Five For Friday: Author Jackie Bouchard

Five For Friday: Author Jackie Bouchard

Jackie-Rita-ColorMy whole life, I have always been a cat person, but for the last several years, doggies have definitely started to win my heart–especially the doggie characters created by the delightful and talented Jackie Bouchard.

I loved her WHAT THE DOG ATE. Here’s what I had to say about it:

Most clever-ever “panties in a twist” scenario ever!

There are few ways as surreal of finding out that your partner has been cheating on you than that the panties the veterinarian had to surgically extract from your pooch were not yours… So begins Jackie Bouchard’s funny, intelligent, and entertaining novel about a woman, uber-successful career-maven Maggie, forced to find out who she really is at 40+–after the only guy she’s ever been with, her husband of 20 years, cheats on her with a second-grade teacher. There is no way not to love Maggie. From the way she tries to quiet her insomnia by doing shots of tequila at 5am to the wonderful relationship she has with her dog. The inner dialog she carries with her actions makes you realize that it doesn’t matter how tough and powerful anyone may seem on the outside–that being brokenhearted is a struggle for us all, and that the most satisfying comfort we can find is in unconditional love. Heartwarming and funny–and highly recommended!

You’ll read about Jackie’s latest, RESCUE ME, MAYBE, shortly–just after the interview. Here’s how to connect with her:

Her site: www.jackiebouchard.com

Her blog: http://poochsmooches.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JackieBouchardWriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jackiebouchard

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/5781094.Jackie_Bouchard

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JACKIE BOUCHARD writes Fido-friendly fiction. She used to be trapped in the hamster wheel of corporate America, but she was lucky enough to escape and now fully understands the term “struggling writer.” Jackie loves: reading, writing, and, yes, even ‘rithmetic (seriously, algebra rocks); professional cycling; margaritas; blogging (she never thought she’d say that, but she does); dogs in general, and her crazy rescue pup specifically; and her hubby. (Not in that order.) Jackie dislikes: rude people and writing about herself in the third person. After living in Southern California, then Bermuda, then Canada, then the East Coast, Jackie and her husband settled in San Diego. American Jackie, her Canadian hubby, and her Mexican rescue mutt form their own happy little United Nations. Jackie’s novels include WHAT THE DOG ATE and RESCUE ME, MAYBE.

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1. Did you always know you’d be a writer? If not, what did you think you were going to be?

Like the main character, Maggie, in my first novel, WHAT THE DOG ATE, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. As a kid, I used to love to put on plays and shows with my friends. I remember we wrote a parody of Romeo and Juliet when we were about 12. (Wish I still had that script!) In high school I had a deep secret dream to be a model (Ha! This was merely because I was tall and skinny – I’m not photogenic at all!), and then become the first female president. But… I was always a creative person trapped in a practical person’s body. I was good at math, so I studied accounting. Accounting is a great career (very stable, and I got to not only move to Bermuda thanks to accounting, I met my hubs there), but the higher up you go the more stressful it gets. I don’t do well with stress! Luckily my inner creative person finally got to come out and play.

2. How did you decide to write with dogs as central characters in your books?

I didn’t really decide to. It just happened. I started WHAT THE DOG ATE as a short story for a class I decided to take just for something fun to do while my husband was working tons of hours. I really had no idea where the story was going when I started it. As I worked on it, I wanted Maggie to learn to be freer, more willing to be ruled by her heart – and what better guru for that than a dog? I started another book after that that had a dog in it, but wasn’t a big part of the story. Then my dog died – our beagle that my husband and I got when we first got married. So, I started a new story about a woman who had just lost her dog, as a way to deal with my own grief. That story ended up becoming RESCUE ME, MAYBE. It’s about a woman whose life is changed by the dog she rescues, just as my last dog Abby (that’s her on the cover) had a big impact on my life.  As I wrote both those books I realized I might as well just go with this dog thing. I love dogs; they’re what I know. And I have some ideas that I hope will make fun books for dog lovers for my next two novels!

3. Do you have any rituals when it comes to writing?

Not really. I try not to get into the habit of having rituals or “best” times for when I write. For me, that ends up being an excuse not to write. “Oh, I don’t have my special pen/lucky necklace/bust of Dickens; I can’t write.” Or, “Oh, it’s too late at night. I’m a morning writer.” In general, though, I do usually write in the afternoons, on my PC at my desk in our den/office. I like to have silence. I usually just sit down, reread some of what I wrote previously, and dive in. Sometimes I stare out the big sliding glass door… Sometimes I try hard to resist popping over to Facebook for a few minutes… Sometimes I wander out to the kitchen, or rub my dog Rita’s belly… Sometimes I get some writing done.

4. What are you doing when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing or wandering out to my kitchen, I’m usually walking my dog, working on my blog or visiting other blogs, reading, watching cooking competition shows (even though I don’t really like to cook that much), cooking (even though I don’t really like to cook that much), or hanging out with the hubs watching movies or sports.

5. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?

When RESCUE ME, MAYBE opens, Jane has just lost both her husband, Ryan, and her dog, Barnum, to cancer within a few weeks of each other. But she’s sadder about the dog. (She had planned to ask for a divorce, but then Ryan got cancer and died. Jane is such a loner that no one knows she’d wanted a divorce.) This scene with her in-laws, Barbara and Jeffrey, takes place a few days after the funeral.

BONUS: If you were a dog, what breed would you be–and why?

This question is so perfect, because in my new book Jane’s aunt loves to ask people questions like this! (She thinks it gives you good insight into how they see themselves, versus how you see them.)

I think I would be a beagle. Beagles are stubborn, funny, determined, and philosophical. They are extremely food-driven (I’m usually eating one meal and thinking about my next) and they have a very good sense of smell (so do I – sometimes that’s unfortunate). Beagles are good at making people smile and laugh, and that’s my main objective in life.

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Cover-Rescue-Me-Maybe-Final-SmlAbout RESCUE ME, MAYBE
If you lost both your spouse and your dog to cancer within weeks of each other, but you were sadder about the dog, would you tell anyone? Maybe your closest friends. Unfortunately, Jane Bailey’s closest friends are on the other side of the country. That’s where Jane plans to go now that she’s free to leave Philadelphia, the too cold, beachless, street taco-deficient city her husband dragged her to six years ago. But with no job prospects in her hometown of San Diego, Jane is roped into helping out temporarily at her uncle’s southwestern small-town.

