Jul 092020
 

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey Banner

 

 

The Crushing Depths

by Dani Pettrey

on Tour July 1-31, 2020

Synopsis:

The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

When an accident claims the life of an oil-rig worker on the first drilling platform off the North Carolina coast, Coast Guard investigators Rissi Dawson and Mason Rogers are sent to take the case. Tensions surrounding the oil rig are high and the death has everyone on edge. Environmental activists are threatening to do whatever it takes to stop the structure from being completed, while rumors are being whispered about ancient curses surrounding this part of the ocean.

Mounting evidence shows the death may not have been an accident at all. Was he killed by one of the activists or, perhaps more frighteningly, a member of his own crew? Rissi and Mason have to sort through not only a plethora of suspects, but also their own past and attraction to each other.

Just as the case seems like it’ll break open, worse news arrives. A tropical storm has turned their way and soon they’re cut off from any rescue–and right where the killer wants them. It’s a race to discover his identity before he eliminates the threat they pose.

Book Details:

Genre: Inspirational Romantic Suspense
Published by: Bethany House
Publication Date: June 30th 2020
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0764230859 (ISBN13: 9780764230851)
Series: Coastal Guardians #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Dani Pettrey

Praised by New York Times best-selling author Dee Henderson as “a name to look for in romantic suspense,” Dani Pettrey has sold more than half a million copies of her novels to readers eagerly awaiting the next release. Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance.

Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s],” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

Her Alaskan Courage series and Chesapeake Valor series have received praise from readers and critics alike and have appeared on the CBA, ECPA, Publisher’s Weekly, and Amazon #1 bestseller lists. Dani has also been honored with multiple awards, including the Daphne du Maurier Award, two HOLT Medallions, a Christy Award finalist, two National Readers’ Choice Awards, the Gail Wilson Award of Excellence, and Christian Retailing’s Best Award.

Q&A with Dani Pettrey

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

Thanks so much for having me!

Reading and Writing:
What inspired you to write this book?

My husband and I love the ocean. He was in the Navy for years and I’ve always loved the beach as far back as I can remember. We watch lots of movies dealing with sea exploration or action-flicks that take place on the ocean’s floor (where it’s an accessible limit). One night we watched Deep Water Horizon and I thought it must take a really special person to be willing to work one of (if not the) most dangerous job in the world miles and miles out to sea. Rissi and Mason have been separated by life’s circumstances for years. What better way to reunite them than to put them on an oil rig thirty-eight miles out to sea with a killer on the loose and a tropical storm headed right for them?

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Research. There was so much to be done. Thankfully, my husband was able to put me in touch with a colleague who worked on rigs for twenty years. He was extremely helpful. I also utilized online blogs, and firsthand biographies of life about an oil rig. It really is an amazing and treacherous job.

How did you come up with the title?

It was a collaborative effort with my editor and marketing team at BHP. We wanted something that related to water but also something that exuded the pressure Rissi and Mason felt in tight confines. There’s a dive welder on board and he has to use a diving bell to reach the bottom of the rig risers for repair and at the depth, without the proper gear, the weight can be crushing.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I write all my first drafts longhand. I let the story idea play through my head like a movie and once I have a feel for the characters (at least their physical attributes and career) and the setting, I sit down with a yellow legal pad, a stash of FriXion erasable pens (a game changer), a cup of coffee and dive in.

Tell us why we should read your book?

I think what others are saying about my books might help readers decide better than I can answer.
Dani combines the page-turning adrenaline of a thriller with the chemistry and happy-ever-after of a romance. Her novels stand out for their “wicked pace, snappy dialogue, and likable characters” (Publishers Weekly), “gripping storyline[s]” (RT Book Reviews), and “sizzling undercurrent of romance” (USA Today).

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

Yes. I’m working on the last Coast Guard Investigative Series novel. It’s hard to believe I’m already on the last one. It’s due July 15th and we finally have a title. I know longer have to call it Book 3. It’s now The Deadly Shallows. Each book in the series focuses on a different hero and heroine and their romance as well as the investigation are standalone stories.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

Alexandra Daddario as Rissi Dawson
Charlie Hunnam as Mason Rogers

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Spending time at the beach—reading, walking, swimming.
Hiking
Traveling
And anything involving coffee ☺

Favorite foods?

Coffee
Chocolate
Berries

Catch Up With Dani Pettrey:
DaniPettrey.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

h3>Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Late September

Thirty-eight miles off North Carolina’s coast

Greg Barnes clinked along the grated metal steps, his boot heels rasping with each shuffle as he headed topside for a much-needed breath of smoke.

Thrusting the door open with a resounding creak, he stepped out into the night air.

A litany of protestors’ chants mimicked the shrill whining of cicadas.

He glanced at his watch. 1930. Didn’t those eco-nuts ever give it a rest?

As if the cursed rig wasn’t enough—they had the dang relentless protestors going practically day and night.

Exhaling, he rubbed his thumb along the smooth surface of the tarnished gold lighter in his pocket. His tight muscles seized, making his movements stiff. He shook his head. Those people needed to get a life.

Edging around the far corner of the main separator facility, he pressed his back against the structure’s cool outer wall. Generators whirred across from him, finally drowning out the clatter. He scanned his surroundings and exhaled in relief. Finally, alone.

His leg twitched. Just one drag . . . maybe two. It’d been an awful day, and that was the gentleman’s way of putting it.

With unsteady hands, he pulled the plastic-wrapped pack from his shirt pocket.

It crinkled beneath his hold and the sweet scent of tobacco wafted beneath his nose. He tamped the cigarette in his palm and slid it between his cracked lips. Just one drag.

Tugging the lighter from his pocket, he flipped it open, then rolled the pad of his thumb across the ignitor.

A spark flashed and fire roared, hissing over him in a sizzling cascade of torment.

Chapter Two

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Rissi Dawson sat at the long table on Dockside’s waterfront deck, gaping at Mason Rogers. He turned to look at her, his green eyes illuminated in the bright pole lights lining the wooden structural beams. She averted her eyes as heat rushed up her throat, spreading across her cheeks. He’d caught her staring again. Embarrassment drenched her. It’d been three days since his arrival, and she still couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact he was actually sitting next to her.

The boy she’d had the biggest crush on as a teen was back in her life. And on her Coast Guard Investigative Service team.

He handed her the basket of hush puppies the restaurant served instead of bread to start everyone off. His hand brushed hers with the movement, and her heart fluttered. “Thanks,” she said, keeping her gaze fixed on the red basket as she pulled two balls of fried cornmeal from it. She plopped the still-warm puppies onto the round plate to the right of her Coke. Get it together, girl!

The whir of a boat’s motor dropping to an idle sounded over the deck’s edge. A teen jumped out of the white outboard and onto the pier, tying her up to the cleat. Rissi loved living in a place with a boat drive-thru.

Noah raised his glass of iced tea. “Everyone . . .” The team lifted their glasses in response to their boss’s prompting.

Noah dipped his chin. “Welcome, Mason. Happy to have you on board.”

The team clinked their glasses together, even Caleb who sat brooding to her left. Observant as he was, there was no chance he missed the way she looked at Mason. In recent months, he’d developed feelings for her, so it wasn’t surprising he’d bristled at Mason’s arrival—especially after learning she and Mason shared a past, though he didn’t know the half of it. Only that they spent time in a children’s home together for a handful of months as teens.

The opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama” emanated from Noah’s jean pocket. He hitched up as he extracted his phone. “Rowley,” he answered. “Yes?” Standing, he headed down the ramp toward the restaurant’s pier.

“Rockfish tacos,” the waitress said, placing the plate in front of Rissi. The sweet, tropical scent of the mango slaw swirled in the air.

The waitress handed out plate after plate to each of them, setting Noah’s burger at his spot while he continued to pace the pier.

Caleb bit into his Carolina BBQ pork sandwich, the scent of vinegar wafting in the night’s gentle breeze.

Finn Walker did the same with his crab cake sandwich. He and Noah, who was from Maryland, had argued for months over which state had the best crab cake. Finn had been convinced it was North Carolina, right up until Noah had crab cakes flown in fresh from Jimmy’s Famous Seafood in Baltimore. It took two bites for Finn to concede the win.

“Sorry about that, folks,” Noah said, retaking his seat.

“Everything okay?” Emmy Thorton asked. Rissi looked forward to seeing the quirky angel every day at the station.

“Rissi, Mason.” Noah lifted his chin in their direction. “I’ve got an assignment for you.”

Her and Mason? They’d worked a case his first day on the team, but Finn had joined them for most of the investigation. This would be the two of them . . . alone. A mixture of elation and fear sifted through her.

“Great.” Mason set down his lemonade.

“We’ve got a death out on the Dauntless.”

“The offshore oil platform?” Mason asked, swiping a drop of lemonade from his bottom lip.

Stop staring, girl. So he’s jaw-dropping gorgeous. So you share a past. Still, staring is plain rude. Despite not having a mother to teach her, Rissi knew or, at least had come to learn, her manners.

Noah laid his napkin across his lap. “You two need to determine if the death was an accident or if foul play was involved. Helo is leaving from Textra Oil’s copter hub in forty-five. I need you both on it.”

Mason pushed back from the table. “No problem.”

“Great,” Noah said. “You’ll be joining the head of operations, a commercial diver, and the deceased’s replacement on the company copter.”

Rissi took one last bite of her taco before setting it down. She dabbed the corner of her lips with a napkin. “They aren’t wasting any time in replacing the deceased.”

“The deceased’s name is Greg Barnes. I talked to the head of operations, Bob Stanton, and he said they needed to replace him ASAP.”

“Must be an important position.” She reached for her glass and took a final sip.

“You’d think,” Noah said. “But Bob said the main reason they need to replace him fast is they’ve been working with a skeleton crew.”

Mason’s brows pinched as he stood. “Why?”

