Thursday, November 13, 2014

Women of Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem Author Spotlight: LA Lendowski

Author Bio:
What happens when a Jersey girl falls in love with the Florida sunshine? Lois's life changed when she made sultry Tampa her home. It might have been the subtropical heat that forced the stories out of her head and into the books she writes. The southern migration has allowed her to pursue her passions; cooking for family and friends, growing orchids, and learning tennis. Her food blog, the Culture and Cuisine Club, continues to push the envelope of dinner club creativity. She's obsessed with art in all forms, and her interests are the entrΓ©es that fill her books with a fillip of sexy seasoning to spice things up. On most weekends she can be found enjoying the perfect cocktail with close friends.

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Author's Guest Post:
Women of Murder and Mayhem Come to Dinner
The dinner table is set with my best china, silver and crystal. The centerpiece is stunning. The flowers, lily of the valley, are a favorite of one of my dinner guests, Agatha Christie. Yes, I said Agatha Christie. At this dinner part my literary heroes will share conversation and a fabulous dinner. This is your invitation to dine with five women of murder, mayhem, and mystery.

Vera Caspary, the author of one of my favorite books, Laura, was the inspiration for the redesign of the room for this auspicious evening. It would be a crime in itself not to pay homage to the elegant rooms featured in the movie adaptation of her novel.

The amazing Mary Roberts Rinehart will be in attendance. A prolific writer, her story, The Bat, inspired Bob Kane and Bill Finger to create Batman for DC Comics. Her murder mystery, The Circular Staircase, was groundbreaking in the genre, and is still in print. P.D. James has graciously accepted my invitation to dinner, and I am serving her favorite meal. Mary Higgins Clark, the reigning queen of American murder mysteries, will also be in attendance. It will be a lovely evening, and you are invited to be the seventh guest.

I have done my research for this dinner party, so I am well aware that Agatha Christie is a teetotaler, and that P.D. James imbibes with decorum. I have prepared a raspberry iced tea and sparkling cider for them. Mary Higgins Clark requests a glass of California Chardonnay. Mary Roberts Rinehart sips at a delicate vessel filled with a choice sherry.

The authors all know of each other’s work, yet we have never met. How should one begin an evening of conversation with this group of literary icons? We agree that the best way to get acquainted is to introduce ourselves by sharing a tidbit of information not generally known to the public. We also dispense with formality and call each other by our first names.

“I’ll go first,” I say. “ My name is Lois When I was a child I would hold my breath under water for as long as I could. The adults thought that I was drowning.”

“My name is Agatha,” the celebrated author says. “I have a weakness for cream. I drink it every day, and when I work I keep a cup of it next to me. I can’t help myself.”

“I am Mary.” The chicly dressed woman speaks clearly, and her eyes sparkle as she surveys the room. “I have a small pet peeve—I love my food quite hot.” She catches my eye. “Don’t worry, dear, we can always pop mine in the microwave.”

“I’m Vera,” the next author crisply adds. “Mine is not a happy fact. I was not given proper screenwriting credit for Laura. Otto Preminger and I didn’t see eye to eye on many things. He had his own vision and did not honor my views as the author.”

“Many women did not get credit for their literary accomplishments,” a formally dressed woman agrees. “I am also Mary. I will share with all of you that Sir James Barrie called my work ‘lowbrow.’ So what? I always wrote my stories to intrigue my readers, to build suspense with style.”

“And so you did, my dear,” P.D. James says. “The Circular Staircase established many formulas of the mystery genre that are still utilized by writers today. My personal tidbit is this—I observe people from an almost clinical perspective. I hope it does not come off as cold. Don’t all writers pull back to observe a person as a possible character in a future book? Oh, and please call me Phyllis.”

“I certainly do,” said Mary H. “I always say that if someone is mean to me I simply write a character like them into my next book and kill them off.” The ladies laugh as we move to the dining room for dinner.

We begin our meal with a small bowl of my famous Italian wedding soup. The meatballs are small and light in texture. The silence as my guests eat gives me the reassurance that they like it.

The pasta course is next. I have prepared two choices; a penne with a plain marinara and Mary H’s favorite, linguini with white clam sauce. As I fill her pasta bowl the steam rises and she gives me a big smile.

The meat course is a nod to Phyllis. Duck with a crispy breast, new potatoes, and fresh peas are served with a side sauce of a Grand Marnier reduction for those who want it. After a few bites, she nods in appreciation. “Delicious. Everything is absolutely perfect.”

Dessert is simple. Scones and clotted cream, a strawberry sorbet, and a lemon pound cake with tea and coffee.

