Book Showcase: THE FANTASTIC BOOK OF EVERYBODY’S SECRETS by Sophie Hannah


The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets


by Sophie Hannah


on Tour November 1 – December 17, 2016





The Fantastic Book of Everybody's Secrets by Sophie Hannah

A collection of ingenious suspense stories from one of today’s most acclaimed novelists in the genre. Everybody has their secrets, and in Sophie Hannah’s fantastic stories the curtains positively twitch with them. Who, for instance, is the hooded figure hiding in the bushes outside a young man’s house? Why does the same stranger keep appearing in the background of a family’s holiday photographs? What makes a woman stand mesmerised by two children in a school playground, children she’s never met but whose names she knows well? And which secret results in a former literary festival director sorting soiled laundry in a shabby hotel? All will be revealed…but at a cost. As Sophie Hannah uncovers the dark obsessions and strange longings behind the most ordinary relationships, life will never seem quite the same again.




Book Details:


Genre: Short Stories, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: October 11th 2016
Number of Pages: 120
ISBN: 0062562096 (ISBN13: 9780062562098)
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads 


Sophie Hannah

Learn More:

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in 27 countries and adapted for television, as well as The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie.


Catch Up with Sophie Hannah on her Website , Twitter , or Facebook 









Tour Participants:







Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Sophie Hannah and Witness Impulse. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets by Sophie Hannah. The giveaway begins on November 1st and runs through January 2nd, 2017.


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Book Review: THE JUDAS GAME by Ethan Cross

The Judas Game (Shepherd #4) by Ethan Cross 
ISBN: 9781611882346 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781943486953 (ebook)
ASIN: B01HOV0GJC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 4, 2016 
Publisher: Fiction Studio Books | Story Plant


When a correctional officer climbs to the top of his watchtower and opens fire on the inmates and guards, federal investigator Marcus Williams and serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr. must join forces again to unearth the truth behind the incident. What they find is a serial killer using the prison as his hunting grounds. But the Judas Killer’s ambitions don’t end with a few murders. He wants to go down in history and has no reason left to live. With Ackerman undercover among the inmates and Marcus tracking down the mastermind on the outside, the team must learn the identity of the Judas Killer and stop a full-scale uprising that he’s orchestrated. But the more they learn about what’s happening at the prison and why the more enemies they must face. From inside the overrun facility, Marcus and Ackerman must save the hostages and stop an elaborate escape attempt while trying to determine how a rival corporation, the leader of one of the world’s most dangerous criminal organizations, and an inmate with no identity only known as Demon fit into the Judas Killer’s plans. Launching a bold new cycle of novels featuring The Shepherd Organization, The Judas Game is searing, mesmerizing fiction it’s Ethan Cross at his very best.



The Judas Game is the fourth book in the Shepherd series by Ethan Cross and it starts with a bang (literally and figuratively speaking; see the excerpt below). First, the reader is introduced to the serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr. This man kills for the sake of killing and seemingly has no shame in doing so. We’re then introduced to a correctional officer that provides the bang that starts the killing spree in the correctional facility. Just when I thought I knew where the story was going, enter Marcus Williams, a presumed government agent. Just to throw me off kilter even more, as if I wasn’t already, Marcus and Francis are brothers that were raised by different families. Marcus was apparently raised by a cop and had a “normal” upbringing, whereas Francis was raised by his biological father who experimented on Francis causing him to be the unrepentant killer that he is today. I thought I understand enough of the backstory when more characters are introduced: Special Agent Maggie Carlisle, Marcus’s coworker and possible significant other, and Dylan, Marcus’s son. There’s also another serial killer named Demon who actually turns himself into local authorities so he can be incarcerated at the prison where the big bang happened. In an effort to show penance (or save his life), Francis agrees to work with Marcus as an insider within the prison in an attempt to gain insight as to what is going on and why while Marcus works his investigation outside the prison. 

The Judas Game provides a lot of angst, drama, and action: family drama between siblings and father and son; random shootings, murders, and bombings at a prison; seemingly random murders of people outside the prison; and several truly evil sociopaths and psychopaths at large. I found it difficult at times to keep track of everything that was going on in this story not to mention the cast of characters. This might be because this is the fourth book in this series and I didn’t have the full backstory for each of the major characters, namely Francis Ackerman Jr., Marcus Williams, Dylan Williams, Maggie Carlisle, etc. Then again, it might be because I was reading this while fighting with an increasingly painful migraine episode that made it difficult to concentrate. Even though I did have moments of confusion and had to constantly set this book aside for mini-breaks, the story was gripping and action-packed from beginning to end. I won’t tell you how it ends, but there’s mayhem and carnage galore. If you’ve read the previous books in the Shepherd series then you’ll definitely want to read The Judas Game. If you haven’t read any books in the Shepherd Series, then I strongly encourage you to start at book one and read through to book four, The Judas Game, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. I look forward to going back to the beginning and reading all of the books in this series. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book for review purposes via Partners In Crime Virtual 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.”



Read an excerpt:



As he climbed the ladder of Tower 3, a strange memory struck Ray Navarro. It was of his son. Ray had been sitting on their front porch after finishing the mowing, and a green blur had come zooming down the road. His little boy, in a bright green T-shirt, running full blast, and tugging along their cocker spaniel puppy, the dog’s legs struggling to keep up with those of his son, Ian. A son he would probably never see again.

As Ray placed one hand in front of the next, his wedding ring kept clanging against the metal of the rungs. The echoes of metal on metal trickled down the concrete walls of Tower 3 like water. Each high-pitched sound sent shockwaves of regret and doubt down through Ray’s soul.

He felt like the world was upside down, and he was actually climbing down into hell instead of ascending Tower 3 at Foxbury Correctional Treatment Facility.

The prison was actually an old work camp and mental hospital, which had recently been recommissioned as part of a pilot program for a private company’s experimental prison. All of the guards, including himself, had been warned about the unique working conditions inside Foxbury. The program was voluntary. He had known the risks, but the money was just too good to pass up. He had bills to pay and mouths to feed.

Ray Navarro pushed open the hatch in the floor of the crow’s nest and pulled himself up into the ten-by-ten space of the tower. The little room smelled like cigarettes, even though no one was supposed to smoke up there. A tiny window air conditioner squeaked and rumbled in the tower’s back wall. He shed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. The gun case was bolted to the left wall of the crow’s nest. With almost robotic, instinctual movements, he watched himself unlock the case, grab the 30-06 rifle, and insert cartridges loaded with just the right mixture of chemicals and shrapnel, fire and steel, needed to blow a one-inch hole in a person’s flesh. He had always excelled in the use of high-powered, long-range weapons. A pistol and a tactical shotgun also occupied the tower’s gun cabinet. He was rated as an expert in their use as well, but he had taken to the 30-06 like a boy’s hand to a well-oiled baseball glove.

Ray Navarro extended the rifle’s bipod and started searching the prison yard for his first target.

The scope’s line of sight slid effortlessly over each man’s face. He noticed a pair of the prison’s celebrity inmates. Leonard Lash, the infamous gang leader awaiting execution, and Oren Kimble, the madman responsible for a mall shooting five years ago. Then his eye stopped on two of the guards moving along the perimeter of inmates like cowboys watching over the herd. The men seemed to be having an in-depth conversation, a wiser silver-haired mentor teaching a younger pupil. He knew the older black man well. Bill Singer was a war veteran and a former sniper, just like Ray. When Ray returned from his last tour, he had been lost in doubt and fear and hadn’t known where to turn. Until he had met Bill. Now, Ray Navarro was five years sober and had even patched things up with his wife, who had come very close to being an ex-wife before Bill had started counseling him.

Bill wasn’t supposed to be on duty until Sunday, but something must have changed because there was his friend giving what seemed to be a mini-sermon to his younger counterpart.

The younger white man beside Bill, Jerry Dunn, had just come on with them. Jerry walked with a catch in his gait which made it seem like three of his steps were equal to two of a normal man’s, but that wasn’t the only aspect of Jerry Dunn which had earned him the nickname “Gimp” among his fellow correctional officers. Jerry also blinked about four times more than a normal person and often struggled to spit out more than a sentence or two.

Ray had no problem with Jerry and even felt sorry for the way many of the other guards treated him. A minor limp and a few tics didn’t mean that Dunn couldn’t do his job and, by all accounts, the young CO was more than competent.

Ray prayed that the next person up the tower’s ladder after him wouldn’t be Bill Singer or Jerry Dunn. Although, he didn’t really want it to be anyone else either. It was one thing to kill enemy soldiers or even an inmate if there was no other choice. This was different. This was the outright murder of men who were his coworkers, his friends.

Ray threw up all over the floor of Tower 3.

He cursed under his breath and then said, “It’s them or you.”

He re-acquired his target. Slid the crosshairs over the man’s heart and then up to his head. Normally, he would go for the chest, a larger target capable of accomplishing the same task. But since this was quite possibly one of his very last acts on the planet, he figured there was no harm in showing off and going for the true killshot.

“It’s them or you.”

He kept repeating that phrase like a mantra, over and over.

“It’s them or you.”

~~*~~

Bill Singer watched Jerry limp along in front of him. The more he watched, the more he noticed that the limp didn’t seem to slow Jerry down a bit. Bill realized that from Jerry’s perspective each step may have been painful or at the very least require twice as much effort. At his age, Bill realized the importance of pain management and the economy of movement, the debts that needed paying for each step, each incorrect dietary choice, each year with no trips to the gym, each time you tried to do something that you did easily ten years ago.

Knowing the difficulties faced by Jerry having been forced to start his life with inherent setbacks in that arena, Bill felt a soft spot for the kid and had taken the younger guard under his wing. Bill and his wife had neglected to have children, but he considered himself blessed to have some young men he had mentored who had become like sons to him. Jerry Dunn was one of those adopted sons. Another was Ray Navarro, who Bill knew was on overwatch in Tower 3 at that very moment. Then there were several others whom he had met through his volunteer work down at the clinic with his wife, Caroline.

Jerry Dunn actually reminded Bill more of one of those counseling patients than a correctional officer like Ray Navarro. Jerry was a wounded orphan while Ray was a wounded warrior. Both real problems that were no fault of either man, but whose differences were evident in each man’s demeanor.

Jerry had shared his story around a table of hot wings and beers on the first night Bill met him. The kid had blinked ten times and twitched twice before explaining that his parents had been killed in a car accident when he was only eight months old.

Some of the others had sympathized but continued to mock Jerry behind his back. And, of course, there were a few assholes in the group, who referred to Jerry as Gimp even to his face. Bill had gone a different way. He had befriended the young officer quickly and learned that whatever its cause, Jerry lived with a lot of pain in his heart.

Jerry Dunn halted his half-gait mid-stride and turned on his heels to face the yard. Bill shook his head at the younger man’s appearance. Jerry’s shaggy, black, stick-straight hair hung over his ears and looked as if it hadn’t been combed in days. Jerry’s skin was as pale as Bill’s was dark, and it had a certain smell about it. A mix of body odor and a cheap deodorant that acted as a substitute for bathing.

Jerry said, “I’m bored senseless. Let’s make a bet. I bet you two bucks that the two big Aryan brotherhood type guys right there. See them, one benching a million pounds and the other spotting him and looking disinterested. I bet you two bucks that the big guy doesn’t get it up and the smaller guy either makes fun of him about it or he barely even notices that the big guy dropped the thing on his chest.”

Bill followed Jerry’s gaze and shook his head again. This time at the younger man’s assessment of the situation. Bill said, “I’ll take that bet, but let’s make it twenty bucks.”

Jerry seemed worried by this raising of the stakes, but not worried enough to keep from saying, “You’re on.”

Bill let his gaze linger on the ABs and watched the scene play out just as he suspected it would. The bigger man dropped the bar, but his spotter didn’t even let the bar touch the other man’s chest before snatching it up onto the rack.

Bill said, “The spotter wasn’t looking away because he wasn’t paying attention. He was looking away because he was scanning the yard for threats.”

