Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Covers

I don't know about you, but I'm definitely in a Christmas mood these days. Last year, our decorations were all in storage because the new house wasn't finished, and we flew to Chicago to spend the holiday with our daughter. This year I've decorated to the nines and we'll all be home for Christmas, even though home is in a new house in a different state. I'm surprised that the lack of snow hasn't dampened my spirit, but it hasn't.

If you're a romance reader or writer, the season is all around you, too. Every time you turn around (or open Facebook) there are wonderful new holiday books. Their beautiful, festive covers are enough to turn even Scrooge into a hopeless romantic.

Unlike most writers, who work on their Christmas books during the spring or summer, I decided to write one when the spirit was most upon me - right now! I'm about half-way through my current project, a collection of ten holiday short stories (4K-5K words each) that I plan to release right after Halloween, 2015. It's great fun and has definitely added to my enjoyment of the season.

This collection was inspired by the stories I've written each December for the past few years for the Roses of Prose blog, of which I'm a member. If you missed my story this year, you can check it out here

If you know me or follow this blog, you know I also enjoy designing covers for my own books, as well as for other writers. The visual creativity of cover design offers a welcome break from the verbal creativity of writing. I've also found that having the perfect cover inspires me to work on the project. It's a win/win all the way.

Here are four potential mock-ups for covers for my short story collection. Like the rest of my work, these stories are warm-hearted and often humorous. Each is set in a different fictional small town across the country. I'd love to hear which is your favorite and why.




Friday, November 28, 2014

Divine Pear and Cranberry Pie

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and great food. I took advantage of the fact that OG and I were on our own for the first time this year to experiment a bit. Our daughter is coming for Christmas and doesn't allow ANY deviation from family holiday traditions. She requires exactly the same foods, cooked exactly the same way, every year.

I love pumpkin pie (and make a pretty darned good one!), but yesterday I decided to bake another favorite - Pear and Cranberry Pie. It turned out fantastic, as always. For those who are interested, here's the recipe. I got it from the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Cabin Life magazine.

Divine Pear and Cranberry Pie
2  unbaked 9-inch pie crusts, pierced with a fork
6  half-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
2  tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
   Pinch of salt
2-3 tbsp milk
   Sprinkling of sugar

  1. Gently toss pears with lemon juice, zest, and cranberries.
  2. Mix together sugar, flour, and salt. Combine with pear and berry mixture.
  3. Layer pear and berry mixture into first pie crust.
  4. Place second pie crust on top, seal edges, and cut small vents in the top with a knife.
  5. Gently brush the top pie crust with milk. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 50-55 minutes.
  7. Let pie cool for 1 hour before slicing.
Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When a Plotter Tries to Pants It

I just finished the fourth of ten short stories for a Christmas collection I want to release next year. Three scenes. Forty-eight hundred words. It took me six weeks. 

Yes, you read that right. Six Weeks. How is that possible? 

It's because I tried something new. I got impatient with myself and my tried-and-true process of detailed pre-writing that includes a plot outline. After all, I told myself, it's only three scenes. I should be able to start with a couple of characters and a general premise and bang something cute out in no time. Everyone else seems to be able to do it, or at least they say they do.

For several years I've suffered from "pantser envy". So many writers talk about letting the story flow, letting the characters take over, being surprised by where their story takes them. It sounds so seductive, so creative. A few will admit this method slows them down or causes extra work during editing and re-writes, but most pantsers seem satisfied with their process.

I tried, and it paralyzed me. I found every imaginable excuse not to work. I knew the beginning and the end, but had no idea how to get there. Without an outline, the story refused to reveal itself. I hadn't done enough pre-writing. I didn't know my characters well enough to know what they wanted and needed.

Some writers say even the idea of an outline stifles their creativity. For me, it's always been the most creative part of writing. It's when I get to make the story up, visualize the whole thing, then write it down without having to worry about craft issues. It's formalized brainstorming, fast forward from beginning to end. When I've finished my outline, I know what happens next. For me that banishes writer's block. Small surprises pop up along the way, but they delight rather than paralyze me.

I thought I wouldn't need an outline for a short story, but apparently I do. I'd like to finish this short story collection and one complete novel by the end of next year. If I don't try to reinvent the wheel and apply a reasonable amount of self-discipline, I think I can do it. 

