Posted in excerpt, Giveaway, romance, Spotlight, Western on July 15, 2017

Title: Last Chance Cowboys: The Outlaw

Author: Anna Schmidt

Series: Where the Trail Ends, #3

ISBN: 9781492613022

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

Genre: Historical Western Romance

Synopsis

“‘Someone like me?’ Is that how you see me, Amanda? As someone people should fear?”

“I don’t know what to think,” she said. “One minute you seem so dangerous, and the next you’re sweet and caring and…”

He took a step closer, his eyes sweeping her face. “And which do you want me to be?” His voice was low; it sent shivers down her spine.

“Both,” she whispered, and lifted her face for a kiss.

Amanda Porterfield longs to experience real adventure. So when she’s offered a position in bustling Tucson, she leaps at the chance despite unknown dangers—dangers like the mysterious Seth Grover.

As an undercover detective working to stop a gang of outlaws, Seth can’t afford the distractions a woman like Amanda inspires. Yet when the fiercely intelligent beauty is thrust into the middle of a heist gone wrong, Seth will fight for a future that may never be theirs…even if it means risking everything he holds dear.

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Excerpt

Amanda fought her attacker with all her might, ineffectually flailing away at him with both fists. Then, realizing her nails and teeth were better weapons, she raked his neck even as she bit down hard and got a mouth filled with the taste of her attacker’s leather glove for her trouble. She struggled to free herself from his solid, muscular body pinning hers to the ground by straddling her. She went completely still, hoping to surprise him, but he hauled her to her feet, leaving her hat in the dirt and her hair falling free of the pins she’d used to hide it under the crown of the Stetson.

She took some pride in the realization that she’d put up enough of a fight to leave the man breathless. On the other hand, he was practically “Amanda?” Seth Grover was breathing hard and staring down at her, one hand touching her breasts, which were heaving noticeably after the exertion of the fight.

“Explain yourself, Mr. Grover,” she demanded as she planted both hands flat on the solid wall of his chest and shoved him away. He let go, but the sound of fabric ripping told her he’d taken the top couple of buttons of the shirt with him. When she saw his eyes riveted on her exposed skin, she covered herself with crossed hands and felt heat race through her body. “Well?” she hissed, aware that they were standing outside and anyone might pass by or hear them.

“I thought…are you following me, Amanda?”

“Do not flatter yourself, Seth. Miss Jensen might keep tabs on you, but your comings and goings are of no interest to me whatsoever.” She dusted off the seat of her pants, then realized she’d once again exposed herself to him by letting go of her shirt front. “A gentleman would avert his eyes,” she said, “or at the very least offer a lady the cover of his coat.”

He chuckled. “Have to say I’m not much a gentleman, ma’am, but if you’re feeling a chill…” He shrugged out of his coat and draped it over her shoulders, allowing his hands to linger there until she stepped out of reach.

“Thank you.” She bent to retrieve her hat and slapped it against her thigh as she’d seen her father, brothers and the cowboys at the ranch do more times than she could count. The gesture made her feel tougher and taller at the same time. She shook her hair back from her face and planted on the hat, tugging at the brim until the fit was snug. “I’ll leave your coat outside your room. Good evening, Seth.”

“I’ll walk you back.” He fell into step beside her. “Shall we take the street or the alley?”

He was mocking her. She remained silent but picked up the pace.

“Oh, then we’re going to race back?” He matched her step for step, an easy feat given his long legs.

“Will you please…”

He took hold of her arm, forcing her to stop walking. “I am not leaving you alone, Amanda. You shouldn’t be out at this time of night.” His tone bordered on patronizing. He sounded like her brother Jess, and that irritated her.

“Why do you care?” she snapped and meant it to be a challenge, but found that she really wanted to him to tell her. “You hardly know me.”

He was still holding her upper arm. She could feel the heat of his fingers through the coat and realized that he’d removed the leather gloves. While she processed this thought, he led her to a small lane that passed between the pharmacy and the milliner’s shop. There he took hold of her other arm and pulled her closer.

She was sure he planned to kiss her. She was also sure that she had never wanted anything in her life quite as much as she wanted to find out what kissing Seth Grover might be like. Here at last was the true adventure she’d come to Tucson to find.

“Listen to me, Amanda. You’re looking for trouble, and I won’t always be around to make sure you don’t find it, so fair warning. You need to stop these midnight wanderings. You need to stop getting yourself dressed up to look like a boy. You need to…”

So, kissing her was clearly the last thing on his mind.

She wrenched herself free of his hold. Not that he fought to hold on. “I can take care of myself,” she muttered as she massaged her arms, wanting him to believe he had hurt her when in fact his touch had been firm but gentle.

