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.

Excerpt from THE CANDIDATE: Pilot Error, or Sabotage?

The-Candidate-Final4I thought I'd treat you to another excerpt from the candidate. 

I had a blast researching this scene, in which a saboteur must make an experienced pilot's plane go down — and make it look like pilot error.

Hope you enjoy it!

— Josie

Buy it on
Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

EXCERPT



Smith’s
man, Charlie, had no problem stealing a uniform from one of the two approved
maintenance subcontractors allowed to service planes at that particular
airport. The electronic gate key got him in with no hassles. But just in case
anyone was around to ask questions, he dummied up a fake Airworthiness
Directive and stuck it in his back pocket so he’d have it to wave under the alert
bastard’s nose, if need be.

 The plane was located in one of the newer,
larger hangars at the end of the third row, the one closest to the runway. The
swipe card that opened the hangar’s manual double door had already been coded
to open on command. Once he was inside, he closed the door behind him.

 The job was a piece of cake. First Charlie
loosened a bleed clamp in the pressurization system, but just enough to ensure
that, forty minutes into the flight—by the time the plane reached an altitude
of 26,000 feet or so—the outflow valve would pop off. When that happened, the
cabin would decompress immediately, and all hell would break loose.

 Next he replaced the emergency oxygen tank
with an identical one that was filled with nitrogen instead.

The
pilot’s emergency procedure was predictable. First he’d put on his oxygen mask,
and instruct any passengers to do the same. Then he’d radio the tower for an
emergency descent, and switch the transponder to the MAYDAY signal:
SQUAWK 7700. If he was really quick, he might even have time to put power
all the way back to idle, and pull out spoilers—

PrivatePlaneBefore
the toxic gas flowing into his lungs asphyxiated him.

Of
course, if the pilot’s body were to stay intact—fat chance of that, considering
that the plane’s angle would be steep upon impact—the amount of the gas found
in his lungs would be too negligible to raise suspicions among the NTSB
investigators.

In
other words, the cause of the crash would stay a mystery. 

Personally,
Charlie hoped there wouldn’t be too many passengers onboard. As a former flyboy
himself, nothing annoyed him more than the media’s endless ruminations about
the amount of fatalities caused by “pilot error.”

Then
again, this time around he’d hate for them to suspect the truth.

(c) 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.

Read another excerpt for a chance to win a
$100 Gift Card from the bookstore of your choice
!

LOL! One of my fave scenes in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalEnjoy!

— Josie

 

EXCERPT

My cell in the Santa Monica hoosegow could do
with a little sprucing up, but my roomies, Big Bitch Bitsy and Shitfaced Leona,
would get in my face and threaten me with some smackdown should I even consider
rearranging their fine collection of Chippendales trading cards, which has been
stuck onto the concrete wall with Bubblicious.

I’ve been in this hellhole for the past seven
hours. I don’t plan on staying here another night. Still, Bitsy (whereas she
uses this as a surname, I don’t want to disrespect her by calling her by the
much less bestie-friendly Big or Bitch) is no fool. She sees me eyeing the
bottom bunk near the window, and wants to set me straight up front that it’s
hers. Bitsy’s fist goes for my nose. To her surprise, I’m able to stop it with
my stiffened palm, and twist her arm out behind her, which is all it takes to
warn her that not only sticks and stones, but pressure in the right spot, is
all it takes to break her bones. Being raised by gentlefolk, I release her with
a warning that doesn’t mar the reputation of the woman who bore her, or
reference some embarrassing part of her anatomy.

You’d think she’d take the hint that I’m not
someone she should be messing with, but no.

The long shadows cast by our cell’s fugly
fluorescent overhead light tip me off that she’s about to stab me with a shiv
made from a metal spring from Leona’s bunk. A roundhouse kick to Bitsy’s gut
sends her reeling backward into the wall. I cram her head against it with my
version of a Vulcan Mind Meld, where pressure points in three key spots on her
cranium has Bitsy repeating every word I say. “I will act like a lady at all
times. I will share with my bunkmates. I will talk in a lady-like voice. I
won’t use my nasty pottymouth.”

Works every time. Thank you, Mr. Spock.

“Tsk, tsk. Is that any way to make friends and
influence enemies?”

I turn around to find Jack smiling at me from
just beyond the bars. So, that was the reason for the salacious whistles and
catcalls coming from the other cells. Usually, it’s for a new prisoner, or as
they call them here, “fresh meat.” This time it’s for six-feet-two-inches of
prime beefcake in an Armani suit.

I wave gaily at him. Okay, it’s more like a
middle-finger salute. “’Bout damn time you got here. If it’s going to take you
seven hours to drive a whole two miles, why do you own a Lamborghini?”

“Because the girls love it.” Noting my raised
brow and Bitsy’s shiv in my hand has him rethinking his answer. “In all
seriousness, Ryan and I are having a hell of a time convincing the local
authorities that you didn’t kill Edwina. It doesn’t help that your prints are
the only ones on the murder weapon.”

“But I explained that to the SWAT guys! It was
in my hand when Breck and I wrestled for it, and he twisted my arm so that it
was pointing at her when he squeezed the trigger.”

“Likely story,” mutters Leona, through her
drunken stupor.

I peel her favorite Chippendale off the wall and
tear it in half. She whimpers, but takes the hint that she better keep mum in
front of my gentleman caller.

Jack shakes his head at my cruelty. “It doesn’t
help that the security video shows you as coming out of the House of Mirrors
right after Breck got shot in there.”

Suddenly, it looks like I’ll have the time to
complete a full makeover of my jail cell.

I smack the bars between us with my fist. “Oh my
God! If I end up in jail for Edwina’s murder, Carl will be given custody of the
kids! I’ve got to get out of this mess!”

“Don’t worry about Carl. The files Edwina left
behind have put him back on the Watch List, and Breck, too for that matter.
Unfortunately, Carl left with Asimov’s contingent before we could stop him.”

“Well, that’s some relief.” I feel tears forming
in my eyes. “What have you told the children about my absence?”

“Just that you were in the wrong place at the
wrong time. Unfortunately, your arrest made the news in a big way. The police
leaked Breck’s version of it. Needless to say, all of Hilldale is buzzing about
it. Penelope and her posse actually believe that you’re jealous of Babette.
Mrs. Breck’s silence on the topic isn’t helping matters.”

“Figures she’d be towing his party line.” I
shake my head in disgust. “Breck is a member of the Quorum. For that alone,
we’ve got to bring him back. Seriously, Jack, what are we going to do?”

“We just have to wait it out, for however long
it takes.” He looks down at his watch “Which should be about… now.”

For just a few seconds, all the lights in the
jail flash.

Jack looks down the hall. Seeing that the two
guards have been distracted by the shouts of the cellmates over this disruption
of their routine, he slips me a small bag through the bars.

“That was Arnie,” he mutters, just barely loud
enough for me to hear. “He’s just put their security feed on a loop. It’ll run
for a couple of hours. In the meantime, this spray turns these two into
sleeping beauties. If need be, you can use the spray on the guards, too, but I
think the diversion Arnie is causing in Cell Block C will keep them busy for
awhile. We guessed at the uniform size. The smart card gets you through every
door in this joint. Abu and I will be waiting down the block in his ice cream
truck.”

I give him a thumbs up. I wish I could kiss him,
but I don’t want to make my roomies jealous.

I’m just glad he’s kept his shirt on, and he’s
kept his a bowtie and French cuffs at home.

(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!

AmazonKindleButton

  Logo_kobo 

Nook-button

Apple iTunes Bookstore Ibooks

 

 

 

 


HAH-2-Book-Set

 

Havent' read the first book in the series?

Click here to get both books, the first one free!
The Killer 2-Book Set! 

Book 1, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
 

Book 2, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S 
GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING



Ha! Just re-read one of these scenes in The Housewife Assassin Book 3, which is one of my faves

 


HAKCTv2On sale now!

Logo_kobo 

 Nook-button 

Buy it on Amazon!US

Buy it on Amazon!UK

 

Apple iTunes Bookstore Ibooks

 

 EXCERPT

“You are
older looking than your online dating photo, Nadia,” General Melmud Massoud
Shammam says as he scrutinizes me from top to bottom.

In fact, it’s
my bottom that fascinates him the most. To my chagrin, he holds up one of my
dating profile pictures in order to compare it to the real thing. “Did you
Photoshop your buttocks to look like Pippa Middleton’s? Yes, of course! I see
that now! Shame on you, sister, for coveting an infidel’s likeness!” He shakes
his index finger at me.

Yeah, okay,
busted. It wasn’t my ass. That was Arnie’s idea. I’ll never listen to him again, that’s for sure.

“I should be
disappointed, but I am a practical man and prefer hips large enough to bear
many, many children. So perhaps you will make me happy after all.”

Ha! Says you, I think, but I stifle the urge to
stick my stiletto into his heart.

Besides, his
breasts are bigger than mine, so I’m not sure I’d find his heart underneath all
that blubber.

I’d sure have
fun trying, though. Like playing a real-life version of that old game,
“Operation.”

Instead, I
bow my head to the man once renowned as the top torture expert in Gaddafi’s
army and murmur, “It is true, sir. Allah has given me many wonderful years. But
the life of a fertile virgin is empty if it is not spent at the side of an
honorable husband.”

Melmud was
ID’ed by Interpol’s Universal Face Workstation as the thug standing with Carl
in the munitions exchange video. His payoff in arranging the fatal meeting was
a new identity and a one-way ticket to the United States.

Ladies, big FYI:
because this coward left his three wives and nine children to face Libya’s mob
rule, he’s back on the market. His online dating profile in Anastasia Date (the leading website for
men seeking Russian brides looking to move overseas) reads like this:

 

Join me in America!

Strong, virile and handsome man seeks slim and perfect woman with whom to
share his life. Let’s hit the links, and take long walks on the beach at
sunset!

Must be Muslim, and a virgin. Natural blonde preferred. Must like golf
and also hiking, since sometimes we may spend time camping out in the desert
for long periods of time. But I am well-endowed, so it will be worth your
while.

 

Quite a
charmer, ain’t he?

Arnie hacked
into Melmud’s account and zapped the responses from the few Slavic singletons
desperate enough to answer the ad so that I’d be his default choice.

My own
response was fine-tuned in the hope of making me sound meek, pious and
submissive. My profile photos were shot by a photographer who freelances for Playboy, and all that implies. With the
help of a sheer, form-hugging shift and some soft backlighting, the
photographer knew exactly how to accentuate the positive.

So did Arnie,
who’s a wiz at Photoshop. Pippa has set a very high bar for the rest of us. I
may have been wearing a headscarf, but now it’s obvious that Melmud’s eyes
weren’t drawn to the shape of my head.

Ideally,
“Nadia” would have flown from Moscow to LAX, but thanks to some Arnie’s hacking,
the best Melmud could pull off on such short notice was a flight to San
Francisco, where he was to her up, then fly her into Santa Barbara on his
private jet.

A blond
female Acme operative with my height, weight measurements (perky breasts and
all) and an identical head scarf boarded the flight. When she got off, she went
into the fifth stall the closest ladies’ lavatory, where I was already waiting
for her. We’re dressed as twins down to our matching headscarves, so anyone
following her would presume we’re one and the same. She handed me her ticket to
put with my fake passport, changed her clothes and wig, and then there was one.

Melmud’s
bodyguard met me at baggage claim and hustled me into another terminal, where
Melmud’s private customized Gulfstream G650 was ready to whisk us down to Santa
Barbara. The plane is tricked out with a private living room, bedroom, dining
room and kitchen galley.

In other
words, all the comforts of home for a fugitive on the run.

Now that I’m
in mid-flight with my supposed betrothed, I’ll slip him the ultimate mickey—SP-117, a concoction invented by the
Russia’s external foreign intelligence arm, the SVR. It’s tasteless, colorless,
and leaves the victim clueless as to anything he may have said.

While he’s
under the influence, I’ll ask him the whereabouts of the missing munitions
cache. But it’s only a fifty-minute flight, so I’ve got to work fast. My problem: being Muslim, neither Melmud
nor his thug drinks liquor or caffeine. A glass of water will have to do.

I begin with flattery, in my best Moose-and-Squirrel accent.
“Sir, my innate shyness forces me to request that our time together be
private.”

By the way he raises an eyebrow at this unexpected modesty it
looks like he believes that perhaps he really did find the only virgin on a
website loaded with Slavic vixens. I guess he’s giving me the benefit of the
doubt because he snaps his fingers at his bodyguard, who disappears into the
cockpit with the pilot, closing the door behind him.

I reward Melmud by loosening the top button of my already
low-cut, floor-length tunic, revealing the lacy camisole beneath it.

