Book Showcase: PUG ACTUALLY by Matt Dunn

Red rectangular background with three white hearts of varying sizes in the middle, JUNE in a small green rectangle beside the cover of PUG ACTUALLY by Matt Dunn (pug wearing heart-shaped sunglasses and red necklace is seated on grass in front of the feet of a female and male).

PUG ACTUALLY - MDunnPug Actually by Matt Dunn
ISBN: 9780778311232 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780369703392 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488211621 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08PDTLYWC (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08FYN55YJ (Kindle edition)
Publisher: MIRA Books
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Romantic-Comedy

PUG ACTUALLY Library Journal Starred Review
 Not all heroes wear capes. Some of them wear collars.

A Dog’s Purpose meets The Happy Ever After Playlist in this charming, pitch-perfect take on relationships as seen through the eyes of a wise pug named Doug, who is determined to play cupid to fix his owner’s love life with his own four paws.

Doug wants his rescuer, Julie, to be happy. He is loyal and loves her unconditionally—two things that can’t be said about Julie’s married boss and lover, Luke. Yet Julie is reluctant to break up, afraid to end up like her eccentric cat-owning neighbor. It’s a prospect that horrifies Doug, too.

Newly divorced Tom, on the other hand, is perfect for Julie. Everyone can see it—except for Julie and Tom. Doug is confident that with his help they will get over their initial animosity toward each other.

As Doug humorously navigates the quirks of human relationships, he knows he can’t give up on Julie—after all, being a “rescue” works both ways.

 

Read an excerpt:

According to Luke, he’s “about to leave the office.”

Despite what he just said to whoever is on the receiving end of the furtive cell phone call he’s making, Luke’s actually sitting in his car right outside the house I share with my best friend Julie. Which proves he’s lying. It wouldn’t be the first time.

Julie hasn’t heard his latest lie, of course. Her hearing isn’t as good as mine. She has heard the car pull up, waved to him, acknowledged his “on the phone” mime through the window, and left her front door ajar so she can return to the particularly gripping part of EastEnders we’ve been watching, where a mean-looking bald gentleman has just instructed the pasty-looking character he’s been threatening to beat up that he “ain’t worth it.” An appraisal that—if it referred to Luke—Julie and I would have wildly differing opinions about.

I take the opportunity to sneak out through the open door, trot along the path, and sit just the other side of the garden gate, where I can eavesdrop on what’s sure to be the latest twist in a saga way more complicated than the television shenanigans in Albert Square.

“Sure,” Luke says, after a moment, “Chinese or pizza?” which makes my mouth water, especially when he adds, “Chinese and pizza it is.” Then I’m brought sharply back to reality, because at his, “Love you, too, sweetie,” I realize he’s talking to his wife, and remember that not only is he a liar, but he’s a philanderer as well.

Luke finishes the call and checks his hair in that reflective device stuck to the car windscreen that Julie only ever uses to help her apply her makeup when she’s driving, smells his breath in his cupped hand and peers up and down the street as if looking for someone. Then he climbs out of his car, walks a pace or two away from the curb, and swivels around quickly to click the vehicle shut with the remote, as if he’s firing a gun in the opening credits of a James Bond film.

With a frown, he walks back up to the driver’s door and wipes a barely-visible smudge from the paintwork, then he takes a step backward and admires the vehicle—one of those sporty-looking coupes that, mechanically, is the same as the “family” model. Style over substance, as Julie’s dad would no doubt point out. Therefore pretty much the kind of car you’d expect Luke to drive.

With a last check of his cell phone, he switches it off, slips it into his pocket, and strides confidently toward Julie’s gate, hesitating when he spots me waiting for him in the garden.

“Doug,” he says.

It’s an observation rather than a greeting, so I give him a look, reluctantly step to one side so he can get past, then tail him back toward the house, nipping in through the front door before him, just in case he tries to shut me outside.

“Sweetie?” he shouts, as he regards me warily, and it occurs to me I rarely hear him call her “Julie”—a sensible tactic if you’re seeing multiple women, I imagine.

“In here,” replies Julie, from the living room, and Luke strides along the hall, peering around the house like a potential burglar, though if I know him, there’s only one thing he’s interested in getting his hands on.

I follow him into where Julie’s sitting expectantly on the sofa, taking up a defensive position at her feet as she switches off the TV. This is worrying: EastEnders isn’t over yet, and under normal circumstances, even if the house were falling down, she’d probably try and hang around, dodging falling masonry, until the end credits were rolling. Then again, as Luke’s all-too-regular off-hours presence here often reminds me, he and Julie aren’t exactly “normal” circumstances.

“This is a pleasant surprise!”

“Couldn’t stay away.” Luke collapse-sits onto the sofa next to her, then hoists his feet up onto the coffee table as if he owns the place. “You know me.”

I exhale loudly as I take up a guard position beneath his legs: If she really knew Luke, I doubt she’d let him in the house, let alone on the sofa. It took me long enough before I was allowed to sit there.

“Can I get you anything?”

“Just this,” says Luke, leaning across to plant a wet one (as Julie’s dad describes the way I do it whenever anyone raises me to face level) on Julie’s lips, and I have to look away. I don’t know why, but I find this “kissing” thing Luke and Julie insist on doing unsettling—possibly because of the weird hum of pleasure he makes every time. “I was just passing. Realized how much I missed you.”

“Passing?” says Julie, dejectedly, then she does a double take, and a look flashes across Luke’s face, and Julie’s expression mirrors it. Then I realize why he’s come round, and it shocks me so much it’s all I can do not to let out a disgusted bark. From what I can work out given his earlier phone call, he’s going to have a “quickie” with Julie, then calmly pick up takeout and bring it home to his wife.

“Yeah.” Luke licks his lips, an action which makes me shudder. “I’m not interrupting any plans, am I?” he asks, though I’m pretty sure he already knows the answer to that question. Julie rarely has any plans. Mainly because—given Luke’s situation—she can’t make any.

“No, just…” Julie nods at the TV. “Priya’s going to be here in a bit. Game of Thrones is on.”

“Oh yes. The Dragon Lady.” He rolls his eyes, and I’m not sure whether he’s referring to a character from the program or Priya. Luke’s not her biggest fan. And the feeling is definitely mutual.

“I can call her,” says Julie, already reaching for her phone. “Tell her to come later. We can watch it on DVR.”

“Don’t worry. I can’t stay.”

“Oh.” The disappointment in Julie’s voice is so obvious, Luke can’t help but give a little victory smile.

“For long,” he adds, looking pointedly at his watch.

“Oh,” says Julie, again, followed by another, but this time, an I-get-it one, which makes me suspect she’s “up for it,” as I’m sure Luke would probably describe her. It’s at that moment I decide I can’t just stand idly by and let him get away with this. So as Julie shimmies across the sofa to straddle him, and Luke reaches up and starts unbuttoning her blouse, I squeeze myself out from underneath his still-outstretched legs, leap up onto the sofa, and force my way between the two of them.

“Doug!” Julie gives me a stern look. “Down!”

I’m wishing I could say the same thing to Luke, but before I can decide what my next move’s going to be, he picks me up—rather ungently, it has to be said—and sets me back on the floor.

“Yes Doug, down!” Luke sniffs his fingers, makes a face, then surreptitiously wipes his hands on a cushion, which irks me even more, particularly since I’ve already had my bath this month. “Now, where were we?” he says, reaching for Julie’s buttons a second time.

As he busies himself with the contents of her blouse, he simultaneously blocks my route back up onto the sofa with his legs, and I fear I might be stymied, until I remember a tactic that Eddie, the Jack Russell star of the reruns of Frasier Julie and I love watching, often uses. I dart under the coffee table, leap up onto the armchair opposite the sofa, position myself in Luke’s direct eye line, and fix him with my most disapproving stare. After a moment my strategy works, because he opens his eyes midkiss (which is even creepier than the noises he makes), catches sight of me over Julie’s shoulder, and breaks away from her.

“Something the matter?” asks Julie.

Luke glares back at me. “It’s Doug.”

“What about him?”

“He’s staring at me.”

“What?” Julie turns to look at me, so I hurriedly put on my best, most irresistible pug eyes, wrinkle my forehead to the maximum, then angle my head for good measure.

“He’s not staring. He’s a pug. That’s just how it appears.”

“It’s disconcerting.”

“Well, just shut your eyes.”

Julie leans down to kiss him again, and Luke does as instructed. But sure enough, a few seconds later, he half opens one of them, to find I’ve resumed my visual assault.

“He’s doing it again.”

Luke…”

Luke wriggles out from underneath her, sits upright, and places a cushion in his lap. “I’m sorry. I just can’t. Not with him…”

Julie sighs, then she gets up from the sofa, picks me up and carries me through to the kitchen.

“Sorry, Doug,” she says, depositing me on the floor by my bowl, before tipping some food into it, hurrying back into the living room, and shutting the door behind her.

“Now, where were we?” I hear her say, perhaps a little impatiently, then everything goes quiet, so I pad over toward the door. It’s one of those opaque-paneled ones, so all I can see is the outline of the two of them cavorting.

I sit down and fix my gaze on my best guess of where Luke’s face is, and stare as hard as I can at him through the frosted glass. And it seems to work, as it’s only around thirty seconds before Julie says, “What now?”

“He’s still doing it.”

“Pardon?”

“Doug. Staring at me. Through the kitchen door.”

“What, with his X-ray vision?”

“You know what I mean.”

Julie sighs in a way that demonstrates that it’s evident she doesn’t. “What do you want me to do. Put him outside?”

“Would you?”

I whimper at the prospect so plaintively that it’s only a matter of seconds before Julie opens the kitchen door, picks me up, and carries me over to the armchair. Though my victory is fleeting, as she heads straight back to the sofa, and resumes her straddling of a somewhat disgruntled-looking Luke.

“Tell you what.” Julie walks her fingertips suggestively along the arm of the sofa. “Why don’t we take this into the bedroom?”

Luke frowns, perhaps wondering whether Julie’s suggesting some light furniture removal, then the penny evidently drops. “Good idea,” he says.

“Right. I’ll just nip into the bathroom, and you…” Julie nods in the general direction of the bedroom.

I sit there innocently as she jumps up from the sofa and heads off along the hall. But the moment she shuts the bathroom door behind her, I leap down from the chair, sprint out of the living room, and—almost losing it on the sharp corner thanks to the combination of my short legs and Julie’s polished wooden laminate flooring—get to the bedroom ahead of him. And I’m already sitting defiantly on Julie’s bed by the time Luke appears in the doorway.

