Category Archives for "New Release"

Get Unbaked! The Prequel.

How in the name of the goddess’s favorite sports bra am I going to do this Magical Librarian job? I have no idea what I’m doing. And the woman who’s supposed to be training me is…well, let’s just say she’s distracted and leave it at that. I guess I’ll bumble through. It’s become something of a trademark move for me.

My name is Naida Griffith and I’m a sorceress. I actually found that out not too long ago. I’ve lived with an undefined something burning in my belly for a while, feeling as if something wasn’t quite right under my skin. Then, on my eighteenth birthday I started getting headaches. Bad ones. And random stuff started following me around.

Recently I was approached by a group called the Société of Dire Magic to become Keeper of the Artifacts. A magical librarian. Given that magical artifacts have taken to following me around, I decided I might have an aptitude for the job. So I said yes.

But in the first few days, I’ve been flogged by flip flops, bludgeoned by gnomes, and discovered a corpse in a suitcase. Then there’s the woman who’s supposed to be training me. She’s…interesting. 

Will I survive the training long enough to get the job as artifact librarian? You might as well ask me if a caterpillar gets manis or pedis. Who knows? But I know one thing for sure. This gig is hard. I’m going to do my best to succeed. Or die trying.

When Intentions turn Savage

The best chocolate begins with imagination and ends in murder. 

Making chocolate is a labor of love and an age-old art. As a connoisseur of the sweet, creamy stuff herself, Blaise is excited to be working at an exclusive confectioner’s shop, run by a woman whose reputation for being a creative chocolatier is legendary. Madeline Foss’s past might be murky and slightly dark, but her chocolate is delicious. And nothing says love like chocolate. Or at least, that’s what Blaise has always believed.

But when her new boss ends up dead, she quickly realizes that nothing says murder like jealousy and ambition. And there isn’t enough chocolate in the world to overcome a savage intent.


She floated into the room in a cloud of raspberry and chocolate chiffon, her arms waving around her head and her eyes swiveling to take in every display with a slightly hostile, but eminently discerning eye. “Les grains de café enrobés de chocolat!”

Blaise settled the last perfectly formed rectangle of toffee onto its tray in the glass case and glanced up. “I’ve got them ready to put out. I’ll do those next.”

Madeline Foss nodded and stopped in the middle of the cozy little shop, an index finger pressed against her ruby-red lips as her cool, gray gaze swept the tables and danced over the glass display cases. “The brittle is messy,” she told Blaise.

“I know. I’ll do that after the chocolate covered coffee beans.”

Les grains de café enrobés de chocolat,” Madeline corrected, her upturned nose lifting with disdain.

“The grains de whatever, yes.” Head down so her boss couldn’t see when she rolled her eyes, Blaise closed the case and moved over to the tray of pretty plastic containers filled with coffee beans coated in creamy, rich chocolate. She fought the urge to inhale their scent, knowing that Madeline, in her Queen of England persona, would consider it gauche.

Madeline’s cell rang and she tugged it from an invisible pocket in the cloud of chiffon, glaring at the screen. “I’ll be in my office, Blaise.” She turned and swept toward the back of the shop, her outfit billowing around her like a designer flag in a windstorm.

“Yes?” Her voice was tight and shrill. It was her “I don’t like you, so why are you talking to me” voice.

Blaise shook her head. She’d taken the job as an experiment, thinking she might like to get into the confectionary business. She’d learned a lot and enjoyed creating the sweet delicacies as much as watching people’s eyes light up when they came through the door and looked around. But dealing with the talented yet decidedly temperamental Madeline had been a bit more than Blaise had bargained for.

Still, she’d been surprised to discover she really liked her new boss. Once she’d realized there was a soft center under all that prickliness.

Her own cell rang a couple of moments later as the back door snicked closed, sending a cold draft of early Winter air in Blaise’s direction. Blaise frowned toward the hallway that led to Madeline’s office, the private restroom, and the exit.

Had her boss left for the day without saying anything?

Irritation flaring, Blaise answered her phone without looking to see who it was. “Hello?”

A shrill bark met her greeting. Her temper sifted away and Blaise grinned. “Hey, Miss Ivy. How’s my beautiful girl?”

Panting noises preceded a soft whine, and Blaise chuckled. “Dolfe, how many times have I told you not to whine on the phone.”

