Posted in Christian, excerpt, fiction, romance on October 4, 2017

Hello. I’m Excited. This is one of my stops during the one month tour for Sons of Ishmael Reintroduction Tour: The Danjuma Brothers. This virtual book tour is organized by Write Now Literary Book Tours. This tour runs September 11 – October 5, 2017.  Follow the tour here.

Genre: Christian Fiction/Romance

A SCOOP OF LOVE~ SONS OF ISHMAEL BOOK I

Synopsis

The oldest of the Danjuma brothers, Rasheed was a self-made man. He’d learned at an early age that love and commitment brought with it complications he didn’t want to deal with. His single-minded focus had paid off. He was able to step into the shoes of his absentee father by taking care of his mother and twin brothers. But just when he thought he could stop carrying the weight of his family on his shoulders, he gets a call that could change the trajectory of Rasheed’s life.

Ibiso Jaja, a professional caterer, had gambled on the love of a man and lost. Through the redeeming love of God, she had picked herself up and was now living her dream as the owner of Bisso Bites, a bistro in the heart of Abuja. However circumstances conspire to threaten the bistro and bring her face to face with the type of man she has vowed to avoid. The attraction is instant.

Once again, Rasheed is forced to do something he has done all his life – put the needs of his family ahead of his own. This time however, he crosses path with the sassy, independent, Jesus-loving caterer who is bent on making him see the power of forgiveness and God’s love. Just when Rasheed lets his guard down, a deadly sabotage causes old demons to rise. Will Rasheed continue to pursue power and success or surrender to the light of God’s love?

 

Excerpt

Rasheed Danjuma sighed aloud at the sight of another unwanted email from the law

offices of Ezekiel and Stanley. These lawyers were beginning to work his last nerve. He placed his finger over the touchpad of his laptop, directed the cursor to the delete icon and pressed it.It had been six months since Zayd Danjuma, the man that contributed to his genetic makeup had passed away. And his lawyers were still hounding him. Rasheed had thought his non-attendance of the funeral service was a clear indication of his disinterest in anything they had to say about his so-called father.

Determined not to let the email ruin his day, he picked up the receiver and dialed his

assistant’s extension. She picked up at the first ring.

“Yes, Rasheed?”

“Have you heard anything back from those clients in the United States?”

“No, I didn’t,” she said. “But while you were on your conference call, your mother

called.”

Rasheed felt a strange rise in his stomach. His mother almost never called him on his office phone unless she wanted to reach him in a hurry. “Did she leave a message?”

“No, she just said to let you know she called.”

“Okay, thank you.” He disconnected the call.

Rasheed walked over to his jacket and pulled out his cell phone. Looking out of the large window of his Hyde Park office, his sense of unease grew. He checked, and there were three missed called from his mother. His voice mail was empty. What was going on? He dialed his mother. She answered on the third ring.

“Mama, you tried to reach me. Is everything okay?”

“Nna, I really don’t know how to answer that.”

His mother used her term of endearment, Nna, for her sons when she wanted to ask for something she knew they didn’t want to give.“What is it?”

“Those lawyers from your father’s estate came to see me today,” she said. “Rasheed, I don’t want those men in my shop or house. I’m asking you again to come home and see what they want.”

Rasheed’s jaw set. How dare those lawyers hound his mother? Why was it so important that he and his brothers attend the stupid will reading? Even though it had been twenty-five years since their father had walked out of their lives, the memory of that morning was still vivid. Their father didn’t care about them in life, so why was he so concerned about their well-being in death? Squaring up against those lawyers himself was one thing, but when they involved his mother, it was totally different. He wouldn’t have it.

“You mean they came to your shop?” Rasheed asked as though he didn’t hear her the first time. Anger shot through his feet as he began to pace the length of his office.

“Yes.” His mother’s voice sounded shaky. “It’s one thing for them to call but to show up,I don’t appreciate it. They almost scared my customers away.”

After his mother had retired as a school administrator, she had decided she couldn’t sit idle. Her love of fashion led to the opening of a boutique in the heart of Abuja’s business district. Within months, the business had flourished. Rasheed had supported her because whatever made his mother happy made him happy, too. After many years of living in pain, she deserved to live her life in peace. They all did.

Rasheed’s mind went back to the email he’d received earlier in the day. Since these

lawyers were playing hardball, it was clear he had no choice but to travel to Nigeria. “If those lawyers call you again, tell them I’ll be there soon.”

His mother’s sigh expressed her relief. “God bless you, my son.”

“It’s okay, Mama. They better make it worth my while. If not, I won’t be held responsible for my actions.”

ANCHORED BY LOVE~ SONS OF ISHMAEL SERIES BOOK II

Synopsis

When cardiac surgeon, Jabir Danjuma met Damisi Odinga at the University of Michigan seven years ago, it wasn’t necessarily love at first sight. With love comes commitment and he knows that’s not a promise he could keep, after all he is his father’s son. However, their attraction can’t be denied. Their ensuing one year romance is passionate and intense, and he begins to feel the forbidden emotion—love. Just as he starts to let his guard down, Damisi breaks up with him and moves half way around the world to Lagos, Nigeria. He knows immediately that the demise of their relationship has something to do with that church she joined. She becomes unrecognizable and wants to change him into something he is not. His studies are the most important thing to him, so he did what any sane man would do, let her go.

Popular television personality Damisi Odinga, needs to end the fourth season of her show Becoming Ruth, with a bang. The trending topic in the country is the fairy-tale wedding of the heir to the Danjuma empire. The family has been shrouded in secrecy ever since the unknown sons resurfaced in the country last year. Coverage of the wedding weekend will give her show the boost it needs and seal its number one rating. No one can get an interview with the couple but she had a way in, her ex man, Jabir Danjuma. So what if he broke her heart and she hasn’t been able to get over him? This was kingdom business, right?

Years ago, Damisi left him without an explanation and now Jabir has her just where he wants her. Their encounter sets off a series of events that leave them both with fresh pain and hurt. Angry, they leave Abuja to their destinations. If they didn’t set eyes on each other again it would be too soon. But little did they know that fate has another thing planned. Will they stick it out long enough for the Potter to perfect their scars and pain for His purpose or will distance and time steal the day.

Excerpt

Thirty minutes later, Jabir was in the KTN lobby waiting for Damisi. He got curious stares from the receptionist and guard. He didn’t know whether it was because he looked like Kamal—someone they’d recognize—or because Damisi never received male visitors. He hoped it was the latter.

The space was decorated in light colors, and the walls were decorated with paintings or pictures of guests of their shows. He walked to the one the one that had Damisi in it. She was on the set of her show and looked beautiful. She had a microphone in her hand and was smiling. From the picture, he could see she loved what she did. His eyes saddened at what the scandal would do to her career. If they acted fast, she might have a chance of salvaging it, but she was too stubborn, and his approach wasn’t helping either. He had to get her to see reason.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered behind him.

Jabir turned around and marveled at how gorgeous she looked. He smiled inwardly.

“I figured you could use breakfast.” He handed her the smoothie and the box of pastries.

She took it from him slowly, her eyes softening with gratitude. “Thank you, but you shouldn’t be here.”

Jabir frowned. “Why? Expecting someone?”

She grabbed his wrist and tried to pull him to the corner. He resisted at first, but caved when he saw the plea in her eyes. “I really appreciate the breakfast, but I thought you were supposed to be on your way to Badagry. I really don’t need any rumors started.”

He lifted his brow. “Rumors? I’m not doing anything but making sure you’re fed. The baby needs to eat.”