“For fu…!”

He narrows his eyes at me, then glances at his watch again, perhaps working out just how late he can get away with arriving home by blaming it on the length of the wait for the takeout. Then—and admittedly it’s the one flaw in my plan—he raises both eyebrows in a gotcha way, and shuts the bedroom door, trapping me inside.

Hurriedly, I jump back down from the bed, run to the door, and place an ear against it. From what I can work out, Julie’s finished in the bathroom, and I hear Luke tell her that, actually, the sofa’s just fine with him. There’s a giggle (Julie), then the sound of a belt being undone, then silence, followed by some sounds that I’d rather not report. Aware that I’ve run out of options—and I’m not proud of myself—I begin to whine. And whine. Then I start to bark insistently, upping the volume every third-or-so bark, until finally there’s a frustrated-sounding “For crying out loud!” from Luke, quickly followed by footsteps, and a slightly-flushed-looking Julie opening the door.

“What’s the matter, Doug?” she says, as she picks me up and carries me back into the living room. “How did you get yourself shut in there?”

I glance pointedly over to where Luke is sitting on the sofa, adjusting his clothes while giving me what I believe is known as “the evil eye,” but Julie misses the inference.

Luke sighs resignedly, in the manner of someone who’s realized he’s not going to get what he wants. “Right. Well…” He glances at his watch a third time, then hauls himself reluctantly up from the sofa. “I ought to…”

“Don’t go.” Julie sets me gently back down on the floor, then takes a pace toward him. “We haven’t even…”

“Yes. Well. Whose fault is that?” huffs Luke.

He’s meant that it’s mine, but judging by the look on her face, Julie appears to have taken his last comment personally. “Sorry. No. You’re right,” she says, sulkily. “You get off home to your wife like a good boy!”

As Luke swallows loudly, I snort as incredulously as I can. There’s only one good boy here, and (spoiler alert) it’s me.

“Sweetie, don’t be like…”

Julie shrugs off his attempt at a hug, and I brace myself for the inevitable. They’ve had this conversation—or rather, argument—several times before, and each time Luke tells Julie he just can’t leave his wife yet, I sense a little something die inside her.

True to form, she’s got tears in her eyes, and though I’d like to rush over and comfort her, I stop myself. She needs to feel bad about Luke, and sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

“Don’t ‘sweetie’ me!” she snaps. “You promised!”

“And I will.” Luke perches on the arm of the sofa. “I told you, now’s not the right time. I just need to get all my ducks in a row, and…” He fires off finger pistols in rapid succession, and I can’t help but snort again. “But I understand,” he continues. “If you can’t wait, then perhaps we ought to…”

“No, I didn’t mean…” Hurriedly, Julie takes his hand, as if she’s the one who should be apologizing. “I get that this is hard for you. Really, I do. But you can’t blame me for wanting us to be together?”

She smiles down at him, a pleading expression on her face, and Luke kisses the back of her hand, as if bestowing some kind of papal blessing. Then he stands up and sighs dramatically as he takes her in his arms. “It’s what I want too,” he says. “But try and look at things from my point of view. I just want to do right by everyone, you know? You, me, and Sarah…”

At the sound of Luke’s wife’s name, Julie winces, then she nods, though if you ask me, the only person Luke has ever intended to do right by is himself.

“Okay,” she says, reluctantly. “So I’ll see you on Monday?”

Luke looks shocked for a moment, as if there’s some important date he’s forgotten, then he lets out a short laugh. “You mean at work?”

Julie nods again, and Luke grins like someone who knows he’s still in the driving seat—and not just of the showy coupe parked outside. “Right,” he says, patting his pockets to locate his car keys, his mind probably already on which pizza topping he’s going to choose. “Well, say hi to Priya for me.”

“Sure,” says Julie, though all three of us know she won’t, unless she wants a lecture.

“I’ll see myself out,” Luke says, and even though that’s probably directed at me, I still make sure to escort him off the premises. I wouldn’t want him to take anything. Especially advantage of Julie.

Though my fear is, that’s exactly what he’s doing.

Excerpt from Pug Actually by Matt Dunn. Copyright © 2021 by Matt Dunn. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Author - Matt Dunn

Matt Dunn’s romantic comedy novels include The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook (shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award and the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance), A Day at the Office (an Amazon #1 bestseller across several categories), Thirteen Dates (shortlisted for the Romantic Comedy of the Year Award), and Kindle #1 Bestseller At The Wedding. He’s also written about life and love for The Times, Guardian, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, Company, Elle, and The Sun.

Connect with the Author:

Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | Author Website

 

 

This excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books

Migraine Awareness Month and #ShadesForMigraine Day

June is National Migraine Awareness Month on a purple background with a purple awareness ribbon

Happy Monday, book people. Normally, I post about books or bookish things on this blog. Today, I’m doing something a little different. For those that have followed this blog for a while, you might recall that I periodically state that my reading (and sometimes writing of reviews) gets interrupted by severe migraine episodes. Although I’ve been dealing with migraine for 42 years, I am now what is classified as a chronic migraineur. Chronic migraine is defined as 15+ migraine days per month and it is estimated that at 4 million people have chronic migraine. Sadly, I’m in that small percentage of chronic migraineurs that actually experiences a headache every single day (yes, every day for 15 years now).

Migraine impacts more than you know and is much more than a headache. People with migraine often have a second chronic disease such as depression/anxiety, autoimmune disorders, IBS, or fibromyalgia. It is estimated that 90% of people with migraine have a family history of migraine disease. Migraine is the number one cause of disability for women between 25-50 years of age. Migraine is actually an umbrella term representing a genetic, multisystem neurological disorder known for headaches, but migraine can also affect mood, gastrointestinal function, balance, sleep, cause facial pain and more.

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month (along with Pride Month and Caribbean Heritage Month). And today, June 21st is #ShadesForMigraine Day. I am taking part in #ShadesForMigraine because in addition to head pain, I also suffer from severe light sensitivity issues as do most migraine sufferers. (In addition to light sensitivity, I also deal with noise sensitivity, smell sensitivity, nausea, vertigo, and allodynia [extreme sensitivity to touch especially my hair].) Raising awareness for this debilitating disease is easy! I’m challenging my blog readers to take part today, all you have to do is follow these simple steps:

  • Wear your shades on June 21
  • Post a photo wearing your shades on social media with #ShadesForMigraine
  • Spread the word and challenge three others to take part too!

Here are a few headache and migraine facts for you to consider:

  1. 60 million people with migraine in the United States
    (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, 2019)
  2. Cluster headache is the most painful condition someone can have
    (Burish et al., 2020, #)
  3. 9 million – 30 million people in the United States have New Daily Persistent Headache
    (NDPH) (Yamani & Olesen, 2019, #)
  4. Migraine is the 2nd leading cause of global disability
    (GBD, 2017)
  5. People with cluster headache are 20% more likely than average to experience suicidal ideation
    (Koo et al., 2021)
  6. Headache disorders often disable without head pain (e.g. sensory, vertigo, GI, cognition)

Burish, M. J., Pearson, S. M., Shapiro, R. E., Zhang, W., & Schor, L. I. (2020, December 18). Cluster headache is one of the most intensely painful human conditions: Results from the International Cluster Headache Questionnaire. Headache. 10.1111/-head.14021

GBD. (2017). Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 328 diseases and injuries for 195 countries, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Globacl Burden of Disease Study. Lancet, 390, 1211-1259.

Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. (2019). GBD Compare. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Retrieved May 11, 2021, from https://vizhub.healthdata.org/gbd-compare/#

Koo, B. B., Bayoumi, A., Albanna, A., Abusuliman, M., Burrone, L., Sico, J. J., & Schindler, E. A. D. (2021, April 20). Demoralization predicts suicidality in patients with cluster headache. Journal of Headache Pain, 22(1), 28. 10.1186/s10194-021-01241-7

Yamani, N., & Olesen, J. (2019). New daily persistent headache: a systematic review on an enigmatic disorder. Lancet, 20(80). https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s10194-019-1022-z#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20NDPH%20estimated,in%20some%20has%20migraine%20features.


If you or a loved one has migraine and you’d like more information, please visit https://shadesformigraine.org for links to a number of national and international migraine and headache partners. Other sites to visit for migraine information include, but aren’t limited to: https://migraine.com/, https://migrainedisease.org, https://headachemigraine.org, and https://migrainedisorders.org.

Happy Reading, y’all!

Book Showcase: PRIMORDIAL by David L. Sobel

PRIMORDIAL Virtual Book Tour Banner, Red background with white torn paper listing all of the virtual book tour stops between June 14 through June 18; book cover, white background, with blood droplets beside the tips of opened surgical forceps, PRIMORDIAL is in large red letters across the forceps, David L. Sobel, MD, JD is also in red below the forceps.

Primordial by David Sobel
ISBN: 9781736303504 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781736303511 (ebook)
ASIN: B08Q7Z9MZF (Kindle edition)
Release Date: December 7, 2020
Genre: Fiction | Thriller | Medical Thriller

Primordial by David Sobel, is a Crichton-like thriller that centers on the plights of two scientists separated by decades and borders but united in their obsessive quest for the physical location of the soul. Jonas, a hospital attorney, begins to suspect that someone is targeting patients in his NYC hospital. With the help of two residents, his search for answers will bring him face to face with a killer.

Thought-provoking, both scientifically and ethically, Primordial is a story that spans decades of medical and legal mystery, history and suspense. It will transport readers to a Nazi medical laboratory in World War II, then back to present day New York City where an unlikely trio, Jonas the experienced hospital lawyer, “Early” the quirky urology resident, and Rachel, the wickedly smart neurosurgery resident, struggle to piece together a series of unexplained killings. Debut author Dr. Sobel weaves his medical expertise and extensive historical research in a twisted tangle of secrets that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Read an excerpt:

Rudolph “Rudy” Walla was sweating.

He stood, perfectly still, within the one-meter square sentry post that was positioned just inside the back gate of the Seelentor concentration camp. The post was a tiny glass and wood structure with a small external cut-out that housed a potbelly stove. The stove, on this bitter February night, poured molten heat into the structure. Rudy’s breath, exhaled in the long drawl of the bored and tired, condensed on the front pane of glass, obscuring his view. He was just able to discern the shadowy outline of the SS-Schutze—the private—who had occupied the post before Rudy came looking for a reprieve from the cold. He smiled at the thought of a sentry post with a frosted view and of the private, hunched and angry, pacing in the cold. Not much to see anyway, he thought to himself, returning to his slow, metered breathing. Rudy was in a corner of Poland—forgotten, miserable, stoic, and sweating. God, was he sweating.

