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

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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.

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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).

 


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 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)
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(In online bookstores now!)

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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  

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

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

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

 That's where you come in.

This excerpt is for you, folks.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

— Josie

EXCERPT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ***

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

Ah, the good life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Beautiful, isn’t she?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um…. No. No
way in hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without a backward glance, he walks out the
door.

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

The man needs a lesson in good manners.

Accompanied by a horsewhip.

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

 


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

Signal Press / In bookstores now!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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).


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On sale now! 

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Buy it on Amazon! 

’Tis the season for murder, mayhem and mistletoe! 

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

Forget Santa! Terror is coming to town…

 

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

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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.

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Totlandia/The Onesies, Book 1 on Amazon

 

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

Totlandia/ The Onesies, Book 2, on Amazon