Book Showcase: DEAD TREE TALES by Rush Leaming

DEAD TREE TALES by Rush Leaming Tour Banner courtesy of Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours: book cover features an old live oak tree in the background with the words DEAD TREE TALES in the foreground on upper 75% of cover, lower 25% of book cover has a single bullet beside "By Rush Leaming"; Quote: "Fast-paced, full of action and intrigue" by Lorraine Cobcroft, Reader's Favorites.

Dead Tree Tales

by Rush Leaming

June 7 – July 2, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Set in Charleston, SC, and the surrounding islands, police are called to investigate the poisoning of a much-loved 1000-year-old tree, only to find evidence of a more brutal crime. From there, the story explodes into a fast-paced, multi-character thriller unlike any you’ve ever read. Not for the faint of heart…

Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming is about a lot more than a dead tree. It’s a mystery. It’s a crime story. It’s a thriller. It’s a powerful comment on today’s society and politics… fast-paced, full of action and intrigue… It’s a real page-turner and just a fantastic read.” – Lorraine Cobcroft, Reader’s Favorite

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Bridgewood
Publication Date: June 8th 2021
Number of Pages: 488
ISBN: 0999745654 (ISBN13: 9780999745656)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

It was known simply as The Tree; that is what the locals on Johns Island, South Carolina, called it. A Southern live oak born a thousand years ago (some even said fifteen hundred), its gargantuan limbs swirled and stretched as much as two hundred feet in all directions. The lower arms, heavy with age, sometimes sank into the earth only to reemerge. Other branches flailed recklessly in the sky, like some sort of once-screaming kraken turned to wood by an ancient curse.

Generation after generation had protected it. Rising from the center of a former indigo plantation, and now officially known as Addison’s Oak, The Tree had long been a source of pride, even fear, in the surrounding community, as well as James Island, Wadmalaw Island, and the nearby city of Charleston.

But now, The Tree was dying. It was not from natural causes either, not from time, nor gravity, nor the weather.

Someone had killed it.

“Is that a thing?” Detective Charlie Harper asked as he turned his head to look at his partner, Detective Elena Vasquez.

“I think so.” Elena squinted her eyes toward the top of the canopy, the leafy summit shadowed and backlit by the noon sun.

“Arborcide? That’s a thing?” Charlie asked again.

An Asian-American man in his mid-twenties wearing wraparound sunglasses stood next to the two detectives. “Yep. You remember that incident a few years ago in Auburn? Toomer’s Corner. Crazy Alabama fan poisoned the tree there.”

“Yeah,” Charlie said. “But I mean legally. Is it legally a crime to do this?”

“Cops were involved there,” the man said. “The guy went to jail. Has to be something. Why don’t you call them? See what they did.” He pulled a pack of spearmint gum from the front pocket of his jeans and stuffed five pieces in his mouth, noticing Charlie watching him. “Quitting smoking. Nicotine gum makes me dizzy.”

Charlie nodded. “Been there.” Six feet tall, with a closely trimmed beard under bright-blue eyes, he walked around the perimeter of the field.

Salt air swirled around him—they were only a couple of miles from the beach—and Charlie realized it was the first time he had been away from the city and out on the islands in months, maybe even over a year.

Elena Vasquez, an athletic five-ten with shoulder-length black hair bobby-pinned over her ears, stood in front of the young man and opened a new page in the Notes app on her iPhone. “So, you’re the one who called about this?”

“Yes. It took some digging to figure out who to contact. I didn’t know there weren’t any police stations out here.”

“That’s correct.” She typed the date 5/19/2015 at the top of the page. “Closest station is the Island Sheriff’s Patrol on James Island, but they don’t handle things like this. That’s why you got us from the city. And who are you again?”

“Daniel Lee.”

She looked up from her iPhone. “Daniel is a nice name. It’s my son’s name, though we call him Danny. Where are you from, Mr. Lee?”

“I’m originally from Maryland—Chesapeake Bay area—but now I live in Charleston. West Ashley. I’m a Ph.D. candidate at the college.”

“College of Charleston?” Elena asked and continued typing.

“Yes. Environmental science. Teach a couple of undergrad classes as well. And I’m president of the local Sierra Club chapter. Our service project for this year has been public park maintenance and cleanup. I came here a week ago and saw that broken limb—”

“This one?” Charlie pointed at a fat twisted branch about the length of a Greyhound bus lying near the base of the tree.

“Yes.”

“Well . . .” Charlie said. “How do you know it wasn’t lightning or something?”

Daniel went over to Charlie and squatted next to the fallen limb. “There are no burn marks. Lightning would leave those.”

“Maybe it’s just old age. Isn’t this thing like a thousand years old or something?”

“Possibly more. It is rotting,” Daniel said. “But not from old age. See this discoloration? The rust-colored saturation of the stump where it broke?”

Charlie leaned in a little closer. “Yes.”

“That’s from poison, from a lot of poison. And you can see spots like this forming and spreading all around the trunk and on other branches.”

Elena stood beneath The Tree, placing her hand on a dark-orange splotch on the trunk. The gray bark surrounding the stain felt tough and firm, but inside the color spot, it was soft and crumbling. “I see it.”

“It’s like cancer,” Daniel said. “The Tree is not dead yet, but it will be soon. I had the soil tested as well as samples from the broken limb. They came back positive for massive levels of DS190.”

“And that is?” Charlie said.

“A variant of tebuthiuron. A very powerful herbicide. Similar to what was used at Toomer’s Corner. Somebody has been injecting the tree as well as dumping it into the ground. Probably for a few months to reach these levels.”

“Injecting the tree?” Elena said.

Daniel pulled them over to the base of the trunk where a ring of jagged holes stretched just above the ground. “Yes. See these gashes? Somebody has been boring into the trunk, then filling it with DS190.”

Charlie took out a pair of latex gloves and put them on before touching the holes in the trunk. “You’re sure this is intentional?”

“Has to be. This stuff doesn’t just appear on its own. It’s man-made. Someone has been doing this.”

“But why?” Charlie asked.

Daniel held out a hand, palm up. “Thus, the reason the two of you are here.”

Charlie shook his head. “I don’t know about this. We usually work homicide.”

Daniel gestured towards the gashes in the trunk. “You have a murder victim. Or soon will. Right in front of you.”

“But it’s a tree!” Charlie said.

Elena looked up from her phone. “Okay, Mr. Harper. Easy.”

Daniel motioned for them to follow as he walked to the backside of the trunk. “There’s something else.” He came to a stop in a patch of grass ringed with dandelion sprouts and pointed to dark-red streaks spread across the blades. “That’s blood, isn’t it?”

Charlie bent down and touched his gloved hand to one of the blades. “Maybe.” He took out a plastic bag and a Leatherman multitool from his jacket. He pulled apart the hinged scissors, then clipped away about a dozen pieces of grass and dropped them into the bag.

“And another thing,” Daniel said and led Elena to a spot about ten feet away. He pointed to a white card lying in the grass. “I didn’t touch any of this, by the way. I didn’t want to disturb the crime scene . . . I watch a lot of cop shows. I know how that goes.”

“Doesn’t everyone.” Elena squatted down, taking a plastic bag from her jacket. She used tweezers to pick up the card, muddy and frayed at the edges and turned it over to reveal a yellow cat emoji, just the head, whiskers, and a faint smile, printed on the opposite side. There were no words, just the image.

A strong breeze moved through the leaves of the great tree, a sound like rain showers mixed with groaning as the heavy limbs bent in the wind.

Charlie Harper removed his glove and rubbed the edge of his dark-brown beard. Looking at the massive branches, which did seem like the arms of giants, he began to understand why The Tree was such a big deal. “Have to say, it is beautiful here. Can’t believe I’ve been in Charleston four years and never been here. I should bring Amy. She’d love it.”

Daniel looked at Elena for an explanation.

“His daughter,” she said, then turned to Charlie. “You should. My dad brought me here a few times when I was a kid.”

“Well, you better hurry,” Daniel said.

“There’s nothing to stop it?” Elena asked.

“Probably not. I contacted a team of forestry researchers I know from Virginia Tech. They are going to send a team down to look at it, see if anything can be done. I sent a request to the Parks Department to pay for it. If they don’t, Sierra Club will hold a fundraiser.”

Charlie sighed. “Okay. While we decide what to do about this, I’ll call and have some signs and barriers put up to keep the tourists away.”

Elena turned to Daniel. “Thank you for meeting us here. Could you come to our station in the city today or tomorrow to give a formal statement?”

“Sure.”

“Bring copies of the lab work. We gonna find anything when we do a background check on you?”

Daniel shook his head. “No. Just some parking tickets . . . a lot of tickets actually. Parking at the college is a bitch.”

“That it is,” Elena said. “Here is my card if you think of anything else.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said. He stopped a moment as if to say something, then continued toward a white Chevy Volt parked near the road.

Elena looked at Charlie and raised her eyebrows. “So, Mr. Harper, what do you think?”

“Ehh . . . I mean I understand it’s old and rare and special and all that, but it’s a fucking tree. I don’t know anything about trees, do you?”

“No, but . . .”

“But what?”

“I don’t know,” Elena said and looked around the field. “My Spidey-sense tells me there’s more to it than just some weird vandalism.” She took a step forward and winced.

“Back acting up?” Charlie asked.

“A bit,” she said.

“Lunchtime anyway. Let’s take a break. I’m starving. June and I got into it again this morning. Skipped breakfast.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Elena swept a strand of black hair behind her ear. She pointed with her chin down a two-lane road to a crooked sign with a faded image of a pagoda: The Formosa Grill. “Chinese?”

“Sure,” Charlie said.

The two of them began to walk toward their gray Ford Explorer when Charlie saw a flash of white out of the corner of his eye. He stopped and knelt in the grass. He used his Leatherman tool to again pry away several blades.

“What is it?” Elena asked.

Charlie’s head bolted upright, his blue eyes narrowing. “Mr. Lee!” he shouted. He pulled another latex glove from his pocket.

In the parking lot, Daniel climbed out of his car and made his way back to the field. “Yes?”

“Mr. Lee, when was the last time you were here before meeting us today?”

“Yesterday morning,” Daniel said.

Elena knelt next to Charlie, looked into the grass, and let a low whistle escape her lips. She used her phone to take a photo.

