Book Showcase: ABDI’S WORLD by Abdi Abdirahman

SOULstice Publishing Virtual Book Tour, ABDI'S WORLD: THE BLACK CACTUS ON LIFE, RUNNING, AND FUN by Abdi Abdirahman with Myles Schrag and foreword by Mo Farah, photo of Abdi Abdirahmah in white Nike track uniform, with Abdirahman name tag pinned to front of shirt, holding an American flag up in his arms behind him in victory.

Abdi’s World: The Black Cactus on Life, Running, and Fun by Abdi Abdirahman and Myles Schrag with a foreword by Mo Farah
ISBN-10: 1733188789 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9781733188784 (paperback)
Release Date: August 16, 2021
Publisher: Soulstice Publishing, LLC
Genre: Nonfiction | Memoir | Sports Biographies | Running & Jogging

 
ABDI'S WORLD by Abdi Abdirahman

Abdi’s World is a quirky place where the only American distance athlete to qualify for five Olympics shares the stories that shaped his enduring love of running and his laid-back approach to life. Abdi Abdirahman arrived in Tucson, Arizona, as a teenager when his family escaped civil war in their home country of Somalia. How the “Black Cactus,” as he is affectionately known, stumbled upon a career as one of the world’s most durable and beloved track and road racers of the 21st century is a story of resilience, commitment, and respect for friends and competitors alike—told here in a guide that is part life lessons, part training tips, part autobiography, and all Abdi. He has traveled the globe and shared his joie de vivre at every stop, showing a magician’s ability to balance work and play that anyone young or old, in or out of running, could learn from to live a more meaningful life. Enter Abdi’s World to join him on his insightful journey—and see what happens when you meet his stride.

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | BookDepository.com

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 3
Representing America . . . Second Time’s a Charm

 

Have you ever been to Seville, Spain?

Neither have I.

I had plans to be there in August 1999, but I didn’t get to go—and I had only myself to blame.

So much was happening to me so fast that year. I was finishing my second year of classes at the University of Arizona and my final year of collegiate eligibility on the track. On the heels of the NCAAs came the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. I was running the 10,000m there in my first post-collegiate race. Though my fitness was still good, I had no idea what to expect in terms of my performance or how a big meet like this would be conducted.

Among those who would be competing—the very best professional distance runners in the country—I recognized plenty of names from the Pac-10 Conference. The top three in each event would qualify for the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, which would be held in Seville. Representing the United States at the Worlds and the Olympics was the best opportunity for these guys to make their money. They weren’t going to show me any mercy.

I felt strong and played it smart in my event. From the start, I and the rest of the field deferred to Alan Culpepper, the favorite. He took charge and we let him. But I hung close and managed to take third place in 28:28.26, six seconds behind Culpepper and four seconds behind runner-up Brad Hauser, one of the Stanford twins I had run against many times over the past two years. In an instant I had achieved something I didn’t think possible—competing at a world-class competition as an American.

Soon, reality replaced my excitement. Paperwork, man. Take care of the details. That’s my hard-earned advice. When you make a national team, the USA Track & Field officials spring into action. Seville was less than two months away even as we crossed the finish line. USATF makes sure you have everything in order so you can make the international trip—passport, visa, fingerprints, shots, a lot of stuff I had never given any thought to. When they said to send them my passport so they could process my application for the trip, I sent them the only document I had: my green card. I didn’t think anything more about it until they called me a few days later and said, “Abdi, we need your passport.” A green card shows you’re in the United States legally, but it doesn’t make you a citizen.

I hadn’t been out of the United States since I arrived in 1993 through a program for Somali refugees. I’d been running and going to school for the past six years. My parents had always taken care of life’s details. They gained citizenship while I was in college, so I assumed that meant I was a U.S. citizen too. What I discovered was that my two brothers and four sisters, all under age 18, received automatic citizenship when my parents did. But I was an adult by then; I had to apply on my own. The clock to Seville was ticking down, and time wasn’t in my favor. I tried to fast-track citizenship, and there are mechanisms for doing that. But I couldn’t get it done soon enough.

