Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Winner

Catherine Lee, you're my winner. Send your email address to me at, and I'll send you a book.

Elaine Cantrell

Don't Miss It!!

Blue 52 is going on tour in March. Be sure to join us for your chance to win a $50 Amazon or B&N gift card. One final except, and I hope to see you on March 11. In this excerpt my heroine is having a little trouble.

With no warning, three shadowy figures melted out of the shrubbery around the porch and surrounded her. They seized her under her arms and propelled her backwards toward the house before she had time to call out. She hit her head against the wall, and for a moment she saw stars. A hand sheathed in a thick, leather glove roughly covered her mouth and nose as she drew a breath to scream. One of the attackers slapped a length of duct tape across her mouth.

The two largest men crushed her against the house while the third man casually slipped a knife from his pocket. Kathryn struggled with all her strength, but she might as well have tried to move the house itself. She was no match for two strong men.

“Be still, Dr. Sinclair,” the third man ordered. He held the knife in front of Kathryn’s terrified eyes for her inspection. “We want you to give your boyfriend a message. We think he should forget about the past. No good can come of upsetting things now. If he doesn’t stop nosing around, we’ll have to pay you another visit. I promise that you won’t like it we have to come here again.”

He placed the glistening, sharp edge of the knife against Kathryn’s throat, which started to sting as the blade bit in. She held her breath as the man slowly cut from one side of her throat to the other. When she felt warm blood drizzle down her neck, her ears roared, and she saw spots in front of her eyes.

Hong Kong Tarot Murders Continue, No End in Sight

Hong Kong (AP) – Chief Inspector Fitz Hamilton was found dead along Victoria Harbour with a Tarot card in his hand. 

The body was found early this morning, a few hours after midnight, from the reports that are filtering in.  In the space of just 24 hours there have been at least 3 Tarot card murders, 2 police shootouts with the Wo Shing Wo Triad, and 4 protests against police corruption.  

And next week’s when the holiday ends.  Brace yourself, Hong Kong – we’re in for a rough one!

Find out what happens next in Tarot Card Killer.  And check us out on Facebook for information on guest posts throughout the week.

Available Where eBooks Are Sold

You'll Figure This Out

Another excerpt from Blue 52. You can figure out what they're doing all by yourself.

Hank shrugged. “Grandpa loves me, I know that, but I also know he thinks I’ve never measured up to Dad. God knows I’ve tried, but how can you compete with a dead hero? He was the damn president for crying out loud! Nothing I ever do can top my father, because he’s dead.”

“I understand.” Just look at his mouth. His lips were exactly the right shape for kissing. How was she supposed to think of a dead president when a living, breathing, sexy man sat beside her in the bed?

“I’ve never compared you to your father,” she whispered. “I’ve never even met your father, but I know you, Hank, and I like what I’ve found out about you.” Her eyes locked with his as she slid across the bed to within a hair’s breadth of him.

“You smell faintly of lilac,” he muttered.

Kathryn ran her hand through her hair, releasing the lilac fragrance into the air. “That’s the shampoo I used on my hair. Do you like it?”

“Uh huh. I like that clingy little robe too. I’m trying not to stare, but those curves of yours are getting to me.”

Kathryn’s heart took off in a mad gallop. “I tried not to think of those kisses we shared at the party, but I thought of them anyway.”

“Me too.”

Oh, glory be! Look how his eyes were smoldering. “They made my stomach feel fluttery,” she said.

“My knees got weak.”

A demure little smile curved Kathryn’s lips as she melted against him. “So, kiss me again, and let’s see what happens.”

Hank’s eyes closed as he gently kissed her. “Well?”

“My stomach got fluttery again.” Kathryn sighed.

Hank gently tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “My knees might be weak, but I can’t tell because I’m lying down.”

Kathryn frowned. “Oh, I don’t like that. If you don’t know for sure, I must be doing something wrong. Let’s try that kiss again.”