“But they don’t need to do that here. There are no physical threats.”

“Old habits.”

Crestfallen, Jerry continued along the perimeter, and Bill followed in step beside him.

“This group of one hundred,” Bill said, referring to the first wave of prisoners being transferred to the refurbished and repurposed Foxbury prison, “has had to form bonds quickly in order to maintain their dominance when the next wave hits. I know we’ve only been here a few months, but I’m shocked that no one has been killed yet. This new ‘experimental model’ gives these guys way too much freedom.”

As the bigger Aryan rose from the bench and took his place as spotter, the two locked fists, held the embrace for a breath, and released each other with a final squeeze of the shoulder. A strangely intimate public gesture that stretched the limits of the physical contact allowed at Foxbury. They may have even felt the jolt of a warning shock. Maybe that was the point. To bond through a little shared pain.

“It’s in their nature to join together into packs. They’re a group of hungry wolves thrown into a pen. The laws of nature take over. They’re going to gang up and start establishing bonds and hierarchy. I don’t care what they claim about this software and technology and cameras. It’s nature of the beast out here. Always has been, always will be. Someone’s going to get this place’s number. There isn’t a security system in the world that can’t be bypassed. If one guy’s smart enough to design it, then there’s another guy out there hungry enough to bypass it.”

“So far, it seems to be working. I think it’s a glimpse of what the prison of the future could look like.”

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid just yet. It’s only been six months, kid. Trust me. ‘So far’ doesn’t last that long.”

Bill glanced back at the big Aryan, now standing solemn guard over his comrade like a stone sentinel.

Then Bill watched the big Aryan’s head split down the middle. He saw the blood a heartbeat before he heard the crack of a high-powered rifle.

~~*~~

A millisecond of held breath followed the first man’s death. A fraction of a heartbeat when the fight or flight instincts of every inmate twitched toward fight. After all, these men were all fighters in one way or another. It made time seem frozen somehow.

Then everyone, all at once, realized what had happened. The inmates dropped to the ground, as they had been taught, and the guards struggled to keep their wits.

Bill analyzed the situation, years of training and drills all floating to the surface of his personal sea of memories. The training kicked in and won the battle over his instincts.

An inmate must have been putting the life of a guard in danger. That was the only reason a tower guard would have opened fire. His gaze had just enough time to slide over the yard, searching for what he had missed, when the second shot rang out.

This time one of the inmates with his belly to the ground jerked wildly and then lay still, a spray of blood splattering the man to his left.

Bill tried to work it out. Why would a tower guard shoot an inmate lying on the ground?

Unless this was something more.

An entirely different set of training and drills took over—from before he became a correctional officer, from back when he was a young army recruit—and those military-issued instincts helped Bill immediately recognize what this really was. A sniper attack. They were under assault.

“Everyone up!” Bill screamed. “Get inside the buildings. Get to cover!” The throng of prisoners scattered as they scrambled to find protection. The sound of a third shot spurred their legs to pump harder.

Bill didn’t see the third man fall, but he did see from where the shot had originated. He had looked to the towers and walls first, scanning for the shooter. And up in Tower 3, he saw a man who looked like Ray Navarro, eye to his rifle, lining up another shot.

The yard was, looking down from above, the shape of a giant stop sign. Guard towers topped four of the outer vertexes. The safety of the prison’s main buildings was in the distance to Bill’s left. But Tower 3 and the sniper who had become like a son to Bill was closer on the right.

Safety or friendship.

When Bill had served his tour of duty, he had learned and believed that it was all about the man on your right and on your left, your brothers.

Safety or friendship.

Saving his own ass or trying to keep his friend from being killed. The decision was an easy one for Bill Singer. Not even a choice really. Just another instinct; a natural result of all he’d learned and experienced.

He ran toward Tower 3.

Access to the outer perimeter of the yard and the guard towers was made possible via a barred gate in the old stone wall. The problem was that the gate was actually more modern than its surroundings, and it had no locks or keys. It could only be opened by one of the watchers—the name the guards had bestowed on the computer techs who constantly monitored the prison’s thousands of cameras through some kind of special software. Amid the chaos of the yard, among the disorder of one hundred men running for their lives, one of those watchers would have to notice him and buzz him through the gate.

It was a long shot. Not to mention that he had to put himself squarely in Ray’s crosshairs—if that really was Ray up there—just to reach the gate.

The Ray he knew would never fire on him. But the Ray he knew would never fire on anyone. If it really was Ray, then it wasn’t the Ray he knew, and he had no way of anticipating the actions of this robot that had taken Ray’s place, this creature that seemed to walk in Ray’s skin.

Bill wasn’t really surprised to see a pair of the other guards having the same idea. A pair of energetic thirty-something guards who Bill knew as Trent and Stuart were already pounding their fists on the shiny aluminum gate and shouting up at one of the prison’s legion of cameras.

To his surprise, Bill was still twenty feet from the gate when he heard the buzz and clank of the lock disengaging. Big brother was watching. The other pair of guards pushed through and ran out of his view, but he knew where they were headed. He shot a glance to Tower 3 as he ran toward the now-open gate.

Ray had disappeared from the tower’s window. Whether the shooting was over or Ray was just reloading, Bill couldn’t be sure, but he did know that things would go better for his young friend if he was the first one up that ladder.

Bill shouted at the other guards to wait, to let him go up first, but he was so winded from the sprint across the yard that he couldn’t make the sound come out with as much force as he wanted.

The younger guards didn’t stop their assault. “Wait!” he shouted. The thought of Ray attacking the guards and escalating the situation spurred him forward, pumping his adrenaline to the next level.

Bill caught the gate before it could swing shut and relatch. He rounded the corner of the wall toward Tower 3 and looked up just as the parapet of the tower exploded in a searing ball of glass and fire.

~~*~~

The concussion wave slammed Bill to the ground like a swatted fly. Blackened and flaming chunks of concrete rained down around him. He looked back at Tower 3, and his eyes struggled to regain focus. The midday sun hung in the sky directly behind the watchtower. It looked to Bill as if the sun had simply absorbed the parapet of Tower 3 like some giant fiery PAC-MAN. He held his gaze into the sun just long enough to see that the tip of Tower 3 was gone, as if the crow’s nest was the top of a dandelion blown away and scattered to the wind, there and then not.

He was still disoriented by the blast wave. His vision blurred and then came back into focus. Blurred and focused. Then, through the haze, Bill saw Ray Navarro stumbling toward the opening in the stone wall, heading back to the main building.

It was Ray. Bill was sure of it. Not some impostor or impersonator, but his friend. Had the kid completely snapped?

If something was happening in Ray’s life that could have driven him to this, then Bill had no clue what it could have been. Maybe the kid had some kind of PTSD flashback? He couldn’t have been in his right mind.

Bill’s hearing suddenly returned. One second, it was a high-pitched ringing, a shrill otherworldly sound. Then the sound quickly merged back with the real world. The screams brought Bill back to the moment. He crawled, then stumbled, then ran toward the sound of the screaming. One of the men who had beaten him to the tower was on fire. He didn’t see the other.

The man, or more of a boy to Bill’s old eyes, rolled feebly on the ground to smother the flames. Bill could smell the man’s flesh cooking. It reminded him of sizzling bacon.

Bill shoved his hands through the flames to get to the boy. Just enough contact with the fire to singe off all the hair on Bill’s arms, but also just enough contact with the boy’s torso to shove him into a full roll.

He helped extinguish the last of the flames and then rolled the kid onto his back. His face was charred. He couldn’t stop crying and coughing. And Bill could think of nothing he could do to help.

The sound of boots crushing sand and gravel announced the arrival of more guards. One pushed Bill back and started performing CPR on the burned man.

Bill hadn’t even noticed that the kid had stopped breathing. He felt suddenly disoriented, as if he had just woken up from a bad dream, and his mind was struggling to realign with reality. All he could hear was the ringing, and it seemed to be growing in volume, swelling toward a climax.

He bent over and threw up. What could Ray have been thinking? Had he seen Ray heading back toward the prison? Had that been real? If so, where was Ray going? Had his young friend done this and then was trying to sneak away in the confusion?

Bill ran back toward the gate. The other guards shouted something about needing help, but Bill ignored them. He moved with a singular focus now.

One emotion drove him forward. Anger. One thought fueled his anger. That could have been me.

If Ray had premeditated this—and he obviously had, because he must have brought some kind of explosives with him and had at least some semblance of an escape plan—then that meant that Ray had no way of knowing who would have been the next person through that hatch. It could have been anyone. It could very easily have been Bill.

A few steps closer or a few seconds faster, and it would have been him.

His friend had nearly taken his life; he had nearly taken him away from Caroline.

That didn’t sit right with him and, at the very least, he was going to find out why.

The yard was almost evacuated, and Bill couldn’t miss Ray moving toward the north barracks.

He lowered his head and ran harder, trying to close the gap between them.

Ray didn’t look back, didn’t check over his shoulder once. As if not looking at the destruction he had caused would make it less real, less horrifying. As if guilt and shame wouldn’t catch him if he refused to acknowledge them.

The anger fueled Bill even more—the anger awakened something in him. Something that he hadn’t felt since his army days. He could still smell the young guard’s burning flesh. He could still hear his screams.

He closed the last of the gap in a dive, driving his shoulder into Ray’s back and sending them both sprawling onto the concrete of a basketball court.

Ray was first to his feet. He held a Glock pistol, probably stolen from the gun cabinet of Tower 3.

“Stay back,” Ray said.

“What have you done?”

“I said stay back!”

“Why?”

Bill’s voice cracked as he took a step toward the man he had spent countless hours counseling and guiding back toward sanity.

“Back,” Ray said, retreating toward the barracks.

“You tell me why!”

“I’m sorry. I’m glad you’re okay.”

“Glad I’m okay? I could have been killed. And what about the others you just murdered?”

“I can’t. . .” Ray shook his head and turned to run.

Bill stared at him a moment, dumbfounded.

It looked like the Ray he knew. The voice was the same. The look in his eyes. But the Ray he knew would never have done something like this. Did he have the capability? Sure. Ray was a former soldier. He had killed in combat. This was different. This was the visceral act of an animal with its back to the wall. This was the final attack of a dying predator.

What could have possibly driven Ray to such a desperate, animalistic decision?

Ray had taken three big strides toward the barracks before Bill made up his mind that Ray Navarro wasn’t leaving the yard.

Bill closed the distance between them in two huge strides. He threw all of his weight and momentum into a single blow. He hurled himself at Ray like a locomotive of flesh and bone. He aimed one huge punch directly at the back of Ray’s head. He would hit Ray hard with one sucker punch that would instantly knock him out. The fight would be over before it began.

But Ray ducked the punch at the last second and spun around, the gun still in his hand.

Bill immediately recognized his mistake. An old drill instructor’s words floated back to him from the ether of his memory.

Go for the body. The head is too small a target that can move and shift too easily.

Bill immediately knew the consequence of not heeding that advice.

The gun flashed.

Bill saw the shock and horror in Ray’s eyes.

He felt the warmth of the blood leaving the wound before actually feeling the pain of the puncture. He fell back to the concrete.

The ringing in his ears was fading away but leaving only silence in its place.

He heard the shouts of other guards telling Ray to get down. He closed his eyes. At least he had stopped Ray from escaping and hurting anyone else or himself.

Bill Singer heard the ringing. Then more shouting. Then the ringing again. And then nothing at all.




Author Bio:


Ethan Cross

Ethan Cross is the award-winning international bestselling author of The Shepherd (described by #1 bestselling author Andrew Gross as “A fast paced, all too real thriller with a villain right out of James Patterson and Criminal Minds.”), The Prophet (described by bestselling author Jon Land as “The best book of its kind since Thomas Harris retired Hannibal Lecter”), The Cage, Callsign: Knight, Father of Fear, and Blind Justice.

