Jul 192018
 

Tail Of The Dragon by Connie di Marco Banner

Tail of the Dragon

by Connie di Marco

on Tour July 16 – August 31, 2018

Synopsis:

Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but now, Julia’s former boss and current client has asked for help. He has serious problems at his law firm. Two attorneys and a paralegal have received death threats and the only common denominator between all three is a case long settled — the highly publicized Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s convinced a woman is behind the threats, perhaps even the widow of the man who died in that same fire, but no one wants to listen — they can’t believe astrology could provide a clue. Before Julia can help her client, two lawyers are dead and her own life is threatened. Can she unmask the killer before he (or she) takes another life?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: August 8th 2018
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0738751065 (ISBN13: 9780738751061)
Series: Zodiac Mystery #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

The doorbell rang. I hurried down the stairs to the front door. I hesitated as I saw a woman’s figure through the glass. Maggie. It was Maggie. I threw the door open and we hugged. Michael’s sister and I got along famously from the first time we met. Maggie probably understands better than anyone how I feel and even though we don’t stay in touch as much as we used to, every time we meet it’s as though no time has elapsed at all. I stepped back and took a good look at her. She wasn’t smiling. “Maggie? What is it?”

“Can I come in?”

“Of course. Yes.” She was quiet as we climbed the stairs. She headed straight for the kitchen and sat down at the table. I joined her. “What’s wrong?”

“Something’s come up.”

“About . . .”

“Yes,” she didn’t have to say it. I knew she meant Michael.

“What’s happened?” Part of me hoped against hope that we might find an answer some day, another part of me just wanted the sadness and unknowingness to go away.

“Let me try to tell you in some kind of order.” She took a deep breath. “Do you remember the elderly man who used to live across the street from Michael’s old apartment?”

I nodded. I did remember. Michael’s apartment at 45th and Taraval was just a few blocks from my old place in the Sunset District. “Michael and I used to see him when he walked his dog. And then . . .” I shrugged, “there was a time when we didn’t see him as much.”

“Well, I think what happened was his son took the dog because it became too much for the old guy. But the dad didn’t want to leave his home so the family arranged some care and a companion for him.” I waited, not sure what Maggie’s story had to do with Michael. “Apparently, the old man was always taking pictures. He wasn’t any kind of a real photographer, but he liked to do that. He was always fooling around with his camera.”

“Yes, I remember now. He’d even take pictures of the flowers in his yard.”

“He died a couple of weeks ago. And his son and his daughter-in-law are putting the house up for sale. They’ve been there every day, moving stuff out and selling a few things to the neighbors. The thing is . . . they found a box of photos. The father didn’t like digital cameras, he had an old camera that he used and then he’d . . .

“Maggie . . .” I couldn’t imagine where she was going with this story.

“They found a photo of Michael. On the street. Just as that car hit him.”

I gasped and covered my mouth. My heart was racing wildly. “He saw. He saw who hit Michael?”

“He must have. He must have tried to take a picture of what happened from his window.”

“Why didn’t he ever say anything?”

Maggie shook her head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe he didn’t want to get involved. Maybe he was afraid he’d have to testify.”

As much as I dreaded looking at anything Maggie had described, I still needed to see the photo. “Do you have it with you?”

“I don’t. The old man’s son and his wife knew what it was. They didn’t know Michael, but they knew there had been a hit and run in the neighborhood and that someone had died, so they turned it over to the police.”

“Have you seen it?”

“Yes, they showed it to me and my mother. She’s hysterical right now.” Celia, Michael’s mother had refused to speak to me since his death. She wasn’t on firm ground to begin with but after the accident, in her convoluted logic, she blamed me for her loss. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry to meet me, he would have been more careful. He wouldn’t have been killed.

“I can imagine.” I didn’t envy Maggie the emotional turmoil she must be dealing with.

“I told you before, Julia, she’s made a shrine of Michael’s room and I’m so worried about her. She never wants to go out or do anything. Once in a while I manage to drag her to a restaurant for brunch or something, but even her old friends have given up calling her.”

“What can they tell from the photo?”

“Not much, it’s not digital and it’s old. He had an old Nikon, I think, so they can’t see very much. Michael is lying on his side on the street and . . .” Maggie’s voice shook, “and you can just see the edge of the car. It’s dark or black and there’s a bit of a bumper and the corner of the right rear tire. The police think the driver must have panicked and took off. The old guy might have been looking out his window when it happened and snapped it really quick. They’re going to try to get as much information from it as they can, but they don’t really hold out much hope.”

“Who’s in charge of this?”

“Actually, a retired detective has volunteered to work on it. The case has never been closed, but this is the first thing they’ve had to go on at all. I can get you the name of the detective in charge, and maybe he’ll give you more information. I’ll find out and let him know you might want to talk to him.”

“Thanks, Maggie.” My heart sank. In all this time, no witnesses to the accident had come forward. One woman at the end of the block remembered a dark vehicle traveling fast, but couldn’t swear it had anything at all to do with the car that hit Michael. “We shouldn’t get our hopes up.”

“I want some answers, Julia!” Maggie’s voice had risen. “And I’m sure you do too. It’s not right. What this has done to our family, to me, to you. All our lives have been changed because of this. I want to see someone pay for what they did.”

I nodded. “I do too. It won’t change anything. It won’t bring him back. But you’re right. We’ve all gone through so much . . .”

“I have to go.” Maggie stood suddenly and I realized she hadn’t even taken her coat off. “I’m staying at my Mom’s for a little while. I’m so worried about her. I don’t like the thought of her being all alone in that big house.”

“Okay. Stay in touch and let me know what you find out?”

“I will.” Maggie leaned toward me and I put my arms around her, holding her tight. I felt her chest rise, a quiet sob. “I’m sorry to arrive on your doorstep like this, but I had to tell you face to face.”

“I’m glad you did, Maggie. I’m glad you did. And maybe we’ll learn more.”

Maggie pulled away. I could see tears forming in her eyes as she rushed down the stairs.

***

Excerpt from Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2018 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.

 

Guest Post

10 Things About Julia Bonatti You Didn’t Know

Ten things we don’t know about Julia Bonatti? Well, let me think. As the author of the Zodiac Mysteries, I’m not sure there’s anything my protagonist Julia hasn’t already revealed. I’ve tried to make her fairly open and honest about who she is and what motivates her. But maybe I can go further . . .

Let’s see . . . Julia’s a Sagittarian and because she’s an astrologer she lets everyone know that her Sun sign indicates optimism, generosity, a free spirit, one who isn’t afraid to take on challenges or tackle danger. But her birthday? So far, that’s been a secret. So here goes — Julia was born on December 3, 1981 at 11:51 a.m. PST in San Francisco.

You can see her chart below. Notice that her Sun, Mercury and Uranus are all clustered around her 10th house cusp (her career). Uranus always figures significantly in the charts of astrologers. Neptune is in the 10th as well. Her profession is linked to the mysterious, to the occult arts. Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn are clustered in her 8th house, a mysterious arena, the house of death. Her Ascendant is Aquarius. She’s eccentric, doesn’t really fit into the norm of a woman her age. And her Moon is in Pisces. She’s sensitive and a pushover for people in trouble.