When Culpepper and Hauser were running around the track at Seville’s Estadio Olímpico, I was watching it on TV in Tucson. While I was frustrated with myself and understood how I had made the mistake, I also felt like I had let down Meb Keflezighi, my UCLA friend who placed fourth at nationals and would have earned the third spot had I not been there. Meb didn’t have a qualifying time that met the standard required to go to Worlds. By the time I got this all sorted out, he didn’t have time to run a race that might have gotten him a qualifying mark. I’m a laid-back guy and don’t mind making fun of myself. I let things go pretty quickly . . . grudges, regrets, mistakes. But more than 20 years later, this is still a little embarrassing because it wasn’t fair to Meb.

Surely I’m the only athlete who has missed being on a national team because he didn’t know he wasn’t a citizen. Since then, I’ve been proud to represent the United States at the Olympics and the World Championships in track and cross country 13 times. But I can’t count this one.

If anything, this incident reminds me how naïve I was back then. I didn’t have big ambitions of being a runner; I had no big plans at all. Not getting the opportunity to be on the track in Seville in 1999 was an eye-opener. It made me realize I needed to take care of the details if I wanted to run at this level. The Olympic Trials were less than a year away, and I really wanted to wear a USA jersey. I barely remembered Somalia, but in America I had found a place where I could feel at home.

It was time to make it official.

***

As it turns out, if you allow enough time, the process of becoming an American isn’t so difficult. After passing the citizenship interview and exam, I was ready. I became a U.S. citizen on January 28, 2000, just under a month after I “officially” turned 23 years old. Like many refugees who arrive at a border without proof of birth, I was assigned a January 1 birthdate by immigration officials when I entered the United States. My actual birthdate is March 21, 1977, according to my mom, but you won’t see that anywhere else but here.

In just a few weeks, I would compete for a spot on the U.S. team that would go to the IAAF World Cross Country Championships. My family had moved to Seattle, Washington, while I was in college, so Coach Murray joined me for a simple naturalization ceremony at the Pima County Courthouse in Tucson.

When you become naturalized as an American citizen, you stand in a strange sort of limbo. You are asked to support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States against its enemies. You give up allegiance to any other nation. I had no problem committing to that and taking the oath of allegiance. Also on that day, the emcee names each of the former countries of the new citizens. When I heard “Somalia,” I stood up to acknowledge that was my old country. It’s a funny place to stand. I felt like I had been practicing becoming an American for the past six-plus years. Because of my incredibly rewarding college experience—which was still happening, since I would be taking a few more classes to complete my degree—I was comfortable saying I wanted to be a permanent part of American society. I felt American.

It was humbling and thrilling—I could feel a transition happening in real time. But as with my early days at U of A, where I felt increasingly accepted and open to all that was going on around me, it didn’t change how I saw others. I didn’t feel better than non–U.S. citizens I knew, just like I didn’t feel better than other students at Arizona. I didn’t feel like I was turning my back on Somalia, either. I was just stepping into who I wanted to be: an American. Likewise, I didn’t feel better about myself when I beat other guys in races during my college career, and I didn’t feel worse about myself when I lost to them. In all these situations, if you compare yourself to others and try to take on their journeys, you lose sight of where you want to go.

Excerpt from Abdi’s World by Abdi Abdirahman and Myles Schrag. Copyright 2021 © by Abdi Abdirahman and Myles Schrag. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Abdi is an American long-distance runner and a five-time Olympian competing for the United States in the marathon in the upcoming Summer Olympics (July).

Born in Hargeisa, Somalia, Abdirahman graduated from Tucson High School in 1995 and attended Pima Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona for his junior and senior years. At Arizona, Abdirahman was named the 1998 Pacific-10 Conference Cross Country Male
Athlete of the Year. He finished second at the 1998 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

He launched his Olympic career when he competed in the 10,000 meters at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Abdirahman has competed in three Summer Olympics since and is the first American distance runner ever to make five Olympic teams.

At the 2020 United States Olympic Trials in Atlanta, Abdi finished 3rd in the marathon with a time of 2:10:03, securing his place on a fifth Olympic team, and, at 43, becoming the oldest American runner ever to make the Olympic team.

Connect with the Abdi via: Instagram | Twitter

 

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

Book Showcase: SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY by Katharine Schellman

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman Banner

Silence in the Library

by Katharine Schellman

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookShop | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Given the way she hadn’t hesitated to interfere in the Wyatt family’s affairs, Lily expected Lady Wyatt to politely rescind her invitation to ride the next morning. But she had insisted, saying her arm was sure to be better by morning. So after breakfast, Lily instructed Anna to lay out her riding habit.

Though she had forgone her usual routine of breakfasting in her own room and instructed Mrs. Carstairs to lay breakfast in the parlor, Lily hadn’t seen any sign of her father. She didn’t mind. If she couldn’t be cozy while she dined, she was at least happy to be alone. And it gave her the opportunity to go over the week’s menus with her housekeeper and offer several suggestions for managing her father’s requests while he was with them.

“And do you know how long might that be, Mrs. Adler?” Mrs. Carstairs asked carefully. “Mr. Branson was unable to say when I spoke to him last night.”

Lily pursed her lips. “For as long as he needs, Mrs. Carstairs. Or as long as I can bear his company. My record on that score is fifteen years, however, so let us hope it will not come to that.”

The housekeeper wisely didn’t say anything else.

Lily’s pleasant solitude lasted until she was making her way back upstairs to change, when she found her path blocked by her father’s belligerent frame. Unwell he might be, but George Pierce was still a solid, imposing man, and Lily had to remind herself to square her shoulders and meet his scowl with a smile as he did his best to tower over her from the step above.

“Good morning, Father.”

He didn’t return the greeting. “I am going to breakfast,” he announced, eyebrows raised.

Lily waited for a moment and then, when no more information was forthcoming, nodded. “I hope you enjoy it. Mrs. Carstairs is an excellent cook.”

He sniffed. “And I assume your excessively early rising is an attempt to avoid my company?”

“It is past nine o’clock, father,” Lily said. “Hardly excessive. And I have an appointment this morning, so if you will excuse me—”

“What is your appointment?”

He couldn’t curtail or dictate what she did with her time, Lily reminded herself. Even if having him in her home left her feeling as if her independence were being slowly stripped away once more, in practical terms he had no say in her life anymore. Answering his question was only polite. “An engagement with a friend—”

“That sailor again, I assume?”

Lily took a deep breath. “Captain Hartley was also invited, but no, the engagement is to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Which I assume you would approve of?” Seeing that she had momentarily surprised him into silence, she took the opportunity to push past her father. “You would like her, I think. She is charming and elegant.”

“And her husband’s a fool for marrying again,” Mr. Pierce grumbled, but Lily was already heading down the hall and didn’t answer.

Jack was coming just before ten to escort her to the Wyatts’ house, and Lily was in a hurry to dress and escape her father once again. Her room was empty when she walked in, but Anna had laid out her riding habit on the bed, pressed and ready, its military-style buttons glinting in the morning light amid folds of emerald-green fabric.

Lily stared at it without moving. She had forgotten that her habit wasn’t suitable to wear when she was in mourning.

She was still staring when Anna returned, the freshly brushed riding hat in her hands. When she saw Lily’s posture, Anna paused.

“You don’t have another, I’m afraid,” she said gently.

Lily nodded, unable to speak. One hand reached out to brush the heavy fabric of the habit; the other clenched a fold of the gray dress she wore. She had stopped wearing colors even before Freddy died—in those last months of his illness, she had traded all her pretty dresses for drab gowns more suited to nursing an invalid who would never recover. And even after full mourning was complete, she had lingered in the muted shades of half mourning long past when anyone would have required it of her, even Freddy’s own family. Laying aside the visual reminders of her grief felt too much like leaving behind her marriage.

But that had meant more than two years of sorrow. And in the last few months, since she had come to London and taken control of her life once more, something had shifted inside her.

“Yes, thank you, Anna,” Lily said quietly, her voice catching a little. She cleared her throat and said, more firmly, “I will wear this one.”

***

She managed to leave the house without encountering her father again. When her butler, Carstairs, sent word that Captain Hartley was waiting in the front hall, Lily felt a pang of anxiety. Jack had loved Freddy like a brother. And he had never given any indication that he thought her mourning had gone on long enough.

Jack was in the middle of removing his hat, and his hand stilled at the brim as he caught sight of her. Even Carstairs fell still as they watched her come down the stairs, the heavy folds of her green skirts buttoned up on one side to allow her to walk freely and a single dyed- green feather curling over the brim of her hat and flirting with her brown curls.

Lily felt exposed as she descended the final few steps, though she was bolstered by the approval that softened Carstairs’s smile. She had never considered herself a shy person, but she could barely meet Jack’s eyes as she crossed the hall to give him her hand.

For a moment neither of them spoke, and when she raised her gaze at last, Lily thought she saw the captain blinking something from the corner of his eye. “That was Freddy’s favorite color,” he said at last, his voice catching.

