Whirlwind Romance

A rush of emotion dropped a veil over all but the tiny world of the two people in seats 11A and 11B, in a jet plane floating somewhere over the Atlantic, in a still moment in time.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dear Philomena--Love, Lust and Murder on Chincoteague Island

Something crashed in the woods.  Was it a deer?  Or something more dangerous? Dagne didn’t care; she just kept running…

Today I’m talking about my murder mystery/romantic suspense, Dear Philomena: Love, Lust & Murder on Chincoteague Island.
  



Dagne Lonegan, aka Dear Philomena, advice columnist, hoped that spending a year on the Eastern Shore island of Chincoteague would extinguish any feelings she had left for Jack Andrews, erstwhile lover and long-time jerk.  It’s just her luck that in her first week on the island she’s entangled in a murder.  Only she doesn’t know it.  Unfortunately, the murderer doesn’t know she doesn’t know.  Strange and dangerous things begin happening to her, disrupting her new romance with Aidan Ellis, the handsome manager of the National Wildlife Refuge.  As if that weren’t enough, Jack arrives to take charge of the murder investigation.

Will Dagne stick with the tall, cool glass of a Ranger or risk falling back into the arms of the man who broke her heart?

 
Chincoteague

Excerpt (G): The Sniper

 The afternoon sun beat down. Before long, perspiration dripped unpleasantly down her back and her neck began to burn. She reached a curve in the loop where a service road angled off. The cool shade of the evergreen alley beckoned, and she opened the gate and went through. Gravel popped beneath her sneakers and yellow-rumped warblers skipped from branch to branch, moving just ahead of her. She swung along, loving the feel of stretching her muscles, thinking of nothing.
At the end of the pines, the landscape opened out. Ponds choked with cordgrass lay on either side of the road, flanked by dunes on her right and scrub forest on her left. Ducks crowded the shallow water—mergansers, American wigeons, gadwalls. She stopped to watch a pair of diminutive black and white buffleheads putter around at the water’s edge. A cloud passed overhead, blotting out the sun. When it moved on, the light had changed to the desperate gold of a late afternoon teetering on the threshold of twilight. Time to go.
As she stood in the path, not yet willing to give up her afternoon off, she heard a loud crack. Woodpecker? Another bang rent the air, but this time the noise sounded much closer. Oh my God, that’s a rifle. Someone’s hunting out here! A surge of impractical outrage washed over Dagne. How dare they? This is a refuge for God’s sake! Nonetheless, prudence suggested she turn back.
She began with a walk, but some primitive instinct told her to accelerate. Directly over her head something zinged and a chunk of bark plopped at her feet. Her trot turned into a canter. Another shot hit the road, spraying pebbles into the air. They can’t be shooting at me. Can they? What should I do? Duck? Throw myself on the ground? Run into the trees? Instead, like some hapless cartoon character racing down the tracks ahead of the train, she ran straight down the road. By the time she reached the loop, her lungs were clawing for air. Stabbing pains scraped her chest and side. She’d heard no more shots, and after a few minutes’ rest, walked as fast as she could back to the parking lot, slowing every few steps to take a quick check of her surroundings.
She jumped into the car, locked the doors, and roared out onto the park road. At the Chamber of Commerce circle she slowed down, which gave her time to notice that the gas gauge read empty. She pulled into Ivan’s service station, Ivan II. She’d met the owner—a Belarusan native who had defected in the fifties—when he fixed a flat tire for her some years before. Despite his penchant for naming every store he owned after himself, she knew him to be a warm and generous man. He stopped polishing his vintage Morgan and came over. “Dagne, you’re shaking like a leaf! What’s wrong?”
It came pouring out. “Ivan, someone shot at me!”
Instead of reacting with shock, he chuckled, and wiped his hands on a towel. “Well, Milaya—I mean—my dear. It is hunting season. What were you doing—flitting around, doe-like?”
“No! I was on the wildlife loop!”
Hmm. Last I checked hunting is illegal on the refuge. Now poaching…”
“It’s not funny, Ivan. I heard three—no, four—shots! Someone was trying to kill me.”
“Now, now, Dagne, calm down. Tell me, where on the loop did this happen?”
She took a deep breath. “Well, I’d actually gone up the service road—as far as the Farm Fields impoundment. You know, beyond the pine woods?”
He nodded. “That explains it.” He removed the gasoline cap and inserted the nozzle. “I think they allow hunting up there on certain days. Did you see a sign?”
“No.”
“Well, check at the visitor’s center. If it’s not an authorized hunting day, you most likely ran into a poacher. The ranger should be informed.”
Dagne wasn’t about to go back to the refuge alone, but another idea had insinuated itself while Ivan talked. She paid, headed down to Main Street, and parked next to Lance’s car behind the decoy shop. As she passed it, the sun glinted on something in the rear seat. She peered in. A rifle. The back door opened. “Dagne? What are you doing here?”