The moral of this story: Honor your own process; it won't let you down.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just in Time for Halloween - Linda Andrews' UNMASK MY HEART

Please join me in Welcoming Linda Andrews to The Second Half. Linda is the author of a brand new historical romance entitled UNMASK MY HEART. She's here to tell us about her story, and she has a giveaway for a lucky commenter! Take it away, Linda.

1914. A mere hundred years ago. So many of our modern conveniences were around then, that I knew I would have problems giving this the proper historical feel. And what better place to base Hope's Point Island on than Mackinac Island in Michigan. Easy-peasy right? After all, Mackinac has banned cars and done much to preserve it's Victorian heritage.

You know the saying about the best laid plans...

It seems that to draw those wealthy tourist dollars in, Mackinac had indoor plumbing, electricity, and telephone service on the Island as early as 1904. Ack!

Fortunately, there were small details I could use to establish that 'olde tyme' feel, but before we get to the excerpt, tell me the one thing (excluding computers and cellphones) that makes it obvious the story takes place in another time. I'll let chose one person who leaves a comment with their email address to win some Halloween bling.

Here's a blurb about the story: 
Her heart can't give him up. Her head can't trust him.

Everyone Phoebe Monpetit has ever loved eventually abandoned her. Even Gabriel Stephens, the man she thought she'd marry. For the last twelve years, she's muddled through alone, cobbling a life together.

Gabriel took the first opportunity to escape his family's constant fighting and rarely looked back. When war explodes across Europe, he learns what his cowardice has really cost him.

This Halloween, he'll use every trick he can to win back Phoebe's heart.

Will she keep her true feelings covered, or will she let Gabe unmask her heart?

And now for an excerpt to tempt you:

           Meowing, Thom hunkered down on the oilcloth floor by the sardine can she used to hold his food.
"Yes." Phoebe leaned against the door to shut it. The frigid breeze whistled through the openings around the jamb. After filling the cat's dish half-full, she joined her grandmother at the stove. "And I have six bottles this morning to sell."
Gigi grunted. Lifting the lid off the birch bark basket, she chipped off a piece of maple sugar from the lump inside the makak and added the clear solid to the saucepan of water.
Phoebe held her breath while pouring the rest of the milk into the kettle.
Grandmother usually returned from the lower peninsula in a happy mood, glad to be home and full of stories of the summer's events. She hadn't said a word since Gabe had left without a greeting last night, slamming the door behind him.
Setting the bucket in the tin sink, Phoebe filled it half full with cold water from the tap.
Gigi scraped the Johnnycake off the skillet and flipped it.
Phoebe sighed. She would have to question her grandmother. Her stomach cramped. But could it wait until after breakfast? Four heaping spoonfuls of cocoa turned the cream a light brown color.
Muttering, Gigi tossed a thumb-sized piece of maple sugar into the warming cocoa.
No point in putting it off. "Is something wrong, Gigi?"
Grandmother's black eyes narrowed. Hefting the skillet, she slid the corn cakes on a blue and white plate containing half a dozen others then returned the pan to the stove. "Yes, something is wrong."
Using a wooden spoon, Gigi scooped out a dollop of grease from the jar on the wooden counter and added it to the pan. A deft shake later, the oil coated the entire surface.
Knowing her grandmother would reveal everything on her own timetable, Phoebe took tea cups, saucers, and plates from the ledge near the sink. The bone china rattled in her hands. Generations of French brides would haunt her if she broke a single piece. She carefully set the place settings on the table and added two polished forks and knives.
Daisies embroidered the linen napkins sitting next to the blue plates. Her reflection frowned back at her from the copper pots hanging on the wall opposite the door. Both were the dowry of the last French bride to emigrate to America and used only on special occasions, like today.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Big Six-Oh: Lessons on Aging

Today is my birthday. It’s a big one, and I’m none too pleased. After a certain age, if you complain about your birthday, people always say, “It’s better than the alternative” in a disgustingly cheery voice. They’re right, of course, but that doesn't keep me from wanting to slap them. In honor of entering my seventh decade, I've decided to share a few of my observations on aging. They’re not earth-shattering or original, but they are personal. If you’ve already passed this milestone, see if they resonate with you. If not, just look at what you have to look forward to!

