Aug 242017
 

Dark Harvest by Chris Patchell Tour Banner

Dark Harvest

by Chris Patchell

on Tour August 1-31, 2017

Synopsis:

Dark Harvest by Chris Patchell

Becky Kincaid ventures out in the middle of a snowstorm to buy a car seat for her unborn baby and never makes it home. When a second pregnant woman disappears, Marissa Rooney and the team at the Holt Foundation fear a sinister motive lurks behind the crimes.

Lead investigator, Seth Crawford, desperately searches for the thread that binds the two cases together, knowing that if he fails, another woman will soon be gone. While Seth hunts for clues, a madman has Marissa in his sights and she carries a secret that could tear her whole world apart.

Can Seth stop the killer before he reaps his dark harvest.

Read my review here

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense
Published by: Kindle Press
Publication Date: May 30th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1546428445
Series: A Holt Foundation Story, Book 2
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Kindle Unlimited 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Q&A with Chris Patchell

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

Absolutely! Writing creepy thrillers, there are always true crime stories that intrigue me and trigger a story ideas. Though it was years ago, I still remember hearing the news story about a pregnant woman who went missing on Christmas Eve. The photograph they showed of Laci Peterson was heartbreaking—eight months pregnant, the picture of health, Laci beamed into the camera. While I was researching my second book, In the Dark, I was talking with a seasoned police detective who told me something chilling that stuck with me years later. “As soon as I saw the news about Laci Peterson’s disappearance, I knew the husband did it,” he said. When I started mulling over story ideas, I knew Dark Harvest began with the disappearance of a young, pregnant woman. While the setup for the story was inspired by the true crime case, that’s where the similarities end. The actual unraveling of the case in my book arrives at a motive that will catch readers by surprise.

All authors put a little something of themselves into their work. When I was a kid, we lived way out in the country. On those long summer days, my brother and I would explore the fields behind our farmhouse that seemed endless. One day when we had wandered much farther than we had before, we discovered a house. It was in the middle of a field of long, swaying glass. Blackened with age, seeing it was like stumbling on a real-life mystery. Who built it? Where had they gone? Why had they abandoned the property? It was like one of those ghost towns where you walk through the fence and into other people’s lives. The image stayed with me and many years later, the memory surfaced while I was writing Dark Harvest.

We all see things, feel things, and writers find ways to channeling those experiences into their work, imbuing them with a sense of realism that draws readers in. I love it when I hear from a reader how a scene that I wrote impacted them. It’s the best feeling in the world!

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
OMG, it would be awesome to start with the conclusion and work my way backward, but most of the time, when I start working out a story idea, I’m not sure how it ends. My characters are very real to me and often have secrets they don’t reveal all at once. I like to think of it like a relationship—you don’t find everything out about a person in a few short days.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
All the heroes are based on me! HA! I wish. Some of the people I’ve known over the years have inspired characters in my books though it’s never a whole-sale transplant. When I wrote Deadly Lies, I set it in a company similar to where I worked. A parade of co-workers stopped by to tell me they had read my book and tried to guess the identity of the characters. “Is it…” They’d blurt out a name. Thank god, they always got it wrong. Dark Harvest features single mother, Marissa Rooney, who is struggling to help her daughter overcome her traumatic experiences while trying to keep the rest of her life from blowing up. Marissa bears some similarities to my mother—both were young when they had children, both underestimated themselves, and both had the kind of grit that allowed them to face and overcome their obstacles, sometimes in painful ways. It can be as small as a verbal tic or as big as the way loyalty blinds them to what is staring them in the face and ultimately proves their undoing.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
On a good day, I fall into the creative flow and time disappears as I hang out with my characters. Then there are the other days when I sit down to work and the dogs go racing out the door to bark at the neighbors. My jaw clenches and I think kill the dogs, kill the dogs. Of course, I don’t. I call them back into the house and close the door and they nap at my feet as I limp toward my daily word count goal. Because I always have a goal. Whether it’s how many words I want to write that day, or how many chapters I want to edit. Distractions are like ravenous little monsters desperate to eat up all my time. Facebook. Political news. Yeah. Sometimes I think I should disable the Internet for most of the day, but I’m not that hard core yet.

