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.

Midnight Delight! A brand new excerpt of HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

Man-hand-on-woman-shoulder3This was my birthday month. I'm one year younger, and one year wiser. (Think "Benjamin Button." Um… Yeah right, sure.)

As do most wise people, I don't celebrate myself, but those I appreciate. 

 That's where you come in.

This excerpt is for you, folks.

As the seconds count down on in thislast day of this beautiful Spring month, I've put up a new excerpt from Book 2 of the Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing

I put so much of myself into my books, which is why I want to share with you.

This ones got a real hot button: a host behaving badly, to the point where he almost rapes my heroine, Donna Stone. Don't fret. She can hold her own against anyone, including this well-connected manslut.

If you enjoy it, I'm glad I put a smile on your face. Hopefully, you'll go ahead and purchase it, which will add to my birthday joy. (And your joy, too, since it's cheaper than one of those fancy cups of java down at your local Starbucks). 

Enjoy!

— Josie

EXCERPT

The dining room isn’t one at all, but a library,
which is supposed to be “cozy,” despite its football-field-length,
wall-to-ceiling books, two-story-high ceilings, and a fireplace large enough to
hold three men and a little Bentley.

The table is round, which allows for optimum
placement of the eight guests between the host and hostess. I’m seated to the
right of Breck, and Franz is next to me. On his right is Felicity, with
Rutherford beside her. That puts Babette to his right and directly across the
table from Breck. Jack sits to Babette’s right, and Edwina on the other side of
him, with Garrett on her right. Hans is sandwiched between Garrett and Breck.

Franz and Hans, who sit opposite each other, speak
perfect English to everyone else, but hold side discussions in their native
language. My earrings are embedded with an audio feed that allows Ryan to
whisper sweet nothings into my ear. He promises to do so, should the bugs Arnie
has planted in the flowers that adorn the table and the rest of the room pick
up anything Jack and I should be warned about. It will be interesting to hear
the translation between Franz and Hans. Even if their phrases are seemingly
innocuous, I wonder if any codes will be detected.

For the most part, the conversation is polite,
the service by a phalanx of butlers is attentive to a fault, and the meal is
perfect. How can you go wrong with piquillo gazpacho as your first course,
followed by a chilled Dungeness crab salad, roasted Pacific Northwest salmon
with a vegetable ragout, and lime meringue pie topped with mango and raspberry
ice sorbet? And of course, each course served with white and red gold-medal
varietals.

In social settings, what is said isn’t as
important as what you see. Even before the appetizer was served, Edwina had
shifted her body away from Garrett, as if to avoid him and to focus on Jack. I
can’t blame her. The guy gives me the willies, too.

Jack is gracious enough to answer her questions
about the community and his role in his investment firm, but he’s smart enough
to share his remarks and attentions with Babette.

Garrett’s placement must be ideal for him,
because he’s practically fawning over Hans. Even when I compliment her on her
dress, Felicity ignores me and does the same to Franz. Once snubbed, twice
considering slipping a roofie into her wine glass. What am I, chopped liver?

No. Apparently, I’m presumed to be Breck’s
playmate du jour.

This is made obvious by the leer and wink he
gives me after I try to broach the topic of Great Britain’s LIBOR debacle and
its affect on American banks. I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling him
that it’s me, not my breasts, speaking to him.

Right as the main course is served, Jack looks
over at me. Feigning concern, he asks, “Donna dear, you promised Trisha you’d
bring her teddy bear. Have you given it to her yet?”

“Oh! No…I have it in my purse.” I glance over at
Babette. “If you don’t mind, Babette, I’ll just walk it down to the nursery.”

Babette nods. With a slight wave, she summons
over one of the butlers. “Jamison will show you the way.”

 ***

Trisha is happy to get a kiss, a hug and her
teddy bear, but she makes it clear that she’s not ready to go home by putting
her arm around her new pal and burrowing under the blanket they share. Nothing
like bonding over ice cream in bed while Brave
plays on a screen that takes up one whole wall of the nursery.

Ah, the good life.

Jamison has already scurried back to his post,
having been assured I can easily find my way back.

I can, but I don’t. Instead, I take a detour
into Breck’s office and go to work.