We do know that her parents were killed in a car crash on the Bay Bridge when she was just a child. She really can’t remember them too well, just an occasional vague memory. And she’s an only child raised by her grandmother. What she doesn’t talk about very much is her sense of displacement, her sense of not belonging. Her grandmother is her only link to the past. Then of course there’s Kuan, her grandmother’s friend who lives in the first floor apartment of her grandmother’s house in Castle Alley and practices Chinese medicine. Kuan was a dear friend of Julia’s grandfather (now deceased). In fact, Kuan saved her grandfather’s life many years before, but that’s something I’m holding back for a future story. To Julia, he’s a surrogate grandfather.

With such a small family, her friends, Gale and Cheryl, are terribly important to her. Julia had hoped that when she and Michael married, that haunting sense of not belonging would be healed. Together they would start a family, but sadly that was taken away from her with Michael’s death.

But what does Julia not talk about in the Zodiac Mysteries? Her fears. None of us can talk very lightly about our deepest fears. Maybe we’re superstitious, as if talking about the things we fear will bring them about.

Julia fears her grandmother will die. After all, everyone else has left her. She knows logically that her grandmother will die someday, but it’s more than she can get her head around.

She fears she’ll be alone for the rest of her life.

She fears she’ll never fall in love again.

She fears she’ll make a terrible mistake with a client’s chart and make a wrong prediction. That would destroy her reputation and her practice.

She fears her skills as an astrologer won’t help her prevent another disaster, like the death of her fiancé.
And she fears if she keeps sticking her nose in crime, she’ll die young. Then she thinks, maybe that’s better than being alone and the last one left on earth.

She fears she’ll find out her parents weren’t the wonderful people her grandmother claims they were. And most of all, she is still terrified of driving across the Bay Bridge.

Is that 10? Oh, not quite. One more thing — she absolutely loves bitter-sweet dark chocolate!
I hope you’ll get to know Julia even better in the books of the Zodiac Mysteries and tag along with her on her crime-solving adventures. Don’t worry, she’s not going to talk about her fears, she’ll be following the clues and tracking down a murderer! And hopefully entertaining you.

 

Catch Up With Connie On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Tour Participants:

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


 

ENTER TO WIN:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Connie di Marco. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on July 16, 2018 and runs through September 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 182018
 

Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum Banner

 

Selected

by J. Allen Wolfrum

July 1 – August 31, 2018 Tour

 

Synopsis:

Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum

Former Army helicopter pilot, Susan Turner is Selected as the next President of the United States. In order to avoid a nuclear war, she must overcome personal demons and learn to navigate the murky waters of international diplomacy.

Five years ago, the Dove Revolution changed the political structure of the United States. The President, Senate, and Congress are no longer elected by the public, they are Selected at random every two years. A shadow organization known only as The Board, advances their sinister agenda by taking advantage of their anonymity and Susan’s tendency to make brash decisions. Blackmail, espionage and murder are all in play as The Board manipulates geo-political events to spark a war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

With the help of her former Squadron Commander, General LeMae, Susan Turner attempts to lead the nation through these turbulent times while battling her own internal demons. Susan is a battle-hardened war veteran but she must learn what it takes to be a world leader. Nuclear war and the future of the human race hang in the balance.

 

**Check out my review HERE and enter the giveaway**

 

Book Details:

Genre: Political Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 28th 2017
Number of Pages: 326
ISBN: 1981498974 (ISBN13: 9781981498970)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

J. Allen Wolfrum

J. Allen Wolfrum is a fiction author and former Marine. He served four years as a Marine Corps Infantryman in the most decorated Regiment in Marine Corps history. During Operation Iraqi Freedom he led an infantry squad on missions spanning from the oil fields of Southern Iraq to the streets of Baghdad.

After the Marine Corps, he spent the next fifteen years exploring life from several perspectives: press operator in a plastics factory, warehouse stocker, confused college student, Certified Public Accountant, bearded graduate student, management consultant, and data analyst.

J. Allen Wolfrum’s writing career began in 2017 with his debut novel, Selected. He uses the unique combination of his Marine Corps, professional and life experience to create a realistic perspective on the political thriller genre. He lives in Southern California with his beautiful wife and two cats.

 

Q&A with J. Allen Wolfrum

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

For my debut novel, Selected, the original idea came from the 2016 election cycle. My wife and I were listening to the presidential debates and I made an off hand comment to her, ‘why don’t they just pick random people, it can’t be any worse’, the idea stuck with me. In writing the book I used a lot of personal experiences, I’m a former Marine so that helped with some of the Military jargon. As a form of self defense, I tried to make choices for the characters that were outside of my experiences. For example, Susan being an Army pilot and not a Marine Corps pilot was a conscious decision on my part. I was afraid of putting too many insider jokes and terms about the Marine Corps in the book.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

When I started writing Selected, I started with the premise and then plotted out the storyline to the best of my ability. Then majority of the credit goes to the Story Grid methodology developed by Shawn Coyne. Without his book and the accompanying podcast I would have never learned the storytelling techniques required to complete a full length novel. Don’t get me wrong, Selected, is nowhere near being perfect but I would have never made it past chapter one if I hadn’t stumbled upon Shawn’s Story Grid methodology. Shawn isn’t paying me, I promise. He doesn’t even know I exist. But I want to let people know that a methodology exists for learning story structure, you don’t have to toil away in agony, it helped me and I hope that others find it useful as well.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

Again this is another example of me trying to defend myself from being a cliche. I’m not sure if cliche is the right word, let me explain. I’ll be intentionally vague to protect the innocent. A few years ago I was given a rough draft manuscript that was written by someone I know. The author used his hometown and I assume name of people he knew in the manuscript and it had every cliche and stereotype of growing up in a small town. At the time I knew nothing about writing, stories or story structure but I knew that I did not want to do that. When I wrote Selected, I very intentionally did not use any characters or even character names of people that I know. There was one name that snuck in there, Claire the barista. I know a Claire and when she got to that part in the book, she asked me, “am I the barista?” Thankfully Claire the barista is nothing like the real Claire.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I have a red Tuff Shed in my backyard that serves as my writing sanctuary. I sit down with the intention of writing one scene at a time. I define ‘scene’ as 1,500 to 2,000 words with the following components; an inciting incident, progressive complications, a crisis (a decision that needs to be made), climax (the decision), and resolution. One scene at a time is how I break down the enormous task of writing a novel.

Tell us why we should read this book.

Toughest question of them all. I think it’s a compelling story about a woman who puts her personal well being aside and takes on the task of leading a nation through a turbulent time. It doesn’t always go well and she makes some mistakes. In the end she learns that in order for peace to occur, nations need to work together, they cannot be bullied into a decision.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Louis L’Amour, Zane Grey, Ken Follet, Larry McMurtry, Jim Harrison, Mark Twain, and Steven Pressfield are at the top of the list.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. I’m working on a Western novel and have been devouring as much Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey as possible. Unfortunately I have had a hard time finding Westerns written in the past few years that I enjoy. If you have suggestions let me know, me@jallenwolfrum.com 🙂

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m working hard on a Western novel set in 1880 Durango, Colorado.

