Monday, July 20, 2015

Guest Author: Annette Mardis

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Vicky. I’m thrilled to introduce everyone to the “stars” of Shore to Please, Book 3 in my Gulf Shore series, released June 22 by Liquid Silver Books. Tara Langley is an animal rights activist and Paul “Flipper” O’Riley is the head dolphin trainer at Gulf Shore Aquarium, the jewel of the tourist district in the west-central Florida beach town of Gulf Shore.

Flipper sets hearts aflutter when he dons a wet suit and interacts with his finned friends at the aquarium’s Dolphin Inlet habitat. But Tara isn’t happy that Flipper sets her pulse to pounding, too. After all, the group she cofounded, Stop Whale and Dolphin Suffering, SWADS for short, is against keeping dolphins in captivity.

 Flipper and Tara are a classic case of fire and gasoline. Why, then, are they both itching to strike a match?

I sat down with Flipper and Tara for separate interviews recently. I’m combining them here so you can compare their answers.

Q. I have to tell you, Flipper, that I’m puzzled you’re even considering spending private time with Tara. What could you two possibly have in common?
Flipper: Well, we both love dolphins, for starters. Yes, we disagree on a very controversial issue, and it’s obviously a huge stumbling block because of what I do for a living. But she has a right to express her opinion, as long as she continues to do it in a respectful way.
Tara: I’m not sure we have anything in common. Well, OK, I have no doubt he loves those dolphins and wants the best for them. But we differ so drastically on what that best thing is. I don’t see how we could possibly meet in the middle.

Q. Are you saying there’s no attraction there?
 Flipper: (Big sigh) Tara’s gorgeous, obviously, and I’d have asked her out already if I sold insurance for a living or she wasn’t the head of SWADS. My boss will kill me if he finds out I said this, but I can’t get the woman out of my head. She stirs something in me that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Not since...well, that’s in the past, and I’d rather not talk about it.
Tara: Against my better judgment, I do find Flipper very appealing, and I suppose that surfer-boy scruffiness could grow on me if I let it. I usually prefer a more buttoned-down look, but exteriors can be quite deceiving. My ex-boyfriend, Steven Christianson, is proof of that. I’ve come to realize there wasn’t much substance beneath his pretty packaging. Flipper’s quite charismatic and much more intelligent and hard-working than I first suspected.

Q. So there’s no chance you two could get together romantically?
Flipper: That would be like a vegetarian dating a butcher. Not. Gonna. Happen.
Tara: That’s the most ridiculous idea I’ve ever heard. I’ve endured one failed romance already this year. Why would I set myself up for such heartache again?

Q. There are other organizations and individuals opposed to keeping dolphins
and whales in artificial pools. I know Gulf Shore Aquarium is no danger to such criticism. What’s the deal with the threatening letters the aquarium’s been getting?
Flipper: The anti-captivity contingent has had us in its sights for a while, especially since the controversy over SeaWorld and its killer whales. But lately some anonymous notes have been arriving in the mail, and the language has been increasingly nasty. And then I came home from work to find a message nailed to the door of my cottage. Taking issue with us keeping dolphins is one thing. But threatening bodily harm to me and other aquarium staff unless we release those animals... Some people are really sick, that’s all I can say about that. Detective Jo Tompkins of the Gulf Shore Police Department has been working very hard to track down the source of these threats. She hasn’t made any arrests, but I’m confident she’ll find the guilty party before someone gets hurt.
Tara: I cannot say it vehemently enough: There’s never any justification for violence. The police and the aquarium have been suspicious of me and SWADS, but I don’t tolerate threats and intimidation. I hope Flipper doesn’t think I’d ever endorse anything like that.    

Tara Langley thought she’d found the love of her life, but he betrayed her with another woman. So she buried herself in her mission: convincing Gulf Shore Aquarium that dolphins and whales belong in the wild, not in artificial pools.

If Tara had her way, Paul “Flipper” O’Riley would lose the job he loves. Flipper is the head dolphin trainer, and the aquarium’s dolphins are his babies. While he’s open to having a real family one day, the last person he would choose to be his wife and the mother of his children would be Tara.

These two should be sworn enemies, after all. He certainly swears at the sight of her. And his surfer-dude looks and lover-boy reputation aren’t exactly what Ms. Prim and Tidy had in mind when she pictured her ideal man.

But in the age-old way of opposites attracting, Tara and Flipper find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other. There’s no possible way a relationship between them could work, right?

