Posted in Blog tour, contest, excerpt, Giveaway, romance on April 27, 2013

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David’s Song

Taken from the book cover: Annie only ever really loved two men in her life. One broke her heart, the other married her. Four children and fifteen years later, Annie’s marriage is in jeopardy. Money is tight and her husband questions the very foundation of their relationship. When Annie is unexpectedly given the opportunity to see the young man who broke her heart — a man who is now a megastar in the music industry — Annie is faced with choices. Choices that will determine what is of more value — a second chance at lost love and unfulfilled dreams or commitment, trust, and love built on years of experience.

A psychologically subtle, yet compelling tale about how the instinct and need for love overcomes self-doubt and personal inadequacy.

Excerpt:

“It’s an amazing city,” he said when he saw me look out the window. I didn’t reply. “You’re uncomfortable,” he added. “Why don’t you come and sit down. We have some hors d’oeurves.”

I turned and looked at him. “What do you want from me tonight?”

He paused before speaking. “I hoped we could catch up some and maybe clear the air a little. It’s been a long time,” he said, as if I didn’t know it had been fifteen years.

I walked over and joined him at the table, unceremoniously dropping into the chair. He sat down across from me.

“Okay, go ahead, clear,” I said.

“I don’t remember you being quite so hostile,” he said with a twinkle.

“Can’t say that I remember feeling so defensive.”

“How about if we just talk, enjoy a nice meal, and then I will sufficiently grovel at your feet.”

“Groveling’s good. Why don’t we just get it over with now?” Then I could leave, be done with this nonsense and enjoy the rest of my vacation. He took a deep breath and laughed lightly.

“Annie, please, I’m eating humble pie here tonight. Can we do it my way?”

I looked at him across the table without smiling. I didn’t want to give in no matter how sweetly and sincerely he asked. I didn’t want to make anything easy for him.

“I see. You’re used to getting your own way now, huh?”

He grinned. “Maybe so.”

“Why spoil a good dinner? Let’s go straight to dessert right now,” I said. “Groveling sounds like a delicious treat.”

“My way?” he asked again, trying to be charming.

“If you insist,” I replied, grudgingly.

He offered me the plate of stuffed mushrooms. I declined.

“So how do you like teaching school?” he asked.

. “I like it well enough.”

“As I recall, you seemed to think it would suit you well. Does it?”

“It’s a job. I like teaching, but you know every year I get a new group of kids, and I get really attached to them and when June comes around they all . . . leave me.”

He choked a little on his mushroom. “Couldn’t let that little dig go, could you?”

This time I smiled back at him and said, “Whatever do you mean?” There was no way on earth I was going to let him take me off the defensive. Not with his charming talk or his smile or even those cursed blue eyes. This was closure. Wasn’t that what Carolyn said? And maybe a little bit of payback, too.

“So how do you like performing?” I asked in the same condescending tone he had used.

“I like it well enough,” he said in echo to my earlier response. I knew he was trying to return my indifference, but he couldn’t hide the smile when he said it.

“As I recall, you seemed to think it would suit you well,” I said. “Does it?”

At this he laughed. “Okay, okay, I surrender. This is like dancing with a cobra,” he added under his breath. “I like performing most of the time. But there are certainly days when I think I should have chosen something different. I could be some obscure professor at a university teaching music.”

“Well, that’s not all it’s cracked up to be either.”

He chuckled. “This from the girl who wanted to be a teacher.”

“Not exactly. More from the wife of an academic. Jeremy teaches at a small college in Ohio. It has its challenges, believe me, long hours and little pay. Nothing nearly as fine as this,” I said, glancing around the room. He chuckled again and leaned toward me in his chair.

“It’s a prison,” he said quietly.

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Author A.R. Talley

April R Talley was born and raised in the Rubber City, Akron, Ohio in 1959. She is the youngest of six children. She attended Brigham Young University for a time, but withdrew to work fulltime for Osmond Productions in Orem, Utah as a member of The Osmond production staff. After a brief stint working in television, she returned to Akron to finish her education. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Mass Media Communications in 1981. April later worked as vice president and part owner of a dance and sportswear boutique. Married in 1982, she is the proud mother of seven children and is deeply involved in volunteer work for her church. April spends her time working on future projects, caring for home and family, and traveling. David’s Song is her debut novel and the first of a trilogy.

Twitter * Facebook * Blog * Goodreads

 

Praise from reviews on Goodreads.com

“Not just your typical romance novel” – Tracy Williams

“David’s Song is great read that leaves you thinking about the story and pondering your own relationships”. – Anna Pavkov

“Sucked me in from the 1st page” – Jill Walker

“Loved this book . . . could not put it down!” – Dana Vieira

 

 

Blog Tour Giveaway

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy on April 8, 2013

lichgates

Synopsis:

Kara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things–Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With no way out, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict–a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.

Excerpt:

Thunder rumbled overhead. A dark cloud churned in the sky, and her heart fell into her stomach; there hadn’t even been a single fluffy cloud up there ten minutes ago. That didn’t make sense at all—how could the weather shift so suddenly?

She glanced to the door and then back up the trail, hesitating, but her decision was soon made for her.

A blinding bolt of moss-colored lightning flashed, striking something in the sinkhole. The hairs on her arms stood on end. Heat coursed through her calves, and she caught her breath. Her ears rang.

Wait. That lightning was definitely green.

The cliff trembled as a deafening boom shattered the air. A drizzle of rain began, but it quickly melted into heavy drops that pelted her skin and clung to her hair. Another rumble coursed along the far edge of the valley. Kara needed shelter, and the last place she would go in a lightning storm was up a hill.

