Flotsam & Jetsam

What set Ellie off anyway? A thought intruded. No, couldn’t be. He checked her profile. Nah. But his mouth formed a hopeful smile, and he leaned back, humming his favorite tune. Flotsam & Jetsam

The dashing Frenchman or the handsome handyman? Who will she choose? For the Love of a Spy

Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Christmas from Milo and Tristram!

Recently widowed Milo Everhart isn’t prepared for Tristram Brodie, who wants not only her beloved Torpedo Factory Art Center but her heart. Nor is she prepared to find a dead body that snowy December night.  Can she set aside her grief and fall in love before the murderer strikes again?

Hey good readers! I’m celebrating the holidays with an excerpt from Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders—mystery, suspense, romance—we witness a difficult moment in the growing love between Milo and Tristram. Milo, heroine of Artful Dodging, lost her Marine pilot husband in a freak accident on an aircraft carrier a year earlier. She is not prepared to fall in love and worries that if she does, her memories of Michael, her dead husband, will evaporate. The guilt interferes with her growing attachment to Tristram. As she begins to fall, he confesses something that makes accepting new romance even harder.

Milo's street at Christmas

Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders, takes place in Old Town Alexandria, an historic cobblestoned city on the Potomac River. It follows the adventures of several artists at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, an old munitions plant on the waterfront, which today it houses 82 studios, the Art League, the Friends of the Torpedo Factory, and an Archaeology center. Old Town is now a vibrant hub for restaurants and the arts. Galleries—including the Torpedo Factory—abound. Milo and Tristram meet by chance in one of the more frequented Irish pubs, O’Connell’s.

Wild Rose Press, 7/20/2016; Imprint Crimson Rose 
Theme(s): Mystery/Cozy Mystery
Contemporary romantic Suspense, M/F, 2 flames
Ebook, 66,830 words; Print 268 p. 

It’s just before Christmas, and Milo Everhart has two needlepoint stockings, a cross-stitch purse, and three canvases to finish for her clients. Waiting out the rain in a pub, she is captivated by the handsome man next to her, but blocking the road to romance are two mysterious corpses who turn up in the tower of her Torpedo Factory Art Center. As if that weren’t enough, a second crisis erupts—a proposal to gut her beloved Art Center. 

Tristram Brodie, hard-driving corporate lawyer and former Marine, is focused on his plan to convert the Torpedo Factory into a box store. He is drawn to the beautiful woman sitting next to him, but their mutual attraction will be frustrated by both the murders and his intentions. As they edge closer to love, they must find a way to overcome both their differences and the still-fresh memory of her late husband. 

Where Milo meets Tristram

Milo, heroine of Artful Dodging, lost her Marine pilot husband in a freak accident on an aircraft carrier a year earlier. She is not prepared to fall in love and worries that if she does, her memories of Michael, her dead husband, will evaporate. The guilt interferes with her growing attachment to Tristram. As she begins to fall, he confesses something that makes accepting new romance even harder.

