A view from a Bond.

SeanConnery

Dear Readers,

My dad loved 007 movies. So do I.

It was something we (no pun intended) bonded over. 

It wasn't the plots so much as the movies' tongue-in-cheek cool-dude vibe: the gorgeous women, silly double entendres, the fun spy gear supplied by MI6's tech genius, Q; those psychedelic opening credits—

Not to mention the wonderful songs that came with the opening credits.

And of course, there were all the great opening capers.

I borrowed that concept for the Housewife Assassin series. Its first chapter always begins with Donna in a compromising situation. I want readers to gnash their teeth in fear of what could happen to her, just like we do for James Bond.

Sean Connery passed away this week. He will be sorely missed. Besides bringing the consummate spy to life, he embodied a character grounded in emotional depth, grace, and humor. He is the reason James Bond is still loved by millions.

The real spy business is not so glamorous and much more deadly. Still, it's always fun to imagine what we'd do if we were faced with such danger; if the fate of the free world depended solely on our actions.

Frankly, it does. It's why we vote, isn't it?

Thanks for doing your bit.

—Josie

What is your favorite James Bond movie?
Your answer enters you to win a free copy of a Josie Brown eBook of your choosing!
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What goes best with pie? People, of course!

Chocolate Walnut Pie

It is a tradition for Martin and me to host a decent-sized gathering for Thanksgiving. Sadly, this year we won't be seeing sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, or dear friends who may have shared a few memories, some laughs, and a great meal.

(NOT cooked by me; I've been known to forget putting sugar in my chocolate walnut pies. D'oh!)

The decision wasn't easy. Still, better to play it safe now so that we can share the future making new memories.

Like many others, we will call, FaceTime, or Zoom call with those who will be missed this year. No, it won't be the same as actually sharing smiles face-to-face.

I've no doubt that, eventually, life will go back to normal. When it does. I can't wait to kiss and to hug all those who have filled my life with joy and sweetness.

Until then, I'll have plenty of time to practice my pies—with sugar. If you want my recipe, click here…

—Josie

JOSIE BROWN'S PIE RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick of butter or margarine
  • 1 BAR of at least 70% dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 Amaretto (Bailey's or Carolans works, too)
  • 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust (my favorite is Pillsbury's roll-out crust, found in the refrigerated foods area)
  • Pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Prick bottom and sides of pie crust with fork. Press heavy-duty aluminum foil onto bottom and around side of pie crust; fill with uncooked rice or beans. Bake 10 minutes; remove foil and rice. Bake additional 7 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
  3. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F. Stir together chocolate, walnuts and flour in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Beat butter and sugar in large mixer bowl until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in corn syrup, vanilla and salt, beating just until blended. (Mixture may look curdled.) Stir in walnut mixture.
  5. Pour mixture into baked pie crust.
  6. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until outer edges of pie are set and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with just melted chocolate. Center will still be jiggly. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; store up to 2 days at room temperature or if storing longer, refrigerate. 8 servings.

Libraries matter. Here’s how one changed my life.

LibrariesJosieBrown

Imagine my surprise when, one morning, I found myself tagged on one of the social media feeds by a library—The South Texas College Library—regarding a quote I'd once, made about libraries.

And, yes, I meant every word of it.

I grew up in libraries. I lived a block and a half from my elementary school, which kept its library open throughout the summer. That way, children could proudly complete the reading lists handed to them on the last day of school.

During one summer, I checked out every compendium it had of Broadway musicals by year, I read the scripts as if they were books. These massive volumes also had each musical's song lyrics, which I memorized. It didn't matter that I hadn't listened to their soundtracks. I could hear them in my mind.

Fast-forward fifteen years later, when I met the man who would later become my husband. He'd grown up in New York. Even as a pre-teen, he'd been taking the subway to Broadway, to catch shows: mostly musicals.

On many an occasion, he'd serenade me with show tunes. Imagine his surprise when this Georgia Peach, who (at least, back then), had never seen a Broadway show could sing along.

Libraries are my happy place. Now more than ever during this COVID crisis, I miss not being able to go into one. Thank goodness for curbside checkout, caring librarians, and digital book loans.

Libraries open our worlds beyond our physical reach. They open our minds to new ideas. They open our eyes to endless possibilities.

Libraries are where I learned to read.

Reading taught me to love fiction.

Loving fiction helped me learn to write.

Knowing that my books have given you a few hours of joy is my way of sharing my libraries with you.

—Josie

 

Got a favorite library? I invite you to post it with a comment. 

Here is one of my favorites: the Mill Valley Library (California), nestled in a grove of redwood trees, with a big homey fireplace, large windows, an outdoor deck, and a wonderful town history room.)

Mill Valley Public Library.jpg

Listen to my interview with Robert Dugoni regarding his thriller, THE LAST AGENT

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Podbean / Apple Podcasts / SoundCloud

 

I had a blast with Robert Dugoni, as we discussed his latest thriller, The Last Agent—the second book in his Charles Jenkins series.

The novel’s non-stop fast-paced plot revolves around the ultimate heist: the exfiltration of the undercover Russian Operative who once saved Jenkins’s life. Every step of the way—from Moscow to Scandinavia to the open ocean—Jenkins is hunted by a brutal Russian agent on a killer quest of his own.

You can order Robert Dugoni’s novel, The Last Agent, right now, through Amazon.

