Friday, June 28, 2019


My name is Robyn Echols. Zina Abbott is the pen I use for my historical novels. I’m a member of Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America. I currently live with my husband in California’s central valley near the “Gateway to Yosemite.”

I love to read, quilt, work with digital images on my photo editing program, and work on my own family history.

I am a blogger. In addition to my own blog, I blog for several group blogs including the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog, which I started and administer.

The daughter of a Georgia plantation owner, Diantha Ames was raised and educated to be a lady. Surviving the Civil War as a child, her family, in a desperate, but ultimately
unsuccessful bid to save the property of both her father and her uncle, arranges a marriage between her and her first cousin. Although not a love match, she and Eugene were amiable. As information about her husband comes to light after his death in the Gold King Mine disaster that took so many lives in Wildcat Ridge, she is left with her husband’s hotel and postmaster position to fill—and a lot of questions.

With Diantha’s former laundress gone, she hires Hilaina Dowd, whose family hails from the
mountains of Appalachia. Hilaina loyally stays with her mother who wishes to live out her life in Wildcat Ridge and be buried next to her husband who died in the mine disaster.

Henry “Hank” Cauley is branded a failure after refusing to be part of his father’s Salt Lake
City brick-making business and then losing his stationary and book store business. To bury him far away, his brother and conniving sister-on-law use their political influence with the territorial Congressional representative to award him the postmaster position in Wildcat Ridge. He arrives in town to take over the position starting the first of September only to discover the postmistress, Diantha, knows nothing about the change, and is not relieved she no longer is obligated to fill this position originally awarded to her deceased
husband. Finding himself surrounded by those loyal to the soft-spoken, Southern
lady, is he destined to also be a failure in Wildcat Ridge?

Buckley “Buck” Kramer, wrangler on the Grassy Fork Ranch in Colorado, has not been totally satisfied with his lot ever since the trip he took to Wildcat Ridge earlier in
the summer with his boss and best friend now he sees the happiness of family life the two men enjoy after they brought back wives. When two trail-worn young brothers stumble onto the ranch looking for a meal and permanent jobs, but are told with winter coming on there is only room for one, Buck insists on leaving in order to keep the brothers together. Is Buck really dissatisfied with his job on the ranch, or is this an excuse to return to Wildcat Ridge and the woman he has not been able to get out of his mind?
Diantha, Book 14, is a stand-alone novel. However, you might enjoy it best by reading all the books in the series, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge. Also, my other book in the
series, Nissa, Book 3, was written to be a duet with Diantha—a series
within a series. You might also enjoy reading Nissa if you have not already done so.


~ Universal Amazon Link

Top Ten List:

10 Fun Facts About Myself

1. I’m not a fun person—I tend to be serious.
2. I’ll go to an organizational meeting with a speaker or class before I’ll go to a social party.
3. I’m analytical and sometimes suffer from “analysis paralysis.”
4. I like to quilt rather than sew garments because l like doing the math to create new block designs.
5. The other fun part of quilting for me is to put together colors and fabric patterns I don’t think will look good together – but in the end, they do!
6. I like photography, but I’m not a professional. Thank goodness for digital cameras and photo-editing programs.
7. I love to create digital memes, banners and blog post headers. 
8. I belong to my county genealogical society.
9. My idea of camping is staying in a fifth wheel or a trailer—with internet access.
10. I’d rather be reading.

To view our blog schedule and follow along with this tour visit our Official Event page 

Thursday, June 27, 2019


Britney Mills was born in Utah but parts of her heart lie in Boston, Washington D.C. and Germany. Her love of writing began with the third grade book her teacher assigned her to write and she spent hours hidden behind her mother's couch writing pages and pages about
knights and castles. Now she writes about romance. Go figure.

When she's not mothering her 4 small children, writing or reading, she's probably out playing a sport, going on a hike, or binge watching a murder mystery series. The way to her heart is through homemade chocolate chip cookies and
five minutes peace.

A self-made billionaire, his real estate agent and three weeks to find the right property.

Jackson Walker hasn't had the best family life. Growing up in the foster system in Australia, it wasn’t until he met his college football coach that he understood what a normal family looked like. When he gets the call that Coach has passed away, he returns to California for the funeral and to find a place to honor the man. 

