Can a bunch of gray-haired knitters solve a murder?

The gray-haired knitting detectives are back! Oops. They’d like me to let you know they never went anyway. They claim I neglected them. Hmm… No comment.

What are those knitters up to now? The craft store burned down with the owner Bernadette inside. The police claim it was an accident since Bernadette was smoking. No way, say the knitters! Bernadette was not a smoker. It’s time for them to solve this mystery themselves.

Curious? Here’s an extended excerpt to whet your appetite!

Chapter 1

It’s not kidnapping if we give him back.

“Can I have my baby back now, please?” I ask politely despite my toe tapping in impatience. The knitting ladies are always stealing my baby to cuddle him. They don’t even mind if he spoils his diaper. They’re ‘happy to help’. Their words, not mine.

“But Colt wants to spend time with his grandma, doesn’t he?” Betty rubs her nose against his and he coos in delight.  

Betty isn’t actually Colt’s grandma. She’s not related to me or my husband. No, she and her knitting crew of friends adopted me when my grandma died. Except Grandma didn’t die, she was murdered. And Anna wasn’t really my grandma, she was my late husband’s grandma. It’s a complicated and long story.

Suffice it to say, Betty, Rosemary, Martha, Rose, and Ally – aka the knitting crew – now consider themselves my grandma as well as my baby’s grandma. I should be excited they all consider themselves grandmas to my baby – especially since I have no contact with my own mother – but I’m not. Not when they never give me a chance to cuddle him.

My husband, Noel joins us and plants a kiss on my hair. “Betty steal our baby again?” He doesn’t bother waiting for a reply. He walks over to her, and she readily hands Colt over to him.

I growl. “Why are you willing to give him the baby but not me?”

“Because everyone knows a man holding a baby is a dish.” She winks.

I roll my eyes. She’s right. Noel is hot as all get out holding Colt. The man is the very definition of tall, dark, and handsome, but the woman is in her eighties for gosh sakes.

“If I’m your granddaughter, then isn’t he your grandson?”

“Doesn’t mean I can’t look!” A round of uh-huhs greets her announcement.

“They’re not wrong,” my best friend, Jack says as he throws his arm around me. He makes an exaggerated sigh as he watches Noel cradle Colt in his arms. 

I slap his chest. “You have your own man. You remember Damien, don’t you? Stop staring at mine.”

“But mine’s not here. I need something pretty to feast my eyes on, Iz.” He pouts.

I resist the temptation to roll my eyes again and duck under his arm as I head for the kitchen. When my grandmother lived in this house, the knitting crew met here once a month for an afternoon of knitting. I’ve carried on the tradition. I didn’t think my nod to tradition was an excuse for them to continually steal my baby. I was wrong.   

“Where’s Damien?” I ask Jack as I open the oven to check on the meatloaf. It smells delicious and my stomach growls. Too bad I’m on a diet since I’ve yet to lose the weight from having Colt. Poor me.

“He’s visiting his family today. He’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t you go with him?”

Jack places a hand over his heart and widens his eyes. “And miss an afternoon with my favorite gaggle of knitters?” He flutters his lashes. “Never.”

I shove the pile of plates into his hands. “Here. Make yourself useful at least.” 

While Jack sets the table, I prepare the food. In addition to the meatloaf, there’s scalloped potatoes, green beans, and for me a boring salad of lettuce leaves and carrots.

There’s a knock on the door before it opens. “We’re here,” Tommy yells as he and Dee appear in the dining room.  

Dee is the knitter Rosemary’s granddaughter. She moved back to town last year when she left her husband. Her husband wasn’t happy about her leaving and followed her back. Then, he ended up dead – murdered, in fact. The police immediately pointed the finger at Dee. The knitting crew – who dubbed themselves the gray-haired knitting detectives – jumped at the chance to clear her name and find the real killer. They fancy themselves amateur detectives.

“I was about to call you. Why are you late?”

Dee ducks her head but not before I see the blush spread across her cheeks. “No reason,” she mumbles.

Tommy smirks and pulls her close, making it painfully obvious why they’re late.

Rosemary pushes her way through the knitters to reach her granddaughter. She pulls her into a hug. “Glad you could make it, Delilah.” She releases her and grabs her hands for a squeeze.

“And?” Betty asks.

I’m confused. And what?

Rosemary’s lips turn down in a frown. “No engagement ring.”  

Dee snatches her hands back. “I can’t believe you, Grandma!”

Rose pulls a notebook out of her bag. “We’re going to have to re-do the chart. No one had longer than six months.”

While I was busy giving birth to Colt, Tommy got down on one knee at the hospital. Except he didn’t ask Dee for her hand in marriage. He gave her a promise ring instead. A gorgeous ruby, but not a diamond. Naturally, the knitters used the occasion to start a betting pool. The women are shameless gambling addicts.

Martha looks Tommy up and down before shaking her head at him. “I’m disappointed in you.”

Martha fancies herself a matchmaker. Never mind she first set Tommy up with Jack as she thought he was gay. She claims she knew Tommy wasn’t gay, but she was trying to push him. Yeah, right. Can you say world’s worst matchmaker?  

“I’ll take eight months,” Jack shouts and pulls out his wallet. Dee’s mouth drops open as she stares at him. He winks. “Nothing personal, darling, but daddy has his eye on a new coat.”

As if Jack needs the money from a bet to buy a new coat. The man owns a successful business downtown. Fabulous, Darling is a clothing store catering to cross-dressers and big and beautiful women. It sounds like an odd combination, but it works.

Noel returns holding a freshly diapered Colt. I open my arms for my baby. Ally gets there before me. She snatches the baby from my husband and then walks away as if she didn’t just commit a kidnapping.  

“I’m going to seriously stop hosting your knitting gatherings if you ladies don’t stop kidnapping my baby,” I grumble.

“It’s one afternoon a month, Izzy,” Betty points out. “You get him for the rest of the month.”