The room is simple and elegant. Over a credenza
is a John Singer Sargent portrait of a young wasp-waisted Victorian beauty. On
another wall, a crowd meanders through a Parisian market through the
surrealistic eyes of Georges Seurat.

Breck’s desk is large, glass, and empty. Where
the hell is his computer?

Then I see it: a laptop, on the credenza.

Quickly, I remove a thumb drive from my bracelet
and insert it into the computer. While it does its thing, I lean over the desk
for a better look at the Sargent…

“Beautiful, isn’t she?”

Breck’s voice sends a trickle of dread down my
spine.

I lift my lips into a smile before turning
around. “I saw it first a few years ago, when you loaned it to the Getty. It is
one of my favor—”

Before I can finish my sentence, his tongue is
down my throat, and his hand is on the lower part of my back. He has me leaning
so far back that I’m practically horizontal across the credenza.

Sure, I could bite his tongue until he squeals
in pain. And yeah, I can yank his arm out of the socket so that it hangs
helplessly at his side. But if I do that before another two minutes is up, I’ll
blow our mission to hell.

So instead, I try not to gag as he cups me on
the ass and grinds into me. I moan as if I like it. In truth, this horizontal
boogieman has me pressed up against something sharp. I reach behind to pull it
out—

Hmmm, a sterling silver letter opener, engraved
with his initials. As he conducts a more thorough incisor exam than I’ve gotten
from my dentist, I try to guess how far his blood would spurt if I follow
through on my urge to stab his jugular with it…

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the thumb
drive is blinking. It’s my cue to kiss him hard, and grab it fast.

I reach over slowly. Unfortunately, this means I
have to inch closer to Breck. He takes it as a cue to fumble with his belt and
zipper.

Um…. No. No
way in hell

I whip out the thumb drive. Then, as I push him
away, I gasp, “I—I can’t do this! I love my husband too much!”

His smile fades. He stares down at me, as if
deciding if I’m serious, or just a tease.

In any event, he’s still intrigued. I know this
because he bruises my lips with a long kiss, then murmurs, “You can. And you
will.”

He takes my smile as tacit understanding that
he’s right.

Wrong. I have to force myself to drop the
envelope opener, before I do something I’ll regret.

He zips up, and then straightens his jacket and
tie. “In the meantime, feel free to hang out with Babette during the summit. I
want you two to get to know each other well. That way, when you give up your
pathetic attempt at propriety, she won’t suspect a thing.”

Without a backward glance, he walks out the
door.

Jeez. Seriously? Whatever happened to “ladies
first?”

The man needs a lesson in good manners.

Accompanied by a horsewhip.

(c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).

 


Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalThe Housewife Assassin's 
Guide to Gracious Killing 
(Book 2) Only $3.99! 

Signal Press / In bookstores now!

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Donna and Jack are in the kind of hot mess that can cause an international incident:

A nuclear arms summit, hosted by a politically-connected American billionaire industrialist, provides the perfect opportunity for a rogue operative to assassinate of the newly-elected Russian president on US soil. Acme operative Donna Stone's mission:

Seek and exterminate the shooter, before all hell–and World War III–break loose.

Also on Donna's to-do list: file for divorce.

Throw in a couple of play dates and a few naughty neighbors, you've got a whole lot of fun.

 

The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide has a Mother-Daughter talk about (Yep, you guessed it) S-E-X!

Nails1

I love this scene because it says a lot about my heroine, Donna's, relationship with her oldest child, twelve-year-old Mary. And since this book is all about the cause and effect of trust and love, it's a perfect scene to share with you.

I hope you enjoy it!

— Josie

 

EXCERPT

“When
did you first start having sex?” Mary asks.

Her
question causes me to swipe the nail polish brush over her pinky toe, and the
one beside it.

It’s
Day Eight of my lockdown. I was wrong to presume that time would pass quicker
if I painted my nails a different color each day. Initially I was able to
coerce both Mary and Trisha to join me for my daily pampering session, but
yesterday Trisha dropped out, despite the fact that the colour de jour was Disney Villain’s Cruella De Vil.

Her
excuse: “Mommy, Cruella is a meanie. Besides, my toes miss being plain old
pink.” That was her way of telling me I need a new hobby.

Don’t
I know it.