“Really?”

“Really,” she snapped, and started to walk away.

He caught her hand, and then before she knew what was happening she was pressed up against the side of the building by the length of his body. He had his other hand over her mouth again—this time without his glove. His skin smelled like leather, though. She struggled and he tightened his hold on her. His face was so close she could feel his breath, hot against her cheeks.

“Wake up, Amanda. You are no longer residing on your family’s ranch where no doubt you had others looking out for you. You are alone here in Tucson, and you need to take care.”

Amanda had no idea what came over her. Maybe she just wanted him to stop telling her what she already knew. She cupped his face with her hands and kissed him.

 

About the Author

Award-winning author Anna Schmidt delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for her ability to seamlessly integrate actual events with her fictional characters to produce strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin. 

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Giveaway

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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, Giveaway, Historical, romance, Spotlight on June 29, 2017

Title: Scandalous Ever After

Series: Romance of the Turf #2

Author: Theresa Romain

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 9781492649021

Synopsis

Does love really heal all wounds?

After being widowed by a steeplechase accident in Ireland, Lady Kate Whelan abandons the turf. But once her mourning is complete, her late husband’s debts drive her to seek help in Newmarket amidst the whirl of a race meet. There she encounters antiquities expert Evan Rhys, her late husband’s roguish friend—whom she hasn’t seen since the day of his lordship’s mysterious death.

Now that fate has reunited them, Evan seizes the chance to win over the woman he’s always loved. But once back within the old stone walls of Whelan House, long-held secrets come to light that shake up everything Kate thought she knew about her marriage. Now she wonders who she can trust with her heart—and Evan must decide between love and a truth that will separate him from all his heart desires.

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Two of Theresa’s favorite summer activities

If I were creating the sort of profile I admire, I’d tell you that my favorite summer activities include splashing in the ocean, or camping in the backyard after having a barbecue. But the truth is that I’m hundreds of miles from the nearest beach, and my favorite thing to do there was always to make a giant dolphin out of sand. And I can’t bear to be outside in 100+ heat, especially when the mosquitos are biting.

However, there are so many lovely little things about summer that I do enjoy. Specifically…

  1. Having more time to read. I might not be on a beach relaxing to the sound of waves, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have a book in my hand. The pace is a little slower in summer, and I love taking time to sprawl out on the couch and whittle down my TBR pile. (Just kidding. The TBR pile never gets smaller, because I never stop buying books.)
  2. More flexibility in the schedule. Yes, my husband and I are still working, and sure, Little Miss R is still in school activities. But we can be more lax about her schedule, and there’s never any homework. That’s good news for the mom who wrangles all of the papers, as well as the kid who does the work.

In SCANDALOUS EVER AFTER, there are no frozen treats or backyard campfires—but there *is* a sea, and Lady Kate Whelan and Evan Rhys find themselves on a road trip of a lifetime. Between ferries and floods, treats and horses and races, sickness and health and more than one scandalous interlude, these two old friends will find a love they never expected—and unearth secrets they never dreamed of. I hope you’ll enjoy this romantic summer read!

Excerpt

“Kate, is all this for my benefit?”

“Why, what do you mean?” Seating herself on the red velvet settee, she hitched one leg up and spread the dressing robe about it. Then she lowered her leg again, crossing it over the other. Each time, pale flesh shone new and enticing through the shifting fabric.

The more she fidgeted, the more he wanted to gather her up in his arms and hold her. Settle her. Kiss her into calm and pleasure.

Lord. He was going to die in this room.

Already it had been a long day; agonizingly, sweetly long. They had stayed at the Rowley Mile’s rail for the day’s remaining races, though Evan couldn’t have sworn whether horses or dogs or monkeys ran the course.

No one else fell. He knew that much. One fall was bad enough.

Or had it been a blessing in disguise? Kate had been shaken, badly, at the sight of a prone body on a racecourse. But Evan could recall nothing so determined as the way she lifted her chin and decided to stick out the rest of the schedule.

Perhaps she saw nothing when she looked at the track. Perhaps she was in the Ireland of two years ago, remembering Con’s fall. But she had stood beside Evan and let him hold her, and he helped her not to be alone. Whether or not she knew it, she did the same for him.

“I was thinking”—she spoke again, still wildly rearranging herself on the settee—“that this could be the perfect arrangement. Two friends who care for each other very much, giving each other pleasure.”

The breezy explanation was perfunctory, so much so that it took him aback. From the end of the settee, he peered down at her. “Is that what this invitation meant to you?”

“What else should it have meant?”

“I don’t know that it should mean anything at all.” He sighed, tucking himself beside her at the end of the settee. “Kate. If you want comfort, I’ll comfort you, as innocently as you like. I’m good at brushing hair.”

