Love this! The first photo is called "The Puddle Jumper"
and was taken by the photographer Martin Munkácsi, for Harper's Bazaar, in 1934.
The second was taken by Richard Avedon, also a fashion shot, and also in Paris, but in 1957.
(c) 2005 Alex Steuart Williams (FLIP) and Erica Rothschild
I'm being serious.
Okay, here goes:
1. "I'd write, too, but I can't stand the thought of all the trees I'd be killing."
Yes, I've heard this one. My response back then was, "Don't worry. You won't sell enough books to raze a sapling, because your pub house won't push you that hard to begin with."
Today, I'd add, "And besides, most books are digital, so you can't use the tree-killer bullshit as an excuse not to write anymore."
2. "I'd write, too, but I just can't make the time."
Good. Stay busy. The world doesn't need anothor author. Here's a hint: It's not a hobby. It's a profession.
3. "Why don't you kill off your series' villian?" Because then I wouldn't have a series. And if I don't have a series, I don't have the rent money. I'll make you a promise: when and if he quits paying the rent, I'll quit writing about him.
4. "Honestly, what do you really do to pay the bills?"
Then again, I'm not JK Rowling, either.
If a writer is persistent and lucky, he or she will find that their income is somewhere in between minimum wage and unimagined wealth.
I'm not saying it's an easy way to make a living. It took years to crawl my way up beyond the government set poverty line. To make the rent, I wrote other things: game questions, greeting cards. magazine articles, even horoscopes. (No, I was not a licensed astrologist, just a mom with two growing kids who could go through money like the Pentagon).
5. "The best authors–like JD Salinger, or, say Margaret Mitchell– only wrote one, or maybe a just few, books in their lifetime."
Oh, really? I guess that leaves out Dickens, Twain, Wharton, LeCarre, Dreisher, Trollope, James, Chandler, Christie, and Doyle, to name a few–all of whom are on my favorite authors list–along wtih Salinger and Mitchell.
And by the way, some of the worst writers only wrote one book as well.
I'd say the odds are with those who get the most chances at the plate. Don't forget, Babe Ruth broke records for hitting home runs and for striking out.
Not to mention, a writer's skill level rises each time up to bat.
6. "When am I going to see you on the New York Times Bestsellers list?"
Maybe never–and that's okay with me. A Times review won't necessarily pay the bills.
For that matter, a Times review won't necessarily be a good one. Just ask any author who has been scorched, panned, or ridiculed by one.
7. "When will I see your book reviewed in the New York Times?"
Again, maybe never–and that too is okay with me. I write commercial literature–romantic suspense, funny mysteries, contemporary women's fiction–and those books usually don't get a NYT review unless they're deemed such a cultural phenomenon that even the Times can't ignore them.
As for those authors who are waiting for some news outlet to review their books, all I can say is, good luck. Even the best New York publishing house publicist rarely scores a major newspaper review for a mid-list or debut author, let alone a segment on the Today Show. Now, if you're willing to change your first name to Snooki, or your last name to Kardashian, you may actually get that review, or some air time.
It's just the way of the world: a ghosted celebrity can garner more air time for a mediocre book than a gifted author will receive for a notable work.
So suck it up.
Better yet, don't reach for the stars when that is not the lasting definition of success. You're better off working the crowd instead of waiting for the crowd to come to you. In fact, I know many authors whose books have gotten better–and substantially more reviews–than those I see in the Times–
Rude awakening: many major newspapers have done away with book reviews–and book reviewers–altogether. That being said, the voices that are ever more important to authors are avid readers, especially those readers who are willing to write a review on the websites of the bookstores (both online, and brick-and-mortar) where they buy their books. Even better is when they chat up your books to friends.
In today's book market, a four-plus star reviews by hundreds of readers on an online bookseller's site can generate more sales than a few kind words in a Times review on any given Sunday.
Bottom line: word of mouth means everything.
8. "You can write more than one book a year? Hmmm. You're not an artist. You're not even a craftsman. You're…a hack!"
Here's the scoop. Even painters have to produce more than one painting in a lifetime–let alone a year–in order to eat, pay rent, and pay for their kids' braces.
The same goes for musicians. They have to play more than one gig. And songwriters have to write more than one song.
No one wants to be a one-hit wonder.
In fact, even one hit is akin to winning the lottery.
As for being a craftsperson: the proof is in the satisfaction of the buyer.
I'm very proud of my body of work. Every book has received an average of four or more stars. And every day, I get letters from readers who were kind enough to take the time to tell me how much fun they had with my books, or how much they love my characters. I love to hear that it kept them up at night (it certainly did for me when I was writing any one of them!) or that they laughed so loud that it woke their spouses.
That, my dear friends, is satisfaction.
9. "It must be nice to be able to set your own hours."
I write at least ten hours a day.
Believe it or not, some chapters are written in my sleep.
When I'm not writing, I'm plotting. Or researching.
The creative process is the most important aspect of my profession. But the marketing of my books are just as important. That being said, when I'm not writing, plotting or researching, I'm concepting covers, going over edits from my proofers and editors–
And promoting, promoting, promoting.
