Oct 272017
 

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

 A Daughter’s Promise by Fran Lewis

Synopsis:

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

Read my review and enter the giveaway HERE

Book Details

Genre: Memoir

Published by: Edit Pros

Publication Date: July 2017

Number of Pages: 147

ISBN-10: 1937317404

ISBN-13: 978-1937317409

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

Author Bio:

Fran Lewis

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

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

Guest Post

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

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

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

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

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

I am also going to include my kindness tips:

Discussions and Tips

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

Kindness Tips

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

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

Read an excerpt:

Part One

A Daughter’s Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour Host Participants:

Stop by these other great sites for more reviews, interviews, guest posts, & giveaways!


Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Fran Lewis. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of A Daughter’s Promise by Fran Lewis. The giveaway begins on October 1 and runs through December 3, 2017.
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Oct 242017
 

Killer Holiday

by Amy Korman

on Tour October 23 – November 30, 2017

Synopsis:

Killer Holiday by Amy Korman

Kristin Clark and her offbeat crew of Bryn Mawr socialites are ready for a fun and festive winter holiday—one that involves sipping martinis by a crackling yule log, hot guys beneath the mistletoe, and Gucci under the Christmas tree. But this year, Old Saint Nick has something more dangerous in store. A stranger dressed in a Santa suit has Kristin’s friends on his naughty list. First, Sophie’s favorite handbag is blasted by a bullet. Then, Father Christmas shatters her brother Chip’s car window with a golf club and leaves a threatening note demanding fifty grand. Both are convinced it has to be a mistake. But when Chip goes missing, the stakes become deadly. Eula Morris is also back in town for the holidays, more bossy and boastful than ever after winning a mega-jackpot in the lottery. She’s returned from a luxury cruise around the world with a handsome new boyfriend (who looks oddly familiar…) and a Samsonite suitcase filled with gold bars. When the suitcase is snatched, Eula implores Kristin and the team to track it down. Where is Chip? Why is a vengeful Santa targeting the gang? Who stole Eula’s suitcase? And how are these events linked? The WASPs and Kristen’s basset hound Waffles are on the case—before this white Christmas turns even darker…

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: October 24th 2017 by Witness Impulse
Number of Pages: 320
ISBN: 0062431366 (ISBN13: 9780062431363)
Series: A Killer WASPs Mystery, #4
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Amy Korman

Author Bio:

Amy Korman is a former senior editor and staff writer for Philadelphia Magazine, and author of Frommer’s Guide to Philadelphia. She has written for Town & Country, House Beautiful, Men’s Health, and Cosmopolitan. Killer WASPS is her first novel.

Interview

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
The main character in Killer Holiday, antiques dealer Kristin Clark, is always stumbling into crime scenes with her friends, which doesn’t happen to me in real life—fortunately! And I’ve never had the good luck to own a charming shop like Kristin, but I’ve had plenty of bad part-time jobs like Kristin does. Also, Kristin and her friends find themselves on last-minute, impulsive trips to the Jersey Shore pretty frequently, and who doesn’t love a good road trip in real life? And, I love to include current trends that I find funny, cool and unlikely for the characters I write about, like the current obsessions with barbecue and artisanal booze that Holly and the Colketts are into in Killer Holiday.

My Killer Wasp series is set in a fictional version of the Philly suburbs, which is a beautiful place filled with cute small towns, farms, and of course the occasional country club like the ones in the books. I’ve lived my whole life in this area, so I combined some of my favorite parts of amazing towns like Lambertville and Frenchtown, NJ, with the real area known as the Main Line of Philly to create a version of Bryn Mawr.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I like to know where the story and Kristin and her friends are headed! Detours happen, but the route and destination are fairly well mapped out.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
The character of Kristin is much more free-spirited than I am—and she’s younger, more of a risk-taker, and even though she worries that her friends are going to land her in risky situations, she’s careful but fearless.
I wish I had the free time and energy Kristin and her friends have to do stakeouts, break-ins, and pose as hotel staff and postal employees. I don’t base characters on real people, but I’ve always liked the country clubbing types that are featured in the books, and I love confident, sporty tennis girls like Bootsie, since I personally can’t play at all! I also really enjoy being around world-weary, slightly bitter types like Joe, who’s secretly an optimist.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
JUST DO IT works for me, as soon as I can get to my desk first thing in the morning. Think positive and be fully caffeinated!

Tell us why we should read this book.
Killer Holiday is light, escapist, and transports you to a world where the biggest problem is a stolen suitcase full of jewelry and gold that a lottery winner named Eula “forgot” to declare at Customs when stepping off a round the world cruise. There’s mystery in Killer Holiday—where is Bootsie’s missing brother Chip, and will his left eyelid get chopped off if he doesn’t come up with fifty grant by Christmas?—but there’s also “drama lite” such as Kristin and her friends needing to convince two upscale party planners that most people don’t want fancy food and DO want baked ziti and pulled pork at a holiday party.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse are timeless, smart, inventive and hilarious.

What are you reading now?
Jan Karon’s To Be Where You Are. So sweet and positive.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on a tropical mystery with an unlikely group of criminals and detectives, with margaritas and sunshine to keep things light.

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

Prince Carl Phillip of Sweden would be the perfect Mike Woodford! I think he’s busy being a gorgeous, dashing prince though.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
There’s nothing better than walking our basset hound, and love to jog, work on my veggie garden, and head to concerts. We’ve also been taking Murphy the dog on weekend getaways, since he loves a road trip.

Favorite meal?
Chocolate, especially dark and with almonds. Is that a meal?
CM: A girl after my own heart. I think chocolate should be served with every meal! 🙂

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

Catch Up With Ms. Korman On: amykorman.com 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

Bootsie McElvoy burst through the front door of The Striped Awning, a bag of ice in her right hand and the biggest bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon I’ve ever seen in her left. She dug into her L.L. Bean tote for a bottle of red wine, a shaker of nutmeg, and a bag of fun-size candy canes, all of which she deposited next to a display of 1940s barware near the front of my antiques store.

“Kristin, it’s December fifteenth, which means it’s time for you to start offering shoppers a specialty cocktail the minute they set foot inside your store,” Bootsie told me. “I’m going to mix up a batch of the Delaney family Christmas drink, the Bourbon Blitzen, which never fails to produce a White Christmas vibe. One sip and you’ll feel like you’re singing and dancing with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye at a snowy Vermont inn. This should double your sales totals for the month.”

“Thanks!” I said gratefully, since Bootsie’s family’s boozy drinks are known throughout our village of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, for their potency and tendency to produce unwise purchases.

“The drinks sound good, but you’re also going to need about four thousand more of these pinecones, triple the greenery, and eight hundred additional strands of lights,” Joe Delafield informed me; he’d arrived twenty minutes earlier to help me decorate my store for the Christmas rush.

To lure in passing foot traffic, I’d brought in armloads of holly and spruce branches from my backyard (cost: free, thankfully), spray-painted pinecones silver (the paint was only $5.28 at the hardware store), and added some cheerful-looking blinking white lights. This would probably bring tons of holiday shoppers through my front door!

Joe paused, eyeing the room with his signature critical stare. “The effect I’m going for is that a bunch of HGTV-crazed elves with subscriptions to Veranda magazine snuck in and decorated for four straight days. Gerda, we’re going to need the blinking lights to stop blinking, pronto. Pull the plug, please.”

Joe’s assistant for the day was the eponymous owner of Gerda’s Bust Your Ass Gym, which is housed inside the beauty salon across the street. Since Gerda stands a lofty six feet tall in flats (or sneakers, which is her usual footwear, since fancy shoes aren’t her style), she’d agreed to hang ornaments, bringing her signature grim attitude to the proceedings.