“Several guys didn’t show up for their three-week rotation transport out,” Noah said, popping a fry in his mouth.

“I know why they didn’t show up for that copter ride out there.” Tom Murphy leaned toward them from his table situated to their right.

“Why?” Mason asked, moving around to the back of Rissi’s chair. He held it out for her as she stood.

She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled. “Thanks.”

He nodded.

Tom, one of Wrightsville’s most colorful fishermen, crooked his index finger, drawing them in. “That rig’s cursed.”

“Cursed?” Caleb chuckled. “You can’t be serious?”

Tom waggled his finger. “It’s no laughing matter, young man.”

“I’m sure it’s a good story, Tom,” Rissi said. No reason not to be polite. “But I’m afraid we’ve got to catch a copter ride.”

Tom shrugged and turned back to his food. “It’s your lives at stake.”

“What do you mean?” she asked before they passed his table, unable to stem her curiosity.

“You’ll see.” He smiled, his right incisor missing. “Henry’s curse is real.”

“Henry?” Why was she letting herself get sucked into this?

Tom let out a high-pitched chuckle. “Oh, you’ll learn all about Henry.”

“Shall we?” Mason said, gesturing to the wooden ramp leading down to the gravel parking lot.

Excusing themselves, they moved down the ramp. Mason leaned in. He smelled of the ocean and warm spice. He whispered, “Did that guy seriously just cackle?”

She nodded, strangely curious about the old man’s ghost story.

“I thought people only did that on Scooby-Doo.”

She let out a slip of laughter.

“I wouldn’t be laughing,” Tom called after them as they rounded the ramp on his side of the deck. “You two be careful out there, you hear? It’s a dangerous place to be. Just ask the men on board.”

***

Excerpt from The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey. Copyright 2020 by Dani Pettrey. Reproduced with permission from Dani Pettrey. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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Enter To Win!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Dani Pettrey. There will be 4 winners. Two (2) winners will each receive an Amazon.com Gift Card and Two (2) winners will each win THE CRUSHING DEPTHS by Dani Pettrey (Print ~ Open to U.S. addresses only). The giveaway begins on July 1, 2020 and runs through August 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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May 132020
 

Miranda and the D-Day Caper

by Shelly Frome

on Tour May 1-31 2020

Synopsis:

Miranda and the D-Day Caper by Shelly Frome

A modern day mystery with WWII tactics, old-time heroes and values, and the efforts of two amateur cousin sleuths from the Heartland.

On a sparkling spring morning in the Blue Ridge, small-town realtor Miranda Davis approached the tailgate market, intent on dealing with her whimsical cousin Skip’s unexpected arrival from New York. It turns out that Skip was on the run and, in his panic, grabbed his beloved tabby Duffy, recalling that Miranda had a recent part in solving a case down in Carolina. His predicament stemmed from intercepting code messages like “Countdown to D-Day,” playfully broadcasting the messages on his radio show over the nation-wide network, and subsequently forced to flee.

At first, Miranda tried to limit her old childhood companion’s conundrum to the sudden abduction of Duffy the cat. But the forces that be were hell-bent on keeping Skip under wraps by any means after he now stumbled close to the site of their master plan. Miranda’s subsequent efforts to decipher the conspiracy and somehow intervene placed both herself and her old playmate on a collision course with a white-nationalist perpetrator and the continuing machinations of the right-wing enterprise, with the lives of all those gathered for a diversity celebration in nearby Asheville and a crucial senatorial vote on homeland security hanging in the balance.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: BQB Publishing
Publication Date: March 1st 2020
Number of Pages: 338
ISBN: 1945448571 (ISBN13: 9781945448577)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Shelly Frome

Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of crime novels and books on theater and film. He is also a features writer for Gannett Media’s Black Mountain News. His fiction includes Sun Dance for Andy Horn, Lilac Moon, Twilight of the Drifter, Tinseltown Riff, Murder Run, Moon Games and The Secluded Village Murders. Among his works of non-fiction are The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. Miranda and the D-Day Caper is his latest foray into the world of crime and the amateur sleuth. He lives in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Q&A with Shelly Frome

What inspired you to write this book?
At a certain point the machinations of the current administration and the tribal nature of politics began to get to me and I began longing for the decency and honesty of another time when I had faith in our government.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?
The biggest challenge was creating a dynamic that included the whimsical outlook prevalent in the Heartland of yesteryear and WWII tactics that could realistically be employed by the far right today.

Give us a glimpse of the research that went into this book.
For one thing, I had to come up with the testing of concealed high tech bomb making methods and the repair of a touring Harley Davidson motorcycle.

How did you come up with the title?
I needed a “grabber” that fit into the cozy genre and also promised to venture far beyond the homey word of typical examples.

Your routine in writing?# Any idiosyncrasies?
I seem to rely a great deal on a kind of daydreaming—trying scenes out in my mind until they jell and spur me on.

Tell us why we should read your book?
I suppose it’s highly unique, replete with an engaging whimsical duo as central characters, a host of colorful antagonists and supporting players, and a trendy, impending threat evolving around a dire conspiracy.

Are you working on your next novel?# If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
The working title is “Shadow of the Gypsy” and involves being caught up in other peoples’ stories, sometimes known as your heritage, as opposed to recreating your possible true self under pressure.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie.# You would you cast?
If I could find someone like Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon to play the leads and somebody like Steve McQueen to play Vin the cool sociopath, I would be off to a great start.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?
Exploring nature with my golden/doodle Baxter

Favorite foods?
Just about any combination of pasta and seafood like shrimp, lobster, clams and braised salmon.

Catch Up With Shelly Frome:
ShellyFrome.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

“Okay, I get it,” said Miranda, assuming it was playtime as always. “We’re double agents. You keep reading the paper and light a cigarette. A minute later, you toss the cigarette and leave the book of matches on the table with the coded inscription Moscow rules. That’s when I take it and slip away awaiting further instructions.”

This was flippant Miranda. The one with the short bob, over thirty, just trying to set the tone on this glorious Saturday in the Blue Ridge and ease out of it. But at the moment, playful Skip seemed to have lost his way. His eyes were bloodshot, underscored by dark circles. And the signature mischievous smirk on that sliver of a face had been replaced by a worrisome twitch.

Folding the newspaper, with his cornflower blue eyes still gazing into the distance, Skip said, “I don’t know, kiddo. I tell you, I just don’t know.”

“Which makes two of us. So tell me why you couldn’t simply e-mail me?”

“Why? Am I holding you up or something?”

“No, you’re not holding me up. Look, what do you say we cut to the chase? Glancing around, taking his sweet time, making sure no one was within earshot, Skip said, “All right.”

“From the top.”

“Okay. Like I indicated, I was filling in, got a break on a prestige AM station.”

Getting more anxious by the second, his lanky body beginning to twitch, Skip said, “So, when opportunity knocks, you seize the day. Right?”

“Out with it. I am still waiting.”

Scrunching forward this time, Skip said, “One night I started to wing it. No more of this ‘Yup, it’s midnight, folks. Some of these homespun Indiana tales should ease you right off to sleep.’ I was antsy. I’d had it with Russ Mathews who’d signed off that night right before me, sounding more and more like some fear monger back in the day.”

“And what day was that?”

“World War Two.”

More glancing around on Skip’s part. More checking the flow of visitors coming and going.

Getting antsy as well, Miranda said, “Will you get on with it? Is there an upshot in our future? ”

“I’m coming to it,” Skip said, looking right at her this time. “Right after my kazoo rendition of I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash, I lean into the mic and say, ‘Guess what? Ole Russ Mathews must be on to something. I’m talking the plot against America. So I tell the insomniacs all over the Liberty Broadcasting system that, at first, I thought Duffy was pulling down on the blinds out of longing.”

“Duffy?”

“Just your average ginger house cat, left alone, separated from other felines on the prowl. But I come home to my sublet and notice he’s perched in the exact same spot, his green eyes staring across the street. So, over the airwaves, I said, ‘What if I told you night people something was up in a dilapidated rooming house in Hoboken? Right across the river from the Big Apple?’” “That does it,” Miranda said, getting to her feet. “How am I supposed to follow this? When you’re ready to get to the point, let me know.”

“Wait a minute. Don’t you see?” said Skip, getting to his feet as well. “I stumbled onto something. Before you know it, my ratings are starting to climb. But since the weather’s getting warmer, those guys across the street aren’t scurrying in and out of the cold. They’re loitering by the stoop, glancing across the shadows. Next thing I know, I’m getting negative call-ins. Listeners telling me to knock it off or else. Undaunted, I tell everyone in radio-land what’s going on out there may have far reaching consequences. Unless I intercept.”

“Oh, please,” said Miranda, walking away. “Listen to me.” Skip scurried over and held her arm. “I tell you, at the same time, those guys across the street were carting off concealed stuff.”

“I’m not listening anymore.”

“You’ve got to. You have obviously become a born tracker. Tracked down a poison pen perpetrator like the paper said.”

“Enough. Stop hyping everything up. Look at you. You’re coming down with full blown hysteria.”

“Exactly. Because it appears there’s no longer any line between entertainment and politics. While messing around, doing a take-off on Russ Mathews and boosting my ratings, I may have stumbled onto an actual plot utilizing WW II codes.”

***

Excerpt from Miranda and the D-Day Caper by Shelly Frome. Copyright 2020 by Shelly Frome. Reproduced with permission from Shelly Frome. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Giveaway!!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Shelly Frome. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on May 1, 2020 and runs through June 2, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Nov 202019
 

VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae Banner

 

 

VanOps: The Lost Power

by Avanti Centrae

on Tour November 4, 2019 – January 10, 2020

Synopsis:

VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae

Da Vinci Code meets Tomb Raider in this award-winning thriller that #1 NYT’s author James Rollins called, “Full of action and suspense.”

