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

Guest Post: Colleen J. Shogan – DEAD AS A DUCK

Good day, book people. Can you believe we more than halfway through July?! Am I the only one that felt like 2020 seemed to drag on forever but 2021 is flying by a little too quickly? Perhaps it was the unknown pandemic scenario that added to the feeling that life seemed to drag by in slow motion last year. Although there seem to be a host of unknowns remaining with COVID-19, 2021 just seems to by speeding by like a bullet train. Although I’m glad things are getting back to some semblance of normal, I miss the slower pace of things during the quarantine, which I primarily spent reading, drinking tea, reading, and even more reading. I’ve wondered how authors used their “downtime” during the quarantine, and Colleen J. Shogan, author of Dead as a Duck, joins us today to discuss how she spent some of her quarantine time. Thank you, Ms. Shogan for joining us today, the blog is now yours.

In November 2019, my husband and I purchased a small vacation home in the town of Duck, located in the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina. Completely unaware of what would happen in the months ahead, we hoped to spend long weekends at the beach and our usual vacation in early September.

Of course, those plans were upended in March 2020, when the world came to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After learning that our work would be virtual for the foreseeable future, we began spending more time at our home in the Outer Banks.

This was an unexpected twist of fate, and certainly not anticipated. I was finishing the initial draft of Dead as a Duck. For the purposes of writing, it was fortuitous that I found myself in the location which served as the setting of the seventh book in my series. Instead of remembering the iconic places I was describing in the book, they were only a stroll away.

The Outer Banks is primarily a summer beach destination. There are full-time residents in all of the towns, but the population drastically shrinks once the warm weather dissipates. Such silence is conducive to writing, contemplation, and even relaxation. For the first time in twenty years, I could actually feel myself slow down to a manageable pace. At night, I sat outside on a balcony and gazed at the stars, twinkling in the evening sky. Most evenings, I could hear the gentle roar of the ocean, only three hundred yards away. There was no noise or light pollution to drown out the sounds of the waves and the brightness of the night sky.

It was therapeutic to spend time in the Outer Banks during those unpopulated weeks and months. At times, there might have only been one or two other occupants in residence on my street. The beach was empty all day long, and I cherished the early morning walks on the sand with my aging beagle mutt.

At first, it was difficult to write during the pandemic. But once I adjusted to the imposed quarantine and social distancing, writing became more of an escape than anything else. When I wrote, it was like time travel into a familiar world where a horrible virus hadn’t killed millions of people. It was a comforting reminder that there was a way of life before the pandemic, and that we would hopefully someday return to social interaction and discourse.

My quiet days have ended. The summer tourists now occupy the beaches, and I will return to my office near the White House soon. The devastation of the pandemic far outweighed any positives. However, I will remember my quiet days in the Outer Banks as an extraordinary, unusual experience in which life as we knew it changed forever and stood still at the same time.

Dead as a Duck (A Washington Whodunit) by Colleen J Shogan

About Dead as a Duck

Dead as a Duck (A Washington Whodunit)

Cozy Mystery 7th in Series

Publisher: Camel Press (July 14, 2021)

Paperback: 230 pages

ISBN-10: 1942078323

ISBN-13: 978-1942078326

Digital ASIN: B08WTPNBD6

Congressional staffer Kit Marshall is looking forward to a much-deserved summer vacation in the Outer Banks. When the mayor of the beach town turns up dead, Kit and her friends need to put their fun and relaxation on hold to help solve the crime.

August has been a busy month for congressional staffer Kit Marshall. She hit the road with her boss, Congresswoman Maeve Dixon, who is considering running for the United States Senate in North Carolina. After endless town halls and meet-and-greets, Kit is happy to end the tour in Duck, an upscale beach town in the Outer Banks.

Before Kit can relax on her much-deserved vacation with her husband Doug, brother Sebastian, best friend Meg, and beagle mutt Clarence, the body of Duck’s mayor is found floating in the shallow waters of the Currituck Sound.

Kit’s brother Sebastian, who got in a public kerfuffle with the victim the day before, becomes the prime suspect. Solving the mystery takes her to popular hotspots in the Outer Banks, including a private tour featuring the wild horses of Corolla.

Kit must sacrifice sun-filled days of relaxation to clear her brother. In the end, Kit and Sebastian put their own lives on the line to secure a confession from the killer and make sure justice is served.

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKobo
 

Praise for the Series

“The mystery is perplexing—for Kit and company, and for me—and well done. I was impressed by the complexity of the murder plot. I enjoyed the political theme, and all the details about lobbyists.” —Jane Reads

“To someone who has mastered that uniquely Washington skill of bobbling two cell phones and a glass of wine without spilling a drop, solving a murder is practically child’s play.” —HillRag

“A solid choice for political junkies and readers of ­Maggie ­Sefton, Fred Hunter, and Mike Lawson.” —Library Journal

“The fourth volume in author Colleen J. Shogan’s simply outstanding ‘Washington Whodunit’ series, K Street Killing is a consistently entertaining read with many an unexpected twist and turn by a true master of the genre.” —Midwest Book Review

“Shogan does a good job depicting the creaky, squeaky wheels of government, and Marshall plays politics and sleuth with equal dexterity in this capital Capitol Hill mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

