Category: Guest Author

Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

Trace of Doubt

by DiAnn Mills

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills

Bestselling and award-winning author DiAnn Mills delivers a heart-stopping story of dark secrets, desperate enemies, and dangerous lies.

Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.

Praise for Trace of Doubt:

“Well-researched… with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart… Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – JLYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREATand ONE FINAL BREATH

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Romance, Romantic Suspense
Published by: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication Date: September 7th 2021
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 1496451856 (ISBN13: 9781496451859)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook.com | Tyndale | Books-A-Million | Murder By The Book | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

PROLOGUE

SHELBY

Would I ever learn? I’d spent too many years looking out for someone else, and here I was doing the same thing again. Holly had disappeared after I sent her to the rear pantry for potatoes. She’d been gone long enough to plant and dig them up. I needed to get those potatoes boiling to feed hungry stomachs.

I left the kitchen to find her. The hallway to the pantry needed better lighting or maybe fewer corners. In any event, uneasiness swirled around me like a dust storm.

A plea to stop met my ears. I raced to the rear pantry fearing what I’d find.

Four women circled Holly. One held her arms behind her back, and the other three took turns punching her small body. My stomach tightened. I’d been in her shoes, and I’d do anything to stop the women from beating her.

“Please, stop,” Holly said through a raspy breath. For one who was eighteen years old, she looked fifteen.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I forced my voice to rise above my fear of them.

“Stay out of it, freak.”

I’d run into this woman before, and she had a mean streak. “What’s she done to you?” I eyed the woman.

“None of your business unless you want the same.”

“It’s okay, Shelby. I can handle this.” Holly’s courageous words would only earn her another fist to her battered face.

And it did.

“Enough!” I drew my fists and stepped nose to nose with the leader.

The four turned on me. I’d lived through their beatings before, and I would again. I fell and the kicks to my ribs told me a few would be broken.

A whistle blew, and prison guards stopped the gang from delivering any more blows to Holly or me. They clamped cuffs on the four and left Holly and me on the floor with reassurance help was on its way.

I’d been her age once and forced to grow up fast. No one had counseled me but hard knocks, securing an education, and letting Jesus pave the way. I’d vowed to keep my eyes and ears open for others less fortunate.

Holly’s lip dripped blood and a huge lump formed on the side of her head. I crawled to her. “Are you okay?”

“Not sure. Thank you for standing up for me. I thought they would kill me. Why do they do this? I’ve never done a thing to them.”

“Because they can. They want to exert power, control. Stick by me, and I’ll do my best to keep you safe.”

CHAPTER 1

I tightened my grip on the black trash bag slung over my shoulder containing my personal belongings—parole papers, a denim shoulder bag from high school, a ragged backpack, fifty dollars gate money, my driver’s license at age sixteen, and the clothes I’d worn to prison fifteen years ago.

The bus slowed to pick me up outside the prison gates, its windshield wipers keeping pace with the downpour. The rain splattered the flat ground in a steady cadence like a drum leading a prisoner to execution. I stepped back to avoid the splash of muddy water from the front tires dipping into a pothole. Air brakes breathed in and out, a massive beast taking respite from its life labors.

The door hissed open. At the top of the steps, a balding driver took my ticket, no doubt recognizing the prison’s release of a for- mer inmate. He must have been accustomed to weary souls who’d paid their debts to society. The coldness glaring from his graphite eyes told me he wagered I’d be locked up again within a year. Maybe less. I couldn’t blame him. The reoffend stats for female convicts like me soared high.

For too many years, I imagined the day I left prison would be bathed in sunlight. I’d be enveloped in welcoming arms and hear encouraging words from my family.

Reality hosted neither.

I moved to the rear of the bus, past a handful of people, and found a seat by myself. All around me were those engrossed in their devices. My life had been frozen in time, and now that I had permission to thaw, the world had changed. Was I ready for the fear digging its claws into my heart?

The cloudy view through the water-streaked window added to my doubts about the future. I’d memorized the prison rules, even prayed through them, and now I feared breaking one unknowingly.

The last time I’d breathed free air, riding the bus was a social gathering—in my case, a school bus. Kids chatted and laughter rose above the hum of tires. Now an eerie silence had descended.

I hadn’t been alone then.

My mind drifted back to high school days, when the future rested on maintaining a 4.0 average and planning the next party. Maintaining my grades took a fraction of time, while my mind schemed forbidden fun. I’d dreamed of attending college and exploring the world on my terms.

Rebellion held bold colors, like a kaleidoscope shrouded in black light. The more I shocked others, the more I plotted something darker. My choices often seemed a means of expressing my creativity. While in my youth I viewed life as a cynic. By the time I was able to see a reflection of my brokenness and vowed to change, no one trusted me.

All that happened . . .

Before I took the blame for murdering my brother-in-law. Before I traded my high school diploma and a career in interior design for a locked cell.

Before I spent years searching for answers.

Before I found new meaning and purpose.

How easy it would be to give in to a dismal, gray future when I longed for blue skies. I had to prove the odds against me were wrong.

***

Excerpt from Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2021 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.

 

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Author Bio:

DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction, and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Q&A with DiAnn Mills

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads
Reading and Writing:

What inspired you to write this book?

My goal was to show how a young girl’s love for her older sister could be manipulated into sacrifice.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

I used first person POV for the heroine and hero. I really liked the result, but it had its challenges.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.

1. Interview with an FBI Special Agent friend who specializes in media-assistance.
2. Hours reading about the penal system for women incarcerated in Texas. How rehabilitation is conducted, the gangs and bullies, what probation means, and the psychological effects in and out of prison.
3. The psychological effects of allowing a situation or circumstance define a person.
4. Small town living.
5. Texas laws and guidelines for operating a café or bakery.
6. The process of fashioning jewelry.

How did you come up with the title?

I didn’t! This was a result of my publisher and the creativity team. Love their choice

Your routine in writing?

Any idiosyncrasies? I’m a morning writer who needs lots of dark roasted coffee. I tune out everything around me and find it easy to focus.

Tell us why we should read your book?

For the action-packed story of a young woman who spent 15 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. Once released, her probation states she cannot contact her family. Yet danger lurks and the source wants her dead.

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

I just finished a romantic suspense, and I’m thrilled with the story!

A young woman’s love for her grandfather is tainted when she fears he killed a man. But running from the truth doesn’t solve a thing. In fact, someone wants her dead.

Fun Questions:

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?

I answered this on a previous interview, but I’m adding a few new characters.

Emma Watson – Shelby Pierce
Hugh Jackman – FBI Special Agent Denton McClure (would need to have white hair).
Amanda Seyfried – Marissa Stover, Shelby’s Sister
Kiernan Shipka – Aria Stover, Marissa’s daughter
Kevin Costner – Clay Pierce, Shelby and Marissa’s father
Edie Campbell – Jennifer Garner
Sheriff Wendall – Mark Wahlburg
Amy-Jo – Judy Dench

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Cooking and Baking
Gardening
Reading
Spending time with the grandkids

Favorite foods?

Vegetables
Blueberries, strawberries, bananas, blackberries, raspberries, and apples.
Whole grains

Catch Up With Our Author, DiAnn Mills:
DiAnnMills.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @DiAnnMills
Instagram – @DiAnnMillsAuthor
Twitter – @DiAnnMills
Facebook – @DiAnnMills

 

 

Tour Participants:

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for DiAnn Mills. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one gift card. Winners may select either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Memory Bell

by Kat Flannery

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 1684337089 (ISBN-13:978-1684337088)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

“Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

***

Excerpt from The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery. Copyright 2021 by Kat Flannery. Reproduced with permission from Kat Flannery. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Kat Flannery

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Q&A with Kat Flannery

What was the inspiration for this book?

Family. We all have family skeletons and it’s when they come to light what you do with them.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Coming up with different plots. I like to give my readers a story they can relate to in some way.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

A candle burning, quiet room and on occasion whiskey. 

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

I always adhere to a strict routine once the story has come to me and it’s time to write. If I don’t it’d never get done…there are way too many distractions out there.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

In The Memory Bell I have a few but my favorite is Jules, Grace’s uncle because he is the steady voice of calm and reason when she needs it and he is level headed. He’s the kind of guy you could have a beer with and just hang out.

Tell us why we should read your book.

If you love a good mystery but also the tangled web of family relationships, then this is the book for you.

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

I never thought I’d write a contemporary book let alone a crime novel. My previous books are all historical western suspense. I love the history and that is why I wrote them, but to delve into the here and now was something I didn’t foresee in my writing career.

