The ExPat Returneth

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

The Expat Returneth and my family wishes you a 
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Russian on Ice: Mikhail from INCANDESCENT #CharacterInterview and #Giveaway

Today we welcome Mikhail Petrov, the powerful Russian Tri-Elemental from the paranormal romance, INCANDESCENT (Crimson Romance, 2012), by M.V. Freeman. 

"A formidable Tri-elemental, Mikhail Petrov commands earth, air, and water. He will use anyone or anything to free himself from the oppressive rule of the Mages, including the untrained fire element he discovers, Laurie." 

I'm very excited and, I'll admit, a little scared to interview such brute force. But mostly I feel tingly. I love a Russian accent. Thanks for being here Mikhail! And here's your 5 Questions.

1. $10 bottle of Popov Vodka or $900 bottle of Krug Brut Champagne?

Bah, only Russian Standard. I would not drink that sh** called Popov. Champagne is for women. 

I like your style, man. Myself, I like beer...and you don't seem to care. Moving on.

2. Who would you rather meet in a dark alley? Hungover Ninja or drunk Hun with a sword?

Only two? Amateurs both of them. 

Sorry I laughed. Really. You're quite the comedian. Really sorry...

3. If I had to write a singles ad for you, what would it say?

I already have a woman. But if you insist:  One fire elemental. Female. No Mages or Darks need apply.  

Oh, I always insist. And I don't know any Mages or Darks. Which I hope are sports teams. 

4. You’re invited to a party. When you arrive, the house is dark, the driveway deserted. You know the address and time are correct and when you try to call the host, you realize you’re in a wireless pocket. No bars. What do you do?

I walk in. I am Controller, a Tri-Elemental. They should expect me. If not, I will know why.  

I'm afraid to ask how you'll know or the why part. And is Tri-Elemental like a mixed-martial arts thing? No? Sorry.

5. Dyed redhead or true blonde?

My Laurie, she is a true redhead. There is no other choice for me. 

Wow. I just got the shivers. Okay Mikhail, here's your Madlibs. Keep it fairly clean for the kiddos! 

verb:   Drinking
verb:   Fighting
color:  Red
noun:  Fire
noun:  Water
preposition:  Within

I pulled this sentence from the INCANDESCENT excerpt at the bottom of the page.
He drinking out the cigar smoke and fighting her through the red fire, letting the water stretch within them.

That was fun! At least for me. Stop glowering, Mikhail.

And it gets better. M.V. Freeman is offering one lucky commentator a digital download of Incandescent (limited to only those that can accept it) in either Nook or Kindle. 

Some gifts are unwanted, and Laurie Hudson’s affinity for fire is one she hates. It has destroyed her relationship with her family and she has few friends. She’s fought hard to keep the fire inside suppressed, living a low key life as a bartender, until a brutal and charming man blows into her life.

Around Mikhail Petrov, her careful control disintegrates. She is at once drawn to his urbane, cool demeanor and irritated by his overbearing manner. Her options are taken away when he kidnaps her, forcing her into a fight she wants nothing to do with. 

As she learns to survive, Laurie faces the hardest choice of all, her freedom or the destruction of the frustrating man she’s come to care for.

M.V. Freeman is a native of Minnesota, but calls North Alabama her home. She is a member of RWA, and the chapters Georgia Romance Writers and Southern Magic. By day her mind is filled with medical jargon at the local health clinic, but at night she finds herself exploring alternate worlds within our own. Heavily influenced by Slavic languages and culture, you will find she weaves these elements into her stories. Her award winning story INCANDESCENT is available now. She is currently working on the second book, while plotting another series. When she is not writing, she's reading, cooking, throwing around kettle bells, or making coffee.

You can find her at: 
Twitter: @MVFree
You can find her books at:
Barnes & Noble:

And now...a sneak peek at INCANDESCENT! I loved this excerpt. Gave me the tingles.

A cool breeze floated over Laurie again as she tried to cash out. This time, it smelled of snow and wood smoke. Her skin tingled and she held back a scream of frustration. Instead, she took a deep breath, and looked up, knowing he’d be there.

Petrov sat on a bar stool, his trench coat draped over the stool beside him. He scraped a match along the underside of the counter and the stench of sulfur touched her nose as he lit another of his slim cigars. His strange eyes focused on her, his expression unreadable.

He blew out the cigar smoke and studied her through the blue haze, letting the silence stretch between them. Feeling about as awkward as she’d ever felt in her life and wanting to say something that would give her the upper hand, Laurie started to tell him he couldn’t smoke in here. His lips curled upward into the most wicked and knowing grin, its blatant sexuality left her speechless. For a moment, she stood poised at the edge of a precipice, wanting to leap off and return his smile with a wicked one of her own, to lean across the bar and connect with him on a level she didn’t even have words for. The feeling terrified her.