“Loads of inside scoop about the workings of Senate offices—complete with all the gossiping, back-stabbing, and procedural maneuvering—plus an appealing young sleuth, sprightly pacing, and an edge-of-your-seat showdown on the Hart-Dirksen underground train.” —Literary Hill

“An excellent whodunit…. I was really impressed with this very smart story. The author is a former Senate staffer so she is writing what she knows, less the murder, I hope.” —Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book

“Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries written in the style of Agatha Christie will enjoy this promising debut mystery.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

About Colleen J. Shogan

Colleen J. Shogan has been reading mysteries since the age of six. A political scientist by training, Colleen has taught American politics at numerous universities. She previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staffer in the United States Senate and as a senior executive at the Library of Congress. Currently, she’s a Senior Vice President at the White House Historical Association. A member of Sisters in Crime, Colleen splits her time between Arlington, VA and Duck, NC.

Authors Prior titles: STABBING IN THE SENATE, HOMICIDE IN THE HOUSE, CALAMITY AT THE CONTINENTAL CLUB, K STREET KILLING, GORE IN THE GARDEN, LARCENY AT THE LIBRARY

Author Links
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/washingtonwhodunit/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/cshogan276
Website – www.colleenshogan.com
GoodReads – www.goodreads.com/cshogan276

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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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Guest Post: Linda Lovely – WITH NEIGHBORS LIKE THESE

With Neighbors Like These

by Linda Lovely

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Good day, book people. One of my many quirks, and I have quite a few, is that I enjoy reading about small towns but don’t like living in one. Although I live in one of the largest cities in my home state, it has a population of less than 50,000 so definitely has that small-town vibe. I love big cities, the bigger the better. Readjusting to small-town life after nearly 30 years of living in cities like Boston, MA and Atlanta, GA is huge. Having said that, I really enjoy small town life as it is portrayed in books. Today, I’m pleased to welcome an author that is no stranger to living and writing about small town life. Linda Lovely is the author of numerous books, including the recently released With Neighbors Like These. Ms. Lovely will be sharing with us why she’s attracted to writing about small town life. Thank you, Ms. Lovely, for stopping by and sharing with us today, the blog is all yours.

A Small Town Mold

As unlikely as it might seem, the heroines of my nine mystery-suspense novels have one thing in common—they’re native Iowans. This may seem rather odd given that only two of my books are set in Iowa, and one of these is a 1938 historical suspense.

My heroines range in age from late twenties to early fifties. Their professions run the gamut from forensic accountant to vegan chef. Two of my leading ladies retired from military careers—one as an Army Intelligence officer, the latest, as a Coast Guard Investigator. These women tend to live in the South. Not a big surprise since my husband and I have called the South home for four decades.

Yet, like me, my heroines either grew up in Keokuk, Iowa—my hometown—or another small Midwestern city.

Why? With my active imagination, it’s easy to picture what life might be like today for a vegan chef or a retired Coastie. What I can’t seem to envision is growing up someplace other than the Midwest. My values, frames of reference, figures of speech, experiences and outlook are rooted in my small town, middle-America upbringing. As a consequence, my heroines tote the same bags (for better or worse).

I’m talking lifestyle not politics. My heroines are independent and stubborn, partially as a result of growing up with smart, working mothers. These moms lectured their girls on the importance of education and encouraged their daughters to speak their minds. Since money was tight, my heroines worked summer jobs. They picked strawberries and tomatoes, taught swimming, waitressed, and worked as cooks. In addition to girlfriends, their friendship circles included boy pals. My heroines played softball, and rode their bikes to the public swimming pool. As members of high school debate teams, they traveled the state, arguing one side of a question one week, the opposite, the next.

I realize girls who grew up elsewhere may share the same values, determination and optimism as my heroines. I’m just not confident my writing can conjure up appropriate coming-of-age experiences for young women growing up in the Big Apple or LA, on a Deep South farm, or in a wealthy suburb. As a result, my heroines are stuck with the lessons and memories of my early years. Plus, their Iowa upbringing gives them a legit reason to call something “hinky” and share my other figure-of-speech peculiarities that sometimes stump my Southern-born critique partners.

That said, while my heroines all began their lives in Iowa, they’ve succeeded in diverse careers and they’ve found plenty of adventure, friendship, laughter and love in their new homes.


Synopsis:

With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely

MANAGING AN HOA IS MURDER…

He championed shooting deer inside the HOA’s nature sanctuary. Now his corpse is posed curbside, cradling a trophy deer head. The theatrical murder panics residents, and Ted Welch asks Kylee Kane, retired Coast Guard investigator, to help his HOA management firm calm fears. Kylee agrees. Her own mother is getting death threats over her crusade to protect the deer.

HOA=DOA TERROR REIGNS…

When a belligerent owner in another HOA is murdered, terror reigns. The Sheriff’s Department blames Ted for letting HOA feuds spiral into homicide. Kylee discovers links between the victims and suspects a recently-pardoned general is next. Authorities and the arrogant general dismiss her warning. Can she foil the third act in the crafty killer’s death-as-theater game or will she be the next corpse on display?