Charlie used tweezers to pick up a severed finger. Sliced just below the knuckle, the stump crusted in blood, the flesh covered with red ants, it ended with a sharp green fingernail. He looked at Daniel. “Did you happen to notice this?”

Daniel swallowed hard, turning his face to the side. “No. I did not.”

Charlie put the finger in a plastic bag.

Elena looked at him, her wide brown eyes giving him a knowing shimmer. “You interested in this case now, Mr. Harper?”

Charlie didn’t flinch. He stared at The Tree.

***

Excerpt from Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming. Copyright 2021 by Rush Leaming. Reproduced with permission from Rush Leaming. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Author - Rush LeamingRUSH LEAMING has done many things including spending 15+ years in film/video production working on such projects as The Lord of the Rings films. His first novel, Don’t Go, Ramanya, a political thriller set in Thailand, was self-published in the fall of 2016 and reached number one on Amazon. His equally successful second novel, entitled The Whole of the Moon, a coming-of-age tale set in the Congo at the end of the Cold War, was published in 2018. His short stories have appeared in Notations, 67 Press, Lightwave, Green Apple, 5k Fiction, and The Electric Eclectic. He has lived in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Zaire, Thailand, Spain, Greece, England, and Kenya. He currently lives in South Carolina.

Catch Up With Rush:
LeamingRush.wixsite.com/nightfall
Goodreads
BookBub – @RushLeaming
Instagram – @rushleaming
Twitter – @LeamingRush
Facebook

Tour Participants:

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Enter the Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Rush Leaming. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs June 7, 2021 through July 4, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Author: Lois Schmitt – SOMETHING FISHY

Good day, book people. I hope that everyone has had a great week and found some time for reading. I had been in a bit of a reading slump lately due to these incessant migraine headaches accompanied by a bit of vertigo (migraine the gift that keeps on giving). Fortunately, the slump is over and it’s back to reading some favorites (I know, I keep saying I won’t do it then I do…I love re-reading!) as well as some new-to-me authors and books. Having a blog is a great way to be introduced to these new-to-me authors and books considering there are at least 2700 books released each day (yes, that IS the number for daily new releases). Today I’m pleased to introduce you to one such new-to-me authors, Lois Schmitt. Ms. Schmitt writes the Kristy Farrell mysteries including Something Fishy and she’ll be discussing unusual animals with us today. So kick back, grab a cool beverage, and let’s visit with Lois Schmitt for awhile. Thank you, Ms. Schmitt for joining us today, I’m looking forward to what you have to say. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.

 

The Most Unusual Animal

by Lois Schmitt

If you were to pick the most unusual animal in the world what would it be? The giraffe because of its long neck? The elephant with its trunk? The zebra that looks like a horse in crazy striped pajamas?

My mystery series always involves animals in some way. In researching background on wildlife, I’ve come across several strange creatures.

The duck-billed platypus looks as if its body was formed by a committee—with each committee member picking a part. This animal has the beak of a duck, the tail of a beaver, and the torso of an otter. The duck-billed platypus is native to Australia. The male is one of the world’s few venomous mammals. It has sharp stingers on the heel of its feet which can discharge this venom.

Next is the midwife toad—who carries his eggs on the back of his legs. Yes, HIS legs. It is the male who does this. When the eggs are ready to hatch, the midwife toad puts his back legs into the water. Soon after, tiny tadpoles burst out of the eggs and start swimming.

Then, there is the pinecone that moves, otherwise known as a pangolin. Of course, it’s not a real pinecone—it just looks like one when it rolls up in a ball for protection. The pangolin does this when it senses danger. Its dark brown scales are very hard, and they act as armor.

A sloth is the slowest animal in the world. It spends most of its life hanging upside down from a tree. It eats, sleeps, and gives birth to its babies this way. The three-toed sloth has arms that are 50% longer than its legs. Sloths sleep more than twenty hours a day. When awake, they barely move.

Another unusual animal is the fainting goat. When frightened, this animal’s muscles become completely stiff, and the goat falls over. Luckily, this causes no pain, and the goat recovers in ten to twenty seconds.

The lyrebird is unique in its ability to imitate sounds of not only human voices and other animals, but also the noises of industrial and power equipment. These birds have been found mimicking the noise of a chainsaw in a forest, a camera shutter opening and closing, and a car alarm. A single lyrebird also has the ability to imitate the sounds made by an entire flock of birds.

One of the world’s funniest looking creatures comes from the ocean—the red lipped batfish. Its bright red lips make it appear as if it is wearing lipstick. It also looks like it has legs, but these are actually fins that it uses to stand on the ocean floor.

While the red lipped batfish may have a comical appearance, the goblin shark, is one of the world’s scariest looking fish. Often called a “living fossil,” it resembles a prehistoric monster with its beady eyes, huge snout, and its bizarre extendable jaw. Elastic tissue allows the jaw to be thrust three inches out when capturing prey. It gets its name from the long nosed, red faced, Japanese demon known as the Tengu.

Since the goblin shark lives deep in the ocean, sightings of it are rare. I don’t have a goblin shark in my mystery, Something Fishy, but my protagonist does have an encounter with a nine foot bull shark. Although the bull shark doesn’t resemble a prehistoric monster, it is frightening to see one coming toward you.

What animal do you think is the most unusual?


 

Something Fishy

by Lois Schmitt

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

When attorney Samuel Wong goes missing. wildlife magazine reporter Kristy Farrell believes the disappearance is tied into her latest story concerning twenty acres of prime beachfront property that the Clam Shell Cove Aquarium hopes to purchase. Sam works for multi-millionaire land developer Lucien Moray who wants to buy the property for an upscale condominium. The waterfront community is divided on this issue like the Hatfields and McCoys with environmentalists siding with the aquarium and local business owners lining up behind Moray.

Meanwhile, a body is found in the bay. Kristy, aided by her veterinarian daughter, investigates and discovers deep secrets among the aquarium staff–secrets that point to one of them as a killer. Soon the aquarium is plagued with accidents, Kristy has a near death encounter with a nine foot bull shark, and a second murder occurs.

But ferreting out the murderer and discovering the story behind Sam’s disappearance aren’t Kristy’s only challenges. When her widowed septuagenarian mother announces her engagement, Kristy suspects her mom’s soon to be husband is not all he appears to be. As Kristy tries to find the truth before her mother ties the knot, she also races the clock to find the aquarium killer before this killer strikes again.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Encircle Publications
Publication Date: July 15th 2019
Number of Pages: 244
ISBN: 1948338793 (ISBN13: 9781948338790)
Series: A Kristy Farrell Mystery #2 || Each is a Stand-Alone Novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Encircle Publications | Goodreads

Author Bio:

A mystery fan since she read her first Nancy Drew, Lois Schmitt combined a love of mysteries with a love of animals in her series featuring wildlife reporter Kristy Farrell. She is a member of several wildlife and humane organizations as well as Mystery Writers of America. Lois worked for many years as a freelance writer and is the author of Smart Spending, a consumer education book for young people. She previously worked as media spokesperson for a local consumer affairs agency and currently teaches at Nassau Community College on Long Island. Lois lives in Massapequa with her family which includes a 120 pound Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog bears a striking resemblance to Archie, a dog of many breeds who looks like a small bear, featured in her Kristy Farrell Mystery Series. Lois was 2nd runner up for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award for Something Fishy.

Catch Up With Our Author:
LoisSchmitt.com
Goodreads
Twitter: @schmittmystery
Facebook: @LoisSchmittAuthor
Instagram: @loisschmittmysteries

Tour Participants:

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

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ENTER TO WIN:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Lois Schmitt. There will be TWO winners. TWO (2) winners will each receive (1) Amazon.com Gift Card of varying amounts. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and ends on July 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: Jeff Bond – THE BEGONIA KILLER

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours Banner: THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, A McGill Investigators Novel; quote: "If you like Stephanie Plum, you'll love Molly McGill."; Book cover done in pulp fiction style with blue fading to purple to red, THE BEGONIA KILLER by Jeff Bond, house in the background with a man grabbing the shoulder of a woman, fence separates the two yards and in the foreground is man wearing  a red tie, glasses, and holding bloody hedge clippers above some flowers next to a mailbox.

Good day, book divas and divos. I hope you’re having a fantastic week so far and have gotten some reading time whilst enjoying the warm weather. I’m currently participating in my local library’s “Summer reading challenge” or at least I’m trying to participate. Sadly, I’ve been residing in migraine headache central for the past week, which is somewhat apropos since June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. Despite the severe migraine headaches lately, I’ve been steadily adding to my TBR list (no, you don’t want to know how long it actually is at this point). I keep telling myself that I really need to get started on a few of the series I’ve marked to read just so I can read the latest releases in the series. One such series is the Third Chance Enterprises series featuring Molly McGill by Jeff Bond, including the most recent release, The Begonia Killer. (I’ve fallen in love with the pulp fiction style cover.) I’m incredibly honored and pleased to welcome back to the blog, Jeff Bond. Mr. Bond (I really love saying that) will be discussing the concept of “writing what you know” with us today. I hope you’ll enjoy what he has to say and add The Begonia Killer to your ever-growing TBR list. Good day, Mr. Bond, and thank you for today’s visit.

Writing from Personal Experience

I finally got around to starting Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. It’s a book some people swear by, but at 1088 pages and with a heavy post-modern reputation, it’s been more than I’ve felt like biting off. I’m enjoying the book. The language and characters are dazzling. The scenes are very readable and don’t drag the way you might expect from a book that long.

Still, certain riffs have such an encyclopedic feel that I found myself speculating about how Wallace came into so much knowledge. He’s particularly voluminous on the topic of the Enfield Tennis Academy — the interpersonal dynamics of the young athletes training there, details of their games, minutiae about showers and sweaty laundry and admissions procedures.

He must have played growing up, I thought. A quick Google search confirmed that, yes, David Foster Wallace was a fairly serious junior tennis player.

There are plenty of advantages to following the old adage, “Write what you know.” You’re likely to have a reservoir of well-developed ideas about the topic. Any details your story needs are right there in your brain, ready to fall out onto the page. Often when you’re writing a character outside your experience — a neurosurgeon, say — you’ll have to do some homework to craft them believably. How much of their time is spent performing operations versus talking to patients versus reading X-rays? What sort of practice is most typical in their field? Private? University-affiliated?

All these answers are immediately available to a writer working in a field they know.