As the two try to find common ground amid all the quicksand, Flipper and his coworkers become the targets of an increasingly more menacing campaign to force the aquarium to release the dolphins under its care. Will Gulf Shore Police Detective Joanna Tompkins catch the culprit before it’s too late?

Paul “Flipper” O’Riley backed away from the note as if he expected it to somehow lunge at his throat. The outrage, disgust, and, yes, he’d admit it, fear he felt at reading the vile threats composed on the single page of common white printer paper had his stomach roiling ominously.

The letters of each word had been cut from what looked like a glossy magazine and glued on like a ransom note from a classic crime drama. If the message hadn’t been so loathsome, Flipper might’ve laughed at how cartoonish it looked.

But the warning had been nailed to the front door of the cottage he rented across the street from the beach, and that in itself represented an alarming development. It meant, of course, that the animal rights crusaders who’d been hounding Flipper’s employer now knew where he lived.

With a hand he fought to keep from shaking, he drew his cell phone out of the case attached to his belt, scrolled through his contacts, and pressed a familiar number. It rang several times before the person on the other end answered with an impatient huff.

“Jo?” Flipper asked. “Is that you?”

“No, it’s the queen of England. What do you want?”

Joanna Tompkins’ characteristic grumpiness and brusque manner usually amused him, but Flipper wasn’t in the mood for her tough-chick act right now.

“I’ve got something here at my place that you need to see. Can you come over?”

“How many times do I have to tell you, Fish Brain? Even if you show me yours, I’m not going to show you mine. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever.” She gave a chuckle that he didn’t appreciate, given the circumstances.

“Hilarious, but I’m serious. Another of those nasty notes came, and this one’s even more personal than the others.”

Jo’s tone immediately changed into her no-nonsense cop voice. “It mentioned you specifically by name?”

“No, but it’s nailed to my front door.”

“At your cottage?” She sounded even more concerned now.


“Don’t touch it. I’ll be right over with a tech to dust for fingerprints.”

“I know the drill. I’m hanging up now and calling Kenshin.”

“See if he can meet me at your place. That’ll save me a trip to the aquarium.”


“And if you’re still on your doorstep, haul your happy ass inside right now and lock the door until I get there.”


“Did you call me for help or not?”

“All right, all right. You’re the boss.”

“And don’t you forget it.”

Wary now, Flipper looked around before doing as she ordered. Then he called his boss, Kenshin Hamasaki, supervisor of marine mammals at Gulf Shore Aquarium, and filled him in. Kenshin promised to drop what he was doing and be right over.

Flipper surveyed his cozy living room—with its bland, impersonal furnishings straight from the rental property decorators’ manual—and then moved to his front windows to fully close the mini blinds. He wasn’t too proud to acknowledge Jo’s admonition had freaked him out, and he was too antsy to sit. Not that he’d feel safe settling onto either the loveseat or his favorite recliner, both near windows. He yanked his hand through his hair, annoyed with himself for letting the situation unsettle him and pissed off at whoever was disrupting his life this way.

Who would’ve thought being a dolphin trainer carried such potential for danger?

Buy links
Liquid Silver Books:


Barnes and Noble:


 Connect with Annette

Website and blog:

Twitter: @AnnetteMardis48



Monday, July 06, 2015

Science Fiction Romance Writers week - Space Opera

I'm taking part in a summer café contest fun with Science Fiction Romance Writers. You can check them out here:

Since I am the starter this week, I'll give you a recipe for a great salad. It's spicy - like some of our romances - full of good stuff - like all of our romances - and everyone loves it - also like our romances!

Oh, and for the contest, whoever wins a copy of the first book in this series, "The Turn of the Card" - ebook only.

But first, about my new book, "Lovin' the Odds" available today from Liquid Silver Books. It's the second in a series called "Gambling on Love" - oh, and don't worry, it's also a stand alone so you don't *have* to read them all (but I'd love it if you did!). The hero and heroine are stranded on a desert planet with little food. I'm certain they'd give a lot for my chili bean salad (recipe below). In the meantime, they have to subsist on energy bars, snakes and what little water they can find.

Catch her, kill her, or kiss her? So many choices, so little time. But Carter Jamison has to decide one way or the other what to do about Sabrina Rutledge. Wounded, hunted, and stranded on a desert planet, they will need to put their distrust aside and work together to survive. Vicky Burkholder brings you Lovin’ the Odds Book 2 of her action-packed romance series, Gambling on Love.


