Addictive Reads #Valentine’s Day Blog Hop and #Giveaway 2/13 – 2/15

Welcome to the Addictive Reads Gifts of Love blog hop!

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It’s here, the day for romantics! Do you want flowers for Valentines?

Close up of red rose bouquet with roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even after reading the history of Valentine’s Day, I’m not really sure where we first got the idea to exchange gifts. But if I’m getting a gift, I admit I like flowers. (Except now, I have a cat who likes flowers too, so flowers don’t last long in my house and end up being a waste of money. Sigh.)

Product Details

Another favorite gift is chocolate. Normally, I’m on board with that, but now I’m on a healthy eating quest and so I’ve cut out sugar. Here is a spicy and healthy chocolate recipe I make to help me break my sugar addiction. (Link will open to a YouTube video).  I pour it into cute silicone molds, some of which are heart-shaped in keeping with the theme, so I don’t feel deprived. You could even use this chocolate to dip strawberries, which is another Valentine’s staple (if the radio ads are to be believed).

There’s also sexy lingerie. (Or fun boxers for the guys? Oh, look, heart boxers and candy, too!)

Valentines Day Hearts and Boxers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuffed animals.  (All together, now: Awww!)

bear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner out or a home-cooked meal.

Romantic table setting for Valentines day

 

 

 

 

 

Perfume. (Yes, this is my favorite perfume.)

Dior Hypnotic Poison Eau de Toilette Spray for Women, 1.7 Ounce

And last,  Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood author Heather McCollum has some great ideas in her blog post for the love in your life.

What are your ideas for Valentine’s Day?

Now, to continue the blog hop, click the next author in the linky below and follow the instructions so you’ll be eligible for the drawing with our Rafflecopter. To complete my Rafflecopter task, which makes you eligible for our grand prize drawings, please sign up for my newsletter on my website. (Note: I am starting a contest this year for a $20 Visa/Mastercard gift card monthly drawing for my newsletter subscribers!)

To be eligible to win a $10 Amazon gift card from me, please sign up for this blog and tell me in the comments that you signed up. (A sign up box is on the left side of the blog. . .please be patient, in the next few weeks I’m reposting a few previous blog posts as GoDaddy discontinued my last blog and the posts are no longer available unless I repost. Stick with it and I’ll have drawing for another Amazon gift card among my subscribers when I’m finished!)

Thanks and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Linky:

A Pirate Birthday

Diana’s note: This is a repost. Since GoDaddy discontinued my old blog, I am reposting a few blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

I’m not much of a party person. Which is too bad, since I have six children. But my talents lie elsewhere, not in thinking of fun kid parties. Given my…shortcomings, each of my kids ended up with only one really creative birthday party, and even then, I recycled an idea for two of my boys. It was a pirate party, and the boys were 20 years apart. (I essentially have two families, my kids range in ages from 10 -32; yes, this makes me an Old Mom for my youngest two, poor things.)

I first got the idea for a pirate party in The Tightwad Gazette . I know, I know, these days pirate parties abound, but back in the day it was pretty original (as well as thrifty). Heck, to give you a hint of how old I am I followed The Tightwad Gazette back when it was just a newsletter. The author, Amy Dacyzyn (pronounced Decision), wrote an article about a pirate birthday party with some great suggestions. No, I’m not above stealing ideas for birthday parties, why would you ask such a silly thing? The son, his brothers and friends had a great time.

Fast forward twenty years to the next pirate birthday party and this time there’s something called the I.N.T.E.R.N.E.T. (30 years ago back when I had more energy, life as a mom would have been so much easier with the Internet!) I found all sorts of cute pirate birthday ideas including cool cake ideas on Family Fun.

At Party City, I found a cardboard pirate chest and we filled it with individual sacks with goodies, many of them printable goodies off the Family Fun site. I even found some gold chocolate candy coins at a dollar store. We made picture maps, the first map led to the first location where another map waited with instructions to another location with the next map, etc. until the last map led to the treasure chest. Because we couldn’t decide which we liked best, we made two pirate birthday cakes, a treasure chest and pirate ship—both recipes are posted on Family Fun.

(Please, note, photography is not my thing, either. I actually failed photography in journalism. But if you look close you can tell one cake is a ship and one is a treasure chest, and both were actually fun to make.)

Pirate Parties are great fun, and are always a hit. Happy Birthday!

GC 7th bday2

As always, please feel free to subscribe to this blog, sign up for my newsletter or check out my books on my website. Thank you for stopping by!

 

Trust No One: Two Bada$$ Women Taking on the Bad Guys

Diana’s note: This is a repost. Since GoDaddy discontinued my old blog, I am reposting a few blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

tno smallBetrayed. Unfortunately, many of us know the pain and humiliation of having been betrayed.  How stupid we feel. How hurt. Sometimes extremely intelligent and/or educated people are suckered. Even highly-trained, lethal-skilled people can find themselves betrayed.

MJ Thornberg learns that lesson the hard way in my romantic suspense novel, TRUST NO ONE, book 1 in the Vista Security series.  To all appearances Vista Security is successful security firm, but in reality it is a front for a secretive organization that gets the dirty work off limits to the CIA and other U.S. security agencies.  MJ, taken in and raised by the founder of Vista Security when her parents were killed in a car crash, has been trained as an operative from the time when most girls are having boy crushes and sleepovers.

This makes her accomplished and deadly, and something that I hope romantic suspense readers like to read these days: a real kick-butt heroine.  Her nemesis is the woman who was raised as a sibling, although they are not blood-related. When Tasha goes on an unsanctioned killing spree, MJ is forced to go after her.