Rudy’s wool uniform, the severe black of the SS, was plastered to his body. Each movement was a sticky uncomfortableness. The commander of the camp had called the sentry post the Aufrechten Sarg—the “upright coffin.” And, as horrible as the coffin was, it beat the blistering cold that was just on the other side of the glass. It was early morning. Dawn was approaching and the sun was just tickling the sky, turning the black into a bruised dark blue. The earth felt as if every ounce of heat had been stolen away. A brittle and broken, icicle-white wasteland. His sanctuary was a stifling coffin. Rudy thought of Ishmael and the white whale. And, not uncommon on a lonely, sleepless night, he thought of the hand of fate that had steered him all the way from his childhood in Berlin to this tiny box in this foreign land.

Excerpt from Primordial by David Sobel. Copyright © by David Sobel. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Author - David Sobel MD JD

David Sobel, M.D./J.D. is a board-certified practicing urologist who specializes in sexual medicine and is a faculty member at the University of Colorado. He has over 21 years of experience and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine. Prior to becoming a physician, he was a corporate lawyer with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in NYC. Dr. Sobel is also a founder of Emmi Solutions, a company that creates education modules that assist patients with their medical care. He lives in Denver with his wife and two children.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

 

This excerpt and virtual book tour brought to you by PR By The Book

Book Showcase: DEAD TREE TALES by Rush Leaming

DEAD TREE TALES by Rush Leaming Tour Banner courtesy of Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours: book cover features an old live oak tree in the background with the words DEAD TREE TALES in the foreground on upper 75% of cover, lower 25% of book cover has a single bullet beside "By Rush Leaming"; Quote: "Fast-paced, full of action and intrigue" by Lorraine Cobcroft, Reader's Favorites.

Dead Tree Tales

by Rush Leaming

June 7 – July 2, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Set in Charleston, SC, and the surrounding islands, police are called to investigate the poisoning of a much-loved 1000-year-old tree, only to find evidence of a more brutal crime. From there, the story explodes into a fast-paced, multi-character thriller unlike any you’ve ever read. Not for the faint of heart…

Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming is about a lot more than a dead tree. It’s a mystery. It’s a crime story. It’s a thriller. It’s a powerful comment on today’s society and politics… fast-paced, full of action and intrigue… It’s a real page-turner and just a fantastic read.” – Lorraine Cobcroft, Reader’s Favorite

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Bridgewood
Publication Date: June 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 488
ISBN: 0999745654 (ISBN13: 9780999745656)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

It was known simply as The Tree; that is what the locals on Johns Island, South Carolina, called it. A Southern live oak born a thousand years ago (some even said fifteen hundred), its gargantuan limbs swirled and stretched as much as two hundred feet in all directions. The lower arms, heavy with age, sometimes sank into the earth only to reemerge. Other branches flailed recklessly in the sky, like some sort of once-screaming kraken turned to wood by an ancient curse.

Generation after generation had protected it. Rising from the center of a former indigo plantation, and now officially known as Addison’s Oak, The Tree had long been a source of pride, even fear, in the surrounding community, as well as James Island, Wadmalaw Island, and the nearby city of Charleston.

But now, The Tree was dying. It was not from natural causes either, not from time, nor gravity, nor the weather.

Someone had killed it.

“Is that a thing?” Detective Charlie Harper asked as he turned his head to look at his partner, Detective Elena Vasquez.

“I think so.” Elena squinted her eyes toward the top of the canopy, the leafy summit shadowed and backlit by the noon sun.

“Arborcide? That’s a thing?” Charlie asked again.

An Asian-American man in his mid-twenties wearing wraparound sunglasses stood next to the two detectives. “Yep. You remember that incident a few years ago in Auburn? Toomer’s Corner. Crazy Alabama fan poisoned the tree there.”

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “But I mean legally. Is it legally a crime to do this?”

“Cops were involved there,” the man said. “The guy went to jail. Has to be something. Why don’t you call them? See what they did.” He pulled a pack of spearmint gum from the front pocket of his jeans and stuffed five pieces in his mouth, noticing Charlie watching him. “Quitting smoking. Nicotine gum makes me dizzy.”

Charlie nodded. “Been there.” Six feet tall, with a closely trimmed beard under bright-blue eyes, he walked around the perimeter of the field.

Salt air swirled around him—they were only a couple of miles from the beach—and Charlie realized it was the first time he had been away from the city and out on the islands in months, maybe even over a year.

Elena Vasquez, an athletic five-ten with shoulder-length black hair bobby-pinned over her ears, stood in front of the young man and opened a new page in the Notes app on her iPhone. “So, you’re the one who called about this?”

“Yes. It took some digging to figure out who to contact. I didn’t know there weren’t any police stations out here.”

“That’s correct.” She typed the date 5/19/2015 at the top of the page. “Closest station is the Island Sheriff’s Patrol on James Island, but they don’t handle things like this. That’s why you got us from the city. And who are you again?”

“Daniel Lee.”

She looked up from her iPhone. “Daniel is a nice name. It’s my son’s name, though we call him Danny. Where are you from, Mr. Lee?”

“I’m originally from Maryland—Chesapeake Bay area—but now I live in Charleston. West Ashley. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the college.”

“College of Charleston?” Elena asked and continued typing.

“Yes. Environmental science. Teach a couple of undergrad classes as well. And I’m president of the local Sierra Club chapter. Our service project for this year has been public park maintenance and cleanup. I came here a week ago and saw that broken limb—”

“This one?” Charlie pointed at a fat twisted branch about the length of a Greyhound bus lying near the base of the tree.

“Yes.”

“Well . . .” Charlie said. “How do you know it wasn’t lightning or something?”

Daniel went over to Charlie and squatted next to the fallen limb. “There are no burn marks. Lightning would leave those.”

“Maybe it’s just old age. Isn’t this thing like a thousand years old or something?”

“Possibly more. It is rotting,” Daniel said. “But not from old age. See this discoloration? The rust-colored saturation of the stump where it broke?”

Charlie leaned in a little closer. “Yes.”

“That’s from poison, from a lot of poison. And you can see spots like this forming and spreading all around the trunk and on other branches.”

Elena stood beneath The Tree, placing her hand on a dark-orange splotch on the trunk. The gray bark surrounding the stain felt tough and firm, but inside the color spot, it was soft and crumbling. “I see it.”

“It’s like cancer,” Daniel said. “The Tree is not dead yet, but it will be soon. I had the soil tested as well as samples from the broken limb. They came back positive for massive levels of DS190.”

“And that is?” Charlie said.

“A variant of tebuthiuron. A very powerful herbicide. Similar to what was used at Toomer’s Corner. Somebody has been injecting the tree as well as dumping it into the ground. Probably for a few months to reach these levels.”

“Injecting the tree?” Elena said.

Daniel pulled them over to the base of the trunk where a ring of jagged holes stretched just above the ground. “Yes. See these gashes? Somebody has been boring into the trunk, then filling it with DS190.”

Charlie took out a pair of latex gloves and put them on before touching the holes in the trunk. “You’re sure this is intentional?”

“Has to be. This stuff doesn’t just appear on its own. It’s man-made. Someone has been doing this.”

“But why?” Charlie asked.

Daniel held out a hand, palm up. “Thus, the reason the two of you are here.”

Charlie shook his head. “I don’t know about this. We usually work homicide.”

Daniel gestured towards the gashes in the trunk. “You have a murder victim. Or soon will. Right in front of you.”

“But it’s a tree!” Charlie said.

Elena looked up from her phone. “Okay, Mr. Harper. Easy.”

Daniel motioned for them to follow as he walked to the backside of the trunk. “There’s something else.” He came to a stop in a patch of grass ringed with dandelion sprouts and pointed to dark-red streaks spread across the blades. “That’s blood, isn’t it?”

Charlie bent down and touched his gloved hand to one of the blades. “Maybe.” He took out a plastic bag and a Leatherman multitool from his jacket. He pulled apart the hinged scissors, then clipped away about a dozen pieces of grass and dropped them into the bag.

“And another thing,” Daniel said and led Elena to a spot about ten feet away. He pointed to a white card lying in the grass. “I didn’t touch any of this, by the way. I didn’t want to disturb the crime scene . . . I watch a lot of cop shows. I know how that goes.”

“Doesn’t everyone.” Elena squatted down, taking a plastic bag from her jacket. She used tweezers to pick up the card, muddy and frayed at the edges and turned it over to reveal a yellow cat emoji, just the head, whiskers, and a faint smile, printed on the opposite side. There were no words, just the image.

A strong breeze moved through the leaves of the great tree, a sound like rain showers mixed with groaning as the heavy limbs bent in the wind.

Charlie Harper removed his glove and rubbed the edge of his dark-brown beard. Looking at the massive branches, which did seem like the arms of giants, he began to understand why The Tree was such a big deal. “Have to say, it is beautiful here. Can’t believe I’ve been in Charleston four years and never been here. I should bring Amy. She’d love it.”

Daniel looked at Elena for an explanation.

“His daughter,” she said, then turned to Charlie. “You should. My dad brought me here a few times when I was a kid.”

“Well, you better hurry,” Daniel said.

“There’s nothing to stop it?” Elena asked.

“Probably not. I contacted a team of forestry researchers I know from Virginia Tech. They are going to send a team down to look at it, see if anything can be done. I sent a request to the Parks Department to pay for it. If they don’t, Sierra Club will hold a fundraiser.”

Charlie sighed. “Okay. While we decide what to do about this, I’ll call and have some signs and barriers put up to keep the tourists away.”

Elena turned to Daniel. “Thank you for meeting us here. Could you come to our station in the city today or tomorrow to give a formal statement?”

“Sure.”

“Bring copies of the lab work. We gonna find anything when we do a background check on you?”

Daniel shook his head. “No. Just some parking tickets . . . a lot of tickets actually. Parking at the college is a bitch.”

“That it is,” Elena said. “Here is my card if you think of anything else.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said. He stopped a moment as if to say something, then continued toward a white Chevy Volt parked near the road.