1.    Your body will never be the same again. I've always been reasonably energetic and youthful, but things are changing, and I know they won’t go back. I still exercise daily, but I can no longer get up from a squat without using my arms. If I have to pick something up off the floor, I kneel. When OG needs my help carrying something heavy, I no longer assume it’ll be a breeze. It won’t. Menopause has stolen every last speck of collagen in my body. Everything’s starting to sag, and my fat seems to be migrating. Parts that used to be well-padded are now spare; parts that used to be svelte now look like sacks of pudding. On the upside, I can still do everything I want to do, just not as quickly.

2.    Anything can happen at any time. After OG’s stroke last spring, we ran smack dab into the reality of mortality—our own and each other’s. He escaped without significant effects, but we recognize the outcome could have been very different. After sixty, you can no longer glibly acknowledge that life might throw you an unexpected curve ball. You have to accept it in the marrow of your bones.

3.    Take time to appreciate the small wonders and everyday beauty around you. I find I’m much more interested in nature than when I was younger. I look for beauty in the tiny details as well as the broad vistas. That’s a big part of why Carmel Valley speaks to me. I’ve never been surrounded by such beauty, and it’s more important to me now than ever before.

4.    Take the time and effort to truly get to know and understand yourself. When we’re working and raising families, there’s not much time for introspection. Someone always needs something, and we do what we must to get by day to day. When those demands lessen, you owe it to yourself to figure out what makes you tick and what you need to live the rest of your life in the most satisfying way possible.

5.    Have good role models. Pay attention to the older people in your life, whether family or friends. Spend time with them. What choices have they made to improve the quality of their lives as they age? My maternal grandmother lived to be ninety-eight, and she was a huge influence on me, especially in the last several decades of her life. I learned what I need to know about being old from Gram.

6.    Be kind—to yourself and others. This speaks for itself. There will be those who need your help, and you will need theirs. Accept and rejoice in it.

I’d love to hear how you feel about growing older. I’m trying to accept it as a blessing as well as a challenge, but I’ll confess that some days I find myself repeating OG’s perennial observation: “It isn't easy”.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cover Reveal for TEACH ME by Ella Sheridan

Author Ella Sheridan has a brand new release coming out soon, entitled Teach Me, and she's here to share the cover with us. Welcome, Ella!

Teach Me (Southern Nights Book One)

A woman determined to heal…
Shy researcher Jess Kingston spent the last eight weeks recovering from her ex-boyfriend’s brutal attack. Body healed, she’s ready to put her life back together—except her ex isn’t ready to let go. She won’t cower in a corner while Brit tortures her, but she’s powerless to fight back.

A man determined to resist…
Ex-military security specialist Conlan James avoids commitment like the plague. His job, his Harley, and the occasional one-night stand are all he needs, until the day he rescues Jess from a tense situation and realizes he can’t get her off his mind. He can teach her to protect herself, but protecting his heart is another matter.

A madman determined to win…
As the deadly game of cat-and-mouse with Brit heats up, so does the hunger between Con and Jess. Safety might be found in numbers, but in bed, all bets are off—and the wrong move could lead to heartbreak. Or death.

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

     What the hell are you doing here?
     This wasn’t the first time in the last five minutes that Conlan had asked himself the same question. Maybe if he had an answer, the revolving door in his brain would stop spinning, but that didn’t seem likely. Not anytime soon. Not with the beautiful brunette he’d come to see sitting close enough that, if he let himself look, he could detect the light dusting of freckles across her nose. But he wasn’t looking, and he shouldn’t be here, so how had he ended up standing in line behind the thirtysomething latte league? It sure as hell wasn’t for the coffee.
     Legs braced wide, he shifted from one hip to the other, the creak of his motorcycle chaps reminding him he could be enjoying a few extra minutes on the Harley before work instead of spending that precious time here, mooning over a woman. Doe Eyes. The first time he’d seen her all those months ago, he’d thought her eyes reminded him of sweet Georgia pecans and skittish does. The name stuck, as had the memory of her eyes—and a hundred other glimpses he shouldn’t have taken.
     Another name called, another latte dispensed, another shuffle forward.
     He hadn’t seen those eyes in eight weeks, and yet still he’d shown up every Monday, like clockwork, hoping for one more glimpse and calling himself an idiot. Wasn’t like he planned on asking her out. So why the hell did he torture himself with these weekly forays into enemy territory?
     Sex. Or sex appeal, at least.
     Another step closer to the counter. The move didn’t ease the constriction behind the zipper of his jeans. This was what she did to him, thinking about her. Especially now, after so long apart.
     The thought had a snort escaping. Ahead of him, Mr. Suit and Tie startled and glanced over a shoulder, but Conlan ignored the look. He was too busy figuring out when “this” had become enough like a relationship in his head that he would think things like “after so long apart.” Doe Eyes might appear prominently in his thoughts from time to time—especially certain times—but he’d never seen her outside of this coffee shop. And he wouldn’t. A quick roll in the hay was one thing, but Doe Eyes wasn’t the kind of woman who had one-night stands. He could tell that much just by looking at her. She was a relationship kind of woman, and he was a relationship-phobic kind of guy. Which meant he seriously needed to get a grip—and not on the part of him growing even harder at the idea.