In addition to writing and working in the publishing industry, Ethan has also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a national franchise, recorded albums and opened for national recording artists as lead singer and guitar player in a musical group, and been an active and involved member of the International Thriller Writers organization and Novelists Inc.

He lives and writes in Illinois with his wife, three kids, and two Shih Tzus.


Catch Up online with Ethan Cross on his Website, Twitter, and Facebook.



Tour Participants:

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for The Story Plant and Ethan Cross. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $25 Amazon.com Giftcard AND there will be several winners of one (1) eBook copy of The Shepherd by Ethan Cross. The giveaway begins on September 29th and runs through December 5th, 2016.


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The Judas Game: A Shepherd Thriller

The Judas Game: A Shepherd Thriller

The Judas Game :  A Shepherd Thriller

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Book Blast: FOR DUTY AND HONOR by Leo J. Maloney


For Duty and Honor


by Leo J. Maloney


November 22, 2016 Book Blast





Synopsis:


For Duty and Honor by Leo J. Maloney

In this action-packed novella, Black Ops veteran Leo J. Maloney delivers a heart-pounding tale as fast, cold, and sleek as a 9mm bullet…


For Duty And Honor

The unthinkable has happened to operative Dan Morgan. Captured by the Russians. Imprisoned in the Gulag. Tortured by his cruelest, most sadistic enemy. But Morgan knows that every prisoner has a past—and every rival can be used. With the most unlikely of allies, Morgan hatches a plan. To save what’s important, he must risk everything. And that’s when the stakes go sky-high. Dan Morgan’s got to keep fighting. For duty. And honor. And even certain death…




Book Details:


Genre: Thriller, Political Thriller
Published by: Kensington Books/Lyrical Underground
Publication Date: November 22nd 2016
Number of Pages: 96
ISBN: 1616509813 (ISBN13: 9781616509811)
Series: Dan Morgan #5.5

Purchase For Duty and Honor at Amazon 🔗, Barnes & Noble 🔗, & add it to your Goodreads 🔗 List!





Read an excerpt:


The prisoner’s body was a brick of exhaustion and pain.

Steel cuffs chafed against his raw wrists and ankles, the rough uniform scraping the burns and cuts that lined his arms and legs and pocked his torso. Even under the blackness of his hood, the prisoner smelled stale sweat mingled with his own breath: iron from the blood, acetone from the starvation. He could barely hold himself up against the jolting ride. All that was keeping him upright were the two thick guards at his sides boxing him in. At the outset, hours ago at the landing strip, the guards were in high spirits, joking and jesting in Russian, which the prisoner could not follow. Whenever he couldn’t hold himself up anymore and leaned into one of them or into the front seat, they would box the prisoner’s head and laugh, forcing him to sit upright again.

But as they drew nearer to their destination, and the car’s heating lost ground against the cold, the guards grew quiet, like there was something grim about the place even to them.

The prisoner swung forward as the jeep came to an abrupt stop, tires on gravel. The doors opened and the spaces on his sides cleared as the men got out, leaving him exposed to the frigid Siberian air. Against this cold, the canvas uniform felt like nothing at all.

The guards unlocked the cuffs and yanked the prisoner out. Too tired to offer any resistance, he walked along, bare feet on the freezing stony ground. Someone pulled off his cowl. He was struck by a hurricane of light that made him so dizzy that he would have vomited, if there were anything in his stomach. It took a moment for the image to stop swimming and resolve itself into the barren landscape of rock and creeping brush lit by a sun low in the sky.

The Siberian tundra.

They prodded him forward. He trudged toward the Brutalist conglomeration of buildings surrounded by tall mesh fences and barbed wire. Prison camp. Gulag. The prisoner’s trembling knee collapsed and he fell on the stony ground. A guard gave him a kick with a heavy, polished leather boot and pulled him to his feet.

They reached the top and entered the vakhta, the guardhouse. He passed through the first gate and was searched, rough hands prodding and poking at him. They then opened the second, leading him through, outside, into the yard. His gaze kept down, he saw guards’ boots, and massive furry Caucasian shepherds, each taller than a full-grown man’s waist. He didn’t look up to see the bare concrete guard towers that overlooked the terrain for miles around or at the sharpshooters that occupied them.

He was pulled inside the nearest boxy building, walls painted with chipping murals of old Soviet propaganda, apple-cheeked youngsters over fields of grain and brave soldiers of the Red Army standing against the octopus of international capitalism. On the second floor, they knocked on a wooden door.

“Postupat’.”

The guards opened the door, revealing an office with a vintage aristocratic desk. They pushed him onto the bare hardwood.

A man stood up with a creak of his chair. The prisoner watched as he approached, seeing from his vantage point only the wingtip oxfords and the hem of his pinstriped gabardine pants, walking around his desk, footsteps echoing in the concrete office.

“Amerikanskiy?”

“Da,” a guard answered.

The man crouched, studying the prisoner’s face. “You are one of General Suvorov’s, are you not?” His voice was deep and filled with gravel and a heavy Russian accent.

The prisoner didn’t respond—not that he needed to.

“You are tough, if he did not break you.” He stood, brushing off unseen dust from his suit jacket. “And if he had broken you, you would be dead already. I am Nevsky, the warden. Welcome to my prison.”




Leo J. MaloneyAuthor Bio:

Leo J. Maloney is a proud supporter of Mission K9 Rescue, http://www.missionk9rescue.org, which is dedicated to the service of retiring and retired military dogs and contract dogs and other dogs who serve. Mission K9 rescues, reunites, re-homes, rehabilitates, and repairs these hero dogs. Leo donates a portion of the proceeds from his writing to this organization. To find out more about Mission K9 Rescue, or to make your own donation, please visit www.missionk9rescue.org or go to www.k9gala.org


Catch Up with Mr. Maloney on his Author’s Website 🔗, on Author’s Twitter 🔗, and on Author’s Facebook 🔗!


** (Photo Credit Carolle Photography)



Tour Participants:

Stop by the participants of this tour for more great features!






Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Leo J. Maloney. There will be 1 winners of one (1) eBook copy of For Duty and Honor by Leo J. Maloney. This giveaway is limited to US & Canadian residents only. The giveaway begins on November 19th and runs through November 26th, 2016.


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Book Showcase: ESCAPE VELOCITY by Susan Wolfe


Escape Velocity


by Susan Wolfe


on Tour November 1 – December 31, 2016





Synopsis:


Escape Velocity by Susan Wolfe

When does the Con become the Artist?


Georgia Griffin has just arrived in Silicon Valley from Piney, Arkansas on very bald tires, having firmly rejected her beloved father’s life as a con artist.  Her father is in jail and a certain minister is hugging her mother for Jesus while eyeing Georgia’s little sister, Katie-Ann.  Georgia desperately needs to keep her new job as paralegal for Lumina Software so she can provide a California haven for her sister before it’s too late.

While she’s still living in her car, Georgia realizes that incompetence and self-dealing have a death grip on her new company.  She decides to adapt her extensive con artist training—just once—to clean up the company. But success is seductive. Soon Georgia is an avid paralegal by day and a masterful con artist by night, using increasingly bold gambits designed to salvage Lumina Software. Then she steps into the shadow of a real crime and must decide: Will she risk her job, the roof over her sister’s head, and perhaps her very soul?



Book Details:


Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Published by: Steelkilt Press
Publication Date: October 4th 2016
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 0997211717 (ISBN13: 9780997211719)
Purchase Links: Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble , & Goodreads 


Read an excerpt:



Georgia followed the bouncing ponytail into a silent conference room with an immense black table. She perched on the edge of a fancy leather chair, quietly sniffed the air, and followed the scent to a tray of food on a side table: rows of colorful ripe fruit, cheerful little pots of yogurt, a tray of meat and cheese alongside glistening rolls. They hadn’t mentioned it would be a lunch interview. She’d have to pace herself and not look greedy. Her empty stomach contracted in anticipation as she politely declined the offer of coffee.

“He’ll be with you in a moment,” the woman said. “Oh, sorry, let me get this out of here.”


She scooped up the food and carried it from the room, leaving only a scent of pineapple hovering in the air.

Well. Good riddance. The last thing Georgia needed was to get all gorged and sleepy right before an interview.

And this could be the interview. This could be the interview that landed the job that allowed her to bring Katie-Ann to California until her father got out of prison. Too bad her resume was sort of bare, but the economy was finally picking up and she only needed one solid foothold. It didn’t matter how many jobs she hadn’t gotten. What mattered was the one she did get, and this could be that one. So what if it had been more than three weeks since her last interview? That just meant she should make this one count.

As she moved her forearm slowly across the mahogany, she could see her pale skin reflected off the glistening finish. Sure was quiet in here. You couldn’t hear anything of the big company that was supposedly operating at breakneck speed just outside the walls. Fast-paced was what they called themselves. Self-starter is what she was supposed to be. Well, she was a self-starter. How else had she gotten here? All the way from Piney, Arkansas, to Silicon Valley on bald tires, a million miles from the sound of Mama’s sniffling, the acrid smell of her bright pink nail polish.

Georgia wasn’t wearing any makeup at all. The woman with the bobbing ponytail had on perfect makeup that made her skin look like a baby’s butt. Which was great if you also knew how to avoid making yourself a magnet for perverts, but Georgia hoped she could hold her own around here without makeup. Tall and lanky and fast-moving, like a colt, her father said. (He should know, he’d boarded enough of them.) She wasn’t an athlete, exactly, but definitely a runner. Dark pinstripe pantsuit from the Now and Again shop up in Palo Alto, scratchy at the back of her neck. Blueberry-colored eyes against pale, freckled skin, shiny black hair in a blunt bob as even as her dull scissors could chew through it. A smile so wide it sometimes startled people, seemed to give the fleeting impression she was unhinged. Careful with the smile. Enthusiastic, but not alarming.


The guy coming to interview her was late. She could have peed after all. This big San Jose industrial park was confusing, with boxy cement buildings that all looked exactly alike. Set back from the street behind gigantic parking lots full of glinting cars so it was impossible to see any street numbers, making it clear they couldn’t care less whether a newcomer found her way. She’d ended up having to run in her heels just to get to the lobby on time.

Could she get to the john now? She squeezed her shoulder blades tightly and stretched the back of her neck away from the scratchy suit coat. The silence was making her jumpy. She left her resume on the polished table and opened the door just enough to look out.

The woman with the ponytail was nowhere to be seen. In fact, Georgia couldn’t see a living soul. She took a couple of tentative steps into the hall. What if the interviewer showed up before she got back? Screw it. With a last look around the vacant executive area, she darted down the hallway.

The hall opened abruptly into an area crammed with battle-gray, fabric cubicles that created a maze the size of a football field. Had she wandered into a different company? The only thing the two areas had in common was that here, too, it was quiet. People must really be concentrating. Either that, or they’d had a bomb scare and nobody had bothered to tell her.

She was relieved to see a bald head appear above the fabric wall a few cubes down like a Jurassic Park dinosaur. (Now, that was quite an image. Did she feel that out of place around here?) She heard a printer spitting out copies somewhere in the distance as she headed toward the dinosaur, rounded a corner and stopped cold.

An unattended donut was resting on the work surface just inside one of the cubes. Barely even inside the cube, less than a foot away, almost as if it had been set down and forgotten by some passerby.

The plate slapped down in a hurry, its edge sticking out precariously beyond the edge of the work surface. Yesterday’s donut, perhaps, abandoned, stale.

But no, the donut was still puffy and golden, with minuscule cracks in that shiny sugar glaze. A donut still wafting the faintest scent of the fat it had been fried in. She could almost feel her lips touching the tender surface as her teeth . . .

Had she whimpered out loud? She glanced both ways along the still-deserted hall and then returned her gaze to the donut resting on its lightly grease-stained white paper plate. Pretending to wonder if the cube was occupied, she leaned her head in and called a faint “hello?” resting her hand lightly on the work surface, a finger touching the paper plate. Staring straight ahead, she floated her fingers across the surface and up, until her palm was hovering just above the donut’s sticky surface. One quick grab . . .

