Posted in excerpt, Spotlight, Thriller on February 10, 2017

Title: Initiated to Kill

Author : Sharlene Almond

Genre: Historical/21st century psychological thriller

Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press and Start Publishing

Synopsis

Two men from different generations, both initiated into a powerful organisation that throughout history has sought control and uses their power for destruction. They leave behind a wake of murder, manipulation and ancient secrets.

The first man stalks women of the night in the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 19th century. While the other stalks his victims in the cosmopolitan city of Seville, Spain in the 21st century; knowing that only he could uncover the true motives of one of the world’s most infamous serial killers – Jack the Ripper.

Annabella Cordova quickly becomes embroiled in the conspiracy involving the university she studies at. When her roommate goes missing, it becomes very personal. Her past gradually unveils, as she is closer to this than she could have possibly imagined.
A childhood accident causing permanent deafness enables Annabella to use her other senses to read facial and body language; detecting lies in people, including suspects.

Andres Valero, the troubled detective, returns from forced leave, only to be faced with horrific crimes that brings his memories to the surface.

The novel continuously takes the reader back in time to the 19th century; creating a psychological profile of the man that wanders the London streets, his paintings depicting crimes only seen by a killer’s eyes. And a boy that’s continuously tormented by his own sadistic tendencies.

With Annabella and Andres combined, they must stop this person at any cost, and reveal a conspiracy hidden for centuries.

Excerpt

Prologue

January, 1888

The solemn lodge hid from unworthy eyes, an unnoticeable forgotten place made of granite. Two Sphinx- like granite lions with women’s heads peered down from the entrance of the lodge. An “ankh” adorned the lion’s neck, entwined with a cobra. An image of a woman embellished the neck and breast of the other lion, speaking of fertility and procreation.

Fervent men slowly make their way up the three levels of narrowing steps, passing under the two Egyptian swords with curved serpentine blades, passing through the two tall bronze doors.

One man glanced up as he ascended the steps, silently mouthing, “the temple of the Supreme Council Freemasons,” made of brass letters and set in stone. His gaze fell to the plaque cut in stone, “Freemasonry Builds Its Temples in the Hearts of Men and Among Nations.”

Stone columns extend high above the entrance and partially conceal an image of an Egyptian god, backed with radiating sun and flanked by six large golden snakes. He stepped past the threshold of the lodge entirely made of marble, exotic wood, and statues carved from gold.

The ofting room decorated with many symbols, especially the serpent, and portraits of famous and influential men, lined the walls. Illuminations flickered above the men, resembling stars in the dark blue sky; the golden serpents silently watching in the blue heavens.

Slowly removing his clothes, wrapping the long black

robe around him, placing a hood over his head to partially conceal his face.

In the recesses of the ancient temple, an ornately decorated room filled with candles, lighted the way for the men filing in. Dressed in long black robes, hands pressed solemnly together, slowly the row of men trudge into the Temple room. Each with their face down, they instinctively form a large circle in the room.

The room fell with a deathly silence; abruptly three knocks reverberated throughout the room. The Worshipful Master spoke, “You will admit him in the name of the Grand Architect of the Universe, and let him be placed in the West.”

Gradually the door creaks open, a young man enters with a black robe and the left knee and breast exposed. The young man’s face is covered by a dark cloth and led around the circle by a rope around his neck. The candidate is led to the oath of secrecy where the Worshipful Master stands. A sword is pricked to the candidate’s left breast.

“As this is a prick to the flesh at this time, so may the remembrance of it be to your conscience hereafter, should you ever attempt improperly to reveal any of the secrets with which you are about to be entrusted.”

The group silently watch as the candidate is instructed to kneel with his left knee bare and bent, his right foot forming a square and the body being erect in that square. The left hand supports the Volume of the Sacred Law, compass and square and right hand placed thereon.

“‘Vouch safe Thine Aid, Almighty Father, Grand Architect of the Universe, to this our present conviction. Grant that this Candidate for Masonry, now kneeling before thee, may dedicate and devote his life to thy Service, and become a true and faithful Brother amongst us. To this end endue him with such a competency of thy Divine Wisdom, that assisted by the secrets of our Royal Masonic Art, he may be better enabled to display the beauties of true godliness to the Honour and glory of Thy Most Holy Name.’ ”

“‘I do most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows in twenty- four hours…should I ever knowingly or willingly violate this my solemn oath or obligation as an Entered Apprentice Mason. So help me God.’ ”

The young man is then presented with white gloves and escorted to the pedestal in the East to become an Entered Apprentice.

Throughout the ceremony another waited expectedly. Another man would join them, and this man would be the one. He had done a lot to encourage them to allow this man to be initiated.

But he could never have foretold the events to come.

*** *

A candlelit chamber houses a secret meeting where four men sit around a table, each wearing the long black robes and only talking above a whisper.

“The time has come to make our stand and proclaim to our Brothers that it’s time. It’s our time to cause such a panic, that people will not know whom to turn to. That the reliance on religion and government will pass. It’s our time to take control, and whoever does not stand behind us will

fall.”“Yes, we must give a sign to our Brothers that can only be recognized by them, something that will forever change the world.”

About the Author

I’m an author and student living in Auckland, New Zealand. I’ve studied in a wide range of subjects; however, chose to concentrate on courses designed to learn more about the human psyche.

Having studied in Criminology and Neuro Linguistic programming; in addition to completing a diploma course in body language, enables me to give an authentic feel to my characters, and the crimes committed. Because I’ve always been fascinated with human psychology, especially criminal psychology, I always include that element in every book I write.

I’m also a student studying Naturopathy Nutrition, and Body Language. Although I love writing, I am hoping to eventually start up my own business as a Complementary Health Therapist from home.

I have recently published a New Zealand travel E-book – Journey in Little Paradise, to inform travellers of what to expect when they come to New Zealand.

As an author of historical/21st century psychological, international thrillers, my books challenge readers to think beyond what they believe, as well as taking the reader on a journey throughout Europe and abroad.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, Historical, romance on February 3, 2017

Title: Highland Vixen

Series: Highland Weddings, #2

Author: Mary Wine

Pub Date: February 7, 2017

ISBN: 9781492602590

Synopsis

Fierce Highland war chief seeks comely lass for fun, frolic, and marriage

Marcus MacPherson is every inch the fearsome Highlander. He’s used to men averting their eyes and women cowering before him. He thinks he’ll eventually settle down with a nice, obedient bride. Instead, he gets Helen Grant… Stubborn as the day is long, fearless and dedicated to raising as much hell as possible, Helen is definitely going to challenge Marcus. And challenge him some more. And then some.

It’s anyone’s guess who’ll win this battle of the heart…

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An Intro from the Author

Hummm….the truth is, I am nerd enough to think history is fun. All the little facts and laws from centuries ago have always fascinated me. My parents were always listening to me expound on some little bit of wonderment…aka…historical fact.

