tonic. Light on the tonic. Now it's Diet Coke. Do I write better now? Well, at least I'm in a better state to make that call.

Mason - What are some of your worst writing distractions?  

I gave up all computer games. I had to go cold turkey.  

Mason - What was the last book you read or movie you saw?  

I just read Ann B. Ross's ETTA MAE'S WORST, BAD-LUCK DAY and Rainbow Rowell's ATTACHMENTS---both from very different worlds, with very different kinds of characters, but both so beguiling. I was charmed by both. As for movies---if you mean first-run movies in a theater---the less said the better. I think we have all become numb to horrible violence.

Mason - Are you currently working on any new projects readers can be looking for?  

I am, but I don't want to jinx it. I worry about the karma. It's almost finished, though, so I'll know soon.
Nancy, thanks for joining us today and sharing a bit about yourself. I just recently finished reading and reviewing ETTA MAE’S WORST BAD-LUCK DAY too. It was a mesmerizing read. 

Now for those who aren’t familiar with Nancy, here’s a little background on her.

Nancy Martin is the winner of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement award for mystery writing from Romantic Times magazine.

Author of 48 pop fiction novels in mystery, suspense, historical and romance genres, Nancy created The Blackbird Sisters in 2002--- mysteries about three impoverished Main Line heiresses who adventure in couture and crime--as if “Agatha Christie had wandered onto the set of Sex and The City.” 

Nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 2002, HOW TO MURDER A MILLIONAIRE won the RT award for Best First Mystery and was a finalist for the Daphne DuMaurier Award. Nancy has also written the Roxy Abruzzo mystery series for St. Martin’s Minotaur, FOXY ROXY and STICKY FINGERS.

Nancy lives in Pittsburgh, serves on the board of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of Pennwriters. 

For more on Nancy and her writing, visit her website, connect with her on Facebook, and check out her boards on Pinterest.


This giveaway is for one print copy of A LITTLE NIGHT MURDER. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only and will end Thursday, Sept. 4. 

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Nancy Martin’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by during Nancy’s visit. Do you have a favorite place to write (whether it is writing books, letters or notes)? What would be your ideal place to write?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It’s In His Kiss Launch Day

It's In His Kiss coverI’m delighted to be among the bloggers participating in the Launch Day Blitz for IT’S IN HIS KISS by Jill Shalvis today.

You can hear a clip of the audio edition of IT’S IN HIS KISS by clicking HERE.

Here’s a summary of the latest installment in Jill’s Lucky Harbor series:

          Becca Thorpe has uprooted her life and escaped to the beach. Now's her chance to get away from city living, throw caution to the ocean winds, and live in the moment. Especially if the moment includes the deliciously sexy surfer she meets shortly after arriving in Lucky Harbor. Something about the dark intensity of Sam's eyes and the thrill she gets at his touch convinces her to stay awhile.
          Boat builder and investment genius Sam Brody is a self-made man who knows how dangerous it can be to mix business and pleasure. But he can't resist offering Becca a job just to hear her laugh and have her near. Yet when her brother comes to town asking for help, will he tempt her back to her glamorous life in the city? Or do Sam and little Lucky Harbor have a chance to win Becca's heart?

IT'S IN HIS KISS is available in mass market paperback, eBook and audio book formats wherever books are sold. 

New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. 
Look for Jill's bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit her website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

For more on Jill and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

To entice you a bit more, Jill is sharing an excerpt from her new novel for your reading pleasure.