“May I help you?” intoned a male voice.

Georgia snatched her hand back like the donut was a rattlesnake.

She turned and found herself face to face with the Jurassic Park dinosaur, who was looking distinctly human and downright suspicious. He looked past her and surveyed the vacant cube before resting his skeptical gaze on her most winsome smile.

“Oh, hi!” she said brightly. “I’m here for an interview, and I was hoping you could point me toward the restroom?”

“And you thought it might be in here?”

“Well no, but I thought a person . . .”

“Follow me, please.”

She heard her Arkansas twang vibrating the air between them as he led her down the hall a few yards, pointed a stern finger and said, “In there.” He crossed his arms, and she felt the heat of his disapproving gaze on her back as she pushed through the heavy door into the privacy on the other side.

Now, that was just downright mortifying. Caught in the act of stealing a donut? A donut?? If he told somebody . . . She cupped her palm over her closed eyes and dragged it slowly down until it covered her mouth.

Of course, she hadn’t actually taken the donut, so what precisely had the guy seen? A woman standing at the edge of an empty cube, leaning her head in politely to look for someone. He probably hadn’t noticed the donut, and even if he had he’d never imagine how desperately she wanted it. He’d probably had steak and gravy for breakfast, and thought a hungry person in Silicon Valley was as rare as a Jurassic Park dinosaur. If anything, he probably thought she was casing the empty cube for something valuable. Which was ridiculous, because what could a cube contain that was as valuable as a job?

But if he thought it was true, he might be waiting for her just outside the door with a security guard, planning to march her out of the building and away from this rare and essential person who could actually give her a job. Busted because of a donut.

The face that looked back from the mirror above the sink was staring at a firing squad as Georgia held her icy hands under the hot water.

But then the stare turned defiant.

She hadn’t driven all the way from Arkansas to live in her car and get this job interview just to become distracted at the critical moment by some prissy, no-account donut police. Who did he think he was? It wasn’t even his donut, and anyway, he wasn’t doing the hiring. Her only task at this moment was to deliver the interview of a lifetime and get this job.

She squared her shoulders, practiced her smile in the mirror two or three times and strode with her head erect back along the deserted corridor to the interview room.

The man who entered the conference room five minutes later had the stiff-backed posture and shorn hair of a military man. He was well over six feet tall, lean, in his late forties, wearing neatly rolled blue chambray shirtsleeves and a bright yellow bow tie. As he shook her hand and sat opposite her, she saw that his stubble of hair was red and his eyes were a muted green. Fellow Irishman, maybe. Could she forge some connection from that?

“I’m Ken Madigan, the General Counsel here. Are you Georgia Griffin?”

“Yes, sir, I am.” She offered her carefully calibrated, not-alarming smile.

“Appreciate you coming in today. Sorry to keep you waiting.” He tapped a green folder with her name on the tab. “I’ve read your resume, so I won’t ask you to repeat it. As you know, we have a key job to fill after quite a hiring freeze. Let’s start with what’s important to you in your next job.”

“Well, sir, I just got my paralegal certificate, and I’m looking for the opportunity to put my learning and judgment to use. I intend to prove that I can make a real difference to my company, and then I’d like to advance.”

His smile was encouraging. “Advance to what?”

This was a variant of the ‘five years’ question, and she answered confidently. “In five years I’d still like to be in the legal department, but I want to have learned everything there is to know about the other parts of the company, too. My goal is to become, well, indispensable.”

“Is anything else important?” Those gray-green eyes were watching her with mild interest. She decided to take a chance and expose a tiny bit of her peculiar background to personalize this interview.

“Well, sir, I’m eager to get started, because I need to make enough money to get my baby sister here just as soon as I can make a place for her.”

His raised his eyebrows slightly. “And how old is she?”

“Fifteen, sir, and needing a better future than the one she’s got. I need to move pretty fast on that one.”

“I see. Now tell me about your work experience.” Which was where these interviews generally died. She shoved her cold hands between her thighs and the chair.

“I don’t have a lot of glamorous experience, sir. I cleaned houses and worked as a waitress at the WhistleStop to get myself through school. And the whole time I was growing up I helped my father look after the horses he was boarding. In fact, he got so busy with his second job for a while that I just took over the horses myself. Horses are expensive, delicate animals, and things can go wrong in a heartbeat. With me in charge, our horses did fine.”

“Okay, great.” He ran his palm over his stubble of hair, considering. “Now tell me what kind of people you like to work with.” Not one follow-up question about her experience. Did he think there was nothing worth talking about? Just focus on the question.

“The main thing is I want to work with smart people who like to do things right the first time. And people who just, you know, have common sense.”

“I see. And what kind of people bug you?” This interviewer wasn’t talking much, which made it hard to tell what impression she was making. A bead of sweat trickled between her shoulder blades.

“Well, I don’t much like hypocrites.” Which unfortunately eliminated about half the human race, but she wouldn’t mention that. He waited. “And I don’t like people who can’t or won’t do their jobs.” She stopped there, in spite of his continued silence. No need to mention pedophiles, or that nasty prison guard who’d backed her against the wall on the catwalk. That probably wasn’t what Ken Madigan had in mind.

“Thank you.” He tapped his pen on her resume. “Now I’d like you to describe yourself with three adjectives.”

Was this guy jerking her chain? He didn’t much look like he’d jerk anybody’s chain, but what did adjectives have to do with job qualifications? Maybe he was politely passing the time because he’d already decided not to hire her.

“Well,” she said, glancing into the corner, “I guess I would say I’m effective. Quick at sizing up a situation.” She paused. “And then I’m trying to decide between ‘inventive’ and ‘tough.'”

“Okay, I’ll give you both. Inventive and tough. Tell me about a time you were quick at sizing up a situation.” This didn’t feel like the other interviews she’d done. Not only were the questions weird, but he seemed to be listening to her so closely. She couldn’t recall ever being listened to quite like this.

To her astonishment she said exactly what came into her head. “Well, like this one. I can already tell that you’re a kind person who cares about the people who work for you. I think you’re pretty smart, and you listen with a capital L. You might have a problem standing up to people who aren’t as smart or above board as you are, though. That could be holding you back some.”

Ken Madigan’s eyebrows were suddenly up near his hairline. Why on earth was she spilling her insights about him to him? Too many weeks of isolation? Was it hunger? She should have taken that coffee after all, if only to dump plenty of sugar in it. Or was it something about him, that earnest-looking bow tie maybe, that made her idiotically want to be understood? Whatever it was, she’d blown the interview. Good thing she wasn’t the sort of weakling who cried.

So move it along and get out of there. She dropped her forehead into her hand. “God, I can’t believe I just said all that. You probably don’t have any flaws at all, sir, and if you do it isn’t my place to notice them. I guess I need another adjective.”

“Which would be . . . ?”

“Blunt.”

He lowered one eyebrow slightly. “Let’s say ‘forthright.’ And I won’t need an example.”

“You know what, though?” There was nothing left to lose, really, and she was curious. “I’m not this ‘forthright’ with everybody. A lot of people must just talk to you.”

“They do,” he acknowledged with a single nod, his eyebrows resuming their natural location. “It’s an accident of birth. But they usually don’t say anything this interesting.” He sounded amused. Could she salvage this?

“Well, I’m completely embarrassed I got so personal.”

“You shouldn’t be. I’m impressed with your insight.”

“Really? Then maybe you see what I mean about being quick.”

He laughed. “I believe I do.”

“I mean, I can be quick about other things, too. Quick to see a problem starting up. Sometimes quick to see what’ll solve it. Like when my father had to go away and I saw we’d have to sell the stable to pay the taxes . . .” Blah blah blah, there she went again. She resisted clapping her hand over her mouth. Was she trying to lose this job?

The woman with the bouncy ponytail stuck her head in. “I’m so sorry, but Roy would like to see you in his office right away. And your next appointment is already downstairs.” She handed him another green folder. The tab said ‘Sarah Millchamp.’ “I’m going to lunch, but I’ll have Maggie go down for her in ten minutes. She’ll be in here whenever you’re ready.”

“Thanks, Nikki,” he said, turning back to Georgia. “Unfortunately, it looks like our time’s about up. Do you have a question for me before we stop?”

Sixty seconds left to make an impression. “I saw your stock’s been going up. Do you think it’s going up for the right reasons?”

There went his eyebrows again, and this time his mouth seemed to be restraining a smile. “Not entirely, no, as a matter of fact.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Do you have an opinion about improvements that would make your growth more sustainable?”

He allowed his smile to expand. “I have many opinions, and a small amount of real insight. Might be difficult to discuss right now . . .”

She held a hand up. “Oh, I understand. But do you think a paralegal could help make a difference?”

“A solid paralegal could make a big difference.”

“I’d like to know more about the issues, sir, but they’re probably confidential, and anyway, I know you have to leave.” She leaned forward, preparing to stand up.

“You’re a surprising person, Ms. Griffin, and an interesting one. I’ve enjoyed our conversation.”

Like he enjoyed a circus freak, probably. She made her smile humble. “Thank you.”

“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to have somebody from Human Resources give you a call in the next day or two.”

Was he serious? “That would be fine.”

“If we decide to work together, could you start pretty quickly?”

The goal now was to leave without saying anything else stupid. “I’m sure I can meet your requirements.”

As he walked her out to the elevator he lowered his voice. “You know, Ms. Griffin, you’re an intuitive person, and you might have some insights about the Human Resources people you’re about to meet . . .”

She held up her palm. “Don’t worry, sir. If I do, I’ll keep my mouth shut.”

“Excellent. Great talking to you. Drive safely, now,” he called as the elevator door closed between them.

Thank God that interview was finished. In another five minutes she’d have told him anything, she’d have told him about Robbie. Drive safely? What a cornball. But she must have said something right. He gave her that tip about getting past the Human Resources people, which meant he must like her. Landing a first job with her resume was like trying to freeze fire, but this time at least she had a chance.

Her stomach cramped with hunger as she emerged into the lobby and saw a woman in her mid-thirties glancing through a magazine. Tailored suit, precision-cut blond hair, leather case laid neatly across her lap. Completely professional, and she had ten years’ experience on Georgia at least. No. No way. Georgia walked briskly over to the woman and stood between her and the receptionist.

“Ms. Millchamp?” she said quietly, extending her hand.

The woman stood up and smiled. “Sarah Millchamp. Nice to meet you. I know I’m early.”

“I’m Misty. So sorry to tell you this, but Mr. Madigan’s been called out of town unexpectedly. He’s headed for the airport now.”

“Oh!” The poised Ms. Millchamp quickly regained her composure. “That’s too bad. But of course I understand.”

“Thank you for being so understanding. This literally happened ten minutes ago, and I’m completely flustered. I know he wants to meet you. Are you parked out here? At least let me walk you to your car.”

She put a sisterly hand against Ms. Millchamp’s elbow and began steering her toward the exit. “Tell you what, can I call you to reschedule as soon as Mr. Madigan gets back? Maybe you two can have lunch. Just don’t take that job at Google in the meantime.”

“Google?”

“Now, don’t pretend you haven’t heard about the job at Google. In Brad Dormond’s department? They’re our worst nightmare when it comes to competing for good people.” The air in the parking lot mingled the spicy scent of eucalyptus with the smell of rancid engine grease, and her stomach lurched. “So, see over there? That’s the entrance to the freeway. Bye now. I’ll call you soon.”

Georgia waved as Sarah Millchamp backed her car out. Then she hurried back inside to the receptionist.

“Hi,” she said. “That lady, Ms. Millchamp? She just let me know she has a migraine and will call to reschedule. Will you let Maggie know?”

The receptionist nodded and picked up her phone. “That’s too bad.”

“Isn’t it, though?”

Done and dusted, as Gramma Griffin would say.