If only that were true. The ladies are always stopping by to get some extra cuddle time with Colt. It’s sweet, but Colt won’t be a baby forever. I don’t want to miss out on any cuddles especially since he won’t be getting any brothers or sisters.

Since I was over forty when Colt was born, Noel put his foot down after the birth. He doesn’t want us to try for more children as there are all kinds of risks with an older mom. I’m fine with sticking to one child, but I do want the chance to enjoy my one child.  

“Now, stop your grumping and sit down,” Betty orders. She fancies herself the leader of the knitting ladies. She says leader, I say tyrant.

We take our seats at the dining room table and I watch as everyone fills their plates with food I refuse to eat. I concentrate on my salad. My incredibly sad looking salad.

“Why are you eating rabbit food?” Jack asks as he stuffs an obnoxiously sized slice of meatloaf into his mouth.

I glare at him. He knows perfectly well I’m on a diet to lose those last ten pounds from giving birth to Colt. He also knows the knitters and my husband think I’m being ridiculous. While Noel keeps his mouth shut – he’s not a stupid man after all – the ladies do not. They will needle me and needle me until I give in and eat half the meatloaf. Pun intended.

Time to change the subject. “How is Sam the Ram coming along, Ally?”

Ally is knitting Colt a stuffed sheep as my son can’t get enough of his stuffed animals. I feel bad because the pattern is quite difficult. You need to work with multiple cable charts, shaping and finishing techniques. Confession – I have no idea what any of those words mean except to say it’s a complicated design.

Ally grins, although she hates being the center of attention. It’s hard to believe, but she’s maintained her timid demeanor despite being friends with this group of knitting hooligans.

“It’s going well, but I’m nearly out of cream wool.”

“Which means it’s time for a trip to Bernadette’s,” Betty says.

“Who’s Bernadette?” Dee asks.

“Bernadette owns the craft store, The Craft Nook, downtown. I’m sure you’ve met her before. She attends our church,” Rosemary explains.

Martha rubs her hands together. “I met a widower I think would make the perfect match for Bernadette.”

Poor Bernadette. Knowing Martha, the widower is not anywhere close to a good match, let alone the perfect match.

“Bernadette has no interest in a new husband,” Betty points out.

“She’ll change her tune when she meets Ken.”

Betty purses her lips. “You’re barking up the wrong tree.”

“Just because you don’t want a new husband doesn’t mean no one else does,” Martha argues.  

Before I have a chance to stop the ladies from getting into a full-blown argument, Colt decides he’s done not being the center of attention. He grabs a fistful of his mashed banana and throws it at me. The gooey substance lands on my chest before gliding down into the front of my t-shirt. Blech. Slimy.   

The knitters oh and ah as if he’s adorable. I have mashed banana dripping into my bra, but no one pays me one lick of attention. I guess I know how important I am to them.    

Release & Peek into A Soldier for Suzie

It’s time to welcome Suzie and Grayson’s love story into the world! Are you ready for a former soldier and a klutzy girl to fall in love? Warning! It’s not a smooth ride, but where’s the fun in a smooth ride? Smooth rides are for driving in Istanbul traffic, not love stories. Any hoo – who’s ready for Suzie’s story? Click on the cover now or scroll down and read the first chapter.

Chapter 1

Stop trying to make everyone happy. You’re not beer.

“You Cheat, We Eat, Suzie speaking. How can we make your life better today?” I answer the phone with a cheery voice despite feeling nowhere near cheery.

“Um… my husband’s cheating on me,” whispers the voice on the telephone.

Lucky for her. Cheating husbands is our specialty. “We are here to help, Mrs. …”  

“Tyler,” she fills in.

“Mrs. Tyler, can you tell me why you think your husband is cheating?”

After some hiccups by clients who were – to put it mildly – bat shit crazy, my partner Hailey insists I get details before scheduling an appointment with a prospective client for our PI business. In my defense, how could I have possibly known there are cat owners in this world who want to approve their cats’ lovers? Or people who think a dentist can put a listening device in their crown?

“You see…” she trails off.

This is where my past comes in handy. I know exactly how she’s feeling, because – in my unfortunate experience – men are the scum of the earth.

“Take a deep breath, Mrs. Tyler.” I hear her inhale. “And let it out slowly. There you go,” I coax. “Now, tell me what Mr. Tyler did.”

 She clears her throat. “It’s like this. I was snooping through his things before Christmas because I don’t like surprises.” She’s preaching to the choir. Surprises suck.

“And I found this gorgeous necklace. It was a chunky gold chain with a heart pendant. The pendant even had a ruby in it.”

“Sounds nice,” I murmur when she goes quiet.

“Yes, it was lovely. I was very excited. My husband never buys me jewelry. I couldn’t wait until Christmas day. Imagine my surprise when I got some stupid CDs instead. He must have given the necklace to some other women!” she screeches, and I hold the telephone away from my ear. Ouch. “I bet it was his secretary. She’s this pretty young twenty-something while I’m the frumpy mother of his children.”

I wait until she runs out of steam to ask, “Mrs. Tyler, you do realize you’ve told me the plot to Love, Actually?”  

“And? It could have happened to me, too!”

Could have? Oh great, another nut job. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Tyler, but I don’t believe we can be of any assistance to you.” I hang up the phone before she has a chance to start screeching again. There’s a limit to how much screeching my ears can take, and the limit has been met and exceeded.  

The door opens and Hailey walks in with her dogs, Leroy and Lola, trotting behind her.

“Please tell me you walked Leroy first.” He’s a puppy and has a tendency to pee everywhere, although he prefers to pee on the corner of Phoebe’s desk. There is a slight chance I squirted some potty-training spray on her desk. 

I couldn’t help myself. Phoebe is this super uptight rich girl. Watching her shriek when Leroy pees is the highlight of my week. Of course, Phoebe is no longer uptight. Nope. Since she nabbed herself a man, aka Ryker the smoking hot bounty hunter, she’s changed.

Hailey rolls her eyes. “Of course, I walked him.”

