Book Showcase and Excerpt: THE TOWN DANCE by Nikki Skies

The Town Dance by Nikki Skies
ISBN: 9781514385906 (paperback)
ASIN: B010VLRZYG (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: July 2, 2015

Lorna Simon has plans to diminish her resume of safe journalism and be known for reporting trendsetting stories. Certain she can persevere and protect her impressive family lineage, despite her carefree lifestyle as a social butterfly, this notion is put under fire after a night of partying thrusts Lorna into being a newsmaker instead of a news writer. Lorna alleges she has become the victim of a sexual assault crime committed against her by a woman, Trista, who is a promising event planner and an associate of Lorna’s mother. 

Paralyzed with the humiliation of having to publically defend her sexuality as a heterosexual, Lorna must decide to believe in her bouts of memory loss and forego the incident or rekindle her passion for journalism to protect her livelihood and uphold the integrity of her family.

Read an excerpt:

  Lorna had neatly placed the toilet seat cover and sat down just as someone else walked into the restroom. When the person walked past her stall she could identify through the cracks of the door that it was Trista. Trista stepped into the stall next to Lorna. Usually people look under the stalls as they walk past to check occupancy but not Trista. She seemed to be distracted.  

  The sensation to urinate left Lorna’s body as she sat paralyzed on the toilet not wanting to breathe or move. She moved her legs in closer together so Trista could not look under the stall wall and notice her shoes. Lorna’s thoughts were torn between the decision to run out of the restroom or wait until after Trista left.  

  Trista wasted no time relieving her bladder. She had been containing her composure and bodily functions for the majority of the day. She leaned her head against the stall wall and punched it with the sides of her fist. Trista let out a slow deep shriek of a cry, something else she had wanted to do all day.  

  Despite this restroom being across from the courtroom her proceedings were taking place, people opted to walk down the hall and use another restroom. For that reason, Trista used this one because it was quiet and she hallowed the same stall every day with morning prayers and affirmations. She had started morning affirmations at the request of members from one of her support groups.

  Even though Trista had looked forward to telling her side of the story for months now, today was a rough day in court. Having been advised against giving interviews or talking to the media, Trista felt as if she had been victimized every day by local and national news. She had mixed support from the LGBT community and some members of her family back in Kentucky had even been harassed.  

  The defense team prepped Trista as much as possible but everyone knew with Lorna being the hometown princess, Trista’s gratification would be short lived due to the cross-examination from the prosecution. And Uncle Adam came after her with a vicious resolve!  

  Trista needed to call someone because the blood in her left arm was beginning to burn. She needed to release it so it wouldn’t hurt.  

  Trista let out another long, mellow-toned shriek and dialed a number on her cell phone.

  “Hi, it’s me… I feel like I can’t breathe. I called my mom again this morning and she hasn’t called me back yet. What if she never calls me?”

  Trista began to bang her fists on the walls again.

  Balls of perspiration beaded Lorna’s face as her heartbeat pounded in her throat. She wasn’t sure how much time had lapsed but she knew if she didn’t come out soon, Uncle Adam would call her cell phone to look for her.  

  “Today was hard. It was so hard, so hard…my arms feel heavy. My left arm looks swollen…”

  Even though the phone was not on the speaker function, Lorna could hear the person on the other end yell.

  “No, seriously it does! And it burns, it hurts so bad!”

  Lorna learned about Trista being a “cutter” when Uncle Adam shared the police report with the court. Until all this happened, Lorna thought she was a good judge of character. But in hindsight of becoming friends with someone who intentionally hurt themselves and her father advising her of the potential dangers one night stands can bear after this part of her social life was embarrassingly shared in the courtroom, Lorna knew she needed to re-evaluate some aspects of her lifestyle.  Lorna decided that during Trista’s next cry outburst, she would make a quiet yet swift run for the restroom door.

  “I spoke up for myself and then, he humiliated me… I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” Trista banged her head against the wall and then pounded her fist again.

  Lorna quickly stood and pulled her skirt up. As she cautiously slide the lock, the automatic flusher activated on the toilet.  

  Trista stopped her pounding and crying.


  Lorna rushed out of the stall and to the door of the restroom. When she heard the automatic flusher go off from Trista’s stall she turned around.  

  Trista opened her stall door and locked eyes with Lorna. One of Trista’s shirt sleeves was rolled up and showed fresh cut lines on her forearm.  

  Trista still had her cell phone to her ear. Her mascara was smeared around her eyes and her chest and neck were drenched in sweat. Lorna reached to push the door open but it didn’t budge.  

  The person on the other end of the phone could be heard yelling.

  “I’m still here… it’s her. She’s in the restroom with me,” Trista softly said into the phone. “The bitch who’s trying to kill me. Who turned my world upside down!  But me, I wouldn’t hurt a fly, I wouldn’t hurt a fly, I wouldn’t hurt a fly…”

  The restroom temperature felt like it had risen at least 20 degrees. Lorna could feel anxiety forming knots in her chest and her throat began to close up. She closed her eyes to stop the room from spinning but even with her eyes closed, she saw Trista’s face.  

  “She won’t even look at me she’s such a coward,” Trista continued.

  Lorna opened her eyes to see Trista walk towards her. Lorna pushed at the door again but to no avail, it would not open!

Meet the author:

Nikki Skies is an accomplished poet, author, and playwright living in Atlanta, GA.  Skies is the author of the short story book, Mississippi Window Cracks and the published collection of poetry and  prose, Pocket Honey, Wind & Hips. A firm believer in the power of education, Skies studied for her BA and MFA in Theatre and Screenplay Writing and uses her art as a teaching tool to encourage an interest in literacy. The Town Dance is the dramatic debut novel from Skies. 

Connect with the author:

Blog     |    Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Amazon     |     Goodreads 

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Book Excerpt: STEADY IS THE FALL by Emily Ruth Verona

Steady is the Fall by Emily Ruth Verona
ISBN: 9781612966069 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781310354557 (ebook)
ASIN: B017WXSWE8 (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: October 29, 2015
Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Holly Dorren can’t breathe. Think. Feel. Her cousin is dead. Nothing will bring him back. And nothing will ever make her whole again. 

In the days following Larry’s funeral, Holly begins to reflect on the childhood they shared. She looks for answers in both the past and the present, convinced that understanding his fascination with death might somehow allow her to cope with his absence. She doesn’t want to disappear, but already she’s fading away from the life she’s led. 

Holly knew her cousin better than anyone, she was his best friend, and yet there is still a great deal she cannot accept in their relationship. In him. In herself. She doesn’t know how to move on without him, but refusing to accept his death carries its own devastating price.

Read an excerpt:

We were in a car accident as children. I was eight at the time and could never remember the details afterwards. My cousin Larry remembered everything, even though he was two years younger than me. It might sound strange that a six-year-old would remember more than an eight-year-old, but it wouldn’t seem odd at all if you knew Larry.  