The plane hops over a cloud, giving me the opportunity to
tumble against him. Oops! My hand falls in his lap in the hope of bracing my
fall. I cover my mouth, as if shocked by this seemingly innocent action.

But when our eyes meet, I lick my lips in anticipation.

His response is Pavlovian in one regard. He’s panting for a
treat.

“In my
country, we toast the holy union between a groom and his bride.” I lower my
head. “Will you allow me to serve you, my honorable fiancé? Just a glass of water,
of course.”

He smiles and
nods toward the kitchen galley. I bow slightly before gliding to a cabinet and
pulling out two glasses.

He is too
busy loosening his tie and planning the tests that will prove my virginity to
see me slide the medallion on my ring and release the drug into his drink.

As I hand him
his glass, he shouts, “Prost!”

He passes out
just as he had begun to slobber all over me. Yuck! I shove him off to the far end of the couch. I go over my
mental checklist of everything on my list—

Oh, fudge! I forgot to check the SFO duty-free
shop for any Furbys!

Note to self:
get better at multi-tasking.

But first
things first. Buy time.

I grab
Melmud’s cell phone from his pocket and yank the subject’s SIM card from his
phone. Then I dial Jack with the satellite connection on the wireless SIM card
reader I’ve concealed in my valise.

“How’s our
little mail order bride?” he asks.

“Cut the
crap. I’ve just pulled out the SIM card. What now?”

“Great!
Arnie’s on the line, too. All you have to do is slip it into that little
doohickey he gave you. When it’s done, uplink it, and voila! He’ll have access to a week, maybe two, of previous text
messages and traceable cell numbers.”

Oprah dogsUplinking the
data on the SIM card takes much too long: all of six minutes, and I’ve still
got an interrogation to conduct. 

By the time
the upload is 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 Laboradors, but there are 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 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!

In Arabic,
the bodyguard is telling his boss that we will be landing in five minutes. He
wants to know if there is anything we need.

Melmud is
about to say something when I hiss, “Don’t answer!” I reach for my satellite
phone. This time I dial Arnie direct.

When he picks
up, I whisper frantically, “I need you to dial Melmud’s bodyguard as if it’s
coming from Melmud, and give him a message.”

Arnie pauses.
“Why would I do that?”

“Because I’m
in the middle of interrogating this creep, and the guard is standing right
outside the door! I can’t have Melmud answer him out loud. He’s in a trance! No
telling what he might say! I need the guard to get a text message telling him
to scram! But to be authentic, it’ll have to be in Arabic, and my bandwidth
doesn’t stretch that far.”

“Don’t worry,
piece of cake. And I’ll make sure the caller ID will show Melmud’s phone. Just
text me what you want it to say.”

I think for a
moment before sending him this:

 

While she is smart and beautiful and surely would make a fine and pious
mother, I still have my doubts that this woman is a natural blonde. I am
testing my theory now. If the door is still closed when we land, no one is to
disturb us! When I am done, I will meet you by the limo. Allah willing, my
bride is flaxen and therefore worthy to accompany us to Montecito. Oh, by the
way, the next time Oprah’s dogs take a dump in the yard, shoot them.

 

The chirp
outside the door tells me the bodyguard has gotten Arnie’s message. A moment
later I hear Melmud’s thug murmur, “Yes, General,” in Arabic, before trudging
back to the cockpit.

I breathe a
sigh of relief. “Thanks, Arnie.”

“Glad it did
the trick. But, Donna, what the heck was that stuff about Oprah’s dogs?”

“I needed to
add a tinge of authenticity to the message. Trust me, it did the trick.”

I click off
and shake Melmud back into interrogation mode. “Tell me, quick. Where is the
shipment from Libya right now?”

“The Quorum
infidels would not tell me. To hide this knowledge from me, they spoke in
French. But they did not realize I speak it, too. All I know is that it is
coming in by ship. From a toymaker.” A sly smile rises on his lips. “And by the
way, the female infidel really did have a butt like Pippa. But by her amorous
moves with her partner, I am guessing she is no virgin.”

Valentina’s a
slut, and Carl enjoys it? No surprise there. And for the record, this dude has
no idea what he’s talking about. No way does her bum look better than mine!

His cruel
cackle puts me back on task. “Why should I care, anyway, when the cargo
arrives? The less I know about it, the better. I’ve worked too hard establishing
my excellent new identity as a successful self-help guru from Dubai. I’m
working on my book now. It is called Don’t
Worry, Be Happy: Six Must-Do Moves to Being a Better You
. I have no doubt
it will be a sure-fire bestseller! I will leave it in Oprah’s mailbox, and she
will love it and build a whole television network around its teachings.”
Obviously, the truth drug has made him delusional. “I love Oprah. And I love
Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Did you know she lives nearby? I love Seinfeld, too. I
wonder if he ever visits Elaine…”

I hear the
vibration of the plane’s wheels dropping. Time to wrap up our little
tête-a-tête, and it couldn’t come a second sooner. Hanging out with this guy is
driving me nuts.

I force him
to sip again from his glass.  A moment
later, he drifts off to sleep. By the time Melmud’s bodyguard shakes him awake,
I’ll be just a pleasant memory.

I’ll also be
brunette again, and long gone.

The plane’s
landing is smooth as silk. As planned, Jack is there waiting on the tarmac. The
credentials he presents to the flight crew and the bodyguard identify him as
the field office director of the Santa Barbara County branch of the Immigration
and Naturalization Services.

The bodyguard
turns white under his swarthy tan. The last thing he wants is for the INS to
question him about his passport, or Melmud’s, for that matter.

On the other
hand, he’ll gladly step aside so that Jack can take me off the plane in
handcuffs. Here’s a shocker. Turns out, I’m not a virgin after all. Apparently,
“Nadia” has run away from her husband, a Muslim jeweler based in Moscow.

“Your boss is
bereft,” Jack tells the bodyguard. “He asks that you not disturb him. He said
something about five salads.”

The guard
eyes open wide. “No, he means ‘salats.
He wants to pray.”

This means
only one thing. The Self Help Guru Formerly Known as the Mommar’s Mutilator is
very upset that his life-size Barbie wasn’t the fantasy bride he’d hoped for.

“Learn
anything?” Jack asks, as we roar off in his Lamborghini.

“Yes. It’s
coming in by ship.” Talk about a needle in a haystack. “Also, I now know why
Gaddafi’s regime was so dysfunctional.”

“Do you think
it might’ve had something to do with the fact he was a nut?”

“No doubt
that’s a big part of it. But it turns out we Americans were the real cause of
his downfall.”

“Sure we
were. We played an important if somewhat covert role in aiding and abetting the
rebels.”

“Nope, I mean
even before the Arab Spring. You see, Mommar’s generals watched too much
American television. To them, life is a series of self-help aphorisms culled
from daytime talk shows. They also think sitcom characters are real.”

“So do most
Americans. So I guess we truly are a global village.” Jack shakes his head
sadly. Then his eyes light up. “Oh, wow, that reminds me. The Big Bang Theory is on tonight!”

“You’ll have
to catch it on demand. Have you forgotten the Oprah special airs tonight? She’s
interviewing Pippa Middleton! I’m sure as heck not going to miss that.”

Jack sighs
appreciatively. “Speaking of Pippa, did anyone ever tell you your butt looks a
lot like hers?”

When I punch
his arm, he almost drives off the Pacific Coast Highway.

(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).

The Housewife Assassin's Killer Christmas Tips is on sale now!

Excerpt from Book 3 of the HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN Series: First Kiss

Pacific_coast_highway
As we head into summer, I'm both surprised and proud of the fact that the third book in the Housewife Assassin series, Killer Christmas Tips, is still selling strong.

Despite the title, this book less to do with the season it was set in, and more to do with the fact that readers who love the series don't want to miss any of the consecutive plot points that deal with the series' overriding story arc: 

– Will Acme operatives, Donna Stone and Jack Craig, finally take down the world's best financed international terrorist group known as the Quorum? 

– Will Donna ever be able to love and trust again, despite the betrayal she felt over Carl's lies and deception?

– And will she and Jadk  find the missing intel on its agents and assets before the Quorum gets it?

As these two scenes in particular demonstrate, setting Book 3 during the holiday season allowed me to test Donna's faith: in herself, in her core values, and in her fellow beings.

Enjoy,

— Josie

EXCERPT

“So, how old
were you when you had your first kiss?”

Jack’s
question almost has me swerving off the road.

The decision
to take his car was probably a smart one because we may need a quick getaway,
and my mommy-mobile doesn’t have the same zero-to-sixty pick-up as Jack’s
Lamborghini. The decision for me to drive also makes sense, since he may have
to be running like hell carrying a shoulder-launched missile, and won’t have
time to fumble for his keys.

His decision
to play Twenty-one Questions may be one he regrets, should we crash.

To ensure we
don’t, I hold tight to the steering wheel and keep my eyes straight ahead. Not
because he’s shocked me, but because I’d hate for him to see that my face has
turned candy apple red.

“Let’s just
say I was old enough.”

“Come on,
answer the question honestly.”

“Will you do
the same?”

“Absolutely.
Cross my heart.”

I sigh.
“Okay. I was fifteen. And yes, the boy broke my heart.”

He laughs.

“What’s so
funny?”

“I was
worried you hadn’t been kissed until college.”

“You take too
much stock in what Aunt Phyllis says. She’s under the impression I was as pure
as driven snow until Carl and I… well, until I was married.”

“So Carl
wasn’t your first either?” He’s trying so hard to act nonchalant.

“To be
perfectly honest, not only wasn’t he my first, he wasn’t my even ‘best’.”

Jack’s sly
smile presumes soooo much. But in a
flash, his smile is gone.

“At this
juncture in our relationship, I think I need to tell you… Oh never mind.”

I guess this
is where I hear some soul-searching blather about Valentina. I brace myself for
the worst. “Don’t be such a tease. Just come out and say it.”

“I don’t know
if you want to hear this.”

“Well, guess
what? You won’t know if you don’t tell me, so spit it out.”

“I love you.”

I take a deep
breath. “Ditto.”

He laughs.
“Well, that’s romantic.”

“Let’s save
the romance until after we save the world, shall we?”

“I’m glad one
of us has our priorities in order.” He stares out the window. It’s already
dark, so there is not much to look at. “Then I guess this is also a bad time to
ask you to marry me.”

I screech off
onto the shoulder of the road, and turn off the engine. As much as I like
having a thousand horsepower engine at my fingertips, I’d be disappointed if a
knee-jerk reaction came between me and my happily ever after.

“You now have
my complete attention,” I murmur sweetly.

“I’m asking
if you’ll marry me.” He picks up my hand. When his fingers wrap around mine, I
wonder why I’d ever let go.

Then the
answer hits me—to get to our final destination in one piece.

“Why now,
Jack? And why here?”

“Why not?” He
turns to face me, but his features are hidden in shadows, only revealing
themselves in the fleeting headlights of passing cars. “There will always be
some crisis to overcome. Some more… bullshit,
somewhere in the world.”

Some bad guys
to kill. Some long-buried secret to rear its ugly head.

Some
deserting spouse to confront.

Which reminds
me, “We’re both still married.”

He shrugs.
“So let’s go to Vegas and set things straight.”

He makes me
laugh. “I like the Bellagio.” I look down into my lap. “I guess you’re over
Valentina in a big way.”

He doesn’t
nod. He just looks straight ahead.

His silence
speaks volumes.

If only he’d
lied and said, “Yes, of course I am! What do you take me for, a fool?”

But no, I’m
the fool. For presuming he’s over her, just because she’s over him.

“When she saw
me, she told me Carl wasn’t in love with her. That he was still in love with
me.” I can’t help myself. I have to say it to him, to see if it makes a
difference to him.

His mouth
tightens. “Do you believe her?”

“What, about
Carl? Ha! You said it best. The only one Carl truly loves is himself, and the
power he’s able to grab from who knows where.”

“Then, why
won’t he leave you alone?”

“Because he
can’t have me. Because I love you instead.”

There. I’ve said it.

I restart the
engine and it roars back to life. “We’ve got a date with a stolen missile.
Let’s do this,” I say as Jack’s Lamborghini leaps back onto the road.

We drive the
remaining few miles in silence.

Is enough for
him to truly love me back? Or now, having been told Valentina never really had
Carl’s affections, will he try to win her back?

I know I’ll
have to wait for his answer—

“We’re here,”
he murmurs.

So we are, I think coming out of my fog.

Saved by the
bomb.

I pull into
the far side of the parking lot, out of view from the reception area, where the
security guard is parked in front of an old big screen TV that must have been
confiscated from an abandoned storage unit.