“Cute idea,” Bootsie observed, casting a dubious stare at my front window, which was filled with antique silver-plated candlesticks, flatware, and wineglasses. “Is that your holiday inventory?”

“Nobody going to want that stuff,” said Gerda, who moved here from her native Austria a few years back. Gerda, who’s incredibly muscular and brings in sell-out crowds at her Pilates classes, isn’t the most tactful person in the world. “People want, like, scarves and Fitbits and iPhones.”

I sighed, knowing Gerda was right. Those were the gifts on most holiday wish lists.

“Luckily, I’ve solved all your problems,” Bootsie told me. “I ran into Eddie from the Pub this morning, and he needs a place to hold some late-night poker tournaments this month, so I brokered a deal for The Striped Awning. You’ll be hosting twice-weekly games from 10 p.m. till 1 a.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays till Valentine’s Day.”

“What!” I erupted, alarmed by this idea. “First of all, that doesn’t sound legal.”

“It’s fine,” she told me, waving away my concerns. “I mean, it’s not like it will be a professional betting operation. Eddie’s limiting each night to ten players and three hours. Some cards, a few drinks, a few small wagers. What could go wrong?”

“A lot!” I said. “They’ll blow cigar smoke and drop Dorito crumbs everywhere. Not to mention get arrested for operating a casino without a license. A lot could go wrong!”

“You worry too much,” Bootsie informed me dismissively. “Plus, he’ll pay you two hundred dollars a night.”

I opened my mouth to respond, but no words came out. Bootsie knew she had me—there’s no way I can refuse an extra four hundred dollars a week, even if it puts me on the wrong side of the state gaming commission.

Just then, though, the front door was thrown open by one Sophie Shields, a tiny blonde who at the moment was looking slightly wild-eyed.

“Ya won’t believe what just happened!” shrieked Sophie. “The Colketts were helping me put up curtains in my new dining room, since Joe here never finished decorating my place—and the curtains are orange silk, by the way, they’re totally Elle Decor meets a J. Lo red-carpet gown. So Tim and Tom Colkett were talking paint colors when I heard a horn honking, so I opened the front door, thinking it was the delivery boy from the Hoagie House. I figured I’d go out and pay the driver, when boom!

“A guy dressed as Santa leaned out of the driver’s seat of a black SUV that had pulled right up in my driveway and aimed a gun at me and the Colketts!” The Colketts are the town’s leading landscape designers, who’ve lately turned their talents to party planning and interior design.

“Then the guy yelled, ‘Hey, Sophie, this one’s from your ex, Barclay!’ and shot my favorite handbag!” Sophie finished. “I was reaching into it to pay for the hoagies, thank goodness, so it acted as a protective shield. Also, I think maybe this Santa guy doesn’t have great aim.”

We all stared at her for a moment.

“Are you sure, Sophie?” said Bootsie finally. “Because this sounds like BS.”

“Yeah, Sophie, maybe you been hitting the wine bottle today,” seconded Gerda. “I know the Colketts are day drinkers. Maybe you been guzzling alcohol, too.”

“It’s true!” Sophie bleated. “Just look at this Ferragamo satchel! If it hadn’t had gold hardware to block the trajectory of the bullet, me and the Colketts would have been toast!”

***

Excerpt from Killer Holiday by Amy Korman. Copyright © 2017 by Amy Korman. Reproduced with permission from Witness Impulse. All rights reserved.

Tour Participants:

Visit the 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 Amy Korman and Witness Impulse. There will be 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of KILLER PUNCH by Amy Korman. The giveaway begins on October 23 and runs through December 3, 2017.

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Oct 232017
 

7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner Banner

7th Grade Revolution
by Liana Gardner
on Tour October 23 – November 27, 2017

7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner

WHEN UNEARTHING A NATIONAL TREASURE BECOMES A NATIONAL INCIDENT.

Inspired by True Events

Dennis Alexander: Washington Academy Middle School promises to be another in the long line of boring schools he has been expelled from.

Rhonda Snodgrass: Although trained from childhood in survival tactics, she tries to stay off the radar of the “cool” kids who think she’s weird.

7th grade turns out to be anything but normal when teachers announce the students’ bloodless revolution succeeded and they are now in charge. After conducting a secret-ballot vote on policy, the 7th graders emerge to find the school evacuated and the FBI lurking outside with the task of unearthing a treasure of national importance.

The students’ mission is clear—discover the treasure before the FBI locks down the building. Dennis and Rhonda lead the revolt and must work together to follow century-old clues left by a crazy Revolutionary War buff.

To stay one step ahead of the FBI, they must delve into history and amass an arsenal to defend their school … because this is WAR!

Book Details

Genre: Middle-Grade Detective Mystery
Published by: Vesuvian Books
Publication Date: October 24th 2017
Number of Pages: 299
ISBN: 1944109463 (ISBN13: 9781944109462)
Purchase Links: 7th Grade Revolution on Amazon 7th Grade Revolution on Barnes & Noble 7th Grade Revolution on Goodreads

Author Bio:

Liana Gardner

Liana Gardner is the two-time teen choice award-winning author of the Misfit McCabe series. Daughter of a rocket scientist and an artist, Liana Gardner combines the traits of both into a quirky yet pragmatic writer and in everything sees the story lurking beneath the surface. Born in Seattle, WA and raised in southern California, Liana is definitely a west coast girl, but loves to travel.

She fostered her love of writing after reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and discovering she had a great deal in common with the character Jo. The making up of stories, dramatic feelings, and a quick temper were enough for her to know she and Jo would have been kindred spirits.

Liana volunteers with high school students through the International Trade Education Programs (ITEP). ITEP unites business people and educators to prepare students for a meaningful place in the world of tomorrow. Working in partnership with industry and educators, ITEP helps young people “think globally and earn locally.”

Check out Liana Gardner on lianagardner.com, Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram!

INTERVIEW

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
It depends on the book. As far as personal experiences are concerned, I’d say I draw from emotional depth of experiences I’ve had where the character is experiencing something similar rather than actual occurrences.

As far as current events are concerned, 7th Grade Revolution sprang from an article I saw floating past in my Twitter stream. It described a classroom experience where the teachers at Exploris Middle School told the 7th Graders there had been a bloodless revolution over the weekend, the students won, and now they had to create the policies and schedule to run the school by. I loved the idea and immediately followed it with a “what if” scenario and as a result we have true events blended with fiction and history.

I also have a series I am working on which started from an article, though not a current event as the article was published in 1997.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Most of the time, a story springs into my mind where I know the beginning and the end. Then I write a loose bare bones outline to connect the two, put the outline to the side and start writing. In almost every book I’ve written, I have deviated from where I thought the book was going because the characters insisted on a different path than the one I had planned. The characters are always right.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
I can honestly say none of my characters have ever been based on me. Nor do I ever plan to write a character based on myself. As far as basing characters on people I know, I don’t usually do so. Characters come to me and I see them as individuals, as fully rounded as the people I meet in person. I have two exceptions to this, one of which occurred in 7th Grade Revolution. I mentioned the book being inspired by an actual classroom experience. The teacher who developed the teaching module gave me some invaluable assistance by providing some of the background information and as a way of honoring her, I made her a character in the book—with her permission. But even that was more of a “in name only” because I really didn’t know anything about her as a person, only that I wished I could have had her as a teacher when I was in 7th Grade.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I’m not sure you could class anything with my writing as a routine. I used to write by starting at the beginning and writing until I reached the end, so everything was written in book chronological order. But I have since learned that honoring the scenes I’m being given by the characters when they are presenting them works better. So sometimes I do write out of sequence, though most is still chronological.