Spain 1057: During a thunderous battle, the first King of Aragon wrestles Alexander the Great’s priceless Egyptian weapon from the Moors, but finds it holds a terrifying and mysterious power.

A thousand years later, on a hushed, fog-shrouded, Napa morning, gunshots and the sound of breaking glass rip through the silence. Maddy Marshall, an app designer and aikido instructor, and her twin brother, Will Argones, an engineer, quickly run toward the sound. Horrified, they discover a sniper’s bullet has found its human target.

Before the pool of blood on the living room floor is dry, the twins are sent on an arcane quest to recover Alexander’s ancient weapon. Joined by a VanOps covert agent, they soon discover the rifle’s sights are now set on them. No place is safe, a wrong move means death, and even a simple phone call is off limits if they are to survive.

From a medieval Spanish castle, they follow a time-worn trail, starting at a secret warren under the streets of Jerusalem. But if the killer finds the weapon first, it will be used to cripple the United States’ eye-in-the-sky early warning systems, allowing the Russians to swoop in and prey on the vulnerable nation.

Can Maddy learn to wield the power of the dangerous weapon in time to stop the Russian scheme? Failure means the fragile world peace will be forever shattered…

Critical Praise for VanOps: The Lost Power

“Avanti Centrae’s VanOps: The Lost Power opens a tantalizing new series that combines historical mystery and cutting-edge science into a masterwork of international intrigue—with the promise of more to follow. Written with a dynamic, cinematic style and full of action and suspense, here’s a book that defines page-turner. Don’t miss this riveting debut!”
~ James Rollins, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crucible

“Just a good ole’ fashioned rip-roaring adventure from start to finish. Enjoy the ride.”
~ Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author

“A high-stakes, daring adventure charged with suspense and mystery!”
~ Ann Charles, USA TODAY bestselling author of the Deadwood Mystery Series

“The writing is superb. Easy to read and captivating. There is a mixture of mystery and action that keeps me turning pages. Readers who like Indiana Jones, or the books by James Patterson, Tom Clancy, and Vince Flynn, will enjoy Centrae’s first installment in her VanOps series.”
~ John Bernstein, Professional Reviewer

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: November 9th 2019
Number of Pages: 308
ISBN: 1644371960 (ISBN13: 9781644371961)
Series: VanOps #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Avanti Centrae

International award-winning author who blends intrigue, history, science, and mystery into nonstop thrillers.

Avanti Centrae is the author of the international award-winning VanOps thriller series. An avid world-traveler, she’s studied aikido, been a river raft guide, and thrives on adventure. Her book, The Lost Power, took home a genre grand prize blue ribbon at the Chanticleer International Book Awards, and an Honorable Mention at the 2018 Hollywood Book Festival. She resides in Northern California with her family and German Shepherds.

Q&A with Avanti Centrae

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Avanti Centrae, a modern Renaissance woman. She’s been a raft guide, world-traveler, Silicon Valley IT executive, and is now an award-winning thriller author. Avanti’s debut novel, VANOPS: THE LOST POWER, won a Genre Grand Prize blue ribbon at the Chanticleer International Book Awards and took home an honorable mention at last year’s Hollywood Book Festival. Her blend of intrigue, history, science, and mystery has been getting rave reviews. NYT bestselling author Steve Berry called the novel, “…a good ole’ fashioned rip-roaring adventure from start to finish.”

Avanti, thanks for stopping by. Give us a big picture overview of THE LOST POWER.
I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. THE LOST POWER is a DA VINCI CODE meets TOMB RAIDER type international thriller, about an aikido black belt, a Russian sniper, and the ultimate race to find Alexander the Great’s mysterious Egyptian weapon. It begins with a double-murder on a foggy Napa Valley morning.

Alexander the Great? Love it. I was fascinated by all the history in this story. Can you tell me more about Ramiro I and his role in the story?
Yes. The novel begins in 1057 AD, during a thunderous battle between Ramiro I of Aragon, and the Moors. Ramiro I was the first king of Spain.

Ramiro sends a spy into the camp of the Moors and learns the weapon the Moors are using to decimate his troops may have been used by Alexander the Great. Ramiro captures the weapon and finds its power so dangerous that he hides it, wanting only the best-suited of descendants to find it again.

In the story, Isabella I and Ferdinand II are the only descendants of Ramiro to find the lost power. At least, so far.

Did Ramiro really establish the current European dynasty of rulers?
Yes, most of the current European monarchs are descended from the union of Isabella and Ferdinand, including the current king of Spain, King Felipe VI. During my research, I traced both Isabella and Ferdinand back to Ramiro.

Let’s introduce the protagonists to the readers and tell them how the heroes are related to Ramiro.
The main characters are Maddy Marshall and Will Argones.
Maddy is a tall, independent woman with special martial arts skills who works as an app designer in downtown San Francisco. Maddy’s long-legged twin brother, Will Argones, fled to Brazil to escape Maddy’s wrath after a thoughtless stunt in high school. He’s married to a local woman and works as a test engineer.


Their grandfather was the youngest brother of the current king of Spain.

The way you wove history into the story felt inspired. Tell me a few other true tidbits and how they play out in the novel.
Great question. The thorned cross was really Ramiro’s royal sign, or signum regis, before it graced the cover of the book. The fictional part is that it’s the clue Maddy and Will search for on their quest to find the lost power. They first see the royal sign on the walls of the family castle and when they’re hunting for any sort of clue under the Dome of Jerusalem, they spy it again, and it leads to the next part of their quest.

Give me one more.

Here’s another. The Russian villain, Ivan Klimov, has a grandmother who was a sniper during WWII. She taught him to shoot while killing rabbits, and he recalls their blood sprayed across the snow. The historical inspiration for her was the female snipers that fought in World War II for the Soviet Union. Liudmyla Pavlychenko, or “Lady Death,” was a Russian Red Army Soviet sniper. With 309 kills, she is regarded as one of the most effective military snipers in history.

What about the obelisks?
It turns out that the twins are seeking obelisks hidden inside the Aragon Châsse, a small box that Ramiro hid before he passed away. The Egyptians used that obelisk structure frequently, and you can still see one of their more well-known obelisks gracing Saint Peter’s square.

Once the twins leave California, all of the locations have a rich history. Tell us about a unique place and its historical interest.
Sure. I found the history of Bagan, Myanmar pretty interesting. The town is filled with picturesque ancient temples. The twins get a clue to “Find the center of the Pagan empire,” and they’re not sure if the clue means non-Christian pagans or the Pagan Kingdom.


They learn Burma was home to the Pagan Kingdom, which was an empire in Asia from around 850 to1300 AD. The name comes from the name of a town, Pagan, which became Bagan. Bagan became a central power base in the mid-ninth century under King Anawratha, who unified Burma under Theravada Buddhism. It’s estimated that as many as thirteen thousand temples and stupas once stood in the city. Only twenty-two hundred still exist, in various states of disrepair. Most historians think the Mongols invaded and sacked Bagan in 1287 AD.

The location makes for a spectacular set of action scenes, including a tension filled balloon ride over the golden Irrawaddy River and the town’s famous pagodas.

Read us a passage that has some history in it.
Let me find one. Okay, Maddy and Will are joined on the quest by Bear Thorenson, a broad-shouldered friend from high school turned marine. Bear is a history buff. In this section Maddy and Bear discuss the hunt for the next clue in Vilnius, Lithuania.


Bear said, “Yes, and the search is not without some additional historical challenges. There were five famous fires that destroyed much of the Old Town between 1700 and 1750. It’s possible the clue may have perished in one of those fires.”

“Oh, boy,” Maddy said.

“It gets worse. During the next century, Napoleon and his Grande Armée trundled through here. Also, more recently, both the Germans and the Russians were not kind.”

“World War Two?” Maddy asked.

“Yep. Out in the forest, archeologists recently uncovered a hundred-foot tunnel used by a small handful of Jews, called the “Burning Brigade,” to escape Nazi death pits. This Brigade was forced to unearth and burn bodies to cover up the killing of an estimated hundred thousand people.”

Heart pained, Maddy looked away.

“The men dug the tunnel with spoons found on their dead friends and relatives. Only twelve of eighty prisoners survived the escape.” Bear paused, anger radiating from his eyes as he gazed into the past. He took a deep breath and stretched his shoulders. “But I digress—the point is, we face the challenge of time.”

The story had me holding my breath throughout, and I really enjoyed all the historical references. Where can readers buy THE LOST POWER?
It’s for sale on all the major online retailers, including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble. Readers can also request it from their independent bookstore or local library.

How can readers follow you on social media?
Readers can check out the first six chapters of THE LOST POWER for free on my website at VanOps.net.
And they can follow me on any of these platforms:strong>
http://www.Facebook.com/avanticentrae
http://www.Instagram.com/avanti.centrae.author
http://www.Twitter.com/avanticentrae

Thanks much for this interview!

Catch Up With Avanti Centrae:
avanticentrae.com, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Napa Valley, California, June 25, 8:56 a.m., Present Day

Through the crosshairs of his long-barreled sweetheart, Ivan scanned the wood-casement window of the vineyard’s stone-walled residence, and waited for his intended target to walk into view. His movements were slow and meticulous.

Lying in the loft of an old barn, he calculated range, altitude, temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, and humidity. His skin was irritated by the coarse hay that surrounded him, but he ignored the sensation and focused on his calculations. Click. He made a minor adjustment on his rifle to account for the drop of the round due to air density. And another for windage.

Although misty rivers of fog swirled into gray whirlpools around the winery, the computer enhanced scope of his Springfield EBR allowed him to visually lock onto the home’s large bank of windows. Human movement flickered behind the glass.

He didn’t want to pull the trigger. Nevertheless, Ivan waited for the perfect moment, the perfect shot.

CHAPTER 2

8:57 a.m.