Tell us why we should read this book.
Dark Harvest combines a great cast of characters who are desperately trying to solve a disturbing abduction. The pace is fast. The stakes are high. And the fascinating motive behind the crime will surprise you.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have a long list of authors I admire, but here are a few of my favorites. I love Stephen King. I started reading his horror stuff in the 90’s. The thing I loved best about his writing back then was that his books were really long. Fast forward fifteen years though, and King has become a master. The way he breathes life into his characters is amazing, like Junior Rennie from Under the Dome. His imagery when unfolding a scene is intricate, beautiful, and at times, horrifying. Lisa Gardner writes well-executed thrillers with good characters and tight plots. Pat Conroy is also a master of characters whose flaws threaten to destroy them. Blake Crouch’s Wayward Pine series is a great example of compelling fiction. Great action scenes. Great emotion. Exceptional world building.

What are you reading now?
This summer I’m on a steady diet of psychological thrillers. Big Little Lies. I loved the HBO series and now am reading the book. Liane Moriarty has a unique, compelling, and funny voice. I just finished re-reading Duma Key, by Stephen King, and have Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter queued up on Audible. I listen to Audible in the car, because for some strange reason, it’s illegal to read and drive at the same time. At least that’s what the cops who pull me over keep telling me. I’m finishing Simon Sinek’s inspirational book, Start With Why. Being an avid learner, I always have a non-fiction book on the go.

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
You bet! During my career in hi-tech, we were always struggling to define the next product while we were working on the current release, so when we finally shipped the current version, we could roll off to the next project without wasting time. Rarely did we manage to do this. When Dark Harvest released, I was already editing the next book. Vow of Silence is also a book #2 and picks up a few years after Deadly Lies ends. The life Jill Shannon wants is within her grasp. Engaged to prosecuting attorney, Conner Manning, she is about to give her daughter the family she has always wanted. But the secrets from Jill’s dark past come back to haunt her and threaten to destroy her dreams. It’s an entertaining story that explores the lengths to which someone will go to keep their past hidden with an undercurrent of politics that has been fun to research and write.

I’ve also been developing pitches for a few more story ideas that I have in my pipeline. Next month I plan to invite a group of friends over for a pitch-fest. I’ll have my friends read over three or four pitches and vote on which one is their favorite and why. Liberal amounts of wine may be served to help lubricate the conversation.

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

From your lips to Hollywood’s ears! Usually this question leaves me scratching my head and staring at my feet, but not with Dark Harvest. This time if I had my magic casting wand, I actually know who I would want to play the book’s main characters. Kate Hudson would be a good fit for Marissa. She’s beautiful, vulnerable, and smart. Mark Ruffalo has the right blend of cynicism, fallibility, and intelligence to play the Holt Foundation’s lead investigator, Seth Crawford. Xander Wilcox would be played by one of my all-time favorite actors, Edward Norton, who excels at playing brilliantly flawed characters.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Writing! Crap, no. That’s my day job. I enjoy playing the piano even though I’m only a few steps up from just plain awful. And while I love the sound of the instrument, I love the way playing music exercises my brain even more. There is nothing else like it. I approach playing the piano the same way I approach writing. I set goals. Focus on technique. Strive for continual improvement. While practice doesn’t always make perfect, I keep going, even when it is frustrating, because I love it.

Favorite meal?
Red meat! I know how this sounds, but I could never be vegetarian or vegan. A grilled steak with mushrooms, grilled asparagus and salad is about the best thing in the world. Pairing it with a deep red wine makes it even better.

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

Thank you so much for hosting me! It’s been fun.

Chris Patchell

Author Bio:

Chris Patchell is the bestselling author of In the Dark and the Indie Reader Discovery Award winning novel Deadly Lies. Having recently left her long-time career in tech to pursue her passion for writing full-time, Chris pens gritty suspense novels set in the Pacific Northwest, where she lives with her family and two neurotic dogs.

Catch Up With Chris Patchell On:

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1

A sharp pain jabbed Rebecca Kincaid’s side, and she sucked in a breath. Her hand fell to the hard swell of her belly, rubbing gently. Round ligament pain, she figured, just one of the many joys of being pregnant.

“Chillax, kiddo,” she said to the baby dancing inside her as the pain subsided.

Smiling to herself, she glanced around to see if anyone else was close enough to hear. Some people called you crazy for talking to yourself in public. She caught the eye of a redhead standing beside a stack of Diaper Genies. Dressed in blue jeans and a red flannel coat, the woman smiled. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, older than Becky, but not as old as some of the women in her prenatal classes. The woman’s gaze strayed to the strained buttons around Becky’s baby bump.