She looked around in shocked horror. “Shhhh. Do you want to say it a little louder?” She rolled her eyes at him and he chuckled. “Jabir, please you can’t be here. In case you forgot, you look like one of the most recognizable Nigerian soccer players. I can’t do the rumor mill now.”

He wanted to dismiss her argument, but he was running late, and she was right. But then he had another idea. “Okay, I’ll leave on one condition.”

“Really?”

“Really.” He smirked.

Some people walked past them and did a double take. Damisi panicked. “What is it?”

“Have dinner with me when I get back.”

Damisi hesitated, then someone she knew walked over to say hello to them. By now, he could see the fury in her eyes. The daggers in them were aimed at him. He raised his eyebrow.

“I can’t believe you. Okay. Go,” she said hurriedly and turned away. He watched her go, but smiled when she walked back his way. “Thank you, and please drive safe.”

Yep. This new approach just might work. There was hope.

About the Author

Born in Akron, Ohio to Nigerian parents, Unoma Nwankwor is an award winning, international best-selling author of several fiction titles, and a champion of purpose. She is the recipient of the Nigerian Writers’ Award 2015 for Best Faith Based Fiction Writer. At the end of 2016, she was short listed for the Diaspora Writer of the Year. She was also recently named as one of the “100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40”

When she is not writing fiction, she empowers women of faith to remain rooted in hope by building confident expectations in the promises of God. She’s the host of the Anchor Talk Podcast, the COO of KevStel Group LLC and Founder of Living A Life of Expectancy.

Unoma resides in Atlanta with her husband and two children.

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Posted in 4 1/2 paws, Adventure, fiction, suspense on July 23, 2017

Synopsis

Ed and his childhood friend Danny are gearing up in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to join the Angie Piper’s crew for another season of crab fishing. Ed is a relative newcomer, but despite the perils of the trade, he sees no reason to fear for Danny’s safety. The Angie Piper has always been blessed. She has a stalwart captain, Fred, a crack engineer, Dave, and two time-tested pros to keep the rest of the operation running smoothly, exuberant Loni and the more reticent Salazar.

Every season has a greenhorn, the one who works for a pittance in order to learn the ropes. This time around it is Ed’s friend Danny, no ordinary crewman. Their shared history is complex. Though strong, brave, and hardworking, Danny is a simple soul, and Ed is weighed down by guilt, dark memories of the many times he failed to defend his friend against the inevitable bullying. And cantankerous Dave believes Danny is a bad omen, so much so that his bitter opposition may endanger them all.

The season starts off strong, and the crew is elated by the bounty of their catch. Then their luck turns. The skies grow dark, the waves swell, and Mother Nature bears down on them with her full arsenal. When the storm finally abates, who will live to tell the tale?

Amazon * Blackstone Audio * Barnes & Noble

Review

This is one intense book! You might have seen some of the reality TV shows about those that fish or crab in Alaska or that general area. This book brings the harsh reality of that what those men (and possibly women) endure in this profession.

But the book is about a little bit more than that. It is also about a relationship between Ed and Danny. While it takes awhile to really figure out what is wrong with Danny (mentally challenged), the relationship between these two men has many facets. From Ed’s guilt at not protecting his friend as he should have growing up, to Danny’s loyalty to Ed. There are some harsh realities that Ed has to learn and face to become a better man.

I felt that the book really reflected the grittiness of their profession and how quickly mother nature can rain down and create havoc for those on the boats. There is a lot they have to do and need to be quick on their feet to avoid going overboard or having the boat sink on their watch.

The only thing I wasn’t wild about was the number of f* bombs. yes perhaps it was called for in some situations, but if there needs to be cussing how about using other words? I had to deduct 1/2 star for that. But other than this one thing, the book is well worth reading.  We give it 4 1/2 paws.

About the Author

Chris Riley lives near Sacramento, California, vowing one day to move back to the Pacific Northwest. In the meantime, he teaches special education, writes awesome stories, and hides from the blasting heat for six months out of the year. He has had dozens of short stories published in various magazines and anthologies, and across various genres. Chris is represented by Mark Gottlieb of Trident Media Group, and his debut novel, The Sinking of the Angie Piper, will be published in July, 2017.

Website * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads

Posted in fiction, Literary, Spotlight on July 14, 2017

Synopsis

What can an award-winning Nashville singer-songwriter learn about himself by agreeing to a best-of tour in a beat up old van? If it means getting out from under the thumb of a label that considers him washed up, he’s willing to find out.  At least until an ex-lover wants to come along for the ride.

Carl Mahogany’s not your average protagonist. In the practiced drawl of the aging country singer, and echoing Edward Abbey’s Henry Lightcap, Boddicker takes us across the country in an Americana-steeped journey through Mahogany’s roots. Encounters with old friends and lovers, including the Eisenhower Interstate System, a firecracker tenured professor, former bandmates, and a down-to-earth small town mechanic, shake the dust out of Mahogany’s creases to revision his life.

If a lifetime of travel, songwriting and performing equates to learning to work with the monsters inside us, The Essential Carl Mahogany is that journey. Grab a six pack, settle into the cushions, and come along for the ride.

Interview with Zach

What inspired The Essential Carl Mahogany?

The answer to this may be lost to history. I do remember having gotten to the point where I refused to watch any more musician/artist biopics and documentaries. So many of them follow the rise-fall-redemption paradigm, focused on industry pressure and substance abuse.  There are so many other ways to depict the complex trials of a successful, working artist. Having written several short stories in college, and unaware of any novel written about a professional songwriter, I decided it was time to go for it.

Where did the moniker and personality of Carl Mahogany come from?

The name “Carl Mahogany” came from a quip made at a backyard 4th of July horseshoe tournament I attended in 2005, and it just stuck. When I started the book, I wanted an artist-protagonist who could feasibly reach the top of their game with no college degree, trust fund or traces of nepotism; someone who could still move about the general population without being noticed. If I were to run into a real version of a songwriter like Carl, I’m not sure I would recognize them – even with being familiar with their work.

The Essential Carl Mahogany  is the first novel published by M12 / Last Chance Press. How did you two connect – and what made them decide to publish your book?

Richard Saxton (Creative Director of M12) happened to be at a 4H Royalty show at the Lion’s Lair several years ago. I didn’t meet or speak with him that particular night, but we eventually connected, and with their company focus on rural art and artists,  I insisted that we collaborate. I contributed a short story to their first publication A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier. After Carl won an unpublished novel contest a few years ago and made the finals in another, Saxton said “why don’t we put out your book?”

Do you see yourself in any of your characters in the book?

Definitely – there’s some aspect of all of the main characters, except Lloyd. Bill, Carl and Rhonda are all pretty good improvisors when it comes to handling the disruptions and chaos of life. Their sense of humor enables this more than anything. Carl takes several more beatings than anyone else in this story, but he keeps grinding forward with his new project. Bill and Rhonda have gone through their own messes previously and have earned their ability to see the humor and absurdity of all of the knuckleballs that have come their way. I suppose this is why I identify with these characters the most. It’s an ongoing aspiration, at least.

Are any of those six a favorite of yours?

It depends on my mood. I’d probably choose Rhonda as my go-to character. She’s naturally non-judgemental, an improvisor, focused, highly-skilled and unapologetically passionate about what she does.

You’re a musician, as well as a writer. How long have you been a musician and what type of music do you play?

I’ve been playing guitar since I was 10, and then picked up pedal steel at 19. I started playing bars at 18 with a “modern country” cover band, which led to me starting a “classic country” band with Ben O’Connor (Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams, Matt Skinner Band). No one was doing that up in Fort Collins at the time, so people started coming to check it out.