Hailey Montgomery threw herself into real estate soon after breaking up with her boyfriend nearly five years ago. She’s been working to build a name for herself and when the chance to make partner at her firm becomes available, she jumps at the chance. But the only way to achieve that distinction is to find a commercial property for the guy she’s nicknamed ‘Golden Boy’ from all the stories her father told about him. 

As spending time together brings them closer, the trust between them is called into
question. Can they work through what’s happened in their individual pasts to create a relationship that will last?


~ Universal Amazon Link

Q&A With the Author:

1.  What do you like to do when
you're not writing?

Read, play outside with my kids, travel.

2. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I like to write with music that has singing, but I have to edit with classical music

3. Do you have any suggestions to help budding authors become better writers?
If so, what are they?

Read, A LOT. Read craft books, read in your genre, join a writing Facebook group and learn from them.

4. Where do you get information and ideas for your books?

Ideas come in everyday life. I'll have an idea pop up for a story and then I do some research. For the International Billionaire Club series, I've used Youtube a lot to learn about the different countries.

5. What do you think makes a good story?

One that makes it hard to put down.

6. Tell us about your favorite summer
vacation? Or what do you like to do in the summer?

It's been a few years since we've been able to go camping but those are some fun times. S'mores, tin foil dinners, hiking. Those are my favorites in the summer!

To view our blog schedule and follow along with this tour visit our Official Event page 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Don't forget to fill out the Rafflecopter Giveaway at the end of this post! 

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Kathleen Rowland

Cousins Series, Book 3
Tirgearr Publishing

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Will a snap decision change their lives forever?

Bizarre kidnappings stun the Big Island of Hawaii, pulling Danker Donahue back into the
game and forcing him to partner with Jolene Kualoha, the woman who left him
seven years ago when his DNA showed up in paternity lawsuit. The
prejudice-motivated hate crimes are the wildest anyone has ever seen. Victims
are being poisoned then released once the ransoms are paid, many losing their lives.

In the shadow of Jolene's success as a helicopter pilot, a troubled woman develops
a fixation on Jolene and imitates her appearance. Matters turn dark when the
copycat is shot dead. Was Jolene the target? Threats mount when she barely
survives an accident after her brake cables are severed.

When these crimes threaten her sanity, Jolene is forced to trust the one person she
thought she’d lost forever, Danker. Instantly, sparks fly between them, and as
much as she wants to rekindle their relationship, she must protect her heart.

An old enemy, Seamus McGinn, breaks out of a maximum-security prison and invites
Danker to a meet-up. Surprisingly, the kidnapper joins forces with McGinn along
with his sick fans. McGinn trumpets his ‘murders by ice pick’, and it’s up to Danker
to stop him. The whole island is on edge with a live feed from the maniac’s website.

In a stolen moment, Jolene shows him hope, and he makes a snap decision that will
change their lives forever. Will he make it back to show her?


Chapter One

Seven years since their breakup, Jolene Kualoha spotted Danker Donahue, ambling from
the parking lot toward the store. She recognized him by his height and long gait. Wind from the north ruffled his hair and brought a bone-biting chill to her heart. Nuts, here he was, ducking his head to miss the bell overhead. It tinkled, and a strange twisting sensation hit her in the stomach.

This happened at the Kalua-Kona Food Emporium on a Sunday morning in July. She
stared from where she stood near the avocados. His dangerous edge drew her in, but she turned her back to him. Her body reverberated like when her cellphone was on vibrate in her pocket. Stunned with minor electric shock, she froze.  Maybe he wouldn’t see her.  Wouldn’t recognize the back of her head or the once familiar shape of her ass.

Was someone waiting for him in the parking lot? Someone like Louella, the baby’s momma who’d summoned him for an immediate DNA test? For a split second, she
craned her head around but didn’t see her with him.

She and Danker were a couple when the test confirmed his fatherhood. Her heart
ached at the memory. Love hurt, but that wasn’t all. Loneliness hurt. Losing
someone hurt. Decision-making hurt when you force yourself to do the right thing.

She’d pulled away, giving him space to work on his previous relationship for the sake
of their child. The most shameful thing a woman can do is take parents away from a baby, and this began her year of stubborn steadfastness.