She still might not get the job, of course, she reminded herself as she pulled onto the freeway, nibbling a half-eaten dinner roll she’d squirreled away in the crack between her passenger seat cushions the night before. She’d gotten this far once before. And she didn’t have to get it. She had another dozen resumes out, and one of those might still lead to something. Her cousin at Apple had turned out to be more useless than a well dug in a river, but that didn’t mean she was desperate. If she continued sleeping in her car most nights her money could last for another five weeks. And Lumina Software might not be a great job, anyway. Ken Madigan probably just interviewed well. That’s probably all it was.




Author Bio:


Susan Wolfe

Susan Wolfe is a lawyer with a B.A. from the University of Chicago and a law degree from Stanford University. After four years of practicing law full time, she bailed out and wrote the best-selling novel, The Last Billable Hour, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. She returned to law for another sixteen years, first as a criminal defense attorney and then as an in-house lawyer for Silicon Valley high-tech companies. Born and raised in San Bernardino, California, she now lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, Ralph DeVoe. Her new novel, Escape Velocity, will be published in October of 2016.



Catch Up with Susan Wolfe on her Website , on Twitter , and on Facebook !




Tour Participants:

Stop by the other hosts as well for excerpts, guest posts, interviews, reviews, and, of course, more great giveaways!





Join In on the Giveaway!



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Author Guide and Susan Wolfe. There will be 1 US winner of one (1) $50 Amazon.com gift card AND 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of Escape Velocity by Susan Wolfe. The giveaway begins on October 31st and runs through January 7th, 2017.


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Book Showcase: UNNATURAL DEEDS by Cyn Balog

Unnatural Deeds by Cyn Balog 
ISBN: 9781492635796 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781492635819 (eBook)
ASIN: B01HN3X3KU (Kindle version)
Publication Date: November 1, 2016 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Secrets. Obsession. Murder. Victoria is about to discover just how dangerous it can be to lose yourself.

Victoria Zell doesn’t fit in, but she’s okay with that. All she needs is the company of her equally oddball boyfriend, Andrew. She doesn’t care what anyone else thinks…until magnetic, charming, mysterious Z comes into her life, and she starts lying to everyone she knows in an effort to unravel his secrets.

And then something terrible happens. Someone is dead and it’s time for Victoria to come clean. Interspersed with news clippings and police interviews, Victoria tells her story to Andrew, revealing her dark, horrible secrets…secrets that have finally come back to haunt her. 



Read an excerpt:

Foul whisp’rings are abroad. Unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles. Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1



CHAPTER 1

Duchess—­Police are investigating an apparent homicide after a body was found in a wooded area early Tuesday morning. Authorities have not yet released the name of the victim or the person(s) they are questioning in connection with the investigation.

—­Central Maine Express Times


Is this thing on?

Ha—­ha, I’m a laugh a minute.

Anyway, Andrew. It’s me. Vic. I wanted to say I’m sorry. Sorry for…Well, where do I begin? I—-

Cough, cough, cough.

Sorry. I’m losing my voice. Something bitter is stuck in my throat, and the air is so cold it’s hard to breathe. This place reeks of decaying leaves, of the musty, damp rot of dead things returning to the earth.

There’s something soft and wet under my head. I hope it’s not brain matter. I can’t raise my arms to check because of the way I’m twisted here. I think my leg is broken. Or maybe my back? Damned if I can twitch a muscle without pain screaming its way up my spine.

Somehow I managed to pry my phone out of my jacket pocket and prop it on my chest, but you know how spotty service is around Duchess. All charged up with zero bars—­not that I’d be calling anyone but you. I wish I could see the background photo of you and me. It’d keep me company. You know the one. It’s the picture of us at the Renaissance Faire when we were fourteen. We’re both grinning like mad and you have your arm around me, claiming me as your own. It’s probably the only time you were ever comfortable with yourself. With us. I miss that.

Anyway, you know how glass half—­empty I am, Andrew. I wanted to record a note for you on my phone. You know, in case I don’t get out of here.

Of course I’ll get out of here. I wouldn’t be lucky enough to die here. But maybe this’ll be easier than telling you in person.

Cough, cough.

Where should I start?

It’s so quiet. You must have left me, Andrew. But you’ll come back. You always come back. You were scared, maybe, when you saw what you’d done. And now I’m all alone here.

I don’t really know where “here” is. I think it’s a drainage ditch on the side of Route 11. The last thing I remember is rushing down the road near the Kissing Woods, feeling powerful. Immortal. Like everything I wanted could be mine. For an instant, I felt like he could be mine.

But that’s not possible now.

I know what people have said behind my back in hushed whispers. They call me delusional. But I’m not. I know what is real and what isn’t.

No, wait. The last thing I remember is you with that fierce look in your eyes. You sure surprised me. Who knew that my boyfriend, quiet, unassuming Andrew Quinn, had that in him?

I thought I knew you inside and out, but…I was wrong.

I guess I should explain. After all, I have no other pressing engagements. And you’re overdue an explanation, aren’t you? The tall pines can be my witnesses. They can pass judgment as they see fit.

I’m not sure when it all began, but Lady M said it best. Hell is goddamn murky.

Whoops. Blasphemy. Yet another sin to add to my act—­of—­contrition list.

Looking back, you knew when I started to change, didn’t you, Andrew? You know everything about me. It was that very first day of school, the day my life began and the day it began to unravel.

So here are the gory details. It won’t be enough, but I’ll try. You can’t know it all until you’ve smelled that intoxicating cinnamon-­and-cloves scent, read those texts that elevated even the blandest words to poetry, and seen those heart-stoppingly blue eyes.

His eyes. Even now, I can see them with perfect clarity. I’ve seen them in my dreams, in the sky when the sun hits the clouds just right, and in my morning breakfast cereal. It all goes back to him. Every single thought always winds right back to him. Always. Always. Always.

It’s no use. I want him out of my head. I wish I could scrape him out of my memory. I don’t want to live with him etched in the deepest part of me. I don’t want to die thinking of him.

But I know I will.


Excerpt provided by the publisher. Copyright © Cyn Balog 2016



Meet the author:




Cyn Balog is the author of a number of young adult paranormal novels. She lives outside Allentown, Pennsylvania with her husband and daughters. Visit her online at www.cynbalog.com.




Connect with the author:

Website   |   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Goodreads 



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Book Showcase: THE VISITOR’S BOOK by Sophie Hannah

The Visitor’s Book

by Sophie Hannah

on Tour November 1 – December 17, 2016



The Visitor's Book by Sophie Hannah

A collection of spine-tingling ghost stories from one of today’s most acclaimed suspense novelists. In this small but perfectly formed collection of supernatural short stories, bestselling author, Sophie Hannah, takes the comforting scenes of everyday life and imbues them with a frisson of fear. Why is a young woman so unnerved by the presence of a visitors book in her boyfriend’s inner-city home? And whose spidery handwriting is it that fills the pages? Who is the strangely courteous boy still lingering at a child’s tenth birthday party when all the parents have gathered their children and left? And why does the presence of a perfectly ordinary woman in a post office queue leave another customer pallid and quaking with fear?




Book Details:


Genre: Short Stories, Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: November 1st 2016
Number of Pages: 120
ISBN: 0062562126 (ISBN13: 9780062562128)
Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads 



Sophie Hannah

Learn More:

Sophie Hannah is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous psychological thrillers, which have been published in 27 countries and adapted for television, as well as The Monogram Murders, the first Hercule Poirot novel authorized by the estate of Agatha Christie.




Catch Up with Sophie Hannah on her Website  & Twitter !









Tour Participants:







Enter for a chance to WIN!



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Sophie Hannah and Witness Impulse. There will be 5 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of The Visitor’s Book by Sophie Hannah. The giveaway begins on November 1st and runs through January 2nd, 2017.


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Book Showcase: OFFED STAGE LEFT by Joanne Sydney Lessner

Offed Stage Left by Joanne Sydney Lessner



Offed Stage Left


by Joanne Sydney Lessner


on Tour Oct. 31st – Nov. 15th, 2016




Synopsis:


Offed Stage Left by Joanne Sydney LessnerThere’s one role you don’t want a callback for: Prime Suspect.



Aspiring actress Isobel Spice lands her first regional theater job, playing a supporting role and understudying the lead in “Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa.” A series of minor backstage accidents culminates in the suspicious death of the leading lady on opening night. When Isobel takes over the role, her mastery of the material makes her more suspect than savior, and she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the identity of the murderer—before he or she strikes again.




Book Details:


Genre: Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
Published by: Dulcet Press
Publication Date: Late October 2016
Number of Pages:260
ISBN: 978-0-9981332-0-1
Series: Isobel Spice, 4 | Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Don’t Miss Your Chance to Read Offed Stage Left! You can grab it at Amazon ,  Barnes & Noble ,  Kobo ,  Smashwords , & Add it to your Goodreads List !



Read an excerpt:



CHAPTER ONE


“Be kind to your web-footed friends, for a duck could be somebody’s mooo-ther,” Sunil Kapany sang under his breath to the tune of “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“Shhh!” Isobel Spice elbowed him. “There’s a rehearsal going on, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“You have to admit, it’s better than the lame words we’re being forced to sing,” Sunil grumbled. He sank further into his cushioned seat in Livingston Stage Company’s darkened theater, drawing up his knees against the scratched donor nameplate on the seatback in front of him. “Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to write lyrics to Sousa marches?”

“I don’t see how you can have a musical about the March King without using his music,” Isobel said. She shifted the bustle of her pale-blue and white muslin gown, her act one costume for Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa.

“Easy,” Sunil replied. “You hire a composer with a sense of the period to write the book songs, and use Sousa’s marches for the gazintas and gazoutas.”

Isobel frowned. “The what?”

“The underscoring that goes into one scene and goes out of another. Gazintas and gazoutas.” He looked askance at her. “Have you never done a musical before?”

“Plenty.” She bristled. “And I’ve never heard anyone use those words. You are totally making that up.”

“I am not,” Sunil said, affronted. “Hey, Kelly!”

Several rows in front of them, Kelly Jonas, the stage manager, held court behind a large wooden plank balanced across the seats, which served as a makeshift control center for tech rehearsals. She looked up from her prompt book, a three-inch binder stuffed with script pages and scenic renderings, fastidiously divided by brightly colored tabs. Pushing aside a long strand of graying hair, Kelly squinted at Sunil through her wire-rimmed glasses.

“Yeah?”

“What are gazintas and gazoutas?” Sunil asked.

“The playons and playoffs before or after a scene,” she answered distractedly. A movement onstage caught her attention. “Are we ready to move on?”

Sunil turned triumphantly to Isobel. “See?”

Isobel sighed. “This is going to be a long day.”

“They don’t call it a ten-out-of-twelve for nothing.”

“Is there anything more tedious than spending ten hours waiting around while they set lighting and sound cues?” Isobel whined.

“Um, yes. Doing the actual show.”

As much as Isobel hated to admit it, Sunil was right. From day one, it had been clear that Sousacal was a dog. There had been a buzz of anticipatory excitement in the air when the company assembled for the first read-through in the third-floor rehearsal studio of the sleek, state-of-the-art performing arts complex in downtown Albany. In addition to hosting the century-old Livingston Stage Company, relocated from its charmingly dilapidated (some said haunted) prior home in an old vaudeville house, the building had a black box theater and a café that served light meals before and after performances. Everything about her surroundings made Isobel feel like a working theater professional.

Everything, that is, except the material. Sunil had politely informed her after the read-through that his shin was black and blue from her kicking it under the table. But having taken out her frustration on his tibia, she resolved to relish her first regional theater job rather than let the disappointing quality of the show get her down. Since moving to New York a year and a half ago, when she’d met Sunil at her very first audition, Isobel had learned that most acting work was to be found in summer stock or regional theaters. Isobel had resigned herself to the conundrum of living in New York in order to get work out of town, which was the best way for a young performer who was not yet a member of Actors’ Equity Association to build her resume. Despite Sunil’s increasingly steady stream of snarky comments, she had thrown herself enthusiastically into her small role as John Philip Sousa’s first love, Emma Swallow, while assiduously preparing the larger role she was understudying: Jennie Sousa, the composer’s wife.