The only drafting idiosyncrasy I have is that I listen to music while writing, but the POV (Point of View) character picks the playlist. If they pick the list instead of me, the writing goes MUCH more smoothly.

Editing idiosyncrasies abound. To share one, I do a round (or two) of editing that I call confetti vomit because I highlight the manuscript based on keywords needing to be dealt with, like that, just, was, could, it, and sense words (see, feel, taste, smell, hear)—anything I use on an over repetitive basis which can be made stronger. I highlight the document with different colors for each type so I am able to see each instance. Authors become blind, especially to their own foibles, so I force myself to look at them. When all the colors have been added, it looks like someone threw up confetti all over the manuscript.

Tell us why we should read this book.
It’s inspired by true events that made me want to go back to 7th Grade just so I could participate. And honestly, I never thought anything would make me want to go back in time for school. And the novel is part adventure and part history, so not only educational, but most importantly, it’s fun to read.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have eclectic tastes, so it would take me a really long time to list them all, so I’ll pick a few. As a kid, I devoured Louisa May Alcott, Carolyn Keene, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Beverly Cleary, Louise Fitzhugh, E. L. Konigsburg, and Agatha Christie. One of my favorite Gothic novels was by Barbara Michaels, and later I fell in love with Elizabeth Peters work and was delighted to find out they were one in the same. JK Rowling, PD James, Dick Francis, Rita Mae Brown, Dr. Suess, and Dean Koontz.

What are you reading now?
Much of my reading these days is on books which have not been released as yet. Current book is The Royal Order of Fighting Dragons by Dan Elish which will be out Spring/Summer 2018. A fun, action-filled Middle Grade.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I am currently alternating between two projects, something I normally don’t do, but I have producers waiting for both books, so need to get them done.

The first is the third book in the Guardian Angel Animal series (Children’s Chapter Books) called Luna and the Sloth in Shining Armor. The Guardian Angel Animal Series is a forthcoming illustrated chapter-book series that introduces rare and endangered animal “angels” into the lives of children who are experiencing emotional or physical challenges. The issue faced by Luna is autism and her hero is Sergio, a pygmy three-toed sloth.

The other book is the first book in the Homeless Myths Series called The Star Warriors and the Secret of the Red Key. Five homeless kids struggle to survive the streets of Los Angeles and unwittingly wind up as key players in a life and death struggle to give humanity a second chance.

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

Believe it or not, this is a hard question for me. When I wrote the book in 2012, I did have a few kids in mind as far as casting goes, but as twelve is a very specific age, those kids I would have cast are now too old for the parts and I haven’t recast it recently and I have been so busy, I’m out of the loop with the latest crew of child actors. But there is Hollywood interest in the property, so that question may come up sooner than I expected.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Singing. Karaoke will do, but there is nothing better than getting on stage with a live band and belting one out.

Favorite meal?
Wow. The fun questions are the hardest. 🙂 Most of the things I really enjoy, I cannot have anymore, so while these aren’t a meal the things I enjoy eating the most are watermelon, Rainier cherries, and dark chocolate.

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

Read an excerpt:

A ghostly moaning carried to them across the water, along with clanking chains.

Selena smacked Spencer’s shoulder. “Knock it off. This isn’t time for any of your stupid pranks.”

Spencer shook his head. “It’s not me. I swear.”

Dennis believed him because he wouldn’t have had time to set up something so elaborate and he’d lost his cocky attitude.

Selena raised her finger and stuck it in Spencer’s face, but before she had a chance to say a word, more chains rattled followed by even louder moans.

Brooke squealed and scuttled backward until she hit the wall surrounding the grotto, hard. Stones cascaded down as the wall behind her crumbled from the impact. She held her head where she’d banged it.

Brooke sagged against the wall causing it to disintegrate a bit more. A bony hand flopped out onto her shoulder. She screamed.

“Get it off me. Get it off.” She bounced on the balls of her feet.

Spencer ran to Brooke and lifted the skeleton hand, but it was caught in Brooke’s hair. “Stand still for a minute so I can get it untangled.”

Dennis joined Spencer and helped pull the strands of hair from the joints. Behind Brooke’s head, a skull was partially visible. How long had the poor guy been walled up in the cavern lake? Well, he didn’t know guy or girl, but one thing was sure—this wasn’t some prank.

***

Excerpt from 7th Grade Revolution by Liana Gardner. Copyright © 2017 by Liana Gardner. Reproduced with permission from Liana Gardner. All rights reserved.

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Oct 192017
 

Bones To Pick

by Linda Lovely

on Tour October 16 – December 16, 2017

Synopsis:

Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely

Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn’t among vegan chef Brie Hooker’s list of lifetime ambitions. But she can’t walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.

Once she calls her aunt’s goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses. The troubles begin when the farm’s pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva’s husband, who disappeared years back. The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva. He doesn’t reckon on Brie’s resolve to prove her aunt’s innocence. Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won’t stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

Book Details:

Genre: Humorous Cozy Mystery
Published by: Henery Press
Publication Date: Oct. 24, 2017
Number of Pages: 266
ISBN: 9781635112597
Series: Brie Hooker Mystery, #1
Get Your Copy of Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely at: Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads

Author Bio:

Linda Lovely

Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Her newest series offers good-natured salutes to both her vegan family doctor and her cheese-addicted kin. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.

Catch Up With Linda Lovely On:
Website 🔗, Goodreads 🔗, Twitter 🔗, & Facebook 🔗!

INTERVIEW

Welcome!
Writing and Reading:

Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both. I was a journalism major in college, and I’ve always written for a living, mostly nonfiction—well, except for ad copy. However, my work brought me into contact with people from different walks of life. For example, I produced a newsletter for an international private investigative firm and wrote speeches for one of the company’s bank fraud specialists. Working with this client gave me the opportunity to do in-depth interviews with experts in forensic accounting, real estate scams, corporate espionage, corruption, counterfeit products, and international bribery and blackmail schemes. What terrific background material for writing crime fiction. Over the years, I’ve also met a number of people who in my opinion never got their just desserts. I’ve stolen elements of their personalities to create villains and then make sure justice is served. Since I know the individuals who inspired my villains, it’s quite satisfying to pen their demise.

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 begin a novel, I know the main characters—though I learn more about them as I write. Yes, characters do talk to authors (at least this one). They let me know when I’ve screwed up. I also begin with a core criminal activity—perhaps real estate fraud or counterfeiting. In the back of my mind, I know I also want to weave in relationship themes to give my characters more depth. For instance, lovers may need to learn to trust each other. Over-protective parents may need to let their children make mistakes. At the start, these are just general ideas. I’m a “pantser” not an outliner. I start at the beginning and write to the end. I don’t jump around, but I may backtrack to revise subplots and change or eliminate characters if the story isn’t working.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
All of my characters are fictional but I often take personality traits and quirks from people I know (or have known in the past). That’s an advantage of being older. You’ve met just about every type of character. But usually my fictional characters are a blend—A’s arrogance coupled with B’s sarcasm. I always, always change names, backgrounds, appearance, and sometimes even the genders of characters so no one will ever guess the people who inspired them.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
Because I’ve made my living as a writer, I simply put my fanny in a chair and write. I don’t suffer from writer’s block. If I just start writing a scene that’s giving me trouble I’m fine. If I put something (even crapola) down on paper, I can revise it. If I stare at a blank page, nothing good is going to happen. Once I start writing, ideas come. Though I must add that I often get my best ideas while taking a shower. Can’t explain it. Maybe I should take multiple showers every day.

