SRP Heroine Interview: Jax O’Connell from A Bead in the Hand

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I’d like to give a warm welcome to Jax O’Connell. She’s stopping by The Self-Rescue Princess today to tell us a little bit about her adventure at a bead bazaar.

BEAD IN THE HANDPlease tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life?

A bead bazaar turns bizarre when I discover a dead body beneath my sales table. Suspected of murder, my friend Tessa and I scramble to find the killer among the fanatic shoppers and eccentric vendors. We have our hands full dealing with a scumbag show promoter, hipsters in love, and a security guard who wants to do more than protect me from harm. Adding to the chaos, my quirky neighbor Val arrives unexpectedly with trouble in tow. I hope I can untangle the clues before I’m arrested for murder!

Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

No! I’m an artist—a jewelry designer and glass beadmaker. The last thing I thought I’d be doing is discovering who murdered the woman I found beneath my sales table at the bead show in Portland.  And this is not the first time I’ve had to use my sleuthing skills.  A few months back I had to uncover a murderer after a young woman was killed in an alley behind a bead shop in Seattle.

What one piece of advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

My advice is that you don’t have to settle in life.  If you don’t like how things are going for you, you have the power to change them. Me? I lived in Miami, had a boring job, and a boyfriend that more or less ignored me, that is, when he wasn’t out drinking with his pals.  I found a way out of that unfulfilling situation and moved to Seattle. Now I’m pursuing my dream of living a life full of creativity with people who love and inspire me.  Since I’ve moved, I have had some of the best years of my life. Yes, it was scary, but if I hadn’t stretched and stepped outside my comfort zone, I’d still be in Miami wondering to myself if I could have had more, if I could have been happy, had I been brave.

Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing?

My friend Tessa is always trying to convince me to step back and try not to save everyone all the time, until she’s the one that needs help.  I don’t really consider what I do to be a career choice, since my career is actually something more fun than solving murders.  I’m a glass beadmaker, which means I’m used to wielding a 2,000 degree torch to melt glass that I sculpt into multicolored glass beads. Working with molten glass has made me fearless, well not exactly fearless, but to have some fierceness. It means I stand up and fight for what is right, and that I’m not afraid to find the truth so that justice can prevail.

Describe what being a self-rescue princess means to you.

To me, being a self-rescue princess means that you can’t wait around for problems to be solved by someone else. That someone is you.  Being a self-rescue princess means that you can’t stand idly by while others take actions and make decisions on your behalf.  You must be responsible for your own destiny, rather than hope that someone—a knight in shining armor, perhaps—will come your way at just the right moment. I think the rest of being a self-rescue princess has to do with making sure that the other women around you know that they have the power to take care of themselves, too. When you and your friends support each other, together you can fight the harshest foes.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Can we start with my weaknesses?  I’m addicted to coffee.  It’s pretty bad, I seriously can’t make it through the day without at least four cups. The worst thing is, I’ve also turned my cat into an addict, but not coffee, which I think may be deadly for our feline friends.  My cat, Gumdrop, is addicted to catnip. It can be quite embarrassing when he needs a fix.  Another thing: I’m a really bad cook, and my housekeeping skills are questionable.  But seriously, those things don’t matter that much in the big picture. And that’s probably my biggest strength—the big picture. When I’ve been in situations when there is a problem to solve, or a crime for that matter, I try to look at all the pieces and how they hang together.  Then I try and figure out which pieces are missing and which are out of place.  It’s kind of like designing a necklace—I can tell when everything works, when all the pieces work in harmony.  I think that’s what has helped me be a good sleuth. I can see where there’s a mismatch in the events that have led to a murder—that’s where I need to look to solve the mystery and bring everything into perfect balance.

If you’d like to get to know Jax, take note that High Strung, the first book in the Glass Bead Mystery Series, will be 99 cents from Feb 7th through 11th and $1.99 from Feb 12th through 15th.  Be Still My Beading Heart, A Glass Bead Mini-Mystery short story is free on Amazon and iTunes. A Bead in the Hand is available for the discounted price of $2.99 through February 15th.

