Sep 062018
 

The Last Weekend Of The Summer
by Peter Murphy
on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2018

The Last Weekend Of The Summer by Peter Murphy cover

Synopsis:

They have been coming to their grandmother Gloria’s lake cottage since they were babies. Now Johnnie and Buddy have families of their own and C.C. has a life full of adult drama and adventure. And this trip – the only stated purpose of which is to bring the family together for the last weekend of the summer – seems full of portent. Gloria has been hinting that there’s more on the agenda than grilling and swimming, and when the three siblings learn that their estranged father will also be in attendance, it becomes clear that this weekend will have implications that last far beyond the final days of the season.

A touching, incisive view into the dynamics of a family on the verge of change and filled with characters both distinctive and utterly relatable, THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER is a rich, lyrical reading experience that will resonate in your heart.

Check out my review HERE and enter the giveaway!!

 

Book Details

Genre: Literary Fiction

Published by: The Story Plant

Publication Date: August 28, 2018

Number of Pages: 224

ISBN: 1611882575 (ISBN13: 9781611882575)

Purchase Links: The Last Weekend Of The Summer on Amazon The Last Weekend Of The Summer on  on Barnes & Noble The Last Weekend Of The Summer on  on Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

The Last Weekend Of The Summer by Peter Murphy author
Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family had to move to Dublin. Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for “The Wine and Gold.” He also played football (soccer) in secret! After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff, Paddy, Tommy and Sean. Murphy financed his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London. He also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world.

But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while and ended up living there for more than thirty years. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to university, Murphy answered the long-ignored internal voice and began to write. He has published five novels so far and has begun work on a new one. Nowadays, he lives in beautiful Lisbon with his wife Eduarda and their well-read dog, Baxter.

 

Connect with Peter at:
peterdmurphy.com
Twitter – PeterD_Murphy
Facebook – PeterDMurphyAuthor

Q&A with Peter Murphy

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

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

Both! In my first novel, LAGAN LOVE, history and mythology were the backdrop and Ireland’s economic boom was a force of conflict and juxtaposition. Much of the story happened in places I frequented and people I knew showed up in the book.

The times I have lived through can be found in BORN & BRED, WANDERING IN EXILE, and ALL ROADS. These books—THE LIFE & TIMES TRILOGY—spanned a period of sixty years, and global events became a part of the different characters as they followed their own paths.

Now while most writers insist that their books are not about themselves, that might not be the whole truth. Every writer has been formed by experiences that shape perspective and reaction. Writers should write about what they know and, in my case, by virtue of all that happened me along the way, I know a little about my life.

In my most recent novel, THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER, I focused entirely on family dynamics and made little reference to time and place. Family is timeless, fascinating, good and bad, and a very fertile place for a writer to work in.

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

It really depends on the story. LAGAN LOVE was my homage to my home town of Dublin. I wanted to record a way of living that was being altered by progress. The ideas started to form back in the mid nineteen-seventies but the story was not written for another thirty years.

You can read more about that here: http://peterdamienmurphy.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-story-behind-lagan-love.html

As it was my first effort at writing a novel, I tried following the swirling story line and got hopeless lost. I would still be there if it were not for the intervention of my editor and publisher, the great and wonderful Lou Aronica, who could see far more clearly than I. Under his guidance I found my way to the end.

THE LIFE & TIMES TRILOGY happened by accident. I had the idea in mind but when I began to write it, it didn’t work—something I had to accept one hundred pages in. So, I started again, wrote almost another hundred pages and arrived at the same conclusion. Then, after a few weeks of despair and despondency, I realized that it had to be three books. I was, however, able to recycle much and now one of the original first chapters can be found near the end of the last book.

Like many things in life, wisdom and knowledge comes after the doing and each book I write teaches me a little more about writing. THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER was planned and plotted before I wrote anything.

That said, the closing scene was written very early on because it came to me one evening and I loved it. It still causes me to get a little choked up.

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

Notwithstanding that: Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination etc, the answer is yes.

This was a cause for concern when I first published, but most people enjoyed seeing themselves in the pages and it became a joke amongst a small circle of friends back in Dublin.

I had one negative reaction from a person in Toronto who was very upset to be “used as a character in a novel,” but he hasn’t read it. If he did he might like the character he helped to form.

I see no point in taking a real person and applying a thin disguise. Also, people should be able to see a part of themselves in written characters. They may not like what they see but that is how we relate to each other—real or fictious, for good and bad.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

Each book has been a different experience and has changed the way I write. While writing my first, I would walk with my dog when I was trying to resolve some issue. Often the solution would form in my mind so I would phone home and leave myself a message. I also discussed plot issues with my dog and, depending on her level of disinterest, I would know what had to be done next.

Other times I stared out the window not seeing what was there. Instead I saw my imaginary creatures resolving their issues. Writers are, by many definitions, mad as hatters and the more I write the madder I become.

Tell us why we should read this book.