Lane Shepherd had been through the mill. A veteran of the Yavapai wars in Arizona and a few rough cattle drives through the Indian Territory of Oklahoma, he was darn lucky to be alive and he knew it. A streak of bad luck at the poker table left him with nothing but his salty mule, Georgina and a mining claim of questionable validity. He drifted into Durango with the intention of keeping to himself, striking it rich, and living out the rest of his days in the fancy hotels and poker rooms of San Francisco. Before he knew what happened, he was stuck in the middle of a land war and head over heels for a curvy brunette that tortured him with every swing of her hips. Lane had seen his fair share of trouble, but this was more than he bargained for when he rode into Durango.

That’s the back cover description that I have written so far, it’s a work in progress. The tentative title is Under the Durango Sky.

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

Emily Blunt as Susan Turner and Roger Slattery as General LeMae.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I enjoy running and mountain biking.

Favorite meal?

Carne Asada burritos washed down with a cold IPA.

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

 

Catch Up With Our Author On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Susan Turner looked up through a haze of white dust and saw a group of men in black suits huddled around her body. The muffled ringing in her ears overpowered their voices. The men helped her to her feet and they ran as a group toward the entrance to the underground tunnel. Her hearing slowly returned, screams of panic in the hallway replacing the ringing. As they ran, she recognized the men surrounding her were Secret Service agents.

Four agents surrounded Susan as they jogged through the underground tunnel together. Ten yards into the tunnel, she slowed down. In mid-stride, she took off one heel at a time and returned to the pace of the group. There were no words exchanged; they moved together in focused silence. Four hundred yards down the tunnel, the group stopped at two large steel doors. The lead agent opened the doors and light from the helicopter pad above burst into the tunnel.

Before moving toward the helicopter, the agent stand- ing behind Susan shouted into his headset, “Checkpoint Bravo. Waiting for clearance.” He nodded as the response came through and relayed the message to the group: “Let’s move.” They ran from the tunnel into the daylight and across the tarmac to the open doors of the helicopter.

The agent sitting across from Susan handed her a com- munications headset. “Ma’am, are you okay? Any injuries?” Susan wiped the sweat and dust from her face. “No, I’m fine. My family?”

“They’re safe. Your children were brought to a safe location under the Pentagon, and your parents are there with them.”
She nodded. “Is it over?”

He pursed his lips before responding, “I don’t know. I only heard snippets of radio chatter while we were on the way to the helipad.”

Susan leaned back in her seat, cupping her hands over her face and replaying the events in her mind. The group stayed in radio silence for the remainder of the brief flight. The helicopter landed at Andrews Air Force Base and the doors immediately opened. Susan and her security detail rushed across the tarmac and boarded the Boeing 747. She walked onto the plane in her bare feet. Jogging on con- crete caused the pinky toe on her left foot to bleed. She left a trail of blood down the center aisle of Air Force One.

***

Excerpt from Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum. Copyright © 2018 by J. Allen Wolfrum. Reproduced with permission from J. Allen Wolfrum. All rights reserved.

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

GIVEAWAY:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for J. Allen Wolfrum. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on July 1, 2018 and runs through September 1, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 032018
 

The Body In The Ballroom by R.J. Koreto Banner

The Body in the Ballroom

by R.J. Koreto

on Tour July 1-31, 2018

Synopsis:

The Body in the Ballroom by R.J. Koreto

President Teddy Roosevelt’s daring daughter, Alice, leaps into action to exonerate a friend accused of poisoning a man just about everyone hated.

Alice Roosevelt, the brilliant, danger-loving daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt, has already risked an assassin’s bullet to solve one murder. She never expected to have to sleuth another, but she’d never pass up the opportunity, either. Anything to stave off boredom.

And such an opportunity presents itself when Alice is invited to a lavish ball. The high-society guests are in high spirits as they imbibe the finest wines. But one man, detested by nearly all the partygoers, quaffs a decidedly deadlier cocktail. An African-American mechanic, who also happens to be a good friend of former Rough Rider-turned-Secret Service Agent Joseph St. Clair, is suspected of the murder-by-poison, but Alice is sure he’s innocent and is back on the scene to clear his name.

From downtown betting parlors to uptown mansions, Alice and Agent St. Clair uncover forbidden romances and a financial deal that just might change the world. But neither Alice nor her would-be protector may survive the case at hand in The Body in the Ballroom, R. J. Koreto’s gripping second Alice Roosevelt mystery.

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: June 12th 2018
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 1683315774 (ISBN13: 9781683315773)
Series: Alice Roosevelt Mystery #2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Author Bio:

R.J. Koreto

R.J. Koreto has been fascinated by turn-of-the-century New York ever since listening to his grandfather’s stories as a boy.

In his day job, he works as a business and financial journalist. Over the years, he’s been a magazine writer and editor, website manager, PR consultant, book author, and seaman in the U.S. Merchant Marine. He’s a graduate of Vassar College, and like Alice Roosevelt, he was born and raised in New York.

He is the author of the Lady Frances Ffolkes and Alice Roosevelt mysteries. He has been published in both Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He also published a book on practice management for financial professionals.

With his wife and daughters, he divides his time between Rockland County, N.Y., and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

 

Q&A with R.J. Koreto

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Both! This book uses real-life characters in fictional situations and even some fictional characters are based on actual historical figures. Immigration and race—very much in the news today—was also a huge issue 100 years ago. I hoped to bring some perspective to the discussions by showing Irish, Jewish and African-American New Yorkers trying to find their place in a changing America at the turn of the century.

But it’s not all serious! I have the 18-year-old Alice Roosevelt throwing some jealous hissy fits when her bodyguard, ex-Rough Rider Joseph St. Clair, starts showing an interest in a woman journalist. Alice would never admit to an attraction for the handsome cowboy, who just sees her as a little sister anyway, but that doesn’t mean she wants another woman to have him. I have a friend who had a very jealous girlfriend many years ago, so those scenes practically wrote themselves.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I start with the basics of “whodunit” from the beginning. I know who committed the murder even as I write the first paragraph. It’s like erecting a scaffold, and then putting in the bricks one by one. If you don’t have a plan, you find yourself going in directions that take you nowhere.

The tricky part is adding all the people who could have done it, to keep the reader puzzled.

But I try to remain flexible, too. Sometimes when they’re down on paper, plotlines are less interesting than they were in my head, while other possibilities present themselves.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

I’ve long been a journalist, and the character of society reporter Felicia Meadows was based on some journalists I’ve known over the years. The newspaper business has long been male-dominated, even many years after my book takes place, and women were often pushed into what were considered appropriate topics for women, like society gossip and fashion. So I had a lot of fun creating Miss Meadows, imaging how tough and bright she’d have to be to make it in those times as she tries to get herself a frontpage story.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I usually write evening and weekends, and I don’t like it if it’s too quiet. Music or TV in the background is necessary. And soda, with lots of ice. I drink way too much diet Coke.

Tell us why we should read this book.