En route to her new role as innkeeper and breakfast chef, she finds a stray at a rest stop. With her heart in pieces from the loss of her dog, she’s determined not to let this mutt worm its way into her affections. She’s also determined to have next-to-no interaction with the B&B’s irritating guests, and the even more annoying handyman who lives next door. Can Jane keep her sanity–and her secret that she’s not really a grieving widow–while trying to achieve her dream of getting back to the place she thinks is home?

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Buy RESCUE ME, MAYBE:

Amazon (both print and e-book):

http://www.amazon.com/Rescue-Me-Maybe-ebook/dp/B00F54KYG6

Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rescue-me-maybe-jackie-bouchard/1116892136?ean=2940148566045

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Praise for RESCUE ME, MAYBE

“…a must-read for dog lovers, fans of Women’s Fiction, and anyone who likes a funny, well-written story about overcoming life’s obstacles.”
– Tracie Banister, author of In Need of Therapy and Blame It On the Fame

“… brilliant in its subtle humor, intelligent prose and seamless writing. Jackie Bouchard is an excellent storyteller who captures her characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings and draws her readers in from the first line.”
– Samantha Stroh Bailey, author of Finding Lucas

“This book, like Jackie’s first, has me sad to have read the last page, and eagerly anticipating when her next book will be out.”
– Barbara Techel, author of Through Frankie’s Eyes

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Start reading RESCUE ME, MAYBE now

“We want Ryan’s ashes back.” Barbara’s green eyes, so like Ryan’s, stare into mine, unblinking. I look away first, concentrate on my pancakes and think, so this is why they invited me out. When Barbara called early this morning, I’d thought they were worried about me, wanted to make sure I wasn’t wallowing in bed, was eating a decent breakfast. I didn’t want to come. I wanted to stay home and wallow in bed; I wanted to drink stale coffee and pick at four-day-old muffins when I finally got up. I tried telling Barbara I had a lot to do today, what with getting ready to move, but she insisted.

I should have seen this coming. After all, they hadn’t honored any of Ryan’s wishes for the funeral; why did I think they were going to go along with his final dying wish?

“So, you’re going to take him to Maui yourselves?” I know this is not what she means. I look at her, then Jeffrey. Now it’s his turn to look at his plate. I’m sure this is her idea.

“We’re going to bury him,” she says. “We already have the plot. It’s next to ours in the Huntingdon Valley Peaceful Hills Cemetery.”

Never mind that Ryan didn’t want to be buried. Never mind that even if he did, why would he want to be buried next to his parents? Did they consider that maybe he’d want to spend eternity next to his wife? Of course, they don’t know about our fights, but still, they should assume that if the man wanted to be in the ground he’d want to be next to his wife, not his mama. Barbara’s got some long-ass apron strings—they extend right on through to the afterworld. “You know that he made me promise to take him to Maui some day; you were there.”

“I—we—can’t let you simply toss him into the sea.” Barbara widens her eyes in a move I would not have thought possible, since her bun is pulled so tight.

The waitress, dressed like a clown (I’d forgotten today was Halloween until I walked into the café), tries to pour more coffee, but Barbara waves her away. Thanks, Barbara. I hold up my cup, but it’s too late; the clown’s gone. I hate clowns.

I set my half-empty cup back down. “You say that like I’d be tossing him out like . . . like the trash. I’m not trying to be difficult; I know you guys are grieving, and of course you want him near you, but Ryan didn’t want to be buried. He wanted to be in his favorite place in the whole world.” I’m under-caffeinated and this conversation is starting to make me angry.
Or am I trying to be difficult? I’m sure as hell sick of Barbara dictating how everything’s going to be. She already nixed Ryan’s “fun” funeral ideas, and I gave in, because I felt terrible for them, and because Barnum had just died and I didn’t have the energy to fight about it.

But now I feel terrible. I’m letting Ryan down. And it wasn’t like those discussions with Ryan were easy to have in the first place. It was unbearably hard to talk to him about what I’d be doing after he was gone—even to acknowledge that I’d keep going. I felt sad, angry at the universe, guilty knowing that I’d still be around, a functioning person. I’d be able to get on a plane and fly to Maui after he was gone. (Well, technically, he’d be getting on the plane with me—but he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view or the macadamia nuts.)

After having to endure those painful conversations, and promising Ryan everything would happen exactly as he wanted, and then caving about the funeral because I was distracted dealing with Barnum’s death . . . No, this time I’m not backing down.

“I know that’s what he said he wanted, but Jane, I’m begging you to reconsider. Those ashes are still Ryan. You wouldn’t throw Ryan’s body over the side of a boat, now would you?”

“Of course I wouldn’t but—” I look at Jeffrey, hoping he’ll be the reasonable one and help me out; hoping he’ll stick up for what his son wanted.

“The thing is,” Jeffrey begins softly, “Barbara and I talked to Father Llewellyn, and he said we need to bury the ashes in one place, in consecrated ground.”

“We want his body to be ready, on the final Judgment Day.” Barbara squeezes Jeffrey’s hand which still holds his fork, suspended over the egg white and spinach omelet Barbara ordered for him, although he’d said, “Belgian waffles sound good!” while perusing his menu. She squeezes his hand so hard a small bit of egg clinging to his fork falls back onto his plate.

The poor man can’t order his own breakfast; I should have known better than to think he would come to my aid on something as big as this.

I lean back against the red Naugahyde. “But Ryan didn’t—” I stop. I’m angry that they’d suggest I should go back on my promise—a promise made right in front of Barbara (why didn’t she bring up her objections then?)—but even though I’m pissed, I can’t bring myself to say that Ryan didn’t believe in the things they hold dear, the things they cling to like little neon-colored life jackets of hope in the face of their son’s death. They already know anyway, but I’m not going to be the one to verbalize it. Ryan believed in being a good person, in treating others with respect, but he didn’t share their faith.