Hailey and Phoebe are the private investigators at the PI firm You Cheat, We Eat that Hailey and I started together. As you can probably tell from the name, we specialize in catching cheating husbands in the act. Although, since Phoebe joined us, we’ve added a bunch of insurance fraud cases to our docket, too.

I am not a PI. No, I’m the person who holds the whole business together. I do the accounting, invoicing, filing, all the boring administrative stuff. I wouldn’t mind going out on a case or two, but Hailey says I’m not inconspicuous. She’s just jealous my awesomeness cannot be disguised.

The door opens again and Phoebe strolls in. Lola whines and jumps toward her, but Hailey holds fast to her leash.

“No, Lola. It’s not nice to hump our friends,” Hailey admonishes her dog.

“I don’t know. Some friends are nice to hump.”

Hailey’s ears perk up at my comment and she settles herself at one of the chairs in front of my desk. I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts rubbing her hands in glee. Ugh. Hailey is my best friend from forever. She knows better than to push me on my dating life.

Dating life? What dating life? I don’t date. I have fun and move on. I have my reasons. And she was there to witness my reasons come to life.

But since Hailey got engaged to her high school crush, Aiden, she sees love and romance every fricking where. It’s annoying as all get out. She’s also happy and cheerful constantly. Blech. I shouldn’t begrudge my friend her happiness, but sometimes I am the teeniest bit jealous. Because I will never have a man who loves me and wants to marry me. Not a chance. I’ve learned my lesson. Men and relationships are not for me.

Phoebe takes the chair next to Hailey. Great. Another in love woman who sees hearts and butterflies wherever she looks. Her big, bad bounty hunter proposed to her on Christmas morning. Although I was the one who pushed her to get together with Ryker, I still can’t believe she gave him a second chance, let alone said yes to his proposal.  

“Speaking of humping friends, are there any particular friends you’re humping now, Suzie?” Hailey wiggles her eyebrows.

She’s referring to my friend Grayson who, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, she thinks I’m interested in. But I am not talking to her about my relationship with Grayson, which is one-hundred percent platonic if you must know. I look around for a distraction. I notice Leroy slinking off toward Phoebe’s office. Perfect!

“Leroy,” I shout and jump up to rush after him. “No peeing!”

I trip over the strap of my bag laying on the floor – of course, I do! – and end up flat on my back. Hailey and Phoebe bend over the desk to check out the train wreck that is Suzie and walking.  

“Are you okay?” Phoebe asks.

Yes, I’m okay. I’m a bit of a klutz. I trip on my own two feet more times in one day than I can count. But if I say I’m fine, there’s a chance the girls resume their interrogation of my non-existent love life. Not on my watch, they aren’t.

“Ow.” I scrunch my nose and rub the back of my head. “My head hurts.”

Hailey rolls her eyes. “You didn’t even hit the back of your head.” She stands and walks toward her office. “If you didn’t want to talk about Grayson, all you had to do was tell us.”

Because she would have listened to me and backed off? Does she think I’m stupid?

“You sure you’re okay?” Phoebe asks.

“I’m fine.” I wave her away when she holds out a hand to help me stand.

The last thing I need is perfect looking Phoebe helping klutziest girl in the world, Suzie stand up. I know I’m not being fair. It’s not Phoebe’s fault she’s gorgeous. And she is gorgeous. She’s tall – five-foot-nine to my measly five-foot-two – and has curves in all the right places. She’s blonde with green eyes and plush lips in a heart-shaped face. It’s no wonder her husband went nuts trying to get her back and force her to have his babies.

I, on the other hand, am your typical redhead complete with pasty white skin that goes from ghost white to crisp as bacon with no stops in between. My body is curvy, but unlike sexy Phoebe, my curves tend toward pudgy. My face may be considered cute by some, but beautiful? Nah. My eyes can’t make up their mind what color they are – the ring around the pupil is blue, but the outer ring is brown – and my lips are way too big for my face. Good thing I’m not looking for a man.

“Where’s Ryker?” I ask when I’m on my feet.

“He’s chasing a skip.”

“He took off the day after Christmas?”

I’m surprised the man let her out of his sight the day after proposing. If you look up alpha male in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of Ryker. Of course, when you see the picture of the six-foot-six bearded man with dark green eyes that can see right through you, you’ll also understand why Phoebe threw caution into the wind and took a chance on the man. Ryker is h-a-w-t – Hawt!

At Phoebe’s nod, I ask, “Will he be home in time for New Year’s Eve?”

New Year’s Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. Hailey’s dad owns a bar, McGraw’s Pub, and he throws the best parties. Of course, the free drinks don’t hurt. And then there are the pranks. Hailey’s dad has a bunch of former Army buddies he plays poker with who practically live in the pub. They are beyond hilarious when they start playing pranks. I rub my hands together. I can’t wait to see what they get up to this year.  

“He promised to be home in two days, in plenty of time for the party. I should have gone with him. I don’t have any cases right now anyway.”

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a dead zone in the PI business. Or at least in our PI business, it is. Most couples are all lovely-dovey during the holidays. But those holiday feelings fade fast. January is our busiest month of the year.

“Why didn’t you go with him?”

Her nose scrunches up. “He thinks it’s dangerous. As if I can’t handle myself.”

I bite my tongue to stop my laugh from exploding out of me. Phoebe was a total coward when she first started at, We Cheat, You Eat. Handle herself? Ask her about the time she ended up in someone’s pool some time. Although she’s getting stronger, she literally escaped a kidnapping all by her lonesome, she’s still got a ways to go.

“Phoebe!” Hailey shouts. “Can you come in here? I need some help.”

“She probably needs me to reach the top shelf for her,” Phoebe mutters before sauntering off.

Hailey isn’t exactly short at five-foot-eight, but Phoebe never lets the chance pass to needle her about her one-inch height deficiency.

In case you’re wondering, Hailey is gorgeous too. I’m literally surrounded by gorgeous women. Although Hailey doesn’t realize how beautiful she is. She complains about being too thin constantly. Whatever. I’d take her skinny self with her long, brown wavy hair and dark brown eyes over my chubby ass any day of the week.  