After our meal we replenish our drinks and relax in the family room. The violin concerto in D-minor OP. 47 by Jean Sibelius plays softly in the background and Phyllis and I share a smile. Mary H. swirls the ice in her Chivas Regal.

“Let’s have a game,” Agatha suggests. “A traveling murder mystery. We’ll each pick a number out of a hat and proceed in order. Each of us will add a sentence in turn, until we reach the point when someone will be murdered. What do you think?”

I retrieve a piece of notebook paper out of the kitchen drawer and quickly make up seven slips of paper, fold them and drop them in a small basket. One by one the mistresses of murder draw their number and settle back to think.

“Who has number one?” Mary R. asks.

“I do,” Vera said. “Are we ready?” Everyone agrees excitedly to begin.

“She did not die well,” Vera says. “Let’s start with the murder and back into it.”

“… The well shod ‘ladies who lunch’ whispered at her memorial service,” Mary H. adds.

“Her life had been one calamity after the next, and eventually chaos became as commonplace as afternoon tea,” Phyllis says.

“She had thought that a relaxing weekend spent at her cousin’s country estate would have allowed her to consider Sebastian’s proposal of marriage,” Mary R. comments.

“He is a wonderful catch,” you add shyly.

“A little too full of himself, but then most barristers are,” Agatha says with a smile.

“He was in London when it happened, his alibi confirmed by thirty other members of his club,” I add proudly.

“Would the members of his aristocratic club lie to protect one of their own?” Vera asks.

“The police were unimpressed by the tears and protestations of innocence,” Mary H. says.

“She had disappeared into the woods. Her horse, sans rider, returned hours later and the concerned host sent out a search party,” Phyllis adds.

“It must have been a tramp or a poacher, the host insisted,” Agatha says. “None of my guests could ever do such a thing.”

Suddenly, the lights went out and a woman’s scream pierced the darkness. Would you have expected anything less?

Born to Die: The Montauk Murders
Set amongst the glitz and glamour of the Beau Monde. The 80th birthday of Miranda Richards, an art-world icon, boasts the party of the summer at her exclusive mansion on Long Island. Old resentments and convoluted relationships bubble to the surface as an eclectic, A-list cast of characters celebrate at a Masked Ball. The luxurious trappings of success, however, don't hinder the agenda of an invited guest with a score to settle. Friends and family are left to wonder... Will I be next? Follow Detective Steele as he sifts through the evidence before the killer strikes again.

A Gourmet Demise: Murder in South Tampa
After escaping the brutal murders in Montauk, L.I. Katherine Montgomery breathes a sigh of relief and settles into her sophisticated mansion on Tampa Bay. Her nights are filled with dear friends at the Gaspar Gourmets dinner club. Katherine's life seems ideal until a close friend dies. But the accident may not be what it seems, and Detective Frank Olson is assigned to investigate. Katherine is immediately attracted to the smart, handsome detective. She can’t help but wonder if his interest in her is as a woman or a suspect. When another friend dies after an elegant event attended by the local elite, it becomes obvious there is a common thread. Katherine’s world is turned upside down as the police investigation focuses on her intimate circle of friends. Frank follows a trail of clues, leading him to suspect a malignant secret curdling below the serene surface of the Gaspar Gourmets. Can he solve the puzzle before the killer strikes again? And has the exhibit of the Santeria paintings exposed Katherine to a murderer's evil agenda?

Born to Die

A Gourmet Demise

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The Christmas Calamity by Shanna Hatfield

Title: The Christmas Calamity
Author: Shanna Hatfield
Series: Hardman Holidays #3
Genre: Romance (Sweet/Historical/Holiday)
Release Date: November 13, 2014

You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more! 

Dependable and solid, Arlan Guthry relishes his orderly life as a banker’s assistant in Hardman, Oregon.

His uncluttered world spins off kilter when the beautiful and enigmatic prestidigitator Alexandra Janowski arrives in town, spinning magic and trouble in her wake as the holiday season approaches.

Entranced by the way her mouth moved as she spoke, Arlan didn't realize he leaned closer until Alex stopped talking and released a sigh.

“Arlan, don’t you think…”

“Yes, I do.” He set down his coffee cup and rose to his feet, pulling Alex up next to him. Gently tracing his thumb across her bottom lip, he watched her eyes flutter closed and listened to her draw in a ragged breath.

“Alex, please, may I kiss you?” He thought he’d die if she said no. Every nerve, every muscle, every ounce of blood pumping rapidly through his veins wanted to taste her lips, savor their velvety softness moving against his own.

“Arlan...” She raised her gaze to his. The wanting in her eyes was undeniable, but she stepped back from him. “As much as I want to say yes, I have to say no. I refuse to come between you and Miss Bevins. It wouldn't be right or fair.”