She turned back and twisted the door’s handle, sighing with relief as it openedunlockedand swung inward. Still, as wet as it was outside and as much as she wanted a safe place to wait out the rain, she lingered on the threshold to examine the room.

Mud covered everything from the floor to the ceiling, and since there weren’t any supports to hold the roof, she couldn’t figure out how the ten-by-ten dirt shelter hadn’t caved in yet. The air within was heavy, moist with the rot of dead leaves, and her only guiding light streamed in from behind her. Roots dangled from the ceiling like stalactites reaching for the floor. The wind picked up, howling as it pelted rain against her back.

She tested the ground with her sneaker. The dirt floor supported her weight, so she tip-toed into the room and left the door open. Rain fell in lingering drops on the threshold before disappearing into the growing pools of mud. She stuck her hands in her pockets and watched the raging storm outside.

A flash of dark brown blurred past her.

She jumped. A tan flicker snaked along the roof, and clumps of soil fell in sheets. She glared at the ceiling, holding her breath as the settling dust rained onto her shoes.

It had almost looked like a root moving, but—no, that was crazy.

Another streak of motion raced down the opposite wall. It passed through a shaft of light, and Kara saw its pointed, wooden tip. Tiny veins sprouted from it like hairs, digging into the dirt so that it could travel.

It was a root moving.

Lichgates is FREE

Download your copy now!

Posted in Book Blast, contest, excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway on April 2, 2013
Tour Schedule

Lichgates

Kara Magari is about to discover a beautiful world full of terrifying things–Ourea.

Kara, a college student still reeling from her mother’s recent death, has no idea the hidden world of Ourea even exists until a freak storm traps her in a sunken library. With no way out, she opens an ancient book of magic called the Grimoire and unwittingly becomes its master, which means Kara now wields the cursed book’s untamed power. Discovered by Ourea’s royalty, she becomes an unwilling pawn in a generations-old conflict–a war intensified by her arrival. In this world of chilling creatures and betrayal, Kara shouldn’t trust anyone… but she’s being hunted and can’t survive on her own. She drops her guard when Braeden, a native soldier with a dark secret, vows to keep her safe. And though she doesn’t know it, her growing attraction to him may just be her undoing.

For twelve years, Braeden Drakonin has lived a lie. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. Though he begins to care for this human girl, there is something he wants more. He wants the Grimoire.

Welcome to Ourea, where only the cunning survive.

 

Excerpt:

The air in the submerged library stalled, stagnant and suddenly heavy. The muscles between Kara’s shoulders tightened, and her neck tensed.

Hidden deep within the desk before her was a thick sheet of parchment paper. Kara set this aside, covered as it was in an illegible, spidery script. The book’s faded red leather was porous and soft, its title written in gold lettering that had long ago begun to chip so that now, only spotted lines comprised the runic letters.

The chains wrapped around the cover like metal vines, and instead of a padlock, they had all been fused together in the book’s center. In this mess of iron was a small silver pendant, hung from a short chain and set into the fused metal like a key in a lock. It was the same symbol that had appeared on the door: a crude four-leaf clover comprised of thin crescent moons. A brilliant diamond glittered from its center.

Her hands inched along the pages trapped beneath the odd lock and brushed the silver vines in the process. The metal burned her fingertips. She dropped the book, which thumped on the desk. Pain shot through her arm.

Someone whispered in her ear.

She whipped her head around and held her breath, but the library was empty and quiet once more. Her shoulders tensed, and her body told her to run, run! But there was nowhere to run to. The library had no door and only one inaccessible window.

Maybe she wasn’t supposed to open the book. The thought alone made her want to open it even more.

She sat in the chair, tore off a bit of her sleeve, wrapped it around her hand, and dug her thumbnail beneath the pendant. It shifted. The cold vines stung her thumb through the fabric, but she gritted her teeth and jiggled the pendant again. The necklace moved above her finger and finally popped. Something else clicked.

The sound of metal slithering over fabric made her freeze. The iron vines unwound themselves and fell from the book, and for the second time that day, she suppressed a scream as inanimate things moved. The metal twisted away, clattering to the floor.

The air thickened again, weighing on her neck. A shiver raced down her back. Her hips pressed into the chair, as if someone was pushing hard on her shoulders. Another whisper chorused in her ear. Even though her breath caught in her throat, she didn’t try to find the source. She doubted anything would be there if she looked.

This couldn’t be real.

 

Lichgates is FREE
Download your copy now!

Praise for Lichgates

Wow, the world building on this one was breathtaking. The world of Ourea is just full of so many things. Surprises are around every corner.

~Alexia P.

From the first few pages into this story, it was obvious that Boyce has a way with words.

~Author Becca Campbell

 

Author S.M. Boyce

International Amazon Bestseller. Fantasy Author. Twitter addict. Book Blogger. Geek. Sarcastic. Gooey. Odd. Author of the action-packed Grimoire Saga.

S.M. Boyce is a novelist who loves ghosts, magic, and spooky things. She prefers loose-leaf tea, reads far too many books, and is always cold. She’s married to her soul mate and couldn’t be happier. Her B.A. in Creative Writing qualifies her to serve you french fries.

Boyce likes to update her blog a few times each week so that you have something to wake you up in the morning.

 

Contact

Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash

Ends 4/25/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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Posted in Book Blast, excerpt, fiction, paranormal on March 12, 2013

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Synopsis:

Hunted, Book One of The Gates Legacy

 

Deep in the heart of New York City’s underworld, a horrible disease is ravaging the vampire community. The Vampire Council is on a crusade to obliterate those infected, and Harrow Gates is target Number One. The unwitting source of the plague, he suffers from the same nightmarish symptoms as his victims. The world he’d been thrust into was cold, cruel, and intent on eradicating him, and the legions of afflicted vampires he created with his bite.

