Blogmas, Day 14: The Tom Jones Club (#blogmas #lasvegas)

Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon isn’t my only novel set in Las Vegas, which seems odd to me, because I usually like to write about places I’m not currently living in. But living in Las Vegas just begs for stories to be written. I can’t get in the car without some story floating in my head. And just when I announce I’m pursuing music only, I start working on a story. Anyway, I thought I’d share an excerpt from The Tom Jones Club, published by Bookstrand Publishers.

The Tom Jones Club

International wine director Lucky Stryker, the “Lucky Lady,” is lucky in the boardroom, but unlucky in love. But the last thing she expects is to land in the arms of a cowboy during the Tom Jones Club convention. A hot week with a cowboy in Las Vegas is one thing—eternity is another.

Fearing that any woman he gets involved with will leave him–the way his mother left his father–Eric Blake chooses women who are guaranteed to fulfill that prophecy. And Lucky Stryker is no exception.

When Lady Luck throws the red hot dice, Lucky and Eric cash in on a red hot sizzling romance. So when their pasts catch up to them, and neither is who they appear to be, they are forced to answer these questions, “Can their hearts keep the promises their bodies have been making?” and “Will they finally get lucky in love?”

Genre: Contemporary, Western/Cowboys/Romance
Length: 81,032 words
Publisher: Bookstrand

Available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats.

 

Blogmas, Day 13: Not What It Used to Be (#blogmas)

Honestly? I’m struggling with Blogmas. My blogging habit is not what it used to be. When I first started blogging in 2005, I think it was, I had so much to say. So much of my true self had been repressed. So many things needed to be said. That I needed to say. That other people weren’t saying. And didn’t want me to say.

By the time social media hit big, I felt like I’d said it all and if I hadn’t, other people were saying it. And now maybe we have too much being said on social media.

Then I realized I still have things to say. I’m just expressing myself in a different way. I’m telling my stories through art, which in my case, is books, music, poetry.

And that’s pretty much what you can expect throughout the rest of Blogmas. The rest of my publicity tour for Deja Vu… Excerpts. Poems. Music.

Artists sharing our hearts. Mining our lives for our art.

Are you doing Blogmas? How’s it going for you?

Blogmas, Day 12: Previously… (#blogmas #wip)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m working on a rom com novel I’m calling “She’s Not That Good.” I shared the blurb yesterday and here’s a bit of an excerpt on today’s post, giving a bit of back story before the story actually begins for real, which will probably get cut.

She’s Not That Good
Excerpt (wip)

Previously…

I love my job. The commute is short, well, relatively short for the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s in the South Bay, which is convenient for where I live in Fremont, just across the Bay. It’s in one of those low-rise two-story buildings surrounded by trees and grass and sidewalks, perfect for taking power walk breaks or just to stroll. There’s an amazing onsite cafeteria, well, actually three cafeterias if you count all the buildings on the campus. There’s even a piano bar next to the onsite Starbucks. And did I tell you I work with one of my good friends? Not exactly my BFF but a friend I used to work with at another company. It’s perfect. Well almost.

Oh, the less than perfect part isn’t about the job itself. I love that. I’m in book and web production of the marketing arm. It’s part creative, part technical. I love that because that describes me pretty well. Creative. Technical. Partly. Is that a thing? Well, I can say this: I’m not one of those nerdy types that has to have all the latest technology gadgets, but I do love the ones I love. And they might not be the ones you might think of. Not the social ones. I’m not that social. Okay, so maybe I am a bit nerdy not in the ‘PC’ kind of way, but in the introvert kind of way.

The one shortcoming of my job? I’m not in a committed relationship. I’m a gun for hire. What they call a “contractor.” No paid vacation, holidays, or even a promise of tomorrow. Okay, that’s true for a lot of people, especially in California, the “for hire” clause, which can be terminated at a moment’s notice. But most employers won’t just dump you. No, they’ll build a case against you.

As a contractor, I have none of that. For example, I was contracting at one of the biggest internet companies of its time, doing two different jobs, reporting to one manager, but working for the other in a diplomatic position. You see, manager one didn’t like the response time of manager two’s group, so manager one put me in the awkward position of trying to please both groups. And when I bonded with group two, deciding to spend most of my time there, manager one sent HR after me, firing me on the spot and escorting me to the door. I can’t tell you how horrific that felt like I was some kind of criminal. All they had to do was say, “You’re not that good,” and I would have gone gladly.