Even as the years passed and my memory of the event faded more and more, Larry’s recollection of it only grew stronger. His parents never liked that much. Neither did mine. I was the only one who ever listened with the sort of unease and appreciation that he craved. We’d sit huddled on the sofa in my living room while my mother was out and my father was upstairs. I’d hug a pillow against my chest and he’d sit on his knees, hunched forward with his hands slicing through the air as he described it all in active detail. 

Larry never called it an accident. Not once. He referred to it instead as an imperfect moment or that time in the truck. Keep in mind this was coming from a boy of six, and then eight, and then fifteen, but Larry was incredibly articulate from the very beginning. Every phrase was deliberate with him—each letter carefully chosen. With such a gift for language and grace as a speaker, my cousin should have been a better storyteller, but he wasn’t. His descriptions were clear, but for some reason Larry couldn’t milk it. He always started at the same spot—when we were in his father’s gray pickup truck, where Larry was seated in the middle between his father and me. 

Riding in that truck was really something to a couple of kids because it was the only time we didn’t have to sit in the backseat. We felt like proper adults up there in the front with the steering wheel and the dashboard. The cloth interior smelled like motor oil and old takeout. Larry loved that. He found it comforting. Nostalgic. His mother was a health nut, but his father possessed a particular fondness for anything that could be gotten from a drive-thru window. Abandoned hamburger wrappers and soda straws sat in huddled piles at our feet and we just kicked our heels together and smiled with gleaming, crooked teeth. 

It had been snowing all morning, Larry often explained, with tiny white flakes falling onto the windshield and dissolving the same as they do when they fall onto your tongue. It was still fairly early in the day, though the clouds made it seem much later. Larry’s father had promised to take us out for lunch if we helped him in emptying out the garage. It was simple enough. He’d hand us something and have us run it upstairs to Larry’s mother in the study to see if she wanted to keep it or if the item could be thrown away. Larry and I made it a game, racing one another to see who could reach his mother first. Mostly we just tied, but I think I might have managed to win a time or two. 

Most of the boxes from the garage were filled with old baby clothes and broken toys that were old enough to possibly be worth something at auction if only they had been properly maintained. Larry’s mother enjoyed finding value in the obsolete. They had a garage sale monthly for about five years. It drove Larry’s younger sisters mad because all their toys were constantly being sold before the girls were ready to part with them. They’d toss their red little heads up in the air and call it unfair. Larry called it capitalism. 

By noon we had finished with the garage and were out in the truck on our way to lunch to well-known and beloved Barkley Diner. The place had these dark brown seats, which looked like leather but weren’t, and the lights were yellow-tinted which made everything look like it was lip up by a warm, crackling fire. They served the standard fare. Burgers. Fries. Eggs. Pie. It could have been swapped out with any other diner in the country and no one would have noticed. And yet it was our very own place. The historic Barkley Diner.   

The drive only took ten minutes from Larry’s house, but to get there we had to drive along Redwood Road, which consisted of one wide lane that stretched through the woods and down beyond the park. The road was about six miles in length though we only had to travel about two of those before turning onto Wharton Avenue, which emptied into the intersection by the traffic light that sat opposite the diner. The trees, whose bare branches lurched overhead as we gazed out the window, were coated with a light brush of fresh snow. Everything seemed frozen and icy. It was the middle of October but it looked more like December. That day entered the record books as the earliest snowfall Garner County ever received. I used to like to tell my friends that in school. It made me feel knowledgeable—powerful even. It’s strange how children grasp so tightly to what they cannot make sense of, finding importance in all the wrong places. 

Both Larry and his father remembered the radio as being on that afternoon but only Larry knew the song that was playing prior to and following the accident. Stairway to Heaven. Larry was particularly proud of that little detail. After a point he even became smug about it. Stairway to Heaven. Imagine that. He claimed it started about two or three minutes before the crash and continued amidst the static on the radio until an ambulance arrived. No one bothered to turn the engine off. It just kept on playing all the way through. 

Being hit, he said, was like sitting in one of those spinning teacups at an amusement park. The other car tried to yield as it came to a fork in the road but there was ice on the pavement and so the little sedan went barreling into the left side of our truck. We spun three or four times before hitting a tree. Larry compared the impact to a violent punch in the chest. It made him dizzy and, gasping, he looked up to see that his father’s nose was cracked and the man’s mouth had set on muttering every curse that could be called upon. Then, Larry said, he turned to me. I didn’t stir when he touched my arm. Blood had begun to seep through my hair, painting the window bright red. The impact left a thin scar up near my temple, just under the hairline, from where my skull split the glass. Larry explained that his father looked me over, but was afraid to move my arms or head. My uncle then instructed his son to run over and check on the other driver. He didn’t though. He didn’t want to leave me—he couldn’t leave me. He didn’t even want to get out of the car. So Larry’s father told him to watch me and he opened the door and ran over and called to the man in the sedan. Larry just continued to sit there. Staring. He claimed he couldn’t stop staring at me as that song continued to play and his head continued to spin. It was like the teacup never stopped turning, he said. It just never stopped. 

When the paramedics arrived they took me away. Larry wanted to sit in the ambulance with me but they drove us separately, claiming my injuries to be more severe. Whether Larry’s disappointment in not being allowed to go with me came from a concern for my safety or his fascination with the blood, I’ll never know. It was probably a little of both. Afterwards he swore it was because he was worried about me. He was always a rotten liar, and since I believed him it was most likely true. Or maybe I just wanted to believe him. Too much has happened since to ever really know. 

Larry sprained his arm in the accident, but other than that there was little harm done to him. He was always disappointed about that and at first his parents took that disappointment to be displaced guilt; they thought he felt ashamed to have gotten away with barely a scratch. But really he was just disappointed that he hadn’t experienced more. Felt more. The accident wasn’t nearly enough to settle him. 

The only solid thing I could ever recall about that afternoon was how bright the lights were when they rolled me into the hospital. I looked up at those round, white lights along the ceiling and thought I was dreaming. Or dying. The lights looked hot and it stung so viscously to stare at them that I had to close my eyes. There was nothing after that. The memory just tapered off and the next thing I could recall was being back at home. 

The doctors did their work and were proud of my recovery, given that my injuries were more severe than they at first suspected. I received a concussion from hitting my head and one of my lungs collapsed in the ambulance. The latter actually served me well in later years. I was able to avoid my parent’s insistence that I join the soccer team that spring, and in high school it got me out of having to run the mile required to pass gym. The cold weather sometimes made my chest ache and I couldn’t breathe well after running, but those doctors considered me lucky. I could have died. Larry used to say that all doctors tell the parents of surviving patients that their children were lucky. He thought it was nonsense. There was nothing lucky about it. For years I thought I understood what he meant. Only later did I realize that I was wrong. 

Larry clung to the particulars of that afternoon. They mattered so much to him, and so in time they began to mean a great deal to me as well. His memories became mine. His story did, too, and for a while it looked like that was all the accident would be: a good story. Those involved recovered, even the other driver who suffered nothing beyond a split lip. No one pressed charges. No one died. The flesh healed quickly. At the time it looked as if nothing much had changed. Only later did we come to realize the extent of the damage it had done.  

My parent’s never let Larry’s father off the hook, even though it wasn’t his fault. The fact that guilt nearly drowned him became inconsequential. No one seemed to notice that it was only after the accident that he started drinking again. It didn’t matter, not to my parents. At the time I was an only child and my mother maintained that nothing ever scorched her soul like that phone call informing her that her lovely little girl had been brought to the hospital. It was the last time she ever took the trouble to care about me as a mother. In that respect, the accident also did me good. I knew from that afternoon that she loved me and I remembered it when she left my forty-five year old father for a twenty-six year old physical therapist in Florida. I remembered it when she stopped visiting. I remembered it when she stopped calling. For the rest of my childhood I had the comfort of knowing that for one day as I lay on the very verge of death, my mother truly loved me. That love was so strong that it scorched her soul. Some people might have needed more than that, but I considered it to be plenty. It was more than my father had. It’s more than my brother, who was only three when she left, was ever likely to receive. 

Larry always regretted the accident more than I did, which many thought was strange for a lot of different reasons that did not really apply. They thought he wished it hadn’t happened, but really it was what didn’t happen that disappointed him. Larry saw something in the accident—the potential for something—that he couldn’t get over. He became fascinated by it—addicted to it. The dizziness never left him and so he never stopped spinning. Instilled in him was the need to know. He was stuffed full of the cruel and compelling need to understand every aspect of it. Every vile little detail. Every curious moment. It was unfortunate really. All those years of waiting and wondering and he never shared a single answer with me, even though I was quite possibly the only one who actually wanted to understand. And he tried. He always tried to make it clear what it was he wanted to find and why it meant more to him than all the rest, but as articulate as he was, he couldn’t put it into words. It became impossible to convince any of us. Not that it really mattered when all was said and done. There was nothing worth finding in it because Larry ended up dead. It happened on a Thursday. Suicide. No one was surprised.

Meet the author:

Emily Ruth Verona is the author of the novel Steady Is The Fall. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from the State University of New York at Purchase. She is the recipient of the 2014 Pinch Literary Award in Fiction and a 2014 Jane Austen Short Story Award. Previous publication credits include work featured in Read. Learn. Write., The Lost Country, The Toast, and Popmatters. She lives in New Jersey with a very small dog.

Connect with the author:     Website     |     Twitter     |     Goodreads 

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2015 Book 357: ANGELS SING TO REST by Chrinda Jones

Angels Sing to Rest (An Olivia Gates and Will Green Crime Series, Book#2) by Chrinda Jones 
ISBN: 9780989844215 (ebook)
ASIN: B013F7X40M (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 2015 
Publisher: Wing and a Prayer Publishing

Detective Sergeant Olivia Gates returns from a two-month suspension, to find her team has gained a new member, her ex-husband has been released from prison, and a 10-year-old street kid has been murdered on her patch of South Dallas. 

Her ex she thinks she can deal with, even when he drags their young son into the mix. The murdered boy with the crushed chest isn’t so easily handled and weighs heavily on her as more street kids are killed with an unimaginable sadistic flare and no discernible motive.

If the continuing body count wasn’t stressful enough, Olivia’s falling out with long time friend and colleague, Doctor Will Green, threatens any hope Olivia had for more than a friendship with the good doctor.

Drugs, gaming, prostitution and sadistic murders lead Gates and her team on a trek through the seamy underbelly of living rough on the streets of downtown Dallas. 

It’s hard enough to come back after a suspension when you’re a police officer; it’s even harder when your boss was looking to make the suspension permanent. Add in the release of your ex-husband, convicted of attempting to murder you while you were pregnant. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, your first case back is the brutal murder of a young boy from the streets and your beau is seeking to rekindle your relationship. This is exactly what Olivia Gates’ must contend with and more in Angels Sing to Rest by Chrinda Jones.

Olivia Gates had given Will Green an ultimatum and placed their relationship in a holding pattern. Will was unable to fully commit to their relationship due to stressors from his past and Olivia pushed him to deal with the past so that they might have a future. During her suspension, she refrained from talking to Will. Now Will is ready to deal with Olivia and a full-fledged adult relationship. Olivia’s first case upon her return starts out with the senseless murder of a young homeless boy and breaking in a new team member. While she is dealing with this case, her boss, and Will, she also has to deal with the release of her ex-husband, who has decided he wants his parental rights restored. Since his rights were revoked after being convicted of attempting to kill his unborn child and Olivia, it’s doubtful if that’s going to happen, but he’s unwilling to accept the situation. Just when Olivia thinks things can’t get more complicated, there’s a fire in a local hospital killing several more teens and the deaths appear to be linked to a new local gang. Can Olivia figure out the gang problem before another killing takes place? Will her ex-husband continue his threats and abuse in order to regain partial custody of their son? Can Olivia and Will ever get their relationship on an even keel?

Angels Sing to Rest is the second installment in the Olivia Gates and Will Green Crime Series by Chrinda Jones. I found it to be a quick and easy read. Olivia is a more than competent police officer, a loving single mother, a dutiful daughter, a fierce friend, and a woman of strong faith. One of the things I enjoyed about this series is that Olivia works very hard to reconcile her job responsibilities with her faith without allowing either to suffer. Will is an enigma; his background has been gradually revealed in the first two books in this series, and the reader is made aware of his previous experience as a police office in the United Kingdom, his resignation from the police force, his subsequent mental breakdown and recovery, and now we learn he grew up in an abusive home and killed his father as a teenager in an effort to protect his mother. Neither Will nor Olivia are wholly good or bad, just two realistically flawed people with the best of intentions trying to make a difference in their little corner of the world. Angels Sing to Rest is a mystery-thriller that offers murder, mayhem, child abuse, kidnappings, abductions, and a hint of romance. If you enjoy reading mystery-thrillers that offer something a little different, then you’ll definitely want to add Angels Sing to Rest (and Darkness Knows Me — book one in this series) to your TBR list.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes via Partners In Crime Tours. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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2015 Book 343: NIRVANA by J.R. Stewart

Nirvana (Nirvana Series #1) by J.R. Stewart
ISBN: 9780993639760 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780993639777 (ebook)
ASIN: B014LLM1XW (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 10, 2015 
Publisher: Blue Moon Publishers

When the real world is emptied of all that you love, how can you keep yourself from dependence on the virtual?