I did the breakup rituals. Got the dramatic haircut. Engraved a piece of jewelry he got me with a new message. Deleted the photos that made me cry.

To have been his woman was like living where the air flowered with jasmine, and the weather day after day was flawless, but the forecast was a hurricane.

About the Author

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Book Buyers Best finalist Kathleen Rowland is devoted to giving her readers fast-paced, high-stakes suspense with an erotic love story sure to melt their hearts.  Her latest release is Bittersweet Alliance.

Kathleen also has a steamy romantic suspense series with Tirgearr Publishing, Deadly Alliance is followed by Unholy Alliance. Keep an icy drink handy while reading
these sizzling stories.

Kathleen used to write computer programs but now writes novels.   She grew up in Iowa where she caught lightning bugs, ran barefoot, and raced her sailboat on Lake Okoboji.  Now she wears flip-flops and sails with her husband, Gerry, on Newport Harbor but wishes there were lightning bugs in California.

Kathleen exists happily with her witty CPA husband, Gerry, in their 70’s poolside retreat in Southern California where she adores time spent with visiting grandchildren, dogs, one bunny, and noisy neighbors.  While proud of their five children who’ve flown the coop, she appreciates the luxury of time to write.

Contact Links

Purchase Links (Kindle Unlimited)

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Monday, June 24, 2019


I'll be giving away an e-copy of one of these books to a person who comments.

When I conceived the idea of the Pearson Grove Series, I visualized seven books. Each book will feature a young woman of the fictional town of Pearson Grove, which is in North Central Texas near Van Alstyne. Coincidentally, my father, Pearson Johnson, was born near Van Alstyne at Pilot Grove. While the site of Pearson Grove is not where my father was born, it is close.

My father always encouraged me to read and to write. In fact, he taught me to read. He placed a high value on education. He was almost old enough to have been my great-grandfather. His father was middle-aged when he was born, so our generations on that side of the family are skewed.

Daddy was a gifted storyteller whose tales about growing up with six brothers and one sister (poor girl) mesmerized me. The stories Daddy told me ignited my passion for history, especially Texas history. He spoke of his family coming to Texas from Georgia and events that plagued or amused them. I tried to write all these stories down and insert them into a Johnson family book my brother and I compiled.

The Pearson Grove Series is my attempt to pay my father homage for encouraging me to write and read and study. I hope readers will enjoy the seven titles over the next few months as they are interspersed between other releases. Of course, they are in e-book and print and are enrolled in KU.

The books to date are:

MAIL-ORDER MORIAH, a Brides of Beckham romance, Pearson Grove Series Book 1.

A woman desperate to begin a new life
A mercantile owner besieged by problems 
The disaster that brings them together . . .

Moriah Singleton faced hardship to get from England to America but met more problems once she arrived. The only solution she could find was to become a mail-order bride in far away Texas. How will she ever save enough to bring her sister to America?

After a disastrous brief engagement ended badly, Scott Ferguson sent for a mail-order bride. He needs her help in his mercantile. He hopes his wife will also be his life’s helpmate.

Danger, family entanglements, and disaster await the couple. Can Moriah fit into Pearson Grove? Can she help her sister? Will their problems bring Moriah and Scott closer or drive them apart?

Universal Amazon link:  

ALEXANDRA’S AWAKENING, Pearson Grove Series Book 2.

A wealthy woman forced to change; a heroic sheriff standing his ground; the danger that unites them…

Alexandra Novak has been raised in wealth and is used to having whatever she wishes. Her parents have spoiled her and she’d begun to believe it her right. A fire that destroys her family home and almost costs her mother’s life starts Alexandra to rethink her values. When her father’s revelation shatters her world, she is determined to do whatever necessary to make her father happy—even if it means being nice to that girl he’s brought into their home.

In spite of his young age, Virgil Witt is the best sheriff Pearson Grove has had. Under his leadership, crime is at an all-time low. He has reconciled himself to the fact that he is destined to live alone except for his dog. Maybe that’s best since his job is a dangerous one. He can’t understand why Alexandra chases him, especially not after he’s explained he has no money.

When danger strikes the Novak family, can Virgil solve the problem in time? Can Alexandra convince Virgil she has changed? Can the two of them work together or will her need for the best resurface?