“It works for the fur-brats,” a sexy, deep voice told her.

“That’s because they’re little and cute.”

“I’m not cute?” His voice filled with pretend hurt.

“Cute is not the word I’d use for you, no.” Gorgeous. Sexy. Painfully masculine. She grinned.

His chuckle made her all warm and sizzly inside. “What time will you be done tonight? The brats and I want to go to that new drive-in restaurant for dinner.”

“The brats told you that, huh?”

“They did. I happen to speak fluent fur-brat.”

Laughing, she glanced through the front windows at the lead-gray sky beyond. “It’s cold and ugly outside, Honeybun.”

“We won’t be getting out of the car.” She could almost hear him smile. “Besides, I’ll keep you warm.”

“More like the two dogs on my lap will keep me warm. You won’t be able to reach me through all the fur and teeth.”

Dolfe sighed. “Story of my life. Time?”

“Five o’clock. I’m almost done setting up for tomorrow.”

“Perfect. We’ll see you then.”

A short, muffled scream had Blaise turning toward the back again. “What the…?” She disconnected and started toward the office. “Madeline?”

The hall was empty. The office door was locked. Madeline kept it locked whenever she left the room. Blaise’s boss wasn’t a very trusting person and the office’s proximity to the back exit, which led to an alley featuring a stinky dumpster, a few employee cars, and zero security cameras didn’t improve her trust issues.

Blaise tugged the bathroom door open and stuck her head inside. “Madeline?”

Nothing.

A cold breeze skimmed down the hall and the metal door to the alley clacked against the frame. It wasn’t latched.

It was unlike her boss to leave it open. Unless she’d been in a hurry. Or upset.

Frowning, Blaise hurried toward the door and eased it open, peering into the alley as an icy blast of wind scoured across the space, sending bits of debris skimming over the dingy asphalt and carrying the stench of the dumpster down the way to her nose.

Her boss’s car was still there, sitting alone under the security light that hadn’t come on yet.

“Madeline…?” Blaise’s voice cut off as she spotted a length of raspberry chiffon dancing on the air near the dumpster. Shivering violently, Blaise stepped into the alley. “What are you doing out here? You’re going to get frostbite.” She headed for the cloud of chiffon, rubbing her arms and looking around for any indication of why Madeline had come into the alley.

“You know, I took the trash out earlier, right?”

A pale hand lifted above the dumpster and Blaise gave a startled yelp as a rangy orange cat jumped from the rusty container and dropped lightly to the ground. The cat turned to stare at her, its startling green gaze filled with distrust. The stray’s tail whipped from side to side and Blaise took note of the dark stains around its mouth. She grimaced. “Dumpster diving, huh?”

Madeline must have been trying to capture the cat. The woman was cat crazy. She had six cats of her own, all rescued off the streets of Indianapolis. Blaise frowned as the cat ran away, her gaze drawn to the pale hand resting against the side of the dumpster. “Please tell me you didn’t fall into that dumpster trying to help the cat?”

She stepped on something that crunched under her boot. Looking down, Blaise frowned at the familiar phone, its back encased in faux purple jewels. She picked it up and grimaced at the cracked screen. “Um, Madeline…I think I broke your phone.”

Silence met her statement. “Madeline?”

Blaise hurried over, jerking to a stop as she got close enough to see inside the trash receptacle.

Blaise gave a sharp scream, her hand snapping up to cover her mouth.

“Oh, Maddie…” Tears burned her eyes and slid down her cheeks, dripping to the stained and debris-strewn asphalt beneath her boots.

Madeline didn’t respond.

She’d never respond again.

Come to Silver Hills. Where making friends can prove deadly and making enemies might be easier than you think.

Emotions are aflutter at Silver Hills as a new heartthrob moves into the residence. Will all that fluttering still a single heart? And if love dies, will Flo’s very own amour find itself in the crosshairs of the estimable Detective Brent Peters?

Agnes and Hertz are on the outs. Secrets tear the tender fabric of a pulsing heart. What do the secrets have to do with murder?

Affairs of le cœur aside, will Agnes break the clothing store shopping for a party dress? What will break during a rousing class of Zumba? And will Flo be able to soldier through her dance injuries to follow a chubby cherub to a killer?