A bounty hanging over his head, satisfying his hunger has become an enormous challenge for Harrow. The less he feeds, the more hideous and painful his lesions become. Constantly running for his life and learning new tricks to survive, Harrow is in no position to refuse when Pritchard Tack offers him a unique opportunity. Pritchard not only gives Harrow a new beginning, but also a purpose and a chance to rectify the chaos he created in the vampire world. However, the multi-billionaire has an agenda of his own.

Jordan is a reluctant new vampire and a woman on a mission. After the demise of her family and her own transformation at the hands of Goran, the ruthless leader of the Vampire Council, her only focus is revenge. Constantly faced with one frustrating dead-end after another, a stroke of luck leads her to an underground facility that she suspects is the lair of the monster for whom she is looking.

Upon learning more about the truth behind the secret bunker, Jordan must fight against her growing feelings of friendship and concern for the facility’s inhabitants. One man in particular threatens to pull her heart away from her sworn mission. There is something behind Harrow’s dark lenses that unsettles the hardened female. Once again, she trembles and hungers for something other than red-stained revenge. Is love strong enough to override her hate-fueled thirst for vengeance?

Excerpt:

“There really isn’t a second scenario, we’re dead set and conceptually right about the first one.” Pritchard chuckled. Harrow hissed under his breath, unable to control his hunger any longer. “You need to feed. I know Tor rudely interrupted your dinner. Intel confirms that needle in your pocket, meant you’re not advocating the spread of the disease, am I right?”

Harrow shuddered before nodding. His could feel his strength fading and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. This human, in all of his infinite wisdom, should give him his neck and be done with.

“I know what you’re thinking Harrow,” Pritchard laughed without humor. “I’m not the enemy here, or your dinner. I will take you to a cell for now, where you will be fed donated blood until we find a cure for that ailment.  Neither of you are prisoners here, but until we are certain that you’re not a threat to us humans, you will not be allowed to move around freely.”

Pritchard rose to his feet. “Follow me,” he told Harrow.

“What about these damn cuffs on our leg, we’re not animals you know.” Tor said and his voice thundered through the room.  He was already up on his feet and facing off with Lambert, who was sporting a push dagger, notably of Dangeran material.

“They are trackers, in case you are out there,” Lambert motioned with his hand. “We will know how to find you.”

“Just like we’re dogs, right?” Tor said distastefully.

“Yes, but very special dogs,” Lambert said, taunting as he grabbed Tor’s elbow and shoved him forward to follow Pritchard and Harrow.  They were already walking down the long corridor that eventually led them to a windowless suite. The furnishings were top-rated, lavish to be exact. There were two king-sized beds, a state of the art sound system sitting next to a giant television, expensive looking art adorned the wall, and plush carpeting to boot.

About the Author:

lorenz font

Lorenz Font discovered her love of writing after reading a celebrated novel that inspired one idea after another. Hunted, the first book of The Gates Legacy trilogy, is her debut novel. Written in forty-five days, the grueling writing schedule was a personal challenge, even though she thought it was madness at first.

She enjoys dabbling in different genres with an intense focus on angst and the redemption of flawed characters. Her fascination with romantic twists is a mainstay in all her stories.

She currently lives in California with her husband, children, and two demanding dogs. Lorenz spends most of her free time writing while also working as a Business Office Manager for a skilled-rehabilitation hospital.

Posted in Blog tour, contest, excerpt, Giveaway, Young Adult on February 7, 2013
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Talisman of El by Alecia Stone

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS A LIE?

One Planet.

Two Worlds.

Population: Human … 7 billion.

Others … unknown.

When 14-year-old Char­lie Blake wakes up sweat­ing and gasp­ing for air in the mid­dle of the night, he knows it is hap­pen­ing again. This time he wit­nesses a bru­tal mur­der. He’s afraid to tell any­one. No one would believe him … because it was a dream. Just like the one he had four years ago – the day before his dad died.

Char­lie doesn’t know why this is hap­pen­ing. He would give any­thing to have an ordi­nary life. The prob­lem: he doesn’t belong in the world he knows as home.

He belongs with the others.

 

Excerpt:

He heard a sound like a crushing can and looked up. Huge cracks appeared and widened across the hallway wall, tearing through the floral charcoal wallpaper. He dug his fingers into his dad, grabbing hold of his clothes. Within seconds, the roof and the front walls of the house ripped off. Dust and debris permeated the air as a huge tornado funnel hovered outside the house.

‘Dad,’ Charlie cried.

‘It’s all right, son,’ his dad said. ‘Everything is going to be okay.’

His dad started to drift away.

‘Dad!’ Charlie grabbed his hands, holding onto him so tight his fingers started to go numb.

‘I love you, Hoot!’ his dad yelled. The wind gusts picked up, and he started to slip out of Charlie’s grip. ‘You’re not alone. Don’t give up.’

‘Dad, don’t let go.’ The tighter Charlie held on, the sweatier his hands grew, the looser his grip became. Then his dad slipped away.

‘Dad!’ Charlie watched as he vanished into the vortex of the tornado –

A loud racket shocked Charlie out of his dream, and he jerked upright. He threw the quilt off himself and swung his legs out of bed. Wrapping his arms around his trembling body, he felt his pyjamas damp with sweat. He took his pyjama top off and began wiping his face in it when a cold breeze brushed against his bare torso. It wasn’t until he heard a flapping sound that he looked at the window and saw the curtains fluttering like wings.