As she headed toward her father’s vineyard, Maddy drove as fast as she dared down a familiar tree-lined Napa country lane. Today, she didn’t recognize the road. It looked eerie and unnatural. The area was draped in sheets of fog from yesterday’s unseasonable rain, and the silver half-light gave the trees an ethereal patina.

“Sensei, would you kill someone if you had to?” AJ asked. Surprised, Maddy frowned. “I’m not a sensei yet, remember?” She paused for a moment before she replied to his query.

“Where did that question come from?”

“We were talking about it in the locker room at the dojo after class. We know aikido is about non-violence, but what if you don’t have a choice?” His voice dropped to a dramatic whisper. “What if it was kill or be killed?”

Maddy shook her head. The things children thought about. “I would always look for another way.”

She glanced over at AJ, glad she’d brought him along today. His ears stuck out and his face was dotted with freckles. She found him adorable.

“Okay. Can martial arts masters light paper on fire with just their hands?”

Maddy halted the car at a stop sign and peered through the swirling patchy-dense fog, trying to get her bearings while she figured out how to answer this question. The mist distorted everything. She turned right.

Without warning, a smothering mass of black rustling feathers flew toward the car. She flinched in her seat and slammed on the car brakes. Her heart pounded. She stopped breathing and scanned the road ahead of her. After a long moment, she realized with chagrin that she had just scared a bunch of ugly, red-faced black turkey vultures into flight by turning onto a new road after a stop sign.

She took a deep breath. It wasn’t like her to be so jumpy. She was, after all, shodan, a first-dan black belt. But the sudden movement of wings, obscured through the morning’s foggy haze, had pulled her off balance. Maddy gave the car some gas and it inched forward down the road.

Maddy looked over at AJ. “Are you okay?” AJ laughed. “I’m okay. But that scared you!”

“Did not!” Maddy replied, twisting her ponytail.

“Did too—I saw you jump! And you smashed on the brakes.”

Maddy grinned for a moment at the childish banter and AJ’s creative language. It could be a happy day, in spite of everything. She loved AJ, she and Vincent had even talked about adopting him. Vincent, her former fiancé. Of course, that was before the breakup. Since then, she’d been feeling brittle, and the nightmare last night didn’t help. The dream was gut-wrenching. Although the sensation had faded in the dim light of morning, much of it lingered like a bad relationship. That dream was probably why she was on edge and had jumped at the thrashing wings.

She looked at the dash clock—only a few minutes late. Heart still beating faster than normal, she turned down the long shadowy driveway of the once proud vineyard.

CHAPTER 3

9:02 a.m.

Up in the old barn, Ivan was close to the target, only seventy meters from the glass curtain that separated him from his quarry. Although the misty morning limited his visibility, he felt confident in his ability to execute the task Baron Sokolov had assigned to him.

Ivan recalled much longer-range kills. Two months ago, from a nearby skyscraper, he’d eliminated a traitorous spy during a French soccer match, piercing the man’s forehead as directed. His record was just under two thousand meters, one hundred fifty meters shy of the longest recorded sniper kill in history. But he reminded himself to stay vigilant and cautious, traits that had earned him medals as one of Russia’s most accurate shooters.

Being watchful was his nature. It was the silver lining of his disorder, congenital analgesia, which made him insensitive to pain. My gift from Mother, he thought.

Ivan wondered where on his body he would mark this job. His left arm was covered in sets of hash marks—scars, where he had marked his kills. He started scarring himself in school to impress the other children, and in time it had become a blood ritual after a task to remind himself to be careful, that he too could die. After this morning, it would be time to add another scar. At one hundred and fifty-five confirmed kills, he had scars on both thighs, both arms, and was running out of room for the marks.

Soon he would catch up to the kills his grandmother had recorded during World War II. After Germany had invaded, she had volunteered for the military and had one hundred and seventy-nine confirmed kills to her credit. Impressive. He remembered how she had taught him to shoot when he was young. She had a fondness for killing rabbits and he could still picture their crimson blood sprayed on the bright Siberian snow. However, patience was her favorite lesson and it had served him well.

A puff of wind tugged at a windmill in the distance, and the melancholy creak of metal scratching metal disturbed the morning silence. He held his breath and listened for any sound to indicate he’d been discovered. There was nothing further, only an unnatural, muted quiet.

Focused on his breathing and the window, he continued to wait for a clean shot.

He was tired of killing, but he had to do his job. This last job. Or his son would die.

CHAPTER 4

9:05 a.m.

Maddy’s car hit a pothole on the vineyard’s long gravel driveway. It annoyed her that Dad hadn’t said what was so urgent, and she’d been too distracted with the breakup to call him back.

As she drew closer to the house, she was irritated to see Will was playing fog-fetch with the dog in the front yard. What is he doing here? Did dad call all the siblings? Bella, too? Will waved, walked toward an obnoxious sky-blue convertible that must be a rental, and opened the trunk.

Maddy parked by Will’s car, near the house. She wished Dad would get the place painted. It was overdue and made the house look dilapidated in the gloom. Barking, her dad’s middle-aged golden retriever ran up to the car.

“A dog! Can I play with the dog?” AJ asked, true excitement in his voice.

“Sure, just don’t head too far into the vineyard,” Maddy replied. “His name is Squirrel.”

AJ bounded from the car and ran off, chasing the dog through the murky, fog-bound yard.

Will closed the trunk of the Mustang, moved around to the side of the car, and watched AJ and the dog playing. Dressed in his usual style, he wore tan cargo shorts, leather sandals, and a dark-blue Ralph Lauren polo shirt. Ever prepared for disaster, he had a small flashlight hanging from the front of his shorts, and she figured he had a knife in his pocket. He was holding two small travel bags and managed to cradle a book in his hand. Without a doubt, a geeky physics book.

Maddy had avoided prolonged contact with Will since their senior year in high school when he had pulled that awful prank. She had turned her back on him then, and her face flushed with the memory. As she opened her car door, she stood and swung her hair out of her face. Then she shut the door and walked over to him. It was so foggy and quiet, she didn’t even hear songbirds.

Maddy tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice. “Hello, Will.”

After they’d spent time apart, she was always surprised at the strength of their emotional bond. She couldn’t believe he was happy to see her—he had no shame! She had felt some connection to her boyfriends, Vincent included—I hate you right now, Vincent—and sometimes to her students at the dojo. But the connection was always strongest with Will, her twin, like it or not. He felt content now. She had almost missed his charm.

Will flashed his irksome, boyish, lopsided grin. “Hey, Maddy, it’s good to see you! Did you have a safe drive?”

To meet her, he walked around toward the front of the car. She noted his dark curly hair looked ruffled and a little shorter than the last time she’d seen him. His green eyes looked pinched, as if he were worried about something.

Dad sometimes teased that they all had Spanish olives for eyes, but she enjoyed sharing the feature. She just wished she’d been blessed with Will’s long eyelashes, instead of having to create them every day with mascara.

Maddy studied Will’s face. She noticed that the scar on his chin was almost hidden by a fashionable new beard that he’d grown since she’d seen him last year at Christmas dinner. The scar was always a painful reminder of the childhood accident that killed their mother.

As he put down the bags, he scratched the beard, casually leaned back against the hood of the Mustang, and crossed his long lanky legs.

She knew protocol called for a hug, and considered it. Rejecting the idea, she also ignored his worrywart question about the safe drive. “Did you leave Maria in Brazil?”

Maddy could tell from his eyes that Will didn’t understand her cold shoulder, and she didn’t care. He had never made amends for that thoughtless stunt back in high school and she wasn’t going to let him off the hook.

“No, I brought her with me,” he replied.

Remembering her nightmare, Maddy’s gut clenched. She tried to ignore it.

“We’ve both been working too hard.”

Instead, she lashed out, her voice rising more than she intended. “Was that wise? Bringing her? Do you even know what Dad wants?”

Will took a deep breath. “Gee, sis, simmer down. I thought I was the worrier of the family.” He met her gaze. “Maria was up for a change of scenery so we planned a romantic wine-country vacation. You know, the train, mud baths, that sort of thing? We might even stop by Safari West. Besides, you brought company.” He nodded toward AJ. “Who’s the little guy?”

“His name is AJ. He’s a foster kid from the dojo and it’s his birthday.” She watched AJ and the dog play a spontaneous game of tag. “Is that all Dad wants with us? A vacation? He sounded concerned on the message he left me. And didn’t mention you’d be here, or Bella. Is she coming? He didn’t even say why he wanted me to come, which just seems odd. Did you talk with him?”

“Bella is on her way, but no, we didn’t talk before I came up. I hope nothing is wrong. We just got here and haven’t had a chance to visit much, but he did mention he had some disconcerting news.” He paused. “You feel upset. What are you not telling me? What’s the big deal?”

On days like today, Maddy hated that the emotional bond between them worked both ways. She didn’t feel like telling him anything, especially about the dream. Irritated, she looked around for a way out of the conversation but didn’t see one. The sun was hidden, the vineyard foggy and subdued, like it was holding its breath.

She clenched her teeth and took a deep breath of her own. “I had a dream last night.”

Now his tone sharpened a notch. “What kind of dream?”

“A bad one. Maria was in it. I woke up early and it’s stuck with me since.”

“Tell me,” he demanded.

“I don’t know…there was blood on her face.”

She remembered another dream she had when they were six. The night before their mom died. She knew by the look on his face that he was remembering that dream, too.

“Blood on Maria’s face—” he frowned, thinking, questioning.

“Yes, it was horrible. Splattered like a Pollock painting. I don’t remember much else. But the feeling is still with me.” Her mood picked up a little, having gotten it off her chest. “It’s probably nothing. I just wish you hadn’t brought her.”

“Interesting,” he said. “You haven’t had one of those dreams in a while, have you? A real one?”

“No,” she said. “It’s been a few years and the last was about a boyfriend cheating on me. The dream ended that relationship.”

