Book Showcase: DON’T F*** THIS UP! by Fred Stuvek Jr.



Don’t F*** This Up!: A Guide for Students and Graduates or Anyone Making A Fresh Start by Fred Stuvek Jr.
ISBN: 9781732306042 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781732306059 (ebook)
ASIN: B08C5MQVSV   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Triumvirate Press
Publication Date: July 7, 2020



The margin of error is shrinking…



Has the new normal just f***ed up the future for young adults? 

Thanks to a global pandemic, they’re entering adulthood, their college career, or the workforce during record unemployment, a terrifying economy, and social guidelines that have all but eliminated life as we knew it. 

And what about the millions of newly unemployed workers in America? As they look for a fresh start, how will they overcome the challenges of an economy decimated by COVID-19?

If having a strategy for the future was important before, now it’s critical. The choices new grads, young adults, or the newly unemployed make and the practices they adopt right now are going to shape not only their career but every other aspect of their life as well. 

Fred Stuvek, Jr. has some hard-earned life lessons to share with them. As a former athlete who served in the military and successfully started his own business, he has advice for those looking to thrive in this battered economy. 

In Don’t F*** This Up!, he explains how harnessing certain proven success principles will help guide those looking for a new start in a world where the margin of error is narrower than ever. He can explain the following in more detail:


  • Adopt high standards and become disciplined
  • Learn how to focus on goal setting from a Hall of Fame athlete turned soldier
  • Develop and improve essential relationships from someone who has built successful businesses
  • Establish a high level of personal integrity through the right actions and attitude 
  • Develop the resilience and grit to overcome adversity







Purchase Links: #CommissionEarned   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  Amazon Kindle  |  Barnes & Noble  |  <Nook Book  |  BookDepository  |  Kobo eBook





Author Q&A



Don’t F*** This Up!: A Guide for Students and Graduates
or Anyone Making a Fresh Start



1.  Your book is titled, Don’t F*** This Up!. That is pretty direct. What exactly do you mean by it and how did you decide on it?

Due to this pandemic students and graduates will be facing one of the bleakest employment environments in generations. Opportunities will be limited, and the margin of error is much less than in former times. While the title is visceral, I wanted to emphasize the importance to my target audience that now, more than ever, it is critical to be prepared and get it right the first time.


2.  You have excelled in sports, the military, and in business. What is the key piece of advice you have gained from this trifecta of experience that you want to give to those making a fresh start in this bad economy?

Nothing gets accomplished without discipline, commitment, and a team working together. Your discipline will ensure you follow through on your plan; that firm commitment in your mission will ensure you have the resiliency to stay the course when adversity strikes; and everyone has each other’s back.  


3.  How is your book unique from other self-help books out there?

Success is not one dimensional, it entails a number of issues that must converge. The absence or weakness in one area of more will impact your ability to reach your full potential. To the best of my knowledge, there isn’t a book out there that comprehensively and specifically addresses the entire range of issues for someone to be successful by telling them WHAT is important, WHY it is important, and HOW you do something about it. 


4.  You say that your advice may be hard for people to hear. Why is that?

You are responsible for you and accountable for yourself. You are not a victim of circumstances. The life you are living is based on the habits you have formed, the decisions you made, and the people you associate with. If you want a better life, develop better habits, make better decisions, and re-evaluate who you are hanging out with.


5.  Can you go over a couple of the core ideas for success that you outline in the book?

In order to be motivated and fulfilled there are two issues that are important – alignment and filling in the gaps. When I say alignment you have to understand what motivates you and match those beliefs with your personality, skillset, interests, and values. The other issue is the gaps – you need to understand what areas you fall short in and work on improving your skills in those areas. You also have to be honest with yourself and don’t try to be something you are not. Otherwise, you have a mismatch which ultimately will result in dissatisfaction, stress, burn-out, and spill over into your personal life.  


6.  You say that the margin for error is narrowing for people starting out in the workforce. What do you mean by that?

Many companies are streamlining, cutting costs, or putting plans on hold until they are better able to gauge the impact COVID19 will have on the economy and their business. As a result, there will be fewer jobs available which will translate into fewer opportunities for them. This may also translate to new business models where companies revert to a hybrid version of their former self from both an expense and staffing standpoint. They say “you only get one chance to make a first impression.” The same holds true here.  


7.  COVID-19 has decimated the economy. For those who have been laid off, what is your biggest piece of advice as they look for a fresh start?

Your mindset, preparation, and commitment will carry you through. Be prepared, be positive, and persevere. Understand there will be rejection and frustration, don’t take it personally, it is part of the process, so put it behind you. Learn from it and move on. Your determination and zeal will ultimately resonate with someone, so never give up, never surrender, and always move forward, even if it is one small step at a time. 


8.  Ultimately, what do you hope readers take away from your book?

Your achievement in life will be determined by the belief and confidence you have in yourself and what you do. You need to develop the right mindset, develop good habits, and make good decisions. To make those decisions you need to know what questions to ask, how to get the answers, and a process to follow. This book is a roadmap to do exactly that and will be a valuable ongoing reference. 


9.  How/where can readers purchase Don’t F*** This Up!?#

It is available in hard copy and eBook through a number of sources such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple. You can also go to my website https://fredstuvek.com, where the purchase tab on my home page will direct you to a number of sources where you can purchase either version. 
(#NOTE: Purchase Links are also provided at the top of this post.)

10.  Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the book?

What is laid out in my book is not based on theory. What I recommend is proven, it works. 




Meet The Author


FRED STUVEK JR. has achieved extraordinary success in diverse realms. He has been inducted into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame for achievements in football, basketball, baseball, and track. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy, after lettering three years as quarterback for the Midshipmen. After serving as a Naval Officer, he transitioned to the business world where he has held senior leadership positions in private and public companies, both domestically and internationally. Key successes include an international medical imaging start-up that led to a successful IPO and forming a private medical services company, which he subsequently sold. From the playing field to the war room, to the board room, his leadership and accomplishments have given him a distinct perspective and a results-oriented mindset.



Connect to the author via his Website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, or YouTube.




Giveaway

Enter to win a print copy of Don’t F*** This Up! by Fred Stuvek Jr. This giveaway is limited to US residents only; non-US residents will be disqualified. Giveaway begins at 12:01 AM ET on 08/25/2020 and runs through 11:59 PM ET on 09/01/2020. The winner will be announced by 10:00 AM ET on 09/02/2020. Book will be provided by PR by the Book at the conclusion of the tour. Void where prohibited by law.


To enter use the Rafflecopter form below.

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This Q&A, giveaway, and tour brought to you by PR By The Book

Book Showcase: THE KIDS ARE GONNA ASK by Gretchen Anthony


The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony
ISBN: 9780778308744 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781488051005 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488208720 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B07R16ZYV2   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books
Publication Date: July 28, 2020


A whip-smart, entertaining novel about twin siblings who become a national phenomenon after launching a podcast to find the biological father they never knew.

The death of Thomas and Savannah McClair’s mother turns their world upside down. Raised to be fiercely curious by their grandmother Maggie, the twins become determined to learn the identity of their biological father. And when their mission goes viral, an eccentric producer offers them a dream platform: a fully sponsored podcast called The Kids Are Gonna Ask. To discover the truth, Thomas and Savannah begin interviewing people from their mother’s past and are shocked when the podcast ignites in popularity. As the attention mounts, they get caught in a national debate they never asked for—but nothing compares to the mayhem that ensues when they find him.

Cleverly constructed, emotionally perceptive and sharply funny, The Kids Are Gonna Ask is a rollicking coming-of-age story and a moving exploration of all the ways we can go from lost to found.






Purchase Links: #CommissionEarned   IndieBound  |  Amazon  |  AppleBooks  |  Barnes & Noble  |  BookDepository  |  Books-A-Million  |  Google Play



Read an Excerpt

JULY



The house had become an aquarium—one side tank, the other, fingerprint-smeared glass—with Thomas McClair on the inside looking out. There had been a dozen protests outside their home in less than a week, all for the McClairs to—what, enjoy? Critique? Reject? There was no making sense of it. 

Tonight, Thomas pulled his desk chair up to the window and kicked his feet onto the sill. He’d been too anxious to eat dinner, but his mind apparently hadn’t notified his stomach, which now growled and cramped. He was seventeen. He could swallow a whole pizza and wash it down with a half-gallon of milk, then go back for more, especially being an athlete. But that was before. 

Before the podcast, before the secrets, before the wave of national attention. Now he was just a screwup with a group of strangers swarming the parkway across the street from his house because he’d practically invited them to come. 

He deserved to feel awful. 

The McClairs had been locked in the house for a week, leaving Thomas short of both entertainment and sanity. He had no choice but to watch the show unfolding outside. Stuck in his beige bedroom, with the Foo Fighters at Wembley poster and the Pinewood Derby blue ribbons, overlooking the front lawn and the driveway and the hand-me-down Volvo neither he nor Savannah had driven since last week. There they stood—a crowd of milling strangers, all vying for the McClairs’ attention. All these people with their causes. Some who came to help or ogle. More who came to hate. 

Thomas brought his face almost to the glass and tried to figure out the newly assembling crowd. Earlier that day, out of all the attention seekers, one guy in particular had stood out. He wore black jeans, black boots, a black beanie—a massive amount of clothing for the kind of day where you could see the summer heat curling up from the pavement—and a black T-shirt that screamed WHO’S PAYING YOU? in pink neon. He also held a leash attached to a life-size German shepherd plushy toy. 

Some of the demonstrators had gone home for the night, only to be replaced by a candlelight vigil. And a capella singing. There were only about a dozen people in the group, all women, except for two tall guys in the back lending their baritones to a standard rotation of hymns. “Amazing Grace” first, followed by “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” Now they were into a song Thomas didn’t know, but the longer he listened, he figured hundred-to-one odds that the lyrics consisted of no more than three words, repeated over and over. They hit the last note and raised their candles high above their heads. By daaaaaaaaaaaayyyy. 

“No more,” he begged into the glass. “I can’t take any more.” 

A week. Of this. 

Of protests, rallies and news crews with their vans and satellites and microphones. 

Of his sister, Savannah, locked in her room, refusing to speak to him. 