A chill that had nothing to do with the cold ran down his spine. He was almost certain he hadn’t opened the window. He got up and was about to close the window when a movement outside caught his eye.

It had always amazed him how well his eyes could adjust to the dark. It was his night vision that had earned him the nickname “Hoot”. ‘My own private owl,’ his dad used to say.

Inching forward, he peered out into the dark, and his heart stopped.

A tall figure was standing on top of the garden shed.

Charlie stumbled backwards, falling onto the floor. Staggering to his feet, he rushed out of the room and dashed across the landing to Jacob’s bedroom. When he opened the door and turned the light on, he froze.

The bed was empty.

 

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Author Alecia Stone

Alecia Stone is the author of Talisman Of El (Centrinian, 2012), the first book in the Talisman Of El trilogy. She graduated with a BA in Film & TV and has worked in television for a short period of time before branching out into storytelling. Alecia loves anything and everything paranormal. Her fascination with all things supernatural sparked her obsession with books, particularly young adult fantasy fiction, which she has never grown out of. She was inspired to become an author after reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen at the age of fourteen.

In 2008, Alecia started working on Talisman Of El, a contemporary young adult fantasy fiction inspired by people who disappeared mysteriously, including, but not limited to, Amelia Earhart and Percy Harrison Fawcett, who went on an expedition in search of an ancient lost city. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys going to the movies, listening to music, and travelling.

Talisman Of El is her first novel. At present, Alecia lives in England, United Kingdom with her family.

 

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Posted in Blog tour, contest, e-books, excerpt, Giveaway, romance on January 31, 2013

Beauty From Pain

Title: Beauty From Pain

Author: Georgia Cates

Release date: January 31, 2013

Genre: Contemporary romance

Age Group: Adult

Event organized by: AToMR Tours

Buy: Amazon

Book Description:

They agreed on three months…but their love knew no boundaries.

Jack McLachlan is a winemaking magnate and easily one of Australia’s most eligible bachelors. His success and wealth makes him no stranger to the complications of romantic relationships and that’s why he goes to extreme measures to avoid the hassle. He prefers simplicity in the form of a beautiful female companion with no strings attached. He arranges relationships like business deals and they’re always the same. No long term relationships. No real names.

It’s his game and his rules. He’s content to play as usual, but when Laurelyn Prescott enters his life, his strategy must change because this player is like none he’s ever encountered. His world is turned on its head after he begins a three month affair with the beautiful American musician. Nothing goes according to plan and as he breaks more and more of his own rules for her, she’s exceptionally close to becoming something he never thought possible. His ultimate game changer.

 

About the Author:

Georgia Cates

Georgia resides in rural Mississippi with her wonderful husband, Jeff, and their two beautiful daughters. She spent fourteen years as a labor and delivery nurse before she decided to pursue her dream of becoming an author and hasn’t looked back yet.

When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. When she’s being domestic, she’s listening to her iPod and visualizing scenes for her current work in progress. Every story coming from her always has a song to inspire it.

Author social media links:

Georgia Cates Blog

Georgia Cates on Facebook

Georgia Cates on Twitter

 

 Inspiration for BEAUTY FROM PAIN

By Georgia Cates

 

Where did the inspiration for Beauty from Pain come from?   My readers.   My last published work was classified as new adult and it received a warm welcome from readers. They liked my racier story. I felt more open to write scenes I couldn’t for the “normal” young adult genre. But I still wasn’t satisfied and wanted to take it up another degree.

What can I say? I’ve fallen in love with adult contemporary romance.

What is Beauty from Pain about?   I’ll tell you what it’s not about … Not the perfect man and the perfect woman having the prefect love affair. Beauty from Pain is unconventional to say the least. Laurelyn’s scruples could be questionable. Jack’s maybe even a little frightening, all while being hot as the devil’s ass. Their relationship will be considered bizarre by some. (Most.) And I’m okay with that. It’s different. And interesting. That’s always all right in my book.

 

 

Beauty from Pain Excerpt

Jack McLachlan’s POV

I sit in the dark corner and scan the room like a starved predator searching for prey. I haven’t chosen her yet, but the woman who will share my bed for the next few months is in this room right now.

I watch a lovely blond approach my table. “What can I bring you?” Hmm. A waitress—not at all my usual taste.

I have a type. Attractive. Mature. Refined. This barmaid meets the attractive requirement well enough, but she’s void of refinement or maturity as displayed by her choice of apparel—a white, barely there tank top and frazzled cutoff denim shorts. She doesn’t do it for me. Plus, my last two companions were blond. I want a different flavor this time, but no redheads. I want a brunette. A beautiful one.

I remind myself I’m not in Sydney where I have an endless variety of sophisticated women from which to choose. My choices are more limited in the small town of Wagga Wagga, but that doesn’t mean I have to settle for the first attractive woman I see.

“I’ll have a Shiraz.”

I’m prepared for a more prolonged relationship this time—three whole months instead of the usual three or four weeks. I’m looking forward to keeping this one around a little longer, and that’s all the more reason to be certain I make a wise choice.

I begin my search of the club with the first table toward the front of the room. A brunette beauty sits with a group of women. I watch her for a while, but decide she’s too friendly with the woman sitting next to her. Lesbians aren’t in my repertoire.

I spend the next hour scanning the club and come up empty-handed. I’m discouraged. No one stands out as the one and this club is by far my best bet for meeting single women in this town. Maybe I should consider coming back another time when it’s not open mic night. Tonight, the place is crawling with boozed college students.

Tonight’s search has been a failure, but at least the karaoke was entertaining.