So back to this near-perfect job. I’d gotten wind of the fact that they were trying to get rid of the full-time employee that worked with my friend, and my friend, Georgi, let’s call her, hinted that when that happened, the job would be mine. And when I hinted that I wanted to take a few days off to see my sick grandmother in Southern California, she encouraged me, as if they would take that time to fire said person, and when I got back, the job would be mine. Sounds too good to be true, right?

Did you see this coming? I didn’t. But this is how it went down. I take off Friday night to visit my grandmother, and by the time I return the following Thursday morning, the undesirable employee is gone but, now get this, the person sitting in his chair is Darla, another friend of Georgi’s. Her excuse? Darla was there, ready to start, and I wasn’t. Unbelievable, right? My job satisfaction dropped from a nine to a zero. I felt so betrayed. I immediately began looking for another job and, well, that brings you up-to-date, and you can read about that fiasco in the next chapter.

 Except that I’ll add that you should have seen their antics when I told them I was leaving. Suddenly, I was so desirable. They really laid it on thick, and part of me wanted to believe them. Because I never heard anybody there whisper, “She’s not that good,” not even when they tried to explain why they hired Darla in my absence. They made me feel like I was a valuable member of the team. Except when I wasn’t invited to meetings, meetings where, behind closed doors, I heard whoops of laughter like they were having the time of their lives. No, I began to hate contracting and that lack of commitment. Except when they hired somebody else while I was gone, gone on a trip they encouraged me to take.

Oh yes, they were underhanded, backbiting, all the while smiling and praising me to my face. I think I almost prefer the upfront telling me I’m not that good or even the whispers among themselves, whispers I can still hear. “She’s not that good.”

Blogmas, Day 11: She’s Not That Good (#wip #blogmas)

One of the questions that comes up in interviews or book tours is, “What are you working on next?”

I haven’t really said because I’m working on three or four things: two wips and writing songs, taking advanced classes in a couple of different DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations). But, hey, that reminds me of my main character in one of my wips.

Here’s a peek into her story, at least in its current draft state:

SHE’S NOT THAT GOOD

Brandi Redwine didn’t know her musician father growing up, but she knows her mother hates her love for music. Although she’s been told numerous times that she has a great ear for music, she can’t stick with any one instrument long enough to learn how to play it. At least, not very well. But that’s not all she’s not that good at.

After failing at job after job after job, she continues to search for something she can finally be good at, and she thinks it might be music after all. But after a disastrous stint in Nashville with her lying, cheating ex-boyfriend, she returns to San Francisco feeling like a loser. Especially when she can’t seem to keep a job there either.

Her best friend steps in and recommends her for an opportunity to compete for a job as part of a team building  event onboard a cruise ship. Auditioning for job after job within the company, she realizes her high school sweetheart is on board, and his girlfriend is also competing for the same contract. Brandi is even more demoralized when she realizes she isn’t that good at any of these jobs either. Ready to give up, she begins playing around with writing songs, working with the piano bar pianist and a dance club DJ, discovering her love for music production.

She finally starts feeling like she’s getting somewhere, but everything is resting on that final performance: not only her potential job but the entire company’s future. The stakes are even higher the night when she feels the pressure to live up to the family name. Will she be able to find her purpose in life? Will she find a future with her high school sweetheart? Will she ever be good enough?

Blogmas, Day #7: Raining Men Now Available in Paperback with Bonus Short Story Collection (#blogmas)

Wrapping up 2019, I’m making all my novels/short stories available in Paperback (in addition to Kindle and other digital formats). The latest is Raining Men, a novella, and I’m including my short story collection featuring two short stories that were first published by Mozark Press as part the A Shaker of Margaritas anthology.

Raining Men

When California girl Brooke Slade, looking for love in all the wrong places, is presented with an opportunity to move to the Pacific Northwest, she turns it down, refusing to leave her life in Sunny California. But when she loses her job, she decides to give the Northwest a chance for thirty days and discovers it’s raining more than the wet stuff – it’s raining men. Wading through so many Mr. Wrongs, can she find Mr. Right?