This is a very difficult question for me to answer as I was raised to believe that self-praise was no praise. So, in an attempt to brag modestly, I believe THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER is the written version of a weekend by the lake with family—something most of us can relate to, to invest in, and thoroughly enjoy without having to spend hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to get there. It is the story of people most readers already know and will recognize. Some readers may even find themselves by the lake. And while the world around us seems to be going through one of its “confused” phases, it is a story of how we find our way through difficult times.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

The great Canadian writer, Guy Vanderhague, who produced work of such quality that he has quietly won three Governor General Awards.

Irishman Brian O’ Nolan (aka Flann O’ Brien, etc.) who made absurdity funny and normal.

J.K. Rowling who wrote books that inspired my children to read.

Gabriel García Márquez whose big books caught the world’s imagination and whose final works were masterly in their brevity, style and form.

What are you reading now?

JAMES JOYCE, by Edna O’ Brien.

THE HISTORY OF THE SIEGE OF LISBON by José Saramago.

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

Yes. It began as one thing but after submitting the first draft to my editor, it is about to become the story of a simple-minded girl falling in love with a man with a dark secret. Set on the West Coast of Ireland in the early nineteen forties when neutral Ireland was trying navigate its way through the waves caused by the Second World War.

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

Maggie Smith as Gloria.

Kathy Bates as Mary.

Zoe Perry as Buddy.

Jason Bateman as Norm.

Rachel Mcadams as Carol.

Viggo Mortensen as Johnny.

Mariana Mourato as C.C.

Ian McKellan as Jake.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

People watching while sipping coffee in the Praça Luís de Camões in the middle of Lisbon.

Favorite meal?

Fettuccine carbonara (or puttanesca.)

Thank you for the opportunity to drop by and “chat” with your readers and for you interest in my book,

Peter

 

Read an excerpt:

As the truck slithered to a halt on the gravel road, Susie and Joey took off. It was one of their cottage rituals, running to Gloria who stood waving from the veranda. For the last few years, Joey had let Susie win but had always made it look like he was running as fast as he could. Johnnie and Carol sat back and watched. They always gave the kids a few moments with Gloria before they joined them.

“So, what’s really going on?” Carol asked without looking over at him.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s a little dark cloud hovering over your head.”

“Damn. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice it.”

“Come on, out with it.”

“Dad’s coming too. He’s coming sometime Saturday morning.”

“Does your mother know?”

“I don’t think so. Gloria wanted to break the news to everyone at the same time.”

“Oh dear, so Buddy doesn’t know yet?”

“No, and there’s more.”

There always was with his family, but Carol didn’t say that. Instead, she just sat for a moment taking it all in. And when he was finished, she squeezed his hand and leaned across to kiss his cheek. “I’m so sorry to hear that. Are you going to be okay?”

“Don’t worry about me; I’ll be fine. And we’re all going to have a great time, no matter what.” He smiled and winked at her. “Ready?”

“Showtime,” she smiled back, and she got out and walked towards the veranda. She knew what he was doing; he was getting himself ready for another weekend of enabling his sisters and his mother. She wished he wouldn’t, but there was no point in saying that. Instead, she’d be as loving and supportive as he needed her to be. It was how they dealt with life—along with having a laugh at themselves. “And stop checking out my ass,” she called over her shoulder as she went.

“Better yours than someone else’s,” Gloria laughed as she slowly descended the stairs from the veranda and kissed Carol’s cheek. She still had the most remarkable hearing. “That was something my Harry always used to say.”

“Really, Gloria, I wouldn’t have thought stuff like that would have been a problem for you guys.”

“He was blind, Carol, but he was still a man.”

Carol pretended to look shocked, but Gloria carried on as if she didn’t notice. “But you have nothing to worry about. Johnnie’s still madly in love with you, isn’t he, dear?” Gloria had a twinkle in her eye.

“Of course he is. And I’m still crazy about him—just don’t tell him.”

“I hope so, dear, because I put you two in the east room. I know it’s your favorite.”

“Thanks,” Carol took the old, brittle woman into her arms. “And are you okay, Gloria?”

“Of course I am. Why would you ask such a thing?” But she stayed in Carol’s arms for a little while longer.

“What are you two plotting?” Johnnie asked as he struggled up with their bags. “And don’t worry about me—I’ll just lug everybody’s stuff by myself.”

“And, well, you should,” Gloria reached up and kissed him, and hugged him as tight as her frail old arms would allow. “Your poor wife and children are here for a rest, so don’t be selfish and go around spoiling everything.

“So,” Gloria asked after Carol had gone to settle the kids into the new rooms over the boathouse. “Have you talked with your father?” She waited at the bottom step for Johnnie to take her by the elbow. She could have made it on her own, but she knew he liked to behave like a gentleman.

“Yes, and I hope he knows what he’s doing. It might be asking a bit too much.”

“Not of you, dear, surely?”

“No, I’m okay with it all, and I really want this to work out—for everyone. I was a bit torn up when I first heard, but it’s settled in now and, well, you know . . .”