Will put his hands on his hips. “How is Vincent?” She grimaced.

Irritated, Maddy turned and headed up the sidewalk toward the house. Will grabbed the bags and his book, and followed her, his feet padding on the concrete.

As they walked, she remembered the lush landscaping that had been here once. It had provided a jumbled, colorful contrast to the acres and acres of straight green vines in the fields. Her father’s landscapers, back when he could afford them, had done well in this entry area. She couldn’t see it, but she inhaled the light scent of gardenia, and she recognized remnants of some sort of native grass, night-blooming jasmine, pansies, and roses. Vincent had brought her roses only three weeks ago. Bastard.

“I see,” Will said. “So…maybe this dream was a reaction to whatever is going on there?”

“Maybe—” she said. “I hope so.” Then she added, “Let’s go see what Dad wants.”

CHAPTER 5

9:15 a.m.

Ivan tugged on the two-stage trigger, testing it. He was used to his Soviet bolt-action SV-98, but in the interest of time and ease of entry into the country, he had purchased a black-market rifle in the States. He was pleased with his choice, and glad it had come with a suppressor. The Enhanced Battle Rifle was decent—he tested it out yesterday in an isolated vineyard he found for the purpose. The rifle was a little heavy, but he liked the trigger-shoe modification the prior owner had done, as it gave the pull a more natural feel.

He drew his attention back to the wood-casement window and twice glimpsed the oblivious inhabitant, dancing his way to death. A minute ago, the sound of car tires on gravel had come to him through the fog, so his partner, on lookout, should be reporting in.

On cue, a voice in his head broke the morning stillness, “Green Prius has parked at the front of the house.” The sniper appreciated that he could hear his partner’s Russian voice clearly through the high-tech device, as he was old enough to remember missions without such advanced technology.

“Driver?” he subvocalized the question, also in Russian, into the tiny molar microphone that had been custom formed to fit his teeth.

“She’s female, young, maybe thirty. Slim, with an olive complexion. Has sexy long dark hair in a ponytail, and is tall. Pretty tall for a woman. Rape-bait if you ask me. Dressed in jeans and a snug purple T-shirt,” his partner said.

On this job, his partner was here as much to keep an eye on him as to help, Ivan knew. The man’s simple mind and cruel nature were evident every time they worked together. The idiot had caused them to run late this morning. This part of the job should have been over an hour ago. Now it was getting complicated.

“That’s not what we’re here for,” Ivan hissed.

“Maybe. If so, you need to take your shot.” A few beats later his partner continued, “She was talking to the tall man next to the blue sports car. They look alike. Now they’re headed to the front door.”

There was a long pause. The sniper adjusted his hold on the rifle, concentrating. He’d read the dossiers on Maddy Marshall and her twin brother, Will Argones. Argones was an engineer, no real threat. But the Marshall woman. A world-class athlete and national ski champion who had been a favorite for Olympic gold, she’d used her lightning-fast reflexes to become a warrior in an unusual martial art. And she was gifted with a keen intelligence. A dangerous combination. In another time and place, he’d have been interested in her as a mate.

He swore. Based on his orders, their arrival meant he had run out of time.

A low whistle pierced his ear.

“Ivan, she’s got long legs. You know I like long legs, right? Why don’t we stick around and have some fun?”

“You’re a pig and the baron was clear in our instructions,” the sniper replied, with heat in his tone.

“You’re a bore. Oh, she had a kid with her in the car.”

“A kid? What kid?” The dossier didn’t mention a child! That wasn’t part of the deal. I may go down in flames if the baron makes me shoot a kid. This target is one thing but

“How do I know what kid? He looks like he’s eight or nine. Red hair, big ears. He’s playing with the dog in the vineyard.” Ivan hoped the kid and dog were off in a different direction. At home, Ivan’s son might be playing with his own dog. But that thought was dangerous. “Just make sure they don’t come this way.”

His attention back on the window, Ivan finally got a complete look at one of the other inhabitants: a short, dark-skinned woman. She wore a pale pink blouse above a blue skirt and Ivan prayed she would get out of the way. He didn’t like killing women. However, he knew that, whether he liked it or not, the latter part of the baron’s plan already called for its share of female bloodshed.

The older man, near a black sofa, came into Ivan’s sights for a brief moment. It appeared that he and the younger woman were moving into the room with all the windows. Ivan knew it was time.

Ivan was glad now they’d chosen a fast getaway car. “I must focus—go get the car ready.”

The older man came completely into view. He was tall, clean-shaven, tan-skinned, with owlish glasses. His receding black hair was streaked with gray, and he wore slacks and a white button-down shirt. Yes, finally.

But the woman was directly behind the target! Move, he willed to her. Please.

This was the best shot he had. Time had run out! He had no choice but to urge her to move at the last minute.

He took a slow, steady breath and tugged again on the two-stage trigger. Only this time, it wasn’t a test.

CHAPTER 6

9:20 a.m.

AJ and Squirrel, done with the chase and on to a game of fetch, ran around the side yard, enjoying the grass and the feel of morning in the dense, wet fog. AJ loved all things nature.

Feeling happy today made him miss his parents. He had vague memories of joyful times when they took him to his grandparent’s Ukrainian dairy farm. When the Russians came and killed his grandparents, his parents and he had fled to San Francisco. Then, one day, his mom and dad had been caught in the crossfire of a convenience store holdup while stopping for milk. That’s what he’d gathered, no one had told him.

Since his parents’ death he’d been in foster care, because all of his family back in Ukraine were dead, too. He didn’t like his foster family because they ignored him, but he loved Maddy and did whatever his foster creeps asked so that he could go to the dojo. Maddy treated him the way his mom used to, warm and caring.

Today, he was full of pleasure—hanging out with Maddy, getting to chase a dog outside. More than anything, he wanted a real family again. And a dog, just maybe not one named Squirrel. Someday, he’d get a big dog to protect him and name it Rufus, or Damien.

AJ threw a stick and tried out the new name, “Damien, fetch!”

After several minutes of chasing the stick in the side yard, AJ decided they should play a new game in the rows of vines.

“C’mon, Damien,” he called as he ran into the shadows, followed by the panting dog.

The morning was blissfully perfect as they ran up and down the rows. Then a loud crack sounded from the direction of the barns, like a tree branch breaking. He called his new canine friend and they headed off to investigate.

***

Excerpt from VanOps: The Lost Power by Avanti Centrae. Copyright 2019 by Avanti Centrae. Reproduced with permission from Avanti Centrae. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The Fixer: The Last Romanov by Jill Amy Rosenblatt Banner

 

 

The Fixer:

The Last Romanov

by Jill Amy Rosenblatt

on Tour October 21 – November 23, 2019

Synopsis:

The Last Romanov by Jill Amy Rosenblatt

“My name is Katerina Mills. Make sure I disappear.”

Katerina Mills is getting out . . .

Desperate to escape a psychotic former client, a vengeful mobster, and a dirty DEA agent, professional “fixer” Kat Mills is ready to drop out and disappear.

She doesn’t trust her employer, the shadowy MJM Consulting, but Katerina can’t say no to one last job for the biggest score yet, enough money to get lost for good… until the client asks the impossible…

Dmitry Zilinsky claims he is a direct descendant of Russia’s last Tsar, Nicholas II, and he demands Katerina steal the item that will prove it.

Kat must get the job done or she can’t make her escape. But when professional thief Alexander Winter reappears in her life, Katerina Mills faces a new choice: go it alone or risk everything to be with the one person she doesn’t want to live without?

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Published by: Jill Amy Rosenblatt
Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Number of Pages: 692
ISBN: 978-1-7332560-0-1
Series: The Fixer #3
Purchase Links: Amazon Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Jill Amy Rosenblatt

Jill Amy Rosenblatt is the author of The Fixer (Katerina Mills) series. The Last Romanov is the third book in the series. Book 2, The Killing Kind, was the 2017 Beverly Hills Book Award Winner for Suspense. She previously published Project Jennifer and For Better or Worse through Kensington Press. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Literature and her Masters Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Burlington College in Vermont. She lives on Long Island and is currently at work on book four of The Fixer series, The Good Criminal.

Q&A with Jill Amy Rosenblatt

Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads

What inspired you to write this book?

The Fixer: The Last Romanov is the third book in The Fixer series. Katerina Mills’ story continues to grow and change and I’m excited to see where her journey is headed. I’m always surprised and humbled after so much time and work to see the final product. I was so excited to hold the paperback ARC in my hand!

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

There were a few things. The first was simply getting enough time to sit down and write the book. I work a day job that demands a lot so it’s not easy to have the time or energy to write at the end of the workday. Second, several storylines continue throughout the books and it’s important to double check all the details and make sure all the elements are correct. Sometimes I have to force myself to slow down! Sometimes, a scene won’t sit right with me and it’s in those moments I have to force myself to stop and think about it for a few days until I find what’s bothering me and then go back and do rewrites.

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

A ton of research goes into every book. I am so lucky to have a lovely group of kind people who give their time and expertise to answer my questions about topics such as Russian history and language translation, police procedural, forensics, Italian and Spanish translation, Carl Faberge, Balboa Island, the Romanovs, and other topics. I also spend a lot of time reading books, articles, looking at photographs, and searching the Internet to make sure if I’m mentioning something in the book, I have done my homework.

How did you come up with the title?

The title came out of one of the plotlines of the book; it refers to Kat’s client.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Lots of idiosyncrasies!! I work very loose, mostly because I’m afraid if I put any pressure on myself, I will fall into another bout of writer’s block! I don’t do anything in particular; my characters are running wild and I’m just writing it all down! Whatever plot point comes to mind, even if it’s for a later book in the series, that’s what I think about. If I don’t need the scene for the current book, I just make notes and keep it for later.

