Friday, February 18, 2011


You’ve probably heard, Paul McCartney’s song, BAND ON THE RUN, at some point in your life. There is a certain sense of urgency to get out of where ever they are to freedom. To escape.

Much like my guest today, Jenyfer Matthews.

You’ll remember the last time she visited (The Reluctant Trailblazer), she was living in Cairo, Egypt the past five years and living abroad for the past ten years. Anyone who has watched the news of late knows of the unrest and change of regimes happening in Egypt. Jenyfer shares some thoughts and observations on her Blog. Scary times to live in a foreign county and especially as an American.

Evacuation is never fun. It’s fraught with a sense of urgency and danger, worry over those in your family and pets, hard choices of those things to take and those to leave, a list of things to remember, and all this with a deadline over your head.

Jenyfer shares what it was like to have to condense the life of a family into four suitcases and run.

There’s a common game: what would you grab if your house was on fire and you only had five minutes to get out? I had a little more time, but recently had such an experience in real life when my family was evacuated from Cairo, Egypt with very little notice.

A friend called me from the US State Department and told me to go to the airport as soon as I could - and that we should be prepared for only one checked bag each, no carry-ons. We had lived abroad for a decade, five of which were in Cairo. I had to decide in a hurry what was important enough to fit into four suitcases.

I backed up my laptop on to an external hard-drive to preserve precious photos of our children and our travels and also my manuscripts. I packed nearly all of my jewelry, making sure that I got the special items from my late MIL, mother, and grandmothers on both sides. I packed the negatives from the baby pictures as well as the journals I’ve been keeping for each child from the time they were toddlers. All that in addition to a selection of warm clothes for each family member – wherever we were to end up, it was likely to be cold.

Most things we have accumulated I dismissed without thought – clothes can be replaced as can dishes and knick-knacks. I would miss the tea set and the Buddha statues I had purchased on trips to Cambodia as well as paintings and tapestries collected over the years, but they were not a priority – neither were our beautiful carpets. The only items that caused me more than a few pangs at leaving were the many quilts that I’ve made over the last decade. Anyone who crafts understands that you put your heart as well as time into each item. I can only hope that my house doesn’t literally burn down and that they can be recovered in time.

I packed every scrap of currency we had, spare change from several trips, as well as an accordion file full of vital documents, including birth certificates and vaccination records. I also made a few mistakes in my haste – such as packing both of my son’s toothbrushes but none for my daughter and my e-reader but no charger. (I boarded a plane for the first time in a decade with no reading material at all, not that I could concentrate to read) I did not bring a rubber band for my hair and ended up pulling it back with a couple of Silly Bandz donated by my daughter. Some choices were purely sentimental. I left behind a beautiful red patent leather purse my husband bought me as a gift on a trip to Italy but brought along a pair of leather sandals that I wore when I left the United States for the United Arab Emirates in 1999 and that came on many travels with me, including my first visit to Egypt as a tourist. I won’t wear them anytime in the coming months, but it seemed wrong to leave them behind now. I took a black evening bag and a set of cut glass salt and pepper shakers that belonged to my grandmother but left behind a heavy wool cape given to me by a dear friend which would have been infinitely more useful but would have taken up too much space.

How do you condense the life of a family into four suitcases?

I feel like the heroine of one of my own novels at the moment – unexpectedly losing nearly everything and having to rebuilt their life when they least expect it. I hope that for the majority of you such a scenario remains a party game, but is interesting to notice how quickly the “stuff” you have accumulated over time becomes meaningless when you have to prioritize and choose.

  • What would you save if you only had 24 hours and one suitcase per family member?


Summer Donahue is not Ben Martin’s type of woman. Ben is conservative, thoughtful and the model of self-control. Summer is whimsical, spontaneous and just a bit flaky. So why, when she breezed into his office like a tropical storm, was he so instantly and inexplicably attracted to her?