I set a recent book, The Pinebox Vendetta, at a twenty-year Yale reunion, not long after I attended my own. I didn’t have any grand wisdoms to convey about reunions or Yale. I just liked the setting for the plot I had in mind. Pinebox is book one of a series about rival political clans locked in a perpetual power struggle. I wanted to begin the series in a non-political setting to emphasize the consequences of the clans’ fighting beyond just votes and Senate seats. Because so many recent political figures have attended Yale, it felt natural for a backdrop.

In the end, I was happy with the choice. The Ivy League setting suited the centuries-old feud, and as an added bonus, I had an easy time with street names and building descriptions, and imagining the alumnae emotions during reunion weekend.

The flip side of familiar settings is that they can distort your perspective. Authors generally strive to write for the reader who’s naïve about their subject matter, and being very close to a particular industry, sport, or profession can make it hard to strike a balance between accessibility and authenticity.

I struggled with this writing my second novel, Blackquest 40. It starred Deb Bollinger, a software engineer with attitude forced by foreign commandos to solve an impossible coding problem — a Silicon Valley Die Hard. In my twenties, I’d worked some as a software engineer in San Francisco so I knew Deb’s turf. The plot required many intricate technology explanations, and I had Deb lay them out in the plainest way possible.

Except, as it turned out, my “plain” wasn’t plain enough. My first round of beta readers found the book’s technical passages cumbersome and byzantine. I revised away much of the coding talk, but those sections were still giving people trouble. It took five or six rounds before I finally wrangled the book into a form that typical readers felt comfortable with. In the final version, I even tossed a line into chapter one where Deb, after a character misunderstands her, gives a clear wink to the reader by remarking in narrative voice, “I don’t expect non-techies to understand every word I say, all the nitty-gritty.”

In my latest book, The Begonia Killer, I borrow significantly from my own experience balancing writing against the work of raising children. Molly McGill, my single-mother private-investigator protagonist, deals with stuffed animals being peed on by the family cat, a kindergartner obsessed with cellphone games, and a teenage son who expects snacks on demand. These are all close to situations I’ve encountered myself, though never quite like Molly does. My daughters don’t actually crave the phone like Molly’s. They aren’t teenagers so I wouldn’t expect them to help themselves to snacks. In fact, I prefer they don’t, since that line between granola and candy bar keeps shrinking.

When using a personal experience as a writer, it’s important not to shoehorn the source incident too perfectly — but rather to massage until it fits your character and plot.

Another example from Begonia comes when Zach, Molly’s teenage son, yells at his mother for putting away his laundry with two left socks folded together. That’s something that I actually did myself sometime in middle school. Now I didn’t have much in common with Zach — of the long bangs and skateboard tucked in his armpit — but that one episode felt perfectly apt in portraying Zach’s adolescent entitlement and cluelessness about the world.

Starting out as an author, I had no sense for this. A few of my early attempts featured characters drawn fairly close to real-life counterparts, and this made for some dicey encounters with friends who volunteered to read. Some would immediately try guessing which character went with which of our mutual friends. It didn’t help that I was also lousy with naming back then. More than once, I started drafting with a name too similar to a character’s real analog, then had to go back using my word processor’s find-and-replace and swap the original for a less recognizable name. Invariably, I would miss a contraction or some apostrophe-s version and give myself away.

Maybe because I set this precedent early, I still have friends who’ll insist on matching up real people to characters in my books. If I’ve borrowed a single anecdote or trait, it may appear that the entire character is adapted. I can understand that. In fact, I’ve rejected plot ideas that too closely mirrored actual events for just that reason: I didn’t want somebody to read and believe the story’s events reflected on them. It’s always possible to find a different way, plot- or character-wise, to create the effect you want. It just takes some shifting around of other elements.

I’m still working on Infinite Jest — readable or not, 1088 pages is 1088 pages. Sadly, David Foster Wallace is no longer with us, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a former teammate or two squirmed reading about a certain mannerism or vocal tic of one of Enfield Tennis Academy’s pupils. I hope they keep in mind that if Wallace borrowed from them, it was because he had good artistic reasons for doing so.

At least I think he did.


 

The Begonia Killer

by Jeff Bond

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE BEGONIA KILLER - JBondYou know Molly McGill from her death-defying escapes in Anarchy of the Mice, book one of the Third Chance Enterprises series. Now ride along for her first standalone caper, The Begonia Killer.

When Martha Dodson hires McGill Investigators to look into an odd neighbor, Molly feels optimistic about the case — right up until Martha reveals her theory that Kent Kirkland, the neighbor, is holding two boys hostage in his papered-over upstairs bedroom.

Martha’s husband thinks she needs a hobby. Detective Art Judd, who Molly visits on her client’s behalf, sees no evidence worthy of devoting police resources.

But Molly feels a kinship with the Yancy Park housewife and bone-deep concern for the missing boys.

She forges ahead with the investigation, navigating her own headstrong kids, an unlikely romance with Detective Judd, and a suspect in Kent Kirkland every bit as terrifying as the supervillains she’s battled before alongside Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones.

The Begonia Killer is not your grandparents’ cozy mystery.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery — Cozy/Romance
Published by: Jeff Bond Books
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 195
ISBN: 1734622520 (ISBN-13 : 978-1734622522)
Series: Third Chance Enterprises, #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Jeff BondJeff Bond is an American author of popular fiction. A Kansas native and Yale graduate, he now lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters. The Pinebox Vendetta received the gold medal in the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and the first two entries in the Third Chance Enterprises series — Anarchy of the Mice and Dear Durwood — were named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best 100 Indie Books of 2020.

Catch Up With Jeff Bond:
ThirdChanceStories.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @jeff_bond
Instagram – @jeffabond
Twitter – @jeffABond
Facebook – @jeffabondbooks

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=301545

Enter the Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jeff Bond. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 1, 2021 and runs through July 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: C.L. Tolbert – THE REDEMPTION

Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tour Banner: THE REDEMPTION, Thornton Mystery Series by C.L. Tolbert; quote "...a gripping tale of corruption and cime in the 1990s Big Easy, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling Emma Thornton mystery." Ellen Byron; Book cover has a sepia-toned photo of storefronts with a partial view of the street, THE REDEMPTION, A Thornton Mystery, C.L. Tolbert.

Good day, book people. I can’t believe it’s June. I’m looking forward to sunnier days although my photosensitivity issues are worse in the Spring and Summer, I still look forward to those sunny days. In my mind, longer days means more daylight hours to read despite the fact that I’d read 24/7 if it were physically possible. In addition, to longer and sunnier days, I also look forward to all of the wonderful books I get introduced to during this time of the year…okay, any time of the year is a good time to be introduced to new-to-me books. I don’t know about you, but sunny days seem to be the perfect time for me to read more emotionally-charged fiction and non-fiction. One book that fits in the emotionally-charged fiction category is The Redemption by C.L. Tolbert. I’m pleased to welcome Ms. Tolbert today to the blog. She’ll be providing us with the backstory for writing The Redemption. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say and add The Redemption to your TBR list. Ms. Tolbert, thank you for joining us today. The blog is now yours.

What was the Inspiration for Writing The Redemption?

C.L. Tolbert

In 1995, I was teaching at a law school in New Orleans, and also served as the director of the law school’s Homeless Law Clinic. Individuals who fell within the poverty guidelines, and who were also homeless were able to come to the law school for legal services. Students provided those services under my supervision.

A case came in to the clinic from the public defender’s office concerning a sixteen-year-old boy who’d been indicted for the murder of a thirty-eight year old man. The murder had occurred in the St. Thomas Housing Projects. The director of the law school clinic program asked me if I wanted to take the case.

Since we were providing legal services to a homeless population, my students and I typically dealt with housing issues, or helped clients retrieve benefits from social security or the VA. It was difficult to teach trial advocacy, which was one aspect of my job, if we were limited to helping clients with social services and housing issues. My students wanted to learn trial skills, and I wanted to provide an actual trial for them so that they could learn.

The young man charged with murder, whom I will call Evan, didn’t fit perfectly into the homeless clinic guidelines, but he was close. He didn’t live with his mother. He “floated” around from family member to family member, living with his grandmother, and aunts, and friends. Technically, he wasn’t homeless, but he didn’t have a permanent address either. Plus, he fit within the poverty guidelines. So, I accepted the case.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Evan. A student and I traveled to Orleans Parish prison where a deputy walked us back to the attorney/ prisoner conference area. The room, a large white cell which contained a single table and three chairs, was as chilly as a refrigerator. Glaring fluorescent lights hung overhead. Another deputy walked a chained Evan down the hall. I watched from inside the room as his orange jumpsuit cleared each bar. He shuffled into the space with shackled feet, through the barred opening, then approached us. The deputy stood by the door as if he were guarding its entrance. I indicated Evan should sit.

I was struck by how young he was. He was clearly terrified. Evan wouldn’t make eye contact. His upper lip was covered with perspiration, and his knee was moving up and down like a piston. He refused to speak about the night of the murder, other than to deny that the murder weapon was his. He saw nothing, knew nothing.

Even though Evan was a juvenile, the DA had filed a motion to try him as an adult based on a statute which allowed sixteen-year-olds to be tried as adults for murder, or other crimes, such as sexual assault or armed robbery. The prosecution had also threatened the death penalty as a possible punishment, which was permissible for juveniles at that time.

Our investigation later revealed that Evan’s family, especially his older brother, who was there the night of the murder, were well-known in the community for drugs and gang involvement. We also learned that gangs often ask younger members to take responsibility for crimes so that older members could avoid jail time. Typically, the younger members serve their time in the juvenile system, and are released at age 21. But this plan seemed to be backfiring on Evan, who the DA wanted to try as an adult.

Evan’s case haunted me for years and inspired The Redemption. I was shocked by the callous attitude the prosecutors had toward the death penalty, especially since a juvenile was involved. Capital punishment was popular in Louisiana. The District Attorney brought his top prosecutor to argue their motion to transfer the case to the adult system, and packed the court with an unusual number of attorneys on the day of the hearing. It was a highly political case. I wasn’t prepared for that sort of display, but we were prepared for our argument, which I made, and we won. We were able to keep Evan in the juvenile system.

In the actual case, Evan never revealed the events on the night of the murder. He protected his brother, and even though we were able to prove there were at least two shooters involved in the murder, the judge ruled that Evan was guilty. He served time in the juvenile system until the age of twenty-one which was his brother’s plan all along.