I Heart Book Publishing, October 12, 2015
EBook, 72,000 words, Print 209 pp
Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romantic Suspense, Mystery Romance
M/F, 3 flames

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Tale Spinner Winner of Highway Cafe Spring Tour

WINNER! C. B. CLARK

Hi everyone, thanks SO much for reading and commenting and enjoying our Highway Cafe Spring Tour. I hope you all remembered to go back to the main page and comment as well.

I offered to one reader picked at random a copy of my latest romantic suspense Lapses of Memory.

AND THAT WINNER IS C. B. CLARK!!!

C. B. Please contact me at msspencerauthor@gmail.com and I will send you the book in the format of your choice. Thanks again for reading. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Welcome to the Highway Cafe Spring Tour!

Welcome to the Highway Café Spring Tour!


Authors galore are participating in the Great 2017 Highway Café Spring Tour April 24 to 26! There will be blogs, giveaways and an Easter egg hunt.
While you read the post, don’t forget to look for the lost eggs (they’re somewhere on my blog) and leave a comment as to where you found them. Then go to


You can find the list of bloggers, and comment to enter the running for the grand prize, our Spring ‘Tastic basket of ebooks. Comment here and enter to win my latest romantic suspense Lapses of Memory!

Winners will be announced April 28.

Spring Memories
I have to be honest: growing up, fall was my favorite season. I loved going to school, loved the crisp, clean air and the warm cinnamon colors. But spring had its virtues, so I thought I’d describe what it was like in some of the places I’ve lived.
Paris
April in Paris can be idyllic or it can be damp and gray. Either way, I agree with Cole Porter:
I love Paris in the springtime/
I love Paris in the fall/
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles/
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.

In Lapses of Memory, Sydney spends precious time in Paris. Here she arrives with a heavy heart.
Sydney looked out over the rows of heads as they circled the city and headed north to Charles De Gaulle Airport. Feeble sunlight pinged off the mud-colored Seine. A Bateau Mouche chugged past the Île de la Cité in the shadow of Notre Dame, tourists hanging off the railings. On the riverbank, booksellers would soon be opening their kiosks and setting out the leather-bound products of a disappearing industry. Shopkeepers would be pulling up their metal accordion doors and dragging out carts filled with spring vegetables. Asparagus, artichokes, baby greens, endive. Young boys in aprons would be sweeping the sidewalks and bakers rising up to the street from their basement ovens like latter-day Vulcans, loaded down with warm baguettes. She could almost hear the squeals of schoolgirls chasing each other through the convent gates while the church bells pealed for Mass.

Boston
Cambridge in spring
In Boston spring means yellow snow. And black snow. And gray snow. That’s it. Yet, there is always hope, as Catherine sees in this passage from A Widow’s Walk: Catherine’s Dilemma
“She walked out into a beautiful, balmy day for the middle of winter. The sky was the royal blue of promise and melting ice pinged onto her head from the eaves of the old brick buildings. Looking up, she glimpsed the tentative light green of buds clinging to the tree branches. Only a few sad leftovers of yellow snow hung on by the curbs. She found herself skipping as she neared the Fogg Art Museum.”