Thunk. Her just-hoisted foot slid to the floor. “I don’t need my hair brushed.”

“I could let you hold my hand, then. It can be comforting, holding a hand.”

Her shoulders hunched. “I don’t need my hand held either.”

“Good, good. As delightful as that can be, it loses its savor after a while.” He trembled on the edge of honesty, then tipped. “You seem—is this—are you trying to recapture some old closeness? Because I don’t think we—”

“God, no.” She laughed, a shaky, startled burst. “I don’t want to recapture anything, Evan. If I did, you’d be eating porridge, and I’d be sipping whisky, and… well. The whole day would have gone differently.” Her whole body seemed to flush. She was pink and cream, warm colors all over.

Not unaffected, then. He could draw her out. “The day of races?”

“The day of…everything. Today, I decided I was ready for a change.”

“You were thinking of this sort of change,” he said. “Us. Alone. Tonight.”

“I was.” She tied her dressing robe about her more tightly. “I could not stop, once the idea seized me. Damn propriety and all that sort of thing.”

“Then why not untie the robe instead?”

“Well…about that. Now that you are here, I have started to…to think about what we might do.”

“That sounds delightful.” He grappled with the weighty bolster at his side, tugging it free and flinging it over the arm of the settee. “Though from the mil- lion pauses in your speech, I wonder if it strikes you the same way.”

“It…does. But I am so aware that you have seen me only in clothes—”

“As opposed to what? Mermaid skins?”

She sputtered. “Is that even a real—never mind… No. You know what I mean. This will be different.”

“It will only be as different as you want it to be.”

“Maybe. That’s what I was hoping. I want different.” She swung her feet, bare toes tapping the floor before the hearth. “Evan, I thought it would be easy. Being different with you. But now…I’m nervous. Are you?”

“No.”

For the sake of graciousness, he probably should not have replied so swiftly. But nervous? Not in the least.

Nervous was waiting not once, but twice, to hear whether she would be safely delivered of a baby, or whether she would lose her life in childbed. Nervous was waiting, five years ago, for her ship to return her across the Irish Sea from her last trip to England.

Nervous was how he felt when her life was at stake. Now? He felt newly born, in all the frailty and triumph that the phrase implied.

“I’m not nervous at all,” he said.

About the Author

Historical romance author THERESA ROMAIN pursued an impractical education that allowed her to read everything she could get her hands on. She then worked for universities and libraries, where she got to read even more. Eventually she started writing, too. She lives with her family in Wichita, Kansas.

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Posted in Giveaway, romance, Spotlight, Young Adult on June 26, 2017

 

The Ghost of You and Me by Kelly Oram

How do you tell someone who hates you and blames you for the death of his best friend that you miss him?

From the bestselling teen and young adult author of Cinder & Ella comes a new heart-wrenching romance sure to bring all the feels.

The tragic death of Spencer Schott unravels the lives of the two people he loved most—his girlfriend, Bailey, and his best friend, Wes. Secrets and guilt from that fateful night keep both Bailey and Wes from overcoming Spencer’s loss and moving on with their lives.

Now, nearly a year later, both Bailey and Wes are still so broken over what happened that Spencer can’t find peace in the afterlife. In order to put his soul to rest, he’s given one chance to come back and set things right…even if that means setting up his girlfriend with his best friend.

With the emotional resonance of Jellicoe Road and the magical realism of The Lovely Bones, The Ghost of You and Me is a story about overcoming grief, finding redemption for past mistakes, and the healing power of friendship and love. Fans of John Green, Sarah Dessen, and Nicholas Sparks are sure to love this haunting new tale from Kelly Oram.

This is a clean young adult romance stand alone novel that reads like contemporary drama romance and has just a touch of magical realism.

 

About the Author

Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband, four children, and her cat, Mr. Darcy.

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$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Giveaway

Ends 7/26/17

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 and sponsored by the author. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.

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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 Cozy, mystery, Spotlight on June 24, 2017

Stuck (The Penningtons Investigate Book 2)
Self Published (March 18, 2017)
Paperback: 308 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1544277967
ASIN: B06XQP5VYZ

Synopsis

Meet the Penningtons: Lyssa, Ph.D. Economics, and her husband “the handsome Brit” Kyle, Ph.D. Computer Science. When their clever minds ask questions, clever killers can’t hide.

Murder never entered the picture until Fritz Van Derzee decided, at long last, to clear his name. Who stuck a jeweled stiletto into his desktop after stabbing him to death? Fritz’s daughter, Emma, recruits her former professor Lyssa Pennington to find the killer.