Excerpt (G): Confession

A luxurious shower later, she dressed and followed the aroma of maple syrup and melted butter down the stairs. Tristram had coffee and juice ready and plopped two large pancakes on her plate. She savored a few quiet, cozy minutes before the silence grew slightly uncomfortable. Milo knew Tristram expected an explanation for her erratic behavior. She tried a couple of different openings in her head but nothing sounded right.
“Yes, love?”
“The other night when you left in a huff?”
“Y…es.” He opened his mouth and closed it. She knew he struggled with the desire to correct her and loved him for not indulging it.
“It had nothing to do with the box store or Doyle or the Factory. I…I let you think that.”
“I see.” He took a sip of coffee. “Then what is it?”
“I…um…I think I may have mentioned I’m a widow?”
Milo had never seen a jaw drop quite that dramatically. “A widow? No. In fact, you haven’t told me anything about your past.”
“I…guess it didn’t come up.” She gazed pleadingly at him. “Michael—my husband—died a year ago. He was a Marine…” Tristram blinked. “A Marine pilot. Assigned to an aircraft carrier. On a routine training flight, his…his plane flipped on landing. He…died instantly.”
Tristram said nothing but pulled a can of dog food out and began to fill a dish. Facing away from her he mumbled, “I’m sorry, Milo.”
She moved to him and put a hand on his arm. “It’s okay. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. It hasn’t been an easy year. It…it…seemed too soon for another relationship. I thought…my feelings were…wicked.” When he swung around, Milo saw with surprise that his eyes were wet with unspilled tears. “What is it?”
“You should have told me. I feel like a heel. I shouldn’t have pressed you. It’s just—”
“Just what?”
He pushed his plate aside, sat down, and put his head in his hands. His voice came low and muffled. “Milo, I wanted you from the first moment I saw you. You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen, and I couldn’t wait to make love to you. You were right, you know—I purposely didn’t mention my client because I knew you’d hate me for it. And I didn’t ask you any questions because I didn’t want to hear anything that would keep us from being together. If I could pretend you were unattached—implausible though it seemed for a woman as perfect as you—I could pursue you without guilt. I couldn’t bear the idea that you were unavailable. Not after I’d been alone so long.”
Most of his words filled her with comfort, as though she’d heard them before in a dream. He is my savior. But before she could draw him into her arms, his last sentence penetrated and she stopped.
“What do you mean, alone so long?”
He raised his eyes to hers, his face sheathed in sadness. “I lost my wife five years ago. We’d only been married three months. She was a Foreign Service specialist based in Saõ Paulo. I’d just been posted to the Marine Corps liaison office in the Senate, and she’d wangled a transfer to Washington, but had to return to Brazil for some final paperwork. Her plane crashed on the way there. A hundred and eighty-seven people died.”
The homey little kitchen scene collapsed like a flimsy stage set. She knew it was irrational, but instead of feeling sympathy for his pain, his story rekindled all her grief over Michael. Her eyes blurred as she went back in time to the day she’d kissed him goodbye for the last time. They’d laughed through the tears, promising each other special gifts and favors when he came back on leave. She’d waved him off wearing nothing but a crimson bow in her hair, Michael grinning in that lopsided, endearing way he had. When she went back upstairs, a Hershey kiss lay on the night table, a token of his love. She’d scarfed it down, thinking she had no reason to save it. He’ll give me many more. After Colonel Murray left that awful day, she had walked in a trance to the candy store on Fairfax Street, where she bought a five-pound box of Hershey kisses. She put them in a crystal bowl on his side of the four-poster, and there they lay still.
Too many deaths. Too many lost loves. She backed out into the living room, grabbed her purse and coat, and made a run for it. She heard him call but knew he wouldn’t come after her. We both need to sort this out. Alone.
She made it home without incident. The desk clerk called to her as she passed, but she waved him off. What I need is a long bath. And a hot cry.

Buy Links:
Bookstrand: http://www.bookstrand.com/artful-dodging-the-torpedo-factory-murders-0

Friday, December 16, 2016

Fireworks Above & Below: Catherine and Holden

Catherine Killean is a woman on a mission. When her new husband disappears, leaving a suicide note, she is determined to find out why. She follows his tracks first to the North Woods of Maine, then to Florida, and back again to Maine. Along the way, she meets the tall, dark, gruff Holden Taggart, a Maine guide.

In her doubt and loneliness she is drawn to Holden, leaving her confused and adrift. What will happen when her questions about Jonathan are finally answered? Will old loyalty or new love triumph?

I Heart Book Publishing, June 6, 2016
Ebook: words; Print: 227 p.
Contemporary romantic suspense, M/F, 2 flames