Praise for With Neighbors Like These:

“Linda Lovely delivers another twisty mystery with the perfect mix of wry humor and quirky characters. Anyone looking for a fun, fast page-turner, here it is!”
–Tami Hoag, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“HOA communities seem deceptively safe, but the mix of gossip and politics in rule-bound groups can be a fertile breeding ground for murder. For the gutsy Kylee Kane, a fact-finding gig in South Carolina’s Lowcountry turns increasingly complex and dangerous. With Neighbors Like These offers a distinctive setting, a tenacious female sleuth and captivating suspense.”
–Katherine Ramsland, bestselling author of How to Catch a Killer

“Low Country murder, intrigue, and even a little romance abound in With Neighbors Like These. Kylee Kane is a welcome addition to the genre, and author Linda Lovely knows how to stir the pot with crackling dialogue and a tidy little mystery. Highly recommended!”
–Richard Helms, Derringer and Thriller Awards winning author of Brittle Karma

Book Details:

Genre:Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 326
ISBN: 9781953789457
Series: HOA Mystery Series, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

A journalism major in college, Linda Lovely has spent most of her career working in PR and advertising—an early introduction to penning fiction. With Neighbors Like These is Lovely’s ninth mystery/suspense novel. Whether she’s writing cozy mysteries, historical suspense or contemporary thrillers, her novels share one common element—smart, independent heroines. Humor and romance also sneak into every manuscript. Her work has earned nominations for a number of prestigious awards, ranging from RWA’s Golden Heart for Romantic Suspense to Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery. A long-time member of Sisters in Crime and former chapter president, Lovely also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. For many years, she helped organize the Writers’ Police Academy. She lives on a lake in Upstate South Carolina with her husband, and enjoys swimming, tennis, gardening, long walks, and, of course, reading.

Catch Up With Our Author:
www.LindaLovely.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @LindaLovely
Twitter: @LovelyAuthor
Facebook: @LindaLovelyAuthor

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Linda Lovely. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 12 through August 8, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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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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Guest Post: James L’Etoile – BLACK LABEL

BLACK LABEL by James L'Etoile tour banner; aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge in background, book cover on the right: aerial view of Golden Gate Bridge at night highlighting lights on the bridge, BLACK LABEL at the top of the cover with a broken pill capsule emptying into the final "L" of the word LABEL.

Good day, book divas and divos. Are you anything like me and wondering what path writers’ have taken to get to them to where they are now? Do you question if they write about what they’ve experienced or are they simply incredibly creative and gifted at making it all up in their heads? If you’re like me and ask yourself those kinds of questions as you read, then you’re going to love today’s guest. Please help me welcome, James L’Etoile, author of the soon-to-be-released Black Label and more. Mr. L’Etoile has been kind enough to share with us his path to writing. I hope you’ll enjoy his visit, follow the blog tour, and add Black Label to your ever-increasing TBR list. Thank you, Mr. L’Etoile, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.

guestpost.png

Thank you for letting me guest post on your blog today. I’m James L’Etoile and I write thrillers and suspense. My latest, Black Label (Level Best Books) is set for release next week—gulp. Black Label will be my fourth traditionally published novel and I’m incredibly grateful for the readers, editors, reviewers, and bloggers who make everything that goes into a book worthwhile.

I’ll be bringing Black Label out on the road in 2021, after a strange and painful year. I enjoy talking about the book, writing and what goes into creating a story. A regular question I get at author events (remember when we could hold those live and in person) and conferences is, “When did you become a writer?” It’s a common question and several of my author friends are able to gleefully pipe off that they’ve been writing since they were nine years old, or they’ve published a dozen books by the time they were twenty-five.

That ain’t me.

I didn’t start my journey down the publishing trail until I’d retired from a twenty-nine year career working in California prison system. I served as a facility captain, hostage negotiator, associate warden of a maximum security prison, and the director of the state’s parole system. In my precious off time, I would read as a way to disconnect from the violence and madness of the world behind the bars. The reading continued after I quit working, but the characters and situations I experienced over those years stuck with me.

I don’t remember the book I was reading at the time, but the ending seemed a little flat and the characters felt somewhat recycled. I muttered to myself, “I could do better than that.” It hit me like a flash. I could do this. But what about all the writing workshops and MFA degrees? Don’t you need all that before you can write? The short answer is, no. You don’t have to pass any litmus test to call yourself a writer. The difficult part is the transition from writer to published author.

Confidence is the fuel you’ll need to burn on your journey to becoming a published author. It’s hard to come by in this business and burns quick. You’ll find your confidence in yourself and your ability to tell a compelling story. It takes time and patience to fill your tank. Some people believe they must have an MFA under their belt to feel confidence, while others dig deep upon their life experiences to fuel their quest. I fell into the latter and drew from the rich exposure to people who inhabit a darker world few come back from. Prison, parole, and probation are where you find people at their lowest, their most vulnerable, and in some cases you catch a faint glimmer of hope. Early in my career I worked as a probation officer writing pre-sentence reports for the sentencing judge. I’d go in the jail, interview the defendant and get their version of the crime, review all of the police reports and documents, talk with the victims, and put it all together for the judge into one document on which he would base his sentencing decision. I didn’t know it at the time, but even back then, I was, in a sense, writing crime stories. That ability to distill the elements of a story down to the essential elements, helped give me the confidence to transition into a published author.