Lily nodded. “I know.”

Jack’s jaw tightened for a moment as he swallowed. But he smiled. “Well done, Lily,” he said quietly. “Good for you.”

***

There was a lightness between them as they made the quick journey to Wimpole Street. As Jack waved down a hack carriage and handed her in, Lily found herself laughing at all of his quips or droll pieces of gossip, even the ones she normally would have chastised him for repeating. And Jack kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Do I look that dreadful?” Lily asked at last as he handed her down from the carriage in front of the Wyatts’ home.

“Quite the opposite,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he released her hand. “Did you know, you are actually quite pretty?”

“You mean you did not find me pretty before?”

“I think I had forgotten to consider it one way or another,” Jack admitted, grinning. “What a shame everyone has left London already; you would cause quite a sensation.”

Lily shook her head. “I know full well I am not handsome enough for that.”

“Surprise can cause as much of a sensation as admiration,” Jack pointed out.

“Captain!” Lily exclaimed in mock indignation. “You were supposed to argue with me!”

They continued bantering as they mounted the steps to Sir Charles’s townhouse, only to fall silent and exchange a puzzled glance as they realized that the door was half-open, the sounds of raised voices echoing from within.

Lily glanced at Jack, an uneasy sensation beginning to curl in the pit of her stomach. “Should we knock?”

He shrugged and did so, rapping firmly on the wood of the door. There was no response, but it swung open a little more. After hesitating a moment, Lily bit her lip and said, “Well, we ought to at least make sure Lady Wyatt knows we’ve come. If it is no longer convenient to ride, she can certainly tell us to leave.”

“And you were already happy to interfere yesterday,” Jack pointed out, though she could hear the unease lurking beneath his playful tone. “We might as well do it again.”

“Very true.” Lily pushed the door the rest of the way open and strode in, Jack following close behind.

The front hall was empty, but they could still hear voices not far away, now low and urgent, and the sound of quiet crying from somewhere just out of sight. The uneasy feeling began to spread through Lily’s chest and arms, and she reached out her hand in blind anxiety. She was relieved to feel Jack take it and press it reassuringly into the crook of his arm.

She had just decided that they should leave after all when quick steps echoed down the stairs. A moment later Frank Wyatt came rushing down, checking himself at the bottom as he stared at them in surprise.

His face was pale and his eyes red as he gaped at them, his easy manner vanished. “Lily? And Captain . . . I’ve quite forgot your name. You must excuse . . . what are you doing here?”

“The door was open, and no one answered our knock,” Lily said, feeling a little ashamed of their hastiness in entering. “I apologize, Frank; we did not mean to intrude, but we had an appointment to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Is everyone well?”

“Is everyone . . . No. No.” Frank gripped the banister with one hand, his knuckles white. “I am afraid that Lady Wyatt will not be able to ride today. My father . . .” He swallowed. “My father has died.”

Lily stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. They had seen Sir Charles just the day before. If he had seemed a little older and weaker than she remembered, he had still been utterly vital and alive. “Died? But . . . how?”

“In point of fact,” a new voice said quietly from behind them. “It seems Sir Charles Wyatt has been killed.”

***

Excerpt from Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2021 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William and Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

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Book Showcase: PRODIGY QUEST by Verlin Darrow

Virtual Book Tour Banner PRODIGY QUEST - The YA Novel, YA Speculative 2021; tour dates: July 13-16th all on a starry greyish-purple background; Book cover features a boy standing on a road with his back to the camera, road has trees and shrubs along the sides, on the road at the boy's back is an illuminated book (book that is glowing from within), cloud filled sky above the road and boy features the words PRODIGY QUEST, below the boy and book on the road is the author's name, Verlin Darrow.

PRODIGY QUEST - VDarrowProdigy Quest by Verlin Darrow
ISBN: 9781509236909 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781509236916 (ebook)
ASIN: B093XTTWYC (Kindle edition)
Release Date: June 23, 2021
Publisher: Wild Rose Press
Genre: Fiction | Young Adult | Speculative

 
 A flood of two-hundred-year-old memories from a past life knocks boy-genius Tris right off his stool at the TV quiz show he was winning. Then a letter arrives from a fifty-year-old time capsule that sends him on a quest to find a book of wisdom his karmic ancestors have been compiling for centuries.

