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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Soul of the World (Legends of Amun Ra #2) by Joshua Silverman @jg_silverman

*   *   *

Kem dives to the ground in desperation, covering his head and neck from the rocks raining down. I didn’t see that coming. I thought I was quiet, he thinks.

The announcement of Cadmus’ elimination booms over the intercom. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about a vengeful brother.

The dust and debris settle from the crumbled wall. Find Kesi. Kem trots towards the end of the path. Before he gets there, he sees a shadow along the wall.

Dio turns the corner and spots him. She’s already throwing blue spheres before he knows what happened.

Kem hits the floor hard, dodging the first two. Dio hurls more at him.

His heart beats like a jackhammer in his chest. He is covered in dirt and sand. Kem swerves left, then right, ducking from a shot aimed at his head. He looks back at Dio, who walks with determination, shooting at him. Will she not let up a little? Got to slow her down.

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Genre – Science fiction, Fantasy

Rating – PG-13+

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Website www.legendsofamunra.com; www.joshuagsilverman.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Jonas Trust Deception by A.F.N. Clarke @AFNClarke

The Jonas Trust Deception

by AFN Clarke

AFN CLARKE is the author of 8 books, including the best selling memoir CONTACT, that was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  His latest novel, The Jonas Trust Deception, is a Thomas Gunn thriller and follows the success of The Orange Moon Affair.  Readers have called it “classy, complex and cunningly compelling” and a “powerful force in the thriller genre”.  In solving the mystery of an ongoing conspiracy involving his old friend Morgan, Thomas Gunn, ex-Special Forces, takes an action so shocking and bold, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind.  The question is, has he?  To get a taste of things to come, here’s an excerpt from the book.  And for more information visit www.afnclarke.com or the Amazon Kindle store.

There is something so totally desolate about sitting in a prison cell staring at the blank grey walls that, unless you’ve experienced it, you’ll never understand. There is a finality and hopelessness that is almost beyond comprehension. A despair that sucks at your soul. My salvation was that I knew that my stay here was going to be short-lived, but what the future held was one big question mark. I had the distinct feeling somebody had put a ring in my nose and was leading on a mystery tour with more questions than answers.

Left alone with just the usual sounds of dissatisfied inmates, clinking keys and slamming doors for company, I thought back to the frantic last few days.

Confusion would be an apt description of my state of mind.

What facts could I scramble together?

Several dead bodies at Morgan’s ranch.

A small but ruthless Mexican Mafia gangbanger, with the unlikely nickname of ‘El Cobra Poco’, who seemed as if he could be a strange ally.

And the mysterious Robert Sutherland.

What other questions remained?

There were many, starting with who would have wanted to kill Morgan? Everything went back to my request for her to investigate the financial dealings of the Griffin Trust and its Chairman Ted Lieberman.

How was the Mexican Mafia involved if what Sutherland said about Morgan working for him was true?

I could just lie here all night long and create imaginary scenarios, but that wouldn’t supply any answers, so I closed my eyes and concentrated on emptying my mind.

Sleep was what I needed.
It must have been two hours after the jail cell lights went out, that the goons came for me. Dragged me off the bed and frog marched me down the corridor to the back of the jail and down narrow stairs to a basement garage without saying a word. There was a nondescript cream coloured painter’s van waiting with the rear doors open, and I was unceremoniously bundled inside.

THE JONAS TRUST DECEPTION

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Genre – Thriller

Rating – PG-13

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Website http://www.afnclarke.com/

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How the English Establishment Framed Stephen Ward by Caroline Kennedy @StephenWardBook

FBI director, J.Edgar Hoover, was convinced that British society was riddled with whores, pimps, sex maniacs and Soviet agents. His conviction was given a boost on Sunday, 16th June, when an article by British solicitor, Michael Eddowes, appeared in the Journal-American. In it Eddowes told of his meeting with Yevgeny Ivanov during the Cuban missile crisis. Eddowes described Ivanov as highly aggressive and full of blustering threats to wipe out England and to drop an atomic bomb in the sea 60 miles off New York. According to Eddowes, Hoover immediately ‘instructed’ him to make further enquiries into the security aspects and report back to him.
Washington was now buzzing with as many rumours as had swept London during the height of the scandal, so what happened next was not entirely a surprise. The White House became involved. The most likely explanation for President Kennedy’s sudden interest in the affair is that his brother, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy, told him of the long report from Hoover.
There were then both political and personal reasons for the President’s interest. One was that the scandal could provide Kennedy’s opponents in Congress with ammunition to attack his plans for a multi-nation NATO nuclear force. If Britain was so leaky, why should the US share it’s defence secrets? Another was a call in the Washington News for Kennedy to cancel his scheduled visit to London because it would provide moral support for the foundering Government of Harold Macmillan. ‘We can think of no better time for an American President to stay as far as possible away from England.’
And a third reason, a personal one, was that given Hoover’s animosity for the Kennedy family, the President became concerned that Hoover would somehow use the scandal against him….The only feasible reason for this widespread fascination is that all these people feared that the President of the United States was about to be dragged into the scandal, not on a political level, but on a sexual one…..The reason was that Robert Kennedy was worried that Christine or Mandy, or even both girls, might have slept with the President during their recent visit to the United States and he needed to know for certain so that he could protect the President from the scandal that would follow if the girls blabbed. It would have been simpler for Robert Kennedy to ask his brother if he had slept with either of the girls. But, as we now know, John F. Kennedy’s sexual appetite was so prodigious and so indiscriminate that he would not have been able to remember.
How The English Establishment Framed
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Genre – Politics, Espionage, Scandal
Rating – PG-16
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Connect with Caroline Kennedy on Facebook & Twitter

Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell

* * *

As I lie in bed with these thoughts, I finally notice that Marina has quietly come back into my room and is sitting in the armchair watching me. She offers me some more medicine and I shake my head, “no.” I don’t want to sleep, and I don’t want to be awake. There is no comfort in anything. She says, “Come. We’ll have a nice cup of tea.” And I follow her downstairs and into the kitchen, zombie-like. I watch her with dull eyes that do not see her movements as she opens cupboards and finds a teapot, cups, and tea bags. I listen with deaf ears to her hum a Russian tune. I sit patiently with no patience sipping the tea I cannot taste. In silence, we sit. In silence, we speak without speaking. Marina’s life force wills me to feel her love.

And then she tells me her plan. “Maybe, I’ll stay with you awhile. Nothing back in Brooklyn right now.” I answer, mouthing words that I want to feel and yet cannot feel because I have closed myself off to the emotions of life, “Oh yes, please stay, Marina. I couldn’t bear all this alone.” I’m overwhelmed by her generosity, my loss, and the hidden truths lurking under the surface waiting to be revealed. Then the cordoned off person inside me breaks through all my controls again and unwonted tears erupt in a torrent of suppressed anguish. I am enveloped in her arms and her soothing voice whispers calming words as I try to regain the safety of stoicism.

Marina and I, sisters of a sort, sit together in my huge kitchen, in my huge house, sharing the huge hole in my heart as my tears pour down my face, flowing as if someone has turned on a spigot. Two small souls in a too-big kitchen of a too-big house silently wondering about the business problems of which his lawyer spoke using carefully chosen words somberly executed while his eyes burned with deep meaning. Problems that would have to be sorted out after I finished sitting “Shivah.” How can one cope with all of this? When will I wake up from this nightmare?

Eventually, it is dawn and I must sit on the wooden bench that signifies my mourning as memories cloud the present and I relive a life that is no more.