You can also read my article containing this interview in THE BIG THRILL

Births, Birthdays, and a Free Book

Josie & Austin
Me, holding my first born: my son,  when he was a mere ten days old. He is now an adult. So not only is he one of my first loves, he is also one of my best friends.

In bad years as well as good ones, there will be births and birthdays.

In the past three weeks, I’ve celebrated one of the former and two of the latter.

And before April, my family will welcome a new little being. I cannot be happier. To celebrate:

This weekend only (Fri-Sat, Aug 28-30) the digital version of my stand-alone novel, The Baby Planner, is FREE in Amazon

It’s a story of maternal longing, a marriage at cross purposes, pre-natal angst, and family secrets.

The story came to me in a flash! I felt the pain of my heroine, Katie Johnson, so intensely! She wanted something so badly that this desire changed her life.

I hope Katie touches you as intensely as she did me as I was writing her.

In the book, as in our lives this very moment, no one can change the past. However, the future is within our grasp.

Between now and the wee one's birth, our family will also celebrate eight birthdays. I plan on toasting, lighting candles, eating cake, and making one wish on my loved ones' behalf: that every new year we celebrate from here on out is better than 2020.

I wish that for you too.

—Josie

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THIS WEEKEND ONLY: FRI – SUN, August 28-30, 2020

I miss the Oscars! Hopefully, we won’t be missing it next year.

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban copy
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban (c)2017 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

A few years back (think LaLa Land) a journalist friend asked me to help him out at the Oscars.

Um….YES! Sign me up!

I'd already written my novel, Hollywood Hunk. There is an Oscars event scene in it, and after being there, I was pleased to see that how I imagined this iconic event was very close to the real deal.

Scarlett Johansson copy
Scarlett Johansson. (c)2017 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

As someone who'd done celebrity interviews for various newspapers and magazines, I'd already had a few opportunities to interview directors and actors. But this was my first Academy Awards event—and it was INTENSE, to say the least. I got up close and personal with several actors and directors who I admire, and saw their grace, wit, and modesty first hand. It was a thrill and a pleasure to take a few photos up close, and to see them at their best, even if they were anxious how the night would turn out.

In my novel, the heroine—Hannah Fairchild, a daughter of a famous male actor—saw firsthand how her father's vanity and insecurity ruined her relationship with him. But since he's just died and her proverbial wicked stepmother has contested the will, Hannah is down on her luck and needs money. Despite her best judgment, she takes a job as an up-and-coming actor's personal assistant.

Having been the one constant in her father's life, she thinks she can handle Louis Trollope's indefatigable ego, bouts of insecurity, and his incessant womanizing.

Samuel L Jackson copy
Samuel L. Jackson. (c) 2017 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

In other words, it's her father all over again.

Along the way, she learns what she really wants from life.

I don't know if the Oscars will take place next year. I hope it does because we need things to go back to normal—

Not that walking in a gown and stilettos on a red carpet to accept an award in front of your peers and tens of thousands of television viewers is at all “normal.”

It's the stuff of dreams.

So are books.

And now, more than ever, because we need a break from reality, I hope you enjoy this book—now free.

—Josie

Yes, I took these pictures of

Nicole Kidman and her husband, Keith Urban (above), Scarlett Johansson (right), and Samuel Jackson (left). Talk about up close and personal!

HHunkAmzFreeTWBest copy

 

Extracurricular: new, fresh, interesting and original.

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With so many #books and so little time, it’s always an honor when a #bookblogger discovers you and appreciates your writing voice. Thanks @reading_mom.me for this kind shoutout for Extracurricular!

—Josie

Extracurricular-Kindle

Extracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple's marriage.

Author Provocateur: Brad Thor Interview

BradThorBacklash

I had the great honor of interviewing thriller master Brad Thor about his latest novel, BACKLASH, his nineteenth novel whose protagonist, former Navy SEAL Scot Harvath, is the iconic Covert Ops bad-ass fixer.

This particular book is a perfect storm of loss, grief, spy games, and epic journey home.

Not to mention a pack of hungry wolves. (I kid you not!)

Feel free to click this link to read it in International Thriller Writers Organization's The Big Thrill

—Josie

—Josie

Extracurricular-Kindle

Extracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

Extracurricular: Hence, the name of the series

Debate Terminology.png

I know what you're thinking: that I chose Extracurricular as the name of my novel series because it sets up a delicious double entendre, what with it taking place at a private high school and that lust and is front and center with its protagonists, Audrey and Egan.

Well, you're wrong.

Colleges are very interested in the activities that students engage in during high school. These “extracurriculars” show gauge those students who are fully rounded socially; if they can multi-task, and take on responsibilities.

In other words, are they good citizens?

In the novels, Ashbury Academy's debate team is a sought-after extracurricular activity. However, one must earn one's place on it.

And there in lies the rub. If a student is willing to lie, steal, and cheat to make the team, is s/he a good citizen? Is this a pattern of behavior that will continue throughout his or her life?

As the latest college admissions scandals prove, there are ways to fake one's participation in extracurriculars. Some of the fraud revolves around lies involving participation in sports, clubs, and volunteer organizations.

Some college admission slots are precious and few. My research on how parents (and sometimes, with the students' knowledge) will do and say anything to get their children into one of them.

Believe me, this is a time in which life is stranger than fiction.