Isobel sighed again and flipped open her script to a scene between Jennie and Sousa, running her finger down the neon pink highlights. “I may as well use my downtime to memorize lines.”

Sunil jerked a thumb at the stage. “You really think Arden is going to miss a performance?”

Isobel followed his gaze. Arden Claire was stalking the proscenium like a tiger that hadn’t had its morning coffee. A statuesque, auburn-haired beauty, Arden had once represented New York in the Miss America pageant and was hailed as a minor celebrity, even though she hadn’t made it past the swimsuit competition. So far, her portrayal of Jennie Sousa was not living up to expectations. Throughout the three-week rehearsal period, Ezra Bernard, the director, had pushed Arden to suppress her natural hauteur and find Jennie’s quiet strength and self-deprecating humor. Their struggles swallowed up rehearsal hours, and the more Ezra tried to mold Arden’s characterization, the more fiercely she clung to the glamour that had guaranteed her past successes, which didn’t exactly endear her to the rest of the company.


Chris Marshall, the charismatic, square-jawed actor playing Sousa, found her completely intolerable. All Arden’s scenes were with him, which meant her epic ego flashes impacted him more than anyone else. Initially, Chris had struck Isobel as the sort of galvanizing personality who stepped up to lead the company, but after three weeks of Arden, he had withdrawn into sullen, stormy silence. Lately he had stopped addressing his leading lady directly and had taken to routing all his communication through Ezra, a gently bearish man who was growing increasingly frazzled as opening night approached. Isobel was surprised now to see Chris saunter onstage and whisper something in Arden’s ear, prompting her to glower at him and retreat to the wings.

“Even divas get sick,” Isobel remarked. “Better safe than sorry.”

Sunil gave Isobel an appraising look. “If I didn’t know you as well as I do, I’d warn that girl to watch her back.”

Isobel flicked her eyes toward him. “Are you being purposely obnoxious today?”

“I assure you, it’s completely accidental.”

“Ha ha.”

“Trust me, you’re better off playing Emma.”

“Jennie is the lead. She’s Sousa’s wife. Emma is a passing fancy. I’m only in act one,” Isobel griped.

Sunil raised an eyebrow. “Let me get this straight: you think the show is a piece of crap, but you’re complaining your part isn’t big enough?”

Isobel crossed her arms defiantly. “What if I am?”

He laughed. “You are so predictable! Look, Jennie is your typical ingénue. Emma has, if you’ll pardon the expression, spice.” Isobel glared at him, but he went on. “Plus, you get to come back at the end as the hotel maid who finds him dead.”

“I have two lines and a scream,” she said. “About what you have in act two as the Indian chief who makes Sousa an honorary chieftain.”

“I don’t scream—I chant.” Sunil twirled the walking stick that rested horizontally across his knee. “Isn’t it time someone told Felicity she hired the wrong kind of Indian? I’m pretty sure the Pawnee Nation doesn’t have a Delhi tribe.”

Isobel resisted the urge to look several rows behind her, where Felicity Hamilton, artistic director of Livingston Stage, was sitting. Felicity was in her late fifties, short and stocky with impeccably coiffed black hair, a deceptively warm smile, and a calculating gaze. She had never married, but despite an apparent absence of maternal warmth, she treated her nephew and godchild Jethro like a son. It was Jethro Hamilton, a self-described Sousa fanatic, who had written the book and lyrics to Sousacal. The musical was Jethro’s baby, and, in his way, Jethro was Felicity’s.

“She thinks she’s getting points for non-traditional casting,” Isobel said. “Don’t kill the dream.”

“Where she’s really getting them is casting a brown person to play Philadelphia gentleman and man of the church Benjamin Swallow, your…gulp…stepfather.”

Isobel knew that Sunil, an Indian Jew, was perennially frustrated at the inability of directors to see past his ethnicity and hire him for the glorious tenor voice he had inherited from his cantor father.

She patted his hand. “It’s utility casting. They had to give us small parts because we’re covering the leads.” She eyed him curiously. “You are looking over Sousa’s stuff, right?”

Sunil pulled his hand away. “I’ve glanced at it.”

“Glanced…?” Isobel’s jaw fell open. “It’s huge! Sousa carries the show.”

“Eh, it’s pretty much sunk in by osmosis. Besides, you know actors. They’ll drag themselves onstage coughing and hacking rather than turn their creation over to a scheming understudy. You know, I’m not even the—”

“What if something serious happened to Chris? And what if there was a Broadway producer in the audience and you had to go on?”

Sunil snorted. “As if Broadway cares a hoot about what happens in the boonies.”

“Last I checked, Albany was the state capital.”

“Like I said, the boonies. Theatrically and politically,” Sunil cracked.

“Plenty of Tony winners are launched in regional theaters like Livingston,” she reminded him.

Sunil unbent his long legs and stretched them out under the seat in front of him. “Let’s review all the reasons that’s never going to happen with Sousacal. Number one: the show sucks. Number two: the show sucks. And number three: it’s not very good.”


Isobel turned a page with a dainty finger. “Then you won’t be interested in what I heard from Thomas in the costume shop.”

“Probably not.” Sunil yawned ostentatiously and tipped his straw boater over his face.

“Arden, back onstage, please.” Kelly’s voice echoed over the God mic. “We’ll finish the duet and move on to the wedding without stopping. Ensemble, please be ready for your entrance.”

Isobel set her script on the seat next to her and nudged Sunil. “Come on. Time to make the donuts.”

He righted his hat with a groan and led her down the aisle. They skirted the orchestra pit via a set of narrow utility stairs and took their places offstage left.


“So, what did you hear in the costume shop?” Sunil asked casually.

“I thought you weren’t interested,” Isobel teased.

“I’m not. I’m bored.”

Isobel’s eyes darted around the wings. Three chorus women, locals whom Isobel didn’t know well, were fussing with their costumes, which everyone was wearing for the first time. One of the ensemble men was trying to draw out the shy little boy who played young Sousa, while two others were engaged in a quiet but intense conversation. Satisfied that nobody was listening, she returned her attention to Sunil.

“Someone from the Donnelly Group is coming opening night.

“The Broadway producers?” Sunil waved her off. “I don’t believe it.”

“Thomas says all they have in the pipeline is revivals, and they’re scouting for something new,” Isobel insisted. “And you know as well as I do, if you want to know what’s going on, ask the costume shop.”

“Still don’t believe it.”

“And…continue,” Kelly called.

Chris and Arden picked up, rather mechanically, in the middle of act one, scene seven. Isobel watched them intently, mouthing Jennie’s lines while Sunil eyed her in amusement.

“You’re really taking this seriously,” he whispered.

She ignored him and continued, but stopped abruptly when Arden veered from the script.

“I can’t sit on the gazebo bench if that spotlight is right in my eyes,” Arden announced.

“We’ll adjust it on the break,” Kelly said. “If you stand on six, you should be in the clear.”

Arden shuffled over a few inches. “Now I’m in the dark.”

“Those are your choices right now. We’ll fix the cue later,” Kelly said.

Chris reached for Arden. “Oh, Jennie, you’ve made me the happiest man on earth. Please? Not just a tiny kiss?”

Arden stepped forward and shaded her eyes from the bright stage lights. “Ezra, I need a fan for this scene. It’s summer and she would have one.”

“Jesus Christ,” Chris muttered.

“We’ll get you a fan,” Ezra boomed from the back of the house. “Go on.”

Chris repeated his line. “Not just a tiny kiss?”

“Not until I have a fan,” Arden said.

“Something I’ll never be,” quipped Chris.

“Ooh, snap,” breathed Sunil.

Arden shot Chris a murderous look.

“I will get you one for tomorrow’s dress,” Ezra shouted. “Finish the goddamn scene!”

Arden turned to Chris and batted her eyelashes unconvincingly. “Not until we’re married,” she said with a tight-lipped smile.

From the orchestra pit, the piano launched into the intro to Sousa’s famous march, “The Washington Post.” Chris dropped to one knee, flung his arms wide, and sang in a lusty bari-tenor:

I’ll probably die if you don’t kiss me,
Yes, that’s what I most want you to do,
You simply have got to see it through!


As Chris pulled Arden onto his knee, Sunil continued the verse, singing his own lyrics into Isobel’s ear:

I’ll die if I ever have to sing that!
I’ll fall off the stage and land on my head,
And then I’ll be just as good as dead!


Isobel let out a squawk of laughter, which was topped by an even louder shriek from the stage, where Arden was jumping up and down, clutching the back of her thigh.

“Stop!” Kelly called out over the mic. “Are you okay?”

“There’s a wire sticking out on this stupid bustle!”

“Thomas? Are you in the house?” Kelly asked.

“Coming!” The lean, blond costume designer loped down the aisle and took the utility stairs by twos. “Okay, princess, let’s see what the problem is.”

He led Arden into the wings next to Isobel and Sunil. Arden spun around, allowing Thomas to hike up her skirts and examine the bustle, which was knotted around her waist under a candy-cane-striped dress.

“Yeah, I see it. Heather, do you have pliers or something?”

The mousy, wide-eyed assistant stage manager hopped down from her stool, rummaged in a box on the floor, and retrieved a slightly rusted pair of pliers. Arden turned around, hands on hips, facing Isobel, while Thomas adjusted the padded wire contraption.

“Those things are a pain in the ass,” Isobel said sympathetically. “Literally.”

Arden’s lip curled. “Oh, look, it’s my stalker. Probably wishing the wire had hit an artery.”

“I’m just doing my job,” Isobel said defensively.

Thomas released Arden’s skirts and let them fall to the floor. “You’re fixed.”

“We’re good,” Heather reported into her headset.

“Back onstage, please,” Kelly called over the mic.

With exaggerated courtesy, Isobel pulled aside the black masking curtain. But as Arden flounced toward the stage, the entire length of material came down from the ceiling, burying Sousacal’s leading lady under its heavy folds.



Author Bio:

Joanne Sydney Lessner
Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of Pandora’s Bottle, a novel inspired by the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine (Flint Mine Press). The Temporary Detective, Bad Publicity, And Justice for Some, and Offed Stage Left (Dulcet Press) feature aspiring actress and amateur sleuth Isobel Spice. No stranger to the theatrical world, Joanne enjoys an active performing career in both musical theater and opera. With her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, she has co-authored several musicals including the cult hit Fermat’s Last Tango and Einstein’s Dreams, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, Critical Mass, received its Off-Broadway premiere in October 2010 as the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition. Joanne is a regular contributing writer to Opera News and holds a B.A. in music, summa cum laude, from Yale University.


Catch Up With Joanne on her Website, Twitter, & Facebook.





Tour Participants:






Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Sydney Lessner. There will be 1 winner of one (1) $15 Amazon.com Gift card & 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Offed Stage Left by Joanne Sydney Lessner. The giveaway begins on October 31st and runs through November 17th, 2016.


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Book Spotlight: STAY GONE by Holly Brown

Stay Gone by Holly Brown
ISBN: 9780062655127 (ebook)
ASIN: B01HBPSHH4 (Kindle)
Publisher: William Morrow Impulse (HarperCollins) 
Publication Date: November 1, 2016


“A mother is just a woman who gave birth to you. You don’t need her to like you, or love you. Because a mother’s just another person.

She was. And now she’s dead.”

Growing up, Rae played the good girl, hoping to win her mother Marlene’s love. But Marlene favored Rae’s dangerous older brother Thomas, even after he nearly got teenage Rae killed. The night Thomas disappeared was the best night of Rae’s life.

Now 28 years old and engaged, Rae is nursing Marlene, who has advanced cancer and one last request: for Rae to find Thomas and bring him home.

Thomas purports to be a changed man, the CEO of his own meteorically successful company. But Rae knows he’s hiding something. When Marlene takes a turn for the worse, is it assisted suicide or murder?