At its core, The Redemption is a story of social justice and hope. I’ve shown how easy it is to manipulate a sixteen-year-old, which is what often what leads to their arrest and incarceration. In The Redemption, I changed the facts of the story to show how Evan could have turned his loyalty and courage around and help save himself.

 

The Redemption

by C.L. Tolbert

June 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

THE REDEMPTION - CLTolbertEmma Thornton is back in The Redemption, C.L. Tolbert’s second novel in the Thornton Mystery Series.

When two men are murdered one muggy September night in a New Orleans housing project, an eye witness identifies only one suspect – Louis Bishop- a homeless sixteen-year old. Louis is arrested the next day and thrown into Orleans Parish Prison. Emma Thornton, a law professor and director of the Homeless Law Clinic at St. Stanislaus Law School in the city agrees to represent him.

When they take on the case, Emma and her students discover a tangle of corruption, intrigue, and more violence than they would have thought possible, even in New Orleans. They uncover secrets about the night of the murders, and illegal dealings in the city, and within Louis’s family. As the case progresses, Emma and her family are thrown into a series of life-threating situations. But in the end, Emma gains Louis’s trust, which allows him to reveal his last, and most vital secret.

Book Praise:

“With The Redemption, Cynthia Tolbert delivers another beautifully written and compelling read in her Thornton Mystery series, as law professor Emma Thornton’s fight to save a teen wrongly accused of murder endangers her own life in this gripping tale of corruption and crime in the 1990s Big Easy.”
Ellen Byron, Agatha Award Winning Author of the Cajun Country Mysteries

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: February 9th 2021
Number of Pages: 286
ISBN: 978-1-947915-43-5
Series:Thornton Mysteries, Book 2 || Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - CL TolbertIn 2010, Cynthia Tolbert won the Georgia Bar Journal’s fiction contest for the short story version of Out From Silence. Cynthia developed that story into the first full-length novel of the Thornton Mystery Series by the same name, which was published by Level Best Books in December of 2019. Her second book in this same series, entitled The Redemption, was released in February of 2021.

Cynthia has a Master’s in Special Education and taught children with learning disabilities for ten years before moving on to law school. She spent most of her legal career working as defense counsel to large corporations and traveled throughout the country as regional and national counsel. She also had the unique opportunity of teaching third-year law students in a clinical program at a law school in New Orleans where she ran the Homeless Law Clinic and learned, first hand, about poverty in that city. She retired after more than thirty years of practicing law. The experiences and impressions she has collected from the past forty years contribute to the stories she writes today. Cynthia has four children, and three grandchildren, and lives in Atlanta with her husband and schnauzer.

Catch Up With Cynthia:
CLTolbert.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @cltolbertwrites
Twitter – @cltolbertwrites
Facebook – @cltolbertwriter

Tour Participants:

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ENTER TO WIN:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for C.L. Tolbert. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs from June 1, 2021 through July 4, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: AFTERMATH by Terri Blackstock

Aftermath

May 10 – June 4, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

AFTERMATH - TBlackstock

This gripping new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Terri Blackstock will leave you on the edge of your seat.

A devastating explosion.

Three best friends are at the venue just to hear their favorite band . . . but only one of them makes it out alive.

A trunk full of planted evidence.

When police stop Dustin with a warrant to search his trunk, he knows it’s just a mistake. He’s former military and owns a security firm. But he’s horrified when they find explosives, and he can’t fathom how they got there.

An attorney who will risk it all for a friend.

Criminal attorney Jamie Powell was Dustin’s best friend growing up. They haven’t spoken since he left for basic training, but she’s the first one he thinks of when he’s arrested. Jamie knows she’s putting her career on the line by defending an accused terrorist, but she’d never abandon him. Someone is framing Dustin to take the fall for shocking acts of violence . . . but why?

Praise for Aftermath:

“In Aftermath, Terri Blackstock plumbs the depth of human emotion in the face of devastating tragedy, grief, and loss. Yet, she still manages to give readers her trademark suspenseful story, sweet romance, and hope for the future. From gut wrenching scenes in a cancer patient’s hospital room to seeing the world through the eyes of a young woman with a debilitating mental health disorder, Blackstock pulls no punches about human frailties. Does the end justify the means? Romantic suspense lovers won’t want to miss Aftermath.”
—Kelly Irvin, bestselling author

“Justice may be blind but that doesn’t keep it from facing mortal danger. In Aftermath, expert storyteller Terri Blackstock ratchets up the suspense in a novel that delivers on every level. Conflicts rage and loyalties are tested to the ultimate limit. Set aside plenty of time when you pick up this book—you’ll not to want to take a break.”
—Robert Whitlow, bestselling author

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: May 11th 2021
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0310348587 (ISBN13: 9780310348580)
Series: Aftermath is a stand-alone novel
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Christianbook | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Aftermath

Chapter One

Taylor Reid’s phone flashed as she snapped the selfie with her two friends, their heads touching and their backs to the stage. The shot from the third row, with the lead singer in the background and the three of them in the foreground, was perfect. No one would believe their seats were so close.

They turned around to face the band, dancing to the beat of the song they’d been listening to in the car on the way to Trudeau Hall.

Taylor quickly posted the pic, typing, “Ed Loran targets nonpoliticals for his rally with band Blue Fire. Worked on us!”

She put her phone on videotape and zoomed onto the stage.

“I don’t want it to end!” Desiree said in her ear.

“Me either!” Taylor yelled over the music.

“Maybe they’ll play again after his speech,” Mara shouted.

The song came to an end, and the crowd went crazy, begging for one more song before the band left the stage.

But an amplified voice filled the auditorium, cutting off the adulation. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next president of the United States, Ed Loran!”

The crowd sounded less enthusiastic as the band left the stage and Ed Loran, the Libertarian celebrity magnet, made his entrance. Taylor kept cheering and clapping, letting her enthusiasm for the band segue to him.

It happened just as the candidate took the stage. The deafening sound, like some confusing combination of gunshot and lightning bolt, a blast that blacked out the lights and knocked her to the ground. Smoke mushroomed. Screams crescendoed—shrieks of terror, wailing pain, shocking anguish . . . then sudden, gentle silence, as if she were underwater. A loud ringing in her ears filled the void.

She peered under the seats, choking for breath as dimmer lights flickered through the smoke. Even from here, she could see the fallout of whatever had happened. Blood pooling on the ground, people hunkering down as she was, feet running . . . What was happening? An explosion? A crash? She looked around and couldn’t see her friends.

She clawed her way up and looked over the seat. Smoke and fire billowed from the stage into the crowd, and heat wafted over her like some living force invading the room. Muffled, muted sounds competed with the ringing.

Get out! Now! She dropped back down and crawled under two rows of seats until she came to someone limp on the floor. She felt herself scream but couldn’t hear her own voice. Scrambling to her feet, she went to her left to get to the aisle, but her foot slipped on something wet. She grabbed the seat next to her to steady herself, then launched into the frantic crowd in the aisle. The room seemed to spin, people whizzing by, people under her, people above her, people broken and ripped and still . . . She stepped and fell, crawled and ran, tripped and kicked her way to the bottlenecked doorway, then fought her way through it.

The ringing in her ears faded as she tumbled downstairs, almost falling into the lobby below. The sound of crying, coughing, wretching, and the roaring sound of pounding feet turned up as if some divine finger had fiddled with the volume.

She set her sights on the glass doors to the outside and pushed forward, moving through people and past the security stations they’d stopped at on the way in. She made it to the door and burst out into the sunlight.

Fresh, cool air hit her like freedom, but at first her lungs rejected it like some poison meant to stop her. At the bottom of the steps, on the sidewalk, she bent over and coughed until she could breathe.

After a moment, the crowd pushed her along toward the parking garage until she remembered that her car wasn’t there. She had parked on the street, blocks away. She forced her way out of the flow of people and ran a block south. Where was it?

She turned the corner. Her car was here, on this block. Near the Atlanta Trust Bank. Wasn’t it? Or was it the next block?

Sweat slicked her skin until she found her silver Accord. There!

She ran to it and pulled her keys out of her pocket, wishing she hadn’t lost the key fob. Her hands trembled as she stuck the key into the passenger side lock and got the door open. She slipped inside on the driver’s side, locked it behind her. Instinctively, she slid down, her head hidden as if someone were coming after her.

What just happened?

One minute they’d been taking selfies and videotaping the band, and the next they were on the floor . . .

Where were Mara and Desiree? She hadn’t even looked for them! Should she go back for them?

No, that would be insane. She could smell the smoke and fire from here. They would know to come to the car when they got out.

Call the police!

She tried to steady her hands as she swiped her phone on.

“911, what is your—”

“An explosion!” she cut in, her voice hoarse. “At the Ed Loran rally at Trudeau Hall!”

“Where are you now?” the woman asked in a voice that was robotically calm.

“I got out. There’s fire . . . People are still in there. Please send ambulances!”

“Ma’am, did you see what exploded?”

“No . . . the stage area, I think. I don’t know where my friends are. Please . . . hurry!”

“We’ve already dispatched the fire department and police, ma’am.”

She heard sirens from a few blocks away and cut off the call. She raised up, looking over the dashboard for the flashing lights. She couldn’t see any, but the sirens grew louder.

She knelt on the floorboard, her knees on her floormat and her elbows on her seat, and texted Desiree.

I’m at the car. Where are you?

No answer. She switched to a recent thread with Mara and texted again.

Got out. At car waiting. Where are you?

Nothing.

She dictated a group text to both of them.

Are you all right?

They were probably running or deaf, fighting their way out like she had. She tried calling them, but Mara’s phone rang to voicemail. When Desiree’s phone did the same, she yelled, “Call me! I’m waiting at the car and I’m scared. Where are you?” She was sobbing when she ended the call.

***

Excerpt from Aftermath by Terri Blackstock. Copyright 2021 by Terri Blackstock. Reproduced with permission from Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Author - Terri Blackstock

Terri Blackstock has sold over seven million books worldwide and is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist. She’s the author of If I Run, If I’m Found, and If I Live, as well as such series as Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, Moonlighters, and the Restoration series.