BUY NOW on Amazon.com for Kindle. Free Short Stories Collection Bonus when you buy the Paperback version.

The publicity tour for  Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon picks up on Monday. I’m pretty sure I’ll be driving past the real Blue Diamond Saloon tomorrow as I drop by our lot where we are building a new house.

 

New Cover for “Real Women Sing the Blues” for New Release of Paperback Version

I’m excited to announce the paperback release of Real Women Sing the Blues, book 2 in the Real Women Wear Red series. With that comes a brand new cover, which I’m really proud of.

Now that Amazon’s Kindle program has widened the publishing options to paperback, I’m releasing new paperbacks for my Kindle books. Because Real Women Wear Red was published before this option was available, I’m looking at republishing it in paperback on Amazon. That will make the pricing much more attractive to readers.

REAL WOMEN SING THE BLUES

RWSB_new_cover_125“In that moment, I knew I could no longer be a Wall Street monkey, and somewhere out there Blue Hawaii was calling my name.” – Robin from Real Women Sing the Blues

When the women of Real Women Wear Red return from their Caribbean cruise, each woman must deal with the consequences of secrets shared onboard ship.

Millie’s secret sends Robin reeling all the way to Blue Hawaii, and she finds herself chasing Moondoggie and singing the Blues. This sets off the “Millie Domino Effect.”

Millie chases after Robin and Monterey Jack chases after Millie.

Cyn joins Robin and Millie on the cruise when her “Cary Grant” gets too serious too fast. And Sandy runs to Cyn for motherly comfort when her shipboard romance blows up.

Four women, four islands, and a seven-night cruise to Paradise. Is there life after they go Hawaiian or will they end up singing the Blues?

AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon.com for Kindle and Paperback.

YouTube Copyright Claims by Unethical Groups

I’ve really had it with YouTube allowing bogus copyright claims on music producer’s content. For one thing, Apple Loops are royalty free and can be used anywhere. Nobody can claim copyright on them. But it keeps happening – to me and to other music producers. The latest instance was when I recently uploaded a book trailer video for Déjà vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon.

I used my own vocals and piano and drum programming but backed it with some piano Apple Loops. I got a copyright claim notice from somebody named Hexacorp. I couldn’t find anything about them on YouTube itself, so I searched the internet. From what I can tell, they seem to do this a lot – claim copyright on free Apple loops. Totally unethical. And should be illegal. What have they done? Uploaded every free Apple loop and claimed copyright? I can’t imagine but I don’t know how else this is happening.

What’s even more ridiculous is because they now have to identify which section is the copyrighted material, the part they identified was looped throughout so why just single that section? It’s beyond belief what YouTube allows, and I’m so tired of filing these disputes to get the copyright claim lifted, when it’s all bogus!

It’s not like I’m trying to build a channel and monetize it. I just need a place to host my videos so I can share them with others. So what’s my recourse? I could just not use loops or I can edit them to change them up in hopes that my music won’t receive a copyright claim. But better yet, I’m thinking of upgrading my WordPress account so that I can use the video hosting feature. Yes, it’ll cost me a few extra bucks a month, but I’d rather retain control over my content – not allow some crook to claim it in hopes of making money off of me.

In the meantime, I wait to get a response from the so-called “owners” of the copyright claim. They have 30 days to respond. I’m here to fight it out, if necessary, before I delete my YouTube account and host my own videos. Another lesson in regaining control over your content – don’t trust social media sites where you have no real ownership.

 

The Real Blue Diamond Saloon in Las Vegas from “Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon”

The real Blue Diamond Saloon is getting some press from “Gaming Today.” I used to drive past the Blue Diamond Saloon often and the name caught my attention for my psychological suspense novel, Déjà Vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon.

I purposely didn’t go inside, because I didn’t want reality to affect my fictional world. So check it out and then read my version and see which one you like best.

Déjà vu at the Blue Diamond Saloon

dejavu_frontcover

Nikki Durrance escaped the worst nightmare of her life when she fled Las Vegas for San Francisco, leaving her husband behind at the Blue Diamond Saloon. So when the perfect Dr. Mike Fischer proposes, she accepts. But when her new Mr. Right begins to transform into a guy just like her ex-husband, she begins to question everything, including her sanity.