In any regard, I'm thinking about my books twenty-four/seven.
None of it is easy. But it can certainly be rewarding. I guess that's what makes it a "job," and not a hobby.
10. "It must be great to have such a fun job."
I wouldn't be doing anything else. And I'll do it, as long as I please my readers–and myself.
But like any job, it's not always fun. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes I disappoint myself with how slow I am at it. It takes time to craft a sentence, let alone a paragraph, a scene or a chapter.
Then you have to do it time and again, until you have a cohesive story. Creating a work that even you enjoy, despite having read it so many times, you want to scream.
I remember the reaction my sister had when I told her I'd sold my very first novel. "In fact, the contract is for two books," I proclaimed proudly.
This was met with a look of horror. "You mean, they can make you write another?"
"God, I hope so," I declared.
Eight years and seventeen novels later, I still feel that way.
And, now a bonus comment…
11. "I've got a great idea for a book! Why don't I give it to you, and we can split what you make, 50/50?"
Ha ha! I get this one a lot! I've even gotten it from my sister.
Thank you, but I respectfully decline your offer. You see, I have so many ideas already, that I wonder if I'll have the lifespan in which to write them all.
And besides, at best, a concept is a one-liner (at the most ten words). Even if it's the best book concept in the world, but then you're leaving me with the heavy lifting–that is, coming up with the other eighty thousand words that makes it a book.
You see, a book may start out as a high concept, but it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. That's a lot of sweat equity–especially if the concept doesn't resonate enough with you to (a) spend the time to research the era or topic, or (b) create characters who go through the motions to bring it to life–and make readers laugh, cry, or write you to tell you how much your words meant to them.
That being said, go ahead and write it, as only you could do.
And let me know when it's published. I look forward to reading it, and supporting you, just like you read and support me.
The boats in the San Francisco Yacht Harbor have wonderfully whimsical names: Irish Whisper. Calico Dragon. Sea Hawk. Kookaburra. Nai'a. Daisy. Escapade. Effie Jane. Portola.
Then there's the one named, simply, "Sailboat."
Talk about putting things in perspective.
THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S HANDBOOK
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The renowned burlesque dancer, Dixie Evans, died this weekend. She was known as burlesque's "Marilyn Monroe." Yes, the resemblance was uncanny! See for yourself. Here's how she built her act.
Take it off, take it all off,
August 10, 2013
Dixie Evans, Who Brought ‘Monroe’ to Burlesque Houses, Dies at 86
By MARGALIT FOX / New York Times
Dixie Evans, a popular stage performer billed as the “Marilyn Monroe of Burlesque” — the first two words in very large letters and the last two in very small ones — died on Aug. 3 in Las Vegas. She was 86.
Her death was announced on the Web site of the Burlesque Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, of which she was a former curator and director.
Ms. Evans was a marquee name at midcentury, mentioned in the same avid breath as Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand and Lili St. Cyr. In later years, she was featured in newspaper articles and television programs about burlesque and appeared in the 2010 documentary “Behind the Burly Q.”
She was profiled in the 1996 book “Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics, and Other American Heroes,” by David Isay, with photographs by Harvey Wang.
Reflecting on her unlikely stardom in a 1992 interview with CNN, Ms. Evans said, “I was not that talented and I wasn’t that pretty.”
But her close-enough resemblance to Monroe — enhanced by a peroxide blond coiffure and the uncanny ability of Ms. Evans, who never met her subject, to mimic her speech and shimmy — ensured her success as a locus of transference.
“If you couldn’t meet the real Marilyn,” Ms. Evans told The New York Times in 1998, “you could come to the burlesque and meet me.”
Night after night from the early ’50s onward, at burlesque houses around the country, Ms. Evans took the stage in Monrovian garb and swung into musical numbers that recalled those in Monroe’s films. Unlike Monroe, she ended the numbers far more lightly attired than when she began.
She kept the act going for more than a decade, modifying it enough to mollify Monroe, who at once point threatened to sue. Wherever she played, she drew a devoted, even rarefied, following.
“Walter Cronkite used to come every year to see my act,” Ms. Evans told The Los Angeles Times in 1993.
Frank Sinatra was said to be a fan. So, too, was Joe DiMaggio, who was reported to have visited the show for consolation after his divorce from Monroe in 1954.
Then, in 1962, Monroe’s suicide rendered the act obsolete overnight. As Ms. Evans told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, “When she died, I died.”
She held a string of jobs, doing public relations for a hotel in the Bahamas and working as a nurse’s aide in California, before an abandoned goat ranch in a dusty Western town afforded her an improbable return to burlesque’s glittering glory.
Mary Lee Evans was born on Aug. 28, 1926, in Long Beach, Calif., to a well-to-do family. Her father, an oilman, died when she was a girl, and the family fortunes declined precipitously. Young Mary worked in the celery fields and during World War II was an airplane mechanic.