But where’s the ten million Fritz was falsely accused of embezzling? Tompkins College President, Justin Cushman, hires his old friend Kyle Pennington to trace the missing money.

While Lyssa uses charm and tenacity on the long list of suspects, Kyle reconstructs the college’s old homegrown finance system. As they converge on the killer, Lyssa and Kyle may be the next two casualties.

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About the Author

C. T. Collier was born to solve logic puzzles, wear tweed, and drink Earl Grey tea. Her professional experience in cutthroat high tech and backstabbing higher education gave her endless opportunity to study intrigue. Add to that her longtime love of mysteries, and it’s no wonder she writes academic mysteries that draw inspiration from traditional whodunits. Her setting is entirely fictional: Tompkins College is no college and every college, and Tompkins Falls is a blend of several Finger Lakes towns, including her hometown, Seneca Falls, NY (AKA Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life).

 

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June 20 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – GUEST POST

June 21 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 22 – The Self-Rescue Princess – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 23 – Books Direct – INTERVIEW, GIVEAWAY

June 24 – Babs Book Bistro – SPOTLIGHT

June 24 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 25 – Cozy Up With Kathy – GUEST POST

June 26 – Readsalot – SPOTLIGHT

June 27 – Sleuth Cafe – SPOTLIGHT, GIVEAWAY

June 28 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 29 – Infinite House of Books – SPOTLIGHT

June 30 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

July 1 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT

July 1 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

July 2 – The Book’s the Thing – REVIEW

July 3 – Laura’s Interests – CHARACTER GUEST POST, GIVEAWAY

Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Spotlight on June 21, 2017

Synopsis

Truth Seeker Kuntza faces challenges above and below the sea’s surface, fighting deadly misinformation   as well as a bizarre and complicated plot to wipe out most of   the Sky Fairy Tribe.  Under his instruction, lightning   machines are constructed to overcome a terrible  snowstorm.   But what of the grave threat from the Water   Fairy Tribe—Kuntza’s tribe—to the surface tribes?

Admiral Constance Kimberlite and Prince Cambrian Bijou and the young Historian Rolf Warner accompany the Seeker beneath the waves to assist him in his efforts to overcome his tribe’s fears of an impending invasion.  Meanwhile Amber Bullierd, daughter and heir of the rebellious Count Bullierd, threatens to block their success through intrigue and a terrifying coup  attempt.  With the fate of Fairydom hanging in the balance, there is no room for error.

Excerpt

As Prince Oliver followed his father from Arnold Mosley’s elegant hotel suite, he saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of one eye.  The long hallway was lined with statues and ornate paintings, and dotted with recessed doorways that lead to other suites.  Curiousity getting the better of him, Oliver signaled for the marine behind him to continue flying forward no matter what.  When they reached the next doorway, Oliver slid into it.  Careful to stay hidden, Oliver turned back towards Mosley’s suite and sank soundlessly into the plush carpet between the beautifully carved planks that framed the doorway.  Dropping first to his knees, then down to lie flat, he stifled a chuckle at the idea of trying to explain himself to the hotel guest if the door beside him should abruptly open.  Carefully, he inched his face towards the edge of the doorframe.  The small party that had escorted him and his father to Mosley’s hotel faded away, the sharp click of a window—locking behind them—the last sound he heard.  One eye finally clear of the doorframe, Oliver held perfectly still.  And waited.  The hallway was so still that he thought he could hear the paint on the walls fading in the bright afternoon sunlight.

The motion he saw might have belonged to anyone—a chambermaid, another guest…  Oliver was beginning to give in to the feeling of foolishness when a slightly built man-fairy peeked out from behind one of the statues at the far end of the hall.  Mosley had dismissed his servants when the king first arrived, which meant the suite should still be empty, Mosley having also gone off to take care of personal business.  Oliver’s right eyebrow lifted fractionally when the man-fairy slipped over to Mosley’s door and glanced furtively around before he produced something from the inner folds of his scribe’s robe, and let himself in through the locked door.

More than curious now, Oliver came silently to his feet.  Decades of playing hide and seek with his younger siblings contributed to his swift, but soundless flight down the length of the hallway, where he arrived just in time to slip between Mosley’s door and its frame.  He quickly dropped to his knees in a shadow before it swung shut behind him.  From there, he was able to watch as the scribe began searching single-mindedly for something on Mosley’s desk.