Considering
the subject at hand, I’m okay that today it’s just Mary and me. But let’s face
it, she’s asked a loaded question. Girls have sex so much earlier than we did.
(Well, than I did…) If I answer honestly, she may think I was a slut. Or a
desperate spinster.

 Either way, I come off as a loser.

The
GPS security bracelet on my ankle, coupled with freshly painted toes on my left
foot, hobble me as I stumble over to the French doors that separate the sunroom
from the media room. I lied and told the kids the bracelet was from my doctor,
to strengthen my ankle against some imaginary tendonitis.

Now
I have a bigger issue to fib about: Sex.

I’m
closing the doors so that my ten-year-old son, Jeff, and his pals, Cheever Bing
and Morton Smith, can’t listen in on our discussion. If anything can tear them
away from Minecraft, it’s a discussion about S-E-X by two people of the
opposite sex, especially if one is Jeff’s older sister.

I
settle back down onto the couch and try to collect my thoughts before speaking.
“I waited until I knew I was with ‘the one’.”

I’m
lying, of course. Who the hell knows a guy is “the one” when they’re seventeen?
Or twenty-seven, for that matter.

I
guess the proof I guessed wrong was when Carl left me with three kids.

But
yes, I presumed he was “the one.” What I didn’t count on was his also being Public Enemy Number One.

While
Mary tries to find meaning in my dodge, I add, “Why exactly do you want to
know?”

“Because—”
she pauses. “No reason. I was just wondering.”

Ah,
I see.

Mary
is twelve going on twenty, and that freaks me out. Her quote-unquote steady is
a cute kid named Trevor Smith, the captain of the Hilldale Middle School
varsity basketball team. Right now, I want to break both his arms before he
does something to Mary that he’ll regret, and she will, too.

“Sex
is different from love, Mary.”

“Oh,
Mom!” Mary rolls her eyes. “I know that!”

“Okay,
I’ll take your word for it. So, tell me: why are they different?”

She
stops to think about it. Then: “When you date, some guys only want to see how
far they can get with you. You know…they don’t really treat you as a person.”
She shakes her head sadly. “I don’t want to be that kind of girl.”

I
nod, but say nothing. Inside I’m doing a happy dance because she actually knows
the difference.

“But
I think it’s exciting when a boy—a guy—is
just as sweet on you as you are on him.”

“I
can see that.” I try to keep my tone nonchalant as I drench a cotton ball in
polish remover and wipe off yesterday’s sparkly turquoise from Mary’s left
foot. “But love is different, at different ages and stages of life. And so is
dating. That’s why it’s smart to date more than one guy, so you have some other
experiences for comparison. The good guys always show respect, and never push you
to—to do anything that doesn’t seem right.”

“Did
you date a lot, before you met Dad?”

“Yes,
I’d dated some, but I wasn’t that experienced.” I’m sure the color of my cheeks
is almost as dark and purple as the polish I’m applying to her nails. “I was
twenty when we met, and I was in college. We married within a year, after I
turned twenty-one.”

“Did
you feel you should have waited?”

“No.
At least, not at the time.”

“But
in hindsight, would you have liked to have had more experiences?”

“Yes,
I wish I had. It’s hard to know what’s right for you if you’ve had too few
experiences, or have only experienced one relationship that is not really
working for you.”

Mary
looks up sharply. “But Dad wasn’t wrong for you, was he?”

Ah,
yet another trick question. “Dad has changed a lot over the years. Then again,
I have, too. “You see, Mary, not only must you both grow, you can’t have grown
apart.”

“When
Dad was gone all that time, did you grow apart?”

Her
question rips a tiny tear in my heart. Does she suspect that Jack isn’t Carl
Stone, her father?

I
search her face for the answer. What I see is innocence and curiosity.

And
trust.

It’s
why I can answer her from the bottom of my heart. “To stay in love, you need
respect, and passion, and above all, trust. All the time I waited for him, I
trusted he would come home again.”

Carl
never really came home.

On
the other hand, Jack has proven to me he is worth the wait.

Mary’s
comprehension comes with a slow nod. “Mom, I think Trevor likes me as much as I
like him, but sometimes I catch him looking at other girls, and that makes me
jealous. So I don’t know about the ‘trust’ part. At least, not yet.”