Hank seemed agreeable. He took her in his arms, but this time he kissed her the way a man kisses his true love, as if she was his greatest treasure in the world. Kathryn shivered against his chest as fire raced through her veins. “How are you knees?”

“Weak as water.”

“You haven’t seen anything yet.”


"First Lady Kills President Lovinggood"
December 29, 2018

Thirty years later Hank Lovinggood embarks on a quest to prove his mother's innocence and punish the killers who took his family from him.  Together Hank and lovely physicist Kathryn Sinclair confront an implacable, twisted, merciless enemy who'll do whatever it takes to hide the truth forever. 

Don't forget to enter the contest to win a copy of Return Engagement, the president's story. Follow my blog at and leave a comment here at the party pavilion on one of my posts. 

Blue 52 is available at most all online outlets.

Untangle My Heart World-Wide Release Blog Tour

Untangle My Heart will be released world-wide in all digital formats on March 19th. To celebrate, I’ll be having a weekly blog tour with Goddess Fish. Please stop by 3/19 – 5/7 and enter the Rafflecopter contest for a chance to win a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card.
Thanks for hanging with me today. I'll leave you with a final excerpt from Untangle My Heart.

Edward raised an eyebrow toward her. “Are you sure you’re up for sledding?” he asked, with a glance down at her black high-heeled boots.
She shot him a challenging look. “Only if we race against you.”
“Lucas and I against you. Loser buys dinner.” 
He studied her, almost as though he were weighing how he could turn this contest in his favor. Then he turned to Lucas. “Why don’t you grab two sleds, sport, while I negotiate with Kate?”
Lucas nodded and ran off.
Edward hooked his fingers in her jacket pockets and pulled her closer. “How about if I win, you go on a date with me?”
“That’s playing dirty.”
“Very well. You can explain to Lucas why we’re not racing.”
“I can’t do that. Just look at how excited he is.” She nodded over to where Lucas stood waiting for available sleds, jumping up and down and an enthusiastic grin on his face.
“My sled, my rules, or are you afraid you’ll lose?”
He struck a nerve and he knew it. She couldn’t back down from the challenge. Besides, she’d been rethinking the whole not-dating thing and almost convinced herself she was being ridiculous for fighting their attraction. So no matter what happened, she’d figured she’d win.
She met the challenge of his gaze. “One date—and don’t expect sex.”
He attempted to look shocked, but one side of his mouth twitched. “Certainly not.”
“Fine. Be prepared to lose.”

You can find Untangle My Heart at:

For Amazon Kindle:
In Print from The Wild Rose Press:

*Untangle My Heart will be able in all digital formats effective March 19, 2014.

You can keep in touch with me at:
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Dealing With a Demanding Muse

When I began writing this post today, I realized just what a bossy Muse I have.  She (and yes, my Muse is definitely a “she” even though she sometimes speaks in a decidedly male voice) has all the patience of a two-year-old on a sugar high.  She takes no excuses, accepts no delays, wants everything NOW, and will scream at me if I don’t listen.
Sometimes, darn it, I just can’t listen.  I try to tell her this.  “I have a life,” I say.

She replies, “I don’t want to hear it.  Listen to this idea!”  She begins to jump up and down.  “Listen, listen, LISTEN!”

And yes, like any weary-worn mother I do stop whatever I’m doing and listen, because, after all I really do love her and she always has such very good ideas.  The trouble is she all too frequently rolls them out when I’m busy doing something else – shopping or driving to work, preparing dinner or (sadly, far less frequently) doing housework.  And once she shares the germ of an idea, I’m infected and can’t think about anything else.
I’ve had the outlines for complete novels descend upon me while I’m scrubbing the bathtub.  I’ve had entire plots blossom in my mind while I’m folding laundry.  My Muse has spat out pages of conversations between characters at me when I’m supposed to be straightening a closet.