Dreaming of stardom, she began her stage career as a chorus girl in touring musicals. One night, in her late teens or early 20s, she found herself stranded in San Francisco between jobs with 50 cents in her pocket. She discovered that the local burlesque theater paid four times what she had been earning.
A few years later, when Ms. Evans was performing at a Minsky’s burlesque house in Newark, Harold Minsky, the son of the impresario Abraham Minsky, transformed her into Marilyn.
In the late 1980s, Ms. Evans learned that her friend Jennie Lee, a retired burlesque star, was terminally ill with cancer. Ms. Lee, who was living on a former goat ranch in the desert in Helendale, Calif., had created a de facto museum there from her old memorabilia.
Ms. Evans moved in to help care for her, assuming responsibility for the collection after Ms. Lee’s death in 1990. She expanded it into the Exotic World Burlesque Museum and Striptease Hall of Fame, whose holdings included Jennie Lee’s silver-sequined pasties, Gypsy Rose Lee’s wardrobe trunk, the cremated remains of the burlesque queen Sheri Champagne and — perhaps the collection’s most curious artifact — a photograph of Lili St. Cyr with Eleanor Roosevelt.
In 1991, Ms. Evans founded the Miss Exotic World pageant, an annual competition she liked to call the Olympics of burlesque.
In 2006 Ms. Evans moved the competition and the museum, now known as the Burlesque Hall of Fame, to Las Vegas, where she made her home from then on.
Ms. Evans’s marriage to Harry Braelow, a prizefighter, ended in divorce. Survivors include a sister, Betty, and many nieces and nephews.
For years in the 1950s, Ms. Evans was a fixture at the Place Pigalle, a burlesque house in Miami Beach. One night, she was arrested.
“Whenever it was election time in Miami, they’d raid the strip joints,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 2009. “I told the judge, ‘Your Honor, this is the same act you saw at the policemen’s show.’ ”
His Honor dropped the charges.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: August 11, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary omitted a survivor, Ms. Evans’s sister, Betty.
(c) 2013 New York Times
Here's a taste of the dirty dealings in my steamy political thriller, THE CANDIDATE.
Enjoy, and TGIF,
knows about ‘Flamingo.’” Talbot abhorred making eye contact with anyone, but
this time, so that Smith would have no misunderstanding about his anxiety over
the issue, he made sure to meet the other man’s eyes in the rear view mirror
when he broke that bit of news.
Smith’s eyes did not go wide, nor did they narrow. He didn’t even blink, let
alone give the limo’s steering wheel an involuntary smack in frustration. If
there was any reaction at all, perhaps it was the ghost of a smile that, for
just one brief second, shadowed his lips.
Then again, maybe Talbot imagined that.
he was impressed with Smith’s nonchalance under stress. This time, though,
there was too much at stake, and he wanted Smith to commiserate with him; to
feel his pain, so to speak. Hell, for once—just once!— he wished the man would
act like a human being, not the cold, calculating sociopathic killer he was.
“So, what are we going to do about it?”
kept his eyes on Talbot, ostensibly as reassurance that he was all ears, but
actually so that the vice president wouldn’t notice his finger slipping behind
the rear view mirror. Talbot had heaved himself into the car and blurted it out
so fast that for once, Smith hadn’t had time to activate the digital recorder
first. “That depends. How do you know for sure that Mansfield knows anything?”
twerp, Paul Twist. He’s angling for U.S. Attorney General, once I get elected.
Thinks I owe it to him, considering his Judas routine.” Talbot shook his head
stuff has been pretty reliable thus far. Go ahead and string him along until I
can track down his source.” Frankly Smith hoped Talbot would grant the kid his
wish. It gave him a hard-on just thinking he could have one over on the head
honcho in the Justice Department, particularly one who obviously had his own
mole buried somewhere within the bowels of the Pentagon. “It means there’s a
leak in your organization.”
makes you think the leak is on my side? It could be one of your cutthroats.”
‘cutthroats’ are pros who know how to keep their mouths shut. It’s power
players like you who feel the need to let someone know what you’re up to, if
only to stroke your own egos—or to save your own asses.” Smith let that sink
in. “In any event, I guess we have a little problem.”
this ‘we’ shit? It’s your problem, not mine.” Talbot poked Smith’s headrest to
make his point. “And it’s fucking humongous. So fix it. And fast. I don’t doubt
for a second that Mansfield plans to use it against me. Against all of us.
Besides losing the nomination, I can be tried for treason! Just remember—if the
old men and I go down, so do you.”
you ordering me to exterminate Mansfield?”
do I have to spell it out for you?” Talbot’s shout certainly left no doubt of
his intentions, either live or digitized. “You know, accidents happen to
everyone. Even presidential candidates. Only don’t make it a public
assassination. The goal is to get rid of the problem, not make the man a
© 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.