Carter pulled out the chute and a pack of lightweight frames that he used to make a shelter. He returned to the shuttle, dislodged the rocks blocking the rear hatch, and popped it. Smoke poured from both hatches. The interior was a shambles. He used the fire suppressant to put out the few flames he saw. Fortunately, most of the fire had already burned out. He unhooked cushions from two of the seats and hauled them back to the shelter. He activated the release switch on both, opening them up into thin sleeping pads that he laid out. Once he had everything set up to his satisfaction, he carefully carried Sabrina in.

She weighed no more than a feather, and he felt her bones through her clothing. Dark circles not from bruising showed in the fair skin under her eyes. He wished she’d open her eyes so he could look once again into their golden depths, the color of fine whiskey. He’d fallen in love with her eyes. He shook his head to stop the thoughts bouncing around. He was a Fleet agent doing an undercover job. He had no time for a relationship. Nothing more than a quick liaison to quell any urges. And no matter what her social calendar looked like, Sabrina Rutledge was not a quick fling. She was the type of person you settled down with. Something that would never happen to him.

But his heart refused to listen. They’d had something special. At least he’d thought so. Then he’d seen her with others, though never any one man for more than a few times, earning her a reputation as a stuck-up diva—something he wasn’t sure she deserved. After all, she was just trying to protect herself. That’s what he told himself, often. She was everything he’d ever wanted in a woman. Everything except loyal.

He backed away from her. He shouldn’t have come after her. There was no way this would be any good. What did she have that was so important to Tyler Adams anyway? Was it just her? Or did she honestly have something? If it was in the shuttle, it was as good as destroyed. He grabbed her bag and quickly dug through it, but other than a change of clothing, a first-aid kit, and food and water for a day or two, he came up empty. Nothing. Unfortunately, sitting here in the middle of a desert full of Ki crystals, he wasn’t going to get any messages out to anyone to let them know.

Carter unpacked a thermal cell and started water heating. “First things first.”

Using cleansing cloths, he wiped her face, checking for additional injuries. Other than a few minor scrapes and bruises, there were no other problems beyond her leg and arm. He used his knife to cut away her pant leg, clenching his jaw as he felt the smoothness of her thigh. The gash was not pretty, but it looked like she’d tried to seal it. He cleansed the wound and used his own tube to finish what she’d started. The other serious injury was her arm, and he’d already taken care of that. He covered her with a thermal blanket and went out to make sure their shelter was secure.

The sun had set and the twin moons were high in the sky. He looked into the stars. His life was out there now, not here on Tairis. He’d lived here before going undercover, guest of his friend Kiernan, leader of one of the local villages and Carter’s safe-drop spot for messages to Fleet. He’d been second man at Kiernan’s wedding, and spirit-uncle to his daughter and son. He hoped Kiernan could find them, otherwise he wasn’t sure how he’d get Sabrina out of the desert. Himself, he could get out with no trouble, but her in her present condition? That was going to be a challenge.

He shivered as the breeze picked up. The desert could be bitterly cold at night and, if he remembered correctly, they were coming into the stormy season. That meant high winds and freezing temperatures at night. He weighted the edges of the makeshift tent down with rocks. Though there wasn’t much growth around, he managed to scrounge up some dry branches—enough for a small fire—and crystals. They would hold the heat, but he had to be careful not to touch them with his bare hands. Prolonged exposure to raw Ki crystals could wreak havoc with human physiology. The fire and crystals wouldn’t be much, but it was better than nothing. Holding his bounty in his covered arms, he returned to the tent.

Sabrina hadn’t moved, and that worried him. He knew basic field first aid, but what if she had internal injuries? He pulled out a portable medi-scanner, already pretty sure it wouldn’t work. After the third time it told him Sabrina was a neutered male, species Cerulean, he gave up and stowed it back in his pack. Not only was she very much a female, but she had two arms, not four, and her blood was red, not blue.

He made her as comfortable as he could, then pulled his sleeping pad next to hers, in case she needed him during the night. At least, that was what he told himself as he lay down, facing her.

Not so long ago, he’d been in the same position, but the circumstances had been significantly different. After going out a few times and enjoying each other’s company, she’d surprised him by going to bed with him. Unlike now, they’d been in his bed, in a comfortable apartment on the outer rim of the station. The sex had been incredible as they moved from the sofa to the bed, touching, kissing, teasing until both were too hot to breathe. He remembered the way she felt in his arms, the way her thick hair felt in his fingers, the way her eyes darkened with passion. They’d gone from casual dating to what he’d thought was a serious relationship. At least on his part it had been serious, as he’d fallen hard for her.