Summer consulted Ben to have her business’s taxes done. But when it comes to light that Summer’s ex-husband and ex-accountant Malcolm has embezzled most of her liquid assets and put her on the brink of bankruptcy, Ben throws aside all of his iron-clad rules about getting personally involved with his clients. Summer and Ben go to Mexico to find her ex and save her business. But in the process Ben loses more to Summer than his personal credo — he loses his heart as well. Excerpt

“Fans of Jennifer Crusie will love Jenyfer Matthews’ fresh, fun voice. ONE CRAZY SUMMER is contemporary romance at its best.” Gemma Halliday

Jenyfer Matthews writes books for fun. She is an American currently living in Cairo, Egypt. Aside from writing, she's married, a mom of two under ten, a decent (if reluctant) cook, an encyclopedia of random scientific / medical facts, a wine lover (but not a snob!), and a Capricorn. She loves to travel, spend time with good friends, and laugh at life's surprises. View of life - definitely half full.

You can visit her blog, Writing News & Disconnected Thoughts and her Website. You can find her available books and the excerpts,  here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It’s my pleasure to have, Deborah Coonts, visiting with us Over Coffee. She describes her writing as “sexy, wry, romantic, and slightly naughty mixed with a little murder and mayhem—shaken, not stirred—then illuminated by the bright lights of Las Vegas.”

She is an overnight success—by way of 15 years of bad writing and learning her craft. Sounds familiar. :-)

So how did she find her voice and style? What made this story worth publishing where her other stories weren’t. Deborah shares a bit about her journey to publication.

For a long time I wanted to be Sandra Brown. Okay, I didn’t actually want to be her, I just wanted to trade jobs with her… and paychecks…and, well, maybe wardrobes, but that’s all, I swear. But, have you seen her husband? He was the sports guy on Channel Eight when I was growing up---serious crush. Sandra was the weather girl. The weather girl and the sports guy, it’s great isn’t it? I couldn’t write it as well.

As it turns out, I can’t write like Sandra Brown either.

Oh I tried. My first romantic suspense effort was an international intrigue mish-mash of long-winded backstory, a plot with more black holes than a Star Trek movie, purple prose and nauseating descriptions. Absolute drivel. I’m pretty sure I’ve destroyed every copy. I’d rather find myself naked on the Internet than have anyone read that thing.

My second effort was a bit better—something about a small town Colorado lawyer, single parent with a small son. Curiously, I was a small town Colorado lawyer on my own with a small son. To say the whole story bored me is a gross understatement. Writing it was like Groundhog Day. Didn’t I just do this? Didn’t my son just say that? My life wasn’t nearly exciting enough to live it over and over.

But, I had no more stories. Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. The well was dry.

Briefly I thought of resorting to mind-altering substances to jump-start my muse. We all know about those creative personalities, don’t we? But as a tax lawyer, creativity was a go-straight-to-jail card. And that whole single-parent thing didn’t mesh too well with a life spent in an alcohol-induced haze. So I did what everybody in that position does: I took a job doing something I had absolutely no idea how to do and for which I was peculiarly unqualified.

I became a humor columnist for a national magazine.

I know, what was I thinking? I can’t tell you how many times during those years I asked myself just that. But, I kept churning out columns that were EXACTLY 1100 words. And I learned. I learned to write tight. I learned what was funny. Actually, I learned more from being scolded when readers thought what I wrote WASN’T funny AT ALL. I learned I am way more hambone than I ever imagined. And I rediscovered my infatuation with a good belly laugh. I’d forgotten. But, I still didn’t have a story.

Until I threw everything out the window.

Every rule I’d been told about writing novels, every suggestion, the whole write-what-you-know-thing, the wanting-to-be-Sandra-Brown thing, which was an example of the write-what-you-read thing, all of it, out the window. I opened my heart…and nothing but the wind blew through. Oh, I felt lighter, unfettered, a veritable ball of iconoclastic optimism, a renegade writer waiting to be told what to do. Yup, still hadn’t quite gotten the point.

One summer afternoon, I was sitting on a bench at the Grand Lake Lodge on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. The sun balanced on the mountain range to the west. The air was still. I could hear the hummingbirds zinging by. The day had quieted. Even the boats on the lake bobbed at anchor, their engines silenced. I shut my eyes and leaned by head back, luxuriating in the warmth of the fading sun. Softly, a voice whispered through my brain. The voice belonged to a young lady named Lucky O’Toole and she wanted to tell me her story. I smiled as she talked and I imagined her world—a huge resort/casino on the Las Vegas strip. I imagined her history—a mother who ran a brothel, of course. Hey, it’s Sin City, right? And her best friend—a straight female impersonator who just wants to get the girl. Would he have trouble? How would women perceive him? How would Lucky respond to a guy with better legs than hers?