“Break a
leg,” I say as he climbs out of the car.

He shuts the
car door before he hears me whisper, “And yes, I’ll marry you.”

Maybe it’s
for the best. Let’s face it. My answer doesn’t count if he’s already changed
his mind.

 ****

In life, just
about everything is timing.

If I hadn’t
been at a certain shooting range on a certain Spring break during college, I
would have never met Carl.

If I hadn’t
been in the bedroom to answer his cell while he was in the shower one day, I
would not have set into motion the chain of events that would have made him realize
he needed to disappear from the life we’d created together.

If Acme
hadn’t been looking for a few honeypots right about the time they yanked Carl’s
pension from me, I would’ve taken a job as an assistant at a bank, or made time
to be a class mom, instead of collecting a rogue’s gallery of scalps on my
belt.

And if Jack
hadn’t brought Carl home with him after one mission went awry, Valentina would
never have fallen in love with Carl, and left Jack for him.

None of this
I regret. Because if none of it had happened, I would have never have met Jack.

What I do
regret, however, as Safe & Sound’s Storage Unit Number 121 blows off the
back wing of the building, is that Jack never heard me say “Yes” when he asked
me to marry him.

I run past
the security guard, who stumbles out of the building in a total state of shock
and denial. Deadly blasts are way above his pay scale of fourteen dollars an
hour.

“Where is the
man who just went in there?” I shout at him “Did he make it out?”

He shakes his
head and cups his ear, to indicate he hasn’t heard a word I’ve said.

I pull him
far away from the debris field, which is scattered far and wide. Coats and
dresses and pants float through the air like cloth clouds, while bed frames
pinwheel through the parking lot. Family photos float down from the night sky
in a storm of confetti.

People hold
onto too much crap.

If something
is important in your life, you’ll make room for it.

I hear
ambulances in the distance, heading this way. I don’t have much time if I’m
going to find Jack. What if he’s injured and can’t get out by himself?

I run into
the building and down the main hall, but I can’t see which way to turn because
the smoke pouring out is too thick, and worse, smells like melted plastic. I
can’t breathe. My lungs are on fire.

I’m crazy to
think Jack has survived the explosion.

As I pass
out, the only thing I can think of is how I wish I’d been with Jack at the very
end.

(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).

 


HAKCTv2The Housewife Assassin's
Killer Christmas Tips (Book 3)
 Only $3.99! 

(In online bookstores now!)

    Buy it on Amazon! Nook-button 

Logo_kobo

 

 

Apple iTunes Bookstore Ibooks


TGIF Excerpt: The Housewife Assassin’s Handbook: Granny Panties, or Ass Floss?



BlueDress2Here's my Friday treat for you: a fun excerpt from The Housewife Assassin's Handbook. Donna is still annoyed with having been paired with Jack on this latest mission. It doesn't help that he has an opinion on her sex appeal.   

Chapter
7


Be the Life of the Party

Socializing
is a big part of a housewife’s life. Lots of friends mean lots of invitations!
To keep abreast of all the activity, be sure to post a calendar
prominently—perhaps on the refrigerator. That way, your hubby has no excuse to
“forget” your social obligations. (Hint: Another gentle reminder that works
very well is a cattle prod. Don’t worry, the burn marks heal quickly…)

 ***

“We’ve got the Crichtons’ shindig tonight. Then
the Simpsons’ on Friday. And from the look of the calendar next week, another
three lined up… Jeez, you folks sure know how to party! How many bugs do we
have left?” Jack sounds grumpy.

Can’t say that I blame him. It’s the third night
this week that we’ve had a social engagement. Since his quote-unquote return,
we’ve been inundated with cocktail and cookout invitations.

My neighbors are nosy about “the mysterious Carl
Stone.”

It’s hard for me to forget all those years in
which they ignored me while Carl was supposedly on the road.

But I’ll save my pity for later. Considering our
mission, I guess this sudden burst of popularity is a blessing in disguise
since it allows us into their homes in order to plant bugs that sweep the
neighbor’s computers and their phones for any evidence that they are fronting
for the Quorum.

Unfortunately, the bugs we’ve planted have
yielded nothing.

We’re having a mission update in the one place I
know we won’t be interrupted by the children: my bedroom. I pull open my
underwear drawer, where I keep all the tracking devices. It gives new meaning
to the brand Agent Provocateur.

I do a quick count. “We’ve got enough for the
next six parties. I’ll ask Abu for refills.”

Before I can shut the drawer, Jack grabs a red
lace thong and holds it up to the light. “You mean to tell me that you actually
fit into this tiny thing?”

How dare
he!

I’ve learn to ignore his teasing. This time,
though, it’s a little too close for comfort.

I plant a supreme smile on my face. “But of
course. In fact, I’m wearing one now.”

“Really?” His tone is a dare.

What does he expect me to do, strip down to
prove a point?

As if.

Besides, I’d lose. The briefs I have on aren’t
exactly granny panties, but still, they aren’t the come-and-get-me ass floss
he’s holding, either.

As if reading my mind, he looks pointedly at the
mirror behind me:

It shows my backside very clearly.

I feel my face heating up. “Just what in hell do
you think you’re looking at?”

He cocks his head to one side. “Well, from this
angle, it looks like a VPL.”

“Huh…? What does that mean?”

“Code word for ‘visible panty line.’ But it’s
not in the official Acme manual, so don’t bother to check.”

I snatch the thong out of his hands. “Okay, so I
lied. Those aren’t everyday wear. Only when I have to go… you know,
undercover.” Enough of this crap. I shove him toward the door. “Go get dressed,
‘dear,’ or we’ll be late. Remember, we’re looking for any newbies: some single
woman named Vivian Norman, a retired couple with the last name of Neufeld, and
the Kelseys, that couple who moved in beside Hayley.”

He stops short of the threshold. “What are you
wearing tonight?”

“What’s it to you?”

“My interest is purely professional. Think of
yourself as the bait. When they bite, we get our man. Or woman.”

“Yeah, I’ll just bet you like it when they
bite.” It’s my turn to smirk. “I’ve got a little black number that will do the
trick—”

“Nah. Go for that electric blue one. Skin tight,
strapless—”

“Wait! How do you know about that one? Have you
been rummaging through my closet?”

“Don’t act so shocked. I had to see what you had
in the costume department—”

“My clothes are not costumes!”

“You don’t say?” I’d like to slap the grin off
his face. “I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, and by the way, I noticed a Singapore
Air flight attendant uniform, a nun’s habit, and a nurse’s uniform in there. I
presume none of those are typical carpool attire?”

“No—of course not!”

Okay, he’s made his point. I slam the door after
him.

Then I yank the clingy blue cocktail dress from
my closet.

And the red thong.

Neither gives me any place to hide the bug.

Here’s hoping he’s right. Otherwise I’ll be
giving the neighbors something to talk about for nothing.

(c) 2011 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).

 


HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook
(Book 1) 
Signal Press  

FREE!  AmazonKindleButton

FREE!  Logo_kobo

FREE! Apple iTunes Bookstore

 99 cents! Nook-button


 

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!

AmazonKindleButton 

Logo_kobo

Apple iTunes Bookstore 

Nook-button

 

 

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.

 

A great scene in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S HANDBOOK: Donna and Jack’s first date.

RomanticDinner2

Having your characters grow — and fall in love — is a delicate choreography for an novelist. I enjoyed putting Donna Stone, the heroine of The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, into the arms of Jack Craig, her black ops mission partner.

He truly is the spy who loves her. 

A lot that happens in this scene hints as to what is to come in the other books in the series.

Right now, it's also #7 on Amazon Kindle's Romantic Suspense/Mystery list, as well as #15 under Mysteries & Thrillers/Women Sleuths. To see why, go ahead and download it. The book is free right now, in the online bookstores listed below.

— Josie

EXCERPT

No, not that table…

But yes, the hostess at the Sand Dollar seats
Jack and me at the last table on the deck: the one closest to the surf.

The one that was Carl’s favorite.

To cover up my jitters, I order a mojito along
with the seared ahi.

“Double that order,” Jack tells our waitress.

We are silent as we stare out at the ocean. Our
drinks don’t come until the sun is melting into the horizon. As the last rays
of the day splay across the waves, the rum warms me and loosens my tongue.
Still, I’m lucid enough to keep the topic on him. “You have no accent. Where
are you from?”

“I grew up in Washington state.” He crushes the
mint in the bottom of his drink with a swizzle stick. “The Orcas Islands.”

“I hear it’s beautiful there.”

“It is. But I don’t see myself going back.”

“Why not?”

He stares out at the ocean. “There is no one to
go home to.”

Ah.

For some reason I’m glad to hear it. That makes
me a bitch, I guess. And yet, I’ve got to ask, “You never married?”

“What is this, an interrogation? Am I about to
be snatched?” To mock me, he glances over his shoulder.

“We’re getting to know each other, remember?
Besides, if I wanted to make you talk, there are easier ways than extraordinary
rendition.” This mojito is strong. I can’t tell if I’m charming him with a Mona
Lisa smile or leering like some sort of mad clown.

He leans back. “Okay, yeah, sure. You get a
question, and then I get one.”

“Fair enough.”

“So, you want to know about any attachments,
right?” He chews on his swizzle stick. “Only one that was ever serious. But
it’s over now.”

“So you’re divorced.”

His wince is quickly covered over by a shrug.
“Things… just didn’t work out. Our lives are too complicated.”

“You’re telling me.” Whatever is left in my
drink is gone in one quick swallow. “Like Carl, were you recruited out of the
military?”

He nods. “Marine Corps. I served in Somalia,
then Iraq.” His lips curdle into a grimace. “Now I’m an international man of
mystery.”

“So you enjoy this gig.”

“I wouldn’t say that.” As he reaches for his
napkin, his hand grazes mine. It sends a shiver up my spine. “But others tell
me I’m good at it.”

“Yeah, you’ve got great buzz, that’s for sure.”
I don’t have to tell him that the dish on his bedroom technique is just as
notable. The telltale sign is that all the female double agents beg to be
interrogated by him.

“Your rep is quite impressive, too.”

“I do what’s needed to get the bad guys.”

“That’s why you’re on this mission, Donna.” He
pauses, but his eyes don’t waver away from mine. “Okay, it’s my turn now. Do
you still love him?”

His question takes me by surprise. I’m choking
down my drink.

He gets up to slap me on the back. (Seriously,
does that really work?)

I shoo him away. I don’t want to be touched.

At least, not when I’m thinking about Carl. I
have too much respect for him.

But I can’t say that to him. So instead I
murmur, “Yes. I still love him.”

Jack says nothing, but his eyes deepen with
sadness. I can only presume that this is out of respect for Carl. I would never
assume that he is attracted to me.

Okay, I’ll admit it: he’s hot. Maybe that’s
because he’s the first man who has reminded me of Carl.

But no man will ever make me forget Carl.

That’s why I feel comfortable saying “Yeah,
sure…” when he asks me if I want to dance.

The live band is playing a very sultry version of
“At Last.” The lead singer, a woman named Andree Belle, has a husky murmur,
perfect for lyrics oozing with lust and innuendo.

Jack holds me lightly but firmly in his arms. We
move as if we’re floating. I could attribute this to a mojito high, but why not
give credit where it’s due? What I saw him doing with Penelope at the
father-daughter dance was just a warm-up. His hands and hips maneuver me slyly,
cajoling me into a wanton frenzy, willing me to mirror his moves.

Our bodies fit together snugly.

Maybe a bit too snugly, if in fact he isn’t
packing heat.

I’m used to seducing and then killing men when
they are at their most vulnerable. Tonight, though, it is me who is fighting
the urge to surrender.

I thank God he’s not a mark.

Even as I think that, even as he holds me near—

He ruins everything when he whispers in my ear,
“Didn’t you hate him for lying to you?”

The love tango reeling in my heart goes flat
before breaking off. I should be breathing, but I can’t.

Hate? Did I hate Carl?

Yes, of course I hated him.

For lying to me.

For leaving me.

For not loving me enough to quit Acme.

When, finally, I find my voice, what comes out
is barely a whisper. “Why would you ask such a thing?”

“Because I would, too, if I’d been betrayed like
that.”

I stumble to our chairs, grab my sweater, and
head for the car.

He stays long enough to pay the bill for the ahi
we never got to eat.

(c) 2011 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).

 


HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012

The Housewife Assassin's Handbook
(Book 1) 
Signal Press  

FREE!  AmazonKindleButton

FREE!  Logo_kobo

FREE! Apple iTunes Bookstore

 99 cents! Nook-button


Thanks, Vee, whomever you are, for loving The Housewife Assassin series!