I wait until Phoebe shuts the door behind her to roll my chair to the door to eavesdrop. I seriously don’t understand why they bother shutting the door. They know I’m going to eavesdrop anyway. When will they learn?

Release Day Giveaway

Time to pop the champagne, blow the tooters, light the lights, and … Oh, who am I kidding? None of that actually happens. Usually, I remind the hubby another book came out and he’s like “Oh, yeah.” *Rearranges face to look like he didn’t forget* “That’s great, sweetheart.”

Anyhoo – A Hero for Hailey is NOW available for just 99 pennies. The price increases in a week, so make share to grab a copy while you can.

And now it’s time for a giveaway!

To celebrate the release, I’m running a fun giveaway. You can win a swag package with a signed paperback copy of the book, an engraved bottle opener, an engraved magnetic bookmark, and a Dutch chocolate bar (because who doesn’t love chocolate? Except my sister. She’s obviously not to be trusted.).

ENTER HERE

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/dd6a9f6712/?

Lots of luck on the giveaway!

That’s great and all Dena but why is the bottle opener and bookmark engraved with McGraw’s Pub? Well, let me tell you. Hailey’s father owns a pub – McGraw’s Pub in fact. It’s where Hailey and her friends and family hangout all the time. (It’s also where a bunch of pranks are played, which is always fun.)

And don’t forget to join my Facebook group – Dena’s Reading Divas Squad – for a chance to win a signed paperback copy (in case you don’t win the above giveaway, that is).

https://www.facebook.com/groups/933143133761732/

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Keep reading. And don’t forget to laugh!

An Interview with Suzie from A Hero for Hailey #RomCom #NewRelease #MondayBlogs

Turns out Suzie, Hailey’s friend from A Hero for Hailey, was not happy about the spotlight being exclusively pointed on Hailey. The funny sidekick needs an interview, too, she told me. Far be it for me to deny someone their first amendment rights. Wait. Do you fictional characters have constitutional rights? *Ahem* Anyway, let’s get on with the interview.

Why don’t you wait for your own story for an interview?

Puh-lease. I am not getting my own story. This is a romance series. I don’t do romance.

You don’t believe in soul mates?

*Rolls eyes* Maybe other people drink the Kool-Aid. I know better.

Can you tell us why you don’t believe in soul mates?

Um, no. Take me for a few drinks at McGraw’s Pub and I’ll consider discussing it. Other than that … *shrugs*

Well, now that we have that established, can you tell us how you met Hailey?

You’re going to make this all about Hailey, aren’t you?

Well, it is her story.

Come on. You know I help to save the day.

You do?

*Clears throat* Hailey and I met way back in elementary school. She was eating glue and I explained to her how she was going to go down the wrong path in life if she ate glue. Although if you ask Hailey, she’ll tell you I was the one eating glue. Don’t believe her.

What’s it like to work with your best friend?

Everyone says you shouldn’t work with friends. Everyone’s wrong. There is a trick to it, though. You shouldn’t carry out the same tasks. Then, you’ll end up competing with each other. Hailey and I work great together because she does all the sleazy PI stuff while I man the fort as it were.

Hailey says she started in the PI business because of you. What’s the story?

Nope. Skip. Move on.

Seriously?

I said I wanted an interview, not a counseling session.

Geez. Some people. Anyway, give us the skinny. Was Aiden really a bully in high school?

*Leans in close to whisper* Well, you didn’t hear from me, but our girl Hailey had a major crush on Aiden in high school. Seriously, it was embarrassing.

So you think Aiden and Hailey were made for each other?

*Rubs hands together* I don’t know about all that ‘made for each other’ baloney but I can’t wait to see what happens when …

Come on. Don’t leave us hanging.

Mwahaha.

~~

Dena here again. The interview just sort of dissolved at that point. My apologies. I think Suzie is what you call an unreliable witness. Anyway, A Hero for Hailey is available for pre-order for a mere 99 pennies. Grab a copy here.

How to get reviews using StoryOrigin #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #StoryOrigin

Everyone knows reviews help sell books. But getting reviews is more difficult than walking over hot coals in your bare feet. I’ve heard estimates of one in every thousand readers leaving a review. Whoa. That’s depressing. It can’t possibly be true! Let’s look at an example. I’ve sold 800 copies of About Face this year and received 13 reviews. Maybe not one in a thousand but pretty dismal if you ask me.

I’ve talked about ways to get reviews before (see here for example), but I recently discovered a new method and thought I’d share it with you today. That method is StoryOrigin. I use StoryOrigin for newsletter swaps (which you should totally be doing – see my blog here). But I recently decided to give it a try for reviews.

How does it work?

It’s super easy. You create a review copy page of the book you want reviewed. This took me about thirty minutes as I needed to create sample files of my book for potential readers. (I use calibre to create mobi and epub files). Here’s the page I created:

Now what?

I shared this page with my newsletter and received ten applications almost immediately. That might not sound like a lot, but when I’ve asked subscribers if they want to review one of my books before only two people replied.

There’s also a possibility to join group promos to gain more readers. I joined the read and review romance promo. I’m not sure if it will yield new reviewers, but it’s free. I’ll let you know how it works out.

I’ve also shared with my social media and received a few applications as a result. This compared to getting NO responses when I’ve shared a simple request to contact me if anyone wants to read and review one of my books.

Based on my experience, it appears readers are more willing to respond to a request for a review when the process is handled by a third party.

Vetting Requests

When readers request my book to review, they need to fill out a form.

This gives the author the information she needs to vet the reader. Does the reader review on Amazon? On Goodreads? On Bookbub? Does the reader read books similar to mine? Does the reader download a ton of free books but never review? All of this information is available to help decide whether to allow the reader to receive a copy of my book.