Just like a puppy picks it’s owner, MY story found me.

The minute I began listening and taking notes, I became the author equivalent to the Whoopi Goldberg character in Ghost—listen to one character and all of a sudden there were hundreds shouting to be heard. All of them were like puppies wanting to run in any direction other than the one I wanted, peeing on my foot when I’m not listening, refusing to budge until I give a little and go where they want to take me. They’ve taught me to trust my instincts, go with the flow. Since that day, it’s been my sincere delight to be able to herd them into a novel, then a sequel, and a third. Now, a fourth is coming together.

You know what’s funny about the whole thing? I had written the first line to what became WANNA GET LUCKY? five years before Lucky whispered in my ear. It was there all along, but I hadn’t listened… hadn’t found the courage to listen. I mean, humorous first-person stories are devilishly difficult. What kind of nut tackles that right out of the box?

This kind of nut, as it turns out. It turns out I’m not Sandra Brown; I’m me. Who knew?

Are you trying to be someone else? What story is in your heart, but you are afraid to write?

LUCKY STIFF (Hardcover 368 pages)

Lucky O’Toole—head of Customer Relations at premier megaresort the Babylon—thinks its just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of millions of honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel…The district attorney for Clark County—apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor—is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms…And Numbers Neidermeyer—one of Las Vegas’s less-than-savory oddsmakers—is throwing some major attitude at Las Vegas’ ace private investigator, the beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer had been tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the Tiger shark. When the police show up with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the district attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine.

Amid the chaos of fight weekend, the Babylon’s hiring of a new, eccentric French chef, and her madam mother’s scheme to auction off a young woman’s virginity, Lucky is drawn into a deadly game that will end only when she discovers who made fish food out of Numbers Neidermeyer.

Lucky O’Toole and fabulous Las Vegas—life doesn’t get any better. Excerpt

My mother tells me I was born a long time ago, but I'm not so sure--my mother can't be trusted. I do know that I was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. I currently live in Las Vegas where family and friends tell me I can't get into too much trouble. Silly people. I have owned my own business, been a tax lawyer and a flight instructor, and have survived a teenager. And now, I make stuff up for a living.

Each day I sit in the front window at my favorite Panera and play with my imaginary friends. My SO is a psychologist and he tells me that many of his colleagues would consider me an annuity. I can live with that. Thankfully, he can too.

I write a mystery series set in Las Vegas--funny, sexy and romantic. I've been told they are comedic thrillers--sounds like an oxymoron to me, but you get the drift. The first in the series, WANNA GET LUCKY?, came out May 2010. The second, LUCKY STIFF, will be available February 15th, 2011. With the third, SO DAMN LUCKY, to follow.
You can find Deb: Facebook, Twitter, and her Website

Monday, February 14, 2011


~Jill Lynn Anderson~

Ross brushed his hand down the length of his silk tie, thinking how appropriate its smooth texture was for the occasion.

He heard his front door open. David, he knew. Only his older brother would have the audacity to walk into his house uninvited.

“Yo.” David gave Ross the once over. “Thought you had casual day Fridays.”

“I’m not going to work. I’m flying to Denver.”

“Ah.” David grinned. “Finally going to meet the mysterious Stephanie.”

“She’s not a mystery.” Ross smiled. “And I’m more than meeting her.” He pulled the ring box out of his pocket. “I’m proposing.”

David’s eyes widened. “Marriage?”
“Is there really any other kind of proposal?” Ross’s smile brightened. “Yes, marriage.”

“Are you out of your mind?” David rushed toward him, arms flapping in agitation. “You haven’t even met her in person.”

Ross shrugged. “Don’t have to. I love her. She’s the one.”

“Ross, people don’t fall in love over the phone!”

Ross let out a grieved sigh. His friend Carlos had the same reaction to the news. Ross refused to justify his actions to Carlos, but David was his brother. And he’d become Stephanie’s brother-in-law if she accepted his proposal.

Ross fought to keep annoyance out of his voice. “How many times have you told me you married Linda because she’s your best friend?”

David fell onto the couch as if weighted by bewilderment. “Ross, this is crazy.”

“Answer my question,” Ross demanded. “How many times?”