It was all so absurd that Oliver nearly gave in to the urge to laugh at himself.  He had just assisted his father in interrogating Mosley—and unless Mosley was an even more masterful manipulator than the Wood Fairy Minister of the Interior, he had been telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the delay of the winter storms.  Now he, Oliver Bijou, Crown Prince of the Sky Fairy Tribe, was hiding in the shadows?  Sleuthing was the specialty of his younger brother, Prince Cambrian.  Still, Oliver could not shake the feeling that something was amiss here.  Mosley might have given a scribe a key to his suites, but…scribe!  Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, bringing Oliver to his feet precipitously.  Cambrian had recently brought evidence to them that a scribe was involved in the conspiracy.

Startled by Oliver’s movement, the scribe jerked to one side.  His elbow struck one of the taller stacks, knocking it over in an avalanche of blue, white, and yellow papers that fluttered to the floor.  Some fell quite a distance.  Others struck the hem of the frozen scribe’s robe and landed about his feet.

“Harold Scroggins,” Oliver casually scooped up a small volume of poetry from the entryway table beside him, “I arrest you in the name of the crown.”  As he had expected, Harold flew towards the nearest window.  Oliver’s arm came up and snapped forward, hurling the hard-bound book towards Harold’s back.  “Well, that is a first,” Oliver murmured to himself as he watched the scribe crumple to the floor, temporarily stunned.  “I do not recall ever seeing a book drop a scribe before.”

Tugging the window sashes free, Oliver bound his prisoner securely.  As he was about to begin searching the desk himself, Harold stirred.  Weak blue eyes stared up through his tousled blue bangs, full of unanswered questions for his assailant.

About the Author

I enjoy reading and writing, but not arithmetic.  Which is to say that I love math, but it hates me.  So I don’t usually count the days or hours spent reading, writing, or watching television, I just enjoy them.  I write because that’s the gift I’ve been given.  I read and watch to store up idea seedlings, which sometimes spring, fully-formed, to mind.  Sometimes that’s because I loved what I’ve been consuming and other times because I loathed it.  Experiencing both (as little as possible of the loathe, of course) helps me define myself as a writer and plays a huge (yet subconscious) role in my work.

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Posted in excerpt, Fantasy, Giveaway, Spotlight on June 20, 2017

Synopsis

To what end would an exiled princess go to regain her rightful throne?

Lady Dawn, Hoffnung’s princess, brutally learns what it’s like to have everything unexpectedly stripped from her after Lord Waxxon’s coup kills her half-elf mother, Queen Taube, and he assumes the throne. Before Dawn’s plight, her mother’s bloodcurdling screams are etched into Dawn’s memory, giving her the resolve to somehow build an army, kill Lord Waxxon, and reclaim the throne. However, the odds of such an undertaking are far greater than a princess can overcome alone.

Unable to find Lady Dawn after scouring the castle and the kingdom, Lord Waxxon places a bounty on her, sending his ruthless henchmen across Aetheaon to locate and kill her. But Lady Dawn has disguised herself as a lowly squire, chosen by one of her late father’s Dragon Skull Knights, who doesn’t know her true identity. Alongside her knight, they seek other Dragon Skull Knights to gather forces to bring Waxxon’s reign to a quick end. Yet, her identity must remain secret, even to the knight she serves, until they have accumulated the necessary masses to storm Hoffnung.

Dawn is not without hope, as warriors, a wizard, and rulers of all races seek to find her before Waxxon does. Unexpected aid comes in another astonishing way. Although dragons have long been thought extinct, three dragons sisters use this belief to their advantage, veiling themselves as human warrioresses through magic. Traveling through hamlets, townships, and cities, the sisters hire mercenaries and armies with the caches of gold, silver, and gems from their lairs while they diligently search for Lady Dawn. And once they find her, they will rally beside her as she fights to reclaim Hoffnung’s throne.

A Cinderella story? Hardly. Quite the opposite in many respects. No longer pampered as a princess, Dawn discovers she’s more than royalty. She assumes the role of a servant in order to gain the necessary skills to fulfill her vendetta. She’s a fighter, a survivor, and a woman with the heart of a warrioress. Enduring a squire’s training hardens her, the loss of her mother and the kingdom forces her to seek vengeance, and her biggest fear when she takes the throne is that she will become a calloused ruler and lose her compassion for mankind.

Excerpt

Prologue

When Boldair awakened, his stubby muscular arms were shackled above his head to a cold wet wall. He looked around the small dark prison cell. A torch flickered outside the tiny barred window on the thick iron-braced wooden door. Overhead at the highest reach of the ceiling, the bright yellow moon spilled through the grated hole. He guessed it was the dead of night, but it could be closer to dawn for all he knew.

His stomach growled from hunger. He didn’t know how long he had been locked in the cell or how he had even wound up there.

The last thing he recalled was drinking ale at the Bridgebarrow Tavern with other dwarves while swapping tales of adventure and treasures they had found. Strong drink tended to draw out his need to brag and exaggerate about his discoveries.