One of these individuals was Karl Alvarez of Descendents / ALL fame. He brought me on board with Drag the River, which to that point was just an acoustic duo. We got the full-band version of DTR going, and I spent about five years recording and touring with them.

My main project since 2008 or so is a four-piece band called 4H Royalty. It’s been more of a long-term art project than a working band. People have described our sound as a combination of the Replacements, Billie Joe Shaver, Thin Lizzy, Meat Puppets and late-seventies Springsteen.

So, given your history in music, were any parts of your story inspired by real-life events?

From the start, I anticipated receiving accusations that this story is just a thinly-veiled autobiography, so I over-compensated by making sure nearly everything that happens in this book is made from scratch (to the best of my ability). None of the major plot points have happened to me, or to anyone I know personally, but several minor plot points, characters, details, and locations are based on, or influenced by, real-life experiences, hearsay, and unreliable memories. Several!

What do you think will surprise readers most about your book?

The depiction of small-town/rural humans as creative, dynamic individuals with complex lives and diverse opinions.

About the Author

Zach Boddicker grew up living the country life north of Laporte, Colorado.  Ever more interested in rock bands and art than hunting, sports and other traditional red-blooded American activities, it was when he finally got his hands on a guitar that his journey into a life of music was catapulted into action.

In his formative years, Boddicker listened to and learned from everything he could get his hands on, but found direction one Monday night at a poignant performance at The Continental Club in Austin, Tex. by country guitar legend Junior Brown. This steered the author and musician toward honky-tonk, country and western swing.

Boddicker holds a B.A. in English and a MFA in Fiction from Colorado State University, which have proven useful for his endeavors into publishing. In 2014, his short story “Equipment” was published in “A Decade of Country Hits: Art on the Rural Frontier(Jap Sam Books / M12 Studio). His first book “The Essential Carl Mahogany” (2017), which has been deemed evocative of Nick Hornby, Hunter S. Thompson and Don DeLillo, is the first novel to be published by M12 Studio / Last Chance Press.

In addition to his work as an author, Boddicker has been a staple of the Roots Music scene along the Front Range for 20 years as a member of 4H Royalty, Cowboy Dave Band, Drag the River, and many others. He currently resides in Denver with his wife and two daughters.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Historical on July 7, 2017

The Velvet Prison Synopsis

Against the pulsating back drop of a New York City in social and economic change, young Travis Kane struggles with his passion to be an artist painter, and the conservative demands of his strict grandfather, Barclay Kane.

His mother, unable to come to terms with tragedy, has taken Travis’s infant sister and abandons him, leaving their house in Gramercy Park, and Travis to be raised by the grandfather he adores.

Travis enters a New York speakeasy, with a unique idea, that will change his life, leading him on an exciting journey, meeting Manhattan’s privileged, studying in art in Paris and, finding his way to Broadway.

Meanwhile, Lindsay Wayne’s mother, seamstress, has a secret, and a passion. Her daughter will become a famous stage actress, and this is her focus.

Lindsay and Travis’s worlds collide.

Their lives will never be the same again.

Excerpt

One week before his tenth birthday, Travis Kane felt safe and secure for the first time since his father’s death.  He stared at the burning logs, crackling and popping in the huge fireplace.  The warmth from the hearth wrapped around him like his mother’s arms.  He sat cross legged not able to take his eyes away from the dancing flames as the sound of rain pelted the library windows of the house on Gramercy Park.

Different aromas came from the kitchen, competing with the fire’s heat for Travis’s attention.  Hannah Kane, his mother, was cooking supper.  He reached to the floor and picked up his box of crayons. As usual he had been drawing and coloring.  Today he sketched houses, with pointed roof tops and small facades. His lines were long where they should be short, but the images and shapes were easy to identify. He feared the warmth from the fire would melt his colored sticks, which were in short supply. He gazed through the large library window which faced the park.

He could hardly make out the sharp outlines of the spreading trees bordering the square, its branches a cover from the sun, the leaves rich and green. They sagged under the heavy rain and dripped, like wet clothes on his mother’s clothes line. He remembered when the weather was bad, his father was late for supper. Travis pushed his legs out in front of him. Sitting back on his hands he looked up at his grandfather sitting in a large overstuffed chair at the fireside. Barclay Kane had his face buried in the evening newspaper.

He was always reading something. Travis watches his gray beard twitch back and forth in time with the movement of Barclay’s lips. He would nod his head from time to time but mostly he shook it from side to side. Travis knew he would hear the news that made his grandfather cranky at the supper table.

He caught glimpses of his mother, bobbing in and out of the dining room, carrying in food in hot steaming plates. She did not appear happy, smiling infrequently. Something had upset her, and he rolled over in his mind things he had done the last few days that might have irritated her. He was sure he would think of something, but his grandfather needed attention.

‘Idiot!’ Barclay shouted. ‘Oh, that idiot!’

Travis stiffened, his heart beat rapidly. He looked up at his grandfather’s face, now a bright red. ‘What…what?’ he stammered.

His own thoughts of misbehavior vanished. He waited to hear what Barclay was about to say, because Travis knew his grandfather always told him the truth. Barclay did not treat him like a child. Through small, wire-rimmed glasses, twinkling, blue eyes mixed with flashes of amusement, Barclay peeked over the top of the paper, and Travis felt his grandfather’s love, just as he used to feel the warmth and love of his father, before he died.

‘Our president is a coward, my boy.’

‘What’s a coward?’ Travis asked, his neck prickling with embarrassment.

Barclay sat back, dropped his newspaper in his lap. ‘A coward is our President, my boy.’ His eyebrows arched as he smiled.

Travis didn’t respond.’Well,’ Barclay said impatiently, ‘President Wilson is afraid to fight… to take sides. Instead of rising up against injustice, he has stepped back. He refuses to interfere.’

‘A coward doesn’t interfere?’ Travis asked. ‘Does that make him a dummy…an idiot?’ He reached to the floor and moved his sketches, further away from the fireplace. His hands moved across the first sketch and lightly touched waxy marks left by his colored crayons.

‘Oh, leave the boy alone, Barclay,’ Hannah said from the dining room. She stood with her hands on her hips. ‘You’re always filling him with such…stuff.’

‘How am I supposed to learn, Mama? Grandfather knows everything.’

Hannah’s eyes rolled upward as she went about her chores.

When he looked back at Barclay, he saw he was picking up his pipe from a side-table. Barclay struck a match against the bottom of the table, and lit it. He looked up at the ceiling and down at Travis before he said, “You could be right, my boy. Yes, you could be. There may be a difference.’

A flash of warmth swirled through Travis. He had ideas, too, but his grandfather rarely gave him credit for them.

‘I suppose we should draw a distinction between being afraid to fight, and not wanting to interfere.’

Travis relaxed, having made his point, he smiled.

‘A coward is the former, a pacifist the latter.’ Barclay puffed at his pipe, in obvious satisfaction with his answer. ‘Of course, the combination of two makes an idiot! Our President is an idiot!’

Travis giggled.

The Satin Sash Synopsis

After the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, American lives change dramatically. The Satin Sash continues the breathtaking lives of Travis Kane, Lindsay Wayne and Jean-Paul Renault with all the inherent dangers of the French Resistance, President Roosevelt’s live or die missions, and death defying action when German spies secretly enter the US through it’s ports. A wedding reception and the lives of Travis Kane and his family are thrown into chaos as America enters World War II.

The Satin Sash is set against the explosive backgrounds of New York, France, London and Ireland. Travis Kane becomes President Roosevelt’s tool in bringing one of the world’s most famous paintings to New York. Racial tensions surface. A famous black activist enters politics and an actress makes choices in the face of heartbreaking tragedy. A public enemy serves his country in wartime and a black artist becomes famous. When a baby is born the future shows promise.