“There is no me and Miss Bevins. In fact, I wrote her a letter today making that point abundantly clear.” Arlan moved until he stood with the toes of his boots disappearing beneath the hem of Alex’s skirt.

“But I've heard you whispering her name over and over, like a chant or something. I know you love her, and I won’t do this.” Alex backed up until she bumped into the wall.

Arlan wasted no time in closing the space between them. He raised his hand to her face again, trailing his index finger across her smooth cheek and along her jaw. “If you heard me whispering her name, it was in a futile effort to remind myself of her. You see, I tend to forget she even exists whenever I think of you.”

Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund®
Now through Dec. 24, Shanna will donate 10% of the net proceeds from all of her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.  The JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who’ve sustained catastrophic injuries and are unable to work for an extended period.

Author Bio:
A hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure, Shanna Hatfield is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. In addition to blogging and eating too much chocolate, she is completely smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller.

Shanna creates character-driven romances with realistic heroes and heroines. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

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The Christmas Calamity

The Christmas Bargain

Enter to win one of the many prizes given away November 17, 2014 as part of the Cowboys and Christmas Book Tour and Release Party including a $25 Amazon Gift Card, Autographed Books, Cowboy Chocolates and more!

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Special Agent Finnegan by Mimi Barbour

Title: Special Agent Finnegan
Author: Mimi Barbour
Series: Undercover FBI #2
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: November 3, 2014

When Special Agent Finnegan O'Reilly gets shot, and the news brings on his father’s heart attack, he decides to cut out the undercover assignments for a while. The O'Reilly has suffered enough and Finn can’t be the cause of more. Then his boss forces him to take on one more case. Playing a role right in their own pub to expose the serial, suicide killers rampaging New York City, he’s to be their next target. His part – to be a married man who cheats on his wife – seems more like real life than playacting.

RenΓ©e Knight has no scruples when on the job as a New York City cop. Her disguises have become a permanent fixture in her life, and no one really knows her except for the father she loves fiercely. The man whose suicide she doesn't accept nor will she leave alone. If it means going undercover in a pub where the killers hang out, she’s their girl. If it means playing the wife of the pub owner, no problem. But they never intended for her to fall for this guy, she does this all on her own. Now she has to hire the killers to arrange his suicide. And catch them before they carry it out.

Author Bio:
Author, Mimi Barbour, has five romance series at this time. The Vicarage Bench, a Spirit-travel, Time-travel Series / Angels with Attitude Series – Angels Love Romance / The Vegas Series—fast-paced, thrilling and loved by readers / Elvis Series—make an Elvis Song a book, and her latest suspense series with gritty characters, constant conflicts and emotional highs and lows sharing humor on every page,  The Undercover FBI series.

“Mimi says - I've taken early retirement on Vancouver Island to spend my days and many nights, hovering over my computer and spinning the stories that have been vying for my attention over the years.

My husband is supportive, drags me out to feed me and plans occasional forays into the outside world. I have a son who makes me happy I was born a woman so I could be his mom, and a niece whose family adds to my full cup of happiness."

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Cover Reveal: Bittersweet by Shewanda Pugh

Title: Bittersweet
Author: Shewanda Pugh 
Series: Love Edy #2 
Publication date: December 9th 2014
Genres: Romance, Young Adult

In the aftermath of one tragic and uncertain night, Edy and Hassan shut out the chaos with a kiss. But when Hassan’s traditionalist mother sees that kiss … well, a nightmare of a different sort begins. After all, he still has an arranged marriage on the horizon.

Love attacks the glue of their two bonded families; while the slow tug of success pulls Edy and Hassan in opposite directions.  After denying their feelings for so long, they now have each other, but are forced to ask themselves if being together is worth it.

Author Bio:
Shewanda Pugh is a tomboy who credits Stephen King with being the reason she writes romance. In 2012 she debuted with the first novel in a three part contemporary adult romance series, Crimson Footprints. Since then, she's been shortlisted for the AAMBC Reader's Choice Award, the National Black Book Festival's Best New Author Award, and the Rone Award for Contemporary Fiction in 2012 and 2013. She has an MA in Writing from Nova Southeastern University and a BA in Political Science from Alabama A&M University. Though a native of Boston, MA, she now lives in Miami, FL, where she can soak up sun rays without fear of shivering. Her first young adult romance, Love Edy, is scheduled for release on June 24th, 2014.

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Cover Reveal: Feel by Karen-Anne Stewart

Title: Feel
Author: Karen-Anne Stewart 
Publication date: December 2014
Genres: New Adult, Paranormal Romance

***Disclaimer – Feel is intended for readers 18+ due to strong language, mature scenes, and some violence.***

The one whose emotions I can’t feel is the one who makes me feel the most.