I write the first draft in long hand in pencil; I can only write in journal books. I do have a list of scenes I think I will be using but the story changes so many times through the process. When I sit down to write, I write whatever scene comes to mind; when the journal books are filled and I feel I’m finished, all the scenes are out of order so I have to make new lists to put it in the right sequence. It’s messy and disorganized but it works for me so I would never try to do it differently; I would be afraid I would cause a problem.

Tell us why we should read your book?

The Fixer series is written to be fast-paced and action-packed. There is a cast of recurring supporting characters I hope readers will enjoy seeing in each book. I think Katerina is a character that readers can root for as she struggles with her own ethics and values vs. the decisions she must make to survive this dark, dangerous world. There’s a romance too!

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

I will be starting shortly on book four of the series, The Fixer: The Good Criminal. Katerina is in a very tough spot and she will need to step up her game to get out of the mess she’s in. She’ll need more than a little help from her friends, too.

Fun Questions:

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

Love this question!! Jennifer Lawrence as Katerina, Max Martini as professional thief Alexander Winter, Daniel Craig as mysterious client Thomas Gallagher, James Badge Dale as fellow thief Daniel Clay, and Sebastian Stan as Detective Ryan Kellan.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

I like to draw. I have an interest in computer art/animation; I’m trying to learn. I’m currently taking Italian lessons, and of course I love to read. I’m also a big ice hockey fan so I will be trying to find time to watch the NY Rangers now that the new season has started.

Favorite foods?

Dark chocolate. I like Dominican food, chicharrones, maduros, mofongo – delicious! I’m a big coffee drinker, I have a weakness for Starbucks Columbia coffee and McDonald’s hot French vanilla lattes.

Thank you very much for having me for an interview, I appreciate it. It was a lot of fun!

Catch Up With Jill Amy Rosenblatt On:
jillamyrosenblatt.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Katerina Mills sat in the silver Honda Civic, peering through the lenses of the binoculars. The factory parking lot loomed larger as she watched the first shift employees filing out, heads bowing to brace against the frigid Vermont winds, and dashing to their cars.

Katerina knew every inch of the toy factory her father had managed. In high school, she had helped out after classes, typing, filing, and bookkeeping. Following graduation and while caring for William Mills through his bout of cancer, Kat worked a few hours a day and carried paperwork back and forth to her father at home.

Can you keep an eye on things for your old man?

Bullshit, Kat thought. It was time to find out the truth.

Kat snapped out of her thoughts as Richie Calico emerged. She watched him turn up the collar of his jacket as he hustled toward a shiny, red Dodge Durango. Kat knew Richie as a third-generation, blue-collar working stiff, always looking for an angle and an easy buck.

That looks new, Kat thought as she sharpened the binoculars on the Durango.

Richie’s head swiveled back and forth as he hurried to the SUV.

That’s not the confident man I remember strolling up to my desk with a singsong “Kat-a-reeena.”

As if we shared a secret.

Richie slid into the Durango, revved the engine, and took off, speeding out of the lot.

Time to spill your secrets, Richie.

Kat put the Civic in gear.

***

Katerina watched Richie pull into a strip mall, park in front of a run-down pub, and get out. She followed, parking in the back of the lot and cutting the engine.

Leaning forward, Kat wrapped her arms around the wheel. I have to go in. I need him to fill in the blanks. How do I get in and out without being noticed? Steal in and out. Like a thief.

She sighed. It had been a little more than two months since her first B and E. Alexander Winter, “Bob,” and “Professor,” to Kat, a good man and an expert thief, had walked her through it and brought her out. He would know what to do. She closed her eyes, the familiar ache of missing him threatening to overwhelm her.

Not now, Katerina thought, opening her eyes and forcing herself to return to the business at hand. There’s a reason Richie is looking over his shoulder. Remember what Winter taught you, she thought. Once you go in, you give yourself five minutes. Every minute you linger, your risk of getting caught rises.

Scanning the lot one more time, she flipped the fur lined hood over her chestnut hair, opened the door, and got out.

***

Slipping in through the back door, Katerina stepped into the shrouded gloom of the deserted dive bar. She came up behind Richie as he slouched in a booth, drinking alone.

Suddenly, Richie’s eyes shot up from his Coors and he jolted at the presence of a person looming over him. Shifting to face him, Kat brushed her hood back and watched his eyes grow wide. He gaped at her as she slid into the booth.

“Katerina,” Richie said, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed hard. “Uh . . . Merry Christmas, Happy New Year . . . when did you get home?”

“Hi Richie,” Kat said. “How’s the heroin business?”

***

Excerpt from The Last Romanov by Jill Amy Rosenblatt. Copyright 2019 by Jill Amy Rosenblatt. Reproduced with permission from Jill Amy Rosenblatt. All rights reserved.

 

 

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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Jill Amy Rosenblatt. There will be 3 winners. One (1) winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card and Two (2) winners will receive The Fixer: The Last Romanov by Jill Amy Rosenblatt (eBook). The giveaway begins on October 21, 2019, and runs through November 25, 2019. Void where prohibited.

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Oct 102019
 

A Pocketful Of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

 

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two:

A Pocketful of Lodestones

by Elizabeth Crowens

on Tour October 1-31, 2019

Synopsis:

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens

In 1914, the war to end all wars turns the worlds of John Patrick Scott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Rebecca West and Harry Houdini upside down. Doyle goes back to ancient China in his hunt for that “red book” to help him write his Sherlock Holmes stories. Scott is hell-bent on finding out why his platoon sergeant has it out for him, and they both discover that during the time of Shakespeare every day is a witch-hunt in London. Is the ability to travel through time the ultimate escape from the horrific present, or do ghosts from the past come back to haunt those who dare to spin the Wheel of Karma?

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES, sequel to SILENT MERIDIAN, combines the surrealism of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five with the supernatural allure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell set during WWI on the Western Front.

The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A POCKETFUL OF LODESTONES was the First Prize winner of the Chanticleer Review’s Paranormal Fiction Awards.

Book Details:

Genre: Alternate History, Mystery, Fantasy Noir
Published by: Atomic Alchemist Productions LLC
Publication Date: August 1st 2019
Number of Pages: 334
ISBN: 9781950384051
Series: The Time Traveler Professor #2
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Elizabeth Crowens

Crowens has worked in the film and television for over twenty years and as a journalist and a photographer. She’s a regular contributor of author interviews to an award-winning online speculative fiction magazine, Black Gate. Short stories of hers have been published in the Bram Stoker Awards nominated anthology, A New York State of Fright and Hell’s Heart. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, The Horror Writers Association, the Authors Guild, Broad Universe, Sisters in Crime and a member of several Sherlockian societies. She is also writing a Hollywood suspense series.

Q&A with Elizabeth Crowens

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

What inspired you to write this book?

On my book tour this summer, I’ll be giving a lecture in London on using metaphysical concepts in literature. There isn’t a lot of decent, entertaining literature which embodies these concepts on a level where “Muggles” will understand them. I spotted the parallels in Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope right away in regards to the Force, which is similar to ki (as in Aikido) or chi (as in Tai Chi). In fact, Star Wars inspired me to wind up getting a black belt in martial arts and to live in Japan. That experience helped me write our protagonist’s time travel adventure back to feudal Japan.

During the nineteenth century, there was a surging interest in the occult, seances and paranormal phenomena that inspired the Gothic writers like Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein and Bram Stoker to write Dracula and Edgar Alan Poe to write horror and some of the first detective stories. New technologies inspired authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to write some of the first science fiction, known back then as scientific romance. There was also a group of metaphysicians, primarily in Britain, that attempted to write fiction with occult themes: William Butler Yeats, Aleister Crowley, Sax Rohmer and Dion Fortune. Rohmer became more famous for his Dr. Fu Manchu series instead of his dream detective. Yeats was more well-known for his poetry, Dion Fortune’s material only made sense if you read and understood her non-fiction work, and Crowley was more of a poet with a reputation that undermined much of his credibility. Hermann Hesse attempted with Siddhartha and some of his other stories, but by and large, there has been a dearth of good metaphysical fiction. Ironically, many of these authors I mentioned had cameo roles in my novel.

The details for my book tour are on my website, including when I’m going to be giving that lecture in London. Sign up for my monthly newsletter at elizabethcrowens[dot]com/contact for updates and for free eBooks I give away to my subscribers.

What was the biggest challenge in writing this book?

Lack of available research material. I’m a stickler for fact-checking. The protagonist, John Patrick Scott, was based on a real, but largely unknown person, and there wasn’t a lot of information available. I had to play “Sherlock Holmes” and do a bit of detective work, but at least this is a novel and not a non-fiction reference book. Silent Meridian was much easier to research than its sequel, A Pocketful of Lodestones, because I had already written articles for magazines on feudal Japan which is featured in the main time travel subplot. Lodestones, which launches August 1st, tackles several historical time periods that I wasn’t that familiar with.

Which of your characters do you like and dislike the most and why?

I like my protagonist, John Patrick Scott, the best. He definitely goes through a character arc and learns something from past mistakes. He’s also far from perfect, although he strives to make himself a better person. Honestly, I don’t dislike any of my characters.

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

Five trips overseas with another one coming up this August. Plus, I had to invest in a lot of out-of-print antiquarian books that couldn’t be found in local libraries or libraries in London, Edinburgh or various cities in Germany where I wouldn’t have enough time to read them. I have to admit it was really fun to spend four and a half days in the Rare Books Room at the British Library reading handwritten letters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When I’m abroad for my book tour, I’ll be doing research in St. Petersburg and Moscow — spoiler alert for Book Three.

How did you come up with the title?