And in the course confronts many twisted-truths and complicated lies. More betrayal.

Together, the two women go through grueling, dangerous experiences in their quest for justice, yet each new deception they uncover puts the reality they’ve always known at risk.

To set up the following excerpt: In their quest for truth, MJ and Tasha pose as nurses to gain entrance to a retired senator’s house, a man who was a part of the criminals who destroyed their lives. Instead of injecting him with his medicine, Tasha has a syringe full of sodium pentothal stuck in his neck. The senator, confident of his bodyguards’ ability to save him taunts the two women.

***

“Money. The root of all good,” the senator chuckled, obviously warming to his subject.

“I think your saying is skewed,” Tasha said.

At last MJ found enough air to form words. “People. Died. To make you money.” Her parents. Tasha and Niko’s parents. Who else?

The old man had the nerve to laugh out loud. “What a ninny,” he said between cackles. “People die all the time. Money’s as good of a reason as any.”

MJ had an overwhelming need to whirl and use her gun to blow away the disgusting old man. She fought the rage-driven urge boiling through her. Understood better Tasha’s quest for revenge.

“One more question then we’ll be on our way,” Tasha said as pleasantly as if she were on a social call, her acting skills coming in handy again.

The senator kept on laughing. “Not going to kill me, too?”

“It’d be a waste of my time, honey. I read your chart. You’re on the way to dead anyway.”

“So they tell me. Ain’t dead yet, though.”

“Who told you about us?” Tasha continued.

Instead of hearing an answer, several things happened at once. MJ, unable to see beyond her peripheral vision, heard Tasha mumble “shit.” Wannabe rock star gunman across from MJ took a more aggressive stance, and even without a clear sight of vision, she knew the momentum had changed. Somehow another factor had been introduced.

The thought flashed through her mind to shoot the man in front of her, but the adoption loomed over her head. If she killed the wannabe, in a prominent and wealthy ex-senator’s house, it would be hard to cover up. There was probably a tape of them driving up to the house. Disguise or not, it wasn’t a risk she wanted to take.

All these things flitted through her mind in a nanosecond.

In that short amount of time, Tasha sounded as if she was getting the bad end of whatever had happened.

MJ lowered the barrel of her P220 and pulled the trigger. Wannabe rock star dude jumped. Score one for her. She’d shot between his legs, deliberately missing to give her an element of surprise. At the split second his attention was off her, she kicked his gun out of his hand. Instead of retreating, he countered by landing a kick in her solar plexus before she could aim again. She went flying backward, her breath trapped painfully in her lungs. Her shot landed somewhere in the ceiling. She expected to hear someone at the door soon, who could ignore gun shots?

When she could catch her breath again, she caught a glimpse of a second man lying on his belly, his hands firmly gripping Tasha’s ankle. He must’ve crawled out from under the bed. At that moment he jerked, and Tasha fell. Her head collided with the nightstand before she landed on the floor, unconscious.

The senator pulled the needle from his neck before clutching his chest.

MJ lay on her back, stunned, breathless, but recovering fast. She brought her weapon around, but rock star shirt man had recovered his.

Stand off again.

He growled a warning. “I don’t have orders to kill you yet, but I won’t miss when I shoot.” He aimed at her leg. “Hard to walk with a broken leg.” Hesitation cost her, and he knew it, if not the reason.

Operatives with a family couldn’t do this job.

***

If you want to learn more about how real-life betrayal inspired this story, please check out my personal blog post.

Trust No One: A Trip to the Dark Side

tno smallDiana’s note: This is a repost. Since GoDaddy got rid of my old blog, I am reposting a few blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

***

Tortured heroes. For some reason that’s the kind of guys I usually write-those who have often been through a personal hell and fought their way back. To me, this adds another layer to their personality, and at times, even makes them more sensitive to others around them. My hero from Trust No One is like this, having fought through his own demons.

Below is a scene I wrote as he was dragged back to the land of the living. At this point, he didn’t care whether he lived or died-he’d failed in a mission, failed as a person, and he was lost in drowning his sorrows. Ultimately I chose to leave the scene out, because Trust No One is more about the heroine’s journey and it detracted from her story. But I loved this scene and saved it, and Ben and I know what he went through for him to make it back. Now, you’ll know, too. (Warning: Graphic language)
***
“Wake up.”
The voice came at him down a long foggy tunnel. Ben Walker refused to open his eyes, knowing it couldn’t be anything more than a dream.

He was alone in his apartment. Alone. How he wanted to be. Alone. No one else. Ben rolled to his side, nose pressed in the crack between the back of the couch and the cushion, trying to lose himself to any reality.

“Come on, man, wake up.” A sharp nudge in Ben’s ribs followed the command.

Ouch. This dream was too damn real. And on top of that, the voice sounded too damn familiar. Ben pulled a pillow over his head, determined to ignore the intrusion.

“Oh, no you don’t.”

The pillow was ripped from his hand.

“Nasty thing, don’t you have a pillowcase for this?”

Ben rolled over, eyes still closed, blindly groping the air. The effort made his head pound so much, he grew nauseous. “Give it back,” he croaked, the pain making talking a phenomenal effort. “Lemme sleep.” That’s all he wanted. Sleep. Trying to pull his brain out of his self-induced haze was too much of an effort, speaking even more so.

The pillow landed on his stomach with a heavy thump. “Sleeping Beauty you aren’t, that’s for sure. This prince ain’t gonna kiss you.”