Excerpt (PG): Fireworks Above and Below

The sky was still that queerish gray of autumn in the high north, but they could see clouds racing across it, forming castles or pretending to be mountains, alternately obscuring and liberating the moon. At the pier they piled into a van and headed toward the noise.
Franz called from the front of the bus, “Rockwood is actually quite small. The population waxes and wanes with the seasons, but there are never more than a thousand people in residence now that the timber industry has bypassed us.”
Sarah craned her neck out the window. “It looks as though the entire village is outside tonight.”
Holden pointed at the British, Canadian, and American flags flying from every lamp post. “Guy Fawkes Day is Rockwood’s favorite holiday.”
Franz laughed. “Probably because three-quarters of its citizens hail from across the border.”
Ivy pointed at a fat man dressed as Uncle Sam. “They don’t seem too picky about historical consistency.”
Leo nodded. “At any rate, they sure go all out.”
As Franz let them off and went to park the van, a band marched past, playing Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever. The crowd cheered. Al hacked and spat tobacco juice. “Do they all have to be so…patriotic?” He managed to make it sound pornographic. No one answered him.
Nathan and Bunny began to dance to the music. “It must be wonderful to be so in love,” sighed Sarah.
Catherine didn’t think so. Of course, she’d only been in love once, and the romance hadn’t lasted much past their wedding day. A month or so after the honeymoon, Jonathan began to withdraw from her. Catherine had no idea why. Over time he became more and more aloof. His behavior made Catherine so nervous she found herself blurting out inappropriate comments just to get a reaction from him. To her distress, his responses fell just short of hostile. Catherine’s sister Jane speculated that he was insecure about his new job. Her father thought he must be preoccupied with his research. Her best friend Evangeline averred he was gay and wouldn’t admit it. Whatever the reason, as the months went by, Jonathan turned increasingly inward, shutting her out. Catherine was distraught, then angry, then sad. Then he disappeared.
The music stopped, and the fireworks began with a vengeance.
Franz appeared. “Sorry folks, we forgot to pack the folding chairs. You’ll have to stand.”
“That’s okay!” Sarah spread her legs and tilted her head back.
Leo and Ivy crossed the street. “We can lean against that wall.”
Nathan and Bunny sat down on the curb. Catherine joined them. Rocket after rocket boomed, battering them with sound and light. At last the grand finale began—shower after shower of red, purple, and silver tendrils. She stood up and craned her neck. As the brilliant fountains shot higher, she leaned a little farther back. All of a sudden she began to fall backward, but before she could hit the ground, two strong hands gripped her shoulders, steadying her. She turned and found herself in Holden’s arms. He gazed at her, the gold sparkles of the cascading fireworks reflected in his eyes. Quickly, he bent down and brushed her lips with his, and just as quickly released her.
Catherine stood gaping at him, her mouth tingling. What was that all about? At that instant, the sky went dark. With a collective sigh the crowd began to disperse. She stood alone as people pushed past her.
Holden’s deep voice cut through the hubbub. “Mount Kineo Resort, over here.” She roused herself into motion and followed him to the van. On the return trip, the only sounds were those of Nathan and Bunny surreptitiously spooning in the rear seat, and stifled yawns from everyone else. As they limped off to bed, Catherine heard the professor ask Holden about Seboomook. She strained to hear his reply, but missed it. Please God, let’s go tomorrow. She needed to refocus on what she was here for, not on two gold-flecked brown eyes and a pair of full, sensitive lips.

 Buy Links:
More on M. S. Spencer’s books can be found here:

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas is for Second Chance Love

Come by L. M. Gonzalez’ wonderful site for an excerpt from my sweet Christmas story, Che Gelida Manina.


Grace is devastated by the loss of her husband—the most romantic person she has ever known—and is determined to avoid any contact with the things they had loved. She refuses to walk her beloved beach, or light candles under the stars, or listen to his favorite opera, La Bohème.
When she meets Edward, she insists that he abide by her wishes. He does without argument, but as the weeks go by, she begins to wonder if she's made a mistake. Will she let the chance of an unexpected happiness slip through her fingers? Will Edward?

The story is included in the Exquisite Quills 2015 Christmas anthology, Exquisite Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Joys of the Season Blog Hop

Hello and welcome to the Joys of the Season blog hop! Loads of wonderful authors will offer their holiday memories and stories for your enjoyment…as well as prizes! Don’t forget to enter the Rafflecopter contest for a chance to win a copy  of my romantic suspense Whirlwind Romance and other gifts.

When I was young our Christmases were full of ritual, joy, food, and family. We lived in a Victorian house with fifteen-foot ceilings. The dining room had a bow window that looked out on the sour cherry trees that lined the drive to the old stable. Back then tall Christmas trees were affordable even on a small income, so we filled the alcove with trees reminiscent of the one that grows in the Nutcracker.

