WATCH THE SHADOWS Excerpt and Giveaway

Watch The Shadows by Robin Winter
ISBN: 9780986326509
Publisher: White Whisker Books
Publication Date:  April 20, 2015

In the college town of Isla Vista, California, small, odd things start happening. Science-geek Nicole notes the crows are leaving.  Meg Burdigal can’t find her tabby cat, Schrand. Brian the postman feels uneasy at the rustlings, the shadows he’s seen at the edge of his vision on his delivery route in town. Now Nicole sees fewer and fewer homeless in the park. Using her knowledge of biology and forensics, Nicole searches for answers—but will anyone take the horror she finds seriously?

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Thirteen, p. 41

“You’re bending the covers,” a voice said. “I could tell on you.”

Nicole jumped, looked up. Did she know this man? He coughed, a hoarse deep cough, and she thought she smelled something rank on his breath. A big guy with slightly stooped shoulders, as though he wanted to look smaller or younger than he was inside his greatcoat. Smooth shaven. She’d seen him before; yes, she had. One of the homeless ladies had been throwing some stones at him as if she were really mad. 

Nicole stood up and stepped back, angry, but decided that not answering him was her best choice. She knew how to treat a book, and she’d decided before she sat to read that she was going to buy this one.

“Princess, you’re an arrogant bitch; that’s what’s wrong with you. Had your way paid all your life, I bet. It won’t be like that forever. Things happen—even to the best of us.”

He continued talking after her as she strode toward the cash register.

Mr. Gorham took a moment to realize she was waiting, and Nicole fidgeted, not wanting the big man in the back of the store to follow her. It was growing dark outside, and she knew she was expected at home.

“Oh, Nicole,” he said, and Nicole wished he hadn’t said her name in case the man was listening. “Is this all for you tonight? Better get yourself along home. Your dad still off in DC?”

“No,” she lied. She liked Mr. Gorham, but he had no business tattling her private life in public like that. In the dull glow of the green shaded desk lamp, he looked like a skinny gnome from a children’s book as he counted her change. She assumed he’d never get a cash register. He always figured everything down to the last fraction of tax on a pad of paper with a gnawed pencil stub.

“You win on the tax today, young Nicole. Comes out to .344. Bingo.”

He always joked like that. Nicole thanked him and checked back over her shoulder, but she couldn’t see the big man. Maybe he was looking over the back shelves. Nicole ducked out the door and ran the first three blocks, cutting, after that, across the corner of the park. Slowing down, she felt much better. That was probably the sort of guy her mother would have told her to counter-aggress. Some people needed to be swatted back, or they would keep leaning in on you. But it was hard to tell sometimes, and she hadn’t wanted to engage with him in any way. It was a choice. This part of the street was better lit, and she slowed down even more, patting her book. 

But it was gone.

“No; oh shit,” she said out loud and the sound of her own voice surprised her. She looked back down the street. Twilight and past. Mom might not notice if she were late. She thought about leaving the book lost, and the idea hurt. Silly though it seemed, she felt as if the book would miss her, feel deserted. Dropped in some gutter with the stale beer and coke cans, meaning nothing to anyone but her. 

She began to retrace her way.

“Shit shit shit shit shit,” she said, and the word soothed her with repetition. She kept imagining she saw the flutter of pages just there, under the bush, or no, over in the shadow of the verge by the Volkswagen with rust spots. She’d spent her own good money on that paperback right down to the tax. She wasn’t going to let it lie abandoned somewhere in the street. She jogged through the park, straining her eyes, then let herself walk again. That’s what you got for being a nerd. If she were a track star, she wouldn’t run out of breath this easy.

Two blocks from the bookstore on Sabado, she saw it, and she swallowed in relief. Right smack in the middle of the pavement. She was so focused on it that, when another shape bent down and another hand reached for it, she almost blurted thank you.

It was the big man from the back of the bookstore. He was holding his coat closed with one hand, awkwardly, and her first thought was —he’s a flasher. I can scream for Mr. Gorham, but he’s probably reading.