Instead, she stepped away from the edge and sought refuge in annoyance. What the hell was this guy’s problem, anyway? She was no beauty queen.

“Smoking is a filthy habit and I don’t appreciate you blowing it in my face.”

He was amused. With a teasing lift of his eyebrows he carefully blew his next exhalation away from her but didn’t stub out his cigar. “I am Mikhail Sergeivich Petrov and I humbly apologize for being filthy.” His tone was flirtatious and charming.

Laurie didn’t want to be charmed. “You could be fined for smoking in here.”

“Is this so?” He shrugged. “I think you worry too much about silly things. What is a fine, after all? I pay it and it becomes nothing. The government gets a little money and I do what I want.”

Laurie opened her mouth then closed it. Didn’t he realize they could shut down the restaurant?

“Besides,” he said his voice mischievous. “Are you going to tell me you’ve never smoked inside this restaurant?”

“Of course not.”

“Not even a little … Laurie?” He said her name like he was rolling it around on his tongue to get a better taste. So he already knew her name. Thanks no doubt to Rick or Jorge or whoever had the loose lips.

She pasted a polite smile on her face. “I’m sorry Mr. … ”

“Call me Mikhail or, if you decide you like me better later, Misha.”

“Mr. Petrov, is there something I can assist you with? I’m in the middle of cashing out.” Though still uncomfortably warm, the prickling sensation she felt around him had subsided, making her more confident but no less eager to get away from him.

He waved a dismissive hand. “Please. Do what you have to do.” But he didn’t leave. He leaned back on the stool to watch her with hooded eyes.

Focus. Count. Laurie told herself angrily. Where was Tiffany? She could have at least offered to close out after disappearing most of the night. She completely ignored him. She wouldn’t let him freak her out by staring at her. Damn, she restarted the count again.

“So, Laurie,” he said. “How long have you worked here?”

“Three years.” Her voice was curt. One hundred, one ten …

“Is not too long,” He took another drag of his cigar. “How old are you?”

She gave him a tired look. “Too young for you.” Seriously, didn’t he know not to ask a woman their age? Even young ones.

He gave a small laugh. “Let me be the judge.” His eyes narrowed as he studied her through the smoke. “You know, I’m thinking that a girl as beautiful as you? She should not be working so hard.” Mikhail made a small gesture that somehow encompassed the whole restaurant. “I could make it so much more comfortable for you.”

“Oh?” Laurie glared at him. What a slime ball. “I really can’t imagine what you’re implying would be any less work for me.” Home was becoming more tempting if that was possible. She heard him laugh at her under his breath.

And … enough of this shit. She’d take the money and count it in the back. She spun around and knocked into a busboy holding a tray of dirty glasses. In slow motion, the crystal glasses tumbled toward the tiled floor and shattered in successive bangs, glittering shards flying everywhere.
“Oh fff … ” Just one more damn thing to keep her from going home, she held up her hand and motioned the busboy back because she needed a moment alone more than she needed his help. This night was never going to end.

“Too bad,” Mikhail said without sympathy. “Expensive glass, da?”

“Yes,” she said through gritted teeth, reminding herself to stay calm. With her body so out of whack, it wouldn’t take much to make her ignite.

Rick came out front with the kitchen staff in tow. “Everybody? Everybody? Meeting.” Sighing in resignation, Laurie put down the dustpan and stood, but Mikhail stopped her from joining her co-workers.

“This meeting is not your concern. Stay … please.” He stubbed out his cigar into a dirty glass and indicated the stool next to him. “You will have a drink with me and we’ll get to know each other better.” He nodded toward the glass scattered on the floor. “Forget the glass; someone can do it later.”

Laurie looked over at Rick, but her manager, on some silent signal from Mikhail, motioned for her to stay at the bar. She gave Mikhail a look to curdle milk, then picked up the dust broom to continue cleaning up the glass. She was still crouched on the floor when Rick’s words “reapply this week” made her head snap up like a prairie dog from behind the counter.

She looked at the arrogant Russian accusingly. “What does he mean reapply? You’re firing everybody?”

He gave her a small smile put his hand inside his coat pocket and pulled out a pair of black dice. He stared down at them thoughtfully, rolling them around in his hand like some cliché of a 50s-era gangster. “So now you want to talk to me?” He sighed as if wounded but Laurie was having none of it. She crossed her arms and waited for him to continue. He shrugged. “It’s simple. If they want to work for Colette, they will interview again for the job.”