“Yes, Johnnie, I do.” She smiled up at him and reached up to stroke his cheek. It always reminded her of Harry’s—at least his good side. “Being family means having to go through things like this, and we will all get to play our parts. Hopefully C.C.’s new love interest will provide enough distraction for your mother.”

She paused when they got to the top step and looked up at him for a moment as if she was about to say something else but changed her mind.

“What is it, Gloria? What other secrets are you keeping from me?”

“Far too many for what little time we have left. Now let’s go inside. I have some nice cold beer in the fridge. You might need some fortification before your mother gets here.”

Excerpt from The Last Weekend Of The Summer by Peter Murphy. Copyright © 2018 by The Story Plant. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.

 

Tour Host Participants:

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


Aug 192018
 

The Super Ladies

by Susan Petrone

August 13 – October 13, 2018 Tour

 

The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone

Synopsis:

For three middle-aged women in the suburbs of Cleveland, the issues seemed compelling but relatively conventional: sending a child off to college, dealing with a marriage gone stale, feeling “invisible.” But changes were coming . . . and not the predictable ones. Because Margie, Katherine, and Abra are feeling a new kind of power inside of them – literally. Of all the things they thought they might have to contend with as they got older, not one of them considered they’d be exploding a few gender roles by becoming superheroes.

At once a delightful and surprising adventure and a thoughtful examination of a woman’s changing role through life’s passages, THE SUPER LADIES is larger-than-life fiction at its very best.

 

**Read my review HERE and enter the giveaway**

PRAISE FOR SUSAN PETRONE’S THROW LIKE A WOMAN:

“While, on the surface, this is a novel about a woman battling to make her way in the man’s world of professional baseball, debut author Petrone presents a stirring and humorous story of a woman doing considerably more than that–trying to rediscover herself, provide for her family, and perhaps find a little love along the way.” – Booklist

“Throw Like a Woman is that rare baseball novel, both a paean to the game and a deeper exploration of character. Susan Petrone has a fan’s heart and a scout’s eye. Read it now. Don’t wait for the movie.” – Stewart O’Nan, co-author of Faithful and A Face in the Crowd

“For baseball fans who yearn for a female Jackie Robinson, reading Susan Petrone’s fun and absorbing novel Throw Like a Woman becomes a kind of prayer. ‘Please, Lord! Give talent a chance. Let this dream come true!'” – Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow

“Someday there will be a woman who plays Major League Baseball. And when it happens, I suspect it will be an awful lot like Susan Petrone’s fun Throw Like a Woman. Susan knows baseball and so the novel – and her hero Brenda Haversham – crackles with authenticity. You can hear the pop of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt.” – Joe Posnanski, author of The Soul of Baseball, NBC Sports National Columnist

“Petrone’s storytelling is first-rate, and she weaves a credible baseball tale with well-defined characters throughout.” – The Wave

 

Book Details

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published by: The Story Plant

Publication Date: August 14th 2018 by Story Plant

Number of Pages: 320

ISBN: 1611882583 (ISBN13: 9781611882582)

Purchase Links:   The Super Ladies on Amazon The Super Ladies on Barnes & Noble The Super Ladies on Goodreads

 

Author Bio:

Susan Petrone

Susan Petrone lives with one husband, one child, and two dogs in Cleveland, Ohio. Her superpower has yet to be uncovered.
Catch Up with Susan Petrone Online:

  • Website: susanpetrone.com
  • Twitter: @SusanPetrone
  • Facebook: @susan.petrone.54
  • Goodreads: @Susan Petrone
  •  

     

    **Q&A with Susan Petrone**

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

    A little of both. Typically I will get the germ of an idea and then start building the plot. Along the way, I might pull in inspiration for a character from someone I know or a real-life event that relates to the story. I try not to draw too much from current events because it’s very easy to date a story. I hope that my novels can be read far in the future and still feel relevant.

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

    I start from the beginning. However, by the first third/middle of the book, I try to have a general idea of where the story is going. It’s kind of like driving from Cleveland to Akron. Just because you know where you want to end up doesn’t mean that you can’t still have adventures and unexpected events along the way. And I almost always write in the order in which the book will be written—I don’t skip around, writing a section here or a section there.

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

    Yes to both parts of that question. With Throw Like a Woman (my first novel for The Story Plant), I was asked often if Brenda, the protagonist, was my alter ego. That character and I had a few key things in common (baseball, Indian food, and the Smiths), but I wouldn’t say she is based on me. Actually, her physical appearance was inspired by a woman I used to see at the daycare where my daughter went to preschool. The Super Ladies has three main characters, one of whom is loosely inspired by a dear friend. I’m curious as to whether people will assume that one of them is my alter ego or which one is the most like me.

    Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

    I don’t have a specific routine. I write when I have the free time, which is generally at night, after my family has gone to bed. My day job is half-time, so I’m off one day a week. That’s also my writing/household chores day (in that order—you have to pay yourself first).