 

 

 

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part IV): The Perfect Gift, Snowed In, and A Very Country Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

The holiday season is over and with it comes the packing up of our Christmas decorations and putting away the holiday theme and setting books until the end of the year. While I’ll miss reading them, I’m looking forward to reading mysteries, romances, and whatever else catches my eye that is set during any time of the year and explores other themes.

the perfect giftThe first book to finish up the list for this (last) year’s holiday reading is The Perfect Gift by Serenity Woods. In this story, Brock has been grieving for his deceased wife for two years and wants to explore getting into a new relationship; he still loves and misses his wife but yearns to have love in his life again. Erin had met Brock online through a chat group for parents who have children that have chronic illnesses and while hesitant at first, agrees to see if their online friendship can blossom into anything more. This book has a holiday setting and I enjoyed seeing Christmastime taking place in another country. And reading about Christmas in a warmer weather fit this year as where I live we had record highs. I liked how the Christmas season blended into the story without it overshadowing the growing romance or having Christmas being the sole reason for the couple being together. Note: This book does have steamy scenes.

snowed innThe next book was Snowed In by Danielle Lee Zwissler that had a Christmas theme and setting to the story. The heroine Lacy is on her way to visit her family for Christmas when her car breaks down on a snowy road. Grayson happens to be driving and stops to help the damsel in distress. Lacy isn’t so thrilled with being rescued but agrees to accompany the stranger when he mentions he’s heading to the inn where she was planning on staying. When she arrives, Lacy is greeted with warmth and love, something she has longed for all her life. Even though she was heading to her family, she never felt a sense of belonging and she does with Grayson and his family. This was a sweet story with a lovely message about finding and accepting love from where it’s offered. I felt that the holiday theme was so strong that the story was a little rushed at times.

a very country christmasThe last book for this holiday reading binge was A Very Country Christmas by Zara Stoneley. Christmastime. Couple in love. Horses. Wonderful setting. What more could a girl want in a holiday story? Lottie is looking forward to having a lovely, romantic Christmas dinner (cooked by her) with her fiance…before she knows it, the romantic meal has turned into a large gathering of friends and family. I loved the antics of the secondary characters and wish I could say more, but I don’t want to give away the ending. This was an enjoyable, feel-good read and was the perfect book as this year’s last holiday read.

 

 

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part III): The Gift, Mistletoe and Murder, and Home for the Holidays

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

The end of the year is upon us and with that I’m winding down in my holiday reading. I’ll have one more edition of my holiday reviews before I reenter the world of non-holiday stories. the giftThe first book for this edition is The Gift by Lisa Mondello. I really enjoyed this book. The plot had a wonderful blend of a Christmas setting and a Christmas spirit theme that I enjoy (and prefer) in holiday books. Neither the holiday setting or theme was heavy-handed, and the two elements worked perfectly together. I loved how Allison and Derek meet and how their conflict naturally stemmed from the first encounter, though I do wish Allison had been more forthcoming I understand why she kept the knowledge to herself. I would’ve like for Allison to have her own ah-ha moment in the book instead of it just being Derek, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. It was a lovely read and stirred up my Christmas spirit.

mistletoe and murderThe next book was Mistletoe and Murder by Laina Turner. This is a cozy mystery short story and is set during Christmas time. The heroine Presley goes home for the holidays and agrees to help an ex-boyfriend discover the truth behind some financial shenanigans going on at his business which then evolves into having to track down a murderer. The mystery element is the strongest one in the story. Presley has a charge-forward, look back later personality which lands her in trouble and in humorous situations. I enjoyed getting to know her.

home for christmasThe last book for this edition is Home for Christmas by Melissa McClone. This was my favorite holiday read (so far) this year. It had the perfect balance of Christmas spirit/heart and Christmas setting. I loved Rachel and Nate. Rachel was a heroine who was equal parts spunky and vulnerable which made me connect to her immediately and wanted me to see her happily-each-after happen. Nate was strong and protective, and yet had a soft side to him that was endearing. The couple played perfectly off each other and I loved how their romance played out.