“Colette?” Laurie was unpleasantly surprised yet again. “Don’t you own this place now?”

He leaned against the back of the stool, studying her expression. “You are worried about this job?”

Not if that Colette’s going to be the boss. She thought sourly. The woman couldn’t even tell when she’d had a big almond in her mouth.

“Don’t worry. I like you.” He smiled. “You, I will keep. As for the others … they are Collette’s problem. I gave this restaurant to her as a gift.” Mikhail pointed to a Gray Goose Vodka bottle on the shelf behind her. “I would have that. Please.”

Laurie jerked the bottle off the back display and handed it to him.

He poured the clear liquid into a shot glass and threw back the alcohol in one gulp. She couldn’t remember if the glass had been clean or not.

“You know, to Russians, vodka is our water, food, and comfort,” he said poetically, then raised the shot glass to her in salute. “Na Zdorovye, little Laurie. To your health.” He downed it, then poured another and offered it to her. “Here, you try. It will cool that fire of yours.”

There was something pointed in his expression when he’d said this last and with a frisson of fear, Laurie suddenly remembered his oblique reference to her “smoking” in the restaurant earlier.
“What do you mean by that?” She struggled to keep her voice neutral.

He smiled a secretive smile and drank another shot. “Red hair always gives a woman fire. Is this not true?” He met her eyes. “Do you think I say something else?”

In answer, she set her jaw, took the till to the back and got her purse. He was still sitting at the bar when she returned and headed for the front door.

“We must go to dinner, you and me,” he said as she passed him. “You don’t like me but you will when you know me.”

She didn’t break her stride. “I don’t date my bosses.” Or two-timing jerks.

“I’m not your boss … yet.” He stood as she passed and a burning, tortuous wave of heat washed over her, nearly bringing her to her knees.

He caught her and put a supporting arm around her. “You are in pain.”

“I’m just tired.” It was hard to form words. She was desperate to escape him, but too focused on dousing the fire in her belly to pull away.

“It will only get worse,” he whispered. “The pressure. You must release it, or balance it.”

She looked at him confused. He couldn’t possibly know.

“Let me help you, Laurie.”

He was too close. No one got this close. She broke free from him and fled, his soft laughter and mocking words floating after her.

“Do you run from everything, Laurie?” 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Southern Speak & Christmas Cookies

This post is a reprint from one I did for Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, but it includes a Christmas cookie that can be made without baking, something that was necessary for me while living in Japan. Only 3 ingredients, too, all of which can generally be found overseas (I had a hard time getting chocolate chips but could get sweet baking chocolate which works in this recipe). Enjoy!

And by the way, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY is part of the Henery Press Holiday Sale for ebooks. For a short time, find it for 99 cents for Kindle, Nook, and on Kobo!

I love figures of speech, idiomatic expressions, and interesting pairings of words.  The South is famous for the creative turn of phrase, but in my Midwestern hometown, we like to toss interesting words together, too.  I moved to Georgia sixteen years ago.  Since that time, I’ve adopted some local vernacular.  Y’all is just too convenient not to use. Shopping carts are now buggies and instead of sick, I’m feeling puny.
Mid-westerners are less prone to hyperbole and similes, but they do like metaphors.  Metaphors are replacements for something we’d rather not say aloud.  Actually, much of what we think is better not said aloud.  I grew up hearing so-and-so was “three sheets to the wind.”  I kept picturing my mom’s laundry line until I learned what it actually meant.  My mother would accuse me of having “champagne taste on a beer budget”.  One of our neighbors looked “ridden hard and put away wet”.  I often had to “eat crow”.  Still tastes bad…
However, my favorite figure of speech is the Southern spiritually back-handed compliment of blessing someone.  Basically it means we don’t have to say a person is an idiot behind their back. “Poor Bill, bless his heart, he got the short end of the smart stick.”  This means Bill’s not just dumb, he’s one fry short of a Happy Meal.  We can be sweet and still say our minds!
My Cherry Tucker mysteries take place in a small, rural Georgian town.  Naturally, the prose is full of metaphors and similes, something you’re told not to use as a writer.
However, if you’re familiar with small, Southern towns, you would know that people don’t speak directly.  Where’s the fun in that?  You have to talk around the subject and take your time doing it.  I use some familiar sayings in Portrait of a Dead Guy and Still Life in Brunswick Stew, but I also make up some of my own, which is great fun.
Here’s a short selection of my favorites from Portrait of a Dead Guy:
“They paired up better than sausage and biscuits.”
“It wasn’t that Wanda was flashy, she just shopped above her raising.”
“There wasn’t much more to say unless someone started handing out shots of Jack with a Loretta Lynn song on the jukebox.”
“Casey couldn’t find ambition if it drew her a map and hired a sherpa.”