It really comes down to relationships. This may be too much of a blanket statement, but I think it’s largely true that although readers like a clever plot and a relatable theme, they really want engaging characters who play off his each other well. I have the 30-year-old Wyoming-native Joseph St. Clair, whose formal schooling ended at 14, and who has been a cowboy, deputy sheriff, Rough Rider, and now Secret Service agent guarding Alice Roosevelt. She, meanwhile, is only 18, born to great wealth and privilege in New York City. One reviewer commented that the two of them are continually fascinated with each other, as they try to understand each other’s way of looking at the world, and that’s the relationship that keeps the reader interested.

My model was Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe and his assistant Archie Goodwin. They are utterly different and struggle to understand each other, but you can’t imagine them without each other. They can hardly function without each other.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Such a wide range. I used to read a lot of science fiction, especially Isaac Asimov, who was capable of such breathtaking visions.

Among classic mystery stories, I like Rex Stout for his witty dialog and rich characterization; Agatha Christie for her brilliant plotting skills; and Georges Simenon, who could set a scene like nobody else.

What are you reading now?

I just finished “City of Lies,” by Victoria Thompson, an author who excels at portraying strong, independent women in historical periods. I’ve been a fan of her older “Gaslight Mystery” series and this new series is off to a terrific start. She has long been an inspiration to me.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

I’m very excited about my next project, which is the most ambitious book I’ve tried writing. In Victorian England, young police constable Alan Heath, in a rural village, comes across the brutally murdered body of the Earl’s daughter, a young woman he’s known his whole life. On and off for over 30 years Heath tries to solve the murder in a career that takes him to London and India and the battlefields of World War I. Only on the eve of his retirement, as a high-ranking detective at Scotland Yard in the 1920s, does Heath finally pull it all together. Over the years, we see him change, England change, and the Earl’s family decline in the war’s aftermath, as if the unsolved murder has cursed them.

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

That’s always a tough one! Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies, might make a good Alice. She doesn’t really resemble Alice but I think she could do a great job with Alice’s imperious tone.

For Agent St. Clair, a young Paul Newman would’ve been great. St. Clair provides a lot of humor in the book, and Newman could do comedy very well.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
In addition to writing, my wife and I like taking our Yellow Labrador Retriever, Rose, for long walks.

Favorite meal?
My wife makes a winter dish of pan-fried porkchops with apples. With a cold beer on the side, there’s nothing better.

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

 

Catch Up With R.J. Koreto On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

 

Read an excerpt:

President Roosevelt and I were just finishing out talk when A moment later, the office door opened, and Mr. Wilkie, the Secret Service director, walked in. I stood to greet him.

“St. Clair. Glad to see you’re back. Very pleased with the way it went in St. Louis.” He turned to the president. “Have you spoken to him yet, sir?”

“Yes, and he’s agreed.” Wilkie looked relieved, too.

“Very good then. If you’re done, sir, I’ll take St. Clair to her. My understanding is that arrangements have been made for Miss Roosevelt to leave tomorrow afternoon.”

“Exactly. We’re all done then. St. Clair, thanks again. And I’ll be up in the near future, so I expect to see you again soon.” We shook hands, and I followed Mr. Wilkie out the door.

“Is she smoking on the roof again, sir?” I asked. That’s what happened the first time I met Alice in the White House.

He grimaced. “No. My understanding is that she is in the basement indulging a new hobby of hers. But you’ll see.” He led me downstairs, and that’s when I heard the unmistakable sounds of gunfire. Mr. Wilkie didn’t seem worried, however. “Miss Roosevelt somehow got hold of a pistol and has set up her own private firing range in a storage room. We launched an investigation to figure out how Miss Roosevelt obtained such a weapon but were unable to reach a formal conclusion, I’m sorry to say.”

No wonder they wanted me back.

And just as when Mr. Wilkie had sent me to get Alice off the roof, he once again cleaned his glasses on his handkerchief, shook my hand, wished me luck, and departed.

I heard one more shot, and that was it. She was probably reloading. The sound came from behind a double door at the end of the hallway. I carefully opened it, and she didn’t notice at first.

I watched her concentrating on the pistol, her tongue firmly between her teeth as she carefully focused on reloading. It was an old Smith & Wesson single-action, and she was damn lucky she hadn’t blown her own foot off. She was shooting at a mattress propped against the far wall, and from the wide scattering of holes, it was clear her marksmanship needed a lot of practice.

“A little more patience, Miss Alice. You’re jerking the trigger; that’s why you keep shooting wild. And that gun’s too big for you.”

It was a pleasure to see the look of shock and joy on her face. She just dropped the gun onto a box and practically skipped to me, giving me a girlish hug. “Mr. St. Clair, I have missed you.” She looked up. “And I know you have missed me. They say you’re back on duty with me. We’re heading to New York tomorrow, and we’ll have breakfast together like we used to and walk to the East Side through Central Park and visit your sister Mariah.”

I couldn’t do anything but laugh. “We’ll do all that, Miss Alice. But I’m on probation from your aunt, so we have to behave ourselves. You have to behave yourself.”

“I always behave.” She waved her hand to show that the discussion had ended. “Now there must be a trick to loading revolvers because it takes me forever.”

“I’ll teach you. Someday.” I made sure the revolver was unloaded and stuck it in my belt. Then I scooped up the cartridges and dumped them in my pocket.

“Hey, that’s my revolver,” said Alice. “It took me a lot of work to get it.”

“You’re not bringing it to New York, that’s for sure, Miss Alice.”

She pouted. “I thought you’d relax a little after being in St. Louis.”

“And I thought you’d grow up a little being in Washington. You want to walk into the Caledonia like a Wild West showgirl? Anyway, don’t you have some parties to go to up there?”

“Oh, very well. But promise me you’ll take me to a proper shooting range in New York and teach me how to load and fire your New Service revolver.”

“We’ll see. Meanwhile, if you don’t upset your family or Mr. Wilkie between now and our departure tomorrow, I’ll buy you a beer on the train.” That made her happy.

We walked upstairs as she filled me in on White House gossip.

“Oh, and I heard you were in a fast draw in St. Louis and gunned down four men.” She looked up at me curiously.

“A little exaggeration,” I said. I hadn’t killed anyone in St. Louis, hadn’t even fired my revolver, except for target practice.

“You didn’t kill anyone?” she asked, a little disappointed.

“No. No one.”

But then her face lit up. “Because your reputation proceeded you, and they knew there was no chance of outdrawing you.”

“That must be it,” I said.

“But look on the bright side,” she said, still full of cheer. “New York is a much bigger city. Maybe you’ll get a chance to shoot someone there.”

***

Excerpt from The Body in the Ballroom by R.J. Koreto. Copyright © 2018 by R.J. Koreto. Reproduced with permission from R.J. Koreto. All rights reserved.

 

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 R.J. Koreto. There will be 3 winners of three (3) Amazon.com Gift Cards. The giveaway begins on July 1, 2018 and runs through August 1, 2018. Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

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Jun 292018
 

Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch banner

Beneath the Lighthouse

by Julieanne Lynch

on Tour June 25 – August 31, 2018

Synopsis:

Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch

SOME SECRETS ARE MADE TO BE UNCOVERED.

Sixteen-year-old Jamie McGuiness’s sister is dead. Sinking into a deep depression, he frequents the lighthouse where her body was discovered, unaware of the sinister forces surrounding him.