“To
find true love at such a young age is a rare thing. If it’s real, he’ll wait
until you grow into the woman you were meant to be, and he’ll grow up, too.
You’ll stay friends, but have other friends as well: people who make you laugh,
and who you can count on to be there for you, and who will prove their
friendship through trust.  If he stays
your friend, he will be all that, and more.”

Mary
waits until her toes dry, then she kisses me on the cheek and murmurs, “Don’t
worry, Mom. I’m not ready for ‘that’ yet. I’m only asking because I know you’ll
always tell me the truth.”

The truth. Yes, it’s what
we strive to know.

I
pray she never learns the truth about her father.

“Besides,”
she adds, “when the time comes, you’ll be the first to know.”

She
kisses me on the forehead then runs upstairs to do her homework.

Lucky
me.

And no matter
where that first boy hides, I will track him down.

HA-RSG-Final-V2

© 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

The Housewife Assassin's
Relationship Survival Guide

(Book 4 of The Housewife Assassin series) 

Buy it on

Amazon.com  BN.com  KoboBooks.com

 Read other excerpts at HousewifeAssassinsHandbook.com

The Housewife Assassin’s Relationship Survival Guide is now on sale!

HA-RSG-Final-V2

 

                                                       Buy it on Amazon!  Nook-button

(Soon on Kobo and Apple iTunes Bookstore, too)

 

Worth the wait? I think so! Hopefully, you will too. Here are the deets:

London. Paris. Guantanamo Bay. Donna Stone is looking for love — and terrorists — in all the wrong places.

In this fourth full-length novel of  The Housewife Assassin series, Donna Stone finds out that breaking up is hard to do.  Then again, so is dating a terrorist,  let alone eleven of them! 

Does this make Donna a serial dater,  or a serial killer?

Worse yet, an old flame gets in the way of Donna's chance for true love. But she doesn't cry…She gets even.

 Read an excerpt..
 

Then enter My Contest to win a $100 Gift Card!


(A small portion of this book appeared as a novella in "Guns and Roses: A Murder She Writes Anthology".)

 

It’s a’comin’, by golly…

HA-RSG-Final-V2Okay, try hard not to hate me, or to think that I've played the worst ever April Fool's joke on you (Tiffy, that one's for you, lol!) but I have to say upfront that we've had some tech issues with launching The Housewife Assassin's Relationship Survival Guide.

The SECOND the glitch is taken care of, we will submit it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple iTunes Bookstore. And the NANO-SECOND it's up in the online bookstores, if you sign up for my eLetter you'll get a notice from me…

So thank you in advance for your patience (Billie, that's my tip o' the hat to you).

There are a lot of twists and turns in store for Donna and Jack. And one very important character dies (yes, dies!) but you'll have to read the book to find out who.

In the meantime, to celebrate the release sometime this week (from now on I'm putting it that way, until I personally see it up on the screen)the first book in the series, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK, is now FREE.  Please tell your friends, so that they too may come to love the series as much as we do.

And if you're looking for a little taste of what's to come in Book 4, read this excerpt from it , as well as the one below.

 

Thanks for your patience,

— Josie

How to Dress for Successful Dates

Great first impressions start with good
grooming! Before you open your door to your date, wash and style your hair.
Indulge in a mani-pedi. Put on your face paint, but don’t overdo it. The goal
is to cover up, not to lay it on thick. Wear a flattering dress. And certainly
put on a pair of heels, since they always make a woman’s legs look great, and
give her a slimming silhouette.

A bit of jewelry is like feathers on a
peacock, drawing a man’s eye to the most flattering places: your neck, your
wrists, your waist, your hair, and your face.

Surprise! The best accessory of all: a
Baby Browning .22 caliber semi automatic. Less than three inches and not even
ten ounces, this little gun fits in the palm of your hand (not to mention in a
purse, up a sleeve, or in your bra).

With Baby onboard, any gentleman caller
who turns out to be no gentleman at all but a slob who likes playing impromptu
game of slap-and-tickle will listen when you warn him to move his hand.

Or else lose an eye. Have Fun!

**********

“What’s your weight?” Jack murmurs.

That’s the wrong question to ask a woman as she’s wiggling
into a Spanx Slim Cognito shape slip. “Um…one-o-nine.” I answer him.

Jack’s head whips around so fast, you’d think he needs an
exorcist. He closes an eye and cocks his head to one side. “For real?”