Because it’s the Christmas season AND because Larissa is our Guest Chef today in the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales’ kitchen, she is sharing one of her favorite recipes.
This is a Christmas tradition in my mother’s house and was my favorite cookie as a child. During the holidays,  you will always find foil-covered log rolls in my mother’s fridge.  Ask her for one and she’ll cut you a thick slice of marshmallowy-chocolate goodness. The colored marshmallows surrounded in a ring of chocolate looks like a stained-glass window.
  1. 1/2 c margarine or butter (or as my mom calls it, oleo)
  2. 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  3. 10 oz package (2 c) colored marshmallows, small size
  4. Powdered sugar
  5. 3 pieces of wax paper about 10-12 inches each.
  • Sprinkle about 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar over each of the three pieces of wax paper to cover. The sugar helps to keep the chocolate from sticking.
  • Melt chips and margarine in a microwave (of course, mom does hers over boiling water on the stove). 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring between, until all the chips are melted and smooth. Pour marshmallows into the melted chocolate and mix to cover.
  • Pour marshmallow mixture evenly between the three pieces of wax paper. When pouring, make an even layer length wise.
  • Form into log rolls by rolling the wax paper. Fold paper on the ends and along the length to secure the log roll. Wrap in foil and chill until hard.
  • Slice as needed and keep refrigerated. They will last six months. (“Well, if you forget them,” mom writes)
In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge.  But commissions are scarce.  So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small-town rival.
As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject.  Her rival wants to ruin her reputation, her ex-flame wants to rekindle the fire,  and someone’s setting her up to take the fall. Mix in her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.
Amazon Kindle     B&N Nook     Kobo   Amazon Paperback     B&N Paperback

Have any Christmas cookies that are easy to make overseas? Please share!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Winner, Winner! Mystery We Write Tour Ends

Winner, Winner! Who's Getting Chicken for Dinner? 

It's Cheryl/cmgren!

Congratulations! Be sure to email me at reinhartlarissa @ gmail . com (no spaces) with your name and address so I can send your ebook card for PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY! I'm so excited to send out this little guy. You'll be the second ever to receive one! (I had a newsletter subscriber win one last week, see And although these cards have been around for music and shops, this is brand new for individual books!

Thanks so much for following the tour! 

And if you didn't win, I just found out that Henery Press is having a Hen House Holiday Sale on all their ebooks! You can get PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY for .99 on Kindle and Nook today and soon to be on sale on Kobo. That's 80% off!

If you're looking to get one of these ebook cards to hand out as gifts, go to Henery Press website and click on contacts. Shoot them an email and find out where to get them!

(Winner chose by Random Line Picker).

Monday, December 10, 2012

Writer Earl Staggs: Living With A Hooker #bookgiveaway

Mystery author Earl Staggs recently received his second Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 Mystery tales, is available in print and ebook. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He’s a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences. 


When my wife retired, she nearly went out of her mind. She was used to her routine. Up at 4:30, at work by 6, work all day, usually through lunch, and home about  5:30. Then it was time for dinner, a little TV, then off to bed.

After she retired, she had nothing.  She didn’t have to get up in the morning at any special time. She had nothing to do all day and nowhere to go.  She’d clean house, do laundry, and run out for a little shopping.  There’s a limit to how much you can do of those things. Especially that shopping thing, unless there’s no limit to your income.

So that left her with a lot of time. And you know how women are. A lot of time filled with boredom, frustration, and too much quiet can have an effect on their personality and attitude. They tend to get, shall we say, testy.

“Carol.” I said quietly one day, “maybe we could look around and find something you’d be interested in doing, like a hobby.”


I zipped my lip, licked my wounds, and said no more.

A week or two later, however, I tried again.  We were watching a TV show where women were talking about how they filled their spare time. “Hey,” I said, “there’s something you could do. Why not give it a try?”


Zip. Lick.

A few weeks after that, Carol came across Linda, a woman she’d known from church a few years before. Linda told her how she and a bunch of other women met two or three times a week at a yarn store called The Knitting Nook. Some knitted and some crocheted, and they sat around a table doing that.  And talking, of course.  You know how women are. Linda urged Carol to go with her and check it out.

Carol went along and liked it. She’d done a little crocheting before and picked it up again easily.  Before long, she was turning out scarves, hats, potholders and placemats.  From there, she advanced to sweaters, baby blankets, dolls, and even jewelry.  While she had once sat around the house, grumpy and grousy because she had nothing to do, now she’d crochet non-stop.  She even became a teacher. When someone came into the Knitting Nook and wanted lessons, Wanda, the owner, referred them to Carol. And, yes, she got paid for teaching.