Working these little facts into my work is something I try to do because I believe it’s important to write a book, set in the time it is dated. It was a different time and I think that adds spice to the unfolding romance. Life wasn’t fair then and it isn’t now. There is nothing I love more than to set out to see a couple overcome the odds and live happily ever after.

At least I love it when it’s finished! When I’m in that bottom of the ninth inner point, it’s hair pulling time as I try and work things out. Yes, I know I’m the author and should know these things but honestly, these characters have minds of their own!

I hope you all enjoy Highland Vixen. 2017 hold three titles from my Highland Brides and yes, I make you wait for that moment when it all comes together but they are all brides after all.

Cheers!

Mary Wine

Excerpt

MacPherson Castle was huge. It needed to be, because there were over three hundred retainers alone. When supper was laid out on the tables, their conversation echoed through the stone corridors. But that didn’t stop a woman’s scream from penetrating the chatter. Men came off their benches, their kilts flipping aside as they started toward the back stairwell where the sound had come from.

What stopped them was their War Chief, Marcus MacPherson, coming through the wide arched passageway. He had a woman with him who wasn’t pleased to be his captive.

“What are ye doing?” Shamus MacPherson demanded from his seat at the high table.

“Uncovering a deception,” Marcus replied to his father and laird. He set the woman in front of the MacPherson laird. “Helen and Brenda are no longer in this keep. Ailis has kept to her chamber to deceive us all into thinking Helen and Brenda were there with her. While this one”—he pointed at the girl—“has made sure no one saw her face to notice the game.”

Shamus dropped his knife and looked at the girl. Her eyes widened. “I did as I was told by me mistress.” She lowered herself awkwardly.

He snorted at her in reprimand. “Allowing her to act foolishly and leave the protection of this stronghold is no’ to be commended, girl. Ye lack the sense to be a personal servant to me daughter-by-marriage.”

The girl paled, shaking like a dried-out leaf in a wind storm.

Shamus grunted and waved her away before turning to his other son. “Best ye go discover what yer wife has been about this last week.”

Bhaic MacPherson was already pushing his chair back. There was a grim set to his jaw as he moved behind the other chairs and down the steps to where his half brother was glowering at him.

“With child or no, that wife of yers needs a reckoning,” Marcus growled.

Bhaic stopped in the passageway, just out of sight of the rest of the clan. “She is with child, so ye’ll manage yer temper or no’ be seeing her.”

Marcus crossed his arms over his chest and grinned at his brother. Bhaic grunted, recognizing the promise in the expression. No one liked a fight better than Marcus, except perhaps Bhaic.

“I mean to have words with her, Brother,” Marcus warned Bhaic. “And they will nae be kind.”

“If ye truly want to frighten Ailis, speak nicely to her.”

Marcus grunted and took to the stairs. Bhaic reached up and pulled him back by the shoulder.

“Helen may well be in the hands of the Gordons, thanks to this deception. Ye killed Lye Rob, and they would take great delight in paying us back in blood.” Marcus shot back at his brother. “Brenda and Helen could no’ have more than half a dozen men with them.”

Bhaic’s face tightened. “I know ye’re right to be angry, Brother.” He passed Marcus and took to the stairs. He offered his wife a single rap on the door of their chamber before he pushed it in and Marcus followed him.

Ailis Robertson was waiting for them. She stood in the center of the receiving room, ready to face them. Damn, but Marcus loved her spirit, even when it was at odds with what he thought she should be doing with all that strength of character.

“Ailis…” Bhaic began.

“I’ve deceived ye,” she stated. “I’ve been pretending to be more ill than I am, so the women could stay with me and no’ be seen.”

“Ye know very well how the Gordons treat their captives.” Marcus pointed at her. “Did ye no’ think of what might happen to Helen and Brenda if they tried to ride across the Highlands with naught but a handful of men?”

She paled. Bhaic reached forward and gripped her forearm, but she sucked in a breath and steadied herself.

Marcus snorted at her. “How long have they been gone?”

“Four days.”

Marcus was gripping his sleeves so tightly his knuckles popped. “Where did they go?”

“To court, to seek shelter from Brenda’s kin.”

“Court.” Marcus spat the word out like a curse. “Right into the hands of the Earl of Morton. Ye might recall how that man treats women he thinks can be of use.”

Ailis stiffened. “I do.”

Marcus grunted at her before he purposefully turned on his heel and left the chamber, the longer pleats of his kilt flaring out behind him.

About the Author

Acclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of Scottish Highland romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in Yorba Linda, California with her husband and two sons.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Spotlight, Urban on January 29, 2017

Synopsis

Ian’s alliance with the rebels brings the wrath of the Pur army crashing down on them, but he is forced to abandon his new allies and travels to Earth’s alternate universe to rescue Rayne. As Ian combs the strange, desolate planet in search for her, he discovers the true story of the Weir and his connection to Earth’s imminent destruction.

Excerpt

Several miles later, and unsure if he could take much more, the current slowed and he leaned back in exhaustion. The boat glided into a wide cavern with a high-arched ceiling. A narrow ray of natural light streamed from a sizeable crevice overhead. The striations across the rock walls took Ian’s breath away and he yearned for better light to view them in all their splendor. The wall depicting the planet’s evolutionary story, displaying various crust layers rising high above his head.

Bump! One of the paddles slipped out of Ian’s hand and he scrambled to retrieve it before it floated away. He slid the handle back into the iron ring that rose from the side of the boat and breathed a sigh of relief. Droplets, either from sweat or from his wet hair, plopped onto his cheek, and he used his forearm to swipe his forehead. Bump!

The rowboat swished sideways in the water. It hadn’t been diverted by an underwater rock. The motion felt more like a nudge.

A water creature swam beneath him. Was it playing with him, or was the gesture a warning?

In order to conjure a core blast, Ian would have to let go of one of the oars. If he pulled it into the boat, he’d be unable to steer.

The creature’s back broke the surface on the port side. It was about seven feet long and covered in thick scales, each one the size of Ian’s hand. Phosphorescent algae grew between the curved scales, outlining them in an emerald glow. Ian leaned over the side of the boat as the creature dove beneath and disappeared into the murky depths. He had no idea how deep the water was in the cavern, but from what he could tell, it was enough deep for this creature to have grown to the size of a small car.

He searched for a ledge, anything he could paddle over to so he could be better prepared if the creature returned. Nothing but sheer rock walls surrounded him.

The sounds of the gentle lapping water kept his breaths company, yet were unable to sooth his pulse.

When the creature didn’t return after a couple of minutes, Ian dipped the oars into the water with the merest of sound and pulled back with gentle force, headed for the mouth of the cave several yards ahead. Ian passed under a stream of natural light, and was blinded for a few seconds.

