Oct 272017
 

A Daughter’s Promise
by Fran Lewis
on Tour October 1 – December 1, 2017

 A Daughter’s Promise by Fran Lewis

Synopsis:

This story is about a promise I made to my mother to take care of her through her Alzheimer’s disease nightmare. The book includes my mother’s own thoughts from her journal about her ordeals with the various stages of this debilitating and dehumanizing condition. Her outlook on life was remarkable, and although her mind began to wander, she never lost sight of who she was, her sense of humor, or her family. This is the story of someone whose courage went beyond what most people could endure, and whose never-dying zest for life kept her alive. I hope our story will help others in coping with this difficult and demanding affliction.

Read my review and enter the giveaway HERE

Book Details

Genre: Memoir

Published by: Edit Pros

Publication Date: July 2017

Number of Pages: 147

ISBN-10: 1937317404

ISBN-13: 978-1937317409

Purchase Links: Title on Amazon Title on Barnes & Noble Title on Goodreads

Author Bio:

Fran Lewis

Fran Lewis is the author of the Bertha and Tillie Series, Faces Behind the Stones series and a series of books on Alzheimer;s and Caregiving. She has three master’s degrees, worked as the reading and writing staff developer and dean of a NY CITY PUBLIC SCHOOl for over 36 years and remains in touch with her students. She is an avid reader and reviewer and has her own show on blog talk radio: Literary Viewpoints with Fran Lewis. Fran created her own Magazine MJ magazine in memory of her sister Marcia Joyce and her radio network too: MJ network.

Fran’s Website | Fran’s Twitter | Fran’s Facebook

Guest Post

What is one bit of advice that you would give someone that is the caretaker of a parent with Alzheimer’s?

Being a caregiver is a full time responsibility and the person that you are caring for needs full time help with just about every personal, physical need that is required on a daily basis.

You as the caregiver must understand that a person with Alzheimer’s goes through many phases or stages and at times will say and do things that are inappropriate. You cannot get angry. Most of the time I just smiled or laughed at my mom’s words and she did too. As a caregiver you cannot forget that you are entitled to free time too and your family needs to help out at times if you want to just go out for breakfast with a friend or get your hair and nails done.

Choosing the right person from an agency to help you required research, planning and someone that is trained in working with people with Alzheimer’s. The one thing I did do when I realized my mom was losing her memory is label things around the house and ask her to read what they are and show me what it was that she read. I took photos of family and friends and asked her to help me place them in albums and I told her to tell me who she thinks the person is or was. This helped keep her mind active. When asking her what she wanted to eat I along with the home health aides would give her two choices, boot up pictures on our phones and she would decide for herself. This worked most of the time. She went out daily with the aides and I would often accompany them on their journey around the area. She would remember where she lived and when we went into a store it was hysterical she would pick out what I should buy for myself and dared me to choose something else. She was tough, she was smart in her own way she was the glue that held us together until she fell apart.

Before you even think or decide to place a person in a facility you need to visit every one of the homes closest to where you live at different times and observe the residents. Some that are just there because they are in assisted living are aware of their surroundings and can take care of themselves. You need to visit all of the floors that have patients with Alzheimer’s and see the different levels of care. You won’t believe what you will see and you might decide to make the same promise I did Never to put my mom in any facility. If you choose an agency and have aides at home you need to monitor them, make sure they are vetted and have background checks and put a nanny cam in every room to monitor them.

I am also going to include my kindness tips:

Discussions and Tips

a. I find that speaking slowly and softly in a calm voice does help to calm the person down.
b. Speaking in simple sentences and short phrases does help
c. Repeating something in different ways sometimes helps her to understand what she needs to do: It is a simple as saying Open or Open your mouth instead of eat this or trying to explain to her that she needs to eat.
d. I always call her by her first name or of course Mom to get her attention: at this point she still knows who she is when you call her. She does not always say her name or respond verbally when asked who she is.
e. Always be positive and smile at the person. Do not let them think that you are angry with them. They are not at fault and cannot control or help their behaviors.

Kindness Tips

1. Always say good morning when entering a patient’s room
2. Address the patient by name and tell the patient your name
3. SMILE!
4. Explain the task you are going to perform before you do it and explain the task as you are performing. Patients are often leery or afraid of strangers and need to feel confident and safe with you.
5. If a patient needs assistance bathing, eating or walking help them and do not leave them before they complete the task.
6. Patients that need help eating: You need to make sure that person eats and are fed. Make sure that you do not leave the tray untouched and if you have to feed the patient you need to do it with kindness and patience.
7. Ask the patient if they need help dressing or assistance going to breakfast or any other area of the home or hospital
8. If you are bringing magazines or books allow the person to choose
9. Never speak to a patient as if they were a small child
10. Speak to people with respect and as an adult
11. Making sure that the person’s environment is safe
12. Make sure you have a list of things that need to be done for that person and complete them

1. Meet with other volunteers and discuss their successes
2. When you speak to a patient make sure that you make eye contact and have their attention
3. Speak at eye level and speak clearly
4. Use simple and direct statements
5. Never raise your voice
6. Include the person in your conversation: Talk to the person not at the person
7. Never speak to them as if they are a third party and not in the same room
8. Speak to them as an adult not a small child
9. Listen to their concerns and show a lot of understanding
10. Never leave a patient in distress

Read an excerpt:

Part One

A Daughter’s Promise

Reading has always been the way for me to escape to other worlds, learn about many different places, and expand my knowledge of so many subjects. With a notepad in hand and several pens at the ready, I begin reading the many books that authors send me each day. Detailing the plot, the characters, and taking notes throughout, I create a perfect analysis of the book.

Remembering what my mom had told me, to always look for that special message in the book and create that first paragraph to stimulate reader interest, I begin my review. Perfection: that’s what she always told me. Each piece of writing, each assignment had to be done to the standards set by my teachers and professors, and then pass the highest test: mom’s. I remember coming out of school one night, and she stuck her hand out waiting to see what I’d gotten on my midterm in one of my graduate courses in administration. I still smile when I remember what happened. I left out one question and got a 98, and I told mom what I did wrong and the right answer. But, the professor was so frustrated with most of the other students that she had to revamp the scores by adding ten points to everyone’s test scores just to have more students pass, so mom was satisfied with my 108. And, of course, on the final I did get 100 and an A in the class, because it was what was expected of me by myself, and of course, mom.

Till this day I still create my reviews, my schedule for my radio show, and anything else that I decide to venture into, like the MJ magazine in memory of my sister Marcia Joyce, with the understanding that my work has to stand up to the highest standards. The articles, reviews, stories, and issues that are published should be equal to those of any credible magazine on the newsstands.

So, mom, it’s been five years and it seems like yesterday. I hope I will continue to make you proud of me. You taught me well. Yes, I never leave the house without looking my best. You were my mom, my mentor, and my best friend. You will always be here for me in spirit.

Today you would have celebrated your 89th birthday with a special red rose and your favorite chocolate cake. Your blue eyes and your great smile would light up the room, and of course the presents we would give you would make you proud. You taught us never to give up on our dreams, nor settle for less than we want in our lives. You made sure that you listened when we felt down and needed a guiding hand to rise back up. You never faltered and never passed judgment. You were our mother, our guide, and our best friend. Rules were made and enforced, but never with an iron hand. Explanations were given for your requests, and we all followed suit and showed you the respect you deserved.

When you became ill we all rallied together as a family to make sure you remained at home and received great help. We were truly blessed to have Joyce, Joan, Laurel, Pat, Tessa, Loretta, and Getty to take such good care of you and, of course, someone we all miss and loved, Veronica Collins, your case manager, who made sure that you were safe and protected by the best aides in the world from Partners in Care. So, mom, happy birthday, and let the sun shine tomorrow so we know that you are still watching over us and protecting Marcia, who is with you now. We miss your wisdom, your guidance, the huge grey mobile that you drove anywhere you were needed, as the taxi driver for your friends, and the orange mobile that my reading students loved when you picked me up or drove me to school. I made a promise and vowed that I would do everything in my power to care for you, keep your mind and body active, and never even consider the one thing so many others do—placing you in a nursing home.

The circle of life begins on the day you are born and ends when you close your eyes for the last time and take your last precious breath.

Ruth Swerdloff started her life on November 22, 1927, and became a part of a loving, nurturing family that would remain intact for the first two years of her life until the loss of her mother, when things would change. But, Ruth was special from the start, and although facing her first obstacle at the age of two, losing a parent, she somehow learned to accept the change with the help of her sister, Tova, and three brothers, Kenny, Irving, and Harry. This is her story. This is where her circle of life begins.

Excerpt from A Daughter’s Promise by Fran Lewis. Copyright © 2017 by Fran Lewis. Reproduced with permission from Fran Lewis. All rights reserved.

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Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Fran Lewis. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of A Daughter’s Promise by Fran Lewis. The giveaway begins on October 1 and runs through December 3, 2017.
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Oct 102017
 

The Grand

by Dennis D. Wilson

on Tour October 1-31, 2017

Synopsis:

The Grand by Dennis D. Wilson

Chicago cop Dean Wister takes a forced vacation when he is on the brink of a breakdown after the death of his wife. During his summer solstice in Jackson Hole, where he met her years before, he is called in to consult by local police when a notorious Chicago mobster is found dead in the Snake River. Dean’s investigation threatens to uncover the secrets of a group of memorable suspects, ranging from rich tycoons to modern day cowboys, and threatens to derail the Presidential prospects of the Senator from Wyoming. As Dean follows the leads from Wyoming to Chicago to Washington D.C., he also struggles to cope with the personal loss that threatens his mental stability, as the nocturnal visits from his deceased wife suppress his will to let her go and make him question his purpose in life. The climactic scenes contain reveals the reader will never see coming. A funny, romantic, sexy, roller coaster thriller.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime Thriller
Published by: Water Street Press
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 978-1-62134-330-1 (ASIN: B01N682LXW)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Kindle 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Guest Post

CM: Additional facts about the main character, Dean Wister, not included in the story.

DW: Dean’s background is pretty well fleshed out in the story, but here are 10 pieces of Wister Trivia that may interest readers:

Dean has sandy blonde hair and blue eyes and has been told he resembles Matthew McConaughey.

Dean is a lefty.

Dean is a big fan of crime novels and, in particular, James Lee Burke’s crime novels and westerns.

Dean returned an intercepted a pass in his high school state championship game of and returned it for a touchdown. His high school coach was a college classmate of the head coach of the University of Illinois, and was instrumental in arranging for Dean’s football scholarship.

Dean rides a motorcycle, but this wasn’t mentioned in the book. It could provide fodder for a future adventure.

Dean plays the banjo, and played in a bluegrass band in college.

Dean is a huge fan of Taylor Swift, and his wife Sarah would tease him incessantly about this.

Dean’s favorite movie is The Godfather, which he estimates he has seen a hundred times.

Dean’s favorite food is Chicago deep dish pizza, but he also fasts for 36 hours once each month.

Dean has never traveled outside of the U.S.

Read an excerpt:

1

SENATOR THOMAS MCGRAW sat back in the hand-distressed, buffalo-hide easy chair and contemplated the room around him. This was his first visit to the brand new, custom-designed mountain home of his lover. When their affair started a little over a year ago, what a sweet and savory surprise it had been to both of them. A business relationship grew into friendship, and then suddenly and unexpectedly exploded into something else— a red-hot, cross-country, obsessive romance fueled by shared erotic tastes. The senator felt sexually liberated under the spell of his exotic lover, and he was pretty sure those feelings were mutual. True, they needed to be discreet for a variety of reasons— indiscretion had nearly cost them everything— but they had worked it out. Although hectic schedules limited their rendezvous to only a couple of weekends a month, the deprivation and anxiety of anticipation made these weekends that much more satisfying. He was generally in a frenzy by the time he could get to her.