Meet Ella:
Ella grew up in the Deep South, where books provided adventures, friends, and her first taste of romance. Now she writes her own romantic adventures, with plenty of hot alpha men and the women who love and challenge them. With a day job, a husband, two active teenagers, and two not so active cats, Ella is always busy, but getting the voices in her head down on paper is a top priority. Connect with Ella at

Author Newsletter:

Social Media Links:

Amazon Author Page           
Facebook Author Page        
Twitter (@AuthorESheridan)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

NEW RELEASE! Risking it All by JM Stewart

My friend, writer JM Stewart, has a brand new release I'm thrilled to share with you. If you love contemporary romance, you won't want to miss Risking it All!

Love requires a leap of faith...

She’s everything he wants…

For years, Kyle Morgan has hidden his true feelings from the gorgeous girl next door that he grew up loving and protecting. But when she shows up at his apartment in the middle of the night, desperately needing comfort and support, his iron will begins to waver…

…and the only thing he can’t bear to lose.

Kyle was always the big brother Cecelia Anton never had, but suddenly her goofy best friend has become a sexy man she can’t keep her thoughts—or hands—off of. As their deep connection melts into uncontrollable desire, Ceci is willing to put it all on the line for a shot at true love. Only Kyle is keeping a terrible secret about Ceci’s past that could destroy not only their lifelong friendship but their happily-ever-after…

Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:

For a moment, she stared, her eyes searching his, then she straightened her shoulders. “Why’d you kiss me?”

Panic curled through him, sending his pulse pounding into his rib cage. Damn. Why hadn’t he expected her to ask that? But he couldn’t answer it. To do so would be tempting fate. An intense need for distance seized him. Half afraid he’d lose his mind and do something else he’d regret, like pull her into his arms and show her why he’d kissed her, he shot to his feet.

He flashed her a smile he knew had to look as phony as it felt. “Headache’s better. Thanks.”

He didn’t wait for a response but strode toward the yard.

“I need to know, Kyle.”

His answer sat on the tip of his tongue, but the voice of reason sounded in his head. Don’t say it. Whatever you do, do not say it. Just keep walking.

Her soft footsteps sounded behind him. “You can’t just do something like that and walk away and expect me not to question it. You blow hot and cold, do you know that? I know desire when I see it, yet you just keep walking away.”

“Ever think maybe I wanted to kiss you?” The words left his mouth on a hoarse whisper, and God help him, a desperate need to see her eyes seized him. He turned to find her directly behind him. She stared for a fraction of a second too long, heat and curiosity blazed in her eyes. A heartbeat later, a light blush stole into her cheeks, but she didn't move, didn't say a word.

Everything inside of him ground to a halt, his mind twisting off in another direction. I’ll be damned. If ever he needed a confirmation, there it was. Whatever had happened between them was definitely not one-sided.

And lucky for us, the book is available EVERYWHERE!

Amazon CA:
Amazon AU:
Barnes & Noble:
Google Play:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