I look at their anguished faces—Jeffery a weathered version of Ryan; Barbara with Ryan’s sea green eyes. I don’t want to let Ryan down—but they look so miserable. They wait for me to finish what I started to say. I take a deep breath and hope Ryan won’t mind. “Ryan didn’t want to be buried. But, what if we compromise? I’ll take part of his ashes to Maui. You can bury the rest. Then you’ll have your visitation spot, and he’ll . . . mostly be in consecrated ground.”

They look at each other, then back at me. “We can’t do that,” Barbara says. “Father Llewellyn was adamant that we shouldn’t scatter the ashes—not even part of them. He says Ryan should be interred in whole.”

For a second I think she said “hole,” and think, of course there’ll be a hole, but then I realize what she said. I’m tempted to suggest they think outside the box, so to speak. I can’t help it. Bad jokes pop into my head when things get serious. I chew my lip and say nothing.

“Someday he’ll be resurrected,” Barbara says. “He’s going to need his body.”

I’m not sure at what age I stopped believing in a vision of heaven that involved angels and harps and fluffy clouds, but I did stop. I don’t believe we’re going to be resurrected, that we’ll each float up to our own pre-designated La-Z-Angel cloud-recliner. (I’m willing to admit there’s a small chance I could be wrong, but I doubt it.) I think if there is going to be some sort of resurrecting going on, God, or whoever’s in charge, wouldn’t be cruel enough to saddle us with these same old bodies. Won’t we be . . . I dunno, some sort of asexual things? All beautiful and ethereal and floaty. Are people going to still need their funky feet and their double chins and their . . . scrotums? Will scrotums (or is it scroti?) be necessary in the afterlife? Whatever the word is, I’m pretty sure they’ll be useless there. Not to mention the fact that they are really unattractive.

Wouldn’t we be better off without that . . . baggage? I think any sort of loving God has got to have a better plan than that.

On the other hand, I must admit I have imagined Barnum being there to greet me when I die. And I always picture him as his usual fuzzy self. So, how will that work? He’ll be his regular dog self, but I’ll be some sort of shape-shifting mist? Will he recognize me? Will I smell the same?

The whole thing is very confusing and makes my brain tired. I want to go home and go back to sleep.

“I’ll have to think about it.” I want to end this conversation and buy myself some time. Jeffrey and I finish our breakfasts; Barbara taps her wedding ring against her coffee mug.

As I stab the last bite of pancake I think, there is no way I’m breaking my final promise to Ryan. The funeral stuff was minor. I can let that go. But this is a big deal. My last stand.

So . . . I’ll just keep some of him. They’ll never know! I’ll keep a scoop, maybe two, and let them have the rest. It’s a perfect solution.

I lick syrup off the backside of my fork, satisfied with my plan.

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Five for Friday: Brea Brown

Five for Friday: Brea Brown

breaglassesIt’s Five for Friday time again and I’m delighted today to be welcoming one of my favorite authors–and favorite author pals–back to the Shed!I know Brea Brown via Facebook mostly (Twitter less–much, much less). She’s one of the most supportive writer pals I have. And she’s funny. Have I mentioned how funny she is? Because she is. I loved her Daydreamer and I’ve started to read her beloved The Secret Keeper series. She’s a talented storyteller and you will love her books.Brea and I also wear glasses. At least in pictures. And we feel this is a real bonding thing… I’ll give you a minute to reflect on that. Yep, that’s how how simpatico we are. Because isn’t the very definition of “simpatico” someone you can be a idiot with? In any case, I swear I will meet her one day! Before then, here’s how I connect with Brea, and it’s just how you should, too:

Here! Connect with Brea!

Facebook

Website

Twitter (She loves Twitter dearly; she’ll be delighted!)

Goodreads

Says BREA BROWN…

I live in Springfield, Missouri, where nothing ever happens, so I make things up in my head. My published books are Daydreamer, Quiet, Please!, Plain Jayne, and the Secret Keeper series (The Secret Keeper, The Secret Keeper Confined, The Secret Keeper Up All Night, The Secret Keeper Holds On, and The Secret Keeper Lets Go. Stop by my website for links to my books, a peek at my blog, and a glimpse of my Tweets (that’s right… hubba hubba). I’d also love it if you stopped by my Facebook page and said hi. I’m on there. All. The. Time. I have three boys, a very understanding husband, and a crush on several celebrities, including Colin Firth and The Man in the Yellow Hat.

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1. For those who aren’t familiar with The Secret Keeper (TSK for us lazies) series, can you tell us what inspired you to start it–and what keeps you writing it?

Some people inspire others to tell them their secrets–from the silly and superficial to the deep and dark. One day, I was lamenting the fact that I seem to be one of those people on whom others like to dump all their dirty laundry, and I got this flash of inspiration about a fictional character with this same problem, only with more humorous results and with huge secrets of her own. In the case of my protagonist, Peyton Stratford, I made her family the biggest offenders of these crushing confessions, and instead of having Peyton turn to a therapist for guidance, I thought it would be more interesting–and certainly less conventional in this day and age–for her to seek support from a Lutheran clergyman… a very young, handsome, personable clergyman. I keep writing the series because I love writing about characters whose public personae rarely hint at their private lives, and people assume things about them that aren’t true or that are based on stereotypes. I’ve had a great time molding characters who just happen to be Christians in the context of true-to-life situations and dilemmas that often seem to have very little to do with faith and spirituality. This is not Christian fiction; I don’t have a “message” I’m trying to force on readers. I’m really just exploring what it means to be a person of faith (and I think it translates to any faith) in a society that seems to have less and less use for the concept.

2. What are you doing when you’re not writing or reading?

Sleeping? Ha! Seriously, when I’m not at my full-time day job or sleeping, I’m reading and writing. Occasionally, I take breaks to eat and do the things required of me as a parent and wife. As for what I do for “fun,” I still have a few friends who haven’t written me off as obsessed with imaginary people, and I get together with them occasionally to eat, drink, and be merry. I also have a mild (okay, it’s insatiable) addiction to British TV shows, particularly period dramas and series. Oh, and I love professional American football. Go Chiefs!

3. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?

In the excerpt, Peyton has become desperate enough with her current situation to seek the help of someone in touch with a higher power. Not a therapist, not a psychic, but a pastor. Unfortunately, she underestimates how awkward it can be to tell a man of God something as personal as what she feels compelled to tell him.