Universal Amazon link

DEBORAH’S DILEMMA, Pearson Grove Series Book 3   

What can Deborah do to protect herself from the devil plaguing her hometown?
Can a young man who’s been away for six years fit into the community he left?
What madman is responsible for the murder and mayhem plaguing Pearson Grove?

Deborah Taber has been concerned by her inability to choose a life’s occupation. That worry was pushed aside when someone shot her brother and fire bombed her family’s newspaper, The Pearson Grove Gazette. She believes Trey Pearson is innocent of attacking her brother—isn’t he? She’s had a crush on Trey since second grade and desperately wants to trust him.

Wade Pearson III, called Trey, is happy to be home on Pearson Ranch after six years in New England. He trained to manage his family’s far-reaching investments. Nothing prepared him to be accused of murder or targeted by a killer. If not for quick action by the sheriff, Trey would have been lynched by vigilantes. He wants to help trap the real villain while protecting Deborah, her family, and his.

Can Deborah and Trey survive the threats against them? Will this clever murderer be caught before he delivers his terrible revenge against those he believes slighted him? 

Universal Amazon link Is

The young women still to be featured are Felicity, Corinne, Lula, and Evelyn. 

I hope you'll read the entire series and that you'll enjoy each one. In the meantime, if you've already read one or all three of these, please leave a review on Amazon! You'll be helping me tremendously and helping prospective readers. 

Best wishes,

Friday, June 21, 2019


DEBORAH’S DILEMMA, Pearson Grove Series book 3, released today in e-book, print, and in KU. Woo Hoo! Help me celebrate.

Deborah Taber is twenty-two and believes she faces a dilemma. What does she want to do with her life? Most women her age are married, many with children. If she aspired to a specific profession, she wouldn’t be in a quandary, but she doesn’t.

Her attention is diverted when an unknown assailant attacks her family members. Here’s the synopsis:

What can Deborah do to protect herself from the devil plaguing her hometown?
Can a young man who’s been away for six years fit into the community he left?
What madman is responsible for the murder and mayhem plaguing Pearson Grove?

Deborah Taber has been concerned by her inability to choose her life’s occupation. That worry was pushed aside when someone shot her brother and fire bombed her family’s newspaper, The Pearson Grove Gazette. She believes Trey Pearson is innocent of attacking her brother—isn’t he? She’s had a crush on Trey since second grade and desperately wants to trust him.

Wade Pearson III, called Trey, is happy to be home on Pearson Ranch after six years in New England. He trained to manage his family’s far-reaching investments. Nothing prepared him to be accused of murder or targeted by a killer. If not for quick action by the sheriff, Trey would have been lynched by vigilantes. He wants to help trap the real villain while protecting Deborah, her family, and his.

Can Deborah and Trey survive the threats against them? Will this clever murderer be caught before he delivers his terrible revenge against those he believes slighted him? 

Here’s the Universal Amazon buy link: 