Istanbul
Cranes in Istanbul 1980
I lived in Istanbul for a year, part of the time in a big old faculty house on a hill in the suburb of Bebek surrounded by tall walnut trees. It had been a cold, snowy winter and spring seemed far away. Then one early morning I awoke to a sound like a huge wind. I walked out to see a blanket of cranes covering the roof. Masses teetered in the trees, making them bend and sway. It was the annual migration of the Eurasian cranes. These birds were flying the eastern route, which starts in the Horn of Africa and ends in Russia. One stop on the route —usually at the end of February—is Istanbul.


Chicago

I don’t remember a spring in Chicago. There was snow, and then it was hot.






Florida
Rush Hour
I’ve been living on a barrier island in Florida for four years and while it is in fact paradise, the season has become a little too much. This is from my upcoming release, the Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel. It captures the frustration of the locals at the hordes of tourists yearning for sun.

“I see the welcome-back parties filled the entire second section this week.” She looked over her shoulder. On the road behind them, cars crept along bumper to bumper, swerving like over-cautious slugs around the idling tractor trailers racked with the town cars and SUVs of returning snowbirds. Elderly drivers clutched their steering wheels with hands that trembled in fear whenever the speedometer registered more than twenty miles per hour. Which—happily for their hearts—happened rarely, what with the minivans teeming with large Ohio families slowing down every few feet to crane their necks at the sabal palms and herds of grazing ibis. She sighed. The season on Longboat Key had become one long nightmare of traffic and crowds. She prayed that soon it would reach a tipping point, and all those armies of lily-white Teutons from Toronto and Chicago would decide to go elsewhere and she could have her beautiful barrier island back.”

Cairo
Khamseen in Cairo
The seasons don’t change much in Egypt—always warm and dry (except for the Thanksgiving in 1972 when it rained all day and people thought it was the end of the world, but that’s another story). Spring is particularly harsh when the khamseen arrives—usually in March. It is a hot, fierce wind that carries the sands of the western desert into every single nook, cranny, and orifice. It even scrapes the sand off the sandstone buildings and adds it to the wind. Interesting fact—they have the same thing in Arizona in the spring, and oddly enough it’s called the Haboob.


Alexandria
I spent a large part of my life in the Washington DC area—home to the Cherry Blossom festival. The trees were a gift from Japan and each year they bloom in profusion around the famous tidal basin. Spring in DC is absolute perfection—the azaleas, the cherry trees, the tulips. In this passage from Lapses of Memory, Sydney and her daughter drive through the streets of Old Town Alexandria in early spring:
Cherry trees Washington

“The earliest Piedmont azaleas were in bloom, their delicate lavender spikes blending with the cheery yellow forsythia. Limning the bushes, gold-kissed daffodils peeked through their stockade of leaves. The cobblestone streets swarmed with delivery vans and construction trucks off-loading materials.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

First Date--The Mason's Mark: Love and Death in the Tower

The Mason's Mark, my romantic suspense/murder mystery,  is set in Old Town Alexandria and involve long lost papers, distant family scandals, and academic intrigue concerning our first President. Delicious mystery and even more delicious romance ensue. Today I’m offering an excerpt of the our hero and heroine’s first date.



In both the best and worst first day at work ever, docent Claire Wilding meets the man of her dreams, but her carefully rehearsed guided tour of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial collapses when she discovers a body and is drawn into a dark world of black ops and Italian renegade masons, of secret cabals and hidden treasure. Also cloaked in mystery is handsome Gideon Bliss, a George Washington expert who haunts the Memorial, his manner evasive. What is his secret? Claire fears she'll fall in love with him only to learn he's a thief or even a murderer. Juggling two eccentric mothers, an inquisitive sister, and an increasingly smitten detective, Claire must find answers to a complex web of intrigue, including who to trust and who to love.



Claire's house

On her first day as a newly minted docent for the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, Claire Wilding meets the handsome, if mysterious Gideon Bliss, himself a newly minted U. S. Senator. They do not hit it off. Or so Claire thinks. Gideon, however, has other ideas.


Excerpt (PG): Gideon Comes Back
When they reached Prince Street, Gideon found a parking spot directly in front of her house, no small feat. Just one more way he’s special, thought Claire glumly. He walked her to her door. She unlocked it and turned to thank him, but he was already on his way to his car.
Ichabod greeted her with a snarl.
“I know. I forgot to feed you. Come on, Icky.” She found a can of cat food and emptied it into his bowl. Then she poured herself a large glass of water and took it to the living room to conduct an analysis of the soiree.
So at any point did I come across as even semi-coherent? She tried to hack through the warm, fuzzy blanket of the evening. Gideon had been the perfect gentleman, ordering foie gras and champagne, pointing out the constellations with obvious expertise, helping her in and out of the car. It all seemed so…unreal. Like he was acting a part. Too perfect. And he’d sucked her in like soda through a straw. She slapped her forehead, forgetting that she still held the glass. Water sluiced across her face and ran down her front. She mopped it up with some tissues and vowed to hit the antique stores that weekend. I’ve got to get a coffee table. Preferably one with cup holders.
The doorbell rang. With the disintegrating tissue pressed to her face, she stood on tiptoe to check the peephole and looked straight into an unblinking sea-green ocean. Gideon. After a minute she remembered to open the door.
He stared at her with concern. “Are you all right?”
Claire pulled the tissue away and noticed black streaks on it. Her mascara must have run. Oh no, I bet he thinks I’ve been crying. She rubbed her eyes, hoping that wasn’t making it worse. “Fine. I spilled a glass of water, that’s all.”
“Oh.” He stood, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Um, could I come in for a minute?”
She pointed at the living room and backed away, then turned and leapt up the steps. A quick look in the mirror confirmed her suspicions. I look like something Ichabod’s been playing with. She fixed her face, wrung out her blouse, and returned with renewed aplomb.
Gideon filled the small space. Claire sidled around him and sat on a packing crate. He looked around the room. “So…er, have you just moved in?”
“Yes.” It struck her that he was more uncomfortable than she and drew strength from that. “About a week ago. Sorry about the mess. Won’t you have a seat?”
He dropped down on the loveseat but immediately sprang back up. He patted his rear, flummoxed. “Why am I wet?”
Claire put a hand to her mouth to suppress the giggle. “Ooh, I’m sorry. I forgot. That’s where I spilled the water. Here, let me.”
She retrieved a towel from the kitchen and began to dab at the dark blotch on his khakis. He stood it for a minute, then put a hand under her chin and lifted her up. “You’d better stop doing that. This is hard enough for me.” He blinked. “Do you…do you know how beautiful you are?”
The question threw her. How to respond? Yes? No? Tell me more? She decided to let him talk.
“Your eyes are the color of the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea on a cloudless day. I could sink into them and drown.” He touched her brow. “And these little cinnabar ringlets framing that soft, creamy face…” He wrapped one around his finger. “Wind one up tight and it could strangle me.” He took her hand. “Your fingers—so slim and delicate, like little stilettos. Sharp enough to gouge an eye out.”
Claire stepped away from him, bewildered. “You make me sound like a vicious animal. Why?”
His hands dropped to his sides. “Because I sense how dangerous you are.”
“Dangerous?”
“To me. Claire…I—” He gazed at her helplessly.
Someone had better take charge.