Signal Press – eBook
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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
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
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
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Book 2, THE HOUSEWIFE ASSASSIN'S
GUIDE TO GRACIOUS KILLING
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In all online bookstores June 15, 2013
Seduction and intrigue are rampant on the campaign trail when a political campaign adviser discovers that Washington's power broker elite have embroiled his presidential candidate in a plot involving an act of terrorism on US soil…
Democratic political campaign consultant Ben Brinker can’t remember the last time he was excited by a candidate’s vision. He feels he’s lost his way, both emotionally and professionally. Worst yet, his show-me-the-money policy seems to have finally caught up with him. Two of his recent clients have been disgraced in one way or another: a senator caught in lurid sex scandal, and a congressman is indicted in a kickback scandal. In no time at all the political pundits are calling Ben a "candidate cooler." Now Ben is desperate for any campaign gig he can get.
As luck would have it, Andrew Harris Mansfield, the charismatic junior senator from North Carolina and former Marine pilot, asks Ben if he wants to run his soon-to-be-announced campaign for president.
Little does Ben know what's in store for Andrew, or their country–
Nor does he realize that the key to saving both have been placed in his hands.
The care and feeding of Andrew Mansfield’s most generous campaign donors was well underway by the time Ben got to the Fairmont on that drizzly New Year’s Eve. Dinner was served promptly, the Tattingers flowed freely, and the up-tempo tunes emanating from the ten-piece orchestra on the Colonnade Room’s center stage lured a constant wave of the senator’s well-heeled guests onto the dance floor, so few if any of them minded the long wait to be endured prior to partaking in their prime objective: a few fleeting but memorable moments with Mansfield, in which he shook their hands and intoned a heartfelt thanks to them for ponying up $2,500-per-person for a plate of the Fairmont’s renowned Shenandoah Valley grilled rib eye of bison, the proceeds of which would go to the Mansfield Presidential Exploratory Committee fund.
As requested, Ben, tuxedoed and manure-free, arrived punctually at eleven o’clock. Waiting for him at the ballroom’s double-door entry was Sukie Carmichael, Mansfield’s aide-de-camp, a slight spinsterish woman with an unruly red mane. He followed her lead as she wove around banquet tables and partying revelers.
They ended up in front of a door that was hidden behind a few potted ferns. In the small anteroom on the other side of it were two men. Immediately Ben recognized the eldest as Preston Alcott III– the managing partner at Corcoran Adams Webster and Alcott, the oldest, most revered law firm in Washington. Besides being a celebrated lawyer, Alcott served as gatekeeper to the country’s aristocracy. The sway he held over statesmen, monarchs, even dictators the world over was legendary.
The esteemed attorney was in his mid-seventies but could easily pass for a much younger man–ramrod straight and broad shouldered as he was. Even seated, Ben could tell he was a tall man. His eyes were piercingly bright, and befitting his role of patrician, his hair was full and white.
Ben had done his research. He knew that Alcott was also the executor of Abigail Vandergalen Mansfield’s trust, not to mention the blind trusts of the current POTUS and his wife, Edward and Elinor Barksdale, and the estates of an impressive percentage of the Forbes 400. No doubt Alcott was there to ensure that Abby’s very expensive investment in her husband’s political career would pay off in the largest and most important dividend of all: executive power.
Alcott’s presence there was proof that Ben wouldn’t be handed the job carte blanche.
Fuck it. I need to score this gig—and a win—to prove I’m back in the game, thought Ben. Even if that means kissing Alcott’s ass.
So it’s show time. . . .
As Sukie made the introductions all around, Ben shook Alcott’s hand and gave a reverential bow. “It’s an honor, Mr. Alcott.”
“Ah, the kingmaker.” As Alcott’s eyes cursorily swept over him, Ben held his gaze.
“No sir. That would be your title, not mine.”
Alcott’s slight nod indicated his grudging approval at the response, but Ben was fully aware that the real grilling hadn’t even started.
The man standing with Alcott chuckled nervously. Still his handshake, two-handed and firm, made up for his obvious apprehension in the presence of Alcott. “Paul Twist. I’m Andy’s finance chair.”
Ben recognized the name. “Also a partner at Cochran Adams. And Andy’s best friend. You guys roomed together in law school, right? It’s a pleasure to meet you, too.”
Andy’s buddy’s nodded genially. “Your track record is a thing of wonder, Mr. Brinker. But you’ve yet to manage a presidential campaign, am I right?”
“Yes. That is, not until now. In that regard, the senator and I are both underdogs going into this thing.”What, did you think I wasn’t going to point out that your boy doesn’t have his own party’s blessing? Fat chance. “We both know the deciding factors differ every four years. But one thing doesn’t change: The candidate who wins is the one who has the ability to embody the message the public wants to hear, to get that message out to the media, and to respond immediately to any bullshit that the other side might toss our way. As my track record shows, it’s what I bring to the table.”
“That’s all well and good. It’s too bad it didn’t work for Calder.” Alcott’s smile said it all: You lose.