A half dozen muscled Legelarid knights dressed in chain armor had been seated across the room, but they had paid he and his Dwarven friends no mind. The knights focused their attention more on the dark-haired female warrior wearing her snug gilded breastplate that cut short of her midriff than anything else. Her metal belt, which had a decorative dragonhead across her navel, covered most of her abdominal region. Gold-plated leggings and boots protected her lower extremities. Her winged helm rested on the stool beside her, and her round shield, adorned with sharp dragon’s teeth, was propped against the side of the bar.

The female warrior sat at the bar, staring down at the silver flask before her. Although she sat in a near trancelike state, Boldair assumed her concentration was attuned to take in all of the conversations and interactions around her at the same time. At the angle from where he sat, he was unable to see her face clearly.

With a rigid coldness, she ignored the knight leader’s drunken lewd comments and suggestive offers of gold to hire her to join their company during their journey back to Legelarid. Something Boldair understood to have double meaning, and had the insulting remarks been to a woman less capable of holding her own, he would have stood and challenged the half drunken knight. Instead, he chose to continue spinning his tales while awaiting the woman’s reaction to the knights, which seemed inevitable.

She kept her right hand tightened on the jeweled hilt of her short sword. The black blade was different than any sword Boldair had ever seen before. It wasn’t made of any metal he’d ever crafted, and the blade was cylindrical shaped and sharply curved.

The armored female sat with her head slightly cocked to the left, and she seemed to be listening to what Boldair and the other dwarves at his table discussed, so they lowered their voices. A barmaid brought fresh tankards of Bridgebarrow Stout and placed them on the table. Boldair smiled, downed the strong ale, and wiped the froth from his black beard with the back of his hand before telling his next tale of treasure hunting. His Dwarven brethren had sat eagerly and wide-eyed to hear what else Boldair had collected from the deep dark caverns and added to his stashed riches.

Tugging against the prison chains, Boldair shook himself from the daze and fought hard to remember more.

Boldair winced and groaned; thinking of what had happened after the night settled when he and his brethren had left the tavern to travel north to Damdur. However, more than that, he couldn’t recall anything else. The base of his skull ached and burned. Pain radiated through his head and pulsed behind his eyes. Perhaps someone had welted him from behind with a blunt object and dragged him to this tiny prison. But why?

After his eyes slightly adjusted to the darkness of the cell, he glanced around. Less than four feet away was the shadowed outline of another shackled prisoner.

Boldair attempted to rouse his confined neighbor. “Hey! Been ‘ere long?” Boldair asked.

Other than the whistling dank breeze that smelled of ocean spray, dead fish, and burnt flesh flowing through the barred door window, the room remained silent. In the faint light, his cell companion didn’t move or reply.

“Sleeping, eh?” he asked, still hoping to stir the man awake. Nothing was worse than being imprisoned without someone else to talk to. Total isolation was the purest torture. Hell without the flames.

The man didn’t move, and from his overall silence, he was not breathing either.

“Damn,” Boldair said. “T’would be me luck. Come to Bridgebarrow and get locked inside a prison with a corpse. Bah!”

Wind flowed downward from the grated ceiling opening. The smell of charred flesh drifted from his dead cellmate, causing Boldair to gag. The tight chain restraints prevented him from covering his nose. The stench forced him to hold his breath until the air grew still once more.

“You’ve been here for some time, I suppose,” he said, coughing.

Boldair glanced at the small barred window on the door and wondered if a guard stood outside.

“Wonder why I’m stuck here, do ye?” he asked the dead man, hoping his continued conversation caught the attention of someone in the outer hall. “Aye, I’ll tell ya. No secret be wasted with ye anyways. This ol’ dwarf is the best treasure hunter in all of Aetheaon. Aye, but it be true.

“No, I’m not a thief. Never stolen one single solitary thing. I hunt treasures. I do. Since the demise of the dragons of Aetheaon, the treasures are much easier to take, providing you happen upon one of their long forgotten lairs. No fire-breathing lizards guarding the dark caverns makes it—”

“You boast too much.”

Boldair straightened his back against the cold wet wall. He squinted, trying to see where the cold stern voice had come from. It wasn’t in the direction of the dead prisoner closest to him, and it wasn’t directly outside the door, either. The voice crept from the darkest corner of the rock-walled cell.

“Who be there?” he asked in a hoarse whisper. His eyes widened as he awaited an answer.

“I’m one who wants her treasure back.”

 

About the Author

Leonard D. Hilley II grew up a quiet, shy kid with an inquisitive mind. Learning to read at an early age, he fell in love with books. He read every book he could get his hands on and stacks of dark comics about ghosts, monsters, and creepy things that stalk the night.