Visit her at:
www.TerriBlackstock.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram – #terriblackstock
Twitter – #terriblackstock
Facebook – @tblackstock

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=301365

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Terri Blackstock & Thomas Nelson. There will be ONE (1) winner of one (1) physical copy of Aftermath (US Addresses only). The giveaway begins on May 10, 2021 and ends on June 5, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: BEYOND THE HEADLINES by R.G. Belsky

BEYOND THE HEADLINES by R.G. Belsky blog tour banner, book cover features a blue-washed woman holding a microphone with the title BEYOND THE HEADLINES over her face and body; "She was a mega-celebrity--he was a billionaire--now he's dead--she's in jail"; Quote: "Excellent plot with fascinating characters...Clare Carlson had me hooked from the first book I read in the series." Manhattan Book Review, Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Beyond The Headlines

by R.G. Belsky

May 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

BEYOND THE HEADLINES - RGBelsky

She was a mega-celebrity—he was a billionaire businessman—now he’s dead—she’s in jail

Laurie Bateman was living the American dream. Since her arrival as an infant in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, the pretty Vietnamese girl had gone on to become a supermodel, a successful actress, and, finally, the wife of one of the country’s top corporate dealmakers. That dream has now turned into a nightmare when she is arrested for the murder of her wealthy husband.

New York City TV journalist Clare Carlson does an emotional jailhouse interview in which Bateman proclaims her innocence—and becomes a cause celebre for women’s rights groups around the country.

At first sympathetic, then increasingly suspicious of Laurie Bateman and her story, Clare delves into a baffling mystery which has roots extending back nearly fifty years to the height of the Vietnam War.

Soon, there are more murders, more victims, and more questions as Clare struggles against dire evil forces to break the biggest story of her life.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 4th 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 160809409X (ISBN13: 9781608094097)
Series: The Clare Carlson Mystery Series, 4 (This can be read as a stand alone mystery.)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

“Do you know who Laurie Bateman is?” my friend Janet Wood asked me.

“I do,” I said. “I also know who Lady Gaga is. And Angelina Jolie. And Ivanka Trump. I’m in the media, remember? That’s what we do in the media, we cover famous people. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

“Laurie Bateman hired me.”

“As an attorney?”

“Yes, as an attorney. That’s what I do, Clare.”

We were sitting in my office at Channel 10 News, the TV station in New York City where I work as news director. I should have known something was going on as soon as Janet showed up there. We usually met at Janet’s law office which is big, with panoramic views of midtown Manhattan, and a lot nicer than mine.

Janet never comes to see me at Channel 10 unless she has a reason.

I figured I was about to find out that reason.

It was early December and outside it was snowing, the first real storm of the winter. The snow started falling during the night, and by now it was covering the city with a powdery white blanket. Pretty soon the car exhausts and trucks would turn it into brown slush, but for now it was gorgeous. From the window next to my desk, the city had an eerie, almost unreal quality. Like something from a Norman Rockwell painting.

My outfit for the day was perfect for the snowy weather, too. I’d walked in wearing a turtleneck sweater, heavy corduroy slacks, a blue down jacket with a parka hood and white earmuffs, scarf and mittens. The ski bunny look. I felt like I should have a cup of hot chocolate in my hand.

“Why does Laurie Bateman need you as an attorney?” I asked Janet.

She hesitated for what seemed to be an inordinately long amount of time before answering.

“Are we talking off the record here?”

“Whatever you want, Janet.”

“I need your word on that.”

“C’mon, it’s me. Clare Carlson, your best friend in the world.”

She nodded.

“Laurie Bateman wants me to represent her in divorce proceedings.”

“Wow!”

“I thought you’d like that.”

“Is it too late to take back my ‘best friend in the world/ off-the-record’ promise?”

Janet smiled. Sort of.

“How much do you know about Laurie Bateman?” she asked me now.

I knew as much as the rest of the world, I suppose. Laurie Bateman seemed to have the American Dream going for her. Since coming to the U.S. as a baby with her family after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the pretty Vietnamese girl had grown up to become a top model, then a successful actress, and finally, the wife of one of the country’s top corporate deal makers. She had a fancy Manhattan townhouse, a limousine at her beck and call and her face had graced the covers of magazines like Vogue and People.

Her husband was Charles Hollister, who had become incredibly wealthy back in the ’70s as one of the pioneers of the burgeoning computer age. He was a kind of Steve Jobs of those early days, and he later expanded into all sorts of other industries—from media to pharmaceuticals to oil drilling and a lot more. He was listed as one of the ten wealthiest businessmen in America.

When Hollister married Laurie Bateman a few years ago, there were a lot of jokes about the big difference in age between the two—she was so much younger and so beautiful. Like the jokes people made about Rupert Murdoch with Wendy Deng and then Jerry Hall, his last two wives. People always assume that a younger and pretty woman like that is marrying for the money. But Laurie Bateman and Charles Hollister insisted they were in love, and they had consistently projected the public persona of a happily married couple in the media since their wedding.

Except it now appeared they weren’t so happily married.

“Is she trying to divorce him to get her hands on his money?” I asked.

“Actually, he’s trying to divorce her and stop her from getting her hands on any of his money.”

“So the bottom line here is this divorce is about money.”

“Always is.”

“Isn’t there a pre-nuptial agreement that would settle all this?”

“Yes and no.”

“Spoken like a true lawyer.”

“Yes, there is a pre-nup. But we don’t think it applies here. That’s because other factors in the marriage took place which could invalidate the terms of the pre-nup they agreed to and signed.”

“Okay.”

I waited.

“Such as?” I asked finally.

“For one thing, Charles Hollister has a mistress. A younger woman he’s been seeing.”

“Younger than Laurie Bateman?”

“Much younger. In her twenties.”

“Jeez! Hollister’s such an old man I have trouble imagining him being able to have sex with his wife, much less getting it up for a second woman on the side.”

“Her discovery that he was cheating on her, along with a lot of other reasons, have turned Laurie Bateman’s life into a nightmare—a living hell—behind the walls of the beautiful homes they live in. She’s kept quiet about it so far, protecting the happy couple image they’ve put on for the media. But now she wants to let the world know the truth. That’s where you come in, Clare.”

Aha, I thought to myself.

Now we’re getting down to it.

I was about to find out the real reason Janet was here.

“Laurie Bateman wants to go public with all this,” Janet said. “She wants to tell her story in the media. The true story of her marriage to Charles Hollister. We know Hollister is going to use his clout to try and smear her and make her look bad, so that’s why we want to get her version out quickly. What I’m talking about here is an exclusive interview with Laurie Bateman about all of this. Her talking about the divorce, the cheating—everything. And she wants you to do the interview with her.”

“Why me?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why not Gayle King? Or Savannah Guthrie? Or Barbara Walters or Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer or another big media name? I’m just the news director of a local TV station here.”

“She wants you, Clare. In fact, I think that’s the reason she hired me for her lawyer. She found out you and I were friends—and she’s hoping I can deliver you to her to do this interview on air with her.”

“I still don’t know why she wouldn’t want to go with someone really famous . . .”

“You’re famous too, Clare. You know that as well as I do. And that’s why she wants you. You’re as famous as any woman on the air right now.”

Janet was right about that.

I was famous.

It could have gone either way—I could have wound up being either famous or infamous because of what I did—but in the end I’d wound up as a media superstar all over again.

Just like I’d been when I won a Pulitzer Prize nearly twenty years ago for telling the story of legendary missing child Lucy Devlin—even though I didn’t tell the whole story then.

“Laurie Bateman’s life with Charles Hollister is a big lie,” Janet said to me. “Now she wants to tell the truth on air about all those lies she’s been hiding behind. Like you did when you finally told the truth on air about you and Lucy Devlin. That’s why she wants you to be the one who interviews her.”

I still wasn’t sure how I felt about all this new found fame I’d gotten from my Lucy Devlin story, but there was no question that if it got me this Laurie Bateman story . . . well, that would be a huge exclusive for me and the station.

“When can I meet her?” I asked Janet.

***

Excerpt from Beyond The Headlines by R.G. Belsky. Copyright 2021 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Author - RG Belsky

R. G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City.

His new mystery, BEYOND THE HEADLINES, will be published in May 2021. It is the fourth in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station – and follows THE LAST SCOOP, published in 2020. The first Clare Carlson book, YESTERDAY’S NEWS, won the David Award at Deadly Ink for Best Mystery of 2018. The second Clare Carlson book, BELOW THE FOLD, was named Best Mystery 0f 2019 in the Foreword INDIES Awards.

He also is the author of two thrillers written under the pen name of Dana Perry – THE SILENT VICTIM (2019), THE GOLDEN GIRL (June, 2020) and HER OCEAN GRAVE (June 2021 – Bookouture).

Belsky previously wrote the Gil Malloy series – THE KENNEDY CONNECTION, SHOOTING FOR THE STARS and BLONDE ICE – about a newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News.
Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. He has also been a top editor at the New York Post, Star magazine and NBC News.

His previous suspense/thriller novels include LOVERBOY and PLAYING DEAD. Belsky lives in New York City.

Catch Up With R.G. Belsky:
www.RGBelsky.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @dickb79983
Instagram – @dickbelsky
Twitter – @DickBel
Facebook – @RGBelsky

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=300768

Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for R.G. Belsky. There will be two (2) winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: CONDITION BLACK by Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington

Blog Tour Banner, featuring book cover for CONDITION BLACK by Stu Jones and Gareth Worthington, highlighted brain on green background, Quote: "Like DARK MATTER by Blake Crouch, this book is revolutionary. Incredible." Jonas Saul, author of the best selling Sarah Roberts series. Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Condition Black

by Stu Jones & Gareth Worthington

April 26 – May 21, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

 
CONDITION BLACK - SJones & GWorthington

EVAN WEYLAND, a brilliant research scientist tasked with developing new technologies to fight cancer, sees the world differently through the lens of Autism Spectrum Disorder. His guiding light is his wife, Marie—a globally recognized war correspondent. When she returns home from Syria deathly ill with an unknown disease, Evan believes his research may be the key to unlocking the cure. However, when his superiors refuse his request for help, Evan’s single-minded love for Marie drives him to take matters into his own hands—a decision with far greater consequences than he could possibly fathom.

BILLY VICK, a Captain in the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, is a combat veteran unable to leave the horrors of war behind. Only the love of his family and a sense of absolute justice keeps him grounded. When Billy’s unit becomes aware of a US-sanctioned airstrike on a civilian settlement in Syria and an eye-witness reporter comatose with an unknown illness, he fears the worst. An unethical military project thought mothballed has resurfaced, and a civilian, Evan Weyland, may be about to inadvertently unleash it upon the world. It’s a mistake that could cost the lives of millions.