New Release! Cherished Moments by Mickie Sherwood

Please join me in welcoming Mickie Sherwood to The Second Half today! Mickie is the author of Cherished Moments, a new sweet romantic suspense. 
Here's a bit about the story:
Senator Jordan Dupré is reluctant to revisit her past. That thought crumbles at the sight of Deacon Burke. His commanding presence and charming smile transports her back to her youth. Back then, she kissed, loved, lied, and left him—taking a life-changing secret with her.
Scorned by Jordan’s dishonesty, Deke swears he never wants to see her lying face again. However, his heart knows better, and he never stops thinking of her. When Jordan’s husband is killed, Deke is summoned to the Senator’s aid, by an unlikely source—Unfortunately, he brings a secret of his own.
Will secrets from their past reignite their cherished moments?
Deke’s number rang a long time before he finally answered. "Hello."
"Deke, it's me." Her throat felt scratchy from screaming. Clearing it only aggravated the rawness. "Thank you for being there."
"You know, I'll always be here for you, Jay."
"That man probably would have strangled me to death if you hadn't shown up when you did."
"What? What man? What are you talking about?"
Confusion settled over Jordan. "Wasn't that you in the parking lot a few minutes ago?"
"Jay, you banished me from your place. Remember?" He growled the words.
"It was so dark," Jordan revealed to him. "Then, who?" Her senses reeled. "Someone actually tried to harm me."
"I'm on my way.” Deke’s voice was even keeled though she deciphered an undercurrent of agony.
"I'm not at the office."
"You’re not. Then, where the hell are you?"
Now, she interpreted frustration in his tone. “I’m on my way to the lake."
"The lake? Where the hell is that?"
"Use my number to sync my signal, Deke. You'll have the directions. It hurt so badly to talk. I have to go."
"Jay!” he yelled into the phone.
"See you when you get there." She whispered goodbye, and then ended the call.
Buy links:
Find Mickie at:
Mickie Sherwood is an author and a novice photographer. Using her backyard as the backdrop for her inspiration, she loves taking pictures of nature. Her love of photography incites her creativity for writing. Spending time with her family and cruise vacations, also stokes her imagination. With all of her interests combined, fascinating characters and intriguing circumstances can develop.
Mickie also enjoys a good laugh. Revel in the humorous stories she

shares about life, at her blog—Mickie's Mutterings.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dawn Luedecke's New Release - To Tame A Montana Heart

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Dawn Luedecke to The Second Half. Dawn is here to share her brand new Western romance entitled To Tame A Montana Heart. Let's take a look!

Running from a past of privilege, deceit, and danger, Travis Simms is ready to settle down. What better place to forget all he left behind than the quiet little Montana town of Lolo Hot Springs? His goal is clear — build a hotel and his own destiny without complications —until one of the town’s most troublesome women captures his attention.
Dusty Larson is hell bent on independence, helping her sister run the Triple D Ranch. She can do anything a man can, and do it better, so she certainly doesn’t need one in her life. The only problem is she seems to attract bad luck and danger...and Travis. Can he tame her wild ways and keep his bachelor status intact — or does he risk losing his heart?

Isn't that a gorgeous cover? Dawn's also agreed to treat us to a couple of excerpts.

Excerpt #1

She watched him with care. “I don’t know if I love you. I like you, a lot, but I don’t have the slightest idea what love feels like.”

Travis’ smile grew slowly across his face. “I understand. I’m not sure if I love you or not, but I also don’t think I could live without you. So you will always have that.” His voice was almost a whisper when he said the last.

“Truly?” Her voice cracked and she had to force herself to breathe easy.


She inclined her head and took two brisk steps toward him. She leaned over and kissed him with all the fever of a thousand fires. He reached up and intertwined his hand through her hair to hold her still as he plundered her mouth.

She released him with a shaky breath and jumped back to turn on her heels. “Put something nice on. I’ll be back with a preacher man.”

“You know, I heard you only have to say ‘I marry you’ three times and then you’re hitched.”

She threw him a sassy look and slammed the door shut.

Excerpt #2

The voices in her head screamed for her to run but she just couldn’t listen. Fists balled at her sides, Dusty prepared for a fight and stalked toward the sound, rounding the corner and tripping just as strong hands reached out and grabbed her shoulders.

The hands picked her up and turned her around to press her back into steel muscles of a rock-solid chest. One arm reached across her collarbone to clasp her shoulder. The other wrapped around her midsection, holding her against a warm body. The offending hands gripped her tight and brought her snug against the length of him. She knew without looking who it was.

“When you walk around after dark, anything can happen.” His warm breath tickled her neck, and shivers raced through her. The hand lining the length of her collarbone made its way up her shoulder and traced the edges of her shirt collar. “You are not safe from anything in the dark.”

With those words, Travis turned her around and slipped his hands behind her back to pull her closer. He bent his head and his next words tickled her lips, “Even me.” The kiss shot like lightning through Dusty. It shocked and excited her, stealing the breath from her lungs. Without conscious thought she lifted her hands and entwined them behind his neck, pressing their bodies closer.