He cocked his ear at a change in the surface of the water from behind. The creature was on a direct path toward him. Ian pulled the oar in his left hand with everything he had but it wasn’t enough to skirt the oncoming blitz. The creature lifted the back end of the boat out of the water and sent Ian lunging to the side.

He face-planted on the surface, and then was pulled under the water.

 

About the Author

sue duffSue Duff has dreamed of dragons and spaceships before she could even read, so it’s only natural that she now combines both fantasy and science fiction as her favorite genre. Having written since high school, Duff never took it seriously until a skiing accident laid her up for an entire summer and she turned on the word processor to combat the boredom. A couple years later, her first urban fantasy novel, Fade to Black , was one of five finalists in the RMFW Colorado Gold Writing Contest and in 2015, Duff’s writing earned her the PEN Award.

She is the second oldest of six girls with an avid reader mom and her dad, the family’s single drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen.

By day, Duff is a dedicated speech-language therapist at an inner city school district, a career she pursued much in part to her aunt who got her hooked on stories of the profession when Duff was younger. She is passionate about the work she does and regularly works to help those students that need it the most.

Sue is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The Pikes Peak Writers.  She calls Colorado home and when not saving the world one page at a time, she can be found walking her great dane, getting her hands dirty in her garden, or creating something delicious in her kitchen.

Check out her blog, A Cook’s Guide to Writing and other musings on her website.

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Catch up on the series by reading Fade to BlackMasks and Mirrors and Sleight of Hand!

Love Audiobooks? You can also listen to Fade to Black through Audible.

Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on January 22, 2017

Synopsis

MATT REED IS HIDING

…from his fans

…from his past

…from a failure too painful to contemplate

Most of all, Matt is hiding from himself.

VIVIENNE FORRESTER IS A WOMAN WHO GIVES HER ALL

…to her friends and family

…to her online food blog

…to the man she loves

Vivienne will try anything and everything to coax Matt out of his self-imposed exile. But for this to work, Matt is going to have to meet her halfway…

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Excerpt

Carefully, she put the cap back on the bottle and stood. “Okay, maybe I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I can see how it’s affecting you. And I know I don’t know you that well, but it doesn’t mean I can’t see what’s right in front of me.”

“Really?” he asked incredulously.

“Yes, really.”

He made a snorting sound and walked away. Vivienne eyed the back door and seriously considered just calling it a night. Clearly she wasn’t helping him in any way, shape or form and was only serving to instigate on an already sensitive subject. Besides, she wasn’t good with confrontations. It was one of the reasons she enjoyed working from home – no drama.

So without a word, she simply made her way across the room toward the door. Her hand had barely touched the doorknob when she felt Matt’s hands on her shoulders as he spun her around to face him. She gasped in surprise. “Matt? What…?”

“What do you see right now, Vivienne?” he asked, his voice low, a near growl.

“I don’t…what do you mean?” There was a tremor in her voice and it was breathy and very unlike her.

He stepped in closer and her back came in contact with the wall. “You said you can see what’s right in front of you. So tell me, what do you see?”

It was a loaded question, she thought. And if she wasn’t careful, she’d blurt out how she saw a sexy-as-hell man who turned her on simply by being in the same room! But there was no way she could admit to that and she knew it certainly wouldn’t help the situation at all.

“I see a man who is struggling with his identity,” she said, swallowing hard.

His eyes narrowed. “Seriously? That’s what you see? That’s all you see?”

There was something in his tone that warned her this was going in a completely different direction than she thought and all she could do was nod.

“Then you honestly can’t see what’s right in front of you.” Now his voice was gruff and so deep and so close that Vivienne almost purred from the sound of it. “Because I’m not struggling – I’m a bastard. I’m selfish. And you know what? I don’t even care.”

She shook her head.

“Trust me. I know what I want, and it’s right in front of me.”

Her eyes went wide as she softly gasped.

And then he pressed against her fully and kissed her.

About the Author

Samantha Chase, a creative writing teacher, released her debut novel, Jordan’s Return, in November 2011. Since then, she has published seventeen more titles and has become a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She lives with her husband of twenty-four years and their two sons in North Carolina.

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Posted in excerpt, humor, Spotlight, Trailer on January 13, 2017

Synopsis

Doesn’t it seem as if someone issues a new apocalypse prediction every week? Y2K? The Mayan apocalypse? The Rapture? Doesn’t it seem endless? As opposed to the traditional trend of post-apocalyptic literature, Apocalypse All the Time is post-post-apocalypticism.

Marshall is sick of the apocalypse happening on a weekly (if not daily) basis. Life is constantly in peril, continually disrupted, but nothing significant ever happens. The emergency is always handled. Always. Marshall wants out; he wants it all to stop…one way or another. Apocalypse All the Time explores humanity’s fascination with the end times and what impact such a fascination has on the way we live our lives.

Excerpt

Chapter One

Someone ran into the room where Marshall had been sleeping. He’d been dreaming of being pursued by robed riders on skeletal horses. One person ran into the room, and then more people followed, their steps echoing everywhere. It got louder. He opened a tired eye, but he was alone in his apartment. The rumbling continued.

Then, the building was on log rollers, rumbling back and forth. Marshall was disoriented as he lay in bed. His body, always feeling a little oversized, seemed disconnected from up or down. Rudderless.

An earthquake.

Marshall tried to remember if they were still on Earth. So many things had happened and it was di cult to keep track of everything. If he was still on earth then it was only an earthquake. Otherwise, it’d be a something else quake.

Same difference for what it meant, but the distinction seemed as important as anything else. It was at least as important as the fact it was happening, which itself wasn’t a big deal.

Marshall grabbed the side of the bed to pull himself out from under the blankets. He let his body roll onto the door and tried to stand. Nothing fell off the walls, but only because Marshall had never bothered putting anything up. He started toward his front door.

It was just the apocalypse. An earthquake apocalypse. The ground under people’s feet would betray them. Great cracks would open and swallow up men without thought, without intention. Buildings would crumble. People would die. Continents would shift. Life would change forever.

Marshall yawned. He rubbed sleep from his eyes. He ran a hand through his shaggy, black hair. Then he emerged from his apartment, sure his pale skin made him seem like a naked mole rat tentatively greeting the day.

Oh well.

In the hall, a flood of people screamed, and owed toward the stairs, pulling Marshall awkwardly along with them. He couldn’t be sure who was screaming. There were so many people everywhere. Nobody seemed to be yelling, but everybody seemed to be. It was disembodied screaming, and Marshall stopped thinking about it when he remembered he didn’t care about who it was.