Of his grandmother Maggie in hers, sick with worry. 

Of finding—then losing—his biodad, the missing piece of his mother’s story. And his own. 

Thomas was left to deal with it all. Because he’d started it. And because he was a finisher. And most of all, because it wasn’t over yet.



Excerpt from The Kids Are Gonna Ask by Gretchen Anthony. 
Copyright © 2020 by Gretchen Anthony. Published by Park Row Books. 
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.





Meet The Author


Author Photo by M. Brian Hartz
GRETCHEN ANTHONY is the author of Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, which was a Midwestern Connections Pick and a best books pick by Amazon, BookBub, PopSugar, and the New York Post. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Medium, and The Write Life, among others. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.



Connect to the author via her website, Goodreads, Instagram, or Twitter.



This excerpt brought to you by Park Row Books

Book Showcase: TOOTH FOR TOOTH by JK Franko

Tooth for Tooth

by JK Franko

on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2020




Synopsis:

Tooth for Tooth by JK Franko


What would YOU do?



What would you do if you got away with murder? Would you stop there? Could you?

Susie and Roy thought that they committed the perfect crime.

Their planning was meticulous. Their execution flawless.

But, there is always a loose end, isn’t there? Always a singing bone.

Now, while enemies multiply and suspicions abound, their perfect world begins to crumble.

The hunters have become the hunted.

IN THIS BLISTERINGLY RELENTLESS SEQUEL TO HIS DEBUT SHOCKER, EYE FOR EYE, J.K. FRANKO TAKES READERS ON A BREATHTAKING JOURNEY OF CAT AND MOUSE




Book Details:


Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Crime, Legal
Published by:Talion Publishing
Publication Date: April 4th 2020
Number of Pages: 400
ISBN: 9781999318819
Series: Talion Series, #2
Purchase Links: Amazon || Goodreads




Read an excerpt:

[NOTE: Contains Mild Profanity]


PROLOGUE



Before meeting Susie and Roy, I had never met a murderer. But then, I had also never lied to the police or destroyed evidence. I had never seen the inside of a jail cell. And I had most certainly never been complicit in a homicide.

I have to reluctantly admit that I am a better person for the experience. I now appreciate that murderers really are just regular people like you and me. Indeed, I have come to consider Susie and Roy more than mere patients… they are friends. And I think back on our time together with nostalgia—fondness, even.

This did not happen overnight. It was a process.

What would you do if you found out that your neighbor was a murderer? Would you double-check that you’d locked your doors every night? Keep an eye out for strange comings and goings? Would you ultimately put your house up for sale, not disclosing what you knew about the folks next door to potential buyers?

For most people, being in the proximity of a killer is neither pleasant nor desirable.

Imagine how I felt about having not one but two as-yet-undetected murderers as my patients. Sitting with each of them for hours every week. Trying to guide them toward more moderate conflict resolution techniques. And failing.

Well, I’m here to tell you that despite the complexities inherent in that situation, I found my path to inner peace and happiness.

I know. I may have said elsewhere that, as a psychologist, I’m not a big believer in “happily ever after.” But my thinking has evolved.

I’ve come to believe more in choices—in the power of decision. This is the key nugget of wisdom I have taken away from this whole mess: We are not what happens to us. We are what we choose.

And I am pleased to report, for the first time in years, that I can finally say I am happy.

You have to understand that my unhappiness was not due to lack of trying. Chalk it up to naiveté—but, at first, it was difficult to process everything Susie and Roy told me and still be happy.

It’s hard to put a positive spin on murder.

Selfishly, I was overwhelmed by the fear that they might turn on me. They had shared everything about their crimes with me in meticulous detail. It was manifestly apparent that I was the weak link. The one person who could bring them down.

I was not just a loose end.

I was the loose end.

And, though I tried, I could not initially find peace under these circumstances. But, as I said earlier, happiness is a choice. And it was a choice that I made which finally ended my torment and brought me to a place where I could be at peace—even though everything ended tragically: my relationship with Susie and Roy, their marriage, the whole mess.

For you to understand the rest of my journey with Susie and Roy, I must share with you something that happened years ago at an ostensibly happy event. I say ‘ostensibly’ because it was a wonderful night for almost everyone concerned.

There were two people at that event who figure in this story—in my story.

The first is Sandra Bissette. For her, the night in question was the beginning of what would become a successful career in politics and law.

For the other, Billy Applegate, the night would end in tragedy.

PART ONE


Billy Applegate


1974



Everybody loves a party.

And there’s nothing quite like an election night party. What makes an election night celebration different?

The guest of honor. You see, all parties—birthdays, anniversaries, wakes—feature a guest of honor. But an election night party is a completely different animal because it isn’t about any one person or couple. It’s not even about the candidates.

At an election night party, the guests of honor are the attendees.

The people who gather to watch election results together are all of one mind. Of one spirit. They are like pack animals, all focused on the same outcome. They all share the same heroes and the same enemies.

If their candidates win, they all win. And a “win” means real-world changes for them—tax breaks, preferential government spending, judicial appointments—and money in their pockets.

Now, that’s a party.

This particular election night party took place in Maryland in 1974. To be precise—because I can be—this party was held on the night of the 1974 midterm elections, on Tuesday, November 5th.

It was a good year for Democrats.

This was the first national election after Watergate. Nixon’s resignation had severely damaged the Republicans’ chances in the election. Gerald Ford was just three months into his presidency, having taken over from Richard Nixon a few months earlier. And, of course, having pardoned Nixon in September, Ford had destroyed his own hopes for re-election and added to the national animus against Republicans.

This election night party took place in a spacious colonial-style home decorated in red, white, and blue, with American flags hanging from the windows and banisters. It featured a spacious living and dining area. The kitchen was large and well-equipped. There was a generous backyard with a comfortable deck and a terrace around the pool. All four bedrooms—aside from one guest bedroom—were upstairs.

There was even a “pin the tail on the donkey” game set up near the bar, for those with a sense of humor. No one actually played.

This house belonged to Dan and Annette Applegate, two proud and active members of the Democratic Party in Maryland.

Dan’s family had always been active in politics. His grandfather had been a state representative. His father had served as a county judge for most of his career. Dan—born Daniel Parsons Applegate IV—was the fourth generation of Applegates admitted to the Maryland bar. While he would never actually serve in public office, he understood the value of political contacts and actively cultivated them.

This party was part of that effort.

Dan was dressed in a three-piece, tan wool suit, a white Brooks Brothers shirt, and a burgundy silk tie. The lapels and tie were wide, and the shirt collar oversized—all very fashionable at the time. Annette wore a slim, gold-belted, navy blue flare-leg pantsuit with a pale blue silk blouse and a pair of simple gold earrings. Apropos for the gathering, and it went quite nicely with all the flags, she’d decided.

Their twelve-year-old son, Billy Applegate, was in dark green overalls with a white shirt and blue Keds. A handsome boy, Billy had inherited his mother’s cornflower blue eyes and his father’s thick sandy blond hair, which he wore in a neatly trimmed surfer cut.

Billy was an only child. His parents doted on him, as did his grandparents since he was the only grandchild in both families. Even so, Billy was a good boy and knew to stay out of the way when his parents had guests, though he stayed close enough to be in the mix and see what was going on. He was at the age where he still enjoyed watching the grown-ups. Spying on them. In fact, he was familiar with many of the faces that night from other events of this kind. It was a small community.

Tonight, Tuesday night, the guests were arriving early, many coming over straight after work before polling places even closed.

It was going to be a long night.

The band played. Alcohol flowed. Anticipation and excitement were in the air at the prospect of big Democrat wins. And, after everything Nixon had put the nation through, how could voters not want a change?

In the living room, a handsome mahogany console TV with a big twenty-five-inch-diagonal color screen announced results as they came in. Dan was loitering by the avocado green Trimline rotary phone, mounted on the kitchen wall, that rang periodically with live information. The spring-coiled, twelve-foot receiver cord allowed him to pace anxiously as he fielded calls from the few Democrats charged with providing up-to-the-minute results from county polling.

Remember, this was back in the days before computerized voting machines. Back then, voters travelled to their precinct’s designated polling station and used a machine to punch holes in their ballot. These were then collected and transported to a central counting center where the ballots were put through a counting machine which tabulated the results that were then released to the public.

Dan relayed results to his guests, with each ring of the phone bringing more good news. More cheering and more drinking.

It was a good year to be a Democrat.

At the peak of festivities, there were over 250 guests in and around the property, to the point where the party overflowed onto the street, which was not a problem. No one was going to complain, as most of the neighbors were in attendance. And these were all good white folk. The police were kind enough to block off both ends of the street and make sure that those who’d had too much to drink made it home safely.

Inside, the house was a political orgy. Supporters rubbed elbows with candidates. Candidates rubbed elbows with incumbents. Incumbents rubbed elbows with donors. And lobbyists rubbed elbows with everyone except each other.

There were a number of judges in attendance. Several city council members hovered by the buffet, and a few state representatives were sprinkled through the crowd.

It was into this whirlwind of excitement that Sandra Bissette arrived.

At a time when men still ran everything in politics, Sandra hoped to make a name for herself. The fact that she was a Yale-graduated lawyer didn’t hurt, nor did the fact that she had both the figure and the looks of Jackie Kennedy.

Sandra was the daughter of lifelong Democrats, and her father happened to be the county sheriff. Although Sandra was not part of the elite set in Maryland, she was making her way. She was two years into working as an associate at a top law firm after having done a couple of high-level summer internships in D.C.

That night, Sandra was primarily interested in meeting two people: one was Annette Applegate. Although Sandra knew that both Dan and Annette were active in the Maryland Democratic Party, Dan was known to be a snob—his career consisted of riding on his family’s coattails. Annette was universally recognized as the nicer of the two. Annette knew everyone, and everyone loved Annette. It was with her that Sandra was hoping to build a connection.

The second person who Sandra had added to her charm offensive for the evening was Harrison Kraft—another young Yale lawyer who, unlike her, was connected in all the right ways. Having graduated a few years ahead of her from law school, Harrison was running for state representative. He checked all the right boxes— family pedigree, education, professional credentials. There was no doubt the man was going places. Sandra had heard good things about him as a person and was interested in seeing for herself.