Tell us why we should read this book.
I hope readers will like the characters. All of my novels feature strong, smart women heroines. In Bones To Pick, the main character, Brie, is independent, but she is also very close to her mother and father and her Aunt Eva. In this series, the Hooker family members may have differences of opinion but they love and respect one another. Mollye, Brie’s best friend since childhood, adds sparkle and zest, and gives Brie an adventure sidekick and a confidant. Then there are the two men vying for Brie’s affections. If I were Brie, I’d have a hard time choosing between them. I work hard to achieve a balance between humor and thrills. I want readers to chuckle but also find their hearts hammering in tense action scenes.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I love Susan Isaacs’ novels that blend humor and mystery. My favorite Isaacs book is After All These Years. I find the main character’s descriptions of her thought processes really funny because I can see myself making similar dumb mistakes. I love Michael Connelly because his books have great pacing but his Harry Bosch character also grows in his series. I’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s situational humor, too. On the cozy mystery side, I have to give a shout out to Cindy Sample, a long-time author friend, and to Wendy Tyson and Annette Dashofy, two of my fellow Henery Press authors. Fun reads from all three.

What are you reading now?
I just finished a nonfiction book, April, 1865: The Month That Saved America by Jan Winick. It was this month’s selection by my book club. I have to admit I’d never have picked up this nonfiction if I weren’t in a book club. But I learned so much I didn’t know before about the Civil War. I especially liked the insights into the personalities of the generals and politicians on both sides. Book club selections force me to read outside my usual “happy” zone of mysteries, thrillers, and romantic suspense.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I just sent my editor at Henery Press the manuscript for the second Brie Hooker Mystery. The core Bones To Pick “family” remains—Brie, her parents, Aunt Eva, Mollye, and Brie’s would-be love interests, Paint and Andy. But there are also new cast members. Eva’s friend Carol is running for governor of South Carolina, and her son, Zack, a pro-football quarterback, is home to attend a fund-raising event at Udderly Kidding Dairy. But, while Zack may be a hero to most people in his hometown, others wish he was dead. Ditto for his mother whose politics are anathema to some and threaten another group’s profits. Brie will have to figure out which of these enemies are willing to commit murder.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I have the hardest time casting Brie, in part because she’s shorter than most of the actress candidates. But, if Tom Cruise can play Jack Reacher, I guess Katherine Heigl or Kate Winslet could play Brie. I would love to have a younger Shirley MacLaine for Aunt Eva. Jude Law and Liam Hemsworth would be candidates for Brie’s love interests.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love to swim. I was once on a synchronized swim team and love being in the water. We live on a lake in Upstate South Carolina and it’s such a pleasure to walk down to the dock and jump in.

Read an excerpt:

ONE

Hello, I’m Brie, and I’m a vegan.

It sounds like I’m introducing myself at a Vegetarians Anonymous meeting. But, trust me, there aren’t enough vegetarians in Ardon County, South Carolina, to make a circle much less hold a meeting.

Give yourself ten points if you already know vegans are even pickier than vegetarians. We forgo meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. But we’re big on cashews, walnuts, and almonds. All nuts are good nuts. Appropriate with my family.

Family. That’s why I put my career as a vegan chef on hold to live and work in Ardon, a strong contender for the South’s carnivore-and- grease capital. My current job? I help tend four hundred goats, make verboten cheese, and gather eggs I’ll never poach. Most mornings when Aunt Eva rousts me before the roosters, I roll my eyes and mutter.

Still, I can’t complain. I had a choice. Sort of. Blame it on the pig—Tammy the Pig—for sticking her snout in our family business.

I’d consorted with vegans and vegetarians for too long. I seriously underestimated how much cholesterol meat eaters could snarf down at a good old-fashioned wake. Actually, I wasn’t sure this wake was “old fashioned,” but it was exactly how Aunt Lilly would have planned her own send-off—if she’d had the chance. Ten days ago, the feisty sixty- two-year-old had a toddler’s curiosity and a twenty-year-old’s appetite for adventure. Her death was a total shock.

I glanced at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph hanging behind the picnic buffet. She’d penned it years back. Her twin, Aunt Eva, found it in Lilly’s desk and reprinted it in eighty-point type.

“There once was a farmer named Lilly

Who never liked anything frilly,

She tended her goats,

Sowed a few wild oats,

And said grieving her death would be silly.”

In a nod to Lilly’s spirit, Aunt Eva planned today’s wake complete with fiddling, hooch, goo-gogs of goat cheese, and the whole panoply of Southern fixins—mounds of country ham, fried chicken, barbecue, and mac-and-cheese awash in butter. Every veggie dish came dressed with bacon crumbles, drippings, or cream of mushroom soup.

Not a morsel fit for a vegan. Eva’s revenge. I’d made the mistake of saying I didn’t want to lose her, too, and hinted she’d live longer if she cut back on cholesterol. Not my smartest move. The name of her farm? Udderly Kidding Dairy. Cheese and eggs had been Eva’s meal ticket for decades.

My innocent observation launched a war. Whenever I opened the refrigerator, I’d find a new message. This morning a Post-it on my dish of blueberries advised: The choline in eggs may enhance brain development and memory—as a vegan you probably forgot.

Smoke from the barbeque pit permeated the air as I replenished another platter of shredded pork on the buffet. My mouth watered and I teetered on the verge of drooling. While I was a dedicated vegan, my olfactory senses were still programmed “Genus Carnivorous.” My stomach growled—loudly. Time to thwart its betrayal with the veggies and hummus dip I’d stashed in self-defense.

I’d just stuck a juicy carrot in my mouth when a large hand squeezed my shoulder.

“Brie, honey, you’ve been working nonstop,” Dad said. “Take a break. Mom’s on her way. We can play caterers. The food’s prepared. No risks associated with our cooking.”

I choked on my carrot and sputtered. “Good thing. Do you even remember the last time Mom turned on an oven?”

Dad smiled. “Can’t recall. Maybe when you were a baby? But, hey, we’re wizards at takeout and microwaves.”

His smile faltered. I caught him staring at Aunt Lilly’s epitaph. “Still can’t believe Lilly’s gone.” He attempted a smile. “Knowing her sense of humor, we’re lucky she didn’t open that epitaph with ‘There once was a lass from Nantucket.’”

I’d never seen Dad so sad. Lilly’s unexpected death stunned him to his core. He adored his older sisters.

Mom appeared at his side and wrapped an arm around his waist. She loved her sisters-in-law, too, though she complained my childless aunts spoiled me beyond repair.

Of course, Lilly’s passing hit Eva the hardest. A fresh boatload of tears threatened as I thought about the aunt left behind. I figured my tear reservoir had dried up after days of crying. Wrong. The tragedy—a texting teenager smashing head-on into Lilly’s car—provoked a week- long family weep-a-thon. It ended when Eva ordered us to cease and desist.

“This isn’t what Lilly would want,” she declared. “We’re gonna throw a wake. One big, honking party.”

Which explained the fifty-plus crowd of friends and neighbors milling about the farm, tapping their feet to fiddlin’, and consuming enough calories to sustain the populace of a small principality for a week.

I hugged Dad. “Thanks. I could use a break. I’ll find Eva. See how she’s doing.”

I spotted her near a flower garden filled with cheery jonquils. It looked like a spring painting. Unfortunately, the cold March wind that billowed Eva’s scarlet poncho argued the blooms were false advertising. The weatherman predicted the thermometer would struggle to reach the mid-forties today.