Enjoy this excerpt. And be sure to enter my contest for books, gift cards, and other goodies.

—Josie

Extracurricular-KindleExtracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

Extracurricular: An earth-shattering incident

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If you thought it was your last moment on earth, would you tell the one person you'd never admit to loving how you felt?

I put my protagonists in an old elevator during an earthquake. They are quite literally tossed into each other's arms. Their initial instincts to protect each other. The next desire is to comfort the one for which love has never been professed.

Fear finally subsides, as does the desire for the declaration of love.

But there are some primal urges that makes words unnecessary. It's what this scene is about.

When I wrote this scene eight years ago, I thought it would take place at the end of the book. Years later, I realized that it was only the beginning of their story.

All the missed opportunities lead to other secrets, leavened with lies that lead to many live-changing mistakes for them and those they love most.

I hope you'll want to go along for the ride.

—Josie

Read the first-chapter excerpt here, then enter my contest for books, a gift card, and a great treasure for your kitchen: a wonderful stoneware pie plate.

Enjoy!

—Josie

Extracurricular-KindleExtracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

Extracurricular: School Daze

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A school is only as good as its reputation. 

The variables that take that broad assumption and flip it on its head are the very people who burnish the school's prominence: its teachers, students, administrators, and the families who support it. 

While writing Extracurricular, I took all of this into account. Within the three books in the series, you'll see egos drive actions that produce pain. Sometimes, the motive is pride. Sometimes, it's fear. Sometimes it's cold hard cash that makes a character do something that s/he knows is ethically, morally, and legally wrong.

In this case, a ripple effect of one person's actions can ruin a private school's reputation, perhaps even take it under. This is very true of  youthful indiscretions of my protagonists, Audrey and Egan. Driven by a mutual attraction, their singular misunderstandings will eventually threaten something both love: Ashbury Academy, the school where they first met.

To some extent, anyone and everyone who cares about how the best and the brightest get into their universities of choice should be concerned about the college admissions scandal. What are your thoughts?

As far as Extracurricular goes, I hope you read the excerpt here, then enter my contest for books, a gift card, and a great treasure for your kitchen: a wonderful stoneware pie plate.

Enjoy!

—Josie

Extracurricular-KindleExtracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

 

Extracurricular: Snowplowing and Cheating

ExtraWitchesCap2

Is there such a thing as too much love?

Recently, several parents were indicted in a college admissions scandal. They paid, in some cases, over a million dollars to have others fake their children's SAT and ACT tests, or to make them look even more desirable as athletes or humanistic volunteers: both desirable to schools that take pride in graduating the best and the brightest.

To most parents, their child is just that: incomparable. But the need to convince others—be it a college admissions counselor, alumni, or their friends and neighbors—is at the basis of why one would go through with such “side door” antics.

Not that the “back door”—that is, giving some major donation to the school—is any better. But, ironically, it happens to be legal, and therein lies the difference.

In my new novel series, Extracurricular, a few parents whose children are in a prestigious  a San Francisco private high school  and staff members decide to cut a few corners. How if affects the school's reputation, its  other parent supporters ,its student body—and just as importantly, their children—is what this three-books series is about.

The book's protagonist is an innocent victim, but also a perpetrator. A two-decades-old folly is the catalyst for its effect on her family, and the alma mater which is near and dear to her heart.

Reading this excerpt will give you a taste of it, as will the excerpt to be read in conjunction with my contest for a lot of fun goodies: books, a gift card, and a beautiful pie plate.

Enjoy!

—Josie

Extracurricular-KindleExtracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

Extracurricular Excerpt: The Sting

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I started writing Extracurricular eight years ago. As luck would have it, the recent college admissions cheating scandal made it a timely book to be launch this summer.

The scandal also gave me the impetus to expand the story into a three-book series. Whereas it was always going to be about about the consequence of a young lust that morphed into a three-year obsession and a twenty-two year-old secret, what sets its revelation in motion is a private school's involvement with the same illegal activities we're reading about now. 

As in real life, in this novel series, a few over-anxious parents will ruin not only their own lives, but that of the ones the loves they love most: their almost-adult children whose lives they feel they most micromanage as opposed to letting their children grow and mature through their own life experiences.

In the meantime, the reputations of school are also tarnished.

The excerpt above takes place during the middle of an FBI sting operation. In order to lessen her own jail sentence, a cooperating witness, nicknamed “Maleficent” by the agents because of imperious attitude, is recording two clients who interested in her “special attention” college counseling services.

Does it make it more palatable to readers that they are just as despicable as her? Throughout the book, that won't always be the case.

In Extracurricular, ego, desperation, insecurity, shame, lies, and lust play equal parts in 

Read the excerpt here, and then enter my contest, which has LOTS of goodies to win…

Extracurricular-Kindle

Extracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

The Odd Couple

ExtraPartners2Insta

One of the joys of writing a book is not only creating a backstory for your protagonists but also fully outlining your secondary characters. When I starting writing ExtracurricularI realized immediately that I could have fun with the FBI agents who are leading the investigation for the college admissions scandal: Lionel Polk and SallyAnne Jagger.

We meet them at the very beginning of the novel. Their interactions there show how such a seemingly Mutt-and-Jeff team can work in tandem by playing to each other's strengths. At the same time, this dynamic duo isn't immune to each other's weaknesses.

And, as you'll read in this excerpt, an chance exchange with one of the book's protagonists is the catalyst for acting on their mutual attraction.