So many questions. So much hopping, tapping and fluttering. And still a murder to solve.

What will Flo and Co. do?

They’ll do what they always do, of course. Hearts out and chins up, they’re goin’ in!

I really enjoyed Love Hertz. The characters are interesting and hilarious. Flo and Agnes get into so many crazy situations that will have you laughing. This book is so fun. The mystery has so many twists and red herrings to keep you guessing right until the end. This book is full of adventure, mystery, laughs and some romance. A great read!

The last note hit the air, leaving behind a startling silence.

Agnes didn’t stop with the music. She did one last step slide and flung her right arm up, her fist heading right for Flo’s chin.

Flo’s growl deepened. She blocked Agnes’ upward strike with a downward strike of her own forearm and, reaching out as Agnes’ eyes snapped open in surprise, flicked her friend hard between the eyes.

Agnes frowned, reaching up to rub her head. “Ow! Why’d you do that, Flo?”

“Because you’re a menace,” somebody mumbled behind Flo.

Dabbing her face with a towel, TC turned around, her pretty face filled with pleasure and glistening with sweat. Her grin slid slowly away when she saw the carnage Agnes had left in her wake.

Bodies were strewn everywhere. Women rubbing red places on their limbs, carefully pushed to their feet, favoring tender joints. Groans filled the air.

Agnes stood at the epicenter of it all. Her own brand of Level 5 hurricane.

Hurricane Agnes.

“What happened?” TC asked, all the joy of the dance seeping out of her. She hurried to help a woman whom Flo thought looked slightly familiar up off the floor.

Agnes happened,” Celia said, rubbing one of her hips.

“Hurricane Agnes,” Flo said, feeling a grin tugging at her lips.

Agnes looked around, her eyes going wide. “Did I do that?”

“O-blivious,” the woman standing next to TC said.

Then someone laughed.

Someone else joined in.

A hoot burst out of Celia’s mouth and she gave into it, doubling over with laughter and holding her sides.

Flo felt a chuckle tickling her throat and set it free, reaching to give a sweaty, panting Agnes a hug. “I have to say, hun. With you around, nothing is ever boring.”

Agnes gave her a wincing smile, glancing around as, one by one, the other dancers joined in the laughter. Then she shrugged and reached for her water bottle. “That was fun.”

The room erupted in howls and hoots.

It’s Christmas at Croakies!

When Sebille suggests I open the bookstore up to a small holiday party, I foolishly agree. How was I supposed to know that the hobgoblin would decide it would be fun to hide everybody’s stuff? Or that we’d be hit with a freak winter storm that confined everybody inside for the duration. Or that a “You’re me but who am I?” spell would be released inside the shop, switching everybody’s identities and creating general chaos and hysteria?

I could probably deal with all that if it weren’t for the fact that my friend, Lea…the one person who could possibly reverse the spell…was ensconced in SB the parrot, with no opposable thumbs for spelling.

And me? Of course, I’m sitting fat and squishy inside Mr. Slimy. Thank goodness Rustin isn’t currently in residence, or it would be really crowded in here.

Who spelled my party? What do a pair of Santa’s elves have to do with it? And why have old enemies suddenly become new friends? I apparently have a little holiday mystery to solve inside Croakies, and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it with everybody mixed up and some of us human.

Have I told you I hate this season?

Ribbit!

4

Halloween Poetry by Sam – Bleurgh!

Wherein Sam Emotes…

Leaves the color of flame overhead, an unhealthy focus on the dead,

Pumpkins carved with expressive face, and pumpkin spice stuff every place,

Cool temps wrapped around us all, making the fire of summer the frost of fall,
 
Witches, ghosties, skeletal beasts, hold sway on lawns and frolic at feasts,

One night, one colorful history held dear, I can't wait to experience the magic this year.

xx

Happy Halloween! 

Sam

Magical chaos, old enemies, new adversaries, and danger around every corner…I HATE this time of year!

‘Tis the Season…

I LOVE this time of year! Even if you don't believe in magic, it's hard to deny that the next three months of the year are filled to the brim with the magic of expectation, anticipation and cherished memory. 