Read an excerpt from the church box lunch social:
She led him to the spot she had in mind. A large oak tree provided shade. Nearby, a bed of roses sent their fragrance on the breeze. Overhead the brilliant blue sky was dotted by a few fluffy cotton wool clouds. Birds sang and squirrels chattered their complaints at being disturbed.
On the bench nearby, Virginia and Ambrose Green shared their box lunch. The couple was far enough away that their conversation was a murmur with no words distinguishable. She was glad because that meant what she and Trey said would be private.
Trey set the basket on the ground long enough to spread the blanket where she’d indicated and then moved the basket to a corner. He extended his hand. “May I help you settle?”
When she’d arranged her skirt to insure her ankles were covered, she removed the small tablecloth and spread it before she set out their food. She was so glad she’d taken extra care with the meal. The chicken had browned nicely, thank goodness. Before packing it, she’d pulled apart one thigh piece to be certain the meat was done all the way to the bone.
Potato salad and deviled eggs were greeted by Trey’s “Mmm.”
The rest of the food included pickles, cheese, corn relish, butter, biscuits, and peach cobbler. To drink, she’d packed apple cider.
Trey accepted the tin plate, napkin, and silverware she handed him. “From the looks of this spread, I should have at least doubled my bid.”
“What a nice thing to say.” While he filled his plate, she said, “Tell me about your years away and how it feels to be back.”
His blue eyes sparkled. “Didn’t you read Jeff’s article?”
“I certainly did. It was short, however, and hardly consisted of six years’ worth of information.”
“There isn’t that much to tell. I missed Texas, but I had to learn about investing and finance and our business interests. Although he’s supposedly retired and handed over the reins to my grandfather, I spent a couple of years in Boston with my great-grandfather after I finished Harvard.”
“You’re fortunate to still have him.”
“He’s eighty-seven but remains sharp. You’re right about me being fortunate. I learned a lot more about business in those two years with WW, which is what we call him, than I did in four at university.”
He gave a slight shrug of one shoulder. “I don’t like to talk about money, but I have a responsibility to follow in my father and grandfather’s footsteps.”
He reached for a biscuit. “I don’t suppose it’s a secret that our ranch is not our main source of income. The ranch is our home and holds our hearts, but we can’t depend on it for the entire family’s support.”
She sipped her cider. “Besides you and your parents, grandparents, and this great-grandfather WW, are there others?”
“There are, but they live in Boston and Cambridge. I suppose you know Papa’s an only child. Grandpa has a brother named Wyatt, Sr. and his wife Eleanor, a nephew named Wyatt, Jr. and his wife Millicent and their son William, and a niece named Alice and her husband Sam Holt. Grandpa is the eldest, so we control finances somewhat but we have to answer to a board of trustees.”
“Goodness, that sounds complicated.”
He tilted his head. “Can be but we try to keep it simple and grudge-free.” He closed his eyes. “Ahh, this chicken is prepared perfectly.”
“Thank you. I cooked it this morning, of course, and also made the potato salad, deviled eggs, biscuits, and cobbler then. I’m always afraid to prepare picnic foods the day before in case the meal spoils. The pickles and relish are from Mama’s and my canning last summer.”
Eyes sparkling with mischief, he looked at her over another piece of chicken. “You’re a great cook. I apologize for thinking your mother prepared all this.”
She pretended to be upset. “Trey Pearson, I should be insulted but I’m not. Well, maybe I am a little. Mama is a good cook, but she helps Papa so much that I’ve pretty well taken over meal preparation.”
He glanced around. “I think we’re on someone’s family plot.”
“We are. In fact, you’re sitting on Grandma Taber. I don’t think she’d mind, since I believe she’s looking down from heaven.”
“Sorry, Grandma Taber.” He gazed upward before returning his gaze to meet hers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Don't miss the Rafflecopter at the end of the post! 
There's also a FREE book offer!

The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book 1
Ann Warner

Genre: Cozy Mystery 

In Book One of this cozy mystery series, a morose parrot with a
reputation for biting sums up Brookside Retirement Community for
reluctant resident, Josephine Bartlett. But when Brookside turns out
to be a setting for art theft, dodgy dealings, and…naked poker it
becomes vastly more interesting. Josephine investigates the unusual
goings on with friend and handwriting expert, Lill Fitzel. And the
two befriend a young woman Josephine tries to prevent from making the
same mistakes she has made.

Chapter One

When Thomas died, I discovered he’d shifted control of our assets to our son, and one of Jeff’s first decisions was where I would live. It was obvious from the speed with which he accomplished my move, he’d been planning it for some time.

Had he asked my opinion, I certainly wouldn’t have picked Brookside Retirement Community. For one thing, there’s no brook, and for another, the cutesy bird-and-flower theme is simply annoying. Although I have an apartment and I’m free to interact with other residents, or not, as I choose, I still wouldn’t have chosen to live here.

The hallways are lined with both fussy bird prints of dubious quality and flamboyant floral bouquets in need of dusting. Each wing of the complex (there are five) has a combination bird-and-flower name. I live in the Morning Glory-Mourning Dove wing—or GloryDove for short. I suppose that’s better than the Snapdragon-Titmouse wing. I’ve already noticed people who live in SnapTit tend to hesitate when asked which wing they’re in.

Carrying the theme beyond pictures and floral arrangements, each wing has its own glass-fronted cage filled with tiny birds that dart about and tweet continuously.

Next to the mandatory enclosure of birds in the front lobby sits a morose parrot in a cage so small it can’t even spread its wings, let alone do a quick flit. I feel sorry for the parrot who, like many of the residents here, is in his nineties, but I do steer clear of him. He has a reputation for biting, not that I blame him. If someone confined me to a small cage next to the roomier quarters of luckier members of the species and forced me to listen to all their nonstop celebrating, I’d bite too.