And that brings up another peculiarity of the writer’s life: people talking in my head.  Usually, when folks admit they hear voices, those around them grow concerned.  They exchange questioning glances and mention terms like “over work”, “counseling” and even “mental breakdown”.  They tend to think steps should be taken.  But for a writer, having people talking, posing and even acting out complex scenes in her head is standard operating procedure. 
Once one of my stories is well and truly launched and sailing on the seas of creativity, it takes on a life of its own.  The characters cease to be entirely imaginary and – if things are really going well – assume control of their lives.  They make their own choices, disastrous and otherwise, act out scenes regardless of whether or not I’m in a position to observe them, and carry on conversations even when it’s impossible for me to write them down.  It’s truly maddening, because at that point I don’t want to miss anything.  It makes me wish I could just sit like someone visited upon by the phenomenon of automatic writing and scribble it all down.  But as I’ve told my Muse, I have a life.

So what’s a writer with a bossy Muse and self-absorbed mental tenants to do?  Well, I’ve been known to scrawl plot twists and conversations on the backs of receipts in the car, and I routinely struggle to remember what happens next till I can get somewhere and jot it down.  Crazy?  Yes.  Enjoyable?  Oh, so much!  And I wouldn’t want it any other way.  That’s why I know I need to listen to the bratty two-year-old no matter how mad her ideas seem, just as I did when she talked me into writing about the brave and adventurous descendants of Robin Hood.  The rest, as they say, is history.


When Gareth de Vavasour, nephew of the Sheriff of Nottingham, is captured by the outlaws of Sherwood Forest and held for ransom, he knows he will be fortunate to escape with his life.  Amid the magic and danger that surround him, he soon realizes his true peril lies in the beautiful dark eyes of Linnet, the Saxon healer sent to tend his wounds.
Granddaughter of Robin Hood, Linnet has always known she is destined to become a guardian of Sherwood Forest, along with her sister and a close childhood companion.  She believes her life well settled until the arrival of Gareth. Then all her loyalties are tested even as her heart is forced to choose between love and the ties of duty, while Sherwood declares its own champion.

The Troubling Question of Zombies

by Clayton Smith, author of the upcoming novel Apocalypticon 


"If you want a good post-apocalyptic story, you're gonna want some zombies in there."

I don't know who said this quote...probably nobody, since I just pulled it out of thin air...but that doesn't make it any less true. What's a story about the apocalypse without a rabid zombie horde terrorizing the countryside?

Why, that's hardly a story about the apocalypse at all.

But there's a problem when it comes to writing zombies. Which brand of zombie do you use? Do you go for classic zombie, the mindless, shambling dead prototype? Or the 28 Days Later zombie, the fast, rabid, infected-with-rage type? Or maybe you give your zombies some humanity, a la Warm Bodies? Or do you try to stand out from the rest and give zombies your own little spin?

I opted for the latter in Apocalypticon, my extremely-soon-to-be-released post-apocalyptic novel. In my book, the "zombies" aren't really zombies at all, but something more akin to shockingly severe drug addicts. (It makes sense in the story, I promise.) But here's what I'm learning; I have no idea how to describe them.

Are they zombies? Well, no, not really. They're not dead, and besides, they're fast. And when most people think of zombies, they think the slow, ambling type. Also, they're terrifically hard to kill. Historically, zombies are pretty simple to destroy, what with their soft, decaying skin and all. My zombies have the exact opposite of soft, decaying skin. They ain't pushovers. So my zombies aren't really zombies. But they're not really not zombies, either. They're emaciated, hollow creatures with a taste for human flesh (or any flesh, really. They're equal opportunity monsters). They travel in hordes, and their bites are infectious. So when people ask me if there are zombies in my book, I don't really know what to say.

For a long time, that really bothered me. I'd tell people, "Yes and no, sort of, I don't know, it's hard to explain," and they'd get this confused, disinterested squint working across their eyes, and they'd just leave. They want zombies or no zombies. They don't want maybe-zombies.

But here's what I finally decided. It doesn't matter if they're zombies or not. Because whatever they are, they're mine. I created a brand new kind of monster that I think is horrifying in all the right, giddy kind of ways, and I think you'll like them too.