In my family, we've already kicked off this magical time of year with a visit to Boo Zoo at the Indianapolis zoo, wherein my 2 tiny grandsons were fine examples of a Star Wars pilot and Blippi. Those of you who know who Blippi is probably have toddlers in your lives. And let me tell you, he was the cutest Blippi EVER! #:0) 

Yesterday, the kids went on the Pumpkin Express train out of Noblesville, Indiana. It was their first time on a real train and I've never seen such smiles. 

That's real, honest to goodness magic right there. 

So, as we move into this busiest time of year together, here's my advice to you. Embrace the magic around you. Yes, it does exist. It takes a different form for everyone. But wherever you find your magic, hold it close. Become the child with hope and expectation sparkling in your eyes. Make it your own and reap the endless benefits that result. 

xx

Happy Sleuthing! 


Sam

Fortune Croakies – I give you Frog and Cat!

Apple Trees and Frog Pee

It isn’t every day that you find yourself staring at a frog’s squishy butt bulging from the underside of a sink drain. I would have felt better if I’d believed it would never happen again. However, because I appeared to be frog-cursed, there was a strong possibility I’d eventually end up lying on my back under the sink, eyeing the posterior region of Mr. Slimy again.

Sighing, I gave the squishy bulk a tentative poke with my finger, earning a forlorn, “Ribbit!” for my efforts. Something trickled downward, hitting my cheek and dripping down to the paper towel I had draped under my head to keep “under the sink” cooties off my hair.

I realized, too late, what had just dripped on me.

“Argh!” I shoved out from under the sink and bent over while grabbing frantically for more paper towel to wipe frog pee off my cheek. “I can’t believe it!”

The figure lounging against my refrigerator grinned. “You shouldn’t poke a stressed frog, Naida.”

I glared at the source of almost all my problems.

Okay, I know I previously said that about Mr. Wicked, my adorable kitten who was probably better at being an artifact keeper than I was. But I’d reassessed the players and decided Rustin Quilleran, former witch and current frog squatter, was definitely more trouble than my sweet little kitten.

I mean, Wicked was curled up on his pillow, purring happily.

Rustin was driving a fat frog bus that got itself jammed in my drain and peed on my face.

I’ll let you do the math.

“Not funny. You need to keep a better lock on the contents of your bladder.”

His grin widened. “I think you have a mistaken view of my ability to control your wedged friend,” he told me. “I’m just a passenger on that particular bus.”

Which, normally I’d be happy about. I mean, when Rustin had gotten stuck in the frog because of a spell his horrible family had performed, I’d felt terrible. We’d tried everything to get him out of there. But, in the end, the evil Jacob Quilleran had interfered, making certain poor Rustin didn’t escape the fate Jacob had locked him into.

I still hadn’t found out why Rustin’s Uncle Jacob had felt the need to lock him in a frog.

Rustin wasn’t being very forthcoming with the information.

I hurried past him, into my bathroom, where I put soap onto the wet paper towel and scrubbed my cheek until I was in danger of removing a layer of skin cells along with the frog pee.

“What are you doing here, then? Standing there laughing isn’t helping at all.”

Rustin shrugged. “I was bored. Your life is generally good for a few laughs. I’m happy to report that this morning has been no exception.”

I barely resisted zapping him with my almost worthless keeper magics. I pretty much had only enough oomph in my zapper to curl someone’s hair or make them pee themselves.

Trust me when I tell you I’d had enough of making stuff pee for the day.

Flinging the soiled paper towel into the trash, I glared at him. “I’m so glad I could entertain.”

“Me too.” His grin never wavered.

A part of me was happy to see it. I’d been so worried that Rustin would lose his humanity because of his enforced incarceration in the frog. But his cousin Maude and his very powerful Aunt Madeline had been working on reversing the spell. They hadn’t managed yet to free him. But they’d created a metaphysical barrier between Mr. Slimy’s ─ a.k.a. the frog’s ─ consciousness and Rustin’s so he could maintain his power, brain capacity, and humanity…basically his soul.

That was as good a result as we could have hoped for under the circumstances.

Even though that meant, as Mr. Slimy’s current foster parent, I was also the unlucky owner of the ethereally handsome and eternally snarky witch who was stuck inside the frog.

You thought I was kidding about the challenges of my life, didn’t you?

The bell jangled downstairs in my bookstore, and I glanced at my stuck amphibian.

“Ribbit.” Slimy’s sticky tongue snapped out and snagged a massive fly that had tried to make a break for the window above the sink.