    Tell us why we should read this book.

    The superhero world is slowly expanding to include more than young, super-muscular white guys. The Super Ladies expands that world a little more.

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

    Kurt Vonnegut and Jane Austen are my all-time favorites. They both had a wicked sense of humor and were talented at satirizing the social mores of their day; I think that’s why I’m so drawn to both of them, even though they appear to be very different.

    What are you reading now?

    I just finished Summerland by Michael Chabon, am halfway through The Beguiled by Thomas Cullinan, and I just picked up Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan.

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

    My next book is tentatively titled The Heebie-Jeebie Girl. It’s about a seven-year-old girl who can pick the daily lottery number and her great-uncle as they try to find who robbed her grandmother. The city of Youngstown is one of the narrators, along with the little girl, her great uncle, and one of the guys who robbed the grandmother. I keep telling people it’s a bit like Crime & Punishment set in 1977 Youngstown only with jokes.

    Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

    Besides writing and reading? Cycling, running, hiking, gardening, and hanging out and being silly with my daughter.

    Favorite meal?

    I am a sucker for vegetarian tacos or a good Indian buffet.

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

     

    Read an excerpt:

    On the way home, Katherine called shotgun, so Abra had to sit in the back of Margie’s minivan amid soccer shin guards, baseballs, stray sneakers, swim goggles, granola bar wrappers, a rubber-banded stack of Pokemon cards, and a book on playing Minecraft. “How was this shoe not on the seat when we left?” Abra asked.

    “I really couldn’t tell you,” Margie replied over her shoulder. “Things back there just seem to migrate around on their own. Hold it up.” Abra did so, and Margie took a quick look at it in the rearview mirror as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto Superior Avenue. “I don’t even think that belongs to one of mine.”

    “Now you know why I called shotgun. The backseat scares me,” Katherine said. “I sometimes get overwhelmed with one kid. How do you manage three?”

    “I have no life. Duh,” Margie replied.

    Margie cut south onto East 12th Street and then turned east onto Chester Avenue, which would take them through Midtown, up Cedar Hill, and back home. As they drove by Cleveland State University, she asked Katherine, “Do we still have to flip the bird to CSU for denying Hal tenure?”

    “Nah, the statute of limitations has expired on that one, I think.”

    “I like the new housing they’re building down here,” Abra said. “If I ever move downtown, would you two come and visit me?”

    “Hell yes,” said Katherine.

    “Sure,” Margie added. “Are you seriously thinking of moving or just toying with it?”

    “Toying. If I can unload the house to the bank, I’ll have to rent somewhere. And I’d be closer to work.”

    “If you move, who will I run with every morning?” “I don’t know. Get another dog?”

    Chester was a wide, three-lanes-in-each-direction boulevard that took them past the university neighborhood and through the dead zone in between downtown, where most of the office buildings and entertainment areas were, and University Circle, where most of the city’s museums and cultural gems were ensconced. Economic development hadn’t hit this middle area, and much of it was taken up by vacant buildings, empty lots, and boarded-up houses.

    Nine fifteen on a Thursday night in mid-May isn’t late and isn’t scary. Still, Margie got a bad feeling when she saw a young woman on the sidewalk walking fast, hands folded across her chest, not looking at the man who walked next to her. The girl was a stranger—not her age, not her race, not her neighborhood, but still, the girl was someone, some mother’s daughter.

    Margie pulled over to the curb, leaving the engine running.

    “Why are you stopping?” Katherine asked.

    The few other cars on the wide road passed by without slowing. No cars were parked on the street; Margie’s van was the only stopped vehicle for blocks. Katherine and Abra followed Margie’s gaze to the scene unfolding on the sidewalk. The man was yelling at the woman now. They couldn’t make out exactly what he was yelling but heard the words “bitch” and “money” a few times. And they could see his flailing arms, his face leering up against hers. She stopped walking and said something to him, and he hit her. She lost her balance and fell against the chain-link fence that ran along the sidewalk. They were in front of an empty lot, where once there might have been a house but now was only a square of crabgrass and crumbling concrete and stray garbage. For a moment, there were no other cars on the road. There was no one else on the street, no inhabited buildings for a couple blocks either way. If not for them, the woman was on her own.

    “Call nine-one-one,” Abra said as the man hit the woman again. The woman tried to get away, but he grabbed her shoulders and shoved her hard against the fence.

    “There’s no time,” Katherine said. In a heartbeat, she was out of the car.

    “Darn it, come on…” Abra muttered as she fumbled with the sliding side door and jumped out. “Keep the engine running,” she said as she followed Katherine.

    “I’ll go with you…” Margie started to say. No, Abra was right. Someone had to stay with the van, keep the engine running, stay behind the wheel in case they needed to make a quick getaway. Glancing behind her, she backed up alongside the people on the sidewalk. It felt proactive. She could hear Katherine’s strong teacher voice saying loudly but calmly, “Leave her alone” and the woman yelling, “Call the police!” It suddenly occurred to Margie that she had a phone. She could call the police. Hands trembling and heart racing, Margie frantically fumbled through her bag for her phone.