Sunspots

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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism

Rating – PG-13

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

#Author Deidre Havrelock on #Writing to me is ... @DeidreHavrelock #AmWriting

Writing to me is … what I was created to do.
When I look back on my life, to the first book I scribbled out in grade three: The Bloody Dagger, the story of a man who hides in the shadows, intermittently chopping people up with a long, sharp dagger, I see how I was made to be a writer. Later, in tenth grade, my English teacher pulled me aside and told me I should be a writer because I had a strong imagination—but unfortunately, I didn’t take anything she said seriously. So when she sent me to a writing retreat, I skipped it in order to go shopping for neon t-shirts and those 80s hair scrunchies. After my exorcism (which was in 1992), I immediately wanted to be a writer. As a new Christian, I wanted to follow Jesus and I was being directed (in numerous ways) toward writing. I eventually became consumed with the idea. We lived in the country at the time, and I had recently gone back to college so I could learn how to write a sentence. I remember driving down the twisting, gravel backroads heading off to class thinking, This is it…this is what I’m meant to do! I am meant to write! It was like one of those grand epiphanies. Of course, at the time, I had no idea how much work would be involved in the process.
When I wrote my first chapter for what’s now called Saving Mary: The Possession (the story of how I went and got myself possessed while contacting spirits) and showed the pages to my husband, he was concerned because it was rather dark. I’m a Christian and so sometimes people automatically think I’m going to write lovely, happy thoughts—all the time. But really, life isn’t always lovely or happy. Sometimes it’s dreadfully dark…and for a lot of people it’s overwhelmingly dark. Writing about the darkness isn’t always about glorifying it; it’s about taking it seriously, giving it the attention and the awareness that’s required to deal with it.
Why do I like writing? I like being alone with my thoughts. I like the creativity of finding a new metaphor or description. I like how it’s difficult…so very difficult to get the words right! I like how it takes mounds of figuring in order to get a book organized. Most of all, I like to encourage people to think about things that they may not want to think about, such as: “Hey, do you know who Jesus is? Can I tell you a story about him?—I promise to blow your mind!”
When you read my spiritual memoir Saving Mary: The Possession or my non-fiction Christian book Living…The Testimony, I don’t just want to entertain you or teach you something from the Bible; I want to help you learn about life—especially the spiritual life.
Living the testimony

We testify in accordance with what we know and have experienced.
…It’s time to learn and experience more!

The first book in this thought-provoking series explained how testimony relates to the Bible; this book will help you understand how testimony relates to living. Living…The Testimony will not only encourage Christians to reflect on who they believe Jesus to be (and why they choose to believe this), but it will also correct current misconstrued ideas as to what the Christian testimony is all about.

- a testimony is not about church;
- a testimony is not about God;
- a testimony is not about faith in general terms;
- this book contains numerous testimonies that will strengthen your faith in Jesus.

A strong Christian testimony is one that continually grows in the knowledge of Jesus, continually shares that knowledge boldly, while at the same time performs good works based on Jesus’ teaching of love—all while abstaining from works of darkness.

Because a biblical testimony deals not only with our belief system, but also with the way we conduct our whole lives, our Christian testimony becomes our most valuable asset. It is life itself.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Christian Living
Rating – G
More details about the author
Connect with Deidre Havrelock on Twitter
This book will be on sale for $0.99 during the tour

Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox @Kindleexpert #Free #Memoir #Kindle


Showtime at the Apollo is the definitive history of Harlem’s world-famous showplace. Home to nearly every great black star including: James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor, Gladys Knight, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Redd Foxx, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn and “Bojangles” Robinson, – the theater still hosts contemporary luminaries like The Roots, Mary J. Blige, Chris Rock, Wynton Marsalis and Whoopi Goldberg. Numerous performers relate their own poignant, exciting and sometimes hilarious stories. Some 150 photographs – many never before published – are interspersed throughout.

For African-Americans, the Apollo was the greatest black theater, and a special place to come of age. For whites – including Elvis Presley and the Beatles – the Apollo was as close as they could come to the reality of the black experience.

Still thriving, the Apollo has exerted an unprecedented influence upon popular culture. Since 1934, the Apollo has been at the forefront of African-American music, dance and comedy. It’s legendary Amateur Night spawned countless stars. Renowned for having the world’s toughest and most appreciative audience, it is the place where, as Dionne Warwick says in the book,

“Everyone gave their best performance".

"The essential book, mandatory for the most casual student as well as the most ardent fan." – David Hinckley, Daily News

"Ted Fox made the Apollo come alive for me again."– Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records

"Ted Fox mows through the 20th century's mind blowing cavalcade of segregation byproduct, inhumanity producing creative transcendence. The survivors of the era provide Fox with a front-line document." - Raoul Hernandez, Austin Chronicle

"A wonderful book." – Tavis Smiley, National Public Radio

"I could almost feel and taste the Apollo again." – Doc Pomus, classic songwriter

"The definitive history of Harlem’s (and black America’s) essential theater." – New York Magazine

"Showtime at the Apollo is not only a history of that wonderful theatre, but also a fascinating insider’s view of the Harlem music scene." – John Hammond, legendary producer and talent scout

TED FOX is also the author of In The Groove a collection of interviews with men who have shaped the music industry. He produces and manages Grammy-winner Buckwheat Zydeco and lives in upstate New York.

Showtime at the Apollo by Ted Fox
Rating – PG
Genre – Music History & Criticism
4.8 (7 reviews)
Free until 24 January 2014

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Make Your Characters Believable – Shanna Hatfield @ShannaHatfield #thechristmascowboy

How to Make Your Characters Believable

My mother gave me a love of reading at an early age when she’d sit on my bed and read books to me. I’ve always been drawn to the characters in stories more than anything else. It’s the way people think and feel, the things they say and do that fascinate me. When I began writing, I knew if I did nothing else right I wanted to develop characters that seem real, have depth and dimension.

One of the best ways to make characters believable is to make them realistic. Create a character that could be a friend or someone you pass on the street.

For me, the process begins by visualizing my characters. I’m a very visual person and I need to “see” my characters before I really get into developing them. I search online until I find a face I can put with my ideas for a character. Sometimes the inspiration comes from an actor or someone in the news. A few family members have even served as unsuspecting character models.

Once I’ve got a clear picture of my character’s appearance, I begin fleshing them out. How tall are they, what is their build? What do they smell like? How do they speak? What does their voice sound like? What does their laugh sound like? What mannerisms are uniquely theirs (cracking knuckles, drumming fingers, humming). Detail everything about their physical presence you can.

After their outward appearance is complete, delve into their inner workings. What makes them tick? Are they insecure? Confident? Happy? Haunted? Are they emotional? Are they friendly or aloof? What makes them smile? What brings them to tears?

Pretend you’ve just met an interesting person you want to get to know and he is willing to answer any question you ask. Then ask those questions of your character.

Another thing I’ve found helpful is studying the profession of my characters. I research whatever work my main characters pursue so I can write about it from a more realistic standpoint.

In my latest contemporary romance, The Christmas Cowboy, the hero is a saddle bronc rider. I grew up going to rodeos and around cowboys, but I spent hours watching YouTube videos of saddle bronc riders because it helped me capture the little details that make my character authentic.

Dialogue is also so important and can be a deal-breaker if you don’t get it right. A rodeo cowboy isn’t going to speak with stiff formality. Someone in 1893 isn’t going to say, “hey, dude, you nailed it.” Think about your character, where they are both in their life and in a physical sense, and construct their thoughts and words accordingly.

As you tell the character’s story, let them creep into your mind, seep into your soul, and take up residence there while you write. Both you and your characters will be better for the experience.