4. If TSK became a movie or TV series, who would star–and why?

Now, see… I hesitate to reveal these names, because I’m a firm believer that readers need to have the freedom to picture whomever they want when they read about my characters, but I have very strong feelings about who I see when I write the books. And I absolutely HATE when Hollywood casting doesn’t coincide with who I’ve pictured in a book as I’ve read it. That being said, I’m going to risk readers’ wrath by revealing who I picture when I write the books. And it’s really okay if readers don’t see the same people, but I don’t want a bunch of indignant messages about it, m’kay? There are no wrong answers here!

In my head, Peyton Stratford is Emma Stone…
Peyton S.
And Brice Northam is Matthew Lewis (have you seen him lately???).
M Lewis Pastor Shirt
Of course, I’ve cast all the other characters, too, but I won’t bore you with the long, scrolling credits.5. What’s next for you? Can you tell us about your current WIP? Give us a little taste?I’ve just finished the first draft of the next book I hope to publish. I originally wrote it more than a year ago; I asked some beta readers to read it; they very diplomatically told me they didn’t like it; I agreed it was crap; I put it aside and wrote two Secret Keeper books; I picked it back up and started over. It’s been challenging but rewarding. I still have a ton of work to do on it before it’s ready for publication, but here’s the elevator pitch: A male nurse named Nate with an inferiority complex and a love for chick lit finds out the woman he’s recently started dating writes chick lit but is too afraid to publish it. He gets roped into being the face of the author when the books are self-published under a male pen name… and his picture is used–unbeknownst to him–as the author’s photo. Readers love the books, and he becomes the new face of Indie publishing with “his” outspoken views about the publishing industry. Meanwhile, all is not well between Nate and the real writer of the books… And that’s all I’m willing to say about it for now. I’ll be posting a cover reveal and sneak peek on my web page as I get closer to publication, but I don’t have a timeline for any of that yet. Soon, though. Very soon.
BONUS: Say I’m coming to Springfield for one night. What are we doing?
Well… I’m hardly a lady-about-town here, but I’d definitely take you to my favorite restaurant, a lovely establishment called Farmer’s Gastropub, a traditional English pub owned by a real Brit (in Springfield, Missouri!) who makes everything from locally grown ingredients. The atmosphere is great, and there’s usually at least one rugby game playing on the TVs mounted high on the walls.  Then I’d take you downtown to visit many of the places that inspired the settings in The Secret Keeper series. Then after we’re really silly, we’ll go to Bass Pro Shops (Springfield’s not known for much else) and take crazy pictures of each other with the stuffed, mounted animals. Hopefully, none of this would end in charges of disturbing the peace or the need to be bailed out of jail. So, when can I expect you?
How about next Tuesday? Thanks, Brea! A pleasure, as always!
Don’t forget about following Brea all over the Internet:
Twitter handle: @BreaBrown
And buying ALL her books! Look, here they all are. In one fancy ribbon!
Book Ribbon 8 books
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And here’s an excerpt from the very first TSK book!

This is not going to be easy. Of course, no part of this entire experience is going to be easy. But this is going to be especially difficult.

I smile at Marilyn, the church secretary, when I catch her staring at me… again. She’s no doubt wondering why the heck I’m here to speak to Pastor Northam. I’d imagine that anyone under the age of sixty who goes out of his or her way to meet with him is in a sticky situation. I mean, isn’t prayer typically a last resort? Yes. For most people. Myself included. But I need divine help.

After returning my smile, Marilyn checks over her shoulder, nods, and informs me, “Pastor’s ready to see you now.”
I stand on wobbly legs, feeling like someone who’s wearing high heels for the first time in her life. After walking through his open office door, I stop abruptly, not sure what to do next or what to say.

He rises from behind his desk and offers me his hand. Young and fairly new to the church, he replaced the minister who passed away two years ago after more than twenty years with our congregation. I haven’t had much one-on-one contact with him, because, honestly, I’m not very involved at church, other than attending most Sundays (and that’s only because I go to the same church as my parents, and I’d rather not be lectured about one more thing). Based on some of the things he’s said in his sermons, I like him well enough, and I appreciate the forward-thinking direction in which he’s trying to take the church, despite some members’ best efforts to thwart him. I’m not in the habit, however, of just dropping by to have chats with him, so I’m nervous, complete with jittery tummy, dry mouth, and shaking hands.

He notices right away and acknowledges my unusual visit. “So! This is a nice surprise. What brings you here?” He gestures for me to take a seat on the sofa and sits next to me, instead of keeping the desk between us.

“I don’t have anyone else to talk to about this.” As soon as the words are out, I hear how terrible they sound and blush. “I mean… my friends haven’t been much help, and I really need help.”

He chuckles at me. “Okay… Um… I get what you mean, I think. So relax.”

Relieved, I nod. “Sorry. I’m just… My parents always taught me that when I needed help, I could talk to my pastor, but I’ve never had to…” I trail off, not sure how to finish and also mortified that I sound half my age.

“…use this lifeline before?” he finishes for me, his eyes sparkling.

“Yes.”

“I take it you’re not here to complain about the type being too small in the bulletin or the music becoming too contemporary, then.”

His joke actually makes me laugh. “No,” I confirm his assumption. “I don’t care about any of that.” Quickly, I correct, “It’s not that I don’t care, it’s just—”

Patting my arm, he consoles, “Shh. It’s okay. Take a deep breath for me.”

I do. Because you do what your pastor says. At least, you do when he’s sitting right there.

After I’ve settled down somewhat, he remarks, “You know, times like this, I think the Catholics may have the right idea with the confessional booth. I mean, logically, the confessor knows, ‘That’s Father So-and-So in there,’ and the priest knows, ‘That’s Suzie So-and-So out there,’ but it’s psychologically easier to talk to a screen. Don’t you think?”

When I nod into my lap, he urges, “Why don’t you just tell me what’s on your mind?”

Suddenly, I don’t think I can do it. And I’m afraid I’m going to chicken out and lie to my pastor about the reason for my visit. Only the knowledge of how truly terrible that would be keeps me honest. Or silent, more like.