Upon hearing the congressman’s name, Ben gave an involuntary wince. “As long as you can assure me that Senator Mansfield’s, er, skeletons aren’t anywhere near as fertile, I’ll take your candidate all the way to the White House—”
Andy Mansfield’s hearty laugh roared through the anteroom. Ben looked up to find the senator standing in the doorway. He had his arm around a woman of slight build and medium height, with long pale hair, pulled back severely from her anxious face and twisted into a chignon. Ben recognized her immediately: Abigail Vandergalen. She was, perhaps, eight years younger than her husband. Her black gown, a sequined sheath that she wore under a cropped lace jacket, was obviously expensive, but its elegance was undermined by the slump of her shoulders and her pensive grimace. Her squared-off pumps didn’t help, either.
In fact, if Ben had to choose one thing that stood out about Abigail Vandergalen Mansfield, he’d say not a thing–except for her eyes, which were deep set, and as blue and sparkling as rough-cut sapphires. At least, from what he could tell in the few seconds in which they actually met his before her innate shyness forced her to turn away again.
Unfortunately her small thick-framed glasses did nothing to enhance them. Damn shame she has so little charisma. We’ll have to get her into media training yesterday to keep that from hurting Mansfield on the campaign trail—
Andy nodded at all three men, but it was Ben whom he slapped on the back. “These two will swear up one side and down the other that I’m holier than a saint.”
“And they should know, I presume.”
“There is only one person who knows me better. I’d like to introduce you to Abby.”
Ben gave her his patented thousand-watt smile. “Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Mansfield.”
“Call me Abby, please. And I hope you’ll allow me to call you Ben.” This time when she looked up at him, her eyes didn’t waiver. In fact they seemed to look right through him. “You’ll have to excuse us for being tardy, Mr. Brinker. I was still on the dance floor when you arrived.”
“And giving an earful to some very earnest young man from the Auto Alliance. He was naive enough to insist that Detroit is doing all it can to cut emissions.” Andy gave his wife’s arm a squeeze. “You see, reducing our country’s petroleum consumption is a pet peeve of my wife’s.”
“To the point where she insisted that I divest her portfolio of any and all oil company stocks, and buy into clean energy start-ups instead.” Alcott’s disapproval was evidenced by the disdain in his voice. “One’s personal ideology shouldn’t impinge on one’s investment strategy.”
“I’ve always appreciated your concern over my financial matters, Preston. You know that.” Abby’s tone was soft, but firm. “But I refuse to support industries that are the problem, not the solution. Don’t you agree, Mr. Brinker?”
“Personally, my philosophy is ‘whatever floats your boat.’ Heck, I know people who choose their stocks the way others pick horses at the racetrack: because they like the name. It’s all a game of chance, right?” He shrugged. “Now if you’re asking my professional opinion, I’d say your instincts—be those personal or political—are ingenious. In fact, if a list of your green investments were to be ‘accidentally’ leaked to a few of the right reporters, they’d be duly impressed that you put your money where your mouth is. And what they’d write would sway a lot of independents and undecideds, not to mention any Dems looking to come our way.”
“But we don’t just ‘dabble in stocks.’ For the past six years in a row, my husband has been voted the greenest Republican in the Senate. We’re making inroads in convincing our party that being green isn’t just environmentally smart–it’s also fiscally responsible. Some of the country’s greenest business visionaries have stepped up and offered their support. They’re excited that Andy is making the greening of America a national mandate. If we’re going to—well, to put it somewhat indelicately, quit sucking on the ‘tit’ of foreign oil–we have stop cold turkey.”
Ben nodded, impressed. “You’re right, Abby. That message coming from a Republican candidate is big news.”
Andy smiled. “You now see, Brinker, why I’ve come to realize that Abby’s instincts are always right on the mark. In fact, it’s why you’re here tonight.”
“It was Abby who suggested that I approach you to run my campaign in the first place.”
Noting the quizzical look on Ben’s face, Abby turned away shyly. Andy, on the other hand, smiled at Ben’s obvious disbelief. “Even before we ran into each other, she said—and she’s correct—that crossing Talbot would be political suicide for any of our party’s favored campaign advisors, so we should find the best Democratic consultant; someone who knows how that party thinks—and how to strategize against our frontrunner. And someone who wouldn’t be afraid to take the gloves off, when the time came. As always, she called it. So I guess Calder’s implosion was my good fortune. And yours.” He gave Ben a knowing grin. “Which is why I’m hoping you’ve passed Preston’s inquisition.”
“Times will be a lot tougher, Andrew, if this boondoggle of yours doesn’t pay off.” Alcott took a sip of his drink. “Six hundred million is a lot of money to bet on a longshot. And if you lose, so does Abby, since it’s her money that will be the initial seed capital for your campaign. As you can imagine, the thought of that makes me very uncomfortable.”
“But he won’t lose.” By the way Abby said it Ben could tell that she wasn’t being naive, but just stating the facts as she saw them. “Certainly Vice President Talbot has his supporters. In the past, they’ve funded him fully—and have prospered, along with him, based on a failing energy policy. However the rest of us are ready for new leadership, both in the party and in the White House. With your help, Ben, that will be Andy.”
So the mouse isn’t afraid to roar. Interesting.