The room was the den of a typical ten-thousand-square-foot vacation home of the rich and powerful in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Decked out in nouveau western, its reclaimed timbers, Wyoming sandstone, and river rock were either complemented by— or detracted from, depending on your esthetic point of view— the original modern paintings depicting bold and most definitely non-earth-toned western landscapes and various forms of neon-colored wildlife. As Tom sipped his twenty-three-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, he studied the visage of a purple and orange moose head sculpted from California mahogany hanging dispiritedly over the fireplace. Damn, any self-respecting Wyoming moose would be embarrassed to know that this is some guy’s idea of what a trophy moose should look like. His personal style was more traditional Western— big wooden beams and a glut of real dead animal heads on the walls. But, the sex was still new and novel, unlike anything he had felt before, and he was willing to overlook these stylistic differences for the time being or, who knew, maybe for a long time. As his mentor had told him a long time ago: “Pussy is a powerful motivator.”

“I am soooo happy we were able to start our weekend a day early,” his lover called from the other room. “I’ve been so horny this week that I’ve been bouncing off the walls. I brought back something special for you from Chicago. Just give me another minute, sweetie.” Charlotte Kidwell dressed, and undressed, to accentuate her best features: her big green eyes, her long, toned legs, and her perfect bubble butt. Her regular head-to-toe salon appointments, personal trainer, and strict dietary regimen were essentials to the healthy, put-together appearance that women of her age and social status often have, if they have the money and motivation to work at it. In her younger days, her insecure attempts to add sex appeal fell short, and she’d ended up with an oddly unfeminine look with her clumsy and unsuccessful experiments with cosmetics. But middle age had actually softened her features, and as she became more adept at the finer points of female grooming, she began to realize how much she resembled her sister. During what she referred to as “The Sexual Awakening,” she had finally developed the confidence in her sexuality to consciously emulate her sister’s makeup and dress. Her older sibling had always exuded effortless sexuality, and throughout high school and college had gone through more boys in most years than Charlotte had dated for her entire youth.

The senator had certainly surprised her. Although his belly professed his lust for food and drink and a disinclination for exercise, his face was the opposite, exuding an irresistible cowboy masculinity. At middle age, most people have to choose between a wrinkle-free face and a toned and youthful body. What was it her friend in Chicago called fat? “Nature’s botox.” He had chosen his beautiful face at the expense of his body, but that was fine with her, because he was a sexual artiste. Certainly no one who knew him could possibly conceive of the hot spring of sexuality that was percolating beneath his surface. In spite of their distinctly different personalities, she considered him her soul mate. The first man in her forty-four years who had ever laid claim to that title. The thought made her giggle.

“Hurry up, baby, and get your pretty little ass out here.”

Appearing in the doorway, she framed herself with the hand-on-the-hip pose so popular with women much younger than herself. “You like? I know this little specialty boutique in Chicago, and it ain’t Macy’s Intimate Apparel.”

He liked the look very much. The red lace push-up bra, matching thong panties, silk kimono, and six-inch stilettos appealed to the man who’d had a weakness for strippers in his younger days. Though the untied robe looked more like a cape than boudoir attire, and the entire outfit reminded him of a porn movie he once saw— Superslut, a parody of Superwoman, he had to give her an “A” for effort. “Wow, you look like a very sexy Little Red Riding Hood. And where in the world did you find a bra that makes those pretty little A cups of yours look like Cs? Now turn around and let me admire your world-class bootie.”

She did a little twirl for him, grinned, and pushed together her bra cups to emphasize her cleavage. “It’s called a miracle bra, and see, it does work miracles. Now you just sit there and sip your whiskey. I have another surprise for you.” She strutted over to the bookcase, flipped a switch, and AC/ DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long” filled the room. And she began to dance.

“Oh my.” Tom took a big swallow and relished the burn. “You are just full of surprises tonight.”

“Just sit back and enjoy, Senator. I’ve got a few more surprises coming your way.”

Watching her rehearsed moves, the familiar hunger began to stir below his opulent belly. And then, in a maneuver that would have been impressive for a woman of any age, she turned away from him, spread her legs, touched her toes, looked straight up at him from her bare inverted V, and twerked. She had been practicing all afternoon, and when she saw the image of her quivering butt in the mirror she couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

“Oh, my god, where did you learn that?” The stirring rising now to a different level. And he was also wondering… her dance routine looked really professional.

“I have a very good friend in Chicago who does this for a living, and she’s been giving me some lessons.”

“Judging from that pose, sweetie, your friend must be an instructor in ‘stripper yoga’.” The senator, feeling the fire down there, leaned forward and reached for that perfect ass. “Get over here and let me take you the way I like, the way I know you like.” Putting his hands on her bare cheeks and grabbing two hands full, he left his chubby fingerprints as indentations on her flesh. Crazed now, pulling off his pants and underwear but not bothering with his shirt and tie, he pulled her thong aside, mounted her, grunting, sighing. Both of them grunting, sighing, grunting some more. And now just the sounds of flesh slapping flesh. And AC/ DC, urging them on…

Hayden Smith was running late. He was always running late. It was common knowledge in town that you had to book every appointment with Hayden an hour early to get him to show up on time. Attorney, county commissioner, real estate broker and developer, owner of a property management company— all that, plus trying to live up to the moniker of Teton County’s most eligible bachelor as determined by Mountain Woman magazine, well, that could take a toll on a man, even a man as fit and athletic as Hayden. And it was taking its toll on Hayden today. Sometimes he thought there was little point in taking any time off because you had to work twice as hard just to clear your schedule.

The last item of the day on his long list was to make sure all was in order in the home of his newest property management client before their arrival the next morning. But what he really was thinking about, as he put the key in the door, was that he was already an hour late for a dinner date at the home of one of Teton County’s richest and most beautiful socialites. And so if he hadn’t been fantasizing about the evening’s upcoming sensual activities, and if he hadn’t assumed that it was his cleaning crew that had left that open bourbon bottle on the counter, and if he hadn’t been formulating the words he was going to use to chew Pablo’s ass about getting control of his maintenance team, and if he had checked his voicemail after his last two meetings instead of engaging in licentious banter on the phone with the young socialite, then he might have reacted differently to the pounding bass of one of the most iconic rock anthems of the 1980s. He might not have followed the mesmerizing sound of Brian Johnson’s sandpaper voice into the den, assuming that he would find some of his employees having an unauthorized party; and he might not have witnessed the sight in front of him that would not only drastically change his life but would also set in motion a chain of events that had the potential to change the course of American history.

If he had looked directly at the man’s face, he almost certainly would have recognized one of the most well-known faces in Wyoming, soon to be equally famous throughout America. However, Hayden looked everywhere but into his face. The man, still dressed for business on top but naked from the waist down, was humping a pretty redhead doggie style, and Hayden was fascinated that with each thrust, her red stilettos would come off the ground about twelve inches, and then at the end of the thrust, the tips of her heels would bang down on the pine floor. Thrust, bang, thrust, bang, thrust, bang. Later when he played that video clip back in his mind, he captioned it “porn star tap dancing.”

He looked all around the room, but his eyes kept coming back to those red shoes, maybe because he didn’t really want to look at the man’s jiggling ass, or maybe because when his eyes followed those shoes north he was treated to a pair of the finest legs and most delicious bootie that he had ever seen. If he had been thinking clearly, he would have just turned around and walked right out of the house and he would have been able to go back to his great life as Teton County’s busiest and most eligible bachelor. But for whatever reason— the shock of the scene, or his own perverse voyeurism— he did not turn back around. He knocked on the door jamb with his clipboard and stammered loudly enough to be heard over AC/ DC. “Ah, ah, ah, I thought you weren’t coming in until tomorrow. I just came to check on the house. Is everything OK? I mean, just call me if anything isn’t OK. Sorry to interrupt. I’ll just let myself out…” And then he backed out of the room and nearly sprinted out the door.

Tom jumped up with impressive agility considering his exertion and girth, partly hopping, definitely bobbing. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.”

Charlotte rolled over onto her side. “What the fuck, I left him a message that I was coming in today. What was he thinking?”

And the senator just kept repeating, “Oh, shit, oh, shit, oh, shit.” Then, catching his breath, added to his mantra, “I’m sure he saw me, I’m sure he saw me, I’m sure he saw me.”

His lover, handing him the rest of his twenty-three-year-old Pappy, said, “Here, drink this,” trying not to let the panic sound in her voice. She thought for a moment. “We’ll call Mario. He’ll know what to do. If that asshole tells anyone it’ll hurt Mario as much as us. Well, maybe not quite as much as us, but you know what I mean.”

Tom sat down for a minute, his white dress shirt soaked through, wheezing from the exertion, from the excitement, from the fear, his heart a thumping kettle drum in his chest. Neither of them said a word for a minute, then two. Finally realizing the heart attack wasn’t coming, he took a huge breath and said, “OK, call him.”

Charlotte punched the number into her mobile phone. “Mario? Sorry to bother you, but we have a problem. Some asshole just walked in on the two of us. Walked in on us… you know. What do you think we were doing? How could he not recognize him? Yeah, he’s my property manager. Hold on. Honey, would you hand me that business card on the table?”

2

THE FIRST TIME Dean Wister had visited the Tetons was twelve years ago, the summer before his senior year in college. Although he said it was adventure he was looking for, it was escape that he was really seeking when he answered an ad to guide for one of the rafting companies that run whitewater trips down the Snake River, just south of Teton National Park. It was a grueling twenty-four-hour drive from his home in Chicago to Jackson Hole, the mountain town at the foot of the spectacular Teton Range, and the route that he was taking, I-90 across Illinois, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, was one of the most monotonous and boring stretches of highway across America. Hour after hour he would stare at the road between truck stops, trying to keep alert for the highway patrol and the erratic driving of drowsy long-distance truckers. He tried listening to music and audio books, but his mind wouldn’t let him focus. Lately, he had a lot of trouble focusing. He’d once tried meditation, taking a Transcendental Meditation workshop with his wife, Sara, but meditation wasn’t for him. His mind would inevitably wander from the rhythm of his breathing to some problem from work that he was trying to solve. Dean had always been more of a ruminator than a meditator. And so he ruminated for hour after hour. He ruminated about all that had happened over the last twelve years. He ruminated about the horror of the last year. And he ruminated about what the future might, or more importantly, might not, hold.

That first trip had also been a time of transition for him. His mother died after his freshman year in high school, and his dad was killed in a work accident at the lumber yard just before Dean started college. As an only child he had led a solitary existence growing up, but by the time he left for college he was officially an orphan, no parents to cheer him as the starting safety on the University of Illinois football team, and no siblings to share the empty and confused feelings of losing the only responsible adults he had ever known. His hometown of Summersville, West Virginia, was near the banks of the Gauley River, one of the most famous whitewater-rafting rivers in the East, and the gray, small-minded, and cruel little town resembled what Mayberry may have looked like if Andy hadn’t been born. Until he was seventeen, Dean had never met a college graduate outside of a classroom, and growing up with his nose stuck in a book most of the time, his peers, and even most of the adults he knew, looked down on his habit as a sign of either homosexuality, laziness, or both. Maybe it was resentment for not living the fantastic and interesting life of the characters in the books that he read, or maybe it was the bullying that he experienced from his literature-averse peers, or maybe it was his sense of insecurity and inferiority from his hillbilly background, or maybe it was just his nature— for whatever reason, there was a well of anger deep inside of Dean.

The bullying stopped the first time he stepped on a football field. He loved to play defense, and putting the hammer to the ball carrier or receiver was equally pleasurable to him, whether in practice or during an actual game. He loved the rush of power he felt when a body crushed beneath him as he delivered the blow. As he would take aim at his target coming across the field, he imagined his body as a sledge hammer and he would launch himself, helmet first, at his opponents, relishing the pain he received nearly as much as the pain he delivered. As his scrawny adolescent body matured into a six-foot, one-hundred-ninety-pound defensive back, his football hits became ever more fearsome, and attracted the attention of a recruiter for the University of Illinois. Football would end for him upon college graduation for, as a pro scout told him, “Son, you sure have the meanness for pro football, but not the speed.” But that was all right; football had served its purpose.

The first time his dad had taken him along to run the rapids of the Gauley he was only nine years old, but after that he was addicted to the river. Working as a gofer for one of the rafting companies, imagining himself as one of the cocky swaggering guides, he would do anything to be near the river. The owner of the company took a liking to him, and broke the rules to put him on as a guide at sixteen. He worked on the Gauley through high school and college. But, with the death of his father, West Virginia held too many painful memories; he needed to get away. He heard from some fellow guides that the Snake River in Wyoming, south of Jackson, could be fun. Sure, its mostly Class 2 and 3 rapids were nothing compared to the Gauley, but he had always wanted to see the Rockies, and it was about as far away from West Virginia as he could imagine. That summer on the Snake, in the Tetons, revealed another side that he didn’t know he had. He learned how to cap that well of anger, to regulate the flow, to use it instead of letting it use him, and for the next decade was able to let it out only when his job demanded it. He discovered that there was another well, an untapped well, within him. A well of love and sweetness, of kindness and generosity. And the auger that tapped that well was Sara.

He’d just sent some food back at the Pioneer Grill, the coffee shop in Jackson Lake Lodge in Teton National Park. His order of sautéed Rocky Mountain rainbow trout appeared on his plate as buffalo meatloaf. His anger rising at this inexcusable display of disrespect and incompetence, he called over the pretty blonde server and pointed at the food in front of him. “Miss, do you think you would recognize a Rocky Mountain rainbow trout if you saw one?” She’d looked first at the gravy-smothered brown glob, and then directly into his twisted angry face, and behind her best smile said, “Apparently not, but I can recognize an asshole when I see one.”

Dean was overmatched by the spunky girl with eyes of a deeper blue than the summer skies over the Grand Tetons, and he fell in love on the spot. They laughed at the story forever, and she still called him “meatloaf asshole” on occasion, either when she was feeling especially fond or, more often, particularly annoyed with him. She loved to tease him and ridicule his quirks, calling him “schizo” for the many paradoxical elements in his personality: jock/ intellectual, hot head/ sentimentalist, loner/ showoff. But when she would call him “schizo” and flash him her irresistible smile, it would always soften his mood, and he was able to laugh at himself.

As a trust-fund baby of a power couple in Chicago’s legal community, Sara’s suburban childhood was exactly the opposite of Dean’s. Her bookworm ways were admired by her parents, friends, and her community. The vivacious blond with the sharp wit and the ability to fit in with every social group was a psych major at the University of Chicago, less than a two-hour drive up the interstate from Champaign if you are a hormone-crazed college boy, more like three hours for everyone else. Her well of anger was only a fraction of Dean’s and reserved exclusively for bullies and people who abused children, animals, and the less fortunate. But if you happened to occupy that territory, her fierceness could make even Dean flinch.

When he thought of their first summer, it played back in his head like some film made from a Nicolas Sparks novel. As he watched the movie, alone in the theater seat of his Jeep Cherokee, he smiled at the “meet cute” first scene in the coffee shop, marveled at the on-location, awe-inspiring backdrops of the Snake and the Tetons, was moved to tears by the scene where he makes love to Sara for the first time. And he couldn’t criticize the filmmaker’s decision to leave every sex scene of the summer in the movie. There they are making love on the window seat in the tiny apartment shared by Dean and his four other river rat roommates. There they are making love after a picnic at Schwabacher’s landing, the Tetons reflected like a painting in the beaver pond. And there they are on their last day of the summer, on a picnic in the alpine meadow they had discovered on their long hike into the mountains. The meadow they had named “Sara’s Meadow.” The meadow where Dean proposed. The meadow they pledged to return to each year on their anniversary. They talked of it often, and relived the moment every year on that special day. But they never came back. Life, and careers, and bullshit got in the way.

Careers included the single-minded ambition they shared. Dean’s resulted in a meteoric rise to detective in the Chicago Police Department and, after being handpicked to join the Midwest Organized Crime Task Force as the only local police detective among FBI and ATF agents, his days and weeks became an unending blur of clues, criminals, and cases. Sara’s graduate degree at Northwestern led to a tenure track appointment at Loyola University. But tenure track meant running never-ending, back-to-back-to-back marathons of teaching, research, and publishing. Their career ambitions allowed no room for children, or travel, or a return to Sara’s Meadow.

And then, over the last year, came the bullshit. Dean was working eighty-hour weeks on a high-profile case involving government and police corruption, and many of the Chicago cops whom he considered friends turned away from him. And then, just when they thought they were getting close to breaking the case, the investigation was shut down and he was reassigned. He was exhausted, disappointed, stressed, and his friends treated him like a traitor.

And then there was Sara. She had been diagnosed with cancer just as Dean began the investigation from hell. After her initial treatment, she received a clean report, and he was too preoccupied to notice when she continued to lose weight. A check-up a few months later showed that the cancer had returned. The rebound was aggressive, additional treatment failed to stop the spread, and she continued to get weaker and weaker in spite of what she would call “frequent invitations for happy hour cancer cocktails with my oncologist.” She even made up names for the cocktails based on the side effects she would experience afterward. There was the Diarrhea Daiquiri, the Migraine Martini, and the Vomit-rita. No subject was out of bounds for her wicked and irreverent sense of humor. Once, when she was bedridden near the end, Dean asked her how she was feeling, and in her best Sally Field Mama Gump imitation, she said “Well, Forrest, I’ve got the cancer.”

Dean wanted to take a leave to stay at Sara’s bedside, but she made up her mind that that was not an option. And when Sara made up her mind about something, he had learned to let her have her way. So Dean was relegated to spending every hour that he wasn’t working by her side, holding her close, imagining how they would live their lives differently when she was well.
The night she died, she asked him to describe that day in Sara’s Meadow. And when he finished, she said, “Promise we can go there when I get well. Will you take me there next summer?” He nodded, unable to speak. She slept peacefully that night for the first time in quite a while, and in the morning she was gone.

Strangely, although she was the center of his universe, the only person that he could say he ever truly loved, he showed little emotion when she died. He didn’t cry. He felt almost as if he were an outside observer of these terrible events. He experienced only numbness. An unrelenting, withering numbness. A numbness interrupted only by random bursts of anger that disturbed even the hardened cops he worked with. Dean was not unaware of his problem, and tried to channel the anger by hooking up with Manny Cohen, a mixed martial arts coach and self-proclaimed king of “Jew-Jitsu”. He loved the physicality of the MMA bouts, and that the jiu-jitsu moves he learned permitted him to disable much bigger and stronger fighters, even if he was on the ground being pummeled. He justified the training as part of his law-enforcement skills, but he knew what it was really about— the ability to inflict some of the horrible hurt he was feeling on others.

The changes in Dean since Sara’s death were most troubling to his boss, Carlos Alvarez. Carlos had been crushed when, on the verge of busting a Chicago mob guy who had both political and police connections, which evidently reached all the way to Washington, the whole operation had been shut down. In his heart, he knew it was those same connections he was investigating that had defeated him. He looked at Dean and watched one of the most competitive spirits he had ever known flicker out, starved for the oxygen that Sara could no longer supply. The case they had put their hearts and souls into for the last year was ripped out of their hands and Dean, who normally would be just as pissed off as he was, seemed to be only going through the motions.

But the most disturbing problem, as far as he was concerned, was Dean’s refusal to mourn Sara. Carlos watched as Dean’s isolation became extreme, and he refused all offers to talk or socialize. Dean’s robotic demeanor and increasingly unpredictable violent outbursts were scaring him. When Carlos sent him to meet with the psychologist assigned to their department, he refused to cooperate. He insisted that he was fine. But Carlos knew he wasn’t fine. He saw a man on the brink of a breakdown and finally decided that drastic action was needed to rescue the man from himself. One morning he walked into Dean’s office and handed him a letter worded as an authorization, which was actually an order, to take a three-month leave of absence.

“But where will I go? What will I do?” Dean said, seemingly incapable of entertaining any change to his barely functional routine. Carlos looked toward the picture on his desk, the one taken twelve years earlier. It showed Dean standing on a whitewater raft. Sara was sitting in the boat looking up at him with a combination of love and lust in her eyes. In the background, the grandeur of the Tetons loomed. “You have to get out of town. You have to get away from here, from all this. And I know where I would go if I had no obligations and three months off. I’ve been envying that picture since the day you moved in here.”

What his boss didn’t know, and what Dean couldn’t tell him, or anyone else for that matter, was the real reason that he wouldn’t see the psychologist— something that would make him seem crazy to outsiders. Hell, he often had that thought about himself. Not every evening, but maybe two or three nights a week, he would spend the night with Sara. He would wake up a couple of hours after he went to sleep, and she would be there, sitting in the chair next to his bed. He would get up, and they would talk just like they used to, about everything, what was happening in his life and in his job, or what was going on in the news. They would make love, and it was every bit as passionate and real as before she was sick. When he would wake up in the morning, she would be gone. At first, he tried to convince himself that it was all a dream, until one night he washed the sheets before he went to bed, and the next morning her perfume lingered on the bedding. She was really there, and she was as real as anything he had ever experienced.

He had nothing against psychologists. He had seen a therapist in college after a particularly hard break-up and had found it very helpful. In fact, he visited that same therapist when Carlos was pushing him to see the department shrink— he wasn’t about to have his craziness officially certified to his employer. And his own therapist confirmed what he instinctively knew himself. “Your hallucinations of your dead wife will go away when you allow yourself to fully mourn her.” But that was exactly the problem. Her very real apparition was the only tangible thing he had left of her. Her visits were the only thing that let him get through the day, that kept him from becoming totally out of control, and he wasn’t going to let anyone take that away from him. He was determined to hold on to whatever was left of her, for as long as he could.

Sara was the one that convinced him to take the trip. She told him during one of their nocturnal visits that he could use the time off; that she knew he was stressed out. He agreed on one condition. That she would come with him. She gave him her mischievous smile, the one that had captured him that first day in the coffee shop, and said, “That’s not a problem. I’m not going without sex for three months. And the ghosts here are too creepy to sleep with.”

That first summer twelve years ago, he had come into town from the south, getting off I-80 west of Rock Springs, approaching Jackson via Alpine and driving up through the Snake River canyon so that he could view the whitewater section he would be working. Wyoming is mostly high plains except for the northwestern part, which is an endless vista of scrub grass, prickly pear, sage brush, with occasional red-rock battleships and gargoyles. On that first trip he was able to view the Wind River Range in the distance outside his window, but he didn’t really get a good view of the Teton Range until he reached the outskirts of the town of Jackson. This time he had decided to take the Northern route via I-90, because he wanted to see the Black Hills, one of the few topographic areas of interest that is easily accessible from the interstate. So he was not really prepared for what happened when his Jeep rounded the bend on Route 26, east of Teton National Park, and he looked west. The fragrance hit him first. He had the windows in his Jeep rolled down and, as the road increased in elevation, the air turned cooler and became infused with snow runoff blended into mountain streams and the bouquet of lodgepole pine forests to form the unique perfume that his unconscious associated with his first summer there. He was looking down for a station on the radio when he felt the jolt, as if a switch was flipped in his brain, and when he turned his face back to the road, the windshield was suddenly and magically filled with the panorama of the majestic purple, snow-tipped peaks of the mountain range that symbolized all that had been true and pure in his life. All that was lost and would never ever return. The image struck him like a bullet in his chest, sucking all the air from his body. The next thing he knew, he was out of his car, on the side of the road, on his knees, gasping for air, heaving, sobbing. “Oh, Sara. My sweet, sweet, Sara.”

***

Excerpt from The Grand by Dennis D. Wilson. Copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. Wilson. Reproduced with permission from Dennis D. Wilson. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Dennis D. Wilson

After a career working in an international consulting firm and as a financial executive with two public companies, Dennis D. Wilson returns to the roots he established as a high school literature and writing teacher at the beginning of his career. For his debut novel, he draws upon his experiences from his hometown of Chicago, his years living, working, hiking and climbing in Jackson Hole, and secrets gleaned from time spent in corporate boardrooms to craft a political crime thriller straight from today’s headlines. Dennis lives in suburban Chicago with his wife Paula and Black Lab Jenny, but spends as much time as he can looking for adventure in the mountains and riding his motorcycle.

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Sep 262017
 

In It For The Money

by David Burnsworth

on Tour September 11 – October 11, 2017

Synopsis:

In It For The Money by David Burnsworth

Lowcountry Private Investigator Blu Carraway needs a new client. He’s broke and the tax man is coming for his little slice of paradise. But not everyone appreciates his skills. Some call him a loose cannon. Others say he’s a liability. All the ex-Desert Storm Ranger knows is his phone hasn’t rung in quite a while. Of course, that could be because it was cut off due to delinquent payments.

Lucky for him, a client does show up at his doorstep—a distraught mother with a wayward son. She’s rich and her boy’s in danger. Sounds like just the case for Blu. Except nothing about the case is as it seems. The jigsaw pieces—a ransom note, a beat-up minivan, dead strippers, and a missing briefcase filled with money and cocaine—do not make a complete puzzle. The first real case for Blu Carraway Investigations in three years goes off the rails.

And that’s the way he prefers it to be.

READ MY REVIEW AND ENTER THE GIVEAWAY HERE

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: September 12th 2017
Number of Pages: 278
ISBN: 9781635112436
Series:A Blu Carraway Mystery, #1
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Author Bio:

David Burnsworth

David Burnsworth became fascinated with the Deep South at a young age. After a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and fifteen years in the corporate world, he made the decision to write a novel. He is the author of both the Brack Pelton and the Blu Carraway Mystery Series. Having lived in Charleston on Sullivan’s Island for five years, the setting was a foregone conclusion. He and his wife call South Carolina home.

GUEST POST

Blu Who?

—Carraway. Blu Carraway. That’s his name. He’s the primary owner of Blu Carraway Investigations.

Ten things?

About Blu? Let’s see…He’s forty-four-years-old this year. His father is an anglo and his mother fled Cuba on a small boat in 1962.

Blu lives on a nine acre (depending on the tide) island in a small house his great grandfather built. His “pets” are a small herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys that showed up and never left. Even after Hurricane Hugo wiped just about everything in the lowcountry off the map, the horses showed back up the same time Blu’s parents returned from evacuation. There was no way the wild animals would have allowed themselves to be corralled long enough to take them to safety.

He has a twenty-year-old daughter named Hope. Lucky for her she got her mother’s looks and brains and Blu’s stubbornness and eyes. Lucky for him his ex-wife lives in Charlotte.

He’s got a rogue business partner named Mick Crome who’s been missing since their last big job three years ago. Blu believes Crome’s ability to be faithful to anything stops at his Harley Davidson. He’s the same age as Blu, but meaner.

As far as a music preference, Blu’s stuck in the eighties. He’s been known to load a punk cassette into the deck of his ancient Toyota Land Cruiser while on the job.

Blu learned how to handle himself while playing football in high school. His athletic ability allowed him success in the Army as a paratrooper and then Ranger. He served dutifully in Desert Storm and came back mostly intact.

A smoker since high school days, he recently switched to vapor. He’s hoping to be off the habit in a few months. We’ll see.

If you’re looking for a suave PI to do a background check, look elsewhere. But if you’ve got some money and need private security in a third world county, Blu’s you’re man. Ditto for discouraging an abusive husband from violating a restraining order. He may be rough around the edges, no matter how much his daughter tries to change him, but he’s loyal and not afraid of much. And he’s got connections at the highest levels of the Charleston elite.

And you can read about him in the first book of his series, IN IT FOR THE MONEY.

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Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Lowcountry, South Carolina, early June, Thursday morning

The old rotary phone sitting on the desk refused to ring. No matter how much Blu Carraway wanted it to. He looked out the window of his makeshift office at the surrounding marsh and sighed. Crumpled up in his right hand was the latest tax assessment, in his left was an electronic cigarette. Without thinking, he took a hit off the vaporizer, which replaced Camels as his only vice. Well, that and pirated satellite TV.

And still the receiver remained silent.

One more good job.

It was all he needed.

Then Charleston County would be happy for another year, and he’d get to keep his little island home. Just. One. Good. Job.

The hula girl on his desk a Desert Storm buddy had given him when he first hung out his PI shingle bobbled at him as if to say, “How long did you think you could keep this up, tough guy?”

He swatted her off the desk with the tax bill. “At least another year, Dollie.”

As the plastic figure skittered across the old plank flooring, Blu heard the sound of tires on his crushed shell drive. With the sole air-conditioning being a ceiling fan and open windows, he heard everything happening on his little slice of paradise. But he suspected his tenure there was on borrowed time. The house and land, which had been in the family for next to forever, were his free and clear. Except nothing was free and clear. He still had his yearly rent payment to the county, which seemed to think nine acres of mostly sand and marsh with a small herd of free-roaming scraggly horses was worth one helluva lot. Even though they neglected to consider it relevant enough to route the mosquito sprayers anywhere near the place.

A black Mercedes, the new big one, sliced between two live oaks and rolled to a stop beside his ancient Land Cruiser. Blu watched as the driver’s door opened and a man in a suit and tie exited the car. Just as Blu was about to run outside to greet him, he noticed the man walk around the expensive German machine, open the rear door, and extend a hand to assist whomever was in the backseat.

A pale white hand grasped the driver’s. After a moment, a woman with shoulder-length gray hair and sunglasses stood beside the car as the driver shut her door. She was not unattractive—in a wealthy, snobby kind of way. Her pose accentuated thin, but not frail, limbs and a torso hinting at personal trainer visits. Her crème-colored sleeveless blouse, tailored slacks, and shoes his daughter had once told him were called wedges exuded confidence. The woman held what looked like an expensive pocketbook.

Blu walked outside and approached the pair. “Can I help you?”

The woman, who was more attractive up close with high cheekbones, a small nose Blu guessed was natural, and a perfectly- proportioned neck adorned with modest pearls, said, “I’m looking for a Mr. Carraway.”

“You found him.”

“Good.” She turned to the driver, who upon closer inspection had an athletic build with a slightly visible shoulder rig beneath his suit coat. “Told you this was the place.”

He said, “Yes, ma’am.”

It didn’t sound like the man was convinced.

Two of Blu’s horses, at least he called them his because they wouldn’t leave his property even though there was no fencing, clomped around the house and approached. These were the curious ones from the herd, and not the brightest. He’d named them Dink and Doofus.

The woman’s mouth opened in surprise.

Her driver, apparently startled, reached inside his jacket where the shoulder rig was.

Blu said, “Don’t mind these two. They’re harmless. But if you see a black stud, best keep your distance.”

The woman watched the horses approach. Dink, the brown male with a tangled mane, lowered his head and sniffed. Doofus, his coat best described as dirty snow, lumbered up to the woman. In a past life, these two must have been canines.

Blu said, “Come on, guys.”

As if the horses just noticed he was there, they both raised their heads and snorted. Doofus gave his mane a quick shake.

The woman reached out and touched Dink on his nose.

The horse granted her hand a big lick before she could retract it.

Dink and Doofus didn’t approach just anybody. Blu had recognized this trait in them a long time ago. They liked this woman. Or else they just thought she had a treat for them.

Blu said, “What can I do for you fine folks?”

“Mr. Carraway,” the woman said, maneuvering around Dink and offering a business card. “I’m Cynthia Rhodes.”

Blu held the card. “That’s exactly what this says.” It also gave a Charleston, South Carolina address. South Battery, no less. Big money.

Real big money.

She said, “Yes, well, I’d like to talk to you about employing your services.”

Tapping the card on his open palm, he said, “I appreciate your effort to get here, Ms. Rhodes. I would have gladly met you somewhere closer to Charleston. Saved you the forty-minute trip.”

The driver stepped forward and the horses retreated to the other side of the vehicles. “There must be something wrong with your phone.”

An image of a stack of unpaid bills came to mind, specifically the one marked “third and final notice.” Blu didn’t reply.

Cynthia Rhodes said, “Is there someplace we can sit and talk?”

Coming to his senses, Blu said, “Of course. I’m sorry. I don’t normally receive clients out here. Please come this way.” He ran through a mental checklist: the office was one chair short for this group, the desk was a mess, the hula girl was on the floor, and the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in, well, he couldn’t remember when.

Ms. Rhodes and her driver followed him, all of them crunching on the shell drive, up the porch stairs, and into the office he’d created out of the living room of the one-story bungalow his great- great-grandfather had built.

His guests didn’t comment on the disheveled appearance.

The driver pulled out the single client chair in front of Blu’s desk and Cynthia Rhodes sat.

Blu made an assumption the man would prefer to remain standing seeing as how his role could best be described as armed chauffer. Walking around his desk, being sure to step over the hula girl on the floor, and noticing the crumpled tax bill flittering in the wind of the ceiling fan, Blu sat on the ripped cushion of his ancient captain’s chair. It gave a long, un-oiled squeak. “Okay, Ms. Rhodes, tell me why you think you need my services.”

Cynthia Rhodes removed her sunglasses and held them in her lap.

She looked at him with deep blue eyes. “Mr. Carraway, I have a situation I’m not sure how to handle.”

The horses’ intuition and this woman’s bold and transparent acknowledgement of uncertainty regarding her situation had him trusting her almost immediately. Well, those reasons and the big tax bill he had to pay.

“Can I get either of you something to drink?” he asked. “I’ve got tap water or cold—I mean iced—coffee.” Cold was a more accurate statement, but he didn’t think it sounded sophisticated enough.

Cynthia Rhodes said, “No, thank you.”

Meeting her deep blue gaze, he guessed she was mid-fifties, about ten years his senior. He asked, “How can I help?”

“I was told you could be trusted.”

“By whom?” he asked.

“Adam Kincaid.”

With the name, Blu immediately understood the depth of her need, if not the specifics.

She continued. “He said you got his daughter back for him when those awful men took her.”

“More or less.” Kincaid’s daughter was returned to her father intact, physically if not emotionally, without paying any ransom. And the world had lost a half-dozen kidnappers. “Has your daughter been kidnapped?”

With a tight-lipped smile and a slight headshake, she said, “I have a son.”

He said, “What is it you think I can do for you?”

“He’s missing.”

“How do you know?”

She looked down. “My son and I have a strained relationship, to say the least. The only way I know he’s okay is because he makes withdrawals from his trust fund.”

Blu said, “He hasn’t made any in a while?”

“Two weeks.” She looked at him. “I was told you handle unique situations. That they were your specialty.”

Her driver smirked.

Blu said, “You don’t want the police involved?”

“No,” she said. “I mean, not yet.”

He sat back. “What would you like me to do?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, her voice breaking for the first time.

“You’d like me to find him?”

“Yes.”

It sounded more like a question.

He said, “I can do that.”

“My son is a sweet boy. He likes art—painting. If something’s happened to him, I’m not sure what I’d do.”

Blu had a hunch the real reason she was here was about to surface.

She said, “Mr. Kincaid told me you made the men who took his daughter pay for their sins.”

“You think someone did something to your son?”

Folding her arms across her chest, she said, “I hope not.”

Blu shook his head. “Anything that may or may not have happened in Mexico was a by-product of the goal of the job, which was to get his daughter back.” It was a true statement, but not really the truth.

Cynthia Rhodes reached into her pocketbook, removed a check, and handed it to Blu.

Chapter Two

The amount written in neat, precise cursive would do a lot more than just pay his property tax for the year. He handed the check back, trying hard not to show any reluctance to do so. “I don’t take on blood jobs.” Another true statement which wasn’t the truth.

Sometimes they ended up that way—bloody.

Her eyes were wide. “But you’re my last hope.”

Blu laced his fingers together and placed his hands on the desk. “That makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.” With a slight head jerk, he motioned to her driver. “Why not send trigger-happy Rick, here?”

Blu already knew the answer. The man was mostly show. He appeared to be in shape. But he did not have a killer’s gaze.

She looked at her driver who shifted his weight between his feet as if he were nervous.

Holding a hand up, Blu said, “You don’t want to have things too close to home. I understand. Better to hire some schmuck and make him do the heavy lifting.”

“You’re mistaken,” she said. “I heard you were the best.”

“I am the best,” he said. “Can’t you tell by the crowds of folks lining up for my services?”

With a smile breaking the tension in the lines of her face, she said, “Adam also said you had an odd sense of humor.”

Blu didn’t know what to say, so he kept quiet. Filling voids in conversation only gave away too much.

Cynthia Rhodes filled in the void for him. “If it isn’t enough money, I’ll double it.”

The Kincaid job had netted enough to keep Carraway Investigations solvent for three years, with only a modest contribution from an insurance or surveillance job here and there. And lately, some day laboring. The offer in front of him was eerily similar. Of course, Blu and his partner, a biker and fellow Ranger named Mick Crome, had barely made it out of Mexico alive with Jennifer Kincaid. Blu was three years wiser now, and he enjoyed the cliché “getting older by the minute” more than the one about “being worm food.”

He ignored one of his golden rules: Decisions made under duress were usually tainted. “Okay. I’ll look into it. But if all you want is a trigger puller, I’m out.”

And then he lied to himself about it not being because he needed the money.

After Cynthia Rhodes signed a standard, boiler-plate contract, which had jammed Blu’s ancient printer twice in the process, and gave him a picture of her son, she and her driver left. Happy to be working again, Blu headed into town, taking the decade-old photo of Jeremy Rhodes with him, the most recent one his mother had. It showed a good-looking, normal kid with clear eyes and a boyish smile and dimples.

The drive into Charleston gave Blu time to think. A few things about this new job already bothered him. First: Cynthia Rhodes, the kid’s supposed mother, didn’t have a current picture of her son. Second: For all he knew, Jeremy could be trying to run away from dear old mom.

Cynthia Rhodes had no idea where her son was and couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen or spoken with him. When Blu asked about drug use, she seemed flippant. All she knew was Jeremy had gone to the College of Charleston and majored in Liberal Arts, graduating two years ago.

Frankly, if it weren’t for the money and his lack of it, Blu wouldn’t have been so eager to take the job. The fact she’d doubled the offer erased any hesitation he might have had.

When he turned onto King Street, he found a parking spot at a meter in front of Willie’s Music Shop. He put some change in the meter and walked inside. His friend Willie Day had owned and run the place since the eighties, weathering Hurricane Hugo and urban blight. Willie always seemed to know what was going on no matter what Blu asked about. After Willie had passed on to the other side not too long after 9/11, his daughter took over, running the store during the city’s current rejuvenation. And, like her father, she had connections all over town.

Billie Day stood beside a wall display of Fender guitars, talking to a very early twenty-something white male. A black tank top and a short crop of hair exposed Billie’s light brown arms and neck. Her jeans accentuated curves that always put Blu in a good mood. She gave him a slight nod but kept her main focus on the customer.

Blu rotated his sunglasses to the top of his head and pretended to browse while he waited for Billie to make the sale. Desert Storm had done a number on his hearing, but he distinctly heard the sum “thousand even” and silently congratulated Billie.

After the kid had paid and walked out with his purchase protected in a nice case she’d talked him into buying, Billie walked over to Blu.

With hands on nice hips, she said, “What can I help you with?”

What she said was a little more formal than Blu had been looking for in a greeting. Apparently, Billie was more than a little pissed at him for not calling. It had been six months, right about the time his tax situation derailed him.

He said, “Hi, Billie.”

“Hi, Billie? Is that what you’re going with?”

“Um—”

She put a finger to his lips. “Don’t even try to dig yourself out of this one, Blu.”

He looked into powerful, deep brown eyes and almost winced.

Her gaze lightened. “Why didn’t you just tell me your tax troubles?”

Blu looked down. He should have assumed she knew.

She lifted his chin. “Friends help each other. They don’t shut each other out.”

“It’s my problem to fix,” he said.

“But it doesn’t have to be, baby. You made it so.”

A lot of thoughts ran through his stubborn head. Like how someone five years his junior had it so much more together than he did. And how someone could care about him so much after all these years.

He said, “I’ve got another job now. A good one. Hell, the retainer alone is enough to pay off Charleston County and then some.”

“You’ve got a job now, huh? Is that why you’re here?”

“Not the only reason.”

She patted his chest. “Before we get to that, you’ve got to make this up to me.”

“I—”

With a nudge from her hip, she said, “I don’t want to hear excuses. I want you to take me out and treat me proper. Everything has a price. My price for being ignored is a date. Take it or leave it.”

He’d always loved this woman. The timing was never right. He’d come back from the war all screwed up and she’d just turned eighteen—bad timing.

By the time he’d gotten his head screwed back on straight, she was twenty. And he married someone else—bad timing.

When he’d been about to get a divorce, his wife turned up pregnant. They stuck it out another five years before ending it just in time for Billie to marry someone—bad timing.

And then Billie divorced, she and Blu were set to be together, and his money problems started—bad timing.

But now he had this new job, his money problems abated, and she was still available. He just hoped he wouldn’t mess it up this time. So, in answer to her request for a date as restitution for him being a complete moron, he said, “Okay. I’ll take it.”

“Good,” she said. “Pick me up at eight.”

He thought about going ahead and asking her if she knew Jeremy Rhodes, but he decided not to push his luck. She wasn’t his only source, just his favorite.

He smiled and gave her a peck on the cheek.

She said, “Are you going to call Crome?”

Chapter Three

Blu stepped out of the music store and onto the broken sidewalk of upper King Street. The nice shops had been encroaching this direction for some time and had almost made it. Willie’s Music had always been a novelty. Now it was a novelty on prime real estate. And Billie had politely turned down several decent offers to sell. Blu couldn’t blame her. The business held its own, and she liked what she did.

Her asking if he was going to call Crome meant she was more than a little concerned about the job.

Mick Crome, his sometime business partner, had vanished with his half of what was left of the fee after expenses from the payout of the Kincaid job. The last Blu heard, Crome had ridden his Harley all the way down to Key West and hadn’t come up for air since. And not a day went by that Blu didn’t think about his friend.

He’d give Crome a day or two. The guy had a knack for showing up at the right time. If he hadn’t returned to Charleston by then and things got out of hand, Blu would make a few calls.

The picture Cynthia Rhodes gave him of her son didn’t help as he would have to assimilate what Jeremy looked like now, most likely factoring in extensive drug use as an age agent.

What he needed was a current picture, at least one more current than ten years. Because he’d let his cell phone plan expire when he ran out of money, he bought a prepaid “burner” phone at a drug store. The teenage girl who rang up his purchase helped him set it up and he gave her a five-dollar tip.

Using the cigarette lighter in the Land Cruiser to power the phone, he dialed a number from memory.

It went to voicemail.

When prompted to leave a message, he said, “Gladys, this is Blu Carraway. I know it’s been a while, but I could use a favor. Call me when you can.” He left the burner’s number and closed the phone.

With that accomplished, some theme music was required. He selected a cassette and loaded it in the Land Cruiser’s tape deck. After a moment, the bass riff from “The Waiting Room” by the punk band Fugazi played through the speakers—what a band.

The phone vibrated on his leg. He turned down the music volume and answered the call.

Gladys said, “Certainly has been a while, Mr. Blu Carraway. What lowlife are you after now?”

Ten years ago, about the same time the picture of Jeremy Rhodes was taken, Blu intervened in a domestic abuse situation. Gladys found him through a friend and tried to hire him. Apparently, none of the other local private investigators would bother to talk with her, much less take her job. At the time, her husband was taking out his frustrations for being a bakery delivery man on Gladys. When Blu found out she worked at the DMV, he handled the job pro bono, figuring the connection was worth it. In the end, a police investigation confirmed her husband had died while trying to beat her again—a clear case of self-defense as far as anyone was concerned. Blu didn’t lose any sleep over it when the police found the knife sticking out of the man’s neck with Gladys’ prints on it. In Blu’s mind, any man who struck a woman in anger deserved no less. Gladys had done the deed, but only after Blu suggested she already had enough evidence to prove self-defense. He’d been a stone’s throw away when it happened, which most likely also encouraged and empowered the woman to take action.

And Gladys, with her connection to every licensed driver and registered vehicle in the state of South Carolina, had indeed proved helpful. The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of ’92 protected a driver’s information from getting outside the appropriate government agencies. But it didn’t apply to licensed PI’s like Blu who had a wide range of access. Through experience, Blu found an inside source usually trumped his own sleuthing skills. With her abusive husband gone, Gladys’ life had changed dramatically for the better. He knew she would happily keep returning the favor.

He said, “I need a photo of someone.”

“Let me get something to write with.” A pause, then, “Okay, shoot.”

He gave the name and approximate age of Jeremy Rhodes.

She said, “I get off work in two hours. Buy me a milkshake at the Chick-fil-A down the street.”

“You got it.” He ended the call.

With time to kill, Blu had two things in mind. One was to research exactly who Cynthia Rhodes was. And the second was to squeeze in a workout at the gym. His first stop was the local library where he signed onto a computer and looked up his new client. Normally he would have done this before accepting the job, but her check was awfully big.

Cynthia Rhodes was indeed a Charleston socialite. She managed a charitable organization named Lowcountry Second Chances and booked fundraisers all year long. A major benefactor for the charity was a shelter in North Charleston.

Once divorced, her ex-husband being one Jack Rhodes who had passed away five years ago from a heart attack, Jeremy was their only child. Jack had been a big deal in lowcountry real estate up until his passing.

Jeremy Rhodes, unlike his mother, had done a good job of flying under the radar. There was quite a bit on both of his parents on the web, but nothing about him except a few notifications of past showings of his artwork at some of the local coffee shops.

Being a private investigator wasn’t in and of itself difficult work. Blu felt he had to keep his mind sharp and be able to think on his feet. And he had sources providing a lot of what kept him ahead of things. But it was also physical—he had to stay in shape. Quitting smoking, or at least switching to vapor, had several benefits, one being he could no longer afford it anymore anyway. And it also helped him breathe better during workouts.

With the preliminary research complete, Blu went to the gym. He kept a bag of gym clothes and gear in his truck, because he never knew when he’d get the opportunity. While his cardio had gotten a lot better since he switched to vapor, he still preferred the weights and got a good hour set in. Even with his money troubles, the gym membership would have been one of the last things to go.

Gladys faced a pink-colored milkshake in a booth in the restaurant when Blu sat across from her. A lot of people spent a lot of money to fight against looking their age. Gladys was not one of them. Past fifty, she had thick strawberry-framed glasses, gray hair, and a healthy dose of paunch. She had a few more years before she’d have her time in with the state and she could retire on a full ride. When that happened, Blu would need another source. Gladys made it easier than having to deal with a lot of red tape, even though he also knew a lot of cops.

She sipped from the straw and slid a nine-by-twelve-inch envelope to him. Her short, plump body was mostly hidden by the table. “They know me here. I told them you’d be paying. You gotta go to the counter.”

Blu stood, went to the counter, ordered a sweet tea, and paid for their drinks. He got his tea, sat across from Gladys again, picked up the envelope, and slipped out two sheets of paper, one an enlarged driver’s license picture and the other a vehicle registration for a late model Volkswagen Jetta. Listed was the South Battery address on the business card his mother had given Blu.

Gladys remained quiet.

Unlike the clean-cut boy in the photo Cynthia had given him, in this picture Jeremy Rhodes had black hair shaved on one side of his head with the length on top combed over to the other like an upside down mop. It contrasted with pale white skin like his mother’s—obviously not a beach dweller. He also had quite a few piercings: ears, nose, eyebrows, and both cheeks.

Blu pushed the photo back into the envelope. “Thanks.”

“Kid looks like a degenerate, you ask me.”

He hadn’t asked her, but let it go. “How’s your mom?” Last time he spoke with her, she was in the hospital.

“Dead.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

Gladys nodded but didn’t reply. Aside from the results of her lethargic and static lifestyle, she really did look much different from when she first walked into his office. Her usual grumpy demeanor aside, he knew she’d become a new woman, quite content with who she was. With her newfound freedom from the abusive husband came what he’d observed to be inner strength.

She said, “One more thing. I checked around. The car’s in impound. Been there a week.”

“Thanks,” he said, “Anything I can do for you?”

She finished another round of slurping, licked her lips, and swallowed. “Nah. I’m good.”

Blu slid out of the booth and was ready to roll when she said, “They got good sandwiches here.”

His first thought was she didn’t want to eat alone. Even though he wanted to get back to the job, he said, “Why don’t we get something to eat? I’m buying.”

She smiled for the first time. “Okay by me.”

After they ate chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, and he listened to her complain about her sister, Blu left the ray of sunshine that was Gladys and drove back into the city.

He wanted to check out the kid’s car, and he knew someone who would give him access, but it was too late in the day. First thing in the morning, he’d make a call.

The feeling Cynthia Rhodes wasn’t telling him everything weighed heavy on him. Gladys had said Jeremy Rhodes looked like a degenerate. It wasn’t his call to make, but Blu wouldn’t hire the kid to pick shells on the beach, much less do anything requiring responsibility. If he was alive, what was the kid doing for money? It wasn’t as if he’d ever had to work for anything.

At suppertime, still an hour before he had to leave to meet Billie, Blu filled the water trough for the horses with a garden hose. His grandfather had made the first mistake a long time ago when he gave one of the animals an apple. Since then, the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys, a breed indigenous to the lowcountry, had slowly become family, and caring for them had grown from a novelty to a chore. His father and Cuban mother had continued the practice while they lived there as well. The horses still fed mostly on the vegetation of the property and took care of themselves, the exception being when it froze. During the one week a year it got frigid in the lowcountry, Blu bought a few bales of hay to carry them through. Trying to get them into a barn would be a waste of time. They’d sooner trample him than be corralled.

By the time he finished and put the water hose away, he heard tires on the crushed shell drive.

“Twice in one day,” he said to no one in particular.

He didn’t know how prophetic the statement really was until he watched Cynthia Rhodes’ shiny black Mercedes cut between the trees and pull up next to his old Land Cruiser, as before.

The driver got out of the Mercedes but didn’t open the rear door. Instead, he marched toward Blu. Same dark suit and tie and bright white shirt. He wore sunglasses, just like Blu. It looked like Trigger Rick had come alone this time.

Dink and Doofus kept their distance.

When Trigger Rick got close, Blu said, “Howdy.”

The man didn’t look happy. But then again, he didn’t look happy the first time Blu had met him either. “Howdy yourself, Carraway.” He thumb-pointed to himself. “I could do the job. I’m not sure why Cynthia thought she needed the help of some washed- up dick who hasn’t had a real job in three years.”

Blu didn’t reply. What was there to say?

Trigger Rick continued. “The reason I’m here is because Cynthia wanted a way to be in contact with you.” He reached into his jacket pocket and handed over a smartphone.

“I don’t like those things,” Blu lied. More like he couldn’t afford a smartphone. The service plans required monthly payments, something he hadn’t been in a financial position to commit to in a while.

“Like I care.’”

Blu held it out for the driver to take back. “Still, I can’t accept it.”

“You can and you will.” He retreated to the car. “You think I’m going to go back and tell Cynthia I didn’t give it to you?”

Blu watched the man start the car, turn around, and drive away. Then he looked down at the phone in his hand. It was a nice iPhone.

While he was examining it, the device vibrated in his hands. He almost dropped it.

The name “Cynthia Rhodes” displayed on the screen.

Blu touched the green answer button and held it up to his ear.

“Mr. Carraway?” It was her voice.

“Yes.”

“Good. I hope you don’t think me presumptuous, but I wanted to make sure we had a way of communicating.”

Blu watched as Dink, Doofus, and a mare named Molly Mae drank from the trough. He said, “I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t accept this.”

“I insist.”

“What I mean is I need to get myself one for my business anyway.”

“Consider it a part of our deal and a bonus afterward. It’s unlocked, and I’ve paid forward enough to last the rest of the year.”

He realized he wouldn’t have to worry about getting the landline reconnected. It showed several bars of coverage even on his own slice of paradise located forty minutes away from anywhere else.

She said, “I also managed to get the last four digits to spell out ‘blue.’”

“Oh.”

“That’s okay, isn’t it?” she asked. “I mean, you can use it as a marketing gimmick if you want. You know, like ‘don’t feel blue, call Blue.’”

He wondered how long she’d worked on that one. Hopefully not too long. He decided not to correct her spelling of his name. “I really appreciate the gesture, Ms. Rhodes.”

“Call me Cynthia.”

Her driver had called her Cynthia. How close were they?

He didn’t mention that either. Instead, he said, “Okay. And you can call me Blu.”

“Good.”

“Cynthia?”

“Yes?”

“How long has your driver been working for you?”

“Rick? Around two years. Why?”

If Blu handled this poorly, it could jeopardize being able to continue calling her Cynthia. He said, “Why isn’t he looking for your son? I can tell he believes he’s capable.”

After a pause, she said, “Mr. Carraway. That is precisely why I hired you.”

The call ended.

And Blu wondered if he could still call her Cynthia.

***

Excerpt from In It For The Money by David Burnsworth. Copyright © 2017 by David Burnsworth. Reproduced with permission from David Burnsworth. All rights reserved.

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Jul 232017
 

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder

by Connie di Marco

on Tour July 23 – August 23, 2017

Synopsis:

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

Rob Ramer was the perfect husband until he committed the ultimate family faux pas — he shot his sister-in-law to death. Believing himself under attack by an intruder in his home, he fired back. But when evidence is discovered that Rob’s wife, Brooke, was plotting his murder, Brooke is charged with conspiracy in her sister’s death. Geneva, a third sister, is desperate for answers and seeks the help of her friend, San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Geneva’s lost one sister and now it seems she’ll lose the other. Was this a murder plot or just a terrible accident? Julia vows to find the answer in the stars.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Paranormal
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: August 2017
Number of Pages:336
ISBN: 0738751073 (ISBN13: 9780738751078)
Series: A Zodiac Mystery, 2 | Each is a Stand Alone Mystery
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | IndieBound 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

The building on Guerrero was a once proud Victorian with bow front windows. It had since been broken up into six small units and fallen into disrepair. I drove around the block several times before I managed to find a parking spot a few doors down. The shops on the main street were long closed and the streets deserted. I shivered and let the car heater run another minute to warm up before I left the comfort of my little metal box. There was something about this chore that made my stomach go into knots. Rummaging through a dead woman’s possessions was bad enough, but what if I found something that implicated Moira in a crime? Should I remove it and risk the police finding out?

I climbed out of the car, careful to lock it and approached the long stairway leading to the front door. The wind had died down and now fog danced around the streetlights. It was eerily quiet. No lights shone from any of the windows. I hoped all the residents were safely tucked up in their beds by now. I climbed the cracked granite stairs to the entrance. The weathered door stood ajar, listing slightly on its hinges. I grasped the handle and twisted it, but the lock mechanism was out of commission. Inside, a bare overhead light bulb hung from a chain. It cast a meager glow down the long corridor, cannibalized from a once grand entryway. The hallway smelled of dirty cat litter, moldy vegetables and cigarette smoke. I followed the corridor to the end, and stopped at the last door on the right.

I slipped the key into the lock. It offered no resistance. The door opened immediately. Had it not been locked? I caught a slight scuffling sound and cringed. I hoped no furry long-tailed creatures were waiting inside for me. I reached around the doorway and felt along the wall. My fingers hit the switch. A rusting chandelier with two bulbs missing illuminated the one large room that was both Moira’s living room and bedroom. I tested the key with the door open, locking and then unlocking it. Now I felt the resistance. The door had definitely been unlocked. I stepped inside and shut it behind me, making sure the lock was secure. Was it possible someone had been here before me and left without locking the door? Or had Moira simply been careless?

I had to make sure I was alone in the apartment. There were no hiding places in this sparsely furnished room. I checked under the bed just to be sure and opened the closet, terrified that someone or something might jump out at me. The closet was narrow, filled with a jumble of clothing, half on the floor. I walked into the kitchenette and spotted a doorway that led to the back stairs and the yard. I tested the handle on the door. Locked. I checked the space between the refrigerator and the wall, and then the shower stall in the bathroom. I was alone. I had been holding my breath and finally let it out in a great sigh.

I started with the drawers in the kitchen and checked the counter, looking for any notes with names or phone numbers. There was nothing. The kitchen was surprisingly clean, as if Moira had never used the room. Inside the refrigerator were a few condiments, a half-eaten unwrapped apple and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I quickly rummaged through the drawers and the freezer to make sure there were no bundles of cash disguised as frozen meat.