“When are you due?”

“Two more weeks and counting.” She grimaced. Being this big, nothing was comfortable. Her back ached, her hips hurt, and even sleeping was hard.

The woman smiled sympathetically. “I know, right? I felt the same way when I was pregnant, like I was Sigourney Weaver in that Alien movie with a little monster just dying to get out.”

“I know what you mean,” Becky said, breaking eye contact.

Truthfully, she hated that movie. Violent and gory. Comparing a baby to a bloodthirsty alien tearing its way out of its mother’s womb, well, that was kind of sick. She was much more of a romantic-comedy kind of girl.

“I have a toddler at home,” the woman said. “Seems like just yesterday I was in maternity clothes, though.”

Becky faked a laugh and turned down an aisle, away from the stranger.

She parked the cart and ran her hand over the Chicco car seat sitting center shelf. She didn’t need her mother to tell her it cost too much. Most of her baby stuff she’d picked up at the Salvation Army store or had gotten handed down from the women at work, but Becky knew that car seats were one of those things you had to buy new. On her waitressing salary, the best she could afford was the cheapest one on the rack. And even that was pricey.

The doctor said that most first babies came late, but in the last day or two, she’d had a few contractions. Fake contractions, the nurse said. Whatever they were, they freaked her out. She knew she wouldn’t be able to bring the baby home from the hospital without a car seat, so here she was, shopping in the middle of a freak snowstorm. If her mother knew that she was out on a night like tonight, she’d have a fit.

Becky fingered her necklace, grabbed the white-gold heart, and ran it along the chain as she searched the shelves for something more affordable. Of course, the one she wanted was up on the top shelf, well out of reach. She scanned the area looking for a box stowed a bit lower. There were none.

Becky sighed and glanced down the aisle. Didn’t anyone work in this store?

Where was Nathan when she needed him? All six foot three of him could have reached up and grabbed the box off the shelf with no problem at all, but at five foot two, almost as wide as she was tall these days, it was hopeless.
Frowning, she stepped on the bottom shelf and stretched high, wiggling her fingertips in a desperate bid to tip the box toward her. The metal shelf groaned under her weight. It shifted suddenly, and Becky’s stomach lurched. Thrown off balance, she careened backward, hands flailing wildly as she grasped for something—anything to stop her fall. Nothing but air.

Oh God. The baby.

Strong hands gripped her coat, catching her inches from the floor. Heart racing, Becky closed her eyes and regained her footing. Her hands flew to her belly. The baby kicked her hard, as if chastising her for being so careless.

“Careful, honey. You don’t want to fall in your condition,” a woman said. It was the redhead again. “Let me get that.”

Becky bit her lip and stared at the damned box. Why didn’t they put the boxes lower where pregnant moms could reach? It was probably some stupid marketing trick to get you to buy the most expensive ones. They were at eye level.

“Maybe we should find a clerk,” Becky said. “I’m not sure you should be climbing up there either.”

“If we wait for someone else to come along, we’ll both die of old age. Besides, we gals have got to help each other out.”

The redhead winked. Stepping onto the warped bottom shelf, she reached high overhead and slid the baby seat from its perch. Climbing back down, she turned and dropped the box safely into Becky’s cart.

“There,” she said, clapping the dust from her hands with a satisfied smile.

“Thanks,” Becky said. “If my boyfriend were here . . .” She trailed off, irritation rippling through her. Why was it that she was the only one responsible for all of this baby stuff? She hadn’t gotten pregnant by herself.

The redhead’s eyes narrowed.

“Where is the baby daddy? Shouldn’t he be helping you with this?”

“He’s out with his friends. He’ll be home soon, though.”

Becky blushed and turned away. Why was she lying to a perfect stranger? Nathan wouldn’t be home soon. In fact, she didn’t know when she would see him again. For her, home was a dreary little basement apartment that she could barely afford, while he lived in a sprawling frat house minutes away from the University of Washington campus. She had only been there once. The night she had gotten pregnant.

The last three dozen texts she sent him went unanswered. He ignored her baby updates. She’d even sent him images from the ultrasound.

But he’d never responded. He didn’t answer her calls. She might as well not exist. Pregnant and alone, she was an eighteen-year-old walking cliché. And what was worse, her mother had been totally right about Nathan, not that Becky had any intention of admitting it.