Pitted against each other in a game of chess-like deception and intrigue, with time running out, both men must come to terms with the magnitude of what’s at stake—and what each is willing to sacrifice to win.

Praise for Condition Black:

“This solid sci-fi thriller [is] a well-balanced thrill ride. Well-shaded characters keep the pages turning. Fans of high-tech medical and military thrillers should check this out.” ~ Publishers Weekly.

Like Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, this book is revolutionary. Incredible.” ~ Jonas Saul, author of the best-selling Sarah Roberts series.

Condition Black provides such an exceptional read. It’s highly recommended for fans of technothrillers who want a firm marriage between psychological depth and unpredictable action, all grounded by ethical concerns that challenge each character to reach beyond his skill set and comfort zone.” ~ Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review.

 

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller / Medical Thriller
Published by: Dropship Publishing
Publication Date: 27 April 2021
Number of Pages: 334
ISBN: 9781954386006
Series: Condition Black is a stand alone thriller.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Through the lens of her SLR, Marie Wayland couldn’t pry her gaze from the morbid scene as it unfolded some two hundred feet away. Another twist of the objective and the image in her ultralight mirrorless camera became crystal clear, even in the fading evening light of the Syrian sun: a man, his hands bound secure with coarse rope, sucking with erratic breaths at the cloth bag over his head. The fabric molded to the shape of his quivering lips and stuck there for an instant before being blown out again. He cried out as two masked assailants forced him to his knees. A whimper emerged from beneath his hood, followed by a muffled plea for mercy. Unwavering, the men stood in a line behind the captive, their AK-47 rifles pointed to the sky. Above them all, a black flag, inset with white Arabic script, fluttered like a pirate banner in the desert wind.

A young man carrying a beat-up camcorder scurried onto the scene and set up his tripod. He fiddled with his equipment, then gave a thumbs up. One of the soldiers stepped forward and pulled a curved blade from his belt. He called out and pointed to the camera, stabbing the air with the long knife. For a moment, he seemed to look right at Marie. Her heart faltered and the hot prickle of perspiration dampened her forehead.

Marie lowered her camera and eased further into a small depression in the side of the hill, perfect for both observation and concealment. “Don’t be tree cancer,” she whispered to herself. A strange phrase, but one that had proved invaluable during her long and storied career as a war correspondent. A Marine Corps scout sniper had offered her this golden nugget of advice during a stint in Afghanistan. Master of short-range reconnaissance, he’d spotted her crouched in a ball, peering out from behind a twisted stone pine tree. After approaching undetected, he’d whispered in her ear: Don’t be tree cancer. Marie had nearly jumped out of her skin. She later discovered the phrase referred to an observer drawing attention to themselves by standing out from the world around them.

The voice of the knife-wielding man rose in pitch. Marie shuffled for a better view and raised her camera once again.

The knifeman jerked the hood from the captive’s head.

A chill crawled down Marie’s spine.

Glen Bertrum, the American relief worker kidnapped three months ago from the outskirts of Aleppo, shifted on his knees. With a brutal shove from his captors, the terrified relief worker flopped to his side, squirming. The knifeman descended on Glen, then sawed at his relief worker’s neck with the blade. Blood sprayed against the sand. Glen screamed for what seemed an eternity, the sound morphing into a horrible sucking wheeze.

His gore-drenched knife dripping, the murderer yanked Glen’s head free and held it aloft.

The men shouted in victory, thrusting their weapons into the air.

“Shit,” Marie said, lowering the camera.

The cruelty and barbarism of humankind knew no end, and these zealots had a way of making it even uglier, spreading their jihad across the globe like a pestilence. Without raising the SLR again, she watched the terrorists conclude the recording and march away, leaving Glen’s decapitated body to rot.

Marie’s stomach knotted, and she tried to swallow away the tingle of nausea in her throat. This isn’t why you’re here, she thought. A beheaded aid worker wasn’t news, even if she had met the man before. Such things hadn’t been news for a long time. The war had escalated, far beyond Syria and the Middle East, beyond single hostages and beheadings. Terrorist cells were now a pandemic, spread across the globe, and embedded in every country. There was no central faction anymore. No IS or al-Qaeda, or Allah’s Blade. The war against the west was now an idea, a disease infesting the world. Anyone, anywhere could be an enemy—the core vision metastasizing, traveling to every corner of the Earth and there propagating.

Major cities now operated under war-time policy; curfews and rationing to prevent too many people congregating in any one place, such as a supermarket or a major sporting event. Aerial surveillance and street-level military patrols did their best to keep people safe, but a cage was a cage. In some ways, Marie felt free out in the world, even if it was in the enemy’s backyard. Yet while hate for terrorists was justified, as in all wars the enemy wasn’t the only one capable of terrible things. So too were the allied forces—the people who stood against terror and extremism—and that was why she was in Syria.

The little jaunt Marie had undertaken was unofficial. Her boss would kill her if he knew she’d conducted this op. After flying into Istanbul and crossing the border south of Daruca, she’d spent the better part of the past three days moving from checkpoint to checkpoint, working her way along Highway 7 through northeastern Syria. With dark features and perfect Arabic, Marie hid with ease among the local population.

Marie pulled a tablet from her backpack and keyed up the map she’d gotten from her contact. The coordinates were correct. A tiny civilian village in Northeastern Syria. This ramshackle settlement was little more than a speck on the map, and from what she was told by her contact, this place was of zero military significance. No base, no known weapons caches, no landing strips. The small cell of terrorists she’d just found was likely that: a small cell. Little more than a coincidence, and by no means justification for this village to be firebombed back to the stone age.

Unless they’d found something of significance.

***

Excerpt from Condition Black by Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones. Copyright 2021 by Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones. Reproduced with permission from Gareth Worthington and Stu Jones. All rights reserved.

Author Bios:

Gareth Worthington

Author - Gareth Worthington

Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in Endocrinology, an executive MBA, is Board Certified in Medical Affairs, and currently works for the Pharmaceutical industry educating the World’s doctors on new cancer therapies.

Gareth Worthington is an authority in ancient history, has hand-tagged sharks in California, and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do and Muay Thai at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and 2FIGHT Switzerland.

He is an award-winning author and member of the International Thriller Writers Association, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the British Science Fiction Association.

Born in England, Gareth has lived around the world from Asia, to Europe to the USA. Wherever he goes, he endeavors to continue his philanthropic work with various charities.

Gareth is represented by Renee Fountain and Italia Gandolfo at Gandolfo Helin Fountain Literary, New York.

Catch Up With Gareth Worthington:
GarethWorthington.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @GarethWorthington
Instagram – @garethworthington
Twitter – @DrGWorthington
Facebook – @garethworthingtonauthor

 

Stu Jones

Author - Stu Jones

Stu Jones. SWAT Sniper. Adventurer. Award-Winning Author of Epic Genre-Bending Fiction.

A veteran law enforcement officer, Stu has served as a beat cop, narcotics, criminal investigations, as an instructor of firearms and police defensive tactics and as a team leader of a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team. He is trained and qualified as a law enforcement SWAT sniper, as well as in hostage rescue and high-risk entry tactics. Recently, Stu served for three years with a U.S. Marshal’s Regional Fugitive Task Force – hunting the worst of the worst.

He is the author of multiple sci-fi/action/thriller novels, including the multi-award-winning It Takes Death To Reach A Star duology, written with co-author Gareth Worthington (Children of the Fifth Sun).

Known for his character-driven stories and blistering action sequences, Stu strives to create thought-provoking reading experiences that challenge the status quo. When he’s not chasing bad guys or writing epic stories, he can be found planning his next adventure to some remote or exotic place.

Stu is represented by Italia Gandolfo of Gandolfo-Helin-Fountain literary

Catch Up With Stu Jones:
Goodreads
BookBub – @stujonesfiction
Instagram – @stujonesfiction
Facebook – @stujonesfiction

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Guest Post: Melissa Colasanti – CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK

Good day, book people. I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. For those of you that celebrated Mother’s Day, I hope you had a wonderful celebration with family and friends. I spent the day with my 86-y.o. mother, my 82-y.o. paternal aunt, my niece, a cousin, and my soon-to-be sister-in-love. We dined at an historic inn here in West Virginia and enjoyed the afternoon in a scenic setting with wonderful food and great company. Needless to say, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time reading yesterday, although I did spend some time discussing some great recent reads. If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for a good book to read and it doesn’t really matter how many books are already on your TBR list. As I sat in the historic Glen Ferris Inn yesterday (one of the oldest inns in West Virginia), I thought about how it would be the perfect setting for a book, perhaps a historical mystery or even a Southern Gothic novel. Setting plays such a large part of a story, that we don’t notice it much if it’s done right. Today, I’m pleased to welcome Melissa Colasanti, author of Call Me Elizabeth Lark, a domestic suspense tale set in the Pacific Northwest and featuring a bed and breakfast. Please help me welcome Ms. Colasanti to the blog. I hope you’ll enjoy what she has to say about setting, add Call Me Elizabeth Lark to your TBR list, and follow the blog tour to learn more about this book and author. Thank you, Ms. Colasanti for taking the time to join us today. The blog is now yours.

guestpost.png

The Importance of Setting

by Melisa Colasanti

 

Thank you so much for having me! When I began Call Me Elizabeth Lark, I knew that setting would be an integral part of the story. I didn’t realize just how emotionally connected the brooding Pacific Northwest would be to my characters. I’ve never been an urban, gritty suspense writer. Domestic suspense affords an author to take a close, psychological look at family, while hopefully providing a twisty plot. It’s an interesting genre—part family drama, part thriller—in which the environment where the author places their characters reveals so much about them.

In the novel, Myra and Herb Barkley own a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast. Twenty years prior, they lost their youngest daughter, who disappeared from the beach, never to be seen again. Since that day, she’s waited at the gray, drizzly inn for her daughter to return. The inn itself is suffocating, claustrophobic, and the characters within it are similarly stuck within their emotions, trapped in a different time. All of this changes when Elizabeth Lark, who has been trapped in an isolated, dilapidated cabin in the woods, walks in the door, where Myra determines that she is Charlotte, her missing child. And of course, Elizabeth has brought all her troubles with her. Gwen, who was supposed to be babysitting the night her sister went missing, has been wracked with guilt all along. If Charlotte has returned, all of her guilt will be assuaged.

