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


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


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.”


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

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

“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

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).



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

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NaNoWriMo Tip #29: If you don’t sell your novel to a publisher, yes, self-publish it. Here’s why.

HAH on iPadOkay, here's the grand plan:

1. You finish this novel you've started this month, during NaNoWriMo.

2. You get an agent to love it.

3. The agent gets an editor to buy it.

4. You get that first advance check. (Fair warning: you'll wait a month for the contract, and another few weeks for the first advance check–around a third of the agreed amount, after you've signed it and sent it in; another third when you deliver the manuscript, and the final third by your launch date.)

5. The editor does a superior job massaging it into an even greater book.

6. You get your pub date. (Prepare for it to be anywhere from 12-18 months off into the future: AAAGGGHHHH, yeah, I know).

7. The book hits the shelves, and you throw your launch party. (Hurray! Hurray! Par-TAY!)

8. Then, you watch it sell…..


Welcome to the world of the mid-lister: the publishing world's version of the 99%.

And that world — one in which nearly all authors inhabit — is shrinking by the day.

Aye, there's the rub: If you aren't already a best-seller for whom front table co-op is a given (yes, folks: those first tables in a bookstore are purchased placement), or have had a “breakout book” (a debut or mid-list novelist whose book gained incredible word-of-mouth, and the sales that go with it) you are only as good as your last book's sales figures.

A few years back — prior to the flood of sales of eReaders such as the Kindle, Nook Kobo, iPad, and the multitudes of iTablets and Android devices, that meant depending on your pub house's sales team to sweet-talk your book onto the shelves of brick-and-mortar stores: independent bookstores, and the larger chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

But then Borders went under, and with it 900+ stores where midlist authors' books (including those who wrote in such genres as romance and mystery) could be purchased.

You could (bad pun) see the writing on the wall. Authors who had even a dozen or two of published books under their belts were passed over, or asked to write under pen names in order to re-establish themselves as “debut authors.”  Think about it: in any other industry — say, perfume — that is the equivalent of taking a fragrance that has sold steadily as White Shoulders, then re-packaging it as “Tabu.”

You are a brand. Your books are your products which your publishing house sells. 

The only difference: in the perfume industry, besides its research and production, a very substantial investment is made on a product's packaging and promotion.

Not so for any mid-list book. 

(And, according to my bestseller pals, other than co-op or an ad here or there, their books aren't that well promoted, either).

To give the author's return-on-investment picture even more clarity, consider that the initial advance to a mid-lister is around $5,000-$20,000, and the units that cover that must be sold prior to the author receiving any additional compensation, which, after that ranges from 8-12% of the book's retail price.

(And by the way, any books that are returned by the booksellers is counted against your advance; and retailers are allowed to return as many as they want, for as long of a time as they want.) 

The other 92 to 85% of the retail value is what the publishers hold onto, and divide with the bookseller, who gets up to 55% of the price.. And taken out of the publisher's revenue comes such costs as editor's salaries, cover design, sales force commissions, and marketing promotion.

Writing a book is not an easy endeavor. You've just gone through NaNoWriMo, a marathon that proves the point. The time and effort it took you to concept, outline, research, write, and rewrite your book was speculation on your part. Perhaps it added up to 150 endless days and nights. 

Now, divide all your time and effort of, say, 150 days by your advance of, say, $10,000:

That's about $66.66/day. Divided by ten hours for the average writer's work day, your down to $6.66. an hour.

Obviously, you'd make more money at Wal-Mart — selling other authors' books.

This is why authors — both published, and unpublished — consider self-publishing. 

At the same time that brick-and-mortar bookstores are shrinking, the sales of digital eReaders — and digital eBooks — are growing.

For the past couple of years, self-publishing has looked like the gold rush. Those authors who were among the first to get to that rich riverbed of consumers with digital eReaders (Amanda HockingJ.A. KonrathBella AndreKate PerryBarbara Freethy and Stephanie Bond) have struck the kind of financial riches the rest of us dream about. Whereas Hocking debuted as an eBook, the last three (Konrath writes thrillers; Andre writes romance; and Bond writes romantic suspense) were strong mid-list genre authors whose backlists had decent sales for their established New York publishing houses. 

Granted, by cutting out the middle man (the publishing house) you also cut out such crucial services, such as editing and cover design. But for a couple of hundred dollars, you can get a free-lance editor to help you with clean-up. And for another couple of hundred plus dollars, you can get your manuscript formatted as per required by all the online bookstores, as well as a decent cover to boot (and have a say in what that cover looks like)…

And you hold onto 70% of the online retail sales price. 

However, there's a rub in the self-pub world, too: the gold rush has slowed down. Supply (a plethora of digital eBooks) is way up. 

The good news: demand — and digital eReader sales — is still growing.

As a one-person industry, you will still need to do that thing the pub houses missed: PROMOTE.

I get it: all you want to do is write your books…

But even if you are “lucky” enough to sell to a New York publisher, you'll also need to promote the books they publish for you.

I'm warning you up front.

That means knowing your core target audience, and how to reach them. Make them know you (brand awareness) and love your books (sampling, contests, word-of-mouth).

Welcome to the business life of an author.

Plan A: Get New York to want you (doable), love you (doable), and promote you (don't hold your breath).

Plan B: Skip New York. Write a great book. Get it edited, and give it a cover that sells. Uplink it to all the online bookstores. Promote the hell out of it to its most obvious readers….

And write more books.

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All Rights Reserved

The photo above: iPad's e-bookshelf 



Question of the day: If New York passes you by, will you be self-pub'ing your book? Will go detour from New York altogether? If so why?


— Josie