***

For more details about The Christmas Cowboy, visit The Christmas Cowboy page on Shanna’s website. From December 1-24, Shanna will donate 10% of her net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.

Find The Christmas Cowboy, and her other books at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Follow Shanna online: ShannaHatfield | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | You Tube

Author Bio: Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with Captain Cavedweller, she writes clean romantic fiction with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America.

The Christmas Cowboy

"10% of the net proceeds from all my book sales December 1-24 will be donated to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund®"

Flying from city to city in her job as a busy corporate trainer for a successful direct sales company, Kenzie Beckett doesn’t have time for a man. And most certainly not for the handsome cowboy she keeps running into at the airport. Burned twice, she doesn’t trust anyone wearing boots and Wranglers, especially someone as charming and handsome as Tate Morgan.

Among the top saddle bronc riders in the rodeo circuit, easy-going Tate Morgan can handle the toughest horse out there, but trying to deal with the beautiful Kenzie Beckett is a completely different story.

As the holiday season approaches, this Christmas Cowboy is going to need to pull out all the stops if he wants a chance at winning her heart.

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Genre – Romance (contemporary western)

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with Shanna Hatfield on Facebook and Twitter

Website http://shannahatfield.com

Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

Order of the Seers by Cerece Rennie Murphy @CereceRMurphy

Chapter 1: The End

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Liam was losing his patience. “Aw, come on! Are you serious? You can’t want to ride this thing again!”

Instead of answering her older brother, Lilli remained in her seat as the Ferris wheel conductor looked on expectantly, hand outstretched and waiting for another two tokens.

The way Lilli’s skinny arms hugged her book bag while she stared blankly at the pressed metal floor of their “Fairy Land Caboose” made it hard for Liam to stay angry. The sight of her looking so dejected softened him enough to give the conductor his fifth set of tokens in less than 45 minutes. Liam settled back into his seat just as the lap bar clamped down uncomfortably against his thighs.

“Lilli, say something. Why’d you drag me out here if you were just gonna sulk? I hate the carnival, you know that.”

“I know something… okay? Just… trust me. We have to stay here.” Her voice was so low he could barely hear her over the wind-up music that was blaring from the overhead speakers.

“Did Mom say something to you?”

Lilli responded to his question with silence and a barely discernable shake of her head back and forth. He tried again.

“Lilli! Did Mom…?”

“Yes,” she snapped.

They both fell silent again as Liam took in the latest weird thing of the day. Lilith Knight, or Lilli as she preferred to be called, had always been strange. Even when she was five, she could beat Liam at chess lazily, without even thinking about it. She would find things and give them to you before you asked for them. Before you, or even she, knew why. Up until recently, he thought she was just a freak. No biggie. All little sisters are like that, he told himself.

It was only in the past few months that his perception of her began to shift, after her prediction that he would catch his new girlfriend, Krista, kissing his teammate Lance in the locker room after their championship game. At the time, he’d brushed off her premonition as meddling. Krista wasn’t even his girlfriend and his team was 1-1 with the whole basketball season ahead of them.

He’d forgotten her warning completely until two months later when he ran back into the locker room after winning the championship to get the jacket he’d left behind and immediately smelled Krista’s perfume. When he found them, two thoughts overshadowed the scene unfolding in front of him. The first was that what they were doing wasn’t really “kissing,” though he could see how a sheltered thirteen-year-old would describe it that way. His second thought was that Lilli was right; she was exactly right. He was so stunned by Lilli’s accuracy that he didn’t even bother to disturb them, leaving his new ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to their business. From that moment, Liam understood that Lilli wasn’t just a freak, or more accurately, that she wasn’t a freak at all. She was special…gifted.

The sound of Lilli’s sniffling followed by the trembling of her body as she began to cry uncontrollably broke the long silence that had fallen between them. What the…, Liam half-mumbled as his mind swung from irritation to absolute bewilderment. Slowly and deliberately, Liam moved his palms down the front of his face as he fought the urge to shake the truth right out of her and end whatever this was. But he couldn’t. She’s so brittle already, he thought, without any idea as to why. So instead, he reached out to envelop his sister in his arms, trying to soothe her and comfort her from some unknown force.

“Lilli, it’s all right. I’m sorry, okay? Don’t cry. Just… tell me what’s going on. Why are we here?”

He tried to wait patiently, to rein in the confusion and frustration that had been piercing through the calm day he had planned for himself when he woke up that morning, as cool and carefree as any sixteen-year-old boy. It was Lilli who had dragged him out of the house before he could even wolf down his second bowl of Honeycombs. “Mom said you have to take me to the carnival. NOW!” She had demanded.

He had started to head upstairs to launch his appeal when his eye caught his mother’s note on the refrigerator door. “Take Lilli to the fair. NOW.—Love, Mom,” it read. He knew that meant his mother had left the house early; there was no appeal to be made. Begrudgingly, he slipped on his sneakers and grabbed the car keys, all the while wondering if Lilli was still too young to be left at the fair by herself.

His earlier thoughts of abandonment brought him back to his sister’s form beside him. Not knowing what else to do, Liam simply held her tight as her convulsing turned to trembling, and finally, back to stillness. At the top of the Ferris wheel, she finally spoke.

“It’s over now, we can go home,” she whispered. But as impatient for answers and a reprieve from big brother duties as he was, Liam knew that it was not over. The emotionless tone in her voice scared him. It made him want to stay on the Ferris wheel he’d been begging to get off of a few short minutes ago. As the music died down and their feet got closer to the ground, he suddenly felt conflicting urges to stay where he was and to rush home to his mother. As the ride came to a stop, he suddenly realized with profound certainty that this was much more than one of Lilli’s “episodes.” Something was very, very wrong.

When Liam pulled his father’s green 2002 Saab in front of their small brick house, everything seemed as it always did—quiet and predictable in their modest yet comfortable home. They had lived in a much bigger house before his father died, but Liam never minded sharing a bathroom with his mother and sister. All the toys and trinkets that had mattered to him when he was a child were rendered insignificant the moment his mother told him that his father would never come home again. As he got out of the car and began to take the front steps two at a time, he noticed that Lilli had stopped at the tree stump his mother had cut down the week before. Sitting down, her eyes remained on the ground. Just as his mouth formed the shape of a question, she spoke.

“No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

Liam didn’t stop to ask what she meant. Whatever she meant, he was sure it was worse than he thought. He tried to hold back the swell of fear in his chest as he ran to the front door, but his emotions spun out of control the moment he tested the front door knob and found it opened—easily. They never left the front door unlocked.

When he stepped into the house, he actually felt the life, the person he had been, rush past him and out the door as his eyes took in the overturned, splintered remains of their living room. It was a feeling he’d felt only once before, when his father died. But what made it worse, what made it permanent, was lying in the middle of the floor, with its contents thrown everywhere. It was his mother’s purse, which had not been there when he left that morning.

“Mom!” he shouted as he raced up the stairs to her room. “Mom. Please!” he shouted again, but no one answered. In every room he looked, it was the same - scattered clothes, broken mirrors, and silence—a deafening silence that rang louder than the sound of his own shallow breathing.

If he took the stairs at lightning speed to make it to the second floor, an age could have passed during his descent. The entire house consisted of three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and a small open dining area that you could see clearly from the front door. As he walked down the steps, he knew there was only one room left to check. His mind was frozen on what to hope for as his hand reached the end of the banister. If she wasn’t in the kitchen, she might have been taken, but at least there was a chance she was still alive. If she was in the kitchen, it was unthinkable.

Lilli’s words came to him just as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen.

No, you go. I can’t see it again.”

He found his mother sitting with her feet planted on the floor, shoulder width apart, bright eyes open and cast to the ceiling, with a hole blown through the middle of her chest.