George Washington National Masonic Memorial

Wild Rose Press, May 6,2016 (Crimson Rose imprint)
Mystery/Cozy Mystery, Romantic suspense
ebook 79,000 words; print 322 pp.
M/F;  3 flames

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Milo Finds a Body - Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders

What would you do if you found a body in a dark, empty, warehouse and you’re all alone? Panic? Find out what intrepid needlepoint artist Milo Everhart does when she makes a gruesome discovery in the Torpedo Factory Art Center tower in the dead of night.




The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, is a hulking former munitions factory right on the waterfront. Since the 1970s it has been host to art studios, a museum, and an art school. It’s never been renovated and is still a vast open central space surrounded by meandering corridors and rooms tucked away here and there. It is topped by a tower reached by hidden stairs. So you can imagine how our heroine, Milo Everhart, felt when she had to traverse the narrow stairs, open fire doors, and walk through a huge dark hall, to let the police in.

Stairs Milo Goes Down in the Dark
Excerpt (G): The Body

“Hello! Hello? 911?”
“Please state the nature of your emergency.”
“A body. There’s a b…b…body.” The word came out as a gurgle.
“Yes, ma’am. Now tell me where you are.”
Milo looked wildly around the darkened corridor. “Second floor. No lights.”
“Ma’am? Second floor of what?”
“Oh, er, the Torpedo Factory. I ran downstairs. I…”
“The Torpedo Factory? You mean the building at 105 North Union Street?”
Milo almost snapped, “How many torpedo factories do you know?” but thought better of it. “Yes.”
“All right, ma’am. Now, you say you’ve found a body? Is it dead?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course it’s dead. Dead. A dead body. In the office.”
“The office?”
“The tower. Look, can you send the police? I’m all alone in the building. Except for the body, of course. I mean, it’s pitch black in here. Please?” She knew she sounded less than rational, but weren’t 911 operators trained to weed out the gibberish and cut to the chase?
“I’ve already sent out a call. The police should be arriving any minute. Now, will they be able to enter the building?”
“Oh! Er. I don’t know. Archie’s already locked up.”
“Archie?”
“The super. He’s long gone, though.”
“Can you get to a door to let them in?”
Milo’s shoes must have found bubble gum on the floor all by themselves, since they appeared to be stuck. “I…uh…I can’t get to the doors.” Nothing but silence on the other end. She must think I’m lazy. Or a coward. I’ll bet she knows how to wait people out, to force them to do her bidding. “I’m not lazy, miss. I’m just…I’m wondering. What if the murderer is hiding somewhere, still in the building?”
“Murderer? You think the victim was murdered?”
Every CSI show she’d ever watched, plus a couple of X Files, fast-forwarded through her brain. Somewhere in the reruns she found the answer. “I don’t know. That’s for the experts to decide.” Thank you, Gil Grissom.
“Okay, ma’am. Listen to me carefully. If the building is locked, the police will have to break the door down, but first they’ll have to go to a judge and get a search warrant. So you see, the quickest way they can help you is if you let them in. Now, do you think you can go down the stairs to the door?”
Milo drew in a long, ragged breath, holding it until her head began to spin. As she let it out, she managed, “Yes. I’m on the landing. Can you stay on the line with me in case I’m attacked?”
“I sure will.”
Milo felt her way with one hand toward the middle stairwell. “I’m on the stairs now. Now I’m walking down the stairs.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
The central staircase of the factory only had a single metal railing and thus was exposed to the entire main hall. If anyone still lurked in the building he could easily see (and hear) her. She stopped halfway down and looked across the main lobby to the front entrance, a set of doublewide, glass-paned sliding doors. “There are flashing lights and sirens coming from Union Street.”
“Yes, ma’am. That would be the police.”
Well, duh.


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. 



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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mai Tais and Mayhem: Tessa Finds a Body

So many romances, so many crooks: can Tessa Diamond, turtle protector and amateur sleuth, keep them straight and still find true love?


I’d like to talk about my romantic suspense/murder mystery set on the Gulf coast of Florida, Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine.

I Heart Publishing, 12/7/2015
Contemporary romantic suspense, M/F, 2 flames, Mystery
eBook 68,840 words; print 208 pp.

Blurb:
When Tessa Diamond rescued a baby pufferfish from a hungry gull, her good deed led her into a shady world of smuggling, Russian gangsters, and coded messages, confronting murder, attempted ravishment, parrots, sea turtles and big fish, only to encounter blossoming romances at every turn, including one of her own.



Tessa Diamond, the heroine of Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine, works with the annual sea turtle nesting survey along with a motley assortment of volunteers. There are in fact several volunteer groups that patrol the 770 miles of coastline during the nesting season. Five of the seven sea turtle species live in Florida waters: the loggerhead, the leatherback, the green, the Kemp’s ridley, and the hawksbill. This year Mote Marine logged a record number of nests on Longboat Key.

Tessa is checking on a leatherback named Fred who is being rehabilitated at Mote, when she makes a grisly discovery.


Excerpt (G): The Body

The alarm woke her at seven. Tessa threw on the Mote polo shirt and black golf skort she’d laid out the night before, grabbed the bagel and can of V8 she’d left on the counter, and shot down Gulf of Mexico Drive as the sun came up. The road for once was deserted, and she could revel in the breeze blowing her long hair over her shoulders and the scent of frangipani in the air. The soft gray sky held only a hint of the deep blue to come later, and the gulf lay becalmed by the evaporating night. She sang a country song as she drove. In her bones she knew this would be a glorious day, the first in a long time where she felt free of any guilt or sadness. If only she could whistle. If only I could carry a tune.

She parked in the aquarium lot and walked across to the Goldstein Center. Pulling out the key Pilchard had given her, she let herself in by the ticket booth. Pale, blurry light seeped in through the plastic sheeted tanks to her right. She went up the stairs and around the gift shop to the dolphin pool, rattling doors as she went. All was quiet and locked. A snort came from the pool. One of the dolphins raised his head and peered at her before diving back down.

Looks okay here. She checked her watch. Eight-twenty. The support staff should be arriving soon to open the gift shop and ticket counter. She walked back down the stairs. The turtle tanks lay to her right—two large shallow pools that at present held four sea turtles, one leatherback—Fred—two green turtles, and a loggerhead. She leaned over Fred’s tank. “Fred,” she called, “how are you? Feeling better?”

A black mass floated at the other end of the pool. Oh dear, I hope he’s not still sick. Worried, she skirted the other tank and ducked under the gate. The mass didn’t move. “Fred?” She reached out a hand to touch his shell and instead encountered something soft and mushy. “Fred?”

At that moment the overhead light flashed on. She swung around. From the hall came the voice of Henry Stillwater, the coordinator of the dolphin training program. “Who’s there?”

“It’s Tessa. Tessa Diamond. I’m the volunteer. I was checking on Fred, but something’s wrong.”

“What?”

Tessa turned around to look into the pool again and screamed.



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Monday, April 10, 2017

Ah Paris! Olivia's Dilemma--Lapses of Memory at Misty Simon's Today


Come discover the handsome, dashing, rich Frenchman Rémy , who wants to take Olivia around the world. Lapses of Memory is at Misty Simon’s blog the Whole Shebang Site today.  See why Olivia has so much difficulty choosing!


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Old Love, New Love: Spencer at Mary Morgan's Blog Today

Old Town wharf where Elian & Sydney talk

In my new romantic suspense, Lapses of Memory, the hero recognizes his true love at first sight. Only after years of separation does the heroine finally realize they are meant to be together, but this time, in a twist of fate, it is he whose memory of her is gone. Read about it at Mary Morgan’s blog today:

http://www.marymorganauthor.com/single-post/2017/04/01/Spotlight-Author-Interview-and-NewRelease-LAPSES-OF-MEMORY-by-MS-SPENCER