With tension, suspense and surprising plot twists, we continue to follow the lives of the people we loved in The Velvet Prison.

Excerpt

When Travis Kane hung his painting of Trinity Church in Nick’s speakeasy many years ago, he had no idea he’d be married in the same church in December of 1941. The Monday following Thanksgiving, Travis and Maggie were bundled in heavy coats after they left their meeting with Father Christi. Travis saw his breath as they walked down Wall Street.

Travis unhooked Maggie’s arm from his and kissed her on the cheek. Her face was cool like a chilled white wine. ‘I know it’s freezing cold,’ he said.

The decided on a small wedding since extravagence was on neither of their minds and Maggie wanted to be married in a church. Travis raised no objection.

‘Give me a moment,’ Travis said.

He turned and faced the front of the church. Even in the frigid air his eyes filled with moisture staring at the Gothic Revival structure remembering the difficulty he had in his original sketch of the 280 foot spire. It seemed to lean a bit to the left and when he adjusted the lines, it favored the right. His frustration eased when he hit the right pitch. He felt the balance even when closing his eyes which dropped to the three bronze doors designed by Richard Morris. Contrary to the harshness of the facade, the inside was warm and graceful, lighted by the elegance of the stained-glass wall behind the altar. He was fascinated by the replica of the Hamilton-Burr duel pistols in the small museum at the end of one of the aisles.

‘I don’t know about you, Darling,’ Maggie said interrupting his reverie, ‘but I’m freezing my…’

‘…Me, too,’ he said putting his arm around her. ‘What kind of people get married in December?’

‘Eskimos?’

She snuggled close to him as they began to walk.

‘Well who else?’ he said.

‘Us,’ she answered.

He threw his arm around her shoulders.

‘Oh, for God’s sake!’

Jean-Paul laughed. ‘All right. All right. Pack warm clothes for a warm climate, ocean views and sandy beaches.’

Travis sat in thought for a few seconds. ‘Well, that narrows it down.’

About the Author

Sheldon Friedman was born in St. Joseph Missouri. He lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a University of Denver graduate and practiced law in Denver until 2008. He taught legal courses at the University of Colorado Law School, University of Denver Law School and Daniels School of Business at the University of Denver. After leaving his law firm he joined a national mediation and arbitration firm until January, 2016. He is also an accomplished playwright, having a number of local readings and productions. His play The Long Goodbye was staged at Denver’s Crossroad’s Theater in 2010. His book, The Velvet Prison was named as a 2017 fiction award finalist by the Colorado Author’s League.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Military, Spotlight on June 25, 2017

Synopsis

The Discharge is the third novel in Gary Reilly’s trilogy chronicling the life and times of Private Palmer as he returns from the U.S. Army to civilian life after a tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a largely autobiographical series based on his own two years of service, 1969-1971, which included a year in Southeast Asia.

In the first book, The Enlisted Men’s Club, Palmer is stationed as an MP trainee at the Presidio in San Francisco, awaiting deployment orders. Palmer is wracked with doubt and anxiety. A tortured relationship with a young lady off base and cheap beer at the EM club offer escape and temporary relief.

The Detachment is the second in the series. This novel covers Palmer’s twelve months in Vietnam as a Military Policeman. In the beginning, he endures through drink and drugs and prostitutes but comes to a turning point when he faces his challenges fully sober.

Now, in The Discharge, Palmer is back in the United States. But he’s adrift. Palmer tries to reconnect with a changed world. From San Francisco to Hollywood to Denver and, finally, behind the wheel of a taxi, Palmer seeks to find his place.

Excerpt

From Part 2

Chapter 1

On my way back to Denver from LA I stopped off at my brother’s place in San Francisco and stayed a few days. My brother Mike runs an auto upholstery business that he started in 1976, during the summer of the 200th anniversary of America, the Bicentennial. I had visited him that summer too. I was there on the Fourth of July when thousands of ships and boats sailed beneath the red mass of the Golden Gate Bridge, gliding across its shadow and filling the same bay that my father had sailed out of without fanfare towards the South Pacific and the unknown in 1942.

I was asleep when all the celebrations took place. I watched them through a hangover on TV on the five o’clock news when I woke up. My brother was at work. He was organizing the inventory. He intended to specialize in tops. When Mike came home that night, we sat in the living room of his small apartment and drank beer and watched the video-taped repeats of the flotilla which graced the deadly waters of the bay lapping against the island where Alcatraz is poised, lone, businesslike, empty.

There was a thing I had always intended to do in San Francisco, but never did because I’d never had the time. Not having the time was one of my favorite excuses because it imbued my slightest whim with unfathomable significance. Deadlines were unconscionable irritants. Schedules were out the window. Brilliant people on the go don’t live by clocks, their heels are jet-propelled, they leave vapor trails in the sky, you never see where they are, only where they’ve been. I never had the time. Time was smoke between my fingers. It was a bohemian concept and it was fitting that I’d never had the time to look up the haunts of the bohemians during those brief visits to San Francisco on summer break, spring break, or the time I quit college, abandoned my GI Bill income, and came to live with Mike for three months until he sat me down and asked me straight out when I was going to get a job.

“I don’t have the time,” I now imagine myself saying to him.

He wouldn’t have bought that line because Mike is not much different than myself. We grew up together, one year apart, and knew each other well. But I was going to tour the city and visit landmarks made famous by the writings of the beats, the beatniks. I had the time now.

It was a Sunday morning when my plane from LA began circling San Francisco International Airport. The cabin was orange with morning light. Shadows swept at odd angles abruptly as the plane adjusted its flight path prior to landing. Passengers were waking up. They steadied themselves in the aisle, heading for the restroom to get rid of the scotch-and-soda and pops purchased on the flight up. It was cozy. Campers. The stewardesses stashed balloon pillows and blue blankets in overhead racks. Smokers lit up. I was in the smoking section, seated by the emergency-exit door. I was sitting in what would have been the center seat on the right side of the plane, except there was no far right seat. To my right was a metal well, and a lid which hid the emergency chute designed to pop out the door and allow crash survivors to slide to safety. It bothered me to be sitting next to it. I originally had been assigned to a seat at the very back of the plane, but a woman asked if I would switch seats with her husband so they could fly together. It was all right with the rational part of me, I trust planes even if I tell myself I don’t, and also a plane crash is lethal no matter where you sit, don’t kid yourself, don’t talk about the famous last three rows that always make it through a crash. I grew up on those myths. The irrational part of me made a movie out of my situation. Even though I was through with movies, which is what I had told myself when I left LA, I still turned this subtle, innocent series of events into a death knell. The Main Character is asked to switch seats. During the flight, the emergency door breaks off and the Main Character is sucked into oblivion. UPI picks up the story, and the irony of his switched seat is broadcast across America, and for less than fifteen minutes I am famous for being a victim of ironic fate. Friends from high school tell their wives they once knew me. Tsk.

The landing was flawless, and I felt almost as good about being in San Francisco as I once had felt about being in LA, though San Francisco is a little too magic. I told my brother I did not think I could ever live permanently in San Francisco because I would be overwhelmed by its charm. Better to have a place like that set aside for visiting. A place where you can go once a year, feel melancholy, get drunk, and leave. The visits were always good. I had never had a bad visit to San Francisco, and although my visit to Los Angeles had been a bust, I noted as I stepped out the terminal into the slightly chilled fog-lifted morning air that, still, LA had been even better, it owned me, because it was the movie capital of the world, and no matter how mesmerizing might be San Francisco balanced on those white hills with all its beatnik mythology, the legend of Los Angeles towered over it, obliterated it, a surprising thing which I still do not understand, since LA is a very tacky and run-down place. Everywhere except in my heart.