Nikki longs to trust Mike, but with an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu, Nikki’s fear propels her into discoveries of betrayals and underworld connections that will send her running for her life again.

AVAILABLE now on Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble, and other online retailers and on Amazon.com in Paperback.

EXCERPT

“Everything in Las Vegas looks better at night,” I thought as I peeked out the window of my upstairs office.

The dusty, thirsty, lifeless terrain transforms into an Alice in Twinkle land and the neon electrifies the Las Vegas strip. The barren stretches of nothingness surrounding the valley of so-called normal life vanishes from view. But nothing is normal in a place where gambling is invasive—it’s in the grocery stores, it’s in McDonald’s, and it’s in every neighborhood corner where a neon sign flashes “gambling and cocktails.”

Leo the grocer startled me when he appeared at the front door of our Las Vegas house—the one we’d dreamed of when we were squished into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. But that house felt like a prison with its tomb-like shades covering the windows to prevent the harsh, desert sun from scorching the inside of the house.

When I ran downstairs to open the front door, he handed me a package of ice. Because this is how Vegas works—when you check out at the grocery store, the clerk asks if you need ice, and if you’re lucky, they’ll deliver it to you on short notice. It would be such a shame if you had the sudden urge to make a martini and be out of ice. Especially if you had a surprise guest like I did that hot August night.

I felt Jeff’s breath on my neck, the belt buckle he wore when he played Texas Hold ‘Em pushing against me, and so I pulled away and asked, “What’s the ice for?”

“Drinks with Gabrielle,” he said.

“Gabrielle?”

“Yes, she’s over there.” I looked in the direction he was pointing, as Leo drove off and a woman wearing a black leather mini-skirt and tank-top stepped out of a taxi. Wearing stilettos, she posed in such a way that time stood still, portraying an air of confidence. Stunned that he knew the half-sister I had never met, I drank in the details of her appearance. She looked nothing like she did in the picture she’d sent me–brunette with medium-length hair. Now she had pure white spiked hair, the exact color Jeff described when he insisted I bleach my almost black hair.

She approached our front door and said, “You’ve lost weight.” I’ve lost weight? What did she know about me? I’d planned on sending her my photo, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Jeff stepped forward, “Please, come in, make yourself at home.”

I fingered my wind-blown hair and glanced at my unkempt clothes. This was not how I’d imagined I’d be dressed when I met Gabrielle for the first time. My enormous closet in the master bathroom, part of an even larger master suite, full of clothes for every occasion—for golf, tennis, or evening wear at some elegant function on the Strip. Because if there was one thing true about my husband was that he loved to impress others with a well-dressed wife.

Jeff led us into the living room, moved the cat off the couch and said, “Please, sit here” to Gabrielle but then turned to me, “Shouldn’t you be getting dressed?”

I didn’t wait around long enough to see if Gabrielle sat down or not, but I heard soft laughter and ice tinkling from the kitchen. Jeff must be making his special cocktail—what he called a French Martini joking that he named it after me. Pineapple juice, vodka, Chambord, and Vermouth—”What’s so French about that?” I had asked. “Well, you are French, right?” he said, and then he threw his head back and laughed in a maniacal way, as if he knew a secret I did not know.

Uneasiness swept over me leaving Jeff and Gabrielle alone downstairs in my kitchen—the kitchen I took pride in. It was a luxury to finally own such a beautiful, brand-new home and I considered that room to be my private haven. It was where I stood each morning when I gazed at the backyard, lit with the morning desert sun, recalling a similar backyard in my California childhood.

I hurriedly dressed in a pair of black slacks and my favorite black pumps I’d found on sale at the Outlet Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. I rummaged through the dresser drawers searching for a particular red shirt—because from the way my husband was leering at Gabrielle, I knew it was important I dress my best.

Unable to find it, I put on a black one instead, and grabbed a matching black purse. On my way downstairs I passed my upstairs office where I indulged myself in working on my latest manuscript. The words often failed me then, but when I awoke in the middle of the night to an empty bedroom, I could sit in my office and the lights of South Point Casino calmed me, reassured me. I then wrote until the sun began to peek over the mountains of Henderson in the east in that special hour where the daylight meets the neon. I jumped into bed before Jeff returned from an all-night poker game.