So far, the only bright spot has been Lillian Fitzel. When I told Lill that, she laughed that deep, rich chuckle of hers.

“Me a bright spot, Josephine? Why, I’m as black as the bottom of my granny’s favorite cooking pot.”

Lill’s the one who said Brookside should be rechristened Babbling Brook, a tongue-in-cheek reference to both the nonexistent waterway as well as the more irritating residents.

Jeff parked me here because he considers me elderly, but I’m only seventy. Much too young to be shut away with a bunch of old people, fake flowers, and birds.

I’ve decided I won’t have it. I’ve spent fifty years living a life of duty and restraint, and I’m not wasting another minute. As soon as I get my financial and legal affairs in order, I’m out of here.
~ ~ ~
Shortly after Lill and I struck up our friendship, she invited me to become the fourth in a group that plays cards two days a week. I’m not crazy about card games, but I decided it might be a welcome distraction. At least until I get my next move figured out.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered it wasn’t going to provide as much of a distraction as I’d hoped since the other two women in the group are both as dull as case knives. Not a sliver of intellectual curiosity between the two of them.

Myrtle, who would make two of Edna or three of Lill, is never seen in public without makeup and carefully styled hair. She favors flowing garments in bright colors that flutter when she moves. It makes me tired just to look at her.

In contrast, Edna’s makeup ends at her chin, and her scanty hair often looks like a gerbil has been playing in it. Setting off polyester pantsuits that should have been sent to a landfill forty years ago is a strand of yellowing pearls she’s never without.

When it was finally my choice what to play next, I simply couldn’t resist the imp sitting on my shoulder, and the words “strip poker” tumbled out.

Myrtle sat back and thumped the table. “You can’t choose that.”

“Why can’t I? You picked hearts.” And if there’s a stupider game, I don’t know what it is, although in the interest of ongoing relations, I refrained from sharing that opinion out loud. “At least strip poker will be interesting.”

Myrtle’s bosom heaved, something that always makes me want to move rapidly out of her vicinity.
“Well, I never. Josephine Bartlett, you’re just, just—”

“What kind of poker?” Lill chimed in. “Strip poker can be played any number of ways.”

“How about five-card draw?”

“I don’t think poker is a very ladylike game,” Edna said, her nose elevated.

Edna’s a priss, if I do say so, although I can’t take credit for coming up with the descriptor since her bizarrely appropriate last name, Prisant, got there first.

“And what exactly has being ladylike gotten any of us lately?”

“I don’t know about you, Josephine,” Myrtle said, “but Bertie Teller came over and sat next to me at the last movie night and held my hand during the scary parts.”

“If Bertie Teller tried to hold my hand, I’d deck him. Not that it would take much. The old fart totters around here cackling like a demented hen.”

“You’re just jealous because nobody wants to sit with you.” Edna always seems to have two cents ready to pitch into any conversation.

“Better off alone than stuck with a Bertie,” I said. “Are we going to talk or play?”

Edna lowered her nose with a sniffy noise. “But really, strip poker? I’m quite certain nobody wants to see you naked.”

“They won’t since I plan to win.”

Myrtle placed a finger in the corner of her mouth and cocked her head. “I think it could be amusing.”
I sometimes wonder if she practices expressions in the mirror.

“Nobody wants to see you naked either, Myrtle. Trust me on that,” Edna said with another sniff.

I was tempted to hand her a tissue, but doubted that would go over very well.

Myrtle turned her head and gave Edna what I’ve labeled her Queen Elizabeth stare. “I think they’d rather see me than you.”

“Whatever.” Edna has at least one grandchild and proves it by keeping up with the latest slang.

“How about nobody gets naked,” Lill said. “That is, not literally.”

Lill is skinny enough she could be planted in a field to scare off crows, but she has this deep, resonant voice that never fails to startle me.

“After all,” she said, “the staff won’t stand by and let the four of us strip without stepping in with the meds. But perhaps metaphorically?”

“What exactly do you mean, metaphorically?” Edna sniffed again; I suspect golden retriever genes in there somewhere. “And yes, Ms. Vocabulary, I do know what metaphorically means. I just don’t see what it has to do with strip poker.”