The flow swept him down the cement stairs. No one took 
the elevators during an emergency. They were well trained. The flow surged Marshall downward. Some people tumbled, but only onto other people. No big problem. No one seemed to be getting crushed. There was that at least.

The mass broke outside, each out for themselves, running anywhere away from the buildings.

The open.

The instinct was to head for the open.

Marshall found himself in a nearby green space. It was like a park, but with nothing in it. Like a vacant lot, but mowed. It was probably important for something, but for the moment, Marshall thought it best for avoiding earthquake dangers.

There was a tearing sort of roar. Marshall looked up to see an apartment building separating into halves. Like a wishbone, though Marshall didn’t bother making a wish. Steel frames shrieked and twanged, snapped. Bricks crumbled to powder. The whole thing fell to the ground as if it was tired and needed to sit.

No people died though, apparently. It looked like everyone had gotten out. That was a nice thing.

Other buildings fell.

Then the shaking stopped. People looked around, Marshall along with them. Thousands of voices buzzed, probably trying to ask what was going on. Confusion. It all merged into a giant mass of noise-thought. Indistinguishable sound like listening to all the broadcast stations at once. No message remained in all the messages. Then the rumbling began again. Stronger.

A red-haired woman in a brown jumper grabbed Marshall. She pulled him down to her and jammed her tongue into his mouth, searching. Need.

Surprised, Marshall returned the rutting kiss.

The woman was short and curvy. The jumper stretched, emphasizing attractive bulges. Not that he’d had a chance to judge, but Marshall felt attracted. His instinct wasn’t to push her off.

She ground her hips into him, something to which Marshall was unaccustomed. It wasn’t like he’d never been with a girl before, only it was usually a lot more work. Meeting, expressing interest, pursuing, and mood setting. A choreographed and stylized dance. It was kind of refreshing to have one just show up.

Her hands groped at his belt. She moaned. “Come on. We don’t have much time. This could be it.”

Marshall froze, disgusted. His arousal drained. The redhead repulsed him. She smelled of saliva and sweat, though she’d smelled of sex a moment before. Her grinding now seemed like an attack, desperate. She clung like a maggot, a greasy, rotting maggot. The taste of bile rose in Marshall’s throat.

The redhead didn’t seem to notice, still humping Marshall’s leg. Maybe she didn’t care. She still pulled at his clothes, frantic. Drool leaked out one side of her mouth.

“Get me off. We’re going to die.”

Marshall broke away. Stunned, he didn’t go far. He had to get the redhead o him, get her out of his face. He couldn’t breathe.

The woman didn’t pursue. She almost didn’t pick up on his departure, instead grabbing a fat man nearby. She latched on and the fat man did the same.

“We’re going to die,” the woman shrieked as a crack tore through the green space, splitting earth, and knocking everyone o their feet. “Do it, now.”

The redhead and fat man pulled at their clothes, frenzied. As soon as a path was open, she thrust herself onto him. The fat man grunted, red-faced, and pumped furiously. They looked like pigs.

Marshall stared in horror, wishing he could look away. “Faster,” the woman screamed, “before it’s too late.”

The fat man’s flesh rolled. It jiggled and shook more than the world around them. The coarse hair on his hide was flecked with bits of white deodorant, and the scent of rotting milk wafted o of him. He groaned and squealed, frantically trying to finish. He barely seemed to notice the redhead.

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About the Author

David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time (forthcoming from Literary Wanderlust), Not Quite So Stories, Bones Buried in the Dirt (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards® finalist, First Novel (under 80,000 words)) and The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence® Awards finalist in humor). His writing has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Atticus Review and other literary magazines and journals.

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Posted in excerpt, Monday, mystery, Spotlight on January 9, 2017

Title: A Darker Shore
Author: Malia Zaldi
Publisher: Bookbaby
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Mystery

Synopsis

1926: A year has passed since the events of “A Poisonous Journey” and Lady Evelyn has made a home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband, Jeffrey and Daniel Harper. Disturbing this island idyll is a letter, which arrives from France with troubling information about the Daniel’s long-believed-dead brother, Henry. A new journey awaits! With the shadows of the Great War reaching out, Lady Evelyn and Daniel voyage to Amiens in Northern France with the aim of discovering the truth behind the ominous letter. Upon their arrival, they are met not with clarity but rather with crime. Murder, to be precise. Is it linked to their presence in France, or even worse, to Henry himself?  Evelyn and Daniel must confront their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.

Excerpt

Prologue

Near Pozières, France 1917

            We came here to die.

My heart beats the rhythm of the shell blast. Boom. Boom. Boom. Ready to burst, ready to break. Boom. Boom. Boom.

“Get down!”

An explosion of earth, light, and fire twenty feet beyond our trench.

“Close one that?” McCragh bellows into my ear.

I only manage a nod. Too many sounds echoing through my body, the steady pulsing of my heart, the tinny ringing in my ears. But silence can be just as bad I have learned. Silence can be death. My discovery weighs heavy on my mind. What will I do? Do I have a choice?

“What are the orders?” asks a young man, whose name I cannot remember, standing at my other side, leaning heavily against the dirt wall of our trench, his feet squelching thickly in the mud underfoot.

“Awaiting orders,” says McCragh with a sneer. “Won’t do us much good, waiting ‘ere much longer, better get out, better to be moving.”

The nameless young man shies away from us, from the bitter words of the burly Scot

Before I can respond, another man, the Runner, comes catapulting into the ditch. I help him right himself. His face is smeared with dirt and dust, but this mask cannot conceal his tender age. I shudder. We will all die here today.

“Orders are to stay. Enemy—” he gasps for air, “enemy is showing signs of retreat.”

“Retreat?” McCragh frowns. “Bleedin’ cowards!”

“Are you certain?” I ask, feeling the quiver in my voice.

“Yessir, orders from above. Told us to wait it out.”

“Right, well done, son,” I say, though the boy could be my brother. “Go on, then. Best make the rounds.” I try to sound calm, reassuring, to keep my voice steady, while I know I fail and only hope my fear is disguised by the screams and blasts from above.

“Yessir.” He takes a breath and sets off at a brisk trot, as fast as the bodies crowded into this tight space will allow.

“Another day to live in hell, then. Lovely.” Lewis, a Cornish fellow with a missing left ear comments wryly as he materializes at our side.

“Sounds about right.” McCragh rolls his eyes, but makes an involuntary sign of the cross nonetheless.

“Four months they told us,” Rawlins, another man with a raspy voice adds, sticking a cigarette between his thin, flaking lips. “‘Four months, lads, serve King and Country’, eh? Bleedin’ liars.”

“Watch what you’re saying, or I’ll ‘ave you for treason!” McCragh winks and rubs his beard.