I gulp. He waits. And waits. And waits.

Eventually, he rises and returns to his desk. “Tell you what. I’m going to do some stuff over here. And if you feel like telling me, go ahead. I don’t have any other appointments this afternoon. But I do have to work on this sermon that I’ve procrastinated on all week.”

When my head snaps up, he asks, “Is that okay? I mean, I don’t want you to think I don’t care, but I feel like it’s too much pressure, or something, with me sitting there waiting for you to talk.”

“It’s fine,” I answer automatically, too shocked to say anything else. Anyway, I’m not offended. Just surprised.

After a few minutes of neither of us saying anything and the only sound in the room being his typing and mouse-clicking, he queries, “What’s another word for ‘hopeless’?”

“‘Despondent’?” I supply, feeling the picture of it.

He thinks about it before nodding. “Yeah. That works. Thanks.” He goes back to typing furiously.

“I’m nearly ten weeks pregnant.”

His fingers slow on the keys, but he doesn’t say anything right away. Then he looks up at me. I have no idea what his opinion of my revelation—or me—is, based on his expression. “Oh. Hmm.”

“And I’m not married,” I prod, helping him to see part of the problem (the smallest part, in my book, but probably not in his).
“Yeah, I know that,” he says dismissively, tapping his cheekbone.

Now I feel an odd impulse to try to get a stronger reaction from him. “And I don’t have a boyfriend.”

He sits up straighter, but his expression remains passive. “Do you know who the father is?” he asks as if he’s inquiring if I know who invented the cotton gin.

“Of course!” I snap. “I’m not that horrible.”

Unruffled, he states, “Well, there are no degrees of sin. It’s not a matter of better or worse. Simply… sin.”

“So I should have gotten my money’s worth, huh?”

He laughs. “Uh… I guess you could look at it that way.”

“I’m just kidding,” I make sure he knows. I definitely don’t want him to think any money changed hands, on top of everything else. “Anyway, yes, I know who the father is. No, we’re not in a relationship. No, he’s not the kind of person I want to be in a relationship with. No, he doesn’t know I’m… you know.”

“Was this… act… consensual?”

I nod, feeling more ashamed than ever. If only I could say otherwise. You know you’re in a bad way when you wish that. That’s just sick.

“If you don’t particularly care for this person, why’d you have sex with him, then?” he asks bluntly, making me blush.

“Well… I… Uh…” I stammer.

He shakes his head. “Never mind. That’s not important.”

What?!

My face must have that question written all over it, because he qualifies, “I mean, it is, and it’s something that you should probably pray about, but it’s not anything I need to know to help you.” Taking a deep breath and shooting me a shaky smile, he asks, “How can I help you, by the way? I feel like I’m being anything but helpful with all my stupid interjections.”

Now I find myself reassuring him. “You’re okay. I’m the one who’s being weird. I schedule an appointment to talk to you; then I get here, and you have to drag it out of me.”

He shrugs. “It happens.”

“Anyway, I guess I just needed to tell an authority figure.”

Looking over his shoulder then back at me, he points to himself and says, “Who, me?”

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And here’s some praise for the writing of Brea Brown!

 “Ms. Brown is a gifted author with a unique voice and a talent for portraying true-to-life characters who find themselves landed in true-to-life situations.”
–KATHLEEN IRENE PATERKA, author of the James Bay novels and Royal Secrets.
“Like the rest of you I love to sleep, but I decided to forego that and read this book.”
–Rev. Denise V. Fournier
“It’s very hard to write any kind of storyline around organized religion without coming off as either preachy or patronizing, but Ms. Brown does neither here. What a wonderful, complex story, full of characters that are REAL, with foibles and depth.”
–Claire Matthews
“Brea Brown is the kind of writer who inspires me (also a writer) to always give my best. TSK is captivating. At times laugh-out-loud funny, at other times heartbreakingly sad, it’s the kind of book you hate to see end.”
–Martha Reynolds, author of Chocolate for Breakfast and Chocolate Fondue.
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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Wassup Wednesday: Author Carmen Amato

Wassup Wednesday: Author Carmen Amato

Carmen 7 (2)A lot of people have asked why the main character in the Emilia Cruz mystery series is a strong female. The question always surprises me, but I don’t know why.

The easy answer is that two of the biggest influences in my life have been my mother and grandmother, both strong women who made hard decisions in their lives. My best friends are strong women who live busy, multi-faceted lives. That’s how I define myself as well.  A strong female character, one who grows as a result of facing personal and professional challenges, is my comfort zone as a writer.

But there is another answer as well and it isn’t as easy to describe or hear. Emilia Cruz is the first and only female detective on the Acapulco police force. Her unique position forces her to contend with Mexico’s traditional culture of machismo as well as the drug cartels and street gangs of Mexico’s drug wars. If Emilia wasn’t tough she wouldn’t survive; some estimates say that over 60,000 people in Mexico have been killed in the country’s drug violence over the past seven years.

Maybe those asking the question of why Emilia is a female character—instead of a guy named Emilio, I suppose–assume that Mexico’s drug wars are a male-dominated phenomenon. Or maybe they assume that the most successful international mystery series need to feature a male protagonist, like Ian Rankin’s John Rebus or Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole.

But women are involved in Mexico’s drug wars as both players and victims, and it was time for a female “good guy.” Notorious female cartel members, like the recently captured “Queen of the Pacific” make the news for their exploits, even as women are killed or go missing amid the ongoing violence. Probably the best-known assaults on women have occurred in and around the city of Ciudad Juárez since the 1990s, with more women’s bodies found in mass graves every year.

The character of Emilia brings awareness and empathy to what is happening in Mexico.  She keeps a log of women who have gone missing in Acapulco, a symbol of the plight of missing women throughout Mexico.

So that’s the short and long of why Emilia is who she is. Stick with her–Emilia will need all the girlfriends she can get.

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CARMEN AMATO is the author of political thriller The Hidden Light of Mexico City and the Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. She currently divides her time between the United States and Central America. Visit her website at carmenamato.net, follow her on Twitter @CarmenConnects and like her on Facebook.