I called Mike and told him I was in town, and he said come on over and don’t wake him, he had been out late the previous evening. I had a key. I’d had a key since the Bicentennial when the whole world had paused to tip its hat in our direction and acknowledge what a swell country this is, even our enemies, who hate us because we’ve got it all.

Mike was asleep when I arrived. He was laying in a cocoon of sheets on his Murphy bed. His apartment is small, expensive west coast standard, it would go for less than two hundred in Denver but he pays more than five hundred a month, and when he is still there in ten years he will probably be paying a thousand a month. I put my duffel bag beside the couch and stepped into the kitchen to see what food he had. Thirty-three years old, one year older than me, and still living like a teen fresh from home. You go to a laundromat and put all your clothes into a single washer, whites and darks, God forbid you should waste more than a quarter on cleanliness, and if the clothes are still damp from the dryer, you hustle them home damp because they can dry wrinkled on hangers, God forbid you should waste an extra dime on ten more minutes of drying time, which I now read as “dignity” as I grow older. You shake your head with dismay at things that made perfect sense when you were a kid. Those dimes added up to a lot of six-packs of beer. I don’t know what girls value when they leave home for the first time, but boys know exactly how much beer money they have in their pockets every second of the day.

A balled wad of hamburger in plastic which would be good maybe one more day. Two bottles of beer. In the cupboard spaghetti. I am home. My brother and I lived this way for years, ten years ago, so I felt like I had gone back in time, and felt a little lighter in my step, a little freer, irresponsibility has its good points. I left the apartment to go down to one of the Iranian-run grocery stores on the corner to buy food and maybe a jug of wine.

My brother’s apartment is on a hill near the San Francisco State Medical College and the breeze from the ocean three miles west was rolling right up the street bringing a little fog with it. The sky was overcast, though I could have gone a dozen blocks east or north and seen high sun and blue sky. There was a grocery store on every block, Greeks kittycorner, Iranians kattycorner, the doors were open and I could see shelves of bottled wine running to the rear of the store, narrow aisles, wooden floors, it pleased me to think that these same warped boards were being walked upon by beatniks when I was a child in 1955. Old white freezers with rounded corners filled with scattered cartons of ice cream. Worn-out looking young men standing in a silent polite line at the cash register holding bottles of wine the color of coffee or lilac.

I bought some Mama Celeste pizzas, peanut butter, and a half gallon of pink Chablis. I recognized the man behind the cash register who had been here when I visited San Francisco in 1976, a barrel-chested Iranian with salt-and-pepper Brillo hair leaning into his work, reading each item and ringing it up even though he must have had the store memorized and could probably tell you the price of each product since the day he’d fled his homeland and said this is it.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

A young man who might have been the owner’s nephew entered the store dragging a man wearing a baggy suit, clutching his sleeve, a white-haired old man with a wine-shot face. “I caught this guy stealing a grape,” the kid said.

There was a display of fruit set up outside on a cart.

“Are you going to pay for that grape?”

I picked up my sack and got out of there thinking what a cheapskate, and then, when I got to the top of the hill where my brother’s apartment was, I thought I should have handed the kid a dime and paid for the grape myself. When I got into the foyer, I thought, stop thinking heroics. You aren’t a hero and never will be. You couldn’t even think of a way to help the guy, so continue to not think, bub.

Mike woke up about an hour after I got back. He pulled his pants on with his hangover groggy frown while I washed off the plate that had pizza on it. I’d saved a slice for him, but he didn’t want it. He made a glass of ice water and sat on the couch and lit a cigarette.

“Did you get a movie contract?” he said.

“No.”

He was the only one in the family whom I had told about the movie deal. I had come close to selling screenplays before but never as close as this, and even before I left Denver, when I had called Mike to let him know about it, I thought I might be jinxing it. But I’m not really superstitious, not like a man who plays the horses or dogs. I just need to think things like this to fix the blame because in the end nobody understands the real reasons Hollywood deals evaporate. They just do. Gone. So you make up a superstition. It happened because I told someone about it. If you’re a Catholic, it happened because you told someone and God punished you for being presumptuous.

“I didn’t find Strother Martin’s grave, either.”

My brother shook his head and exhaled a balloon of smoke. I saw words printed within its borders, “Too bad.” That was the real bad news. He had never believed I was going to sell a screenplay, and in fact I didn’t either. We grew up together. But there was nothing to stop me from finding Strother Martin’s grave, except our family penchant for not succeeding at things that are almost impossible to fail at, which is to say, anything requiring minimum effort.

“Why didn’t you find it?” he said.

“I didn’t have the time.”

About the Author

Gary Reilly was a natural and prolific writer. But he lacked the self-promotion gene. His efforts to publish his work were sporadic and perfunctory, at best. When he died in 2011, he left behind upwards of 25 unpublished novels, the Vietnam trilogy being among the first he had written.

Running Meter Press, founded by two of his close friends, has made a mission of bringing Gary’s work to print. So far, besides this trilogy, RMP has published eight of ten novels in his Asphalt Warrior series. These are the comic tales of a Denver cab driver named Murph, a bohemian philosopher and aficionado of “Gilligan’s Island” whose primary mantra is: “Never get involved in lives of my passengers.” But, of course, he does exactly that.

Three of the titles in The Asphalt Warrior series were finalists for the Colorado Book Award. Two years in a row, Gary’s novels were featured as the best fiction of the year on NPR’s Saturday Morning Edition with Scott Simon. And Gary’s second Vietnam novel, The Detachment, drew high praise from such fine writers as Ron Carlson, Stewart O’Nan, and John Mort. A book reviewer for Vietnam Veterans of America, David Willson, raved about it, too.

There is a fascinating overlap in the serious story of Private Palmer’s return to Denver and the quixotic meanderings of Murph. It is the taxicab. One picks up where the other leaves off. Readers familiar with The Asphalt Warrior series will find a satisfying transition in the final chapters of The Discharge.

And they will better know Gary Reilly the writer and Gary Reilly the man.

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Posted in Dystopian, excerpt, fiction, Guest Post, Science Fiction on June 19, 2017

Synopsis

In Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, ‘Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper’, he creates a completely unique vision that seamlessly blends tropes of magical realism and dystopian fiction in a portrait of power in America that we’ve never seen before. Imagine it as the communal love child of Marquez, Bolaño, and Orwell, a child who inhabits an America that resembles Pinochet’s Chile, and yet feels uncannily (and frighteningly) familiar to present day Los Angeles. A world in which street assassin Tre, a young and much beloved brother and son, finds himself caught in a city where all its citizens, even its most dangerous, are potential targets in the on-going power struggle between an authoritarian military regime and a not-so-community friendly guerrilla force. As Percival Everett says, “This novel treats revolution, love, betrayal and magic with equal adeptness and intelligence. In a world that is at once ours and foreign Rosales makes characters that will be remembered when the novel is done.

Guest Post

Action & Suspense in Literary Fiction

I did not submit a whole chapter. It stops somewhere before we know the main character’s fate. Why?

In all of my stories and books I challenge myself to give my readers everything. You want love? You got it. Horror? Action? Crime? Yep. Even camp and melodrama, and especially sex. Who doesn’t want sex?

But this gets real messy, real fast. Not the sex; the writing.

Because readers approach reading with expectations, and much of the time those expectations are based on popular genres that are strictly defined. The hardboiled detective vs. the armchair detective. The mystery (whodunnit?) vs. the thriller (look at them doing it!) vs. the suspense (what are they going to do and when?!). There’s the chest-heaving romance that’s all passion and pecs and no penetration, and then there’s the quasi-eroticism in which the BDSM stands for Bored and Dying for Something to Masturbate to.