Liam braced himself against the door frame as he began to sob, the sounds seemingly emanating from a place far away from where he stood. He could not look away from the horrific image before him, the last image of his mother. He stood there with wide-eyed and tear-stained pain as the last measure of his youth drained from him like blood rushing from an open vein. When it was done, his body slid to the ground.

We are alone, he thought. There’s no one left.

Ever since his father had died, Liam lived in fear that one day he would lose her. Unable to tear his eyes away from her body, he could hear her vehemently denying that there would ever be a time when she wasn’t with them. “Never,” she would say.

Never, he thought, has finally come.

Though Liam had been staring at her body since he entered the kitchen, he had not seen the gun in her hand until he noticed a fly land on it. Years of training to keep the gun out of Lilli’s sight made him jump to his feet until he remembered that Lilli was still outside. He knew the gun well; it was his mother’s. She had taught him how to use it and to keep it out of Lilli’s reach when she was small.

At first his mind could not decipher the meaning of the scene before him. Was he meant to believe that she did this to herself? Why would the people who broke into their house ransack the place and then try to make it look like a suicide? But he couldn’t think straight, couldn’t figure out the logic or the answer to any of the crazy questions running through his mind. Why would she kill herself? He was sure the answers were obvious; he just wasn’t making sense. None of this was making any sense.

His confusion caused him to draw closer to her body. Kneeling down beside his mother, Liam took the lifeless hand that dangled at her side, the one that was not holding the gun. Though his eyes were still filled with tears, they were no longer breaking through the barriers of his lower lids. This momentary fortitude allowed him to have the courage to look directly into her face and see her open smile. The sight of it knocked him down and back into the base cabinets. She was smiling. She was smiling, he thought. She had known what was coming, and she was smiling.

Suddenly, he remembered his mother’s constant warning every time they went to the shooting range. “Don’t pick up a gun unless you mean to use it. There can be no hesitation. Do you understand me?” she would ask him sternly. Liam knew Jill Knight was skilled at using a firearm. If she had a chance to draw her gun, no one could take it from her. The implications made him immediately sick and angry before their full meaning could even register.

As if retching the contents of his stomach into the kitchen sink made room for clarity, he suddenly understood the reason behind her smile. She had killed herself. She had done this to herself, on purpose. He threw up again in a wave of protest at the notion that she would abandon them, even as the resentment of her betrayal took root. When he was done, he didn’t want to turn around, didn’t want to face her.

How could she do this? She wouldn’t do this. She promised.

Holding himself up at the sink, his thoughts turned to Lilli. Is this what she saw?, he wondered, fighting a new wave of nausea. No wonder she cried like that. No wonder… Rather than try to sort out the conflict of thoughts and emotions inside him, he decided to check on Lilli and make sure that she remained outside while he tried to figure out what to do next.

As he peered over his shoulder toward the doorway, his eyes caught the folded cuff of his mother’s sweatshirt, which was turquoise save for the blood, and a little corner of white paper that was peeking out. He knew his mother hid things in the cuff of her sleeve all the time; it was one of the many old lady habits Liam enjoyed teasing her about. He stared at the white edge of paper for a long time, warring with his own feelings of anger and grief before simple curiosity forced him to bend down and retrieve it. As his fingers curved around the edge of her sleeve, he could feel something flat and hard inside. When he rolled down her sleeve to get it, the key to his gym locker at school slipped out before he could fully unroll the note. When he did, it unleashed a new avalanche of questions upon heartbreak over questions.

In his mother’s tiny cursive handwriting, the note read, ‘Go now. Protect her.’ Liam felt a new level of understanding peel back in his mind as he read her note again. He began to see the very real possibility that perhaps his mother had not wanted to do this to herself. Perhaps she was forced by the same people who came into their home. The same people who she wanted him to protect Lilli from now. Liam grabbed the key off the floor before rising to meet his mother’s eyes one last time. They looked so different from how they had even two minutes ago and held so much he couldn’t understand, couldn’t handle right now. He closed his eyes and softly kissed her on her forehead before running out of his home for what he knew would be the last time.

Liam closed the front door behind him and turned to find Lilli sitting exactly where he left her twenty minutes before. He had only two objectives at that point - making sure that she was safe, and getting the hell out of there. As Liam scanned the neighborhood for anything suspicious, he took in the studied quiet of his block. There was no one on the street at 11:23 am on a beautiful Sunday morning. Where is everyone, he wondered, suddenly wary of the neighbors with whom he had grown up. How had no one heard the gunshot? Why didn’t anyone call the police?

The tremor in his neighbors’ curtains gave credence to the sensation that they were being watched, but no one would step outside to help them. This realization came over him with a bitterness that cast itself over all the sorrow he held inside. They had all been witnesses, he guessed, but they would no longer be friends.

Watching Liam as he crossed the small front lawn to reach her, Lilli was struck by how much older her brother looked compared to just a few hours ago. Though his straight black hair hung as sloppy and heavy as it always did over his blue-green eyes, there was none of the playful nonchalance that usually characterized her brother’s disposition. His hair was slick, spiked, and jet black with sweat, and it framed the angles of his face in a way that made her easy-going brother look cold and menacing. But it wasn’t a surprise, Lilli could see everything Liam felt on his face—anger, sorrow, betrayal, and a ferocity emerging that she did not understand. Seeing her brother so unlike himself made Lilli’s face crumple in agony as she trembled under the weight of her own choices.

“I’m sorry, Liam,” she begged in between sobs. “I know you’re mad at me for not telling you. Mom told me that if I did, they would kill you. She said I had to be strong enough… strong enough to save you.”

“Shhh, Lilli. It’s all right. We’ll talk about this later. Don’t cry. Shhh.”

Lilli knew Liam meant his response to be soothing, but his words came out cold, devoid of any life or feeling behind them. When she looked up to search his face and understand the hollowness in his voice, she found him scanning the street with the same look of fierceness. Something in the clenched set of his jaw made her finally understand. He was determined, to keep her alive, to protect the only family he had left.

“We need to go,” he said, as he led her to the car.

“Where?”

“I don’t know, Lilli. I don’t know.”

Order of the Seers

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – NC-17

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Website http://www.crmurphybooks.com

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Sovereign Order of Monte Cristo by Holy Ghost Writer @SultanOfSalem

After the much-needed bath, Dantes puts on his dressing gown and lies down on his old bed, which he finds deeply comforting. He has played and traveled hard over the past few busy years, and he knows it has worn on him; there is more silver in his hair than before. He hopes to slow down soon, for he loves his new home with his family close by and misses them terribly. The sweet, baby faces of his daughters loom in the darkness of his closed eyes. How blessed he is! He resolves to enjoy Paris while he is here, though. He wants to go to the opera while he is in town and also visit a few of his favorite haunts. Finally, he falls fast asleep, only to awaken to a servant telling him the meal is nearly ready.
The servant helps Dantes dress and leads him to the dining room.
“The table looks divine,” Dantes says, thinking how nice it is to be out of his traveling clothes and into something more refined. He looks at the spread before him—fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as two huge pheasants with mint jelly. The yeasty smell of homemade bread fills the air and makes his mouth water.
“I hope this pleases you, sir,” Valentine tells him. “I know the food in America is quite different. Perhaps you have become too accustomed to their fare to appreciate ours.”
“Oh, nothing can compare to a good French meal, although American food has its own charms. When the baby is old enough to travel, you will all have to visit my estate in Georgia. It’s a different world, but one I believe you will enjoy,” Dantes tells them.
Just then, he hears the creak of a wheelchair. In comes M. Noirtier. Dantes rushes over to him and bids him hello.
“My old friend!” he says. “My heart fills with joy to see you—let us enjoy this magnificent feast as well as one another’s company.”
The next morning, Dantes plans to visit more of his old friends, at least those who still reside in Paris. A carriage awaits him in the hazy light of dawn, and he is flooded with memories as he drives through the streets. He wishes Mercedes and Haydee could be at his side, but knows his daughters are far too young for such travel; it would exhaust them.
Holy Ghost Writer
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Genre – Action, Adventure
Rating – PG-15
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tales of Mi7: The Kramski Case by J.J. Ward @MI7Ward

Chapter 1: Them Ol’ Paparazzi Blues

Kendal, Cumbria.