When I’d made my way to the living room, Jeff handed me a drink and the three of us sat down—Jeff in his leather recliner and Gabrielle in the chair next to him—the one I considered my own. I moved our cat, Sam, the name Jeff had insisted on even though he was not a cat lover. I sat down on the couch closest to Jeff as if I was competing with Gabrielle for his attention.

After a quick drink and a brief chat, Jeff suggested we all go to the Blue Diamond Saloon. “They have the best buffet,” Jeff said.

No, it wasn’t the fanciest place, like those casinos on the Strip, but it was a local hangout like so many in Vegas that served food, drinks, and of course, the ubiquitous gambling. The saloon was within walking distance from our home, and Jeff particularly enjoyed the poker games there. Jeff said, “You two go on—I’ll catch up” so Gabrielle and I started walking toward The Blue Diamond Saloon.

Jeff caught up with us, and once we arrived, he sauntered inside as if he owned the place. When I tried to follow him, Gabrielle’s demeanor changed and she gave me a look that said, “You’re so gauche” (after all, according to the emails we’d exchanged, she’d lived in Paris) and she’d indicated she’d expected me to have done the same—with a French name like Nicole and all. But ever since she discovered I hadn’t lived in Paris, she seemed to be slightly disappointed in me. I’d hoped, perhaps, that living in Las Vegas, the “entertainment capital of the world,” would give me some caché, but this was something she dismissed—as if I hadn’t quite mastered being here.

The doorman must have felt the same way, because he refused me admission. This was too weird to even be polite, so I left, and headed for home, stopping by the shop around the front of the club. But all the red shirts cost more than I had on me, and I had left my credit cards in my other purse—the red purse.

When I arrived back home, I noticed the laptop sitting on the white wicker table next to a matching rocking chair in the front entry. When I took a closer look, I saw that the browser was open at Jeff’s poker blog—something he rarely updated. After all, I was the online multi-media professional: writer, blogger, and graphic artist. I read the entry there, with a link to a video he’d posted.

The text said, “Don’t watch unless you have the stomach for it.” So, of course, I clicked on the link. And what I saw filled me with fury, disgust, and hate. It was a video of my husband dressed in my missing red blouse and matching red shorts, with my red purse on his arm, prancing around to some seductive music. And in the background, a neon sign flashed, “The Blue Diamond Saloon.”

Early in our relationship he had revealed how he struggled with his weight when he was younger, and so he took pride in being able to wear my size twelve clothes. In spite of what the fashion industry wanted to believe, I was still below the average size fourteen that most U.S. women wore. I worked hard at keeping my weight down.

But Gabrielle mustn’t be any larger than a size eight, my best guess after viewing Gabrielle wearing nothing but a satin black thong, matching low cut silk black bra, and Jeff’s tie. I recognized it from one of our cruises. She maneuvered a sexy move behind him, danced around him, and smiled into the camera taunting me. A swift kick to my gut told me that today was not the first time they had met.

Then he peered directly into the camera, and snarled, “This is for Sam.” And then right in front of me, in front of the camera, he started making rude fondling movements on Gabrielle’s body while she fondled him in return. I’m a voyeur as much as the next person, but I couldn’t watch anymore. And when I closed the browser window, a message written like a handwritten note said, “RIP, darling,” and then a mock newspaper headline flashed. It said, “Jealous Wife Found Dead at The Blue Diamond Saloon wearing nothing but black pumps.”

Feeling a second swift kick to my gut, I peeked in the closets, the pantry, the cabinets and the rooms upstairs to make sure nobody was in there, waiting for me. Because I was afraid that this time he would make good his idle threats and I’d be dead. Maybe not by his own hands, but I suspected he knew people in low places and somebody someday would murder me. I’d had enough and I knew that it was up to me to remain alive, to get away before tomorrow arrived.

I may appear stupid for hanging around this long, but I wasn’t about to stay any longer, in case my luck had run out. I was afraid the next death threat, the next slap on the face, the next infidelity would mean the end of me.