Time passes slowly. The sky goes from gray to purple to black tinged orange, and still the thrumming of the guns, the intermittent blasts, grow only slightly fainter, move only slightly farther away. We crouch together in the black, damp, misery of our trench, our only light is the flicker of orange at the end of a cigarette.

“What will you do when this is all over?” comes the whispered voice of a young nameless soldier, who has drifted to my side.

“If I’m not—” I start.

“If yer not dead,” chimes in McCragh. “If we get out of this pile o’ shite in one bit, you mean, laddie?”

“Stop pissing about, McCragh,” Rawlins says sharply. It is an unspoken rule not to mention the very real likelihood of us never seeing the end of this war.

“Oh, right,” comes McCragh’s chastised reply. “I fer one will be gettin’ back me ol’ missus. Seein’ the kids.”

“How many have you got, then?” Lewis asks, keen for any distraction from the agony of numb legs, and the even worse terror raging above us.

“Two. Two little girls. Bessie and Mary. And I thank the Lord fer that. I’ll never be sendin’ them off to be blown to bits. I won’t let them out of my sight again. Future husbands beware.”

We chuckle, though I do not doubt the sincerity of his statement. Future husbands beware indeed!

“And you? How about you, son?” Lewis asks.

“Just go home,” I say. “See my mother, father. See my brothers.”

“How many?”

“Two. One—” I swallow, a sudden tightness in my throat, “one is here, somewhere . . .” I let the word float into the night, knowing the others understand. Silence descends upon our group, and soon I hear the faint sound of snoring. Can it be? Is one of them actually sleeping while the sky is falling down on us?

After some moments, I sense a sudden motion to my right. I turn my head, though I cannot see my hand before my eyes.

“Hello?” I whisper, but before I can hear an answer, a sharp stab of pain swells in my chest. I gasp, my hand flying up, meeting . . . meeting wetness. Wetness? Sticky . . .

I can’t breathe; I grapple around, touching the soft, earthen wall, the rough fabric of a uniform.

“I-I . . .” I swallow hard, pain explodes inside me, louder, more forceful than the shells above. My mouth feels dry, I try retching, but nothing comes. I am on the ground. “Help.” I croak.

I feel a hand on my shoulder. Hear voices, raised in concern. All I see is blackness and stars.

We came here to die.

About the Author

Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.

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Posted in animals, Cozy, excerpt, mystery, Spotlight on January 4, 2017

Synopsis

In the small town of Clarkesville, in the heart of the Oregon Cascade Mountains, a humble forester stumbles into the complex world of crooked cops and power-hungry politicians… all because he rescued a stray, injured dog on the highway.

Lehigh Carter didn’t really mean to adopt the dog. But his ex-fiancée, Stacy McBride, convinces him to do it, with a promise to help. Their rekindled romance angers her father, state Senator George McBride, who sees her backwoods suitor as a blemish on his carefully created political image. It also sets off a chain of events that entangle Lehigh in a life-or-death conflict with the senator’s hardnosed campaign treasurer, Paul van Paten, who had his own plans for Stacy’s future.

The Mountain Man’s Dog is a briskly told crime thriller loaded with equal parts suspense, romance, and light-hearted humor, pitting honor and loyalty against ruthless ambition and runaway greed in a town too small for anyone to get away with anything.

Excerpt

Lehigh slowed down around the S-curves on Brady Mountain Road even before the speed limit sign told him to. The fog rolled in thicker here due to the nearby lakes, intensifying the dark and making the night seem much later than it was. A guy never knew what the night fog might throw out of the woods in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, especially in late September. He didn’t want adventure on a Thursday night. He just needed some groceries, stuff that old man Patterson’s market didn’t carry, and anyways, he closed at five o’clock. So, as much as he hated doing it, Lehigh had to drive down the mountain into town.

Just go to WinCo, get some groceries, and leave. No distractions.

He braked just in time not to kill a coyote darting across the highway. It startled him and sweat rolled down his back in spite of the chill. He shook his head and took a heavy breath. Focus on driving, dumb-ass. Don’t get all riled up.

He kept his speed down below forty. Good thing, as it enabled him to brake in time once again, this time to avoid hitting a yellow hound dog limping across the road. Well, normally he’d call it a good thing. In coming years, Lehigh often argued it was anything but. He wasn’t much of a dog person, ever since Uncle Ted’s German Shepherd near tore his hand off as a kid. Or so he remembered. The injury grew with every retelling.

Lehigh didn’t so much fear dogs as loathe them. Dogs were nothing but a nuisance: noisy, smelly, always needing attention and cleaning up after. Kind of like a kid that never grows up. Still a committed bachelor at thirty-seven, his position on kids was pretty clear.

He came to a full stop for the yellow hound. It limped so badly, it hardly moved, really. Its brown eyes reflected the glare of the truck’s headlights, making them shine red like the indicator lights on his dashboard. The dog froze in his tracks as Lehigh waited. Then it lay right down across the center stripe, its bleeding belly exposed and vulnerable.

Dumb-assed dog. He could get killed like that. Of course, that might well have been the dog’s intention. Dogs, his uncle used to say, can smell their own death, and will go take care of it when the time comes. Maybe the dog wanted him to run it over.

Hmm. Tempting.

He shook his head. Nope. Can’t do it. Dogs may be mean, stupid little bastards, but he couldn’t just up and kill one of ’em. Maybe Uncle Ted’s nasty old shepherd, but not one that hadn’t done anything to him first.
He left the old Ford running, tucked his shaggy brown hair into the Dodgers hat he kept on the seat and stepped out into the fog. The dog looked up at him, stared a second, then lay his head back down on the pavement. Lehigh approached him, taking small steps, still wary, twenty-nine years after feeling that shepherd dog’s teeth on his fingers. He could just move the pup aside a bit. Move him and be on his way.

He fetched the wide aluminum shovel out of the back of his truck, just in case he had to prod the old hound to move. The dog looked friendly, but one never knows what a dog’s going to do. What if he’s rabid, like Uncle Ted’s dog? You just never know. Those shots hurt like hell for days and days. He had no desire to go through that again.

The lazy flap of the dog’s snakelike tail against the damp black pavement told him rabies were probably not an issue. Its pink tongue flickered between furry lips, anticipating rescue. The dog’s brown irises and black pupils filled the top hemisphere of its eye sockets in a steady, whimpering stare. Its bleeding belly and forlorn face melted Lehigh’s apprehension. Dogs may be a nuisance, he reckoned, but this one was just
hurting.

He set the shovel down and held his hand out, palm down, in front of the dog’s nose, the way Uncle Ted had taught him. Wet, gentle lapping on his knuckles confirmed the dog’s friendliness—or at least, its trust. “Let me take a look at you, boy,” he said in as soothing a voice as he could muster. He used the handle of the shovel to lift the dog’s hind leg, exposing more of its belly and crotch.