“You’re no Prince Charming.” Ben meant to snap the response, but the words came out more as a groan. “Kiss me and I’ll have to kill you,” he added as a lame threat. Hell, he didn’t have the energy to kill the giant roaches that crawled over him in the night.

The voice laughed. “Wake up, boy. You’re still dreaming.”

“If I am, then I’m changing dreams.” Ben gingerly fluffed the pillow back under his head, trying to ignore the persistent pounding inside his skull, wishing his rolling stomach to stillness. “Poof, you’re gone.” He waved his arm like a magician, and settled back more comfortably on the couch.

“Afraid wishing don’t make it so. Open your damn eyes.”

“Goddamn you’re persist–”

“Now.” The command came in a cut-the-bullshit tone.

Instinctively Ben obeyed and slit one eye open. His boss Jeff Powers–or was he still his boss?–stood at the foot of the couch. A hazy aura surrounded him.

No, it had to be an alcohol-induced illusion. Ben knew better than to drink the tequila after finishing off a bottle of Southern Comfort. But it had gotten to where lately a pint of whiskey wouldn’t launch him into the oblivion he craved. Needed.

“You’re not really here,” Ben told the illusion.

“Afraid so.”

A moan escaped Ben. “Why?”

Jeff moved to the curtains, slid them open. Brilliant sunlight flooded the room. “Fuck.” Ben slammed his one eye back closed.

“I’d make coffee but there’s nothing but rat droppings and empty bottles in this hell hole.”

Ben grabbed his head as the tapping tempo increased to roughly the speed of a very hungry woodpecker. “Fuck you,” he said weakly. Without feeling. He didn’t have the strength for more.

“Son, it looks like you’re trying to fuck yourself.”

“Yeah, so leave me alone and let me do it.”

“How many days did it take you to drink all this?”

“Don’t you mean hours?”

Jeff sighed. “Figures.”

“What are you doing here?” Fortunately–or unfortunately–Ben’s brain was still working despite the alcoholic haze, and he knew this wasn’t a concerned social call. Though Jeff had to be concerned now that he was here. Even Ben could admit that to himself.

“Why do you think I’m here? Or is your brain working enough for you to figure that out?”

“I think I need a drink.”

“Don’t you think you’ve had enough already?

“No, water.” Ben’s mouth was tingly, numb, and if he didn’t get some moisture, his thick tongue wasn’t going to be able to work well enough to carry on a conversation. And it was looking more and more like this was going to be an extended visit. With conversation.

Ben heard the tap water running then a gloriously wet glass appeared in his hand.

“I rinsed it as best as I could considering you have no clean dishes and no soap.”

Ben opened his eyes, keeping them squinted against the bright sunlight, then forced himself up on an elbow to take a drink. The liquid exploded in his parched mouth as he swallowed. “No soap’s the reason I don’t have clean dishes,” he managed to say after another drink of water, not entirely certain he’d bother with the dishes if he had dish soap or not.

“You know if you went shopping for something besides booze, you might have some soap. Food even. How long’s it been since you’ve eaten?”

Ben shrugged, but the movement hurt his head. “Shit.”

“You’re on a fast path to killing yourself.”

“Yeah. So?”

“You were one of my best agents.” Jeff sighed and slowly shook his head. He looked truly regretful.

“Shut the damn curtains,” Ben snapped, ignoring the twinge of guilt. “And that’s ‘was’ as in past tense. I was one of the best.”

“You could be again. Quit drinking, pull yourself together.”

“Why bother? As you said, I’m on a fast path to killing myself. Don’t see any reason to stop now.”

“That’s a coward’s way out. You’re no coward.”

“People change.”

“Some do, but not you. Anyone would be affected after what you’ve been through, but you’re made of strong stuff. And you know that deep down killing yourself won’t bring them back.”

“Shut up.”

“Try living, Ben. It’s what Fatima would have wanted.”

“I don’t need any Dr. Phil pop psycho babble. You can leave now.” Ben placed the glass on the floor, lay back down and closed his eyes again.

“You don’t want to hear what I’ve got for you?”

“Not particularly. But I have a feeling you’re going to tell me anyway.”

“See, your instincts are still good, even with a hangover.”

“No, I just know you. Spit it out then leave.”

“A few senators are turning up dead.”

“Sounds like local work to me. Let the FBI handle it.”

“That would be fine, but the FBI doesn’t know.”

That made Ben open his eyes again. “Yeah?”

“I should clarify–they were former senators. Older. Retired. The deaths appeared natural.”

Ben knew there were ways to make a death appear natural; he’d done it himself once or twice in the line of duty. If the person didn’t die under suspicious circumstances, it would be easy enough to miss the evidence, even with an autopsy.

“Old guys die every day. What makes you think these were murdered?”

“A pattern was brought to my attention. It needs more investigating.”

“Why should I care if old guys are getting whacked? No one needs to live forever anyway.”

“But those who are living need a job,” Jeff pointed out.

Ben realized his boss wasn’t talking about any dead guys needing work. “In case you haven’t noticed, Jeff, I’m really not at the point where I care if I work or not. Besides I’m on unpaid leave.”

“With benefits still intact though. For now. And even if you don’t care about mundane things like health insurance or well-funded pensions, consider what happens when you do care? When the money you have put up runs out?”

Jeff pinned Ben with a stare as he ruthlessly continued. “Who will hire you then? Your reputation is already at stake. And you’re too old to go back into the military.”