Sucker.

I looked at Rustin. “Keep an eye on the squishy, green bus. I have to go see who’s downstairs.”

He nodded, casting what appeared to be an affectionate glance toward Mr. Slimy.

I shook my head. How anybody could be fond of a frog was beyond me.

Although, I realized as I bounced down the steps to the first floor, that I’d begun to form an attachment which transcended disgust. In fact, I almost dreaded the day Madeline managed to find a way to extract her nephew. I was going to miss him.

Unlocking the door that separated the bookstore from the artifact library behind me, I blinked in surprise.

Had I just had a Freudian moment? Was I going to miss the witch? Or the frog?

I shrugged, shoving the question aside for another time. It would probably be an easy choice.

I mean, one of them just peed on me.

Becoming Friends With Your Favorite Characters

Sometimes it's the unlikeliest pair who form a bond, as in my new paranormal cozy series, Enchanted Inquiries. In Book 1: Tea & Croakies, we're introduced to a magically gifted cat and a frog that's possessed by the spirit of a wronged witch.

Unlikely friends? Yes. But friends none-the-less. Circumstances, mutual relationships, and natural affinities all work together to create a bond that withstands treachery, mishap, and deadly challenge to strengthen a natural connection into something inexplicable but good.

Other relationships are less inexplicable…erm…more explicable? LOL I'm talking about the relationship between you and the book characters you learn to love. That's part of the magic in a well-written book. You can find new friends, immerse yourself into their lives and root for them, cry for them, laugh with them until you form such a bond you can't wait to see them again.

That's what it means when you hear readers lament, “I didn't want it to end!” Writers sometimes overlook the importance of that sentiment. We have limited time, limited resources, and stories banging together in our heads trying to escape. We can't write everything for everybody. It's just not possible. Sometimes we have to make an emotional decision to end a series. Sometimes it's a purely business one. But whatever the reason, we do ourselves a disservice not to heed the cries of people who've bonded with our characters. We need to cherish that bond. Rejoice in it. Because it means we've truly touched the hearts of our readers.

An awesome thing.

There's one relationship element you might not consider as a reader. The writer's bond with the characters. You see it in the progression of a series. The way the characters grow, become three- and four-dimensional, and the way the author treats them as they move through their days, their lives, the phases of their stories.

We bond with our characters too.

This is why first books in series don't usually rate as well as subsequent books. In the beginning, we're just getting to know our characters like you are. No matter how much thought we put into them before we write them, they don't stick to the dossier we have of them in our heads. They evolve and morph as we put them through their paces. They grow into their own people. The story changes them into what they were always meant to be.

Miraculous!

So embrace those book friendships. They're fun and healthy and ultimately oh so satisfying. But understand that authors deal with much the same thing when we create our characters. In many ways, they're our friends, our confidants, our not-so-cheap therapy! LOL And when we share them with you, we're entrusting you with a little piece of our hearts. I mean, isn't that what friends do?

Happy sleuthing, everybody! xx

Sam

Begin the Journey – Grab a Copy of Tea & Croakies

I knew when I woke up with a migraine that things were going to get interesting. As a magical artifact wrangler, it’s not an unusual way to start my day. But I had no idea how bad it was going to get.

Until I found a frog sitting in my teacup.

Even that, I could explain to myself if I had to. After all, I have a creative mind. But when the frog started talking to me, yeah, I was pretty sure I’d taken the wrong kind of pill that morning for my headache. If only I’d realized then what I know now. The talking frog was just the beginning of my problems. And quite a beginning it was!

The Frog! A short excerpt from Tea & Croakies!

Something emerged from the shadows. The shape didn’t move like a cat. It wasn’t graceful. In fact, it sort of shuffled rather than walked. I suddenly feared that my sweet kitten had hurt himself. “Are you okay, buddy?”

The shape reached the light and I found myself staring into a pair of bulging black eyes, surrounded by a scaly green head and a fat, squishy body.

I yelped, jumping back in surprise as the frog leaped into the air and thumped against the underside of the shelf.

“A frog!” I squealed, backpedaling as fast as I could on my knees until I bumped up against the base of the counter.

More thumping ensued. Then Wicked’s head emerged and he glowered at me. “Meow!”

I felt strangely compelled to defend myself. “What do you want me to do?”

