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Murder Worth The Weight by D.M. Barr | #Showcase #Giveaway

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr Banner

Murder Worth the Weight

by D.M. Barr

September 13 – October 8, 2021 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr

Whenever Terry Mangel’s body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and “fat shamers” turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one’s noticed a pattern, until rookie investigative reporter Camarin Torres takes a closer look.

Torres is a crusader against discrimination. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a man with a vendetta, who sees the recent college grad as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content.

As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel’s world, only to find herself in the crosshairs of a vigilante group targeting the $60 billion diet industry. To this vindictive mob, murder is definitely worth the weight. But as Torres soon learns, unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group’s mastermind.

Previously published as Slashing Mona Lisa

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romantic Suspense, Psychological Suspense, Women’s Fiction
Published by: Punctuated Publishing
Publication Date: 08/09/2021
Number of Pages: 340
ISBN: 978-0-9977118-6-8
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

CAMARIN TORRES PEERED down the tracks again, as if repeated checking would cause her delayed train to magically appear. It was a warm April afternoon, but the unexpected heat did little to lift her spirits. She was heading back to her apartment after yet another unsuccessful interview. If this kept up, she’d be the only one of her NYU friends graduating next month without a job lined up. How ironic not to be able to afford the food she wouldn’t allow herself to eat anyway. She checked her watch a third time. The 5:03 from White Plains to Grand Central was already ten minutes late.

Camarin heard a voice a few feet behind her softly exclaim, “Dammit!” Curiosity aroused, she spied a girl in her late teens standing by the vending machine, fervently searching through her handbag.

Camarin stared, mesmerized by what could have been a mirror image of her late twin sister Monaeka. Long, dark hair partially obscured her tanned, pretty face, and despite the temperature, she’d draped her two-hundred-plus pound body in an oversized raincoat. But as Camarin well knew, yards of fabric didn’t really fool anyone. The girl hunched over slightly, a stance her sister Monaeka had perfected, a sign of deference to a world demanding an apology for violating their arbitrary standards.

Camarin felt a familiar tug of compassion as the girl plunked a few coins into the machine and then searched for more. Looking on, she debated the merits of acquiescing to her own desire for a late-afternoon sweet. What’s really the harm? Cam reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out three quarters, which she held out toward the stranger as she walked toward her.

“Want to share something?”

The girl tensed and gave her a quizzical look, but after a moment her shoulders relaxed. “That’s so nice of you. Thanks.”

Camarin winked and pushed the quarters into the machine. One click and clunk later, she retrieved their prize—a Kit Kat bar. One of Monaeka’s favorites. As she held it out to the girl, a slim, stylish woman clad in black came out of nowhere and snatched the chocolate bar right out of her hand.

“You don’t need it,” she said. “You’ll thank me later.”

The girl’s face turned bright red, but she said nothing, just watched in shock as the thief continued down the platform.

Camarin felt the blood rush to her temples. No matter how many years and miles she’d put between herself and her past, the critical voices kept seeking her out, today in the form of this interloper. Enough, she decided. She set down the briefcase containing her resume and clips and tore after the woman, grabbing her arm and pulling her around so they stood face-to-face.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Camarin yelled.

Heads turned. Conversations ceased.

“What’s it to you?” the offender shot back.

Camarin pointed at the girl, whose eyes were wide in disbelief. “That girl happens to be a friend of mine, so I’m asking a second time… what are you doing?”

“Saving her from herself, that’s what. Your friend is huge, and it’s unhealthy. If she can’t control herself, she needs others to do it for her.”

“Well, Miss High-and-Mighty, since you know everything about everyone, did you ever consider that my friend…Sabrina’s…size might have nothing to do with self-control? Could it be the result of…the lithium she takes to control her bipolar disorder? Are you a psychiatrist who has a better suggestion for more appropriate meds that don’t put on weight?”

“Well, no… no,” the woman stammered, as if the rush of passion suddenly drained from her, leaving her feeling exposed.

“You know what I think?”

The fat shamer glared back but remained silent, so Camarin summoned her courage and repeated herself, a few decibels louder. “I said, do you know what I think?”

“No. What?” The woman sneered.

“I think you should go over to Sabrina and apologize.”

“Apologize for helping her get thin?” Her voice dripped with indignation.

“No, apologize for sticking your big nose where it doesn’t belong,” interjected a young, beer-bellied man in overalls a few feet away. A Joe’s Plumbing patch was embroidered on his chest pocket.

“What exactly do we have to do to be accepted by you people? Why can’t you just leave us alone?” screamed a plump, older woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a fitted suit.

“Give her back the Kit Kat bar,” hollered a man clad in military garb, who then started chanting, “Kit Kat, Kit Kat, Kit Kat…” Others joined in, and the cacophony grew stronger.

“You may have grabbed a Kit Kat, but you ended up with Snickers,” said Cam with a smirk. “Maybe you want to just hand over the candy, so we can forget this whole ugly incident?”

The woman spat at the ground in front of Camarin and defiantly threw the chocolate bar on the tracks, eliciting loud boos from the small but agitated crowd. Then she ran down the platform, heading for the stairs that led to the parking lot.

“Good riddance,” the plumber called after her.

Camarin stood for a moment, shaking from the encounter. Then she returned to the now teary-eyed girl. “Sorry I made you bipolar,” she whispered. “I needed to make a point, and it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Hi, I’m Camarin.”

“I’m Lexie,” the girl said. “No one has ever stood up for me before. Thank you.”

“Hey, I know what it’s like. I used to deal with jerks like that all the time.”

The plumber pushed a run of quarters into the vending machine and took out two Kit Kat bars, handing one to each of the women. Others on the platform clapped and cheered. The sound was slowly drowned out by the roar of the oncoming 5:03 PM train.

As the doors opened, Camarin noticed Lexie and the plumber now chatting animatedly. Not wishing to intrude, she entered the next car over. It was practically empty, not unusual considering most people were traveling in the opposite direction at this hour. A perfect opportunity to relax after an upsetting confrontation. Perhaps savor that chocolate bar. She could always purge later.

Given the plethora of unoccupied seats, she was surprised when a handsome man in an expensive-looking suit asked if the spot beside her was taken. She guessed he was in his early forties, since his face was too young for the silver in his hair and beard. He spoke with a confidence so lacking in her gawky college-boy contemporaries. She felt a shiver as the silk of his sleeve touched her bare arm as he settled in.

She wondered what clever icebreaker she could use to engage her attractive new neighbor in conversation. Nice weather, huh? would be too lame. Seconds passed. Other passengers shuffled by. Soon, the moment would be lost.

Then, to her delight, he leaned in covertly, as if sharing a private confidence. “Nice going. You’d never seen that girl before in your life, had you?”

She pulled back and studied his expression. Affable or accusatory? His smile assured her of his friendly intentions.

“What gave me away?”

“Nothing. Just a hunch. One you just confirmed.”

Camarin twisted her mouth, irked at having been so easily played.

“Do you always go around tricking strangers into confessing their secrets?” she asked.

“Probably as often as you go around defending the underdog.” The man winked. “Nothing to be ashamed of though. Quite the opposite. As I think you’ve already figured out, life is just a series of bluffs.”

Camarin considered the comment as the train rumbled along the tracks toward Scarsdale.

“And do you bluff much?”

“Funny you should ask. These days, it’s all I do.”

Grateful for such a provocative opening, she pressed forward. “That sounds intriguing. Care to elaborate?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” he said with a smile. “Up until a few years ago, I’d spent my entire career practicing law. Then my circumstances and interests changed, and I decided to become a redeemer of lost causes. I just purchased a failing magazine, which I intend to make profitable again. If that’s not the bluff of the century, I don’t know what is.”

Elegant and he owns a magazine? Camarin’s heart skipped a beat.

“That’s such a coincidence. I’m just coming from an interview with a magazine.”

“Some might call it a coincidence. I call it kismet,” the man said as he held out his hand. “Lyle Fletcher, fledgling publisher.”

Chapter 2

AS THE TRAIN rolled down the tracks toward Manhattan, Camarin sensed her future suddenly lurching ahead as well. “Camarin Torres, journalism and prelaw major. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

She reached out to shake his hand, eager to see if his grip would be as firm as she imagined, but the conductor interrupted, asking to punch their tickets. There was no way to try again without looking awkward, so she swallowed her disappointment and returned her hand to her side.

Fletcher broke the pregnant pause. “So, there must be many professions out there for someone as bold and beautiful as you. Why journalism and law?”