“Ah, c’mon, Jeff, don’t be so coy. Just lay it out on the line why don’tcha?”

“This is an easy job.”

“Meaning I’m not suited for any other kind?”

Jeff pointedly ignored that question. “I don’t need you to investigate the murders. I just need you to bring in another agent to–”

“Why go to the trouble of sending me after an agent?” Ben interrupted, seeing this whole conversation as a waste of time. “Just make contact. Tell him you need him to come in. Unless he’s gone rogue and– Wait. You think this agent is committing the murders?”

“She.”

“What?”

“The agent is female.”

“A female agent gone rogue?” Now, that could be bad. Ben had been taught early on when a woman went bad, she went really bad. He pushed himself upright, his interest peaked in spite of himself.

“Yes, we think a female agent has gone rogue and is likely killing the senators. However, the one we want you to bring in is retired. If I tried to call her in, she’d just laugh at me.”

“Who is it?”

“MJ Thornberg.”

MJ. That name meant something to him. One of his last jobs before he was sent overseas. “She never went back to work?”

“Nope. Retired from the business. And I do know she isn’t drinking herself to death like someone who shall remain nameless.”

“So she’s a better man than me.” Ben refused to be impressed, but felt his brain slowly kick into thinking mode, in spite of his efforts to stop it. “What do you need from her?”

“Help.”

“I’m missing something here. Even if she’s retired, why can’t you call and ask her for help?”

“She’d turn me down flat. She has a totally new direction in life now.”

“So what am I supposed to do? Hog-tie her and throw her over my shoulder and bring her in?”

“If necessary.” Jeff looked Ben over. “If you can. Hopefully she’s more out of shape than you.”

Ben ignored the sting from that comment. He supposed it was justified. “MJ might’ve been good, but do you really think she’s going to put up a fight?”

“Really, I do. But I have something you can hold over her head if you have to. You’ll have to be alert though—she’ll try to run if she can.”

It was scary how Vista had all the agents profiled so well. “Why would she run? Unless you think she might be the killer?”

“I’ll admit, there’s a remote possibility it could be her. But the way these men were murdered is really not her style. MJ was more in your face, not much subtle about her.”

“Okay, so who’s the suspect and why do you think MJ can help you?”

“We think it’s her sister. And MJ’s the only one who can find her.”
***
RT Book Reviews called Ben “a perfect blend of alpha and sensitive.”

To learn how betrayal inspired Trust No One, please read this blog post.

And just a little quirky tidbit for my readers-I have references to fairy tales and nursery rhymes in Trust No One because originally the working title was Once Upon a Time. I especially liked Sleeping Beauty and the reference that my heroine needed to wake up.

Below is a picture of Ben with the heroine’s daughter. He survived and is rebuilding his life with his new loves. What about you? Do you like tortured heroes, too?

Ben

Have You Been Betrayed? TRUST NO ONE

Diana’s note: This is a repost. Since GoDaddy got rid of my old blog, I am reposting a few blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

tno small

Betrayal is the reason I wrote my newest romantic suspense release and RWA® Golden Heart® final TRUST NO ONE (Vista Security book 1).  There was a time of darkness in my life where everywhere I turned, I found that all I’d believed had been nothing more than lies from others seeking to manipulate me. I’d been betrayed.

The pain from that knocked me from the land of the living for much too long, and I became a hermit. I even quit writing. It took determination and a concentrated effort to pull myself back together. Yes, maybe counseling would have helped, but for a while, I didn’t have the energy or ability to even consider finding a counselor.

Unfortunately, it seems betrayal and deception are more common than any of us would like to admit. Especially if we consider ourselves intelligent. I mean, c’mon, an intelligent person can’t be suckered right?

Eventually, it was writing that helped me find my way back. I’d worked too many years to give up the dream forever. And I’d always joked that writing is cheaper than therapy. (Yeah, if you’re a writer, you do it, too, right? And if you’re not a writer, well, most of us just march a little differently.)

Determination fueling me, I was ready. A page a day. I could do it! But what to write?

I had the idea for a rogue female agent at least ten years earlier, but I never knew what to do with her. At that time, kick-butt heroines and anti-heroes were not all that common. After having been betrayed, the urge to ‘off’ a few people myself rather took me by surprise. That urge led me to ask what motivated this rogue agent who appeared to be randomly killing old men. As I knew she’d once been a good operative, there had to be something to set her on her murderous quest.

And a bigger question? Who could stop her? What about her sister who was also an operative? Could she stop the rogue agent aka sibling? And what if betrayal played a role in both their lives? Would they join forces? Kill each other? What happens when a male operative…and a baby is added to the mix?

I hope you’ll read TRUST NO ONE and find out! And for fans of THE GOOD DAUGHTER (Vista Security prequel) Dave Armstrong makes a cameo appearance in TRUST NO ONE and he and Marisa will both have big roles in my Vista Security book 2, EDGE OF TRUST.

EXCERPT:

Ben turned and strode deliberately from the small kitchen, but paused at the sight of MJ returning to the living room carrying Angelina, now well-scrubbed and shiny with no traces of food from her dinner. A book in one hand, MJ settled into the rocking chair, the little girl tucked into her lap.

The picture of mother and child brought vivid memories sharply into focus. The woman he’d married, rocking her son.

Ben gripped the edge of doorway separating the kitchen and dining/living area, the tips of his fingers going white from the pressure. From long practice, he shut down those images. And wanted a drink more than ever.

Breathe. “Do you have cable?” he asked when he found his voice.

She nodded as she opened the first page of the book.