“Someone lost her book,” the big man said. He looked like all the bullies she had ever seen coming up through school. He had that expression with the eyes narrowed in anticipation, dandling the book as if to tempt her to snatch it back. He laughed, and she wanted to hit him.

Be smart, Nicole; getting involved with this guy isn’t worth it. You know that, don’t you?

Then two things happened. A sound came from Mr. Gorham’s shop, probably nothing more than a dropped book, but it made the big man jerk, and when he did a magazine fell out of his coat. Without a plan, Nicole leapt forward, swept the book from his fingers, and was off in a start that would have done the track coach credit. She had never run so fast. She heard a shuffle, felt the movement of air as if he grabbed after her, but Nicole knew better than to hesitate. Or look back.

About the author:

Robin Winter first wrote and illustrated a manuscript on “Chickens and their Diseases” in second grade, continuing to both write and draw, ever since. Born in Nebraska, she’s lived in a variety of places: Nigeria, New Hampshire, upper New York state and now, California. She pursues a career in oil painting under the name of Robin Gowen, specializing in landscape. Her work can be viewed at Sullivan Goss Gallery in Santa Barbara or on-line at

Robin is married to a paleobotanist, who corrects the science in both her paintings and her stories. She’s published science fiction short stories, a dystopian science fiction novel, Future Past, and Night Must Wait, a historical novel about the Nigerian Civil War.

You may contact Robin or read her blog at:, or on her website:


Enter to win a print or ebook copy (winner’s choice) of Watch the Shadows by Robin Winter. This giveaway is limited to US residents only. Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM ET on 03/31/2015. Winner will be announced by 9:00 AM ET on 04/01/2015. To enter use the Rafflecopter form below:

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This book tour, excerpt, and giveaway brought to you by:

Book Showcase & Giveaway: BLOND CARGO by John Lansing

Blond Cargo
by John Lansing

Book Blast on October 7th

on Tour at October 8 – November 30, 2014

Blond Cargo by John Lansing | Coming Soon  

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Series: Jack Bertolino, 2nd

* Blond Cargo does include some graphic violence.

Published by: Karen Hunter

Publication Date:  10/20/2014

Number of Pages:  320

ISBN: 9781476795515 

Purchase Links:    


“A pulse-pounding thriller with a charming protagonist” (Kirkus Reviews), this gripping ebook continues the story that began in The Devil’s Necktie.

Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.

A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.

Read an excerpt: (NOTE: Excerpt contains some profane language)


Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich, a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the security gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. The marina was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.

He stopped to admire his twenty-eight feet of heaven before stepping onto his boat’s transom and then. . .

“Yo, Mr. B.”

Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
“Yo, yo, Mr. B.”

Miserably persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci, who was dressed head-to-toe in black. With his outstretched arms draped over the chain-link fence, Peter looked like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his eyes belied his youth. The sharp points of his sideburns, his boots, and the .38 hanging lazily from a shoulder holster added menace to his goofy grin.

So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been whether to eat his sandwich dockside or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.

“How you doing, Peter?”

“How you doin’?”

Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”

“That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”

Jack’s face tightened. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.

“Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”

“Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”

“My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”

As if on cue, a black Town Car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad-shouldered man, stepped out of the rear seat.

Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive linebacker—fleshy but muscled. Dark, penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.

Jack had been aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come due this quickly. He opened the locked gate and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his used Cutwater cabin cruiser.

As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln Town Car, Jack allowed the devil entry to his little piece of paradise.

“How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent asked bluntly. Just a reminder of why he was there.

“On the mend.” Jack gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs in the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.

Jack wasn’t comfortable with Cardona’s talking about Chris, but the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that might have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.

“It rips your heart out when your children have problems and you can’t do nothing to help,” Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his life.

“What can I do for you?” Jack asked, not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.

Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness, answered by pulling out a picture and handing it to Jack.

“Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My angel. Her mother died giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”

Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Cardona’s gift was her self-assured attitude, which all but leaped off the photograph.


Jack Bertolino, master of the understatement, he thought.