Someone called Jilly’s name, then the name of her band, Four Girls on Fire. At first, she thought she was dreaming – they’d just won the nation’s biggest talent show all over again, and from now on, life was going to be really amazing! - then her stomach turned over.

She disengaged herself from Rob, got out of bed and went to the window. Bloody hell, yes, down in the narrow cobbled street that fronted the guest-house. Paparazzi, sixteen or seventeen of them, all men, full of last night’s chip fat and strip-club testosterone, leering up at the net curtain like they could see through it. She swallowed.

The other girls had warned her about dating a member of a boy band, but only tongue in cheek. Twice the publicity, babes, sure you can handle that? She couldn’t help herself, though. Two years ago he’d been her hero and she’d been a nobody. Now they were equals.

“They’ve found us,” she told him.

Rob stretched and yawned. He discarded the bedclothes, picked up his boxer shorts and put his foot in one leg. “The press?”

“You don’t seem very bothered.”

“You were bloody brilliant last night, Jilly.”

“How did they know we were here?”

“I mean it. Outstanding.”

She realised she didn’t even like him much. “Did you tell them?”

“Me?”

“Wake up, Rob! It’s the press! I said the press have found us!”

He pulled on his boxers and put his arms round her. She disengaged herself, plonked herself at the dressing table and brushed her long brown hair, pulling halfway down as if it was full of knots. She was trying to stop herself shaking.

“Anyone could have told them,” he said. “It definitely wasn’t me, babe.”

“Put your clothes on. We’re leaving.”

“Why? They can’t get in here.”

She fished her bra from the pile of clothes on the floor and put it on. “We’re in the bloody Lake District, Rob. We’re supposed to be miles from anywhere. How did they find us so quickly?”

She looked round the room: the plaid curtains, the beds with valances, the 1920s lampshades, all the varnished wooden surfaces, so unlike the places she always stayed when she was touring with the girls. She’d fallen in love with it at first sight. She’d been drunk, true, but she’d never wanted to leave.

Rob pulled his socks and T-shirt on then looked at her. “You’re not frightened, are you?”

“They’ve probably got the place surrounded. And yes. Yes, I am frightened.”

“We’ll just call a taxi. We can be downstairs and in the car before anyone knows it.”

“I’m not bothered about us, Rob. I’m bothered about them.” Tights, tights, where were her bloody tights?

“‘Them’?”

“Yeah, ‘them’. The photographers, journalists, whatever they call themselves. Them!”

He laughed. “First time anyone’s cared what happens to paparazzi. Anyway, what could happen to them?”

“Haven’t you been watching the news recently? Are you really that self-obsessed?”

“Hey, now - ”

“Four photographers shot dead in four weeks. Following Bobby Keynes, Zane Cruse, Mikey from Bad Lads Zero, Stallone Laine - ”

“No such thing as bad publicity, from what I hear. Not that you need it, girl, but it won’t hurt. Besides, they’re all douche bags, right?”

She pulled her dress on and smoothed the waist. She’d had enough now. She wanted out. Of everything. “I misjudged you, Rob. They’re still human beings.”

“No, they ain’t. Anyway, what are the chances?”

“I don’t want to think about it.”

He picked up the telephone. “Is that reception? Hi, yeah … Room …”

“Fourteen,” Jilly said.

“Fourteen. Could you get a taxi pronto for me and the shorty? And fetch us the bill for the room? … Yeah, we’re leaving … Yeah, all good things have to come to an end sooner or later … Yeah, we’re disappointed too.” He put his hand over the receiver. “She knows us,” he told Jilly. “It’ll be her that told the reporters.”

“Bitch.”

He put the phone down. “About fifteen minutes. Get your face on, gorgeous.”

“I’m not waiting for her taxi to come, Rob. Not if she’s with them. I’ll get my own. There’s a rank down the road. Come on.”

“What about your make-up?”

She rammed a pair of sunglasses on and picked up her travel bag. He followed her downstairs. They didn’t stop at reception. Rob reached into his wallet, pulled out four fifties and thrust them at Mrs whatever-she-was-called, the proprietress. “Keep the change.”

Suddenly, they were out on the street. Paparazzi to their right, shouting Jilly. Jilly take off your shades, Jilly flick your hair, Jilly wave, Jilly smile, Jilly stop, who’s that with Jilly, that’s Rob from Simply Boyz, Rob give us a smile, Rob –

She took off her glasses, grabbed Rob’s hand and turned left and accelerated. She almost changed direction. There was a loud crack and she jumped like she’d been hit.

Behind them, the paparazzi roared. One of them – a photographer, about twenty-five - lay prostrate and bloody. Four others photographed him, ten or twelve were in full flight, one was trying to get a signal on his mobile. No one was interested in Jilly and Rob any more.

Rob looked at them then at her. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”

Jilly started screaming.

Tales of MI7

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Genre – Espionage Thriller

Rating – PG

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Shelf Life: The Publicist, Book Two by Christina George @publicistgal

Chapter Two

Mac leaned back in his chair and observed Rebecca, a fellow editor, as she walked in and sat down.

“So how is it to be back?” he smiled, knowing the answer.

“It’s hard to leave a newborn,” she sighed. “It’s even harder when the minute I get back to work, Edward’s insisting we sign nothing but porn.”

Mac laughed, “Well, he tactfully called it ‘erotic romance’ but yeah, same thing.”

Rebecca rolled her eyes, “I hate Fifty Shades. Well, I hate what it’s doing to the industry. This hideously written book is being marked as a game-changer. I have to wonder if anyone who actually read the book said this. It was a repetitive and boring pile of crap. I want more literature. I was hoping to come back and do more children’s books and instead I’m ‘encouraged’ to sign porn.”

Mac spotted Kate walking past his office, “Katie, come in and say hi to Rebecca. She’s back from maternity leave and mad as hell.” Mac’s light blue eyes were on her; as usual, she heated up instantly. A smile rose from his lips, crinkling those eyes set off by his dark, thick hair. She wished she could run her fingers through it.

Pull yourself together, she thought. She took a deep breath, walked in, and sat down.

“Good to see you back. You’re not mad at me, are you? Chelsea did great this morning.” Mac’s eyes were still on her, burning into her. Kate shifted in her seat.

Chelsea was one of Rebecca’s authors, Kate wondered if she should tell her that she had to drug her up. It looked like her coworker had enough on her mind; Kate decided to wait to share Chelsea’s fear of national television.

Rebecca shook her head, “It’s not Chels, though I do appreciate the update. It’s the memo Edward sent around this morning.”

“I didn’t see it.” Kate was puzzled.

“It only went to editors,” Mac began, “encouraging us to sign more erotic books. ‘It’s what the readers want,’ Edward insisted.” Mac tapped a pen on his desk, clearly impatient with his boss.

“Shocker.” Kate threw Rebecca an encouraging smile, “I’m sorry, but you know this will wane. At some point housewives will get tired of reading about red rooms and being tied up.”