“Mind if I watch the news?”

“Just keep the sound down,” she said. She listed the news channels for him, and turned her attention back to the story.

Seated on the sofa, Ben listened to the latest national news while keeping half an ear to the fairy tale MJ read.

“Once upon a time a king and queen wished for a child. Their wishes were answered when they had a beautiful baby girl. Just like you,” MJ said, then there was sound of a kiss and a giggle.

Ben dragged his attention away from the story and flipped the channel. O’Reilly was interviewing someone about the ability to rehabilitate sex offenders. Ben kept his attention focused on the interview, until the end of the fairytale, when MJ offered a critique of the story.

“. . .and they were married and lived happily-ever-after. But you see, my darling daughter, there are some basic problems with this story. If Aurora’s dear daddy the king had just taught her about spinning wheels, and that they were dangerous to her, he wouldn’t have had to worry. Because you know, no matter if he thought he’d destroyed all the spinning wheels the bad fairy is going to make sure one is there for Aurora to find.

“And then the poor girl falls asleep and has to depend on a man to rescue her. Whereas if she’d known better she could have missed the long nap and taken care of herself.”

Ben sat up straighter, ears tuned to MJ, any attempts to listen to national news abandoned. Obviously, MJ had forgotten his presence, but just a few simple words summarized a life philosophy and sent him a clear, strong message. MJ did things her own way and didn’t depend on others. Only reiterating what he’d seen with his own eyes.

“Bedtime, sweetie.” MJ headed toward the bedroom with the sleepy little girl, singing, “I love you, you love me…”

The melody sounded familiar to Ben but he didn’t recognize the words. And now, he’d never have a need to know. A few minutes later he heard another kiss and a ‘Nite, darling, I love you,’ then MJ came back into the living room.

“So bath, story, song, tuck into bed. You’re quite into the cozy family routine.”

“I like it,” she said, walking past him and disappearing into the kitchen. “Where’d you put the pie?”

“Fridge. Middle shelf, left side.” He heard her open the refrigerator door. “Because you didn’t have it? The family routine?”

“I had it. Until I was nine. Want your pie?”

“Definitely.” The sound of an opening drawer and the clank of dishes told him she was transferring the pie pieces out of the box to plates.

“Tea? Or milk?”

“Tea’s fine.” And bourbon would be better. “So you’re trying to recreate your childhood?”

“Doesn’t everyone?” She came back into the living room, hands loaded with dessert plates balanced on top of the tea glasses.

He took a glass and a plate, eyeing the chocolate pie with meringue piled high enough to rival his mom’s. “Depends upon the childhood, I suppose.”

“Mine was worth recreating.”

“And yet you’d teach Sleeping Beauty to empower herself?”

“Only sensible thing to do these days.”

He pushed her, curious how deep her wounds were. Were they as deep as his, or had she found some trick to healing he missed?

“If Sleeping Beauty can take care of herself, then who would the Prince Phillip have to rescue?”

MJ stopped mid-bite and gave him a look that said she was surprised—or impressed—he’d been paying attention enough to remember the hero’s name. She chewed and swallowed then answered. “Prince Phillip is fictional. In real life, there are no princes.”

Wounds still pretty deep. “Maybe there are some men who would like to be a woman’s prince.”

“Yeah, right, they’d like to be only as long as it takes to get into Sleeping Beauty’s pink panties.”

The words barely left her mouth when she grimaced. She shoved another huge piece of pie into her mouth.

“The story of your life?” He took a smaller, more manageable bite. Almost as good as mom’s too, he conceded.

She pointed her fork at him, speaking around a mouthful of chocolate pie. “Can the shrink stuff. I don’t need analyzing.”

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With thorns so–”

“What the hell?”

“Hush, I’m creating here.”

“Creating what?”

“A nursery rhyme, keeping with the spirit of the evening.”

She frowned. “No one calls me Mar–”

“Shh. I think I have the ending. With thorns so sharp—that’s a play on your last name as well, Thornberg, get it?” Not letting her make a comment on his brilliance, which from the look in her eye wouldn’t be anything positive, he continued, “With thorns so sharp, they’ll pierce your heart and blood flows from the hole.” He smiled, knowing she’d like to pierce him with more than thorns.

“Cute,” she said in a tone that conveyed the opposite.

“I thought so. And quite accurate. You are quite thorny.”

“Only with people who barge in and bug me. And as for your attempt at being creative—call me Mary again and I’ll cut out your tongue.”

He ignored her tone and grinned. “But the name works so well with the rhyme.”

“I am so not amused.”

He pulled in his smile. “I didn’t think you would be. So let’s move to the reason I came. Tasha.”

***

What do you think? Are sparks going to fly between these two?

Also, be sure to check out my post about TRUST NO ONE: Two Bada$$ Women Taking on the Bad Guys to read a different excerpt with MJ and Tasha.

TRUST NO ONE (Vista Security book 1) Available Now! To keep up with my releases and writing news please subscribe to this blog, or sign up for my NEWSLETTER. Thanks!

Favorite Things Addictive Reads 2014 Holiday Giveaway!

AR-2014-Giveaway-1024x625

It’s the holidays again; somehow I think they come faster every year! This year, in addition to our fabulous Holiday Giveaway, the Addictive Reads’ authors wanted to share a few of our favorite things about the holidays!

Christmas Holiday Background with Red Bauble and SnowHere is my list, and in the comments, feel free to share a few of your favorite things to be included in a drawing for a $10 Starbucks Gift Card! Also be sure to check out the other posts by following the linky at the end of the post.