Animal activist and punk rock star Larissa Kenders lives in a dystopian world where the real and the virtual intermingle. After the disappearance of her soulmate, Andrew, Kenders finds solace by escaping to Nirvana, a virtual world controlled by Hexagon. In Nirvana, anyone’s deepest desires may be realized – even visits with Andrew.

Although Kenders knows that this version of Andrew is virtual, when he asks for her assistance revealing Hexagon’s dark secret, she cannot help but comply. Soon after, Kenders and her closest allies find themselves in a battle with Hexagon, the very institution they have been taught to trust. After uncovering much more than she expected, Kenders’ biggest challenge is determining what is real – and what is virtual.

Nirvana is a fast-paced, page-turning young adult novel combining elements of science fiction, mystery, and romance. Part of a trilogy, this book introduces readers to a young woman who refuses to give up on the man she loves, even if it means taking on an entire government to do so. 

Imagine a not-too-distant future where the bees are gone, followed by plants, trees, and slowly disappearing water sources. Imagine that one mega-corporation is providing food, shelter, and employment in this dry dystopian land. This corporation monitors everything that is said and done and as long as you don’t upset things, they’ll continue to provide for you. Your only escape is into a world of virtual reality also controlled by this mega-corporation, but even this escape world is monitored. If you can imagine such a scenario, then you have entered the world of Nirvana by J.R. Stewart.

Larissa Kenders referred to as simply Kenders, is a young woman that remembers the rapid fall from normal into a world of constant monitoring and fear. The love of her life, Andrew, works with Hexagon to control the virtual reality world of Nirvana. Just when Andrew and Kenders think that things can’t get any worse, Hexagon institutes a new level to Nirvana called the Red Door. If visitors to Nirvana get flagged for the Red Door they vanish and are never seen again. Andrew, with the help of Kenders, is working to erase these flags from the system and protect as many people as possible. His bosses aren’t aware of his activities, but they know that something isn’t quite right with his work. And then Andrew disappears and is presumed to be dead. Kenders has a difficult time accepting his disappearance or the notion that Andrew is dead and begins to use virtual reality to help lessen the grief. However, she isn’t “remembering” past encounters with Andrew in Nirvana, she is receiving messages from him. How can this be? What was Andrew working on and what made it so dangerous? Why is Hexagon so interested in monitoring Kenders’ visits to Nirvana? Is Andrew still alive and if so, where is he?

Nirvana is a quick and engrossing read that is definitely part science fiction, part mystery, part thriller, and a little bit of romance all set in a dystopian future. Kenders is a teenage musical prodigy that has had to grow up very quickly. It is never revealed how old Andrew is, but we now that he is older than Kenders (it is because of Kenders age that Nirvana might be classified as YA or NA). Kenders and Andrew met at one of her punk rock concerts in the pre-dystopian world. They were both activists and became friends and then lovers. In Kenders world, the wealthy live in climate-controlled bubbles with plentiful resources and the survivors live out in cramped living quarters and are forced to work in the dry, dusty world that remains. Ms. Stewart sets up the fall of the world into chaos in a highly believable (okay, scarily believable) manner. The science fiction parts of the story are credible and the mystery-thriller portions added to my overall enjoyment of this story. Nirvana is the first book in a new series by Ms. Stewart, and I can’t wait to read the next book in this series and find out what happens next.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Showcase and Giveaway: THE MEMORY BOX by Eva Lesko Natiello

The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello 
ISBN: 9780692239001 (paperback)
ASIN: B00LAI2SV0 (Kindle version)
Publisher: Fine Line Publishing
Publication Date: June 25, 2014

What would you do if you Googled yourself and discovered something shocking?

In this gripping psychological thriller, a group of privileged suburban moms amuse themselves by Googling everyone in town, digging up dirt to fuel thorny gossip. Caroline Thompson, devoted mother of two, sticks to the moral high ground and attempts to avoid these women. She’s relieved to hear her name appears only three times, citing her philanthropy. Despite being grateful that she has nothing to hide, a delayed pang of insecurity prods Caroline to Google her maiden name—which none of the others know.

The hits cascade like a tsunami. Caroline’s terrified by what she reads. An obituary for her sister, JD? That’s absurd. With every click, the revelations grow more alarming. They can’t be right. She’d know. Caroline is hurled into a state of paranoia—upending her blissful family life—desperate to prove these allegations false before someone discovers they’re true.

The disturbing underpinnings of The Memory Box expose a story of deceit, misconceptions, and an obsession for control. With its twists, taut pacing, and psychological tenor, Natiello’s page-turning suspense cautions: Be careful what you search for.

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One Friday, September 22, 2006, 2:38 p.m. It’s impossible to un-know a secret. Once you know it, you own it. It can’t be returned like a borrowed book. Or burned like a love letter. The click of a mouse won’t delete it from the conscious mind. It’ll stick to the walls of your memory like dried oatmeal to a dish. The secrets you wish you never knew become a burden to lug. A bowling ball without holes.

Some people are great collectors of secrets. They roll around, like swine, in the muck of them. They gloat with pride to be the bearer of indelicate news.   

I am not one of those people. I don’t want to pry into the backstories of others with a crowbar and a meat hook. What’s happened to privacy anymore? Nothing is private. Everything is knowable.  

The thing about secrets is they’re mostly regrets, aren’t they? I mean, “good news” secrets aren’t really meant to be kept. Just the embarrassing, shameful kind. Everyone’s said or done something they wish they hadn’t. Maybe they were young and immature, or drunk, with temporary poor judgment. Do these things need to be broadcast? Should mistakes be tattooed on forearms?

The latest gossip around town is about a man whose daughter is in Lilly’s third-grade class. When he was young and drunk, he streaked through the dean’s backyard on a dare. Unfortunately for him, he was unaware of a ditch being dug and fell into it, breaking his fibula in the process, which left him stranded to sober up in a dark hole, waiting to be rescued in his birthday suit. One of our neighborhood snoops discovered this by Googling his name. Now this mature adult is living the shame all over again, as the gossipmonger moms of Lincoln Elementary pass their babble baton down a line of eager recipients. I’m surprised by how prevalent this rumor-wielding type is. Even in a place like Farhaven.

Practically everyone in town has been Googled by these women, who in turn cast out their questionable findings like a fistful of feed at the zoo. I make sure to smile warmly whenever I see this dad or any of the other gossip victims at school. It could be any of us. I wouldn’t want to be someone with something to hide in this town.    

Meet the author:

Eva Lesko Natiello is an award-winning author and graduate of SUNY Albany with a degree in psychology. She is a native of Yonkers, NY and currently lives in suburban New Jersey with her husband and two children. The Memory Box is Ms. Natiello’s debut novel. It is a recipient of the Houston Writers Guild 2014 Manuscript award. Her short story, The Wordsmith, was a finalist in The Writer Magazine 2012 Best Short Story.