So now when people ask me if there are zombies in my book, I tell them, "Nope. There's something better." And I honestly think it's true.

I hope you'll read and decide for yourself! Apocalypticon will be available for paperback and Kindle on Amazon this week! Follow me on Twitter (@Claytonsaurus) for more details! And thanks for reading!

Hong Kong Police Engage in Shootout, Another Tarot Death

Hong Kong (AP) – Early this evening police entered into a shootout with a group of Wo Shing Wo Triad members.  According to eyewitness reports, there were six Triads and four police officers.  Police managed to shoot or subdue five of the men, but the sixth escaped.  Although this cannot be independently verified at this time, we are getting reports that the sixth man was found, seven blocks away, dead, and with a bloody Tarot Card in his hand.

When we called the Wanchai Police Station to talk with Chief Inspector Fitz Hamilton we were told he could not be reached for comment.  Events are moving quickly in the Pearl of the Orient…too quickly.

A TV option for my book – the adventure so far.

About a year after my first book came out I met up with a friend from university.  We hadn’t seen each other in almost twenty years, but thanks to the miracle of Facebook we’d recently reconnected.  We spent a while catching up and marvelling at the synchronicities of our lives: we’d each had two kids, a girl and a boy, we were both divorced, we’d both moved to St-Lazare, Quebec from Ontario.  She had named her daughter Thea (pronounced Tay-a), and I’d named the main character in my novel Tea, pronounced the same way.  Both the real and fictional Teas were sixteen, slender and dark-haired, rode horses competitively, and – strangest of all – both their birthdays were on October 21. 

After we’d caught up my friend casually mentioned, “Hey, do you know Murray Shostak?”  When I said I’d never heard of him she shook her head and said, “Well, he says he’s going to make a TV show out of your book.”  I thought that was a bit presumptuous and wondered if he was perhaps a tad unbalanced, but otherwise forgot about it.

Two weeks later Mr. Shostak himself emailed me.  It turns out he really did want to make a TV series out of my books (other books were forthcoming), and he had experience – he was the producer involved in the creation of Heartland, a Canadian family drama in a horse setting.  I had to find an entertainment lawyer – something I hadn’t even known existed to that point – and after several weeks of negotiations the papers were signed.  My books are now “optioned for TV”, which basically means that the rights are on hold; I can’t sell them to anyone else while Mr. Shostak tries to get the series made.

I’m thrilled, of course, at the prospect of seeing my story on TV, but I’ve learned that things don’t move fast in TV-land.  It’s been two years since the rights were optioned, and nothing’s happened so far.  In theory the producer has another year and a half to get the pilot made, after which time the rights revert to me.  In practice, though, getting the rights back is more complicated; I’d have to reimburse him for all his “development expenses” in the interim, and it’s unlikely to be an amount I could afford.  Apparently a LOT of movies and TV shows never get made because they get caught in “development hell” this way.  He could conceivably keep the rights and never make the show.

Still, I have no regrets.  I support two kids on my own, I had a car making a scary noise that I couldn’t afford to get fixed, and thanks to the TV option I not only got it fixed, I also bought a dishwasher!  And I live with the knowledge that maybe, if I’m lucky, one day I’ll get to see my make-believe friends on TV J

After Thirty Years the Lovinggood/Stanton Feud Still Lives

In this excerpt from Blue 52, my hero is at a party with his grandparents and pretty physicist Kathryn Sinclair are at a party to raise money for charity when two men approach them. The older man is Josh Stanton, President Lovinggood's vice president.  First an excerpt, then a blurb.

“I see that Richard’s son has a way with women just like his father before him,” said the older of the two men. He actually smirked when he said it.

Hank felt his face turn a fiery red. Everyone who was watching me kiss Kathryn just remembered that Mother probably shot Dad because he had an affair with his secretary.

And look at his grandfather. The senator’s eyes blazed, but his face had no expression whatsoever. Goose bumps rose on Hank’s arms. Uh oh. That usually means trouble for someone.