Rebecca laughed, “You’re right, I know we need to jump on trends. It was one thing when we were trying to sign young adult after the Potter craze, but this takes the cake.”

“I know,” Mac said supportively, “but you know Kate’s right. Edward will lose interest once something else shiny pops up on his radar screen.”

Rebecca stood, “You’re right, Mac, thanks for listening.” She turned to Kate. “Glad it went well with Chels this morning, I’ll catch her segment online.”

After Rebecca left, Mac turned to Kate. “So,” he smiled a broad sexy smile that drew her in, “how did it really go this morning?”

Mac observed a tiny muscle flicker near her eye. It always happened when she was stressed. She’d smile, her poise never wavering, but Mac knew. He could always tell when she was feeling ready to punch someone.

“I had to drug her to get her to go on. Her manager told me that she gets nervous from time to time, but it’s nothing major. Nothing major my ass! She was in a full-blown meltdown and there I was, shoving a pill under the door.”

Mac laughed so hard, he rocked his chair back. “Katie, world class publicist and author rescuer saves the day, again.”

A tiny smile slipped across her face. Mac was right; she was often less of a publicist and more of an author 911. She shook her head. “I have to call her manager and tell her that she’s either here for the rest of Chelsea’s TV gigs, or I’m pulling them. I barely got her to go on air this morning.”

“I think as a general rule, all authors should be sedated from the moment we sign them.”

Kate stood up. “It sure would make my job easier.”

Mac’s laughter followed her down the hall.

ShelfLife

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Genre – Contemporary Romance

Rating – R

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Icarus Rising by Rob Manary @robmanary

Thursday, Day 4

I’ve decided to leave for Toronto tonight. After hearing Wayne’s report I might have left immediately, I am that taken with St. Claire, but guilt holds me here. I visit my sister, Elise, each week without fail, but I doubt she would realize if I have missed a week, or indeed if I never visited her again.

My mother was “not well” is how it is politely put. My earliest memory is of scalding hot water and the stink of bleach. I remember vividly my mother pouring bleach on my tender young skin and scrubbing my hands raw with a wire brush. “Dirty, so dirty, how do you get so dirty?” she would intone over and over again as she flayed the skin from my hands. I would cry out in agony and Elise, my saviour, my older sister, would come to my rescue.

I can hear her shaky, terrified little voice as she interceded on my behalf. “Mother,” she would say in that weak voice, struggling to be strong for me, to take the pain from her younger brother. “Look at my hands. I’m filthy, so dirty.”

Mother would drop my hands and appraise Elise as my sister held out her hands to Mother for inspection. Elise was my Christ. But Mother didn’t stop with Elise’s hands. Mother would also attack Elise’s beautiful sweet face with the wire brush and scrub raw her porcelain skin.

This terrible ritual seemed to bring Mother to a cathartic release of sorts. Realizing at last what she had done to her children she would hold us close and weep, begging us for forgiveness, promising to never lay a hand on us again. And then she would take to her bed for weeks or months. Her “lazy days” is what she called them and how thankful I was when they would come.

Home was a sprawling twelve bedroom prison to me. Most of the rooms were never used and we were not allowed to go into much of the house. At night I was tied to my bed, and there were days when Mother would leave me restrained, days when I would scream and scream because I didn’t want to empty my bowels and be left in my own excrement.  Mother kept the place like a museum. Her husband, my father, left her before I was born. Elise told me years later that Mother thought her love would one day come home and she must keep the house as he left it.

We had two servants that served the family faithfully for decades, a married couple, Charles and Abigail. They served my grandmother before my mother inherited the family estate and by all accounts my grandmother was, like my mother, “not well.” They were, therefore, accustomed to my painfully eccentric family. They were kind to Elise and me, but kept silent about what went on under the roof of their long time employers.

I’ve never blamed them. They lived in the little cottage house on the grounds, were paid little, and were already advanced in age when I was young. I don’t think either can read or write and serving our family was all they knew. They must be in their late seventies now and they still live in their little cottage house on the grounds of what is now my estate, I suppose. They care for my museum prison.  I pay them well and Abigail keeps the place spotless for visitors that will never come. Charles, I am told, still maintains gardens that are the envy of the neighbourhood. They were kind to Elise and me so I am kind to them.

My fondest memories are of working in the garden with Charles when Mother had her “lazy days” and of sitting in the kitchen and listening to Abigail sing as she prepared elaborate meals that only my sister and I would eat.

When Mother began wandering the halls of the estate in her faded and tattered wedding gown, cradling a shotgun, Abigail was finally moved to call the police.

icarusRisingPhotoCover_test 

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Genre – Erotic Romance

Rating – R

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Website http://robmanary.com/

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

AFN Clarke – Things They Never Tell You @AFNClarke

Things They Never Tell You About Becoming A Published Author
by AFN Clarke
When someone asks “what do you do?” and I say “I’m an author”, invariably the response is “wow, it must be great to just sit and write all day”.  And of course I nod, but I secretly think “if only you really knew!”
Am I happy to be a writer?  Of course I am.  Am I bursting with creative energy that’s ready to flow onto the page effortlessly giving life to what is sure be the next best seller every day? In my dreams!  So I got to thinking, what are the 10 things that I didn’t know about becoming a published author that I’ve learned the hard way?
1.    Published authors have the privilege of developing really thick skulls.
Who else would work long hours with little sleep, no money, get rejected a million times and drag loved ones through hell and back to just hear that one precious word “yes”.  Our bubble of denial and refusal to see reason actually cultivates miracles – how cool is that?
2.    When people like what you write, they’ll only sometimes tell you so.
We are insecure, sensitive creatures who though we staunchly deny it, measure our own self-worth through someone else’s eyes.  Positive feedback is like life support – so if you like my work put me out of my misery and tell me, so I don’t end up a blabbering mess of insecurity.
3.    When people don’t like what you write, there’s no stopping them telling you so.
My big “aha” is that the moment a writer commits words to paper he/she becomes public property – a target to be criticized, loved, praised, or condemned a hundred times over. Live with it! I wrote my thriller An Unquiet American with a very politically provocative premise that dramatically escalates tension in the book  - and also some people’s blood pressure!  So be it, at least it’s generating heated discussions for them as much with those who love it – isn’t that the point?  It’s all a matter of attitude.
4.    Fame and success erase your battle scars but also common sense.
My first book CONTACT was a best seller. I was on TV, in the newspaper, and felt invincible. When the limelight faded my publisher asked “where’s your next book?” “What book?” Oops, wrong answer!  That rookie mistake took years to correct – so while the fans are still cheering take a bow, stick your ego in a box and quietly get back to work.
5.    You will take your partner to the brink of madness.
After all these years, my wife deserves a medal. As with most authors I can be a self-indulgent hermit who’s rarely truly “present”.  When writing I live in a parallel universe that only intersects hers at mealtimes at best. When I’m not writing I’m grumpy, as I’m upset I’m not writing. So authors – if anyone puts up with you, cherish adore and love them, because they’re a rare species.
6.    Those pesky 140 characters will take you to the brink of madness.
Here’s the deal Twitter – my latest thriller The Orange Moon Affair has 479,180 characters and you want me to do what?  Be meaningful in 140?  You’ve got to be kidding right?
And of course I’m running out of characters already – so here are learnings 7, 8, 9, and 10:
7.    You’ll become best friends with loads of people that you never even get to meet.
8.    You’ll learn to see the silly side of everything life throws at you.
9.    You’ll get to face your greatest fears, reveal the inner depths of your soul, open your heart and mind, become totally vulnerable, learn about things you never heard of and chase your wildest dreams.
10.  And if you learn to get over yourself, you’ll live through it all to celebrate the most wonderfully satisfying and richly rewarding times of your life.
Being an author rocks!
AFN CLARKE is the son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served in the British Army and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war.  His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humor. He now writes fiction of various genres – thrillers (The Orange Moon Affair and An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas), humor/satire (Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon), horror (Collisions) with more coming soon.  For more information visit http://www.afnclarke.com, connect on Facebook or Twitter (@AFN Clarke).
THE JONAS TRUST DECEPTION
The Jonas Trust Deception, another Thomas Gunn thriller by bestselling author AFN Clarke, follows The Orange Moon Affair, a “hard to put down”, “5-star novel by a 5-star author”. Thomas (ex-Special Forces) goes on high alert after a desperate message from his journalist friend, Morgan. She’s in danger. But where? And why? Rushing to her ranch he finds it being torn apart by a highly-trained female assassin of East European descent, with a mysterious butterfly tattoo on her neck. An image that sends his mind reeling. Dread seeping into his soul.
In her ongoing investigations, Morgan may have uncovered something even more explosive and far-reaching than the Orange Moon conspiracy.  If so, her enemies will want both her and her information destroyed. Racing to follow tangled leads, Thomas and his girlfriend Julie are thrust into the deadly path of Mexican drug cartels, corrupt politicians, unscrupulous financial brokers like Jonas T Purdue, the FBI, the UK intelligence services and their arch nemesis Marika Keskk├╝la. What deception binds these unlikely “players” together? What’s their power struggle really about? And even more personally disturbing, why the constant links back to a secret mission in Afghanistan, that Thomas has tried so hard to forget?
Outraged by the feeling of constantly being “played”, Thomas decides to turn the tables on the faceless “puppeteers” by taking an action so bold, so dangerous, and so unexpected, that even his team fear he’s lost his mind. Has he? Or can he expose the “vermin” at the top and finally eliminate them forever?
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunspots by Karen S. Bell @KarenSueBell