Writing publishable commercial fiction meant learning more about the craft—the mechanics of writing if you will—of creating something that would grab a reader’s attention. Writers conferences and workshops like the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference are a great opportunity to learn all those things you didn’t know went into creating a story. Book Passage holds an annual craft-centered conference to help writers learn about story structure, voice, point-of-view, character development, and pacing—all elements a writer needs to bring to their work. I’ve attended Book Passage’s Mystery Writers Conference as a participant, and as a faculty member in recent years. The exposure to the tools and the authors at the event was priceless. I thank them in the acknowledgement pages of Black Label.

As a writer you’re constantly learning and honing your ability to tell stories. As a reader myself, I can sense when an author is phoning it in. While there is comfort in familiar characters, every novel, or short story, has to be better than the one before. There is a risk in the familiar and comfortable. If I’m not a little excited, apprehensive, and pulled in by the story I’m writing, there is a good chance that the reader won’t be all that excited either.

Writing and the daily practice of putting words on the page has been very therapeutic. The stress and violence I washed in everyday for nearly thirty years, now has a place to go. In my stories, there is justice for the aggrieved, redemption for the fallen, and a look into how the real-life criminal justice system interacts with those caught up in the process.

Every writer’s path is unique to their experience. Your mileage may vary…

I hope you have a chance to take a look at Black Label. I’ve taken the fear of being out of control, being in a place where no one believes you, and mixed it with the undercurrent of greed in the pharmaceutical industry. One woman is caught between greed, corporate corruption, and murder. Her life is on the line for a crime she doesn’t know if she committed, or not.


Black Label

by James L’Etoile

July 12 – August 8, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Black Label by James L'Etoile

Sanity is something you don’t miss until it’s gone. Hard charging pharmaceutical executive Jillian Cooper fears she’d destined to inherit her mother’s history of mental illness when she finds herself accused of murdering her boss. All the evidence tells her she’s either a murderer, or insane. When Jillian struggles to find the truth, she uncovers a web of black market pharmaceuticals, prison gangs, and greed. She begins to believe she may have killed to cover up the off-the-books drug operation.

Can she discover the truth before she’s condemned to life in prison, or a mental hospital?

Praise

“Tight, terrific, terrifying. BLACK LABEL delves into the murky world of pharmaceuticals where profit is prioritized above all else. L’Etoile creates a strong female lead in Jillian Cooper, a woman who faces obstacle after obstacle, but still charges into the abyss. More unnerving than a fistful of amphetamines. Unputdownable.”
—K.J. Howe, international bestselling author of SKYJACK

“James L’Etoile’s BLACK LABEL is a delightfully complex and twisty thriller with a ripped-from-the-headlines plot that will make you think long and hard before you swallow your next dose of medication. Add in an intrepid heroine willing to do whatever it takes to uncover the truth no matter the cost, and L’Etoile’s newest offering is a winner!”
— Karen Dionne, author of the #1 international bestseller THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER and THE WICKED SISTER

“Relentlessly fast-paced and compellingly twisty! The talented James L’Etoile sets up an irresistibly high-stakes situation: a woman is certain to be charged with murder and doesn’t remember a thing. Can she prove her innocence before she’s silenced forever? A dark journey through the world of big Pharma and big money—you will turn the pages as fast as you can.”
— Hank Phillippi Ryan USA Today Bestselling author of THE FIRST TO LIE

“If this book had a tag, it would say ‘proceed with caution’ because nothing is what it seems. Told with a vivid and visceral style, this is le Carré’s Constant Gardener meets The Fugitive. As the title suggests, BLACK LABEL is a top of the line thriller.”
Gabriel Valjan, Agatha and Anthony Award nominated author

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 20, 2021
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-953789-14-3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

James L’Etoile uses his twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in his novels, short stories, and screenplays. He is a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system. He is a nationally recognized expert witness on prison and jail operations. He has been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. His published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, and Little River -The Other Side of Paradise.

Catch Up With James L’Etoile:
www.JamesLEtoile.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @jimletoile
Instagram – @AuthorJamesLEtoile
Twitter – @JamesLEtoile
Facebook – @james.letoile

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=302258

 

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for James L’Etoile. There will be Seven (7) winners for this tour. Two (2) winners will each receive a $20 Amazon.com gift card; Three (3) winners will each receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card; and Two (2) winners will each receive 1 signed print edition of At What Cost and Bury the Past by James L’Etoile. The giveaway begins on July 12 and runs through August 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: Kerry Lonsdale – NO MORE WORDS

NO MORE WORDS by Kerry Lonsdale Blog Tour Banner, July 5 through July 15, Amazon Publishing; Book cover features a woman with wind-blown hair and the words NO MORE WORDS over her face, A Novel by Kerry Lonsdale.

Hello book people. I hope you’re all surviving the record breaking heatwaves, as well as the torrential rains and flooding happening. I feel incredibly blessed to have air conditioning in my small and humble apartment, even if it doesn’t get as cold as I’d like. I enjoy lounging on my dedicated reading chair or sofa, curled up with a glass of iced tea (green or white tea usually), and a good book. From the windows of my seventh-floor apartment, I often get a great view of the happenings in the residential neighborhood abutting my building. It’s impossible to not try to come up with glorious backstories for some of the things I’ve seen out of my windows, such as the residents of one home that seem to have a new car every 6-9 months (and no they don’t have dealer tags on the cars). Kerry Lonsdale, author of No More Words, joins us today and gives us some insight into what inspired her to write this particular story. Please sit back, grab your beverage of choice, and join me in welcoming Ms. Lonsdale. Thank you, Ms. Lonsdale, for taking the time to stop by today and share with us.