I was a sensitive, at least that’s what I was told by the boy who saved me from the overwhelming emotions that consumed my soul, the boy who saved me from myself when my gift became stronger. Through the years, he was my redemption, my reason to take my next breath…then, he was gone.

Jensen always told me I was strong, but I didn’t believe him until I was forced to be strong on my own, and I kept breathing without him. I’ve taken 42 million breaths since the moment he sent me away. Now, four years later, he’s standing in front of me, and I can barely breathe.

This isn’t just a story about the abilities I possess; it’s a story about something much stronger…the love of the man who possesses every part of me.

   “He’s going to act soon.  We don’t have time to wait on a team to arrive.  Andy and I will handle him,” I tell Darrin, one of the best men I know, aside from Andy, before closing the phone.  Leaning against the side of the van, I groan.  This bastard is good and that is thoroughly pissing me off right now.
  “Jensen, I’ve got one for you,” Andy states, stepping out of the van and slamming the door I opened behind him, “but, I’m warning you, she’s got a mouth on her that rivals mine, man.”
   “She?”  Banging my head against the van, I let out another groan, “You took a girl?”
   “Your southern gentleman manners need to stand down on this one.  This girl’s got that sweet accent, too, but don’t let that fool you; she’ll shove her fist down your throat while kicking you hard in the balls.  She unleashed some dirty southern charm on me and I had to restrain her.” 
   “You tied her up?” Pushing Andy aside, I go to open the door, “Shit, Andy, since when did we start taking girls and tying them up?”
   “Since this girl bit the hell out of me,” Andy grumbles.
   Giving Andy a glare letting him know this discussion is far from over, I slide the door the rest of the way open and freeze.  The entire world stops when I see the dark caramel eyes that have haunted me every damn night staring back at me.  A thousand thoughts spin through my head, but I can’t seem to form one coherent word as my chest aches from memories.  Flashes of the best moments in my life play on fast forward in my mind, right up until the worst night of my existence strikes me like a bolt of lightning.  “Saige,” I finally manage to rasp.
   “Holy shit,” Andy lets out a low whistle, “so, she’s the one?”
   Ignoring Andy, I watch the one girl who consumed me, healed me, fuckin’ wrecked me, slowly blink as she looks at me so intently, it feels she’s staring straight into my soul, just like she’s done a million times before.  Her eyes are different now…guarded?  Sad? Hours or a few seconds pass.  I don’t know which, before she releases the lip she’s been absently chewing on and speaks in that soft voice that used to bring me to my knees, “Can you please cut me loose?”
   Shaking through the fog, I glance at her bound wrists.  Shit. “Of course,” I blurt, grabbing my knife.  As I place my hand on the tape, my fingers brush against her hand and she inhales sharply, looking away.  The sorrow in her eyes doesn’t go unnoticed, lancing my heart and sending me back to the night I sent her away, the night I felt like I lost my soul.  “Hold still, okay?” I say as I slice through her bonds, quickly taking her hands in mine and rubbing her red wrists with my thumbs.  “I’m sorry Andy restrained you,” I begin, but my voice trails as I look at her, not knowing what in the hell to say after all this time.  She’s beautiful.  She’s always been beautiful but, now, she’s…breathtaking.  
   Saige looks at my hands holding hers and slowly swallows.  I never thought I would touch her again, and she feels just like I remember, better than I remember. 
   Andy clears his throat, and I know I’m going to catch hell later but I don’t care.  The only thing that matters right now is the woman I’ve thought about every day for the last four years. 
   I open my arms to pull her to me, needing to feel her closer, to make sure she’s really here. “Damn, I’ve missed you,” I breathe, tangling my fingers in her hair as I brush my lips against her temple.
  “Don’t,” Saige whispers, pulling away, “please, don’t touch me.”
   The raw pain in her voice makes me want to hold her, protect her, but I’m the one who caused her pain.  My chest aches seeing her hurting.  I reach for her again, but she pushes me away, anger replacing the sorrow in her eyes. 

Author Bio:
Karen-Anne Stewart has always adored reading and has now fallen in love with writing. Her written works are The Rain Trilogy: Saving Rain, Healing Rain, and After the Rain. Her debut novel, Saving Rain: The First Novel in The Rain Trilogy, was a nominee for the Book Junkie’s Choice Awards and is a nominee for the 2013 RONE Awards.

When Karen-Anne isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and visiting new places. She fuels her addiction of creating new stories by her only other addiction, caffeine, and listening to a myriad of musical genres. Tucked away near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Karen-Anne lives with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and their cat. She plans on writing new adult romance as long as her fingers maintain dexterity.

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