Originally, the title of the first book was simply, Silent Meridian, but it wasn’t obvious what it meant and might’ve confused readers as to whether to buy the book. The term Silent Meridian is explained in a conversation our protagonist, John Patrick Scott has while consulting with the famous psychologist, C.G. Jung. It’s defined as the fine line between waking and dreams and parallel realities, and its transition can be as imperceptible as the effect Leonardo da Vinci creates on his famous paintings like the Mona Lisa where boundaries and edges seamlessly blend together. Yes, I know… It’s a mouthful. Now the book has been retitled, The Time Traveler Professor, Book One: Silent Meridian to focus more on the concept of time travel. It will also help if you are searching online for books on that subject. It’s a search engine thing.

Your routine in writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Catch as catch can, but often my best time is in the middle of the night which doesn’t help my insomnia. For those of you who are writers, I use a combination of outlining and pantsing. For me, outlining is essential, because my plots are very complicated.

Tell us why we should read your book?

If you love time travel, I present a unique angle by tying it in with the concepts of karma and reincarnation. If you love steampunk or the Victorian era, you’ll love to plunge into that world. For those who appreciate Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, it’s something completely different. The book appeals on many different levels.

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

I’m juggling three book projects at the moment. The Time Traveler Professor, Book Three: A War in Too Many Worlds, the third novel in a Hollywood suspense series I’m trying to get a literary agent to pick up, and an independent “chick lit” novel about three eccentric sisters trying to escape their problems in the States by hiding out in Mexico. Never a dull moment.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. You would you cast?

You’re asking that question to someone who wore many hats in the entertainment industry for over twenty years. Conan Doyle? No question about it, I’d cast Hugh Jackman. They are close to the same height and build, and if you compare photos of them side by side when Hugh is dressed in 19th century attire, it wouldn’t take much to make the transformation. Besides, Hugh is a big box office draw. Edward Norton could pull off H.G. Wells. Depending on how old we want to make Francois Poincaré, I’d go for Sasha Baron Cohen or Rami Malek, because the character has a Freddie Mercury-like quality. Cohen was one of the first choices to play Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. For the protagonist, John Patrick Scott, I’ve had my eye on Robert Sheehan, an Irish actor who recently was in The Umbrella Academy and National Geographic’s Genius series on Picasso.

Favorite leisure activities/hobbies?

Who has time for that? Just kidding. I enjoy going to author readings and traveling to conventions, although it’s for business as well as pleasure. This year I have a convention in Dublin. Next year I have one in New Zealand. While I’m there, you better believe it… I’m going to see some of those locations from Lord of the Rings.

Favorite foods?

Coffee and chocolate — the essentials. LOL

Catch Up With Our Author On:
elizabethcrowens.com, Goodreads, Bookbub, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One: Kitchener’s Call to Arms

August 1914

“Have you ever killed a man before?”

I had, but close to three hundred years ago. So, I lied and just shook my head.

“Your name, son?” the recruitment officer asked.

“John Patrick Scott,” I said, with pride.

The officer handed me a card to fill out. “Write your date of birth, where you live and don’t skip any questions. When finished, bring this over to Line B.”

Born during the reign of Queen Victoria, somehow or other I managed to travel to the 23rd century, feudal Japan, and ancient China long before the Great War started. The army wanted to know all the places I had traveled, but it was doubtful that much information was required.

Since the war to end all wars commenced, recruiting centers sprang up like wildflowers. This one took over an Edinburgh public library. If unaware as to why the enthusiastic furor, one would’ve guessed the government gave away free land tracts with titles.

“Let’s see how clever you blokes are. Tell me the four duties of a soldier,” another enlistment administrator called out.

An overeager Glaswegian shouted, “Obedience, cleanliness, honesty and sobriety, sir!”

The chap next to him elbowed his side. “Takes no brains to read a bloody sign.”

Propaganda posters wallpapered the room with solicitous attempts at boosting morale. Kitchener wanted us and looked straight into our eyes. Proof of our manhood or perhaps stupidity. Queues of enthusiasm wound around the block. Impatient ones jumped the lines. We swore our allegiance to the King over a bible. As long as the war lasted, our lives were no longer our own.

Voices from men I’d never see again called out from the crowd.

“It’ll be over in six weeks.”

“Are you so sure?”

“Check out those men. All from the same cricket team. Play and die together. Medals of Valor in a blink. Local heroes with celebrations.”

“I’ll drink to that.”

A crusty old career soldier yelled out to the volunteers, “Does anyone speak Flemish?”

Suddenly the place got quiet. Then he looked at me. “Soldier, do you know anything besides the King’s English? French?”

“Fluent German,” I said. “That should be helpful.”

“Since when were you with the Bosches?”

“Fourteen years, sir. Before the war.”

“And what were you doing in enemy territory?”

“Worked as a teacher. A music professor and a concert pianist when I could get the engagements and sometimes as an amateur photographer. They weren’t our enemies then, sir.”

“Have you ever shot a rifle, son?”

“Actually, I have…”

“Find a pair of boots that fits you, lad. Hustle now. Time’s a wasting.”

The Allied and German armies were in a Race to the Sea. If the Germans got there first, then England was in danger of invasion. Basic training opened its arms to the common man, and it felt strange to be bedding alongside Leith dockworkers and farmers, many underage, versus the university colleagues from my recent past. Because of the overwhelming need for new recruits, training facilities ran out of room. The army took over church halls, local schools and warehouses in haste. Select recruits were billeted in private homes, but we weren’t so fortunate.

Except for acquired muscles, I slimmed down and resembled the young man that I was in my university days except with a tad more gray hair, cut very short and shaved even closer on the sides. No more rich German pastries from former students as part of my diet. At least keeping a clean-shaven face wasn’t a challenge since I never could grow a beard. Wearing my new uniform took getting used to. Other recruits laughed, as I’d reach to straighten my tie or waistcoat out of habit despite the obvious fact that I was no longer wearing them.

While still in Scotland during basic training, I started to have a series of the most peculiar dreams. My boots had not yet been muddied with the soil of real battlefields. New recruits such as I, had difficult adjustments transitioning from civilian life. Because of my past history of lucid dreaming, trips in time travel and years of psychical experimentation I conducted both on my own and with my enthusiastic and well-studied mentor, Arthur Conan Doyle, my nightmares appeared more real than others. My concerns were that these dreams were either actual excursions into the Secret Library where the circumstances had already occurred or premonitions of developments to come.

The most notable of these episodes occurred toward the end of August in 1914. In this dream, I had joined another British platoon other than my own in Belgium on the Western Front. We were outnumbered at least three to one, and the aggressive Huns surrounded us on three sides.

Whistles blew. “Retreat!” yelled our commanding officer, a privileged Cambridge boy, barely a man and younger than I, who looked like he had never seen the likes of hardship.

We retreated to our trenches to assess what to plan next, but instead of moving toward our destination everyone froze in their tracks. Time was like a strip of film that slowed down, spooled off track, and jammed inside a projector. Then the oddest thing happened to our enemy. For no apparent reason, their bodies jerked and convulsed as if fired upon by invisible bullets over the course of an hour.

When the morning fog lifted, the other Tommies and I broke free from our preternatural standstill and charged over the top of the trenches with new combat instructions. Half of our platoon dropped their rifles in shock. Dead Huns, by the thousands, littered No man’s land long before we had even fired our first retaliatory shot!

I woke up agitated, disoriented and in a cold sweat. Even more disturbing was finding several brass shell casings under my pillow — souvenirs or proof that I had traveled off somewhere and not imagined it. I roused the sleeping guy in the next bed and couldn’t wait to share this incredible story.

“Shush!” he warned me. “You’ll wake the others.”

Meanwhile, he rummaged inside his belongings and pulled out a rumpled and grease-stained newspaper clipping that looked and smelled like it had originally been used to wrap up fish and chips.

He handed it to me with excitement. “My folks sent this me from back home.”

The headlines: “Angels sited at the Battle of Mons”

Almost as notable was the article’s byline written by my best friend from the University of Edinburgh, Wendell Mackenzie, whom I had lost track of since the war started.

He begged me to read on.

“Hundreds of witnesses claimed similarities in their experiences. There were rumors aplenty about ghostly bowmen from the Battle of Agincourt where the Brits fought against the French back in 1415. Inexplicable apparitions appeared out of nowhere and vanquished German enemy troops at the recent Battle of Mons.”

“This looks like a scene from out of a storybook.” I pointed to an artist’s rendition and continued.

“Word spread that arrow wounds were discovered on corpses of the enemy nearby, and it wasn’t a hoax. Others reported seeing a Madonna in the trenches or visions of St. Michael, another saint symbolizing victory.”

“Now, I don’t feel so singled out,” I said and handed the newspaper articles back to my comrade.

For weeks, I feared talking to anyone else about it and insisted my mate keep silent. Even in wartime, I swore that I’d stay in touch with my closest acquaintances, Wendell Mackenzie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was easier to keep abreast of Arthur’s exploits, because of his public celebrity. On the other hand, Wendell, being a journalist, could be anywhere in the world on assignment.

* * *

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie,

I regret having missed Wendell when he never made it over to visit Scotland, and you wonder if someone up above watches over us when we make decisions where to go and when. In my case it was when I decided to take a summer vacation and travel to Edinburgh before the war. Those without passports or proper documentation endured countless detours and delays getting back to their respective homelands. One of Mrs. Campbell’s lodgers had been detained in France.

With nothing to return to back in Germany, I joined the Royal Scots. Military training commenced in Edinburgh, and at least they had us wearing uniforms of pants tucked into gaiters as opposed to the Highland troops who wore kilts. Although I was born and bred in Scotland, as a Lowlander that’s one outfit you’d have to force me into with much duress.

Our tasks would be in the Scots Territorial units deployed on our coastline in case of an enemy invasion. Potential threats could come from spies or submarines, but most say that the worst enemy has been the frigid wind blowing off the North Sea.

As there is always talk about combining forces and transfers, my aunt can always forward letters. It would mean more than the world to hear from Wendell saying that not only is he all right, but also in good spirits.