When Eva is not writing suspense novels, she enjoys writing humor and satire which can be found on her blog: writing from the intersection of oops, yikes and awe at, The Huffington Post, New Jersey Monthly,, The Mid and elsewhere. 

On a personal note, she loves the creative process: painting, gardening, singing or re-purposing (though many D.I.Y. projects have been fraught with disaster, it doesn’t seem to stop her). She enjoys the beach, traveling, cooking with her family and a really good belly laugh. Eva is a PR and marketing consultant and speaker. 

She’s incredibly grateful to her readers for their enthusiasm—when they take time to write reviews, get in touch or spread the word. Eva is currently at work on her next novel.

Connect with the author:

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Goodreads     |     Amazon 


This giveaway is for one digital, Kindle version of The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello courtesy of the author. This giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on November 30, 2015, and the winner will be announced on December 1, 2015, by 9:00 PM ET. Enter using the Rafflecopter form below:

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Book Showcase: THE SEARCHER by Simon Toyne

The Searcher

by Simon Toyne

on Tour November 1-30, 2015


coverThe author of the acclaimed Sanctus trilogy conjures an eerie epic of good and evil, retribution and redemption—the first novel in the mesmerizing Solomon Creed series in which a man with no memory of his past must save a lost soul in a small Arizona town.

On a hilltop in the town of Redemption, Arizona, the townspeople gather at an old cemetery for the first time in decades to bury a local man. The somber occasion is suddenly disrupted by a thunderous explosion in the distant desert. A plane has crashed, and it’s pouring a pillar of black smoke into the air.

As Sheriff Garth Morgan speeds toward the crash, he nearly hits a tall, pale man running down the road, with no shoes on his feet and no memory of who he is or how he got there. The only clues to his identity are a label in his handmade suit jacket and a book that’s been inscribed to him: both giving the name Solomon Creed. When Morgan tells Solomon that he is in Redemption, Arizona, Solomon begins to believe he’s here for a reason—to save a man he has never met . . . the man who was buried that morning.

Miles away, three men scan the skies for an overdue plane carrying an important package. Spotting a black cloud in the distance, they suspect something has gone badly wrong, and that the man who has sent them will demand a heavy price if the package has been lost.

To uncover the secret of his identity, Solomon Creed must uncover Redemption’s secrets too and learn the truth behind the death of the man he is there to save. But there are those who will do anything to stop him, men prepared to call on the darkest forces to prevent Solomon from seeing the light.

Book Details:

Genre:  Thriller, Suspense

Published by: William Morrow  

Publication Date:  October 6th 2015 

Number of Pages:  480

ISBN:   0062329723 (ISBN13: 9780062329721)

Series: Solomon Creed #1

UK Title: Solomon Creed

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

In the beginning is the road – and me walking along it.

I have no memory of who I am, or where I have come from, or how I came to be here. There is only the road and the desert stretching away to a burnt sky in every direction and there is me.

Anxiety bubbles within me and my legs scissor, pushing me forward through hot air as if they know something I don’t. I feel like telling them to slow down, but even in my confused state I know you don’t talk to your legs, not unless you’re crazy, and I don’t think I’m crazy – I don’t think so.

I stare down the shimmering ribbon of tarmac, rising and falling over the undulating land, its straight edges made wavy by the intense desert heat. It makes the road seem insubstantial and the way ahead uncertain and my anxiety burns bright because of it. I feel there’s something important to do here, and that I am here to do it, but I cannot remember what.

I try to breathe slowly, dredging a recollection from some deep place that this is meant to be calming, and catch different scents in the dry desert air – the coal-tar sap of a broken creosote bush branch, the sweet sugar rot of fallen saguaro fruit, the arid perfume of agave pollen – each thing so clear to me, so absolutely itself and correct and known. And from the solid seed of each named thing more information grows – Latin names, medicinal properties, common names, whether it is edible or poisonous. The same happens when I glance to my left or right, each glimpsed thing sparking new names and fresh torrents of facts until my head hums with it all. I know the world entirely it seems and yet I know nothing of myself. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t even know my own name.

The wind gusts at my back, pushing me forward and bringing a new smell that makes my anxiety flare into blind fear. It is smoke, oily and acrid, and a half-formed memory slides in with it that there is something awful lying on the road behind me, something I need to get away from.

I break into a run, staring forward, not daring to check behind me. The blacktop feels hard and hot against the soles of my feet. I look down to discover that I’m not wearing shoes. My feet flash as they pound the road, my skin pure white in the bright sunshine. I hold my hand up and it’s the same, so white I have to narrow my eyes against the glare of it. I can feel my skin starting to redden in the fierce sun and know that I need to get out of this desert, away from this sun and the thing on the road behind me. I fix on a rise in the road, feeling if I can reach it then I will be safe, that the way ahead will be clearer.

The wind blows hard, bringing the smell of smoke again and smothering all other scents like a poisonous blanket. Sweat starts to soak my shirt and the dark grey material of my jacket. I should take it off, cool myself down a little, but the thicker material is giving me protection from the burning sun so I turn the collar up instead and keep on running. One step then another – forward and away, forward and away – asking myself questions between each step – Who am I? Where am I? Why am I here? – repeating each one until something starts to take shape in the blankness of my empty mind. An answer. A name.

‘James Coronado.’ I say it aloud in a gasp of breath before it is lost again and pain sears into my left shoulder.

My voice comes as a surprise to me, soft and strange and unfamiliar, but the name is not. I recognize it and say it again – James Coronado, James Coronado – over and over, hoping the name might be mine and it might drag more about who I am up from my silent memory. But the more I say it, the more distant it becomes until I’m certain the name is not mine. It feels apart from me though still connected in some way, as if I have made a promise to this man, one that I am bound to keep.

I reach the crest of the road and a new section of desert comes into view. In the distance I see a road sign, and beyond that, a town, spreading like a dark stain across the lower slopes of a range of red mountains.

I raise my hand to shield my eyes so I might read the name of the place on the sign, but it is too far away and heat blurs the words. There is movement on the road, way off at the edge of town.


Heading this way. Red and blue lights flashing on their roofs.

The wail of sirens mingles with the roar of the smoke-filled wind and I feel trapped between the two. I look to my right and consider leaving the road and heading out into the desert. A new smell reaches me, drifting from somewhere out in the sunbaked wilderness, something that seems more familiar to me than all the other things. It is the smell of something dead and rotting, lying somewhere out of sight, sunbaked and fetid and caramel-sweet, like a premonition of what will befall me if I stray from the road.

Sirens in front of me, death either side, and behind me, what?

I have to know.

I turn to gaze upon what I have been running from and the whole world is on fire.