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Hat Dance_final_300pxAbout HAT DANCE – An Emma Cruz novel

Acapulco police detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil to catch a violent arsonist and find a missing girl from her own neighborhood.  But when the music stops, the consequences could be fatal.

Together with hotel manager Kurt Rucker, Emilia survives a deadly arson attack. When the fire is labeled an assassination attempt against Acapulco’s popular mayor, Emilia’s investigation is turned into a political maneuver against both the local army presence and an old political rival.

Meanwhile, disturbed by what she finds out about the missing girl, whose dark family secrets may be the key to her disappearance, Emilia soon finds herself on the wrong side of a shady Vice cop and walking dark streets in search of answers.

Haunted by her fear of the fire and dismayed by Kurt’s consideration of a new job in Belize, Emilia’s professional skills and personal life start to unravel. She’s got information to trade, however, and making deals might be a way to survive both investigations.
But every honest cop knows you don’t deal with the devil . . .  and survive.

HAT DANCE is the second book in the EMILIA CRUZ mystery series set in Acapulco. It follows CLIFF DIVER, the book that Kirkus Reviews praised as “consistently exciting.”

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Start reading HAT DANCE now!

“I never thought we’d be able to close down the casino,” Emilia Cruz Encinos said. “Much less do it in only three months.”

Kurt Rucker poured them both more wine from the bottle of Monte Xanic cabernet. “Three months isn’t exactly fast, Em,” he said.

“Maybe not in El Norte,” Emilia observed. “But that’s lightning fast in Mexico. Especially when we’re talking about the El Pharaoh. It’s an Acapulco institution.”

“May it never regain its glory.” Kurt raised his glass and Emilia touched her own to it. The crystal chimed, Kurt drank, and the flame of the candle on their table flickered, sending shadows across the restaurant’s brocade walls and creating a momentary halo over his yellow hair. Emilia drank her wine with a surge of incredulity that she was here in this elegant place, with a gringo man in a suit and tie, celebrating an event she was sure would never happen.

“Another toast,” Kurt said. “To you, Em. The smartest detective in Acapulco. Rico would be proud.”

“I hope so.” Emilia smiled over the rim of her glass but the mention of her dead partner brought a lump to her throat. Rico and another detective had been killed during an investigation into dirty cops and drug smuggling that had led to the money laundering case against the El Pharaoh casino. The squadroom was far lonelier now without Rico’s good humor and the over-protective attitude that she’d once found so annoying. He hadn’t been replaced and his empty desk was a constant reminder of her loss.

“How’s Silvio holding up?” Kurt asked. “You obviously haven’t strangled each other yet.”

Emilia put her glass back on the table. “He came through,” she admitted. “Walked into El Pharaoh yesterday morning as if he owned the place, showed the closure order and got the files out before the manager really understood what was happening. You wouldn’t believe all the stuff we took out of there. Spreadsheets, money orders, employee records. Boxes and boxes of dollars, pesos, euros, you name it. Half of that money is probably fake.”

“I know you don’t want to hear this,” Kurt said. “But you and Silvio make a good team. Brains and brawn.”

“Franco Silvio is not my partner,” Emilia reminded him, waggling a finger for emphasis. “He’s a pendejo who makes me nuts.”

Kurt laughed.

“As soon as Lt. Rufino gets organized we’ll get some replacements,” she went on. “After everything that’s happened, they owe me a real partner.”

“I know.” Kurt slid his hand over hers, stilling it against the white linen tablecloth. He had a tan but her skin was still a deeper café tone than his. “Dessert?”

Emilia looked guiltily at her empty plate. The El Tigre was a fancy restaurant, a close rival to the restaurant at the Palacio Réal, Acapulco’s most luxurious hotel which Kurt managed. If she’d been to more places like this she might have known that ‘fancy’ meant minute portions. Despite it being a Saturday, she’d been at work that morning, wrestling the boxes of evidence from the El Pharaoh into some sort of order, then spent the afternoon in a kickboxing training session with uniformed cops in the basement gym of the central police administration building. By the time she’d washed up, pulled her hair into its usual high ponytail, dressed in her one nice skinny black dress and driven across Acapulco to the Palacio Réal to meet Kurt, her stomach had been growling. Her elegant dinner of broiled corvina topped with caviar and accompanied by a dab of asparagus puree had hardly filled her up.

Kurt leaned forward. “Maybe we should just see what they’ve got.”

Emilia raised her eyebrows at him. “You never eat dessert,” she said. A marathon runner and triathlete, Kurt was always in training. Not only did he look different than any other man she’d ever been with, he didn’t even eat like the men she knew.

“I just ate a piece of chicken the size of a peanut,” he whispered and squeezed her hand. Emilia grinned. A moment later the waiter had cleared the table, wheeled over the dessert cart, complimented their choices and served them coffee.

They traded bites of Emilia’s chocolate cake and Kurt’s flan. Kurt stirred cream into his coffee and put down his spoon, taking a moment to align it with the edge of the table as if needing time to gather his thoughts. “Now that the El Pharaoh is closed,” he said. “How about a vacation?”

Emilia blinked as she stirred her own coffee. “A vacation? On Monday we start on all the crap we hauled out of there yesterday.”

Kurt opened his mouth to reply, but his attention slid away from Emilia and towards the front of the dimly lit restaurant. Emilia half turned and followed his gaze.

“Local celebrity?” Kurt asked.

“It’s the mayor’s security detail,” Emilia murmured.

Six burly men in dark suits and earpieces fanned out as the owner of the El Tigre stepped towards the door. Kurt had introduced Emilia to him, a dapper Spaniard named Jorge Serverio who had bowed over Emilia’s hand and complimented Kurt on finding the most beautiful woman in Acapulco. Serverio owned several high-end restaurants in Acapulco. Kurt knew him from meetings of businesses supporting the local tourist industry.

Emilia watched as Carlota Montoya Perez walked into the restaurant, followed by a dark figure obscured by the security detail and Serverio’s effusive gestures of welcome. Carlota gave a tinkling laugh and everyone in the elegant restaurant pretended they weren’t watching Acapulco’s enormously popular and photogenic mayor.