Like a lot of boys, he caught beetles, wooly bears, butterflies, and had an ant farm. When he was ten, his interests in science increased even more after seeing a professor’s insect collection. He started an insect collection and learned to rear butterflies and moths to obtain perfect specimens. After learning more about botany and gardening, he set his goal to become an entomologist.

At eleven, he saw Star Wars. His imagination soared and he started writing. Six months later he had written the first draft of a novel. A novel he later discarded, but the characters stuck with him. Years later, these characters came to life in Shawndirea, which Hilley had intended to be a novella for Devils Den. The characters, however, refused to be ignored and took the opportunity to unveil Aetheaon in their first epic fantasy. Lady Squire: Dawn’s Ascension was quick to follow.

Shawndirea was Hilley’s farewell to butterfly collecting, and those who have read the novel understand why. He has taken Ray Bradbury’s advice to heart: “Follow the characters.” He does. He follows, listens, and take notes—often never knowing where they’re going to take him, but he’s never been disappointed in the results.

Hilley earned a B.S. Biology and an MFA in Creative Writing to combine his love of science and writing.

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Posted in Cozy, Giveaway, mystery, Spotlight, suspense on June 15, 2017

Fatal Facade (An Allison Campbell Mystery Book 4)
Cozy Mystery/Suspense
4th in Series
Henery Press (June 13, 2017)
Paperback: 278 pages

Synopsis

Allison Campbell accepted a dream assignment: a visit to the Italian Dolomites to help Hollywood socialite Elle Rose reinvent herself. A guest cottage on the grounds of Elle’s historic castle promises to be a much-needed respite from Allison’s harried life on the Philadelphia Main Line, and the picturesque region, with its sharp peaks, rolling pastures, and medieval churches, is the perfect spot from which to plan her upcoming wedding.

Only this idyllic retreat is anything but peaceful. There are the other visitors—an entourage of back-biting expats and Hollywood VIPs. There’s Elle’s famous rock star father, now a shadowy recluse hovering behind the castle’s closed doors. And then there’s Elle’s erratic behavior. Nothing is as it seems. After a guest plummets to her death from a cliff on the castle grounds, Allison’s trip of a lifetime turns nightmarish—but before she can journey home, Allison must catch a killer.

Books in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series:

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About the Author

Wendy Tyson’s background in law and psychology has provided inspiration for her mysteries and thrillers. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Wendy has returned to her roots and lives there again on a micro-farm with her husband, three sons and three dogs.  Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in literary journals, and she’s a contributing editor and columnist for The Big Thrill and The Thrill Begins, International Thriller Writers’ online magazines. Wendy is the author of the Allison Campbell Mystery Series and the Greenhouse Mystery Series.

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Check out the other blogs on this tour

June 13 – Cozy Up With Kathy – SPOTLIGHT

June 13 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – INTERVIEW

June 14 – Island Confidential – INTERVIEW

June 15 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

June 15 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

June 16 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 17 –  Nadaness In Motion – INTERVIEW

June 18 – Laura’s Interests – REVIEW

June 19 – Texas Book-aholic – REVIEW

June 20 – A Blue Million Books – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

June 21 – Queen of All She Reads – REVIEW

June 22 – Sleuth Cafe – SPOTLIGHT

June 23 – Books,Dreams,Life – INTERVIEW

June 24 – Lori’s Reading Corner – SPOTLIGHT

June 25 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too! – SPOTLIGHT

Posted in excerpt, memoir, nonfiction, Spotlight on June 14, 2017

Synopsis

At 46 years old, Mark Moore was in the prime of his life. He was a successful businessman, loving husband, involved father, and dedicated amateur athlete. His life was turned upside down after being hit in quick succession with two strokes that should have taken his life. After spending a month in a coma, Mark awoke to find his life forever changed, wondering if he’d ever be able to walk or speak again.

Mark’s inspiring new memoir, A Stroke of Faith: A Stroke Survivor’s Story of a Second Chance at Living a Life of Significance, follows his incredible journey from successful businessman to unexpected stroke victim and survivor. Now having made an almost-full recovery 10 years later, Mark has dedicated himself to his family, faith, extensive philanthropy within his community, and educating others about stroke awareness, prevention, and recovery.

Though his life will never return to his pre-stroke normality, through this crisis, he has gained a deeper understanding of the centrality of God’s role in his life and in all of our lives. A Stroke of Faith tells the story of moving from acceptance to surrender and from hope to faith and reveals God’s work in Mark’s life as He transformed him from thinking he had everything under control to knowing God has had control all along.

Amazon * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * ChristianBook.com

Excerpt

Introduction

“Beyond My Control!”