    She told the 911 dispatcher where she was and what was happening, the whole time watching Katherine and Abra and the couple on the sidewalk. Suddenly, there was a glint of something shiny in the streetlight as the man rushed toward Katherine. She heard a scream, and then she couldn’t see Abra anymore.

    Katherine got out of the car purely through instinct. There was someone in trouble—helping is what you were supposed to do, right? It wasn’t until she was on the sidewalk, walking toward the man and woman, saying loudly, “Leave her alone” and watching the man turn to face her that she realized she had absolutely no idea what to do next. None. It was then that her heart started pounding and a hot wave of fear tingled through her arms and legs.

    Up close, she could see the guy was taller and more muscular than he appeared from the safety of the van. He was maybe white, maybe light-skinned African American with a shaved head. An indecipherable neck tattoo peeked out from under his close-fitting, long-sleeved black T-shirt. She tried to burn a police description into her brain. The woman yelled, “Call the police!” at the same time the guy said, “This is none of your damn business, lady” to Katherine. The utter disdain in his voice cleared everything out of her brain except one thought: This was such a mistake. This was such a stupid mistake. There was no way this could end well. For a split second, she imagined Hal and Anna without her, wondered if they would think her foolish for getting herself killed in this way. She heard Abra say softly, “Just let her go, man.”

    Katherine could just see Abra off to her right. Margie had backed up, and the open doors of the van were only a few yards away. She could faintly hear Margie’s voice, talking to 911 maybe? Knowing they were both nearby gave her a tiny bit more courage. Katherine took a tentative step toward the woman, who was kneeling by the fence. Her face was bloodied, the sleeve of her shirt ripped. “Miss?” she asked. She looked about nineteen or twenty. Not a woman. A girl. “Why don’t you come with us? We’ll give you a ride.”

    “She don’t need a ride,” the man said.

    The rest of the street seemed eerily quiet. Couldn’t someone else stop and help? Someone big? Someone male maybe? Katherine wasn’t that big, but she was big enough, strong enough. She could help. Slowly she extended her left arm. If the woman wanted to take her hand, she could. Katherine held the woman’s gaze, hoping she could silently convince her that leaving with some strangers was preferable to getting beaten up by her boyfriend. Katherine was so focused that she didn’t see the knife until it was against her arm, in her arm. The man cut so fast that she hardly saw the blade, only the flash of metal against her pale white skin. It occurred to her that she needed to get out in the sun. Why am I worried about how pale I am? I just got cut. She felt the sensation of the blade slicing through flesh, felt a momentary spark of pain, and then the pain was gone. It happened faster than a flu shot—a quick prick, then nothing.

    The man only made one swipe, then stopped, triumphant, staring at her arm, expecting blood, expecting her to scream, to fall. There wasn’t any blood on her arm or the knife. No blood, just Katherine staring at him wide-eyed and unharmed.

    Then the man was on the ground, hit from the side by…something, something Katherine couldn’t see. The knife dropped from his hands and landed near her foot. She kicked it away at the same time she heard Abra’s voice yell, “Run!” But where the hell was Abra? She must be in the van. Katherine couldn’t see her.

    Katherine said, “Come on” to the woman, who was now up and moving toward her. The woman needed no more convincing and was in the car before Katherine, even before Abra. Where had Abra been? How could she be the last one to pile into the minivan, yelling, “Go! Go!” to Margie, who was slamming on the gas before the door was even closed.

    Nobody said anything for a moment. The only sound in the car was that of four women catching their breath, being glad they had breath left in their bodies. Then all of them simultaneously erupted into words of relief and fear, asking each other “Are you all right? Are you all right?”

    “Oh sweet mother, I can’t believe you all just did that,” Margie said. “I thought—Katherine, I honestly thought he was going to kill you.”

    “So did I,” Abra said. “How the hell did he not cut you? How did he miss you?”

    “He didn’t miss me,” Katherine replied quietly. Feeling fine seemed intrinsically wrong, but there it was. Unreal sense of calm? Yes. Pain and blood? No.

    Before Margie or Abra could respond, the woman exclaimed, “Oh my God, thank you! Sean would’ve done me in this time, I know it. Y’all were like superheroes or something. You saved my life.”

    The three women were quiet for a heartbeat. For the moment, the hyperbole of the phrase “You saved my life” was gone. It was arguably true. This was a new sensation. Frightening and humbling. Then Margie said, “Shoot, I dropped the phone.” With one hand on the wheel, she felt around in the great vortex of tissues, empty cups, and scraps of paper in the molded plastic section in between the two front seats.

    “I got it,” Katherine said, coming up with the phone. The 911 dispatcher was still on the line, wondering what was going on. “Hello?” Katherine said. “We’re okay. We got away, the woman is safe. We’re going—where are we going?”

    “Anywhere away from Sean,” the woman in the back said.