The Bar V5 ranch was perfect for a Christmas setting. The descriptions had me longing for snow (and I usually don’t look forward to it), and made me wish I could take a vacation there. It felt so real to me. The Christmas spirit was so alive in this book and made it so enjoyable to read. I took my time reading this story as I wanted to stay at the Bar V5 for awhile as it was such a heartwarming place. Yes, I know I’m gushing but it’s the way this book made me feel when I was reading it. The last scene had me releasing a long, satisfied sigh as it tugged at my heart. I can’t wait to read another story about the Bar V5 ranch.

 

 

SRP Heroine Interview: Aurora (Rory) Anderson from Paint the Town Dead

  1. paint the town deadPlease tell us a little bit about what is currently going on in your life?

I love attending decorative painting conventions, so I was excited when I learned the Ocean Painting Society would be holding its first convention right here in Vista Beach. I even put together the convention website so I got the scoop on everything early on. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out exactly as I expected. I was enjoying myself, shopping and working on the trade show floor and taking painting classes when my friend collapsed in class and, well, there’s no sugarcoating it—she died. The police looked into it, of course, but didn’t find any evidence of foul play so they closed the case. That didn’t seem right to me so I started my own investigation.

  1. What made you decide to take on such a risky endeavor?

I couldn’t let the murderer get away with it! She was my friend. Someone had to stick up for her.

  1. Did you ever imagine yourself being involved in fighting crime?

No, never in my wildest dreams did I expect to have anything to do with murder and now I’ve been involved in two investigations!

  1. Who would you say is the least pleased about your additional career choice of amateur sleuthing? Or is detective work your only career?

That would have to be Detective Green of the Vista Beach police department. He’s not thrilled when civilians get involved in police matters. I think he’s afraid I’ll get hurt. No, detective work isn’t my normal career. I’m a freelance computer programmer. I write apps, put together websites, that sort of thing.

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My willingness to drop everything and help out friends and family. I’m persistent and a good problem solver. But, sometimes I’m too concerned about what others think of me.

  1. Describe what being a self-rescue princess means to you.

A strong, confident woman tries to solve her own problems. At the same time, she knows she can’t always do everything by herself so she knows when it’s time to ask for help.

  1. What one advice/wisdom would you like to pass onto young women?

Don’t let anyone discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Persistence pays off.

  1. What was one lesson you learned during this challenging time in your life?

Never take friends for granted. You never know when they’ll no longer be there.

  1. If your story or life had a theme song, what would it be?

The Gloria Gaynor song, “I Will Survive.” Not that long ago, I learned my birth parents were serial arsonists who were responsible for numerous fires and a few deaths here in Vista Beach. That threw me for a loop, believe me. I didn’t know anything about this until I moved to Vista Beach with my parents almost two years ago now. Then there was that dead body in my garden…

  1. Do you plan on dabbling in amateur sleuthing in the future, or have you hung up your detective hat?

I hope I never see another dead body in my life! But I have this uneasy feeling that there’s another one in my future.

SRP Review Holiday Edition (Part II): The Carpenter’s Gift, Lowcountry Bordello, and Unwrapping Her Perfect Match

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

carpenter's giftMy house is decked out in its holiday attire, and the books I’m featuring in this edition of my holiday reads all feature great Christmas settings. The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel is a children’s tale that tells the story about the Rockefeller Center Tree. Every year I’m including a children’s Christmas/holiday story to read. I find that children stories usually have a sweet holiday spirit message in them that aren’t heavy-handed. What drew me to this book was the lovely illustrations that reflected the time period and Christmas setting beautifully. The pictures are gorgeous and complement the story. I had a real sense of the time and place. I loved learning about the Rockefeller Tree and seeing the act of kindness that started so much good and happiness in a lot of people’s lives.

lowcountry bordelloThe next book I read was Lowcountry Bordello by Susan M. Boyer. This is a mystery that happens around Christmas time. I loved reading all the description of Stella Maris during the holidays and seeing Liz navigating through the regular holiday events on top of planning a wedding–and trying to solve a murder. The mystery is the strongest element of the story and what I enjoyed most about the holiday setting was how it fit into the main storyline without overtaking it or having Christmastime just being a backdrop. The story wouldn’t have been the same if it was set at a different time. I like how Liz’s everyday life was still happening even though it was the holiday time. It’s very much how most of us have to navigate the holiday season.

unwrapping her perfect matchThe last book for this edition is Unwrapping her Perfect Match by Kat Latham. This is book is set during the holidays and starts with our heroine Gwen going to a fundraising auction to bid on a rugby player. Gwen has instructions on who to bid on but all doesn’t go as planned as meeting a handsome rugby player changes her mind. I loved the holiday descriptions in this book and they made me want to go to London one Christmas. It was a sweet love story and I have to admit it’s one of my favorite endings in a romance. Just a little note (disclaimer if you will) that this is a sexy story so if you prefer sweet reads (no sex on the page) then you might want to pass on this on or skip those sections.

My 31 Days of Holiday Movies

Holiday Movie CollectionI love holiday movies. Holiday movies are one of the things I love most about this time of year. I love the spirit, and yes the uncomplicated problems which turn into such angst-filled movie plots. While I love dramas, during the holiday season I prefer to watch movies that are a lighthearted.

I’ve always had a couple of my favorites on DVD but wouldn’t have called it a collection. When we switched cable providers and no longer had the Hallmark channel I missed the fun, whimsical, and yes at times cheesy, but always with happy ending holiday movies that were shown every night and all day on Sundays. There are a couple of other networks that run holiday movies (even all day on Sundays), but some of them didn’t have the same lighthearted feel as the Hallmark movies.

I caught a horrible respiratory infection at the beginning of the holiday season last year and really missed my holiday movie binges. To cheer me up, my husband bought me a couple Hallmark movies–and my collection started. (The summer is a good time to snap up holiday movies at a discount on Amazon.)

It was so great to pop in a Christmas movie when the ones on Lifetime or UP just didn’t feel my particular holiday viewing need. When it was time to relocate the holiday movies back downstairs, I realized I hadn’t watched all the movies in my collection. This year, I wanted to make sure I enjoyed all my movies (and my collection had grown since last Christmas) so I created my own holiday movie schedule to include in my Christmas planner. 2015-12-03 12.20.16I will switch them around if I decide I really want to watch a particular one. There are just some days where nothing but Elf or Christmas With the Kranks will do. I love having all the movies written down (and some days have more than one listed) and knowing that I’ll be visiting each set of characters during the holiday season. My family was amused, and I believe a little perplexed, at this addition to my Christmas to-do lists. I already have my cookies to bake list, appetizers for Christmas Eve list, shopping list, decorating list, and now I have created my own holiday movie guide. I know some people find all the planning and to-dos that come along with the holidays stressful, but I love it. I look forward to the day after Thanksgiving as I know it’s time to display and show my holiday/Christmas love. (Bring out the Christmas sweaters!)

GIVEAWAY: If you’d love to start your own holiday movie collection, I’m giving away a copy of Christmas With the Kranks (based on the book Skipping Christmas by John Grisham). To enter, comment with the name of your favorite holiday movie. Currently, I have 46 movies in my collection and would love to make it 50. Help me add some titles to my wish list. I’ll draw a winner on December 7.

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SRP Holiday Review Edition (Part I): Do You Believe in Santa, Bella’s Christmas Bake Off, and Get Yourself Organized for Christmas

During the holiday season, the reviews I post on The Self-Rescue Princess will have a different focus as my reading habits change. From Thanksgiving until the New Year, I only read novels set during the holiday season or have a seasonal theme. The Holiday Edition reviews will focus on the holiday spirit in the stories, and I plan to review more than one book in each post. I decided to go with more than one because I find I read more at this time and I want to share as many holiday short stories, novellas and books that I can during this time frame.