I’m finishing off the last of my wine before I leave when an announcer from the club takes the stage and asks for the next singer to step forward. A small group of people across the room nominates one of its own. My view of the poor bastard is blocked by the crowd of intoxicated kids standing between us, but I’m certain this is going to be another delightful train wreck.

The club erupts into cheer and chants. “Do. It. Do. It. Do. It.” A young woman walks onto the stage and stands with her back to the crowd as she lifts a guitar from its stand. She lifts its strap over her head and then tosses her long brown hair over one shoulder. When she’s finished settling the guitar into place, she circles around and sits on the stool in the middle of the stage.

She’s beautiful. And somehow overlooked during my search.

She’s wearing a short ivory dress and a denim jacket with brown cowgirl boots. She bares her thighs as she lifts her feet to rest on the bottom rail, but she’s careful to push her dress between her legs so she doesn’t provide a peep show to the crowd.

She strums the borrowed guitar a few times and then leans into the microphone. “Is everyone having a good time tonight?”

She’s American. I think. Her accent sounds different—not like what I’ve heard in the past.

The crowd erupts into a drunken cheer and I hear a man’s voice yell over the crowd, “It’s better now, sweet thing!”

She smiles and adjusts the mic. “I’m not from around here. It’s my first night in Australia.”

“Leave with me and I’ll make you feel right at home!” a man shouts from the back of the room.

She ignores the fat, ugly bastard yelling at her. “I don’t know what kind of music Australians like, but this has been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember.” She strums a few more chords. “This is ‘Crash Into Me’ by the Dave Matthews Band.”

She sings it slower than the original, putting her own twist on it. Her voice is raspy and sexy, her eyes closed. She oozes eroticism. She tilts her head and opens her eyes when she begins to sing the chorus. I swear it feels like she’s looking right in my direction, singing to me. “Oh, and you come craasshh … into me. And I come into … you … And I come into you … in a boy’s dream … in a boy’s dream.”

The stage lights shine in her face and common sense tells me she can’t see me sitting in the dark corner at the back of the club, but that doesn’t stop me from hoping.

She finishes the chorus and shuts her eyes again. Her long legs bounce against the rail of the stool to keep rhythm and I fall victim to her siren’s song. She has bewitched me. And I want her. She’s the one.

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Posted in Cozy, excerpt, Monday, mystery on January 28, 2013

Murder is a Piece of Cake is the 8th book in the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series by author Elaine Viets.

murderisapieceofcake

Synopsis:

Mystery shopper Josie Marcus is thrilled to be getting married. But when a deranged bride meets a grim end, Josie will have to catch a murderer before she tosses the bouquet…

As a bride-to-be, Josie’s latest assignment is absolutely fitting—investigating wedding flowers and wedding cakes. Josie can’t wait to pick out the details to make her own wedding perfect, even as her fiancé Ted’s outrageous mother has plans to turn the celebration into an over-the-top extravaganza. Still, the pistol-packing Lenore does come in handy when she draws her gun on Molly—a homicidal bridezilla who threatens to kill Ted unless he agrees to marry her—and saves the day.

Josie thinks the worst pre-wedding disaster is behind her—until Molly is shot and Lenore becomes the prime suspect. With her mother-in-law behind bars and her wedding on hold, Josie’s about to become fully engaged in finding the bridezilla killer and getting her own wedding back on track…

 

Excerpt (from the author’s website):

Chapter 1

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

“Joshcy.” The man’s voice was followed by a crunch like a roof caving in. “Hwcjsh wejing ghocinng?”

Josie Marcus was pretty sure she wasn’t getting an obscene phone call at nine in the morning. Then the man added a wet slurp, followed by another massive crunch. What was he doing with that phone?

“Excuse me?” Josie asked. “Who is this?”

The gulp sounded like a boa constrictor swallowing a whole pig, followed by juicy smacking. “That was good,” he said.

Now Josie recognized the caller – Harry the Horrible, her boss at Suttin Services. Josie mystery-shopped for the company’s St. Louis office.
Harry repeated his question. “I asked how’s the wedding going? You and Dr. Ted ready to tie the knot?”

“Almost. It’s five weeks away,” Josie said. “What are you eating?”

“A deep-fried cheeseburger.” Satisfaction oozed from Harry’s voice. Even Josie’s phone seemed greasy. She wanted to wipe it down. She wanted to wipe out the picture of Harry forming in her mind: Her boss had a thick brown pelt all over his body – at least the parts Josie had had the misfortune to see. Harry had hair on his flabby arms, fish-belly ankles and stubby hands. Hair peeked through his straining shirt buttons, but so far Josie had been spared the full view of his chest.

Only Harry’s dome was follicle free. Mother Nature had compensated by giving him a luxuriant unibrow.

“Thanks for your wedding invitation,” Harry said. “I can’t come, but I got you a present. Wait till you hear what it is.”

“You’re going to tell me before I unwrap it?” Josie asked.

“You don’t have to unwrap this gift,” Harry said. “It’s your latest mystery-shopping assignment. I want you to shop wedding flowers and wedding cakes for a St. Louis wedding Web site. You can go as yourself – a bride shopping for her wedding.”

He paused dramatically, like a game show host announcing a gigantic prize.

Harry’s serious, Josie thought. He really is giving me a good assignment as a present. Well, it is a gift. Working for Harry has been awkward since I reported that surly sales assistant. I didn’t realize Saber was his niece. She deserved to get fired.

Since then, Harry had given Josie nothing but bad assignments. She even had to mystery-shop pig ear sandwiches – and eat one.

Niece or no niece, Josie lived by her code. Her mission was to protect Mrs. Minivan, her name for the backbone of America’s shoppers. Mrs. Minivan was overlooked, ignored and disrespected. Josie fought to right those wrongs against the average shopper.

