It took about five minutes. Love Canva.
I love appies. Today I’m sharing the first chapter of Ain’t Misbehavin’, which launches April 18th. You can preorder it now:
A naked alderman, a haunted trattoria and a love that can not be denied.
When the manager of the Black Cat Blues Bar, singer Maggy Malone, witnesses a murder in her favorite trattoria, her life is upended. Known as the Naked Alderman, the victim is a controversial politician who wants Vancouver to be known as the greenest city in the world. He’s also the lover of Maggy’s best friend. Despite his noble ideals, his head ends up in the pasta.
The last thing Maggy wants to do is chase another murderer. She’s worked hard to keep the Black Cat afloat and sort out her life, which is complicated by two, hot men, and acts of sabotage at her dock community on Granville Island.
But when the body count rises, Maggy decides to catch the killer.
Ain’t Misbehavin’ is the second story in the Vancouver Blues series. If you like ghost stories and urban noir, you’ll love this book, which combines all of their best traits in a fast-paced, captivating and sensual, romantic suspense.
There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be . . . ~ John Lennon
Maggy Malone gritted her teeth as she scanned the grisly scene in The Tuscan Trattoria. Sirens and flashing lights closed in on the small restaurant. The screams of patrons shredded the tranquility of the night. She swallowed. Another dead person. Inspector Peterson from the Vancouver Police Department strode through the front door, took one look around and headed straight towards her. Gravel voice. Of course it would be him. Of all the policemen in this fine town, and of all the Italian restaurants . . . His eyes cut through the distance between them like razor blades, bringing the memory of the last time she dealt with him back to her with the clarity of a hammer blow between the eyes. He stopped a foot in front of her and nailed her with his cop glare. “Why do men get murdered around you?”
“I wish I knew.” Her heart raced. Ten feet away, a man’s face lay motionless in his plate of spaghetti. Her quiet, Friday dinner had turned into a nightmare.
Her friend Joe sat across from her at the white-linen-covered table, holding his glass of merlot in the air. Of all they places they could have chosen for their get-away dinner . . . why did they end up here? Now? His head swayed to the classical guitar music—the Godfather music,—but his mouth firmed in a way she’d only seen once before. Her chest tightened. This excitement had to be hard on his heart.
Two constables in uniform threaded yellow tape across half the restaurant where they sat. More sirens blared through the night. The ambulance should be next.
Inspector Peterson motioned for her to get up. She walked with him a few feet away from Joe, making every effort to look normal, even though her legs felt like wobbly bands of rubber.
“Tell me why you’re here.” His gritty voice brought back many memories. It came from somewhere deep in his personal abyss, and sounded so rough it made the tiny hairs on the back of her neck stand up and take notice.
He smelled of expensive French cologne and cigarettes, a scent she remembered too well. When Maggy didn’t answer right away, he grumbled to get her attention.
“I needed to be alone with Joe.” Murder hadn’t been on the menu. She chose The Tuscan Trattoria to get away from their friends. She loved the place, built in the old grocery warehouse in Gastown, it had an urban-kitschy atmosphere, with old, red-brick walls, rustic, wood ceilings, antiques and artifacts.
The detective nodded. “Why?”
“To talk some sense into him.” She frowned. “He needs to take the meds his doctor prescribes, but he won’t because he says they make him feel tired all the time, and they’re expensive. So, instead he knocks back an herbal concoction three times a day some pretty lady talked him into. It makes him a little crazy. Meanwhile, his health isn’t improving.” She looked over at Joe again. He held his glass of wine in the air, swirled it like a pro and dipped his nose inside the edge to smell its bouquet. But he didn’t drink it. Instead he repeated the process.
Peterson’s persistent glare brought her eyes back to his bald head like a tractor beam. His six feet towered over her five-foot-four, which made her straighten her back and jut out her chin, as if that somehow equaled the playing field. A jagged purple scar ran across his square jaw.
“I remember Joe,” he said. “Clarence’s cousin, and now one of the owners of the Black Cat Blues Bar where you sing.”
His hazel eyes, the color of a wheat field at dusk, drifted over to Joe and back to her face, not softening even a smidgen. Cops. “So you’re out with him on a Friday night. What did you do with your other men?”
She exhaled slowly. Men—in the plural. Talk about being judgmental. There had been two men in her life when she last met the detective, but she had chosen one shortly afterwards. Not that it was his, or anyone else’s, business. “I’m here with Joe.” She shook her blond curls out of her face. Curly and long, it had a nasty habit of getting in her way.
Peterson took out his notebook. “So what did you see, Ms. Malone?”
Having been married to a cop for seven years she knew what he wanted. Facts—lots and lots of facts. The people in blue believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that sorting facts into neat columns on white boards could reveal the truth. She admired the simplicity of their plan, but she could never render life into tidy columns. The universe held too many surprises and nothing in her life had ever been logical or lineal. She took a deep breath of the garlic and basil laced air and sighed.
“We got here about seven—that would be an hour ago. Most of the tables were full, and a steady stream of people flowed in and out. The wait-staff hustled.”
She hesitated a moment, letting the images of people sift through her mind like musical notes. “A baseball team with blue shirts that read, “Vancouver Hitters,” sat near the back.” She pointed towards the kitchen. “They’d be in their early twenties. They had a burping contest.”
“Burping,” Peterson muttered as he scribbled.
“About half an hour ago, eight women in their thirties ushered in a lady dressed as a Steam Punk heroine with red-shadowed eyes and a funky black hat. Probably, a stagette. They sat near the front and made the bride-to-be hand out condoms to every man who passed. When the screaming started, they were the first group to run out the entrance.”
He nodded, as if red-eyed Victorian vixens were a common sight. Maybe they were in his life.
“A couple in their eighties wearing matching, powder-blue, jogging suits sat at the table between us and the man.” She wanted to talk about the victim with respect. “. . .the man with his face . . . in his dinner. They were there when we came but left just before it happened.”
Peterson’s pen raced across his notepad. His mouth twitched, as if he needed to say something, but wouldn’t let himself.
“The man sat alone. On the far side of him, about twelve people celebrated a birthday. I know that, because every so often one of them would stand up and give a toast. Some slurred. There was lots of happy chatter.”
When she stopped talking he looked up from his notepad. “And?”
“Inspector, I don’t know what else I can tell you. It seemed like a normal night in Gastown.” If that makes any sense.
The oldest part of Vancouver, Gastown got its name from Gassy Jack the wild frontier man who opened the first saloon on the edge of the Canadian wilderness. Over the years, it had become well known as a place for both debauchery and commerce. Now considered the hippest neighborhood in the city, the hood had transformed itself. The old warehouses had been converted to upscale condos, nightclubs and art studios. Meanwhile the homeless wandered the streets outside. Gastown had changed its outward appearance over the last two centuries more times than a busy whore at midnight, but some things never changed. It was, and always had been, a place where the word “normal” didn’t apply.
He tapped his pen on his paper. “Gastown—normal.”
Maggy ran a hand through her hair. “I didn’t see anything unusual. No one stuck out.”
Peterson twisted his mouth, as if he had difficulty digesting something she’d said.
She smiled as best she could. “We sat over there.” She pointed. “Where Joe is now, two tables away from the . . ..um . . .victim. Do you wanna know what I ate?”
“Just get to the murder, Ms. Malone.” His eyes held steady and his voice flattened out like concrete on a prairie highway, pushing her forward to a place with no horizon, a place she didn’t want to go.
“It happened behind me.” Her voice caught on her last word. It had been easy to talk about the crowd. Easy to make jokes about their behavior. She cleared her throat. Violent death would never be easy to talk about. “First, the big group sang ‘“Happy Birthday,”‘ loud enough and out of tune enough, to make you want to cover your ears. Then the lights went out.” She swallowed.
“Then I heard a shot . . . then another. Two, close together. The whole room shook with the sound. It rattled everything, even my bones. A blast of warm air hit the back of my neck and then the lights kicked in.” Maggy folded her arms across her chest and took a deep breath, seeing the whole event again in her head. She slowed down.
“A woman screamed. A loud, break-the-windows screech like in the old black-and-white movies. Then another screamed and another. By the time I turned around, people were huddled around the man’s table. I couldn’t see a thing.”
His eyes narrowed. “But you saw something.”
She swallowed. “Two waitresses got people to back away from the table. The man’s head, or what was left of it, lay in the middle of his plate of spaghetti. Bright red Bolognese sauce had splattered all over the table and floor.”
“What happened next?”
“Rick, the manager, ran in and checked his pulse. It all happened so quickly . . .” She tried to remember every detail. “A couple of the waiters came in and did the same. They shook their heads. Then I heard the sirens. Then you came.”
Peterson kept writing in his notebook, his body tensing with every new piece of information. She didn’t bother trying to read his face. She knew from experience he kept his emotions hidden behind his shiny badge. He’d tell her only what he wanted her to know, and that would be a sterilized version of the truth. A cop version.
While the good inspector had intriguing complexities, she didn’t want to explore them. He brought back too many bad memories. How the hell did he end up in her life again? Not to mention another murder? She’d put the past behind her and refocused on her career.
Anticipating his next move with dread, her fingers fidgeted. She clasped them together.
“You have any connection to the deceased?” he asked.
And there it was. She swallowed. No point denying the truth. He’d find out later. “Inspector, I . . .”
When she didn’t finish her sentence, the pupils of his eyes hardened into small pin-point dots.
She shook hair out of her face again and glanced quickly in Joe’s direction. “Don’t know him personally, but . . .”
He lifted his left eyebrow.
“I’m pretty sure he’s the guy they call the Naked Alderman.” And her best friend Mei Chang’s lover, but she didn’t say that. She exhaled slowly. “Kyler Ravensworth.”
An unwanted tremble entered her voice. Dead bodies did that to her, and this one was too close to home. His death would break Mei’s heart.
Peterson thumped his pencil on his notepad. “The guy who wanted a community garden on every block?”
She nodded. “Yeah. He got called ‘the naked alderman’ because he always took part in the annual naked ride in town. He liked to say he had nothing to hide.” She remembered laughing the first time she heard him say that, but it didn’t seem so funny now. The image of him on the local TV news flickered through her mind: young, healthy and virile, a handsome civic minded man in the prime of his life.
Peterson nodded and jotted more notes.
Flashes lit up the room sporadically as a police officer took pictures of the scene. They reflected off the ornate Tiffany lamp that hung from the ceiling with the name Tuscany’s on it, creating a macabre kaleidoscope of colored light. While the detective wrote, she took in the changing scene.
In the opposite corner of the room sat the ghost table set for two, vacant as always. According to local legend, the ghost liked his space. To sit at his table would bring bad luck. Scores of stories about what happened to people when they dared to sit at the table had circulated ever since the restaurant opened fifty years ago. A cold shudder snaked up her spine. She didn’t need to be thinking about ghosts now.
The trattoria’s saucy mix of relics from the past and present usually charmed her, but tonight, with the flashing lights, and spilled spaghetti sauce, it made her blood run cold.
The ambulance attendants waited while the medical examiner studied the body. After a second look at the deceased, Maggy turned back to Peterson. Her knees weakened. The last dead man she’d seen . . . No. She didn’t want to think about that. Nausea rose in her stomach.
“Take a deep breath in and let it out slowly,” Peterson said. His attention shifted to someone behind her.
“Can I take Joe home now?” she asked. The old man continued to swirl his wine and sniff the edge of the glass.
“Does he know anything more than you?”
“Don’t think so.” That was sort of true.
“I know where to reach you. Thank you for your help, Ms. Malone.” He said this as he brushed past her to join a group of policemen in uniform. He gave her no good bye, just a nod and a stirring of air, scented with his cologne, as he passed.
Maggy walked over to Joe. “Ready to go?”
“Sure, Maggy.” His thin lips spread into a soft smile that slid straight into her heart. Hmmm. She couldn’t let him win with his damned charm. There had to be a way to get the stubborn old goat to take his meds.
“I’ll get you back to the Black Cat,” he said.
Maggy waited as Joe slowly rose. He leaned on his white cane to steady himself. She knew better than to offer assistance. He’d get all huffy. Once he stood, she looped her arm in his.
Outside, the fresh, salty breeze off the strait mingled with the sweet smell of cherry blossoms. She inhaled the freshness of the spring evening and squeezed Joe’s thin arm.
He leaned his head towards hers. “Did you tell him what the ghost said?”
If you’re of a certain age, 9/11 resonates with you in the way Pearl Harbor did with the Greatest Generation.
We all know where we were when the planes hit the towers. Many lost loved ones or acquaintances, and we all have our stories. My younger daughter and her husband moved to New York City on Sunday 9/9.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, as the principal in an elementary school, I’d arrived at my regular time, around 7:15 to get a jump-start on the day. My husband normally left later for his downtown office to miss the traffic. He never went in that day after receiving a call from a good friend telling him to turn on the TV. Avoiding high-rise office buildings seemed a good idea.
Trying to keep staff, kids, and parents calm in the face of what we didn’t know took my focus. I kept my cool until my assistant principal brought it to my attention that some teachers thought it a good idea to let their students watch the events on TV. Even from a historical perspective, I saw no reason for this especially for our kindergartners and first graders. I directed all TVs turned off around children.
Speculation was rampant as we all wondered if WWIII had begun. Nerves frayed. Tempers flared. Tears fell.
Parents flocked the school to take their children home. Whether they’d be safe there or not was immaterial. They wanted to have their family close. Making sure students went with the right person was a priority for my staff. A crisis makes a good opportunity for a non-custodial parent to take a child they don’t have the right to. That would’ve just added strain, stress, and fear to an overloaded situation. We were thorough even when parents wanted us to hurry.
Our school was near an industrial area with large oil containers and a railroad track ran near. At this point, our disaster practices included only fire and tornado drills. My imagination painted dreadful pictures of those tanks exploding.
My daughter and her husband had gone their separate ways that morning. He rode a train to Connecticut where he did marketing for a theatre company. My daughter took a train toward the theatre district to begin rehearsals for a show. When she came up out of the subway, a dust-filled sky met her eyes and people crowded the streets heading uptown. She and her husband didn’t see each other until early evening, but they talked.
It was three that afternoon before I knew they were all right. So, you see ACT OF TRUST is a personal story to me. I was one of the very lucky ones. My family was okay.
Maybe that’s why I so admire those who’ve gone on after losing a loved one in this tragic experience. I can’t imagine it, though, as a writer, that’s my job. My intent was to honor their loss and commend their courage. I hope people find comfort in the happily ever after ending of this story.
I will send a portion of the sale of each book to the 9/11 Memorial Gardens and Museum. If you care to donate directly, as well, here’s the link: http://www.911memorial.org/
ACT OF TRUST
A widow since 9/11 and a mother of grown daughter, Kate Thompson wants to
keep her and her daughter safe, but the inheritance of land in Maine pushes her out of her comfort zone in Texas and into the arms of a Maine lawyer.
Maine lawyer and environmentalist, Jim Donovan wants to protect Aunt Liddy’s land and keep it from falling into the hands of the developers, but first he has to convince Kate Thompson she should hold on to the family land when she doesn’t even want to go look at it. However, he’s unprepared for the attraction each feels for the other, but denies exists.
Will they be able to settle the land deal before anyone else is killed or they break each other’s hearts?
Mildred stopped and nailed Kate with a beady-eyed stare. “You do plan to turn over the Thompson land to the Conservancy Trust, don’t you?”
“I don’t know yet, Mildred. My daughter’s coming to visit, and then we’ll decide together what we want to do with the land. It’s possible she’ll want to keep it in the family. Be a nice place for her to get away from the hectic-ness of New York City.”
“Liddy would be pleased with either the Trust or you keeping it in the family, but she’ll haunt you if you sell to Holland.”
Kate leaned away. The venom in the woman’s tone made Kate’s heart rate trip up and her hands grow sweaty. Mildred completely believed her statement, enough to cause Kate nightmares.
“She’s giving every option plenty of consideration,” Jim jumped in. Was he afraid Mildred’s hard sell would reverse Kate’s leaning in his direction?
“I’ve had my say. Good night to you both.”
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Marsha R. West Bio
Marsha R. West, a retired elementary school principal, is also a former school board member and threatre arts teacher. She writes Romance, Suspense, and Second Chances. Experience Required. Marsha lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. Their two daughters presented them with three delightful grandchildren who live nearby. A new dog, Charley, a Chihuahua/Jack Russell Terrier mix recently joined the family.
MuseItUp Publishing released her first book, VERMONT ESCAPE in July 2013; her second book, TRUTH BE TOLD, in May 2014. In the Fall of 2014, Marsha formed MRW Press LLC to provide a print versions of her books. SECOND ACT, Book 1 of the Second Chances Series follows up with a secondary character from VERMONT ESCAPE and begins a four-part series. ACT OF TRUST is Book 2 of the Second Chances Series.
She’s had lots of fun doing book club presentations. If you’re interested, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her web site http://www.marsharwest.com or at http://sistersofsuspense.com/
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My Review on Amazon and Goodreads
She Needs to Trust Him
The heroine Texan, Kate Thompson is a strong, mature woman with a heavy heart. Tormented by the loss of her husband in the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York City she hasn’t been able to become involved with another man.
Kate describes the hero, lawyer Jim Donovan as a, “hard-boiled Yankee with a hint of Maine Accent.” As a reader I fell in love with him immediately, because he is so honest and caring.
Kate inherits land in Maine, which she intends to sell. It’s the practical thing to do. Jim wants her to sell it to the Maine Coast Conservancy Trust, but they are offering a tenth of the money the realtor who wants to develop the land has offered. Jim convinces her to come with him to see the land before she makes a decision.
It begins as a tender love story as these two strong characters with opposing goals are drawn together. Sparks fly. But wait, things are not what they seem. I don’t want to spoil the story here, but I will say that as the mystery behind Kate’s aunt’s death becomes clear, the momentum of the story picks up and it becomes a page turner. I rooted for Kate all the way.
A great read. If you believe in second chances, you’ll love this story.
Launching Next Week!!!
Shaken and Stirred…
Spine-tingling suspense with a steamy side of romance, written by ten award winning authors. The Sisters of Suspense Anthology, #1 is a collection of snippets from their favorite Romantic Suspense stories. Chilling and thrilling. It’s guaranteed to spark your interest, stir your senses, set your imagination on overdrive and introduce you to new authors you’re going to love.
Snippets are written by: Veronica Forand, Melissa Keir, Jo-Ann Carson, Jacquie Biggar, Marian Lanouette, Jacqui Nelson, Pat Amsden, Marsha R. West, Kathryn Jane and McKenna Sinclair
Award Winning Suspense
For the last couple of weeks I’ve been collecting snippets (i.e., the beginning chapters of novels) from my Sisters, and formatting them. If all goes well <fingers crossed> the anthology will be available next week. I’ll let you know as soon as it goes “free.”
Veronica Forand’s action-packed, Romantic Suspense thriller, True Deceptions is a phenomenal read. I can’t think of a better word to describe it. I couldn’t put it down.
The opening chapter is brilliantly written, rivalling the openings of James Bond movies. Filled with emotional drama, well developed characters and conflict it leaps off the page. I won’t give any spoilers, but I will say she had me within a few pages.
British, alpa-male hero, Simon Dunn, a somewhat reluctant MI6 operative, has class, intellect and courage beyond measure. Forand builds an intriguing character motivated by conflict and heart. Ruggedly handsome, the heroine notes, “…his body appeared molded by Roman gods for purely hedonistic activities.” And he’s good at those activities.
And Californian, Cassie Watson, a peace-loving, vegan, computer nerd turns out to be his perfect match. Simon describes her as, “…a brain in a centerfold’s body.” He tries not to notice the leggy blonde too much, because he has a huge assignment to complete, but he can’t help but note, “…her looks could disarm a man even if her fighting skills couldn’t.” And, “…She could break the concentration of a Tibetan monk!”
The heat between them sizzles.
The secondary characters are equally intriguing. The plot is fast paced and has surprising twists. Even though the subject is dead serious, Forand’s rich sense of humor plays through the dialogue deepening the texture of the plot and the tone of the novel.
Thoroughly entertaining! I recommend Veronica Forand’s True Deceptions for any reader who loves sizzling romance and intriguing spy stories.
I’m going now to Simon’s Facebook page. I’m totally his fan. Then I’m putting up this review on Amazon and Goodreads and giving it 5 stars.
My favorite line: “Crawling around in the mud and digging a ditch under a hidden section of barbed wire fencing were not his favorite activities, but he’d walk through molten lava to bring Cassie to safety.”
The Sheriff Meets his Match (A Wounded Hearts Novella) by Jacquie Biggar
The Sheriff Meets his Match is a Romantic Suspense novella, heavy on the romance, set in the small town of Tidal Falls. Ms. Biggar captures the warmth of the small community where family and friendship ties connect everyone and all the latest news can be found in the local diner called the Grits and Grace Café . But what really sets her writing apart is her understanding of people, her use of visceral details and her subtle sense of humor.
The beautiful and fun loving heroine, Laurel takes a temporary job in the Sheriff’s office and quickly falls for her boss. Jack the Sheriff, a straight-shooting man with a lean body and wide shoulders, can’t keep his eyes off of her. But there’s a problem, actually a few, and for a time it looks like they are destined to be star crossed lovers.
My favorite lines: “Men. You can’t live with them and you can’t shoot ‘em. It’s a felony.”
I’m posting my 4 star review on Amazon and Goodreads.
“All Sadie Stewart wanted was a nice romantic evening with her boyfriend Sebastian Wildes to celebrate their six-month anniversary. But when a masked assassin attempts to kill her, she knows instinctively what she must do. When she returns to the CIA for answers, she’s instead presented with a new mission that only she can manage. Bakai al-Sharif is power hungry, and desperate to save his ailing daughter with the only object that’s capable; King Tutankhamen’s scarab. With Sadie being the only operative to have ever penetrated his inner circle, she’ll have to use both her wits and sex appeal to thwart Bakari’s over the top heist. Will Sadie be forced to compromise her morals? Can her relationship with Sebastian survive a double life? More importantly, who wants her dead, and why? Fast paced and thrilling, a reader is immediately drawn into the action and suspense right from the opening chapter! While one may take in this third and latest installment as a standalone novel, some may feel left out without the knowledge of past character relationships, and the intricacies’ of Sadie’s own dynamic personality. However, the author blends the heroine’s internal dialogue and conflict to present a balanced and realistic characterization. Additionally, while some readers may struggle with Sadie’s resigned acceptance at utilizing sex to achieve her mission, these exploits aid in cranking up the thermostat of the steam intensity level. Overall, Ms. Carson delivers one a unique twist of mystery and suspense, as well as Ancient Egyptian magic, and steamy romance!” Stephanie Lodes, September Issue
I also had a quarter page ad in the magazine, because my cover (above) designed by Nina French won a competition. Here is the ad (also designed by Nina French).