WE ALL HAVE gifts of one kind or another, natural abilities that seem to flow out of the very core of who we are. For some, it’s music. They can look at a sheet of crotchet and quaver notations and hear the melody in their head as if a full symphony orchestra were playing right in front of them. Others have a knack for languages. A few lessons, and they sound like a native speaker.

I was always a numbers man. Math may not be as glamorous as melodies and words, but I never saw just a bunch of figures on a page. For me, they turned into a score or a story I could follow. A company spreadsheet could be like an x-ray, revealing all the inner problems of an ailing business. Or it might become a road map, pointing the way to prosperity. I could read columns of debits and credits like a book.

As with any innate ability, that aptitude could only take me so far. Raw sugar cane has to go through a process to release the sweetness. With application and determination, I was able to harness my gift for math in ways that transformed my life. It took me from a tough New York City borough to the leafy suburbs of Washington, DC. From a two-bedroom house into which ten of us were squeezed to a ten-thousand-square foot property with a pool.

During that climb up the ladder of success, I had raised two billion dollars in capital as I rode the financial wave of twenty-first century new technology. Overcoming some prejudice along the way, as one of a minority of successful African American entrepreneurs, I’d established a reputation as a fair but firm businessman.

Proud to be a self-made man who had a different, tailor-made suit to wear for every day of the month—a far cry from the hand-me-down wardrobe of my childhood―I had written more checks than I could remember, the largest single one for two-and-a-half million dollars.

And now I stared helplessly at the blank check that Lisa had placed in front of me. I could read the words: Pay to the Bearer, and all that. I could see the lines and the blank box where I was supposed to write the payee’s name and the amount.

But I didn’t know how to do it. Something was missing between what I knew in my brain and the pen I held in my right hand. It was like one of the bulbs had shorted out midway in a string of Christmas lights, breaking the connection and extinguishing them all. The chain was interrupted. I should have known without even thinking what needed to be done, but somehow I just could not bring to mind the steps necessary for completing the simple actions I had performed so many times previously. I froze, mentally paralyzed.

Here I was, the successful numbers man, and I could not even put two and two together.

I felt crushed, helpless. The head-down determination that had brought so many rewards was somewhere out of reach. No matter how much I gritted my teeth and concentrated, I just could not will myself to do something as basic as write a check.

To make matters worse, I could not even spring up and pace about in frustration. A lifelong athlete, I still pushed myself as hard on the basketball court in my two-hour weekly games as I did in my twelve-hour days at the office. A non-smoking non-drinker, I was in excellent shape for a man in his

mid-forties.

But now I could only sit in my wheelchair as I contemplated the chasm between what my life had been and what it was now—and might be for as long as I was alive.

That I was even breathing was something of a miracle itself. A month or so earlier I had been within minutes of dying, my life saved only by emergency surgery that opened up my skull and left me in a medically induced coma. I had, of course, been grateful to open my eyes again and see my beloved wife, Brenda, and our two children. But facing the rest of my life as a shadow of who I had been weighed heavily now.

Overwhelmed by not being able to manage such a rudimentary action, one I had performed so many times previously, I sighed.

“This is crazy,” I said. “Something so simple I’ve done it a million times, and yet it’s beyond my control!”

Sensing my discouragement, Lisa smiled brightly at me as we sat in her speech therapist’s office at Mount Vernon Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia. Dark curly-haired and petite, dressed in hospital scrubs and sneakers, she managed to sound professional and personable at the same time.

“The brain is really quite remarkable in the way it can recover from a traumatic injury like the one you have suffered, Mark,” she told me. “You are going to get better. Most of the progress in recovery usually occurs in the first year or two. And we are going to do all that we can to help.”

Though the gap between my former life and my present circumstances seemed vast, miles wide, I had been brought to its edge by something quite small: a ruptured blood vessel deep in my brain. Two strokes had pulled the curtain down firmly on the first act of my life. How the rest of my story would unfold was unclear and, for the first time I could remember, seemed beyond my control.

About the Author

Mark Moore is a philanthropist and successful businessman. Along with his wife Brenda, a former nurse, Mark has established the Mark and Brenda Moore and Family Foundation, through which he supports advances in healthcare, education, culture and the arts, and Christian evangelism. Prior to engaging full time in his philanthropic work, Mark was Chief Operating Officer and co-owner of Segovia, Inc., a leading provider of global internet protocol services to the US Defense Department. Mark is also the Mid-Atlantic Ambassador for the American Stroke Association and the author of the memoir A Stroke of Faith, which is now on sale. More about Mark and A Stroke of Faith can be found at and on Facebook and Twitter .

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