So, all was good.  Carol had found something to do with all those free hours, and she was good at it.  She was very happy.  I was happy, too.  Now we had normal conversations around the house again.

Sadly, Wanda decided to close the Nook.  Ever resourceful, however, Carol suggested they take turns hostessing the group at their homes.  That worked out great.  Even Wanda joined in.  Now, they meet twice a week at different houses.  Carol has them at our place every other Thursday.

I knew nothing about knitting or crocheting, but I learned one thing.  Knitters use needles, and crocheters use hooks.  That’s why the group adopted the name “The Happy Hookers.”

And that’s why I say I live with a hooker.

Now, you’re invited to visit my website at where you can:

. . .read Chapter One of my Mystery novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.

. . .read a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.” Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written.

. . .read “White Hats and Happy Trails,” a story about the day I spent with my boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.  There’s even a picture of my wife and me with Roy to prove it’s all true.

. . .check out SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 of my published tales of mystery, ranging from hardboiled to humorous, available in ebook or print form.

But you can’t go yet. Please leave a comment while you’re here and you may win a free book.

At the end of the tour, I’ll draw two names from those who left comments.  The first name drawn will receive a signed print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER, a mystery novel with a long list of Five Star Reviews.  The second name drawn will receive their choice of a signed print copy or an ebook of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of 16 tales of mystery from hardboiled to humorous.

Thank you, Larissa, for letting me stop by here to talk about the craft of hooking. And thanks to everyone who came by.  I hope you’ll leave a comment before you go.

Earl Staggs

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Baking a Christmas Mystery, Anne K. Albert #bookgiveaway

My guest today is Anne K. Albert. Anne’s award winning mystery and romantic suspense stories chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. When not at the keyboard she loves to travel, walk on a beach, visit friends and family, and of course, read using ‘Threegio’ her beloved and much cherished Kindle 3G. She can be found online at FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInGoodreadsPinterestAmazon and her blog. 

 Thanks for featuring me today, Larissa. You requested a food related post, and that fits perfectly with Frank, Incense and Muriel

The story takes place the week before Christmas when the stress of the holidays is enough to frazzle anyone’s nerves. Tensions increase when a friend begs Muriel to team up with a sexy private investigator to find a missing woman. Forced to deal with an embezzler, kidnapper, and femme fatale is bad enough, but add Muriel’s zany yet loveable family to the mix and their desire to win the coveted D-DAY (Death Defying Act of the Year) Award, and the situation can only get worse.

It does get worse, of course, when Muriel’s aunt decides to bake sugary treats based on the twelve days of Christmas. Here’s what happens when she and Frankie first meet in Muriel’s kitchen. She studies him over the brim of her coffee mug.

“Do I know you?”

I joined them at the table and made the necessary introductions. I left out the part about Frankie being my childhood nemesis and my aunt being one of the many black sheep in the family. Some things are best left unsaid.

“Salerno, huh?” Val pried the lid off the Santa container and offered us each a mincemeat tart.

Eager to try one, I readily accepted and carefully removed the turtledoves from their nest. I placed them on the paper napkin beside my mug, took one bite, and moaned.

“Omigosh,” I said. “These are amazing. Val, you’ve outdone yourself.”

Grinning from ear to ear, she held the tin under Frankie’s nose. “Are you any relation to the Salerno who handled the Brickman fiasco a few years back?”

“That was my first case.” He…helped himself to a tart and following my example removed the turtledoves and placed them on his napkin. He sunk his teeth into the tart and I watched spellbound as a look of utter satisfaction spread across his face. He caught my gaze and I realized that at least we agreed on one thing. My aunt sure could cook.

“I never liked that guy,” Val said. “What was his name? Logan? Locust?”

“Lucas,” Frankie replied.

“Whatever.” She took a bite. I watched in horror as the tiny head of one of the turtledoves disappeared inside her right nostril.

“He was far too polite for my liking,” she said, her voice an octave higher than normal. “It wasn’t natural.”

I breathed a sigh of relief when the turtledove freed itself and plummeted head first into her mug. Coffee sloshed over the rim and onto the table like a mini tsunami.

Never one to mince words, Val later points her finger at Frankie and asks if he came to the house to ask Muriel out on a date, but once again the conversation turns to food.

“I’m doing a culinary version of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Only I’m fast-forwarding it into six days because of time restraints. Today is day one and two. Tomorrow day three and four. I’ll make lemon bars and cut them into the shape of French hens. But they’re really, really small, so three should equal one serving. That translates into Three French Hens! Get it?”