As soon as we entered, he morphed into the perfect host and made himself busy taking my bags out of the way. He said please sit down, get comfortable, take off your shoes. That sort of thing. He offered a drink. I sipped slowly, grateful for the distraction and looked at the view. He turned on music and joined me on the sofa. Was this his normal routine? He sat beside me close. He pulled me to him, closer. He swallowed my eyes with his. He took the drink out of my grip. We kissed passionately for several minutes. Then he led me hurriedly to the bedroom still kissing me, me kissing him, he kissing me in a furious manifestation of lust. Misgivings? What misgivings? Doubts? What doubts? I was on fire but still noticed the 1000 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, silk duvet, hand-carved teakwood bed. Custom drapes, recessed lighting, brass lamps. I thought of my dumpy apartment. I thought of my mother’s dumpy apartment. I thought of all the cautionary tales of dallying or marrying above your class like Forever Amber, Vanity Fair, and Edith Wharton’s Undine Sprague in Custom of the Country. And then I thought of My Fair Lady, Pretty Woman, An Officer and a Gentleman. And then he expertly brought my arousal to new heights…and I finally stopped thinking.
We made love with an intensity and earnestness that ripped away the outer world as we created a tempest of sensual pleasure. Later, in an exhausted heap, we lay close and he became gentle rubbing my arm and kissing the top of my head. He spoke softly, assuring me, “Aurora, I love you so. Don’t worry about anything, darlin’. You’ll come to love it here. You’ll see. You belong here with me. Look at me.” And he looked deep into my eyes and said, “Your eyes are so beautiful. They remind me of a deep clear lake and you should live near lakes,” he whispered. “I could get lost in your eyes,” and he kissed my eyelids and I began to accept the truth of his love. Kissing my mouth gently, he breathed these words, “Your mouth is like a wildflower in bloom and you should live among wildflowers. I could kiss your mouth forever.” And then he ran his fingers up and down my arm while saying, “Your skin is as soft as the yellow rose of Texas and I will cherish the gift of touching it for the rest of my life. You were meant to be here, Aurora, here with me.”
I believed him. I did belong here… with him…with Jake Stein…Mrs. Jacob Stein. Here in the blistering heat and bats’ haven. Here where cedar trees pollinate all year and make allergy doctors wealthy. Here where mild salsa is an oxymoron. Because Jake was here. And we kissed and kissed and got lost in each other’s souls.
And then suddenly, he jumped up. “It’s time to get dressed for dinner, darlin’,” he said. “Now listen, Aurora honey, don’t pay any attention to anything my mother or sisters might say. Sometimes they can be a little narrow-minded and they get carried away. For them, the sun rises and sets on Texas. So don’t take it personally whatever they do or say or if you get the impression they think all New Yorkers are crass heathens.”

I took a shower, blew my hair dry and could almost feel horse’s hoofs smashing my face as a mighty river bore down with a sudden force carrying me away forever.
Sunspots
Sunspots follows the healing journey of a young woman thrown into the horror of losing a spouse. It is a love story of loss and redemption and the ghosts that haunt our lives and our houses. Skirting the genres of magical realism and romance, Sunspots, explores the existence of the afterlife and the paranormal. The story takes the reader on a path of high emotion as the narrator, Aurora, uncovers her husband Jake’s secret life and her own internal conflicts as she matures to self-awareness. The novel’s tone vacillates from irreverent humor to solemnity as Aurora relates her previous life with Jake and her present challenges. The title refers to the solar maximum which became the backdrop for Aurora’s conception when her hippy parents went to Canada to observe the Aurora Borealis. In name and in spirit, Aurora is connected to the observable and unobservable energy around us. With the help of friends, family, and the ghost of Viola Parker (her home’s original owner), Aurora accepts her fate and the secrets revealed about Jake’s true character. She realizes that in this life she will finally break the cycle of pain caused by her love for this man, Jake Stein, through the centuries.
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Genre – Contemporary romance, Magical Realism
Rating – PG-13
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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Latecomers Fan Club by Diane V. Mulligan @Mulligan_writes

PART ONE:

SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE BE FORGOT?

ABBY

Abby had to work on New Year’s Eve. She didn’t know if she felt worse for the sad sacks who would be ringing in the new year in the dumpiest bar in town or herself for working there. It didn’t help that she hadn’t been feeling well for the past week or so. All she wanted to do was sleep. She had no idea how she was going to stay on her feet all night. Bill, the idiot owner, had decided that they would have a Mardi Gras theme for New Year’s. Did he not understand that Mardi Gras already had a place in the calendar?

In her tiny, dark bedroom, she dug her “party” clothes out of the plastic bin under her bed. She cursed the pea-soup green carpet as the bin snagged when she tried to shove it back into place. She was sick of the cramped apartment with its stained rugs, peeling vinyl floor, and fake wood paneling.

Black halter-top, a short black skirt, and a handful of plastic Mardi Gras beads. It felt good to get dressed up, even if her destination wasn’t anything special. Her eye makeup made her look more awake than she felt. She was zipping up her boots when her cell phone rang.

“Hey, you gonna swing by later?” she asked, cradling the phone between her ear and her shoulder and tossing a few things into her purse. She had this nagging feeling that she was forgetting something. She’d felt that way for most of the past week.

“I don’t know, babe,” Nathaniel said. “My plans are still a little shaky.”

“Seriously? I thought we were at least going to have midnight together.” Abby pulled a big hoodie over her skimpy bar clothes and slid her down jacket over that. However hot it was going to be in the bar, the weatherman promised that it was going to be one of Boston’s coldest New Year’s Eves on record.

“It’s not that I don’t want to see you, but the Watering Hole isn’t exactly my favorite place.”