I’m so excited! It’s the time of the year where I pull out all my holiday themed books (and sweaters…yes, I’m one of the people who wear them and I don’t care that it’s a no on every fashion list) and settle into to do some serious reading. I seem to read more at this time of the year than any other. If you have any suggestions for titles (adult, young adult, children books) please let me know as I can never have too many holiday books.

do you believe in santaThe first book for this year is Do You Believe in Santa? by Sierra Donovan. Stories with a Christmas theme or setting are my favorites. Every year, I look forward to diving into these types of stories as the happiness and goodwill melt away all my cares and contribute to my enjoyment of the holiday season. What I enjoy most about holiday stories is the magic weaved into them through details of the setting, atmosphere, and the love-of-Christmas embraced by the characters. Do You Believe in Santa? fit perfectly into my holiday reading needs.

From the first introduction of Mandy and the store she works in, I knew I was in for a magical time. I loved seeing Mandy as a little girl and knowing that as an adult, she still embraced—and found a way to make a living—from her love of Christmas and Santa Claus. The only thing missing in Mandy’s life is true love. It’s hard for her as the eligible bachelors in town, remembering about her defense of Santa, don’t take her seriously or want her to change.
When a new man arrives in town, Mandy decides to step out of her comfort zone and agree to a date. The romance is written in a sweet and honest way. (I had started to type an example but deleted it, not wanting to spoil the story.) I loved seeing Mandy show him her town, and her love for the holidays, and watching Jake fall under the spell of Christmas. Do You Believe in Santa? kept the Christmas spirit throughout even though the majority of the book took place before the holiday season.

bella's christmas bakeoffThe next book was Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson.  Amy is blissfully baking away and looking forward to Christmas when her husband arrives home and announces he’s leaving her. The timing comes as a shock to Amy, though not the news itself as she knows their marriage has been on the rocks for a while, but how could he leave her before the holidays. I thought the same thing. Why tell her then when he knew how much the holidays meant to his wife? Then again, why would a man who’d run around on his wife care about her love of a particular season?

Amy turns to her favorite holiday program to try and gain back some of her positive and happy feelings of the holidays, even though it does bring some bittersweet memories as the host was her childhood best friend Bella. The girls had a falling out, which Amy caused, and the friendship never recovered. It is one of the regrets of Amy’s life. When watching the show, Amy learns that the recipes Bella uses were Amy’s mother. A war is now on. With some maneuverings, Amy wins a contest and be spending some time with her former best friend. Amy plans on using the time to right her wrongs, have Bella’s wrongs righted, and maybe with the Christmas spirit in the air some hearts and minds will open.

I’ll admit I was a little worried if the book would fulfill my holiday reading needs. While the book has some heavy moments and painful pasts for the characters, it never took over. When I’m in a holiday reading mood, I want a book that will refresh my spirit, make me a little teary because of love and goodwill not sorrow. I want a story that will showcase the best of the holiday spirit: love, second chances, wonder, happiness, and of course scenes showing Christmas in all its beautiful (and sometimes dysfunctional) wonder. Bella’s Christmas Bake Off fulfilled all my needs.

get yourself organized for the holidaysAnd the last book for this part of my holiday reviews is Get Yourself Organized for Christmas by Kathi Lipp. I like planning and am always on the lookout for ideas on how to improve upon my current methods. And since Christmas is my holiday love and I go all out–decorating, baking, movie watching, reading, clothing, etc– I figured a book just on organizing for the holiday was a perfect read for me. I even started a holiday planner to keep notes of everything I need to do, want to do, and should be doing as in my quest to get it all in, I sometimes miss something that gives me a little pang of regret.

The one thing that the book advises doing, and that I’m having trouble with, is downsizing the must-do list. I don’t know if I can, or even want to give anything up. Except for the holiday season (okay and book launches), my life is pretty tame and one day rolls into the next. For the holidays, I like feeling that every day is special and I have something fun and different to do. The one take-away I do keep in mind is not to let my plans overwhelm my family. I make sure that I have some must-dos holiday-specialness activities that I can do on my own…reading, watching movies, crafting. Something that gives me the feeling I need and doesn’t make the holidays something my family comes to dread.

The way the book is organized made it very easy for me to include those specific ideas into my Christmas planner so I could spend more time decorating the planner rather than trying to make sure I included all the categories I’d need.