In Conclusion

I have good hopes StoryOrigin will help me get more reviews for my novels. I’ll let you know how it goes.

~~~

This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

An Interview with Hailey from A Hero for Hailey #romcom #newrelease #MondayBlogs

I’m excited to bring you a new series, Love will OUT. The series is a romantic comedy/romantic suspense hybrid. Don’t worry. You’ll laugh your frosty bottom off, I promise. A new series means a cast of a bunch of new characters. The first book in the series, A Hero for Hailey, stars … you guessed it… Hailey! I thought a blog with a bit of an introduction to Hailey was in order.

Without further ado, take it away Hailey.

What is your full name? Do you have a nickname? If so, who calls you this?

Hi! My name is Hailey McGraw. I don’t really have a nickname, but Aiden (biggest jerk in the world) calls me Hails.

Are you an only child? If not, how many siblings do you have? Are you close or are you estranged?

I am an only child. It’s hard to have siblings when your mother takes off never to be heard from again. But I don’t need her. Not at all. I have my pops, who is an awesome single parent. Although he didn’t actually raise me alone. No, four of his former Army buddies helped. They taught me all kinds of good stuff like how to wire a car.

Did you enjoy school? If not, why did you struggle?

Do you mean like high school? Yuck. I hated high school. No thanks to Aiden Freaking Barnes who teased me through all the years. Mr. Popular made sure all his friends gave me a hard time. Told you he’s a jerk.  

If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?

This is an easy one. Well, easier said than done. I would not put up with those high school bullies. I’d fight right back.  

Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?

Soul mates? True love? If you’ve see as many cheaters as I have, you become a little cynical.

On Monday morning, are you excited to go to work, or are you sad?

My work week doesn’t always start on Monday morning. I work whenever I have to. Weekends, nights, whenever men are cheating on their wives, I’m working. Oh, did I mention I’m a PI? I own my own business – You Cheat, We Eat – with my best friend, Suzie. But back to your original question, I like my job. I don’t necessarily like wading through the filth I sometimes see, but I like having my own business and doing my own thing.  

What is your greatest fear?

I’m afraid I’ll end up like my mom, a woman I despite. Seriously, totally and completely despise.

~~

Yikes! Dena here again. Way to end the interview on a depressing note, Hailey. Geez. Someone needs to cheer the girl up. I think I know just the man for the job. Mwahaha

PS You can pre-order A Hero for Hailey for just 99 cents

A Sneak Peek of Trick or Thief #cozymystery

Trick or Thief is almost here! One more day to be exact. Here’s a look at the first chapter to whet your appetite

TorT

Chapter 1

A ghost first appears

I walk into the kitchen of Callie’s Cakes and collapse on a chair in the corner. I am in no mood to be at the cupcake bakery, but I promised Anna and Callie, the co-owners and my close friends, I’d stop by today. If I didn’t show, the two would get worried. Trust me, no one wants the troublesome twosome worried.

I used to work as a barista at the bakery while I was in college. Since I graduated in July, I’ve been working full-time at my first love – the Youth Center. I used my inheritance to build the facility. It’s my dream to help troubled youth by offering them a safe place to learn, hang out, or simply relax. But things at the center just got weird. I’ve been up all night trying to figure it all out.

“You no look so good,” Anna says in the worst Spanish accent ever.

I don’t bother to open my eyes to answer her. “Who do you think you are? Ricky Ricardo?” I shouldn’t be surprised she’s channeling the character. After all, I often refer to her and Callie as Lucy and Ethel.

“Here.” She shoves a cupcake in my hand. “Have a cupcake.” Anna is the baker extraordinaire of Callie’s Cakes. She thinks cupcakes can solve any and every problem.

I open my eyes to examine the sweet treat. It’s a ghost cupcake. A chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting in the shape of a ghost to be exact. There are even dots of frosting for the eyes. Adorable. With Halloween around the corner, Anna’s been baking up a storm of Halloween-themed treats.

“Where’s my coffee?” I may love cupcakes, but coffee is my addiction. I can’t survive without it.

“Eat your cupcake,” Anna orders.

“You know, cupcakes are not the answer to every single situation.” Nevertheless, I take a bite and groan as the taste of vanilla buttercream and chocolate cake goodness hits my tongue. Yum.

“You’re obviously tired. Sugar will help. See? Cupcakes are the answer.”

I can’t argue with her reasoning. Whoa. I must be tired if I can’t argue with Anna’s reasoning. Callie walks out of her office and joins us. “What’s going on?”

Anna shrugs. “I don’t know yet. I’m still on the calm-her-down-with-a-cupcake part.”

“Cupcake?” Callie looks around. “What cupcake? You didn’t give me a cupcake.”

Anna rolls her eyes. “Maybe because someone – aka you! – told me to stop you from gorging yourself on cupcakes.”

“Eating one cupcake is not gorging.”

Anna crosses her arms over her chest. She’s barely five-foot-tall, but she has attitude for days. “You’ve set your wedding date now. I am not allowing you to cancel the wedding because you gained weight when the real problem is you still don’t believe Ben loves you.” She snorts. “As if.”

When Anna got married on July 4th this past summer, Callie was not a happy camper. Don’t get me wrong. She was happy for her friend, but she was also feeling awfully sorry for herself. I didn’t get what the big deal was. She’s been engaged since before Christmas last year. All she had to do was set the date. But she kept putting it off. Ben finally offered to elope. She lost her mind at his suggestion.

To everyone’s relief, Callie finally set a date – Valentine’s Day. How in the name of coffee she’s going to pull off a Valentine’s Day wedding in less than a year is beyond me. I’m going to sit back and watch the chaos erupt – as it always does with these two.

“I trust Ben loves me,” Callie insists.

“Hardy haha.” Anna slaps her thigh. “Good one. Tell me another.”

I sigh and relax back into my chair. I was wrong. The bakery is the perfect place to be to distract me from everything else going on in my life.

“Anyway.” Callie clears her throat. “We’re not here to talk about me. What’s going on, Kristie?”

Shootawhoota! I should have known I wouldn’t get away with not telling them my problems. Maybe if I give them a little hint, they’ll let it go. “Problems at the Youth Center.” Not a lie.

Callie grabs a chair and pulls it close. “What kind of problems?”

“Nothing big. Some issues with the stockroom is all.”

“Issues with the stockroom?” Anna asks. “Don’t tell me you have some type of rodent in there. I can tell you from experience, rodents are a pain to deal with.”

Callie turns her attention to Anna. “What are you talking about? Do we have rodents in our stockroom? Oh no, the health inspectors are going to jump for joy. You know they hate me.”

“If you hadn’t tried to tell them how to do their jobs, it would not have been a problem.”

Callie frowns. “It’s not my fault they were referring to the wrong health code.”

Here’s the thing about Callie, she’s a major nerd. Major. Her oversized brain is full of trivial information. Information she can’t help but spout at the most inappropriate times.

“We don’t have rodents,” Anna says. “No need to worry about those nasty health inspectors.” She raises an eyebrow at me. “Do you have rodents?”

“No, gross.” Why did she jump straight to the worst possible problem there could be in a stockroom? “There are some problems with the inventory.”

“Oh no. Are you running out of funds? I can ask Ben if he’ll help me set up some police fundraiser. Those usually work.”