The main room housed a collection of hand-me-downs and broken furniture, ripped curtains and piles of clothing in various spots around the floor. Had she really lived like this? I heaved up the mattress, first on one side and then the other, making sure nothing was hidden between it and the box spring. Under the bed, I spotted only dust bunnies. I pulled open each of the bureau drawers, checked their contents and pulled them all the way out to make sure nothing was behind them. I opened a small drawer in the bedside stand. Amid a loose pile of clutter was a dark blue velvet box embossed with the letter “R” in cursive gold script. Could this be from Rochecault? I was fairly certain it was. Rochecault is an infamously expensive jeweler on Maiden Lane downtown. How could Moira have shopped there? Was this what Geneva had meant when she said her sister seemed to have a lot of money to spend?

I opened the box and gasped. An amazing bracelet heavy with blue stones in varying colors rested inside. The setting had the slightly matte industrial sheen of platinum. Moira couldn’t possibly have afforded this. Shoving the box into a side pocket of my purse, I decided I was definitely not leaving this for the police to find, and slid the drawer shut.

I scanned the room. Moira hadn’t been much of a housekeeper and it didn’t appear as if there were many hiding spots. I headed for the desk, a rickety affair with two drawers and a monitor on top. I clicked on the hard drive and waited a moment. The monitor came to life and asked for a password. It would take someone much more talented than I to unearth its secrets. Under a jumble of papers and unopened bills, my eye caught a small black notebook. This looked promising. Perhaps it was an address book that would give us all of Moira’s contacts. I dropped my purse on the floor and reached for the book. A searing pain shot through my skull. Blinded, I fell to the floor.

***

Excerpt from All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2017 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

GUEST POST

Julia Bonatti, my protagonist in the Zodiac Mysteries solves crimes using astrology. And I hear from readers all the time – some love the subject of astrology and want to know more, while others aren’t particularly interested and are happy to skip those parts. That’s fine with me. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Julia just happens to have an unusual occupation. Hopefully, there are enough thrills and chills in her investigations that will keep readers turning the pages.

Mostly, people want to know how Julia figures things out and what she sees in a chart that alerts her to possible danger. She can tell an awful lot about an individual from a chart and can make an educated guess about how that person approaches life. Here’s an example that might help explain a few things:

This is a chart of a man born on July 26 at 7:29 p.m. in Kesswil, Switzerland. I won’t mention the year, not yet. What can we tell from the chart, without knowing the man’s name or his profession?

  • He’s a Leo with a Moon in Taurus and Aquarius rising. All fixed signs – he’s proud, stubborn and not easily swayed. There’s a heavy emphasis in his 6th house. Mercury and Venus are conjunct on the cusp. And the Sun and Uranus are also in the 6th. The focus of his life will be his work (6th house). He’s possibly involved in medicine. But since Mercury and Venus are in Cancer, a sign ruled by the Moon, there’s an element of “feeling” and “emotion.” The Moon/Pluto conjunction tells us he’s an intensely emotional individual. In the 3rd house he’d probably be a writer of some sort.
  • Aquarius rising — he’s eccentric and marches to the beat of his own drum. With Saturn on the Ascendant he would appear cold or clinical, but Uranus (the ruler of his Ascendant) is very close to his 7th house cusp. He’d be radical and eccentric in his relationships.
  • Sagittarius is on the cusp of his 10th house (Midheaven), along with Mars in Sagittarius. In his career, he would pay absolutely no attention to what his mentors or colleagues thought. He’d be fearless and innovative.
  • Neptune is in square (90 degree) aspect to his Sun sign. This would give him a mystical bent, but he could possibly misuse the Neptune energies and be vulnerable to addiction. He might avoid that escape as long as he is dedicated to his work.

Can you guess whose chart this is? I’ll give you a hint. He was born in 1875. He died in 1961 at the age of 86, a nice long life which he dedicated to developing analytical psychiatry (medicine and emotions). The chart belongs to Carl Jung. He was a prolific writer and a protégé of Sigmund Freud until he broke from his mentor to pursue his own path. He was married with five children and maintained an open extra-marital relationship for many years, heedless of what society at the time thought.

He was also an astrologer! (Uranus) He worked with dream states (Neptune) and observed recurring archetypes in his patients’ dreams. He came to believe that the archetypal images in astrology represented experiences and emotions common to all people and theorized that humans share a collective unconscious. He said, “Whatever is born or done at a particular moment of time, has the quality of this moment of time,” i.e., an astrological chart.

CARL G. JUNG
So that’s how Julia does it. How I do it is struggling to find a believable chart for my murderer or his victim. Just in case any astrologers out there are paying attention!

Connie di Marco

Author Bio:

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The first in the series, The Madness of Mercury, was released in June 2016 and the second, All Signs Point to Murder, available for pre-order now, will be released on August 8, 2017.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the national bestselling author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Some of her favorite recipes can be found in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco On:
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Giveaway:

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 AND 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of All Signs Point to Murder. The giveaway begins on July 21 and runs through August 24, 2017.

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Jun 152017
 

Feather Stone

GUEST POST

FORBIDDEN: CHARACTER AND SETTING DEVELOPMENT

Bart, aka Croak when he’s being a pain.

When the impulse to write a second novel began, I suppressed the images. Pretty dark stuff. I figured that I’d been watching too many murder shows, and overwhelmed by the global terrorism. Then, something weird happened.

On a stormy winter night driving home from work, I met a woman from Afghanistan. Yes, friggin Afghanistan. As if I was in a zombie state, I picked up this total stranger. Never had I done anything so bizarre. Well, maybe, but that’s another story.

When she got settled into my beat up SUV, I tried to make conversation with her. Blank stare. She didn’t understand a word of English. Damn! What have I done? To make a long story short, in the next twenty minutes, my life changed. Over the next month, I became haunted by images of being in the Middle East in the midst of chaos and suffering.

I knew my muse, Bart, was pushing the plot.

“Resistance is futile.” He gave me his wide toothless grin.

“You’re nuts, Bart, if you think I’ll write that novel. How ridiculous. I know nothing of the Middle East or Islam.” I thumped Bart on his little green head.

“Oh crap, you’re going to difficult again.” He massaged his skull. “Madame, he’s waiting.”

“Who’s waiting?”

“Captain Sharif. Big brute of a man but considered a hero by the citizens of the Republic of Islamic Provinces and Territories.”

I glared at Bart. A mistake. Trapped in Bart’s golden eyes, the mystical dance began. Swirling sapphire clouds descended transforming my surroundings, shifting reality, capturing time.

Several yards away, a man’s shadow emerged.

He stood, a sentinel – solitary, waiting. His fists at his sides, clenched. Moving closer, I noted more details of his uniform. Black, from his cap to the military boots. It was then I noted his death grip on an assault rifle. I swallowed and stepped back. He hadn’t yet acknowledged my presence.

My eyes scanned the direction of his gaze. Only mist. And yet, he prepared for battle. He crouched, a lion ready for the kill. My heart pounded against my ribs. “Who is coming,” I whispered.

“Be quiet,” he growled, a sound escaping from deep in his broad chest. “Damn. They’ve frightened her away.”

Brazenly, I stepped closer. “Who frightened who?”

“The mayor. He’s trying to keep her from coming here.” His shoulder slouched. “Eliza.” He spoke her name as if she held the status of goddess. As he turned back toward the mist, he muttered, “We may be too late.” Pain laced his grief.

Frustration clawed at my need to know what the hell was going on. “Who is ‘we’?”

Finally, the soldier faced me. Still only a vague outline of his features gave any hint of his face. I felt, more than saw, that he could be considered handsome, perhaps in his early thirties, Middle Eastern skin tone, short dark curly hair. Energy surrounded him. No horror would deter him from his mission.

“Who? Me, Sergeant Abdul-Muqtadir, imam Bashir, Captain Khattab, CIA agent Hutchinson.” He stepped forward. “And you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.” He towered over me. “You must write the story. If not, she’s going to get better at trying to killer herself. So far, she’s doing a lousy job. Praise Allah, the most merciful.”

“I’m certain there are authors better able to tell the story. I know nothing of Islam or what it is like to be Muslim. Why me?”

“Because, in many ways, you are much like Eliza. You know her. His voice softened. “You see my dear Ms. Stone, as long as she doesn’t get here, their plans for a most vicious crime is safe. They’ll bury me alive if I reveal their secret. But if she’s here, I’ll have a reason to do …. what is forbidden.

A gut wrenching scream tore through my chest. The sound came from beyond the gloom. It continued to echo as if someone was being tortured within prison walls. Suddenly, the soldier fell to his knees.

“What is that?” I shouted trembling with shock.

“That is Eliza.” He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut as if her pain became his. “Her nightmare is never ending. Her mind gives her no peace. She is going insane.”

A sense of hopelessness descended upon me. Yes, I had to write Forbidden. The woman from Afghanistan and Captain Sharif had shared their secret. Everything is possible through the power of love.

Read an excerpt:

(Eliza, held prisoner in RIPT, attempts to get permission for exercise time in the police compound):

Eliza wore the required black uniform, put on her polished work boots, and pushed her hair up under the black cap. At the bottom of the stairs she listened for sounds of the men. She approached Khizar’s office and sighed with relief to find he had left. Going down a short hallway, Eliza turned right towards the crew quarters’ door. She hesitated, listening for sounds that indicated the mood of the cops.

Belly laughter and smacks against the wall made the door shudder. The men were absorbed in their amusement and might not be interested in challenging her request.

Eliza knocked on the door, careful to sound neither cowardly, nor aggressive. The door was swung open by a constable.
She held her breath. Skilled at hiding her emotions, Eliza looked into the officer’s eyes. The officer relaxed a little. An intimidating smirk grew on his face. Three other men in the room gathered behind him.

The day sergeant, a heavy-set man, came forward and said in a trivializing manner, “The whore is mine. Leave her to me.”

The sergeant sauntered up to her. His eyes lit up like those of a child about to open a birthday gift. He lowered his gaze to her dark boots, and then raised his focus to her mid-section, then to her chest. Finally, he looked at her eyes.

Eliza did not change her expression from that of bland indifference to his suggestive piercing stare. He had called her a whore, but she repressed the impulse to admonish him. She resisted the urge to put her hands on her hips. That would be sexually suggestive and body language might defeat her faster than the wrong choice of words.

“My apologies for the interruption,” she said in Arabic, her voice trembling despite her resolve. “I’m going for a walk.” She swung around toward the exit door.

The officers chuckled as the sergeant stepped forward and blocked her. His face came uncomfortably close to hers. He spoke with a grin, accompanied by the rhythmic flexing and gyrating of his hips.

“Welcome. Come in.” The three men cheered as the sergeant grabbed her shirt and pulled her into the room.

Eliza froze. The four men closed in around her. She gasped as they taunted her, touching her shoulders, her hips. She shuddered as one of the men grabbed her hat and flung it to the side.

“No,” she cried out in Arabic. “Captain Sharif will -.” The sergeant slapped her face hard, sending her spinning against a muscular man. His hand pulled on her long hair and grabbed her belt, trapping her against his body.

Eliza shrieked as the sergeant took her shirt into his fist and in one swift move, ripped it away from her and flung it to the floor. Her white cotton tank top clung to her body like a second skin. The men gawked at the curves of her breasts.

She dug her elbow into the cop’s midsection. His grip on her hair released enough for her to leap for the door. “Let me go!”

More hands clamped onto her body.