It was a little after 9:00 p.m.—Dan had just announced the results from Precinct Four in Montgomery County when Sandra saw an opening. Annette was by the buffet chatting with Howard Patrick, an older lobbyist—handsy, and a bit of a bore. Sandra straightened her back, raised her chin, and approached.

“Hello Howard,” she said with a big smile.

“Sandra! Hello, my dear. Don’t you look beautiful tonight?” “Why, thank you, Howard. Ever the charmer,” she said, allowing him to kiss her hand.

“Have you met our hostess, Annette Applegate?”

As Sandra turned to greet Annette, she noticed that the woman was looking past her, over her shoulder.

“Um, excuse me, young man!” Annette said, eyebrows raised and pearly white teeth dazzling.

Sandra turned and followed Annette’s gaze to a young boy in green overalls filching shrimp from the buffet. She guessed he was just shy of being a teenager.

“Aw, crap,” said Billy as he chewed.

“Come here, you,” Annette said, narrowing her eyes in mock disapproval.

The boy hesitated as he took in the young woman, the fat old man, and his mother, who stood waiting for him expectantly with her hands on her hips. He’d never seen the young woman before. She was new.

Unconsciously, he slowly moved to return the three shrimp in his sticky hand to the platter.

“With the shrimp, silly,” his mother said, shaking her head. Billy moved toward her, chewing rapidly so he could stuff the other shrimp into his mouth.

Howard put his hand against the small of Sandra’s back, a little too low, and harrumphed to her under his breath, “Better seen, not heard. That’s how it used to be.”

Sandra tried to smile and fought the instinct to pull away.

Howard’s breath smelled of scotch and cigarettes.

Annette overheard, but ignored the old lobbyist’s comment.

“I suppose I don’t need to ask if you’ve had dinner? I left meatloaf for you in the kitchen.”

“I know. But, Mom, these shrimp are amazing.”

“And the meatballs?” asked Annette, looking over Billy toward the platter on the buffet.

Billy blushed. “Those, too.”

“Well, it’s getting a bit late for you,” Annette said, ruffling her son’s fair hair and then kissing him on the forehead, making him squirm. “Finish up the shrimp and get to bed.”

“What about Dad?” Billy asked, looking around. Annette’s face darkened, and she sighed. “I’ll send him up for a goodnight kiss. But you come along now, young man.” She put her hands on her son’s shoulders and steered him towards the stairs. “Excuse me for a moment,” she said over her shoulder.

Shit, thought Sandra as she twisted politely away, getting the old lobbyist’s hand off her lower back as he struck up a conversation. While she tried to focus on what he was saying, it was all she could do not to stare at the green thing wedged in between the man’s tar-stained teeth.

It took her ten minutes to extricate herself from Howard, thanks to Alan Watts—a wiry man who was only modestly more interesting. His family ran a small chain of grocery stores. Alan had asked her out a while back, and though she’d declined, he still had hopes—she could tell.

After a few more minutes of polite conversation, Sandra fell back on “old reliable” with a forced smile. “Excuse me, gentlemen… ladies’ room.”

Once she was sure she had escaped, she continued to work the room. About half an hour later, as she accepted another glass of white wine from a passing waiter, she felt a hand pressing low on the small of her back.

Oh fuck, not again.

“Yes, Howard?” She turned, fake smile firmly in place, to find Annette Applegate standing behind her.

“Gotcha!” laughed Annette.

Sandra laughed, both from relief and from delight at the inside joke made by the woman to whom she’d hoped to ingratiate herself.

This is going to be a great night.

While Sandra and Annette chatted amiably, many other members of the party were well beyond civility.

The drinking had begun five hours earlier, but there was more than just alcohol flowing. Other substances were being abused. It was all very discreet, of course. Most were partaking solely for recreational purposes, but a few were ingesting more heavily. Beyond alcohol and drugs—and most hazardous of all, given that it was infecting everyone to some degree and was in ample supply—was the potent and dangerous combination of two psychological stimulants, victory and power.

You see, politics doesn’t attract only “normal” people. As in every part of society, there is a spectrum. And politics, too, has its outliers. The smug and the superior. The arrogant and the snide. And the sociopaths.

Victory and power are dangerous to all, but more so to the sociopath.

Do not consume alcohol or operate heavy machinery while taking…

For these select few, the alcohol, drugs, and victory combined with power was toxic. It created a euphoria that knew no rules.

No limits.

No fear.

* * *

Upstairs, Billy had fallen asleep with the soothing press of his mother’s goodnight kiss still fresh on his cheek.

A small nightlight plugged into a wall socket illuminated his bedroom, casting a warm glow on a baseball snuggled in a catcher’s mitt that lay in a corner next to a wooden Adirondack baseball bat.

On one end of his small dresser sat a model airplane—a Douglas A-20 Havoc that he’d built with his grandfather. It was a replica of the plane Gramps had flown during World War II. The model was flanked by a teddy bear that Billy claimed he’d outgrown but refused to give away. The other end of the dresser was reserved for the little boy’s current prized possession—Rock’em Sock’em Robots. A gift from his parents for his birthday.

The room was quiet, the party sounds muffled.

Suddenly, the door opened, spilling light into the little boy’s room along with the blare of music and the chaotic chatter of voices. Then, just as quickly, the door shut, returning the room to calm semi-darkness.

Billy was groggy and didn’t try to open his eyes. Instead, he just spoke out loud. “Dad?”

He felt the bed sag as his father sat next to him in a cloud smelling of alcohol and cigars.

Then he felt dry lips on his forehead. The kiss made him smile sleepily.

A hand stroked his head and his hair as Billy snuggled into his pillow and drifted back to sleep.

Suddenly, the same hand that had been stroking his hair gently clamped over his mouth. It was a man’s hand, but it was soft. Clammy. It was not his father’s….

Billy tried to sit up, but the hand squeezed harder, the man leaning into him, pushing him down and pinning him to the bed as a second hand groped at him, pulling away his sheets.

Billy didn’t know what to do. He was terrified. He opened his eyes, but with just the little nightlight on, he couldn’t see anything other than the vague shape of the form pressing down on him. He could smell booze and food on the man’s warm breath.

Tears came as the vise over Billy’s mouth forced him to suck air noisily through his nose as the groping continued—searching, finding, fondling, stroking, then reaching, penetrating, sending a hot shard of searing pain through his body. Inside.

He tried to fight, but couldn’t. The hands were too strong. The body too heavy. He felt sick. The stench of cigars, food, and alcohol on fetid breath was nauseating. And he was scared. Terrified. In pain.

Bile rose in Billy’s throat. But the hand over his mouth prevented him from vomiting. He gagged, then swallowed everything back down.

His body began to convulse.

To thrash.

As it did, the second hand stopped.

The man’s weight eased on top of his body, no longer pinning him down. The hand over his mouth loosened slightly, and Billy felt the other stroking his hair. He wanted to move, but he was paralyzed with fear.

The  whole ordeal lasted minutes, but it felt like hours.

Then the presence leaned over and whispered, “Sleep. Sleep.

You were dreaming. Go back to sleep.”

The weight lifted from the bed, and as it did, the hand fell away from Billy’s mouth, leaving him shivering in the aftermath.

The door opened, first slightly. Through the crack, the man looked out into the hall as the babble of music and voices invaded the bedroom. Then the door swung fully open, and as it did, Billy saw the man clearly in the light from the hallway. The image burned itself into his memory. The image of a stranger whose identity he would eventually learn.

The door closed and the crowd cheered as the band started playing—”You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”

And Billy Applegate cried himself into a fitful sleep.

***



Excerpt from Tooth for Tooth by JK Franko.  Copyright © 2020 by JK Franko. Reproduced with permission from JK Franko. All rights reserved.





Author Bio:



JK Franko

J.K. FRANKO was born and raised in Texas. His Cuban-American parents agreed there were only three acceptable options for a male child: doctor, lawyer, and architect. After a disastrous first year of college pre-Med, he ended up getting a BA in philosophy (not acceptable), then he went to law school (salvaging the family name) and spent many years climbing the big law firm ladder. After ten years, he decided that law and family life weren’t compatible. He went back to school where he got an MBA and pursued a Ph.D. He left law for corporate America, with long stints in Europe and Asia.

His passion was always to be a writer. After publishing a number of non-fiction works, thousands of hours writing, and seven or eight abandoned fictional works over the course of eighteen years, Eye for Eye became his first published novel.

J.K. Franko now lives with his wife and children in Florida.



Catch Up With JK Franko On:



jkfranko.com, Goodreads, Instagram, Bookbub, Twitter, & Facebook!



Tour Participants:



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







Enter To Win!!:



This is a Rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for JK Franko. There will be six (6) winners. Two (2) winners will each win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. Two (2) winners will each win Tooth for Tooth by JK Franko (print) and two (2) winners will each win Tooth for Tooth by JK Franko (eBook). The giveaway begins on June 1, 2020, and runs through August 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.


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Book 302: MEAN STREAK Review


Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581122 (hardcover) 
ISBN: 9781455581139 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N52K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of “instant divorce,” Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won’t even tell her his name. She’s determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can’t turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As her husband’s deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.



Dr. Emory Charbonneau is kind, selfless, and generous. Emory also has great wealth and does a lot of good with her wealth. She works hard as a pediatrician and enjoys her work. She also enjoys running and is training for an upcoming marathon that she organized for a charity. Emory also knows that her marriage is on shaky ground but stands firm about her intent to get away for the weekend to do some mountain training. Her husband, Jeff Surrey, is her opposite. Jeff is self-absorbed, disingenuous, and petty. When Emory is reported as missing, her husband quickly becomes the prime suspect. But all is not what appears. Yes, Jeff is arrogant, self-absorbed, and quick to anger. Yes, he’s also been having an affair, but is he capable of murder?