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalThis is what a reader said about The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing  (Book 2) on Amazon:

 

"I truly enjoyed reading this book. I didn't want to put it down. I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn't reading it, anticipating the next time I'd get back to it. It was funny and engaging."

— Vee

 

Thank you, Vee, whomever you are! It made my day. We authors live and die by our reviews. It's how other readers find books that may resonate with them.

So thank you, too, for championing books you love (mine, and those of others).

— Josie

Read an excerpt here…

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

Nook-button

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…

 

To celebrate Totlandia/Book 2’s launch, Book 1 is FREE! Two days only, on Amazon!

Tot2_6x8_300dpiIf you've read Book 1 of my new series, Totlandia, you know there's a lot of snarky fun and silly shenanigans, and heart-felt drama in this posh moms-and-tots group.

In honor of the launch of Totlandia / Book 2 (Winter) , Book 1 (Fall)  is FREE, for two days ony on, Amazon

Book 2 picks up right where Book 1 left off. Now that one mother has been eliminated, the five remaining mommies are just one misstep away from entry into the elite Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club. Everyone has a scandalous secret to hide, but who will be the next to fall?

As the club's founder, Bettina, ratchets up the stress level with a series of holiday-themed challenges, the cracks begin to show. Jade's past catches up to her in the most unlikely of settings. Jillian's struggles to make ends meet are complicated by Bettina's demands. Ally's work and home lives collide, threatening to expose all of her secrets. And Lorna's already fraying family ties are torn to shreds by a series of devastating events.

With just four spots remaining, will the five remaining ladies turn cutthroat? Or will their newfound friendships be strong enough to help them band together?

http://www.totlandiatheseries.com

________________________________

EXCERPT

Monday, 5 November, 10:23 a.m.

The Tot Tales storytime moderator at the Marina branch of the San Francisco  Library certainly had her hands full reading over the bickering pair of three-year-olds whose short attention spans had deteriorated into wrestling in the back of the reading room. Otherwise, she had a captive audience of forty toddlers, including all of the PHM&T’s probationary Onesies—Dante, Wills, Oliver, Amelia, Addison and Zoe.

It had been Jillian’s turn to host today’s Onesies’ meet-up. Now that San Francisco’s weather had turned iffy, the fifty families who made up the Pacific Heights Moms & Tots Club congregated less frequently at Alta Plaza or Moscone or Lafayette parks on its playgroup days (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). Instead, the club split itself up by tot age—ten families per ‘class’—and met according to that day’s events.

For example, while the Fivesies fed sardines to the recovering seals at the Marine Mammal Center, the Foursies found inspiration at the DeYoung Museum from the costumes worn by the ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. And while the Threesies resisted the urge to swat the butterflies roaming freely through the California Academy of Science’s rainforest, the Twosies squealed in delight at a Disney on Ice show at the Cow Palace.

The Legacy Onesies mothers—those who had older children in PHM&T’s other playgroups—were allowed to take their younger children on their older children’s field trips. To their way of thinking, that was a good thing. Until this ghastly contest was over, they had all shied away from getting close to any of the Probationary Onesies. Making a new friend only to have her exiled from the club two months later wasn’t worth the risk of any future awkwardness in a Whole Foods aisle or in some ladies’ room queue at the symphony’s annual Black and White Ball.

This mindset left the Probationary Onesies to fend for themselves. Whereas all the other playgroups chose an event that required an outlay of cash, Jillian had chosen the tot reading because it was a freebie. Her own financial situation was dire, given her pending divorce. In fact, she was keeping the divorce a secret from the PHM&T applications committee, who would certainly frown upon it. Single moms weren’t welcomed into the club because they made those who enjoyed wedded bliss uncomfortable from all that bitterness emanating from the divorcees. Not to mention events where spouses were included would suddenly seem awkward. 

Jillian knew the wisdom of keeping her mouth shut.

From the looks of things, the kids were enjoying themselves. The reader was quite animated. Oliver, Zoe, Dante, Amelia and Addison, as well as little Wills, had crawled on the mat until they were right next to her, enraptured with the way her voice brought the various characters alive.

Their parents, too, listened quietly and happily. Soon though, another presence could be felt in the room. Jillian seemed the first to pick up on it. Glancing behind her, she noticed that Bettina stood silently behind them. From her blank expression, it was hard to determine how she’d rate the event.

Jillian waved hesitantly. Bettina nodded at her, motioning her to rouse the other mothers and follow her into the library’s adjoining alcove.

They were met with a grand smile. “So great to see you and your little ones having such a wonderful time! Who arranged your meet-up today?”

The others nodded or murmured toward Jillian, who practically glowed.

“Well done, Jillian,” Bettina continued. “But sadly there will be points off for the fact that the PHM&T toddlers are being exposed to children outside the club.”

“Why?” Jillian asked, confused.

“These so-called ‘free’ events have their price, too. It is usually an emotional cost. For example, the storyteller’s performance is somewhat uninspired. I’m guessing she has been booed at many a child’s birthday party. Not to mention the exposure of our little ones to the bad behavioral habits of some of the more rambunctious children in the room.”

Lorna laughed. “Okay, so the storyteller will never be up for an Oscar, but I doubt our children picked up on that. All I know is that they’re having a great time. And I’m sure there are just as many rambunctious toddlers in the California Academy of Science’s rainforest—none of whom belong to PHM&T.”

Right then and there, Lorna had made Kelly’s point for her—that she was undermining Bettina’s authority with the other Onesies moms.

“My dear, getting into the Academy is not free. That makes a big difference.” After making her point to her sister-in-law, Bettina’s eyes swept over the other mothers. “You’ve been fairly warned.”

The silence that followed had nothing to do with the fact that they were in a library, and everything to do with the fact that each of them was processing Bettina’s threat.

“On a lighter note, I’ve come up with a wonderful way for you to choose the club-wide event you’ll host.” Bettina pulled out a small-lidded candy dish from her purse. Inside were tiny folded slips of paper. “Each of you will choose one of these. A budget is included. The necessary funds come from our annual dues. Except for the after-Thanksgiving potluck, the budget allows for food and decorations. However, you must decorate, coordinate, and host it on your own. And remember, creativity is key, but organization is just as important. The best part—your event’s success is yours, too!”

What she didn’t say was implicit—fail, and you get axed.

She held the dish out toward the other women.

They exchanged wary looks. Then Ally nodded, timidly reaching into the small bowl. “It says ‘Parents’ Holiday Party, Friday, December 14th.’”

 “Wonderful! What could be better? Food, folks, and fun!” Bettina continued, “I’ll email you with the details of the location. By the way, your budget allows for a caterer.”’

After the chastisement she’d just received, Jillian considered waiting until last, but then thought better of it. Picking next would give her more options. She reached in,  pulling out a tiny slip. “‘Santa’s Visit to the Children, Monday, December 10th.’” She sighed with relief.

Lorna frowned with concern. “Um…doesn’t the club have a few members who aren’t Christian? How do they feel about Santa?”

“In fact, Jillian, your event should also include Kwanzaa and Hanukkah rites, and some Christmas caroling. In other words, think multi-cultural! But no need for Hanukkah to run the full eight days, since our children’s attention spans are at the most an hour or two.”

Jillian nodded slowly. Everyone was sure she hadn’t been mulling the details of an eight-day extravaganza. Still, it was good that Bettina had spelled it out for her.

“My turn,” Kelly said. After pulling a folded slip, she frowned. “Oh. The After-Thanksgiving Potluck.”

“Easy-peasy,” Bettina assured her. “We hold it at the Presidio Golf Club’s café. No need for a caterer because members bring the food, which you’ll coordinate by monitoring PHM&T’s online dish sign-up sheet. In the last week, you’ll arbitrarily assign a dish category to those laggards who haven’t signed up. And you’ll be in charge of decorating the clubhouse with a Thanksgiving theme. By yourself, of course.”

Kelly’s smile faded. Obviously, she hadn’t counted on a task with so many moving parts.

 “My turn!” Jade put her hand into the bowl and pulled out a tiny slip. “Oh! I have the club’s pumpkin patch visit.” 

“Excellent,” Bettina said. “I’m sure you’ll do a great job explaining the lore around fall harvest. Lots of hands-on fun for our children, what with pony rides and the cornfield maze.”

“Last but not least, I’m sure,” said Lorna, reaching in for the last slip of paper. “I have the coordination of the Recipe Book fundraiser.”

“Aren’t you lucky! With your top-notch organizational skills, it should be a breeze,” Bettina exclaimed. “Let’s see, that means you’ll be in charge of editing the recipes for our cookbook fundraiser. Just think, Lorna! You’ll get so many great ideas to enhance those tired old standbys you insist on preparing for the holidays! Oh, that’s not to imply that your own culinary skills are lacking in any way. It’s nice to polish up on them now and then. You know, just to keep from getting stale.”

As if validating this premise, Kelly gave Lorna a sympathetic pat on the wrist.

Lorna almost jerked her arm away. She had a niggling feeling she shouldn’t trust Kelly, despite the woman’s numerous attempts to ingratiate herself to Lorna. It was obvious to everyone that Kelly and Bettina were close. And just the other day, after Chakra’s dismissal, Bettina had asked Kelly to stay behind while the rest of the group dispersed.

No, something was not right. She could just feel it. Still, if she acted suspicious of Kelly just because she and Bettina were close, she might be hurting her chances of staying in the club.

Lorna smiled, masking her frustration. “You’re right, Bettina. And since it’s the club’s most important charity fundraiser of the year, I’ll do my best to make it an even bigger success than it’s ever been. It’s raised so little money in the past.”

There, she’d thrown down the gauntlet. She’d best Bettina with her pet project.

Bettina’s worried scowl was priceless.



© 2012 Josie Brown. Published in 2012 by Coliloquy Books. 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 Publisher.

Totlandia5_2 

Tot2_6x8_300dpi

Totlandia/The Onesies, Book 1 on Amazon

 

Read an excerpt of Totlandia/Book 1/The Onesies, Fall

Totlandia/ The Onesies, Book 2, on Amazon

 


 

 



Enter my contest for The Housewife Assassin’s Guide to Gracious Killing

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-FinalYippee, skippee, the second book in my Housewife Assassin series has launched: 

The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing

Buy it from 

Amazon

Donna and Jack are in to all kinds of trouble–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.

Not to mention what happens when Donna files for divorce.

Throw in a couple of off-the-map school field trips and a few naughty neighbors, you've got a whole lot of fun.

To celebrate, I'm doing two things:

First, I've lowered the price of 
The Housewife Assassin's Handbook to 99 cents! 

Also, right now I've got a brand new contest going. 
On Midnight PT, on Sunday, December 15, 2012, 
I'll be drawing the name of some lucky winner 
for a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice.

To enter, all you have to do is read the excerpt 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? 

Gift-cardYou 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 either Amazon (1 point) or BN.com (1 point).

– If you've read it, give a review for The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, on Amazon (1 point), on BN.com (1 point), and iTunes Bookstore (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!)

– If' you've read it, give a review to The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing on Amazon (1 point). Soon it will be up on BN.com (1 point), and Apple iTunes Bookstore. So you can do it there, too. 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 bonus action means an additional point! 

Email me with any bonus points, and I'll be sure to include them.

You. Will. Love. It,

— Josie

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

Great scene in THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN’S HANDBOOK…

Man_with_towelSome mid-week petite amusement:

As I put the finishing touches on the Book 2 in my Housewife Assassin series (The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing) I'm also having fun re-reading The Housewife Assassin's Handbook. The best thing you can offer your readers is an unexpected–and completely believeable–plot twist. The one you'll read below turns the life of my heroine, Donna Stone*, on her head .

Enjoy!

–Josie

 

 

“Mom–” Jeffrey is standing at the door, an ashen look on his face.

I sigh, and shake my head. “Not now, sweetie. Mary and I are–”

“But Mom, someone is here!” Jeff’s eyes are open wide in fear.

“What? Where, at the front door?”

“No. He’s in – your bedroom.”

“My – my bedroom? Where – where’s your little sister?” I try to keep the panic out of my voice as I hurry toward the stairs. Mary and Jeff are right on my heels.

Too late. I see Trisha standing on the threshold of my bedroom door. She hovers there, as if deciding whether or not to go in.

The rest of us freeze, hearing what has drawn her to the door: running water.

Coming from the shower. No…whoever is there has just turned it off.

I make it to Trisha in time to see the master bathroom’s door open slowly. I turn around and thrust my baby girl into Mary’s arms, who is close on my heels. But before I have time to whisper frantically for them to run back down the stairs and out the door, he is standing there, in front of us.

Although I have my back to him, I know this because I see it on my children’s faces: fear, anger—

Hope.