“Yes, of course!” I turn my back to him, so he doesn’t see
that my face is as red as a tomato: not because my circulation has been cut
off, but from my indignation that he’d have the nerve to question me. “My God,
I’ve been answering these silly questions all night! What does it really
matter? According to Arnie, the minute my profile goes live, it will
automatically simulate the desired characteristics reflected in the suspects’
accounts.”

“You know the drill. We still have to fill out the profile
fields, or else Sugar CEO won’t accept your application. There are just a few
more questions, so bear with me. Of course, if you want me to do it without
you—”

“Ha! Don’t you dare.”

“Have a little faith! I promise to follow your lead and fill
in a bunch of lies.”

While he taps away on the computer keyboard, I rummage
through my collection of wigs to see what I can salvage from Trisha’s last play
date with her best friend, Janie Breck. Thanks to the girls’ mutual addiction
to sweet pink cotton candy-flavored Bubble Yum, so far three of them need to be
shortened or tossed. I hope I have a few left over so that Jack can take
pictures of me in them. That way, Arnie’s software algorithm will upload the
one that best corresponds with the target’s sugar baby wish list.

 “You’re going to have
to answer some true/false, comment and multiple choice questions. Okay,
question number one: If you had a porn name, what would it be?”

“Ha! I’ll just bet they don’t ask the sugar daddies the same
thing.”

“Good supposition. Let me see.” He opens another screen and
scrolls through the website. “You’re right, they don’t. But they do ask the
dude’s net worth, starting at 25 million and going up from there.”

“Cha-ching! Okay,
that evens the playing field somewhat. If I’m going to be someone’s fantasy,
he’s got to make it worth my while. In that case, type in ‘Mila Johannson’ as
my porn name.”

“Not fair. All you did is combine the names of two very
capable actresses.”

“It’s perfectly fair. Tell me, what were they’re last
roles?”

“All I remember is that both were squeezed into something
sexy.”

 “You’ve just proven
my point. You noticed nothing about these women, either above their lips or
below their knees.”

“And the most desirable feature on your sugar daddies will
be their bank accounts.” Jack snickers as he clicks away furiously on the
computer keyboard. Whatever merde he’s
writing, no doubt he’s laying it on thick.

 “We all play to our
strengths. Other than money and temporary security, what else do these jerks
have to offer?” I put down the scissors with a sigh. They’re useless anyway.
Now that I’ve chopped my favorite auburn wig to shreds, it looks worse than
Anne Hathaway’s in her Les Miserable death
scene. “Besides, this mission is quick and dirty, in and out. Prick them with
truth serum, which allows Emma to record their answers. Then use the info they
give me to turn them, and leave.” 

He catches my eye in the mirror. “These guys aren’t dummies.
If they get suspicious, they’ll make sure you won’t leave their little love
nests alive. Their battalion of bodyguards will be right outside the bedroom
door.”

“Jack, you know I appreciate your concern. I realize I have
eleven chances to screw things up. On the other hand, I have eleven
opportunities to put the Quorum out of business once and for all.”

“It would have been easier with Carl still behind bars.”

“Well, he isn’t, and now it’s make-up time. And besides, you
and Abu will be close by.”

He shrugs. “All I’m saying is be careful, okay?”

I nod. “Okay, I promise. Cross my heart. Now, hit me with
another question.”

“Are you a cat person, or a dog person, and why?”

“Put down ‘I love it doggy style.’”

“Don’t I know it,” he murmurs. “Now, this next question is
true or false: I want a relationship with no strings attached.”

“Click true.”

“Sure,” he says, but at the same time he winces. For us,
role-playing is a way of life.

And of death.

“Next, another multiple choice: I’d rather be (a) at a
disco, (b) at the opera. (c) cheering courtside at a Lakers game, or (d)
sunning myself naked on a beach.” 

Now it’s my turn to frown. “Choose anything but the beach!”

He laughs out loud. “I would have guessed that. Okay, now:
If you were a tree, what kind would you be? The choices are (a) Redwood (b)
Dogwood (c) Oak, or (d) Japanese Maple.”

“Make me a Dogwood.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s small and the flowers are either pink or
white. Subliminally, the message here is ‘virginal and girly.’”

“But you’re really an Oak, right?”