Elena looked at Charlie and raised her eyebrows. “So, Mr. Harper, what do you think?”

“Ehh . . . I mean I understand it’s old and rare and special and all that, but it’s a fucking tree. I don’t know anything about trees, do you?”

“No, but . . .”

“But what?”

“I don’t know,” Elena said and looked around the field. “My Spidey-sense tells me there’s more to it than just some weird vandalism.” She took a step forward and winced.

“Back acting up?” Charlie asked.

“A bit,” she said.

“Lunchtime anyway. Let’s take a break. I’m starving. June and I got into it again this morning. Skipped breakfast.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Elena swept a strand of black hair behind her ear. She pointed with her chin down a two-lane road to a crooked sign with a faded image of a pagoda: The Formosa Grill. “Chinese?”

“Sure,” Charlie said.

The two of them began to walk toward their gray Ford Explorer when Charlie saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. He stopped and knelt in the grass. He used his Leatherman tool to again pry away several blades.

“What is it?” Elena asked.

Charlie’s head bolted upright, his blue eyes narrowing. “Mr. Lee!” he shouted. He pulled another latex glove from his pocket.

In the parking lot, Daniel climbed out of his car and made his way back to the field. “Yes?”

“Mr. Lee, when was the last time you were here before meeting us today?”

“Yesterday morning,” Daniel said.

Elena knelt next to Charlie, looked into the grass, and let a low whistle escape her lips. She used her phone to take a photo.

Charlie used tweezers to pick up a severed finger. Sliced just below the knuckle, the stump crusted in blood, the flesh covered with red ants, it ended with a sharp green fingernail. He looked at Daniel. “Did you happen to notice this?”

Daniel swallowed hard, turning his face to the side. “No. I did not.”

Charlie put the finger in a plastic bag.

Elena looked at him, her wide brown eyes giving him a knowing shimmer. “You interested in this case now, Mr. Harper?”

Charlie didn’t flinch. He stared at The Tree.

***

Excerpt from Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming. Copyright 2021 by Rush Leaming. Reproduced with permission from Rush Leaming. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Author - Rush LeamingRUSH LEAMING has done many things including spending 15+ years in film/video production working on such projects as The Lord of the Rings films. His first novel, Don’t Go, Ramanya, a political thriller set in Thailand, was self-published in the fall of 2016 and reached number one on Amazon. His equally successful second novel, entitled The Whole of the Moon, a coming-of-age tale set in the Congo at the end of the Cold War, was published in 2018. His short stories have appeared in Notations, 67 Press, Lightwave, Green Apple, 5k Fiction, and The Electric Eclectic. He has lived in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Zaire, Thailand, Spain, Greece, England, and Kenya. He currently lives in South Carolina.

Catch Up With Rush:
LeamingRush.wixsite.com/nightfall
Goodreads
BookBub – @RushLeaming
Instagram – @rushleaming
Twitter – @LeamingRush
Facebook

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Guest Author: Lois Schmitt – SOMETHING FISHY

Good day, book people. I hope that everyone has had a great week and found some time for reading. I had been in a bit of a reading slump lately due to these incessant migraine headaches accompanied by a bit of vertigo (migraine the gift that keeps on giving). Fortunately, the slump is over and it’s back to reading some favorites (I know, I keep saying I won’t do it then I do…I love re-reading!) as well as some new-to-me authors and books. Having a blog is a great way to be introduced to these new-to-me authors and books considering there are at least 2700 books released each day (yes, that IS the number for daily new releases). Today I’m pleased to introduce you to one such new-to-me authors, Lois Schmitt. Ms. Schmitt writes the Kristy Farrell mysteries including Something Fishy and she’ll be discussing unusual animals with us today. So kick back, grab a cool beverage, and let’s visit with Lois Schmitt for awhile. Thank you, Ms. Schmitt for joining us today, I’m looking forward to what you have to say. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

 

The Most Unusual Animal

by Lois Schmitt

If you were to pick the most unusual animal in the world what would it be? The giraffe because of its long neck? The elephant with its trunk? The zebra that looks like a horse in crazy striped pajamas?

My mystery series always involves animals in some way. In researching background on wildlife, I’ve come across several strange creatures.

The duck-billed platypus looks as if its body was formed by a committee—with each committee member picking a part. This animal has the beak of a duck, the tail of a beaver, and the torso of an otter. The duck-billed platypus is native to Australia. The male is one of the world’s few venomous mammals. It has sharp stingers on the heel of its feet which can discharge this venom.

Next is the midwife toad—who carries his eggs on the back of his legs. Yes, HIS legs. It is the male who does this. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the midwife toad puts his back legs into the water. Soon after, tiny tadpoles burst out of the eggs and start swimming.

Then, there is the pinecone that moves, otherwise known as a pangolin. Of course, it’s not a real pinecone—it just looks like one when it rolls up in a ball for protection. The pangolin does this when it senses danger. Its dark brown scales are very hard, and they act as armor.

A sloth is the slowest animal in the world. It spends most of its life hanging upside down from a tree. It eats, sleeps, and gives birth to its babies this way. The three-toed sloth has arms that are 50% longer than its legs. Sloths sleep more than twenty hours a day. When awake, they barely move.

Another unusual animal is the fainting goat. When frightened, this animal’s muscles become completely stiff, and the goat falls over. Luckily, this causes no pain, and the goat recovers in ten to twenty seconds.

The lyrebird is unique in its ability to imitate sounds of not only human voices and other animals, but also the noises of industrial and power equipment. These birds have been found mimicking the noise of a chainsaw in a forest, a camera shutter opening and closing, and a car alarm. A single lyrebird also has the ability to imitate the sounds made by an entire flock of birds.

One of the world’s funniest looking creatures comes from the ocean—the red lipped batfish. Its bright red lips make it appear as if it is wearing lipstick. It also looks like it has legs, but these are actually fins that it uses to stand on the ocean floor.

While the red lipped batfish may have a comical appearance, the goblin shark, is one of the world’s scariest looking fish. Often called a “living fossil,” it resembles a prehistoric monster with its beady eyes, huge snout, and its bizarre extendable jaw. Elastic tissue allows the jaw to be thrust three inches out when capturing prey. It gets its name from the long nosed, red faced, Japanese demon known as the Tengu.

Since the goblin shark lives deep in the ocean, sightings of it are rare. I don’t have a goblin shark in my mystery, Something Fishy, but my protagonist does have an encounter with a nine foot bull shark. Although the bull shark doesn’t resemble a prehistoric monster, it is frightening to see one coming toward you.

What animal do you think is the most unusual?


 

Something Fishy

by Lois Schmitt

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing. wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff–secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: July 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 1948338793 (ISBN13: 9781948338790)
Series: A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Encircle Publications | Goodreads

Author Bio:

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

Catch Up With Our Author:
LoisSchmitt.com
Goodreads
Twitter: @schmittmystery
Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Lois Schmitt. There will be TWO winners. TWO (2) winners will each receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card of varying amounts. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and ends on July 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Spotlight: LOST LOVE’S RETURN by Alfred Nicols

LOST LOVE'S RETURN by Alfred Nicols book cover; sepia-tone pictures, top picture is of WW1 hospital room featuring patients and nurses, bottom picture is of a man facing a woman on a cobblestone street.

Lost Love’s Return by Alfred Nicols
ISBN: 9781953865281 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781953865168 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781953865175 (ebook)
ASIN: B091QBVNT9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Books Fluent
Release Date: June 8, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Historical Romance

 “Fans of long-lost love will appreciate the sincere bond between Peter and Elizabeth as they navigate the ups and downs of rediscovering each other.” –BookLife

In 1918, in a dramatic battlefield scene on the Western Front, young American soldier Peter Montgomery sustains a severe wound. He’s transported to a British hospital, where he falls hard for Elizabeth, a young English nurse, and she for him. Upon his release, they engage in an intense love affair, forever changing both of their lives.

Separated and shipped home, Peter tries desperately to reconnect with Elizabeth, but the War and the Spanish flu epidemic have the world in turmoil. Despite his every effort, desperate and in great distress, he is unable to reconnect with her. And then, suddenly, all hope is gone.

For the next twenty-seven years, Peter stoically meets many challenges in his life: finding a way to make a living during the Depression; being a devoted father to his son, born eleven months after marriage to a woman he does not love.

This debut novel from Alfred Nicols takes you from the battlefields of Europe during WWI to postwar Mississippi and into WWII and begs one question. Will true love prevail?

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Alibris | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | eBooks.com | Kobo eBook

 

Meet The Author

Author - Alfred Nicols

ALFRED NICOLS received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. Following military service, he had a career as a lawyer, a state trial judge, and a federal judge. He and his wife, Mary, live on rural acreage in Mississippi. Lost Love’s Return was written as an effort to leave his children and grandchildren, perhaps others, insight into issues in life and the value of family ties, even to imperfect people.

This spotlight brought to you courtesy of Books Forward

Guest Post: Jeff Bond – THE BEGONIA KILLER

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours Banner: THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, A McGill Investigators Novel; quote: "If you like Stephanie Plum, you'll love Molly McGill."; Book cover done in pulp fiction style with blue fading to purple to red, THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, house in the background with a man grabbing the shoulder of a woman, fence separates the two yards and in the foreground is man wearing  a red tie, glasses, and holding bloody hedge clippers above some flowers next to a mailbox.

Good day, book divas and divos. I hope you’re having a fantastic week so far and have gotten some reading time whilst enjoying the warm weather. I’m currently participating in my local library’s “Summer reading challenge” or at least I’m trying to participate. Sadly, I’ve been residing in migraine headache central for the past week, which is somewhat apropos since June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. Despite the severe migraine headaches lately, I’ve been steadily adding to my TBR list (no, you don’t want to know how long it actually is at this point). I keep telling myself that I really need to get started on a few of the series I’ve marked to read just so I can read the latest releases in the series. One such series is the Third Chance Enterprises series featuring Molly McGill by Jeff Bond, including the most recent release, The Begonia Killer. (I’ve fallen in love with the pulp fiction style cover.) I’m incredibly honored and pleased to welcome back to the blog, Jeff Bond. Mr. Bond (I really love saying that) will be discussing the concept of “writing what you know” with us today. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add The Begonia Killer to your ever-growing TBR list. Good day, Mr. Bond, and thank you for today’s visit.