But, before that can happen, they have to agree on one thing: that their key witness, a.k.a., Cooperating Witness 1, is a despicable character.

SallyAnne has already given her a nickname: Maleficent. Read the excerpt here and find out why…

Extracurricular-Kindle

Extracurricular / Book 1

Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1

Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

It's your child's senior year. 
A private high school's reputation is at stake.
A math teacher refuses to grade his final exams on a curve. 
Students have only one more shot at the SAT before college applications are due. 
And a few desperate parents with much more money than brains are willing to do anything to get their children into Ivy League colleges.

And Audrey's dirty little secret will soon be the downfall of everyone and everything she holds dear: love, family, friends, and her private high school alma mater.

In EXTRACURRICULAR, a dark family secret leads to a college admissions cheating scandal at a private school, setting off a crisis of conscience for the parents, teachers, administrator and the students involved—and a catharsis for one couple about their marriage.

A twist of fate.

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Throughout the process of plotting Extracurricular, I wanted each scene to be a bittersweet twist of fate.

If it were put on a timeline, the first twist occurs in Chapter Two, during an SAT test. Appropriate, wouldn't you say, since the plot involves a college admissions cheating scandal?

If you're wondering if there is also a plot twist in Chapter One, rest assured there are several. One involves a set of parents who have the opportunity to walk away from being indicted in the scandal. Do they take it?

Another, involving the teacher and novelist whose life is chronicled in Extracurricular, shows how anger, fear, and too much of a good thing (in this case, liquor) can influence a decision with  severe consequences.

A third fateful twist engages the two FBI operatives in charge of the investigation. When one of the partners sees the other through the eyes of a new Person of Interest, it shades their relationship.

Read the excerpt here. Then be sure to enter the contest for some fun goodies.

EC Book1Extracurricular / Book 1
Signal Press (Release Date: June 28, 2019)
BOOK 1 of an Episodic Series of 3 Books
Digital ISBN:978-1-970093-00-1
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-970093-02-5

amazon-2-icon AppleBooks unnamed kobo-blue

Extracurricular: Why it’s timely.

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My next 3-book women's fiction series, Extracurricular, is being launched just as one of its plot points has caught national headlines: the college admissions scandal.

In my plot, we see it happen in real time when a private high school is caught up in the same exact scheme.

But, like everything in life that never makes it into an attention-grabbing headline, there is a real backstory to the who, what, where, how, and why parents, students, school administrators, and admissions consultants may have gotten caught up in these illegal shenanigans. In Extracurricular, the story begins twenty-two years ago, and envelops two generations of a family in the trauma.

As with most of my books, Extracurricular is sprinkled liberally with satire. Not to worry, there is enough trauma and drama to go around. But, as in all sensational stories, there is a farcical element to the way we live now. I hope I captured it aptly in this three-book episodic series. The first book launches Friday, June 28, 2019. To read an excerpt, click here. You'll also be able to partake in my fun contest celebrating its release.

Enjoy,

—JosieExtra1 Ad TWExtra1NewLustOldLoveBest copy

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New Season, New Contest, and a New Series!

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EXTRACURRICULAR – BOOK 1 RELEASE DATE: JUNE 28, 2019. PRE-ORDER NOW!

amazon-2-icon imgres copyNook logo kobo-blue

 

 

Happy Almost Summer to You!

Now that San Francisco's monsoon rains have finally let up, Martin and I have been taking long walks every day. It's great to see flowers in bloom again!

The tulip trees were first, then the daffodils, followed by ice plant and calla lilies. Birds of Paradise seem to hang in there pretty much all year long, as do roses—always a pleasure to see.

Only one thing makes me happier than Spring—and that's BOOKS!
My next series, EXTRACURRICULAR, takes place over two generations and three episodic books.

It's a story about love, lust, and parents behaving badly when it comes to cheating on college entrance exams.

It may sound like a plot ripped from the headlines. Ironically, this was a story I began writing eight years ago…

So yeah, it's been on my mind for quite some time.

If you loved Totlandia or Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, this is definitely the series for you!
The first novel in this series of three books launches on 
Friday, June 28, 2019—
Just in time for the July 4th Weekend.

And of course, to celebrate the heat AND a sizzling new book to read, 
I'm having a launch contest for Extracurricular – Book 1.

You can read about it below. I do hope you'll enter.
In fact, you'll have 6 chances to win.
Enjoy your summer—AND Extracurricular!
—Josie

Prizes

THE PRIZES

5 Contestants Will Win:

:A $10 Gift Card from the bookstore of your choice;

: An autographed copy of my novel, The Baby Planner (trade paperback); and

: A digital eBook of any one of my books (currently published, or a future title).

A 6th Contestant will be drawn as the Grand Prize Winner, and will Receive:

: A $50 Gift Card from the bookstore of your choice;

: A signed trade paperback copy of The Baby Planner;

A signed trade paperback copy of Extracurricular Book 1;

: An signed hardcover copy of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook;

: A digital eBook of one of my books—your choice! (currently published, or a future title);

: A jute tote bag sporting the Housewife Assassin logo—great for the beach or the store! And

: A stoneware ruffled pie dish from Crate + Barrel.

Talk about a fun bunch of prizes!

The contest ends Midnight Pacific Time on Midnight, Sunday, August 4, 2019

Talk about a fun bunch of prizes!