“No!” Eliza shouted in Arabic. She reached to grasp someone’s throat. Her legs trembled, barely holding her body upright.

The sergeant gave the belt a firm yank and slipped it out of the belt loops. The men cheered. He pulled on the waist band. It held fast but scraped her skin. She shrieked in pain as she fell to the floor. Eliza screamed as he pinned her to the floor with his knee.

“Quiet,” he growled. A large sweaty hand covered her mouth.

The rest of the men pounced on her, grabbing her arms and legs. Before they got a firm grip on her, she twisted and squirmed enough that someone lost his hold over her mouth. Eliza let out another ear-piercing scream. Her self-defense training evaporated.

“That’s enough,” one said. “Let her go, sergeant. Sharif will hear her and kill us.” Two men let go of their grip on her legs.

“Fuck Sharif. Besides, Captain Khizar has plans to take Sharif’s head,” said the sergeant. “Shut her up!”

Kicking and biting, she escaped their grip, and once more bounded to the door. Just as she flung the door open, a man grabbed her by the hair, and she screamed again. “If Sharif can have her, so can we!”

Strong hands threw her to the floor again. She screamed until her lungs burned. A hand clamped down over her mouth, pushing her lips hard against her teeth. She tasted blood on her tongue. She kicked and twisted. Her muffled cries and tears seemed to excite the men. Their hostility escalated.

“Hold the bitch still,” someone hollered. A hand groped her chest, squeezing her breast. She gasped at the crushing weight of a man on her legs attempting to pull her pants down. The band around her waist ripped. A knife flashed over her mid-section.

In one last effort, Eliza opened her mouth wide. The hand slipped between her teeth. Like a vice, she clamped down on the fingers and bit hard. He hollered a curse and yanked his hand from her teeth. She took a deep breath and screamed till her throat hurt. A rag was shoved into her mouth.

The men paused as the sound of footsteps thundered down the stairs.

The men gasped. Their hands remained clenched onto her as if welded to her skin. The door flung open. It crashed against the wall. Captain Sharif rushed through the doorway, wearing only his boxers. His face twisted in rage as his raised his handgun toward the men. They threw themselves onto the floor and begged for mercy.

Eliza pulled the rag out of her mouth and scrambled on all fours to a far corner. She tried to stand but crumpled to the floor. Panting and crying, she crossed her arms across her chest.

“What are you idiots doing? Get up,” Sharif roared. “Up against the wall before I kill the lot of you swine!”

They scrambled to form a line in front of the captain. Each one got a dose of the disgust on the captain’s face. The men stood rigid, gasping for air. Sweat rolled down their faces. Sharif paced in front of the sergeant and his three men. He glanced back at her.

“Get your shirt on!”

Eliza reached for the torn shirt and put it on. Rage fought for dominance over her shaky legs.

“Get out, MacKay!” Sharif’s deep voice echoed his loathing.

She raced to the exit door, flung it open, and fell down the six steps.

Reeling with shock, she used the exterior wall of the building to guide her away from the front door. She ran, blinded by tears, and staggered around a corner.

The blood-stained compound wall loomed fifty feet in front of her. In an instant, ghostly screams and unrelenting gunfire pulled her back into the horror.

Traces of bullet holes and dark red splatter stains on the walls retold the story in gruesome detail. Eliza slumped against the station’s wall, slid to the ground and squeezed her eyes shut. She clenched her fists as her mind catapulted to the night she arrived four days ago in the captain’s compound.

She huddled against the cement wall. Her body ached. Bruises and scratches were on her arms and legs, golden tangles hung in her face. She clenched her fists and fought back the need to release a scream of anger and frustration.

Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the captain’s hurried approach. He had dressed in casual clothes, khaki pants and white short-sleeved shirt left untucked, only partially buttoned. Eliza had difficulty reading the man, his eyes hidden behind the dark aviator sunglasses. He stood in front of her and motioned for her to stand.

“Get up,” he said, glancing in her direction.

She braced for a stern reprimand and punishment. Get up and bow to the friggin’ iceman, she thought. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep. I’ve been ordered about, shut up in a small apartment, sneered at, and treated like I’ve got the plague. Then, being treated like a whore this morning? Unforgivable. Damn! She stood.

Her torn shirt fell open, revealing more than the captain, or any decent Muslim man should see. Too damn bad! His gaze appeared in the vicinity of her chest.

Once Sharif was thoroughly tormented, she tied the shirt tails at her midriff, closing off her cleavage.

Sharif turned away. “Come with me,” he ordered and headed toward the arch-ribbed building.
“Come with me, please,” she snapped, remaining steadfast.

He turned and looked at her for a moment. Briefly, she saw a glimmer of a smile. Just a hint of his white teeth and the softening of his face.

The captain stood a good three inches taller than her five foot nine inches. His cropped, curly dark brown hair and stubble style beard defined his strong facial bones. His eyes were obsidian. During the night, when he did not wear the aviator sunglasses, she had discovered the black depths were as soft as velvet.

Author Bio:

On our cattle ranch in Alberta, when an animal was in distress or injured, I was put in charge of nursing it back to health. Never mind that I was just a kid and hated the sight of blood, but I had to muster up the courage to apply home remedies. My survival rate was pretty good. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would progress to nursing – humans. After one year into nurses training, I bolted. Bed pans and chronic diseases pushed me in different direction; a career of dealing with drug addicts, murder, suicide, fatalities, and biker gangs. In 1983 I graduated with honors as a paramedic and worked in the City of Edmonton’s Emergency Services.

For the next twenty years, I came face to face with scenes most people would rather not think about. I loved it. Having experienced life in the most deadly and gut wrenching events, and work alongside the police service, I gained the fodder for creating intense novels.

My creative DNA shocked me when I was driven to write a dystopian / paranormal / romance novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild. After taking several writing courses, I presented the manuscript to Omnific Publishing who published it in 2011. Just when I thought I could get my life back, another story took me prisoner – Forbidden. I couldn’t believe there was this kind of story within me and desperate to be told. I resisted. It was futile.

Retired and focused on home life, I’m back to being a mom to four pets and one husband. We travel and taste the excitement of other cultures. In between adventures, I’ve dabbled in water color painting, photography, needle work, gardening – the list goes on. In my next life, I plan to explore the cosmos.

I’ve learned a few things in my seventy years. Thoughts are powerful. Intention is everything. Passion is the key to success.

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Synopsis:

Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone

Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.

The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.

Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.

When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.

CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hit man on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.

What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Romance, International Thriller
Published by: Indie
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 363
ISBN: 0995150907 (ISBN13: 9780995150904)
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

An armored truck with a mounted machine gun roared up behind the two police motorcyclists. Something is terribly wrong. She ducked deeper behind the luggage and stared into the darkness. She desperately searched for a rational explanation. A cold knife pierced her core.

After speeding through intersections and red traffic lights, the vehicles came to a sudden halt. Gate hinges squealed in protest. The impulse to leap from the back of the truck fought with her intense need to remain hidden. If it were not for the armed vehicle at the rear, she would have jumped and disappeared into the night. In another moment, the opportunity vanished.

The vehicles lurched forward. Through the flap’s opening, she saw a massive iron gate. High walls extended on either side. The vehicles stopped.

The motorcyclists drove to either side of the truck. The armored vehicle surged forward, nearly crashing into the back of the supply truck (where Eliza is hiding). Eliza scrambled to put more of the luggage between her and the mounted gun. It bore down on her as if it had spied her. She gasped.

Eliza strained to hear a pleasant greeting, an apology for the change of plans, anything that would tell her heart to stop its thundering in her chest.

Someone shouted, “Ikhrog men al Araba,” then in English, “Get out of the bus!”

“Stay together,” Charlie called out. At first the volunteers sounded merely annoyed, but their mood rapidly deteriorated.

“Charlie, there’s a mounted automatic weapon on that truck. Something’s not right here.” The man’s alarm ricocheted through his companions. Quick footsteps reminded Eliza of nervous horses in a corral – wild-eyed, snorting and circling as they searched for an escape.

Charlie attempted to calm his group. “I’m sure this will all make sense. I’ll see why there’s been a change. Who’s in charge here?” he called.

Scattered thoughts fed her fear. The unmistakable sound of large guns being maneuvered sucked the air from Eliza’s lungs. Near the supply truck, she heard the ping, ping of a cell phone, then the trembling voice of a woman crying, “Ralph, pick up the phone. Please. Oh God ….” The woman screamed. With a blast of gunfire, her cries stopped. Bullets pierced the canvas and shattered a suitcase in front of Eliza.

Her body trembled violently. In minutes she would be killed. The luggage offered no protection. Terrified to make any sound, yet frantic to hide, she pressed her backpack to her chest. She gasped as if starved for oxygen. Tears ran down her cheeks as she heard the terrified people and Charlie beg for their lives.
This is only one of my nightmares. I’ll wake up and everything will be fine.

The truck with the mounted machine gun swerved around the supply truck. Deafening sounds of machine gun blasts and screams tore through her chest. She plunged down among the luggage.

A man came into her view as he lunged toward the gate. A police officer ran after him and fired several shots into the man’s back. The American dropped, bloody and lifeless.

Suddenly, an armed man dashed to the rear of the supply truck and saw her. She gasped. Oh my God, he’s going to kill me. I’ve got once chance. Get his gun. Her martial arts training kicked in. She lunged forward. As they grappled, both fell.

Falling on top of him Eliza punched his groin. He cried out in agony. She crab crawled on all fours toward his weapon several feet away. Too late she saw a boot aimed at her head.

She ducked for cover under the supply truck. Too late. The cop stomped on her head, ramming her forehead into the pavement hard. Her momentum pushed her under the truck’s back end.

Dazed, she checked to see if he followed her. He was struggling to free his boot, snared in her scarf. A gun’s muzzle appeared, aimed in her direction. Bullets ripped through her coat’s shoulder. Puffs of down feathers stuck to the sweat and blood on her face.

I’m hit. Get out. Run. Eliza kicked and crawled out from under the truck on the far side of the killers. The deafening gunfire and screams surrounded her. Her mind froze. She pressed her body into the truck’s solid frame.

More bullets smacked the ground near her. More vehicles arrived. Bright headlights blinded her. She turned away to shield her eyes. Desperate, she ran an erratic, aimless course. Silhouettes of shapes, helmets, guns and bloody bodies flashed in front of her. Keep running. Dodge. Find cover. She ran like a wild animal, blind to the teeth that would tear her apart.

When the thunder from the machine gun stopped she glanced back. The man at the machine gun tumbled head first off the truck. His companions continued to fire their weapons, but now toward the gate. More shots came from behind the blinding lights. The men ran toward the front of the supply truck. Riddled with bullets, their bodies twisted and fell.

Silence.

Eliza gazed in bewilderment at the tall form appearing in the light. He raced forward past the open gate, his weapon raised in her direction. More men followed behind him. She ran, searching for cover.

He shouted, “Tawakaf and am, la tatharak Kiff.” Then in English, “Stop where you are. Don’t move! Stop.”

A short burst of gunfire. Bullets struck the ground a few yards in front of her. She skidded to a stop. Breathless, she turned toward the gunman. She could not make out his face below the dark helmet. He wore a police uniform like the killers had – black from head to toe. If not for his vehicle’s headlights, he would have been invisible. He raced toward her, his weapon held steadfast in her direction.

***

Excerpt from Forbidden: Better Wear Your Flak Jacket by F. Stone. Copyright © 2017 by F. Stone. Reproduced with permission from F. Stone. All rights reserved.

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