“You want me to mystery-shop wedding flowers,” Josie said. “Do you mean all the flowers – the bouquets and boutonnieres, church flowers and reception centerpieces?”

“Naw, just the whatchamacallits for the reception,” he said. “The centerpieces. That’s why this assignment is a gift. It’s easy.”
It would be easy, Josie thought. She’d spent hours deciding whether her bridesmaids should carry bouquets or wear wrist corsages. International trade treaties were signed after less debate.

She’d take this gift – and hope Harry’s anger had finally cooled.

“I’ll do it,” Josie said.

“Good,” Harry said. “I’ll fax you the details. I need you to start today with a flower shop called Denise’s Dreams. They sell other stuff, but our client only cares about the flowers.”

“That’s near my house,” Josie said.

“See, I told you it was a present,” Harry said.

Josie heard a rustling noise and guessed Harry was stuffing his take-out box into his office trash.

“Did you really eat a deep-fried cheeseburger for breakfast?” she asked.

“You need protein for the first meal of the day,” Harry said. “I need man food. The Carnival Diner makes deep-fried cheeseburgers. The chef used to work at the state fair. You should try his chicken-fried bacon.”

“Does he deep-fry the patties?” Josie asked. “How does he keep the cheese from melting away?”

“The chef takes the whole cheeseburger,” Harry said. “Meat, cheese, pickles, bun and all – batters and deep-fries it. The cheese turns into a warm pocket of melted goodness. His french fries are sensational.”

“They’re battered, too?” Josie asked.

“Of course not,” Harry said. “That would be stupid. You gonna go to work? That shop opens at nine thirty. You’re supposed to be a bride on a budget at Denise’s Dreams. At the other two, you have to say money is no problem.”

“I’ve had plenty of experience with wedding budgets,” Josie said. She and her veterinarian fiancé, Ted Scottsmeyer, had agreed to follow a budget. But their plan kept encountering unexpected expenses. Josie knew their wedding cake would cost about seven hundred dollars, but she hadn’t factored in the fifty-dollar delivery fee. This job would help pay for the cake and the delivery.

She dressed quickly, pulled the still-warm mystery-shopping paperwork out of her fax machine, read it, and tucked the pages into her purse.
On the way to Denise’s Dreams, she passed Ted’s veterinary clinic and checked the parking lot. It was crowded with cars, but the big blue St. Louis Mobo-Pet van was gone. Ted was making house calls today while his partner, Christine, handled the clinic patients.

She turned the corner and saw Denise’s Dreams. The shop looked like a midcentury bride’s dream: a one-story white rambler with ruffled tie-back curtains and a picket fence.

Inside, the front room was devoted to flowers. The hothouse flower smell was sweetly overpowering. A big cooler along one wall was crammed with cold, colorful blossoms. Pink roses and blue hydrangeas were massed around the counter. On closer inspection, Josie saw those flowers were silk.
A young blonde in a ruffled dress with blue ribbons in her hair was behind counter, arranging pink gladioli in a glass vase.
Behind her, Josie could see a room with snow drifts of bridal veils. In a third room labeled “Hair Jewelry,” Josie glimpsed a blue velvet Victorian sofa and a showcase sparkling with tiaras and jeweled combs.

The beribboned and ruffled blonde smiled and said, “May I help you? My name is Molly.”

At first Josie thought the slender saleswoman was a girl. But the harsh morning light showed tiny lines around her eyes and mouth. Molly was at least thirty, but she dressed like a little girl going to a birthday party.

“I’d like some information about flowers for my wedding reception,” Josie said. “I’m getting married in five weeks. I’ve chosen everything but the reception flowers.”
“Are you on a budget?” Molly asked.

“Definitely,” Josie said. Two points in Molly’s favor, she thought. She’d greeted me promptly and asked if I was interested in budget offerings.

“May I suggest silk flowers for your reception?” Molly said. “These look real and after the wedding, you’ll have a lasting memento.”

“I like live plants,” Josie said.

“We have a fine selection of tropical plants you can rent,” Molly said. “You can also rent the vases for your centerpieces. That will save money, too. Let me show you.”

She plunked a heavy binder with sample photos on the counter and they paged through it. Josie was impressed with Molly’s sales pitch. She didn’t pressure, but she gave several useful options. Josie selected one and Molly prepared a contract.

“I can’t sign it until I show it to my fiancé,” Josie said.

“That’s fine. Denise, the owner, or Rita, the other sales associate, will be happy to help you when you come back,” Molly said. “I’m getting married next week. This is my last day at work. I’m going to be a full-time homemaker, the career I’ve always wanted.”

“Who’s your fiancé?” Josie asked.

“Ted,” Molly said, her eyes turning dreamy soft. “He’s so kind and handsome. He loves animals.”

“I’m engaged to a Ted, too,” Josie said. “He’s a veterinarian. Next week Channel Seven is coming to his clinic to tape a pilot for his new show, Dr. Ted’s Pet Vet Tips. Each week, Ted will talk about how to care for pets. His first show is how to clip a cat’s toenails.”

“I don’t like Channel Seven – or cats,” Molly said, and made a face. “I’m sure my Ted would have nothing to do with that awful TV station. And cats are sneaky.”

Josie didn’t like this double insult, but she was on the job. She searched for a polite answer. “Channel Seven does sensationalize the news,” she said. “But Ted’s show will be part of their community service programming. Once his show gets going he can move to a better station. I wasn’t a big fan of cats, either, until we got our cat, Harry. Now my daughter and I love him. He’s funny.”

“I’ll take your word for it,” Molly asked. “I’m a dog lover. I have a little white Maltese, Bella. When is your Ted’s TV show taping?”

“Next Tuesday at eleven,” Josie said.

“That’s my wedding day,” Molly said.

Josie could see she was lost again in bridal dreams.

“Congratulations,” she said. “I think you were such a big help because we have so much in common.”

Next Tuesday, Josie would find out exactly how much they had in common.

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Comments Off on Mystery Monday: Murder is a Piece of Cake by Elaine Viets
Posted in Blog tour, excerpt, Fantasy on January 25, 2013

 

Tour Schedule

 

 

Author Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of HEARTLESS, VEILED ROSE, MOONBLOOD, and STARFLOWER, with DRAGONWITCH due to release in 2013. HEARTLESS and VEILED ROSE have each been honored with a Christy Award.

 

Starflower

When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps the lovely Lady Gleamdren, Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission…and a race against his rival for Gleamdren’s favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.

But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his story entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren’s rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her rescuer?

Excerpt:

The River Calls to Starflower
     The trees drew back from the girl as she fled. They dared not interfere while she walked that Path, no matter how they might wish to. She took no notice of them. how long has she fled now? Had it been one night, or days and weeks of this nightmare? And always the howls pounded her memory.
     Suddenly, the howls vanished. A new voice spoke from the gloom.
Come to me, pretty maid.
     The girl stopped, swaying where she stood, on the verge of collapsing. Slowly, as though she dared not hope to find what she sought, she turned her head to the left. Between the trees a river sparkled like a ribbon of pure light and sweetness.
     Her thirst was overwhelming. Even the snarls faded from her mind, replaced by the river’s voice, babbling, gurgling, inviting. Come to me, pretty maid, it said, though she heard only the voice of water.
     Her feet left bloodstains on the moss and rocks as she hastened down to the river’s edge. A glint of gold shimmered in the tail of her eye, shining even in the Wood’s oppressive shadows. She ignored it. Falling to her knees on the bank of the water, she plunged both hands in. The water stung her wrists where the harsh cords had bitten into her skin.
     Drink deeply. Drink.
     The water flowed about her arms, fresh and alive, and the sounds of its flowing filled her ears. She cupped her hands and lifted the cooling liquid to her lips. She drank.
     One long, shuddering breath. Then she fell upon the bank, one arm extended into the water, the other upon the shore. Her black hair covered her face, and the River ran his fingers through the ends of it, pulling, pulling.
     Sleep deeply. Sleep, said the River.
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Comments Off on Blog Tour & Excerpt: Starflower by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Posted in excerpt, suspense on January 23, 2013

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Excerpt:

Two days later, they were out of food again, and Carly was faced with the prospect of trying to make it out to the store.
Sam swatted his metal bowl with his paw, and then stared down at it with a hint of expectation, as if rattling it would make food appear. Perhaps, in his little doggy head it did, because Carly had always filled it whenever she heard the bowl clatter on the floor.
Carly went over to the window to peek out at Biker Guy. Still there.

Yesterday, she had gathered all of her courage and gone down to the lobby door again, but he had met her there with another Hello, and she’d panicked and darted back upstairs.He was looking up at her window. He waved and reached down beside his bucket to pick up something that looked like a large white sheet of poster board. He held it up, and she could see the words he’d painted on it in black: PLEASE DON’T BE AFRAID. I WON’T HURT YOU.

He dropped the top poster to reveal another beneath it: I JUST WANT TO TALK TO YOU.
Carly thought that was highly unlikely. Whatever this guy wants, it isn’t just a scintillating conversation. 
He held up another sign: I’M REALLY A NICE GUY. HONEST.
Yeah, like he’d tell me if he wasn’t.
He grinned as he held up the last board: SURRENDER, DOROTHY.
Carly had to giggle, but it faded as she realized it was the first time she’d laughed since the Crisis. She retreated and let the curtain drop. Indecision gnawed at her. She had to get food, and that meant confronting Biker Guy, whether she liked it or not

lbryanAuthor Bio:

Lissa Bryan is an astronaut, renowned Kabuki actress, Olympic pole vault gold medalist, Iron Chef champion, and scientist who recently discovered the cure for athlete’s foot…. though only in her head. Real life isn’t so interesting, which is why she spends most of her time writing.

Her first novel, Ghostwriter was released October 11, 2012, and her second, The End of All Things, will be released on January 24, 2013.

 

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Posted in Blog tour, excerpt on October 31, 2012

PART ONE   

ONE

            This is it.  Today is the day.  The first practice of the year after school in the boy’s gym.  Time to show the speed, do the deed, take the lead!  All these weeks and months Dale has been able to think of little else.  Since last spring. 

            Since forever.  Now it’s his turn to be the oldest, the biggest, the best.  Tryouts.  But he’s a returning starter and is sure as hell not trying out.  He’ll be leading the way, making them pay!  His excitement is such that for days on end he has been telling himself to be cool.  Time to be cool and not a fool.  For playing it cool is the only tool…if you’re out to win the entire goddamn city.

            Dale Wheeler is fourteen all the same, and whatever energy he may be bringing to his talking-the-talk temperature he doesn’t know how not to dream.  He’s grown an inch and a half since the season ended last year and is growing still.  In this instant he’s pushing up through five-nine.  Sitting at his desk in school he can look at a forearm and see it growing larger, stronger, longer.  Can pump up bicep-pears before the bathroom mirror at home.  One on the left, one on the right!  Pop, pop!  Pow, pow!  Hey, hey, get outta my way…my name is Dale Wheeler and I came to play!  Besides confidence Dale can call up conviction in his mind and heart.  Secret power leading the way, making his day!  Call me cocky and I’ll make your fat ass pay!