AND YOU CAN EARN BONUS POINTS!

Enter the Contest

I write daily. I must. Creators—painters, photographers, musicians, and writers too—are like athletes: to keep in the game, you must stay fit. In order to strengthen our plots and dig deep into our characters, authors have to stretch their minds.

We can't do this by sitting in front of a computer for five to eight hours (or more) a day.

For me, even a hour or two's worth of scenery allows me to rethink work in progress. And because I have the great blessing of being married to a writer, we do our best to take our breaks together.

When we do, we walk.

Martin and Josie Cascade Falls MV

We are very fortunate in that we live in a beautiful place: San Francisco, California. If you're not opposed to taking in a few hills when you come upon one (a great cardio workout) it truly is a very walkable town. They say San Francisco is seven miles long by seven miles wide. On a normal day, we'll walk four to five of those. On a day in which we really want to get out of our heads, we'll walk as many as ten miles.

During that time, we talk: sometimes about our three wonderful kids, but mostly about our plots.

If you're a writer and you have a critique partner, you know the drill: you've chosen someone who knows and appreciates your work, understands your characters, and with whom you feel comfortable enough to explain the plot hole you may have fallen into.

Maybe they'll come up with an insight that you somehow missed. Maybe not. But just hearing you explain the concern out loud, you'll work through it. You'll have some sort of “Eureka” moment. 

Even if you don't, you'll be in sunlight. You'll hear others' conversations as you pass them. Something in the sky will catch your eye. Or maybe it'll be something on the bay. Or a front door of a house you've never seen before. Or wisteria is in bloom, and you it stops you in your tracks.

By the way, if you write but have not yet found a critique partner—and for that matter, if you are just dipping a toe in the process—check out the writers' collective known as the 85K Writing Challenge. There, you'll be inspired and challenge to come up with a daily word count that may result in the book you know lives within you. It is the brainchild of Author Julie Valerie, whose debut novel, Holly Banks, Full of Angst, will be out Fall 2019.

If we have the time, sometime we cross the Golden Gate Bridge and take in one of the many hikes in the trails in and around the tiny gem-like towns of Marin County. One of our favorites is in Mill Valley, California. Many of the houses are built on the lanes that zig and zag through the foothills leading up to Mount Tamalpais—or, as the Miwoks (first people of the area) called it, “the sleeping lady.”  This time of year, especially after a rainy season, a few of the falls that in the area are at full strength. The most accessible, and perhaps the most beautiful waterfall in this town is called Cascade.

I want to share it with you.

If you click onto this video you'll enjoy a tiny moment of zen.

—Josie

9780989558822 Smaller CoverSpring has sprung—with a Great price on my two-book set.

The Housewife Assassin's Killer 2-Book Set / Only $3.99!

amazon-2-icon  unnamed AppleBooks kobo-blue

An avenging assassin. The spy who loves her. In this two-book set, find out why readers are addicted to this deadly duo.

Want to bake a great cake? 8 Things that can go wrong—and how to fix them.

I just found this GREAT article on the Beebs (BBC) that answers these eight common problems with baking a cake.

1: Thick as a brick, and tastes like one too.

2: Flatter than a pancake.

3: Sinks deeper than the Titanic.

4: Cracked open on top.

5: Dry and over-baked.

6: Raw and tastes doughy.

7: I can't seem to time it best for pulling it out of the oven.

8: It always breaks when I take it out of the tin.

If you have any of these problems, click here, or onto the photo above.

And while you're waiting for your cake to cool, you can read this excerpt below,  of Book 6 of The Housewife Assassin series, “Recipes for Disaster.”

Enjoy both!

—Josie

 

 

HAH Book 6 KBL

THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S RECIPES FOR DISASTER (Book 6)
Signal Press
eBook: 9780989558839 ($4.99 US) / Trade Paperback: 9781942052159
amazon-2-iconimgres copyunnamedkobo-blueIndieBoundBlue
Donna must stop the assassinations of both US political parties' presidential candidates. But when she discovers she has a long-term vendetta with one of the targets, can she put aside her animosity long enough to save the candidate's life?

 

 

 

EXCERPT

It is a truth universally acknowledged that politics is the second oldest profession—and that, sadly, it resembles the oldest profession in too many ways to count on a gentlewoman’s properly sheathed pinkies and toes.

Being the epitome of reticence and decorum, she must strive to stay out of politics at all costs—

Unless, heaven forbid, it is necessary to sully herself in the pursuit of liberty and justice for all.

But before trotting out onto the campaign trail, she must remind herself about the difference between a lady, a whore, and a politician: whereas both the whore and the politician will perform unseemly acts with the strangest of bedfellows for money (in the case of the politician, this is euphemistically called “campaign donations”), neither the lady nor the whore equates money with power because she holds all the power she needs in her dainty (if not always properly sheathed) pinky.

Speaking of strange bedfellows, the culinary combination of chocolate and peanut butter was popularized with the invention of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup back in 1928. This take on a pie version will have you crossing party lines to get a slice:

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie (From Courtney Wade, Gillett Pennsylvania)

Ingredients

• 1 crust made from chocolate graham crackers

• 1 1/2 pints vanilla ice cream, softened

• 2 cups creamy peanut butter

• 1 jar of hot fudge

• 1 container of whipped cream

Directions

1. Mix ice cream and peanut butter with mixer on low speed.

2. Pour into pie crust.

3. Freeze 3 hours.

4. Add hot fudge topping. Return to freezer.

5. Serve each piece with whipped cream.

* * *

I lay on a large table, naked except for the sushi that has been placed strategically on and around my body.