My Inspiration

One summer night years ago I awoke at 2:00 am to glass shattering followed by the horrible sound of metal on metal. The acrid scent of burnt rubber reached me through the opened window I’d gotten up from bed to look out. Parked across the street was my neighbor’s ex-husband’s truck, the side door and panels looking more worse-for-wear than they had when I’d gone to bed. The sudden squeal of tires drew my attention to my next-door neighbor’s driveway where I watched in stunned horror as a green sedan shot across the street and t-boned the truck. The sedan backed up and rammed the truck again. Then again and again until the sedan’s front end crumpled, the bumper scraping the asphalt, the windshield cracking.

My neighbor’s ex-husband charged from the house in boxer shorts and a sleeveless undershirt hollering at the woman behind the wheel to stop. She didn’t, not until she’d pushed his truck up the sidewalk and onto the front lawn. Not until both vehicles were totaled. Not until the police arrived and convinced her to stop. And not until her face was so bloodied from hitting the steering wheel with each impact that she could no longer see. This was before airbags, and her eyes had swollen shut. An ambulance took her away from the scene.

Over the next few days, I learned that the woman behind the wheel was his girlfriend, and she wasn’t the least bit happy he was spending the night at his ex-wife’s house. She’d driven four hours, arriving in the dead of night, to show my neighbor’s ex-husband exactly how unhappy she was. She was also intoxicated. But the real tragedy was his daughter. He’d spent the night at his ex-wife’s house (on her couch) because he’d come to celebrate her eighth-grade graduation. And after the police left and ambulance drove off, I saw her standing on the porch dressed in pajamas, clutching her favorite stuffed animal. She’d witnessed the entire debacle.

I’ve often thought about her, the daughter, that is, wondering how that traumatic event affected her in the long run. There were others too. I wondered how they changed her relationship with her father. Did she pick up his habits as she aged, his boozing and gambling? Did she ever have a chance at a normal life, or did her childhood doom her to live with secrets and pain?

At the heart of the No More series I explore intergenerational trauma through the Carsons, the family featured in the series, and try to answer that exact question: Does a parent’s dysfunction prevent the younger generation from having a normal life, or have circumstances fated them to live with their trauma? From summers of neglect, lies and betrayal, teenage pregnancy, and serving time in juvenile hall, the Carson siblings have their share of baggage, thanks to parents who aren’t ideal. Dwight and Charlotte Carson’s parenting style leaves something to be desired, and of course, their actions lead to the tragic event at the center of the series that splits apart the Carson siblings.

I believe we experience and understand the world through our parents. We mimic their behaviors and habits. And in cases where abuse and neglect are involved, we forge coping mechanisms that aren’t necessarily ideal or healthy. We see this happen with Olivia, the protagonist in No More Words, and the oldest Carson sibling. She is in denial that she and her brother Lucas were treated differently by their parents than their younger sister Lily, who the parents often emotionally abused and neglected. Haunted by her past, betrayed several times over, Olivia has closed off her heart. Her trauma dictates her behavior and actions.

But despite this, I also believe that even though our past experiences can leave us fractured and flawed, we can rise above it, control it rather than letting our past control us. Through therapy, love, and acknowledgement, we can stop the cycle of intergenerational trauma. And we see this happen as Olivia works through her issues, taking ownership of the role she played in her family’s dysfunction and the disappearance of her younger sister Lily who she hasn’t seen since she ran away from home, sixteen and pregnant.

This makes me believe that the thirteen-year-old girl on the porch all those years ago has been living a rich, normal life that isn’t ruled by her childhood.


No More Words

by Kerry Lonsdale

July 5-15, 2021 Blog Tour

Synopsis:

From the Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author comes the first book in a trilogy about love, betrayal, and the secrets families keep.

Forced to choose between abortion or adoption, Olivia Carson’s younger sister, Lily, runs away from home. Sixteen and pregnant, she never returns. But she writes. Once a year, Lily mails a picture of her son, Josh, to Olivia until his thirteenth year. Then it’s Josh himself who arrives at Olivia’s house, alone, terrified, and in possession of a notarized declaration from Lily. It begins, “In the event I go missing…”

Josh has difficulty talking. He can’t read or write, but he’s a prolific artist, exhibiting skill beyond his age. His drawings are as detailed as they are horrific. Olivia soon realizes Josh’s artwork tells a story. There’s more to his arrival and to Lily’s untimely disappearance than it seems. Using the drawings as a road map, Olivia traces Josh’s path back to his mom. Each drawing sheds light on Lily’s past and reveals a darkness that forces Olivia to question everything she thought she knew about her family.