1. Family:

Collage of families enjoying celebration moments together at homI grew up as an only child and only grandchild, but made up for it when I had my own family of six children. Now, my oldest three are married, so their spouses are part of the family as well as three beautiful grandchildren. Unfortunately, they all live out of town, so I love the opportunity to gather together at the holidays.

2. Traditions:Family reading

I love holiday traditions. One of ours includes riding around and looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve and then coming home to read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas  along with cups of hot chocolate and Christmas cookies.

 

3. Christmas Movies:

Charlie Brown ChristmasThis might fall under “traditions” except I start watching holiday movies at Halloween. Always start with the Charlie Brown trio: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, then A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

GrinchAfter Charlie Brown comes How The Grinch Stole Christmas , Rudolph, Frosty,  and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Shrek The Halls, and of course the Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life.

 

4. Little PeopleLittle People

Little People sets are my obsession. It’s possibly the reason I had six children. I have collected almost all the sets and I love their holiday sets! They are decorations that the kids, and now grandkids, can play with without fear of breaking. (Except when our pit bull get hold of the people, she loves to chew them up!)

5. Cookies

And last, what would the holidays be without baking all sorts of Christmas cookies and breads? Because of course, we have to have a reason to include “go on a diet” as part of our New Years’ resolutions!

My favorite cookie I make at Christmas, and I often make enough to give as  gifts, is the Russian Teacake. I’m including the recipe here.

Russian TeacakesTea and cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ¼ cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour

¾ cup finely chopped nuts

¼ teaspoon salt

Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.

Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. When thoroughly cool, roll in powdered sugar again. 

That’s my favorite things, don’t forget to tell me about yours, especially if you want to be entered for a chance to win the $10 Starbucks giftcard.  And then follow the linky BELOW to get to the rest of the blogs.
An InLinkz Link-up

Exclusive Pirate’s Proposal Prologue! #pirates #POTC

Diana’s note: This is a repost. Since GoDaddy got rid of my old blog, I am reposting a few blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

Pirate's Proposal.jpgFor Pirate’s Proposal readers, my gift to you is a never-before-seen prologue. Because you know what they say: Readers don’t like prologues. But I do. I love them! And so I hung onto this short prologue which made my heart tighten and my throat clog when I wrote it. I hope you find it as emotional. (And if you haven’t readPirate’s Proposal: Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll then check out the website links-and the great cover!-below.)

Pirate’s Proposal

Prologue

 

Twelve-year-old Gina Santini sat on her bunk, hands tightly clasped, eyes squeezed shut. The tears musn’t escape.

“No, no, no, no,” she muttered, unable to muster any other thought.

The door separating her cabin from her parent’s cabin opened.

Mi figlia.” My daughter.

Gina looked up at her father’s voice, then jumped off her bunk and ran to him, wrapping her thin arms around his sturdy frame. He enfolded her in a hug, and for a moment, her world felt right.

But only for a moment, for then he spoke.

Figlia, your Momma, she wants to see you.”

Tears welled again, but she bravely fought them back. “Babbo, this is because she’s better, no?”

Even without his head shake, she knew the answer. Sadness surrounded him, permeated even the air he breathed.

“You need to see her, mi figlia before it’s too late.”

With a gasp, she released her father and ran into the adjoining cabin, where her mother lay in the bunk covered with a thin sheet. Gina kneeled on the floor and took her mother’s hand. So frail, so cold. No!

“Momma?”

“Gina, amore, Momma is happy you are here.” Her voice sounded so weak.

“Don’t talk, Momma, save your breath, get well.”

“No, mia figlia, there will be no getting well. I am not long for here.”

Gina wanted to scream, stamp her feet and shake her fist at the heavens, but she resisted the urge and stayed still so she could hear her mother’s last words.

Momma gently pulled from Gina’s grasp. “I have something for you.” Momma reached across on her pillow and picked up her doll. She handed it to Gina.

“This will be yours.”

“Your doll?” Gina remembered once when she’d been little that she’d sneaked into her parent’s cabin to play with the doll and received such a scolding from her Momma to never ever touch the doll.

“But, Momma, you said–”

Si, amore, she was a doll made special for me by your Nonno Enzo. But I cannot take her to a watery grave with me.”

Gina choked on the sudden lump in her throat at the thought of her Momma’s body in the ocean. But there really was no other choice once Momma…passed. They were in the middle of the ocean without land in sight, although they were sailing hard for port.

“Momma, don’t say such a thing. You will get better. We’ll reach port soon, find you a doctor–”

“No, figlia, I will not last the day, I know it.”

If that were true, Gina knew her father would turn the Gypsy Doll around and head back to the open sea. There was no reason to sail for land if they no longer needed a doctor. They owned nothing but the Gypsy Doll, a large frigate which had been Gina’s home since the day she was born. There would be no need to bury her mother, other than in a sailor’s grave, where her spirit would always remain close.

“Take her.” Momma’s voice interrupted Gina’s thoughts.

Gina took the doll, expecting her to be cold and hard as she was made of whale bone. She looked at her mother. “She’s so…warm.”

“She does often feel warm, which is odd, I know. But she is a special doll, with special powers. If you take care of her, she will keep you safe.”

A sob slipped from between Gina’s lips. “She hasn’t kept you safe.”

“Not that kind of safe, amore. She cannot prevent sickness. But she can prevent someone from being disloyal to you which can be as dangerous as an illness.”

At the moment, Gina didn’t care about loyalty; she only wanted her mother to live.