    “There’s a police station right down the street at one hundred and fifth,” Abra said.

    “Right, I know where that is,” Margie said.

    A police car with the siren off but lights flashing came roaring down Chester Avenue in the opposite direction.

    “Was that for us?” Margie asked.

    “I think so,” Abra said.

    Katherine hardly had time to explain what had happened to the dispatcher before they were at the station. There was a long hour-plus of giving witness statements to a jaded-looking police officer who told them several times how lucky they were to have gotten out of the situation with no harm done. “What you three ladies did was very brave and very stupid,” he said in closing.

    “We know,” Abra replied.

    They were told they might be called as witnesses if the woman, Janelle, decided to press charges against her boyfriend. Then they were free to go. The three of them walked out of the police station and to the waiting minivan. It was nearing midnight, and the spring evening had moved from cool to downright chilly. Even so, none of them moved to get into the van. Margie unlocked it and opened the driver’s door, then just stood looking at the ground, one hand on the door, the other on the side of the van, breathing slowly. Abra paced in a slow oval near the back of the van, while Katherine leaned against it and gazed up at the few faint stars that could be seen against the city lights. She suddenly wanted to be somewhere quiet, away from the city, away from people. Margie’s voice brought her back: “I’m sorry I didn’t do anything to help.”

    What are you talking about?” Katherine said. “If it weren’t for you, we never would have gotten out of there.”

    Abra walked around the van to Margie. “You were the only smart one. I’m sorry I got out of the car. That was stupid.” As Abra said this, she shivered, her lips trembled, and she started to shake. “That was so stupid.” “I got out first,” Katherine said. “I’m the stupid one.” Katherine almost never saw Margie cry. Even when her eldest child was going through hell, Katherine had been amazed and admiring of her friend’s resilience. But now Margie seemed overwhelmed by heaving sobs. “I’m just so glad the two of you are okay,” Margie stammered. Crying people generally made her nervous, but Katherine joined Margie and Abra on the other side of the van.

    When your friends need you, they need you.

    ***

    Excerpt from The Super Ladies by Susan Petrone. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Petrone. Reproduced with permission from Susan Petrone. All rights reserved.

     

    Tour Host Participants:

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    Aug 102018
     

    The Chairman’s Toys

    by Graham Reed

    on Tour August 1-31, 2018

    Synopsis:

    The Chairman's Toys by Graham Reed

    Vancouver, British Columbia – land of psychotically expensive real estate, high-grade cannabis, and Jake Constable. A man adrift.

    After Jake quits the drug business, his realtor/ex-wife, Nina, gets him a job as a house sitter for her wealthy clients. Jake celebrates by throwing a party in the mansion he was hired to look after. Unfortunately, the guest list gets out of hand, leaving Jake to contend with a hallucinogenic-vitamin-dispensing yogi, a dead guy in the bathroom, and The Norwegian – a criminal force of nature with a grudge against Jake.

    When the owner of the multimillion-dollar crime scene returns home prematurely, only Jake’s inadvertent discovery of the man’s politically incorrect business history saves him from having to clean up after the party. But he still has to come clean with his ex-wife. The situation threatens to turn into an international incident when Nina’s power broker uncle and a pair of secret agents from China show up to turn the screws on Jake. Soon after that his friends start disappearing. With the Chinese government leaning on him and The Norwegian out to settle an old score, Jake comes up with a desperate plan to dupe the secret agents, save his friends, and (why not?) solve the murder.

     

    Editorial Reviews:

    “…takes the reader on a fast, furious, and often hilarious tour. Watching him zigzag through the twisting plot is pure pleasure.” – Publisher’s Weekly

    “Reed’s lively mystery debut may be overloaded with colorful characters and tricky subplots, but too much of a good thing is still a good thing.” – Kirkus Reviews

    “…definitely belongs on your short list of amiable stoner sleuths, along with Bart Schneider’s Augie Boyer and Hal Ackerman’s Harry Stein. The dark-comedy aspect of this debut will also appeal to fans of Chris Knopf, David Freed, and Tim Cockey.” – Booklist

     

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

     

    Book Details:

    Genre: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Humor
    Published by: Poisoned Pen Press
    Publication Date: July 3, 2018
    Number of Pages: 238
    ISBN: 1464210055 (ISBN13: 9781464210051)
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

     

    Graham Reed

    Author Bio:

    Graham Reed is an award-winning author of crime fiction who lives on a small island in the Salish Sea with is wife and two children.

     

    Catch Up With Graham Reed On:
    grahamreed.info &
    Goodreads

     

    **Q&A with Graham Reed**

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

    Absolutely. I honestly don’t know how an author can avoid doing so (unless maybe he or she is writing a period piece or space opera). Writing in the first person, I couldn’t help but draw from my own experiences, like the time I was at this rave and someone offered in Vegas three days later a troupe of Belgian mimes and a (semi) tame cheetah. The charges were ultimately dropped for lack of evidence but I promise you I will never do that again. As for current events, The Chairman’s Toys is set in present-day Vancouver so some of the conflicts that arise in the story are inspired by what’s going on here these days. That being said, all characters and events are, of course, pure fiction.