The answer goes back decades, through secrets and pain, and comes back full circle. Rae has to figure out who she can really trust. Or else.

Poor little good girl . . . who’ll save her now?



Read an excerpt:


RAE

Right Now


My mother is dead.

The worsening of her illness was inexorable, and this ending inevitable. Hospice workers have been coming to the house for weeks—palliative measures only, the relief of suffering without treatment, comfort without cure. They were very clear on this point. There should have been no room for denial.

But somehow, when it’s your mother, you deny until the end. It’s not like a dance recital, and you can practice, practice, practice. There is no preparation, not really. I’ve never lived in a world without her. Marlene Joy Kalatchik. Mom. Mommy.  

No one else has ever leveled me with a look like she could; no one else could affirm or destroy like my mother. She was the repository for all my insecurities. She fed them, unknowingly. I like to think unknowingly. Simon says otherwise, but he first met her a year ago, and given the cancer, she wasn’t herself. Not exactly.

My mother is dead.

I say it out loud, experimentally, full of wonder as much as pain. Impossible. I whisper it. I touch my tongue to it, like it’s a loose tooth.

Simon is beside me, and he’s got his arm around me, he’s murmuring something, but I can’t seem to hear it. I can’t feel him. There’s nothing but her, nothing but absence and loss and something else, just out of sight, just beyond my reach.

Natural causes. I think that’s what the coroner will say, even if it was by her own hand. A hand that was coerced by someone else, or a hand that’s an extension of hers, because isn’t that what family is? An extension. A proxy. A way to go on.

Thomas is staring down at her, too, his expression inscrutable. No, it’s not her. Already, it’s her body. 

He shouldn’t be here. Why didn’t he just stay gone? 

I wish I’d said no, I won’t find him, let the past be the past, it’s just us now, Mom, and that’s enough. I should have tried harder to convince her that I’m enough, though that had already been a lifelong project, a study in futility and false hope. I’ve been flexing my denial muscle for a long time. And yet…

I think I see Thomas and Simon exchange some sort of look. I’ve seen that look before. There’s mischief in it. No, mirth. No, it’s the satisfaction of collusion. Like they’re in it together.

No. Simon’s here for me, and Thomas is here for himself, just like always. Simon’s mine. 

And if I’m wrong about that? Then what do I have?

My mother is dead. 

My mother’s body is dead. Her spirit? Does that continue?

It must. Because suddenly, I feel it here. I feel her, like radiant heat whooshing up from the floorboards, filling the room. She’s always been larger than life, in my eyes. Illness couldn’t shrink her. Maybe death can’t, either.

We were closer in those last days. She told me something I’d waited my whole life to hear, and now: She has a message for me. There are things I’ve never known, and I need to. I’ve always sensed them, the secrets, like movement in my peripheral vision. I could never turn my head quickly enough.

But she wants me to know now. It’s time.

I lean in close, and listen.




Meet the author:


Holly Brown lives with her husband and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she’s a practicing marriage and family therapist. Her blog, “Bonding Time,” is featured on Psychcentral.com, a mental health website with 1.5 million visitors per month.




Connect with the author:  Website      |     Facebook     |     Goodreads 



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2016 Book 383: A THOUSAND YESTERYEARS by Mae Clair



A Thousand Yesteryears (Point Pleasant #1) by Mae Clair 
ISBN: 9781601837806 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781601837776 (ebook)
ASIN: B0138NHJ4A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 26, 2016 
Publisher: Lyrical Underground


Behind a legend lies the truth…

As a child, Eve Parrish lost her father and her best friend, Maggie Flynn, in a tragic bridge collapse. Fifteen years later, she returns to Point Pleasant to settle her deceased aunt’s estate. Though much has changed about the once thriving river community, the ghost of tragedy still weighs heavily on the town, as do rumors and sightings of the Mothman, a local legend. When Eve uncovers startling information about her aunt’s death, that legend is in danger of becoming all too real…

Caden Flynn is one of the few lucky survivors of the bridge collapse but blames himself for coercing his younger sister out that night. He’s carried that guilt for fifteen years, unaware of darker currents haunting the town. It isn’t long before Eve’s arrival unravels an old secret—one that places her and Caden in the crosshairs of a deadly killer…



Point Pleasant, West Virginia was a small idyllic town on the river across from Ohio until tragedy struck before Christmas in 1967. Just weeks before, there were multiple sightings of the presumed supernatural creature known as the Mothman. After the Silver Bridge collapsed and dozens of lives were lost, many in the town felt the Mothman was a sign of the coming disaster. Eve Parrish was only a child and her entire life was turned upside down, losing her best friend and father in the collapse. After the burials, Eve’s mother quickly moved them to Pennsylvania. Eve and her mother never even returned to visit Eve’s paternal aunt or check on the status of the Parrish Hotel. Eve returns to Point Pleasant after her aunt’s death with the goal of selling the Parrish family home and the hotel. Her return coincides with new sightings of the Mothman and several murders. Her family’s home is vandalized and she’s not sure where to turn. Fortunately, her best friend’s brothers are still in town. Maggie had a crush on Caden Flynn as a child and finds herself still attracted to him as an adult. Caden resigned from the local sheriff’s department and now works as a contractor. He’s quickly hired by Eve to repair the Parrish family home. This once idyllic town is now devastated by the loss of a riverboat manufacturer and highway construction that seems to have left the town behind. Eve naturally turns to Caden to help work out what happened to her family’s home and uncover the secrets left behind by her aunt. Along the way she also uncovers Caden’s secrets. Is it possible for Eve and Caden to uncover the whole truth and past secrets, no matter where it might lead?

I found A Thousand Yesteryears to be a fast-paced read. Ms. Clair blends elements of the supernatural, paranormal, folk legend, suspense, and a bit of romance. There’s a lot more going on in this story than just the repairs to the Parrish home and a return home. There are bad guys, worse guys, and secrets people are willing to kill to protect. There’s also tons of family angst and drama with both the Parrish and Flynn families. As a West Virginia native, I’m always interested in reading stories set in West Virginia or written by West Virginians. The Mothman legend is viewed by some as the local equivalent of the Loch Ness monster and by others, as just a folk legend told to keep wary kids out of certain areas. Is there any truth to the Mothman stories? I don’t know but A Thousand Yesteryears provided a nice twist to this local legend and tied it, as many locals did, to the tragic Silver Bridge collapse. A Thousand Yesteryears is the first book in the Point Pleasant series by Ms. Clair and the second book, A Cold Tomorrow is set to release in December 2016. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series so I can find out what happens next.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 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.”





Read an excerpt:

“The phone might be on the fritz,” Eve said as she carried Doreen Sue’s glass to the sink. “I’ve been getting a lot of strange calls with screeches and clicks. I had the phone company check it out, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with the line.” Whatever their verdict, she still wasn’t convinced the odd calls weren’t the fault of an electronic malfunction.

“Screeches and clicks?” Doreen Sue paused mid-dial, pressing the receiver to her chest. “I’ve heard that happens sometimes when a family member dies.”

Eve rinsed the glass with water, then set it in the drain board to be washed later. Something cold slithered down her back. “Excuse me?”

“Your Aunt Rosie.” Doreen Sue bobbed her head as if the answer was obvious. “She might be trying to communicate with you.”

Eve started to laugh, then quelled the instinctive reaction when she noted Doreen Sue’s expression. The woman wasn’t joking.

“Spirits often try to converse through electricity and everyday instruments like TVs, lights, and phones. I know it sounds silly, but I follow all of that stuff…horoscopes, psychics, UFO theories.” A wave of her hand said she took only half of it seriously. “I’ve seen some strange things around here, especially by the TNT. I’ve never seen the Mothman, but I remember reading an article about a medium who was convinced her dead husband tried to communicate with her through phone calls. She heard things like amplifier feedback, insect noises, and strange clicks whenever she answered the phone.”

Eve felt her face drain of color. After talking to a disembodied “thing” in an igloo at the TNT, she should have no problem believing her dead aunt was reaching out to her. She’d sat in the living room only days after arriving and voiced that wish aloud. Aunt Rosie, I wish I understood what was going on. I wish there was some way you could talk to me. The phone calls had started not long afterward. Fluke or answer to her request?



Meet the author:


Mae Clair has been chasing myth, monsters, and folklore through research and reading since she was a child. In 2013 and 2015, she journeyed to West Virginia to learn more about the legendary Mothman, a creature who factors into her latest release.

Mae pens tales of mystery and suspense with a touch of romance. Married to her high school sweetheart, she lives in Pennsylvania and numbers cats, history and exploring old graveyards among her passions. 

Look for Mae on her website at MaeClair.net.

Connect with the author:   Website  |  Twitter  |  Google+  |  Facebook 




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Book Showcase: THE LAFAYETTE SWORD by Eric Giacometti and Jacques Ravenne

The Lafayette Sword

by Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager

on Tour October 24 – December 3, 2016



Synopsis:


The Lafayette Sword by Eric Giacometti, Jacques Ravenne, Anne Trager

Gold. Obsession. Secrets.



Following the murder of a Freemason brother, Antoine Marcas uncovers unsettling truths about gold and its power to fascinate and corrupt. A priceless sword is stolen and deaths ensue setting the Freemason detective on a case of Masons turned bad. A clue points to mysteries and conspiracy about elusive pure gold, launching a frantic, deadly race between two symbolic places—the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower.

A captivating plot weaves alchemy and the Middle Ages into a modern-day thriller. Part of an internationally best-selling series that has sold 2 million copies worldwide, with “vivid characters, an evocative international setting and history darker than midnight.”

For readers who love ancient myths, secret societies, chilling narrative and modern speed.




Book Details:


Genre: Thriller
Published by: Le French Book
Publication Date: August 15, 2015
Number of Pages: 266
ISBN: 1943998043 (ISBN13: 9781943998043)
Series: Antoine Marcas Freemason Thrillers Book 2

Purchase your copy of The Lafayette Sword on Amazon     , Barnes & Noble     , Apple iTunes     , and Add it to your Goodreads      TBR list!




Read an excerpt:



PROLOGUE


A thick layer of fog shrouded the capital. It wasn’t bad enough to keep people inside, but it was still vaguely unsettling. Teens on scooters, who usually slalomed with ease along the narrow streets, took their time, unsure of what lay ahead. The few high points of the city, including the dome of Sacré Coeur, had vanished altogether. Only the revolving light of the Eiffel Tower managed, more or less, to pierce the opaque surroundings.

Léo, an independent taxi driver in Paris for twenty years, dropped off his customer on the Avenue de La Bourdonnais. The damned pea soup was making it impossible to find another fare. Everyone was taking the metro. He parked his dark blue Mercedes on the Rue du Général Lambert and listened to the weather forecast. More precipitation. He grumbled and turned off the radio. Until today, the spring weather had been pleasant. Feeling sullen, Léo got out and stretched his legs. The damp cold hit him right away. He shivered, pulled up his collar, and headed toward the Eiffel Tower. The atmosphere, enchanting on any other night, was unreal and ghostly.

A second later, he heard a scream rise up from tourists gathered under the Iron Lady.

“Damned tourists,” Léo muttered. “Always getting pickpocketed.”

As he got closer he could see thirty or so Japanese sight-seers in red plastic ponchos staring up at the tower. Next to them, two young women in black T-shirts and ripped jeans were pointing at something. No, the commotion wasn’t about someone getting her purse nabbed.

Leo followed their fingers. Three meters above them, a dark figure was appearing and disappearing in the fog, like a string puppet, its head tied to a rope—a life-sized toy gracefully oscillating in the white cloud.

The tourists applauded.

“Nothing serious,” Leo said to himself, ready to turn away.

“Just another street artist.”

But as the sway of the rope began to slow, the figure’s face came into full view. The two young women were the first to realize the terrible error they had all made. They cried out in shock.

Léo felt bile rising in his throat.

The puppet was a man, red in the face, tongue hanging out, arms slack.

The crowd stepped back in unison and let out a wave of shrieks.