When an angry spirit latches onto Jamie, he’s led down a dark and twisted path, one that uncovers old family secrets, destroying everything Jamie ever believed in.

Caught between the world of the living and the vengeful dead, Jamie fights the pull of the other side. It’s up to Jamie to settle old scores or no one will rest in peace—but, first, he has to survive.

Book Details:

Genre: YA Supernatural Horror, Mystery
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Number of Pages: 334
ISBN: 978-1-944109-59-2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

 

Author Bio:

Julieanne Lynch

Julieanne Lynch is an author of YA and Adult genre urban fantasy books. Julieanne was born in Northern Ireland, but spent much of her early life in London, United Kingdom, until her family relocated back to their roots.

Julieanne lives in Northern Ireland, with her husband and five children, where she is a full-time author. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at The Open University, and considered journalism as a career path. Julieanne has several projects optioned for film.

 

Q&A with Julieanne Lynch

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Yes, I tend to use my own personal experiences when I’m writing. Not everything may have happened in my life, but essentially, I have some experience with the themes and topics covered in all my books. In my current novel, Beneath the Lighthouse, my protagonist has Asperger’s, a condition my eldest child has. I used my own experience of raising a child not typical of other children and drew on the inspiration from my son.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I always start at the beginning, having everything plotted out and know where I am going. I am pedantic about plotting and storyboarding, and I cannot work any other way. I have become a creature of habit and find it difficult to write any other way. And even when I do write without a plot, I always start at the beginning and go from there. I don’t skip on chapters and come back to them several chapter’s later. I just get the job done, regardless of how long it may take.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

None of my main characters are based on anyone in particular. However, I do have smaller character’s who are loosely based on people I know or have met. I’ve become quite accustomed to using names, rather than the person, but I think it adds a sense of realism to my character and the story I am telling.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Being a mother of five means my routine can be rather all over the place. But on a good writing day, I tend to have planned well in advance the hours I intend to work, and who will be helping with what.
I prefer to write in my pyjama’s, hair scrapped back and nothing but silence. I used to be able to write with music playing, but I’ve become quite accustomed to silence and nothing but the clicking of the keys on my keyboard.

I don’t like to be disturbed when I am deep in the zone. I hate losing my train of thought, and when I do, I tend to lose my temper. I can be quite the drama queen, and then giggle afterwards, once I’ve calmed down.
Some family members would even go as far as to suggest that I am odd, and a bit of a loner. But in truth, I am happiest when alone, with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company.

CM: I’m the same way when interrupted during my reading time.

Tell us why we should read this book.

Beneath the Lighthouse is a thrilling, edge of your seat read. It’s scary. It’s engaging. It’s suspenseful. It has all the elements of a fantastic teen horror story that adults and children can both enjoy. We have two characters, both terribly flawed, with intertwining stories that come together for a wonderful climatic ending that will leave you shocked.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I absolutely love James Patterson, Lee Child, Stephen King, Richelle Mead, Charlaine Harris, Leigh Russell, Jojo Moyes, P.C. Cast, Manuel Puig, Katherine Mansfield, Anne Rice to name a few.

What are you reading now?

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes, I am writing a novel called What Lurks Within. I can’t say too much at this stage, but I can guarantee that my readers will be pleased and excited for this book.

CM: This title sounds intriguing and look forward to learning more about it. Just put it on my TBR list

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

Oh I love this question.
Jamie – Jack Reynor
Iliana – Aisling Franciosi
Lenny – Damian McGinty
Claire – Saoirse Ronan
Jack – Aidan Turner
Father Murray – Stephen Rhea
Sonya – Paula Malcomson

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I love to run, weightlift, mountain hiking, swimming and diving.

Favorite meal?

Pizza

CM: I agree. There’s nothing better than pizza!

 

Read an excerpt:

Jamie sat on the edge of his bed crying. Unable to stem the flow, he pounded his fist against the bed. The guilt-laden emotions swelled until they crushed him from the inside out, battered by the past.

If he had told his parents sooner about the things his sister Emer had been doing, she’d still be alive. Every time he thought of her, all the things he should have done to save her flooded through his mind. But he still ended up facing the harsh reality—he had failed her. It was his fault. A void like no other existed, leaving him in a limbo worse than death.

Jamie took off his school shirt and walked to the dresser. He grabbed a T-shirt from one of its drawers. He looked hard at his reflection in the mirror. How would it feel to not exist? The mirror showed the Jamie everyone knew and loved, yet his blue eyes were empty.

The young lad with dreams of playing for his favorite football team no longer existed. In his place stood a shadow, a living, breathing shell of the person he used to be. The ugliness of his home had become a constant reminder of the person he no longer was, and he hated himself even more. There was no escape or a happy ever after. Desolation and depression lurked in his future, and it hurt almost as bad as Emer’s death.

Jamie closed his eyes for a moment.

A chill, the same kind he’d felt in the library, pricked at his skin. The air grew thick and icy. Each labored breath became sharp. Every nerve in his body stood on edge, his senses on overdrive. He opened his eyes.

A shadow loomed behind him in the mirror’s reflection, its presence dominating him. He stood still, his heart pounding hard.

The shadow flowed, a discordant and uncoordinated swirling mesh of movement.

Jamie’s gaze remained locked on the mirror, unable to break free. The apparition descended upon him, shrouding him in its dark, wet residue. It moved through him.

Thump.

Thump.

Thump.

His heart was in a vise, compressed by whatever moved through his core. His eyes bulged, and he gasped for breath. Cool air washed over him.

Water lapped around his ankles. A strange odor assailed his nostrils. Unsure of where he was, or why he was there, Jamie scrambled to make sense of it. One minute, he stood in his room. The next, he was confined in a pit.

Scream after scream ripped through his throat. Jamie struggled to find a way out. He caught sight of his hands … only they weren’t his. The shock silenced his screams.

He wasn’t in his body.

He saw things through someone else’s eyes. Darkness crowded the edges of his vision.

Back in his room, he stood in front of the mirror, trembling and soaking wet. Jamie searched the room, trying to figure out what had just happened. Nothing was out of place. He shivered. Nothing would ever explain what had just occurred.

Jamie took a few deep breaths and dried off, while sweat trickled down his brow. He put on a fresh change of clothes, doing his best not to think. Taking a step towards the door, he glanced around the room. Unease swarmed within him. He grabbed the door handle and swallowed the tight ball, which had formed in the back of his throat.

He closed the door tight behind him and whispered, “It’s all in your head.”

***

Excerpt from Beneath the Lighthouse by Julieanne Lynch. Copyright © 2018 by Julieanne Lynch. Reproduced with permission from Julieanne Lynch. All rights reserved.

 

Catch Up With Julieanne Lynch On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Julieanne Lynch. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on June 25, 2018 and runs through September 2, 2018.
Open to U.S. addresses only. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jun 212018
 

Burn One Down by Jeffrey A. Cooper Tour Banner

Burn One Down

by Jeffrey A. Cooper

on Tour June 11 – July 13, 2018

 

Synopsis:

Burn One Down by Jeffrey A. Cooper

Retiring thief Jack Apple is offered a low-­risk, six-­figure payout to heist a medical marijuana dispensary from the feisty and impetuous Diane Thomas after Diane steals the robbery plans from her shady ex-­husband Alvin, hoping to beat him to the score.