I had some difficulties initially with Mean Streak. How can you empathize with a nameless character? Yet I did empathize with him as well as with Emory. (The other difficulty was the female character named Emory. I have an uncle with that name and couldn’t quite get past it being used for a female.) Emory’s savior/captor hints at being a bad guy with a mean streak, yet everything he does for her proves the exact opposite. As Emory recovers from a head wound and concussion, she begins to bond with her savior. It isn’t until an incident with one of his neighbors that Emory truly begins to see his true character. When Emory is returned to “civilization” she quickly begins to realize that the four days she spent with this man in the wild was more valuable and important to her than the entire time she’s been married to Jeff. Just when Emory thinks her life can get back to normal she begins to realize her husband may have been responsible for her injuries and her savior reappears just in the nick of time.

Ms. Brown has a way of creating romantic suspense stories that pulls me in and makes me want to continue reading just to find out what will happen next. Mean Streak is slightly different in that we have an unnamed protagonist and we fall for him as quickly and easily as Emory. (There’s just something about those strong, silent types!) I enjoyed Mean Streak and found it to be a fast-paced read. I enjoyed all of the characters, even the bad guys, and found them to be realistic. If you’re like me and enjoy suspense or romantic-suspense then you’ll definitely want to add Mean Streak to your TBR list. 


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book Spotlight: MEAN STREAK by Sandra Brown



Mean Streak by Sandra Brown
ISBN: 9781455581122 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781455581139 (ebook)
ASIN: B00HQ2N52K (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing


Dr. Emory Charbonneau, a pediatrician and marathon runner, disappears on a mountain road in North Carolina. By the time her husband Jeff, miffed over a recent argument, reports her missing, the trail has grown cold. Literally. Fog and ice encapsulate the mountainous wilderness and paralyze the search for her.

While police suspect Jeff of “instant divorce,” Emory, suffering from an unexplained head injury, regains consciousness and finds herself the captive of a man whose violent past is so dark that he won’t even tell her his name. She’s determined to escape him, and willing to take any risks necessary to survive. 

Unexpectedly, however, the two have a dangerous encounter with people who adhere to a code of justice all their own. At the center of the dispute is a desperate young woman whom Emory can’t turn her back on, even if it means breaking the law.

As her husband’s deception is revealed, and the FBI closes in on her captor, Emory begins to wonder if the man with no name is, in fact, her rescuer.


Read an excerpt here.


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Meet the author:

Sandra Brown is the author of more than sixty New York Times bestsellers, including Deadline (2013), Low Pressure (2012), Lethal (2011), Tough Customer (2010), Smash Cut (2009), Smoke Screen (2008), Play Dirty (2007), Ricochet (2006), and Chill Factor, all of which have jumped onto the Times bestseller list in the number one to five spot.

Brown began her writing career in 1981 and since then has published over seventy novels, bringing the number of copies of her books in print worldwide to upwards of eighty million. Her work has been translated into thirty-four languages.

Brown holds an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Texas Christian University. She served as the president of the Mystery Writers of American in 2012 and was named ITW’s Thriller Master for 2008, the top award given by the International Thriller Writer’s Association. Other awards and commendations include the 2007 Texas Medal of Arts Award for Literature and the Romance Writers of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award.


Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads      |     Pinterest 



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Guest author post: Danielle E. Shipley – INSPIRED



The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from Danielle E. Shipley, author of Inspired. Today Ms. Shipley will provide some food for thought for all of you that are trying to make the leap from reader to writer.





From Reader to Writer 
By Danielle E. Shipley

Thinking about taking the leap from lover of books to writer of books? Anyone can tell you that there’s no one way to go about it. But if you’re looking for a little inspiration to get you started, you can always consider Annabelle Iole Gray’s 5-step plan to authorship!

Step One = Hang around a bookstore. If any muses are on the hunt for brand new authors with which to start up a creative partnership, it’s probably the first place they’ll look. And hey, even if a muse doesn’t show up right away, there’s still plenty of inspiration to be found. It’s a store full of books!

Step Two = Keep an open mind. Your muse is on your side and wants to fill your head with brilliant ideas. The sparks of those ideas may come to you in a dream, in a snatch of a music, in a glimpse of something out the corner of your eye… You never know where, when, or how inspiration will strike, so don’t dismiss anything out of hand. What seems pointlessly silly one second may have you shouting “eureka!” the next.

Step Three = Write everything down. All those brilliant ideas won’t do you much good if you can’t remember them. There will always be distractions and non-writing responsibilities clamoring for your attention, so whenever possible, jot your ideas down right away. Feel free to think out loud – or rather, on page. Let yourself ramble, “stream of consciousness”-style; the good stuff may be hiding somewhere in all those messy, half-formed thoughts. This sort of note-taking also makes a good warm-up for actually tackling the book. Writing is writing, after all, so keep the muscle loose!

Step Four = Fail a lot. Writing a book is hard. You may enjoy it, you may even be a natural at it, but it will still be hard. There will be plenty of times you can’t find the words you’re looking for, or the story doesn’t seem to want to make any progress. This is both frustrating and perfectly all right. Just keep writing it wrong until you find a way to write it right. Try to be patient with yourself, even if the people in your head are getting cranky at the delay.

Step Five = Succeed at last! You may have to spend weeks, months, or years on Step Four, but if you give it your ninety-nine percent perspiration and that last one percent of inspiration from your muse, you will have the triumph of a completed book. A published book? Well, that’s another bucket of fish entirely, to be saved for another day. In the meantime, you lover of books, you, guess who’s just created a brand new book to love? That’s right. You. Right on, and write on.




Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. …Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: Packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them. She’s also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home-schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing young adult novels, she’s probably blogging about it.

Connect with Danielle: 

Twitter: @DEShipley


Inspired by Danielle E. Shipley
ISBN:  9781937744434 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781937744441 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00IWBT898 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: J. Taylor Publishing
Publication Date:  March 17, 2014

For a muse like Lucianíel, one story’s end is another’s beginning. 

In the wake of his author’s sudden death, Luc takes ownership of her surviving creations—four fantastical characters with tales yet to be told—saving them from unwritten lives crumbling around them and giving them a second chance at a literary future. 

Luc finds that chance in the unsuspecting mind of Annabelle Iole Gray, a quirky teen with her head in the clouds, nose in a book, and imagination ripe for a brilliant muse’s inspiration. 

Or so he hopes. 

Neither Luc nor Annabelle, however, realize all they’ve undertaken. Even with a to-write list including accounts of a shape-shifting cat creature, gentle knight-in-training, vigilante skater girl, and a mystery boy smothering in unspoken fear, the most remarkable saga created between author and muse just may turn out to be one stranger than fiction. 

Their own.

Read an excerpt from Inspired by clicking here.



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Book Showcase: OVER MY LIVE BODY by Susan Israel



Over My Live Body by Susan Israel
ISBN: 9781611881189 (paperback)  
ISBN: 9781611881196 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GQFBOBC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 18, 2014


Delilah is accustomed to people seeing her naked. As a nude model – a gig that keeps food on the table while her career as a sculptor takes off – it comes with the territory.

But Delilah has never before felt this vulnerable.

Because Delilah has an admirer. Someone who is paying a great deal of attention to her. And he just might love her to death.

The debut of a shockingly fresh voice in suspense fiction, Over My Live Body will work its way inside of you. 



Read an Excerpt:


I’ve gone from posing in one studio to posing in another in less than an hour. Ordinarily I don’t complain about the cold. I don’t move before I’m told to. I try to be the model I’ve never had the good luck to hire. But today I feel like I’m lugging around a portfolio of hypersensitivity along with my usual artist supplies and it’s not even justified. Here, I’m among friends.

The instructor of this class has drawn a chalk outline of where I’m supposed to lie and indicates the pose she wants me to strike, that of a classic come-to-my-casbah odalisque. I feel my calf muscles tighten as I scrunch up into the framework of the drawing on the floor. There are no new faces in this class, no surprises, I’ll be forgiven if I twitch or scratch an itch. Morgan, one of the best artists and my best friend, has brought poppy seed pound cake and stops what he’s doing to tiptoe over and feed me morsels of it. “Should be grapes,” the instructor says. Someone down the hall is playing Carmen on a boom box. “Should be Scheherezade,” Morgan says, winking at me.

The wink isn’t misunderstood, wouldn’t be even if Morgan wasn’t gay. 

We artists are like a cast ensemble in repertory. Many of us have seen each other nude in classes. I’m dressed in the part I’m playing. It’s when I change locations, freelance in other schools, that I’ve felt uncomfortable and I’ve tried not to do that too often. I try not to, but sometimes I need the money to buy extra supplies or pay off mounting bills and I have to do it, like I did last night. I sometimes say never again, never again! What do I need this aggravation for? I feel smarmy; it makes me fight with Ivan more. Except, like a new enrollee in some 12-step program, I’m learning to recognize what I have and haven’t the power to change and ironically now that I’ve decided to kick Ivan and his half of the rent money out, I’m going to have to pay more bills than ever, starting with the new lock I’m having installed.

“Delilah, you moved!”

I look down and see my arm and leg protruding from the smeared outline marking where they’re supposed to be. “I’m sorry.”

“Delilah rarely strays,” Morgan says with a smile, holding a pencil up to me to gauge the span of my body stretched out in front of faded brocade. Another artist, Keith, moves in for a closer look, so close that I can smell the eucalyptus cough drop lodged in his cheek that I first thought was an abscess. 

The others take turns approaching me, walking around me, appraising me with the dispassionate curiosity they would exhibit while looking at a piece on display in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. The instructor, their tour guide, calls attention to my posterior as the center of gravity upon which all else rests. She points to my right shoulder with a well-sharpened Conté crayon and lightly touches it, then moves on to the sole of my right foot. My toes curl. “Notice how the light is distributed here and here, how opalescent these areas seem compared to this.” I feel the pencil glide along the base of my spine. “I want you to pay attention to these tonal differences in your drawings as if you were painting them because you will be.”

The door bangs open suddenly, unexpectedly; no one casually walks in and out of this studio. “Phone call downstairs for Delilah,” someone hollers, retreating down the hall.

“She can’t come to the phone right now,” the instructor bellows back. “Take a message.”

“Tell whoever it is I’ll call back,” I add, “unless it’s Ivan.” I know it’s Ivan.

One of the graphic arts students backs into the studio and looks around furtively, like one more step and she’ll be accused of breaking and entering. “He said he’d call back.”

“Who was it?”

She shrugs. “Beats me. He didn’t say.”

“Another member of your burgeoning fan club, Delilah. Maybe someone who’s seen your exhibits and wants to buy all your sculptures,” Morgan suggests, smudging the charcoal on the page with the heel of his hand.

“I wish.”

“Hey, you never know.”

I know it was Ivan on the phone. He’s the only person who has ever called me here. I can feel his heavy breathing impatience wafting all the way up from Wall Street. He knows a call from him will unsettle me, make me put my clothes on to rush to the phone at the very least and not be able to get back into the right pose and the right mood afterwards. He gets off on this. I’m not taking any calls until I’m through for the day.

“Delilah!” someone else calls. “Telephone!”

“Jesus, again? Doesn’t he take a hint?”

“It’s okay, take a five minute break, you’re marked,” the instructor says as I scramble to my feet clumsily. I grab a blue-and-white pinstriped man’s shirt from the back of Morgan’s easel and throw it on and pad down the cold corridor and down the stairs, pulling the shirt closed around me, grumbling, steeling myself for what I have to say to him and that is, “Leave me alone!”

“Is that any way to answer the phone?”

I look down at the way I’m dressed. Is that any way to answer the phone? “Who is this?” It’s not Ivan’s voice. He’s the only person who has ever called me here, but it’s not him. Someone he put up to calling me, though, I’m sure of it, one of his co-workers wearing an oxford shirt not unlike the one that I’ve got wrapped around me like a toga, only fully buttoned down and fit to be tied. “Get him to come to the phone.”

“You don’t want to talk to anyone else,” the voice declares. “It’s me you want.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t say that!” the voice snaps. “You do. At least you will.”



About the author:

Susan Israel lives in Connecticut with her beloved dog, but New York City lives in her heart and mind. A graduate of Yale College, her fiction has been published in Other Voices, Hawaii Review and Vignette and she has written for magazines, websites and newspapers, including Glamour, Girls Life, Ladies Home Journal and The Washington Post. She’s currently at work on the second book in the Delilah Price series, Student Bodies




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Book Showcase: THE ABSENCE OF MERCY by John Burley

The Absence of Mercy
by John Burley
on Tour November 12 – December 19

 


Book Details:
Genre: Suspense
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: 11/19/2013
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 9780062227379
Note: Graphic violence
Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:

John Burley’s The Absence of Mercy is a harrowing tale of suspense involving a brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit Midwestern town.

When a brutally murdered teenager is discovered in the woods surrounding a small Ohio town, Dr. Ben Stevenson—the town’s medical examiner—must decide if he’s willing to put his family’s life in danger to uncover the truth. Finding himself pulled deeper into an investigation with devastating consequences, he discovers shocking information that will shatter his quiet community, and force him to confront a haunting truth.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, The Absence of Mercy is domestic drama at its best for fans of Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon, and Lisa Gardner.


Read an excerpt:

This is not the beginning.

Up ahead, a young man sporting jeans and a black T­shirt walks casually down the concrete sidewalk. He hums softly to himself as he ambles along, Nike­bound feet slapping rhythmi­cally on the serpentine path he weaves through the late afternoon foot traffic. He is perhaps fifteen—not truly a young man yet, but certainly well on his way—and he walks with the energy and indifference of one who possesses the luxury of youth but not yet the experience to appreciate its value, or its evanescence.

The predator watches the young man turn a corner, disap­pearing temporarily from view behind the brick exterior of an adjacent building. Still, he maintains a respectable distance, for although he has an instinct for how to proceed, he now relin­quishes control to something else entirely. For as long as he can remember he has sensed its presence, lurking behind the trans­lucent curtain of the insignificant daily activities of his life. The thing waits for him to join it, to embrace it—observes him with its dark and faithful eyes. But there are times—times like this—when it waits no longer, when the curtain is drawn aside and it emerges, demanding to be dealt with.

The young man in the black T­shirt reaches the end of the street and proceeds across a small clearing. On the other side of the clearing is a modest thatch of woods through which a dirt trail, overgrown with the foliage of an early spring, meanders for about two hundred yards until it reaches the neighborhood just beyond.

The predator picks up his pace, closing the distance between them. He can feel the staccato of his heart kick into third gear, where power wrestles fleetingly with speed. The thing that lives behind the curtain is with him now—has become him. Its breath, wet and heavy and gritty with dirt, slides in and out of his lungs, mixing with his own quick respirations. The incessant march of its pulse thrums along eagerly behind his temples, blanching his vision slightly with each beat. Ahead of him is the boy, his slender frame swinging slightly as he walks, almost dancing, as if his long muscles dangled delicately from a metal hanger. For a moment, watching from behind as he completes the remaining steps between them, the predator is struck by the sheer beauty of that movement, and an unconscious smile falls across his face.

The sound of his footsteps causes the boy to turn, to face him now, arms hanging limply at his sides. As he does, the predator’s left hand swings quickly upward from where it had remained hidden behind his leg a moment before. His hand is curled tightly around an object, its handle connected to a thin metal shaft, long and narrow and tapered at the end to a fine point. It reaches the pinnacle of its arcing swing and enters the boy’s neck, dead center, just below the jaw. A slight jolt reverberates through the predator’s arm as the tip of the rod strikes the underside of the boy’s skull. He can feel the warmth of the boy’s skin pressing up against the flesh of his own hand as the instrument comes to rest. The boy opens his mouth to scream, but the sound is choked off by the blood filling the back of his throat. The predator pulls his arm down and away, feeling the ease with which the instru­ment exits the neck.

He pauses a moment, watching the boy struggle, studying the shocked confusion in his eyes. The mouth in front of him opens and closes silently. The head shakes slowly back and forth in negation. He leans in closer now, holding the boy’s gaze. The hand gripping the instrument draws back slightly in preparation for the next blow; then he pistons it upward, the long metal tip punching its way through the boy’s diaphragm and into his chest. He watches the body go rigid, watches the lips form the circle of a silent scream, the eyes wide and distant.

The boy crumples to the ground, and the predator goes with him, cradling a shoulder with his right hand, his eyes fixed on that bewildered, pallid face. He can see that the boy’s conscious­ness is waning now, can feel the muscles going limp in his grasp. Still, he tries to connect with those eyes, wonders what they are seeing in these final moments. He imagines what it might feel like for the world to slide away at the end, to feel the stage go dark and to step blindly into that void between this world and the next, naked and alone, waiting for what comes after . . . if anything at all.

The cool earth shifts slightly beneath his fingers, and in the space of a second the boy is gone, leaving behind his useless, broken frame. “No,” the predator whispers to himself, for the moment has passed too quickly. He shakes the body, looking for signs of life. But there is nothing. He is alone now in the woods. The realization sends him into a rage. The instrument in his hand rises and falls again and again, wanting to punish, to admonish, to hurt. When the instrument no longer satisfies him, he casts it aside, using his hands, nails, and teeth to widen the wounds. The body yields impassively to the assault, the macerated flesh fall­ing away without conviction, the pooling blood already a lifeless thing. Eventually, the ferocity of the attack begins to taper. He rests on his hands and knees, drawing in quick, ragged breaths.

Next time, I will do better, he promises the thing that lives behind the curtain. But when he turns to look the thing is gone, the curtain drawn closed once again.


Author Bio:

John Burley attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency training at University of Maryland Medical Center/Shock Trauma in Baltimore. He currently serves as an emergency medicine physician in northern California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, Great Dane, and English Bulldog. This is his first novel.


Catch Up With the Author:  


Tour Participants:


Showcase post: STRONG RAIN FALLING by Jon Land




Strong Rain Falling


by Jon Land


on August 12 – September 30, 2013

 


Book Details:
Genre: Thriller
Published by: Forge Books
Publication Date: August 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 368
ISBN: 978-0765331502
Series: Caitlin Strong, 5 (Can be read as a Stand Alone)
Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:

Mexico, 1919: The birth of the Mexican drug trade begins with opium being smuggled across the U.S. border, igniting an all-out battle with American law enforcement in general and the Texas Rangers in particular.
The Present: Fifth Generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong and her lover, former outlaw Cort Wesley Masters, both survive terrifying gun battles. But this time, it turns out, the actual targets were not them, but Masters’ teenage sons.
That sets Caitlin and Cort Wesley off on a trail winding through the past and present with nothing less than the future of the United States hanging in the balance. Along the way they will confront terrible truths dating all the way back to the Mexican Revolution and the dogged battle Caitlin’s own grandfather and great-grandfather fought against the first generation of Mexican drug dealers. 
At the heart of the storm soon to sweep away America as we know it, lies a mastermind whose abundant power is equaled only by her thirst for vengeance. Ana Callas Guajardo, the last surviving member of the family that founded the Mexican drug trade, has dedicated all of her vast resources to a plot aimed at the U.S.’s technological heart.
This time out, sabotage proves to be as deadly a weapon as bombs in a battle Caitlin must win in cyberspace as well. Her lone chance to prevail is to short-circuit a complex plan based as much on microchips as bullets. Because there’s a strong rain coming and only Caitlin and Cort Wesley can stop the fall before it’s too late.


Read an excerpt:
CHAPTER 1
Providence, Rhode Island
Caitlin Strong was waiting downstairs in a grassy park bisected by concrete walkways when Dylan Torres emerged from the building. The boy fit in surprisingly well with the Brown University college students he slid between in approaching her, his long black hair bouncing just past his shoulders and attracting the attention of more than one passing coed.
“How’d it go?” Caitlin asked, rising from the bench that felt like a sauna in the sun.
Dylan shrugged and blew some stray hair from his face with his breath. “Size could be an issue.”
“For playing football at this level, I expect so.”
“Coach Estes didn’t rule it out. He just said there were no more first year slots left in the program.”
“First year?”
“Freshman, Caitlin.”
“How’d you leave it?” she asked, feeling dwarfed by the athletic buildings that housed playing courts, training facilities, a swimming pool, full gym and the offices of the school’s coaches. The buildings enclosed the park-like setting on three sides, leaving the street side to be rimmed by an eight-foot wall of carefully layered stone. Playing fields took up the rear of the complex beyond the buildings and, while waiting for Dylan, Caitlin heard the clang of aluminum bats hitting baseballs and thunks of what sounded like soccer balls being kicked about. Funny how living in a place the size of Texas made her antsy within an area where so much was squeezed so close.
“Well, short of me growing another four inches and putting on maybe twenty pounds of muscle, it’s gonna be an uphill battle,” Dylan said, looking down. “That is, if I even get into this place. That’s an uphill battle too.”
She reached out and touched his shoulder. “This coming from a kid who’s bested serial killers, kidnappers and last year a human monster who bled venom instead of blood.”
Dylan started to shrug, but smiled instead. “Helps that you and my dad were there to gun them all down.”
“Well, I don’t believe we’ll be shooting Coach Estes and my point was if anybody can handle an uphill battle or two, it’s you.”
Dylan lapsed into silence, leaving Caitlin to think of the restaurant they’d eaten at the night before where the waitress had complimented her on having such a good looking son. She’d felt her insides turn to mush when the boy smiled and went right on studying the menu, not bothering to correct the woman. He was three quarters through a fifth year at San Antonio’s St. Anthony Catholic High School, in range of finishing the year with straight “A”s. Though the school didn’t formally offer such a program, Caitlin’s captain D. W. Tepper had convinced them to make an exception on behalf of the Texas Rangers by slightly altering their Senior Connection program to fit the needs of a boy whose grades hadn’t anywhere near matched his potential yet.
Not that it was an easy fit. The school’s pristine campus in historic Monte Vista just north of downtown San Antonio was populated by boys and girls in staid, prescribed uniforms that made Dylan cringe. Blazers instead of shapeless shirts worn out at the waist, khakis instead of jeans gone from sagging to, more recently, what they called skinny, and hard leather dress shoes instead of the boots Caitlin had bought him for his birthday a few years back. But the undermanned football team had recruited him early on, Dylan donning a uniform for the first time since a brief stint in the Pop Warner league as a young boy while his mother was still alive and the father he’d yet to meet was in prison. This past fall at St. Anthony’s he’d taken to the sport again like a natural, playing running back and sifting through the tiniest holes in the defensive line to amass vast chunks of yardage. Dylan ended up being named Second Team All TAPPS District 2-5A, attracting the attention of several small colleges, though none on the level of Brown University, a perennial contender for the Ivy League crown.
Caitlin found those Friday nights, sitting with Cort Wesley Masters and his younger son Luke in stands ripe with the first soft bite of fall, strangely comforting. Given that she’d never had much use for such things in her own teenage years, the experience left her feeling as if she’d been transported back in time with a chance to relive her own youth through a boy who was as close to a son as she’d ever have. Left her recalling her own high school days smelling of gun oil instead of perfume. She’d been awkward then, gawky after growing tall fast. Still a few years short of forty, Caitlin had never added to that five-foot-seven-inch frame, although the present found her filled out and firm from regular workouts and jogging. She wore her wavy black hair more fashionably styled, but kept it the very same length she always had, perhaps in a misguided at-tempt to slow time if not stop it altogether. 
Gazing at Dylan now, she recalled the headmaster of his school, a cousin of Caitlin’s own high school principal, coming up to her after the victorious opening home game.
“The school owes you a great bit of gratitude, Ranger.”
“Well, sir, I’ll bet Dylan’ll do even better next week.”
The headmaster gestured toward the newly installed lights. “I meant gratitude for the Rangers arranging for the variance that allowed us to go forward with the installation. That’s the only reason we’re able to be here to-night.”
She’d nodded, smiling to herself at how Captain Tepper had managed to arrange Dylan’s admission. “Our pleasure, sir.”
Now, months later on the campus of an Ivy League school in Providence, Rhode Island, Dylan looked down at the grass and then up again, something furtive lurking in his suddenly narrowed eyes. The sun sneaking through a nearby tree dappled his face and further hid what he was about to share. 
“I got invited to a frat party.”
“Say that again.”
“I got invited to a party at this frat called D-Phi.”
“D what?”
“Short for Delta Phi. Like the Greek letters.”
“I know they’re Greek letters, son, just like I know what goes on at these kind of parties given that I’ve been called to break them up on more than one occasion.”
“You’re the one who made me start thinking about college.”
“Doesn’t mean I got you thinking about doing shots and playing beer pong.”
“Beirut.”
Caitlin looked at him as if he were speaking a foreign language.
“They call it Beirut here, not beer pong,” Dylan continued. “And it’s important I get a notion of what the campus life is like. You told me that too.”
“I did?”
“Uh-huh.”
“I let you go to this party, you promise you won’t drink?”
Dylan rolled his head from side to side. “I promise I won’t drink much.”
“What’s that mean?”
“That I’ll be just fine when you come pick me up in the morning to get to the airport.”
“Pick you up,” Caitlin repeated, her gaze narrowing.
“I’m staying with this kid from Texas who plays on the team. Coach set it up.”
“Coach Estes?”
“Yup. Why?’
Caitlin slapped an arm around the boy’s shoulder and steered him toward the street. “Because I may rethink my decision about shooting him.”
“I told him you were a Texas Ranger,” Dylan said, as they approached a pair of workmen stringing a tape measure outside the athletic complex’s hockey rink.
“What’d he think about that?” Caitlin said, finding her gaze drawn to the two men she noticed had no tools and were wearing scuffed shoes instead of work boots.
“He said he liked gals with guns.”
They continued along the walkway that curved around the park-like grounds, banking left at a small lot where Caitlin had parked her rental. She worked the remote to unlock the doors and watched Dylan ease around to the passenger side, while she turned back toward the hockey rink and the two workmen she couldn’t shake from her mind.
But they were gone.
CHAPTER 2
Providence, Rhode Island
“What’s this WaterFire thing?” Dylan asked, spooning up the last of his ice cream while Caitlin sipped her nightly post-dinner coffee.
“Like a tradition here. Comes highly recommended.”
“You don’t want me going to that frat party.”
“The thought had crossed my mind, but I’m guessing the WaterFire’ll be done ‘fore your party even gets started.”
Dylan held the spoon in his hand and then licked at it.
“How’s the ice cream?”
“It’s Gelato.”
“What’s the difference?”
“None, I guess.
They had chosen to eat at a restaurant called Paragon, again on the recommendation of Coach Estes, a fashionably loud, lit, and reasonably priced bistro-like restaurant on the student-dominated Thayer Street across from the University bookstore. Dylan ordered a pizza while Caitlin ruminated over the menu choices before eventually opting for what she always did: a steak. You can take the gal out of Texas, she thought to herself, but you can’t take Texas out of the gal.
“I hear this Waterfire is something special,” Caitlin said, when she saw him checking his watch.
“Yeah? Who told you that?”
“Coach Estes. What do you say we head downtown and check it out?”
* * *
They walked through the comfortable cool of the early evening darkness, a welcome respite from the sweltering spring heat wave that had struck Texas just before they’d left. Caitlin wanted to talk, but Dylan wouldn’t look up from his iPhone, banging out text after text. 
They strolled up a slight hill and then down a steeper one, joining the thick flow of people heading for the sounds of the nighttime festival known as WaterFire. The air was crisp and laced with the pungent aroma of wood smoke drifting up from Providence’s downtown area, where the masses of milling people were headed. The scents grew stronger while the harmonic strains of music sharpened the closer they drew to an area bridged by walkways crisscross-ing a river that ran the entire length of the modest office buildings and residential towers that dominated the city’s skyline. A performance area had been roped off at the foot of the hill, currently occupied by a group of white-faced mimes. An array of pushcarts offering various grilled meats as well as snacks and sweets were lined up nearby, most with hefty lines before them.
The tightest clusters of festival patrons moved in both directions down a walkway at the river’s edge. Cait-lin realized the strange and haunting strains of music had their origins down here as well and moved to join the flow. The black water shimmered like glass, an eerie glow emanat-ing from its surface. Boaters and canoeists paddled lei-surely by. A water taxi packed with seated patrons sipping wine slid past followed by what looked like a gondola straight from Venice.
But it was the source of the orange glow reflecting off the water’s surface that claimed Caitlin’s attention. She could now identify the pungent scent of wood smoke as that of pine and cedar, hearing the familiar crackle of flames as she and Dylan reached a promenade that ran di-rectly alongside the river.
“Caitlin?” Dylan prodded, touching her shoulder.
She jerked to her right, stiffening, the boy’s hand like a hot iron against her shirt.
“Uh-oh,” the boy said. “You got that look.”
“Just don’t like crowds,” Caitlin managed, casting her gaze about. “That’s all.”
A lie, because she felt something wasn’t right, out of rhythm somehow. Her stomach had already tightened and now she could feel the bands of muscle in her neck and shoul-ders knotting up as well.
“Yeah?” Dylan followed before she forced a smile. “And, like, I’m supposed to believe that?”
Before them, a line of bonfires that seemed to rise out of the water curved along the expanse of the Providence river walk. The source of these bonfires, Caitlin saw now, were nearly a hundred steel braziers of flaming wood moored to the water’s surface and stoked by black-shirted workers in a square pontoon-like boat, including one who performed an elaborate fire dance in between tending the flames.
The twisting line of braziers seemed to stretch for-ever into the night. Caitlin and Dylan continued to follow their bright glow amid the crowd, keeping the knee-high re-taining wall on their right. More kiosks selling hotdogs, grilled meats to be stuffed in pockets, kabobs, beverages, and souvenirs had been set up above the river walk on streets and sidewalks. The sights and sounds left her homesick for Texas, the sweet smell of wood smoke reminding her of the scent of barbecue and grilled food wafting over the famed San Antonio River Walk.
Caitlin was imagining that smell when she felt some-thing, not much and not even identifiable at first, yet enough to make her neck hairs stand up. A ripple in the crowd, she realized an instant later, followed almost immediately by more of a buckling indicative of someone forcing their way through it. Instinct twisted Caitlin in the di-rection of the ripple’s origin and the flames’ glow caught a face that was familiar to her.
Because it belonged to one of the workman she’d glimpsed outside the hockey rink back at Brown University. And the second workman stood directly alongside him, hands pulling their jackets back enough to reveal the dark glint of the pistols wedged into their belts.


Author Bio:

Jon Land is the author of more than 30 thrillers, including the bestselling Caitlin Strong Texas Ranger series that includes Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, Strong at the Break, Strong Vengeance and, coming this August, Strong Rain Falling. This past fall he resurrected his longtime series hero Blaine McCracken in the E-Book Original Pandora’s Temple, which became a bestseller on both Apple and Amazon and was nominated for a Thriller Award as Best E-Book Original. A follow-up, The Tenth Circle, is slated for release in time for the holiday season. Jon’s first nonfiction book, BETRAYAL, meanwhile, was a national bestseller and was named Best True Crime Book of 2012 by Suspense Magazine. He lives in Providence, Rhode Island and can be found on the Web at jonlandbooks.com.


Catch Up With the Author:  


Tour Participants


Showcase Post: THE RED QUEEN DIES by Frankie Bailey




The Red Queen Dies


by Frankie Bailey


on Tour August 1 – September 30, 2013

 


Book Details:
Genre:  Mystery & Detective
Published by: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: Sept 10, 2013
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-0-312-64175-7 / 978-1-250-03717-6
Purchase Links:    


Synopsis:

The first in a new high-concept police procedural series, set in Albany with an Alice in Wonderland theme.
Frankie Bailey introduces readers to a fabulous new protagonist and an Alice in Wonderland-infused crime in this stunning mystery. The year is 2019, and a drug used to treat soldiers for post-traumatic stress disorder, nicknamed “Lullaby,” has hit the streets. Swallowing a little pill erases traumatic memories, but what happens to a criminal trial when the star witness takes a pill and can’t remember the crime? Biracial detective Hannah McCabe faces similar perplexing problems as she attempts to solve the murders of three women, one of whom, a Broadway actress known as “The Red Queen,” has a special interest in the story of Alice in Wonderland. Is the killer somehow reenacting the children’s tale? This smart, tough mystery will appeal to fans of high-concept police procedurals.


Read an excerpt:
[CAUTION:  Strong Language]
Excerpt:

DATE: Thursday, 24 October 2019
TIME: 0700 hours
WEATHER TODAY: Mid 90s. Air quality poor. Evening storms.
DISPLAY ON WALL: Wake-up News

“Good morning, everyone. I’m Suzanne Price.
 “First, the news from the nation. The federal government says, ‘No hoax, no conspiracy, but still no definitive answers.’
 “The administration denies suppressing portions of the commission report on the November 2012 close encounter between NORAD fighter jets and the black boomerang-shaped UFO that appeared over the Mojave Desert, creating worldwide awe and panic before disappearing in a blinding flash of light.
 “In Las Vegas, preparations are underway for the now-annual spectacular celebration of that close encounter.
 “However, a warning from alien invasion survivalists, who say this seventh anniversary will be the year the spacecraft returns leading an armada. Survivalists plan to retreat to their bunkers on November 2. Gun shop owners report sales of firearms are up, as they are every year as the anniversary approaches.
 “Meanwhile, the National Weather Service says another eruption of solar flares could cause more communication and power disruptions early next week.
 “Forest fires in both Canada and breakaway nation New France continue to burn out of control, sending smoke southward.
 “Scientists taking part in a climate change conference in Philadelphia disagree about the explanation for the significant improvement in the acidity levels of the world’s oceans. ‘It shouldn’t be happening,’ an MIT oceanographer said. ‘Nothing in anyone’s data predicted this turnaround. But I think we can safely rule out divine intervention and UFO babies.’
 “Out on the presidential campaign trail, a political firestorm erupts as Republican front-runner Janet Cortez accuses independent candidate Howard Miller of ‘rallying angry, frightened people to commit hate crimes.’ During an arena speech yesterday, Miller called on several thousand supporters to ‘reclaim America for Americans’ and ‘restore our way of life.’ Cortez says Miller is ‘morally responsible’ for the attacks that have been escalating since he announced his third- party candidacy.
“Now, here at home . . . a chilling scenario posed by a local crime beat threader. Is there an ‘Albany Ripper’ in our midst?”
“Dammit!” Hannah McCabe jumped back as the grapefruit juice from her overturned glass splashed across the countertop, covering the still- visible display of the nutrition content of her father’s breakfast.
“Bring up the sound,” he said. “I want to hear this.”
“Half a second, Pop. Hands full.” McCabe shoved her holster out of the way and touched clean up before the stream of juice could run off the counter and onto the tile floor.
“. . . Following last night’s Common Council meeting, threader Clarence Redfield interrupted a statement by Detective Wayne Jacoby, the Albany Police Department spokesperson . . .”

In the Chief of Police’s office, Jacoby struggled to keep his expression neutral as the footage of the press conference and his exchange with Redfield began to roll.
“The Albany Police Department remains hopeful that the Common Council will approve both funding requests. The first to expand GRTYL, our Gang Reduction Through Youth Leadership program, and the second to enhance the surveillance—”
“Detective Jacoby, isn’t it true that the Albany PD is engaged in a cover-up? Isn’t it true that the Albany PD has failed to inform the citizens of this city of what they have a right to know?”
“I know you want to offer your usual observations, Mr. Redfield. But if you will hold your questions until I finish—”
“Isn’t it true that we have a serial killer at work here in Albany, Detective? Isn’t it true that a secret police task force has been created to try to track down a killer who has been preying on women here in this city?”
“That is . . . no, that is not true, Mr. Redfield. There is no secret task force, nor is there any cover-up. We . . . the Albany PD does not engage in . . .”
From his position by the window, Chief Egan said, “Stammering like a frigging schoolgirl makes it hard to believe you’re telling the truth, Wayne.”
“The little bastard caught me off guard,” Jacoby said, his annoyance getting the better of him.
The others at the table avoided his glance, their gazes focused on the wall where his confrontation with Redfield was continuing.
“So, Detective, you’re telling us that there aren’t two dead women who—”
“I’m telling you, Mr. Redfield, that we have ongoing investigations into two cases involving female victims who—”
“Who were the victims of a serial killer?”
“We have two female homicide victims. Both deaths were drug-induced and both occurred within the past six weeks. On each occasion, we made available to the media, including yourself, information about—”
“But you didn’t release the details that link the two cases. You didn’t tell the media or the citizens of this city that both women were—”
“We do not release the details of ongoing homicide investigations, Mr. Redfield. And you are not aiding these investigations with your grandstanding.”
“My grandstanding? Don’t you think it’s time someone told the women of Albany that the police can’t protect them? That they should stay off the streets after dark, get inside when the fog rolls in, and lock their doors? Shouldn’t someone tell the taxpaying citizens of this city that in spite of all the hype about your Big Brother surveillance system, a killer is still moving like a phantom through the—”
“What the citizens of Albany should know is that the Albany PD is bringing all its resources and those of other law-enforcement agencies to bear to solve these two cases. Veteran detectives are following every lead. And the citywide surveillance system the department has implemented—”
“When it’s working, Detective Jacoby. Isn’t it true that the solar flares have been giving your system problems?”
One of the captains sitting at the conference table in Chief Egan’s office groaned. “Is he just guessing?”
On the wall, Jacoby’s jaw was noticeably clinched.
“As I was about to say, Mr. Redfield, before we began this back-and-forth, the DePloy surveillance system has been effective both in reducing crime and solving the crimes that have occurred. That is the end of this discussion.”
 “You mean ‘Shut up or I’m out of here’?”
 “Ladies and gentlemen of the press, I am now going to finish the official statement regarding funding. I will only respond to questions on that subject. . . .”
Chief Egan said, “Not one of your better performances, Wayne. You let him rattle you.” He walked over and sat down at the head of the table. “Her Royal Highness, the mayor, was not pleased when she called me last night.”

On the wall, the anchorwoman took over.
“Detective Jacoby then completed his statement about the proposals before the Common Council. When a reporter tried to return to the allegation made by crime beat threader Clarence Redfield that a serial killer is at work in Albany, Detective Jacoby ended the press conference and left the podium.
Mr. Redfield himself declined to respond to questions from reporters about the source of his information. We’ll have more for you on this story as details become available.
“In another matter before the Common Council, a proposed emergency expansion of the existing no masks or face-covering ordinance to include Halloween night. The new ordinance would apply to everyone over eight years of age. The recent outbreak of crimes involving juveniles . . .”
“Now, they’re even trying to take away Halloween,” Angus McCabe said from his place at the kitchen table. “Well? Any truth to it? Do we have ourselves a serial killer on the loose?”
McCabe put her empty juice glass on the shelf inside the dishwasher. “Since when do you consider Clarence Redfield a reliable source, Pop?”
“He ain’t. But I’ve spent more than half my life grilling official mouthpieces, and the way Jacoby was squirming—”
“Jacoby can’t stand Redfield. You know that.” McCabe snagged her thermo jacket from the back of her chair and bent to kiss his forehead. “And you’re retired now, remember?”
“I may be retired, but I’m not dead yet. What’s going on?”
“Got to run, Pop. Have a good day.”
“Have a good day nothing.” He rose to follow her into the hall.
“Hank McCabe, you tell me what’s—”
“Can’t discuss it. I’ll pick us up some dinner on the way home. Chinese okay?”
He scowled at her, his eyes the same electric blue they had always been, the bristling brows gone gray.
“No, Chinese ain’t okay. I’m tired of Chinese. I’ll cook dinner tonight. I’ve got all day to twiddle my thumbs. What else do I have to do but make dinner?”
“I thought you might intend to work on your book. You do have that deadline coming up in a couple of months.”
“Book, hell. There ain’t no book. I’m giving the advance back.”
“If that’s what you want to do,” McCabe said. “On the other hand, you could just sit down and write the book.”
“You try writing a damn book, Ms. Detective.”
“Not my area of expertise. But you’ve done it a few times before. Even won an award or two.”
“This one’s different. Nobody would read it even if I wrote it. And don’t ‘If that’s what you want to do’ me. We were talking about this serial killer that Redfield claims—”
“Sorry, Pop, I really do have to go. I want to get in a few minutes early this morning.”
“Why? What are you—”
She closed the door on his demand that she get herself back there and tell him what was going on. Striding to her car, McCabe tried to ignore the whiff of smoke that she could taste in the back of her throat and the sticky air, which made her want to step back into the shower. The heat was due to break to night. That would clear the air.
And Pop would pull himself out of his funk. He always did.
Of course, the other times, he’d had an office to go to . . . and no restrictions on his alcohol consumption.

“I have every confidence in your ability to get what we need, Mike boy.”
“Right.” Baxter flashed his best cocky grin. “You know you can count on me.”
His caller nodded. “I know I can.” He pointed his finger at Baxter. “Watch your back out there, you hear me?”
He disconnected, his image fading from the screen. Baxter closed his ORB and leaned back on his cream leather sofa. He stretched his arms over his head, fingers clasped. His gaze fell on the framed photograph on his desk. Himself in dress blues. Graduation day from the Academy. Baxter grunted, then laughed. “You should have seen this one coming, Mike boy.”
 He rubbed his hand across his mouth, whistled. “Well hell.”
 Baxter reached for his ORB again. He pulled up a file and began to update his notes.
 When he was done, he grabbed his thermo jacket and headed for the door.
His mind on other things, he left the apartment on cooldown and the lights on in the bathroom, but the condo’s environmental system had gone into energy-saver mode by the time he reached the lobby. In the garage, Baxter paused for his usual morning ritual, admiring the burgundy sheen of his vintage 1967 Mustang convertible. Then he got into his three-year-old hybrid and headed in to work.

McCabe was stuck in traffic on Central Avenue, waiting for an opening to maneuver around a florist van.
In Albany, double parking had always been considered a civic right. With more traffic each year and the narrow lanes that had been carved out for Zip cars and tri-bikes, Central Avenue in the morning was like it must have been when Albany was a terminus for slaughter houses, with cattle driven along Central Avenue Turnpike.
Stop, start, nose, and try not to trample one another as they moved toward their destinations.
McCabe tilted her head from side to side and shrugged her shoulders. What she needed, yearned for, was a long run. Even with geosimulators, five miles on a machine was never as good as running outside.
McCabe’s attention was caught by a flash of color. On the sidewalk in front of Los Amigos, a young black woman in a patchwork summer skirt laughed as an older man, suave and mustachioed, swirled her in a samba move. Still laughing, she disengaged herself and scooped up her straw handbag from the sidewalk. Hand over his heart, the man called out to his impromptu dance partner. Giggling, she went on her way.
Stopped by the traffic light at the intersection, McCabe lowered her window enough to hear the music coming from the open doorway of the restaurant. Before it was Mexican, the place had been Caribbean, and before that, Indian. The owners of the hair salon on one side and the discount store on the other had complained about this latest example of ethnic succession. Loud  music, spicy smells— in other words, the threat posed by “Mexs” moving into this block as they had others. Some legal, some American citizens, some neither, arriving in Albany in greater numbers during the years when the convention center was going up. Now the resentment was more vocal, the sense of being in competition greater. Even the imagined threat of an interplanetary invasion hadn’t changed that dynamic. Earthlings still distrusted other earthlings. They defended what they thought of as their turf.
Since the UFO, old episodes of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone had become a cult favorite with teen “space zombies.” According to Pop, the zombies weren’t the only ones who should be watching the series. He claimed that in the event of another close encounter, Rod Serling had left instructions. Rule number one: Even if the spacecraft looks flashy, check to make sure it isn’t a balloon from a Thanksgiving Day parade. Rule number two: Even if the lights do start going on and off  don’t turn on your neighbors, assuming they must be the aliens. Rule number three: Even if the “visitors” introduce themselves and seem friendly, ask for additional information about how they plan “to serve” mankind before hopping on their spaceship.
Meanwhile, daily life continued on Central Avenue, where Zoe James, the black female owner of the beauty shop, refused to patronize the Mexican restaurant next door. At least she and Sung Chang, the Korean- American owner of the discount store, had stopped calling the cops every time the music and dancing overflowed onto the sidewalk. Of course, the Janet Cortez Para Presidente sign now on proud display in Los Amigos’s front window might set them off again. Both James and Chang had signs supporting the current vice president, who was male, black (biracial, actually), and likely to be the Democrats nominee.
But according to Pop, the candidate they all needed to be worried about, should be scared to death of, actually, was Howard Miller, that smiling “man of the people.” Howard Miller, who was as smooth as the churned butter from that family- owned farm he boasted about having grown up on.
McCabe stared hard at the traffic light that was supposed to adjust for traffic flow and right now was doing nothing at all. She decided to give it another thirty seconds before she reported a problem.
Howard Miller.
They hadn’t looked at that kind of hate crime because they had two white female victims. But the murder weapon . . . What if one of Miller’s crazy followers . . .
Horns blared.
McCabe was reaching for her ORB when the traffic light flickered and went from red to green.
More horns blared.
Three women, pushing metal shopping carts, had decided to make a last-minute dash across the busy intersection. White with a hint of a tan, clad in light- colored shorts and T-shirts, they were too clean to be homeless.
The women were almost to the other side when a bike messenger zipped around a double- parked produce truck.
The women darted out of his way. He skidded and went down hard. Sunlight sparkled on his blue helmet, but his work-tanned legs were bare and vulnerable.
One of the women looked back, peering over her designer sunglasses. She called out something. Maybe it was “Sorry about that.”
Then she and her fellow scavenger hunters sprinted away in the direction of Washington Park, where Radio KZAC must be holding today’s meet-up.
The taxi driver behind McCabe leaned on his horn. She waved for him to go around her.
She watched the bike messenger get up on wobbly legs. He looked down at his knee and grimaced. But the next moment, he was checking his bike. Then he grabbed for his leather satchel before a car could run over it. Hopping back on his bike, he pedaled off .
A car pulled away from the curb, opening up a spot a few feet away from Cambrini’s Bakery. McCabe shot forward and did a quick parallel park.
She got out and headed toward the intertwined aromas of fresh-baked muffins and black coffee. Maybe the day wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
The line wound back to the door, but it seemed to be moving fast. McCabe glanced at the old- fashioned chalkboard that always had the morning’s “featured muffin.” Not in the mood for pumpkin, she found what she wanted on the menu and sent her order from her ORB to checkout before joining the queue.
“Good morning, sister. Is God blessing you this fine day?”
She turned toward the deep voice and beaming smile of the man in the black New York Yankees baseball cap and the white suit and white shirt, which contrasted with his chocolate brown skin.
“Good morning, Reverend Deke.”
“I said, sister, ‘Is God blessing you this fine day?’ ”
“Yes, thank you, He is,” McCabe said.
“I’m pleased to hear that.”
Reverend Deke went out the door carrying his steaming coffee cup. By high noon, he would be bringing “the message” to any of the office workers who decided to leave the climate- controlled Empire State Plaza complex to patronize the lunch wagons lined up along the street. Some of the workers would pause to listen as Reverend Deke broke into one of the spirituals that he had learned on his Georgia- born grandmother’s knee.
McCabe watched him go, greeting the people he passed.
Ten minutes later, she was jammed in sideways at the counter by the window, munching on a lemon-blueberry-pecan muffin. Half a day’s supply of antioxidants, and it even tasted like it was made with real sugar. 
The police frequency on her ORB lit up. She touched the screen to see the message that Comm Center had sent out to patrol cars.
McCabe swallowed the last bite of her muffin and grabbed her ice coffee container from the counter.
Out of the sidewalk, she spoke into her transmitter. “Dispatch, Detective McCabe also responding to that call. En route.”
“Copy, McCabe. Will advise,” the dispatcher responded.
Mike Baxter picked up the same dispatch as he was pulling out of the fast- food drive-thru. He shoved his coffee cup into the holder and reached for his siren.
“Dispatch, Detective Baxter also responding.”
“Copy, Baxter. McCabe’s headed that way, too.”
“Thought she would be. This could be our guy.”
“Happy hunting.”
McCabe pulled herself to the top of the fence and paused to look down into the alley. She jumped and landed on the other side, one foot slipping in dog shit. The man she was chasing darted a glance behind him and kept running.
In a half squat, McCabe drew her weapon and fired. Her bola wrapped around the man’s legs. He sprawled forward, entangled in the cords, crashing into moldering cardboard boxes and other garbage.
 McCabe ran toward him. He twisted onto his side, trying to sit up and free himself.
 “Get these ropes off me, bitch!”
 “Stay down,” she said, training the weapon, now set to stun, on the perp’s scrawny torso. “Roll over on your belly.”
 He looked up at her face, then at the gun. Either he was convinced she would use it or deterred by the minicam that was attached to the weapon and was recording their encounter. He sagged back to the ground and rolled over.
 She stepped to the side, about to order him to raise his arm behind his back so that she could slip on the first handcuff .
 “You got him!” Mike Baxter said, running up. He was sweating, cheeks flushed, eyes bright with excitement. “That was great.”
 “Cuff him,” McCabe said, trying not to let Baxter see that she was breathing hard.
 She was thirty- four to Baxter’s twenty- nine, and, yes, she had outrun him. But she should be in better shape than this. Today’s air-quality reading was no excuse. Baxter snapped the cuffs into place and McCabe retracted her bola. Baxter hauled the perp to his feet.
 “Hey, man, this is police brutality, you hear me?” the perp said.
 “I’m gonna sue both of you.”
 “That all you got to say?” Baxter said.
 “Say? You’re supposed to read me my rights, man.”
 “You got it, man,” Baxter said. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you . . .” He recited the words with the controlled irony of a cop who had been saying them for several decades. But he looked like a college kid. That was why he had been recruited from patrol to work undercover vice. But word was that he had wanted out of that and played a commendably discrete game of departmental politics, involving his godfather, the assistant chief, to get reassigned.
 Sirens screeching, two police cruisers pulled into the alley.
 Baxter grinned at McCabe. “Great way to start the day, huh, partner?”
 “Absolutely,” she said, scrapping her shoe on the edge of a mildewed cardboard box.
 She hoped he realized that the likelihood that this was the guy they were looking for was about zilch.
  


Author Bio:

FRANKIE Y. BAILEY is an associate professor in the School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany (SUNY). Bailey is the author of mysteries as well as non-fiction titles that explore the intersections of crime, history, and popular culture. Bailey is a Macavity Award-winner and has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Agatha awards. A past executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime, she is on the Albany Bouchercon 2013 planning committee.


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