“As you can see, Preston, Abby is one hundred percent behind backing my campaign—and behind Ben, too. And as always, she has the last word.” Andy’s point was made: Game over.
At that, Alcott gave a resigned shrug. Paul, on the other hand, tried to hide his smirk.
Knowing he’d trumped any argument to the contrary, Andy turned to Ben. “So what do you say? Are you in?”
Hmmm, thought Ben, Now let me get this straight: I get to redeem myself with a candidate who is a seasoned politician from a large swing state, and whose wife has a trust fund that rivals Iceland’s gross domestic product. To top it off, he’s as pure as driven snow . . .
Hell yeah, where else would I be?
Not that he had to say that out loud. His smile said it all.
Andy shook his hand. “Great! You’ll make a great wingman. We have a few minutes before I jump onstage to ring in the New Year. Let’s compare notes on New Hampshire —”
She was nicely naughty, a raven-haired sylph with a sleek chin-length bob and a come-hither beauty mark on the left side of her luscious lips. One dainty foot, encased in a high-heeled diamond studded ruby slipper, was propped high on the rung of the bar stool next to her, unleashing her leg—long, strong, lean, and slim at the ankle—from the skin-tight red velvet gown sliced high on her thigh.
There was nothing Ben wanted more than to play her Prince Charming.
Hell, why not? It was just a few minutes before midnight. His timing was perfect.
He had zoned out somewhere in the middle of Andy’s speech. There were only so many ways a politician can inspire his constituency, and Ben had heard them all before. In a long career he would hear them all again.
So instead he searched out the nearest bar. Time to celebrate his resurrection.
There was one in the back of the ballroom, but the line was too long. The second one, in the hotel lobby, right outside the ballroom’s open door, was empty—
Except for Little Red Ride Me Hard.
Of course at that point he just presumed she’d live up to that fantasy. Still, he’d be willing to bet on it. The giveaway was what he saw on the spot where her backless gown came to a vee at the base of her spine:
A tattoo of a broken heart.
Perfect. He liked his women heartbroken. That keeps it simple. She wouldn’t expect it to go beyond tonight.
Particularly on New Year’s Eve, when no one wants to go home alone.
He wondered if he’d still be able to make out his candidate’s punch lines from the barstool beside Red Velvet. The senator’s jokes seemed to be going over big with the crowd, if the waves of laughter emanating from the room were any indication.
Yeah, no problem, he thought. Mansfield was coming in loud and clear . . .
If Ben cared to listen at all.
A sleek blade of her hair sliced her milky shoulders as she threw back her head and nudged a last lethargic drop from her martini glass.
“The lady will have another. And a scotch, neat, for me.” He skirted a twenty toward the bartender.
“Do I look that easy?” Red Velvet pretended to pout but couldn’t hold it together. Her full-throated laugh was an outright dare.
Easy? Heck, yeah.
And for some reason, she looked familiar, too. But he couldn’t quite place it. Something about the slant of her cheek. Or maybe he had once lost himself in the deep mossy depths of those luminous eyes peeking out under those brow-grazing bangs . . .
No, if he had met Red Velvet before, he would have certainly remembered. He shook his head. “If you want my opinion, I’d say you look thirsty.” He slid onto the bar chair next to her. “Besides, who wants to drink alone on New Year’s Eve?”
“Who says I’m alone?”
This time her smile was a bit forced. “Yeah, that’s my guy. Invisible. But you’ll still have to convince me that you’re the better man.”
“Don’t doubt that I can.”
“I won’t. Not in a million years——” she murmured, drinking him in. As she casually took the object of his affection—that beautiful leg—and crossed it over its perfect match, he felt his cock harden—“but you’ll have to try hard, just the same.”
That was when he kissed her.
It stunned her. He could tell by the tiny gasp she gave. He barely heard it though, because just then the crowd began the countdown to midnight—
58 . . .57 . . .56 . . .
He could hear Mansfield’s voice booming above it all: “Ah, here we go! And wouldn’t you know it, I’ve lost my wife! Abigail? Abby? Come on up here, honey, don’t be shy—”
That was when Ben’s red velvet dream bit his lip then licked the wound so lovingly, so passionately.
That for a moment there, he almost forgot to breathe. . . .
© 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.
My husband, Martin, isn't one of those men who must have the latest/greatest in technology. Nor must he demonstrate his manliness with boy toys that are always the biggest, and therefore presumed the best (phallically speaking).
Which brings me to the death of Scotty–an appropriate topic, now that the latest Star Trek Movie ("Into Darkness") is in movie theaters.
No, I don't mean Scotty, the good ship Enterprise's engineer (thank goodness, because I really really love love love Simon Pegg in the role).
I mean Martin's cell phone, a relic he calls "Scotty," as a quaint reference to the phasers carried by the Star Trek crew. You see, his phone is that tiny.
And it ispossibly as old as the original TV show itself.
Okay, certainly it's not THAT old. Besides, back then there were no cell phones, not to mention the first ones were attached to suitcases, so that would defeat his purpose of carrying the tiniest phone he could find.