“Huh. I guess I shouldn’t call you boy no more,” he said, a little embarrassed. She licked his hand again. He looked closer at the cut. She’d somehow sliced herself across the belly, maybe jumping over a freshly-pruned hedge, or a barbed-wire fence, or maybe a cat or raccoon had clawed her. The ragged cut caused her skin to gape an inch or so apart. It would need stitches, probably several.

“Well, you ain’t gonna walk into a vet’s office all on your own,” he said. “But the sheriff’s office is on the way to town. Maybe he’ll get you there. Which means, I’ve got to get you to him. C’mere, girl.”

The dog found his eyes with her own, and laid her head back down on the pavement. He nudged her backside with his foot. “C’mon girl, get up.” She stayed put and glanced at him sideways, panting just a little. Moisture from the dog’s breath danced in the beam of his truck’s headlights.

“You gonna make me pick you up and carry you?” She didn’t look heavy. But to pick her up, he’d have to risk putting at least one hand near her head. Near her open mouth.

Pain. Fingers. Bleeding…

He shook his head. This dog knew more about pain and bleeding than he ever would. Come on, Lehigh, do what you gotta do here.

He crossed around the dog and slid the edge of his shovel under her furry back. At first she remained dead weight, a passenger in the next step of her journey. He pried her body up from the pavement, using the shovel as a lever and his foot as a fulcrum. He grunted under the awkward exertion. Six-one, one-ninety-five, he ought to be able to lift this skinny mutt with ease, but not from this position.

Just before he let go to start over, the dog responded. With a herky-jerky motion she stumbled to her feet and sauntered to the open door of his pickup’s cab, panting, a hopeful and grateful dog-smile painted on her weary face.

“Wait,” Lehigh said. To his surprise, the dog obeyed. He scratched the stubble on his chin. “You been around people.” That changed his strategy a bit. He had intended to put her in the bed of the pickup, but he discarded that thought like an empty carcass. Instead he spread a small tarp onto the passenger’s side of the seat. The dog put her front paws on the truck’s sidestep and convulsed in a pathetic attempt to climb further. Fresh blood trickled down her hind leg. Lehigh winced. Careful not to touch the wound, he pressed the flat blade of the shovel against the dog’s hindquarters and pushed her onto the floor of the truck, then guided her onto the tarp.

“I don’t reckon you’ve done anything wrong,” he said after climbing in next to her, “but I think it’s time you and Sheriff Summers got acquainted.”

The dog responded with a quick lick of her lips, heavy panting, and a low, prolonged whine.

About the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, actor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to his novels, he writes on assignment for private sector, government, individuals, and not-for-profit clients, and his articles have been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.

Gary earned his B.A. in Political Science and Economics at Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!) and his Ph.D. at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), writing his dissertation on the politics of acid rain (1988). After working variously on farms, construction, in restaurants, and in various information technology positions, in 2005 he founded Gary Corbin Writing and Consulting.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, the Northwest Editors Guild, the North Bank Writers Workshop, PDX Playwrights, and the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area. A homebrewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetie.

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Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight on January 2, 2017

Title: Solo

Author: Jill Mansell

Pub Date: January 3, 2017

ISBN: 9781492632429

Synopsis

It all starts at a party, as these things often do…

  • A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences
  • Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
  • An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
  • A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment

One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry.

Whatever’s going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now…

Amazon * Books-A-Million * Barnes & Noble * Indiebound

Question to Jill

What draws you to write romance?

I love it! It means spending your days with fictional people you’d really enjoy knowing and spending time with in real life. I particularly love writing sparky, witty exchanges between two characters who find each other attractive. What could possibly be more fun than that?

Excerpt

Parties full of strangers bored the knickers off Tessa.

“Well, you’re damn well coming to this one,” declared Holly impatiently. “You haven’t been out for weeks and it’s going to be brilliant. Everyone’s going. And just think, play your cards right, show a bit of leg, a bit of cleavage, and you, too, could find a husband like mine!”

Tessa wiped her hands on her already paint-streaked sweatshirt and picked up the bottle of ridiculously expensive Chardonnay that Holly always insisted on buying because she liked the label, and which neither of them properly appreciated. Pouring herself half a mugful and wincing at its icy dryness she said, “I don’t have a cleavage.”

“What God didn’t give you, scotch tape will,” pronounced Holly. “They showed us how on Blue Peter.”

“And I haven’t been out for weeks”—Tessa mimicked Holly’s despairing tones—“because I have been working. Working pays the rent. It even occasionally allows me to eat. I simply can’t afford to mix in your kind of social circles.”

“You can’t afford not to,” countered Holly. “These are the people who commission poverty-stricken artists to paint absurdly flattering portraits of their revolting children.”

“Besides,” Tessa went on, surveying the almost-finished canvas before her and beginning to realize that Holly wasn’t going to let her wriggle out of this one, “you aren’t married.”

Holly grinned, refilling her own mug with a flourish. “Ah! I didn’t say I had a husband, I said I’d found him. All that remains now is to exert a little gentle pressure.”

“And I suppose he’ll be there tonight.”

“There is that small chance,” conceded Holly smugly. “After all, it is his party.”

***

From the living room window of Tessa’s tiny cottage, perched on the side of one of the rolling, north-facing hills overlooking the spectacular elegance of the city of Bath, she could see in the far distance the equally spectacular and elegant Charrington Grange Hotel.

Even if Holly hadn’t been working there for the past two months and regaling her with endless details about it, Tessa would have heard of it. Everyone knew of the Charrington Grange Hotel, owned and run by the Monahan brothers and built up from nothing—well, scarcely anything—over the last fifteen years into one of the foremost country hotels in England. Originally a gracious Georgian residence commanding breathtaking views across the city from its position at the very top of the south-facing hills above Bath, it had fallen into hideous disrepair during its forty-year occupation by an elderly and eccentric Monahan maiden aunt. By the time of her eventual death the roof was barely intact, the walls of the gracefully proportioned rooms were streaked with damp and the entire place was overrun by the dotty old woman’s grand passion—several hundred decidedly un-housetrained cats.

Pulling every conceivable string between them, the notorious Monahan brothers, Ross and Max, had somehow managed to raise the vast amount of capital necessary to transform the crumbling old house into an opulent hotel catering to the very wealthiest clientele.

The press had had a field day at the time. The very idea that Max Monahan, moody and unpredictable, and Ross, with his mile-long reputation for carousing, heart-breaking and generally misbehaving, could pull off such a stunt was so ridiculous it was laughable. Max, the elder brother by two years, having been sent down from Oxford following a particularly outrageous prank involving a prostitute dressed as a nun and a visiting trade union leader, had rapidly established himself as a star broker on the Stock Exchange. Six months later, the day after his twenty-first birthday, he had abandoned this glittering new career, disappearing to the Caribbean and returning eighteen months later with the completed manuscripts of not one but two fat novels. These thrillers, with their winning combination of sex, violence, tension and wit were wildly successful, yet at the time Max had doubted whether he would want to do it again. It had been fun finding out that he could, but it was scarcely what he termed a proper job.