But I did. It was as though Lill and I had discussed this ahead of time. And she was right. There is more than one kind of naked.

“How about the biggest loser at the end of the afternoon pays up with a personal story,” Lill said, confirming what I’d guessed she was going to say. “And it should be something that isn’t all sweetness and light.”

“I absolutely agree,” I said, jumping back in to take control of what was, after all, impulsive or not, my idea. “And I want to hear something down and dirty I won’t forget in five minutes.”

Edna huffed. “You never forget a thing, Josephine. It’s one of your least attractive qualities. And what are we going to use to keep track, anyway?”

“Doesn’t matter. Toothpicks, pills, dust bunnies.”

Edna snorted. I suspect she doesn’t like me. And just to be clear, if I could vote her out of the group, I would. Unfortunately, she was here first. And fair is fair.

“Never mind that,” Myrtle said. “If we’re going to do this, you have to tell us the rules, Josephine.”

“Okay, how about this? We’ll all start out with the same number of toothpicks or whatever. Then the one with the fewest left by the end of the afternoon has to tell a story.”

“I think Myrtle means the specifics,” Edna said with a frown. “You know. What beats what. Aren’t there flushes and pairs and full houses and the like?”

Truly, Edna is such a pain sometimes.

“Well, a flush and a full house beat a straight,” I said.

Lill was obviously trying not to chortle. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

“I don’t see what’s so funny,” Edna said, giving Lill a sour look.

Edna has no sense of humor, which, while we’re on the subject, is her least attractive quality.
“As you very well should know, Lillian, there are no stupid questions.”

Edna’s voice, with its upper pompous notes and its underlay of whine, always grates on me. If she did indeed once teach American youth the fundamentals of English usage beyond four-letter words, she would know that most questions are either stupid or show a lack of attention by the questioner.

It took a further fifteen minutes of wrangling, but we finally managed to get through the list of what beat what with Myrtle demanding excruciating detail and writing it all down. Then Edna suggested we liberate a box of paper clips from the associate activities director’s desk to keep track. By that time, I was profoundly regretting my suggestion.

My mood was not improved when the best I could muster on that first hand was a pair of treys. I folded early, conserving my resources. Myrtle won that hand with the full house she’d telegraphed by running her finger over the list of what beat what and settling it near the top.

In succeeding hands, the gods of poker continued to favor Myrtle. But although I couldn’t beat her with cards, I was able to stem my losses by watching where on her list her finger ended up.

“About time for a story, isn’t it?” Myrtle reached out plump hands to pull the latest pot to her side of the table, leaving the rest of us with dribs and drabs.

I did a quick count. “Edna has the fewest clips left, so she’s the one who has to tell a story.”

Edna sniffed. “If a person didn’t know better, Josephine, they might suspect you kept folding just so you wouldn’t have to tell a story.”

I have to admit, Edna in her own vague and annoying way sometimes has a point.

“So. Okay. A story.” After sniping at me, Edna appeared eager, which in my view, did not bode well. “Well, then. When I was nine and my sister—Helen was her name—was ten, she’s dead now, you know. Of the cancer, about fifteen years ago.” She pulled out a tissue and dabbed at her nose. Finally.
I sighed, wondering if she would ever get to the point.

“Anyway, as I was saying, Helen and I were given a cocker spaniel puppy that Christmas. We were supposed to share her. I named her Jonquil, and I loved her with all my heart. She was my best friend. When we got home from school, she always came to me first. And she slept on my bed and followed me everywhere.”

Satisfaction made Edna’s voice even more annoying than usual. Although I wouldn’t call the look on her face a satisfied one. It changed as she spoke to something much more complex.

“Then one day, Helen took Jonquil for a walk into the woods next to our house. When I went looking for them, I found them in the small clearing where we often played. Helen was tying a rope around Jonquil’s neck, and when I asked her what she was doing, she lifted the rope with Jonquil dangling on the end.” Edna paused and blinked with a far away look in her eyes.

“There was a tussle. I ended up with Jonquil, but Helen had a bad scratch on her cheek and bruises on her arm and she’d ripped her dress. She ran away while I comforted Jonquil.

