Monday, May 25, 2015

Shadows of sacrifice...


Memorial Day.  A day of remembrance.  A day to give thanks to those who have laid down their lives to defend our nation.  A day to mourn their passing.  As we reflect upon how much we owe them…do we think adequately on how we are to repay them, and all others who may follow in their footsteps?

We acknowledge that we owe the fallen a debt of thanks.  The question is, do we owe them a debt of apology?  Could their deaths have been avoided?  If so, did we do all we could with our hard-won rights as citizens to keep them out of needless combat?  Did we do all we could to demand that they be adequately equipped once they were deployed?  Have we done all we could to help them heal and readjust once they were out of military service?  The answer to all those questions, I believe is, sadly, no.

We live in a free country.  That in itself is a rare and precious birthright that far too many take for granted.  The soldier pays the price for that.  Speaking as the son of a former Polish freedom fighter and prisoner of war, I feel very grateful, as my father does, that the United States army was there to help liberate Poland from Nazi occupation.

Of course, war is very different today that it was during World War II.  The death is the same of course, but not the rationale.  The days of nation states going to war with legal declarations of hostility, clear lines and objectives, and decisive surrender followed by armistice are long gone.  Since WWII, it’s been about limited interference in the internal conflicts of other nations or regions.  (Limited in every sense except the dying, of course.)  Constitutional requirements of Congressional declaration of war are long-gone, too.  As are clear objectives and clear beginnings or endings.  It begins when the President says it does and ends…who knows when?  Today, in terms of foreign policy, presidents are like kings or despots who can send our nation’s soldiers to war by royal decree.  And, for reasons of politics or personal gain.  That’s not to say our nation often finds itself on the dark side of history.  The enemies our nation’s warriors have fought have been a pretty nasty lot.  From the despots of North Korea to the often vicious Viet Cong to the tyrant Saddam Hussein.  But, as in any war, the innocent dead far outnumber the soldiers.  And, to topple one despot may be like kicking over a wasp’s nest that brings far more death and misery in the chaos that follows.  That doesn’t diminish the noble sacrifice of the American soldier, but it sure as blazes puts on civilian society the moral burden of justifying what they died for.

So, as we enter the second decade of our most recent undeclared, formless, seemingly endless war, the question stands:  Have we as citizens of the United States truly done our duty to honor our nation’s soldiers?  More than that, to honor the covenant between citizen and defender?  We acknowledge that our lives are in their hands, but do we acknowledge that their lives are in ours?  Their job is obviously the more demanding, but ours is the more complex.  As citizens of a free nation, it is our civic duty to choose our leaders wisely and yes, to question and debate what those leaders do once they’re in office.  It’s easier not to, of course.  It’s easier to just mind your own business, wave the flag and blindly follow the guy in office, as long as it’s someone else who ends up doing the fighting and the dying overseas.  After 9/11, we wanted revenge, and didn’t much care where it came from.  We blindly followed our president then.  Didn’t matter who he was, or even if he knew what he was doing.  He was the only leader we had, and like all politicians, he told us what we wanted, or needed, to hear.  And, as always, the soldiers ended up paying the price.  Easy answers, gratifying slogans and tall promises.  And, the soldier always pays the price.  Over ten years later, the soldier is still paying the price, with no end in sight.

Historians will judge our wars as they always do, with 20/20 hindsight.  But, those of us in the here and now owe it to those in the armed forces to question what our presidents do.  As a people, we feel a strong bond of loyalty to our soldiers, and that’s laudable.  But, the only way we seem able to express that loyalty is through blind obedience to our presidents, many of whom have never served in armed combat a day in their lives.  Criticism of a seated president, even an unpopular one, in time of military engagement, is blindly equated with treason.  To support the troops, we have to support the Commander-in-Chief, right or wrong.

Easy.  Simple.  Not necessarily a good idea.

If you have some selfish jerk or lunatic in office (and, let’s face it:  We’ve had a few) who orders our soldiers to march off a cliff, then what is our patriotic duty as citizens?  To get behind the troops and help push them off that cliff?  Or, to throw obstacles in their path to try to keep them alive?  It’s not the soldier’s responsibility to question the war.  It’s ours.  Yes, many prefer to say we elect the leader, the leader leads and the soldier dies.  Those are our assigned roles.  But, we’ve seen leaders leave office in disgrace.  We’ve allowed…yes, ALLOWED…leaders to lead us into wars based on false information.  We’ve swallowed lies packaged in ribbons that read “Mission Accomplished” only to find ourselves looking on row after row of gravestones and flag-draped coffins and no more answers to the question “Why?”  Are we even still asking?