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

    Much to my surprise, it has turned out to be the latter. The genesis of The Chairman’s Toys was a situation that occurred to me while walking past some waterfront mansions in Vancouver one day. By the time I got home I thought I knew how the story would end, but that actually turned out to be the middle. Once I started writing and discovered that the characters had minds of their own, I surrendered and the story took off on its own merry way.

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

    Not remotely, but try telling that to the people I know.

    Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

    I wrote The Chairman’s Toys shortly after the birth of our second child so a routine was not an option. Mostly I would snatch whatever quiet hours he deigned to allow. A few times when he wasn’t feeling magnanimous in that department, I ended up writing while sitting on a lawn chair on our micro-balcony overlooking the collection of derelict vehicles (Scooby Doo van, RV, electric bike) in the backyard of the bellicose skateboarding entrepreneur who lived across the alley. Does that count as an idiosyncrasy?

    Tell us why we should read this book.

    According to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, “This trip to Vancouver is fraught with uniquely individual characters, an appealingly lowbrow sleuth, and a black humor zigzag of a plot.” If you want to join a gut-churning, blood-curdling hunt for a sadistic serial killer, you must’ve clicked the wrong link.

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

    Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, Jonathan Lethem, Raymond Chandler, Kinky Friedman, Donald Westlake, Patrick DeWitt, Haruki Murakami, Neal Stephenson, Maurice Sendak.

    What are you reading now?

    Marry, Bang, Kill by Andrew Battershill. His first novel, Pillow, was a mindblowing fusion of crime fiction and surrealism executed with tremendous literary skill and creative freedom. Battershill is an inspired and inspiring author.

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

    Did my publisher ask you to ask me that? I promise I am! My next book is a sequel of sorts, featuring the return of Jake Constable and a few of the other characters (some the worse for wear), as well as a few new faces. Jake is forced to reckon with the personal, professional, and societal impacts of the impending legalization of marijuana, as well as another spiritually seismic movement (some might even describe it as a cult, though they might be wrong).

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

    Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2; Van Wilder: Party Liaison) was born to play Jake Constable (or maybe Jake Constable was born to be played by Ryan Reynolds). If he’s unavailable, I would also be willing to take lunches with Ryan Gosling and/or Joaquim Phoenix to discuss their respective visions for the role.
    Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (Game of Thrones). Despite being Icelandic, Björnsson did beat a 1000-year-old record set by Orm Storolfsson at the World’s Strongest Viking competition in Norway. He’s got the ‘can do’ attitude that defines The Norwegian’s character.
    Lucy Liu as Nina. No question about it.
    For Richard I’m seeing Orlando Bloom, and Oscar Isaac would be fascinating as Dante.

    Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

    Settling back on the couch with a good book and immediately falling asleep.

    Favorite meal?

    The Salsiccia Piccante from Pizzeria Prima Strada

     

    Read an excerpt:

    I was just starting to enjoy the party when The Norwegian came out of the bathroom and ruined everything.

    At the time, I was dancing with a hyperkinetic yoga enthusiast named Windy. Or possibly Mindy. All attempts at verbal communication were being swallowed up by the blizzard of techno coming out of the forty thousand dollar stereo system. Which was fine by me since I didn’t imagine Windy-Mindy and I had all that much to talk about anyway.

    She looked about a decade younger than me — clocking in somewhere south of thirty — and it was manifestly evident that her lifestyle choices were largely antagonistic to my own. Shrink-wrapped in Lululemon, Windy-Mindy radiated health and vigor as she bounced around in fuchsia Nikes performing an ode to the benefits of healthy living expressed through the medium of interpretive dance.

    Exhausted by the spectacle, I took a breather and another belt of Woodford Reserve. In an attempt to bridge the cultural divide I waggled the bottle at Windy-Mindy, inquiring with my eyebrows. Her brow furrowed but the corners of her mouth did curl up slightly — one patronizing, the other amused. Or so the bourbon whispered to me.

    It may have been correct because she countered by proffering her own bottle — the blue-tinted plastic kind that hikers and college students liked to clip to their backpacks. In her other hand were two small white tablets, which I lip-read to be Vitamin C.

    I shrugged and swallowed.

    The contents of the bottle turned out to be wheatgrass and champagne, a combination that tasted even worse than it sounded. I forgave Windy-Mindy when the vitamins started coming on about twenty minutes later. Every cell in my body began sending my brain a jubilant message of thanks and goodwill, as well as suggesting, by the way, that they wouldn’t mind getting to know every cell in Windy-Mindy’s body if the opportunity should arise.

    This wasn’t my usual kind of trip and it made me suspect two things: (1) The tablets probably weren’t Vitamin C and (2) if Windy-Mindy was on the same ride, it might explain her unlikely but undeniable interest in me.