My aunt’s build was what I’d call sturdy, yet Eva seemed to sway in the gusty breeze as she chatted with Billy Jackson, the good ol’ boy farrier who shod her mule. Though my parents pretended otherwise, we all knew Billy slept under Eva’s crazy quilt at least two nights a week.

I nodded at the couple. Well, actually, the foursome. Brenda, the farm’s spoiled pet goat, and Kai, Udderly’s lead Border collie, were competing with Billy for my aunt’s attention.

“Mom and Dad are watching the buffet,” I said. “Thought I’d see if you need me to do anything. Are you expecting more folks?”

“No.” Eva reached down and tickled the tiny black goat’s shaggy head. “Imagine everyone who’s coming is here by now. They’ll start clearing out soon. Chow down and run. Can’t blame ’em. Especially the idiot women who thought they ought to wear dresses. That biting wind’s gotta be whistling up their drawers.”

Billy grinned as he looked Eva up and down. Her choice of wake attire—poncho, black pants, and work boots—surprised no one, and would have delighted Lilly.

“Do you even own a dress?” Billy laughed. “You’re one to talk.” Eva gave his baggy plaid suit and clip-on bowtie the stink eye. “I suppose you claim that gristle on your chin is needed to steady your fiddle.”

He kissed Eva’s cheek. “Yep, that’s it. Time to rejoin my fellow fiddlers, but first I have a hankering to take a turn at the Magic Moonshine tent.”

“You do that. Maybe the ’shine will improve your playing. It’ll definitely make you sound better to your listening audience. After enough of that corn liquor even my singing could win applause.”

A dark-haired stranger usurped Billy’s place, bending low to plant a kiss on the white curls that sprang from my aunt’s head like wood shavings. Wow.

They stacked handsome tall when they built him. Had to be at least six-four.

Even minus an introduction, I figured this tall glass of sweet tea had to be Paint, the legendary owner of Magic Moonshine. Sunlight glinted off hair the blue-black of expensive velvet. Deep dimples. Rakish smile.

I’d spent days sobbing, and my libido apparently was saying “enough”—time to rejoin the living. If this bad boy were any more alive, he’d be required to wear a “Danger High Voltage” sign. Of course, Aunt Lilly wouldn’t mind. She’d probably rent us a room.

I ventured a glance and found him smiling at me. My boots were suddenly fascinating. Never stare at shiny objects with the potential to hypnotize. I refused to fall under another playboy’s spell.

“How’s my best gal?” he asked, hugging Eva. “Best for this minute, right?” my aunt challenged. “I bet my niece will be your best gal before I finish the introductions.” Eva put a hand on my shoulder. “Paint, this young whippersnapper is Brie Hooker, my favorite niece. ’Course, she’s my only niece. Brie, it’s with great trepidation that I introduce you to David Paynter, better known as Paint, unrepentant moonshiner and heartbreaker.”

Eva subjected Paint to her pretend badass stare, a sure sign he was one of her favorite sparring partners. “Don’t you go messing with Brie, or I’ll bury you down yonder with Mark, once I nail his hide.”

Paint laughed, a deep, rumbling chuckle. He turned toward me and bowed like Rhett Butler reincarnated.

“Pleased to meet you, Brie. That puzzled look tells me you haven’t met Mark, the wily coyote that harasses Eva’s goats. She’s wasted at least six boxes of buckshot trying to scare him off. Me? I’ll gladly risk her shotgun to make your acquaintance. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Eva gave Paint a shove. “Well, if that’s the case, go on. Give Brie a shot of your peach moonshine. It’s pretty good.”

“Peach moonshine it is,” he said and took my arm. A second later, he tightened his grip and pulled me to the right. “Better watch your step. You almost messed up those pretty boots.”

He pointed at a fresh pile of fragrant poop, steaming in the brisk air inches from my suede boots. “Thanks,” I mumbled. Still holding my arm, he steered me over uneven ground to a clear path. “Eva says you’re staying with her. Hope you don’t have to leave for a while. Your aunt’s a fine lady, and it’s going to be mighty hard on her once this flock of well-wishers flies off.”

His baritone sent vibrations rippling through my body. My brain ordered me to ignore the tingling that remained in places it didn’t belong.

He smiled. “Eva and Lilly spoke about you so often I feel like we’re already friends. ’Course head-shaking accompanied some of their comments. They said you’d need to serve plenty of my moonshine if you ever opened a vegan B&B in Ardon County. Here abouts it’s considered unpatriotic to serve eats that haven’t been baptized in a vat of lard. Vegetables are optional; meat, mandatory.”

Uh, oh. I always gave relatives and friends a free pass on good- natured kidding. But a stranger? This man was poking fun at my profession, yet my hackles—smoothed by the hunk’s lopsided grin— managed only a faint bristle.

Back away. Pronto.

Discovering my ex-fiancé, Jack, was boffing not one, but two co-workers the entire two years we were engaged made me highly allergic to lady-killers. Paint was most definitely a member of that tribe.

“What can I say? I’m a rebel,” I replied. “It’s my life’s ambition to convince finger-lickin’, fried-chicken lovers that life without meat, butter, eggs, and cheese does not involve a descent into the nine circles of hell.”

Paint released me, then raised his hand to brush a wayward curl from my forehead. His flirting seemed to be congenital.

“If you’re as feisty as your aunt claims, why don’t you take me on as a challenge? I do eat tomatoes—fried green ones, anyway—and I’m open to sampling other members of the vegetable kingdom. So long as they don’t get between me and my meat. Anyway, welcome to the Carolina foothills. Time to pour some white lightning. It’s smoother than you might expect.”

And so are you. Too smooth for me.

That’s when we heard the screams.

TWO

Paint zoomed off like a Clemson running back, hurtling toward the screams—human, not goat. I managed to stay within a few yards of him, slipping and sliding as my suede boots unwittingly smooshed a doggie deposit. Udderly’s guardian dogs, five Great Pyrenees, were large enough to saddle, and their poop piles rivaled cow paddies.

I reached the barn, panting, with a stitch in my right side. I stopped to catch my breath. Hallelujah. I braced my palm against the weathered barn siding.

Ouch. Harpooned by a jagged splinter. Blood oozed from the sensitive pad below my right thumb. I stared at the inch-plus spear. Paint had kept running. He was no longer in sight.

The screams stopped. An accident? A heart attack? I hustled around the corner of the barn. A little girl sobbed in the cleared area behind Udderly’s retail sales cabin. I recognized Jenny, a rambunctious five-year-old from a nearby farm. Her mother knelt beside her, stroking her hair.

No child had produced the operatic screams we’d heard. Maybe Jenny’s mother was the screamer. But the farm wife didn’t seem the hysterical type. On prior visits to Udderly, I’d stopped at the roadside stand where she sold her family’s produce. Right now the woman’s face looked redder than one of her Early Girl tomatoes. Was the flush brought on by some danger—a goat butting her daughter, a snake slithering near the little girl?

I walked closer. Then I saw it. A skull poked through the red clay. Soil had tinted the bone an absurd pink.

I gasped. The sizeable cranium looked human. I spotted the grave digger, or should I say re-digger. Udderly’s newest addition, a Vietnamese potbellied pig named Tammy, hunkered in a nearby puddle. Tiny cloven hoof marks led to and from the excavation. Tell-tale red mud dappled her dainty twitching snout. The pig’s hundred-pound body quivered as her porcine gaze roved the audience she’d attracted.