Then Tyler had sent him to another Fun Palace to quell a strike, which he’d done. When he’d returned two weeks later, Sabrina was gone. A few quiet inquiries let him know Tyler had sent her planetside to analyze the viability of setting up a permanent casino there. When she returned to the station a month later, she wouldn’t even talk to him. Then he heard she was dating one of Tyler’s accountants. He got the message loud and clear. He’d taken every off-station job Tyler would send him on. It gave him a chance to see more of Tyler’s operations, and it kept him away from her.

“So what happened?” he whispered as he reached out to smooth a stray hair from her face. “And what brought you to this?”

He closed his eyes to sleep, but all he could think about was her. Her scent tickled his nose, teasing his memories. She smelled like a summer day in his family’s garden, sunshine and flowers. He rolled over onto his back to stare at the darkness and to try to forget how much she’d hurt him.

During the night, Sabrina’s thrashing woke him. He tried to calm her and got a solid punch in the jaw for his efforts. Lost in the throes of a nightmare, she’d reinjure her arm and more if he didn’t calm her. In addition, she was burning up. He scrunched around and pulled her into a tight embrace, her back to him.

“Brina, baby, come on. Relax. It’s all right. I’m here.” As soon as he started talking, she calmed down, wilting in his arms. When he felt it was safe, he moved away to get the first-aid kit, then gave her a shot of antibiotics and an analgesic. Done with that, he sat back on his heels and stared at her. He knew what he should do to bring her fever down more, but damn, it was hard. And so was he.

“I hope you appreciate this.” He bent over her and maneuvered her out of her filthy jumpsuit. Underneath, she wore black lacy panties and bra, ones with dark red roses embroidered on them. She also had on a small pendant she always wore. He’d commented about it once, and she’d grasped it like a lifeline. He figured it was something special to her. It wasn’t even all that pretty, but she never took it off. “Double damn.”

He sponged her off with cleansing cloths, shivering in the cold night air, then laid her back down and covered her with a thermal blanket. Several times during the night, he alternated calming or cooling her. Finally, toward dawn, her fever broke, and she sank into a more normal sleep. Exhausted, he caught a few hours of rest as well.

The sun was midway to zenith when Carter woke again. He checked on Sabrina. She was still sleeping, but at least she showed no sign of the fever. He went outside to relieve himself and climbed a low hill to get his bearings. Nothing but rocky desert lay in all directions. Kiernan’s village lay to the west. He hoped Posi had been able to contact Kiernan, or it was going to be a long, difficult—if not impossible—hike out, if Sabrina could even make it. Somehow, he’d get them both out. Then he’d strangle her.

Now for the recipe:
Chili Bean Salad
3 (14 oz.) cans beans of your choice (I usually use black beans, pinto and garbanzo)
1 small can sliced black olives
1 1/2 c. chopped onion
1 1/2 c. corn (frozen or fresh)
2 tablespoons dried parsley

1 tablespoon garlic powder (Note: NOT garlic salt)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vinegar

Rinse beans well. Combine beans, corn, olives, onions, parsley in a large bowl (I actually put them in a plastic sealable bag or a bowl with a tight cover). Combine dressing ingredients, mix well and pour over salad. Chill several hours (overnight is even better).

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Friday, July 03, 2015

Guest Blogger: Melissa Keir

Today, we welcome Melissa Keir, author and publisher.


For my wedding in Vegas, my books and computer came with me but there wasn't enough room for
my wedding shoes. It’s all about priorities! As an avid reader, I was probably born with a book in hand. Luckily my mom was also an avid reader, so it was easy to "borrow" her books when my books were finished.
I was reading from an early age about dashing men on horseback riding to the rescue of strong willed and capable women who didn't really need rescuing. I came to expect that women in fairy tales should have fought their own battles. When I was older, I found Margaret Atwood and realized that women could re-tell history in their own way and I experimented with changing those basic fairy tales.
Fortunately for me, my husband allows me the opportunity to be myself (spend my salary on books) and still takes care of the really important things for me like killing spiders and opening jars. As an elementary teacher, teaching children about the many worlds inside of books is a gift that I’m lucky enough to do for a living. Teaching the next generation to love reading is a lot of fun! Reading the right book can make a new world come alive!
Currently living in the suburbs of Ann Arbor, Michigan with my darling husband, way-too-grown-up children and spoiled dogs, I enjoy getting away through a book to escape the harsh winters or summer road construction.

I’d love to hear from you!

  1. What made you decide to become a writer? As a child, I used to sit up with my sisters at bedtime and tell stories. Each night they’d beg me to tell another story to help them sleep. But it wasn’t until I was an adult and someone suggested that I try to write my own story, that I finally sat down to pen a story with the purpose of becoming an author.
  2. How long did it take to get published the first time and how did it happen? Surprisingly, I submitted my first story to a publishing house and was accepted. The book was in edits when the publishing house closed. The book never was released. I decided to resubmit to another publishing house and it was accepted there as a part of an anthology. The anthology came out but within two months, that publishing house closed and the rights for the book returned to me. I didn’t give up. I submitted the book again to another publishing house and the book is still there today.
  3. What would you do differently the next time? I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I learned so much during that process and I found that giving up wasn’t an option if I wanted to make my dream come true.
  4. What advice would you give an aspiring author? The best advice is to never give up. Write, write, write and keep learning. My own writing has grown so much from that first story. Today, my writing has more depth and the characters are dynamic, changing and growing throughout their stories.
  5. What genre do you write in and why? I write small town romances. I love to tell tales about real life people, people like you or me. These couples deserve their own happily ever after and I want to inspire my readers to find their own romances.
  6. What is your process from “new idea” to “The end!”? My stories begin with an idea. I have a short summary of the story in my head and then sit down at my computer in bed with the dogs. I write from the first page to the end. Each day, I go back, re-read and edit before adding to the story. Sometimes, the characters derail my ideas and take the story into their own hands.
  7. Do you write full-time or part-time? I write part-time. I’m also the owner of a publishing house. I love helping other authors’ dreams come true. I teach elementary school and share movie reviews on my local radio station each Monday morning. Can you say busy?
  8. So, what is your new book about?  Crash and Burn is a novella in the Crashing Into Love

    book bundle.
    Crash and Burn by Melissa Keir  Can Rob and Keira's second honeymoon lead to romance, or will it crash and burn? On the verge of a divorce, Rob and Keira Matthews book a second honeymoon at the urging of their counselor. Unable to conceive, they've pushed each other away in an effort to protect their hearts. Will a romantic holiday be the ticket to love or a plane crash in disaster?
  9.  Can you share an interesting behind the scenes tidbit about your latest story? Our book bundle- Crashing into Love began with each of the characters on the same plane when it went down, but it became very challenging to make the pieces come together. So we changed the idea to a theme of a crash…each story is unique now.
  10. Fill in the blank – I f I were a villain, I would have __puppies___ for minions to deliver my wrath because ____no one would expect such cute puppies to be evil! Not to mention they are so good at annoying people with the “I want out, I want in, pick me up, I need treats.”*wink*. 
 Please tell us where we can find out more about you and where we can buy your books.


Once again alone with her thoughts, she turned toward her husband. They’d been married for seven years, and his looks still caused her stomach to flutter. I love running my fingers over his buzz cut. And his rough beard left sexy marks on my neck when we made love…not that it’s happened in a while. A part of the reason we’re on this trip is because of our lack of sex, tenderness. Of course, he’d have to be home in order to touch me.
Keira crossed her legs tighter as she glanced around the cabin. Her gaze fell to the cowboy two seats in front of her and across the aisle. That rancher is hot. His jeans really showed off his best assets when he walked back to the bathroom a while ago. His blue-striped shirt hugged his shoulders and guns. Those arms would hold a girl down or up and down all the while he loved on her. I bet if he and I were married, there’d be no need for counseling. She imagined running her fingers over his shoulders and down his arms. She uncrossed her legs and ran her hands down her jeans, shifting them.
Opening the water, Keira poured herself some. She picked up the glass and held it to her face, trying to cool her flushed skin, then drank. Emptying it, she set the glass back on the tray then poured a little water into the cup. She unzipped the top of her dog’s carrier and waved the water in front of Gris’s face. “Here, baby, you can have a little. Not too much. There’s no fire hydrants on the plane.”

As she watched her fur-baby drinking, her stomach clenched. What if this is the only baby I ever have? She ran her fingers over the teacup poodle’s fuzzed head.