Chapter 3

      There was still the night’s chill on the air when Becca woke up the next morning. Early sun rays were doing their best to beat back the dark shadows of the night, stabbing through the cloud layer with hints of soft yellow and orange.
      She rolled the kink out of her neck from sleeping on the floor. Today was the day she further depleted her savings by buying furniture.
      And other essentials, such as food.
      Today was also the day that she got her act together. She stared at the portable piano keyboard leaning so deceptively casual-like against one of her suitcases.
      As a jingle writer, all she had to do was write a catchy tune for a given product. That was it. Write a jingle, sell it to the ad agency that had her on retainer, and accept their thanks in the form of a check.
      Except she’d been having trouble for a year now. Her muse had shriveled up on her, and she was eking out only the barest minimum to keep her agency interested. Her latest assignment was simple—come up with something catchy for Cushy toilet paper. A relatively easy and insignificant enough assignment, right?
      With a sigh, she grabbed a roll of the toilet paper that the company had sent her, shoved it in her tote bag, and headed out. The first person she came across was the same boy on the bike who’d nearly hit her the other day. “Hey,” she said, flagging him down.
      He slowed. “Sam’s probably in his warehouse—”
      “No, this question’s for you.” She pulled out the roll of toilet paper. “Feel this. What does it make you think of?”
      He blinked.
      “I’m writing a commercial for it,” she told him.
      “That’s weird,” he said, but he reached out and took it. Considered. “I guess it feels nice to squeeze,” he finally said.
      “Good, but unfortunately, that commercial’s already been done,” she said. Give me something else.”
      “Okay…” The kid scratched his head. “It’s…soft?”
      “Soft,” she said.
      “Yeah. You know, cushy.”
      She blew out a breath. “Thanks.”
      “I wasn’t any help at all, was I?” the kid asked.
      “You were great,” she told him, and waved as he rode off.
      She walked to the pier for more ranch-flavored popcorn, which she’d bought at the ice cream stand. The same twenty-something-year-old guy was there today.
      “You’re back,” he said.
      “Yep. You give good popcorn.”
      He smiled. “I know. I’m Lance, by the way.”
      “Becca,” she said. “I’m new to town.” Lance was small, painfully thin, and had an odd sound to his voice, like his chest was hollow. She glanced at the jar on the counter, with a DONATE TO CYSTIC FIBROSIS research poster taped to it, and felt a pang of worry and empathy for him.
      “So what’ll it be, Becca New to Town?” he asked.
      She smiled. “Ranch-flavored popcorn.” She paused. “And a single chocolate scoop.”
      “Living large,” he said. “I like it.”
      When he brought the popcorn and ice cream to her, she held up the roll of toilet paper. “Question,” she said. “What does this make you think of?”
      He laughed. “That’s going to cost you a double scoop, at least.” But he squeezed the roll of toilet paper. “Tell me why I’m humoring the crazy lady?”
      “Because she writes the songs for commercials,” Becca said. Sometimes. If she’s very lucky. “And I need one for Cushy toilet paper. Only I’m stuck.”
      “So your brain’s…plugged?” he asked playfully. “Your brain’s got a big…load?”
      She laughed. “Don’t quit your day job.”
      He squeezed the roll again. “You know,” he said casually. “I get sick a lot.”
      Her heart pinched. “I’m sorry.”
      “It’s okay. But I use this brand for blowing my nose. It’s softer and more gentle than tissues.”
      She smiled and handed back the ice cream cone she hadn’t yet licked. “Okay, now that’s worth a double.”
      He made it a triple.
      A million calories later, she was back in her place, and she managed to come up with a little—emphasis on little—jingle for Cushy. She sent it off to her agency, fingers crossed.
      Standing up, she moved to the window and took in a most mesmerizing sight.
      Not the ocean, though that was pretty damn fine, too.
      But Sexy Grumpy Surfer—SGS for short, she’d decided—side by side with one of the other guys from last night, the two of them doing pull-ups on some metal bar. Given their easy, economical speed and the way they kept turning to eyeball each other, they were competing and not for the first time. They were shirtless, their toned bodies gleaming with sweat in the early-morning sun, definitely outshining the Pacific Ocean.
      “Wow,” she whispered. She had no idea how long she stood there, or how many impossibly difficult pull-ups the two men did before they both dropped lithely to the ground, straightened, and gave each other a shove.
      Their laughter drifted to her ears and she found herself smiling along with them. A sweaty tie then, she decided, and realized she was a little hot herself.
      Hot and bothered.
      Sexy Grumpy Surfer looked damn good laughing. The other guy moved off, back toward the small building between the street and beach, but SGS remained. Turning only his head, he unerringly met Becca’s gaze.
      Crap. She dropped like a stone to the floor and lay flat. He hadn’t seen her, she thought. He totally hadn’t. The glare on the window had blocked his view. Yeah, for sure he’d missed her…
      Slowly, she rose up on her knees to take a quick peek and winced.
      He was still there, hands on hips, looking right at her.
      He’d missed exactly nothing, and she suspected he rarely did.
      Then the clouds shifted, and suddenly the sun was shining right on him, like he was the best of God’s glory. Since the sun was also bright, making seeing details difficult, it was probably—hopefully—her imagination that his mouth quirked in a barely there smile as he shook his head at her.
      Her stomach quivering, she ducked again.
      And then from her position prone on the floor, she forbid herself from looking out the window ever again.
      Crawling to her suitcases in the center of the loft, she sat cross-legged, pulled out her list of Must-Buys, and added curtains. Curtains would keep her from being distracted by her view. Curtains would keep her on task.
      And away from further embarrassment.
      She showered, dressed, and left the warehouse, sending a cautious look down the alley.
      Relieved, she left. Several hours later she was back, followed by Eddie, the kid on the bike, whom she’d paid to help lug her loot. Thankfully he came with an older brother who had a truck, and equally thankfully, Lucky Harbor had a “vintage” shop, a really great one. She’d found everything she’d needed there, including gently used sheets that she bought for curtains.
      In far less time than it’d taken to shop, she had curtains up and the bed made, and she was sitting on it, staring at an email from her ad agency.
The Cushy jingle works. I’ve sent accounting a request to get you payment. Next up is Diaxsis, the new erectile dysfunction medicine. Details and deadline info attached, if you’re interested.
      Not Great job, Becca. Not You’re back, Becca. Not We’ve put you back on our top tier, Becca.
      But neither was it You’re fired, Becca, so she’d take it. But Diaxsis? She blew out a breath and hit reply:
I’m interested.
      The next morning, Becca opened her eyes and let out a happy breath. She’d actually slept, and if there’d been bad dreams, she didn’t remember them. Turning her head, she stared at the curtains where a weak daylight poked in around the edges.
      The insulation in her building was either poor or nonexistent. She could hear every single time the back door of the building next to hers opened.
      It opened now.
      Don’t do it, she told herself. Don’t go look. You’re stronger than this. You don’t need the distraction…

      But like Pavlov’s dog, she got up and peeked through the curtains.
      It was foggy out, but the bigger news was that Sexy Grumpy Surfer was back. It looked chilly, and yet he was in another pair of board shorts and a T-shirt that hugged the width of his shoulders as they flexed enticingly while he dumped the contents of a shop vac into the trash bin.
      Sex on a stick.
      He didn’t look up this time, and Becca forced herself away from the window. She showered, ate the leftover ranch-flavored popcorn—breakfast of champions—and gave her keyboard a long, hard look. “Today,” she told it. “Today, you give me something better than It works.”
      Sitting on the bed, leaning back against the wall, she pulled the keyboard onto her lap.
      A year. A year since she’d composed jingles for the best national brands, and the reasons why were complicated. She’d lost her muse, and her footing. On life. That had to change. Hence the across-the-country move. A new venue, a new beginning. But she still needed to prove herself, if only to the woman in the mirror.
      Her parents wouldn’t ask her to prove herself, she knew this. Growing up, they’d never asked anything of her, other than to take care of her brother while they worked crazy hours in the jazz clubs of New Orleans. Watch Jase, that’s all they’d ever expected her to do.
      Though only two years separated her and her brother, Becca felt far older, always had. She’d done her best to take care of him, succeeding better at some moments than others. But at least the promise of his talent had been fulfilled. He was a wonderful concert pianist.
      Now she wanted, needed, to be wonderful at something, too.
      And yeah, yeah, being worthy shouldn’t be tied up in financial success—or lack thereof—blah blah. But whoever had said that had clearly never had to pay their rent on time.
      Her cell phone vibrated. The screen said Jase calling.
      Until recently, they’d been close, and had talked frequently. Except, just like her early—and short-lived—success with jingle writing, this too had turned out to be an illusion. A glossy veneer shown to the world, while the truth was hidden deep inside them both.
      She stared at the phone until it went to voice mail.
      Two seconds later came a text. You okay?
      Completely okay, she texted back. Liar, liar, pants on fire…
      But hell if she’d give anyone she cared about more stress to deal with. She turned her phone off, ignored the guilt, and spent the rest of the day alternating between nesting in her new place and trying to work a jingle about the male erection.
      And maybe, also, looking out her windows a little bit. She told herself it was the ocean that drew her, but mostly her gaze was drawn to the alley. In addition to the pullups, she’d now seen Sexy Grumpy Surfer carrying a large duffel bag to the boat moored at the dock, washing down said boat with the same two other guys she’d seen before, and taking a hard, brutally fast run along the beach with yet a third guy.
      Seemed like maybe Lucky Harbor was a hot-guy magnet.
      By the end of the day, Becca needed sustenance and a change of scenery, so she headed into town. She could’ve gone to the diner Eat Me, but instead she walked a block farther, past the pier, to go back to the Love Shack.
      She told herself it was the atmosphere. The place was done up like an Old West saloon, with walls lined with old mining tools, tables made from antique wood doors. Lanterns hung from the exposed beam ceiling, and the air was filled with laughter, talking, and music from the jukebox in the corner.
      She ordered a burger and sat by herself to eyeball the real reason she’d come back here—the baby grand piano in the far corner. It was old, and had clearly been around the block decades ago, but it called to her. She stared at it, torn between wanting to stroke it, and wanting to run like hell.
      Jase might the real talent of the Thorpe family, but there’d been a time when the two of them had been a duo. Maybe she’d never been quite as good as he was—not that her parents had ever said so, they didn’t have to—but she’d been good enough to boost Jase’s talent. The press latched on to them early, and they’d even become pseudo celebrities.
      Things had been good, until she’d turned seventeen. With that age had come some self-awareness, and a serious case of the awkwards. Besides the headaches and bone aches that had come with a late, fast growth spurt, she’d lost all coordination, including her fingertips. Practically overnight she’d turned into the Graceless Ugly Duckling, exemplified.
      The following month, their manager had gotten them invited to compete at the prestigious Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The place had been filled with people—more than two thousand—and all Becca remembered was being struck by sheer, heart-stopping panic.
      She’d tanked, and the press had ripped them to shreds.
      Shaking off the memory, Becca paid for her food at the bar and took in the sign at the register that said: help wanted. She glanced at the piano and gnawed her lower lip. Then she gestured for the bartender. “Who do I talk to about the job?”
      “Me,” he said with a smile as he set aside the glass he’d been drying to shake her hand. “I’m Jax Cullen, one of the owners.”
      “Is it a hostess position?” she asked hopefully.
      “Waitressing,” he said. “You interested?”
      Was she? She glanced at the piano and ached. And she knew she was very interested, skills or not. And there were no skills. None. “I am if you are,” she said.
      Jax lost his smile. “Shit. You don’t have any experience.”
      “No,” she admitted. “But I’m a real quick learner.”
      He studied her, and Becca did her best to look like someone who was one hundred percent capable of doing anything—except, of course, handling her own life. She flashed him her most charming smile, her “showtime” smile, and hoped for the best.
      Jax chuckled. “You’re spunky,” he said. “I’ll give you that.”
      “I’m more than spunky,” she promised. “I bet you by the end of my first night, you’ll want to keep me.”
      He held her gaze a moment, considering. “All right, I’ll take that bet. How about a trial by fire starting now?”
      She eyed the room. Not full. Not even close. “Who else is working?”
      “Usually on a night like this, two others. But both my girls are out sick tonight and I’m on my own, so you’re looking like good timing to me. If you’re any good.”
      The piano in the far corner was still calling to her, making her braver than usual. “I’m in,” she said.
      Jax gave her an apron and a quick rundown of what was expected. He told her that here in Lucky Harbor, familiarity was key. Everyone knew everyone, and the trick to good service—and good tips—was friendliness.
      Then he threw her to the wolves.
      The first half hour remained thankfully slow, but every time she walked by the baby grand, she faltered.
      Play me, Becca
      At about the twentieth pass, she paused and glanced around. Not a soul was looking at her. She eyed the piano again, sitting there so innocuously, looking gorgeous. Damn. She’d played on her keyboard, but not a piano. Not since two years ago when she’d quit. She’d had a near miss with going back to playing a year ago, but then things had gone to all sorts of hell, reinforcing her stage fright and giving her a wicked case of claustrophobia to boot.
      Play me, Becca
      Fine. Since fighting the urge was like trying not to need air, she sat. Her heart sped up, but she was still breathing. So far so good. She set her fingertips on the cool keys.
      Still good.
      And almost before she realized it, she’d begun playing a little piece she’d written for Jase years ago. It flowed out of her with shocking ease, and when she finished, she blinked like she was waking from a trance. Then she looked around.
      Jax was smiling at her from behind the bar and when he caught her eye, he gave her a thumbs-up. Oh, God. Breaking out in a sweat, she jumped up and raced into the bathroom to stare at herself in the mirror. Flushed. Shaky. She thought about throwing up, but then someone came in to use the facilities and she decided she couldn’t throw up with an audience. So she splashed cold water on her hot face, told herself she was totally fine, and then got back to work to prove it.
      Luckily, the dinner crowd hit and she got too busy to think. She worked the friendliness as best she could. But she quickly discovered it wasn’t a substitute for talent. In the first hour, she spilled a pitcher of beer down herself, mixed up two orders—and in doing so nearly poisoned someone when she gave the cashew-allergic customer a cashew chicken salad—and then undercharged a large group by thirty bucks.
      Jax stepped in to help her, but by then she was frazzled beyond repair. “Listen,” he said very kindly, considering, “maybe you should stick with playing. You’re amazing on the piano. Can you sing?”
      “No,” she said, and grimaced. “Well, yes.” But she couldn’t stick with playing, because she couldn’t play in front of an audience without having heart failure. “I really can do this waitressing thing,” she said.
      Jax shook his head but kept his voice very gentle. “You’re not cut out for this job, Becca. And there’s nothing wrong with that.”
      She was beginning to think she wasn’t cut out for her life, but she met his gaze evenly, her own determined. “I bet you, remember? By the end of the night, you’ll see. Please? One more try?”
      He looked at her for a long moment and then sighed. “Okay, then. One more try.”
      A group of three guys walked in the door and took a table. Fortifying her courage, Becca gathered menus and strode over there with a ready-made smile, which congealed when she saw who it was.
      Sexy Grumpy Surfer and his two cohorts.
      Bolstering herself, she set the menus on the table. “Welcome, gentlemen.”
      SGS was sprawled back in his chair, long legs stretched out in front of him crossed at the ankles, his sun-streaked hair unruly as ever, looking like sin personified as he took her in. She did her best to smile, ignoring the butterflies suddenly fluttering low in her belly. “What can I get you to start?”
      “Pitcher of beer. And you’re new,” one of them said, the one with the sweetest smile and the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. He had short brown hair he’d forgotten to comb, some scruff on a square jaw, and was wearing cargo pants and a polo shirt with a small screwdriver sticking out of the breast pocket. “I’m Cole,” he told her, “and this big lug here…” He gestured to the dark-haired, dark-eyed, darkly dangerously good-looking guy next to him. “Tanner.” Then he jerked his chin toward SGS. “You apparently already know this one.”
      “Yes,” Becca said. “SGS.”
      They all just looked at her.
      “Sexy Grumpy Surfer,” she clarified.
      Cole and Tanner burst out laughing.
      SGS just gave her a long, steady, paybacks-are-a-bitch smile.
      “Or Grandpa,” Cole offered. “That’s what we call him because he always seems to know the weirdest shit.”
      “And Grandma works, too,” Tanner said. “When he’s being a chick. No offense.”
      Sam sent them each a look that would’ve had Becca peeing her pants, but neither man looked particularly worried.
      “And your name?” Cole asked Becca.
      She opened her mouth, but before she could answer Sam spoke for her. “Peeper,” he said. “Her name is Peeper.”
      His steely but amused gaze held hers as he said this, which is how Becca finally saw him smile. It transformed his face, softening it, and though he was already ridiculously attractive, the smile—trouble-filled as it was—only made him all the more so. It gave her a little quiver in her tummy, which, as she couldn’t attribute it to either hunger or nerves, was not a good sign.
      “Peeper,” Tanner repeated slowly, testing it on his tongue. “That’s unusual.”
      Still holding Becca’s gaze, Sam said, “It’s a nickname, because she—”
      “It’s my big eyes,” Becca broke in with before he could tell his friends that she’d been caught red-handed watching them like a…well, peeper. “Yeah,” she said. “I’ve bowled him over with my…peepers.”
      Sam startled her by laughing, and the sound did something odd and wonderful and horrifying deep inside her, all at the same time. Unbelievably, she could feel herself standing on the precipice of a crush on this guy. She’d been attracted before, of course, plenty of times, but it’d been a while since she’d taken the plunge.
      A long while.
      She hoped the water was nice, because she could feel the pull of it and knew she was going in.

Thanks so much for stopping by today during Jill’s Launch Day Blitz. What is it about the small town atmosphere that pulls you into a story?

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Monday, August 25, 2014

The Return of Gabriella Giovanni {+ Giveaway}

Blessed are the Meek coverIt’s a pleasure to be participating in author Kristi Belcamino’s Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tour for her recent release, BLESSED ARE THE MEEK, the second installment in her Gabriella Giovanni Mystery series.

I’m delighted that Kristi has joined us to talk about how her career as an award-winning journalist relates to her writing fiction. In addition, I’ll share my thoughts on this intriguing book and Kristi is hosting a tour-wide giveaway.

First, a synopsis of BLESSED ARE THE MEEK:

        A rash of high-profile murders all point to reporter Gabriella Giovanni's boyfriend, Detective Sean Donovan, when investigators uncover a single link in the deaths: Annalisa Cruz. A decade ago, Cruz seduced Donovan away from a life as a monk, and though their relationship soured long ago … her passion for him has not.
        As the investigation continues, it becomes increasingly clear that any man who gets involved with Cruz soon ends up dead, including a dot-com millionaire, the mayor of San Francisco, and a police officer. Donovan, the only man to have dated Cruz and survived, is arrested for the murders and dubbed a jealous ex, leaving Gabriella scrambling to find the real killer without ending up as the next body headed for the morgue.
        Gabriella's search ultimately unearths a dark secret that Donovan had intended to take to the grave. Faced with the knowledge of this terrible truth, Gabriella must tie the past and present together to clear Donovan's name.

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Witness
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 0062338927
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Kristi as she answers this question: Has your career as an award-winning journalist helped or hindered you're writing fiction and how so?

Even though writing fiction terrified me enough to study journalism in college instead of creative writing, I’ve found that my later-life transition from journalist to fiction writer has gone better than I dreamed.

There were a few reasons I shied away from pursuing my dream to be a writer when I was in college. I was worried about the same things most people worry about — how to pay the rent and put food on the table. Journalism seemed a surer bet in the late 1980s. Now? Not so much. Now, as the profession wanes, it may be just as big a gamble, but when I was in college, it was a way to make a living writing all day.
Although I left my career as a newspaper reporter a decade ago, I still have enough love and passion to do it part-time. 

At first I worried that going back to newspaper after becoming a fiction writer would be tough. I worried that the two ways of writing would collide, but surprisingly none of that has happened. If anything, I am probably a better journalist now because of my journey into fiction.

I have found there are more pros than cons in switching from journalism to fiction.

The only con I found at first was that I really had to concentrate to “show” and not “tell.” That is the fundamental difference between the two forms of writing.

Here are the pros.

* No Writers Block/Ability to put butt in chair

After a career as a journalist on a daily newspaper, I quickly got used to having an editor screaming at me and breathing down my neck to turn in a story on deadline. That, along with the fear of losing my job if I didn’t perform, effectively ensured I would never have writer’s block again in my life.

* Ear for Dialogue/Good eavesdroppers

Recently, a book editor at a daily newspaper interviewed me and complimented me on my dialogue, which surprised me. But then, she pointed out something. She said that she has found in her more than 50 years of journalism that former journalists who write fiction have the best dialogue because we’ve developed an ear for how people speak. I agree.

* Conciseness/No Purple Prose/Willingness to Kill our Darlings

Journalists are trained to get to the point in as few words as possible so you will rarely see our novels chock full of filler and fluff. In addition, we know that most of the time, when we kill our darlings and chop the superfluous writing, our stories are better off for it. Editors have trained us to have a thick skin in this arena.
So, overall, I think that being a journalist prepared me for my dream career as a fiction writer. It gave me the confidence, chops, and ability to do what it takes to be a published writer.

Kristi, thanks for sharing this insight into the transition from journalist to fiction writer. As a former journalist, I can truthfully say your love of the craft shines through in your writing and your protagonist.

For those who aren’t familiar with Kristi, here’s a brief background.

Kristi Belcamino is a writer, photographer, and artist who also bakes a tasty biscotti. In her former life, as an award-winning crime reporter at newspapers in California, she flew over Big Sur in an FA-18 jet with the Blue Angels, raced a Dodge Viper at Laguna Seca, watched autopsies, and conversed with serial killers. 

During her decade covering crime, Belcamino wrote and reported about many high-profile cases including the Laci Peterson murder and Chandra Levy disappearance. She has appeared on Inside Edition and local television shows. She now writes fiction and works part-time as a reporter covering the police beat for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Her work has appeared in such prominent publications as Salon, the Miami Herald, San Jose Mercury News, and Chicago Tribune.

For more on Kristi and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

You can also follow Kristi’s tour by visiting the following blogs that are participating in her tour:
8/01 Showcase @ A Blue Million Books
8/05 Review @ Words by Webb
8/06 Interview @ The Pen and Muse
8/12 Showcase @ Books Books and More Books
8/13 ~ Guest Post @ My Devotional Thoughts
8/20 Showcase @ Deal Sharing Aunt
8/26 Showcase @ X-Mas Dolly
8/31 Omnimystery News


Author Kristi Belcamino once again shows readers the heart and soul of her protagonist Gabriella Giovanni in this action-packed story.

The story flows smoothly, but is adrenaline-driven from beginning to end. The twists and turns keeps readers on the edge of their seats in anticipation of what’s to come next. The author blends bits of humor and romance at the right intervals to give readers a chance to catch their breath.

The characters are realistic, likable and well-developed. Their interaction draws the reader in to be a part of the action and intrigue.

Belcamino has captured the determination, dedication and drive that makes a great journalist in Gabriella, as well as what makes a great law enforcement officer in Donovan. These are characters readers can relate to as they deal with their jobs, family issues and emotional concerns.

BLESSED ARE THE MEEK is a fascinating mystery that will hold you captive from the first page. This exhilarating story is one not to be missed.

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me as part of the author’s virtual book tour in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


This is a Rafflecopter giveaway for 10 individual promo codes for a free download of BLESSED ARE THE MEEK for the entire tour. Winner must have access to Bluefire Reader and have an Adobe account to receive the free download. 

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load so please be patient.

Thanks so much for stopping by during Kristi’s visit. Do you think journalist and law enforcement can work together or should they remain on opposite sides?

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a Rafflecopter giveaway