Abby tucked her long brown hair into the collar of her jacket and put a knit cap on her head. “I thought your favorite place was wherever I am.”

“Yeah, because that cutesy shit always works on me,” Nathaniel said.

“Tell me again about the hopeless romantic you used to be.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

It wasn’t okay, but she wasn’t in the mood for a fight. She knew what Breanna would say if she were here. You deserve better, Abby. “What are you doing tonight?”

“Zack’s having some people over. I think I’ll just stay out there.”

Even a house party west of Worcester trumps a night at metro-Boston’s finest, Abby thought. “Who’s gonna be there?” she asked.

“The usual suspects, I’m sure. Nobody you know.”

Of course not, Abby thought, stepping out into the cold, because you never invite me. “Well, have fun,” she said, the icy air biting her nose.

“Yeah, you, too, kiddo.”

Abby hated when he called her kiddo. She hung up the phone.

It was a short walk to the bar, but long enough that Abby’s fingers and toes were frozen by the time she got there. Bill shouted at her to shut the door before she let all the cold air in. Abby rolled her eyes. She slipped into the little office at the back of the bar and reluctantly took off her warm outer layers. A few wardrobe adjustments, a swipe of lip gloss, and she walked out to the bar. She brushed past the low tables with their scratched Formica tops and chairs whose torn vinyl seats were patched with duct tape. No wonder no one ever sat down in them. The overhead lights glared down on the sticky, shellacked counter. The drop ceiling was gray and dingy from years of cigarette smoke. Smoking had been banned indoors for at least ten years, but Bill would never bother to spend money to make the place a little more welcoming.

“Beautiful, doll,” Bill said, looking her up and down. He was setting up the sound equipment on the small stage against the back wall.

“Who’s on tonight?” Abby asked.

“You, Kate, Jason—”

“No, who’s the entertainment?”

“Those college boys. What do they call themselves? Timbuck Blue?”

It was hard to believe that was the best entertainment Bill could come up with for New Year’s Eve, and even harder to understand how those hipsters would contribute to a Mardi Gras theme. Bill probably wasn’t paying them. Abby noted the baskets of beads behind the bar. She wondered if Bill had any other theme items or if he was just hoping drunk girls would show off their tits. And by girls she meant the middle-aged women who were among the regulars, because there weren’t likely to be many girls present, unless Timbuck Blue had managed to find some groupies since their last appearance.

Nathaniel’s band, the Latecomers, would have been a far better choice. They played crowd favorites, and they could do jazzy tunes to create a New Orleans mood, but the Latecomers hadn’t played at the Watering Hole for three years.

They used to be a regular part of the lineup. That’s how Abby and Nathaniel met. Abby had just gotten the job. Bill said he had a gap in the schedule on Tuesday nights and he’d like Abby to fill it. Abby had arrived for her first shift prepared for a slow night. Being a weeknight, she figured there’d be a few regulars, lonely drunks who’d expect her to listen to their tales of woe and to make sure that the TV was set to ESPN. When a balding, middle-aged guy with a beer belly came in and began setting up speakers and microphones, Abby had no idea what was going on.

When he was done setting up, he came over to the bar and ordered a gin and tonic, heavy on the gin. “Hope you like music,” he said.

What kind of person doesn’t like music? she had wondered. She preferred classic rock and country, something with solid lyrics and nice harmonies, but she could enjoy almost any live music.

“I’m Johnny, by the way,” he said, extending his hand.

Johnny took his drink to a table in the back of the bar and set up an easel with a newsprint tablet that said “Open Mic” with times listed for people to sign up. Abby couldn’t imagine any of the grizzled guys at the bar crooning out tunes. She wondered who was going to be performing and what style of music she could expect. Still, she reasoned, whatever it is, it mustn’t be great. Live music should draw people in, but Bill had specifically warned her not to expect much by way of tips.

After a while guys with guitars began trickling in. The aspiring musicians had a median age of forty-five, Abby guessed, and as a group they were in need of a shower and a shave. A few of the old-timers who had been warming barstools settled their tabs and headed for the door as Johnny introduced the first act of the night. Not a good sign.

When the third act, a heavy man with greasy hair and a beat up classical guitar, was half way through his rendition of “Feliz Navidad” (in the middle of July), Abby understood why Bill had a gap on Tuesdays. She watched the performer for a minute and then turned back to the bar. She noticed a new patron near the back wall.

He had dirty blond hair, blue eyes, and dimples when he smiled. He was, by far, the youngest customer of the evening. Abby guessed he was about thirty. She noticed the guitar case leaning against the wall behind him.

When she asked what he was drinking, he produced some wrinkled bills and a few coins from his pocket. He asked her to stretch that as far as it would go. He grimaced at the Bud she brought him, but he drank it and two more after it. She would have asked him about his act, but she was working alone and had to attend to other customers.

Johnny flagged her down for two shots of whiskey. Abby gave him the glasses and watched him walk over to the stage and set one on the stool beside Mr. Christmas-in-July. Abby didn’t think the whiskey would help him much.

The music did get better as the night went on. A duo of middle-aged guys in jean shorts and work boots sang some nice harmonies, and a short, professorial-looking man played several complicated instrumental pieces on a twelve string. Finally, Dimples and his band got up to play. They were the last act of the night.

“We’re the Latecomers,” Dimples said, as he tuned his guitar. “That’s Charlie on bass, Jeff on keyboards, and I’m Nathaniel.”

Each week, the Latecomers closed out the open mic with an hour set (unlike the others who got three songs each), and each week, Abby served Nathaniel his succession of Buds.

After a month or so, impressed that she had lasted so long, Nathaniel finally introduced himself properly. Abby had never met a Nathaniel who didn’t shorten his name, and she made the mistake of calling him Nate, but he pointedly corrected her. Later, Abby learned that he was named after his father, who went by Nate, as Nathaniel had as a child. Once he was in college, he chose to distinguish himself from his father as much as possible, so he insisted his friends call him by his full name.

After their official introductions, he offered to play a special request, and she asked for a Beatles song, it didn’t matter what one. Their second number that night, “Baby You Can Drive My Car,” was dedicated to her.

Later, when she picked up the tip Nathaniel left her, she found a scrap of paper with his phone number tucked under the dollar bill. When she got home and told Breanna, she shook her head at Abby and said, “But he’s the guy who can barely afford a Bud.”

Abby probably should have listened to Breanna, but he was a musician, and she had a soft spot for cute musicians. Although she couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it, she loved music, and she was fascinated by people who made it. Every crush she’d had in high school had been a guitar-toting dreamer, and she was always dragging her friends to the summer concerts at the ski area near her parents’ New Hampshire home. Peter Frampton, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Boston—bands long past their prime who put on cheap shows under the stars. You could get lawn seats for twenty bucks and spend the entire night soaking up the music, imagining what it would have been like to see those bands when they were still the hot ticket in town. Other girls could have the jocks. She wanted a guy who could sing her a love song.

Besides, he had offered her his phone number, not a marriage proposal. At the time, at the hopeless age of twenty-three, she’d been living in Somerville for a year and, despite the large numbers of available men purportedly in the greater Boston area, she’d gone out with only two guys, neither of whom made it to a second date. It couldn’t hurt to give this handsome, dimpled musician a try.

And four years later, he still never had more than ten bucks in his wallet, the Latecomers had fallen apart, and marriage still wasn’t part of the conversation. Breanna was right: She was a fool.

***

The Latecomers Fan Club

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Genre – Women’s Literature

Rating – PG-13

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Quality Reads UK Book Club Disclosure: Author interview / guest post has been submitted by the author and previously used on other sites.