Diane promises to stay out of Jack’s way but she can’t help interfering, forcing them to take hostages inside the dispensary when the robbery is interrupted by law enforcement, inciting a media circus that deteriorates into a full-­on urban riot.

To escape, Jack and Diane must negotiate the hostages, their agendas, an army of Sheriff’s deputies, the tenacious local news media, crooked deals, corrupt politicians, rioters, Diane’s shady ex-­husband Alvin, and their growing attraction to each other.

This little ditty about Jack and Diane is a fast-paced read that finds a few new wrinkles in a familiar genre. ~ Kirkus Review

 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Heist
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: June 15, 2018
Number of Pages: 271
ISBN: 978-­0­‐692­‐06952-3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

 

Jeffrey A Cooper

Author Bio:

Jeffrey A. Cooper lives in Los Angeles, CA. His previous novel, “How to Steal a Truck Full of Nickels” was published in 2015. Jeffrey has optioned several feature film scripts and co-­created two shows executive produced by Emmy-­award winning comedian Louie Anderson.

Jeffrey lives with his wife, daughter, two rescue dogs, a rescue cat and a fish who all get along famously.

 

Q&A with Jeffrey A. Cooper

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Yes, but not necessarily my own. I’m an expert eavesdropper, especially when you’re talking so loud on the train that I can hear you through my earphones.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?

I start with a basic premise, then I ask myself what I like to call the “Busey on the Loosey” questions (which is a whole other story that I’ll tell you sometime). Who are they? Do we like this guy? Why do I like them? What about those people? What are they doing here? Why are they doing this? Then I go from there.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?

Yes, which should be a warning to anyone out there who might be thinking about bullying that nerdy kid with glasses who reads a lot. Who’s laughing now, pumpkin-face?

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

When I get stuck, I wander around the house and get involved in projects. I’ll cook, clean up the yard, re-plant flowers, trim hedges, tidy up the garage. My wife knows when I’m being productive because nothing gets done around the house.

Tell us why we should read this book.

You should read “Burn One Down” because you like fast, entertaining stories about flawed people in dangerous and funny situations. You hate books that spend three pages describing the drapes. You love snappy, witty, and realistic dialogue from characters that pop off the page.

You’re traveling. Going on vacation. Relaxing around the house. You want a fast-paced book that you could read in a day.

You need a break from “serious” literature. You don’t read “Burn One Down” because you have to read it. You read this book because you want to read it.

It’s fun.

You also support independent authors and self-publishers, and I can’t thank you enough for that. But I’ll try. Thank you.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Donald Westlake, Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Patricia Highsmith, P.D. James, Hunter Thompson, Raymond Carver, Kazuo Ishiguro, Hunter Thompson, Paul Beatty, Douglas Adams, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury. That’s off the top of my head. We could be here a long time.

What are you reading now?

“A Brief History of Seven Killings” by Marlon James
“A Man with One of Those Faces” by Caimh McDonnell
“Autobiography” by Miles Davis

One is my audiobook for the car, one is my bedside book and one is my bathroom book. Oh, like you don’t have a bathroom book?

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?

Yes, I can tell you that I’m working on the follow up to “Burn One Down”. There is no truth to the rumor that it will be done entirely as a puppet show.

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

I would cast anyone that I could write a tell-all book about and blame everything on if the movie does poorly. That, or Daniel Day Lewis.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

Standing on my deck facing the church parking lot next to my house and yelling at everyone leaving Sunday services to get the hell off my lawn.

Favorite meal?

I have had a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich every day of my life. Or, at least any day that mattered.

Thank you for stopping by CMash Reads and spending time with us.

 

Catch Up With Mr. Cooper On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

We are all thieves and criminals.

Jack Apple had too much pride to let people look down him because he’d been in prison. Most people were hypocrites. Their own lawbreaking might not extend past trivial offenses like unpaid parking tickets or racing past the posted speed limit, but if right was right and wrong was wrong then Jack Apple was someone who believed that everyone breaks the law at one time or another. People justified their behavior based on their own personal sense of morality just like he did. It wasn’t his fault that he aimed higher than they did. But that part of his life was over. Thievery and criminality were all behind him now. Jack Apple was a changed man.

At least he would be after tonight.

***

Jack swung himself over the top of the twelve-foot stone wall surrounding Leo Dorsey’s home and laid flat across the top for a good look at the property. Leo Dorsey was the owner of Ledo Luxury Automobiles, a limousine and hired car service that fronted for a long list of illegal activities including drug trafficking, gun running, extortion, prostitution and probably about six or seven other things. As a rule, Jack didn’t rob people in the trade out of professional courtesy, but Leo had stolen money from a friend of his, so Jack would let that rule slide on this one. If he really was ditching the trade for good, this was something he needed to take care of first. He planned this job before prison and knew there was a decent chance Leo would have the $80,000 he still needed to open his new business. In the trade, they called that a win-win.

The business Jack wanted to open was a gas station, positioned on the lower right-hand corner of a busy “Y” street traffic pattern that fed into two distinct thoroughfares, and was a popular route for locals to access the freeway. In addition to the pumps, a small retail store sold cigarettes, lottery tickets, energy drinks and lousy coffee. A service area hadn’t been operational since the days when they used real steel for bumpers, but it was a space ripe for expansion. The property had just been listed, and Jack knew it wouldn’t be on the market long. It had everything. What was the old adage?

Location, location, location?

The word came this morning that Jack needed to move on the property. Other parties were sniffing around, ready to make an offer, and there would be no time to raise money.

While Jack had money stashed away from his recent ATM fiasco, there was still a lot of heat on that job, and that money would need to stay buried for a while. He needed a quick score no one could trace, no one would report, and that he could do alone. Hitting Leo Dorsey was perfect. It had to be.

A series of motion detectors captured Jack’s movement and flooded the area with bright white light. Jack jumped down off the wall and hid behind tall landscaped shrubbery, waiting for a response. Instead, an automated voice spoke from a speaker sitting on top of the stone wall, giving Jack a terse warning in both English and Spanish.

“You are trespassing on private property. Security cameras are recording your movements. There is an armed response to all trespassers. Leave this property immediately.”

Jack moved toward Leo’s house and saw a large man in an open window staring into the yard. It looked like Leo, but Jack remembered a slighter man, guessing that this version topped out between three hundred fifty and four hundred pounds. Leo had become very successful since Jack had seen him last, but it did nothing for his disposition. Leo was still a miserable shit.

“Idiots! There’s something wrong with that security system!” Leo shouted at two haggard employees who were clearly showing early signs of PTSD. “Why do the lights go on for no reason? There it goes again! What don’t you simpletons understand? Get it fixed!” The employees looked at each other, certain that Leo was talking about the other one.

“Boss, I…,” one hapless employee pleaded.

“Get away from me,” Leo interrupted. “I’ve had enough stupid for one day. I’m going to bed now. Try not to burn the house down before I wake up. And make sure those dogs go out again, too. I don’t want them shitting all over my floors again.”

“Dogs,” Jack whispered to himself, grimacing. “Why is it always dogs?”

Jack slipped through the garden and climbed up to the veranda outside Leo’s bedroom with a backpack full of safecracking tools while he waited for Leo to finish browbeating his employees and go to sleep. Leo’s nightstand confirmed his notorious longtime habits of pills and a three-finger glass of Scotch was still current, telling Jack that sleep probably wasn’t far away.

Jack stretched out his shoulder. His thirty-five-year-old body was sending him reminders that it wasn’t about to put up with the kind of abuse he’d heaped on it all these years for much longer. While he tried to keep in shape in prison, his long, willowy frame strong from years of street running and urban gymnastics, Jack couldn’t do anything about getting older or the damage that twenty-three hours a day of lockdown did to a body. His guilty conscience chimed in, reminding Jack of everything he had risked: his health, his family, his freedom, his youth. All for money. Things. Shit. When would it be enough? Would it ever be enough?

Doubt. Crippling, stifling doubt. This was why he was getting out. He’d already been arrested and sent to prison once, so he obviously wasn’t the master thief he once thought he was. Could he even make it on his own? Jack always worked with partners and recent history would seem to indicate that he couldn’t work without them. He’d nearly been bested by a 70-year-old hermit and his English bulldog two weeks ago.

It was reasonable to ask that maybe his time in the trade had passed. He heard Leo through an open window, talking in drunk guy loudspeak.

“You think I dunno what you think I dunno but I know what you think I dunno ya know?” Leo enunciated every syllable as an almost empty glass of Scotch dangled from his fingertips, then dropped to the floor without breaking. He stumbled to a large double-door safe adjacent to his changing area, his head foggy from drink and drug. Leo focused on the keypad, entering the combination numbers at a slow, deliberate pace, then he pulled open the door with his right hand. Jack watched Leo through a monocular as he wrote the safe combination in pen on his pant leg, thankful that the tools in his backpack would no longer be necessary. It was nice of Leo to save him all that work. Maybe he’d send him a fruit basket later.

“I’ll be right outside if ya need me, Boss,” Leo’s other employee said, assuring him as he shut the bedroom door behind him. Leo said nothing. He wasn’t assured at all.

“Lock th’ door!” Leo barked with a pronounced slur. He took off his Patek Philippe watch and put it in the safe along with the bankroll from his bathrobe pocket. Leo inspected it all with a listless shake of his head then closed the large double doors, pulling on the handle again to make sure the safe was locked. He turned, his beefy feet squeaking along the marble tile as he stumbled back to his bed and fell face down on the mattress, fast asleep before his head even hit the pillow. His snores were deep and guttural. It was no mistake Leo slept alone.

Jack waited through several minutes of uninterrupted snoring next to a window underneath a security camera aimed at the French doors leading to Leo’s bedroom. He picked the lock as he waited, sliding the window open with little effort and easing himself inside. He looked around, wary of alarms or motion detectors. Once he was confident he could move without disruption, Jack stepped forward and immediately set off a motion detector that turned the overhead lights on and lit the space with lighting dimmed for the evening hours. Jack moved back to the window, ready to bail out. He listened. Nothing. No sound. No movement. No one was coming. It was quiet except for Leo, who was fifteen feet away and snoring like a champ.

“Okay, no more surprises,” Jack whispered.

He moved into the large room with caution, gently walking past the bed straining under Leo’s sleeping body and toward the safe, where he zeroed in on the combination keypad and the numbers he’d scribbled in pen on his pant leg. Forty-two. Eight. Thirty-one. Five. Jack pulled the handle to open the safe door, but the door remained locked.

Maybe I entered the numbers wrong?

No. He wrote the numbers down exactly as Leo entered them. Jack tried the series again, re-entering the numbers one at a time and pulling on the handle, but the safe still would not open. This time the repudiation was accompanied by a message on a small LCD screen: BIOMETRIC ACCESS DENIED. Your BioMetric Identification has been declined for the second time. For your protection, the safe will be locked if additional biometric identification is refused.

Jack looked at the handle. At the top was a thumb pad with a painted-on thumbprint he hadn’t noticed during his previous attempts. The numbers he’d entered were correct. The safe didn’t open because it needed a thumbprint, specifically Leo’s thumbprint, to open the door. Jack wondered what the odds were of chopping Leo’s thumb off without waking him up. He sat, considering his options. Technology sure was making it tough for a fella to earn a living.

***

At close to four hundred pounds, getting Leo to the safe over fifty feet away from the bed was a challenge. Jack rolled Leo over on the bed and was startled to discover Leo’s eyes were wide open despite Leo being in a deep, sound sleep. Jack waved his hand in front of Leo’s face. Leo didn’t blink, and the snoring got even louder once there was no mattress to contain it.

Jack mapped out his strategy. An office chair on wheels, probably for Leo’s shell-shocked employees, would suffice for moving Leo across the marble floor. That part was easy. The challenge would be getting Leo into the office chair. It was like moving a Smart Car by hand.

Jack pushed Leo up off the bed and reached his hands around his barrel chest, clenching his hands together the best he could across Leo’s massive sternum. Jack bent his knees, took a deep breath, then pulled Leo to the edge of the bed. Leo greeted the move with a loud snort, then went back to a steady snore, his drugged eyes still open as wide as the sky.

“Pull him up, right into the chair,” Jack coached himself. He used the same strategy as before, which this time pulled Leo off the bed too fast. His momentum landed Leo right on top of Jack, who howled. Leo, for his part, wasn’t disturbed by the fall at all.

“You know, you’ve really let yourself go, Leo!” Jack wailed before pushing Leo off of him. Jack stood up, grabbed Leo’s arms and leaned back, groaning, using the remainder of his strength to hoist Leo into the office chair, which creaked under the strain. Jack backed away, hoping the chair would hold. It would be a long, slow drag to the safe otherwise.

Jack positioned himself behind the chair but struggled across the marble floor. The chair moved slow but steady, gaining momentum once Jack picked Leo’s legs up and pulled him instead of pushing. After a heroic effort from Jack and especially the chair, Leo was positioned in front of the safe. Jack caught his breath, hoping that he didn’t give himself a hernia.

The lock on the outer bedroom door clicked, and the door opened. Leo’s employees, having heard Jack’s howling, came to investigate. Jack swiveled the office chair toward the door, pushed Leo’s head forward and ducked behind Leo’s mammoth frame. The employees looked around until they saw Leo in the chair, his eyes still wide open, staring at them.

“You okay, Boss? I heard something. Everything all right?”

Leo, who was still sound asleep, said nothing. His snoring sounded like a growl, especially to these two. “Just making sure you’re okay, Boss,” the nervous employee said in his awkward rush to get out of the room.

Jack swung the office chair back around and stood up. He entered the series of numbers on the combination pad, then lifted Leo’s stubby hand and placed it on the handle, so Leo’s thumb pressed down on the biometric sensor. This time the lock on the safe clicked and the doors opened. Inside the safe were three $10,000 stacks of hundred dollar bills and the large roll of money from Leo’s bathrobe, which Jack estimated at around $3,000. He could hock the watch, too. It wasn’t a bad haul, even though it was far less than Jack was expecting.

