Monday, May 19, 2014

Featured Author: Ellen Mansoor Collier

Fans of Ellen Mansoor Collier and her Jazz Age Mystery series will be thrilled to know the third book in the series, Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns, has been released. I'm happy to have her back today with with an excerpt. Ellen has previously been here to talk about book one in the cozy mystery series, Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play and book two, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets. To read an interview with Ellen and excerpts from both books, click here and here.

About the book:

During Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, the Island was called the "Free State of Galveston" due to its lax laws and laissez-faire attitude toward gambling, gals and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (“Jazz”) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she's stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.

After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz must work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames Jasmine’s half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.

When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against each other, as well as a common enemy.

Excerpt from Gold-Diggers, Gamblers and Guns

In the background, I heard a scuffle, loud voices, furniture scraping across the floor, an object being thrown. Burton tensed up and turned toward the noise, his slate-blue eyes darting around the room.

“What’s all the ruckus? A fight?” I stared at the casino, hoping for some excitement. The other diners also shifted in their chairs, whispering and clucking like nosy busybodies. Finally a diversion from the “James and Jazz nightclub act.”

“I’ll go see what’s wrong.” Burton stood up just as two bouncers escorted, or rather dragged, a dark, disheveled middle-aged man in a top hat and tuxedo, toward the exit. His swollen face had taken quite a pummeling, resembling raw beefsteak. A bleached blonde floozy  followed him, loudly complaining, “Unhand him, you beasts! That’s no way to treat a paying guest. He won fair and square. The Maceos owe us money!”

I gripped Burton’s arm, his muscles taut beneath his sleek suit. “James, wait. You’re off-duty now. This isn’t your department.”

“I can’t stop being a lawman just because I’m out with my girl.”

My girl? When had we made it official?

Holding my breath, I watched as he approached the Maceos’ men, asking, “Where are you taking him?” When they refused to answer, he rushed toward the commotion in the back.
How could I blame him? Curious, I leapt out of my chair and pretended to look for the powder room, making eye contact with the gun molls giving me the once-over. Did they think Agent Burton was going to raid the place?

Rows of slot machines and black jack tables sat positioned in full view of the dining room, beckoning diners to try their luck. A few gold-diggers decked out in beaded gowns and feathers draped their arms over geezers old enough to be their fathers, if not their grandfathers, betting at the craps tables.

“Want me to blow on your dice, honey?” I heard one gal purr to a fat cat in a top hat. How could he refuse?  Some guys in tuxedoes guarded a couple of closed rooms, frowning as I glanced their way. I imagined the high-rollers were losing their shirts while club owners Ollie Quinn and the Maceos counted their profits like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

In the powder room, the mirrored walls reflected the elegant seating area with its marble wash basin and gold fixtures—real gold or plated? —straight out of a movie set.

“Nice gown.” I smiled at a flashy flapper who wore an ice-blue sheath with a big bow on one hip, her plunging neckline dangerously close to revealing all her assets.

“Gee, thanks!” she drawled. “You don’t look so bad yourself, sister.”

“Any idea what that fight was all about?” I washed my hands, acting nonchalant.

“Who knows? Those gamblers are always accusing each other of cheating.”

I wanted to ask more questions, but an older Negro attendant handed me a fluffy towel with a frown. I rushed back to the table just as Burton returned with Sam Maceo glued to his side....

“Who was that man?” Burton pressed. “The one with his nose out of joint.”

“A couple of wiseguys got hot under the collar, that’s all. Accused this city slicker of cheating. So Rose took care of the situation on the spot.”  Maceo shrugged it off, knowing his brother Rosario Maceo provided in-house muscle and protection. “We call it cleaning house.”

“Does this city slicker have a name?” Burton asked.

“I’m sure he does.” Maceo gave Burton a pointed look, then turned his full charm on me. “Wouldn’t you rather be enjoying the company of this lovely lady?..."

“He wasn’t very forthcoming, was he?” I said to Burton after he left. “Did you see anything fishy?”

“A bunch of stuffed shirts sitting around a table playing poker. Seems a few goons ganged up on this joker, beat him to a pulp. Wonder if he really tried to cheat them?” 

“Did you recognize anyone?” I asked. “Any bigwigs?”

“Not off-hand. I think the victim is from out of town, maybe a card shark. I wonder what they plan to do next. Take him for a ride?” Burton suddenly stood up, put on his new Stetson and held out his hand. “Let’s go. Maybe we can follow them?”

Flustered, I grabbed my mesh bag, nervous yet excited at the thought of going on an actual police chase. “If you don’t mind, I’ll take the Champagne.” I shoved in the cork and picked up the bottle.  “Hate to let all this fine bubbly go to waste.”

All heads turned as we made our exit, the staff gallantly opening the wide double doors.  Outside, the humidity hit me like a slap and my carefree curls began to droop.

“It’s a 1925 Packard convertible,” Burton told the valet, scanning the area for signs of the men. “Say, did you see the last car that just left?  Any idea where it was going?”

“Beats me,” the youth said with a shrug. “But they were in some kind of hurry.”

As Burton stepped off the walkway, following the valet into the parking lot, an old Ford swerved around the corner, brakes and tires screeching, headed right at Burton.

“Look out!” I screamed, dropping the bottle of Champagne, hearing it shatter on the pavement, spraying liquid and tiny specks of glass. Everything seemed to happen in slow motion: I saw a flash of light and heard loud, popping noises, covering my head as shots rang out, staring in shock when Burton collapsed on the lot.