            Dale knows he’s good.  There’s no doubt he’s done the work.  Like a saver saving every penny, he’s given himself to little else.  At times it seems it’s all he’s done, all the time, is work-work, practice-practice.  And work some more.  And worked on anyway.  Worked into work.  Sweated into sweat all over again, before taking his shower, doing his homework, dreaming his dream.  For work, as every athlete knows, is the key.  The more you practice the luckier you get. Acquire the moves, absorb the steps…and when the time comes you’ll hit the groove no matter some hee-haw in the stands sputtering about luck and the bounce of the ball. 

            Dale has done it, is doing it, will do it.  For an athlete is what he is.  Maybe he’s only fourteen but he knows what he knows and he knows it’s his turn to take them all downtown to win the city!  “Here comes Wheeler,” cries the Sportscaster on high.  “He takes the shot! no–he fakes the shot!  He fakes the shot!!  He drives! shoots!  SCORES!  SCORES!! SCORES!!!”

            Even in his sleep at night Dale dreams of winning the city.  Moments and moves from outdoor pickup games under the lights (amazing things happen in outdoor pickup games) blend in his dreams into games indoors rocking with all the students and teachers he has ever known or passed in the hallways of Walt Whitman Junior High.  Waking from a dream with his mind full of rainbows he reminds himself not to go off the deep end.  To settle down. 

            Don’t be a fool, play it cool!  Playing it cool is the only tool!

            Everything is a game.  Life, Dale knows, is a game all the way and everything that happens depends on how you play.  It’s something else he knows he knows.  He has no notion of himself as a thinker, or as a smart ass ninth-grader either, but he knows what he knows and he knows that everything is a game.  That playing it cool is the only tool…when you’re out to rule. 

            (Okay, maybe he is a smart ass, but whoever won the city who wasn’t?)

TWO

Coming in late from working second shift at Chevy Plant Ten–a weaving silhouette filling his bedroom doorway–Dale’s father invites his sleepy-time son into the kitchen for a Coney Island dog.  Could anyone in the world more appreciate the taste of a Coney Island dog in the middle of the night than an ever-voracious fourteen-year-old playmaker, ball handler, first string guard?   

            As on every other night, Dale practiced at the park until the lights went out…before shooting a few in the dark.  Dribbling home, into and out of illumination under corner streetlights, driving one telephone pole after another, pulling it back at the last minute (all but the dream), he showers with the landlady’s hose, reviews his school notebook at the kitchen table, and hits the sack dreaming his dream…into which swamp there appears the purveyor of tender words and unconditional love in his life.  “Hey sleepy time pal…come have a Coney Island dog with your old dad.”

            Daylight is in Dale’s eyes and it’s time to rise and shine…despite a spur picking at his mind.  Clomping into the bathroom to wash and brush, he detects “I Fall to Pieces” circling his father’s phonograph in the living room and sinks within, as always, to the old cry of loss haunting their handful of rooms at an off-beat hour.  The message is familiar: His father is up yet and loaded, is emotional and sentimental, drunk and dangerous.  With no one else upon whom to visit his sad memory of Dale’s runaway mother visiting his pickled brain, his father is waiting for him to appear.  In Dale’s adolescent mind another lyric begins circling the breaking day: ‘You get loaded…and I fall to pieces.’

 He has no choice but to make his way into the kitchen that offers the only exit from their attic apartment…down the backside of the landlord’s house to driveway, sidewalk, refreshing air.  He enters without making a sound.  His father stands there.  Head hanging, he’s leaning to the wall, his chin on his chest.  How long has he been on his feet?  His neck looks rubbery as his head lolls to one side, a grin comes on like a dim light as he says: “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”

            Dale opens the refrigerator, explores possibilities, ignores his father as he does at times like these.  Life with an alcoholic.  Life with Patsy Cline’s heartbreak lining the air they breathe: ‘You want me to forget…pretend we’ve never met.’

            “You’re the guy stood me up!” his father tells him.  “Thas who you are!  Bring home a treat for the only person in the world plays tunes on my weary old heart…get left standing at the counter.”  ‘You walk by…and I fall to pieces…’

            Dale remembers then and says: “I fell asleep!  That’s what I did!”

            “Musta been dreaming about something a hell of a lot better looking than a Coney Island dog,” his father tells him.

            “Basketball,” Dale confesses, deciding all at once to share his high hopes with his father.  “I was dreaming about basketball, winning the City…which is what we’re gonna do!”

            “Basketball?” his father asks.  “You say basketball?  Did I hear you say basketball?  Is that what I heard you say?”

            “It’s my big year at school!” Dale tells him.

            “First time I knew anything would keep you from your favorite middle-of-the-night snack.  Surprised it wasn’t something better looking than a fat old basketball.”

            “I’m the biggest at school this year!” Dale tells him.  “I’ve been working like a demon while everybody else has done practically nothing.  Been working all summer, all fall.  Gonna lead the way, make em pay!”  Dale did not add how proud he hoped to make his father, or how his dream included saving his father’s life, too, to a modest degree.  Turning things around.  Leading them to the promised land.

            ‘You tell me to find…someone else to love.

             Someone who’ll love me, too…the way you used to do.’

            Continuing to grin, his father squints.  “Son…gotta tell ya.  Hope you dream other things, too.  Don’t wanna put all your eggs in one basket.”

            Dale nods, indicates that he knows, is cool, isn’t a fool…know all about eggs and baskets.  Doesn’t he?

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Comments Off on Excerpt: Winning the City by Theodore Weesner