1

RUE LAFAYETTE, PARIS PRESENT DAY

Antoine Marcas was sipping a sweet brandy on the terrace of Le Régent café. The night before, he had celebrated his forty-second birthday. It was nothing like the shock of forty—a mere step away from a half a century. In the two years following that disaster, the affronts of time had been minor.

Sure, life had sucked after the breakup with Jade. The idyllic love had turned to vinegar after a few months of living together. She was too independent, too loud, too different—and yes, even too beautiful. Too much for Marcas. The relationship had gotten stuck in mounds of pettiness, and they were both saved at the last minute by separation. She accepted a position at the French embassy in Washington, leaving him alone one night in his vast apartment on the Rue Muller in Paris.

For a while, resentment and doubt ate away at him. His doctor, a Freemason brother, suggested some rest. Marcas thought he might try therapy. Would he have to choose a Freemason shrink? The question seemed both strange and meaningful. Only a brother could understand the personal development offered by regular temple attendance. If he had to explain the transformation of uncut stone into polished cubes to a profane, he’d never get better. Did Freemason-specific therapy even exist? He had considered asking his worshipful master. Then the need passed.

He examined himself in the mirror just inside the café. His hair was beginning to gray at the temples. His son, Pierre, had recommended the new style, which made him look younger and less serious. Or at least that’s what Marcas told himself. There were a few wrinkles around his brown eyes, but his natural expression was always pleasant. His smile became more pronounced when he was feeling sure of himself. Those who didn’t know him sometimes interpreted it as mockery.

Marcas straightened in his chair and checked his leather briefcase, making sure he had brought his master’s apron. The Masonic meeting was scheduled to begin in a half hour at the Grand Orient Masonic Hall. He’d never have time to go home and come back. He grinned. He hadn’t been forced to let out his belt by a single notch in the four years he’d been wearing the apron. He had maintained a steady seventy-seven kilos, the ideal weight for his size, according to his doctor. Not an easy task, considering the feasts that followed their meetings every second Thursday.

The hubbub in the café rose as new customers arrived for happy hour. Marcas gestured to the waiter. He wanted to pay his tab. Just then, two thirtyish men in suits, their ties loosened, plopped down in chairs at the next table.The older one, who had carefully groomed blond hair, ordered two beers.

“Did you hear the news?”

The other one shook his head and grabbed a fistful of peanuts.

“ISIS is making something like eighty million euros a month on the oil wells it’s seized, and now it’s bragging that it can get its hands on nuclear weapons from Pakistan. We’ll never be able to get the better of these guys. They’ll be riding into Paris in the back of their pickups the same way the German troops came marching in.”

Marcas leaned in a little closer. He loved café talk, especially when it was laced with paranoia. Yeah, ISIS was a threat. But France had seen worse—the Gestapo and the storm troopers, for example. And France had prevailed.

The younger man, who had brown hair, nodded while giving the waitress a visual once-over.

“TV news is full of crap,” he said. “It’s all controlled by the establishment. If you want the truth, you’ve gotta go to the Internet and find the right sites. I’m following a great blog now that claims the Freemasons are behind a lot of the havoc we’re seeing now.”

“Come on. In with the terrorists? You’ve got to be kidding. I’m all for conspiracy theories, but that’s too much. Look around Paris, and you can see all the good work they’ve done.”

“Just go to the blog,” the blond-haired man said. “You’ll understand. The newspapers and TV stations are full of liars. But they’re all Freemasons anyway. What do you expect?”

Marcas sighed. So many assholes and so little time. When would everyone just drop the Masonic conspiracy thing? It was one conspiracy after another—for centuries now. Every year, he and some brothers from his Freemason lodge would get together over dinner to discuss the latest and craziest conspiracy theories. The brother who told the most off-the-wall story would win twelve bottles of Haut Brion. Last year, his friend Jean-Marc had taken the prize with a story that claimed the Freemasons were descendants of extra-terrestrials that had abducted Jesus in a flying saucer.

The blond-haired man continued. “Listen, those guys control the European Union and our French elections. You have no idea.”

Marcas couldn’t take it any longer. “Excuse me,” he said, leaning over. “I couldn’t help but overhear. And I have to say that I agree. The Antichrist is among us, and guess what. He’s a Freemason.”

Marcas smirked and stood up. The two men glared as he tossed a bill on the table, gathered his things, and walked away.

If only they knew that his oddly shaped briefcase held a ceremonial sword.

Marcas looked at his watch. It was nearly eight. The meeting would begin in exactly twenty minutes. He hurried up the Rue Lafayette and turned right on the Rue Cadet.

Delicious aromas wafted from the rotisserie on the left, and the Detrad Bookstore next to the lodge headquarters was still open. He had just enough time to take a look. Three customers—brothers, he assumed—were leafing through books in the central aisle. He nodded to the affable-looking man and the smiling blonde behind the counter and glanced at the new releases. The huge number of books about Freemasonry published every year always impressed him. One would think that everything had been written already, but no, there were always new books.

And there it was. The book he was looking for: La Chevalerie Maçonnique by the French historian Pierre Mollier.

His brothers had spoken highly of it. He picked it up and headed to the back of the store, which had a showcase of Masonic objects, including aprons, canes, glasses, and plates. A rectangular box adorned with a mother-of-pearl eye in a triangle caught his attention. Another Masonic cigarette lighter for his collection. He had more than twenty of them now. His ex-wife, son, and friends teased him about this hobby of his. Even after he quit smoking, he always carried one. They reminded him of his childhood, when he spent much of his time in his father’s woodworking shop on the Rue Saint Antoine.

The cashier rang up the sale and handed him his purchases in a plastic bag. They exchanged a few words about upcoming events at the lodge and said good-bye.

Marcas hurried over to the lodge headquarters, a Spartan and somewhat unsightly building that hid a fascinating secret. Behind its modernistic metal and glass façade, elaborate and mysterious ceremonies were routinely orchestrated in any number of magnificent Masonic temples.

2

RUE SAINT JACQUES DE LA BOUCHERIE,PARIS MARCH 13,1355

Nicolas Flamel heard the clamor rising from the banks of the Seine River and decided to shut his shop. People were already running toward the water. Shouts and the sound of horse hooves hitting cobblestones filled the air. The wind was picking up, too, carrying the acrid smell of resin. All of Paris seemed electrified.

As Flamel closed his shutters, he saw that other bourgeois were doing the same thing. One could never be too careful. The English were encamped a few leagues from the city and could attack at any time. And then there were the common people, the poor who lived in the faubourgs, whose fever of revolt, exacerbated by famine and taxes, always ended in pillages and blood baths.

Flamel took down the parchments displayed in front of his shop and put each fine work away. He had something for everyone: war chronicles, prayer books, and stories of chivalry, all illustrated in fine gold powder. Every day, his workers plumbed their imaginations to create angelic Virgins, warriors with bloody weapons, and dragons spitting fire in the shadowy depths of caverns.

“Neighbor, do you fear for your paintings?”

Flamel turned around. Master Maillard, a furrier, was staring at him with mockery in his eyes.

“My kind neighbor, I don’t like the air we breathe tonight. And I certainly don’t like to take any risks. There are rumors of a riot.”

“True, true. They lit the fires a little too early tonight,” the furrier answered. “But one must keep the people entertained even before the show begins.”

“My neighbor and friend, I fail to understand. Your language is as obscure as a tree in a pitch-black night.”

“What? You haven’t heard what’s happened? What world do you live in, with your nose always in your books? For that matter, you should…”

Master Maillard lowered his voice. “It’s not good to spend too much time with books these days. One doesn’t know what could be hidden in them. Our Holy Mother Church cannot check everything. Who knows? An apprentice could be copying one of the Devil’s gospels in your very own shop.”

“Master Maillard!”

“Lower your voice, my neighbor. I was just giving you some advice, that’s all. Books are under suspicion these days. Too many heretics are spreading their doctrines on parchment. Too many witches are writing down their accursed rites. You’ll see. Soon we’ll be burning books, along with their authors.”

“Yet, my dear Master Maillard, none of that explains what’s happening at the moment.”

The furrier looked at him with incomprehension written all over his face. “So you really don’t know?”

“No, I don’t. I spent all week with my aids recopying a volume of Aristotle’s Physics for the university. The illustrations were very costly, and not only in man hours. I had to import a special blue powder from the Orient. There—”

Master Maillard made the sign of the cross. “Don’t talk to me about those monsters. Those black-skinned Saracens are damned to hell. Don’t you know they worship a goat-headed god named Baphomet? The Templars, cursed as they are, adored that impious idol and paid for it with their lives.”

3

GRAND ORIENT MASONIC HALL, PARIS PRESENT DAY

Antoine Marcas smoothed his apron and made sure his double-edged sword was secure at his side.

Next to the elevator, a display system similar to the ones at airports informed him that the meeting would be in Lafayette Temple. The 9 p.m. initiation ceremony was the only gathering scheduled for the night. The seventeen other temples in the building were closed. Marcas checked his watch. Only five more minutes.

“Well, my brother, I see you’re a fan of modern technology. So what’s next? Skyped initiation ceremonies?”

Startled, Marcas turned around. A man in a wheelchair was smiling at him.

“Paul! I didn’t hear you.”

Paul de Lambre, a physician who had lost the use of his legs in a car accident, was a descendant of the illustrious Marquis de Lafayette and a high-ranking Freemason.

“You wouldn’t believe what they’re doing with wheelchairs these days,” Paul said, tapping one of the wheels. “This one’s made of carbon fiber: strong, flexible, and darned-near silent. Four detachable components, and the footrests even have LED lights. That means I can see you in the dark, but you can’t hear me coming.”

“As long as you’re being sarcastic, that’s a good sign, my brother.”

A shadow seemed to cross the man’s face, and his eyes became serious. “The signs are not very good right now. I have something on my mind, Antoine, and since you’re a police detective and a brother, I think you’re the person I should be talking with.”

Marcas studied the man. “Of course. The ceremony is about to begin. Why don’t we get together afterward? Right now it’s time to go to the temple of your glorious ancestor. That must be quite an experience for you.”

Paul de Lambre’s jaw stiffened. “You could put it that way,” he said as he spinning his wheelchair around.

***

The hooded man wearing the Masonic apron waited in the darkness of the closet. He fiddled nervously with the ceremonial sword as he ticked off the minutes. Finally, he took a deep breath, opened the closet door, and made sure the hallway was empty. He stepped out of the shadows.

“I am the Sword of Light. I march in the night,” he chanted in a low monotone.

He advanced noiselessly. Slipping through the dark corridors was child’s play. Tricking the security system had been a joke. It was even intoxicating. He’d been exploring this prodigious labyrinth for at least a dozen nights. Each time he’d stop just before reaching the chamber of reflection. Then he’d leave. Only one time had he crossed paths with a brother, and that hadn’t caused any problems. He knew the building’s strange topography by heart, and now he could make his way over it blindfolded. The tangle of hallways, the crooked floors, and the myriad temples in this vast structure made him feel like he was moving on a gigantic movie set.

But this would be the last night he’d go unnoticed. His quest would begin with sacrifices.

He could hear the voice again. Perhaps it was his. “I kill, and I die. I kill, and I am born again.”

He took the stairs two by two and reached the next floor in a matter of seconds. He smiled in the darkness.

“I am the chosen one.”

He was on pins and needles as he recited the ritual words.

The taste of blood filled his dry mouth.



Author Bio:


Eric Giacometti & Jacques Ravenne

Jacques Ravenne is a literary scholar who has also written a biography of the Marquis de Sade and edited his letters. He loves to explore the hidden side of major historical events. Eric Giacometti was an investigative reporter for a major French newspaper. He has covered a number of high-profile scandals and has done exhaustive research in the area of freemasonry. Translator Anne Trager has a passion for crime fiction that equals her love of France. After years working in translation, publishing and communications, she founded Le French Book.


Learn More at: lefrenchbook.com 




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