At some point, the line between war and peace blurs.  The deaths of our service men and women fade into background static.  The idea of war being not only undeclared and lawless but actually perpetual, as in Orwell’s 1984, seems to have become our new way of life.  The young and the brave continue to march off to war because they feel it’s right, and the rest of us just toil along at our jobs through one president after another, barely noticing the death that goes on and on. No end in sight.  New enemies rise from the ashes of the old, the situation growing worse, not better.  A generation has come of age in this war.  Will the day come when no one can remember not being at war?  Some say the nature of the enemy has changed, and we must change with it.  But, are we just digging the hole deeper?  Is anyone bothering to ask?

The drones kill, and kill and kill.  The engineers at M.I.T. devise increasingly sophisticated robotic systems that may someday be used to kill with increasing efficiency.  Will the robot killing machine someday replace the human soldier?  If so, will war become so easily managed from the relative comfort of a distant control room that we as a society find absolutely no reason to even question its existence or try to avoid it?  How does a society know exactly when war ceases to be an occasional instrument of national survival or necessity, and becomes a way of life?

Today, we honor their memory.  But, do we honor the reason they died?  Do we even remember?



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Romantic Suspense and spine-tingling mystery from Vonnie Hughes...

Guest author Vonnie Hughes talks about romantic suspense and her new release...

Romantic suspense is my favorite genre to both write and read. Nowadays there’s an overlap between ‘suspense’ and ‘romantic suspense’ as most suspense novels contain a certain amount of romance. Once, well-known male writers seemed to have decided at the last second, “Oh, don’t forget my female readers.” And they hastily shoved in a little liaison. Or perhaps their publisher gave them a nudge. But often those interludes seemed forced. However over the past few years they’ve become much more adept at the romantic aspect e.g. Harlen Coben and James Patterson.

And hey, haven’t female authors got gutsy and down and dirty lately when writing suspense? Huh? I just love Karen Rose, Tami Hoag and Anne Stuart. Their background knowledge shines for me because it’s not overly technical as if it’s saying: “Hey, I did my homework!” But the romance is peripheral to a darned good story each time.

I was born in New Zealand and spent most of my life there, although our family now lives in Australia. The two main differences between Australia and New Zealand are the weather (warmer over most of Australia if you discount Tasmania which is very blue/green like New Zealand because it’s wet and often cold), and the fact that NZ has 4 million people and B-I-G Australia has 21 million residents. Yup. Australia is vast. It is the sixth largest country in the world and has a whole continent to itself. It’s not the sort of place where you get in your car and zip over to Auntie Flo’s. If you hear an Australian say, "It’s just down the road," you know they lie. Sure, it’s just down the road, but the road is a 2,000 kilometer dust-encrusted two-lane bitumen highway straddling two states, millions of curious kangaroos, hundreds of racing emus trying to beat your car, some wild camels, a million gumtrees, several townships and a couple of rivers if you’re lucky. Nor is it the place to get lost in the bush, since much of the bushland looks the same. You can go around in circles forever.

When they say, "It’s just down the road" in New Zealand, they mean it’s down a one-lane bitumen highway that goes for ten kilometers then switches to a gravel road that finishes at Jessop’s farm with 1,000 sheep dotting the peaceful hillsides. And at the back of that farm is bushland, tight, green and impenetrable. In the winter it drips with damp and in the summer the cacophony of cicadas screams in your ears.

But I digress. They say ‘write what you know’ and because I know more about the NZ Police than I do the Australian system, I based LETHAL REFUGE on the NZ system. But I took liberties with the truth. Of course I did. It’s fiction, for heaven’s sake. But think of the British Police and you’ve got a handle on the NZ Police Service which was originally based on the British system.

In LETHAL REFUGE, Célie Francis, a prickly young woman, self-reliant to the point of being irritating, witnesses the aftermath of a murder and is stalked by the murderer. When she is placed in the witness protection program, she can no longer be self-sufficient. She is at the mercy of a bunch of people who want to help her, for God’s sake. And then there’s Brand Turner, the police psychologist with a vulnerable intellect as high as the sky who has an annoying habit of demanding trust from the relocatees. When the murderer seems to track their every move, Célie finally realizes she can’t do stuff on her own any more.

I’ve had two romantic suspense books published over the past couple of years and there’s another in the works. I’ve much enjoyed writing them, even though I’m known more for my Regencies. Anyway, here’s something about LETHAL REFUGE, set in New Zealand:

Who can you trust if you can’t trust your own mother? Through the clammy fog, Celie Francis hears the chilling message. “I know who you are, Celie. I know where you live.” And in the terrifying aftermath she reconnects with her dysfunctional family in ways she had never imagined.


Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit "New Zealand's witness protection program" where she's expected to trust strangers with her life.

It's psychologist Brand Turner's job to ease witnesses into their new identities, not to protect them, but Célie stirs feelings in him that are far from professional. When it appears someone is leaking critical information that could endanger Célie, Brand will do anything to protect her. But first he has to convince her to trust him.

Adrift in a frightening world, Célie would like to believe the handsome psychologist is everything he seems, but as witnesses are murdered and danger swirls around them, Célie must decide "can she trust Brand with her life? 

Please click onto my Amazon page or The Wild Rose Press where you will find LETHAL REFUGE in both paperback and e-book.

I have attached two pictures to show just how impenetrable the New Zealand bushland can be.

This house is Brand’s next door neighbor’s place. Steve and his wife don’t miss much and Brand’s low profile gets shot to hell by Célie’s behavior.

Now this picture shows the type of area that Célie stumbled around in, right on nightfall. Creepy, huh?

If you have any more questions or would just like to say "Hi", email me

In the meantime, have a great day!


Friday, May 15, 2015

Latest in haunting romance from Marci Boudreaux...

As I start getting feedback on The Road Leads Back, I’m excited to hear people tell me they enjoy reading romances with characters over 40. As I get older, I’m finding it more and more difficult to connect with the younger characters I’m trying to write.


I wonder if this means in 20 years I’ll be writing romances for the 60s crowd. Hmm. Is there a market for that? I suppose if we’re all still around, you’ll be there with me, right?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading The Road Leads Back as much as I enjoyed writing it. I am so happy to introduce you to Kara Martinson and Harry Canton.

These two wayward lovers are the opening act for my new Stonehill Romance series. The series is set in the fictional Des Moines suburb of Stonehill, and all the characters in the series (at least those planned!) are over 40 and have pasts and problems that reflect the age group.

Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.

Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of their parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.

Can Harry convince her to forgive the people who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?


Kara squeezed her way toward the crowded bar, nudging between two kids who she couldn’t quite believe were old enough to be legally drinking in public. Shouldn’t they be funneling cheap beer in a college dorm somewhere? Or sneaking shots from Daddy’s liquor cabinet?

Art gallery openings used to be much more sophisticated than this. When she was a young artist, openings were about appreciating the art and the artist, not the free booze.

Had she really gone there? Kara shook her head at her bitter thoughts.

The bartender, a walking tattoo with spiked black hair, leaned close so she could hear him. “What’ll it be?”

She realized all she wanted was wine. And quiet. The kids around her were acting more like pre-teens jacked up on sugar than art aficionados. One made a face, squished and reddened, as he held up an empty shot glass as proof of his triumph.

She wondered when she had gotten so damned old. She never used to snub her nose at a good drink. Actually, she completely understood what her problem was, and it had nothing to do with age. She’d conformed. She’d fallen into line. She’d done what she was supposed to do. Agent? Check. Gallery opening? Check. Interviews with all the local fancy-pants magazines? Check.

But this wasn’t her. None of this was her.

Frowning, she leaned in as well, making sure he heard her over the jeering of the kids next to her. “Tequila.” Within seconds he set a glass in front of her and filled it with amber liquid. He started to walk away but she held up one hand and lifted the glass with the other. She downed the drink, slammed the glass down, and gestured for another—one shot wasn’t nearly enough to numb the misery of this evening.

The young man lifted his brows and smirked as he gav¬¬¬e her another shot. He laughed as she motioned for him to fill the glass a third time. “I can’t do this all night, lady.”

“One more.”
“Some of the crap in here costs more than my car. No puking. Got it?”
Kara chuckled. Clearly he didn’t recognize her as the artist who had made the crap. “Honey, I was doing tequila shots before your daddy dropped his pants and made you.”

The barkeep threw his head back and laughed, then filled her glass one more time. “Nice one, babe.”

Babe? Kara snorted as she lifted the glass. It was almost to her lips when a hand squeezed her shoulder.
“Kara?” asked a deep, smooth voice as if the man wasn’t certain who he was touching.

She turned. Her eyes bulged as she looked into an intense dark gaze she hadn’t seen since the night she’d lost her virginity.