“Nah. A Redwood. I’m in it for the long run.”

He knows exactly what I mean.

“Okay, next up: Would you rather date (a) an artist (b) a
banker (c) an entrepreneur or (d) a corporate industrialist?”

“I guess we both know the answer to that one.” My eyes seek
his out. “I only have eyes for you.”

This earns me a knowing smile. “Last question: Where would
you prefer to be kissed, and why?”

“Seriously? They ask something that personal?” I slip behind
him so that I can read over his shoulder. “They make it quite clear what this
is all about, don’t they?….Wait! I don’t see that question here.”

“My bad. It’s my question, not theirs.” He pulls me into his
lap.

Sure, I’ll play along. “Want to take a guess?”

He chuckles. “I’m a hands-on kind of guy. How else can I
gauge your true enthusiasm?”

He’s got a point there.

He hits the SUBMIT button, then forwards Arnie my User ID
and password. The photos can wait until our little survey is completed.

We’ve only tested six possible kissing locations when
Arnie’s email pings Jack’s computer. We let out with a mutual groan, then
disentangle ourselves in order to read it:

You’re live,
sugar babe!

What Arnie lacks in subtlety, he makes up for with
enthusiasm.

“But how can that be?” I ask, “We never sent photos!”

“Heck if I know. Let me test your submission with a fake CEO
profile.” He opens one, and types in a wish list with the exact profile I
submitted.

In no time at all, my profile falls into his email box.

Except that my head now sports long blond hair in coiling
tendrils, has been superimposed onto a body that looks suspiciously like
Scarlett Johansson’s.

Jack gives a low whistle. “I’m not saying Arnie can improve
on perfection, but he’s has sure as hell comes damn close.”

I pelt Jack with a pillow.

The next thing we hear is a few bars of “Easy Street” as a
Sugar CEO meeting request drops into my Sugar Babe account.

My very first gentlemen caller has come a’knocking.

 “It’s the bewitching
hour,” Jack mutters with a sigh.

The rest of the kissable positions on my must-do list will
have to wait.

I brace myself before clicking onto it.

© 2013 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Author.

 

Novelist Eileen Goudge introduced me to Capitola’s historic, colorful beach villas.

Capitola
Had I known how beautiful this little seaside town was, I would have come here sooner.

Believe it or not, it is renowned as the oldest beach resort on the West Coast. Its name mimicks that of a heroine in a novel dating back to the 1867: The Hidden Hand, by E.D.E.N. Southworth.

If you guessed E.D.E.N. was a woman, you're right. To get published back then, many women wrote under pseudonyms, which could be taken for men's names, and gain an audience.

The villas, shown above, are the very first condominums. Go figure. Wish I owned one now. They overlook Monterrey Bay, scanning it from its north shore. The old Capitola Pier is still standing, and far enough out to fish from it.

The day we were there with novelist Eileen Goudge, a seal was frolicking in the surf.

Thank goodness Eileen and I can use our real names. Her books, wonderful tales of contemporary women who have had a fall from grace but find redemption, are tightly plotted. My favorite is Woman in Red.

But hey Eileen writes so prolifically, you'll have several others to read afterward.

 

— Josie

Author excerpt game! Should I choose page 7 or 77?

For years now, I've called novelist Eileen Rendahl my evil twin, for good reason: her books have a snarky irreverance that remind me of my own.

Now I have another reason to say we're joined at the hip (along with six other of her closest author pals): I've been
tagged by her to play "7 or 77."

Here's how it works. I go to either page 7 or 77 of my latest manuscript — in my case, The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips,
count down 7 lines, then copy the next 7 lines here

After that, I get
to name 7 more authors to come out and play. Mine are Kate Perry, Kristin Harmel, Susan C. Shea, Karin Tabke, Tawny Weber, Stephanie Bond, and Deborah Coonts and Laura Griffin. Hopefully by the time you've read this, they've put up an excerpt of their latest. If not, you can check out their books on their websites. Each has a unique voice, and their stories — anything from thrillers to women's contemporary to romance —  range from heartwrenching to poignant to laugh out loud funny.

Okay, this is from page 77 of The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips

Enjoy!

— Josie



Louis-vuitton-plane-private-jet-luxury-travel

By the time I’m finished, Melmud’s Kickapoo Joy Juice has kicked in.


“Who is the Quorum?” My voice is gentle but authoritative.


“Infidels. But they pay well for arms. Enough for me to buy the mansion next
door to Oprah in Montecito. But Oprah’s dogs crap in my yard all the time.
Still, I don’t mind. They are Oprah’s dogs! Some are Labs, but also a couple of
Springer spaniels. Not to mention the golf club in Montecito is top notch. I
have a two handicap. Soon they will soon make me a member. I am sure of it.”


Someone should have warned me SP-117 leads to diarrhea of the mouth. If this
were just another extraordinary rendition, I’d have already given this dude a
Cheney spa treatment and tossed him out the door.


I start over. “Melmud, try to stay focused. What is the Quorum doing with the
heat-seeking missiles?”


“Taking down a plane.”


Like, duh. At thirty-three thousand feet in the air, this guy better tell me
something I don’t already know, or one of us is going to jump ship. I don’t
want it to be me. “Where will it occur? On what day, and at what time?”


“What I know is—”


A sharp rap at the door stops him cold. That damn bodyguard!

 (c) 2012 Josie Brown. All rights reserved. This excerpt may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission from Josie Brown or Signal Press Books (info@signaleditorial.com).


Killer-Tips-Cover-v3

On sale now! 

  Logo_kobo

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Buy it on Amazon! 

’Tis the season for murder, mayhem and mistletoe! 

There will be no peace on Earth if Donna and Jack don’t find a shipping container filled with heat-seeking missiles.

Forget Santa! Terror is coming to town…

 

You’ve only got until MIDNIGHT PDT to enter my contest for a $100 bookstore giftcard!

Gift-card

So Do. It. NOW.

Just read the excerpt of my novel, The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing, here, then answer this question:

What is the name of the song Prince Harry is dancing to, and who sings it?

All correct answers, must be emailed to be at MailFromJosie@gmail.com to be automatically be entered.

I'll be posting the potential winners here…

And guess what? 

You can add bonus points! Each point equals an extra entry for you. Here's how:

– Click the "Like" button for The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, on  Amazon (1 point).

– After you've read it, give a review for The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, on Amazon (1 point). Also, you can review it on Goodreads.com (1 point). 

(If you haven't read it already, you're in luck! It's only 99 cents, during this contest period!)

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-Final– And after you've read it, too, give a review to The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing on Amazon (1 point). Also, be sure to put up a review on  Goodreads.com (1 point). 

– If you haven't done so already, sign up for my eLetter (1 point). If your name is already in my eLetter list, you'll automatically get a bonus point, as soon as you correctly answer the question above.

– Friend me on Facebook (1 point) at http://www.Facebook.com/josiebrownauthor

– Friend me on Twitter (1 point) at http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA

Remember: each of these bonus actions mean an additional point! 

Email me at MailFromJosie@gmail.com with any bonus points, and I'll be sure to include them.

By New Year's Eve, this could be YOU (because we both know you think you look like here, anyway…)

You. Will. Love. It,

— Josie

*Cover design: Andrew Brown, ClickTwiceDesign.com. Thanks, Andy, for another great cover!

 

My Tip #19 for NaNoWriMo: To rewrite a scene, change the point of view.

NaNo19

It's NaNoWriMo Month! (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.

Here's Tip #19, for Monday, the 19th…

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too. The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

 

HA5 Vacation to Die For (LoRes) (768x1024)Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S VACATION TO DIE FOR contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 


HA1 Handbook 768x1024 FREE!
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK 
Over 150,000 free and paid downloads.
Find out why readers love it.

Read more about Donna at www.HousewifeAssassinsHandbook.com

 


My 17th NaNoWriMo Tip: Why your characters need emotional depth.

NaNo17
It's NaNoWriMo Month!
(National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated…)

For those of you who have begun writing your first book, every day I'll repost my fave creative writing tips here, just for you.


Here's Tip #17, for Saturday, the 17th

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

The previous day's post can be accessed on this page, too.

Here's to your success as an author,

— Josie Brown

Don’t forget to enter my HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING contest, for a chance to win a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice!

 

 

HAH Hanging Man V2Buy THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK! No #90 on Kindle Top 100/Mystery Women Sleuths. And it's only 99 cents on

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