Writing from Personal Experience

I finally got around to starting Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s a book some people swear by, but at 1088 pages and with a heavy post-modern reputation, it’s been more than I’ve felt like biting off. I’m enjoying the book. The language and characters are dazzling. The scenes are very readable and don’t drag the way you might expect from a book that long.

Still, certain riffs have such an encyclopedic feel that I found myself speculating about how Wallace came into so much knowledge. He’s particularly voluminous on the topic of the Enfield Tennis Academy — the interpersonal dynamics of the young athletes training there, details of their games, minutiae about showers and sweaty laundry and admissions procedures.

He must have played growing up, I thought. A quick Google search confirmed that, yes, David Foster Wallace was a fairly serious junior tennis player.

There are plenty of advantages to following the old adage, “Write what you know.” You’re likely to have a reservoir of well-developed ideas about the topic. Any details your story needs are right there in your brain, ready to fall out onto the page. Often when you’re writing a character outside your experience — a neurosurgeon, say — you’ll have to do some homework to craft them believably. How much of their time is spent performing operations versus talking to patients versus reading X-rays? What sort of practice is most typical in their field? Private? University-affiliated?

All these answers are immediately available to a writer working in a field they know.

I set a recent book, The Pinebox Vendetta, at a twenty-year Yale reunion, not long after I attended my own. I didn’t have any grand wisdoms to convey about reunions or Yale. I just liked the setting for the plot I had in mind. Pinebox is book one of a series about rival political clans locked in a perpetual power struggle. I wanted to begin the series in a non-political setting to emphasize the consequences of the clans’ fighting beyond just votes and Senate seats. Because so many recent political figures have attended Yale, it felt natural for a backdrop.

In the end, I was happy with the choice. The Ivy League setting suited the centuries-old feud, and as an added bonus, I had an easy time with street names and building descriptions, and imagining the alumnae emotions during reunion weekend.

The flip side of familiar settings is that they can distort your perspective. Authors generally strive to write for the reader who’s naïve about their subject matter, and being very close to a particular industry, sport, or profession can make it hard to strike a balance between accessibility and authenticity.

I struggled with this writing my second novel, Blackquest 40. It starred Deb Bollinger, a software engineer with attitude forced by foreign commandos to solve an impossible coding problem — a Silicon Valley Die Hard. In my twenties, I’d worked some as a software engineer in San Francisco so I knew Deb’s turf. The plot required many intricate technology explanations, and I had Deb lay them out in the plainest way possible.

Except, as it turned out, my “plain” wasn’t plain enough. My first round of beta readers found the book’s technical passages cumbersome and byzantine. I revised away much of the coding talk, but those sections were still giving people trouble. It took five or six rounds before I finally wrangled the book into a form that typical readers felt comfortable with. In the final version, I even tossed a line into chapter one where Deb, after a character misunderstands her, gives a clear wink to the reader by remarking in narrative voice, “I don’t expect non-techies to understand every word I say, all the nitty-gritty.”

In my latest book, The Begonia Killer, I borrow significantly from my own experience balancing writing against the work of raising children. Molly McGill, my single-mother private-investigator protagonist, deals with stuffed animals being peed on by the family cat, a kindergartner obsessed with cellphone games, and a teenage son who expects snacks on demand. These are all close to situations I’ve encountered myself, though never quite like Molly does. My daughters don’t actually crave the phone like Molly’s. They aren’t teenagers so I wouldn’t expect them to help themselves to snacks. In fact, I prefer they don’t, since that line between granola and candy bar keeps shrinking.

When using a personal experience as a writer, it’s important not to shoehorn the source incident too perfectly — but rather to massage until it fits your character and plot.

Another example from Begonia comes when Zach, Molly’s teenage son, yells at his mother for putting away his laundry with two left socks folded together. That’s something that I actually did myself sometime in middle school. Now I didn’t have much in common with Zach — of the long bangs and skateboard tucked in his armpit — but that one episode felt perfectly apt in portraying Zach’s adolescent entitlement and cluelessness about the world.

Starting out as an author, I had no sense for this. A few of my early attempts featured characters drawn fairly close to real-life counterparts, and this made for some dicey encounters with friends who volunteered to read. Some would immediately try guessing which character went with which of our mutual friends. It didn’t help that I was also lousy with naming back then. More than once, I started drafting with a name too similar to a character’s real analog, then had to go back using my word processor’s find-and-replace and swap the original for a less recognizable name. Invariably, I would miss a contraction or some apostrophe-s version and give myself away.

Maybe because I set this precedent early, I still have friends who’ll insist on matching up real people to characters in my books. If I’ve borrowed a single anecdote or trait, it may appear that the entire character is adapted. I can understand that. In fact, I’ve rejected plot ideas that too closely mirrored actual events for just that reason: I didn’t want somebody to read and believe the story’s events reflected on them. It’s always possible to find a different way, plot- or character-wise, to create the effect you want. It just takes some shifting around of other elements.

I’m still working on Infinite Jest — readable or not, 1088 pages is 1088 pages. Sadly, David Foster Wallace is no longer with us, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a former teammate or two squirmed reading about a certain mannerism or vocal tic of one of Enfield Tennis Academy’s pupils. I hope they keep in mind that if Wallace borrowed from them, it was because he had good artistic reasons for doing so.

At least I think he did.


 

The Begonia Killer

by Jeff Bond

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE BEGONIA KILLER - JBondYou know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery — Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 195
ISBN: 1734622520 (ISBN-13 : 978-1734622522)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Jeff BondJeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice and Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
ThirdChanceStories.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @jeff_bond
Instagram – @jeffabond
Twitter – @jeffABond
Facebook – @jeffabondbooks

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and runs through July 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: C.L. Tolbert – THE REDEMPTION

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tour Banner: THE REDEMPTION, Thornton Mystery Series by C.L. Tolbert; quote "...a gripping tale of corruption and cime in the 1990s Big Easy, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling Emma Thornton mystery." Ellen Byron; Book cover has a sepia-toned photo of storefronts with a partial view of the street, THE REDEMPTION, A Thornton Mystery, C.L. Tolbert.

Good day, book people. I can’t believe it’s June. I’m looking forward to sunnier days although my photosensitivity issues are worse in the Spring and Summer, I still look forward to those sunny days. In my mind, longer days means more daylight hours to read despite the fact that I’d read 24/7 if it were physically possible. In addition, to longer and sunnier days, I also look forward to all of the wonderful books I get introduced to during this time of the year…okay, any time of the year is a good time to be introduced to new-to-me books. I don’t know about you, but sunny days seem to be the perfect time for me to read more emotionally-charged fiction and non-fiction. One book that fits in the emotionally-charged fiction category is The Redemption by C.L. Tolbert. I’m pleased to welcome Ms. Tolbert today to the blog. She’ll be providing us with the backstory for writing The Redemption. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say and add The Redemption to your TBR list. Ms. Tolbert, thank you for joining us today. The blog is now yours.

What was the Inspiration for Writing The Redemption?

C.L. Tolbert

In 1995, I was teaching at a law school in New Orleans, and also served as the director of the law school’s Homeless Law Clinic. Individuals who fell within the poverty guidelines, and who were also homeless were able to come to the law school for legal services. Students provided those services under my supervision.

A case came in to the clinic from the public defender’s office concerning a sixteen-year-old boy who’d been indicted for the murder of a thirty-eight year old man. The murder had occurred in the St. Thomas Housing Projects. The director of the law school clinic program asked me if I wanted to take the case.

Since we were providing legal services to a homeless population, my students and I typically dealt with housing issues, or helped clients retrieve benefits from social security or the VA. It was difficult to teach trial advocacy, which was one aspect of my job, if we were limited to helping clients with social services and housing issues. My students wanted to learn trial skills, and I wanted to provide an actual trial for them so that they could learn.

The young man charged with murder, whom I will call Evan, didn’t fit perfectly into the homeless clinic guidelines, but he was close. He didn’t live with his mother. He “floated” around from family member to family member, living with his grandmother, and aunts, and friends. Technically, he wasn’t homeless, but he didn’t have a permanent address either. Plus, he fit within the poverty guidelines. So, I accepted the case.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Evan. A student and I traveled to Orleans Parish prison where a deputy walked us back to the attorney/ prisoner conference area. The room, a large white cell which contained a single table and three chairs, was as chilly as a refrigerator. Glaring fluorescent lights hung overhead. Another deputy walked a chained Evan down the hall. I watched from inside the room as his orange jumpsuit cleared each bar. He shuffled into the space with shackled feet, through the barred opening, then approached us. The deputy stood by the door as if he were guarding its entrance. I indicated Evan should sit.

I was struck by how young he was. He was clearly terrified. Evan wouldn’t make eye contact. His upper lip was covered with perspiration, and his knee was moving up and down like a piston. He refused to speak about the night of the murder, other than to deny that the murder weapon was his. He saw nothing, knew nothing.

Even though Evan was a juvenile, the DA had filed a motion to try him as an adult based on a statute which allowed sixteen-year-olds to be tried as adults for murder, or other crimes, such as sexual assault or armed robbery. The prosecution had also threatened the death penalty as a possible punishment, which was permissible for juveniles at that time.

Our investigation later revealed that Evan’s family, especially his older brother, who was there the night of the murder, were well-known in the community for drugs and gang involvement. We also learned that gangs often ask younger members to take responsibility for crimes so that older members could avoid jail time. Typically, the younger members serve their time in the juvenile system, and are released at age 21. But this plan seemed to be backfiring on Evan, who the DA wanted to try as an adult.

Evan’s case haunted me for years and inspired The Redemption. I was shocked by the callous attitude the prosecutors had toward the death penalty, especially since a juvenile was involved. Capital punishment was popular in Louisiana. The District Attorney brought his top prosecutor to argue their motion to transfer the case to the adult system, and packed the court with an unusual number of attorneys on the day of the hearing. It was a highly political case. I wasn’t prepared for that sort of display, but we were prepared for our argument, which I made, and we won. We were able to keep Evan in the juvenile system.

In the actual case, Evan never revealed the events on the night of the murder. He protected his brother, and even though we were able to prove there were at least two shooters involved in the murder, the judge ruled that Evan was guilty. He served time in the juvenile system until the age of twenty-one which was his brother’s plan all along.

At its core, The Redemption is a story of social justice and hope. I’ve shown how easy it is to manipulate a sixteen-year-old, which is what often what leads to their arrest and incarceration. In The Redemption, I changed the facts of the story to show how Evan could have turned his loyalty and courage around and help save himself.