“Got it. What’s D-Day–?”

She cut him off. “There’s only one problem. I have no idea what to do for Four Calling Birds. Any suggestions?”

To my amazement, Frankie actually seemed to think about it.

“Hey!” I rapped my knuckles on the table so hard I feared I’d be bruised by noon. “Can we get back to the business at hand?”

Above the rim of his mincemeat tart--I might have lost count of how many he’d eaten if not for the gaggle of turtledoves heaped on his napkin--Frankie stared at me as if every taste bud in my head had suddenly vanished.

The grim look on my aunt’s face wasn’t much better. I felt like a gastronomic Grinch.

Baking, Christmas and a good mystery seem like a natural fit to me, Larissa. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to chat about it! Readers can enter my giveaway contest. Up for grabs is an e-copy of FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL. Leave a comment and you're automatically entered. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on my blog on December 11, 2012. Good luck!

Thanks Anne!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Making Cannoli and Mafia Stories, S.R. Claridge #Bookgiveaway

A Labor of Love

The Just Call Me Angel series is a mafia-based suspense series set in Chicago; however, the family roots go all the way back to Italy and Sicily.

At the end of book three, Russian Uprising, Angel Maratinzano decides to join her mother, Sophia and her great Aunt Lucia on a two week vacation throughout Italy and Sicily.  While drinking in the rich culture, she learns about her family’s history from her grandfather, Salvatore Buscetta, who still lives in Sicily. In addition to her ancestral lesson, Angel comes to realize that the Italians have some of the best food in the world.  In fact, on the plane home she remarks how, after two weeks of the most decadent food and wine she’s ever tasted, her blue jeans now fit like sausage casings.

Two of Angel’s favorite foods are Ravioli and Cannoli, and lucky for Angel, her aunt Lucia has perfected making both. 

The preparing of these dishes is a true labor of love, especially the Cannoli; and Lucia takes it very seriously.  She has her own seasoned, wooden dowels that once belonged to her mother, which she uses to wrap the dough into tubular form and fry in oil.  Making Cannoli takes time and attention to detail, as the oil must be precisely the right temperature.  If it’s too hot, the shells will burn and if it’s too cool the shells will turn out soft and greasy.  Futzing around the kitchen in her big-bird, yellow apron, she makes sure each shell is cooked to perfection before starting on the filling, which is as rich in flavor as it is in tradition.  Lucia blends fresh ricotta and imported mascarpone cheese with Grand Marnier, cinnamon and powdered sugar, to create the most authentic and decadent Cannoli known to man.  

For Lucia, each Cannoli is a work of art.  For Angel, each Cannoli is a tubular piece of heaven.  As Angel shovels them into her mouth, Lucia often scolds her; telling her to slow down and savor every bite.

In Italy and Sicily, food is a love language. Meals are designed to bring the family together, to be shared and savored and paired with a good red wine.  Aunt Lucia helps to instill this rich tradition in Angel, opening her eyes to the fact that to run the Maratinzano family she must first understand the depths of its powerful roots.  Just like making Cannoli, that takes time, constant attention and it is a labor of love.  ~

I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. I will be giving away an ebook copy of TETTERBAUM'S TRUTH, book one in the Just Call Me Angel series; or if you've already read Tetterbaum's Truth, you may select another novel of your choice and receive that e-copy instead.  Leave a comment below and you're automatically entered. Include your email address in your comment so I can get in touch with you should your name be selected at random. The winner will be announced on my blog ( ) on December 12, 2012. Good luck!"

Susan Claridge writes under the name, S.R.Claridge. I'm a mom,
a wife, a daughter, a sister, a niece, an in-law and friend; but no matter what
hat I wear, I’m always the same simply, complicated woman beneath. I love autumn,
moonlight and Grey Goose Vodka martinis with bleu cheese olives. I believe
Friday nights were made for Mexican food and margaritas and Sunday mornings
warrant an extra-spicy Bloody Mary. I love Jesus and know that any good in me
comes from God. I believe in the power of prayer, in the freedom of forgiveness
and that people can change. I have a terrible temper and a tender heart, and somehow they balance. At times I may appear teetering on the edge, but I'd rather walk dangerously where there's a view than let life pass me by. Relationships intrigue me and so does the loyalty of Mafia families, which is why I chose these topics for my novels. 