In the end, however, the vast sums of money offered, the luxury of being virtually his own boss, the flexible hours and the ease with which he conjured up fresh plots, won the day. To Max Monahan, writing was a doddle and the rewards were too great to pass up. He rapidly became established as one of those few lucky writers whose books were read by everyone. Over the years he had grown more level headed and now, with his astute business brain and almost ruthless determination to pile success upon success, he was recognized as the more down to earth of the two brothers. The Charrington Grange Hotel was owned jointly between them and although Max didn’t work there full-time he was involved in all the major decision-making and both he and Ross still lived there. Blockbuster novels remained his major—and considerable—source of income, but the hotel acted as an antidote to the solitude which writing entailed, and because he didn’t need to sweat over a word processor for eight hours a day like some writers he’d heard of, there was still plenty of time left over in which to enjoy himself.

Ross Monahan, on the other hand, devoted his entire life to enjoyment. Tessa had never made a particular point of reading the gossip columns but even she was aware of his wicked reputation. Expelled from more schools than anyone cared to remember, his notorious passion for fun was equaled only by his stunning good looks and lethal charm. Incapable of remaining in one place for more than a few weeks, in his early twenties he was the archetypal playboy, his outrageous exploits hitting the papers almost weekly. Men despised and envied him; women—apart from those whose hearts he had broken—adored him.

If everyone had been amazed when he had appointed himself manager of The Charrington Grange, they had been well and truly astounded when they finally realized what an out-and-out success he was actually making of the job.

And fifteen years on, Ross Monahan was still doing it, running the hotel with such panache and enjoyment that he had made it seem scarcely like work at all. Having always moved in the most glittering and outrageous circles, he had turned The Grange into a kind of open house for those who played as hard as he did. It was quite simply the place to stay if you wanted to have a really good time—and could afford to pay for it.

And according to Holly, Ross Monahan was absolutely lethal with women.

“Gorgeous, gorgeous!” she had informed Tessa, shortly after going to work for him. “But definitely dangerous to know. When I first met him I made a solemn vow with myself not to get involved.”

“But you have,” guessed Tessa, observing the sheepish look in her friend’s eyes. Holly had shrugged and smiled. “Given half a chance I would have done,” she’d admitted. “But the bastard isn’t interested. For God’s sake, Tess, he treats me like a friend!”

***

And now Holly was planning on treating him like a brother-in-law. She was passionately in love with Max, only Max didn’t know it yet. Tessa, who adored Holly but sometimes despaired of her, suspected that it would all end in tears and that most of them would land on her own inadequately small shoulders.

Meanwhile, Holly was returning in less than two hours to pick her up and take her along to this horrible party. And she really didn’t have a single suitable thing to wear.

About the Author

With over 10 million copies sold, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Mansell writes irresistible and funny, poignant and romantic tales for women in the tradition of Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella and Jojo Moyes. She lives with her partner and their children in Bristol, England.

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Posted in excerpt, suspense, Thriller on January 1, 2017

Synopsis

A man serves on a jury for the trial of a murder that he committed.

Peter Robertson, 33, discovers his wife is cheating on him. Following her suspected boyfriend one night, he erupts into a rage, beats him and leaves him to die – or so he thought. Soon he discovers that he has killed the wrong man – a perfect stranger.

Six months later, impaneled on a jury, he realizes he realizes that the murder being tried is the one he committed. After wrestling with his conscience, he works hard to convince the jury to acquit the accused man. But the prosecution’s case is strong as the accused man had both motive and opportunity to commit the murder. As the pressure builds, Peter begins to slip up and reveal things that only the murderer would know – and Christine, a pretty and intelligent alternate juror, suspects something is amiss.

Meanwhile, Peter’s wife leaves him, his mother suffers a series of debilitating strokes, and his best friend and employee, accused of sexual harassment, needs Peter’s help that he’s too preoccupied to give. As jurors one by one declare their intention to convict, Peter’s conscience eats away at him and he careens toward nervous breakdown, revealing details about the crime that had not been disclosed in court.

“Lying in Judgment” is a 95,000-word story about a good man’s search for redemption for his one unfortunate mistake, pitted against society’s search for justice.

Excerpt

Two hours late.

Peter checked his voice mail. No messages from Marcia.  After eight years of marriage, he should know better, but hell. Hope springs eternal.

So much for surprising her with dinner and flowers tonight.

He rested his elbows on the dining table, careful not to disturb the place settings – his on the end, hers around the corner, close enough so their legs could touch during dinner. For the third time ever, he’d broken out the good Waterford china and hand-polished the silver – even the little salad forks neither of them ever used. The crystal wine glasses and tumblers. Good cloth napkins that matched the tablecloth. A big deal for her, God knows why.

For grins, he leaned his full weight, 190-ish pounds, onto the table. It didn’t wiggle in the slightest. Good, good. While Marcia worked long hours to build her career, he’d spent countless evenings and weekends building this beast – cutting, sanding, gluing, and finishing hundreds of dollars worth of select cherry. As lumber manager at Stark’s Building Supply, he could hand-pick the very best pieces from his suppliers’ stocks, all at wholesale price. That was his second-favorite perk of the job. Number one was taking the occasional afternoon off to turn it into beautiful furniture, cabinets, and picture frames for his wife’s art.

But too often lately he’d been enjoying his creations all alone.

He speed dialed her. Two rings, then voicemail. “Hi, you’ve reached Marcia Robertson, Vice President for Business Development at Metro Dental. I’m sorry I missed your–”

He punched the pound key to bypass the greeting. “It’s me again. Did you have plans I didn’t know about tonight? Oh, wait a sec.” The rays of the September sunset reflected off the hood of her charcoal Ford Explorer easing into the driveway. He hung up, opened a chilled bottle of Pinot Blanc, and lowered the dimmer over the dining table. He lit the tall scented candles and slid them apart so they wouldn’t singe the
arrangement of fresh lilacs and wild African daisies – her favorites.

She entered the front door moments later, cell phone stuck to her ear. Her oversized handbag dangled from her other shoulder. “Sure, I can make the seven a.m. if you can reschedule the finance briefing with Marwick to Friday. (Hi, hon.) What? No, I was talking to my husband. I’m just getting home.” She gave him a quick wave and pointed to the phone. “Sylvia,” she mouthed – her secretary.

“I’ve been waiting–”

She held one finger to her lips and turned away. He tapped her arm. She extended her hand behind her, and he slid a glass of Pinot between her fingers. “Thank you,” she mouthed over her shoulder, and drained the drink in one gulp.