“This must be the first time you’ve been invited to one of Millicent’s parties, Josh,” Senator Lovinggood commented. “If you’d been here before, you’d know about her fund-raising stunts.”

It had taken Hank a moment to recognize Josh Stanton. God, what an unpleasant little shit. That comment about his father was uncalled for. “I guess that’s yet another way you’re different from my father,” he observed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” the second man, Stanton’s son Rob, stridently demanded.

Hank smiled. “Why, I thought it was obvious.”

“Don’t talk about my father that way!”

Hank shrugged. “Then show a little respect for your betters.”

Kathryn gasped, but Senator Lovinggood and Elaine both howled as Stanton’s face turned as red as Rudolph’s nose. “Why, you…”

“What’s the matter, Mr. Vice President? Can’t think of a snappy comeback?” Hank retorted.

“You address my father with respect!” Rob Stanton shouted. Hank flicked spittle from his arm as every head in the room turned their way.

He coolly stuffed the red ribbon in his pocket. “He doesn’t deserve my respect, and he really should learn some manners. This is a party to raise money for charity, not a forum to insult my father.”

“You Lovinggoods!” Josh Stanton’s face was dark with loathing. “You always thought you were better than anyone else. Ha! Look at what happened to Richard. His own wife murdered him.”

Hank laughed. “I doubt it, but either way Dad’s still a hero thirty years after his death. Not too many people call you a hero, do they? If I remember correctly, you finished Dad’s term of office but didn’t win a term on your own, right?”


"First Lady Kills President Lovinggood"
December 29, 2018

Thirty years later Hank Lovinggood embarks on a quest to prove his mother's innocence and punish the killers who took his family from him.  Together Hank and lovely physicist Kathryn Sinclair confront an implacable, twisted, merciless enemy who'll do whatever it takes to hide the truth forever. 

Buy Links:  and at most retail outlets.

Don't forget my contest. Follow my blog at and leave a comment on one of my posts here at the party pavilion to tell me so. I'm giving away a copy of Return Engagement which is the story of the president and his wife.

Sometimes the End Is Only the Beginning

Purchase links:

Sometimes the end is only the beginning.

Almost a year after her husband dies, Ellie Marston opens the file for Tab’s last manuscript, a thriller so compelling it reads like a true story. His manuscript needs an ending, so Ellie writes the obvious conclusion. The same morning she types The End, her career as an assistant district attorney falls apart. Accused of throwing the high profile Patterson case, she resigns in disgrace.

The only friend Ellie has left in the criminal justice system is Det. Paul Santiago, a man she has worked closely with on numerous cases. While she was married to Tab, she squashed her growing feelings for Paul, determined to make her deteriorating marriage work, but circumstances after Tab’s death draw Ellie and Paul closer.

Together Paul and Ellie attempt to uncover a conspiracy in the District Attorney’s office, the set up that forced her to resign. The key to the mystery is hidden in the pages of Tab’s manuscript. Paul and Ellie come to the correct conclusion—Tab’s manuscript is a true story and Ellie’s added ending is the only logical outcome. Danger swirls around them as they step further and further into the conspirator’s trap.

Excerpt of The End:

Tab’s Mac wobbled on the edge of the coffee table in front of me as my fingers tapped out the letters of the final sentence of the final scene as if they had a mind of their own. The idea for the ending had come to me in the middle of the night, and I was determined to finish the project before I forgot what I wanted to write. I hit return and then spaced down and typed The End with a flourish. I didn’t know if writers wrote that at the end of a manuscript, but I did it anyway.

I leaned back on the sofa. A smile should have formed, but it didn’t. I was pleased…but exhausted. The urge to finish Tab’s final project had been satisfied. How did he do this? The process had mutilated every one of my emotions.

He had put a lot of himself into his writing. I’d watched him, absorbed for hours on end, struggling to choose just the right word or just the right sentence structure. He’d tried for years to get an agent or a publisher to read one of his manuscripts. After numerous rejections, he’d send them to the virtual trash bin with an angry jab to the delete button. It appeared like a lot of wasted effort to me.