Book Details

Genre: Fiction, Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Published by: Lake Union Publishing

Publication Date: July 6, 2021

Number of Pages: 331

ISBN: 9781542019057 (paperback)

ISBN: 9781713559566 (audiobook on CD)

ASIN: B08BZJHJYF (Kindle)

ASIN: B0929KQJQQ (Audible audiobook)

Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: Indiebound.org, Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Audible, BookDepository.com, Downpour Audiobook, !ndigo

Meet the Author:

Kerry Lonsdale is the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Amazon Charts bestselling author of Side Trip, Last Summer, All the Breaking Waves, and the Everything Series (Everything We Keep, Everything We Left Behind, and Everything We Give). Her work has been translated into more than twenty-seven languages. She resides in Northern California with her husband and two children. You can visit Kerry at www.kerrylonsdale.com.

Visit the author:

Website
Facebook
Goodreads
Instagram
Twitter

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by PitchLit Publicity Services for Kerry Lonsdale. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND one (1) digital copy of No More Words. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: D.M. Barr – THE QUEEN OF SECOND CHANCES

THE QUEEN OF SECOND CHANCES tour banner featuring book cover on the left; book cover has note pad and female hand holding a pencil in the background, small picture lower left of a women in a plaid shirt, small picture upper left of a hound dog, small picture upper right of a man in a suit and tie wearing glasses, centered text THE QUEEN OF SECOND CHANCES D.M. Barr

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all recovered from the weekend, especially those of you in the US that had a three-day holiday weekend. I spent the weekend reading (but then I always spend the weekend reading). If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed that most of the items on my bucket list are visits to bookstores and libraries around the world (yes, I’m book obsessed). I’m pleased to welcome as our guest, D. M. Barr, author of the recently released The Queen of Second Chances. Ms. Barr will be discussing with us today items on her bucket list. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say, follow the blog tour to read some great reviews, and perhaps add The Queen of Second Chances to your TBR list. Thank you, Ms. Barr for joining us today, the blog is now yours.

What’s on your bucket list?

Thanks for such a great question!

One of the things that was on my bucket list was writing a nonfiction book I’ve thought about for over ten years, a book about travel for those on and off the autism spectrum. I’ve experienced autism in my extended family and as a travel writer, it’s something that I was surprised to find hadn’t been written about in a general way before. There were books involving specific methods of travel (Like Cruising with Autism), and personal family accounts, but nothing the way I wanted to write it. I’ve completed that book now, I’m thrilled to say, and I have an agent and a publisher interested so hopefully you’ll see that book on the shelves next year.

Also on my bucket list, along with all of my family being blessed with continuing health, I’d like to have a bestselling novel published by a Big 5 publisher, go on a worldwide book tour, and have that book turned into a blockbuster movie. Isn’t that what’s on every author’s list? But I’d also like a beach house somewhere, and to visit certain parts of the world I haven’t seen yet, specifically Morocco, Spain, and Portugal; the Norwegian fjords; South Africa; the Maldives to name a few. I’d like to adopt a few more dogs, especially a Bloodhound and an Otterhound, if we could only find a way to keep the drool off the ceilings when they shake their heads and fling. I’d like to see both of my children get married (shopping trip to Kleinfeld’s!) and if they choose to have children, enjoy my time as a grandmother.

But I’m really happy with what I’m doing now—writing, writing, writing. Punning and making my friends laugh. Serving as the president of the Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America and co-vice president of Sisters in Crime/New York-Tri-State. I’d like to do some more editing, maybe edit another anthology like I did for our SinC chapter’s upcoming Murder New York Style: Justice for All (coming out in September of 2021 from Level Best Books.). More books to follow up The Queen of Second Chances (I still want to tell Kiki’s story, Nikki’s story and maybe Jamie’s story), and also to follow up Simple Tryst of Fate, which comes out in September. Try my hand at screenwriting and more short stories. Maybe write a children’s book. So many ideas—I hope I get to live long enough to bring all of them to fruition!

The Queen of Second Chances

by D.M. Barr

July 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Carra’s memoir-writing class teaches seniors to resolve the regrets of their past. But to win over elder attorney Jay, will she follow her own advice? Carraway (Carra) Quinn is a free-spirited English major confronting an unreceptive job market. Desperate for cash, she reluctantly agrees to her realtor stepmother’s marketing scheme: infiltrate a local senior center as a recreational aide, ingratiate herself with the members, and convince them to sell their homes.

Jay Prentiss is a straitlaced, overprotective elder attorney whose beloved but mentally fragile Nana attends that center.

More creative than mercenary, Carra convinces Jay to finance innovations to the Center’s antiquated programming. Her ingenuity injects new enthusiasm among the seniors, inspiring them to confront and reverse the regrets of their past. An unlikely romance develops.

But when Carra’s memoir-writing class prompts Jay’s Nana to skip town in search of a lost love, the two take off on a cross-country, soul-searching chase that will either deepen their relationship or tear them apart forever.

Reviews:

Charming, funny, and heartwarming, The Queen of Second Chances is not just a love story where two people discover each other, it is a story of self-discovery. Like all good romances, this one starts with the two main characters loathing each other before slowly realizing that they are perfect together. But before either Jay or Carra can come to that realization, they have to work through their personal shortcomings. Carra feels like a failure and is unable to get past her mother’s desertion of her as a child. Jay, while his helping people who desperately need rescuing demonstrates his fundamental goodness, puts a little too much emphasis on wealth and status. Helping a group of seniors find fulfillment is the catalyst that allows both the main characters to embrace changing their own lives and then ultimately embrace each other. A joy to read, The Queen of Second Chances is the perfect mood lifter in these stressful times.