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

Thank you! If I didn’t have readers, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love. I am honored to have each one read my books, and I am humbled that they do.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I am Italian an American and Canadian citizen and I’ve always loved a good story. I knew at a young age I’d write and to be truthful I wanted to be a journalist. I have three grown sons and have been married to my best friend for 22 years.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

Another contemporary mystery and a historical western series.

Thank you for having me on your blog and featuring The Memory Bell.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

A Plague Among Us

A Chautauqua Murder Mystery

by Deb Pines

September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines

When Al Martin, the editor of a satiric newspaper in Chautauqua, N.Y., reportedly dies of COVID-19, the local consensus is: good riddance.

A sister suspects foul play. She wonders why Al was cremated in a hurry.

The police stay out of it.

So it takes reporter and relentless snoop Mimi Goldman to try to find which of Al’s haters— including an estranged wife, three bitter siblings, a secretive caregiver, old enemies and the many targets of Al’s poison-pen sarcasm—might be a ruthless killer.

The novel, No. 8 in a series called “an Agatha Christie for the text-message age,” once again offers page-turning suspense. Wit. And the unforgettable setting of Chautauqua, a quirky, churchy, lakeside, Victorian cottage-filled summer arts community that launched an adult-education movement Teddy Roosevelt called “the most American thing in America.”

Kirkus Reviews calls A Plague Among Us “an intriguing and engaging crime tale” and “enjoyable novel” with “captivating characters.”

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: KDP
Publication Date: July 1, 2021
Number of Pages: 280
ISBN: 979-8525017368
Series: Mimi Goldman Chautauqua Mysteries, Book 8 | Each book can be read as a Stand-Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Mimi and Sylvia were on the road again, heading to the Tissue Donor Center in Jamestown to chase Winston Suarez.

The center wasn’t far from the Loves’ funeral home. But this time Google Maps was directing them to take the highway, not back roads.

They started out the same way, heading west on 394, passing the same early landmarks: the Institution’s empty parking lots, busy golf course and We Wan Chu Cottages.

“So what’s new?” Sylvia asked.

“Too much,” Mimi said. “It’s crazy how I keep learning stuff without seeing how any of it means anything.”

“Because the medical examiner still hasn’t called?”

“Uh-huh.”

Sylvia sighed heavily. “Maybe he’s just as difficult as his dad.”

Tom Love Sr., in Mimi’s opinion, wasn’t difficult. All he had done was stand up for his son before Sylvia picked a fight with him. But Mimi let it go.

“Well, one thing I’ll grant the older one,” Sylvia said.

“What?”

“He’s above average in the looks department.”

Mimi chuckled.

“What?”

“I thought you’re done with all of that nonsense.”

“I am.”

Sylvia moved to the left lane to take the ramp onto Route 17/Interstate-86 East and floored it.

“Whoa, hey,” Mimi said. “Mario Andretti, slow down.”

Okay, okay,” Sylvia said. “Just had to get us on the highway.”

Sylvia slowed down to fit into the slow lane, sticking behind a FedEx truck going a steady 70 miles an hour.

Mimi filled Sylvia in on what she had heard from Shannon about Liam and Patrick. Their denials of knowing anything about the pranks. Their claims the decisions to have no autopsy and a quick cremation were just expedient—so Patrick could get home.

“So what time does Winston Suarez get off work?”

“I’m pretty sure it’s 5.”

Mimi had reached Winston once, described why she was calling. He got quiet, then hung up. After that, she called Winston and never reached him—leaving something like five or six messages.

They stayed on the highway about ten miles before taking the Jamestown airport exit, then winding around a maze of city streets until signs with a big “H” led them to the UPMC Hospital campus.

“Hopefully,” Sylvia said, “we’re more irresistible in person.”

The Tissue Donor Center was one of many outbuildings with medical-sounding names surrounding the redbrick main hospital.

Some were done in their own architectural style. Most, like the Tissue Donor Center, imitated the low-slung, redbrick design of the hospital, down to having a white number (for their address) and a primary-colored letter on their sides.

The letters were explained on campus signs. Building A was the main hospital. Building B, the signs said, was Outpatient Svcs. C was the Sherman Medical Bldg. D was Imaging & Medical Bldg. E was Physical Therapy, Pharmacies. F was the Tissue Donor Cntr.

Sylvia zipped past the early letters of the alphabet, slowing at F, the Tissue Donor Cntr. The main door had its name above it, an intercom to the right. Near the curb, another sign said, “No Standing any time. Ambulance Lane.”

They didn’t see any ambulances, but Sylvia decided to wait for Mimi anyway in a parking lot across the street.

“Break a leg,” Sylvia yelled as Mimi got out.

Mimi laughed.

If she did break a leg, no question, this was the place to do it. Her limb could be X-rayed at the Imaging Bldg.(D) and then set at Outpatient Svcs. (B).

At the door of the Tissue Donor Center, Mimi knocked.

“Who is it?”

The woman’s voice, through the intercom, was familiar.

“My name is Mimi Goldman,” Mimi said. “And—”

“Let me guess? You’re looking for Winston?”

Mimi laughed. “I guess I’m pretty predictable. Is he here?”

“He is. This is Hannah, by the way. We keep speaking on the phone. Why don’t I see if he’ll come out?”

Mimi had high hopes. How hard would it be for Winston to take a few steps to walk outside and see her?

On the other hand, blowing her off might be easier.

When she heard a ping, Mimi examined her phone. Sylvia, after coaching from her grandkids, texted like a teenager.

Wassup?

I asked for WS and someone said they’d get him. Just waiting.

kk

Standing there, Mimi went through her email. Then she switched to her latest word game addiction: Spelling Bee in The New York Times.

Players have to make the most words, four letters or longer, from seven given letters, including one letter that had to be used in every word. The words that day had to be made from BLWCHAE, with all using an E.

Mimi started with the obvious ones: BLEACH, BLECH, BEACH, EACH, LEACH, LECH. She was moving on to trickier words when the center’s door swung open.

Out stepped a tall, handsome, dark-featured young man in a white surgical mask and blue scrubs with the name SUAREZ above his shirt pocket.

“I don’t know who you are,” he said. “I don’t know why you keep asking me about this case, but . . . I’m pleading with you to drop it and just go.”

Mimi had expected an asshole, too lazy or too self-important to talk. Not a frightened young man.

“Can you say why?” she asked. “I have no idea why this case is at all sensitive.”

Winston shook his head.

“How about off the record? You have my word that I’d never tell anyone you ever spoke to me.”

“Sorry,” he said. “I can’t risk losing my job.”

***

Excerpt from A Plague Among Us by Deb Pines. Copyright 2021 by Deb Pines. Reproduced with permission from Deb Pines. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Deb Pines

Deb Pines, an award-winning headline writer for the New York Post, is the author of seven Mimi Goldman novels and one novelette all set in the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York where they are top sellers.
A former reporter, Deb is also a lover of puns, show tunes and indoor cycling. She lives in New York City with her husband Dave.

 

 

 

Q&A with Deb Pines

What was the inspiration for this book?

A tabloid news story at my “day job” as a New York Post copy editor. A son of a very minor celeb, Niels Lauersen, once dubbed “The Fertility Doctor to the Stars” or “Dyno Gyno,” asked a court to determine if Lauersen really died of COVID – or murder. Lauersen, it turns out, really died of COVID. But I thought: Hmm, what if a death blamed on COVD was really due to foul play.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Deciding to self-publish. After writing mysteries for at least ten years without getting published traditionally (but getting very close with a big-shot agent), I was discouraged. I quit. Then in 2013 I decided to tweak and self-publish IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH, a murder mystery I wrote on a typewriter in 1997 that had gotten zero interest. The book, set in Chautauqua, an historic, Victorian cottage-filled, lakeside summer arts community in far western New York state (left) where my in-laws own a house, sold a few copies. So I wrote another. Then another. Now, up to Book #8 with a growing following, I’m writing a mystery a year.

 

What do you absolutely need while writing?
☕️ ☕️ ☕️☕️ ☕️ ☕️

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

I have to write around my 4 p.m.-to-8:30 p.m. Post shift that I now do three days a week. So that means mostly writing mornings and on my days off. Confession: I’m way more diligent (i.e. frenzied) in March, April and May, racing to finish a book before Chautauqua’s nine-week summer season begins in late June.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My hero Mimi Goldman. We share a journalism background, both being reporters and New York Post copy editors. We’re both grandmothers. We’re both New York Jews. But Mimi, throughout the series, is much braver, brainier and relentless in pursuing justice and the truth.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Pure escapist fun. In real life, justice often feels elusive. But in a quick 250 pages, Mimi and her elderly sidekick Sylvia Pritchard, always solve the mystery, right the world’s — and make us laugh a little along the way. The pair, underestimated and often in over their heads, are easy to root for.