“When I got home, Mother came rushing out. She grabbed me by the arm, and before I could say a word, she started thrashing me. You see, Helen told her that I’d attacked her when she tried to pet Jonquil, and Mother believed her.” Edna paused, and for an instant, seeing the expression on her face, I could tell the story still pained her.

“After that, I wasn’t allowed to pet Jonquil or take her for walks. And Helen…” She shook her head and sniffed. “Helen always told Mother the instant I got near Jonquil. It went on…” Once again she paused to compose herself. “For years. But I finally got back at her.” A smile crept over Edna’s face, and it wasn’t a nice smile.

“What did you do?” Myrtle said, sounding breathless.

“I seduced her fiancĂ©, then I told him I was pregnant so he had to marry me.”

We all sat blinking at Edna. Her story was more down and dirty than I, at least, was expecting.

“And then what?” Myrtle said. “What happened after that?”


“What do you mean, nothing?” Myrtle said. “Were you pregnant or not?”

“Of course I wasn’t.” Edna gave a so, there huff.

“What happened when he found out you weren’t?”

“I just told him I’d had a miscarriage. But not until after we were married. He never knew it was a trick.”

Myrtle frowned. “How do you fake a miscarriage?”

“Oh my, you do have a lot of questions. But I only owed one story, isn’t that right, Josephine?”

Mesmerized, I nodded, and Edna closed her mouth and made the sign for zipping her lips.

I might just have to revise my opinion of Edna. It appears she’s a pistol, as we used to say. None of the young people today know what that means. To them a pistol is just something they use to shoot someone.

As we gathered up cards and clips, one of the staff stopped by our table and reminded us there would be a concert beginning in fifteen minutes. Edna’s story had so preoccupied me, I hadn’t even noticed the slow shuffle of other residents taking the seats nearby. But now I did.

The perverse mood that had led to my suggestion we play strip poker dissipated, leaving behind a bad taste in my mouth. Unfortunately, the next time we played cards, it was Edna’s turn to choose what we’d play, and she chose the Naked Poker Game, as she called it.

“After all,” she said, “I shouldn’t be the only one who has to tell a story.”

So that’s how it started, and I have no one to blame but myself.

***Get it FREE!!! ***

The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book 2

Josephine, Devi, and Mac’s story continues. Devi and Mac are falling in love,
but a complication comes along in the form of Mac’s pregnant
ex-wife. As for Josephine, with the excitement of unmasking the
Brookside thief and Devi’s being shot now over, she’s finding
Brookside Retirement Community (aka Babbling Brook) as dull as she
initially expected it to be. Until, that is, she gets involved with a
man who suspects her of being a criminal mastermind. Finding love at
this late date is something Josephine never expected, and it’s her
Edward Hopper painting that plays matchmaker.

The Babbling Brook Naked Poker Club – Book 3

Josephine Bartlett is back, joined by a colorful cast of friends: her partner
in mystery-solving, Lill Fitzel, flamboyant ex-beauty queen, Myrtle
Grabinowitz, former attorney/current novelist, Philippa Scott
Williamson, Brookside’s thief, Edna Prisant, good friends Devi and
Mac McElroy, and last, but not least, love-interest Norman Neumann.

When new resident, Lottie Watson, loses at Naked Poker, she tells a
bizarre story about her husband disappearing in the LA airport.
Josephine and Lill, intrigued enough to investigate, discover there
are more ominous goings-on than a simple disappearance. Meanwhile,
Josephine ignores the mysteries of her own heart.

Get the box set here!

Ann Warner, Author

Raised in an Air Force family, Ann grew up to be a clinical chemist,
toxicologist, and university professor, but her life took an
unexpected turn in 2001, when she began writing fiction. Her debut
novel, Dreams for Stones, was a finalist for the Indie Next
Generation Book Award in 2007.

Ann's novels about strong characters facing interesting challenges take
advantage of the many unusual settings she's traveled to or lived in
including New Zealand, Australia, Peru, San Francisco, Alaska,
Colorado, Boston, and Puerto Rico. As well, her experiences as a
toxicologist have added fillips of intrigue to many of her stories.

In Ann's novels, the consequence of choosing to love or not to love is
an underlying theme, as characters face crises and complications that
force them to dig deep within themselves to discover their own resilience.

Follow the tour HERE
for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!