“I don’t know. A dozen.”

“More like dozens. My point is Stephanie’s my best friend.”

“And you know this from talking to her on the phone?” he groaned. “Come on.”

“Yes! We’ve talked every day for a year. For hours every night.”

“Over the phone, though!”

“Yes, but so what? I don’t see what difference that makes. I know I’ve shared more of myself with her than with any other woman. I know I’m in love.”

Ross put his hand on his chest to feel the joyous beat of his heart. “I feel it here.”

 “Indigestion. Dude, chew some antacids.” David’s chuckle broke the tension between them.

Ross smiled. “No, it’s love.”

“Okay,” David said, calmer. “But why the rush to propose? Why not meet and make sure you’re compatible? Get to know each other?”

“I already know we’re compatible, and I already know everything about her. I know she’s brilliant. I know she’s compassionate. I know she’s independent. I know she laughs at ‘knock knock’ jokes. I know she cries at the opera. I know she loves her dog. I know--”

“Fair enough, but, bro, what if she’s… ” David gulped. “What if she’s fat? What if she’s toothless? What if--?”

“Looks don’t matter.”

David cocked an accusing eyebrow. “To you? Since when?”

Ross had to admit David had him there. Blessed with good looks, Ross’s handsome face had attracted a good many fashion models, and he’d once dated a beauty pageant contestant. When she was named first-runner up rather than winner, Ross lost interest. Such conceit he once had. But that was then, this was now. His love for Stephanie had made him a different man. A better man. He knew it without doubt, but he’d miss his plane if he explained it in detail to David. “Trust me, our looks don’t matter to each other.”

David shook his head, doubt still etched in his face. “Then if I can’t talk you out of this, I hope she’s sensible enough to say no.”

Ross’s heart thumped. David had pinpointed Ross’s one fear. Ross didn’t care if David thought he was crazy, but he cared if Stephanie did. He hadn’t told her he was coming. He wanted to surprise her. What if she thought his actions irrational?

Ross calmed himself on the plane by replaying all their phone conversations in his head. She worked at the same brokerage firm as his friend, and when Ross dialed the wrong extension one day Stephanie answered. Something about her voice enchanted Ross. The way she enunciated words so properly. The calm, yet not overly soft, tone of her voice. The way he could tell she was smiling. And, mostly, the joyous beat of his heart each time they spoke. I feel it here. Ross placed his hand over his heart.

Once in Denver, Ross rented a car and drove directly to a florist so he could present Stephanie with a bouquet of her favorite flowers--peonies. He held the pink bundle to his nose and knew instantly why Stephanie held such affection for them. Ross smiled and whispered to himself. “Say yes, Stephanie, and I promise I’ll fill each of your days with flowers.”

Mustering all the courage his twenty-seven years had awarded, he walked into the brokerage firm.

“Hello.” The receptionist smiled and nodded toward the bouquet. “I don’t suppose those are for me?”

Ross grinned. “No, sorry.”

The receptionist inhaled. “They smell heavenly. Who’s the lucky woman?”

“Stephanie. Stephanie Raymond.”

“Oh my gosh.” She jumped to her feet. “Are you her Ross?”

Ross smiled. Her Ross. He liked the sound of that. “Yes.”

“Oh, she’s going to be thrilled. I’ll call her out.” She dialed. “Stephanie. There’s a client out here for you.” She winked at Ross.

Tears touched Ross’s eyes as Stephanie approached. She looked as lovely as Ross imagined she would. Strawberry-blonde curls graced a heart-shaped face. A soft smile played on kissable lips. Thin, but with sensual curves, her gait was steady and sure--as aided by the seeing-eye dog Ross knew was ever-present at her left side. Ross wanted nothing more than to be the companion at her right.

Her smile brightened. “Ross? Is it you?” She held out her hand.

Ross grasped her hand, knew by the loving touch of her fingers she would say yes. “How did you know it was me? The smell of the peonies?”

She placed her hand over her heart. “No, I feel it here.”

Ross pulled her into his embrace. His love. His life. His Stephanie.

Jill Lynn Anderson has published several short stories. Jill writes mainstream and romance fiction in a little office in her petite home located in an itsy-bitsy Pennsylvania town. To compensate for all the smallness, she thinks and dreams BIG.   You can also find Jill on FaceBook