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

This book includes a few history lessons in a made-up lecture series on “Pandemics That Changed History” and a snapshot of life with masks, social distancing and Zoom meetings in the summer of 2020.

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

I hope you enjoy this book and stay in touch with me at chautauquamystery@gmail.com

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

York Law Journal and other newspapers. I love word games, hiking, indoor cycling, classic rock and show tunes and I live with my husband Dave in New York City. Some of my Post headlines have enjoyed their own celebrity. BEZOS EXPOSES PECKER (about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ feud over lurid sexts with the National Enquirer’s Andrew Pecker) appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN FREAKING (about a JetBlue Pilot’s mid-flight mental breakdown) was a “Jeopardy!” clue.
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What’s next that we can look forward to?

Another Chautauqua mystery in 2022 and some short essays, reflecting on my New York Post years.

 

 

 

 

Catch Up With Deb Pines:
DebPines.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @debpines
Instagram – @pinesdebbie
Twitter – @pinesdeb
Facebook – @deborah.pines.9

 

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Deb Pines. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Parker Wasserman | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman Banner

The Murderess Must Die

by Marlie Parker Wasserman

August 16 – September 10, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman

On a winter day in 1898, hundreds of spectators gather at a Brooklyn courthouse, scrambling for a view of the woman they label a murderess. Martha Place has been charged with throwing acid in her stepdaughter’s face, hitting her with an axe, suffocating her with a pillow, then trying to kill her husband with the same axe. The crowd will not know for another year that the alleged murderess becomes the first woman in the world to be executed in the electric chair. None of her eight lawyers can save her from a guilty verdict and the governor of New York, Theodore Roosevelt, refuses to grant her clemency.

Was Martha Place a wicked stepmother, an abused wife, or an insane killer? Was her stepdaughter a tragic victim? Why would a well-dressed woman, living with an upstanding husband, in a respectable neighborhood, turn violent? Since the crime made the headlines, we have heard only from those who abused and condemned Martha Place.

Speaking from the grave she tells her own story, in her own words. Her memory of the crime is incomplete, but one of her lawyers fills in the gaps. At the juncture of true crime and fiction, The Murderess Must Die is based on an actual crime. What was reported, though, was only half the story.

Praise for The Murderess Must Die:

A true crime story. But in this case, the crime resides in the punishment. Martha Place was the first woman to die in the electric chair: Sing Sing, March 20, 1899. In this gorgeously written narrative, told in the first-person by Martha and by those who played a part in her life, Marlie Parker Wasserman shows us the (appalling) facts of fin-de-siècle justice. More, she lets us into the mind of Martha Place, and finally, into the heart. Beautifully observed period detail and astute psychological acuity combine to tell us Martha’s story, at once dark and illuminating. The Murderess Must Die accomplishes that rare feat: it entertains, even as it haunts.
Howard A. Rodman, author of The Great Eastern

The first woman to be executed by electric chair in 1899, Martha Place, speaks to us in Wasserman’s poignant debut novel. The narrative travels the course of Place’s life describing her desperation in a time when there were few opportunities for women to make a living. Tracing events before and after the murder of her step-daughter Ida, in lean, straightforward prose, it delivers a compelling feminist message: could an entirely male justice system possibly realize the frightful trauma of this woman’s life? This true-crime novel does more–it transcends the painful retelling of Place’s life to expand our conception of the death penalty. Although convicted of a heinous crime, Place’s personal tragedies and pitiful end are inextricably intertwined.
Nev March, author of Edgar-nominated Murder in Old Bombay

The Murderess Must Die would be a fascinating read even without its central elements of crime and punishment. Marlie Parker Wasserman gets inside the heads of a wide cast of late nineteenth century Americans and lets them tell their stories in their own words. It’s another world, both alien and similar to ours. You can almost hear the bells of the streetcars.
Edward Zuckerman, author of Small Fortunes and The Day After World War Three, Emmy-winning writer-producer of Law & Order

This is by far the best book I have read in 2021! Based on a true story, I had never heard of Mattie Place prior to reading this book. I loved all of the varying voices telling in the exact same story. It was unique and fresh and so wonderfully deep. I had a very hard time putting the book down until I was finished!
It isn’t often that an author makes me feel for the murderess but I did. I connected deeply with all of the people in this book, and I do believe it will stay with me for a very long time.
This is a fictionalized version of the murder of Ida Place but it read as if the author Marlie Parker Wasserman was a bystander to the actual events. I very highly recommend this book.
Jill, InkyReviews

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: July 6, 2021
Number of Pages: 250
ISBN: 978-1953789877
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

Mattie

Martha Garretson, that’s the name I was born with, but the district attorney called me Martha Place in the murder charge. I was foolish enough to marry Mr. William Place. And before that I was dumb enough to marry another man, Wesley Savacool. So, my name is Martha Garretson Savacool Place. Friends call me Mattie. No, I guess that’s not right. I don’t have many friends, but my family, the ones I have left, they call me Mattie. I’ll tell you more before we go on. The charge was not just murder. That D.A. charged me with murder in the first degree, and he threw in assault, and a third crime, a ridiculous one, attempted suicide. In the end he decided to aim at just murder in the first. That was enough for him.

I had no plans to tell you my story. I wasn’t one of those story tellers. That changed in February 1898, soon after my alleged crimes, when I met Miss Emilie Meury. The guards called her the prison angel. She’s a missionary from the Brooklyn Auxiliary Mission Society. Spends her days at the jail where the police locked me up for five months before Sing Sing. I never thought I’d talk to a missionary lady. I didn’t take kindly to religion. But Miss Meury, she turned into a good friend and a good listener. She never snickered at me. Just nodded or asked a question or two, not like those doctors I talked to later. They asked a hundred questions. No, Miss Meury just let me go wherever I wanted, with my recollections. Because of Miss Meury, now I know how to tell my story. I talked to her for thirteen months, until the day the state of New York set to electrocute me.

We talked about the farm, that damn farm. Don’t fret, I knew enough not to say damn to Emilie Meury. She never saw a farm. She didn’t know much about New Jersey, and nothing about my village, East Millstone. I told her how Pa ruined the farm. Sixty acres, only thirty in crop, one ramshackle house with two rooms down and two rooms up. And a smokehouse, a springhouse, a root cellar, a chicken coop, and a corn crib, all run down, falling down. The barn was the best of the lot, but it leaned over to the west.

They tell me I had three baby brothers who died before I was born, two on the same day. Ma and Pa hardly talked about that, but the neighbors remembered, and they talked. For years that left just my brother Garret, well, that left Garret for a while anyway, and my sister Ellen. Then I was born, then Matilda—family called her Tillie—then Peter, then Eliza, then Garret died in the

war, then Eliza died. By the time I moved to Brooklyn, only my brother Peter and my sister Ellen were alive. Peter is the only one the police talk to these days.

The farmers nearby and some of our kin reckoned that my Ma and Pa, Isaac and Penelope Garretson were their names, they bore the blame for my three little brothers dying in just two years. Isaac and Penelope were so mean, that’s what they deserved. I don’t reckon their meanness caused the little ones to die. I was a middle child with five before me and three after, and I saw meanness all around, every day. I never blamed anything on meanness. Not even what happened to me.

On the farm there was always work to be done, a lot of it by me. Maybe Ma and Pa spread out the work even, but I never thought so. By the time I was nine, that was in 1858, I knew what I had to do. In the spring I hiked up my skirt to plow. In the fall I sharpened the knives for butchering. In the winter I chopped firewood after Pa or Garret, he was the oldest, sawed the heaviest logs. Every morning I milked and hauled water from the well. On Thursdays I churned. On Mondays I scrubbed. Pa, and Ma too, they were busy with work, but they always had time to yell when I messed up. I was two years younger than Ellen, she’s my sister, still alive, I think. I was taller and stronger. Ellen had a bent for sewing and darning, so lots of time she sat in the parlor with handiwork. I didn’t think the parlor looked shabby. Now that I’ve seen fancy houses, I remember the scratched and frayed chairs in the farmhouse and the rough plank floor, no carpets. While Ellen sewed in the parlor, I plowed the fields, sweating behind the horses. I sewed too, but everyone knew Ellen was better. I took care with all my chores. Had to sew a straight seam. Had to plow a straight line. If I messed up, Pa’s wrath came down on me, or sometimes Ma’s. Fists or worse.