A man squatted beside Tammy, speaking to the swine in soothing, almost musical tones. Pigs were dang smart and sensitive. Aunt Eva told me it was easy to hurt their feelings. The fellow stroking Tammy’s grimy head must’ve been convinced she was one sensitive swine.

“It’s okay,” he repeated. “The lady wasn’t screaming at you, Tammy.”

Tammy snorted, lowered her head, and squeezed her eyes shut. The pig-whisperer gave the swine a final scratch and stood, freeing gangly limbs from his pretzel-like crouch. Mud caked the cuffs and knees of his khaki pants. Didn’t seem to bother him one iota.

The mother shepherded her little girl away from the disturbing scene, and Paint knelt to examine the skeletal remains. “Looks like piggy uncovered more than she bargained for.” He glanced at Muddy Cuffs. “Andy, you’re a vet. Animal or human?”

“Human.” Andy didn’t hesitate. “But all that’s left is bone. Had to have been buried a good while. Yet Tammy’s rooting scratched only inches below the surface. If a settler dug this grave, it was mighty shallow.”

“Probably didn’t start that way.” I pointed to a depression that began uphill near the retail cabin. “This wash has deepened a lot since my aunts built their store and the excavation diverted water away from the cabin. The runoff’s been nibbling away at the ground.”

Mom, Dad, and Aunt Eva joined the group eyeballing the skull. Eva looked peaked, almost ill. I felt a slight panic at the shift in her normally jolly appearance. I thought of my aunts as forces of nature. Unflappable. Indestructible. I’d lost one, and the other suddenly looked fragile. Finding a corpse on her property the same day she bid her twin goodbye had hit her hard.

Dad cocked his head. “Could be a Cherokee burial site. Or maybe a previous farmer buried a loved one and the grave marker got lost. Homestead burials have always been legal in South Carolina. Still are.”

For once, the idea of finding a corpse in an unexpected location didn’t prompt a gleeful chuckle from my dad, Dr. Howard Hooker. Though he was a professor of horticulture at Clemson University by day, he was an aspiring murder mystery author by night. Every time we went for a car ride, Dad made a game of searching the landscape for spots “just perfect” for disposing of bodies. So far, a dense patch of kudzu in a deep ravine topped his picks. “Kudzu grows so fast any flesh peeking through would disappear in a day.”

Good thing Dad confined his commentary to family outings. We knew the corpses in question weren’t real.

Mom whipped out her smartphone. “I’ll call Judge Glenn. It’s Sunday, but he always answers his cell. He’ll know who to call. I’m assuming the Ardon County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dad nodded. “Probably, but I bet SLED—the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division—will take over. The locals don’t have forensic specialists.”

Mom rolled her eyes. “You spend way too much time with your Sisters in Crime.”

It amused Mom that Dad’s enthusiasm for his literary genre earned him the presidency of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Mom didn’t fool with fictional crime. Too busy with the real thing. As the City of Clemson’s attorney, she kept a bevy of lawyers, judges, and city and university cops on speed dial. However, Udderly Kidding wasn’t in the same county as Clemson so it sat outside her domain.

“Judge Glenn, this is Iris Hooker. I’m at the Udderly Kidding Dairy in Ardon. An animal here unearthed a skull. We think it’s human, but not recent. Should we call the sheriff?”

Mom nodded and made occasional I-get-it noises while she clamped the cell to her ear.

“Could you ask them to keep their arrival quiet? Better yet, could they wait until after four? About fifty folks are here for my sister-in- law’s wake. I don’t want to turn her farewell into a circus.”

A minute later, Mom murmured her thanks and pocketed her cell. “The judge agrees an old skull doesn’t warrant sirens or flashing lights. He’ll ask the Ardon County Sheriff, Robbie Jones, to come by after four. Since I’m an officer of the court, his honor just requested that I keep people and animals clear of the area until the sheriff arrives.”

Andy stood. “Paint, help me bring some hay bales from the barn. We can stack them to cordon off the area.”

“Good idea.” Paint stood, and the two men strode off. No needless chitchat. They appeared to be best buds.

I tugged Dad’s sleeve, nodded toward his sister, and whispered, “I think Aunt Eva should sit down. Let’s get her to one of the front porch rockers.”

Dad walked over and draped an arm around his sister’s shoulders. “Eva, let’s sit a while so folks can find you to pay their respects. This skeleton is old news. Not our worry.”

Eva’s lips trembled. “No, Brother. I feel it in my own bones. It’s that son-of-a-bitch Jed Watson come back to haunt me.”

THREE

Jed Watson? The man Eva married in college? The man who vanished a few years later?

Dad’s eyebrows shot up. “Eva, that’s nonsense. That dirtbag ran off forty years back. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

Eva straightened. “Some crime novelist you are. You know darn well any skeleton unearthed on my property would have something to do with that nasty worm. Nobody wished that sorry excuse for a man dead more than me.”

“Calm down. Don’t spout off and give the sheriff some harebrained notion that pile of bones is Jed,” Dad said. “No profit in fueling gossip or dredging up ancient history. Authorities may have ruled Jed dead, but I always figured that no-good varmint was still alive five states over, most likely beating the stuffing out of some other poor woman.”

Wow. I knew Eva took her maiden name back after they declared her husband dead, but I’d never heard a speck of the unsavory backstory. Dad liked to tell family tales, including ones about long- dead scoundrels. Guess this history wasn’t ancient enough.

Curiosity made me eager to ask a whole passel of none-of-my- business questions, though I felt some justification about poking my nose here. I’d known Eva my entire life. So how come this was the first I’d heard of a mystery surrounding Jed’s disappearance? Was Dad truly worried the sheriff might suspect Eva?

I was dying to play twenty questions. Too bad it wasn’t the time or place.

I smiled at my aunt. “Why don’t I get some of Paint’s brew to settle our nerves? Eva, you like that apple pie flavor, right?”

“Yes, thanks, dear.”

“Good idea, Brie,” Dad added. “I’ll take a toot of Paint’s blackberry hooch. Eva’s not the only one who could use a belt. We’ll greet folks from those rockers. Better than standing like mannequins in a receiving line. And there’s a lot less risk of falling down if we get a little tipsy.”

Aunt Eva ignored Dad’s jest. She looked haunted, lost in memory. A very bad memory.

I hurried to the small tent where Magic Moonshine dispensed free libations. A buxom young lass smiled as she poured shine into miniature Mason jars lined up behind four flavor signs: Apple Pie, Blackberry, Peach, and White Lightnin’.

“What can I do you for, honey?” the busty server purred. I’m still an Iowa girl at heart, but, like my transplanted aunts and parents, I’ve learned not to take offense when strangers of both sexes and all ages call me honey, darlin’, and sweetie. My high school social studies teacher urged us to appreciate foreign customs and cultures. I may not be in Rome, but I’m definitely in Ardon County.

I smiled at Miss Sugarmouth. The top four buttons of her blouse were undone. The way her bosoms oozed over the top, I seriously doubted those buttons had ever met their respective buttonholes. No mystery why Paint hired her. Couldn’t blame him or her. Today’s male mourners would enjoy a dash of cleavage with their shine, and she’d rake in lots more tips.

“Sweetie, do you have a tray I can use to take drinks to the folks on the porch?”

The devil still made me add the “sweetie” when I addressed Miss Sugarmouth. She didn’t bat an eyelash. Probably too weighed down with mascara.

“Sure thing, honey.” I winced when the tray slid over the wood sliver firmly embedded in my palm. Suck it up. No time for minor surgery.