Callie’s future husband is a detective with the city police department. I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t be excited to help put together a fundraiser for the Youth Center. Don’t get me wrong. The guy is super nice. And way patient. He asked Callie out for over a year before she finally said yes. He’s also a big supporter of the Youth Center. But fundraising is not in his wheelhouse.

“Logan will help as well.”

Logan is Anna’s husband. I’m positive he wouldn’t be any help at all. Nope. The man has looking intimidating down to an art. I call him Mr. Scares the Pants Off of Me. He has this I’m-Scary-And-I-Know-It look intended to make suspects pee their pants. Not the man I want to help raise funds.

Luckily, I don’t need to raise funds – yet. I put the money left over from my inheritance into a fund for the Youth Center. It covers most of the annual running costs. I do rely on the city for additional funds, though. Between the meals we feed the kids, the classes we teach, and the security, the place is not cheap to run.

“No need to gather the troops. I’m not running out of food or anything.” I sigh. Unless I want to listen to them take even more outrageous guesses, I’m going to have to explain the issue to them. “But food is going missing.”

“What do you mean going missing? Like oops! Where did it go?” Anna asks.

“Exactly.”

Anna claps her hands. “Oh my cupcake. You’ve got a ghost. How exciting!”

I’m glad my problems can entertain someone.

Callie clears her throat. “She doesn’t have a ghost. She has a thief.”

Which is exactly what I’m worried about. If I have to file a police report, it will lead to extra scrutiny of my center. There’s nothing wrong with how I run the place. I always cross my t’s and dot my i’s. But extra scrutiny costs time. Something I do not have.

“I know you have the best security money can buy in the place. What do the security tapes show? Did alarms go off? What did the security team say?”

The best security money can buy? Snort. If I had the best security, then I would know who’s been sticking their fingers in my pantry. “The security guards aren’t on the premises twenty-four seven. And the security tapes are blank.”

“Told you! She has a ghost.”

“You do know ghosts don’t exist, right?” I have to ask. She looks totally serious.

“Oh come on, you’re not one of those people who only believes in things you can see, are you?”

I’m not answering her question. I am not getting into a discussion about whether ghosts exist or not. “Anyway, not a whole lot of food has been stolen. But it’s worrying. I need to have my entire security system evaluated because if someone can steal a bit of food when the security cameras are down, then there’s a chance worse things could happen.”

This is the reason I’ve been up all night. I don’t care about someone stealing a loaf of bread and some peanut butter. I do care about my security system failing. A wide array of teenagers come into the Center. Most are good kids looking for a safe place to hang around while their parents work. But there are also a bunch of troublemakers.

“I’ve got an idea.”

Those words coming out of Anna’s mouth scare the daylights out of me. Anna thinks she is a super amateur sleuth. In fact, she would probably leave out the word amateur and call herself a super sleuth. She’s convinced she solved a bunch of murders. Not exactly. Mostly she stirred up enough trouble the culprits were eventually caught.

“Let’s hear it.”

At Callie’s words, I groan. Callie is usually the voice of reason. Unless her bakery or her job as a college professor are threatened, she’s pretty chill. But when her best friend Anna gets excited about some mystery, Callie jumps all in. Thus, my referring to the two friends as Lucy and Ethel.

“Fine. What is your idea?” I’m not going to get out of hearing whatever crazy plan she’s concocted now. I might as well act as if I’m interested in what she has to say.

Pre-order Trick or Thief for just 99 pennies today!

 

Why I’m a failure at BookBub ads. I think. #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #BookBub #WritingCommunity

As an indie author, I’m always on the lookout for ways to get my books in front of new audiences (and therefore increase my book sales and revenue). Amazon and Facebook are the most obvious ways to advertise books. Amazon is the biggest bookseller in the world and Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world. But what about BookBub?

BB_LogoGetting a BookBub Featured Deal is still considered one of the best ways to sell your book. (A BookBub Featured Deal means being included in the email BookBub sends to its hundreds of thousands of subscribers.) But getting a BookBub Featured Deal is a dream that doesn’t come true for many of us indie authors. It’s also very expensive and doesn’t fit the budget of many. Personally, I’ve given up on trying to get a BookBub Featured Deal as I’m exclusive to Amazon.

Thankfully, BookBub also offers paid ads. Are BookBub ads the next great advertising platform?

In a word, no. At least not for me. I’ve tried BookBub ads on various occasions during various times throughout the year. I’ve tried them for my cozy mysteries and for my romantic comedies. I’ve tried them to help with new releases and I’ve tried them with sales. All to no avail. I just can’t get the ads to make money.

Before you go and tell me I need to do more testing, let me say I’ve taken my quest to master BookBub seriously. I’ve taken two courses. Both of which were not free. I learned all about using CPM, finding similar authors, graphics, etc. What I apparently didn’t learn is how to actually make money using BookBub ads.

So, what went wrong and is there a way to correct it?

Amazon Exclusive vs. Wide  My books are exclusive to Amazon. Unfortunately, it appears BookBub ads work best for wide authors. I’ve searched and searched but I can’t find any actual data regarding what platforms BookBub subscribers prefer. I imagine BookBub keeps this information private and I can’t blame them. A search of several Facebook author groups, however, reveals that wide authors have better success with BookBub ads.

Romance vs Mystery According to BookBub, the vast majority of their subscribers are mystery readers with only 11% of their readers enjoying romance. This is evidenced by my very best BookBub ad which was for one of my cozy mysteries.

BB ad 99 cents

Cost Result
$ 84.48 Over 100 pre-orders

Considering the price of this book – 99 cents – 100 pre-orders did not come anywhere near to paying for the nearly $85 in advertisement costs. This was book 4 in the series and I did eventually make up for the cost with read-through of the previous three books in the series.

Deal One thing all of the BookBub ad experts agree on is the book you are advertising must be on sale. BookBub subscribers expect a good deal. My very best cost per click for a BookBub ad was 34 cents. (This is considered a good CPC for BookBub) With a CPC of 34 cents, it’s impossible to earn the cost of the ad back as the royalty on a 99 cent book is around 33 cents.

Should you still try BookBub ads?

Based on my experience I suggest the following:

  • Go wide.
  • Use a book in a series to ensure revenue from read-through.
  • Try a $1.99 deal instead of $ 0.99 deal.

Let me know how it turns out!

~~

This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.

authortoolbox 5

 

A Sneak Peek into Knee Deep, my new romantic comedy releasing July 29th #Romance #99c #MustRead #Newrelease

Knee Deepbook 4 of the Love in the Suburbs series, is almost here. Yeah! I can’t wait to share Luke and Violet’s story with you. Seriously, I can’t wait. So, I decided to share Chapter 1 of the novel on the blog today. Enjoy!

Knee Deep _ Cover

Chapter 1

Introducing Violet – the woman scorned

“We need to talk.” Oh, crap. I am so busted.

I should have known better than to try to pull one over on my boss, Frankie. Of course, she figured out what I’m up to. The woman seems to know everything going on in our little corner of the world. It’s like she has the entire suburb bugged or something.