When I told that story for the first time to Miss Emilie Meury, she lowered her head, looked at the Bible she always held. And when I told it to others, they looked away too.

On the farm Ma needed me and Ellen to watch over our sisters, Tillie and Eliza, and over our brother Peter. They were born after me. Just another chore, that’s what Ellen thought about watching the young ones. For me, I liked watching them, and not just because I needed a rest from farm work. I loved Peter. He was four years younger. He’s not that sharp but he’s a good-natured, kind. I loved the girls too. Tillie, the level-headed and sweet one, and Eliza, the restless one, maybe wild even. The four of us played house. I was the ma and Peter, he stretched his

back and neck to be pa. I laughed at him, in a kindly way. He and me, we ordered Tillie and Eliza around. We played school and I pranced around as schoolmarm.

But Ma and Pa judged, they judged every move. They left the younger ones alone and paid no heed to Ellen. She looked so sour. We called her sourpuss. Garret and me, we made enough mistakes to keep Ma and Pa busy all year. I remember what I said once to Ma, when she saw the messy kitchen and started in on me.

“Why don’t you whup Ellen? She didn’t wash up either.”

“Don’t need to give a reason.”

“Why don’t you whup Garret. He made the mess.”

“You heard me. Don’t need to give a reason.”

Then she threw a dish. Hit my head. I had a bump, and more to clean.

With Pa the hurt lasted longer. Here’s what I remember. “Over there.” That’s what he said, pointing. He saw the uneven lines my plow made. When I told this story to Miss Meury, I pointed, with a mean finger, to give her the idea.

I spent that night locked in the smelly chicken coop.

When I tell about the coop, I usually tell about the cemetery next, because that’s a different kind of hurt. Every December, from the time I was little to the time I left the farm, us Garretsons took the wagon or the sleigh for our yearly visit to the cemetery, first to visit Stephen, Cornelius, and Abraham. They died long before. They were ghosts to me. I remembered the gloom of the cemetery, and the silence. The whole family stood around those graves, but I never heard a cry. Even Ma stayed quiet. I told the story, just like this, to Miss Meury. But I told it again, later, to those men who came to the prison to check my sanity.

Penelope Wykoff Garretson

I was born a Wyckoff, Penelope Wyckoff, and I felt that in my bones, even when the other farm folks called me Ma Garretson. As a Wyckoff, one of the prettiest of the Wyckoffs I’m not shy to say, I lived better than lots of the villagers in central New Jersey, certainly better than the Garretsons. I had five years of schooling and new dresses for the dances each year. I can’t remember what I saw in Isaac Garretson when we married on February 5, 1841. We slept together that night. I birthed Stephen nine months later. Then comes the sing-song litany. When I was still nursing Stephen, Garret was born. And while I was still nursing Garret, the twins were born. Then the twins died and I had only Stephen and Garret. Then Stephen died and I had no one but Garret until Ellen was born. Then Martha. Some call her Mattie. Then Peter. Then Matilda. Some call her Tillie. Then Eliza. Then Garret died. Then Eliza died. Were there more births than deaths or deaths than births?

During the worst of the birthing and the burying, Isaac got real bad. He always had a temper, I knew that, but it got worse. Maybe because the farm was failing, or almost failing. The banks in New Brunswick—that was the nearby town—wouldn’t lend him money. Those bankers knew him, knew he was a risk. Then the gambling started. Horse racing. It’s a miracle he didn’t lose the farm at the track. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my sisters, about the gambling, and I certainly didn’t tell them that the bed didn’t help any. No time for shagging. Isaac pulled me to him at the end of a day. The bed was always cold because he never cut enough firewood. I rolled away most days, not all. Knew it couldn’t be all. So tired. There were no strapping boys to

help with the farm, no girls either for a while.

As Garret grew tall and Ellen and Mattie grew some, I sent the children to the schoolhouse. It wasn’t much of a school, just a one-room unpainted cottage shared with the post office, with that awful Mr. Washburn in charge. It was what we had. Isaac thought school was no use and kept Garret and the girls back as much as he could, especially in the spring. He needed them for the farm and the truth was I could use them for housework and milking and such too. Garret didn’t mind skipping school. He was fine with farm work, but Ellen and Mattie fussed and attended more days than Garret did. I worried that Garret struggled to read and write, while the girls managed pretty well. Ellen and Mattie read when there was a need and Mattie was good with her numbers. At age nine she was already helping Isaac with his messy ledgers.

I was no fool—I knew what went on in that school. The few times I went to pull out Garret midday for plowing, that teacher, that Mr. Washburn, looked uneasy when I entered the room. He stood straight as a ramrod, looking at me, grimacing. His fingernails were clean and his collar was starched. I reckon he saw that my fingernails were filthy and my muslin dress was soiled. Washburn didn’t remember that my children, the Garretson children, were Wyckoffs just as much as they were Garretsons. He saw their threadbare clothes and treated them like dirt. Had Garret chop wood and the girls haul water, while those stuck-up Neilson girls, always with those silly smiles on their faces, sat around in their pretty dresses, snickering at the others. First, I didn’t think the snickering bothered anyone except me. Then I saw Ellen and Mattie fussing with their clothes before school, pulling the fabric around their frayed elbows to the inside, and I knew they felt bad.

I wanted to raise my children, at least my daughters, like Wyckoffs. With Isaac thinking he was in charge, that wasn’t going to happen. At least the girls knew the difference, knew there was something better than this miserable farm. But me, Ma Garretson they called me, I was stuck.

***

Excerpt from The Murderess Must Die by Marlie Wasserman. Copyright 2021 by Marlie Wasserman. Reproduced with permission from Marlie Wasserman. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Marlie Wasserman

Marlie Parker Wasserman writes historical crime fiction, after a career on the other side of the desk in publishing. The Murderess Must Die is her debut novel. She reviews regularly for The Historical Novel Review and is at work on a new novel about a mysterious and deadly 1899 fire in a luxury hotel in Manhattan.

Q&A with Marlie Parker Wasserman

What was the inspiration for this book?

As I wrote a different novel, about Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to the Panama Canal, I did a lot of reading about that president. He had many public service jobs before becoming president, and one of those was governor of NY. I came across a newspaper story on how as governor he denied clemency to a woman named Martha Place, so she became the first woman to die in the electric chair. She had been convicted of murdering her stepdaughter in Brooklyn in 1898. That story piqued my interest, and the rest is history, my history and hers. I decided to imagine her life, and her death.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

As many debut authors will tell you, the first challenge is writing a novel, but in some ways the biggest challenge is finding a literary agent and/or a publisher. Entire handbooks and hundreds of articles can guide you on the path, but even with such help the process is daunting. I was fortunate. A wonderful, insightful editor at Level Best Books, a publisher with a superb track record fostering mysteries, saw the value in my work.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Many people would list the skills a writer needs, and of course that is the case, but above all writers need persistence. Writing is not like junior high, where the teacher gives a pop quiz every now and then so you and she can assess your progress. Until you get to the point where you have friends, or better yet experts, read drafts and offer suggestions, you are pretty much on your own, self-judging your work, revising, and trying not to get down in the dumps on a bad writing day.

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

I thrive on routine. Every morning, after breakfast, I go to my laptop and begin writing, even if no muse hovers over me. If nothing seems to work, I reread the previous day’s writing, looking for threads to follow through on. Or I research some small point like, in my case, the historic role of a coroner.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

I have three or four favorite characters but let me single out one—Aunt Evelyn. Most of my characters were actual historical figures, but Aunt Evelyn is a product of my imagination. She is a wealthy woman, trying to help her poor niece, the murderess of my story. A charitable woman, Aunt Evelyn encourages her niece to begin a dressmaking business. But even Aunt Evelyn reaches her limit at one point, over a relatively minor matter, and refuses to offer help when it is most needed. So, like everyone, she combines the good with the bad, and offers assistance that is sometimes perceived as patronizing.

Tell us why we should read your book.

Have you ever wondered how a murderer could kill an innocent human being? Have you felt it impossible to put yourself in his shoes, or maybe I should type her shoes? For me, trying to imagine someone else’s motivations is a way to greater understanding of human nature. Martha Place was silenced in her era. No one cared about her, no one wrote about her except as a cold-blooded murderess. Read my book and think about whether you too could be driven to evil.