As I walked toward Eva’s cabin, crunching noises advertised some late arrivals ambling down the gravel road. On the porch, Dad and Eva had settled into a rhythm, shaking hands with friends and neighbors and accepting sympathy pats. Hard to hug someone in a rocker.

I handed miniature glass jars to Eva and Dad before offering drinks to the folks who’d already run the gauntlet of the sit-down receiving line. Then I tiptoed behind Dad’s rocker.

“I’ll see if Mom wants anything and check back later to see how you and Eva are doing.”

“Thanks, honey.” He kissed my cheek. I returned to Paint’s moonshine stand and picked up a second drink tray, gingerly hoisting it to avoid bumping my skewered palm. Balancing the drinks, I picked my way across the rutted ground to what I worried might be a crime scene.

Mom perched between Paint and Andy atop the double row of hay bales stacked to keep the grisly discovery out of sight. The five-foot-two height on Mom’s driver’s license was a stretch. At five-four, I had her by at least three, maybe four, inches. My mother’s build was tiny as well as short—a flat-chested size two. I couldn’t recall ever being able to squeeze into her doll-size clothes. My build came courtesy of the females on Dad’s side of the family. Compact but curvy. No possibility of going braless in polite society.

Mom’s delicate appearance often confounded the troublemakers she prosecuted for the city. Too often the accused took one look at Iris Hooker and figured they’d hire some hulking male lawyer to walk all over the little lady in court.

Big mistake. The bullies often reaped unexpected rewards—a costly mélange of jail time, fines, and community service.

Mom spotted my tray-wobbling approach. “Are these Paint’s concoctions?”

I nodded. “Well, Daughter, sip nice and slow. Someday I may file charges against Magic Moonshine. Paint’s shine is often an accomplice when Clemson tailgaters pull stunts that land them in front of a judge.”

Paint lifted his glass in a salute. “Can I help it if all our flavors go down easy?”

Mom turned back to me. “Have you met these, ahem, gentlemen?”

I suddenly felt shy as my gaze flicked between the two males. “I met Paint earlier. This is my first chance to say hi to Andy. I’m Brie Hooker. You must be the veterinarian Aunt Eva’s always talking about.”

Andy rose to his feet. “Andy Green. Pleased to meet you, ma’am. Your aunts were my very first customers when I opened my practice.”

He waved a hand at Tammy, the now demure pig, wallowing a goodly distance away. “I’m really sorry Tammy picked today to root up these bones. I feel partly to blame. Talked your aunts into adopting Miss Piggy. It aggravates me how folks can’t resist buying potbellied pigs as pets when they’re adorable babies, but have no qualms about abandoning them once they start to grow.”

Andy’s outstretched hand awaited my handshake. I held up my palm to display my injury. “Gotta take a rain check on a handshake. Unfortunately, I already shook hands with the barn.”

Andy gently turned up my palm. “I’ll fix you right up, if you don’t mind a vet doing surgery. Give me a minute to wash up and meet me at my truck. Can’t miss it. A double-cab GMC that kinda looks like aliens crash landed an aluminum spaceship in the truck bed. I’m parked by the milking barn.”

As Andy loped off toward the retail shop’s comfort station, Paint called after him. “Sneaky way to hold hands with a pretty lady.”

Andy glanced over his shoulder and grinned. “You’re just mad you didn’t think of it first.”

Paint chuckled and focused his hundred-watt grin on me. “Bet my white lightning could disinfect that sliver. Sure you don’t want me to do the honors?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Somehow I doubt honor has anything to do with it.”

The moonshiner faked an injured look. Mom rolled her eyes. “Heaven help me—and you, Brie. Not sure you’re safe with the wildlife that frequents this farm. Forget those coyotes that worry Eva, I’m talking wolves.” She looked toward the porch. “How’s Eva holding up?”

“Better.” I wanted to grill Mom about Jed Watson, but I needed to do so in private. “Guess I should steel myself for surgery.” I took a Mason jar from the tray I’d set on a hay bale. “Down the hatch.” My healthy swallow blazed a burning trail from throat to belly. Before I could stop myself, I sputtered.

“Shut your mouth,” Paint said. Yowzer. My eyes watered, and my throat spasmed. I coughed. “What?”

“Shut your mouth. Oxygen fuels the burn. You need to take a swallow then close your mouth. None of this sipping stuff.”

“Now you tell me.” I choked. Mom laughed. “That’s the best strategy I’ve heard yet to shut Brie up.”

I wiped at the tears running down my cheeks. “Your moonshine packs more punch than my five-alarm Thai stir fry.”

Paint’s eyebrows rose. “My shine is smooth, once you get used to it. You want a little fire in your gut. Keeps life interesting.”

A little too interesting. I’d been at Udderly Kidding Dairy just over a week, and I already felt like a spinning top with a dangerous wobble.

***

Excerpt from Bones To Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2017 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.

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Oct 122017
 

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3 by Bella Andre Tour Banner

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3
by Bella Andre
on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2017

The Sullivans Boxed Set Books 1-3 by Bella Andre

More than 6 million readers have already fallen in love with the Sullivans! Now get ready to meet your new favorite family in Bella Andre’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling contemporary romances with the first three books in the #1 hit series.

“Not since Nora Roberts has anyone been able to write a big family romance series with every book as good as the last! Bella Andre never disappoints!” ~ Revolving Bookcase Reviews

THE LOOK OF LOVE

Chloe Peterson is having a bad night. A really bad night. The large bruise on her cheek can attest to that. And when her car skids off the side of a wet country road straight into a ditch, she’s convinced even the gorgeous guy who rescues her in the middle of the rain storm must be too good to be true. Or is he?

As a successful photographer who frequently travels around the world, Chase Sullivan has his pick of beautiful women, and whenever he’s home in San Francisco, one of his seven siblings is usually up for causing a little fun trouble. Chase thinks his life is great just as it is–until the night he finds Chloe and her totaled car on the side of the road in Napa Valley. Not only has he never met anyone so lovely, both inside and out, but he quickly realizes she has much bigger problems than her damaged car. Soon, he is willing to move mountains to love–and protect–her, but will she let him?

FROM THIS MOMENT ON

For thirty-six years, Marcus Sullivan has been the responsible older brother, stepping in to take care of his seven siblings after their father died when they were children. But when the perfectly ordered future he’s planned for himself turns out to be nothing but a lie, Marcus needs one reckless night to shake free from it all.

Nicola Harding is known throughout the world by only one name – Nico – for her catchy, sensual pop songs. Only, what no one knows about the twenty-five year old singer is that her sex-kitten image is totally false. After a terrible betrayal by a man who loved fame far more than he ever loved her, she vows not to let anyone else get close enough to find out who she really is…or hurt her again. Especially not the gorgeous stranger she meets at a nightclub, even though the hunger – and the sinful promises – in his dark eyes make her want to spill all her secrets.

CAN’T HELP FALLING IN LOVE

Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.

**Read my Review and enter the Giveaway HERE**

Author Bio:

Bella Andre

Bella Andre is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of “The Sullivans”, “The Maverick Billionaires”, “The Morrisons”, and the NYT bestselling “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” sweet romance series written as Lucy Kevin.

Q&A with Bella Andre**

Welcome to CMash Reads
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?

Inspiration is everywhere! My friends, my family, my pets, and—of course—my readers all inspire me on a daily basis. <3

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
Each book is different! Sometimes it starts with character, sometimes it starts with story. I work so hard on my stories to make sure they’re emotional and fun and sexy and that they take my readers out of their lives for a little while. I don’t wait for inspiration or a muse to come calling. Fortunately, my favorite thing is writing. In fact, today as I was sniffling over my keyboard during a really emotional scene between my hero and heroine, I was thinking how very happy it made me to be able to write books all day…and to know that I have the best fans in the world waiting to read them!