Really? Sure, he’s smarter than all the adults around him, but how’s he supposed to navigate an interstate scavenger hunt and elude a group of fanatic lowlifes?

Tris has to grow into someone beyond his years to get the job done. He learns the hard way that the smartest boy in the world…isn’t..

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

 

Read an excerpt:

A minute later, I spied Chat and Marc sprinting toward me. Chet sported an oversized pistol in his hand, while Marc held a bundle of white fur—Mildred, I presumed. Just before they got to the car, a burly man in overalls emerged from the building behind them and fired a handgun into the air. Sitting up now, I jumped in my seat, adrenaline surging through me.

“Stop!” he shouted. “Stop in the name of the law!”

Chet and Marc piled in the car, and if it hadn’t been an elderly Prius, we would’ve screamed away from the curb, leaving rubber in our wake. As it was, we could only hope our head start would keep us safe.

My heart pounded the hardest it ever had, and energy shot down my limbs. It was hard to sit still, so I didn’t. I swiveled to watch the gunman sprint away from us toward a black van. Then I rocked back and forth, wishing there was something I could do to influence how the next few minutes would turn out.

“That was a police officer?” I asked after we turned the first corner.

“Hell, no,” Chet said. “That’s just what he wants us to believe. How’s Mildred doing?”

Marc replied, “Not great. I think her canine epilepsy kicked in.”

I turned around to face the front seat, where Marc cradled her gently in his arms as Chet built up a head of steam. Hot air rushed through the open windows, along with the tang of barbecue.

“Hell, she’s better off if she doesn’t have to be here for a car chase,” our driver replied. He veered onto a side street, almost going up on two wheels. We passed a sad-looking cemetery with no visible grass or landscaping, a strip mall with a gaudily decorated massage parlor and a chain convenience store, and then turned again down a long alley between a row of board and batten homes.

I watched through the rear window again and didn’t see anyone following us, which made it easier to calm down, even as adrenaline continued to flood my system. “At least we’re likely to be getting better gas mileage than our pursuer,” I pointed out.

Chet laughed out loud. “You’ve got balls, Tris. You’re all right. You don’t see anyone chasing us, do you? I don’t.”

“No, I don’t either.”

Marc turned and glanced at me. “Humor in the midst of crisis, Tris. Good for you.”

We never saw whomever we’d escaped from. On the way back to Chet’s house, Mildred regained awareness, and Marc passed her back to me. Then he filled me in on what had happened back at the synagogue while I stroked her incredibly soft, white fur. I liked her right away, and I think she liked me too. My parents kept me away from animals. They said animals had diseases.

Excerpt from Prodigy Quest by Verlin Darrow. Copyright © by Verlin Darrow. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved.

Meet The Author

Author - Verlin DarrowVerlin Darrow is currently a psychotherapist who lives with his psychotherapist wife in the woods near the Monterey Bay in northern California. They diagnose each other as necessary. Verlin is a former professional volleyball player, country-western singer/songwriter, import store owner, and assistant guru in a small, benign cult, from which he graduated everyone when he left.

Before bowing to the need for higher education, a much younger Verlin ran a punch press in a sheet-metal factory, drove a taxi, worked as a night janitor, shoveled asphalt on a road crew, and installed wood floors. He barely missed being blown up by Mt. St. Helens, survived the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, and (so far) he’s successfully weathered his own internal disasters.

Verlin is the author of a psycho-spiritual mystery – Blood and Wisdom, as well as a fantasy thriller – Coattail Karma.

He encourages readers to visit his website or email him to find out more: verlindarrow.com or verlindarrow@gmail.com.

Connect with the Author:

Website | Goodreads | Twitter

 

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Book Showcase: PUG ACTUALLY by Matt Dunn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Doug,” he says.

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

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

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

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

“This is a pleasant surprise!”

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

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

“Can I get you anything?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t worry. I can’t stay.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Something the matter?” asks Julie.

Luke glares back at me. “It’s Doug.”

“What about him?”

“He’s staring at me.”

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

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

“It’s disconcerting.”

“Well, just shut your eyes.”

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

“He’s doing it again.”

Luke…”

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s still doing it.”

“Pardon?”

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

“What, with his X-ray vision?”

“You know what I mean.”

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

“Would you?”

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

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

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

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

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

“For fu…!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sweetie, don’t be like…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet The Author

Author - Matt Dunn

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

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This excerpt brought to you by MIRA Books