    Another possibility was that she had heard I was Jake Constable, a.k.a. the host of the party. From there she might have leapt to the not-unreasonable conclusion that the twenty million dollar mansion in which the festivities were taking place was also mine. Which was true, in a very temporary but excruciatingly legal sense.

    The actual owner of the house, Mickey Wu, had hired me to look after it while he was out of town. For most of the evening, my flagrant abuse of this responsibility had precluded me from enjoying the party. Which was too bad since it was turning into a real killer.

    The place was mobbed with people, an undeniable relief in those early evening “will it happen?” moments, but now a source of concern. I took it as a matter of faith that the front door was still on its hinges as I hadn’t seen it close in hours. On the mezzanine, a velour-clad DJ was hunched over a laptop and two turntables, conjuring up humongous bass beats and mixing them with everything from sirens to symphonies. The crowd was loving it, up and moving on every available horizontal surface including the dining room table, much to the annoyance of the people clustered around it hoovering up lines of white powder.

    When an albino wearing a lime green speedo and an impish grin threaded his way through the crowd on a Vespa I found myself on the verge of questioning whether the party had been such a brilliant idea after all. He was travelling at a reasonable speed and using his horn judiciously but I still couldn’t shake that harbinger-of-ill-fate feeling.

    At least until I discovered Windy-Mindy and her narcotic vitamins. After that, I was blissfully surfing the moment, my worries gone and my eyes inexorably drawn to her endless curves as they took on a cotton candy glow. I frowned and shook my head, but the effect persisted.

    I spent long, increasingly paranoid moments pondering whether an admixture of wheatgrass and champagne could give bourbon hallucinogenic properties until I noticed the sun winking at me from behind the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver through the window behind her. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to banish this unwelcome party crasher. When I opened them, the sun was eclipsed by another — The Norwegian.

    My first impulse was to go over and hug him, but I knew that was only Windy-Mindy’s vitamins messing with my amygdala. My second impulse was to run.

    It had been almost three years since I had seen my former business partner, and he hadn’t changed a bit. The ornate black leather trench coat and vaguely Druidic hairstyle would have been comical on a smaller man less prone to violence. As he loomed over the crowd I tried to disappear within it. We hadn’t parted on the best of terms.

    I had brought him in on a deal that had started as a hobby for me, a way to use the inheritance I received from my grandfather — a couple acres of land on Hornby Island and a green thumb. Granddad grew prize-winning heirloom tomatoes there. People loved his tomatoes. I preferred marijuana. As did my friends, and their friends, and so on.

    When I terminated our partnership, The Norwegian kept three hundred thousand dollars of my money and I kept my kneecaps, which seemed like a fair distribution of assets at the time. Deprived of “Granddad’s Ganja”, The Norwegian moved into harder drugs and I moved into a converted loft in a post-industrial neighbourhood in East Vancouver. I spent money, threw parties, started dating my real estate agent, wrote a screenplay, shredded a screenplay, married my real estate agent, spent the last of my money, got divorced by my real estate agent, became mildly depressed, and began perusing community college course catalogs. I was a phone call away from signing up for a denturist training program when my ex-wife/realtor lined me up with house sitting gigs for her wealthy clients.

    Clients like Mickey Wu, in whose house The Norwegian was now standing. He was nonplussed when he spotted me. Then his face lit up with the expression of affected innocence that always accompanied his most heinous acts.

    My pocket vibrated. I dug out my phone to find a text from Richard.

    there’s a dead guy in the bathroom 🙁

    I stared at the phone. Then I stared across the room at the bathroom door. The Norwegian was no longer standing in front of it. He had been replaced by Richard, who was staring back at me with an expression of genuine innocence and barely controlled panic.

    ***

    Excerpt from The Chairman’s Toys by Graham Reed. Copyright © 2018 by Graham Reed. Reproduced with permission from Graham Reed. All rights reserved.

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    h3> </h

    Jul 182018
     

    Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum Banner

     

    Selected

    by J. Allen Wolfrum

    July 1 – August 31, 2018 Tour

     

    Synopsis:

    Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

     

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

     

    Book Details:

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

     

    Author Bio:

    J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

     

    Q&A with J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

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

    Tell us why we should read this book.

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

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

    What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

    I enjoy running and mountain biking.

    Favorite meal?

    Carne Asada burritos washed down with a cold IPA.

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

     

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

     

    Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ***

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

     

    Tour Participants:

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    GIVEAWAY:

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

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

     

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    Jul 032018
     

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

    The Body in the Ballroom

    by R.J. Koreto

    on Tour July 1-31, 2018

    Synopsis:

    The Body in the Ballroom by R.J. Koreto

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

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

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

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

    Book Details:

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

    Author Bio:

    R.J. Koreto

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

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

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

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

     

    Q&A with R.J. Koreto

    Welcome!
    Writing and Reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

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

    Tell us why we should read this book.

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

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

    Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

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

    What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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    Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    No wonder they wanted me back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “No. No one.”

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

    “That must be it,” I said.

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

    ***

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

     

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