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I can write anywhere, anytime. I’m a big believer in revising my books until they’re the best they can possibly be, which means that I can sometimes spend as much time rewriting as I do getting the first draft down. It helps to know that there truly are no wasted words.

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
It is! When I first got started, I was simply excited about the chance to write and release the books that my loyal readers had been asking for. I honestly had no idea that everything would go as stupendously well as it did, allowing me to become a full-time author! It’s been a thrilling journey every step of the way, and I absolutely adore meeting so many new readers and fans every single day.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m currently heading toward “The End” on You Do Something To Me, which will be the third book in my New York Sullivans series! Alec Sullivan has become something of a reader favorite (he’s certainly one of my favorite Sullivan heroes) and I can’t wait for everyone to read his book. He’s so romantic!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many wonderful authors out there, it’s hard to name just a few! Some of my all-time favorites include Barbara Freethy, Tina Folsom, Christie Ridgway, and Jami Alden. They write such sexy, memorable characters, and their books just keep me turning the pages!

What are you reading now?
I’ve been re-reading my favorite Tasmina Perry books this summer. She’s a fantastic UK author and also a wonderful friend!

Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
I would love to see the Sullivans on the big screen! My street team often has casting parties to pick the actors and actresses they think would do the best job portraying the Sullivans. At present, they’ve decided that Chase Sullivan from THE LOOK OF LOVE should be played by Matt Bomer and Marcus Sullivan in FROM THIS MOMENT ON by Joe Manganiello. What do you think? Hopefully we will be able to get the Sullivans made into a movie or TV show soon! And, I do have some exciting news that my Lucy Kevin “Four Weddings and a Fiasco” series has lots of TV/Film interest right now too! I’ll have more news hopefully about that soon!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
I love taking walks with my husband around the vineyards that surround our neighborhood and holding his hand the whole time. We do this every single day and people in our town have even taken to calling us the “Happy Hiking Couple”. We’re a bit famous for this innocent loving gesture, and I love that!

Favorite meal?
I’ve been really into chick peas this summer! And cashews too. 🙂

Sign up for Bella’s newsletter at www.BellaAndre.com/Newsletter
Visit Bella’s website at www.BellaAndre.com
Follow Bella on twitter at www.twitter.com/bellaandre
Join Bella on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bellaandrefans

Having sold more than 6 million books, Bella Andre’s novels have been #1 bestsellers around the world and have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists 32 times. She has been the #1 Ranked Author at Amazon (on a top 10 list that included Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, James Patterson and Steven King), and Publishers Weekly named Oak Press (the publishing company she created to publish her own books) the Fastest-Growing Independent Publisher in the US. After signing a groundbreaking 7-figure print-only deal with Harlequin MIRA, Bella’s “The Sullivans” series is being released in paperback in the US, Canada, and Australia.

Known for “sensual, empowered stories enveloped in heady romance” (Publishers Weekly), her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine “Red Hot Reads” twice and have been translated into ten languages. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post called her “One of the top writers in America” and she has been featured by Entertainment Weekly, NPR, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine. A graduate of Stanford University, she has given keynote speeches at publishing conferences from Copenhagen to Berlin to San Francisco, including a standing-room-only keynote at Book Expo America in New York City.

If not behind her computer, you can find her reading her favorite authors, hiking, swimming or laughing. Married with two children, Bella splits her time between the Northern California wine country and a 100-year-old log cabin in the Adirondacks.

Read an excerpt:

THE LOOK OF LOVE

Chase almost missed the flickering light off on the right side of the two-lane country road. In the past thirty minutes, he hadn’t passed a single car, because on a night like this, most sane Californians—who didn’t know the first thing about driving safely in inclement weather—stayed home.

Knowing better than to slam on the brakes—he wouldn’t be able to help whomever was stranded on the side of the road if he ended up stuck in the muddy ditch right next to them—Chase slowed down enough to see that there was definitely a vehicle stuck in the ditch.

He turned his brights on to see better in the pouring rain and realized there was a person walking along the edge of the road about a hundred yards up ahead. Obviously hearing his car approach, she turned to face him and he could see her long wet hair whipping around her shoulders in his headlights.

Wondering why she wasn’t just sitting in her car, dry and warm, calling Triple A and waiting for them to come save her, he pulled over to the edge of his lane and got out to try and help her. She was shivering as she watched him approach.

“Are you hurt?”

She covered her cheek with one hand, but shook her head. “No.”

He had to move closer to hear her over the sound of the water hitting the pavement in what were rapidly becoming hailstones. Even though he’d turned his headlights off, as his eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, he was able to get a better look at her face.

Something inside of Chase’s chest clenched tight.

Despite the long, dark hair plastered to her head and chest, regardless of the fact that looking like a drowned rat wasn’t too far off the descriptive mark, her beauty stunned him.

In an instant, his photographer’s eye cataloged her features. Her mouth was a little too big, her eyes a little too wide-set on her face. She wasn’t even close to model thin, but given the way her T-shirt and jeans stuck to her skin, he could see that she wore her lush curves well. In the dark he couldn’t judge the exact color of her hair, but it looked like silk, perfectly smooth and straight where it lay over her breasts.

It wasn’t until Chase heard her say, “My car is definitely hurt, though,” that he realized he had completely lost the thread of what he’d come out here to do.

Knowing he’d been drinking her in like he was dying of thirst, he worked to recover his balance. He could already see he’d been right about her car. It didn’t take a mechanic like his brother, Zach, who owned an auto shop—more like forty, but Chase had stopped counting years ago—to see that her shitty hatchback was borderline totaled. Even if the front bumper wasn’t half smashed to pieces by the white farm fence she’d slid into, her bald tires weren’t going to get any traction on the mud. Not tonight, anyway.

If her car had been in a less precarious situation, he probably would have sent her to hang out in her car while he took care of getting it unstuck. But one of her back tires was hanging precariously over the edge of the ditch.

He jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Get in my car. We can wait there for a tow truck.” He was vaguely aware of his words coming out like an order, but the hail was starting to sting, damn it. Both of them needed to get out of the rain before they froze.

But the woman didn’t move. Instead, she gave him a look that said he was a complete and utter nut-job.

“I’m not getting into your car.”

Realizing just how frightening it must be for a lone woman to end up stuck and alone in the middle of a dark road, Chase took a step back from her. He had to speak loudly enough for her to hear him over the hail.

“I’m not going to attack you. I swear I won’t do anything to hurt you.”

She all but flinched at the word attack and Chase’s radar started buzzing. He’d never been a magnet for troubled women, wasn’t the kind of guy who thrived on fixing wounded birds. But living with two sisters for so many years meant he could always tell when something was up.

And something was definitely up with this woman, beyond the fact that her car was half-stuck in a muddy ditch.

Wanting to make her feel safe, he held his hands up. “I swear on my father’s grave, I’m not going to hurt you. It’s okay to get into my car.” When she didn’t immediately say no again, he pressed his advantage with, “I just want to help you.” And he did. More than it made sense to want to help a stranger. “Please,” he said. “Let me help you.”

She stared at him for a long moment, hail hammering between them, around them, onto them. Chase found himself holding his breath, waiting for her decision. It shouldn’t matter to him what she decided.

But, for some strange reason, it did.

**

Excerpt from THE LOOK OF LOVE by Bella Andre. Copyright © 2017 by Bella Andre. Reproduced with permission from Bella Andre. All rights reserved.

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