“And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes, my line of business. Whatever.”

“What can I do for you, Vincent?” Jack said, dialing back the attitude.

Cardona tracked a seagull soaring overhead with his heavy-lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.

Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.

“I shoulda never moved out here. L.A. I’m a black-socks- on-the-beach kinda guy. East Coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers that be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.”

“She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything— private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help; nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the nuns.”

“How did that work out?”

“I’m fuckin’ sitting here, aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dinghy . . . no offense meant,” he said, trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”

It was Tommy Aronsohn, his old friend and ex–district attorney, who had set him up with his PI’s license and first client, Lawrence Weller and NCI Corp. But Jack Bertolino and Associates, Private Investigation, still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue.

And thinking of the disaster up north, he said, “We’ll see how that goes.”

“This is the point. I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one since around the time your son was laid up in Saint John’s,” he said. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”

Cardona pulled out the L.A. Times with the front-page spread reporting on the woman who had died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove. As it turned out, a second woman down in Orange County had washed up on the beach a few weeks earlier at the Terranea resort, scaring the joy out of newlyweds taking photos at sunset. Talk about twisted memories, Jack thought. As if marriage wasn’t tough enough. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and hadn’t bought into the pattern the reporter inferred.

“And the connection?”

“I got a bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before—not for this long anyway,” he said, amending his statement. “And then. . .” Cardona said, waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blonds. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”

“Did you file a missing-persons report?”

Cardona gave him a hard side eye. “Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”

Jack thought before he spoke. “I’m not one of yours.”


“What about your crew?”

Cardona flopped open his meaty hands. “I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie, who has a certain skill set but stinks when it comes to open-heart surgery. Look, I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight-up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it, Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”

Strike three.

Jack didn’t answer. He stared out at the navy-blue water of the marina, past row upon row of beautiful yachts, symbols of dreams fulfilled, and knew they were empty notions compared to family.

Cardona hadn’t actually spoken the words you owe me, but they filled the subtext of everything he’d said. He was not subtle. The big man had reached out when Jack was in need, and Jack had accepted the offer. Now Vincent Cardona wanted his pound of flesh.

“This is everything I know. Last address, phone numbers, phone bills, e-mail accounts, bank, credit cards, friends and whatnot. The whole shot,” Cardona said, holding the manila envelope out in Jack’s direction.

“I have other commitments,” Jack stated.

“You look real fuckin’ busy, Jack, if you don’t mind my sayin’.” His eyes crinkled into a sarcastic grin. Vincent Cardona does charm.

Jack accepted the overstuffed envelope with a sigh.

 “If she don’t want to come back, fine. No funny business, no strong-arm bullshit from my end. You got my word. I just need to know that my blood is alive. I’m fuckin’ worried and I don’t do worry too good. Sleep on it, Jack. But do the right thing.”

Cardona’s eyes locked on to Jack’s. Jack remained silent. He’d take a look. No promises, not yet.

Vincent’s knees cracked and the canvas chair squeaked like it was in pain as he stood up. He covered a belch behind his fist and rubbed his gut as he moved stiffly past Jack. The boat rocked when Cardona stepped off and walked heavily away, his Italian leather shoes echoing on the wooden dock.

The weight of the world. Jack could relate.

Peter Maniacci opened the gate for his boss and then the door to the Lincoln Town Car, which plunged to curb level as the big man slid in. Peter ran around to the other side of the car and tossed Jack a wave like the queen mum. He jumped into the Lincoln, which lurched forward before Peter could slam the door shut.

Jack walked into the boat’s deckhouse, grabbed a bottle of water, and downed two more Excedrin. He stretched his back, which was going into a spasm from yesterday’s violence, and chased the pills with a Vicodin to stay one step ahead of the pain that he knew was headed his way.

Jack had already decided to take the case.

Author Bio:

John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” was his first novel. “Blond Cargo” is the next book in the Jack Bertolino series. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.

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Get Your Copy of Blond Cargo by John Lansing in the Giveaway:  Open from 10/7/2014 – 12/1/2014

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