In fact, his current cell is so tiny that texting on it (yes, at least it allows him to text, but only predictively) is a tribulation, despite his opposable-thumb dexterity. (He's right up there with the apes and chimps, so my mother was wrong about him.)
And the darn thing certainly ain't "smart." He can't get The Internets, and the pictures it takes look like they were pulled out of an elephant's ass.
Bottom line: Scotty is dying.
It's showing its wonkiness by asking to "Please Insert Sim Card" when it already has one. Or sometimes the screen goes white (yes, at least, originally it was in color). Other times, the message shows appears upside down.
"Honey, Scotty is dying," I tell him in a soothing tone.
"But I hate the new phones! They're too big," he whines "Much too bulky for a man to carry in his pocket."
"Too bad," I respond. "It's dying. That's okay. It lived long and prospered. But if you're waiting for another cell the size of a Star Trek phaser gun, youve got another thing coming. If you need something to carry it in, I'll lend you one of my purses."
Needless to say, this is not the answer he's looking for.
If he could, he'd wait it out, until cells got small again. Until then, he's still got to reach out and touch someone with something that receives messages that aren't smoke signals, so down to the Verizon store we go.
Speaking of dying, I've got a great excerpt for you today. It comes from Book 2 of The Housewife Assassin series, Guide to Gracious Killing. In it, my heroine, Donna Stone, is charged with protecting the Russian president from assassins while he's the guest of an American billionaire. Of course, both an assassin and the billionaire make their appearance at exactly the wrong time: while Donna is trying to take a shower.
I’ve just clicked on the dryer again, when
there’s another knock on the door. I crack it open to find a maid standing
there, with an armful of towels. “Shall I take them into the bathroom, Madame?”
Her accent is slightly British, which is par for the course around here.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll take them.”
She smiles and hands them to me.
That’s when I see it—a small tattoo of a wolf on
her left arm.
Her eyes follow mine. She senses I know who she
Her arm comes up toward my face. I block it with
my forearm, then kick her in the gut. She falls back, slamming into the
dresser. This stuns her, but just for a second. She reaches behind her and
yanks the dryer from the electrical socket. In no time at all, she’s got the
cord wrapped around both her wrists and arms.
“You won’t stop me from killing him.” Her vow is
soft, but deadly. “With what he’s done to others like me? That pig does not
deserve to live!”
“Trust me I get it. But it’s not happening here,
We both know I can’t talk her out of her mission
anymore than she can talk me out of mine: to save Asimov’s sorry ass.
We circle each other warily, assessing each
other’s weaknesses: She’s got more bulk than me, but she’s also slower. I’m
taller, too. Best yet, I’m now up against the dresser. Obviously, she considers
this a weakness because she charges me.
Even with the cord wrapped around my neck, all
it takes is one squirt of my spray cologne in her eyes to blind her.
She stumbles into the bathroom, dragging me with
her into the shower, where she turns on the water, full force. She’s hoping to
wash the sting out of her eyes.
What she doesn’t count on is my ability to kick
her into the shower.
She bangs her head against the marble wall.
Before she comes to her senses, I untangle myself from the cord, plug the dryer
into an electrical socket, and throw it into the tub.
Wolverine’s death mask stare and the smell of
her frying skin sends me gagging from the room followed by a shower of sparks
as the electrical system shorts out.
I shut the bathroom door, then lay down on the
bed to catch my breath.
This time when there’s a tap on the door, I
throw it open, to let Jack in.
But no. It’s Jonah Breck.
I pull my robe tightly around me. “My husband is
out right now.”
He smirks. “I know, dear. That’s why I’m here.
Don’t worry, we’ve got all the time in the world. He’s with the Japanese
defense minister, who is somewhat long-winded.” From behind him, he pulls a
bottle of Tattinger’s and two champagne glasses. “I presume you’re finding your
accommodations to your liking.”
“In all honesty, there’s a short in the
bathroom’s electrical system—”
Before I can say another word, he has backed me
onto the bed. When my robe falls open, he whips the sash out from around me.
Before I know it, he’s flipped me onto my stomach.
“I could use that drink right now,” I gasp, as
he binds my wrists with the sash.
“We’ll celebrate afterward.” I hear him fumbling
with his zipper. “You will, anyway. Trust me, I’ll have you begging for more.”
I struggle and try to sweet talk him some sense
into him, but no use. He’s got me pinned. I’ve just about given up any hope of
the Calvary coming when there is a sharp knock on the door.
“Mrs. Stone?” Both Breck and I recognize
Edwina’s voice. “Mrs. Stone, your daughter requests you come immediately.”
“Answer her.” Breck’s hot breath sears my ear.
I shout, “I’ll—I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll have to escort you. The girls are eating
in the south wing media room tonight, and with security as tight as it is… Well,
you can just imagine.”
Breck mutters a curse as he rolls off me. Even
as he unties me with one hand, the other gently follows the curve of my ass—
When he smacks it hard, I swallow the urge to
“A love tap. There’s more where that came from.
You’ll love the tour of my dungeon.”