“Listen, bella mia, I will tell you the tale of the doll.”

Gina sniffed and held the doll in one hand, and her mother’s hand with the other.

“My father made her with his own hands, carved every bit from the whale bone. He made her after mi Momma was mysteriously murdered in her bed, as a tribute to her.”

Gina gasped at the thought of her Nonna being murdered.

“See, here…” At this Momma took the doll back from Gina and raised her dress. “This is the rose he carved as a reminder–your Nonna’s name was Rosa.”

On the front, where the doll’s heart would be was a tiny carved rose. “Ah, Rosa,” Gina murmured, thinking it a romantic gesture. “So he carved this to show his love for her?”

Si.” Mamma sighed, obviously thinking the rose was a romantic gesture too.

“But Nonna Rosa died when you were a young girl, si?” Gina just realized her mother was motherless much of her childhood…just as she would be. She blinked hard and swallowed. “And did Nonno Enzo make the doll soon after her death?”

Si, it helped him past the pain he said.”

Gina thought on that a minute before she asked what to her was an obvious question, “So then why does a young girl need a doll who protects against disloyal people? And how could he have ensured that anyway?”

“Ah, mia figlia, you always have been such a smart one.”

“The spell on the doll came on the eve of my wedding. Your Nonno wanted to ensure your father would always be loyal to me so he engaged a gypsy witch–”

“A witch?”
Si,” But at that Momma started coughing and couldn’t continue.

Babbo, who had been listening at the door, came and led Gina away. So many things she didn’t know, that she wanted to ask, that she wished she had more time to learn.

“But Babbo…”

“Your Momma is very tired, and needs to rest. She will tell you later.”

But later never came. Gina’s mother died that night.

****

I hope you enjoyed the prologue. If you would like to read more, please visit my website for reviews and buy links, now only 99 cents! Pirate’s Proposal begins the legend of “The Tales of the Scrimshaw Doll” series with The Wild Rose Press and tells how and why the cursed gypsy doll was created.

Vampires, Marshals and Serial Killers, oh my!

Diana’s note: This is a repost from my old blog from 2012. Since GoDaddy got rid of my old blog, I am reposting some blog posts I want readers to be able to access. Thank you.

BY GUEST BLOGGER ALICIA DEAN

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Those compelling, unforgettable television characters.  Is it the writing, the role, or the actor?

I have a confession to make. I’m a TV addict. It’s insane, since I work full-time, I’m an editor, an author, a contest coordinator, a critique partner, etc, etc. But…I watch a lot of television. There are certain shows in particular that I look forward to all week (or for the entire off-season, whichever the case may be), and that I think about long after the show is over.

In each, there is one character (these characters happen to be, purely by coincidence, really, really hot, sexy men) who keeps me coming back to the show time after time, who makes me wish, as a writer, I could capture that certain something they have so that it comes across on the page. But, my theory is that it’s only partially the writing and only partially the role/character the writer created. (As much as I love the written word, each of these television shows are based on books, and while the books are highly successful, the characters DID NOT make me swoon like they do when I watch the shows. Yes, I said ‘swoon’ <g>.

MOSTLY, it’s the casting…fitting the perfect actor into that role and letting them do their thing, as only they can do.

Case in point…

1 blog-dexter

Dexter

Although the author obviously did a phenomenal job of creating a serial killer we understand, admire, and even root for, I can’t imagine anyone other than Michael C. Hall in the role. He provides the perfect measure of everything that makes the character what he is…what we love: He’s emotionless, yet conflicted. He’s at war with, yet unable to control his Dark Passenger. Once in a while, we get a glimpse of the emotion we crave (although a part of us doesn’t really want to see it—because that’s not who Dexter is), whether it’s in the way he cares about his sister, or the way he reluctantly plunges a knife into the heart of someone who needs killing, even though Dexter kind of hates to do it.

2 Blog-Justified II

Justified

Ah, Raylan Givens. Out of all my examples, he’s the only one who’s through and through truly a ‘good’ guy, even though he makes mistakes, gets his a$$ kicked at times, and once in a while makes bad decisions. He’s a laid back, tough, sexy, U.S. Marshal with a trademark cowboy hat, a squinty, ‘almost’ smile and some unforgettable lines that are delivered in his smooth Kentucky drawl. They’re not cheesy, ‘over the top’ lines…they’re cool and sexy, just like Raylan. Timothy Olyphant seems to have been made for that role. He makes you believe he IS Raylan Givens.

3 Blog-True Blood

True Blood

Although it’s rather cliché, Eric Northman moves like a jungle cat. His swagger, his smoldering expression, his smooth yet raspy voice, and those hypnotic eyes that draw you in, mesmerize you, are all rolled into this big hunk of blonde and gorgeous. Alexander Skarsgard gives the role just the right mix of bad boy and sexy. No one could do it quite like he does. Understandably, Fang Bangers, (if you don’t watch the show, they’re basically vampire groupies), throw themselves at him. Somehow, when it’s Eric Northman doing the biting, getting attacked by a vampire doesn’t seem all that unpleasant.

4-Blog-Vampire Diaries II

Vampire Diaries

Damon Salvatore. Wow. I mean, just…wow. His crystal blue eyes captivate, compel you so that you can’t turn away. Ian Somerhalder plays the bad boy vampire to perfection. Even when Damon is snapping necks and literally ripping hearts from chests, he’s still sexy. (Or maybe that’s just me <g>. Whether he’s getting the s#*t beat out of him, or he’s delivering pain to someone else, or during one of those tender moments, when his perfectly sculpted face reveals every emotion he feels, (even the ones he reluctantly feels, because allowing yourself to feel is too human and painful), he does it all with an overload of sex appeal. Although the writing for the show is spectacular, no one except Ian could deliver those lines with quite the same panache. He has this combination of danger and charisma that is totally irresistible.