Yours most devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Dear Arthur,

In our last correspondence, I conveyed that I was unable to return to my teaching post in Stuttgart. With your tour in the Boer War as my inspiration, I joined the military. We learned the basics: how to follow commands, first aid, march discipline and training in all matters of physical fitness. My feet have been in a constant state of rebellion, since my previous profession as a pianist was a sedentary occupation.

Deployment was supposed to be along the coast of Scotland, but the army reassigned me despite first promises because of too many staggering losses on the Western Front. I requested to be part of the air corps and a pioneer in new battle technology, but my recruiting officers had other plans. Our regiment left for Ypres in Belgium. None of the Tommies could pronounce the name of this place, so everyone called it Wipers. You’re no stranger to war, but everyone has been surprised that it lasted longer than anticipated.

Yours Most Devoted,

Private John Patrick Scott

* * *

Troops from all over under the wing of the British Expeditionary Forces piled on to ships to sail out to the continent. The locals from Edinburgh didn’t expect to leave bonnie ole Scotland. They told us we’d defend our shores from foreign invasions. I’d crossed the North Sea before, but then it was a sea of hope and a new life full of opportunity when I got my scholarship to continue my musical studies in Germany, now the enemy.

I turned to the nearest stranger, hoping that a random conversation would break the monotonous and never-ending wait until we set anchor in Belgium. “How was your basic training?”

“Three months at an abandoned amusement park,” the soldier replied. “We trained for the longest time in our street clothes and were told they ran out of uniforms. Probably sent recycled ones after the first troops died. Used wooden dummy rifles until the real ones arrived. What about you?”
“We used an abandoned dance hall. Never could get used to waking at 5:30 a.m.”

“Word got around that in Aldershot soldiers had luxury facilities with a billiards room, a library, private baths and a buffet. I suspect that was for the regulars, the old-timers, not new recruits like us.”

“I should’ve enlisted elsewhere,” I grumbled, not that it would’ve made much of a difference if we’d all die in the end.

He pointed to my face and examined my flawless hands. “You don’t look like much of an outdoorsman. Pale, hairless complexion. No scars.”

“I’m a concert pianist.”

“Not much use on the Front.”

“Probably not. Excuse me, I need some air.” I bundled up in my great coat, wrapping my muffler a wee bit tighter.

Wasn’t sure which were worse — the soldiers with their asphyxiating cigarettes or numbing sleet turning into ice pellets. Hadn’t gotten my sea legs, yet. Stormy swells churned my stomach. Sweet Scotland. Lush green grass and the sky the color of blue moonstone. Never thought I’d be so sentimental. Continued staring until brilliant hues of the shoreline merged into dismal grays of a foggy horizon. In the transition from civilian to soldier, I stepped through a door of no return unless I desired to come back home in a coffin.

Chapter Two: The Other Lost World

Ypres, Belgium Late fall, 1914

A sea of strange men, but all comrades-in-arms, all recent transplants marched to their assignments and followed orders without question to who-knows-where on the way to the battlefield sites. We sallied forth, anonymous troops with a distorted sense of time and distance through the streets of has-been cities, once thriving communities. Poetry in ruination.

As we marched through the Grote Markt (Grand Market) heading out toward the Menenpoort (or Menen Gate) I didn’t expect to get an education. The soldier to my left kept talking out loud and compared notes of local tourist attractions. He was probably unaware that anyone else had overheard his comments.

“That long, distinctive building with the church hiding behind it must be the Hallen… or their Cloth Hall. There were impressive paintings on the interior walls of the Pauwels Room depicting the history of this town and its prosperous textile trade.”

“How do you know this?” I asked, trying not to attract too much attention.

“I’m a historian. Used to teach at a priory school in Morpeth.”

Perhaps I was naïve, but I asked, “Why would the armed forces recruit someone with a background in history?”

“That didn’t influence my enlistment although I’m sure it’ll come in handy somewhere. Before the war, I traveled all over Europe when time permitted. I brought original postcards with me as to what this town used to look like. It’s frightening to see the difference.”

“Your name?” I asked.

“Private Watson. What about you?”

“Not John Watson, by any chance?”

“No, Roger Watson, why?”

I shook my head thinking about Arthur and bit my lip to hide a slight smile. “Oh nothing… My name is Private Scott, John Patrick Scott.”

“What brings you to this dismal corner of the earth?”

“Ich war ein Musiklehrer. Pardon me, sometimes I break into German. I’m from Edinburgh but was living in Germany as a music teacher. Can’t be doing that sort of thing now.”

“I suppose not.”

“Roger, sorry to have eavesdropped, but it sounded so interesting. Then you are familiar with the area we just marched through?”

“That was the central merchant and trading hub of Ypres and has been since the mid-fifteenth century. On the north side over there is St. Martin’s Cathedral. You can already see the damage from German attacks.”

There was no escaping the needless destruction by aggressive enemy bombing. We continued marching forward in formation. A little way beyond the city gate, we passed by the remains of a park and children’s playground. The soldiers took a rest break and snacked on portable rations.

Many of them took off their boots and massaged their feet. Not too far away, I found a shattered brick in the rubble of what had been a schoolhouse and brought it back to where everyone was having his makeshift picnic.

Watson noticed that I kept twirling the small fragment in my hand while intermittently closing my eyes. “Scott, what are you doing?”

“Pictures form in my mind similar to movies. It’s the art of psychometry,” I replied.

“Psycho — what?” Another soldier overheard us talking.

“Sounds like something from Sigmund Freud,” one called out.

“Not at all, it’s like a psychical gift or talent. It has nothing to do with psychoanalysis.”

“What’s the point?” the first one asked.

I felt under pressure to put my thoughts into words. “I can understand what building this brick was part of when it was intact and what was here before it was destroyed.”

“That’s incredible!” Watson exclaimed. “If you are able to uncover bygone times by psychical means, I am all ears.”

When everyone else discounted my talent, Watson gave it full praise. Others became impatient and weren’t interested in our sidebar history lesson.

“Can you use those skills beyond inanimate objects?” one soldier asked.

“Find me an object, someone’s former possession,” I said.

Another soldier found a broken pocket watch not far from a trampled garden. He tossed it over, and I caught it with both hands. When I closed my eyes, the images materialized in my mind’s eye.

“A loving grandfather was reading to his grandchildren from an illustrated story book. He was balding. Wore spectacles. Had a trimmed white beard.

“‘Time for bed,’ he said, looking at his watch. Tick tock, tick tock. It was a gift from his father.

“He kissed each grandchild on the forehead as they scampered off. Two girls, one boy, all in their nightgowns. The tallest girl was a redhead with… pink ribbons in her long, curly hair. Then the bombs dropped. Fire. The roof collapsed. All was lost. Then… then… Oh my God!”

“Scotty, what’s wrong?” Watson asked.

I looked at the blank faces around me. “You don’t see him?”

Watson was baffled. “See who?”

“That grandfather,” I said, horrified and clutching onto that timepiece. His ghost was standing right in front of me!

Then I realized that no one else was capable of seeing him. Inside, I panicked until my frozen fingers let go of the watch, and it tumbled into the dirt. That’s when his phantasmal form vanished, but there were still indelible memories impressed upon the ether that refused to fade with the passage of time.

Warning bells tolled from a nearby church. “Quick, run for cover!” our commanding officer shouted.

Double-time over to shelter. Incoming bombs whistled and boomed in the distance. Civilians followed, carrying their most precious possessions, also fleeing for their lives.

The sanctuary already suffered from shell damage that left large gaping holes in its roof. Birds nested above the pulpit. Cherished religious statuary had been knocked over and broken. Several nuns rushed up and motioned the way for us to take refuge in the basement. We joined the crowd of scared families, members of the local community.

“Isn’t Britain giving them haven?” I asked Watson. “I thought most of the civilians evacuated by now.”

“There are still the ones who want to hold out,” he explained. “Wouldn’t you if your entire life and livelihood were here for multiple generations? That’s why they’re counting on us, but the Germans are relentless. Ypres is right on the path of strategic routes to take over France.”

When several farmers brought over their pigs and chickens, our retreat began to resemble a biblical nativity scene. From inside the cellar, we could hear the rumble of the outside walls collapsing.

“We’ll be trapped!” People yelled out in panic.

A group of sisters prayed in the corner. Our trench diggers readied themselves to shovel us out if it came to that. One terror-stricken woman handed me a screaming baby.

“I found him abandoned.” At least that’s what I thought she said in Flemish, but none of us could understand her. Confused and without thinking, I almost spoke in Japanese, but that would’ve been for the wrong place and an entirely different century during a different lifetime.

“What will I do with him?” I said to her in German, but she didn’t comprehend me either. I couldn’t just place him down in a corner. We’d be marching out in a matter of minutes.

I approached a man with his wife and three other children. First I tried English, then German, random words of French, and then I tried Greek and Latin from my school days. Finally I resorted to awkward gestures to see if he’d take the child. But he shook his head, gathered his brood and backed off.

Troops cleared a path out of the cellar. We needed to report to our stations before nightfall.

“Sister, please?” I begged one nun, interrupting her rosary. To my relief, she took the infant.

“Oh Mon Dieu!” I cried out in the little French that I knew. “Danke, thank you, merci boucoup.” Then I ran off to join the others.

Watson slapped me on the back. “Looked like you were going to be a father, mate.”

“Not yet. Got a war to fight,” I replied.

***

Excerpt from The Time Traveler Professor, Book Two: A Pocketful of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens. Copyright © 2019 by Elizabeth Crowens. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Crowens. All rights reserved.

 

 

Tour Participants:

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



 

 

Giveaway!!!

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Elizabeth Crowens. There will be 8 winners. One (1) winner will receive an Amazon.com Gift Card. Seven (7) winners will each receive A Pocketful Of Lodestones by Elizabeth Crowens (eBook). The giveaway begins on October 1, 2019 and runs through November 2, 2019. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours