Picture Perfect!

 

It’s an oft-used cliché, but sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. And finding an image that supports both the book’s title and its story line, is magic.

And part of an indie author’s remit.

Take Making Up is Hard to Do. It started life as a romantic suspense novel, lost its way, went through multiple rewrites and three different titles before it was deemed ready to publish.

Once we’d sorted out the cover.

As a contemporary romance with the bedroom door only slightly ajar, we needed a photo that would let the reader know what to expect. Not that we have any objections to a set of well-toned abs.

There are literally millions of images available from aggregates like Shutterstock, Can Stock and Adobe Stock. The trick is to narrow your search parameters along the way. We started with couples in love, couples kissing, dating couples, couples at the beach and so on. Big smiles and bikinis wasn’t what we had in mind.so we tried “couple from behind on the beach” and voilà! We had our image.

The dock was an unexpected bonus. With a title like Making Up is Hard to Do what was a natural pose for a couple gazing across the water was suddenly open to interpretation. Were they getting back together or were they still worlds apart?

The answer is on the page!

We like the look of Making Up is Hard to Do so much we’ve made it part of our Stephanie Browning brand. And used it as the cover for Love Me Now, Love Me Forever, our three-book boxed set featuring Outbid by the Boss, Making Up is Hard to Do and Undone by the Star.

It’s also the new banner for our Stephanie Browning Facebook Page and our Stephanie Browning Newsletter.

 

Bitter End

“Bitter End”

A free read from my collection of mystery shorts:  Revenge With A Twist

 

It was two o’clock in the morning on the eleventh of August and no one, except Louise Tellier Hannington Brown, had any idea where I was…

She’d called me out of the blue a week ago, unhappy with her lawyer, her husband’s lawyer and her impending divorce.  I should have hung up immediately but we’d known each other since high school and I owed her one.

“If you think Ted’s hiding something on his boat, Louise, why don’t you just go down to the marina and check it out?”

I heard the flick of a lighter on the other end of the line.  Louise smoked when she was agitated.  I drank coffee.  Pouring myself another cup, I walked out onto my back deck.  It was going to be a scorcher.

I wiggled my bare feet in the sun.  The nail polish might be a little chipped around the edges, but, all in all, I was doing pretty well.

Unlike the rest of us, Louise had been racking up her assets the old-fashioned way.  Ted Brown was her third, and wealthiest, husband to date.

Brilliant and ruggedly good-looking, Ted had been at the forefront of the high-tech industry, launching first one company with his partners, and then another.  Now he wanted to kick back and cruise the Caribbean.  Without Louise.

“His lawyer’s slapped me with a restraining order!  Can you believe it?”  She exhaled angrily into the phone.

“What’d you do?  Beat the guy up?”  I watched Marm, my three-year-old ginger cat, chase a black squirrel out of the yard.

“I got tired of leaving messages on his machine so I went down to the marina.  The guard wouldn’t let me past the front gate…”

“…and?”  The squirrel was back, sneaking along the fence, a kamikaze rodent in black fur, searching for his target.

“What was I supposed to do?  Say `thank you very much’ and go home?”

Apparently, she’d torn a strip off the guard, thrown her BMW into reverse and blocked the entrance to the parking lot, refusing to leave until the club manager had threatened her with the police.  They’d called Ted.  He’d called his lawyer and now Louise was calling me.

I went inside for a notebook.  I’d worked off and on for years as a chartered accountant before specializing in the relatively new field of forensic accounting.  I learned my trade at one of the biggest firms in the country, tracking “hidden” assets and investigating fraud.  Now I was on my own, picking up enough business to pay my rent and my share of raising the kids.

Meagan and Patrick, my fifteen-year-old twins.  At the moment, they were vacationing with their father in Cape Cod.  Which suited me well.  If I was going to get involved with Louise, I’d rather they were safely out of town.

To be honest, I felt a little squeamish about delving into Ted and Louise’s personal affairs, but under the latest family law legislation, she had a claim on half the assets Ted had accumulated during their six-year marriage.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why Louise wanted access to the Yellow Goose.  Ted’s financial declaration, according to her calculations, was out by a few million dollars.  If he was hiding something, it would, in all likelihood, be aboard the Yellow Goose, the one constant in his life.

“I can’t just sail into a strange marina.”

“Why not?”

“At the very least, it’s trespassing.”

“It’s not as though you haven’t been there before…” if sarcasm was a liquid, Louise’s phone must be dripping with it.

I picked up a pen and started doodling.  “You talking about the Somerset Yacht Club?”

“Don’t play dumb, Stevie.  It doesn’t suit you.”

Oh, but it did.  When it came to affairs of the heart, I was a total incompetent.  Just ask my ex-husband, John Carston.

I’d married him when I was twenty-one, juggling kids and career to put him through law school.  Twelve years later, we’d divorced.  I’d kept his name and the kids.  Since then, I’d had a few serious relationships, but none of them had panned out.

Then a year ago last spring, I’d bumped into Ted at the local boat show.  He and Louise had split after a major row, and I was at loose ends having been without a partner for about a year.  His offer to go sailing was irresistible.  But by the end of the summer, he was back with Louise and I was in dry dock.  The next spring I’d bought a boat of my own, the Indigo Blue, a twenty-four-foot Shark with a sweet cut to her jib.

“If I’d thought you and Ted were going to get back together, I never would have gotten involved.”

“Take the case and I’ll forgive you.”

“The guilt I can deal with, Louise.  How much are you willing to pay?”

“Five thousand up front and a ten percent finder’s fee.”

Sailing’s an expensive sport.  I took the job.

read more…

Bermuda Short

 

 

“Bermuda Short”

 

A free read from my collection of mystery shorts:  Revenge With A Twist

 

Carolann Gravelle flew to Bermuda two days after Alex and his new bride…

 

Had it been any other Tuesday, she would have been at her desk in suburban Toronto, processing death claims for Parkwood Life and Casualty.  but not today.  Today, she was flying first class on Air Canada’s Flight 942 to Bermuda, drinking champagne and dreaming of death and dismemberment amidst the bougainvillea.

Carolann had fantasized more than a few people to death over the years.  Her favourite method, used countless times by the great Agatha Christie, was poison.  Especially the obvious ones.  They made one feel so decidedly superior.

She chatted with her seat companion as the plane flew over Manhattan and headed out over the Atlantic.  He seemed pleasant, and she enjoyed his company until he began flirting with the flight attendant.  If that was the way he was, Carolann decided, she’d rather read her book.

Allowing herself an anticipatory shiver at the thought of being with Alex again she settled back in her chair.

The first time she’d met Alexander Wright, she’d been hovering around the mystery section in Mirvish Books, disappointed that there was nothing new from her usual authors, when a rather handsome man had asked her a question.

At first, she’d thought he’d mistaken her for one of the clerks.  But when he’d engaged her in a spirited conversation about the state of mystery writing in Canada, she realized he’d wanted her opinion.  Next thing she knew, they were moving towards the cash together and talking about structure.

“It’s all in the plot.  Don’t you agree/”

“Oh, absolutely,” Carolann had said.  He had such beautiful blue eyes.  “As long as there are strong character driving it along.”  She’d hesitated, groping for the right answer to keep his interest and the conversation going.  “But I do think it’s just as hard to kill someone as it is to figure out who did it.”

Alex had given her an appraising look.  “You seem to be well versed in the subject.”

Clutching her book bag hopefully against her chest, Carolann had told him all about her book club as they walked out of the store together.  They’d had coffee in a little Hungarian restaurant on Bloor Street and afterwards, he’d walked her to her car.

The next six months were the most glorious in Carolann’s life.

They’d gone bicycling on the island, checked out the specialty books shops around town and spent Sundays exploring the surrounding countryside in Alex’s leased Mercedes.

Much to her surprise, and secret pleasure, Carolann found herself haunting lingerie departments on her lunch hour.  She even read Cosmo in the grocery line.

At thirty-two, Carolann had all but given up on the reality of a long-term relationship.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t attract men.  She was simply too possessive.  After two or three dates they invariably backed away.  Her social activities of late had been restricted to odd evenings out with other lonely, single women.

Never again.. read more…

The Goddess of Single Women

 

When Susan Brown and I were working on Outbid by the Boss, our first co-authored romance, we had no idea our heroine would suddenly invoke the Goddess of Single Women.  In fact, we didn’t even know there was one until Samantha Redfern found herself in dire straits…although to be fair to the Goddess, it was Sam who made the decision to blow off her trip to New York.

But to get caught by one’s boss at an estate sale north of London…now that’s just asking for trouble!

Two books and one boxed set later, we’re still amazed by the Goddess’s serendipitous appearance on the page…

From Chapter One, Scene Three, Outbid by the Boss:

Clutching the candlestick to her chest, Sam hurried for the exit. She had a plane to catch. And now, she realized with a frisson of panic, she not only had to nip back to her flat, she also had to stop at the bank. It would take all her savings and half her rent money to replace the firm’s cash, but her purchase was worth every penny.

As she dashed through the open doorway, Sam remembered thinking how nice it was that the morning rain had given way to a sun-filled afternoon and then…

Woof!

She ran smack into a wall of solid masculinity, gasping as the base of the candlestick dug into her rib cage.

She staggered backwards. A pair of strong hands grabbed her upper arms to steady her, holding her fast as she regained her balance.

And then he spoke.

The “thank-you” Sam was about to utter caught in her throat.

“In a hurry, are we?” The voice was well-bred, well-schooled and awfully familiar.

She squeezed her eyes shut.

And began to mentally chant.

Please, please, please…anybody but Chas bloody Porter. Please, please, please…

 “Anytime…” the voice said, rudely interrupting her pleas to the goddess of single women caught in compromising positions.

Stupid woman must be on a lunch break, thought Sam.

Her lids fluttered open and she followed the buttons of the beautifully-stitched, pale-blue oxford-cloth shirt he wore beneath his soft leather jacket to the button at the base of his neck. It was open. Revealing enough of the man to make one feel that every inch of him would be just as enticing as the dark stubble on his chin, the slightly battered but still patrician nose and…the steel-blue eyes washing over her like an icy Arctic wind.

“Miss Redfern, isn’t it?” Chas Porter said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “I could have sworn you were representing us in New York this week. You do remember the two-day sale at Sotheby’s? Previews in….what?” He removed his left hand and checked his watch. “Twenty-four hours?”

“Which, allowing for the time change,” replied Sam choking back an urge to flee “gives me twenty-nine hours…

“Now, if you don’t mind…” She pointedly eyed the hand grasping her left bicep, an amazing feat given the fact that her knees had turned to water and her brain was sending high-pitched alarm signals to every nerve in her body.

Chas dropped his hand and stepped back, his eyes resting on the candlestick nestled protectively between her breasts. “Very nice workmanship. Get it for a good price, did you?”

Sam flushed and like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, whipped the candlestick behind her back. Which of course thrust her chest forward.

She raised her chin defiantly.

Chas Porter gazed down at her, his eyes slightly hooded, impossible to read.

She stared back at him. The candlestick was hers. Or was it? She felt an unexpected stab of fear. Had he seen her use her expense money to pay for it?

A young couple coming up the steps dropped hands and gave them a wide berth. “We are blocking the entrance,” hissed Sam. “And, as you so rightly pointed out, I have a plane to catch.”

“Not today, you don’t,” Chas shot back. He crooked his finger and abruptly turned away leaving her little choice but to follow him down the steps and around the side of the building.

For an instant, Sam rebelled. Who did Chas Porter think he was, calling her to task as though she were a lowly serf. He was her boss, she reassured herself as she hurried to catch up, not some feudal lord who expected her to do his bidding. Perhaps she should just tug her forelock and be done with it…

As expected, Chas and Sam had their happily-ever-after, and as The Goddess of Single Women has yet to reappear, we like to think she’s found hers too.