As I wrote (and rewrote, and revised, and edited!) I realized that Myra would never leave the small town, Rocky Shores, because it’s her home, and it is her daughter Charlotte’s home. Even if Charlotte didn’t return, this inn is where she married and raised her family. And Elizabeth is similarly drawn to the warm inn because she’s just come from the deeply isolated forest. Sometimes, authors use a sense of place as a character of its own, which is definitely true of my novels. I believe that we build our identities around family, and around that place on the lithosphere where we originate from. Each part of a human blossoms from where the first seed was planted. And when danger strikes, there’s no place like home, no matter how dysfunctional or complicated it is.

 

Call Me Elizabeth Lark

by Melissa Colasanti

May 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

CALL ME ELIZABETH LARK - EColasanti

Your daughter went missing twenty years ago. Now, she’s finally back. You thought she had returned a few times in the past, and your husband tells you she’s not the one, but you feel it in your bones.

Now, what will you do to keep her home?

Twenty years ago, Myra Barkley’s daughter disappeared from the rocky beach across from the family inn, off the Oregon coast. Ever since, Myra has waited at the front desk for her child to come home. One rainy afternoon, the miracle happens–her missing daughter, now twenty-eight years old with a child of her own, walks in the door.

Elizabeth Lark is on the run with her son. She’s just killed her abusive husband and needs a place to hide. Against her better judgment, she heads to her hometown and stops at the Barkley Inn. When the innkeeper insists that Elizabeth is her long lost daughter, the opportunity for a new life, and more importantly, the safety of her child, is too much for Elizabeth to pass up. But she knows that she isn’t the Barkley’s daughter, and the more deeply intertwined she becomes with the family, the harder it becomes to confess the truth.

Except the Barkley girl didn’t just disappear on her own. As the news spreads across the small town that the Barkley girl has returned, Elizabeth suddenly comes into the limelight in a dangerous way, and the culprit behind the disappearance those twenty years ago is back to finish the job.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: March 9th 2021
Number of Pages:
ISBN: 1643856820 (ISBN13: 9781643856827)
Series: Call Me Elizabeth Lark is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - Melissa Colasanti

Melissa Colasanti is a mother and an author. She has a BFA in fiction from Boise State University. Her writing has appeared in Lithub, Memoir Magazine, The Coffin Bell Journal and others. She is the Stephen R. Kustra scholar in creative writing for 2019, and was awarded the Glenn Balch Award for fiction in 2020.

Catch Up With Melissa Colasanti:
MelissamColasanti.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @melissamcolasanti
Instagram – @melissacolasanti
Twitter – @mmcolasanti
Facebook – @melissacolasantiauthor

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Giveaway:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Melissa Colasanti. There will be one (1) winner of one (1) signed Copy of Call Me Elizabeth Lark + Swag (US Addresses ONLY). The giveaway begins on May 1, 2021 and runs through June 1, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Book Showcase: UNTIL I FIND YOU by Rea Frey

Until I Find You

by Rea Frey

April 26 – May 21, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

UNTIL I FIND YOU - RFrey

The Set-Up

Soon, Rebecca Gray won’t be able to see. Diagnosed in her twenties with a degenerative eye disease, each day her world grows a little darker. She’s moved to the suburbs to raise her son, Jackson. In the wake of her husband\’s death, it should be a quieter, easier way of life. It won’t be.

The Moment That Changes Everything

When Bec awakes after fainting in the park, she makes promises to start taking better care of herself. When her son begins to cry, she approaches the crib. Reaches in. Picks him up. But he’s not her son.

The Search

There’s nothing Bec won’t do to find Jackson. But she’s a blind woman in a world where seeing is believing. The police think she’s confused. Her friends don’t see any differences. Relying on the conviction of her instinct and the power of a mother’s love, Bec must push the limits of her world to uncover what happened to her baby boy…and bring him home for good.

Book Details:

Genre: Domestic Suspense
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: August 11th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250241588 (ISBN13: 9781250241580)
Series: Until I Find You is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

 

1

BEC

Someone’s coming.

I push the stroller. My feet expertly navigate the familiar path toward the park without my cane. Footsteps advance behind me. The swish of fabric between hurried thighs. The clop of a shoe on pavement. Measured, but gaining with every step. Blood whooshes through my ears, a distraction.

One more block until the park’s entrance. My world blots behind my sunglasses, smeared and dreamy. A few errant hairs whip across my face. My toe catches a crack, and my ankle painfully twists.

No time to stop.

My thighs burn. A few more steps. Finally, I make a sharp left into the park’s entrance. Jackson’s anklet jingles from the blistering pace.

“Hang on, sweet boy. Almost there. Almost.” The relentless August sun sizzles in the sky, and I adjust my ball cap with a trembling hand. Uncertain, I stop and wait for either the rush of footsteps to pass, or to approach and attack. Instead, nothing.

I lick my dry lips and half turn, one hand still securely fastened on my son’s stroller. “Hello?” The wind stalls. The hairs bristle on the back of my neck. My world goes unnaturally still, until I choke on my own warped breath.

I waver on the sidewalk and then lunge toward the entrance toWilder. The stroller is my guide as I half walk, half jog, knowing precisely how many steps I must take to reach the other side of the gate.

Twenty.

My heart thumps, a manic metronome. Jackson squeals and kicks his foot. The bells again.

Ten.

The footsteps echo in my ears. The stroller rams an obstacle in the way and flattens it. I swerve and cry out in surprise.

Five.

I reach the gate, hurtle through to a din of voices. Somewhere in the distance, a lawn mower stutters then chugs to life.

Safe.

I slide toward the ground and drop my head between my knees. My ears prick for the stranger behind me, but all is lost. A plane roars overhead, probably heading for Chicago. Birds aggressively chirp as the sun continues to crisp my already pink shoulders. A car horn honks on the parallel street. Someone blows a whistle. My body shudders from the surge of adrenaline. I sit until I regain my composure and then push to shaky legs.

I check Jackson, dragging my hands over the length of his body— his strong little fingers, his plump thighs, and perpetually kicking feet—and blot my face with his spit-up blanket. Just when I think I’m safe, a hand encircles my wrist.

“Miss?”

I jerk back and suck a surprised breath.

The hand drops. “I’m sorry,” a woman’s voice says. “I didn’t mean to scare you. You dropped this.” Something jingles and lands in my upturned palm: Jackson’s anklet.

I smooth my fingers over the bells. “Thanks.” I bend over the stroller, grip his ankle, and reattach them. I tickle the bottom of his foot, and he murmurs.

“Are the bells so you can hear him?” the woman asks. “Are you . . . ?”

“Blind? Yes.” I straighten. “I am.”

“That’s cool. I’ve never seen that before.”

I assume she means the bells. I almost make a joke—neither have I!—but instead, I smile. “It’s a little early for him to wear them,” I explain.

“They’re more for when he becomes mobile, but I want him to get used to them.”

“That’s smart.”

I’m not sure if she’s waiting for me to say something else. “Thanks again,” I offer.

“No problem. Have a good day.”

She leaves. My hands clamp around the stroller’s handle. Was she the one behind me? I stall at the gate and wonder if I should just go back home. I remind myself where I am—in one of the safest suburbs outside of Chicago—not in some sketchy place. I’m not being followed.

It’s fine.

To prove it, I remove my cane, unfold it, and brace it on the path. I maneuver Jackson’s stroller behind and sweep my cane in front, searching for more obstacles or unsuspecting feet.

I weave toward Cottage Hill and pass the wedding garden, the Wilder Mansion, and the art museum. Finally, I wind around the arboretum. I leave the conservatory for last, pulling Jackson through colorful flower breeds, active butterflies, and rows of green. My heart still betrays my calm exterior, but whoever was there is gone.

I whisk my T-shirt from my body. Jackson babbles and then lets out a sharp cry. I adjust the brim of his stroller so his eyes aren’t directly hit by the sun. I lower my baseball cap and head toward the play-ground. The rubber flooring shifts beneath my cane.

Wilder Park is packed with last-minute late-summer activity. I do a lap around the playground and then angle my cane toward a bench to check for occupants. Once I confirm it’s empty, I settle and park the stroller beside me. I keep my ears alert for Jess or Beth. I think about calling Crystal to join us, but then remember she has an interior design job today.

I place my hand on Jackson’s leg, the small jingle of his anklet a comfort. Suddenly, I am overcome with hunger. I rummage in the diaper bag for a banana, peel it, and reach again for Jackson, who is playing with his pacifier. He furiously sucks then knocks it out of his mouth. He giggles every time I hand it back to him.

I replay what just happened. If someone had attacked me, I wouldn’t have been able to defend myself or identify the perpetrator. A shiver courses the length of my spine. Though Jackson is technically easy—healthy, no colic, a decent sleeper—this stage of life is not. Chris died a year ago, and though it’s been twelve months since the accident, sometimes it feels like it’s been twelve days.

Jackson’s life flashes before me. Not the happy baby playing in his stroller, but the other parts. The first time he gets really sick. The first time he has to go to the emergency room, and I’m all alone. The first time I don’t know what to do when something is wrong. The first time he runs away from me in public and isn’t wearing bells to alert me to his location.

Will I be able to keep him safe, to protect him?

I will the dark cloud away, but uneasiness pierces my skin like a warning. I fan my shirt, swallow, close my eyes behind my sunglasses, and adjust my ball cap.

The world shrinks. I try to swallow, but my throat constricts. I claw air.

I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. My heart is going to explode. I’m going to die.

I lurch off the bench and walk a few paces, churning my arms toward my chest to produce air. I gasp, tell myself to breathe, tell myself to do something.

When I think I’m going to faint, I exhale completely, then sip in a shallow breath. I veer toward a tree, fingers grasping, and reach its chalky bark. In, out. In, out. Breathe, Rebecca. Breathe.

Concerned whispers crescendo around me while I remember how to breathe. I mentally force my limbs to relax, soften my jaw, and count to ten. After a few toxic moments, I retrace my steps back to the bench.

I just left my baby alone.