Emilia swung around in her seat to again face Kurt across the table. There was a 100-peso piece of chocolate cake on her plate, a gorgeous man across from her, and every expectation that the night would end with a shower together in his apartment before she left the Palacio Réal and headed home. The mayor’s choices of restaurant and dinner companion were none of Emilia’s business even if her previous encounters with Carlota had left Emilia torn; captivated by the woman’s dynamism yet repulsed by her political machinations.

“Have you ever been to Belize?” Kurt asked.

Emilia pronged some cake. “No. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve been offered a job there,” Kurt said.

“A job in Belize?” Emilia actually felt her heart stutter. The fork slid out of her hand, spraying cake crumbs and clattering over her dessert dish. It ended up in her lap. Emilia hastily plucked the fork off her dress and grabbed her napkin. She scrubbed at the fabric, glad of a reason not to say anything for a minute or two.

They’d only been dating seriously for a few weeks, the relationship paced by the time constraints imposed by competing work schedules as well as Emilia’s innate caution. The ever-present feeling of unreality at finding herself dating—and sleeping with —a gringo meant that she’d told no one about him, not her mother or her cousins and certainly not any of the other detectives at work. Despite strong mutual attraction, Emilia still wasn’t sure she belonged with Kurt. He lived in a world of wealth and advantage she only touched when she was with him. Tonight, for example.

Kurt pushed aside his empty flan dish. “Em, this was all set in motion months ago, long before we ever connected. Some headhunter in London got in touch, asked if they could represent me. They’re always trolling for good talent and tracking who’s who in the hospitality industry.

”Emilia stopped scrubbing her dress. It wasn’t stained. She put her napkin on the table. “You want to leave Acapulco?” she asked.

“When they called, I’d been in Acapulco nearly two years, longer than I’ve stayed anywhere since high school,” Kurt said. His tone was one of explanation, not apology. “So I said, sure, let’s see what else is out there. They sent me a few proposals that weren’t worth the effort but this one is–.” He paused. “Well, it’s pretty good and I think I need to look into it.”

“Kurt Rucker! Looking both dashing and serious tonight!”

Kurt stood and Emilia realized that Carlota had stopped by their table. The mayor, whom many considered the most exciting and enigmatic politician in the entire state of Guerrero, was a striking woman whose age could be anything from 25 to 50 years old. Jet black hair brushed her shoulders and framed the well-known face. As before when she’d encountered Carlota, Emilia was struck by how she looked just like those famous billboards. Both in person and on a poster Carlota projected a vibrancy that was at once amazingly attractive and disturbingly forceful. Tonight she wore a white silk pantsuit, her nails were blood-red, and her escort was Victor Obregon Sosa, head of the police union for the state.

“Jorge Serverio.” Carlota fluttered her hand at the restaurant owner who’d obviously been leading Carlota and Obregon to their table. “You didn’t tell me that Kurt Rucker was dining here this evening. I’ve been trying to get him for my Olympic Committee.” She arched her perfect brows at Kurt. “You’re a difficult man to pin down, Señor Rucker.”

Kurt gave a tiny formal bow. “My apologies, señora.” He spread his hands. “I’m sure my schedule will be opening up.”
“Have you met Victor?” Carlota lowered one shoulder so that Kurt could connect with Obregon.

Emilia marveled at Kurt’s cool composure as he shook hands with the man that Emilia was sure had been involved in the drug smuggling mess that had gotten Rico killed. She had no proof, just her gut instinct. And Obregon knew it. Their last encounter some months ago had staked out the distance between them.

She stood up, too, twitching the tight black dress as Kurt introduced her. Serverio gave her another warm smile. Obregon nodded. Carlota pretended to be pleased to see Emilia and gave her the mandatory ladies cheek kiss as if they were peers or even friends.

“You’re looking lovely tonight, Detective Cruz.” Carlota’s eyes flickered from Kurt to Emilia but otherwise hid her curiosity well. Neither did she give any indication that Emilia had once turned down an offer to work in her administration.

“Thank you, señora.”

“And making quite another splash,” Carlota said with that famous billboard smile. “I heard that you were the driver behind the El Pharaoh investigation. Keeping Acapulco honest. I’m pleased. It played very well in the international press this morning.”

Which is the only thing that matters, isn’t it? Emilia hushed her thoughts before they turned into words. She managed a tight smile in return. “That’s good news, señora.”

“Lt. Rufino has started his tenure as chief of detectives with a bang.” Obregon had dark hair slicked back from a high forehead and angular cheekbones that spoke of a thick indio bloodline. Emilia had only ever seen him wear black and tonight was no exception: black suit, black silk shirt, striated black linen tie. There was a slight bulge under his left arm and he exuded an aura of power and entitlement that matched Carlota’s own.

“I guess that depends if you’re a gambler or not,” Emilia replied. Carlota in white and Obregon in black. The queen and king of opposing chess pieces.

Carlota laughed, tossing her head to see who was watching her. Serverio chuckled thinly then checked his watch.
“Chief Salazar really made a case for Rufino,” Obregon said. “All the way from Mexico City. Now I see that he’s hit the ground running.”

It was on the tip of Emilia’s tongue to say that the investigation into money laundering at the El Pharaoh had been under way for over two months before Lt. Nelson Rufino Herrera ever stepped foot inside the detectives squadroom. But again she stopped herself. There was something insidious behind Obregon’s words, something Emilia didn’t quite understand, and it made her reluctant to be seen as either for or against her new lieutenant.

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Buy HAT DANCE and other Carmen Amato books by clicking here!

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Wassup Wednesday: Author Louise Wise

Wassup Wednesday: Author Louise Wise

203****Book of the Summer!****

For the rest of September, A Proper Charlie is less than half price–
only 99 cents!

She’s (yes, the book has a gender!) my first chick lit book, and for me is what the genre is all about: fun, ‘finding yourself’ and relationships. I wrote it after falling in love with Sophie Kinsella and Melissa Nathan’s (who died much too young) work.

The world is full of funny and amazing people, which I like to incorporate into my books and certainly, A Proper Charlie. But who is Charlie? She’s a not-too-bright ordinary girl from London who just wants to be loved.

Brought up in a children’s home she was denied the experience of real love, and is searching for it in A Proper Charlie. She finds it with the most unexpected person and under the most surprising way.