Frankie only moved here temporarily to stay with her grandparents after a horrible accident left her scarred and unable to walk. But then her physical therapist turned out to be a total hottie. One thing led to another and now she’s married to the hottie and has an event planning business with her former assistant, Jackson. An event planning business where I’m currently working.

“I’ll be right there,” I sing as if I have no clue what’s going on. Lie.

I hang up the phone and take one last look around my office. I am totally playing Ms. Melodramatic. It’s not like I’ll be leaving the company this very second, but I am going to miss this place. Whoever Frankie and Jackson had design the offices of F&J’s Events did an awesome job. The place has a modern, hip feel while still maintaining the character of the old mid-20th century office building.

I rush down the stairs and wave to Bailey, the office manager and general all-around get-it-done girl.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

I lift my shoulders as if I haven’t a care in the world. “Nothing.”

She rolls her eyes. “Yeah, sure, that’s why you look like someone stole the last piece of your chocolate.”

I keep my mouth shut and keep on moving. I can’t tell her what I’ve been up to. She’ll see it as a betrayal. Hell, it kind of is a betrayal. What happened to me? I used to be the most loyal person in the entire world. And now I’m lying to two of my closest friends like it’s no big deal. I suck.

Oh, who am I kidding? I know exactly what – or should I say who? – happened to me. Luke freaking Bauer. Former love of my life. Current ruiner of said life. Ugh! Why can’t I stop thinking about the douchecanoe?

Frankie stands as I walk into her office and motions for me to take a seat. I perch myself on the edge of a chair. My knees are bouncing, and my toes are tapping. I am totally giving myself away by acting like a nervous Nellie. I grab the armrests in a death grip and tell myself to calm the eff down. For all I know, my boss called me into her office to talk about an event or, you know, work. Not my betrayal.

Frankie tilts her head and waits for me to speak. Not happening. I keep my mouth firmly shut. I’m not confessing to anything. At least not until I know how much she knows. Sneaky woman probably knows everything.

She folds her hands in front of her and clears her throat. “I hear you’re looking for a new job, Violet.”

Whoomp, there it is. She knows everything. “It’s not that I don’t like it here—” I start but she stops me with a raised hand.

“I don’t care you’re looking for another job.”

My brow wrinkles. “You don’t?” Huh. I’m kinda hurt by those words. And by ‘kinda hurt’ I mean big time hurt.

“Actually, I do. But I care more you didn’t tell me you want to leave.”

I didn’t tell her because she’d not only try to talk me out of it, she would talk me out of it. The woman is a master at getting her way. I do not envy her husband Brodie one bit.

“Um… I don’t want to leave. I have to leave.”

This gets her attention. “Is there something wrong? Has Jackson been harassing you?”

I snort. Seriously? The man may be intense when he’s in ‘business-mode’, but he would never harass me. He is head over heels for Frankie’s best friend, Shelby. Shelby is beyond crazy. Normally, I’d jump at the chance to make friends with her crazy ass, but she and I haven’t exactly warmed up to each other. Not when she’s buddy-buddy with he who shall not be named.

“No, Jackson hasn’t been harassing me.” Unless you count making me work my ass off and being a perfectionist, harassment, which I don’t. I had zero experience in event planning when Frankie and Jackson took a chance on me. I’ll take all the ‘harassment’ Jackson can dish out for the opportunity to learn the business. I’m a glutton for punishment like that.

“Then why do you have to leave?” Her eyes widen. “Oh shit. I’m not harassing you, am I? Hold on. Don’t answer. I’ll call Jackson in here and you can discuss it with him.”

I roll my eyes. “You can jump off the crazy train now. You are in no way no how harassing me. How could you even think such a thing?”

Frankie takes a deep breath. “I have been told I’m a bit hard to take and something of a workaholic.”

I feign surprise and clutch my non-existent pearls. “You? A workaholic? Say it ain’t so.”

“Hardy har har.” She taps her fingers on her desk. “If it’s not a problem with me or Jackson, what is it? I know it’s not Bailey. You two are as close as sisters from different misters.”

“Can we just leave it at I need to leave?” I plead.

“Um, no.” She shakes her head. “You’re an asset to F&J’s Events. I know better than to let a good employee walk away.”

Who knew being a good employee would ever cause a problem? I keep my lips zipped. I’m not talking about him. And yes, this is all about him. Of course, it is.

Frankie’s eyes widen, and she slams her hand on her desk. “Holy cow! I should have known it. It’s Luke, isn’t it?”

My head drops and I stare at my hands fisted in my lap. I can’t look her in the eyes and admit how weak I am. “I can’t be around him. It hurts too much.”

“But he doesn’t work here.”

“Maybe not, but he’s in your little group of friends. Every time you invite me somewhere, he’s there. Every time I meet you at the bar, he’s there. Every time there’s a dinner at your grandma’s house, he’s there. I can’t get away from him.”

And I can’t see him. It hurts too much. The man ripped my heart out and then stomped all over it with his shitkicker boots. I’ve used duct tape and string to put the thing back together, but those repairs fail in a spectacular fashion whenever the man is near.

The door flies open and Bailey stomps in. “You’re leaving because of Luke?” At my nod, she growls. “Men! They ruin everything!” Since she’s wearing a big honking engagement ring, her tirade doesn’t have the effect she’s hoping for.

“What if we promise to ban Luke from the premises?”

I snort at Frankie’s suggestion. “As if. Shelby will kick your ass if you dare to suggest such a thing.”

“Hey! I’m the boss here not her.”

“Does she know that?”

Bailey takes the seat next to mine and grabs my hand for a squeeze. “We really can’t convince you to stay?”

“You’re leaving soon anyway,” I point out. Not only is the woman engaged to Roman the billionaire, but she recently inherited a shit-ton of money from the dad she never knew. Well, she knew him, but she didn’t know, know him as she had never met him. It’s a complicated and long story. Anyway, her days as an office manager are limited.

“Well,” Frankie says as she stands. “I hope we can remain friends.”

Is it wrong I’m hurt she’s giving up so easily? Of course, we’ll remain friends. Friends from afar, that is. Frankie and Bailey are awesome. Some of the best women I’ve ever met but being in their vicinity means staying in Luke’s crosshairs. And I need to get out of the target zone as soon as possible. I keep my thoughts to myself. No sense in them realizing how bad Luke has hurt me, although I think they might be starting to figure it out.

At Bailey’s sniffle, I start backpedaling. “I’m not gone yet. I still need to find a job. Plus Ms. Bossy-Pants made me agree to a two-month notice period.”

“It’s standard industry practice.”

I ignore Frankie’s comment to apologize to Bailey. “I’m sorry. We can always see each other when you’re not off galivanting with your future husband.”

“And you’re my maid of honor.”

“I am?” I assumed I’d be in the wedding but maid of honor? I’ve known her for a few months whereas she’s known Frankie for years. “But—”

“Nope. It’s settled. I don’t want to hear anything about it.” She stands and strolls from the room as if the matter is settled. I guess it is.

I knew leaving F&J’s Events would be tough. I didn’t expect it to be this tough, though. Damn it. Just when my life is getting back on track, Luke rolls in and dumps all over it again. Maybe I should move to another city. No, another state. Maybe another country. Wherever I end up, it needs to be far, far away from Mr. Life Destroyer.