No Easy Way  (debut novel; nominated for The Molly Award from the HODRW 2010)
Tetterbaum’s Truth (book 1 in the Just Call Me Angel series)
Traitors Among Us (book 2 in the Just Call Me Angel series)
Russian Uprising (book 3 in the Just Call Me Angel series)
Death Trap (book 4 in the Just Call Me Angel series)
Petals of Blood (short story; Pushcart Prize Nomination 2013)
House of Lies (political/cult suspense, to be released October 2012)


Friday, December 7, 2012

Barlioche, Argentina Revisited #bookgiveaway

Hello everyone, I'm Charlotte Ross, a thirty-something, small-town
girl from the Mid-west, and I'm the protagonist in Evelyn Cullet's new
novel, Masterpiece of Murder. I've recently returned home from a
suspense-filled, romantic adventure in the beautiful resort city of
Barioche, (pronounced, bah reeh LOH cheh), Argentina. I'd like to
relate my experiences to you when I visited the city that's been
referred to as the gateway to Patagonia.

Bariloche's snow-capped mountains, glaciers, dense woods and
crystalline lakes have made its spectacular natural environment into
one of Argentina’s major outdoor recreation areas. In the high summer
season, when my story takes place, most days are characterized by
clear sunny skies and warm temperatures. On the day I arrived it was
raining. Just my luck. But at least the wet weather only lasted one
day. After that we had clear skies, sunny days and mild breezes which
would have been a great excuse to walk the paths of Lake Nahuel Huapi,
or enjoy all kinds of sports such as trekking, rafting, or
fly-fishing, although I never got the chance to do any of these.
Unfortunately, my days were spent searching for my errant fiancé,
sweating out time at the police station, taking some miserable art
classes, and trying to prove myself innocent of a murder I didn't
commit. But I digress.

One of the things I did get to enjoy was the wonderful cuisine of
Argentina. On the first day I arrived, I tasted a dish my host called,
Guiso. This meat and vegetable stew was a filling and satisfying meal
that combined traditional ingredients with sweet potatoes, squash and
peaches for a delectable combination. Served with crusty bread and
butter, it made an excellent impression on me, besides a great lunch.
The gastronomy of this city was exquisitely represented by so many
savory dishes, but another I especially enjoyed was a dinner of
Milanea Napolitana, breaded meat strips in tomato sauce and melted
port cheese; an Asado Salad, grilled white onions, carrots, olive oil,
lemon, and grated cheese. And for dessert Alfajores, two large almond
cookies sandwiched with thick melted chocolate. Yum!

And speaking of Argentine cuisine, it didn't take much coaxing for me
to delight in tasting the wine there. Malbec is Argentina's signature
grape and I hear that it's quickly making a new name for itself with
red wine lovers. I can see why. It's a medium to full-bodied, dry red
wine. I found the alcohol level slightly higher than that of the wine
I normally drink. It only took a half glass to make me a great deal
more tipsy than I would have liked. But it was awfully hard to resist
with its dark, inky purple color and the ripe fruit flavors of plums,
black cherry and blackberry which gave the wine a decidedly jammy
character. In other words, it was delicious! If you're a wine drinker,
you might want to give wine made from the Malbec grape a try.

And the Chocolate! How many ways can one eat chocolate??? Bariloche is
the one place in Argentina where you are bound to find out.
Chocolaterias (Chocolate Shops) in Bariloche are scattered everywhere
among the busy streets. One, in particular, played a pivotal role in
my story. To take my mind off my troubles, I indulged in the famous
chocolate varieties offered by the city as extravagant *chocolate
fondues*, chocolate stick, chocolate with almonds, and milk sweet
caramel with chocolate. I also delighted my taste buds with homemade
sweets of mosqueta, sweet elderberry, and currant. Chocolate is a
great comfort for me whenever I have the blues, because it's hard to
cry and each chocolate at the same time.

There were so many places in Bariloche I investigated while searching
for the real killer, like the Bariloche Museum; the Hospital Zonal
Juan Ramon Carrillo; and Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi Cathedral, a
breathtakingly beautiful building of Neo-gothic design with more than
50 stained-glass windows. I could go on, but I hope my short "tour"
brought a tiny bit of Bariloche, Argentina into your lives. To read
more about Bariloche, and to see photos of the places mentioned in
Evelyn's novel, please visit the Photo Page on Evelyn's webesite at Oh yes, and to find out how my story turns
out, read Evelyn's new romantic suspense novel, Masterpiece of Murder,
available in print and ebook from the publisher at:
available as an ebook for the Nook from
Thank you, Larissa, for having me as a guest on your blog today.