 

The Redemption

by C.L. Tolbert

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE REDEMPTION - CLTolbertEmma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect – Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threating situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Praise:

“With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”
Ellen Byron, Agatha Award Winning Author of the Cajun Country Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 286
ISBN: 978-1-947915-43-5
Series:Thornton Mysteries, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - CL TolbertIn 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of Out From Silence. Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled The Redemption, was released in February of 2021.

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities for ten years before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired after more than thirty years of practicing law. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today. Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With Cynthia:
CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Tour Participants:

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Book Showcase: THIRTY-ONE BONES by Morgan Cry

Book Cover for THIRTY-ONE BONES by Morgan Cry; swimming pool/water background with assortment of Euros in the water; tagline "It can be dangerous out in the sun"

Thirty-One Bones, Daniella Coulston #1, by Morgan Cry
ISBN: 9781951627669 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781951627911 (ebook)
ASIN: B08LF1VZCY (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Arcade CrimeWise
Release Date: May 18, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Mystery | Thriller

When Effie Coulston drops dead on the floor of her bar in a small Spanish town mid-business meeting, her daughter Daniella feels it’s her duty to return for the funeral. But Daniella has been estranged from her mother for over twenty years, and Effie’s life in Spain harbours many secrets . Daniella is soon confronted by a hostile group of ex-pat misfits who frequent the bar and who, along with Effie, are involved in a multi-million-pound property scam. But the money has vanished, and the ex-pats are threatening to implicate Daniella to save themselves.

Meanwhile, a Spanish detective is investigating Effie’s death. He’s convinced Daniella knows more than she is telling. And now a terrifying enforcer has heard about the missing cash. With no idea where the money is and threats coming from all sides, Daniella is up against a seemingly impossible deadline to find the cash. She’s a stranger in a strange town – and she’s seriously out of her depth.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | BookDepository.com | eBooks.com | !ndigo.ca | Kobo eBook

 Read the Prequel to Thirty-One Bones:

 

Elephant in the Room

(Prequel to Thirty-One Bones)

‘Let me get this straight, Mr. Calderwood,’ I say, the noise of the insurance claim floor fading as I stare at the computer screen in front of me. ‘You are claiming that all your furniture in your flat has been destroyed by an elephant?’

‘That’s correct,’ say the voice at the other end of the telephone.

‘And,’ I add. ‘You live on the eleventh floor of a multi-storey flat in Glasgow?’

‘Correct.’

‘An elephant, Mr. Calderwood?’

‘I have pictures.’

‘Of the elephant?’

‘Yes.’

‘You have pictures of an elephant in your home?’

‘Yes.’

‘What size of elephant, Mr. Calderwood?’

‘A big swine.’

‘And you have pictures of it wrecking your stuff?’

‘Actually, the photo is of the elephant after it trashed the place. It’s sitting on my telly.’

‘Sitting on your TV, Mr. Calderwood? You have a picture of a real elephant sitting on your TV?’

‘A real elephant.’

I struggle with the next question but it has to be asked.

‘Are we talking a baby elephant or a fully grown one?’

‘Fully grown.’

‘And how did this elephant get into your home, Mr. Calderwood?’

‘Good question. I’d guess through the front door.’

I lean back in my chair and press mute on my head mike. My name is Daniella Coulstoun. I’m a thirty-six year old insurance claims assistant that has spent the best part of a decade hard-wired to a computer screen fielding claim calls for Just You Insurance. I quickly scan the room to see if anyone is watching me. To see if someone is taking the piss. But not one of my near-on fifty claims assistant co-workers are looking in my direction. I glance at my manager, currently hunched over Tom Rattle’s desk, lost in conversation. No interest in me to be seen from there either.

I flip on the mike on again.

‘Eh, Mr. Calderwood,’ I say. ‘Could you just give me one minute?’

‘Sure.’

I kill the mike once more, subjecting Mr. Calderwood to the specially composed hold music that all our clients seem to hate. I punch up the help menu on the screen. I know there’s a section on animal damage. Dogs and cats are a regular feature in my life. It always amazes me how much damage a deranged pooch or hyper moggie can do if left alone. But I’m sure that if I type in the word elephant into the help-bar that nothing useful will appear. More likely this is one giant wind-up and typing in the word elephant on the screen will be met with a massive round of applause, a gale of laughter and a message on my computer to the effect that I’ve been had. That’s the way that the Just You team members fly. Practical jokes to break the monotony and drudgery of relentless claim handling are all too frequent.

I decide not to give the prankster the satisfaction quite yet and elect to try and catch out the hoaxer.

‘Mr. Calderwood,’ I say, after flipping the mike back on. ‘I’m back. Sorry about that. Could you take me through your story again?’

‘Why? Do you think I’m making it all up?’

Yes.

‘It’s not that, Mr. Calderwood. It’s just that I need all the details.’

Of course, it is entirely possible that Mr. Calderwood could be telling the truth. Or his version of it. He had, by his own admission, been drunk as a skunk when he had come home last night and found the elephant.

‘I told you,’ he says. ‘I’d been out at the pub and when I got home, I noticed that the hall was a mess. When I entered the living room it was also trashed and there was an elephant sitting on my telly.’

‘And you say you have photographic evidence of this elephant?’

‘I can send you it.’

I give him my work email address and a few seconds later his email appears. I click on the attachment and the photo opens. It’s dark but it’s clearly of a living room. A living room that looks fairly wrecked to me. Chairs broken, china smashed, a dining table cracked down the middle. And, right in the middle of the photo, back to me, sits what looks a lot like an elephant. I study the picture and can’t help but eyeball the floor to see if I’m being watched. Certain that I’m not, I zoom in on the photo but the low light it was shot in has given the whole picture a grainy wash when enlarged. Judging by the size of the dining table the elephant is a good eight feet high. With its back to me, I can see its trunk swung out to the left and two flappy ears sit high on its head. The only disconcerting thing, if having an elephant in your front room isn’t disconcerting enough, is that the elephant looks very, and it could be the poor quality of the picture, hairy.

‘Did you get the photo?’ asks Mr. Calderwood.

‘Yes,’ I reply.

‘Well will my policy pay out? The damn thing has done no end of damage.’

I have no idea if elephant damage is contained within any of our policies, let alone Mr. Calderwood’s cut price version.

‘Mr. Calderwood,’ I say, trying to think of a logical flow to my questioning. ‘If you came in last night and found an elephant in your home, did you not report it to the police?’

‘Not last night,’ he says. ‘I went to the bog. I needed to throw up and I fell asleep on the pan. It happens.’

‘And when you woke up where was the elephant?’

‘Gone.’

‘And did you look for it?’

‘Yes. I had a gander at the landing and a peek down the stairs but saw nothing.’

‘And your neighbours?’

‘What about them?’

‘Did any of them see the elephant?’

‘I haven’t asked. Why? Do you think one of them might have been keeping it as a pet?’

I ignore the question. ‘Mr. Calderwood how big is the lift in your block?’

‘Why?’

‘Could the elephant have fitted in it?’

‘Nah. The beast was way too big.’

Can elephants climb stairs?

It’s the next question waiting to be asked. Or specifically can they climb eleven flights of stairs.

‘Mr. Calderwood was your front door damaged?’

‘Nah.’

‘So someone let the elephant in?’

I can’t believe I’m saying this. I thought I’d heard it all. But not this.

It has to be a wind-up.

‘Well it didn’t get in by itself,’ he points out.

‘And you are sure it’s gone?’

‘How the hell would I miss it, if it was still here?’

He has a good point.

‘Mr. Calderwood,’ I say, again looking around. ‘It does seem a little odd that an elephant wrecked your home.’

‘You think? And here’s me figuring it was just another Friday night in Partick.’

‘And have you phoned the police this morning?’

‘I have.’

‘And what did they say?’

‘That they would send someone round.’

‘And have they?’

‘Not yet.’

It’s at times like this that I wish myself away from here. My mother lives in Spain and owns a bar in El Descaro, a small coastal town on the Costa Blanca. I’ve been all but estranged from her since she walked out on me when I was sixteen but, of late, I’ve been thinking of trying to patch things up. Not that mum seems to want to talk but then again what would be better – a row with mum in the sun or an elephant in a multi-storey flat in Glasgow?

‘So, will you pay out?’ Mr. Calderwood asks.

‘It’s not that easy,’ I say. ‘I would need a police report.’

‘Why? If it was my dog would you need a police report?’

‘Eh, no.’

‘So what’s the difference?’

About two tonnes.

I have two choices here. Proceed through the automated menu that will pop up as soon as I start processing the claim or I can call for help. If this is a wind-up then whoever is behind it is stringing it out. The norm around here is more along the lines of taping a week-old kipper under someone’s desk or a quick call from a pay-as-you-go mobile asking if we can provide insurance against premature ejaculation. Elephants are a whole new level.

‘Mr. Calderwood, can I phone you back?’

‘Why?’

‘I need to check your policy and don’t want to keep you hanging on the line,’ I lie. ‘I’ll not be long. I have your number here on my screen.’

I read it out to him, he agrees to me calling back and I hang up.

I run through his details on screen. He’s a bona fide client of ours. Six years and this is his first claim. His phone number checks out, as did the password he gave me when we were first connected. As wind-ups go this is getting on the sophisticated side.

I take a chance and Google ‘elephant’ and ‘Partick’. Nothing. I try ‘Glasgow’ and ‘missing elephant’ – there is still nothing.

How the hell did a fully-grown elephant appear in a flat in the west end of Glasgow, wreck the place and then vanish?

I call Mr. Calderwood back.

‘Can I get back to you,’ he says as soon as he answers. ‘The police are at the door.’

‘Would I be able to talk to them?’ I ask.

‘What for?’

‘I need to check if there have been any reports of a missing elephant.’

I really just said that.

‘Well, okay,’ he replies.

I hear the rustle of the phone being passed on.

‘Hello, can I help you?’ says a new voice.

‘Hi. My name’s Daniella Coulstoun. I’m a claims assistant with Just You Insurance and I’m dealing with Mr. Calderwood’s claim. Am I right in saying he reported an elephant was in his home?’

‘You say you’re the insurance company?’ the voice says.

‘Yes.’

‘And Mr. Calderwood is phoning to claim on his insurance?’

‘He is.’

‘Will you pay out?’

‘I can’t say. I need to establish the facts first. He says the elephant was in his front room.’