~~~

Pre-order Knee Deep for just 99 cents now! 

5 things you didn’t know about Luke Bauer, hero of Knee Deep #romcombooks #romancenovel #romance #characterguestpost #love #fridayreads

Knee Deep, book 4 of the Love in the Suburbs series, is almost here. Yeah! I can’t wait to share Luke and Violet’s story with you. Although I do admit to having had a ball teasing everyone about their background in the previous books in the series. I’m evil like that. Today’s blog is from Luke – the guy who seems like a total sweetheart until Violet walks in the room. Then, he turns into a man we do not know. Without further ado, take it away Luke.

Knee Deep _ Cover

Dena asked me to tell you ten things you didn’t know about me. The woman can be persistent as hell. She reminds me of someone else I— *Clears throat* Never mind. Anyway, you’ll have to settle for five things you didn’t know about me as I’m pretty much an open book. And no, I won’t be telling you the story between Violet and me. That secret is going with me to the grave. Anyway, here you go:

  1. I’m a big brother. I grew up as an only child to a single mother. I asked my mom for a brother until I was old enough to realize why she couldn’t just go to the corner store and pick me one up. I don’t want any kid suffering the loneliness I did as a child, so I volunteered to become a big brother. I’m currently the proud big bother to Jake.
  2. I take part in a charity bike ride to support breast cancer. My mom died when I was in my early teens from breast cancer. Watching someone I love suffer through cancer has made me determined no other son will have to go through the pain of losing his mother at a young age like I did.
  3. I have paruresis. Using the word paruresis sounds way cooler than what it actually means – a fear of peeing in public. Women don’t have to pee in public in front of strangers, why should men have to? And that’s all I’m saying about that.
  4. I wax. My arms that is! What were you thinking? No. Don’t answer that. It’s fairly normal to wax if you have tats. Since I have a full sleeve, I wax. I have tats so people can see the beautiful artwork and not my hairy arms.
  5. Contrary to popular belief, I am not afraid of commitment. I’m sure when I find the one – and Violet is not the one after what she did to me – I will be all in.

~~~

Dena here again. Okay, um… I didn’t realize Luke had such depth (except for that whole peeing in public thing – TMI, Luke. T.M.I.). Maybe I don’t give him enough credit. Of course, he’s a total jerk to our girl Violet, which doesn’t help. Us girls gotta stick together.

Did I pique your interest in Luke’s love story? Pre-order Knee Deep for just 99 cents for a limited time!