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

A story about a woman who allegedly murdered her stepdaughter is unlikely to be full of laughs, but I do have a bit of gallows humor every now and then. Have you ever thought about the concept of the last meal—the public seems oddly fascinated by what the convict eats as he—usually he—faces death. I play with that a bit.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Although this book is set in a particular past time—1898-1899—it is very much crime fiction. We have a murder, along with an assault, a trial, a conviction, and a year in prison. We have mysterious elements as well. Why did Martha Place kill, and did she really kill, and who will help her and who won’t? In short, I write for readers who appreciate crime fiction, not just those who appreciate historical fiction.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

For many decades I managed a university press that specialized in scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences. Now I focus on my second career—writing. In addition, I love to travel. For my bucket list, I want to visit every one of the nation’s 63 national parks. I’m up to 38. When I’m not traveling, I live in Chapel Hill, NC, with my historian husband, and spend time with my son, daughter, and grandson.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I am hard at work on another book—a look at the Windsor Hotel fire in Manhattan in 1899. The hotel burned to the ground. About 50 hotel guests lost their lives, including many women who jumped from upper floors. The NY coroner ruled the fire accidental. Those are the historic facts. But I write to imagine the related crimes that the official accounts never covered.

Catch Up With Marlie Wasserman:
www.MarlieWasserman.com
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman
Facebook – @marlie.wasserman

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Marlie Parker Wasserman. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs from August 16th until September 12, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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The Journalist by David Gardner | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

The Journalist by David Gardner Banner

The Journalist

A Paranormal Thriller

by David Gardner

August 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

The Journalist by David Gardner

If Jeff can’t save his ghostly ancestors from disappearing, so will he.

Writing for a cheesy Boston tabloid, Jeff Beekle fabricates a whimsical tale about a mob-built CIA prison for ghosts.

Which turns out to be true.

Now both the mob and the CIA have Jeff in their sights.

Even worse, Jeff discovers that his great-grandmother is an inmate and that she and the other spectral residents are being groomed as CIA spies. (And why not? They’re invisible, draw no salary, and won’t hop into bed with enemy agents.)

To his horror, Jeff learns that ancestors held too long in earthly captivity will vanish as if never born, taking with them all their descendants, which includes him.

Can Jeff outwit the mob and the CIA, free his ghostly ancestors, destroy the prison and save himself?

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Paranormal Thriller
Published by: Encircle Publications, LLC
Publication Date: February 10th 2021
Number of Pages: 322
ISBN: 164599144X (ISBN13: 9781645991441)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Book Trailer of The Journalist:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

SCORPIO Oct. 23 – Nov. 21
Your ancestors are the raw material of your being, but who you become is your responsibility alone. Learn to turn your troubles into opportunities. Today is a good day to defrag your hard drive.

He hovers in the doorway at the far end of the newsroom, his feet not touching the floor. When he spots me, he glides forward, trailing diaphanous versions of himself that become smaller and smaller until they disappear. He wears leather chaps, an oversized black cowboy hat and high-heeled boots that almost bring him up to five feet. He has leathery skin and a drooping gray mustache.

It’s my great-great-grandfather Hiram Beekle, back for another ghostly visit.

He first showed up when I was six years old, right after I shot and killed my stepfather.

I’m the only one who can see him, hear him, talk to him.

As a kid, I would wet my pants and run away whenever Hiram showed up. Now he’s just a pain in the ass.

I turn back to my keyboard, hoping he’ll go away. I’m not in the mood for advice, taunts, prods, complaints, boasts.

He showed up last week to tell me to quit my job and find something better. Same thing the week before and the week before that. Probably why he’s back today.

I have to admit he’s right, but I’m sure as hell not going to tell him that.

Just four months ago I was a hot-shot investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. Now I write for a tacky supermarket tabloid, the Boston Tattler. Its newsroom is an open bay on the second floor of a ratty building that once served as a cheese warehouse that on humid days still smells of camembert. Out front are the marketing and distribution people, along with the office of the publisher, my Uncle Sid. Only he would hire a disgraced journalist like me.

I churn out fanciful tales about creatures from outer space, Elvis sightings and remedies for double chins. Some readers believe my stuff and some don’t. Those in between ride the wave of the fun and nonsensical and don’t care whether the stuff they’re reading is true or not.

Our larger rivals concentrate on noisy Hollywood breakups and soap-opera stars with gambling addictions. The worst of our competitors traffic in fake political conspiracies. But Uncle Sid stays with alien visitors, kitten pictures and herbal cures for chin wattles. He likes to point out that kittens and spacemen don’t sue. He’s been sued too often.

I type:

Although local sportswriters puzzle over the inconsistencies of Red Sox hurlers, the shocking truth is that—

“That’s crap, Jeff.”

Hiram has drifted around behind me to peer over my shoulder.

“Try ‘terrifying’,” he adds. “‘Shocking’ is overused.”

Hiram pretends he’d been a cowpoke, but in fact made a living writing pulp westerns.

I look around to see if anyone is watching, then turn back to Hiram and whisper, “Is that why you’re here, to dispense advice on adjectives?”

“That and to let you know I sense danger.”

“You’re always sensing danger. Just last week, you told me than an earthquake was…”

I stop whispering when Sherwood shuffles over, coffee cup in hand. He’s a doughy, middle-aged man who reads the dictionary for pleasure. “Another tale about space critters, Jeff?”

“A follow-up to last week’s. It’s Uncle Sid’s idea. He loved the national exposure.”

Sherwood nods. “You knocked that one out of the ballpark.”

Sherwood loves sports metaphors but hates sports.

One of my stories from the week before somehow got into the hands of a particularly dim U.S. Congressman who scrambled onto the floor of the House of Representatives to fume against the government agency for hiring a mob-controlled construction company to build a prison for creatures from the planet Ook-239c.

I kick off my sneakers, tilt back my chair and put my bare feet up on my desk. “What’re you working on today?”

“I’ve got a TV chef who’s gone on a hunger strike, identical twin sisters in Chattanooga who’ve been secretly exchanging husbands for fourteen years, and an eight-year-old boy in Brisbane who can predict the future by licking truck tires—the usual stuff.” Sherwood takes a gulp of coffee, shrugs, sighs. “Do you ever wonder what you’re doing with your life?”

“Sometimes. But who doesn’t?”

Again Sherwood sighs. I’ve never known anyone to sigh so often. His wife ran off with a termite inspector a few years back, and soon afterward he lost his professorship and his house. Sherwood was put on the earth as an example of what I don’t want to become.

“You should look for another job,” I say.

Sherwood shrugs, then ambles back to his desk. He doesn’t want another job because it would make him feel better.

But I want a better job so badly that I dream I’ve found one, then wake up to reality.

Hiram floats around front and shakes his head. “The little guy’s right—you should get a better job. And for that, you need to get that darn Pulitzer back.”

I delete ‘shocking’ and type ‘terrifying.’ “Think I’m not trying?”

“Try harder. Young people these days—”

“…don’t know the meaning of hard work,” I contribute. “Yeah, I know. Now go away.”

“No, you go away. You’re in deep trouble, young man. Two black-hearted sidewinders have ridden into town to—”

“That’s the ridiculous opening line from Rise From Ashes. A dreadful novel.”

“Dreadful? Do you know how many copies I sold?” Hiram says.

“The protagonist was an idiot who shot his own big toe off.”

“That had a solid plot purpose. And at least he shot himself, not a member of his own family.”

Whenever I piss Hiram off, he brings up the shooting.

“Screw you!” I whisper and turn back to my keyboard.

Green Monsters on the Green Monster!
Late last night, a sharp-eyed Boston Red Sox guard spotted a pack of green, three-eyed space monsters in Fenway Park. Authorities believe them to be the aliens who escaped from the secret government prison first brought to the public’s attention in last week’s Boston Tattler. The guard reported seeing the creatures scrambling up the wall that Red Sox fans have lovingly dubbed ‘The Green Monster.’
Green monsters attracted to a green wall? A coincidence? Unlikely. In fact, experts on the subject of aliens from outer…

“This little piggy—”

“Hey!” I jerk my foot back.

Melody has sneaked up on me. She likes to do that.

She wiggles my little toe again. “This little piggy went to market, this little piggy—well, you know the rest of the narrative.” She lets go of my toe.

“Actually, that felt good. Don’t stop.”

“That’s as much wiggling as you get, Jeff. You’re married.”

I pull my feet off my desk and rest them on the floor. “Separated.”

“That’s still married.”

Melody is my editor. She’s thirty-seven—three years older than I am. Her face is narrow and pretty, her hair red and wavy. She likes hoop earrings and has long feet.