Camarin’s face grew warm. Had anyone else handed her that line, she would have regarded it as a come-on. But he seemed sincere, so she felt comfortable opening up. “All my life I’ve seen bullying and discrimination. As a child, I felt helpless to stop it. But as an adult, I can make a difference.”

“Bullying because of your ethnicity? You’re… ”

“My mother’s side of the family comes from Guam. But no, fortunately, I’ve encountered very little bias because of my roots. Maybe it’s because we live just outside Los Angeles, where I’m part of a large Chamorro community who share an intense sense of cultural pride. In fact, I think my background may have worked in my favor, that push for diversity in colleges and all.”

“So, discriminated against as a woman?”

“No again,” she said, reluctant to share too much of her past with a stranger, no matter how charming. “Let’s just say I’ve seen how cruel people can be to those who don’t quite fit in, no matter how hard they try. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.”

“You’re going to personally end intolerance?” Fletcher seemed both dubious and amused.

“Well, at least make a sizeable dent in it,” she said with a smile. It wasn’t the first time that people had appeared incredulous at her idealism. “You’re speaking to the world’s first female Chamorro anti-discrimination crusader. After graduation anyway. And eventually law school, when I can afford it.”

“Lofty ambitions. You’ll need them in a world that doesn’t always cooperate with people’s dreams. Again, I’m impressed.”

“Thank you,” she said, her face growing even hotter. A charismatic publisher thought she was impressive. A once-disappointing day was rapidly metamorphosing into something magical, like a child’s giant, colorful carnival balloon.

“Have you interviewed at my magazine, Trend?”

Pop! Camarin did her best not to cringe with contempt. Trend represented everything in the world she’d come to hate: the brainwashing of women to fit into narrow, permissible roles dictated by fashion designers and greedy advertisers. And this man, appealing or not, was one of their leaders. Camarin paused, trying to formulate a polite and diplomatic response.

“You have heard of it, right?”

“Yes, of course. But no, I didn’t interview there. No offense, but as you said, it’s failing. As a matter of fact, I turned down an unsolicited offer from one of your competitors, Drift. I’m just interested in more…serious publications.”

“No offense taken,” he said with a grin. “I realize that up to now Trend has just covered style and gossip—total fluff. That’s what I’m planning to change. In your words, go in a more serious direction.”

She wondered if the comment was authentic or if he was just another jerk and this was an excuse that allowed him to live with himself. They remained quiet for a bit, and then curiosity got the better of her.

“I didn’t realize Trend is based in Westchester.”

Fletcher’s face clouded over. “No, it’s in Manhattan. I was out here today because…my late wife owned a condo in White Plains that we’d been renting out. I was just meeting with the real estate agent I might hire to sell it for me.”

Cam looked down at her pumps, annoyed at herself for bringing up such a sensitive subject. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Of my wife or the condo?”

She glanced back, astonished. He started to laugh, and she felt the earlier harshness of her judgment soften by a smidgen. He really was quite charming—for a body shamer.

“Are you ever serious?” she asked.

“Oh, when I am, you’ll definitely know it. Like now. How many years of college do you have left?”

His tone switched from whimsical to all business, and something about the way he commanded control sent a shiver up her spine. Hot as hell. Dammit. “About a month. Then I’m done.”

The conductor announced that they would soon be arriving at Grand Central Station, their final destination, and the windows grew dark as they entered the tunnel.

He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card. It read Trend Magazine, with a fashionable NoHo address, close to her own apartment.

She held up her hand. “That’s kind of you, but I really don’t think—”

“Hey, I can see you’re not enamored with our current format. Nevertheless, I’d still like you to come in, show us your work. Allow us to describe the magazine’s revamped editorial direction. I think it may surprise you. I can use someone with your guts and ambition to develop our investigative-reporting beat. That is, if you have any interest.”

She took the card, slipping it into her jacket pocket. “If you’re really serious about moving away from your current focus, I’ll try to keep an open mind.” After all, a job was a job, and up to now, no one else but Drift had made an offer.

“Call tomorrow and speak to Rachel. She’ll set everything up. You’re going to be a superstar. Of that, I’m already certain.” He reached out to shake her hand. It felt as forceful as Camarin had imagined earlier. She didn’t try to read anything into the almost imperceptible squeeze he added at the end. Until proven otherwise, he was still the enemy.

As he rose and headed for the exit, she waited a few beats longer before also joining the crowd jostling toward the platform. By the stairs a newsstand featured the latest issue of Trend. Hating herself, she slapped down her $3.50 for a copy. Magazines like this were part of what had driven her sister over the edge, but she needed to see if there was anything redeemable within its pages. The jury was still out until Lyle Fletcher had proven himself a reformer, and not an enabler.

***

Excerpt from Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire. My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy. The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, unlike as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings. As a yo-yo dieter, I’ve never offed anyone at my local diet clinic. While I’m a bit paranoid, I’ve never suspected my husband of wanting to murder me for my inheritance. Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s go with that for now. And while I’ve volunteered at senior centers, I’ve never mastered the hula hoop. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to…

Catch Up With D.M. Barr:
DMBarr.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DMBarr
Instagram – @authordmbarr
Twitter – @authordmbarr
Facebook – @authordmbarr

 

 

Tour Participants:

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Join In:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 13 through October 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Ninth Session by Deborah Serani | #Showcase #Giveaway

The Ninth Session by Deborah Serani Banner

The Ninth Session

by Deborah Serani

August 9-27, 2021 Audiobook Review Tour

Synopsis:

The Ninth Session by Deborah Serani

An edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller that brings a unique mix of psychotherapy and sign language and Coda culture. Just when you think you have it figured out, think again!

Dr. Alicia Reese takes on a new patient. Lucas Ferro suffers with crippling anxiety, and as sessions progress, he begins to share the reasons why he’s struggling. As Ferro’s narrative becomes more menacing, Reese finds herself wedged between the cold hard frame of professional ethics and the integrity of personal truth. And, finally, when Ferro reveals his secrets, Reese learns how far she’s willing to go, willing to risk and willing to lose to do the right thing.

The Ninth Session Audiobook Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: TouchPoint Press
Publication Date: September 26th 2019
Length: 6 hrs and 52 mins
Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | Goodreads

Visit Audible to listen to a sample!

 

Author Bio:

Deborah Serani, Psy.D.

Deborah Serani, Psy.D. is psychologist in practice 30 years. She is also a senior professor at Adelphi University and has been published in academic journals on the subjects of depression and trauma. Dr. Serani is a go-to expert for psychological issues. Her interviews can be found at ABC News, CNN, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Post and USA Today, and affiliate radio station programs at CBS and NPR, just to name a few. She is also a TEDx speaker and has lectured nationally and internationally. Dr. Serani has worked as a technical advisor for the NBC television show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit – where a recurring character, Judge D. Serani, was named for her. Dr. Serani is an award-winning author, writing about psychological topics in many genres.

Catch Up With Deborah:
www.DrDeborahSerani.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Twitter – @DeborahSerani
Facebook – @Dr. Deborah Serani

& Find out what’s new on Instagram – #deborahserani

 

 

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews!

 

 

Enter Below to WIN The Ninth Session:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Deborah Serani. There will be ONE winner who will receive (1) Audible promo code for The Ninth Session (U.S. addresses only). The giveaway runs from August 9 through August 30, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Silence In The Library by Katharine Schellman #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

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Silence in the Library

by Katharine Schellman

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Given the way she hadn’t hesitated to interfere in the Wyatt family’s affairs, Lily expected Lady Wyatt to politely rescind her invitation to ride the next morning. But she had insisted, saying her arm was sure to be better by morning. So after breakfast, Lily instructed Anna to lay out her riding habit.

Though she had forgone her usual routine of breakfasting in her own room and instructed Mrs. Carstairs to lay breakfast in the parlor, Lily hadn’t seen any sign of her father. She didn’t mind. If she couldn’t be cozy while she dined, she was at least happy to be alone. And it gave her the opportunity to go over the week’s menus with her housekeeper and offer several suggestions for managing her father’s requests while he was with them.

“And do you know how long might that be, Mrs. Adler?” Mrs. Carstairs asked carefully. “Mr. Branson was unable to say when I spoke to him last night.”

Lily pursed her lips. “For as long as he needs, Mrs. Carstairs. Or as long as I can bear his company. My record on that score is fifteen years, however, so let us hope it will not come to that.”

The housekeeper wisely didn’t say anything else.

Lily’s pleasant solitude lasted until she was making her way back upstairs to change, when she found her path blocked by her father’s belligerent frame. Unwell he might be, but George Pierce was still a solid, imposing man, and Lily had to remind herself to square her shoulders and meet his scowl with a smile as he did his best to tower over her from the step above.

“Good morning, Father.”

He didn’t return the greeting. “I am going to breakfast,” he announced, eyebrows raised.

Lily waited for a moment and then, when no more information was forthcoming, nodded. “I hope you enjoy it. Mrs. Carstairs is an excellent cook.”

He sniffed. “And I assume your excessively early rising is an attempt to avoid my company?”

“It is past nine o’clock, father,” Lily said. “Hardly excessive. And I have an appointment this morning, so if you will excuse me—”

“What is your appointment?”

He couldn’t curtail or dictate what she did with her time, Lily reminded herself. Even if having him in her home left her feeling as if her independence were being slowly stripped away once more, in practical terms he had no say in her life anymore. Answering his question was only polite. “An engagement with a friend—”

“That sailor again, I assume?”

Lily took a deep breath. “Captain Hartley was also invited, but no, the engagement is to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Which I assume you would approve of?” Seeing that she had momentarily surprised him into silence, she took the opportunity to push past her father. “You would like her, I think. She is charming and elegant.”

“And her husband’s a fool for marrying again,” Mr. Pierce grumbled, but Lily was already heading down the hall and didn’t answer.

Jack was coming just before ten to escort her to the Wyatts’ house, and Lily was in a hurry to dress and escape her father once again. Her room was empty when she walked in, but Anna had laid out her riding habit on the bed, pressed and ready, its military-style buttons glinting in the morning light amid folds of emerald-green fabric.

Lily stared at it without moving. She had forgotten that her habit wasn’t suitable to wear when she was in mourning.

She was still staring when Anna returned, the freshly brushed riding hat in her hands. When she saw Lily’s posture, Anna paused.

“You don’t have another, I’m afraid,” she said gently.

Lily nodded, unable to speak. One hand reached out to brush the heavy fabric of the habit; the other clenched a fold of the gray dress she wore. She had stopped wearing colors even before Freddy died—in those last months of his illness, she had traded all her pretty dresses for drab gowns more suited to nursing an invalid who would never recover. And even after full mourning was complete, she had lingered in the muted shades of half mourning long past when anyone would have required it of her, even Freddy’s own family. Laying aside the visual reminders of her grief felt too much like leaving behind her marriage.

But that had meant more than two years of sorrow. And in the last few months, since she had come to London and taken control of her life once more, something had shifted inside her.

“Yes, thank you, Anna,” Lily said quietly, her voice catching a little. She cleared her throat and said, more firmly, “I will wear this one.”

***

She managed to leave the house without encountering her father again. When her butler, Carstairs, sent word that Captain Hartley was waiting in the front hall, Lily felt a pang of anxiety. Jack had loved Freddy like a brother. And he had never given any indication that he thought her mourning had gone on long enough.

Jack was in the middle of removing his hat, and his hand stilled at the brim as he caught sight of her. Even Carstairs fell still as they watched her come down the stairs, the heavy folds of her green skirts buttoned up on one side to allow her to walk freely and a single dyed- green feather curling over the brim of her hat and flirting with her brown curls.

Lily felt exposed as she descended the final few steps, though she was bolstered by the approval that softened Carstairs’s smile. She had never considered herself a shy person, but she could barely meet Jack’s eyes as she crossed the hall to give him her hand.

For a moment neither of them spoke, and when she raised her gaze at last, Lily thought she saw the captain blinking something from the corner of his eye. “That was Freddy’s favorite color,” he said at last, his voice catching.

Lily nodded. “I know.”

Jack’s jaw tightened for a moment as he swallowed. But he smiled. “Well done, Lily,” he said quietly. “Good for you.”

***

There was a lightness between them as they made the quick journey to Wimpole Street. As Jack waved down a hack carriage and handed her in, Lily found herself laughing at all of his quips or droll pieces of gossip, even the ones she normally would have chastised him for repeating. And Jack kept glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

“Do I look that dreadful?” Lily asked at last as he handed her down from the carriage in front of the Wyatts’ home.

“Quite the opposite,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck as he released her hand. “Did you know, you are actually quite pretty?”

“You mean you did not find me pretty before?”

“I think I had forgotten to consider it one way or another,” Jack admitted, grinning. “What a shame everyone has left London already; you would cause quite a sensation.”

Lily shook her head. “I know full well I am not handsome enough for that.”

“Surprise can cause as much of a sensation as admiration,” Jack pointed out.

“Captain!” Lily exclaimed in mock indignation. “You were supposed to argue with me!”

They continued bantering as they mounted the steps to Sir Charles’s townhouse, only to fall silent and exchange a puzzled glance as they realized that the door was half-open, the sounds of raised voices echoing from within.

Lily glanced at Jack, an uneasy sensation beginning to curl in the pit of her stomach. “Should we knock?”

He shrugged and did so, rapping firmly on the wood of the door. There was no response, but it swung open a little more. After hesitating a moment, Lily bit her lip and said, “Well, we ought to at least make sure Lady Wyatt knows we’ve come. If it is no longer convenient to ride, she can certainly tell us to leave.”

“And you were already happy to interfere yesterday,” Jack pointed out, though she could hear the unease lurking beneath his playful tone. “We might as well do it again.”

“Very true.” Lily pushed the door the rest of the way open and strode in, Jack following close behind.

The front hall was empty, but they could still hear voices not far away, now low and urgent, and the sound of quiet crying from somewhere just out of sight. The uneasy feeling began to spread through Lily’s chest and arms, and she reached out her hand in blind anxiety. She was relieved to feel Jack take it and press it reassuringly into the crook of his arm.

She had just decided that they should leave after all when quick steps echoed down the stairs. A moment later Frank Wyatt came rushing down, checking himself at the bottom as he stared at them in surprise.

His face was pale and his eyes red as he gaped at them, his easy manner vanished. “Lily? And Captain . . . I’ve quite forgot your name. You must excuse . . . what are you doing here?”

“The door was open, and no one answered our knock,” Lily said, feeling a little ashamed of their hastiness in entering. “I apologize, Frank; we did not mean to intrude, but we had an appointment to ride with Lady Wyatt this morning. Is everyone well?”

“Is everyone . . . No. No.” Frank gripped the banister with one hand, his knuckles white. “I am afraid that Lady Wyatt will not be able to ride today. My father . . .” He swallowed. “My father has died.”

Lily stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. They had seen Sir Charles just the day before. If he had seemed a little older and weaker than she remembered, he had still been utterly vital and alive. “Died? But . . . how?”

“In point of fact,” a new voice said quietly from behind them. “It seems Sir Charles Wyatt has been killed.”

***

Excerpt from Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman. Copyright 2021 by Katharine Schellman. Reproduced with permission from Katharine Schellman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering.

Q&A with Katharine Schellman

What was the inspiration for this book?

I love a good amateur sleuth series — it’s so fun to see the characters go through their own personal arcs along with whatever puzzle they’re solving at the time. So even though I wrote the first Lily Adler Mystery, The Body in the Garden, to work on its own, I was hoping there would be more books.

When I was getting reader feedback on The Body in the Garden, more than one person commented that they were so curious about Lily’s father and her relationship with him. So when it came time to start planning book number two, he was my starting point. The rest of the plot grew from there.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

It’s not a very creative answer, but the biggest challenge is the juggle. Like many writers, I work a day job — and of course there’s the rest of life outside work that needs time and attention too! Finding time for everything can get tricky.

When I was writing this book, it was also in the middle of the covid pandemic, so that added an extra layer of difficulty to the process. There were several weekends when I had to escape from all the distractions by checking into a hotel for 48 hours while my husband handled everything at home. It was exhausting for both of us, but somehow it all got done!

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I almost always have a cup of tea by my side. But mostly I need quiet! I get intense tunnel vision while I’m writing, so I can’t multitask or having music going or anything like that.

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

I don’t have a strict routine, and my daily schedule can be all over the place depending on what other work (day job, marketing, editing, promotions) needs to get done.

I’m a big fan of the “sit down and write even when you don’t want to” method of getting things done. I set a time when I know I have to sit down and stare at the screen until I start putting words on the page. And if I keep doing that, eventually I end up with a book.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

That’s so hard — I love them all! Part of the magic of writing — and reading! — is that you have to put yourself inside the mind and motivation of each character to figure out why they do what they do. Everyone, after all, thinks of themselves as the hero of their own story. And once you’ve been inside someone’s head like that, it’s impossible not to have a degree of love and empathy for them.

Tell us why we should read your book.

One of my favorite things about genre fiction is the way it takes very ordinary people and puts them in extraordinary circumstances. But they’re still just people, with the same hang-ups and fears and strengths and flaws that we all have. It’s an amazing way to explore really interesting elements of human nature and relationships.

I think Lily Adler really embodies this. She’s a young woman whose life was completely upended when her husband died. She had to figure out what she was going to do with herself after that massive, unexpected change, and not everyone she meets approves of what she chooses.

Most of us, of course, don’t end up dealing with grief and loss by solving murders. But I think the experience of building or rebuilding your life, while knowing that a lot of the people aren’t going to approve, is a pretty universal one that a lot of readers will be able to connect with.

Plus, mysteries are just so much fun to read!

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

Because of various pandemic-induced constraints on my publishing schedule, I had to write the whole thing in about two and a half months! I had no idea if I could do it or not, but I had a great team cheering me on and telling me it would all work out.

Still, I’m glad I get a little more time for the next one!

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I’m so grateful to each and every one of you for stopping by and reading! Connecting with readers is truly my favorite part of doing this work, and I treasure every interaction I have and message I receive.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I first told my parents I wanted to be a writer when I was six years old, and it was something I always knew and felt confident that I would do. Still, it took me a while to actually get there. While I was writing lots of bad books, I also worked in political consulting, danced and acted, and even spent some time as a wedding makeup artist.

I still miss being on stage sometimes, but I’ve found I’m much more suited to life as a writer.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I have two books coming out next year. The third (still untitled) Lily Adler Mystery will be released in Fall 2022. It’s got a little bit of a gothic vibe to it, along with a little bit of romance. I think it’ll be a perfect fall read.
And before that I have a new series starting!
Last Call at the Nightingale, which is coming June 2022, will be the first in a series of mysteries set in 1920s New York City at a speakeasy known as the Nightingale. It’s a little grittier than the Lily books, and not quite a traditional whodunit, which has made bouncing between the two so much fun. I’m hoping readers enjoy both equally!

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

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With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely | #Showcase #Giveaway

With Neighbors Like These

by Linda Lovely

July 12 – August 6, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely

MANAGING AN HOA IS MURDER…

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

HOA=DOA TERROR REIGNS…

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

Praise for With Neighbors Like These:

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Kylee Kane
Friday, September 25, 6:30 p.m.

“Mom, are we eating at the kitchen table?”

Silence.

Not again.

I look outside. Mom’s standing by the mailbox, tugging on the blue stocking cap that keeps her nearly-bald head warm.

Crap. I said I’d get the mail. She’s a stubborn old cuss. While her skin now looks like wrinkle-mapped parchment, those cagey blue eyes still flash.

Mom stops midway to the house to read something. A postcard? She looks up. Her expression is one I rarely see. Fear? Distress? Definitely bad news.

Ted’s Mustang pulls into the drive, and Mom stuffs whatever worried her into a pocket. Ted jumps out, and Mom’s thin arms embrace him.

Thirty years ago, Ted was my kid brother’s pimpled, bratty best friend, a snot-nosed pest. Last year, when we met up again in the Lowcountry, I couldn’t believe it. These days he could model for GQ. A lot happens when decades pass between sightings.

I open the front door. Mom’s slightly out of breath as Ted helps her up the stairs. While her cancer’s in retreat, chemo has taken a toll.

Ted glances my way and grins.

“Hi, Kylee. See you’re still having trouble getting your mother to behave. Bet you long for those Coast Guard days when you could give orders and know they’d be obeyed.”

“Yep, some days I’m sorry I retired,” I answer.

Mom waves her hand like she’s shooing flies. “Let’s talk about something interesting. Ted, what do you hear from your son?”

“Grant’s great, sends lots of love. Says your care package made life worth living last week. Freshman year’s tough at the Citadel.”

At six-feet, Ted towers over my five-foot-two mother. Though he’s forty-seven, three years my junior, only a hint of silver threads his thick black hair. His hazel eyes seem to change color with his mood or maybe it’s just the light. Tonight, they’re green.

Ted looks worried as he studies Mom. He was eight when his own mother died. After that Mom included him in all our family activities. He loves Mom as much as I do.

During our kitchen table dinner, he regales us with tales of HOA intrigue to lift Mom’s spirits. Since his management company has more than a dozen homeowner associations as clients, his supply of stories seems endless.

“Once upon a time, there were three neighbors,” he begins. “RulesALot is convinced his neighbor, DoggyDo, is harboring three mutts, one more than the two-pet-per-household limit. Since he can’t see over his hedge to prove it, RulesALot launches a spy drone. A pilot he’s not. His drone crashes in ToplessTina’s backyard, who’s suing him as a Peeping Tom. Of course, there’s only one question on every male owner’s mind: Did the drone snap photos of Tina’s tatas before it nosedived?”

Ted’s eyebrows wiggle up and down, and Mom laughs. “Your HOA stories are certainly entertaining.”

“Believe me, the stories are a lot funnier if you’re not expected to wade into the middle of the skirmishes. Never dreamed HOAs would be tougher to manage than U.S. embassies on hostile soil.”

Mom fiddles with her napkin. “Speaking of neighborhood feuds, I have a confession. I figured you’d be scolding me by now, Ted, since you manage our HOA …”

Ted and I look at each other. Uh oh.

“What did you do?” Ted asks.

“I told the moron Hullis Island directors I’ll sue if they don’t let us vote on what happens to our deer. Emailed copies to all 1,123 owners.”

I reach across the table and squeeze Mom’s hand. Though I agree with her, she needs to focus on regaining strength, not leading a crusade. “Oh, Mom, kicking over a hornets’ nest isn’t part of your cancer recovery regimen.”

Mom’s eyes narrow. “Hey, everyone else bitched and nothing happened. Figured a lawsuit threat might make their little sphincters tighten, and they’d pay attention.”

Mom switches to a fake, shaky geezer voice. “I’m a little old lady, their nightmare plaintiff. Who’s going to go off on some sick, elderly lady?”

Ted’s eyebrows lift. “Exactly what did your email say?”

“Told ’em their plan to shoot our almost-tame deer with no vote on who, what, when, or how was plain wrong. Hullis Island is a nature sanctuary. They can’t unilaterally declare an open hunting season without an island vote to change our covenants.”

Ted shakes his head. “Myrt, I told the board the same thing, though a bit more diplomatically. The directors sided with Cliff, the board president, and his expert, some lawyer drinking buddy, who found a no-vote loophole after they’d tipped a few.”

He shrugs. “Welch HOA Management offers advice, but we’re hired help. Clients call the shots.”

“What loophole?” I butt in. “Don’t the covenants require a vote on any change to the island’s status as a nature sanctuary?”

Ted nods. “Cliff’s citing a provision that allows killing protected animals if they pose a threat to human life.”

I roll my eyes. “What? They say zombie deer are preparing to ambush humans? That exception allows trapping rabid raccoons or aggressive alligators, not shooting starving deer.”

“I cornered Barb Darrin, a director I thought had sense,” Mom says. “Her justification? Deer carry ticks, a health hazard, and they can crash into golf carts.”

Mom sighs. “Everyone agrees the herd’s out of control. Doesn’t give these arrogant SOBs the right to sanction a Wild West killing spree. Sure as shoot, some bozo will mistake a human or a big dog for a deer and fire away. You won’t be able to throw a rock without hitting some guy in camo with a high-powered rifle.”

Ted taps his spoon against his coffee mug. “Myrt, what aren’t you telling us?”

“Well…” She shrugs. “Seems one wannabe deer killer has no qualms about threatening old ladies.” She pulls the crumpled card from the pocket of her baggy sweater. “Found this love note in my mailbox.”

Good grief. That’s what she stuffed in her pocket.

Ted snatches what looks like some movie-maker’s idea of a ransom note. Black-and-white newsprint cut and pasted on a postcard.

“What a nice closing line.” Ted reads, “‘It’s time us hunters declare open season on diseased deer and busybody bitches like Myrtle Kane.’” He turns the card over to look at the front. “Did this come in an envelope?”

“No, just lying in the box.”

“Mom! This is dangerous. Either I’m moving back in with you or you’re coming to live with me.”

“Nonsense,” she scoffs. “It’s pure bluster. Took a year to convince you I’m healthy enough to live alone. Anyway, I get seasick just thinking about sleeping on your boat. No-sir-ee, you can’t dynamite me out of this house.”

Ted raises his palm in a hold-it gesture. “Myrt, do you think Dan Finley pasted this up?”

She shakes her head. “While I’m convinced he’s our Grass Slayer, it’s not his MO to cut up newsprint and issue threats. More his style to use that big commercial sprayer of his to ruin the Quaids’ lawn tonight.”

I frown. “The Quaids who live cattycorner? What does Finley have against them?”

“They’re one of the couples leading the ‘Save Bambi’ drive.”

“But why would Finley do something tonight?”

“The Quaids are in Savannah for their son’s wedding,” Mom answers.

Ted sets down his mug. “You may be right about Finley seizing the opportunity.”

Mom chimes in. “The deer have cost him big bucks. The poor starving creatures devour plants like I eat chocolates. Plants he’s guaranteed. His nursery and landscaping business is hurting. He blames folks like the Quaids, who put out buckets of corn to keep the deer alive.”

“Last week, herbicide messages were left on the lawns of two other deer lovers who were out of town,” Ted adds. “Dead yellow grass shows up quite nicely against a field of green Bermuda blades.”

“What kind of messages?” I ask.

Mom shrugs. “One lawn read, ‘Up yours!’ He was more artistic on the other lawn, drew a fist with an extended middle finger.”

I laugh in spite of my worries that Finley might be Mom’s new enemy.

Mom purses her lips. “Sure, it sounds like juvenile hijinks, but the anger’s palpable. Folks who golfed or played bridge together no longer speak. That’s why I’m adamant we need a vote. Then, win or lose, everyone has a say, and we can move on. It’s called democracy.”

“Speaking of democracy, I propose a kitchen vote,” Ted says. “All in favor of Kylee and me staking out the Quaids’ yard tonight raise your hands. That overgrown lot across the street offers a view of their place. Maybe we can catch Dan Finley at work.”

While I’m skeptical a one-night stakeout will succeed, that vacant lot also offers a perfect view of Mom’s mailbox. And I’m all for hanging around to catch anyone delivering hate mail.

Ted and I raise our hands. Mom harrumphs.

“Just what will you do if Dan Finley does drop by?” she asks.

“Video him doing the evil deed.” Ted smiles. “My new phone takes excellent photos in low light.”

Mom grumbles, but won’t argue with our kitchen table vote, a Kane family tradition.

“Just when do you intend to sneak off in the woods?”

Ted glances at his watch. “Say an hour? I doubt Finley would chance a drive-by while folks are still drifting home from dinner at the club.”

“Good. I’ll change into some old clothes and sneakers I left here before I was evicted.”

Ted looks ready for a Southern Living picture shoot in his tan chinos, button-down shirt, and polished loafers. “You sacrificing your HOA meeting duds for this outing?”

His hazel eyes twinkle. “Nope,” Ted answers. “I was a Boy Scout. Your dad, our scoutmaster, taught us well. I have running clothes in the trunk.”

***

Excerpt from With Neighbors Like These by Linda Lovely. Copyright 2021 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

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

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

Follow Linda’s Instagram # – #LindaLovely

 

 

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Giveaway:

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

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Black Label by James L’Etoile | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

Black Label by James L'Etoile Banner

Black Label

by James L’Etoile

July 12 – August 8, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Black Label by James L'Etoile

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

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

Praise

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

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

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

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

Book Details:

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

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

It was bad this time. Jillian shielded her eyes from the sharp edge of morning light and dug her fingers into the pillow clutched over her face. Deep in her temples, her pulse hammered a fast, painful staccato rhythm. She’d gone months since her last migraine, and this one tightened a vice around her skull. Even with her eyes closed, her vision clouded with a kaleidoscope of bright dots. The rustle of bedcovers sounded like the world fell in around her. Jillian Cooper’s world had crumbled down and threatened to suffocate her, only she didn’t know it–yet.

She reached for the phone she kept on her bedside table. There was no way she was going to make it to her Saturday morning spin class. Her hand probed for the phone, her head still tucked under the pillow. First one way, then she groped in another direction, knocking over a small brass table lamp. Jillian recoiled from the clatter as the metal lamp rung as loudly as the bells at Saints’ Peter and Paul Church over in North Beach. She peeled off her protective pillow and reached for the phone. Her phone wasn’t on the bedside table, and neither was the stack of paperback books she habitually kept at hand. Blinding pinpricks of light danced in her vision, making it impossible to focus through the swirling aura.

Fighting against the pounding in her head, Jillian crept to the edge of the bed, dangled her legs off the side, and brushed her toes gently on the polished hardwood floor. Jillian shuddered, a wave of nausea poured over her. The feeling wasn’t from a migraine. It came from the realization she wasn’t in her apartment. Her place didn’t have hardwood floors. Jillian didn’t know where she was, or worse, how she got here.

Instead of her phone, a half-empty Gran Patrón Platinum tequila bottle and a wrinkled condom wrapper lay on the nightstand. She spotted her clothes on the other side of the room, in a heap on a leather chair. Jillian pulled the sheet away from herself and peered downward.

“Shit.”

She was naked under the bed covers. Jillian couldn’t remember the slightest detail leading up to her ending the night disrobed, nor could she feel the lingering warmth of being with someone, in spite of the condom wrapper left on the nightstand. She’d never experienced a blackout from alcohol before. Jillian stayed away from tequila as a rule because of a few bad hangovers back when she attended San Francisco State University. If it weren’t for the half-empty bottle of pricy booze, she’d have sworn she hadn’t touched the stuff in ten years.

Yet, here she was–tequila, nakedness, and all. She hoped a tall, dark, handsome, athletic man was going to burst through the bedroom door with a tray of cappuccinos and warm croissants. At this point, a short, round, gnomish man with instant coffee and a day-old pop tart would be welcome. It wasn’t her habit to “sleep around,” as her mother used to call it. However, Jillian Cooper was a woman who enjoyed the occasional company of men, and this was not the first time she’d greeted the sunrise from a man’s place following a late night hook-up. She always remembered them, until this morning. The migraine and the tequila played games in her head—loud, pulsing, and painful games.

The bedroom, where she did God-only-knows-what, was expensively furnished and decidedly masculine. Dark hues of burnished leather and deep mahogany dominated the space. A set of wooden horizontal blinds kept out some light, and in spite of her headache, curiosity demanded she open them.

The window looked out over Huntington Park in Nob Hill, some of the priciest real estate in San Francisco. From her vantage point, Jillian figured the room sat on the sixth floor, or higher, and commanded a view of the grey slate tile roof of Grace Cathedral and Mt. Sutro off to the South. The condo, or whatever this place was, offered the resident one of those “ten-million-dollar views” everyone wanted, but few could afford. Jillian’s salary as a Vice President of Marketing for Dynalife Pharmaceutical wouldn’t buy the dust in a place like this.
Another wave of nausea buckled Jillian’s knees. She grabbed onto a dresser near the window and braced herself while the queasiness passed. As she opened her eyes, she focused on a silver-plated frame on the top of the dresser. Jillian peered at a photograph of her own image, a picture of her, with her boss, Jonathon Mattson, the CEO of Dynalife Pharmaceutical.

Confusion and panic clawed at Jillian’s mind. Mattson was thirty-five years her senior and married to one of the city’s society matrons. Jillian supposed some women found him attractive, with his swagger and the ease with which he flaunted his wealth. There were lines Jillian did not cross; never, ever, get involved with someone at work, and married men were off limits.

What was she doing here, naked in Mattson’s apartment? Had Jillian broken both rules? The thought of a relationship with Mattson was unthinkable. The photograph meant they’d been together before. The two looked at ease with one another in the photo, and it hinted at a close personal relationship, her hand on his chest. When the hell was that taken? She had no recollection of an evening with Jonathon Mattson, let alone posing for a photo.

“What have I done?”

Jillian staggered to the chair with her wadded-up clothes, slid into her panties, quickly stepped into her dark blue dress, shoved a bra in her purse, and grabbed her shoes from the floor. With an ear to the door, Jillian listened. Filtered by the thrum of her heartbeat, she heard voices deep within the apartment. She felt her face blush thinking about who she’d meet as she snuck out. Her hand trembled on the doorknob as she turned it, a fraction of an inch at a time until the lock slid back with a muted click. The door opened inward a few inches, the voices became more distinct–a television.

Shoes in hand, Jillian crept down the hallway. The hardwood floor felt cold under her bare feet as she made her way to the large open living space. A flat-screen television blared the financial news from CNN to an empty room. Jillian glanced at the kitchen, and she exhaled when she realized she was alone in the apartment. The veil of swirling bright spots in her vision started to clear, and she needed to head home for her migraine medication. She desperately wanted to leave before Jonathon Mattson returned. She couldn’t face him with the cocktail of anger and shame whirling inside her.

Slipping on her shoes, she listened as the CNN anchor, a carefully coifed and airbrushed young blonde reporter, delivered her monologue.

“The market opened with a quick rally this morning,” the anchorwoman said.

“Today’s Saturday and the market isn’t open, bimbo,” Jillian said. “Where do they find these people?” She found her jacket folded over the back of a sofa.

Jillian tucked the jacket under her arm, reached for the apartment door and stopped when she heard the woman’s voice drone on.

“In other financial news, the death of Dynalife Pharmaceutical CEO, Jonathon Mattson sent the mega-pharmaceutical company’s stock prices plummeting in early trading. Authorities are looking into the matter and haven’t disclosed any details about the death.”

Jillian froze when the screen flashed a photo of Mattson, with a banner under the image proclaiming, “Billionaire Pharmaceutical CEO Dead.”

The television news turned the page and droned on about other financial news. Mattson was a mere footnote in the market ledgers. Business goes on.

“That can’t be. Jonathon, dead?”

Another cramp of nausea hit her, and she wrapped her arms around her midsection as if she held her insides together. The apartment space closed in on her, and when the spasms subsided, Jillian darted for the door and flung it open. She ran across the hall to an elevator and stabbed the down button repeatedly, willing the car to appear. The hallway space was foreign; nothing in the décor sparked a memory of how she got here. But here she was, and it wasn’t like she magically appeared in Mattson’s apartment. Jillian didn’t know Jonathon kept an apartment on Knob Hill. It must have been a secret rendezvous pad for Jonathon and his rumored affairs. A wave of nausea swept over Jillian at the though she was now among his conquests.

The whir of the elevator stopped, and a light electronic bleep sounded the arrival of the conveyance. She slid into the empty elevator before the doors fully opened and punched the lobby button. The cool wall of the elevator car soothed the back of her head, the first comforting thing since awakening in this bad dream.

She couldn’t shake the nightmare off. Questions without answers cascaded through her mind. What happened? Where was she? Who was she with?

“Come on–come on,” she urged the doors as they closed at a slow agonizing pace.

“It’s not possible. Today is Saturday, and I saw Jonathon at a board meeting yesterday–Friday. It has to be a huge mistake.” She drew in a deep breath and tried to center herself.

The elevator chimed, and the doors opened into the building’s lobby. Jonathon wasn’t there to expose some elaborate practical joke. Instead, Jillian found the marble-tiled lobby empty, except for a doorman who gave her a smirk and a nod signaling, “I know what you did last night.” The man leered and stroked his short stubble beard as Jillian passed his station.

Jillian stepped outside to the curb and raised her hand for a taxi. She glanced at a newspaper rack on the sidewalk next to her, and the headline caught her breath short.

Billionaire Jonathon Mattson Murdered.

The date jumped off the page. It was the Monday edition.

Mattson was dead; she’d met with him on Friday and woke up in his apartment this morning. Jillian’s knees buckled with the realization that two days passed without a single lingering memory. Two days erased without a trace.

***

Excerpt from Black Label by James L’Etoile. Copyright 2021 by James L’Etoile. Reproduced with permission from James L’Etoile. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

James L'Etoile

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

 

 

 

Q&A with James L’Etoile

 

 

 

What was the inspiration for this book?

The inspiration for BLACK LABEL came to me a bit differently than the stories, characters, and plots in my other books. Usually, I have a kernel of a plot idea and a vivid grasp of the characters coming from my years of working in prison. You know, the gangs, the murders, and all the secrets wrapped up in a criminal organization. You are going to spend months with these characters and places, so you have to ready to allow your mind space to dwell there for a while. This book, though, came from sitting around with a bunch of fellow authors at the Book Passage Mystery Writers Conference in Marin, California. We got onto the topic of fear and there wasn’t anything more threatening to me than feeling helpless, especially when you’re faced with defending yourself from serious allegations. In this case, Jillian Cooper finds herself as the suspect in a murder—and all the evidence points to her, but Jillian can’t remember a thing.

The plot question of what’s in those prescription drugs we take was developed pre-COVID, long before the anti-vaccine movement started to show its hand. Now, I’m definitely not an anti-vaxxer and I signed up the moment I became eligible. But, it does make you wonder what’s really in those prescription drugs?

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

This is a difficult question to narrow down for me. Each book so far has come with its own set of challenges, from querying that first novel, to getting an agent, to contract terms, and book distribution. But, I’m learning—continuously. I know more now about the craft of writing, my own writing process, and the business of publishing. Establishing my own writing process has probably been the most difficult and rewarding challenge in my writing career. Writing bootcamps, craft seminars, and “experts” tell you that you must write in a certain way, develop a story using a specific method, and use color coded index cards to meticulously outline your book’s plot. And that may be fine—for them. More power to them and if that helped them create a book, good on them.

For the longest time I tried to mirror these “have-to’s” and while I came up with books that sold, I wasn’t enjoying the creative process as much. I’m discovering I’m more of an intuitive writer and following a strict outline inhibits some of the creative options that may pop up as I write. Am I a total “pantser?” Not really. When I sit down to write, I have a good idea how the story begins, who inhabits the pages, and a general idea how the story ends, without the compulsive need for a detailed outline. For example, I wrote an award-recognized screenplay from sparse notes scribbled on a Starbuck’s napkin.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

I’ve found the most important thing is to protect the time you have to write. There will always something that needs to be done, pulling you away from the keyboard. The key is giving yourself permission to sit down and write and let other commitments or distractions slide a bit. Keeping distractions at bay is always a struggle. I can tell when I’m writing a difficult scene, where emotion and tension are at a peak. I’m a guy and I stuff that stuff down as deep as possible. So, dogs are walked, floors vacuumed, and the lawn gets mowed. Finally, I know I have to come back and write that difficult passage, but hey, the house is nice and tidy…

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

The routine helps keep me productive. My daily schedule starts early—with an assist. Apparently, Corgis demand feeding before first-light. After a dog walk (plot lines and twists often fall into place during these walks) and coffee, I try to put in at least four hours at the keyboard when I’m drafting. I find that I’m creatively spent after four to five hours, so I’ll move onto promotion, marketing, or other book business tasks that need attention. But all the while, plot lines, dialogue, and twists are circling in my mind.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Jillian Cooper is the main character in BLACK LABEL and I’m drawn to her because she isn’t the helpless damsel in distress. She’s a tough, smart woman who earned her way to the corporate boardroom. In her focused, driven climb to the top, she’s become isolated and has no one around her to help her deal with the damning accusations she faces. She finds an inner strength and she’ll need it to survive.

Tell us why we should read your book.

There’s a subtle, but swift undercurrent in our work-lives demanding all of our attention. In some respects, the work from home movement and constant Zooming from one meeting to another has made us more disconnected, isolated, and emotionally exhausted. Jillian was so focused on her important job that she didn’t notice what was going on around her. Her lack of work-life balance made her vulnerable. So, in some respects, Jillian serves as a warning to us to about work-life balance.

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?
The San Francisco Police inspector’s name, DiManno was the result of a Sacramento Library Foundation auction. Mario DiManno was the highest and very generous bidder. The proceeds went to children’s literacy programs in the Sacramento, California area.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope readers take away we can’t do it alone. Go through life, that is. We need the connection and support of others and with that interconnectedness we can accomplish anything. Additionally, I think it’s interesting the counterfeit pharmaceutical industry is a $200 billion business and the safeguards in place between greed and unsuspecting consumers are paper thin. As thin as a Black Label.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I use my twenty-nine years behind bars as an influence in my novels, short stories, and screenplays. As a former associate warden in a maximum-security prison, a hostage negotiator, facility captain, and director of California’s state parole system, I have an insider’s perspective into crime and the impact it has in our communities. I’ve been nominated for the Silver Falchion for Best Procedural Mystery, and The Bill Crider Award for short fiction. My published novels include: At What Cost, Bury the Past, Little River -The Other Side of Paradise, and Black Label. Look for Dead Drop in the summer of 2022 from Level Best Books. You can find out more about me and what goes on in my head at www.jamesletoile.com

What’s next that we can look forward to?
Next up is DEAD DROP (Level Best Books), the first of three books in the series set in the Arizona desert looking at the complicated and dangerous relationship between law enforcement and illegal immigration. Detective Nathan Parker’s finds he must depend on the very people he chased over the border if he is to survive.

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

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

Giveaway:

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

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The Queen Of Second Chances by D.M. Barr | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

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The Queen of Second Chances

by D.M. Barr

July 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr
Carra’s memoir-writing class teaches seniors to resolve the regrets of their past. But to win over elder attorney Jay, will she follow her own advice?

Carraway (Carra) Quinn is a free-spirited English major confronting an unreceptive job market. Desperate for cash, she reluctantly agrees to her realtor stepmother’s marketing scheme: infiltrate a local senior center as a recreational aide, ingratiate herself with the members, and convince them to sell their homes.

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

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

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

Reviews:

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

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

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

– Lesley Jones, for Readers’ Favorite
FIVE STARS!

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

– Edith Wairimu for Readers’ Favorite

Book Details

Genre: Contemporary Sweet Romance, Romcom, Chicklit
Published by: Champagne Book Group
Publication Date: June 7th 2021
Number of Pages: 204
ISBN: 2940165375545 (ASIN B094GFWG3K)
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

I couldn’t take my eyes off the man. He came barreling into the recreational center at SALAD—Seniors Awaiting Lunch and Dinner, Rock Canyon’s answer to Meals on Wheels—as I sat in the outer office, awaiting my job interview. He was tall, but not too tall. His expensive suit barely concealed an athletic physique that fell just shy of a slavish devotion to muscle mass. Early thirties, I estimated, and monied. Honey-blond curly hair, blue eyes, high cheekbones, chiseled features, gold-rimmed glasses, and of course, dimples. Why did there always have to be dimples? They were my kryptonite, rendering me powerless to resist.

I nicknamed him Adonis, Donny for short, lest anyone accuse me of being pretentious. He was the stuff of every girl’s dreams, especially if that girl was as masochistic as yours truly. Men like that didn’t fall for ordinary girls like me, gals more Cocoa Puff than Coco Chanel, more likely to run their pantyhose than strut the runway. I leaned back on the leather couch, laid down my half-completed application, and prepared to enjoy the view. Then he opened his mouth, and the attraction withered like a popped balloon.

“I want to speak to Judith. Now. Is she here?” The sharpness of his voice put Ginsu knives to shame. It was jagged enough to slash open memories of my mother’s own barely contained temper when refereeing sibling disputes between Nikki and me. Well, at least until she prematurely retired her whistle and skipped town for good.

The attendant working the main desk looked fresh out of nursing school and had obviously missed the lecture on dealing with difficult clients. She sputtered, held up both hands in surrender, and retreated into the administration office, reemerging with an older woman whose guff-be-gone demeanor softened as she got closer. Her name tag read, “Judith Ferester,” the woman scheduled to conduct my interview. She took one look at Donny, sighed as if to say, Here we go again, and plastered on her requisite customer service smile.

“Mr. Prentiss, to what do we owe the honor of this visit?” she asked in a tone sweet enough to make my teeth hurt.

“Judith, I thought we had this discussion before. I trust you to take care of my nana, but day after day, I discover goings-on that are utterly unacceptable. Maybe we shouldn’t have added the senior center, just limited SALAD to meal delivery. Last week you served chips and a roll at lunch? That’s too many carbs. This week, I find someone is duping her out of her pocket change. No one is going to take advantage of her good nature, not under my watch.”

I half-expected him to spit on the ground. Was such venom contagious? I didn’t want my prospective employer in a foul mood when she reviewed my application. I really, really needed this job.

“Mr. Prentiss,” Judith answered, her patronizing smile frozen in place, “I assure you that your championing of our senior center was well founded. The reason your nana isn’t complaining is that she receives the utmost care. She is one of our dearest visitors. Everyone loves her.”

“Tell me then, what is this?” Donny—scratch that, Mr. Prentiss—drew a scrap of paper from his pocket and flung it onto the counter. I leaned forward to make out the object of his disdain. Then, thinking better of it, I relaxed and watched as this melodrama played itself out.

Judith glanced down at the paper. “This? It’s a scoresheet. They play gin for ten cents a hand. We monitor everything that goes on here; your grandmother is not being conned out of her life savings. You have my word.”

Prentiss shook his head so vigorously his gold-rimmed glasses worked their way down to the tip of his perfect nose. He pushed them back with obvious annoyance. Even when he was acting like a jerk, his dimples were captivating. Would they be even more alluring if he smiled? Did he smile…like, ever?

“It’s not the amount that worries me. It’s the act itself. Many seniors here are memory impaired. How can you condone gambling between people who aren’t coherent? Could you please keep a closer eye on things? Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll have to take my nana—and my support—to the center I’ve heard about across the river.”

Without waiting for Judith’s response, Prentiss departed as brusquely as he’d arrived. Ah, the entitlement of the rich. Walk over everyone, then storm off. He never even noticed my presence. Just as well, considering my purpose for being there. Even if I wasn’t sorry to see the back end of his temper, his rear end was pleasant enough to watch as he exited, I noted with a guilty shudder.

Judith shook her head, rolled her eyes, and let out a huff. Then she noticed me. “I’m so sorry you had to overhear that. I’m the director here. How can I help you?”

“I’m Carraway Quinn. Everyone calls me Carra. I have an appointment for the recreational aide position.”

Judith typed a few keystrokes into the main desk’s computer. “Ah yes, Ms. Quinn. Carraway, like the seed?”

“Something like that,” I said with a smile.

They always guessed, but no one got it right. Some man would, one day. That’s what my mother said a million years ago, when she still lived within earshot. One man would figure it out, and that’s how I’d know he was the one for me. Not that it mattered right now. I had bigger problems than finding a new boyfriend.

“Tell me, would I have to deal with people like that all day?” I tilted my head in the direction of Prentiss’s contrail.

“What can I say? He loves his nana.” Judith shrugged, staring at the door. “Though I’ve never seen him lash out like that before. He’s usually so calm.” She quickly shifted into public relations mode. “Jay Prentiss is one of our biggest contributors. It’s only because of his generosity that we have this senior center and can afford to hire a recreational aide.” She beckoned me into the inner office. “Shall we proceed?”

I followed, but I had my doubts. I belonged in the editorial office of a magazine or on a book tour for my perennially unfinished novel, not at a senior center. This job was my stepmother’s idea, not mine. Calling it an idea was being generous; it was more like a scheme, and the elderly deserved better than someone sent here to deceive them. I was the embodiment of what Jay Prentiss worried about most.

The interview lasted less than ten minutes, as if Judith was going through the formalities but had already decided to hire me. I was to start my orientation the following day. I shook her hand and thanked her, all the while wishing I were anywhere else.

Afterward, I wandered into the recreation area, where I’d be spending most of my time. The room was dingy, teeming with doleful seniors watching television, playing cards, or staring off into space. A few complained among themselves about a jigsaw puzzle they were unable to finish because the last pieces were missing. I wondered how many had lost their spouses and came to the center out of loneliness, their children too busy with their own lives to visit. It was a heartbreaking thought.

Jay Prentiss was complaining about carbs and gambling when he should have been concentrating on ennui. The seniors’ dismal expressions told me they were visiting SALAD more out of desperation than opportunity. It was clear they needed an injection of enthusiasm, not some aide looking to unsettle their lives. It came down to my conscience. Could it triumph against my stepmother’s directives and my plummeting bank account?

Excerpt from The Queen of Second Chances by D.M. Barr. Copyright © 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

Guest Post

How do you keep your written world from encroaching on your life?

That is such a great question because I borrow from my life for my books, rarely the other way around.
For my first book, Expired Listings, it’s the story of a town where all the REALTORs are being murdered and no one really cares—the other realtors see it as less competition, the citizens see it as a public service. I was a REALTOR, so I knew exactly what people thought of us, and also where the bodies are buried, so to speak.

In Slashing Mona Lisa, the book is about fat shaming and body positivity and I’ve yoyoed with my weight all my life so writing that book was like slitting my wrists and letting the blood pour over the page. I was also a magazine writer at one point, as is the protagonist in the book, and I managed to give bit parts to all of my dueling piano playing friends.

In Saving Grace, it’s an allegory about a woman of a certain age who doesn’t feel listened to—again, me. And in The Queen of Second Chances, my latest, again, there is someone who works in real estate, and I did, in the past, volunteer at both Glengariff Nursing Home on Long Island, as well as Meals on Wheels.

My next book, Simple Tryst of Fate, the first of the Tryst series, is based on one of my press trips when I was a travel writer—my worst press trip, as a matter of fact, but I turned it into my best because I make an amazing love connection. If only it had been true!

As for the actual question, writing IS my life. When I’m not writing, I’m editing. When I’m not editing, I’m marketing, promoting, and selling my work. When I’m not doing that, I’m volunteering my time as the president of the Hudson Valley Romance Writers of America and also co-vice president of Sisters in Crime, New York/Tri-State. Occasionally, I say hi to my husband and two adult kids as we pass each other in the hall, but they’ve long given up on me. Since COVID, I’ve returned to competitive trivia and bore my teammates with my writing tales as well. My rescue Pitador Harley, half-Pit Bull and half-Lab—she is willing to listen to my endless querying, synopsis-writing, and editing struggles. For her, I am eternally grateful. 😊

Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

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

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

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

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

Find Our Author Online:

DMBarr.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DMBarr
Twitter – @AuthorDMBarr
Facebook – @AuthorDMBarr
Instagram – @AuthorDMBarr

Tour Host Participants:



Giveaway:

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

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Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming | #Showcase #Interview #Excerpt #Giveaway

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Dead Tree Tales

by Rush Leaming

June 7 – July 2, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Dead Tree Tales by Rush Leaming

 

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

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

 

Book Details:

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

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

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

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

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

Someone had killed it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Daniel Lee.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

Charlie leaned in a little closer. “Yes.”

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

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

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

“And that is?” Charlie said.

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

“Injecting the tree?” Elena said.

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

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

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

“But why?” Charlie asked.

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

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

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

“But it’s a tree!” Charlie said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel looked at Elena for an explanation.

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

“Well, you better hurry,” Daniel said.

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

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

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

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

“Sure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, but . . .”

“But what?”

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

“Back acting up?” Charlie asked.

“A bit,” she said.

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

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

“Sure,” Charlie said.

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

“What is it?” Elena asked.

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

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

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

“Yesterday morning,” Daniel said.

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

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

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

Charlie put the finger in a plastic bag.

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

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

***

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

 

 

Author Bio:

Rush Leaming

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

Q&A with Rush Leaming

What was the inspiration for this book?

The idea first came to me in the mid 1990’s, the idea that the impending destruction of a famous tree would stir up a whirlwind of trouble in a community. I envisioned it as a multi-character, complicated interlocking of storylines. The crime element came later, and actually Part-Two: One-Hit Wonder, the sniper targeting right-wing figures, came from a screenplay idea I had but never wrote.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Getting noticed!

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Music. Mornings are classical; afternoons/early evenings are rock and pop; nighttime is old-school jazz

Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

I’m a binge writer, not an everyday writer. I sometimes go years or more in between projects. But as in this book, when I’m in the throes of it, I write my first drafts very fast, using my iPhone!
I’ll write everyday about 3-4 hours in the morning, then in the evening spend a couple of hours reviewing, revising and often expanding on what I wrote in the morning.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

In this book, definitely Len Rawlings. I had to get in his head to find the logic in his views but also wanted to show the humanity within, that he, like so many people who become radicalized, are really lost souls.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Because it’s about a Tree, but so much more!

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

I wrote it in three months during Covid quarantine.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Sunscreen. No, wait…another writer already used that.

Plastics. No, that’s a movie quote.

I’ve got it: Thanks.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m the king of odd/weird jobs. Here’s a small sample from my bio:

car wash attendant, bartender, dishwasher, Adjunct Professor, lab rat decapitator, shoe salesman, fish pond builder, a monster in a low-budget horror movie, music video director, refugee camp volunteer, film production manager, ESL teacher, star of a country music video…

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I’m mulling over my next project, but in the end the story chooses the writer, not the other way around. One option is a sequel to this one. I’ve got a few ideas rolling in my head, but nothing cohesive yet. Another idea is a sci-fi/coming of age/romantic-adventure/travel tale. So we’ll see!

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

 

 

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

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PICT Presents: THE EBOLA GAME by Glenn Shepard

The Ebola Game

by Glenn Shepard

on Tour April 2016

The Ebola Game by Glenn Shepard

ISIS terrorists are trying to start an Ebola epidemic in America.

Only Scott James is immune.

The Ebola Game just keeps coming at you and at you. Incredible.” -John Haslett

A BOMB

A bomb explodes at a local hospital.

A DOCTOR

Dr. Scott James must race through twists and turns to find a cure for a deadly biological weapon.

A PATHOGEN

A quarantined group of people await Dr. James’ help.

SANFIA, VODOUN BOKOR

Sanfia is the most powerful Vodoun priestess in Haiti. She may have the cure.

ELIZABETH, THE WILDCARD

Beautiful Elizabeth is one of the most notorious freelance operatives in the world. Scott James will need her unique genius to stop the epidemic.

“Scott, a biological weapon just exploded on your doorstep. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense, Medical Fiction, Action & Adventure

Published by: Mystery House

Publication Date: Jan 2016

Number of Pages: 205

ISBN: 0997134917 (ISBN-13: 978-0997134919)

Series: The Dr. Scott James Thriller Series, 3rd (Each is a Stand Alone Novel)

Purchase Links: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Conference Room
Hospital Administrator’s Offices
9:30 a.m.

Dr. Reed called and said that he wanted to update hospital leaders on his team’s findings and give further instructions. I called the operator and had her contact the Executive Committee, a governing body comprised of the department heads, committee chairmen, and all the assistant hospital administrators quarantined in the hospital. The group assembled within fifteen minutes. The two from the CDC were the only ones in the room in hazmat suits and helmets.

Dr. Reed gave his report: “Ebola virus was definitively diagnosed by electron microscopy.”

Everyone groaned, even though they knew before this report came in that it was Ebola. Then, he gave what he called the “good news.” The vast majority of the patients who had been in the hospital at the time of the explosion, as well as most of the doctors, nurses, and people in maintenance and facilities, were not exposed and could be released from quarantine to return to their homes. I began to applaud and the other members of the executive committee followed.

Reed was resuming his talk when my telephone rang. I looked to see that the caller was the Mayor’s Office. I answered in a quiet voice, “Dr. James.”

It was Mayor LaShaun Washington. “I know you are in a meeting with Dr. Reed and your staff. I’m going to call back in a minute on Skype so I can teleconference with your entire group.”

I paused for a moment to comprehend his demand, and hung up. I opened Skype on my computer. The large screen at the end of conference room went from black to a picture of Mayor Washington and a group of people sitting at a conference table.

The Mayor spoke: “Dr. James, you will recognize everyone in my panel, the Jackson City City Council, and of course the City Attorney, Ms. Marks.

“Dr. James. This conference is called into emergency session. Now, let’s get right to the point: Dr. James, did you receive a message from a terrorist group that mentioned ‘Ebola?’”

“What?”

“Dr. James: Did you, or did you not, receive a message from a known terrorist organization in the last twenty-four hours? The Jackson City Police have the article in their possession. You are a terrorist. You affiliate with terrorists, you’ve been the center of multiple attacks, and why the FBI has allowed you to carry on, purely in the interest of having another informant—”

“I am not a terrorist, sir!”

“Dr. James—you are out of order here. This is an emergency meeting. Let’s get to the second point, of which this body has just been informed: You are immune to Ebola. Is that correct?”

“What?”

Reed stepped forward and said through his mask, “We have not informed Dr. James of that yet. We just got the results. Frankly I’m a little shocked that you know.”

“I assure you Dr. Reed, this body will be involved in every aspect of this ongoing tragedy. Dr. James, we find it all just a little too convenient that the epidemic you have created here in the United States is something that you also just happen to be immune to—”

“I didn’t create anything!” I screamed. “What are you talking about! It’s Omar Farok! He’s doing all this!”

“Dr. James! That’s enough! That is enough! That is enough! Now … The FBI will be taking you into custody shortly. We are cooperating thoroughly in their investigation. This body is going to make sure that the federal authorities do the right thing and indict you for conspiracy. You are directly responsible for a number of terrorist attacks and your connection with certain cults is well known. The City Council has passed a binding resolution that relieves you of your position at The Jackson City Hospital. Permanently. We are also considering civil action against you and your group.”

“Why don’t you just banish me from the city! You’re a dictator, right?”

“Dr. James.”

“Just throw me out of my own home! You are a dictator, right?”

“Dr. James. That’s enough.”

I turned and looked at the scornful stares of my hospital staff. Many of these doctors had been my friends for many years. I had grown up with so many of them. But no one spoke a word in my defense.

 

Author Bio:

Glenn Shepard - authorGlenn Shepard’s first novel, Surge, was written while he was still a surgical resident at Vanderbilt. In the following years he wrote The Hart Virus, a one-thousand-page epic about the AIDS crisis, as well as three other novels. In 2012, he created “Dr. Scott James,” his Fugitive-like action-hero, and began publishing a series. The first volume of the Dr. Scott James series was The Missile Game, followed shortly afterward by The Zombie Game. The third of the series, The Ebola Game, is due out in December, 2015. Though the books contain many of the same characters, they don’t have to be read in order. Each can be read as a stand-alone.

Learn More About Glenn:
author's website

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Don’t Miss Your Chance To Win The Ebola Game:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for Glenn Shepard. There will be 2 US winners of one (1) eBook copy of The Ebola Game by Glenn Shepard. The giveaway begins on April 1st and runs through April 30th, 2016.

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