And let’s not forget self-serious: (she wasn’t sure why she did it, or even what exactly one could call what she did, and she never would be sure, would she? But surely she’d have to live through this day knowing she knew nothing. Or did she?).

None of what I’m saying about this balancing act we call writing and reading fiction is new. It remains, however, hard.

Brief interruption: I’m going to use the word literary soon.

When I write “literary,” I don’t use it as an evaluative word. It doesn’t mean better. It means I wasn’t relying on my own or a reader’s preconceived expectations for a popular genre, but rather was relying on character alone. Genre fiction often relies heavily on character–too–but it rarely relies on character–just. For a definition of “literary”-crap, see above: “self-serious”.

So how do we use elements of popular genre fiction, like Action and Suspense, in “literary” fiction. I chose today’s excerpt from my first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper, because it is a chapter in the middle of a “literary” project in which I try to provide action and suspense. I want bullets to fly, sure, but I want hearts to pump out of sympathy instead of spectacle. So I do what Ron Carlson tells us all to do in Ron Carlson Writes a Story, a must-have craft book for every writer. I try to stay close to the character. I take inventory of the objects, people, and location, and stay close to them, return to them, round them out. What I don’t do is make the bad guys bad and the good guy good. The “good guy” has just stolen from these “bad guys” in my scene. His motorcycle isn’t great, it’s ragtag and rusty. There are civilians populating the scene by living everyday lives with each other; they’re not propped up to take a bloody shot to the gut to demonstrate the “bad guys” mean business. In fact, the scene doesn’t try to “mean” anything.

But by sticking to details, I hope to remind readers it’s in their nature to observe. As the main character rides his motorcycle in an attempt to escape, his spit hits his helmet’s visor, a stop sign takes a bullet, he hardly notices but can’t help notice the hot sun reflected in the puddle in the road. I don’t know what’s going to happen to him as I collect these details about his environment. And that means I am engaged in action and suspense.

That’s it, after all. Action is a collection of concrete definable terms happening to or being happened to by a character. Suspense is the delicate distance between our prediction of what will happen and our knowledge of what has. By writing in both those states, I hope my reader will read in both those states. By abandoning a preconceived notion of what should happen in a plot, I hope I give my reader something new. It’s unpredictable to them because it’s unpredictable to me.

Excerpt

Tre leaned his bike into the turn and wound his way through the frozen traffic. We always said he leaned into everything that way. He didn’t ever seem to be trying too hard at anything at all.

He flipped up the visor of his helmet and checked his watch. Tapped it once or twice. “Piece of shit.” When he flipped the visor down the sunset shimmered pink across it.

Slowing each time he passed a luxury sedan, he’d crane his neck to see the plates. He stopped behind a long brown car with dark windows, checked the license number scribbled on the back of his hand against the license plate on the sedan. The scribbles across his hand had smeared with sweat, but they were clear enough to see they didn’t match.  He rode on, calling different curses for each different rich man’s car he passed. Passat equaled pussy. Fiat equaled faggot. Benz equaled bends over and takes it in the ass. He laughed, fogging his visor, and relished the blindness. When the fog retreated and revealed the crowded street, he closed his eyes—his right elbow clipped hard against a sideview mirror but he kept them closed. Since his parents had begun to pawn the family keep-sakes he’d felt invincibly dead. Like the elimination of personal property was a slow and steady lowering of the coffin of their hope.

A horn honked twice and his eyes opened wide on a jeep changing lanes right in front of him. He swerved around it, barely, and a woman inside shouted, “You’re going to kill someone.”

“I hope so.” He shouted spit onto his visor, and flipped her off.

The traffic was heavy in the intersection, and everyone was honking but no one going anywhere. Thankfully, this included his target in the brown sedan. Using the balls of his feet, Tre stepped his bike up alongside the rear window, took the .38 from his waistband, and shot three times through the closed backseat passenger window.

Inside the white starburst of glass a bloody head slumped out of sight.

The driver kicked his door open and peeked his head out. Tre cut a mock salute across his helmet. The driver left the door open when he ran, looking back only once, and casually. He slowed to a jog, and then a walk three cars down.

Tre set the kickstand, left the bike running. He opened up the rear door and ducked inside over the dead man. He felt around for wallets. A lot of these guys kept two, one just for these sorts of occasions and a real one… here, right along the warm inner thigh. Something shiny caught Tre’s eye even through the dark visor. A wristwatch—Rolex—and he traded the man’s watch for his. He took the time to put his broken watch on the man’s wrist, laughing, and to adjust the thick-wristed man’s watch to his own. Then he removed all the cash from the wallets, but not the cards, and put them back too. It was important that the hit not look like a robbery. Whoever had hired him wanted to send some kind of message. But, still, all dude needed now was a coin on each eye—he wouldn’t miss the paper money.

Outside, the horns honked when he mounted the bike. No sirens yet. He heeled back the kickstand and lurched forward, then rolled, easing his way through the maze of metal. A few people inside the cars he passed ducked their heads. Most of them watched, heads tilted out their windows.

Tre lowered the kickstand, dropped the remaining cartridges into his pocket, took off his helmet, and tucked it with the pistol into his backpack. Then he made sure he’d brought the right romance flick. On the cover, a man and woman faced each other across a wide night sky, and a carrier pigeon hovered between them, pinching in its beak a bannered note reading the title.

He zipped up his backpack and went to the door of the girl’s house. There was no one around. And beside that, none of the streetlamps worked so no one could see him anyway. He checked the Rolex, pressed it to his ear and listened. He couldn’t hear the watch’s delicate turnings over the sounds of the naked-bellied children playing like faint shadows in the street, the neighborhood dogs whining from a safe distance for him to feed them, or the music on the radios inside all the windowless houses.

From the porch, he stared at his red motorbike parked alone in what was left of the street mostly dirt now. The occasional tuft of grass or chunk of asphalt. The bike looked strong on roads like this. Rode over them with ease, after the mods: the stolen tires, the halogen bulbs. Sure it was used up. Scratched. Frankensteined out of junkyard parts and spray-painted bright red to hide the bolts and stitches. Sure it had seen better days. Still, around here, Tre was somebody because of that thing.

She opened the door, wearing a peasant style blouse that made a wing of the arm blocking his entrance. Her pink tongue licked her lips, not horny but hungry. “You’re late.”

“So long as your period ain’t.”

“That might be how you talked to hoodrats before but that ain’t how you talk to me.”

“Okay, okay.” He kissed her dark cheek, unzipping the bag as he did so, and then tugged out the VHS tape. He’d got it out of someone’s house just this week. They’d had DVDs but no one he knew had a player, and he hadn’t had room on his bike for something that big. “I brought popcorn, too.”

She smiled, showing white teeth; rare, anymore. Kissed him again.

He licked his lips. She was wearing that peppermint lip-gloss he’d gotten her.

“Where’d you get the money for popcorn?” she asked.

“I got a job.” He knew she wanted to ask him for more details but would stop herself. Girls had to, around here. Love didn’t require good men and good women; just men, and just women. “Are you going to let me in, or what?”

“Where’d you get the money, I said.”

So this one was different.

“Give me a chance to explain?”

About the Author

Christopher David Rosales’ first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper (Mixer Publishing, 2015) won the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. Previously he won the Center of the American West’s award for fiction three years in a row. He is a PhD candidate at University of Denver and has taught university level creative writing for 10 years.. Rosales’ second novel, Gods on the Lam releases in June, 2017 from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and Word is Bone, his third novel, is forthcoming 2018 from Broken River Books.

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Posted in Book Release, fiction, Historical on June 18, 2017

Synopsis

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.

1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.

1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.

Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth …no matter where it leads.

About the Author

Kate Quinn is a native of southern California. She attended Boston University, where she earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Classical Voice. A lifelong history buff, she has written four novels in the Empress of Rome Saga, and two books in the Italian Renaissance, before turning to the 20th century with “The Alice Network.” All have been translated into multiple languages.

Kate and her husband now live in Maryland with two black dogs named Caesar and Calpurnia, and her interests include opera, action movies, cooking, and the Boston Red Sox.

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Posted in Book Release, fiction, Literary on April 1, 2017

The Path of the Wind: A Novel

By James Misko

Publisher: SquareOne

Publication Date: April 2017

 

Synopsis

The year is 1957 and Miles Foster is a newly minted teacher who dreams of getting a teaching job in the highly respected and financially stable Portland, Oregon school system where everything is available, and where he and his wife call home. But the only opening for his talents is in a remote lumber mill town in central Oregon, two hundred miles away. It is a poor school with forty students, and is controlled by a jealous superintendent and school board who tolerate no thinking outside the box and who conspire to destroy his teaching career. Miles must find a way to educate students who have been passed along in the system regardless of what they learned, and defeat the damaging control that the school board and superintendent have without losing his marriage or his job, or both.

About the Author

Jim Misko grew up in Ord, Nebraska, moved to Oregon, and then to Alaska in 1974. He has worked as an oil field roughneck, logger, forest service lookout, planer mill hand, truck driver, mink rancher, journalist, school teacher and real estate broker.

His previous novel, As All My Fathers Were, has won the FOUR GOLD’s AWARDS from the Benjamin Franklin Awards, Nebraska Book of the Year Award, 2016 Feathered Quill Award, and Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. Jim and his wife Patti live in Alaska in the summer and California in the winter. You may find out more about the author here www.jimmisko.com.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Literary, Spotlight on March 28, 2017

Title: BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139
Author: Howard Jay Smith
Publisher: SYQ
Pages: 385
Genre: Literary Fiction/Biographical Fiction

At the moment of his death, Ludwig van Beethoven pleads with Providence to grant him a final wish—one day, just a single day of pure joy. But first he must confront the many failings in his life, so the great composer and exceedingly complex man begins an odyssey into the netherworld of his past life led by a spirit guide who certainly seems to be Napoleon, who died six years before. This ghost of the former emperor, whom the historical Beethoven both revered and despised, struggles to compel the composer to confront the ugliness as well as the beauty and accomplishments of his past.

As Beethoven ultimately faces the realities of his just-ended life, we encounter the women who loved and inspired him. In their own voices, we discover their Beethoven—a lover with whom they savor the profound beauty and passion of his creations. And it’s in the arms of his beloveds that he comes to terms with the meaning of his life and experiences the moment of true joy he has always sought.

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Excerpt

Prologue:

The Death of Beethoven

Vienna, 5:00 pm, March 26, 1827  

Outside Beethoven’s rooms at the Schwarzspanierhaus, a fresh measure of snow from a late season thunderstorm muffles the chimes of St. Stephens Cathedral as they ring out the hours for the old city.

Ein, Zwei, Drei, Vier… Funf  Uhr.  Five O’clock.

Beethoven, three months past his fifty-sixth birthday, lies in a coma, as he has now for two nights, his body bound by the betrayal of an illness whose only virtue was that it proved incurable and would, thankfully, be his last. Though his chest muscles and his lungs wrestle like giants against the approaching blackness, his breathing is so labored that the death rattle can be heard over the grumblings of the heavens throughout his apartment.

Muss es sein? Must it be? Ja, es muss sein. Beethoven is dying. From on high, the Gods vent their grief at his imminent passing and hurl a spear of lightening at Vienna.

Their jagged bolt of electricity explodes outside the frost covered windows of the Schwarzspanierhaus with a clap of thunder so violent it startles the composer to consciousness.

Beethoven’s eyes open, glassy, unfocused. He looks upward – only the Gods know what he sees, if anything. He raises his right hand, a hand that has graced a thousand sonatas, and clenches his fist for perhaps the last time. His arm trembles as if railing against the heavens. Tears flood his eyes.

His arm falls back to the bed… His eyelids close… And then he is gone …

About the Author

Howard Jay Smith is an award-winning writer from Santa Barbara, California. BEETHOVEN IN LOVE; OPUS 139 is his third book. A former Washington, D.C. Commission for the Arts Fellow, & Bread Loaf Writers Conference Scholar, he taught for many years in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and has lectured nationally. His short stories, articles and photographs have appeared in the Washington Post, Horizon Magazine, the Journal of the Writers Guild of America, the Ojai Quarterly, and numerous literary and trade publications. While an executive at ABC Television, Embassy TV, and Academy Home Entertainment, he worked on numerous film, television, radio, and commercial projects. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Symphony – “The Best Small City Symphony in America” –  and is a member of the American Beethoven Society.

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Posted in excerpt, fiction, Spotlight, women on March 2, 2017
~ All That Glitters by Liza Treviño ~
Book Tour – 1st to 10th March
 

Title: All That Glitters – A
Tale of Sex, Drugs and Hollywood Dreams

Author: Liza Treviño
Genre: Women’s Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Koehler Books 
Published Date: March 1, 2017
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1633933083
ISBN-13: 978-1633933088



 

Synopsis
Alexandria Moreno—clever, sexy, ambitious and, at times, self-destructive. She blazes a path from Texas to Los Angeles at the dawn of the 1980s to make her dreams of becoming an A-list Hollywood film director come true. She and her best friend arrive in Los Angeles with little more than hope and the determination to make it big. Alex, a beauty as dark and mysterious as her scarred heart, stands at the bottom of the Hollywood mountain looking up, fighting for her chance to climb to the top. Will her quest to live fast and take no prisoners on her way to success destroy her in the end?

All That Glitters is a women’s fiction Jackie Collins-type saga that introduces a strong, driven Latina heroine at the center of a rags-to-riches story spanning a decade of action. Along the way, Alexandria walks the fine line separating ambition and self-destruction, and discovers that some sacrifices will cost her everything.


What early readers are saying


“Treviño tells her story with wit, intelligence, and an undercurrent of sadness at the plight women face to make a name for themselves as human beings instead of strictly as women. Treviño may have cloaked her ideas in entertaining vignettes and snappy dialogue, but underneath is a bite that stays with you.”  — Jonathan Marcantoni, author and publisher of La Casita Grande Press.