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Married, with four children, LOUISE WISE lives in England. She is a pharmacist technician by day and a writer by night. She was educated in an ordinary state school and left without achieving much in the way of qualifications; you could say she was the result of a crap state-funded school. Hungry for knowledge she enrolled in an Adult Education centre and studied English, maths and creative writing. Whereas other young girls asked for makeup and clothes for their birthdays, she asked for encyclopaedias!

During her early twenties and thirties she wrote many novels and to this day is grateful that the Internet WASN’T around else she’d have published them and subjected poor readers to unconstructed and badly edited stories.

‘I feel sorry for some of the writers today who haven’t been FORCED to allow their writing to mature.’

Wise’s books include: Eden, A Proper Charlie and The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am. They are all romance with the underlying message of loneliness, which she never realised until someone pointed it out to her!

‘Maybe I’m a closet loner?’ she laughs.

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About A PROPER CHARLIE:

AProperCharlie_EBOOKSWCharlie watched as he fell back onto her settee, and then straddled his lap. Oh my God! What was she doing! She was having an out-of-body-experience, she thought. Only she wasn’t dead. She was alive. Very much so. She wriggled against him wonderingly and excitement flared in her body as his own rose to her teasing.

Charlie Wallis has everything a girl could wish for. A loving boyfriend, a nice flat and a fantastic job as a journalist for London Core. Trouble is, Charlie’s boyfriend isn’t at all ‘loving’, her job title really reads ‘office assistant’ and her flat, at the top of a high-rise, isn’t that nice either.

Her new boss, Ben, is a huge bear of a man. A gentle giant, with chocolate brown eyes that hold a secret.

While London Core investigates the disappearances of local prostitutes, Charlie wants in on the action, deciding that dressing as a hooker and walking the streets is good research.
Bumping into Ben was the last thing she expected.

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Start Reading A Proper Charlie Now (available in all electronic formats)

‘What the bloody hell have you done, Charlie?’ Mr Fanton stood behind her, his hands, somewhere beneath his large middle, were on his hips. He came forward and slapped down a wad of printouts on a nearby table. ‘I’ve just being ringing up the stationers to see if there’s been some kind of mistake, but apparently not.’ He jabbed at the printouts with a finger. ‘The quantities are all in triple figures! What were you thinking?’

Charlie felt terrible. ‘I’m so sorry Mr Fanton, I think the order must’ve gone through twice, somehow.’ She remembered how Faye had caused her computer to go blank while looking for her pen and Charlie had resubmitted the order.

‘Twice? Look!’ he shrieked picking up the printouts of her order and thrusting them into her hands. ‘That isn’t twice! What am I supposed to do with that lot?’

Charlie looked through the pages. It was her scroll on the bottom of the order. Oh God, she must have submitted it for the third time by mistake! ‘I’m sorry,’ she repeated in a small voice, realising that people in the canteen were taking great delight in witnessing her dressing-down. ‘I’ll sort it, Mr Fanton,’ she added.

‘Sort it?’ He glowered, spittle gathered at the corners of his mouth, and his jowls wobbled as he shook his head. ‘Are you going to pay for it, too? Are you going to work wage-free while you sort out the mess? Well, are you?’

Charlie felt close to tears. She was deeply troubled over her personal involvement over Sally, and felt that any moment now she’d collapse in a heap of convulsing sobs. She restrained herself.

‘For God’s sake girl, you are a hindrance to the company.’

Charlie bit her lip. This is it, you’re going to be fired, she thought.

‘What’s going on?’ said a deep voice.

‘Ah, Ben,’ Mr Fanton turn away from Charlie. ‘Nothing I can’t handle. There’s been a mistake in the stationery order.’ He turned as if to try and shield Ben from the stacks of boxes, not because he wanted to protect Charlie from further wrath, but because he wanted to be the one to dish it out. Ben side-stepped him and looked at the piles of packages and boxes.
Charlie had been looking at her feet, feeling fully chastened. She glanced up at Ben, with her bottom lip clenched between her teeth, and expected to see shock followed by anger on his face. Instead, he pulled his lips inside his mouth as if he were trying to stop himself from laughing.

Mr Fanton held the printouts of Charlie’s stationery order towards him. ‘Charlie can’t seem to understand the difference between single and double figures,’ he declared pompously.

Taking them, Ben glanced up and his gaze met with Charlie’s. He didn’t look at all angry or annoyed, and Charlie felt stupidly grateful. She had to stop herself from throwing her arms around his ankles and kissing his shoes.

‘Hmm, someone’s been a bit over-enthusiastic,’ Ben said, his mouth turning up at the corners as he read through them.
‘As I was saying to Charlie,’ Mr Fanton began, ‘she’s a hindrance to the company. It’s been one mistake after another.’
‘Really?’ Ben asked. ‘What other mistakes has she made?’

‘Well, nothing major like this, but she just causes disruption. She chats when she should be working—’

‘Excellent qualities in a reporter,’ Ben said. ‘It helps to break the ice, and encourages the interviewee to talk.’

‘She isn’t a reporter,’ Mr Fanton pointed out. ‘After this I doubt she’ll ever get a newspaper to hire her again! Charlie, I’ll have your P45 drawn up this afternoon. Don’t worry Ben, I’ll have this mess sorted in no time.’

Ben was taking off his jacket and unbuttoning his cuff buttons on his shirt. He rolled up his sleeves. He winked at Charlie, who stood miserably between both men. ‘I’ll not hear of Charlie being dismissed over a slight error.’

Charlie looked up, open-mouthed.

‘A slight error?’ Mr Fanton gave a small humourless laugh.

‘That’s right,’ Ben said. ‘Arrange a dispatcher would you? Er, you’d better make that several.’

Mr Fanton looked from Charlie and then to Ben. When his shocked gaze fell back on Charlie she controlled herself from sticking out her tongue, and instead permitted a smug smile to tease the corners of her mouth – well, if a girl can’t be smug in situations like this, when can she be?

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Find Louise online:

Blog: http://www.louisewise.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/louise_wise

FB: https://www.facebook.com/WiseWordsBookBlogger

Pintererst: http://pinterest.com/BookJunkies/

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B003FW6RKM

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.