“Sylvia, I gotta go.” She set the empty glass on the coffee table. “I’ll let you know about dinner Friday. See you in the morning.” She sighed, clicked her phone shut and leaned against the back of a recliner. “What a day. How was yours?”

“Oh, fine.” He leaned in for a kiss. She pecked him on the mouth and bent down to remove her two-inch heels. Her black slacks hugged the slender arc of her hips. Nice. “Nobody’s buying lumber today, so I put Frankie in charge and cut out early. Thought I’d surprise you by having dinner ready when you got home.” He pointed at the table. “I expected you two hours ago.”

“Sorry. I thought I told you I had drawing class.”

He frowned. “Drawing’s on Tuesday, isn’t it? Today’s Wednesday.”

For a second, she looked panicked, but her confident smile returned. “Yeah, but we had an extra session. Field work.” She brushed a stray curl away from her face.

About the Author

Gary Corbin is a writer, actor, and playwright in Camas, WA, a suburb of Portland, OR. In addition to his novels, he writes on assignment for private sector, government, individuals, and not-for-profit clients, and his articles have been published in BrainstormNW, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, and Global Envision, among others.

Gary earned his B.A. in Political Science and Economics at Louisiana State University (Geaux Tigers!) and his Ph.D. at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!), writing his dissertation on the politics of acid rain (1988). After working variously on farms, construction, in restaurants, and in various information technology positions, in 2005 he founded Gary Corbin Writing and Consulting.

Gary is a member of the Willamette Writers Group, the Northwest Editors Guild, the North Bank Writers Workshop, PDX Playwrights, and the Portland Area Theater Alliance, and participates in workshops and conferences in the Portland, Oregon area. A homebrewer as well as a maker of wine, mead, cider, and soft drinks, Gary is a member of the Oregon Brew Crew and a BJCP National Beer Judge. He loves to ski, cook, and garden, and hopes someday to train his dogs to obey. And when that doesn’t work, he escapes to the Oregon coast with his sweetie.

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Posted in Children, excerpt, Science Fiction, Young Adult on December 31, 2016

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Bradbury loved her father so much that she worried about him constantly. After all, he was a photographer who traveled to the most dangerous places in the world.

To allay her fears, each time he came home he brought her silly gifts, each one with supposed magical powers: the Seal of Solomon, the Ring of Gyges, even Aladdin’s Lamp. It was that lamp Hannah found the most unbelievable, for it looked like an ugly teapot. Nevertheless, her father assured her it was real, and made her promise to save her three wishes for something very special.

Then . . . six months later . . . the unthinkable happened. Her father was killed while on assignment to Baghdad. And so on the day of his funeral Hannah did something she never thought she would ever do.

She took out that teapot and gave it a rub . . .

The Ugly Teapot by Fred Holmes is a timeless tale, filled with magic and adventure. More importantly, it will make you believe in the overwhelming power of love.

Excerpt

Hannah Bradbury opened her eyes, feeling forty, not fourteen. Every part of her ached: head, stomach, neck, back—which was weird because she had felt perfectly fine two seconds ago. Plus now she was freezing. That part, at least, made some sense, for it was cold outside and she was lying next to her cupola window.

But the weird part? —the seriously bizarre, mind-blowing part? —two seconds ago she had been lying in her bed across the room.

She pulled her father’s shirt tighter around her narrow shoulders and sat up. Her dog, Griff, was still asleep in her bed, just as he had been two seconds ago. And her furniture looked fine—chest-of-drawers, study desk, nightstand—right where they should be. At least they hadn’t moved like last time.

The only thing that wasn’t where it should be—other than herself—was her clock. It was one of those old-fashioned analog clocks—brought to her from London by her father—and night before last it had been moved from her nightstand to her study desk. Now it was back on her nightstand. And the time had changed. She had checked it before closing her eyes, and it had said it was midnight. Now, two seconds later, the luminescent hands pointed to 6:15 a.m.

She shivered as she swung her legs off the love seat. Keeping her thigh muscles tensed in case someone grabbed her legs, she let the toe of her left foot touch the floor first. The wood felt buckled and splintery and colder than usual, but nothing grabbed her legs, so she stood up.

She hovered next to the love seat for a moment, her hand gripping the wall for balance, then wobbled unsteadily to a pile of dirty clothes on the floor of her closet. She rifled through them until she found a pair of jeans that didn’t smell too badly, slipped them on, then took one of her father’s sweaters off a hangar and pulled it over her nightshirt. It was thick and warm and still smelled like her father. Thinking of her father made her smile, but that smile disappeared when she saw her reflection in the mirror on the back of her closet door.

She looked horrible: pale skin, dead seaweed hair, dark circles around her eyes. Her skin used to be tan, her hair the color of burled walnut, and everyone used to compliment her eyes. Now everything about her looked dull and lifeless. And she was weary, dead tired. She would have loved to climb back in bed with Griff, but morning would be coming soon, and she didn’t want to miss anything.

She returned to her love seat and sat down with her legs crossed. The advantage to living on the second floor of a three-story house in Green Park, Tennessee, was that on a clear morning you could see for miles. The disadvantage was that there were very few clear mornings in the Great Smoky Mountains. They were usually—well, smoky—and it often took the anemic sun half a day to burn off the fog.

Fortunately, the mist was already starting to lift from the cemetery below. Soft, grey wisps still lingered lazily among the tombstones, but they would be gone soon. A dove was cooing, and that meant the sun was about to peek over the mountains.

She was starting to think they were going to be late, when she suddenly heard the deep rumble of an engine. Seconds later a pickup truck chugged through the cemetery’s wrought iron gate. Hannah followed it with her eyes as it came, fog swirling around its tires, engine sputtering, tailpipe coughing. It stopped beneath the gnarly branches of an arthritic oak tree not far from her house. She watched it shake off like a dog after a hard rain, then heard its motor shut down. All became quiet again.

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About the Author

THE UGLY TEAPOT is Fred Holmes’s first novel. He’s known primarily as a writer/director of television and films, specifically children’s television and family films. He’s worked on such TV shows as WISHBONE, BARNEY & FRIENDS, MARY LOU RETTON’S FLIP FLOP SHOP, IN SEARCH OF THE HEROES, HORSELAND, and many, many other shows. He’s written and/or directed over 250 episodes of television and has been nominated for Emmys five times and has won twice. He’s also won three CINE Golden Eagles, plus numerous other awards. Besides his work in TV, he’s directed three feature films: DAKOTA, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, for Miramax; HARLEY, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, for Lionsgate; and HEART LAND, a Bollywood feature film that he directed in India and starred Indian superstars Divya Dutta and Prem Chopra.

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