Other books in the Jazz Age Mystery series:

Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles and essays have been published in a variety of national magazines. Several of her short stories have appeared in Woman's World. During college summers, she worked as a reporter for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.

A flapper at heart, she's worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine and as president of WICI (Women in Communications).

Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets, released in May 2013. She lives in Houston with her husband Gary and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.

Connect with Ellen: Website | Facebook | Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon | available at Barnes & Noble soon!

Featured Author: M. Skye brings M. Skye here to talk about her romantic suspense novel, Circle of Deception, just published in March.

About the book:

Megan Marie Cardoza, is a twenty-six-year-old Media CEO with a less than impressive personal life. When Meg’s best friend Emily returns to town, she, and Meg’s siblings shake things to the core prompting Meg to reveal her true feelings for her ex Alex, and give in to her needs she has been suppressing for six long years. After a steamy reconciliation between her and Alex, things seem to be falling back into place, until the past comes back to slap them in the face at their engagement party no less. With the arrival of Meg’s parents and the continued interference by Alex’s father, who hates Meg, secrets much deeper than they ever expected float to the surface threatening to rip Meg and Alex apart for good, with fatal results for some. When everything she thought she knew is in question, Meg must decide if the secrets are big enough to walk away for good.

Interview with M. Skye

Hi, M...should I call you M? Okay, M, Circle of Deception is your debut novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

I’ve been writing since middle school, mostly poems and short stories. I only recently started to dabble in full length novels. I love to read, so I was sitting reading a book from one of my favorite authors, and I thought, hey, I can do this. Two months later, I had Circle of Deception, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What’s the story behind the title Circle of Deception?

The title lets you know right off that the book will be full of secrets and dramatic events. I wanted to sell the belief that at some point, every character in the book has a secret to be told. Some are insignificant and some are too large to contain, thus making the whole circle of friends deceptive to a certain extent.

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I have a full-time job working in the medical field. I work forty hours a week and still average to dedicate about twenty hours a week to my writing.

How did you create the plot for this book?

The plot for the book is completely fictional, while some of the relationships mirror those of people I know personally. For instance, the relationships and bonds between the siblings are like those between my siblings. (We meddle in each other’s lives as well.)

What’s your favorite line from a book?

Hands down, Gone With The Wind: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

How do you get to know your characters?

My characters and I are one in the same in some ways. They all display some semblance of my snappy personality, but they also have the ability to make you fall in love with their sincerity. I’m a big fan of evolution, so you will see growth in my characters as the books go on. Even the most unfortunate of characters have their turning points.

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I loved the character of Gio. He was so fun, carefree, and comfortable in his skin. He has a big heart, and is very devoted to his family. He places their happiness above all with his hilarious lease on life.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

In a way, the characters are like many of my friends and family all wrapped up in one. For instance, the main characters, Meg and Alex, are strong, stubborn, and passionate much like a couple I’ve known for quite a while. Their love gets them through some pretty dark times in the book.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

There were so many to choose from, but I would have to say, the scene towards the end where Bianca comes clean about everything past, present, and her plans for the future. In that scene, we get to see how deep Alex and Meg’s connection really is and how selfless they both are when it comes to protecting their daughter. It gives you so much to smile about in a time of tragedy.

What song would you pick to go with your book?

I’m a huge R&B fan, so I would have to say “Drama, Love, and Lationships” by Babyface. The lyrics really spoke to me when I was writing the scenes.

Who are your favorite authors?

I love Eric Jerome Dickey and Brenda Jackson.

What’s one pet peeve you have when you read?

I hate unresolved story lines and predictability. With each of my projects, you can expect a dramatic twist, and if it is not resolved, then you can believe there will be a sequel.

Do you have a routine for writing?

My routine is a bit unorthodox. I work crazy late hours, and when I get off of work, it’s like I get a second wind. When I get home, I toss in my headphones with a nice R&B playlist and write until I fall asleep. I have been averaging a chapter every two days or so.

Where’s home for you?

The beautiful state of Texas, Dallas, to be exact. I love it here, wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

Are you happy with your publishing decision?

I am very happy that I made the first step. The publishing company I’m working with has been amazing throughout the whole process. I submitted my story with them, and two weeks later, we got started. They have been working very hard to make my vision happen, and they are great with details. Virtual Bookworm was the best choice for me with my first book!

What’s your favorite candy bar?


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Oh goodness, I’m sleeping! No, really, I’m spending time with my husband and family or either at work. My life is hectic sometimes, but I love it!

What are you working on now?

I have been writing a new book every other month. I recently finished the sequel to Circle of Deception and started a new series called Mixing Business with Pleasure. I am currently beginning the second installment of that series. Like Circle of Deception, it has all the drama and steamy encounters you can stand, with an exciting plot and main characters with very strong personalities. I hope to get all three novels published by the end of the year.

About the Author:

Circle of Deception is the debut novel for author M. Skye. In her novels, she likes to evoke strong dramatic story lines, with strong romantic content. She loves to throw twists and curve balls you won’t see coming into her stories, with racy encounters at every turn. This is the first published work, but won’t be the last from this imaginative writer. She spends her free time writing and spends time with her large family.

Connect with M. Skye:

Website | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books A Million