Jackson’s right foot twitches and jingles from the stroller; he’s bliss- fully unaware that his mother just had a panic attack. I calm myself, but my heart continues to knock around my chest like a pinball. I open a bottle of water and lift it to my lips with trembling hands. I exhale and massage my chest. The footsteps. The panic attack. These recurring fears . . .

“Hey, lady. Fancy meeting you here.” Jess leans down and delivers a kiss to my cheek. Her scent—sweet, like honey crisp apples—does little to dissuade my terrified mood.

“Hi. Sit, sit.” I rearrange my voice to neutral and move the diaper bag to make room.

Jess positions her stroller beside mine. Beth sits next to her, her three-month-old baby, Trevor, always in a ring sling or strapped to her chest.

“How’s the morning?” Beth asks.

I tell them both about the footsteps and the woman who returned the bells, but conveniently leave out the part about the panic attack.

Beth leans closer. “Scary. Who do you think was following you?”

“I’m not sure,” I say.

“You should have called,” Jess says. “I’m always happy to walk with you.”

“That’s not exactly on your way.”

“Oh, please. I could use the extra exercise.”

I roll my eyes at her disparaging comment, because Beth and I both know she loves her curves.

“Anyway, it’s sleep deprivation,” Jess continues. “Makes you hallucinate. I remember when Baxter was Jackson’s age and waking up every two hours, I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. I would put things in odd places. I was even convinced Rob was cheating.”

I laugh. “Rob would never cheat on you.”

“Exactly my point.” She turns to me. “Have you thought about hiring a nanny?”

“Yeah,” Beth adds. “Especially with everything you’ve been through.”

My stomach clenches at those words: everything you’ve been through.

After Chris died, I moved in with my mother so she could essentially become Jackson’s nanny. And then, just two months ago, she died too. Though her death wasn’t a surprise due to her lifelong heart condition, no one is ever prepared to lose a parent. “I can’t afford it.”

“Like I’ve said before, Rob and I are happy to pitch in—”

I lift my hand to stop her. “And I appreciate it. I really do. But I’m not ready to have someone in my space when I’m just getting used to it being empty. I need to get comfortable taking care of Jackson on my own.”

“That makes sense,” Beth assures me.

“It does.” Jess pats my thigh. “But you’re not a martyr, okay? Everyone needs help.”

“I know.” I adjust my sunglasses and rearrange my face in hopes of hiding the real emotions I feel. “What’s new with both of you?”

“Can I vent for a second?” Beth asks. She situates closer to us on the bench. Thanks to the visual Jess supplied, I know Beth is blond, petite, and impossibly fit—and is perpetually in a state of crisis. She’s practicing attachment parenting, which, in her mind, keeps her glued to her son twenty-four hours a day. I’ve never even held him.

“Vent away,” I say.

“Okay.” She drops her voice. “Like, I love this little guy, truly. But sometimes, when it’s just the two of us in the house all day, I fantasize about just running away somewhere. Or going out to take a walk. I’d never do it, of course,” she rushes to add. “But I just have this feeling like . . . I’m never going to be alone again.”

“Nanny,” Jess trills. “I’m telling you. Quit this attachment parenting crap and get yourself a nanny. And if she’s hot, she can even occupy your husband so you don’t have to.”

I slap Jess’s arm. “Don’t say that. You’d be totally devastated if Rob ever did cheat.”

***

Excerpt from Until I Find You by Rea Frey. Copyright © 2020 by Rea Frey. Reproduced with permission from Rea Frey. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

 

Author - Rea FreyREA FREY is the multi-published, award-winning bestselling author of three suspense novels and four nonfiction books. She’s been featured in US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, PopSugar, Hello Sunshine, Marie Claire, Parade, Shape, Hello Giggles, CrimeReads, Writer’s Digest, WGN, Fox News, Today in Nashville, Talk of the Town, and more. She is also the CEO and Founder of Writeway, where aspiring writers become published authors.

 

To learn more, visit reafrey.com or writewayco.com.

Catch Up With Rea Frey:
ReaFrey.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @ReaFreyAuthor
Instagram – @reafrey
Twitter – #ReaFrey
Facebook – @reafrey

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Enter To Win!:

This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Rea Frey. There will be three (3) winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on April 26, 2021 and ends on May 23, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Guest Post: W. Craig Reed – STATUS-6

Good day, my bookish peeps. I hope you’re all enjoying the warmer weather and getting plenty of reading done. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been reading quite a bit of romance, not to mention re-re-reading some favorites. This Spring has been the first time in almost year that I’ve been reading other genres, namely more historical fiction, mystery, thrillers, suspense, etc. Yes, I know that I have thousands of titles already on my TBR list, but I’m always looking for new books and new-to-me authors. This is just one of many reasons I love virtual book tours. Today, I get to introduce you to a new-to-me author and I hope that you’ll be adding his books to your TBR list. Please help me welcome, W. Craig Reed, author of Status-6, a military thriller. Mr. Reed is retired submariner and a writer of nonfiction as well as fiction oft focusing on the military. I’m incredibly honored to welcome him to the blog today as he discusses the Kursk submarine disaster. Thank you, Mr. Reed, for taking the time to join us today, the blog is now yours.

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The Untold Truth About the Kursk Submarine Disaster

August 12, 2020 marked the twentieth anniversary of the most terrifying tragedy in submarine naval history. The Russian submarine Kursk was lost with all hands—118 souls—during a naval exercise in the Barents Sea. The Russians claimed that an antiquated torpedo had exploded and caused the incident, that the twenty-three survivors in the aft section died on the first day, and that a U.S. spy submarine had collided with the Kursk. The first two claims were lies. The last may have been true. Moreover, the Kursk submarine propelled Putin to power and its demise allowed him to rebuild Russia and ignite a new cold war with the West.

In August 1999, the Kursk undertook a secret mission to sneak in close to the USS Theodore Roosevelt—an aircraft carrier featured in the news in 2020 due to a COVID-19 outbreak. At that time, U.S. antisubmarine warfare (ASW) forces could not detect the Kursk, which could have obliterated the Roosevelt with one push of a button.

The Kursk returned to fanfare, and Vladimir Putin, struggling in the polls with only 2 percent of the presidential vote, met with the Kursk’s captain and praised the crew. Putin, whose father had been a Russian submariner, later visited a Russian naval base and completed a ceremony to become an honorary submariner. He then pointed to the Kursk’s mission success and promised to rebuild the Russian navy, which would provide jobs and prosperity to an impoverished nation. This platform propelled Putin to 53% of the vote in March 2000.

Eight days after Putin was elected president, he ordered a U.S. spy—former naval officer Edmond Pope—thrown into jail for trying to obtain plans for Russia’s top secret Shkval rocket torpedo. This frightening weapon used secret technology that allowed it to hit 200 knots underwater, making it four times faster than a U.S. MK48 torpedo. Now desperate for intelligence information, the NSA tasked two spy subs, the USS Memphis and USS Toledo, to monitor an upcoming Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea in August 2000.

The Kursk had been selected to test fire the Shkval torpedo during the exercise, and on August 12, the USS Toledo snuck in close to record the firing. The tragic events that unfolded during this exercise were covered up by Russian and NATO officials for almost twenty years.

The Russians claimed that an unstable propellant in an outdated Type 65 torpedo caused the initial explosion. They suggested that the torpedo was loaded into an unclean tube moments before the scheduled firing, and the irritants ignited the unstable fuel. Any torpedoman, whether NATO or Russian, knows that torpedoes are loaded and ready in clean tubes hours before a test-firing. Also, two civilian experts from the Dagdizel military plant were in the torpedo room monitoring the exercise and would not have allowed an unstable weapon to be mishandled.

Several high-ranking officials aboard the Kursk and the target warship, the Peter the Great, observed the exercise. The two vessels were thirty miles apart. A Type 65 torpedo at top speed would have taken thirty minutes to reach the target and would have run out of fuel before arriving—an event not likely to attract an audience of senior military personnel. Experts and officials have since revealed that the Kursk was not test firing an old Type 65 weapon, but rather the new Shkval rocket torpedo.

Interviews with numerous experts and officials have verified that a Shkval became lodged in the tube during the firing exercise. After the firing mechanism was triggered, the Shkval was programmed to light off the rocket engine. Unable to leave the tube, the torpedo blew off the aft torpedo tube door, and two minutes later, the fire ignited the fuel in other torpedoes and caused the second, catastrophic explosion. Interviews with submariners aboard the USS Memphis and Toledo, the two U.S. spy subs monitoring the exercise, also reveal that a U.S. sub may have inadvertently caused the Shkval to become lodged in the tube due to a scrape or near-collision with the Kursk.

The secondary explosion disintegrated the forward sections of the Kursk, but the aft compartments remained intact. Twenty-three survivors awaited a rescue that never arrived. New and shocking evidence revealed by the dive teams involved in the rescue operation show that the Russians, while using antiquated rescue vehicles, may have accidentally flooded the aft escape trunk on the Kursk, which led to the demise of the survivors.

A month after the incident, Vladimir Putin and Bill Clinton met in New York and inside sources believe they conspired to cover-up facts to prevent a conflict or even a war. Putin then leveraged the Kursk tragedy to wrest control of energy firms from oligarchs and rebuild Russia’s wealth. He invested much of that wealth into building a formidable new navy that now threatens vital sea lanes.

Given that 90 percent of the goods we buy are transported across ocean sea lanes, any compromises or conflicts that disrupt shipping might cause shortages and economic hardships that could be worse than what we have witnessed during the pandemic.

Now that Putin has been granted an extension of power until 2036, what’s next on his agenda and how might that affect all of us? China, Iran, and North Korea have reverse-engineered the Russian Shkval torpedo to create unbelievable weapons of mass destruction that now threaten sea lanes and could one day trigger another world war. Perhaps this is why the infamous Doomsday Clock is now at only two minutes to “world annihilation” midnight.

Source: http://wcraigreed.com/nonfiction/spies-of-the-deep/


STATUS-6

by W. Craig Reed

May 1 – 31, 2021 Tour

 

Synopsis:

 

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

 

Praise for Status-6:

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan meets Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.” — Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy’s “Under Fire

“W. Craig Reed’s latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I’ve read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we’re headed as a nation and a species. What’s next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don’t miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre.” — James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)”

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow’s headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don’t read this thriller before going to bed—you’ll be awake all night!” — George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Author - W Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
WCraigReed.com
Goodreads
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed

Tour Participants:

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This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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