He’s got a dungeon? His corporate bio doesn’t
mention a sadistic streak, but yeah, okay, makes sense.
I leap up and grab my dress, which is hanging
over the chair.
Breck smiles as I struggle into it. “Allow me to
zip you up.”
I suppress a shudder at the thought of his hands
anywhere on me. Instead, I nod.
He presses the zipper into my skin as he inches
it up, ever so slowly. When he’s 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?
And besides, I can’t deal with the disposal of
two dead bodies tonight.
Before I leave, I flip off Elvis Costello.
I can just imagine Ryan and Arnie’s shock and
awe at seeing Breck slithering out of the room.
I don’t even want to think about Jack’s
Let alone what he’ll say about the fried maid in
the shower. I guess I have a lot of explaining to do.
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 (email@example.com).
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This scene, in The Housewife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing (Book 2 of the series) is one of those. And it rated a "shiver with delight." Read it, and then you'll know what I mean.
How to Choose
a Party Dress
When you’re a guest at
someone else’s soirée, your first impression should be also be a lasting
one—and certainly not because you either overdressed, or underdressed, for the
occasion. When in doubt, keep it simple and elegant: black, with pearls.
If the dress code is not
in the invitation, take the time to query your host regarding the proper
Note of caution: should
your host’s recommendation include, say, crotchless panties, a naughty
schoolgirl plaid skirt, brocade ankle restraints and a head harness with a
muzzle gag, be sure to bring along something you’ll know he deserves, for
getting on your bad side.
A cement overcoat will
“Go with the backless one. You’ve got the
shoulders to carry it off.”
I turn around to see who’s offering an opinion
on my hunt for the right gown to the Breck shindig tonight. My advisor is a man
who sits on a settee in a darkened corner of the Bergdorf-Goodman couture
suite, just off to the side of the circular bank of mirrors.
While I’ve been scrutinizing my profile, he’s
been admiring my shoulders, supposedly. But only now does he lift his eyes—from
somewhere far below my shoulders—to meet mine.
From the look of his suit (made to measure for a
man whose fit physique would look great in a gunnysack, let alone a
fifteen-thousand-dollar charcoal gray Brioni) he has great taste.
He should. He is Jonah Stanford Breck IV, one of
the wealthiest men in the world.
Sweetly, I smile at him through the mirror. “You
like it better than the blue one?”
His eyes sweep over me, appraisingly. “Much more
so. Albeit the blue sets off your… eyes.”
I laugh at his ridiculous attempt to avoid the
obvious. My eyes are brown. What looks great in the blue dress is my ass.
We both know it.
“Great, then. The blue one’s the charm.”
“You’ll be the belle of the ball.”
“Not a ball, really. Just dinner. In fact, I’ll
be dining at your place, Mr. Breck.”
His eyes, gray like his trimmed sideburns, flash
suspiciously for a moment before dulling into wariness.
“Your wife, Babette, extended the invitation. My
daughter, Trisha, has been playing with Janie all afternoon. I presume Babette
felt the diversion would be welcomed.”
“Ah! How thoughtful of her. She’s right. These
business affairs can be deadly without a few petite amusements.”
As if on
cue, a woman in a flesh-toned, sparkly low-cut gown walks out of one of the
dressing rooms and over to Breck. She turns her back toward him, just slightly.
“Zip me up, will you, darling?” Her murmur is deep and soft, like velvet.
Slowly, he runs the zipper along the swayed arch
of her back then pats her ass, not so much to let her know he is done with her,
but as a promise that he isn’t.
His eyes stay with her as she makes her way back
to the dressing room. Finally, as if remembering I was still in the room, he
adds, “She’s Babette’s personal shopper. Unlike me, after eight years of
marriage, my wife finds trekking through stores ‘a chore and a bore.’ Marilyn
is exactly her size and coloring, so these little shopping excursions are
win-win for everyone. Beautiful, don’t you agree?”
“The woman or the dress?”
He points to my profile in the mirror. “A
beautiful woman makes the dress.”
I smile my thanks. “Then I presume I’ve just had
a preview of what Babette will be wearing?”
His smile fades. “Don’t presume anything.
Babette doesn’t always agree with my taste.”
“A shame. So fetching.”
It is his turn to ask, “The woman, or the
“Since you’re paying, you tell me.”
He laughs uproariously at that. “I always do.
“Speaking of the dear, will she be joining us
His smile hardens into a smirk. “Later. Dessert.
I have a voracious appetite, especially for sweet things.” His eyes catch mine
in the mirror. “Remember, dinner at eight. Sharp.”
By the time I leave the dressing room, Jonah
Breck and his personal shopper have already checked out.
When I take my dress to the sales clerk, she
informs me, “Mr. Breck put it on his tab. He asked me to relay his sincere
appreciation for your daughter’s hospitality, and he looks forward to returning
I guess I can tell Ryan he need not worry
whether we’ll get close enough to the summit’s host. If Breck has his way,
we’ll be up close and personal.
Or at least, I will.
Oh yeah, Jack should love that.
(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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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