– S. Lee Manning, author of the critically acclaimed thriller, Trojan Horse
FIVE STARS!

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr is a beautifully written story of two lost souls brought together by fate. Carra was such a wonderful character, her warmth and kindness towards others were admirable. She also put others’ needs before her own safety and this was highlighted during the car scene outside the Garrison house. She was perfectly matched to Jay. Although he seemed to enjoy a materialistic lifestyle, I feel he had a really good heart and when he met Carra, he found the missing piece in his life. My absolute favorite character was Helen; she was extremely insightful and wise even though she was suffering from the onset of dementia. Her words of wisdom throughout were poignant and powerful, especially her views on looking back in life: “It’s more important to heed the present because that’s what it is, a gift. Nothing lasts long in this life, which is why every moment matters. You can’t take anything or anyone for granted.” I found the relationship between Jay and Carra developed gradually and the dialogue exchanges between them were very realistic. I loved the twist towards the end concerning Jay’s background and the nail-biting ending was brilliant. I feel there are so many underlying messages throughout too. For example, live for the moment, never be afraid to chase your dreams, and forgive yourself for mistakes you have made in your past. I highly recommend this novel.

– Lesley Jones, for Readers’ Favorite
FIVE STARS!

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr is a lovely, deftly written romantic comedy that fans of the genre will love.

– Edith Wairimu for Readers’ Favorite

Book Details

Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance, Romcom, Chicklit

Published by: Champagne Book Group

Publication Date: June 7th 2021

Number of Pages: 204

ISBN: 2940165375545 (ASIN B094GFWG3K)

Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads

Author Bio:

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic. And I haven’t run away from home in fear that my husband was planning to off me.

But that’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to…

Find Our Author Online:

DMBarr.com

Goodreads

BookBub – @DMBarr

Twitter – @AuthorDMBarr

Facebook – @AuthorDMBarr

Instagram – @AuthorDMBarr

Tour Host Participants:

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 1, 2021 through August 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Thank you for your interest in this tour!

Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

Guest Post: Blair Denholm – KILL SHOT

KILL SHOT by Blair Denholm tour banner; Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours; sepia-toned boxing ring background, KILL SHOT by Blair Denholm, A Jack Lisbon Vigilante Cop Thriller; The Fighting Detecting #1. Quote: "...So well written and full of action, that it is impossible to put down." - Voracious Readers Review; picture on the left of an ereader with book cover featuring a boxing ring in the background, a man holding a gun in the foreground, KILL SHOT in red letters covering the man's face, and Blair Denholm covering his lower legs.

Good day, book people and welcome to July! I hope those of you experiencing extreme heat are finding ways to stay cool. My go-to-method is to stay indoors, sip ice tea, and read a good book. I’m excited to begin another month but have regrets since I haven’t spent as much time reading as I could or should. Okay, I haven’t spent as much time on required reading as I should (I know, I need to stop my habit of re-re-reading favorite books). I’ve gone down the proverbial rabbit-hole lately by reading nonfiction crime thrillers and watching crime documentaries, so I was excited to learn that today’s guest would be stopping by to chat with us. Please help me welcome Blair Denholm, author of the crime thriller, Kill Shot. Mr. Denholm will be discussing with us the importance of writing what you want to read. Thank you, Mr. Denholm, for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today, the blog is now yours.

A Romantic at Heart

When you look at the best selling fiction genres, it’s romance first, the rest a distant second. Readers devour romance books like nothing else. And authors in this category are super prolific, pumping out series after series. Then there’s the myriad of subgenres. I was astounded to learn that Motorcycle Club Romance and Mafia Romance are actually things. But that’s just the beginning. How about Rock Star Romance and Medical Romance? Or even Cavemen Suitors and Amish Vampires? There’s something for every taste.

My question to myself is this: You want to be a best-selling author, right? You can write quickly, you’ve got a handle on this. You could clean up, kiddo! So why don’t you jump on that amusement park train-ride that is the Tunnel of Love and start bashing out romance novels?

The simple answer is, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I mean, if I can’t even read it and enjoy it, how on Earth could I write it?

I’m not saying there aren’t mercenaries out there, romance-slingers who’ll do anything to hit that sought-after best-seller list. In fact, I know there are. I once signed up for a writers’ course where you were taught virtually nothing about writing, and lots about business. I was shocked to learn there are authors out there who are not, in fact, authors. The most artistically creative thing they’ve done is come up with a pen name. And, you know what? Sometimes they don’t even do that. I’m not going to name names (I could), but if you’re a romance-a-holic who reads a lot of different authors, some you enjoy might be people who have never written a line of fiction in their life. They could be an astute businessperson who outsources everything related to writing the novels, concentrating on nothing but cold-blooded marketing of “the product”. They analyze the market forensically, spend many thousands of dollars in advertising on Facebook and Amazon, tweak their ad bids constantly, and watch the moolah rolling in.

But is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. As long as they’re providing something that gives people enjoyment, I’m one-hundred percent good with that approach.