‘The place is a mess but there’s no sign of any elephant.’

‘He said it vanished.’

‘Not easy for an elephant to do.’

‘I hate to ask but what do you think of his story?’

‘Normally?’

‘Normally.’

‘Bollocks would be the technical term.’

‘So you think he’s making it up?’

He pauses.

‘No,’ he finally says.

‘You think it’s for real?’

‘We had a couple of reports of an elephant in the neighbourhood late last night.’

‘Where?’

‘On a street near here.’

‘Really?’

‘Really.’

‘Is there a circus in town?’

‘Not that I know of and anyway I’m not sure circuses keep elephants anymore.’

‘Did the reports mention if it was hairy?’

‘What was hairy?’

‘The elephant.’

‘Hairy?’

‘Forget that,’ I say. ‘It’s nothing. So there could have been an elephant in Mr. Calderwood’s house.’

Again, he pauses.

‘Hell knows. If it was, how did it get in? The reports from last night said it was a big swine but the lift here is tiny. And I’m damned if I know if elephants can climb stairs.’

And break into homes before leaving unnoticed.

‘I need to go,’ says the policeman. ‘I’ll ask Mr. Calderwood to call you back when I’m finished.’

I’d like to take time to think on this but I’m driven by the computer and as soon as I hang up I’m allocated another call and say, ‘Hello, Just You Insurance can I help…’

***

‘Daniella,’ says the voice in my ear. ‘I have a Mr. Calderwood on the line. He says he won’t talk to me about his claim. He wants you. Very insistent. It’s not policy to do that. You know you’ll get into trouble.’

‘Thanks, Colin,’ I say. ‘I’ll take the heat if this goes south.’

The rule in here is simple. Whoever answers the call, deals with the call. If a claimant hangs up and re-dials they don’t get the option to talk to the original contact. That way the company maxes our time. Once you give a punter a dedicated handler you can lengthen the process no end trying to get back in touch with each other.

‘Hi Mr. Calderwood,’ I say.

‘I think about twenty grand will cover it.’

‘Cover what?’

‘The damage the elephant did.’

‘Twenty thousand pounds?’

‘Aye. I added it up. Now that the police have said there was an elephant on the loose, you lot can pay me quickly and maybe claim off the owner.’

This is way, way past any practical joke my work colleagues could invent. And it’s starting to smell like an out-there fraud case. I’m beginning to wonder if Mr. Calderwood brought an elephant home with him last night. After all you can buy most things in a Glasgow pub if you know the right people.

But why an elephant? I’ve had my fair share of insurance frauds in my time and sometimes they’re a little eccentric, but an elephant. Who would use an elephant? And where in the hell would you get one. I need to escalate this now. Call in my manager. I should have done it before now.

‘Shit,’ says Mr. Calderwood. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘Sorry?’ I say.

‘I’m not talking to you,’ he replies. ‘The police are back and they have my daft idiot of a son with them.’

His voice fades and I hear, ‘What have you done now you wee bugger.’ Then the line goes dead.

I hit the system pause button to let me contact my manager. This will be interesting.

***

‘Miss Coulstoun?’ the voice says on my head phones.

‘Yes.’

‘This is PC Adam, we talked earlier.’

‘About the elephant?’

‘Yes.’

‘PC Adam, do you know that my manager thinks I’m on drugs.’

That was the polite summation of my talk with him.

‘So does my sergeant,’ PC Adam replies.

‘What happened?’ I ask. ‘Did you get to the bottom of it all?’

‘Have you heard of the film Caveman?’

‘Who hasn’t.’

It’s the years biggest hit. A real surprise at the box office. It tells the story of one day in a caveman’s life. No dialogue. A roller coaster of a film. I saw it a week ago and thought it was great fun.

‘Well we found the elephant,’ the PC says.

‘You did?’

‘Except it’s not an elephant.’

‘What is it?’

‘A woolly mammoth.’

‘A what?’ I say.

‘A woolly mammoth.’

Hairy.

‘Hang on, are you telling me you found a woolly mammoth in Glasgow?’

‘It’s what Mr. Calderwood saw in his living room.’

I look around the call floor again, just in case.

‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘But am I to believe that a woolly mammoth trashed Mr. Calderwood’s flat?’

‘No it didn’t. I’m telling you that Mr. Calderwood saw a woolly mammoth in his flat.’

Is it me I wonder, or do I need a break from all of this?

‘I’m lost, PC Adam.’

‘It turns out that Mr. Calderwood’s son decided to have a small party in his dad’s house last night. It all got a bit out of hand. Some local neds got in and played smash and trash before running off. It seems they have some history with Mr. Calderwood. Payback would appear to be the motive for the trashing.’

‘And the woolly mammoth?’

‘A prop.’

‘Sorry?’

‘The local cinema has been using it to promote the Caveman film. It was situated on top of the cinema’s entrance canopy with a caveman next to it. It’s a half fibre glass, half blow up thing. Mobile if you let the air out. The neds nicked it and dragged it to Mr. Calderwood’s place for a laugh. The son hid when his dad came in from the pub and got rid of it when Mr. Calderwood fell asleep on the toilet. We found it floating in the River Clyde this morning. It caused a major incident. People thought an elephant had fallen into the river and needed help. Did you not see the news? It’s all over it.’

‘No. I’ve not had my break yet. So you’re saying Mr. Calderwood saw this woolly mammoth in his living room, fell asleep in the toilet, the son dumped it in the river and what? The son let his dad believe that an elephant, or a woolly mammoth, had trashed his house?’

‘That’s about the size of it.’

I really need out of here.

‘Thanks for calling PC Adam.’

‘That’ll be one for the Christmas show’n’tell,’ he says.

‘I’m so gubbed,’ I say to him. ‘I’ll never, ever hear the end of this. I’ll have bloody elephants and woolly mammoths coming out of my ears.’

I hang up and I’m fed another call thinking there really is an elephant in the room and it’s not the daft prop from the Caveman film. It’s the fact that I’ve hated this job for years and should have quit long, long ago.

***

‘Daniella,’ says the voice on my mobile. ‘This is George Laidlaw. In Spain. We’ve met a few times. I knew your mum.’

I’m back at home and already have two copies of Dumbo on DVD in my handbag courtesy of the humour merchants at my work.

‘George,’ I say. ‘Is something wrong?’

‘I’m sorry to tell you this, Daniella – but your mother died this morning.’

‘Died? How?’

‘A heart attack they think. In the pub. And I need you to come out here and attend to things.’

My world spins.

‘And when I mean come out. I mean come out right now. There are things we really need to talk about.’

Elephant in the Room by Morgan Cry.

Copyright © by Morgan Cry.

All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Gordon Brown AKA Morgan Cry bloodyscotland2019_authorportraits_paulreich003-1Morgan Cry is the alias of Gordon Brown, who has written eight Tartan Noir crime novels and thrillers, including the Craig McIntyre series. He is a founding director of the Bloody Scotland festival that celebrates crime fiction every fall. Thirty-one Bones is his first novel as Morgan Cry. He is married with two children and lives in Glasgow.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Website

This spotlight and excerpt brought to you courtesy of Arcade CrimeWise

Book Showcase: TALK BOOKISH TO ME by Kate Bromley

Harlequin Trade Publishing Summer 2021 Blog Tour Banner; Beach Reads, background features a slice of watermelon, a candy sucker, pair of sunglasses, and a flower; foreground contains four beach read covers: THE SUMMER SEEKERS, THE CLOVER GIRLS, TALK BOOKISH TO ME, and LADY SUNSHINE.

Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley
ISBN: 9781525806438 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780369701169 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488211300 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08PDTV12Z (Audible)
ASIN: B08FTF3D2M (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Release Date: May 25, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Contemporary Romance | Romantic Comedy

 Inspiration can come from the most unlikely—and inconvenient—sources.

Kara Sullivan’s life is full of love—albeit fictional. As a bestselling romance novelist and influential bookstagrammer, she’s fine with getting her happily-ever-after fix between the covers of a book.

But right now? Not only is Kara’s best friend getting married next week—which means big wedding stress—but the deadline for her next novel is looming, and she hasn’t written a single word. The last thing she needs is for her infuriating first love, Ryan Thompson, to suddenly appear in the wedding party. But Ryan’s unexpected arrival sparks a creative awakening in Kara that inspires the steamy historical romance she desperately needs to deliver.

With her wedding duties intensifying, her deadline getting closer by the second and her bills not paying themselves, Kara knows there’s only one way for her to finish her book and to give her characters the ever-after they deserve. But can she embrace the unlikely, ruggedly handsome muse—who pushes every one of her buttons—to save the wedding, her career and, just maybe, write her own happy ending?

 

“A fun and sexy romp, with chemistry that gave me all the feels!” —Jennifer Probst, New York Times bestselling author of Our Italian Summer

“Add this book to your TBR list immediately!” —Sarah Smith, author of Faker

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Audible | AudiobooksNow | Barnes and Noble | BookDepository.com | Books-A-Million | BookShop.org | eBooks.com | Harlequin | !ndigo.ca | Kobo Audiobook | Kobo eBook | Powell’s

 

Read An Excerpt:

 

One

“Wait, was I supposed to bring a gift?”

I turn my gaze from the floor to the well-dressed man standing beside me. There are only two of us in the elevator, so he must be talking to me.

“I think it’s a matter of personal preference,” I answer. “I’m the maid of honor so I had to be excessive.”

His eyebrows bob up as I adjust my grip on the Great-Dane-sized gift basket I’m carrying. The cellophane wrapping paper crinkles each time I move, echoing through the confined space just loudly enough to keep things weird. Because if everyone isn’t uncomfortable for the entire ride, are you even really in an elevator?

I’m low-key ecstatic when the doors glide open ten seconds later. With my basket now on the cusp of breaking both my arms and my spirit, I beeline it out of there and stride into the rooftop lounge where my best friend is hosting her pre-wedding party, drinking in the scent of heat and champagne as I maneuver through the sea of guests.

Like most maids-of-honor, I flung myself down the Etsy rabbit hole headfirst and ordered an obscene amount of decorations for tonight’s event. Burlap “Mr. & Mrs.” banners dangle from floating shelves behind the bar as twinkle lights weave around the balcony railings like ivy. Lace-trimmed mason jars filled with pink roses sit on every candlelit cocktail table. Cristina and I worked with the tenacity of two matrimonial Spartans to get everything ready this morning, and it’s clear that our blood, sweat and tears were very much worth it.