Slowly I turn around and see him:

He is tall, handsome, and humming off-key. One hand holds the towel wrapped around his taut middle. The other is wiping down his broad, muscled chest as he saunters over to us.

Over to me.

A wisp of shaving cream still clings to the dimple in his jaw. His dark hair has coiled into a bed of damp curls. His seductive grin is totally captivating.

And boy, does he know it.

“Honey, I’m home,” he murmurs casually, as if we’d seen each other just this morning.

Is this a dream? How could this be?

What the hell is happening here?

Before I have a chance to catch my breath, he is standing next to the children. “Ah, so this is Trisha! My god, you’re the sweetest littlest princess in the world! Give me a big, big hug – yes, that’s my girl! Jeff – wow, boy, how about a shake, huh? You’re quite a bruiser, eh kid? – ”

Their wariness melts away under his awed, approving gaze.

And now it’s Mary’s turn:

Mary, the most jaded – and yes, the most traumatized – of all my children. He seems to know this instinctively, which is why he does all the right things: the tantalizing smile, the warm hug, and the gentle pat, as if she is a fragile piece of china that might break if he’s not careful . . .

“Ah, Mary,” he murmurs softly, gently. “You beautiful little heartbreaker, you–”

But none of this takes her in. Instead, she looks over to indicate that she’ll take her cue from me.

It’s my call.

So, what do I do now? Embrace him with open arms, or put him on the spot in front of the ones whose approval counts the most: my children?

Then, before I know it, he has me in his arms. I feel his lips gently brush over mine, too quick to resist –

The kiss is sweet . . . deep . . . tempting.

Perfect.

Jeff and Trisha, their radar always in tune, seem to pick up on this and shove us all, including Mary, into a group hug. They too are confused; but thrilled nonetheless.

Finally, their father has come home to them.

We stay suspended in the clinch for what seems like forever.

Then, one by one, the children break away.

Mary, her face a kaleidoscope of emotions, is the first. Slowly and awkwardly, she backs out of the room. The others, less out of doubt than natural shyness, follow suit, closing the door quietly behind them.

I wait until I hear the click of the knob.

Then I turn to him, and with a shy smile, I give him a sidekick to the solar plexus that lands him flat on his face, gasping for breath.

His pain is doubled when, a second later, I’ve wrenched his arm behind his back, straight up and out.

“So tell me, you audacious son of a bitch,” I whisper. “Who you are, and what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

 

*Not her real name

© 2011 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).


HAH-Hanging-Man-Oct-5-2012

(Book 1)
Signal Press  

FREE!  AmazonKindleButton

FREE!  Logo_kobo

FREE! Apple iTunes Bookstore

 99 cents! Nook-button

 

 

"This is a super sexy and fun read that you shouldn't miss! How do I love this book, let me count the ways: (1.) A kick ass woman that can literally kick ass as well as cook and clean.  Donna gives a whole new meaning to "taking out the trash". (2.) The book is set around Los Angeles, mostly in a gated community suspiciously like Coto de Caza, full of housewives that could be 'real" and for the setting alone, a big giant WIN! (3.) Super sarcasm, snarky dialogue and making fun of all that is wrong in the OC, politics, as well as current world affairs."  
— Mary Jacobs, Book Hounds Reviews

"The chemistry between the two of them is enough to set water on fire. Add in a healthy dose of humor and ridiculousness, some mayhem, and some really cute kids, and you've got a book that won't be putdown – so go pick it up now!" 
— Cat's Thoughts

Great line in The Housewife Assassin’s Guide to Gracious Killing

He presses the zipper into my skin as he inches it up, ever so slowly. When he is done, I feel his lips grazing my neck. They linger there as he breathes in the scent of my skin, sweat, and disgust.

How I long to smash that champagne bottle over my host’s head, but seriously, what kind of guest would that make me?

On sale October 2012.
Get on my eLetter list, so that you'll be the first to know when…

Guide-to-Gracious-Killing-v6

 

 Cover: ClickTwiceDesign.com

In the meantime, read

 

HAH-Hanging-Man-New-BlueThe Housewife Assassin's Handbook

Murder. Suspense. Sex. And some handy household tips.

AmazonKindleButton

Nook-button     

Itunes_01

"This is a super sexy and fun read that you shouldn't miss!"
–Mary Jacobs, Bookhounds

Hollywood, here I come–with THE BABY PLANNER tour!

27355-Baby-Planner-160x600 I'm ready for my close-up, and so is THE BABY PLANNER!

I'd like to invite you to attend one of my free events, taking place while I'm in the Southern California. Here's the deets:


Posies & Ponies
7449 Girard Avenue, La Jolla, CA 92037
858.551.0434
(just south of the intersection of Pearl)

Hosted by baby planner
Heather Atkinson
Baby Bump & Beyond 

RSVP here via email
or RSVP on Facebook

***** 

Los Angeles, CA
Sat May 21, 1pm

Children's Wonderland
11726 Barrington Court  90049 
310.440.9970

Hosted by baby planner
Denise Xagorarakis
OCBabyPlanner.com

RSVP via email
or RSVP on Facebook

*****

Granola Babies
2346 Newport Blvd., B-1, 92627
800.560.9534

Hosted by baby planner 
Denise Xagoraraki
OCBabyPlanner.com
 

RSVP via eMail 
or RSVP on Facebook

*******

The tour's national sponsors include:

I look forward to meeting you there!

The Baby Planner
[Simon & Schuster/Gallery, in bookstores April 5, 2011]


"Brown (Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives) takes baby mania to its illogical, hysterical extreme in this bubbly romp…. But what begins as a light foray into Bugaboo country turns into something bigger than a satire of status-obsessed Bay Area yummy mummies as Brown takes a dark look at the fears of parenthood and family, with Katie's heartbreaking longing for a child unveiling a disturbing reality about her marriage and family. Still, the message from the somber realities is one full of hope: love makes a family, commitment keeps it together."

–Publishers Weekly







 

Win a $100 Gift Card to Your Favorite Bookstore!

Stack of books See that smile? See that stack of books? This woman could be you!

All you have to do is read this excerpt of THE BABY PLANNER, and email the following, to BabyPlannerNovel@gmail.com

– The correct answer;

– Your name, snail mail address so I can send the gift card to you, if you're my lucky winner; and

– A "nickname" for you, that will be posted on the "Possible Winners" page;

Entries close on Midnight Pacific Time, Father's Day, June 19, 2011.

The winner will be drawn from all correct entries the next day, from my favorite bookstore (Books, Inc., 2251 Chestnut Street, San Francisco) and posted on my website. I'll also email the winner to get the name of their favorite bookstore.

Bonus Points when you do this:

Bonus Point+1: Friend me on Facebook, at 
http://www.facebook.com/Josie.Brown.Author.Page, and/or

 

Bonus Point+1: Friend me on Twitter, at
http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA

 

Additional Bonus Points for doing this, as often as once a day:

Bonus Point+2: Send a friend to this page, and they email back with the correct answer and their pertinent info, along with this line: "(Your Name) invited me to enter your contest."

 

Bonus Point+2: Tweet or FB up this statement:

I <3 the excerpt of @JosieBrownCA's #BabyPlannerNovel! Read it here 4 a chance 2 win $100 bookstore giftcard: http://tinyurl.com/6enlweq

 

  

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN TO READ THE EXCERPT HERE…AND GOOD LUCK!

Baby Planner 600w

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." 
Jackie Collins, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl

"The Baby Planner is as a delight.  I wondered, as I was reading it, how I every managed without a baby planner, and by the end I wondered how I ever managed without its author, Josie Brown." 
—Eileen Goudge, New York Times bestselling author of Once in a Blue Moon

"I loved this juicy-as-it-it-is-heartfelt novel about love, marriage, friendship and sharp, manicured claws. Could not put it down!"
—Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy

"Poignant and funny! Josie Brown's protagonist is strong, resilient, and unflinchingly honest: she has all the skills she needs to navigate the 'mean streets' of the gated community of Paradise Heights. A great read!" 
—Wendy Wax, author Magnolia Wednesdays

“Brown proves that a story with suburban bodies can be just as suspenseful as one with dead bodies! Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives is a probing, entertaining fishbowl of married life in a well-heeled, wayward neighborhood. Loved it!”  
—Stephanie Bond, author of Body Movers series

"I loved it! Josie Brown captures the highs and lows of love, lust and marriage with heartwrenching  pathos. I'm recommending it to all my friends as the perfect beach read!"

Lisa Rinna, actress, and author of the novel, Starlit,  
and the personal growth book, Rinnavation

 

“I Want To Be Your Secret Santa” Contest

Secret+santa The best thing about the holidays is giving, not getting. I feel very blessed this year. One way in which I plan to give back is to play Secret Santa for one lucky reader. The prize: a $50 gift card to the book store of your choice.

Here's how it works:

1. Read this excerpt of my latest novel, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives. The set-up: a holiday potluck at the local country club of my heroine, Lyssa Harper. She's befriended Harry Wilder, a recently separated stay-at-home father, to the consternation–make that envy–of the women who were once her closest friends: Brooke, Tammy, Margot, and Colleen. 

After you read the excerpt, below, everything you do, also listed here, gives you yet another chance to win this gift. For example, you can:

2. Comment below about one character, and how his/her actions made you, smile, laugh, cry, or shake your head in wonder. (earns you 1 chance)

3. Post about my Secret Santa Contest on your Facebook page, this way (1 chance per post, per day):

Want a chance to win a $50 giftcard to your favorite bookstore? Just enter @Josie Brown's Secret Santa Contest: http://bit.ly/fK1Uy3

4. Post about my Secret Santa Contest on your Twitter page, this way (1 chance per post, per day):

Want a chance to win a $50 giftcard to your favorite bookstore? Just enter @JosieBrownCA's Secret Santa Contest: http://bit.ly/fK1Uy3

5. Friend me on my Facebook Fan Page (1 chance)

6. Friend me on my Twitter Page (1 chance)

7. Blog about it! (2 chances)

I'll be keeping a running list of all entrants, here, and updated every evening by Midnight PT of Christmas Day, December 25, 2010, when the contest ends. The winning entry will be chosen out of a Santa hat, by one of my favorite booksellers, sometime on December 26th. That person's nickname will be posted here, and on the Entrants page.

 Good luck, and have a happy merry holiday!

–Josie

 


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

____________________________________________________________

EXCERPT:

Pot_300 The clubhouse is buzzing with polite laughter and forced cheer. Everyone is there, even the Undesirables. What better way to elicit envy than to open the red velvet rope to the wannabes every now and then?

Crammed onto the tables lining the center of the room are a myriad of leftovers, which are more than the sum total of a few carefully chosen, specifically measured ingredients. While these dishes are served up with pride, they are also leavened with memories both fond and wince-worthy.

I speak for myself. Yesterday left a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

I’m only here to eat up time until Ted and I can talk things out later this evening. Does he have reason to be jealous? Not on Harry’s account. I appreciate Harry’s friendship, and I know this feeling is reciprocated. But let’s face facts: he has never come onto me.

Okay, yeah, I’ll admit it. That disappoints me. It’s not that I’m looking for an affair. I wouldn’t trade the friendship and respect Harry and I share now for that. . .

But hell, if Ted is going to accuse me of it anyway —

Not to mention Tammy and the others on the Heights Women’s League Board.

Just what the hell are they staring at, anyway? Seems they can’t keep their eyes off us.

But of course not. Because they want validation that what they suspect is true.

This is why they assess—make that obsess—over every move we make.

They take note of the way in which Harry hovers over me protectively. How his asides are addressed to me alone. How he scans my face appreciatively.

Then they wait for my reaction. I’m fully aware that, if I dare lean into him, eyebrows will be raised. If, involuntarily, I laugh out loud, they’ll poke each other knowingly. And heaven forefend I should allow my eyes to meet his! If that happened, rumors would race through the room almost as quickly as the children here, who are hopped up on soda, pie and ice cream.

“Hey, you haven’t heard a word I’ve said, have you?” Harry says this as if it were a joke, but the sadness in his eyes is proof he knows he’s right.

“Sure I have. You were—something about . . .Okay, sorry, I give up.” I force a smile onto my lips.

“If I’m boring you, feel free to play with your girlfriends. I won’t be jealous.” He flashes a knowing smile, but I reel in my tendency to punch him in the arm for it. Instead I shake my head. Anything more obvious will give them reason to presume they’re onto something:

That what we have is more than just wishful thinking on their parts.

And on mine.

“Go up to Margot and her court? Thanks, smart ass, but I’ll pass on the honor.” Oddly, that thought is liberating.