The cat yowled unhappily, disappearing back underneath the shelf with a final snap of his tail.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

I sighed. The frog was clearly stuck under the shelving. Every time he tried to hop out from under there, he bashed against the underside of the shelf. “I just…” I scrubbed a hand over my face, wondering who I could call to extricate him.

“Yowwww!”

“Sprite’s trousers, Wicked!” I exclaimed in frustration. “I don’t touch frogs. You know this. We’ve discussed it at length.” Not that he’d understood any of it. But he seemed determined to force me into touching this one so I felt the need to remind him. “They’re slimy and give me hives.”

I wasn’t sure that latter was strictly true. But panic was making my pulse race and I had to tell myself something.

Thump. Thump.

The poor thing was going to give itself brain damage. Wait. What was I saying? Frogs don’t have brains. Do they?

Thumpthumpthumpthumpthump.

“Ugh!” I exclaimed, “I’m coming!”

I repositioned myself on the floor, glancing along the line of shelves. Maybe I could just cut the shelf down the middle so he could hop out.

“Meow!!!”

Growling unhappily. I pressed my cheek against the carpet and looked underneath again. The bulging black eyes seemed to be closer to the edge. Maybe he’d managed to move himself, I thought excitedly. Maybe he didn’t need me after all.

The black eyes slowly blinked and the frog’s body quivered. He looked so sad. I stared into those protruding eyes and something inside me shifted. I felt…pity.

“Trolls boogers,” I murmured unhappily, knowing what I had to do.

I pulled air into my lungs and tugged a wisp of calming magic forward, unsure I’d be able to do it. My hand inched closer and stopped as the black, unfathomable gaze pinned me in place. The frog’s body swelled and shrank as it breathed, and its tiny feet shifted uncertainly as my hand came close.  

My fingers twitched. My hand stilled in midair. All I could think about was the last and only time I’d touched a frog. It had been cool and slimy to the touch, and its slime had painted my hand, giving me an unsightly rash that had lasted for weeks.

Nothing I’d done had helped the rash. Until I’d accidentally gotten blasted by a ray of healing magic.

I couldn’t count on a random witch shooting healing magics at me a second time. Or, considering my unhealthy relationship with the Quillerans, a non-random one either.

Thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump…Meow!

I sighed, dropping my head to the floor in defeat. “Okay, chillax you two. I’m doing this.”

Before I could change my mind, I quickly extended my hand and wrapped my fingers around the thick, squishy body, jerking it toward me and then releasing it with a squeal and another awkward crawling retreat.

The frog hunched on the carpet, staring at me with its throat working, its puffy body looking iridescent under the overhead lights. I rubbed my hand against my jeans, grimacing, before realizing my hand wasn’t slimy. Not at all. And the touch memory of the frog’s soft, warmish skin still clung to it.

“Ribbit,” the frog said. It gave an experimental hop in my direction and stopped as I twitched with disgust. “Ribbit.”

Mr. Wicked suddenly appeared at my elbow. He gave me soft eyes and rubbed against my knee as I stared in horror at the frog. It had just occurred to me that my trauma wasn’t over. I still had a frog in my bookstore.

“Now what am I going to do with you?” I murmured. I had no idea what frogs needed to live. I wasn’t equipped to deal with amphibians. I was totally a dry land kind of girl. What did they eat? Did they need water to survive?

A spec of black buzzed past me and Wicked’s paw shot up, swiping at the fly. The unfortunate insect dodged sideways to avoid the threatening paw, and flew directly into deadly frog territory.

Quick as a wink, the frog’s tongue snapped out and snatched the fly right out of the air. He seemed to shudder as if even he was disgusted by the action.

“Well,” I said, grimacing. “I guess the food thing’s taken care of for the moment.”

I shoved to my feet. “Tomorrow, I’ll ask Sebille to take you to her family in the woods. You can live on their pond,” I inexplicably explained to the frog and the cat.

With that decision made, I felt better. But just in case, I went into the bathroom and grabbed Wicked’s water dish, filling it up and carrying it out to place in front of the frog. “If you need a drink or…you know…a bath or something.”

“Ribbit.”

“Yowl!” Wicked gave me stink eye.

I shrugged. “Hey, it was your bright idea to save him. I guess you’re going to have to take this one for the team.”