The Foreigner tells the story of a strange being who brings the joy back into a family’s jaded Christmas. It's based in part on my favorite Christmases as a child. I wrote it many years ago. Here is an excerpt.

Excerpt: Christmas Past

The dream was filmy, like a sequence from Balanchine’s version of the Nutcracker.  I floated a few feet above the action, watching as the perfect Christmas unfolded.  In the kitchen my grandmother directed the basting of the turkey.  Hannah, the cook stirred the corn pudding in the open fireplace of my grandparents’ Colonial-era house, while my mother chopped cranberries in the Cuisinart (nobody ever said dreams couldn’t be anachronistic). The Vienna Boys Choir sang softly outside the window.  Their open upturned mouths spluttered now and then when snowflakes lodged in their throats.
My father was there, and Uncle Ed—both fresh from tennis and cheerfully shouting for hot buttered rum.  In his study my grandfather sat at his desk (as he does in all my pictures), but I noticed from my vantage point that he was sneaking Christmas candy from a bottom drawer.
I floated from the kitchen (an amalgam of my grandmother’s colonial open hearth and the Victorian one of my youth) to the living room, where the remains from Christmas stockings were scattered about—tangerines under chairs, a squished chocolate reindeer, a broken candy cane. I could hear scurrying around upstairs and children calling down, asking whether they could come yet or not.  At last came the booming voice of Uncle Ed.  “Christmas is served!”
I floated up out of the way just in time. My son Oliver sand my brother Tad shoved each other down the staircase. Oliver, being taller and thinner, squeezed past my brother. It seemed perfectly natural that they be the same age. Then came my sister Jane, pulling my daughter Rosie (dressed as usual in black), down the stairs.  I joined them in the living room, brought up short by a commanding hand.  My father looked us over, pronounced us adequate, and dramatically rolled open the French doors in the dining room.
Everyone stood frozen as I downloaded memories into the dream. Of course, there was no question which Christmas I would use. I had been about ten, and when the doors opened there was the desk on which I wanted to write so desperately.  Behind it leaned the bike I so desperately wanted to ride. And millions and millions of presents for everybody.  Oh, but in this dream, I also saw the red rocking horse behind the fifteen-foot tree, the one I’d sneaked down to see at age three…but that had been in a different house, longer ago—hadn’t it? And wasn’t that the electric train Tad had asked for when he was seven? He would go on to build a 200-square-foot country for it. And Jane’s record player—the first in the family. Rosie started toward the presents but Daddy shooed her away. He would dole out the presents one by one, in order of age. I thought in passing that this might be more difficult than usual considering the mixed generations, but decided not to worry about it.
Rosie came first, then Tad. As the presents were handed round, I watched comfortably. I had begun to understand the dream and was happily living out the mishmash of perfect Christmases, when the scene changed.

We are giving away prizes to two randomly selected winners: 1) an ebook bundle, including books in various genres by various authors participating in the hop (see the list of books at the bottom of this page); or 2) a $50 Amazon gift card. Please visit the main hop page here to see a list of books included in the bundle.

Enter now for your chance to win!

Participating Authors

  1. Anna Durand Spunk & Hunks
  2. Kayden Claremont
  3. Tricia Schneider
  4. Patricia Kiyono's blog
  5. KyAnn Waters Blog
  6. Beth Caudill Blog

  1. Tena Stetler
  2. DeeDee Lane
  3. Connie's Blog
  4. Mary Morgan's Blog
  5. Casi's Christmas Magic
  6. M.S. Spencer

Friday, December 2, 2016

Heads up for Christmas Blogs

Hi all you holiday gleemongers--a heads up about two wonderful blog hops I'm participating in.

December 4-17 I'm in the Joys of Christmas, brought to you by Spunks and Hunks. Lots of holiday stories and memories. You can read an excerpt from an unpublished story of mine called The Foreigner, in which a strange little man brings the joy back into a family's jaded Christmas. It's about all the favorite Christmases you remember from your childhood.

December 5-7 the lovely authors of the Highway Cafe have gotten together for an elf safari. Each author is an elf with a special job at the North Pole. My name is Puddle. Come find out what I do, and enter to win all kinds of prizes. See you here!