Just as I expected, I didn’t do any of these characters justice in my description. Seeing is believing, and in order to really ‘get’ what I mean, you’ll just have to watch.

So…what do you think? What are your favorite shows and characters and could you see anyone else playing those roles?

Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She writes paranormal and romantic suspense and is the author of five published novels, two novellas, and a handful of short stories, all through various venues–The Wild Rose Press, Dorchester, and self-publishing. Her next release is a paranormal romance, Soul Seducer, coming out June 4, 2012 as part of Adams Media’s Crimson Romance launch. For more info and to keep up with her releases, please visit her WEBSITE.

 

Let The Game Begin! Fiction Fanatic Feud #FicFanFeud

Want to play our version of Family Feud and enter to win a monthly prize of a $50 Amazon gift card for first place and 10 free ebooks for second place? Join our Fiction Fanatics Feud game on Facebook! The game is now live and the fun has started.

Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionFanaticsFeud/

You can gain entries several ways. Find all the details on our Fiction Fanatics Feud page:   Fiction Fanatics Feud on Facebook  where we post three new questions each week based on the popular Family Feud TV Show.  

Answer fun questions such as…

Question 1:

Name something that shines.

Question 2:

Name something you might find on your car windshield.

Question 3:

During an argument, what might a teen do that would make their parents really angry.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

On the Facebook page, you will see this month’s image.  Find that image on my website to earn an entry.

You can earn more chances by visiting each of these authors, finding the image on their site, and sending an email to FFFEntries@Aol.com with the following info in the subject line: Your Name – Author Name. In the body of the email, insert the link to the page where the image was found. Send a separate email for each author. (You must join our FFF Facebook page to qualify)

Here is my site so you can look for the image (and sign up for my newsletter while you’re there!):

Diana Layne

Visit each of these sites for more chances to enter!

Diane Burton

MJ Schiller

Alicia Dean

Constance Bretes

Patricia Kiyono

Leah St. James

Nancy Fraser

Kathy Wheeler

Want more ways to win? Join us on Facebook for the fun!

 

Addictive Summer Reads Blog Hop plus Edge Of Trust Cover Reveal!

AddictiveSummerReadsBanner

I love blog hops! And this is a fun one. Each author is offering a prize plus there are seven additional gift cards up for grabs on our main event page . . .and there’s a Rafflecopter to earn extra points. Also, if you have a blog and you promote the event on your blog, you earn extra Rafflecopter points! So many chances to win! You have from June 27-30, 2014 to enter.

For myself, I am giving away (one) $10 and (two) $5 Amazon or Barnes and Noble virtual gift cards, winner’s choice.  What do you need to do for a chance to win my prize? Either subscribe to this (very new) blog (subscription link should be on the left) or subscribe to my newsletter on my homepage (scroll down past the Facebook widget).  And then tell me which you did in the comments. If you do both, then make two comments to double your chances. I will pick the winners using random.org. (Given this IS a brand new blog because GoDaddy cancelled my last one, I’m not quite sure how the comments work, we might have some glitches.)

For the Addictive Reads Blog Hop page, you can click HERE. (I’ll add the link again at the bottom of the post if you want to wait.)

Now for the cover reveal! This is for the third book in the Vista Security Series: Edge of Trust.  (This isn’t really the third Vista book, because Vista didn’t show up in The Good Daughter, only some of the characters, but Amazon did something weird with series book numbering and would no longer let me call it a “prequel” so I had to renumber the books. All these changes, Amazon, GoDaddy, drive me bonkers!)

Here’s the blurb to Edge Of Trust:

What if there was a technology so scary, reality seemed like your worst nightmare?

Burned spy Tasha Shivko must rescue her brother from a Siberian prison and the only person who can help is her former partner Matt Kincaid. But Matt, once himself held captive in a Siberian prison, flatly refuses.

Before his arrest, Tasha’s brother managed to smuggle information out of Russia about a terrorist plot using a nano virus developed by a dirty scientist. Code name: Zombie Virus–when injected it leaves its victims helpless to resist any command.

Learning of the imminent terrorist threat, ex-FBI agent turned spymaster Dave Armstrong realizes Tasha’s brother has critical information vital to thwart the plot. Dave entices Matt to join them and also pulls in Mafia princess Marisa Peruzzo who is now a reluctant mob boss. Marisa’s job: set up a deal with a Russian mobster who has the contacts they need to set their trap. Marisa isn’t that hard to convince; unbeknown to Dave, she has her own vendetta.

From New York to Russia, from Alaska to Siberia, as they work to unravel the terrifying plans of an intricate criminal network, the small but loyal team are pushed to the Edge of Trust.

And here’s the cover!! I think Shanel Anderson at The Circular Designs did a fabulous job! What do you think?

edge of trust name

And FYI: The Good Daughter is on sale for 99 cents for a limited time, tell your friends, grab your copy! Thanks!

Okay, to recap: for a chance to win one of my prizes, sign up for my newsletter or subscribe to this blog. For a chance to win one of the Addictive Reads’ prizes, go to the main event page (and scroll down) to find the linky and Rafflecopter.

Or if you’re ready to start hopping, here’s the linky:
Happy Hopping!