We would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and you'll
automatically be entered in Evelyn's giveaway contest. You could win a
signed print copy of Masterpiece of Murder. The lucky winner will be
picked at random at the end of the Murder We Write blog tour, and
announced on her blog, on December 11th.
Don't forget to leave your email address so she'll know how to contact

Masterpiece of Murder is a fast-paced romantic suspense novel
involving a broken-hearted art student, Charlotte Ross, who is so
intent on locating her errant fiancé that she submits someone else’s
painting as her own in order to gain access to a Master art class
being held in Bariloche, Argentina—the place her lost love was last
seen. When the painting gets her accepted into the class given by a
world-famous artist and womanizer, being a novice makes keeping up
with the others nearly impossible as she struggles to fake her way
though, while trying to win back the man she loves. But her fiancé has
his own reasons for being in Bariloche that complicate Charlotte’s
life and threaten her very existence as she stumbles into a downward
spiral of deception, art forgery, and murder. After accidently finding
the murder victim, circumstantial evidence begins to mount up against
her and the local police suspect she is the killer. Now she must use
the skills she learned from her mystery writer friend, along with the
help of her fellow art students, to discover who is really behind the
murder. Not an easy task with a military police officer dogging her
every step.

Evelyn Cullet has been an aspiring author since high school when she
wrote short stories. She didn't begin her first novel until college,
later in life. Afterward, she continued to take writing classes while
working in the offices of a major soft drink company. Now, after early
retirement, she finally has the chance to do what she loves best;
write full-time. Evelyn enjoys playing the piano, being an organic
gardener, and an amateur Lapidary. She's a former long-time member of
the Agatha Christie Society, and is currently a member of Sisters in
Crime. Evelyn and her husband  live in a suburb of Chicago along with
their Black Lab/Pit Bull, Bailey.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Recharging on Drummond Island, WS Gager #bookgiveaway

Thank you so much for allowing me to be here today. Larissa asked for a post on living abroad or an international setting.  My fifth Mitch Malone Mystery Series will be set on Drummond Island, Michigan, a stone’s throw from Canada in Lake Huron, an hour from the Mackinaw Bridge.
Drummond Island
The island is only accessible by ferry and hasn’t been inundated with cell towers. It is a popular place to vacation in July and many who own or rent homes, make it an annual pilgrimage. I admit, I’m addicted to the island. It has been a great place to recharge, reconnect and just plain relax. Doing research has been anything but work. 

There is just something about waking up in the morning and looking outside and watching the sun dance on the water for as far as the eye can see. Neighbor’s houses could be within hailing distance but because of the tree cover and sounds of the waves rocking against the stony shore, any noise is lost. That doesn’t mean neighbors don’t pop over to check things out especially if strange cars are seen.

Transportation on the island can take many forms. Sometimes the fastest transportation can be by boat or kayak because roads are scarce. Motorized off-road-vehicles also can take more cross -country routes. My favorite is biking but it is hard to bring home any groceries that way. After the main roads that cross in the little commercial center, many of the roads to homes can be little more than two-tracks that twist and turn as it follows the coastline. You never know if you will see a beautiful vista of water, rock and color, or just more trees.

The residents who live year-round are made of hearty stock and have formed a tight-knit community that watch out for each other and help in times of need much the way I picture settlements that dotted the prairie as America spread west early in our country’s history.

While Drummond Island isn’t international, it is a foreign way of life for many that runs on its own time frame and newcomers only arrive as often as the ferry runs and in the heart of winter, strangers are rare and stick out because everyone knows everyone’s name. For my main character Mitch Malone, this presents all sorts of problems that he enjoys and hates. 

While Drummond Island is part of Michigan, when you are there, it is like you are in your own little world. I hope that is enough of an international flair. What is your favorite place to recharge?

W.S. Gager will be giving away a single copy of each of the first three books in the Mitch Malone Mystery series: A CASE OF INFATUATION, A CASE OF ACCIDENTAL INTERSECTION, and A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES from comments made on her blog: or on her guest blogs from the Murder We Write Mystery Tour. 

Mitch finally scores a weekend dinner with a cute receptionist, but true to his reporter instincts an explosion in a high rise office building makes him stand up his date as he runs for an exclusive.  When he investigates, he learns his date is the only casualty in a botched robbery at a real estate office. When femme fatale Patrenka Petersen returns, Mitch learns that much of what he knows about his date and her work aren’t what they seem. His world continues to twist when the police captain asks for his help and a city hall informant is found floating in the river. Mitch must keep his head down or a cute dog with a knack for finding dead bodies will be sniffing out his corpse.  

When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough--lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates--including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?

Award winning mystery author W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him. Her third book, A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, was a finalist in the 2012 Daphne Du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. A CASE OF VOLATILE DEEDS, her fourth in the Mitch series will be out this February.