“Eventually you’ll have to say something. In a month’s time you’ll be their new queen. Won’t it help if you cozy up to Margot?”

 “You know, I could say the same to you. Shouldn’t you two kiss and make up?”

He derisive guffaw has them all aflutter. “The price is too high.”

Yeah, well I feel the same way.

“Hey, wait here I’m going to see if I can take care of this stain.” I head off to the lavatory, but when I get there, I find the door locked. I hear a weird pounding on the other side, so I wait a few minutes before knocking again.

Tootan Finally it opens. Masha Shriver struts out. Her crass brass locks flares out from her head, like Medusa’s snakes gone wild. Her winter white dress defies gravity. It’s strapless and boasts a neckline that plunges below her navel. Considering the amount of rain we’ve been getting, her deep tan is unexpected, not to mention unusual in color. (For the record, I am of the opinion that bruised papaya is not a good look.)

Masha is not alone. Despite his guilty look, I recognize the man who is still zipping up his pants as he maneuvers past me as one of our friendly neighborhood bankers.

Apparently the Shrivers’ account is paying off with some unexpected dividends.

“Oh . . . I’m sorry. I just needed to . . . You’re Masha, right? I’m Lyssa. I’m a friend of Pete’s.” At a loss for what to do next, I stick out my hand.

Very awkward. Pete’s name does not elicit the response I’d expected. Instead she glares at me, as if I’ve just cursed her firstborn. (Despite the hickey Tanner received the night of the poker game compliments of her daughter Natassia, I don’t feel that would be necessary. It was bound to happen sooner or later.)

“Pete? Ah, LYZZA. Yez, I know of yooouuu!” I don’t know if it’s her Slavic accent that has her slurring her words, or her vodka intake, but I’m willing to guess the latter. The fumes from her breath have me reeling. As she grabs me by the shoulders with both hands and hugs me to her chest, she whispers in my ear: “Streep poker, yez? Not to worry. I not mad. You see, I have ’hobby,’ too! But, hey, not one verd to my Pete, dah?” She pushes me away.

I stumble into the bathroom, bruised from where she held my shoulders. I’m sure I have two contusions on my chest that match whatever nipple armor she’s bearing.

I’ve been marked in another way, too: Thanks to Masha’s spray-on tan, my brand new sweater has been tagged with her fingerprints and a faint V that matches her neckline.

“Damn it! Damn it!” The soup has already dried into a dark, impenetrable shadow, while dabbing at the new stains only spread them into a treacly Orangina.

Stain My new outfit is ruined. Would it help if I bang my head against the wall? Nah. But if I’d die, they’d have an obvious clue for a murder suspect.

Then there’s the issue about Pete. He is a buddy after all. If he were a girlfriend, of course I’d speak up. But what is the mancode about such things?

Harry knows the code. And since I don’t need any more enigmas in my life, tag he’s it.

I find Harry chatting up Biker Mom. When he sees me, he waves me over. Instinctively I glance around to see if Brooke is anywhere around. Oh great, she’s glaring at him from across the room. Between this and my most recent introduction to a supposedly friendly face, I don’t need to a frantic call later from Brooke, calling me a traitor.

Seeing my concern, Harry excuses himself and casually meanders over. “What, you’re not into making new friends?” As he plucks a cookie off a dessert tray, he does a doubletake at the new stains on my sweater. “She promised me a ride in her Maseratti. I was going to ask if you could tag along, but now I don’t know. I mean, what if you stain her seats?”

“Forget the joy ride, Andretti. We have bigger fish to fry. I just caught Masha in the lady’s room with First National Bank of Paradise Heights.” I tilt my head in the direction of Masha’s boyfriend, who is scurrying after her into the clubhouse’s coatroom. Even from where I’m standing I can see a large orange streak on his sweater. He is a marked man. “What’s the protocol? Do we tell Pete?”

“Jesus.” Harry closes his eyes for a moment. And shakes his head. “Yeah, well, I’d want to know. Wouldn’t you?”

“Of course!” Harry was right. Yesterday’s tiff with Ted now seems silly. I can’t wait for him to come home.

Harry tosses the last crumb of cookie into his mouth and wipes his hands. “Well, when you tell him, be gentle—”

“Whoa, whoa, wait . . . who, me? Think again, slick. You’re his closest friend.”

Harry groans. “If I remember correctly, that was your doing.” It takes a while, but he nods. “Okay, but I don’t think this is the time or the place.”

“I leave it to your discretion.” I give him a thumbs-up. “Oh great, Brooke is coming over, I guess to call you a traitor.”

He laughs. “Is that better or worse than an Undesirable? I forget.”

“In your case, it’s one and the same.” I glance around the room for our salvation. It comes in the form of Cal, who is standing uncomfortably beside Bev. True to form, Bev is oblivious to this. She has trapped the Emersons in a corner. No doubt she’s giving them a pitch about a house she knows would be perfect for them, now that they’re pregnant again and will need the extra space.

“Why don’t we save Cal instead? The girls are downright afraid of him, so that should keep them away for while.”

Immediately I move in, tapping Bev lightly on the shoulder. “Hi, Bev! I just want to thank you for putting in that call to the Heights Market regarding the Food Drive. It’s what made the drive an over-the-top success.”

As Bev turns to me to say something, the Emersons see their opportunity and scurry away. I see by the look in her eyes that she’s is tempted to run after them, but realizes this is bad form, even for her. “Oh yeah, hi, Lyssa! Glad I could be of some help. Really, it was Calvin’s idea, but hey, all in the family, right?”

“You know Harry Wilder, right?” I move to the side so that Harry can shake her hand.

“Yes! I mean, of course I know of you—” She looks at him curiously. “—Well, about the . . . you know–”

"My poker games? I hope Cal attending doesn’t interfere –”

Cal? Oh, yes! Not at all! So sweet of you to have him over! But what I meant is that, with the way the divorce is going and all, you’ll probably need this—”

She pulls out a refrigerator magnet. On it is her profile and name, with that patented Bev Bullworth slogan: Great Service, No Bull—

Harry stares down at it. “Thanks . . .I guess.”

“It’s so you’ll remember to call me! You know, when you’re ready to buy your condo.” She expresses just right amount of sympathy. “Cal tells me you’ll want to stay in the neighborhood and keep commuting in, so that you can be close to the kids. You know, one of those new units they’ve built off Main have come available. It isn’t so roomy, granted. But the HOA is very small—”

“Why would I want a condo? I already have a house.” He glares at Cal, who backs away from Bev, horrified. Whatever hole she’s digging for herself, he is not going to jump into it with her.

“Yes, but not for long. You know how these things usually go. DeeDee’s got the natural edge—”

“Is that what you think? That, just because she’s the woman, she’s a better mother than I am a father?”

“Well . . . I . . . No, of course not!” Bev’s backpedalling is insincere despite her cheeriness. “But it never hurts to be prepared, right? Eventually, when the court rules on the situation, you’ll have to give up the ghost—”

I put my hand on Harry’s arm so that he remembers where he is, but he shrugs it off. I’m too late anyway. Slackened jaws, including many stuffed with leftovers, hang open as everyone tunes in on our little drama. Margot smiles triumphantly. To her mind, Harry’s comeuppance–at the hand of Bev Bullworth, no less!—is just dessert.

“Thanks for your concern.” Harry’s words are brittle and empty. “But do me a favor and give it a break, at least until the court ruling. Better yet, here–” He hands her back her magnet. “Save it for the next time you see DeeDee.”

Before she can say anything else, Harry walks off in the direction of the front door. I follow him out, as does Cal.

“Wait, Harry! Look . . .I’m sorry Bev said all those stupid things.” Cal hangs his head. “Sometimes she speaks before she thinks.”

 “She’s just parroting back the party line around here.” Harry shrugs. “Ah, shit, here comes Pete. I guess we should tell him about Tanner’s and Jake’s suspensions.” Harry shifts uneasily, but waves our friend over anyway. “Do you want to do the honors, or shall I?”

“By that long face, maybe he already knows.”

I’m poise to verify this, but Pete brushes me aside. “Anyone seen Masha?”

Harry gives me a warning nudge. He doesn’t have to worry. Since I’ll have to break the news about Tanner and Jake’s tomfoolery, the last thing I’m going to mention is Masha’s, too.

“Damn! She asked me to go home and get her sweater because she felt a chill. I guess she forgot her coat is right here, in the coatroom.” He rushes off down the hall.

Harry and I look at each other, then take off after him, with Cal trailing after us.

But we’re too late. We get there just in time to see him freeze over his wife, who is in a love tussle with the guy who doles out the cash from his trust fund.

In a flash he yanks Masha’s boyfriend up by his hair. What comes off in his hand has Pete turning white. Those who suspected BofPH sports a toupee can now collect on their bets.

Livid, the guy flails back at Pete. Unfortunately for him Pete’s daily workouts give him a leg up. Pete’s lip may be split, but it’s BofPH’s nose that’s pushed out of joint.

Cal and I brace for what Pete might have in store for Masha as he lifts her, naked, out of the coat nest she and her lover made on the floor. Seeing her that way only confirms what I suspected since our run-in: yep, she does indeed have an all-over tan.

At this point a good smack won’t make up for my stained sweater, but I have to admit it would give me some satisfaction. Instead, Pete cradles his wife in his arms. “Did he hurt you? I swear, if he did—”

She shrugs, but the look on her face reflects what we’re all thinking:

You poor, pathetic, fool.

Sad Guy Closing the door behind us, Harry shakes his head in disbelief. “Unbelievable! Now, that’s what I call ’denial.’ Doesn’t he see what’s happening?”

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say “No, because he doesn’t want to” but I keep quiet. What’s the point? I’m guessing we’ve all been there at one time or another.

Even Harry.

Especially Harry.

__________________________________________

Excerpted from Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives by Josie  Brown.

Copyright © 2010 by Josie Brown. Published in June 2010 by Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press. 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 Publisher.

Halloween Horror Story: a Divorce

Scary Pumpkin eats its young! I love Halloween. When my kids were younger, one of the thrills of living right off Caledonia Street in Sausalito, California, was that you were at Ground Zero for the town's trick or treat chicanery. The evening would start with a parade of li'l ghosts, goblins and costumes-du-jour, a costume judging contest, and then a promenade through the grid of streets that flank Caledonia Street before snaking up into the hills of Sausalito's weather-blessed banana belt.

Our street, Locust, was only one long block, filled with small cottages, or duplexes, some on flag lots. We lived there for almost six years. Except for us, the Pierracinnis next door, and one other family, most of those living on Locust were inhabited by people whose children had left the next, or house-sharing young adult renters, so they didn't necessarily see the need for decorating their homes for the occasion, let alone handing out candy.

On the other hand, one street over — Turney — was Halloween heaven. Everyone put out carved pumpkins. Some went overboard, decorating this beautiful street of Victorians with the haute of haunted house accessories. One guy went so far as to deck out his garage as Transylvania, an jump out of a coffin as a vampire. As yo ucan imagine, the line went around the block to enter his freak show.

Not to be outdone, Martin and I would create a diarama by putting scary full-head masks on the heads of  a couple of scarecrows made by stuffing old pants and plaid shirts with plastic bags filled with newspapers. We'd then pose them on a couple of chairs on the porch. They'd be reading THE SIGNAL, the newspaper edited by Martin. Scary music would be emanating from loud speakers perched on the window sills. Coffins of political candidates were in our postage stamp of a yard, underneath the camellia bushes that were so large that they were pruned into trees. Usually a body hung there in effigy.

All in good fun.

So many trick-or-treaters stopped by that we'd go through 500 pieces of candy before nine o'clock. I have to admit that I'd make the kids go through their candy sacks and kick back anything they felt they wouldn't eat, so I could feed the angry mob seemed to never end.

By the time we left Locust Street, I'm happy to report all the neighbors were into decorating on Halloween. Maybe they saw how much fun we'd had, and wanted to get into the act. Or maybe they were tired of Turney being the go-to street, and wanted to show some street pride.

Besides, how do you stop a swarm of trick-or-treaters?

You don't. You just go with the flow.

When I concepted my book, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, the one thing I knew for sure was that I was going to start the story on Halloween. Not because the book is scary–although its topic, divorce, is a horror tale for those who live through one–but because, to me, it is one of the ultimate family experiences. By their nature, children love to play dress up. Halloween celebrates that, and parents celebrate any and all things that make thier kids happy and excited–even if it is induced by sugar. Just think of all the pictures we take of them as they go from toddler to teen–or I should say, from cute costume onesies, to some 'ho couture that even Lady Gaga would be too shy to wear (as if).

Yes, a perfect place to start a book about a family–husband, wife, thirteen-year-old boy and five year-old girl–who mask their emotions during the divorce, and their neighbors' fears that their personal failures are somehow contagious.