Thinking about Tab kicked me in the gut once again. He had been dead for almost a year, but his memory could still hit me hard when I least expected it. It’s true. You never get over losing someone you love the way I had loved him.

I was awake late one night the previous week watching Castle on a Netflix disk, when I decided it was time to read Tab’s unfinished masterpiece—well at least it would have been a masterpiece in his humble opinion—if he had discussed it with me. He never mentioned the project. I didn’t even know the manuscript existed until after the accident that took his life. If I hadn’t been searching the hard drive of his Mac for something else, I would have never known about it.

Odd. Tab wasn’t a secretive sort of guy. Was he?

So his unfinished manuscript had remained unread on the hard drive of his Mac for months. I’d put the idea of reading his final words aside, but then I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to read what he left behind.

When I opened the file, I expected to read something sentimental and just a little cheesy, something with a made-for-television happy ending. I expected to cry like a baby when I read his final words. Tab was the most dramatic man I’d ever met.

Instead, I became engrossed in a thriller that read so real I wondered if he had written a true story. All the plot needed was a realistic ending.

And the end came to me in the middle of the night.

It was done now. For better or for worse. I reached for my coffee mug and took a sip, then grimaced. The brew had gone stone cold. I rose from the sofa and slogged into the kitchen to refill my cup and stick it in the microwave. As I waited for the ready beep, the view outside my window captured my attention. A bare limb of an oak tree swayed, easily manipulated by the wind. The weather promised another gloomy, rainy day. I pulled my robe closer around me, but the chill of the morning pierced the terry cloth. I shuddered and headed for my bedroom.

My linens lay on my bed, twisted and tangled from tossing and turning. I had no desire to go to work. Finishing Tab’s masterpiece had drained my energy, and when I finally dragged my butt into the office, I would have to confront my boss. Executive Assistant District Attorney Michael Leads would not be happy with my lack of progress on the Baxter case. Into my second year as an assistant district attorney, I was well aware I had missed my calling. My confidence in the criminal justice system had disappeared. My passion for convicting the right offender put me in constant conflict with a process that had morphed over the years into a system designed for speed rather than accuracy.

With no enthusiasm, I dressed for the day. I chose my best black suit because it matched my mood, but beneath it I wore a bright, cherry red blouse. My power outfit. I needed all the chutzpah I could manage to face Leads’ wrath. It was coming at me, like a hurricane hovering off the coast trying to decide which shore was most vulnerable.

After applying a few final touches to my makeup, I zipped a brush through my hair, made a pretense of brushing my teeth, and swished an ounce of mouthwash. I held my hand over my mouth. My breath still smelled of stale coffee. I looked into the mirror and groaned, then swiped at the toothpaste stain on my lapel with a damp rag before heading toward the living room. After a few minutes of panicked searching, I found my only pair of black heels under the sofa.
I was as ready for my confrontation with Leads as I was ever going to get. My briefcase leaned next to the front door where I’d dropped it the night before. I had planned to review some case files before I went to bed, but once I closed my apartment door behind me, nothing could have motivated me to open my briefcase last night.

The ride to the office was probably the longest of my career. Lights flashed through the windows as the train passed through another station. I held tight to a strap above me because all the seats were full, always a marker of how my day would go. I was running late, and there was no hope for me.

My mind drifted. Instead of mentally listing the things I needed to accomplish at work that day, I dwelt on how I should have chosen a different path for my life and what that path would have been. Had everything I suffered to work my way through college and then law school really been for nothing?  

Denise wrote her first story when she was in high school—seventeen hand-written pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she read. She earned a degree in accounting, giving her some nice skills to earn a little money, but her passion has always been writing. She has written numerous short stories and more than a few full-length novels. Her favorite pastimes when she’s not writing are spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and scrapbooking. She lives in Louisiana with her husband, two children, and one very chubby dog.