An aircraft lies broken and blazing in the centre of the road, its wings sticking up from the ground like the folded wings of some huge burning beast. A wide circle of flame surrounds it, spreading rapidly as flames leap from plant to plant and lick up the sides of giant saguaro, their burning arms raised in surrender, their flesh splitting and hissing as the water inside boils and explodes in puffs of steam.

It is magnificent. Majestic. Terrifying.

The sirens grow louder and the flames roar. One of the wings starts to fall, trailing flame as it topples and filling the air with the tortured sound of twisting metal. It lands with a whump, and a wave of fire rolls up into the air, curling like a tentacle that seems to reach down the road for me, reaching out, wanting me back.

I stagger backwards, turn on my heels, and run.


Author Bio:

Simon Toyne is the author of the Sanctus trilogy (Sanctus, The Key, and The Tower). A writer, director, and producer in British television for twenty years, he worked on several award-winning shows, one of which won a BAFTA. He lives in England with his wife and family.

Find him online at:
Simon Toyne's website Simon Toyne's twitter  Simon Toyne's facebook


This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Simon Toyne & William Morrow Books. There will be 5 US winners of 1 copy of The Searcher by Simon Toyne. The giveaway begins on November 1st, 2015 and runs through November 31st, 2015. For US residents only.

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2015 Book 349: ALL DRESSED IN WHITE by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

All Dressed in White (Under Suspicion #2) by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke 
ISBN: 9781501108556 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781501108570 (ebook)
ASIN: B00UDCI30E (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 17, 2015 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

The second thrilling novel in the New York Times bestselling Under Suspicion series following The Cinderella Murder, featuring intrepid television producer Laurie Moran as she investigates the case of a missing bride.

Five years ago Amanda Pierce was excitedly preparing to marry her college sweetheart in a lavish ceremony at The Grand Victoria Hotel in Palm Beach. Then, with their guests and families on site, Amanda disappeared.

In present-day New York City, Laurie Moran realizes a missing bride is the perfect cold case for her investigative television series, Under Suspicion. She and her team set out to recreate the night of the disappearance at the Florida resort with Amanda’s friends and family in attendance, hoping to shed new light on the mystery as the series has done in past episodes. With a jealous sister, playboy groomsmen, Amanda’s former fiancé now married to a bridesmaid, and rumors about the “beloved” bride herself, Laurie and Under Suspicion host Alex Buckley quickly realize everyone has a theory about why Amanda vanished into thin air.

One thing is certain: whoever was behind Amanda’s disappearance plans to keep the truth hidden “until death do they part…” 

Laurie Moran and her team have been researching and preparing pitch ideas for the next Under Suspicion television show. They’ve narrowed their choices down to three unsolved cases when the mother of the so-called “runaway bride” comes in and asks that they find out the truth about her daughter’s disappearance. Laurie is sure that this case is the case for Under Suspicion to investigate in All Dressed In White by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke.

Normally Laurie and her team has weeks, if not months, to prepare and investigate a case for their television show. All that changes with the impromptu visit of Sandra Pierce, on behalf of her missing daughter and bride-to-be Amanda Pierce. Now the team has less than a week to do the background on each member of the wedding party, obtain everyone’s permission to appear on the show, and book the Florida resort the wedding would have taken place at five years earlier. It doesn’t take long before Laurie realizes that not everyone saw Amanda in the same loving light as her mother. Amanda’s sister had and continues to have jealousy issues? Amanda’s best friend and maid of honor is now married to Amanda’s fiancé. And Amanda’s fiancé stands to gain a couple of million dollars in her will despite an ironclad prenuptial agreement. Did Amanda get cold feet and simply walk away from her fiance, job, and family or was her disappearance due to more deadly motives?

I found All Dressed in White to be a fast-paced and enjoyable read, as well as a great addition to the Under Suspicion series. This story provides just a little more background and insight into Laurie and Alex’s growing relationship, adding a little bit of a romance element to this mystery. I found the characters to be well-developed, realistic, and likable. The authors provide just enough information to the reader that almost every member of the bridal party becomes suspicious until the bitter end (no, I won’t reveal whodunnit…read the book!). The story takes a few twists and turns along the way, but that only added to my overall enjoyment. If you enjoy reading mysteries or simply are looking for something a little different to read this fall, then I suggest you grab a copy of All Dressed in White.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Showcase: ANGELS SING TO REST by Chrinda Jones

Angels Sing to Rest

Chrinda Jones

on Tour November 2015


Angels Sing to Rest by Chrinda Jones cover
Angels Sing to Rest begins where Darkness Knows Me left off: after the investigation into the death of the Deep Ellum Killer, Levi Devereux.

Detective Sergeant Olivia Gates returns from a two-month suspension, to find her team has gained a new member, her ex-husband is being released from prison, and a 10-year-old street kid has been murdered on her patch of South Dallas.

Her ex she can deal with, even when he drags their young son into the mix or so she thinks. The murdered boy with the crushed chest, isn’t so easily handled and weighs heavily on her as more street kids are killed with an unimaginable sadistic flare and no discernible motive.

If the continuing body count wasn’t stressful enough, Olivia’s falling out with long time friend and colleague, Doctor Will Green, threatens any hope Olivia had for more than a friendship with the good doctor.

Drugs, gaming, prostitution and sadistic murders lead Gates and her team on a trek through the seamy underbelly of living rough on the streets of downtown Dallas.

Nominated for Dan Poynter’s Global eBook Awards!

Book Details:

Genre:  Crime

Published by:    Wing and a Prayer Publishing

Publication Date:   Sept 4, 2015

Number of Pages:  206

ISBN:   978-0-9898442-1-5

Series: Olivia Gates and Will Green Crime Series, Book 2

Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Vincent Rocha knew he hit her hard, but at the time he figured she deserved it. He paid her good money to do what he wanted and by God she was going to do what he wanted. He checked for a pulse at the side of her neck when she lay flaccid on the bed for too long. There was nothing. He didn’t think he hit her hard enough to kill her.

That he killed this woman with his own hands didn’t panic him. She wasn’t his first dead prostitute and she wasn’t likely to be his last. If he thought of prostitutes as human the whole scene might have played out differently. Her kind provide a service. They make themselves available to him and others like him to use up and throw away. His father told him it was the order of things. He believed him.

Vincent rolled the woman over so he didn’t have to look at her face and untied the scarf from her neck. He threw the silk bed sheets over her naked body, not out of any sense of propriety — he purely despised the look of her, with her dyed red hair and stubble covered legs. Experience taught him that her kind was always ready — for cost, a few extra twenties and a bottle — to do what the higher priced call girls wouldn’t.

He went to his closet to cover his own nakedness with a robe and picked up the phone beside the bed. He dialed. When someone finally answered, it was his second in command. “Martin, come to the loft and drive the van. I have some garbage for you to pick up.” Vincent purposefully hung up before Martin could ask questions and went to the utility room for the thick plastic drip sheet and masking tape the remodeling company left behind.

He returned to splay the drip sheet on the floor at the foot of the bed. When he pushed the body off the mattress, it made a sickening thud as it hit the floor, reminding him of a large tuna hitting the deck of a fishing boat. He rolled her up in the plastic, securing the bundle with masking tape. Vincent walked away leaving her in the middle of the room for his lackey.

He tilted his head toward his chest and opened the dressing gown, sniffing for the odor that nauseated him. She left her sex scent on him. The strong odor made him involuntarily gag. He covered himself again and entered the bathroom to shower off what remained of her humanity.

Author Bio:

Chrinda Jones is a crime writing and reading fiend, which she believes is genetic and began with her great-grandmother, who hoarded crime novels. 

Darkness Knows Me is her crime novel debut and Angels Sing to Rest is next in her series. When she’s not putting her time in with the writing gods, you can find her playing music or enjoying a good meal with friends and family. 

Chrinda currently resides in Murphy, Texas, with her husband, children, grandchildren and her Jugg, Abby.

Catch Up:
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Don’t Miss Out on the Giveaway:

This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Chrinda Jones. There will be 6 winners for this tour. The 1st 2 winners will each receive one $15 US gift card. The 3rd & 4th Place winners will each receive 1 autographed copy of Darkness Knows Me by Chrinda Jones, this prize will be for US winners only. The 5th & 6th Place winners will each receive 1 eBook copy of Darkness Knows Me by Chrinda Jones. The giveaway begins on November 1st, 2015 and runs through December 2nd, 2015.

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Book Showcase and Excerpt: STABBING IN THE SENATE by Colleen Shogan

Stabbing in the Senate (Washington Whodunit #1) by Colleen Shogan
ISBN: 9781603813310 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781603813327 (ebook)
ASIN: B017CBHTOE (Kindle version)
Publication date: November 15, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press

Life is good for Kit Marshall. She’s a staffer in D.C. for a popular senator, and she lives with an adoring beagle and a brainy boyfriend with a trust fund. Then, one morning, Kit arrives at the office early and finds her boss, Senator Langsford, impaled by a stainless steel replica of an Army attack helicopter. Panicked, she pulls the weapon out of his chest and instantly becomes the prime suspect in his murder.

Circumstances back Kit’s claim of innocence, but her photograph has gone viral, and the heat won’t be off until the killer is found. Well-loved though the senator was, suspects abound. Langsford had begun to vote with his conscience, which meant he was often at odds with his party. Not only had the senator decided to quash the ambitions of a major military contractor, but his likely successor is a congressman he trounced in the last election. Then there’s the suspiciously dry-eyed Widow Langsford.

Kit’s tabloid infamy horrifies her boyfriend’s upper-crust family, and it could destroy her career. However, she and her free-spirited friend Meg have a more pressing reason to play sleuth. The police are clueless in more ways than one, and Kit worries that the next task on the killer’s agenda will be to end her life.

Read an excerpt:

I unlocked my file cabinet drawer, deposited my purse inside, grabbed the memo from underneath a stack of papers, and headed toward his private office. I zipped by the desk of the senator’s personal assistant, situated right outside his sanctum. Even Kara, right-hand keeper of the inviolable senatorial schedule, still hadn’t made an appearance.

The senator’s office door was ajar, and I barreled forward to position my memo on the top of his “to read” pile of papers. Staffers weren’t supposed to enter the senator’s office without a reason. Kara might turn the corner any moment. If I could just slip in and out unnoticed, this memo would be the first document he read when he arrived for work.

I glanced toward the sitting area. A hand rested on the arm of a regal chair. The chair, turned away from me, faced the windows and a beautiful view of the Capitol grounds. Royal screw up. I wasn’t the only person in the office. Senator Langsford was already here! He always arrived through a private entrance, not the main door. I had infiltrated his office unannounced. There was no way I could back out of the office gracefully.

I cleared my throat and stammered awkwardly, “Senator Langsford, I’m sorry, sir. It’s Kit Marshall, Senator. I didn’t quite finish up the Appropriations hearing memo before you left last night. I wanted to put it in your inbox this morning so you could read it, and if you’d like, we could discuss it later today or whenever.”

No response. After a minute, I asked, “Would you like me to put it on your desk?” I waved the memo back and forth. Lyndon Langsford was a suave politician who rarely missed a beat. That was why I enjoyed working for him. Nothing fazed him. Persistent protesters, disgruntled constituents, slimy lobbyists, and aggressive political reporters—he handled all with ease. In my thirty years on the planet, I wondered if I would ever manage to exude a fraction of his panache. Yet I never felt self-conscious around him. I waited for him to say something polite to let me off the hook for my transgression.

Utter silence. Was he asleep? It was an odd time for a power nap. Beads of sweat trickled down my neck, saturating the collar of my blouse. Senator Langsford was well-mannered, often to the extreme. Had he decided to give me the cold shoulder this morning? The stillness was stifling.

I could just put the memo on his desk, sidle out the door, and pretend I had never spoken. But I would not be able to work at my desk for the rest of the day, thinking Langsford was upset with me.

“Senator, I’m sorry,” I repeated. “I feel terrible for interrupting you. Should I leave the memo on your desk so you can read it?”

I’m not sure how long I stood there. A few seconds seemed like an eternity. I noticed there was no physical reaction at all to my question. That was weird. If he was irritated, his body language should have indicated annoyance. He had to be asleep.

As I approached tentatively, I noticed crimson drops of blood on the thick carpeting of his office. His head was thrown back, and two vacant eyes stared at me. Lyndon Lansgsford wasn’t giving me the cold shoulder. He was dead.

Praise for Stabbing in the Senate:

“A perfect who-done-it from a Capital Hill insider. Kit Marshall is a feisty protagonist I’m hoping to hear more from in the future.” Cathi Stoler, author of The Hard Way

“An interesting snapshot into the world of Senate staffers from a Capitol Hill insider. Political intrigue, mystery, and a rescue beagle named Clarence. What more could you ask for?”  Tracy Weber, award-winning author of the Downward Dog Mystery Series

“Amid perpetual rounds of gossip, back-scratching, blame games and cocktails, Colleen Shogan offers an inside look into DC politics. A senator is murdered, and members of his staff are simultaneously suspicious, calculating and polite as they scramble for new jobs. Staff must also decide whether to collude on a revisionist history for the maverick’s opinions. Everyone is power hungry, but protocol demands that ambitions be kept hidden. Protagonist Kit Marshall is a breath of fresh air in a city of opportunists, and Stabbing in the Senate is a smart, snappy whodunit that kept me guessing until the end.”  Susan Froetschel, award-winning author of Allure of Deceit

“In this smart, fast-paced mystery, Colleen Shogan gives a fascinating look at Washington, D.C., politics through a Senate staffer’s eyes. She kept me turning pages until the surprising reveal at the very end.” Mary Marks, author of the Martha Rose quilting mysteries

“A taut mystery, set in the halls of the Senate, a backdrop Shogan knows well. It kept me guessing until the end!”  Carlene O’Neil, author of Cypress Cove Mystery series

“A fast-paced blend of murder mystery and political intrigue… Stabbing in the Senate is a page-turner that will keep the reader’s rapt attention to the very end.”  Wisconsin Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review

Meet the author:

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. She conceived of the plot of her first mystery, Stabbing in the Senate, one morning while taking a walk in her suburban Washington, D.C. neighborhood. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at Yale, George Mason University, Georgetown, and Penn. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress. 

Colleen lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband Rob and their beagle mutt Conan.

Connect with the author:     Facebook     |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 

This showcase and excerpt brought to you by Over The River Public Relations

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Book Showcase and Excerpt: EULOGY by Ken Murray

Eulogy by Ken Murray 
ISBN: 9781926639857 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781926639956 (ebook)
ASIN: B00YLQU9C8 (Kindle version)
Publication date: July 1, 2015
Publisher: Tightrope Books, Inc.

The controlled and calm life of William Oaks is shattered when his parents die suddenly in a car crash. A reclusive paper conservator at a renowned Toronto museum, William must face the obsessions and denials that have formed him: delusional family history, religious fundamentalism, living with unhappy parents who are constantly bickering, forced starvation, secrets and get-rich-quick schemes. Memory and facts collide, threatening to derail his life and career as William feverishly prepares for an important exhibition on the Egyptian Book of the Dead.

Read an excerpt:


Toronto, December 2000—I visited my parents a few weeks before Christmas. Mom had left many messages, “William, where are you?” “William, are you okay?” “William, do you need any more Slender Nation?” I’d been ignoring her calls for months.

Terry had become a big part of my life, and I was happy. For the first time, I didn’t want to be alone. I had my work at the Royal Ontario Museum, and she had hers in one of the bank towers downtown, and we had each other, and we had our music, and we fell into that inner space that people find when they love someone. Terry burned brightly in my world, and the rest of the world faded. Work was still good, but I fell out of touch with home, and for good reason; I didn’t want to tell my parents about her because I didn’t want to deal with their questions. I stopped calling, stopped visiting.

But dealing with it became inevitable: I had to tell my parents that I had a girlfriend, and even though I was a grown man with an established career, it was terrifying. I shouldn’t have done it, but December has that magical power to make us that much more crazy. I drove home to Otterton, the Southern Ontario industrial town where I grew up, for a Saturday lunch visit, blasting trance music along the way loud enough to make the steering wheel shudder.

Mom gave me a Slender Nation shake, as usual, and after I drank it she offered me a sandwich, while Dad sat grimly across from me. His short black hair, still neatly combed, was starting to grey, and I detected a hunch beginning to form in his shoulders.

“The government,” he said, “is trying to destroy us.” 

“I know Dad, you’ve told me that before.”

“You’ve got to be careful. Any day now, son, any day.” 

“Any day what?” I said, not sure if he was still talking of the government or had moved on to the Antichrist. The two were synonymous for him.

“They’ll be coming for us. We don’t have any good sense left in this country. We’ve got godless leaders. The States are doing much better—the new President Bush they’ve elected is a God-fearing man, he’ll set things right. We need someone like him up here.”

“Keith,” barked Mom. “We must focus on the spirit.” Mom adjusted her pink button, straightened her blouse, and instinctively touched her hair which, despite the years, remained as red as it was in my earliest memories of her.

“I am—this is all about the spirit. Everything is about the spirit,” he said through clenched teeth. He pointed at her and said, “You have no idea.”

“I have every idea,” she said. “Or at least the good ones. Stop your negativity, now, I command it in the blood of Jesus.” He wrung his hands at her and looked away. She turned to me, “Are you still drinking Slender Nation?” she said, her hands forming mirror C’s in front of her.

“Yes,” I said. “Actually, no. No I don’t. I only drink it when I’m here, when you’re in front of me, because that’s what you want me to do.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I don’t drink Slender Nation anymore.” 

“But you had some just now.”

“I was being polite.”

“So dishonesty is politeness? That’s a lie, that’s sin. You need to pray for forgiveness, right now.”

“What would happen, William,” said Dad, “if The Rapture came right now? You’d be left behind. We need to pray, together, as a family.”

“No thanks,” I said, feeling a surge of total honesty, the kind of honesty that has nothing to do with what’s righteous or good. Righteousness may exist. And if it does, it moves quietly, anonymously, never calls itself by name.

“Please, let’s pray. This is dangerous,” said Mom, reaching for my hands.

“No.” I got up, backed away from her.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. For the first time in my life everything seems good, and you’re jumping all over me.” I wanted—oh so much—to show them my life, perhaps also to understand what had become of theirs, and desire drowned the logic that said I should keep silent and let them be.

“It’s a woman, isn’t it?” said Mom.

“The scarlet woman, God warns about her,” said Dad. Mom hit him. He sulked.

“It’s not a woman,” I said.

“So you don’t have a girlfriend, still, at your age?” “Which is it, Mom? Is it scary that I might have a girlfriend or is it weird that I don’t?”

“Don’t play games.”

“I’m not. I’m just trying to know where you stand.”

“So, there’s a girl, then?”

“Actually, yes, there is a girl.”

“So it’s a woman, I knew it. Is she saved? Is she the one who led you away from Slender Nation?”

“Who is she? Where’s she from? Does she go to church?” Dad was back in the conversation.

“When do we meet her?” said Mom, raising her voice.

I waited two full breaths before speaking.  “Her name is Terry.” They were both leaning forward, looking at me, and in their eyes I saw the fear and hunger, that maniac desire from which I’d been on the run for most of my life.

Meet the author:

Ken Murray is a writer and teacher of creative writing. His work has also appeared in Prairie Fire, Globe and Mail, Mendacity Review, Brooklyn Rail, Ottawa Citizen, Canadian Business Magazine, Maclean’s, and has also been published by the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (through the Random House of Canada Student Award in Writing). While earning his MFA at The New School, he also trained as a teaching artist with the Community Word Project and taught with Poets House. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the inaugural Marina Nemat Award and the Random House Award, and received an Emerging Artist’s Grant from the Toronto Arts Council. Originally from Vancouver, Murray grew up in Ottawa and has lived across Canada and in New York City. He now divides his time between Prince Edward County and Haliburton Ontario, and teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and Haliburton School of the Arts.

Connect with the author:     Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter 

This showcase and excerpt brought to you by Meryl Moss Media.

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