Enjoy the excerpt, below.

Happy Halloween,

–Josie

Josie's Latest Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

Order today:

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

From Target

 

SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES / by Josie Brown

Chapter 1

 

“Getting divorced just because you don’t love a man

is almost as silly as getting married just because you do.” —Zsa Zsa Gabor


Thursday, 7: 32 p.m.

 

“You know how I hate to gossip, but . . .”

 That is how Brooke Bartholomew always begins before she launches into a piece of hearsay. She knows and I know (for that matter, everyone knows) that she is the most notorious gossipmonger in our gated community of Paradise Heights.

 So, yes, this will be juicy.

 “Don’t be such a tease,” I answer. “Just spill it.”

 “It’s about DeeDee and Harry Wilder,” she whispers. “They’ve split up. For good!”

Preschooler as Halloween Fairy Her tone has me looking around to see if the leads in Brooke’s drama are within hearing distance. But it’s hard to tell because it is dark, and everyone, even the adults, is in costume. Witches, Harry Potters, Shreks, and vampires zigzag across Bougainvillea Boulevard, lugging king-size 300-count pima cotton pillowcases filled with all kinds of individually wrapped miniature candy bars. For Brooke, it is not just Halloween but Christmas too: her husband, Benjamin, is Paradise Heights’s dentist and will reap what Hershey’s has sown.

 I check to see that my daughter, Olivia, is out of earshot but still within sight. To my chagrin, she and her posse of five-year-olds are racing up the circular staircase of the Hendricksons’ New Orleans‑style McMansion. All the girls are dressed as fairies, which in HalloweeSpeak translates into gossamer wings and long tulle skirts over leotards. It is inevitable that one of them will slip, fall, and cry, so I cannot take my eyes off them, even to gauge the veracity of Brooke’s raw data. For the first time tonight I notice that Temple, DeeDee and Harry’s youngest, is not one of the winged creatures flittering in the crush in front of me.

 The nickname given the Wilders by my very own clique, the board of the Paradise Heights Women’s League, comes to mind: the Perfect Couple. Until now, it fit like a glove. Both DeeDee and Harry are tall, golden, patrician, and aloof. They are Barbie and Ken dolls come to life. Rounding out the family is their thirteen-year-old son, Jake, the star of the Paradise Heights Middle School basketball team. Our oldest boy, Tanner, is part of his entourage, as is Brooke’s son, Marcus. Temple is exactly Olivia’s age. With those gilt coiling ringlets and that dimpled smile, Temple is not just the kindergarten set’s unabashed leader but beautiful as well, which is why all the other little girls aspire to be her.

 While the Wilders seem friendly enough during the social gatherings that put them in close proximity to the rest of us mere mortals, they never engage, let alone mingle. In Harry’s case, I presume he thinks his real life—that is, his office life—is too foreign for us to grasp: he is a senior partner in the international securities division of a large law firm, where every deal trails a long tail of zeros.

But DeeDee has no such excuse. She doesn’t work, yet she pointedly ignores our invitations to lunch, preferring to spend the precious hours between school drop-off and pickup gliding through the posh little shops on Paradise Heights’s bustling Main Street. Heck, even the Heights’ working mommies try harder to fit in. The overflow crowd at the Women’s League Christmas party is proof of that, as are the numerous corporate sponsorships they secure for the school district’s annual golf tournament fund-raiser.

 Proving yet again that mommy guilt is the greatest of all human motivators.

 And now that the Wilders’ crisis has been exposed to the masses, DeeDee’s force field will stay up permanently, for sure.

 “No way! The Wilders?” I say to Brooke. “Why, I just saw them together last weekend, at the club. He didn’t leave her side even once. And I know for a fact that DeeDee was at the school yesterday, for the Halloween costume contest.” Although I wasn’t there, Ted, my husband, mentioned seeing her. I stayed home with our younger son, Mickey, who has a nasty case of head lice, the scourge of the elementary school set. Not fun at any time, but doubly distressing to a nine-year-old boy on a day in which all class work is suspended in honor of a candy orgy.

 To get his mind off what he was missing, Mickey and I spent the morning carving two more pumpkins to join the family of five already displayed on our steps and spraying a spiderweb of Silly String on the porch banister. Ted, who is too fastidious to have appreciated our haphazard handiwork, has elicited promises from us both that all of this sticky substance will be pulled off first thing tomorrow morning, before it has time to erode the nice new paint job on our faux-Victorian.

 Now, as I keep watch over Olivia’s raid on the neighbors’ candy stashes, Ted is at home with Mickey, parsimoniously doling out mini Mounds bars. Despite having purchased forty bags of the stuff, neither of us will be surprised if we run out long before the last trick-or-treater has come and gone. That is the downside to having a house that is smack-dab in the middle of Bougainvillea Boulevard, where all things pertaining to Paradise Heights begin and end. Because of this, poor Mickey will have to share whatever goodies Tanner and Olivia bring home. I don’t look forward to the fight that breaks out over who gets the Godiva candy bar and who is left with the smashed caramel apple.

 “Yeah, well, apparently it happened yesterday morning. From what I heard, he came home early from work so that he wouldn’t miss the Halloween parade—and found her in bed with another man.” Brooke waves her little hellion, Benjamin Jr., on toward his older brother, Marcus, who has been trying all night to ditch the kid. Having been an only child, Brooke cannot accept the notion that a thirteen-year-old wouldn’t want to hang with his only sibling, especially one seven years his junior.

 Frankly, I think all of Brooke’s energy would have been better spent on some therapy over her own traumas. “My god! That’s horrible! Do you think it’s for real?”

 “Who knows? For that matter, who cares?” Brooke arches a cleanly plucked brow. “Anyway that’s the rumor, and it’s too good not to be true, so I’m sticking with it. Besides, Colleen was behind Harry in line at Starbucks. She overheard him bickering with DeeDee on his cell. Seems she’s asked for a divorce, but he’s fighting her for everything: the kids, the house—even the dog! In fact, he also told one of his partners that he planned back cut back his hours at work to prove he should be the one to get full custody. Look, I say ’where there’s smoke, there’s fire.’”

 And they say that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Bullshit. What guy wouldn’t go for the throat, particularly one who’s just been made a laughingstock in the neighborhood?

 Frankly, I can’t really blame him, since I’d do exactly the same thing. Still, I wonder what he’ll do if he does get it all. I’m of the theory that househusbands are born, not made. And they are certainly not made from high-powered corporate attorneys like Harry Wilder, who live for the thrill of the deal.

 But I don’t say this to Brooke, who wears her sistah solidarity on her silk Cavalli sleeve. If what she says is true, then there is no reason to feel sorry for DeeDee in the first place. Harry is the one we should pity, since he has no idea what he’s in for. I’m willing to bet he’ll reconsider his stance the first time Jake needs to be carpooled to basketball at the same time Temple has to be at ballet and it’s not until they are halfway there that she tells him she’s forgotten her tights.

  “So, who is DeeDee’s boyfriend?”

 Frustrated because her reconnaissance is incomplete in this one very important area, Brooke’s perfect moue of a mouth turns down at the sides. This is what passes for a frown when your social calendar revolves around standing appointments for Botox and collagen injections. “Since neither of them is talking, your guess is as good as mine. But don’t worry, I’ve got my spies working on it.” She winks broadly.

 That trail might be cold right now, but she is a good enough gossip hound that I’ve no doubt we’ll know the answer by the end of the week.

 As we pass DeeDee and Harry’s authentic-looking Tuscan villa, I notice that all the lights are off and the bougainvillea-wrapped wrought-iron gates are locked. The Wilders did not even leave out the requisite consolation: a plastic pumpkin filled with candy and sporting a sign that begs visitors to Take Just One and Leave The Rest for Others.

 Once again, Brooke is right: there is trouble in Paradise Heights.

 (c) 2010 Josie Brown. Published in June 2010 by Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press. 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 Publisher.

Tome of the Mommy: The Runaway Mom

MotherandChild2 Not everyone is cut out to have children.

Is that a blasphemy to say?

No. Because we all know it's true.

Admit it: Doesn't your belly tighten with dread when you're in the presence of some woman who is visibly annoyed with, or publicly derisive to, her kid, embarrassing the poor thing in front of you or others?

You wonder: "If you can't find a way to say it to your child with respect, you don't deserve him. And he certainly doesn't deserve you."

You're right.

Children deserve parents who are ready to take on the 24/7/lifetime responsibility to feed and nurture, to love and honor, to challenge and inspire them.

Most parents strive to honor this commitment.

But some don't.

And not all of these are deadbeat dads.

Some are runaway moms.

Whereas many of us women act on the yearning to have children, and hold them dear until our dying day, for whatever reason their are others who have made the decision to leave their children, to move on in their lives without them.

One young sister and brother, based in India, is currently suing their mother to come home to them. She moved to Canada. They are being raised by their father, a professional music teacher, who "says the love and affection of a mother are important in the upbringing
of a child and hence the petition aimed to bring his children's mother
back into their lives…"

True, that.

And yet, there are two sides to every story.

Not every woman is ready to become a mother. Not every woman wants to be a mother, even if she finds herself pregnant. 

And not every woman who leaves her children — for a day, a week or two, or even a month or longer — regrets doing so.

But yes, there are some who are. Even if they can't admit it to themselves.

Even if they can't admit it to their children.

The consequences of the runaway mom's decision is felt throughout the lifetime of the children left behind. Life-long resentment is to be expected. Wariness to get into adult relationships because of fears of abandonment is not uncommon. The decision to forgo have children themselves is, sadly, another outcome. Their own role models were awful. They, too, are afraid at failing at this momentous challenge.

Then their are those children, now grown, who use this life experience to better themselves. They become the kind of mother and fathers their own runaway parents never were to them.

They want to prove to themselves that they are not anything like their parents.

The proof comes in the the love and nurturing they provide their own children, and the joy they take in the process of parenting.

Having lived it the hard way, they know best that parenthood isn't a right. It's a privilege.

In this excerpt of my soon-to-be-released novel, SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES, my heroine, Lyssa Harper, happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Because she's carpooling with her new friend, stay-at-home dad Harry Wilder, she witnesses the reaction of Harry's soon-to-be ex, DeeDee, when her thirteen-year-old son Jake, erupts in anger at what he feels is her recent abandonment of him and his five-year-old sister, Temple.

Can there ever be redemption for the runaway mom?

I welcome your comments,

—Josie


Game face.

 We all have one. It takes your
smile and sharpens it into a grimace. Rocked by an emotional earthquake, the
gentle planes of your face shift into stone. The happiness once beaming from
your eyes is now refracted inward: focused, with laser-sharp concentration, on
the dark matter at hand.

 Harry’s is one I don’t recognize.
I’ll admit it: for the past few weeks his dimpled smile and courtly manners
have been the icing on the cake of my day. And while courting the league board,
he was sweetness and light. Now, though, devoid of any joy, it has curdled into
a snarl.

 What I’m seeing now sends icicles
through my veins.

 He is ready to do battle with
DeeDee the Ice Queen.

 Temple won’t be the only
collateral damage. In the side view mirror I see Jake. He sits silently in the
back, just staring out the window, his damp red-rimmed eyes as wide as those of
the ghoul in The Scream. I can only imagine what he’s thinking: that all of
this—not just the lost game, but his father’s fall from grace, even his parents’
breakup—is his fault.

 If I could, I’d reach back there
and hold his hand. And yet, as the mother of one of his friends, the only place
I hold in his life is that of an abstract acquaintance.

 What am I doing here, anyway?

 Almost as if reading my mind,
Harry places his fingers on my arm and pats it absentmindedly.

 That tells me what I need to
know: I’m here because I’m the only friend Harry has in this gated,
well-landscaped corner the world.

 We pull up to the front of
Paradise Waldosorri Pre-School & Kindergarten just in time to see DeeDee
walking out with Temple and Miss Judith, the head of school. DeeDee’s silk
blouse and cashmere slacks look almost militaristic next to Miss Judith’s gauzy
flowing skirt and Birkenstocks. If Miss Judith’s attire isn’t the broadest hint
that she is the community’s one and only hold back from the days in which
Paradise Heights was a hippy commune (hence the first portion of its name,
before being elevated into the economic stratosphere), her head scarf, tied over flowing gray curls, in a dead giveaway.
Whatever DeeDee is saying has Miss Judith shaking her head in dismay. This
causes the beaded fringe on her scarf to jiggle. She glances sympathetically at
Temple, whose eyes are starred with tears, her pillowed lips bitten into a
pout.