Unfortunately, though, such a business model is never going to work for me. Even if I was a fan of romance and wanted to write in that genre, I would have to be responsible for every word on the page. Call me a control freak if you like, but the only part of my book I’m prepared to hand over to someone else is the cover. I’ve previously tried my hand at cover design and let me tell you, friend, “suck” doesn’t even come close to the mark. Having said that, writers do need the input of others before they hit the publish button. I’m talking about editors and proofreaders. For traditionally published authors, all that is taken care of in-house. But for indies like me, we have to find the right people out there in the oceans of service providers. Once you do find a good team to support you, they must be guarded and protected like a prize possession!

Some wannabe indie writers feel they can dispense with these essential elements, but they soon find out they’ve made a mistake when the scathing reviews come pouring in pointing out grammatical errors, typos, plot holes, you name it.

So, getting back to the main theme of not being able to write romance. It’s no secret that the vast majority of romance authors are women. I’m a guy, so that puts me behind the eight-ball from the get go. Even the men who do ply their trade in this genre tend to write under pen names, like Tom Huff, who wrote under the pseudonym of Jennifer Wilde. Others of note are Vince Brach (Fran Vincent) and Mike Hinkemeyer (Vanessa Royall).

I write thrillers and mysteries, and although there are romantic elements in some of my stories, they are generally incidental to the plot. When I write a “love scene”, it tends to be more suggestion than description. Indeed, I take my hat off to those who can sustain a romantic feel throughout an entire novel. It’s an awesome skill. So I guess the fact it’s the number one genre, and the one that pays its greatest exponents the most money from the pot, means those tireless romance writers earn every penny!

Kill Shot

by Blair Denholm

July 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

KILL SHOT - BDenholm

Violent crimes. Missing people. Dark secrets. Only one driven detective can unearth the truth.

Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon travelled halfway round the world to escape his troubled past. Mutilated bodies were never part of the plan.

A body found in the mangroves at first appears to be evidence of a frenzied crocodile attack. But it soon becomes obvious this is a horrific murder.

And when a popular MMA fighter disappears, police now face a possible double homicide. The list of suspects grows longer, but no one in the closed fighting community is talking.

Can hard-nosed ex-boxer Detective Sergeant Jack Lisbon solve the mystery before the panicked town of Yorkville goes into total meltdown?

Join DS Lisbon and his partner Detective Claudia Taylor on a heart-thumping ride through the steamy tropics of Northern Australia as they hunt for a killer out of control.

Justice served with a side order of vengeance.

 

What readers are saying about Kill Shot:

“Head spinning twists and gritty crisp dialogue make Kill Shot a must read for the gruff mystery thriller crowd out there!”
– Goodreads reviewer

“I would overwhelmingly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime fiction, thriller, who-done-it or the like.”
– Booksprout reviewer

“Denholm is a masterful story teller with realistic facts and hardcore action scenes throughout! Readers looking for a real page-turner have found it here!”
– Goodreads reviewer

“The story is so well written and full of action, that it is impossible to put down.”
– Voracious Readers reviewer

“With the heat, crocodiles, press speculation, and lack of progress, the pressure is on for a fast resolution. A cracking police procedural and a highly enjoyable read. I look forward to the subsequent adventures of the promising crime fighting duo.”
– Booksprout reviewer

“There are some surprising twists and turns along the way, one which I couldn’t even imagine which made this read a sheer delight. I struggled to keep this book down. I look forward to reading more of Denholm’s work.”
– Goodreads reviewer

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 9th 2020
Number of Pages: 212
ISBN: 979-8733882802
Series: The Fighting Detective, Book 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Author - Blair Denholm

BLAIR DENHOLM is an Australian fiction writer and translator who has lived and worked in New York, Moscow, Munich, Abu Dhabi and Australia. He once voted in a foreign election despite having no eligibility to do so, was almost lost at sea on a Russian fishing boat, and was detained by machine-gun toting soldiers in the Middle East. Denholm’s new series, The Fighting Detective, starring ex-boxer Jack Lisbon, is now up and flying with the first two installments, Kill Shot and Shot Clock. The series is set in tropical North Queensland, Australia, and features heavy doses of noir crime with a vigilante justice twist. Expect at least six novels with Detective Lisbon, his fellow cops and a host of intriguing characters.

Denholm’s debut crime novel, SOLD, is the first in a thrilling noir trilogy, featuring the detestable yet lovable one-man wrecking ball Gary Braswell. The second exciting book in the series, SOLD to the Devil, was released in June 2020. The final episode, Sold Dirt Cheap, will see the light of day in 2022.

Finally, Denholm is working on a crime series set in Moscow just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Captain Viktor Voloshin is a hard-boiled investigator who has to fight the establishment in order for justice to be served, in his own special way. The first in this series, Revolution Day, will be published in October 2021.

Blair currently resides in Hobart, Tasmania with his partner, Sandra, and two crazy canines, Max and Bruno.

Catch Up With Blair Denholm:
BlairDenholm.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @BlairDenholm
Instagram – @blairdenholm
Twitter – @blairdenholm
Facebook – @blairdenholm

 

Kill Shot Book Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!
https://www.linkytools.com/basic_linky_include.aspx?id=302288

 

 

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for BLAIR DENHOLM. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 1, 2021 through August 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for BLAIR DENHOLM. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs July 1, 2021 through August 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

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