“Liza has a way of taking you with her as she tells this very compelling story. She draws readers in with her as she describes scenes and characters with colorful detail and vivid imagination. This story is a testament to it’s title: it really glitters!”  —Reesha Goral, author, The Servant Boy

“With distant echoes of Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls in the background, Alexandria Moreno, the protagonist of All that Glitters, chases after the allure of Hollywood, all the time substituting pills, booze and sex for genuine happiness. It is only after she reaches success that she has an awakening leading her to realize the emptiness of her aspiration, and finally accepting true love. Kudos to Liza Treviño for giving us this unique image of the New Latina! I urge reading All that Glitters. You won’t regret it.” —Graciela Limón, author


Excerpt

Los Angeles
Oscar Night, 1990

When did things start going wrong?
Alexandria Moreno gulped another swig of champagne from the bottle. She picked at its broken gold foil. It was the same stuff she used to buy back in the days when spending more than ten dollars on bubbly was an extravagance. Now she sat in the best limo money could buy, inching along the craggy hillside road waiting for her turn to put in an appearance at the first of many scheduled post-Oscar parties. She was obligated to dole out heartfelt hugs and kisses to any of the beautiful people who might want one. Tonight, everyone was going to want a piece of her. She was the girl of the hour.
Until recently, Moreno had been an unknown writer-producer. She rocked Hollywood, winning Academy Awards for Best Director and Original Screenplay for the lushly violent, low-budget film, Win or Lose. Moreno, widely considered a dark horse contestant in the Oscar race, was the first Hispanic woman to be nominated, and win.
Two golden statues for writing and directing lay on the limo’s floor and the vehicle glided to the top of Hollywood’s heights. Beyond the winding canyon road, the Los Angeles electrified grid shimmered like Moreno’s own personal cauldron of gold. She understood that more than just a movie had won tonight.
She had won.
So why doesn’t it feel better?
Why don’t I feel better?
Despite everything she’d done to reach this moment of glory, Alex understood that none of it mattered. Not one bit. No matter what happened to her, she was still alone and drinking the same convenience-store champagne.
“Want some of this blow, babe?” Nick sniffed and dropped his head back with a slight shake, giving the chemicals a little jumpstart in the brain he liked to say.
“No thanks,” she said, “I don’t want to mix tonight.” Alex turned her attention from the scrubby hillside to handsome Nick Sirianni sitting across from her, casually relaxed in his Armani tuxedo. Though he favored stiff Wall Street suits, Nick was always casually relaxed due to the fact that he was worth millions from a Hollywood Midas touch.
Alex heard Leonard Cohen’s gravel-rubbed, breathless voice floating faintly through the air, crooning his patented melancholy love proclamations, and she couldn’t help but let her eyes wander along Nick’s impeccably tailored suit. Her hands absently grazed the familiar bluish-purple marks on her wrists currently hidden under make-up.
Nick’s thin lips curled into a slow, understanding grin. “Fine, but I have some X for later, and I don’t care what you’ve taken already,” he said in a tone Alex had learned not to question. “I’ve got plans for you, babe.”
“I guess it’s gonna be a long night.”
“The longest ever.”
Alex could tell he had taken off. She absently twirled a lock of her black, shoulder-length hair.
“Hey,” Nick nudged her leg with his polished leather dress shoe, “let me see.”
“Not right now.”
“I’m not asking, Alley Cat. Let me see. And do it right.”
Alex locked eyes with him, but she relented.
She found the fold of her straight wraparound skirt of crepe and beading that draped to the floor. She peeled it back and uncrossed her legs beneath the gown, giving Nick a peek-a-boo of her
narrow ankle and high-heeled foot. She loosened her knees, proving to Nick she’d followed his instructions.
Nick looked her over and loosened his collar.
“Good girl,” Nick said and shifted toward her, the leather seat creaking beneath him. He knelt between her legs and softly traced the length of her pale grey stocking from her shoe, along her leg, up to the matching garter, and over her supple brown thigh exposed between the garter and its straps. Nick kissed her just above where the stockings ended. He breathed in deeply and peered up to her.
“I gotta have a taste, baby,” he said and dipped his handsome face between her thighs.
Alex sighed and sank back into her seat.
How did things get so out of control? Isn’t tonight supposed to be everything I’ve worked for? Everything I’ve sacrificed for? Or, what I’ve sacrificed everyone for?
Alex knew she had purposely cut off anyone who had the misfortune of ever giving a damn about her. And there were such people.
It certainly wasn’t Nick. She’d made her deal with this particular devil nearly a year ago. Things between them were comfortably tawdry. Nick owned her. She knew it. He knew it. They had an understanding.
A flicker nudged her: so many things that could have been. She took another swig of champagne, letting the alcohol’s fizz and burn push everything back into the darkness.
Alex registered Nick’s velvet tongue expertly stroking her crevices, and she couldn’t help but give him all the access he wanted. She felt him smile when she dropped her head back and settled deeper into the limo’s bench. The car halted forward and the lazy, swaying sax turned up the tension in Cohen’s sonic plea for love.
Alex peered beyond the cracked sunroof, searching the starless LA sky for some answers. A corner of the tinted sunroof caught her faint reflection and she saw a vacant-eyed, thirty two-year-old wasted stranger. She’d never known herself less than at this moment. Her passion for work was burned out and, even tonight, she couldn’t muster excitement. Now, everything was just a game requiring too much effort.
She shut her eyes tight and sucked in air sharply, breathing in the car’s mixture of broken-in leather and artificial lemon scents. She clasped at Nick’s broad shoulder, wringing the expensive jacket sleeve as if it were nothing more than a cheap cocktail napkin. After a moment, she relaxed.
Nick brushed a sweet kiss on her inner thigh before he returned the thin black crepe material of her skirt to its full length. He slid back to his seat across from her and smoothed his hair back.
“Damn, you taste good, honey.” He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“We’re next in line, ma’am,” the chauffeur’s voice crackled through the intercom. The limo moved into place with a definite stop.
Nick grinned. “It’s show time, Alley Cat.”
The cool night air took Alex by surprise as she waded into the sea of people and flashing cameras. She staggered, unsure she could move.
“One foot in front of the other,” Nick said in his soft voice through her hair. “I’ll get you a drink once we get inside.”
Alex smiled serenely and nodded. She focused on the live band somewhere in the distance belting out a Sinatra standard. Her eyes found the majestic Griffith Observatory looming in the distance, hovering above the white party tents.
Inside, the camera flashes kept coming.
“And here we are,” Nick offered as he swiped a couple of champagne flutes from a roving waiter’s tray. “This should get ya right, babe.”
Alex took the glass automatically. Another bulb flashed near her and she saw blue sprinkles. She regained focus quickly, but then her stomach dropped. Across the room was the last person she wanted to see.

◊◊◊

Jamie Douglas stood out in any crowd. Angular looks punctuated by oceanic blue eyes, a naturally lean athleticism, and down-to-earth boyishness had made him a reigning movie star around the world for almost twenty years. And right now, Alex saw Jamie’s eyes find hers through the crowd. When they caught each other, a flash sparked between them like one of those popping camera bulbs. Jamie’s surprised look gave way to a lopsided grin; it was a look so familiar to her.
Alex registered Nick snake his arm around her thin waist and she broke her gaze from Jamie.
“Okay, Alley Cat, time for our victory lap.”
“Perfect timing,” she said.
Timing—everything always came down to timing. It seemed to her that her timing had always been off. Not crazy off, just that extra millisecond that pushed everything either too early or too late. And now, she understood that it was too late.
Suddenly, she couldn’t bear to go through with the whole charade of tonight. Maybe, she couldn’t even bear to go through with the whole charade of her life any longer. Just leave, a soft voice whispered inside her head. There’s nothing written you have to stick around. It’s practically programmed into your DNA that you’ll be checking out of this world early.
All at once, Alex understood that simple fact. She, Alex Moreno, would leave Los Angeles tonight as anonymously as she had arrived nearly a decade earlier. She knew that wasn’t an entirely accurate account of how she’d started.
Now I’m alone, and that’s just how I knew things would always turn out.

About the Author

Liza Treviño hails from Texas, spending many of her formative years on the I-35 corridor of San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.  In pursuit of adventure and a Ph.D., Liza moved to Los Angeles where she compiled a collection of short-term, low-level Hollywood jobs like script girl, producer assistant and production assistant.  Her time as a Hollywood Jane-of-all-trades gave her an insider’s view to a world most only see from the outside, providing the inspiration for creating a new breed of Latina heroine.






Catch Up with Liza Treviño on her Website

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