It’s not a great look, but this doesn’t stop three Chinese diplomats (I use the term lightly; in truth, they are spies) from plucking raw fish wrapped in seaweed and rice, while staring at my naughty bits.

One of the city’s premiere sushi chefs slices and dices away at his workstation. Because his chef’s jacket and hat are insulated, he is oblivious to the cold air blowing in from a block of dry ice below the floorboards, which flows into a tube on the tabletop beneath me.

This is supposed to keep the sushi fresh. Unfortunately, it has also turned my lips blue and numbed my bum. Beneath parsley pasties, my nipples stand at attention, whetting the diners’ appetites for hanky-panky, if not nigiri-maki.

I’m in a private penthouse which crowns a sixty-story building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero, its stunningly romantic waterfront district. It is owned by one of the diners—Professor Hong Li, whose status as a world-renowned mathematician gives him the prestige he needs to hide in plain sight. My mission has me working undercover as a nyotaimori. In Japanese, the term means “female body platter,” but it is universally interpreted as “go ahead and cop a feel between bites of your dragon roll.”

The dining room’s other major attraction is its well-appointed vodka room—a large glass freezer in which hundreds of premium, obscure vodka bottles are stored at 28° Fahrenheit. Forget sake. If the way these guys have been blitzing themselves on the fermented potato juice enjoyed by their comrades to the near west is any indication, international relations with Russia are thawing at North Pole speed.

My geisha-like role demands that I lay here stock-still. I mustn’t shiver or move a muscle. This is particularly difficult whenever Li’s chopstick grazes a breast on its way to pick up yet another piece of gunkan-maki.

Either he needs lessons on how to hold his utensils, or he presumes I’m on the menu, too.

How do you say, “Be careful what you wish for” in Chinese? Will a jab in the jugular with a chopstick get my point across?

My mission’s team leader, Jack Craig, is located in the apartment directly below this suite, where he listens and watches the video bugs smuggled into the suite’s various air vents by tiny drones, just last night by our tech operative, Arnie Locklear. Jack must have guessed how annoyed I am with Li because he whispers through my concealed ear bud: “I guess it’s a bad pun to warn you to keep your cool.”

He’s right, of course. My reason for being here has nothing to do with the fantasies of these slobbering men, and everything to do with our country’s national security. Through its encryption circumvention project, Bullrun, the NSA learned that Chinese cyber-hackers have somehow pirated the Department of Defense’s secure satellite feed for its Middle Eastern battlefield data networks—the heart and soul of its network-centric warfare.

Experts predict the Chinese economy will reach one-hundred-twenty-three trillion dollars by the year 2040—or almost three times that of the entire world’s economy a mere decade ago. Now that China is building itself into a consumer nation, it is looking to curry favor with those who can help it with its skyrocketing oil demands—including the Iranians, with whom the old saying “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” is doubly true when it comes to the United States.

The mandate of my employer—a CIA-sanctioned black ops organization that goes by the name of Acme Industries—is to stop the hand-off of this very valuable intel before it leaves the country. But the Chinese are smart enough to go old school in the delivery process: hand-to-hand, as opposed to e-mail or texting.

For the past week, we’ve been trying to infiltrate Li’s sumptuous penthouse suite, to no avail. He has stayed holed up here the whole time. Body guards are posted outside the steel-enforced, double-door entry. Even the maid who cleans the suite has been vetted by the Chinese embassy employees, as are the well-paid escorts who sleep with Professor Li.

The word sleep doesn’t begin to describe what he does with these unlucky ladies. And the way he eyes me, I’ve no doubt he wants me to experience his bedside manner first-hand.

Should I be worried? Nah. I don’t have time. This dinner was our one and only chance to stop Li’s plot. And from the chatter we’re hearing in our targets’ native language, we realize time is running out. The handoff is supposed to take place at this meeting, but the guest of honor—the person who will be taking it out of the country—has yet to arrive.

I hope he shows up soon. Otherwise, I may be too frozen to stop him.

My only way to answer Jack’s warning is to sigh, ever so slightly. When I do, a slice of fatty tuna roll slides off my midriff and onto the table. Professor Li smirks and mutters, “Zuòwéi tā de dàtuǐ, tā de rǔfáng fēngmǎn. Hǎo yīgè biǎo, dàn wěidà de, dàng zuò'ài. Wǒ jiù zhīdào jīn wǎn shāo hòu, shì ma?”

The sushi chef in the corner must get the gist of Hong’s remark because his eyebrows roll to the ceiling. Abu Nagashahi, Acme’s translator on this mission, snickers.

“Don’t tell her,” Jack and our tech op, Arnie Locklear, warn him in unison.

After a long pause, Abu mumbles, “No kidding.”

Oh, really? And what nasty little aside could our supposedly diplomatic friend here have said to earn my desire to wring his neck with my frigid fingers?

Whatever it is, he is saved by the gong announcing the visitor we’ve all been waiting for.

The men leave the table for the private dining suite’s reception room. The rooms are separated by a solid glass wall. Despite closing the glass door behind them, the mirrored ceiling and walls allow me to watch along with my mission team as two workmen roll in a large, beautiful black lacquer box. It stands vertically, and has beautiful Chinese characters on the door.

Hong Li snaps his finger at the sushi chef—the universal language for “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get the hell out of here.”

The man is no fool. He bows slightly and hurries out after the delivery men. The click of the door closing behind him sends a shiver up my spine.

“Stay perfectly still, Donna,” Jack murmurs. “It seems they’ve forgotten you’re there.

Easier said than done. The cold is tickling my nose. I hold my breath in the hope that I can keep from sneezing.

A man enters the room. He’s in his late thirties, with a full head of long, blond shoulder-length hair. He wears wire-framed glasses over his large brown eyes.

“Arnie, tilt the living room camera down and left, so that our facial recognition software gets a better look at him,” Jack whispers. “Donna, you’ve also got him in your line of sight. Can you turn your head, just a bit to the right?”

I do so, ever so slightly. Thank goodness all eyes are on the stranger, even those of the professor’s personal body guard, a hulk I’ve nicknamed King Kong. At six-foot-three-inches tall and over two-hundred pounds, should the occasion arise, it’ll be a challenge for me to take him. I mean, let’s face it—it’s not like I can hide my Glock under the pickled ginger garnish in my belly button.

If that time comes, failure is not an option—not if I want to walk my children into their new classrooms on the first day of school tomorrow.

Hong Li smiles at the man and gives him a slight bow. His two associates follow suit.

The Chinese spies smirk at the man’s hesitant, unsmiling nod in return.

I don’t like the feel of this.

“I presume you want to inspect my handiwork?” The man’s hushed question comes out in a stutter.

Li tempers his curiosity with a shrug. “Please, do us the honors.” His English mimics his guest’s Southern inflections.

The stranger purses his lips as he twists the latch on the door of the exquisitely painted box. Inside is a clay figure—an ancient Chinese warrior. With the push of a lever, the platform on which the statue sits rolls out.

His hosts are awed enough to murmur and clap.

“Wow! What exactly is that?” Arnie asks.

“It looks like one of China’s ancient terra-cotta warriors of X’ian,” Abu answers. “Back in the 1970s, while digging a well, a couple of farmers in the Shaanxi province unearthed a similar clay figurine. When all was said and done, eight-thousand of them were uncovered. They’d been buried in the necropolis of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. In fact, there’s an exhibit of them here, at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.”

“So, how old do you think it is?” Jack wonders.

“Qin ruled around 209 BC, so it’s at least that old,” Abu responds. “But this one is a replica.”

“How do you know?” Jack asks.

“Because it’s the spitting image of Xi Jinping, China’s current president.”

Darned if he’s not right.

“Nailed him!” Arnie yells in my ear. “The dude who brought the box is the sculptor, Carolus Duran.”

I recognize that name, too. Known as “the Twenty-First Century’s Rodin,” Duran’s works can be seen in many great art institutions, including the National Gallery in Washington, London’s National Gallery, and the Met in New York.

“Your president should be quite pleased with the resemblance,” Duran declares.

“When will it be delivered?”

Duran glances down at his watch. “In half an hour, it is to be transported via train to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, along with the rest of the soldiers in the exhibit now at the Asian Art Museum, just in time for the presidential reception tomorrow evening.”

“President Xi will be honored to receive such a unique gift from your president.” Li’s smile is too wide to be genuine. “I presume you’ve done as I asked?”

Duran nods. “Yes, of course! I’ve hidden the secret compartment, here.” He points under the left arm of the soldier, which is raised slightly from the torso, as if it’s holding something. “There is an indentation, here. Press slightly, and it opens, like so.”

To prove his point, Duran presses a panel in the armor directly under the soldier’s armpit. Apparently he has pushed a spring lock because it appears to fall into the opening that has magically appeared. Duran’s hand disappears into the statue as far as his wrist. He shifts it slightly, and then pulls it out. The panel drops back into place, as if the clay has never moved.

“Excellent,” Li murmurs. “Now, we shall toast your masterpiece—and the release of your parents from our hospitality in Chengdu.”

Duran winces at Li’s joke at his expense.

“Arnie, what’s he referring to?” Jack asks.

Arnie’s research is fast and furious. “Apparently Duran’s folks disappeared about a month ago, while on a group tour of China. Chengdu is one of China’s largest cities inland—much too rainy and overcast to be a major tourist stop.”

“In other words, they were kidnapped as a way to coerce Duran to alter the statue for their needs,” Abu surmises.

“I have a bottle of Russo-Baltique, for just this occasion.” Li nods at one of his associates, whom I’ve nicknamed Snapped Fingers because that is exactly what will happen to him the next time his chubby paws grab at anything on me that isn’t wrapped in seaweed or rice. I call Li’s other toady Poked Eyes, because he seemed mesmerized by my Telly Savalas, and I’d like to alleviate him of that fixation.

“Donna, don’t move,” Jack warns me.

He’s preaching to the choir. I shut my eyes tightly before Snapped Fingers passes me on the way to the vodka room, knowing full well that Jack will warn me if I need to open them again.

“He’s found the bottle,” Jack whispers. “Okay, he’s walking out now … He’s gone. You can open your eyes.”

Arnie whistles. “That vodka is worth a million and a half dollars. The flask is solid gold, made from old coins from the turn of the last century!”

I watch as Duran adamantly shakes his head at his host’s offer. “No, really, I must be getting back. The museum’s curator and transportation director are expecting me to deliver the piece as soon as possible.”

Li’s smile hardens. “We will take care of its delivery.”

Duran’s eyes open wide. “But—but that would be considered most unconventional! The artist must always be present when our president commissions a welcoming gift, specifically for another head of state—”

Snapped Fingers pours the vodka into two glasses on the sideboard, and then places them on a tray. In no time, he is standing in front of the sculptor.

“They will understand that you’ve been called away early, to Los Angeles, to meet with your president,” Li’s tone is gentle, as if he’s talking to a child. “No one keeps great men waiting, am I right? Now, let us drink up.”

The fear doesn’t leave Duran’s face, even as he watches Li take one of the glasses. Finally, he takes the other glass from the tray; he raises it to his lips.

I would wager it’s a cocktail of succinylcholine—a paralytic agent—and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. As he falls backward, Snapped Fingers is ready to catch him, and ease him onto the floor.

Li takes something from his inside jacket pocket and places it into the statue’s hidden compartment.

“That’s it—the intel!” Jack declares. “The president won’t even know that he’s handing it over to President Xi, along with the statue.”

“And should word leak out, he’ll be disgraced,” Abu adds. “His detractors can use it to call for his impeachment, maybe even his resignation—or worse, call him a traitor, and ask that he be tried as such.”

Just as Poked Eyes wheels the box out the door, I let loose with a squeak of a sneeze.

“Oh … hell.” The dread in Jack’s voice tells me all I need to know: That slight movement caught the attention of Hong Li.

He waves at his bodyguard. “Take care of her.”

He’s out the door, too, with Snapped Fingers on his heels.

I am left with King Kong.

Jack shouts, “Hang on, Donna, I’m on my way.”

I’m hanging on, alright—to the far side of the table, which is now the only thing between King Kong and me. It’s too wide for him to reach over it, but the platters I throw at him bounce off, like beer caps in a pong game between two drunks.

He tilts the table on its side and rushes towards me, swatting off my kicks as if they’re raindrops until he’s got me backed up against the wall—really, against the chef’s workstation. He grabs one of my legs and jerks it up, so that I’m now flat on the countertop. He has one hand on my throat. He smiles when he sees my eyes grow big at the realization that he’s cutting off my oxygen with his broad thumb.

Gasping, I grasp at anything, and come up with a chopstick.

When I jab his eye, he howls and backs off. He hesitates only a second before yanking it out. A torrent of blood pours forth. I’m a mother of two tweens who play sports like kamikazes and their little sister does anything they say on a dare, so granted, I’m no stranger to blood, but this has my lunch climbing into my throat.

King Kong has me cornered in front of the door to the vodka freezer. He’s only six feet away and rushing right at me when I throw my last weapon—the chef’s Blue Steel Ao-ko Mioroshi Namiuchi knife.

The good news: as it hits his chest, it stops his forward momentum.

The bad news: when he falls over, it’s forward—and on top of me.

Even worse news: As I fall backward with him on top of me, the force of our weight pushes open the door to the freezer and propels me into it—

And clicks shut behind me.

I try shoving the door, but it won’t open. King Kong’s body is, quite literally, a dead weight blocking my only way out.

My situation is dire. I’m naked, I’m freezing, and for once I’m in no mood for a vodka martini.

Despite the fact that the glass wall between me and the dining suite is tempered and thick, I pray I can penetrate it somehow. Shivering, I stalk the room, looking for a way out of my predicament.

My eyes scan the backlit vodka case. Like the antique gold Russo-Baltique, all of the bottles in Hong Li’s personal stash are works of art. Belvedere’s bottle is encased in a glass bear. The Diva bottle is especially stunning: a clear cylinder with a tube of precious gems in the center.

But neither of those will give me what I need: freedom.

However, a bottle encrusted with diamonds may just do the trick.

There are several here. Oval Vodka’s bottle is covered in them, but unfortunately its shape plays off its name. The cask-like Alizé Vodka bottle is studded with pink crystals. I slam it against the edge of the table, and most of the crystals fall to the floor, so that’s of no help.

The next bottle I grab—a brand called Iordanov—is so embellished with diamonds that it glistens in the light. Holding it by its long neck, I once again whack the center table with all my might.

I’m left holding a piece of very expensive glass still encrusted with diamond crystals, where it counts most: around its jagged end.

By now the cold is getting to me. I can barely feel my fingers or toes, and my muscles ache. I drop to my knees against the wall with my homemade glasscutter, which I hold tightly as I etch a square in the glass. Here’s hoping it’s large enough for me to fit through, and that it’s not just the size I wish I were. (Note to self: pinch that inch, then get rid of it for good.)

I don’t have much strength, but still, I kick at the etched square. I hear it give way—

Then I pass out.

Game of Thrones’s Emilia Clarke tells her journey with brain injury. It will break your heart.

Emilia Clarke Charity

If you feel you need yet another reason to admire actress Emilia Clarke, here it is. In this very person essay that runs in The New Yorker, she recounts her near-death experiences with two aneurysms—all while filming Game of Thrones.

Her candor is refreshing. Her response to her injuries—the creation of Same You, a foundation that raises money for treatment of others who are recovering from brain injuries and stroke—is nothing less than you'd expect from a woman who is the queen of so many hearts.

—Josie