The way the car screeches as it
comes to a halt undermines Harry’s attempt at indifference. Jake slumps down
when he his mother comes into view. Either he’s hoping she doesn’t see him and
ask him to recap his inglorious day, or he has his own bone to pick with her.

 “Stay here,” growls Harry. I don’t
know if he’s talking to me or to Jake. But in the mood he’s in, neither of us
plans on disobeying him.

 He’s out of the car in a flash.
Because he’s keeping his voice low and level, I can’t hear every word, but I do
catch the phrases “very sorry” and “won’t happen again.” Miss Judith nods
sympathetically, but tired uncertainty shades her pale gray eyes: it is obvious
that whatever DeeDee has been telling her has colored her view of Harry.

 Temple slips her hand into her
father’s, but does not let go of DeeDee’s either. In fact, she squeezes it even
tighter, as if to prove, if only to herself, that they are still joined in
someway.

 Doing so seems to only amp up
their feelings toward each other—and their voices. “I’ve told you, I’ve got it
under control,” Harry insists.

  “My god, Harry! I
wouldn’t be here now, if that were the case. And if Temple feels more
comfortable going home with me . . .” The way DeeDee’s voice trails makes the
offer seem so inviting. I’m surprised her daughter doesn’t leap at it. When it
comes to their parents, all children possess innate neediness.

 Not Temple. She knows a game is
afoot. Her way to change the rules to suit her needs is brilliant. “
No, Mommy, no! You can just come home
with us,” she states matter-of-factly.

 All three adults stare at her, as
if she’s just landed from another planet.

 Harry’s game face, dampened by
tears he can’t wipe away quickly enough, softens into doubtful hope.

 DeeDee’s on the other hand,
frosts solid with determination. Her teeth are tiny daggers, more a snarl than
a smile.

 “Damn it, Temple!
Jake’s eruption echoes with pain. Opening his car door, his yells, “Don’t you
get it? She doesn’t want to come home. NOT EVER. Aw, just get in the car! NOW!”

All eyes now turn toward us.
Temple’s emotional Geiger counter has picked up on her brother’s anguish as
only a sibling’s can. Unlike the adults, who patronize her with cheery
half-lies that never pay off with the only golden ticket that counts—her mom
and dad together again—Jake’s bellow tells her what she needs to know, even if
it isn’t what she wants to hear:

 Her parents will never love each
other again, ever.

 In Jake’s opinion, it’s all
DeeDee’s fault. Can’t his sister see this too?

 This sudden realization is too
much for the little girl. As if letting go of all hope, a rivulet of urine runs
down Temple’s leg, seemingly at the same pace as the tears streaming down her
face. Despite this, Harry scoops her up into his arms and heads for the car,
Miss Judith clucking soothingly beside him, hoping to hush her student’s heart
wrenching howls.

 All mothers break apart when
confronted with their children’s grief, and DeeDee is no exception.

 Fault lines of anguish transform
her flawless veneer of a face from haughty to sorrowful. She runs after her
child—

 But stops cold when she notices
me in the car.

 DeeDee realizes this battle is
lost. But the war is still to be won. Her eyes narrow and her frown inverts
into a smirk. “You’ve hired some shopgirl from Nordy’s? Oh, now that’s rich!
Why couldn’t she have picked up Temple? Doesn’t she drive?"

 At first Harry doesn’t catch on
that she’s talking about me, but Miss Judith does. Relieved at the chance to
set something straight, she trills nervously, “DeeDee, that’s Lyssa Harper,
Olivia’s mommy—”

 After what I’ve just seen, I don’t
expect a cheery hello. Still, even a stiff nod of recognition would certainly
go a long way to clearing the air.

 But no. DeeDee isn’t apologetic.
She’s shocked.

 Suddenly it dawns on me that
hitching a ride with the soon-to-be ex is not the best way to reintroduce
yourself to a woman who never remembers who you are, no matter how many times
she runs into you.

 From DeeDee’s granite stare, I am
assured she won’t forget me, ever again.

 I can’t help but watch her in the
rear view mirror. She, too, keeps me in her sites.

 DeeDee has a new target.

(c) 2010 Josie Brown, all rights reserved.

 ________________________________________________________________________


Dog-card CONTEST!

Take a picture of you holding a copy of

inside of your local Target,
and I'll enter you to win a $100 Target Gift Card!

Just send the photo to SecretLivesBook@gmail.com

Between now and midnight PT, September 30, 2010

I'll post all entries here, at AuthorProvocateur.com

________________________________________________________________________




BestSLHW Josie' s Most Recent Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores today!

From Target

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

Tome of the Mommy: When to Make a Grown Man Cry

Cryingman I'll admit it, I love to make grown men cry.

On the page, that is.

Does this make me a passive-aggressive bitch? Heck, no!

Say all you want about “alpha” and “beta” males, but bottom line: if you want to make your heroes come to life, you have to do more than just scratch the surface of their characters with a frown, or a grimace, or a curl of the lip. 

At the right time, for the right reason, maybe they need to shed a tear or two.

They're only human, right? Particularly when their marriages are breaking up, and they suddenly realize they can lose all they've taken what they hold most dearly for granted: their wives, their children, their homes.

Their real lives.

In my upcoming book, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, my heroine, stay-at-home-mom Lyssa Harper, hears a rumor that the neighborhood's “perfect couple” have split up. This is confirmed by the husband in question, a workaholic lawyer named Harry Wilder, whom Lyssa runs into, on the playground. I've got an excerpt for you, below.

Just call me a tearjerker,

—Josie


Harry pulls off his Bluetooth headset for
good to find Temple and my son playing nicely together on the climbing gym.
Mickey has gotten over his wariness of girl cooties (imaginary), and Temple is
reassured that Mickey’s cooties (real, but gone) won’t be invading her full
head of sun-kissed sateen curls. All is right in the world.

Harry smiles his unabashed
gratitude. “Sorry. East Coast,” he says, by way of explanation. “Had to catch
those guys before they go home for the day.”

I nod understandingly, and then
stick out my hand. “Lyssa Harper. We’ve met before.”

Vagueness clouds his eyes. “Sure,
I remember. You’re the Stuckeys’ au pair, right?”

I don’t know whether to be
flattered or miffed. True, both the au pair and I have long dark hair, although
mine is somewhat curlier. Okay, make that frizzy. And yes, it strokes my ego to
be compared to a mere woman-child some ten years younger (not to mention ten
pounds lighter). It’s more likely that he’s suggesting that I don’t seem worthy
enough to live in Paradise Heights—unless I’m in someone’s domestic employ.

Only in my wildest fantasies
would I assume that this is his way of hitting on me. Still, the thought of
being picked up on the playground by the neighborhood DILF (the “dad I'd
like to—.” well, you get the picture) does give me a cheap thrill.

Then it hits me: What if he’s
asking because he thinks he can buy my services, which would leave the Stuckeys
high and dry? Ouch! And those twins of theirs are a handful . . .

Gee, I wonder how much he’s
offering, anyway

Turns out he’s not offering at
all. He just doesn’t remember meeting Ted and me at the Crawleys’ Christmas
party last year. Or sharing a picnic table with us this past summer at the
Paradise Heights Annual July Fourth picnic. Or that we were the ones who found
Lucky after he escaped under their fence in order to chase after the Corrigan’s
tabby.

My God, as oblivious as this guy
is, I’m surprised he remembers his way home.

Then again, maybe he doesn’t.
That might be why DeeDee had an affair in the first place.

“Um . . .no. I'm just a mom
here in the Heights.”

As my black-and-white image of
the Wilders gradates to chiaroscuro in the harsh light of reality, Harry tries
to make amends for forgetting how many times our paths have crossed by
complimenting me on how well my son plays with Temple.

Now it’s my turn to blush. I’m
not used to hearing compliments about Mickey from other parents, only pointed
remarks about how much more “rambunctious” he is than their own perfect
progeny. “Thanks,” I stammer, then add, “I think his patience comes from having
a younger sister.”

“Oh yeah? My son isn’t half that
great with Temple. Of course he’s somewhat older, a teenager.” He gives a
conciliatory laugh. “You know how they are.”

“I know your son.”

Surprised, he
blinks, then leans away slightly. He seems wary of what I might say next, so I
continue gently, “Jake, right? He’s a sweet boy, too. He and my son, Tanner,
play together on the basketball team. Very few of Tanner’s friends let Mickey
join in when they come over to shoot hoops. You know how they can be: snubbing
kids who are younger, or not as well coordinated. But Jake doesn’t seen to
mind.”

Harry nods uncertainly. “Well,
I’m glad to hear he’s not so—so judgmental all the time.”

“I never thought of it that way.
I just think some kids instinctively know what to do with younger children.”
Upon hearing this, Harry frowns. Quickly I add, “I’m not saying that that’s a
good thing or a bad thing. In fact, I think it shows that, some day, they’ll
make pretty good parents.”

Harry stares off in stony
silence. As we sit quietly, I wonder what I’ve said wrong.

On the other hand, what does it
matter? It’s my guess that he will forget our conversation the minute we gather
up the kids and say our awkward good-byes. And the next time we meet, be it in
the carpool line, or at a school function, or a neighbor’s party, he’ll vaguely
wonder what the Stuckeys’ au pair has done with the usually caterwauling twins.

Right then and there I make up my
mind that that is not going to happen, that I’m going to make a big enough
impression on him that my name will finally be emblazoned on his brain, or at
the very least that I crack his typically icy demeanor just this once.

Suddenly I remember another thing
we have in common: our daughters.

“So, you’ve decided to give
Temple a day off from school? In fact, my daughter, Olivia, is in preschool
with Temple. Every now and then I let her do that, too. Kindergarten can be so
overwhelming for little kids, even with a year or two of preschool under their
belts. It’s not like they’re missing calculus, or anything really important,
right? And the trade-offs are some wonderful memories. To be honest, though, I
hate when it’s called ‘quality time,’ don’t you? I mean, every second with your
child is memorable. Even watching them while they sleep is precious–”

I’ve been blathering so much I
hadn’t noticed that Harry is crying.

The tears roll down his face in
two steady lines. He turns his head toward me so that the children don’t see
this, but my look of shock must be just as dismaying to him because he ends up
burying his face in his hands.

And sobs even harder.

Harry Wilder, captain of
industry, neighborhood enigma, one half of Paradise Heights’ Perfect Couple, is
now a puddle of mush.

And it's all my doing.

Out of habit I still carry Handi
Wipes. Although they aren’t ideal in situations like this, I can tell that
Harry is appreciative for anything that will sop up this mess that is now his
life.

When he's able to face me again,
he looks me in the eye. “My wife left me. She’s left
us.”

At this point I could feign
ignorance, but since we’re both striving for honesty here, I have no desire to
muck things up with a polite albeit face-saving (for him) lie, a “Gee! Look how
late it’s getting” exit line, and another year or two of polite neighborly
oblivion. Instead, I nod and say, “Yeah, I heard. On Halloween.
I’m—I’m so sorry about it.”

“You know about it? But I—I
haven’t said anything to anyone, yet! And she’s—she’s long gone, so I know it
didn’t come from her.” He shakes his head at the thought that his personal soap
opera is being bandied about the local Starbucks. “Jesus! And I thought news
moved fast on Wall Street.”

“Yeah, well, you’ll find out
about the Height’s mommy grapevine soon enough. I mean, if you plan on sticking
around—

“I am, for sure. I’m not going
anywhere.” The lines on Harry’s face once again realign into a steely
implacability. “This is our home. My kids love it here. We’ll…we’ll work
through it somehow.”

“Sure you will,” I murmur
reassuringly. “There’s no place like the Heights for raising kids. That’s why
we’re all here. Hey listen, really, I didn’t mean to scare you off. You know,
about the way we mommies talk and all. It was just such a shock to everyone.
The two of you always seemed so—so happy.”

“Yeah. Happy. I thought we were,
too.” With this, his eyes get moist again. This time, though, he shrugs, then
passes a broad palm over them. I assume that he’s decided that the Handi Wipes
give off the wrong impression. “You were right when you said that every minute
you spend with your kids is important. And I haven’t been around for most of
it.”

Well, of course you weren’t, I
want to say. You were out making a living! Bringing home the bacon, playing
this millennium’s version of caveman . . .

And boy oh boy, your stucco
palace has all the bells and whistles to prove it.

Too bad you found another
Neanderthal in there, with your wife.

But I keep my mouth shut. Because
you don’t hit a man when he’s down.

 (c) 2010 Josie Brown


The online magazine, Jezebel feels like I do about men: it's good to seem them being human beings. This article profiles 67 Hollywood movies in which men actually cry on camera (and on cue…)

Here's the video that goes with it. Enjoy!



SecretLives400  Josie' s Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's