She shuffles through the printout in her hands. “You sent me eight stories this week but promised me nine.”

“I’m still working on the last one. Did you know that a space creature has replaced the Red Sox mascot and has put a hex on the top of the batting order?”

“They’re already hexed,” Melody says. She eyes me for a long moment, then screws up her mouth. “I’m concerned.”

Here it comes again. “About my articles? About my bare toes? Or my collection of metal toys?” I reach across my desk, pick up the Spirit of St. Louis and fly it back and forth overhead.

Melody puts her hands on her hips and rolls her eyes. “Yes, all those things, Jeffrey, but in this instance, what I meant was I hate to see you wasting your talent writing this garbage. You’re the best writer I’ve ever edited. You deserved that Pulitzer.”

“Which they took back twenty-seven days later.”

“Most journalists would kill to have one for even twenty-seven days.”

Melody said that with a smile. She says most everything with a smile. It’s a pretty smile, but sometimes forced, as if she were trying to make herself happier than she feels. She’s the opposite of Sherwood, who wallows in gloom and wants to pull everyone down with him.

I say, “You always see the best in every situation.”

“Thanks.”

“It drives me batshit.”

Melody raps her knuckles on my desk. “I need the copy by two o’clock.” She raps her knuckles on the top of my head. “At the latest.”

I watch her go. I shouldn’t tease her the way I do. Melody’s not the hard-ass editor she pretends to be. She’s in fact a softy, smart and thoughtful. Also curvy.

Hiram says, “That young lady has a fine carriage.”

“I hadn’t noticed,” I say and pick up my typing where I left off:

Space lizards have the ability to slow down fast balls, strip the spin from curves and send knuckleballs off in…

Hiram says, “‘slow down fast balls’ is flabby and clumsy because ‘slow’ and ‘fast’ interfere with each other.”

“Un huh.” I keep on typing.

“Clementine’s coming to visit.”

“Oh?”

“She’s worried about Ebenezer.”

I look up from my keyboard. “What is it this time?”

“He’s missing.”

“Grandpa Ebenezer is always missing,” I say.

“Clementine thinks he’s in trouble.”

I delete ‘slow down fast balls’ and type ‘retard fast balls. “How can Ebenezer be in trouble? He’s dead.”

“I don’t like that word—and now you’re the one in trouble.”

I look up to see Uncle Sid coming toward me. Two burly guys walk with him, one on each side, clutching his arms.

My uncle looks scared. I hate to see that. I love the guy.

“Jeff,” he says with a quiver, “these two gentlemen want a word with you.”

I’ve watched enough local news to recognize the Ramsey twins—Hank and Freddie. Not gentlemen. Mobsters.

I get to my feet, pull Sid free from the pair’s grasp and wrap my arm around his shoulders. They’re trembling. “What in hell do you two want?

Hank steps closer and blows his cigar breath in my face. He has big ears and black hair combed straight back. At six feet three, he stands eye-to-eye with me, but he’s half again as wide. He says, “Did you write that idiotic story?”

“Which idiotic story? I write lots of idiotic stories.”

Freddie says, “Asshole!” and steps forward.

Hank reaches out to hold him back. “Easy.”

Although the two were born identical, no one has trouble telling them apart because Freddie had the front half of his nose lobbed off in a knife fight. This gives him a piggy look.

Hank says, “You know what I’m talking about, wiseass. Who told you about that government prison for space monsters?”

“Who? No one. I made it up.”

“You made it up?”

“I make up everything I write.”

Hank tilts his head back and half closes his eyes. “You made the story up?”

“Isn’t that what I just said?”

Hank pokes me in the chest. “Then how come it’s true?”

***

Excerpt from The Journalist by David Gardener. Copyright 2021 by David Gardener. Reproduced with permission from David Gardener. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

David Gardener

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college, worked as a reporter and sold women’s shoes.

He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction.

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

Q&A with David Gardner

What was the inspiration for this book?

At a rest stop on the Interstate a few years ago, I took the time to thumb through the tabloids. I spotted an article about a prison that a mob construction company supposedly built for the federal government and another one about ghosts. In seconds I put the two together to form the foundation for a novel. The writing itself took two hard years.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

Finding a publisher.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

A detailed outline. Otherwise, my writing wanders.

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

I write every morning but stop at noon. Any later than that, I get stupid. But I take notes all day long into the digital recorder I always carry. I get a lot of writing ideas while walking.

Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Colette, who is the protagonist’s grandmother. She regularly returns for ghostly visits and is sassy and sexy. She was a high-kicking dancer on the Paris stage in the 1930s, then a fearless underground leader during WW2 until the Nazis caught her and executed her.

Tell us why we should read your book.

I hope it makes you laugh and think.

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

It’s a whimsical combination of the paranormal and a thriller, with moments of deep emotion.

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

Have fun reading and forget your troubles for a while.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

David Gardner grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, served in Army Special Forces and earned a Ph.D. in French from the University of Wisconsin. He has taught college and worked as a reporter and in the computer industry.

He coauthored three programming books for Prentice Hall, wrote dozens of travel articles as well as too many mind-numbing computer manuals before happily turning to fiction: The Journalist: A Paranormal Thriller and The Last Speaker of Skalwegian (rhymes with ‘Norwegian) (both with Encircle Publications).

He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Nancy, also a writer. He hikes, bikes, messes with astrophotography and plays the keyboard with no discernible talent whatsoever.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

The Last Speaker of Skalwegian is due out in September 2021. A mild-mannered linguistics professor gets involved with a man claiming to be last speaker of Skalwegian, which lands our hero in a world of trouble with his boss and a gang of mobsters. It’s a whimsical thriller.

The Accidental Spy is near completion. It tells the story of an incompetent technical writer who outsources his job to India and ends up as an accidental spy with Russian agents chasing after him. There’s also a beautiful spy, of course. Another whimsical thriller.

Catch Up With David Gardener:
DavidGardnerAuthor.com
Goodreads
Instagram – @davidagardner07
Twitter – @dgardner_author
Facebook – @david.gardner.33483

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for David Gardner. There will be THREE (3) winners for this tour. Each winner will ONE (1) signed print edition of The Journalist by David Gardner (US Mailing Addresses Only). The giveaway begins on August 1 and runs through September 2, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Loser Baby by Jason Bovberg | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

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Loser Baby

by Jason Bovberg

August 1-31, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Loser Baby by Jason Bovberg

Jasmine Frank is missing.

It’s a humid summer morning in Santa Ana, California, and her twin brother Jordan abruptly finds himself on a desperate search—fearing the worst. The party last night got way out of hand, and his brain is still chemically fried. But this is Jasmine’s story. She’s awakened far from home to her own mystery: She’s unwittingly stolen something from the most dangerous person she’s ever known. Tommy Strafe. And now Tommy is raging through the sunbaked streets, gathering illicit forces to seek brutal retribution. But all Jasmine really wants is to get out of Orange County, escape her past, and find a measure of redemption.

Loser Baby is a propulsive blast through the streets of the SoCal melting pot, a breakneck dark-comic neo-noir populated by misfits and malefactors, criminals and innocents, down-and-outers and spun-out dreamers. Prepare yourself for an adrenaline rush of rat-a-tat he-said-she-said narrative twists—all in service of a giddily slam-bang shock ending.

Book Praise:

“Jason Bovberg’s Loser Baby is a beautiful noir novel for the 21st century! It’s a wild, frantic ride through shady Southern California, a desperate drug-fueled search for a girl who only wants to escape a sordid life.”
—Scott Phillips, author of THE ICE HARVEST and THAT LEFT TURN AT ALBUQUERQUE

Loser Babyis the real deal for hardcore crime fiction fans. This one grinds with the engine over the red line all the way. Hang on tight!”
—Eric Beetner, author of ALL THE WAY DOWN

Loser Baby is one cool book! Bovberg writes characters who get into your head and under your skin. You won’t shake this one easily: It’ll stay with you long after you read it!”
—Terrill Lee Lankford, author of SHOOTERS and ANGRY MOON

“Jason Bovberg’s Loser Baby is a high-octane thriller that moves like greased lightning! The beauty of this book is its motley collection of despicable characters whom you come to love by the end. Loser Baby is Bovberg’s greatest book and one of the best of the year.
—Gary Phillips, author of BLOOD AND ASPHALT and BIRDS OF FIRE

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Dark Highway Press
Publication Date: August 2nd 2021
Number of Pages: 322
ISBN: 9780966262988
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

0 Jasmine

Smack in the middle of Santa Ana on a Friday night, gang-funk psychedelia, the animal snarl and faint butane odor of nitrous-juiced import cars, the streets undulating and ratcheting like a grungy arcade game—rumble, whoosh, clickety-clack. The city was still new to Jasmine Frank, this sprawling expanse of damp concrete, swaying palms, salty beach sweat, and steaming antifreeze. The japchae and the spicy fish tacos and the pulsating afro grooves, the cackling Chicano rap, the cacophony of indecipherable shouts coming at her along Westminster Boulevard—yes! She got off on the staccato ghetto thrill of it all, closing her eyes, lost in the jagged rhythms, the music and the traffic, crisscrossing like a spastic radio dial. A constantly moving mobile night life.

Sooooo different from what she and Jordy were used to back home in that deadened whitebread cul-de-sac, north Garden Grove. In their new life, it felt as if there were raging pool parties around every cinder-block corner, drugs and condoms handed out like candy, cool kids as far as the eye could see. Plenty of assholes, too, but who cared about them? You just ignored them, and they went away, bothered someone else.

Jordy’s voice whispered hot in her ear, but he wasn’t in the car with her now, he was back at Tommy’s party. She couldn’t catch her brother’s words. It was as if they were buffeting on the humid wind outside her window. Or maybe she didn’t want to hear him. She tuned him out, left him back at Tommy’s house. She laughed at that, then felt a little bad. Just a little.

The inside of the car looked new—it even had a spiffy aftermarket audio deck with a touchscreen—but it was an older ride, some kind of Volkswagen according to the steering wheel. The driver (what was his name, again?) had let her thumb down her window to let the night in. She’d made him turn off his USB stick full of sugary pop right away, in favor of the nightsong. The hazy world swirled, and her body with it. She grooved in the contoured seat.

Jasmine glanced over at the dude, caught him ogling her legs, which she knew looked fabulous beneath the hem of her blue dress. His gaze both mortified and delighted her. Dude was OK looking but nothing special, and of course she knew what he was after. But she aimed higher, deserved better. Deserved more. That’s what Jordy told her, and that’s what her mom used to say, too.

Hell, the guy was good for a ride, anyway.

“How much farther, my duuuuude?” she sang out, full-throated, and she swore she could see her voice splay out colorfully and blast out the window into the night.

LOL, she thought, like actually conjuring the individual letters. She giggled, loving it. What’s wrong with me?

“Few miles,” he said, smirk-voiced.

He was wearing a silly dark fedora that he thought made him look sophisticated or something, but she knew it was only there to hide his thinning hair. She remembered him from the vitamin store a few days ago, when this all started. He was harmless, like a puppy dog. If you’d told her then that she’d end up alone with him, shotgun in his VW a few days later, high as shitballs, rushing through the late-late Santa Ana night in search of burgers, she’d have laughed in your face. Nice eyes, though. A good set of blue eyes could take a guy a long way.

She found herself balling up her fists and drumming the dash and screaming, “Fuuuuuck iiiiiiiit!”

Holy crap, something was in her system, gooey and euphoric, making her feel as if her head was twisting up and away like some fancy warm firecracker. Everything exaggerated, everything spinning out, like just now this hopped-up neon-yellow Toyota ahead of them, its tires chirping on the concrete of the intersection, couple of teenagers’ hands waving frantically out the sunroof. Heading toward the beach, probably, the bonfires, the giddy drunken dancing at the shore. Jasmine squealed laughter, wanting to go with them.

But she was hungry, Jesus Christ! Whooaaa hooooooo!

Food first.

“Well, hurry up, then!” she said nonsensically, realizing after she said it that she was responding to whatever the driver said a few minutes ago.

They were stopped at a light, and she was tapping her foot.

“This probably isn’t the greatest idea, you know,” he said, right hand resting on his short-throw gearshift. “Tommy’s gonna be pissed. At both of us.”

“Jeez, man, you’re bringin’ me down.”

“You don’t want Tommy pissed at you.”

“Awww, he’s a big ol’ softie.”

“I’m serious.”

“He’s cool.”

He gave her a look. “Girl, you’re thinkin’ of someone else.”

“Sheesh, I’ve known Tommy forever.”

“Be that as it may, you don’t—”

“Hold up, did you just say, ‘Be that as it may’?”

A pause. “Shut up.”

Jasmine started laughing so hard that she could barely breathe. After a while, her leaking eyes opened blurrily on the car next to them, and she saw a large Hispanic man staring at her as if he couldn’t figure her out. That was fine with her. She waved goofily at the dull-faced man, and then he pulled away when the light turned green. A few moments later, someone passed them in an underlit red Subaru WRX, sound system booming, windows tinted so black that it was like looking into the devil’s eyes. The rally car swerved liquidly around the traffic ahead of them and was gone as if it had never been.

“Oooooh,” she breathed.

Her laughter had run its course. It seemed like they were hitting every goddamn signal, and it was harshing her chill.

“What’s your name again?” Lolling her head toward the driver.

“Mark.” He looked annoyed, and that made her start laughing again. “It’s Mark.”

When she caught her breath, she said, sighing, “Let’s fetch those burgers and then go right back to Tommy’s, all right, Mark? Sound like a plan? If I don’t get something to eat, I’m gonna faint dead away.”

Jasmine hardly knew what she was coming out of her mouth. She sounded like her mom, she realized distantly. Every once in a while she’d blink hard and fall into a clarity gap in which she could curse Tommy and that guy who’d given her the pills, Derek, the weirdo with the tats. She was surprised Jordy’d let that guy get within twenty feet of her. But shit, who cared, she felt gooooood. Although she could sense that she was approaching the end of it—fuck!

She gripped the straps of her purse tightly, like holding on to the lapbar at the top of one of the insane rollercoasters at Magic Mountain, way up I-5, north of Los Angeles. That’s what she felt like right now. She remembered her mom taking her and Jordan up there to Valencia years ago, blitzing on so many goddamn coasters and so much candy and funnel cake that they’d felt nauseated and lightheaded for days after. That was before Karl came into the picture, before the fun drained out of the world.

The purse straps felt funny. Slippery. She glanced down and found she was holding on to a Safeway grocery bag. It was heavy.

Whatever.

But then all of a sudden, beneath the chemical bliss of whatever she’d ingested, her throat was raw, and she felt like crying. It was as if she were catching intermittent glimpses of an abyss that was beneath her at all times. The sensation was all wrapped up in Jordy, her twin brother who she both loved and hated, and what they’d done months ago. Sometimes she knew for sure that they’d made the right decision and were on their way to a future that meant something—like, absolutely. Other times, she was certain that there was no future, at least along this path … and nothing but doom lay on the horizon.

And now she knew she’d done something extra stupid, and she was heading toward an immediate future she wasn’t prepared for at all. She knew these things, but her body wouldn’t let her feel their full import. It left her fingers sweaty and shaking, barely holding on to this slippery Safeway bag. She pictured her mother’s face, and then the tears were closer than ever. She felt as if her lips were on the verge of murmuring—Mommy.

“Here it is, coming up on the left,” Mark said. “Yeah, I can definitely go for a Double-Double. This was a good call.”

Jasmine perked up, leaned forward, took a look around, wanting to squeeze every last drop of whatever was vibrating in her veins.

Westminster Boulevard seemed abruptly empty now, desolate almost, and it felt like seven hours had passed since she’d gotten in this stranger’s car.

“Where’d everyone go?” she whispered. “I mean, where’d everyone go?”

As the car slowed and eased into the turn lane, Jasmine felt a twitch of hollow nausea, and the eternal abyss—the one that was always beneath her—began to widen. She turned back to the open window, sucked in the night air in huge gasps, forced a beatific smile, tried to lose herself again.

It wasn’t working.

Mark turned into the dark, empty parking lot and immediately began shouting.

Jasmine’s head felt like a gob of Hubba Bubba. She felt Mark’s frustrated temper like a soft pummeling up there, and she brought disembodied hands to her face to massage her temple. Without realizing it, her head had fallen against her door, and she was idly watching the dead-of-night traffic continue to drift down Westminster Boulevard toward the 405 overpass. It was an endless procession of vehicles even at this ungodly hour, and why was she even out here at the edge of nowhere with this Mark person? The Safeway bag was even more slippery now, and it felt wrong in her grip, unnatural, and somewhere deep down she knew she was in trouble because of it.

Mark was still yelling, and now he was asking her a question, a repeated question, but all she could do was listen to the lonely night, the cars and vans and trucks whooooshing past. She closed her eyes, locked onto the repetition, the endless mournful sighs and howls of tires on asphalt, rising and then fading into the distance, one by one. That was really what Santa Ana was all about—a bunch of restless people on the move, all the time, on their way to anywhere else.

Except her.

Except Jasmine Frank.

She would always be here, trapped in SoCal amber, looking outward and yearning for the other side. Even if she found someone to take her to Santa Ana’s edge, like Mark had just done, she’d always be left gazing out into a great unknown, like a fish staring out of a murky bowl, and there’d always be someone yelling at her and telling her what to be or where to go.

As exhaustion began to press down on her, as well as increased nausea, Jasmine’s awareness fractured, and Jordy’s voice came into the mix, and then her mom’s, and she just wanted to go home. Home! Not the little hovel in Santa Ana that she shared with her brother, but her real home, where her mom was, when the world was good and promising.

She lifted her heavy head from the door, and she turned toward Mark.

He stopped yelling abruptly.

“Hey, are you all right? Are you crying?” His expression was one of genuine concern, and she felt a sudden warmth toward him.

“I don’t feel so hot,” she said, smacking her lips with distaste.

“Let’s get you home.”

Every once in a while, someone said just the right thing. Today it was this guy’s turn. Mark. That was his name. The man with the hat.

Jasmine smiled at him.

“Really?”

***

Excerpt from Loser Baby by Jason Bovberg. Copyright 2021 by Jason Bovberg. Reproduced with permission from Jason Bovberg. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Jason Bovberg

Jason Bovberg is the author of the Blood trilogy—Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn—as well as The Naked Dame, a throwback pulp noir novel. His forthcoming books include Tessa Goes Down, a border noir, and A Small Poisonous Act, a suburban crime novel. He is editor/publisher of Dark Highway Press, which published the controversial, erotic fairy tale Santa Steps Out and the weird western anthology Skull Full of Spurs.

He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife Barb, his daughters Harper and Sophie, and his canines Rocky and Rango. You can find him online at www.jasonbovberg.com.

Q&A with Jason Bovberg

What was the inspiration for LOSER BABY?

I grew up in Southern California in the ’70s and ’80s, from Garden Grove to Santa Ana to Orange to Irvine, and one thing I loved about the area—even back then—was the sprawling, multicultural, car-obsessed, beach-sweat vibe of it all. Music in the air all the time, the wet heat, the swaying palms … it made for a great childhood, especially the summers, body-surfing in the morning, scarfing drive-through burgers for lunch, listening to music while wandering the wide streets. There’s always been a yummy idyllic quality to SoCal, for sure, but there’s also always been a scuzzy underbelly of crime and drugs and lower-class ennui, and that’s what I wanted to explore in LOSER BABY, that dichotomy.

I’ve also always loved vintage pulp fiction, so my primary inspiration was to combine that sense of noir with the sunniness of Orange County’s lowest-brow city, Santa Ana. In essence, contrast the dark with the light.

What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

The beginning of it! I was sidelined early thanks to a bout of Hodgkin’s Disease (a type of lymphoma) when I was 19. Man, that really put a dent in my trajectory, and it took a long while to recover. It’s probably for that reason that I feel as if I only started writing seriously late in life. (In fact, a big part of my writing output in my forties was to tackle my feelings about my “cancer period” in my horror trilogy Blood Red, Draw Blood, and Blood Dawn, a collective study of a blood anomaly that threatens existence.)

I’ll occasionally read success stories about writers getting their big break out of college, and that just ain’t me. Maybe I never really had anything exciting to write about back then, or I didn’t know the right people, but only now—past 50—do I feel like I have some really good, fun stuff to share. Now I’m facing a new challenge: finding an audience. And in the end, that may be the biggest challenge of all.

What do you absolutely need while writing?

Music! And I don’t mean songs with lyrics. Lyrics get all jumbled up with the words flowing out of my head. What I require are instrumental pieces, and my favorites of those are soundtracks. While writing LOSER BABY, I kept going back to propulsive film scores like Ennio Morricone’s The Untouchables and John Williams’ Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also love putting on some instrumental jazz, my favorites being by people like Sidney Bechet.

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

When I have a book in progress, I stick to a routine of a thousand words per day. Sometimes those thousand words pour out in a couple hours, and sometimes I have to exhaustively yank them out one lousy letter at a time, and it takes all day. But I don’t give myself a break if it’s tough. Gotta get those words out! By doing that, I train the mind to get the work done, and over time it has become easier.

I think regular word flow is important, however a writer can manage it. If you have an irregular pace, and you’re taking long breaks between sessions, that’s going to inevitably affect the flow of the narrative, the characterizations, the structure …. You lose momentum. You forget stuff! I wrote LOSER BABY relentlessly, nearly a hundred thousand words, written in a hundred days, and I think that shows in the finished product.

Who is your favorite character from LOSER BABY and why?

I gotta say, the character that has stuck with me the most is a little girl named Sarah, who gets one chapter from her perspective in the middle of the book, and it may be the book’s strongest emotional punch. She’s really the book’s only true innocent, and I admit to getting a little choked up writing about her problems in the midst of everything else that went down.

Tell us why we should read LOSER BABY.

LOSER BABY is a timely look at the upcoming generation as much as it calls back to the pulpy traditions of dime-store paperbacks. You might say this is the book I came up with after my daughters went through high school. I got a close look at what these kids are like, mostly the friends they hung out with, and although I saw a lot of flippant, foul-mouthed, social-media influenced narcissism and entitlement—which you’ll see in LOSER BABY—I also saw a lot of opinionated smarts, and powerful interest in justice, and hope for the future. (I wanted my book to touch on those notes, too.) So think of LOSER BABY as both a crime-fiction thrill ride AND a gut-punch of a timely social commentary!

Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about LOSER BABY.

One of the more interesting aspects of LOSER BABY for me is the use of multiple, perhaps unreliable narrators. I wanted to explore a single event—over the course of a single day—from the points of view of many characters. Call it Rashomon meets Jim Thompson! As I drove a pounding, straight-ahead narrative, I also wanted to give all those characters back stories, to flesh them out, and to show how their idiosyncratic histories have affected key plot events from moment to moment, and how they have ultimately impacted the resolution of the story. I know some readers (including my wife!) don’t really like multiple narrators, but I feel strongly that when it’s done RIGHT, a novel told from multiple perspectives can be the very opposite of disorienting. Perspective switching can be strategic, seamless, and even thrilling in and of itself. I think LOSER BABY achieves that.

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

There’s recently been a nostalgic renaissance of pulp fiction. I’m talking about those classic, vintage crime paperbacks with the lurid covers. Those books are FANTASTIC (I have a prized collection of them), but what I’m trying to do is use those books as inspiration for a new, more relevant kind of pulp fiction. With LOSER BABY and another book I have in the pipeline, I’m trying to write pulpy page-turners that are pertinent to the day. I want to tackle today’s world but use a retro style.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I’m originally from southern California, where LOSER BABY takes place, but I moved to northern Colorado in the early ’90s because I’m more of a mountain person than a beach person. I also prefer the pace of Colorado.

I fell in love with Fort Collins way back then, everything about it this groovy college town. The place is so idyllic that I wrote a trilogy of apocalyptic horror novels, the BLOOD trilogy, in which I laid waste to it. Around the turn of the millennium, I found work as a writer/editor for a tech publication, where I tinkered with language for fifteen years. When print magazines died, I went freelance for several tech companies, and that’s what I’m still doing. I’ve raised two daughters who are about to enter the world as adults, and I just celebrated twenty-five years married to an awesome lady. Life is good.

What’s next that we can look forward to?

I have two more crime novels on the horizon, actually. The first is TESSA GOES DOWN, what you might call a “border noir” crossed with a “Midnight Run” chase narrative crossed with a race-tinged “One False Move” showdown thriller. For this book, I’ve combined that noir style with the atmosphere of politicized rage and hate out there today. It deals with post-pandemic attitudes, and the bewildering rise of bad guys over the past five years, and how optimism can die if you don’t nurture it on a big scale.

The other book is called A SMALL POISONOUS ACT, and this is my epic suburban crime story. Like LOSER BABY, it plays with multiple points of view, looking at a neighborhood from disparate perspectives. A little girl, an old man, a cheerleader type, a corrupt local businessman. And what happens when a small crime on a tiny suburban cul-de-sac can escalate into something deadly.

Catch Up With Our Author:
JasonBovberg.com
Goodreads
BookBub
Instagram – @jasonbovbergauthor
Twitter – @JasonBovberg
Facebook – @CriminalVintage

 

 

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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

 

 

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

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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:

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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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