The music had been loud, the beer lukewarm, and everybody who was anybody—and several nobody’s like Kara and Harry—in their senior class of Stonehill High was at the graduation party. The only person she had cared about, though, didn’t care about her. Or so she’d thought. Until she’d somehow ended up on Shannon Blake’s disgustingly pink- and ruffle-covered bed with Harry Canton, book club president and algebra superstar, clumsily removing her clothes, leaving slobbery kisses in their wake.

Kara swallowed hard as the flash of a memory faded, and the man standing before her, looking as shocked as she felt, came back into view.

She downed the liquor, slammed the glass against the bar, and sighed before she announced, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty-seven years.”

He sank onto the vacant stool next to her and lifted his hands as if he were at a loss for words. Something that appeared to be guilt filled his eyes and made his full lips sag into a frown. She’d be damned if temptation didn’t hit her as hard as it had when she was a hormonal teen.

“I wanted to tell you I was leaving,” he said, “but I didn’t know how.”

“You should have tried something like, ‘Kara, I’m leaving.’”

“You’re right. But I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of common sense. All I could think about was how I finally had my freedom.”

She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “You had your freedom? You selfish prick.”

His eyes widened. “Well, that might be a little harsh. I was just a kid, Kara. Yes, I should have told you I had no intention of staying with you, but I was a little overwhelmed by what had happened. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?”

Harry’s shoulders slumped, as if he had given up justifying sneaking out on her in the middle of the night. “Look, I saw a flier for your gallery opening, and I wanted to say hello. I thought maybe… I don’t know what I was thinking.” He sounded hurt, dejected even. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

He stood. She put her hand to his chest and shoved him back onto the barstool. The move instantly reminded of her their one night together. All of seventeen and totally inexperienced, she’d fancied herself a seductress and pushed him on the bed before straddling his hips like she had a clue what she was doing.

Touching his chest now, warmth radiated through her entire body.

She glared, pulling her hand away and squeezing her fingers into a fist. “Are you living in Seattle?”

He shook his head. “I had a conference in town. There were fliers at the hotel. As soon as I saw your picture, I knew I had to come.” His smile returned and excitement radiated from his face. “I can’t believe you have a gallery opening. This is amazing, Kare.”

She wasn’t nearly as thrilled by her accomplishment as he seemed to be. She felt like she was selling her soul instead of her art. She’d always preferred to go the indie route, but that crap agent had cornered her at a particularly vulnerable moment and convinced her she needed him…just like he convinced her she needed to be in a gallery. Although, now she was glad she’d conceded on the open bar.

The tequila swirled through her, making her muscles tingle, preventing her from fully engaging the near-three decades of anger she’d been harboring. She had spent an awfully long time wanting to give Harry Canton a piece of her mind.

Even so, hearing him say she’d done something amazing warmed her in a way very little ever had. If he had come looking for another one-night stand, she hated to admit that she would consider reliving that night again—only this time with more sexual experience and less expectation of him sticking around.

He might be almost three decades older, but his face was still handsome and his brown eyes were just as inviting as they had been when he was a high school prodigy and she was a wallflower.

She smirked at a realization: he was in a suit, probably having just left a corporate meeting, while she was wearing a red sari-inspired dress at her gallery opening.

He was still the straight arrow. She was still the eccentric artist.

“Did you hear what I said, Harry? About looking for you for the last twenty-seven years.”

His shoulders sagged. “I never meant to sleep with you that night. I mean”—he quickly lifted his hands—“I was leaving and should have told you before taking you upstairs. I shouldn’t have just left like that, but I didn’t think you wanted to see me again anyway. If it’s any consolation,” he said giving her a smile that softened the rough edges of her anger, “I’d been working up the courage to kiss you since junior year when you squeezed a tube of red paint in Mitch Friedman’s hair after he made jokes about Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows in art class.”

She frowned at him. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Then again, neither was waking up thinking she was starting a new life as a high school graduate and the girlfriend of the cutest boy she’d ever met, only to find the other side of the homecoming queen’s bed empty. “There’s nothing wrong with a woman embracing her natural beauty.”

His smile faded quickly. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. “I shouldn’t have left you like I did. I hope you believe that I regret it. Not being with you,” he amended, “but leaving without explaining.”

She laughed softly. He’d had that same nervous habit in high school. He’d say what was on his mind and then instantly try to recover, afraid his words had come out wrong. Usually they had. For as awkward as she’d been, at least she’d always been able to say what she meant and to stand behind it. Of course, that ability got her in trouble more often than not.

She’d told herself a million times that Harry didn’t owe her an explanation. They hadn’t been in any kind of relationship. She’d drooled over him from afar, but other than an occasional smile in the hallway, he’d barely acknowledged her existence in high school. Even if he hadn’t gone off to start his Ivy League college career the day after graduation, he likely never would have looked at her again. Well, at least not until she could no longer hide the truth of their one-night stand from the world.

“I expected so much more from you, Harry,” she said sadly, the sting of what he’d done back then numbed slightly by the tequila.

His shoulders sagged a bit. “I know.”

“Why didn’t you ever write me back?” Her voice sounded hurt and pathetic. She was surprised that after so many years of being angry, there was still pain hiding beneath her fury. “I must have sent you a hundred letters.”

He creased his brow. “Letters? I didn’t get any letters.”

Kara searched his eyes. He looked genuinely confused.

“I sent them to…” Her words faded. Suddenly the tequila-induced haze wasn’t so welcome. “Your mother said if I wrote to you, she’d make sure you got my letters.”

“My mother? I never got any letters.”

“But you sent money.”

Harry shook his head slightly. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I send you money?”

She stared at him as realization set in. He hadn’t responded to her letters because he hadn’t received her letters. And if he hadn’t received the letters, he hadn’t sent her money. And if he hadn’t sent her money, he hadn’t known that she needed it. Sighing, she let some of her decades-old anger slip. Her head spun, either from the alcohol or the blurry dots she was trying to mentally connect. Leaning onto the bar, she exhaled slowly. “She never told you, did she?”

“Told me what?”
Kara couldn’t speak. Her words wouldn’t form.

An arm wrapped around Kara’s shoulder, startling her and making her gasp quietly. She turned and blinked several times at the man who had just slid next to her.

“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but I need to get home.” Leaning in, he kissed her head. “Congratulations on the opening, Mom. It was great.”

“Um…” She swallowed, desperate to find her voice. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She flicked her gaze at the man sitting next to her. The longer Harry looked at her son, the wider Harry’s eyes became.

Phil cast a disapproving glance at Harry then focused on his mother again. “Don’t forget that Jess is expecting you to make pancakes in the morning. You promised.”

“I haven’t forgotten.” Kara returned her attention to Harry. His jaw was slack and his cheeks had grown pale.

Phil nodded at Harry as if he were satisfied that he’d made the point that his mother didn’t need to be staying out all night and walked away. Harry watched him leave while Kara waved down the bartender and pointed at her glass. The tattooed kid hesitated, likely debating the ethics of giving her another shot. She pointed again, cocking a brow for emphasis, and he finally filled her glass.

“Kara…” Harry’s voice was breathless, like he’d been kicked in the gut. “Was…was that my…son?
No. His mother definitely hadn’t given him the letters Kara had written. She lifted her shot, toasting him. “Congratulations, Harry. It’s a boy.”

To watch the book trailer for The Road Leads Back please click here.



Presenting the covers for all the books in the Stonehill Romance series.



Marci Boudreaux lives with her husband, two children, and their numerous pets. Romance is her preferred reading and writing genre because nothing feels better than falling in love with someone new, and her husband doesn't like when she does that in real life.


As well as writing erotica under her pen name Emilia Mancini, Marci is a content editor for Lyrical Press, an imprint of Kensington Publishing. She earned her MS in Publishing from University of Houston-Victoria in 2014 and worked as a freelance writer until she recently opted to focus on working in books.


Learn more about Marci Boudreaux on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Leigh Goff's new release...

Fans of Witchcraft, Tantalizing Fantasy and Romance -
Leigh Goff is offering cookies and milk along with her soon to be released novel on Sloane Taylor's blog:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hypocrites in Patriot's garb...

Well, they're at it again.  No sooner does Hillary Clinton enter the presidential race than the GOP, the party of holier-than-thou hypocrisy dives in with cheap shots about foreign donations on her watch, screaming constitutional violations, conflict of interest and illegality.

Seriously?  This is the same party that would justify secret prisons, torture, wiretapping, detention without charge or trial...The list goes on.  It seems the GOP only dusts off the constitution when it suits them.  George W. Bush was the one torturing people in foreign gulags, but Barack Obama is the one they compare with Joseph Stalin.  Why?  For insisting on affordable health care.

Conflict of interest?  This is the party that wants us to think corporations are people, and have the right to buy elections like they were apples from a fruit stand?  I guest they're saying it's okay for American corporations to pour money into our political system; just not foreigners.  Not that they have a problem shipping American jobs overseas or knuckling under to Red China when it serves the interests of big business.  Their only problem with conflict of interest is that they don't want anything conflicting with their interests.  Which may well trample over the country's interests.