It’s then that I spot Cristina mingling near the end of the bar. Beautiful, petite and come-hither curvy, I’d hate her if she weren’t one of my favorite people ever. Her caramel hair spills down her back and her white high-low dress sets her apart from the crowd in just the right way—she’s a princess in the forest and we’re her adoring woodland animals. I’m her feisty chipmunk sidekick to my core.

I place my gift on a nearby receiving table and give a little wave when I catch her eye. She’s waiting for me with a huge grin when I arrive at her side.

“Hey, lady!” she says, pulling me in for a hug. “Look at you, rolling in here looking all gorgeous.”

We step apart and I stand up a bit taller. “Why, thank you. I feel pretty good.”

It’s also very possible that Cristina is just so used to me dazzling the world with yoga pants and sweaters every day that my transformation seems more dramatic than it is.

“Were you able to get any writing done this afternoon?” she asks, handing me a glass of champagne from off the mahogany bar top.

I get a twisting knot in my gut at the mention of my writing, or lack thereof. Having been dying a slow literary death for almost a year, I’m never without some stomach-turning sensation for long. The final deadline for my next romance novel is officially a month away and if I don’t deliver a bestseller by then—

“Okay, you’re making your freak-out face,” Cristina interjects. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

I inhale a shallow breath and force a smile. “It’s fine. I’m good.”

“Let’s switch gears—are you sure it’s not weird that I’m having a pre-wedding party? Was booking the salsa band too much since I’m having one at the wedding, too?”

Beyond grateful for the booming trumpet and bongos that are drowning out my own thoughts, I turn to the corner and find the ten-piece group playing with addictive abandon. Cristina’s relatives, who are essentially non-trained professional salsa dancers, dominate the dance floor, and rightfully so. Cristina’s brother, Edgar, once tried to teach me the basics but I’m fairly confident I looked like a plank of wood that was given the gift of limbs. Cristina recommended dance lessons. Edgar suggested a bottle of aguardiente and prayer.

“The band is amazing,” I say as I swing back around, “and of course people have pre-wedding parties.” I’ve actually never heard of a pre-wedding party. An engagement party, yes. A bachelorette party, absolutely. But what’s going down tonight is basically a casual reception days before the mega-reception.

“Jason and I just have so many people coming in from out of town, plus we wanted the bridal party to get acquainted. We figured a little get-together would be fun.”

“I’m all for it. Who doesn’t want to pre-game for a wedding a week in advance?”

“I know I do,” Cristina says, lifting her own champagne and taking a sip. “Everyone is here except Jason and some groomsmen. Can you believe that creep is late to his own party?”

“Should you really be calling your fiancé a creep?”

“He’s my creep so it’s okay.”

“Valid point.”

“Picture please! Will you girls get together?”

I look to my right and find a teenage boy with wildly curly hair pointing a camera at us. He’s dressed in all black and looks so eager to take our photo that I can’t help but to find him endearing.

“Absolutely! Big smile, Kara.” Cristina throws her arm around my waist and after we withstand an intense flash, the young man is gone before my eyes can readjust. “That was Jason’s cousin, Rob. He wants to be a photographer, so I hired him for the night.”

“That was thoughtful of you,” I say, still recovering from my momentary blindness. “By the way, where is Jason?”

“He’s still at home. Two of his groomsmen are driving up and he wanted to wait for them since, apparently, grown men can’t find their way to a party by themselves.”

“Driving in Manhattan is intimidating. He probably didn’t want them to get lost.”

“Right, because neither of them has GPS? Jason should be here.”

I’m honestly shocked that Jason isn’t here. I love Cristina and Jason both to death but they’re one of those couples that rarely go out socially without each other. Even when I invite Cristina over to my apartment for a wine night, she asks to bring Jason. I’ve always thought it was a bit much, but I guess it works for them.

“Okay, forget everyone else, let’s toast.” I clear my throat and hold up my champagne. “When we were both waitressing at McMahon’s Pub in grad school, I had no idea it would lead to nine amazing years of friendship. Now I’d be lost without you. Here’s to you having a magical night. I’m so glad I’m here to celebrate with you.”

We smile and tap our glasses together, the ding of the crystal echoing my words.

I take a sip and the bubbly drink slips easily down my throat. Still savoring the sweetness, I ask, “So, who are these mystery groomsmen Jason’s waiting for?”

“One is named Beau and I can’t remember the other one. They’re two guys he grew up with when his family lived in North Carolina.”

“North Carolina? I thought Jason was from Texas?”

“He spent most of his life in Texas, but he lived in North Carolina until he was ten. He somehow kept in contact with these two through the years.”

“That’s nice, him staying friends with them for so long.”

“Yeah, it’s adorable, but they still should have gotten their asses here on their own.” Cristina is poised to elaborate when her gaze locks on something across the room. She tries and fails to look annoyed instead of excited.

“I’m guessing the groom has arrived,” I say, glancing over my shoulder. My suspicions are confirmed as I see Jason making his way toward us, smiling at Cristina like a fifth grader saying “cheese” on picture day. He’s tilting his head and everything.

“There she is! There’s my incredibly forgiving future wife.” Jason leans down and kisses Cristina before she can verbally obliterate him. He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek next and then shifts back to his fiancée’s side, sneaking an arm around her waist and pulling her to his hip.

“So, I’m going to go ahead and disregard all the semi-violent text messages you’ve sent me over the past hour. Bearing that in mind, how’s everything going?”

Cristina looks up at him, feigning disinterest. “It’s going great. Since you weren’t here, I talked to several nice men. Turns out, pre-wedding parties are a great place to meet guys.”

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I appreciate that. Four contenders, specifically, really piqued my interest.”

“Are they taller than me?” Jason asks. “Do they make a lot of money?”

“Obviously. They’re way taller and all of them are independently wealthy.”

“Nice. Kara, did you meet these freakishly tall and rich men?”

“I did and spoiler alert, I’m engaged now, too! Double wedding here we come!”

Jason smiles and pulls Cristina in even closer, his gaze holding hers. “I guess this is where being late gets you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. Do you forgive me?”

“Don’t I always?”

He leans down and gives her another picture-perfect kiss.

It’s official. I’m dying alone. Just putting that out there.

“Now, where are these friends of yours? Oh! Let’s set one of them up with Kara!” Cristina looks at me with a dangerous matchmaker gleam in her eyes.

“Actually, I already mentioned Kara, and one of my buddies said he went to college with her.”

Went to college with me?

Jason looks towards the entrance and waves. “Hey, Ryan! Come over here!”

And then I go catatonic. I can’t move. I stand stock still, looking at Cristina like she sprouted a third arm out of her forehead and it’s giving me the middle finger.

Someone walks past me and a soft breeze ghosts across my overheating skin. I stare in a state of utter disbelief as Ryan Thompson steps into view beside Jason.

“It’s been a while, Sullivan,” he says, his voice as steady and tempting as ever.

My champagne glass falls from my fingers and shatters against the floor.

“Kara?” Cristina’s voice rings with concern as she nudges us away from the broken glass that’s now littered around our feet. She grasps my elbow, but I don’t feel it. She could backhand me across the face with a polo mallet and I wouldn’t feel it. My mind is spiraling, plummeting inwards as I come to grips with the realization that Ryan is standing two feet away from me.

Dressed in a navy suit, a crisp white button-down and brown dress shoes, he’s come a long way from the sweatshirts and jeans that were his unofficial uniform in college. His dirty-blond hair is on the shorter side, but a few wayward strands still fall across his forehead. Ten years ago, I would have reached up and brushed them aside without a thought. Now, my hand curls into a tight, unforgiving fist at my side.

If we were another former couple, seeing each other for the first time in a decade might be a dreamy, serendipitous meet-cute—a Nancy Meyers movie in pre-production. We’d have a few drinks and spend hours reminiscing about old times before picking up right where we left off. It would be comfortable and familiar as anything, like a sip of hot chocolate at Christmas with Nat King Cole crooning on vinyl in the background.

But we are not that kind of former couple, and I’m convinced that if Nat King Cole were here and knew my side of the story, he would grab Ryan by the scruff of his shirt and hold him steady as I roundhouse-kicked him in the throat.

It’s a tough pill to swallow but Ryan looks good. Like, really good. His face is harder than it was when he was twenty-one and the stubble on his chin tells me he hasn’t shaved in a few days, making him seem like he just rolled out of bed. And not rolled out of bed in a dirty way, but in a “I just rolled out of bed and yet I still look ruggedly handsome and you fully want to make out with me” kind of way.

The bastard.

“Ryan,” Cristina says, always the first to jump in, “Jason mentioned that you and Kara went to college together.”

“We did.” His eyes don’t move from mine for even a second. “It’s got to be what, ten years now?”

“Yeah, it’s been a long, long time,” I say quickly, turning to face Cristina. “I think I may have mentioned him before. Remember my friend from North Carolina?”

If someone were to look up “my friend from North Carolina” in the Dictionary of Kara, they would find the following:

My friend from North Carolina (noun): 1. Ryan Thompson. 2. My college boyfriend. 3. My first real boyfriend ever. 4. My first love. 5. Taker of my virginity. 6. Guy who massacred my heart with a rusty sledgehammer and fed the remains to rabid, ravenous dogs.

Cristina is well versed in the dictionary of Kara and recognition washes over her. “No way,” she says, her voice dropping.

“Yes way,” I answer happily, overcompensating.

Now’s it’s Cristina’s turn to panic. “Wow. Okay, wow, what a small world, huh?” She grabs Jason’s hand in an iron grip, making him wince as she blasts an over-the-top smile. “Well, we should give you guys a chance to catch up. My abuelita just got here so Jason and I are going to say hello.”

“Your abuelita died two years ago,” I hiss.

“I know, it’s a miracle. See you two later!” She drags her soon-to-be husband away before he can get a word out.

I watch them go, sailing away like the last lifeboat as I stand on deck with the string quartet, the cheerful Bach melody only further confirming that this ship is going down.

Excerpt from Talk Bookish To Me by Kate Bromley.

Copyright © 2021 by Kate Bromley. Published by Graydon House Books

All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.

 

Meet The Author

Author - Kate Bromley photo credit Samantha Rayward City HeadshotsKATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. Talk Bookish to Me is her first novel.

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This excerpt brought to you courtesy of Graydon House Books