Isn’t it always less than you’re expecting?

Jack took what there was and left Leo on the overworked office chair in front of the open safe. He went back to the window he entered through and got out as easy as he came in, even taking time to re-lock the window behind him. The motion detector lights clicked on and off as Jack climbed down from the second story veranda. That’s when Leo’s dogs, two female German Shepherds outside to do their evening business, saw Jack and started barking in a frenzy.

“Nope,” Jack said once he saw them at the bottom, waiting for him to come down. “No dogs.” He climbed back up to the veranda, content to find another way. The only people in the house were Leo’s employees who, from the sound of it, weren’t nearly as smart as the dogs. Jack slipped back into Leo’s bedroom, where Leo was still snoring heartily in the office chair that would be lucky to last the night. At the bedroom door, Jack heard voices in the hallway.

“Keep those dogs quiet before they wake him up!” The two employees were in a panic, apparently unaware of how deep and sound Leo slept after his bedtime snack of pills and Scotch. Their panic gave Jack an opportunity to get to a stairwell at the end of the hallway that he hoped would lead him outside. Jack listened first then moved quietly, soft-stepping his way down the stairs, peeking his head over the railing as he went. He saw the two employees at the stairwell door window on the first floor, so Jack slipped down another level to avoid them.

The stairwell emptied Jack into nondescript hallways of white concrete and white tile floors. The stairwell door locked behind him, so Jack had a choice of the single steel door ahead of him or a hallway that led off to the right. As Jack approached the hallway, the two German Shepherds sauntered around another corner from a hallway fifty feet away.

There was a moment of silent recognition. They all stood still, sizing each other up. The dogs looked at Jack, then to each other, then back to Jack. Everyone jumped at the same time. The dogs took off after Jack, who sprang into action, running down the hallway toward the door.

“Why is it always dogs?” Jack screamed.

Jack raced through the door and pushed it closed behind him. He didn’t suppose the dogs were smart enough to follow, but they figured it out, jumping up together to push open the door’s exit bar and continue their pursuit down the long hallway. The dogs, whose nails clicked like icy rain on paws that were slipping and sliding across the waxed hallway, were gaining ground. There were several doors along the hallway that Jack tried to open, but each one was locked. When Jack finally found an unlocked door, he got inside and pulled the door shut behind him, half a second before the snapping jaws of the German Shepherds took a sizeable bite out of him.

“Okay. Big dogs. Very big dogs,” Jack wheezed.

His hands felt around in the dark until Jack found the light switch inside the door frame, revealing the janitor closet that was now his safe refuge. “What did I ever do to a dog?” Jack panted, catching his breath. He opened the door slightly and saw a door leading to the outside thirty feet further down the hallway. “All right. I’ve been in worse situations,” Jack said. His voice activated the dogs, who barked as he shut the door. “I’ve never been food…”

The dogs paced back and forth outside the closet door, waiting for Jack to come out. They heard a sound; a scraping, grinding noise coming from deep inside the janitor’s closet. The dogs cocked their heads to the side, confused. The doorknob moved, and their ears perked up. The pin on the door unlatched, and the dogs sat crouched, ready to strike. When the door opened the dogs rushed in, then stopped all at once. From inside the deep janitor closet came the loud, abrasive growl of a stand-up vacuum cleaner that Jack parried
out of the closet after them, and now was using to chase the German Shepherds back down the hallway.

“Ha-HA!” Jack jeered, quick on their heels. The dogs reached the exit door and jumped up against the bar to let themselves outside, but Jack wasn’t letting them off that easy. He went out after them, confident and mocking. “Mess with me, and you know what happens?”

The cord for the vacuum cleaner pulled taut and yanked out of the wall. The pitiful motor on the vacuum cleaner died down with a slow, agonizing, mournful wail. The two German Shepherds stopped to listen, then turned their heads around slow. Jack could swear they were licking their lips.

“Idiot,” Jack said. He jumped for the closing exit door, and the dogs were on top of him. One had Jack’s pant leg while the other held the bottom of Jack’s shirt. The shirt ripped when the dog tried to pull back, sending one German Shepherd onto her back, while the other dog tried getting a better grip on Jack’s pant leg. Loose for the split second he needed, Jack took advantage, getting inside and pulling the door closed, with the vacuum cord preventing the door from closing tight.

“Hey! Stop right there!” Leo’s two employees came through the first exit door and saw Jack pulling the exit door closed on the dogs.

Jack ran away. The employees were quick on his heels until they passed the exit door. The tenacious German Shepherds forced open the door at the exact moment the employees ran past, and the dogs sprang into action, jumping into the hallway and biting the first thing they saw.

“No! Him! Get him!” The first employee said as he was being mauled by the first dog.

“That one, girl! That one! Ow!” The second employee shook his free arm, pointing down the hallway. His other arm was firmly planted in the second German Shepherd’s jaw.

Jack’s only option at this end of the hallway was the window straight ahead of him. He pulled opened the window and looked out, craning his neck in both directions, but this was no time to get particular. Jack hoisted himself up and pushed through the window until momentum took over and he dropped ten feet to the ground. The soil was dry and loose, and Jack hit hard, flat on his back, before sliding down the sloped hill head-first and backward. The drop knocked the wind out of him, but Jack shook off the fall, spit dirt from his mouth, then scaled the twelve foot stone wall and jumped down on the other side. His pursuers knew Jack could still hear them.

“We know what you look like, pal! You’re on camera, dumbass! We’re gonna find you, you sonofabitch! You messed up bad, man, you messed up real bad!”

Jack ran for his life down the hill surrounding Leo’s house but couldn’t tell if the sounds he heard, of rustling trees, branches snapping, or running through fallen leaves was the sound of someone following him or the echo of the noise he was making all on his own. Jack turned his head to see the lead he had on his pursuers, but the night was dark, and it was difficult to see. What wasn’t difficult to see was the tree branch that caught Jack above the sternum when he turned back around, the one that clotheslined him flat to the ground. He slid down a steep, sloping hill, twisting and turning his body to avoid the rocks and tree stumps in his path before launching himself off an even larger, brush-covered hill.

Jack landed at the bottom of the hill next to a roadway, right at the feet of Diane Thomas, who stood next to her car like she’d been waiting there for him all along. Diane was dressed in black jeans and a black leather coat with a torn red t-shirt underneath. Her hair was long, with an easy, natural curl that fell over her flawless soft brown skin. Her necklaces and bracelets were tasteful; piled on but not overdone. Black boots were highlighted with metallic studs that covered the backs to the heels. She looked like trouble. Jack liked trouble.

“Something tells me you’re Jack Apple.” Diane stood in front of an idling muscle car, the headlights creating a silhouette that captivated Jack’s attention through his hazy thinking.

Jack asked, “Do I know you?”

“Not yet,” Diane said with a smile. “But you will.”

***

Excerpt from Burn One Down by Jeffrey A Cooper. Copyright © 2018 by Jeffrey A Cooper. Reproduced with permission from Jeffrey A Cooper. All rights reserved.

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