Travis eased Dusty back, but kept her in his grip. “Heaven above, Angel…I’ve wanted to do that since I first saw you at the springs.” He traced the edges of her lips with the rough pad of his thumb. “You are way too beautiful to be out by yourself after dark. Anything could happen.”

“Anything could happen," Dusty rasped out.

Travis released Dusty and her knees buckled. He caught her before she could land on the ground, set her right once again, and gave a deep throaty laugh.

“Anything could happen,” she said again. Dizzy excitement hummed through her body, and all she could hear was the deep thump of her heart.

A country girl born and bred, Dawn Luedecke has spent most of her life surrounded by horses, country folk, and the wild terrain of Nevada, Idaho and Montana. As a child she would spend many afternoons reading books, watching western classics, and Rogers and Hammerstein movies. When she grew up she decided to leave the quiet country life for a chance to find adventure by serving a successful tour in the United States Coast Guard. During that time she found her soul mate (and alpha male) and started a family and writing career. She enjoys writing historical and paranormal romance and spends as much time as she can working on her current manuscript. For more information visit

Buy Links
The Wild Rose Press ebook
The Wild Rose Press print
Amazon kindle edition
Amazon paperback edition
Barnes and Noble ebook

Social media links
Youtube Book trailer

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beware the Kamikaze Quail!

One of the most entertaining discoveries in our new home has been the California quail. OG saw the first quail early one morning, after we bought the house but before demolition began. He returned to the condo and reported 21 quail in the back yard. I was thrilled but had to wait months before it was my turn. One very quiet Sunday morning, as I sat in a folding chair out front waiting for the movers to arrive with our furniture from Minnesota, four quail raced across the driveway as only quail can. I was thrilled.

Because of the construction, we didn't see many more until the landscaping was finished in late February. We occasionally encountered quail standing or running in the street but not in our yard. In late March we moved in, and the real fun began.

What is it about quail and streets? Many times I have watched quail wait patiently on one side of the road until a car approaches then choose that exact moment to zip across right in front of the speeding tires. We call them Kamikaze Quail. It's a definite thing - believe me. We live toward the bottom of a very steep hill, and the quail like to race up and down (always in the middle of the street) in big family groups. Wacky little daredevils. Of their two brain cells, one must be devoted solely to avoiding cars, because I've never seen one hit. 

A couple of weeks ago we filled the bid bath and bought a feeder to see what sorts of birds we might attract. Within a few days it was such a hit we had to add a second. One of the fun byproducts has been a huge increase in the number of quail who come to clean up the seeds that fall on the ground. We have one family with four nearly grown chicks and a smaller family with one chick that come every day. Then they occasionally invite family and friends to the frenzy, er, party.

OG didn't like the boulders when the landscaper initially installed them. They were expensive, and he didn't think they looked natural. However, he's since changed his tune because the quail love them. As soon as the family arrives, the father quail climbs on top of the nearest rock to keep an eye on his little flock. He stays there yodeling orders until everyone's eaten their fill, then climbs down for a quick nosh before leading them off to their next stop. OG gets a kick out of this. I think it brings out the paterfamilias in him.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Help Me Choose Images

I just got an email from IStockPhoto telling me I have a couple of credits which are about to expire. I don't know about you, but I hate to waste money I've already spent, so I thought I'd pick up an image or two for future use. 

I'm currently working on the second book in my Phoenix, Ltd. bodyguard series, tentatively entitled BOILING POINT. I've thrown together several possible combinations of images that I think might work for the cover and would appreciate your opinion. Since this will be the second in a series, some continuity might not be a bad idea. Here's the cover of UNWRITTEN RULES (Book 1) to refresh your memory.

I'm considering three background images: a Chicago cityscape, smoke on black, and steam on blue. The cityscape relates to the background of UNWRITTEN RULES, but the other two express the BOILING POINT title (this heroine goes undercover as a personal chef). Both figure images features legs like UNWRITTEN RULES, but one is more prominent. The other is wearing a red dress, also a tie-in with UNWRITTEN RULES. The title will be in the same font, but could be red or white.





Please let me know which elements you think make the most striking cover, individually and/or together. Also, please feel free to tell me to keep looking. I really appreciate your input!