Becky’s shoulders slumped. A painful lump formed in her throat, and she rubbed her belly.

“Men are pigs, honey,” the redhead said, patting Becky’s shoulder. “The sooner you learn that lesson, the easier your life is going to be.”

Even though Nathan was ignoring her, Becky still held a sliver of hope deep in her heart that once the baby was born, he’d come around. Once he held his son, looked down into his beautiful face, everything would change.

Becky sniffed and dabbed her nose on her sleeve. She could hope.

“Do you have someone who can help you carry the baby seat to your car? It’s slippery out there. You almost fell once today; you don’t want to risk that baby again.”

The woman reached out and patted her baby bump. Becky recoiled, startled by the presumption of the stranger’s touch.

“Sorry,” the woman said, curling her fingers into a fist. “Force of habit.”

Becky grasped the handle of the shopping cart and steered it down the narrow aisle.

“Thanks for your help but I can manage,” she called over her shoulder. In her haste to escape the awkward situation, the front wheels slammed into a shelf. The cart shuddered, and Becky’s belly ran up against the handle. She gasped, pain shooting through her.

“You okay?”

The bright flash of pain subsided. Cheeks burning, Becky waved her hand and kept going, wanting to distance herself from the woman. She’d already embarrassed herself enough for one night. Besides, it was late, and her back was killing her. All she wanted to do was go home and stretch out on the couch, maybe catch an episode of The New Girl before she fell asleep.

Waiting at the register, she looked at all the baby things crammed on the shelves. They were so sweet. Stuffed bunnies with long, floppy ears; burp cloths; and pacifiers.

Her belly tensed. The baby kicked like he knew he was going to be born into a life of hand-me-downs. A fake contraction rippled through her, and she released a short breath. At least she thought it was fake. She wasn’t ready for the real kind yet.

Unable to stop herself, Becky picked a stuffed bunny off the shelf. Raising it to her face, she ran its baby-soft fur across the bridge of her nose. It smelled powdery fresh and reminded her of her favorite stuffed animal from when she was a kid. A potbellied bear with a matted brown coat and a large blue nose. She’d loved that bear. Took it with her on every trip. Slept with it every night for far longer than she cared to admit. Her mom had restuffed that bear at least three times that she could recall.

She felt a pang thinking about her mom. They hadn’t spoken for five months now, ever since that terrible fight they’d had about Nathan. And the abortion her mother thought Becky should have.

She couldn’t kill her baby.

“Ma’am?” the clerk called to her. She looked up. The couple in front of her was gone, and the line had cleared. She was next.

“The bunny?” The clerk held out her hand for the stuffed animal. Becky shook her head and forced a smile. The bunny was a luxury she couldn’t afford. Squeezing the downy soft tummy one last time, she set the stuffed animal back on the shelf.

“Just the car seat,” she said, digging for her wallet. Paying cash for her purchase, she left the store.

Thick flakes of snow shone under the streetlights and swirled around her in the frigid wind. A blanket of white covered the icy parking lot.

Becky pressed the trunk button on the remote. Some asshole had parked his black van right next to her. With the whole empty parking lot to choose from, why would he park so close?

Shit luck, she supposed, the only kind she seemed to have these days.

The wheels on Becky’s cart rattled on the chunky snow and ice. She slipped. Catching herself, she kept going. On a grim night like this, most smart people stayed home.

Snowflakes caught in her eyelashes, and others brushed her cheeks like icy angel kisses. Becky stowed the car seat in the trunk. The nearest cart caddy was a football field away. Okay. She probably shouldn’t abandon the cart, but screw it. She was tired, pregnant, and it was damned cold out here. No one would blame her. She launched her cart through the empty parking lot. It ground to a halt the next row over.

Shivering as the damp night air wrapped around her and the snowflakes melted in her hair, Becky rounded the side of the car and glared at the van. He’d left her eighteen inches of space. How the hell was she supposed to open her door wide enough to crawl into the driver’s seat? It would have been difficult even if she had been her normal size, but in her current condition, it was impossible.

But what choice did she have? Wait out here until the asshole showed up and moved his ratty van? With the way her luck was going, it probably belonged to some kid who worked in the store and wouldn’t be off for hours yet. She could try the passenger’s side, but crawling over the gearshift and the console between the seats in her condition . . .

Becky sighed. Feeling dumb and desperate, she dialed Nathan’s number. His picture flashed on her phone. He had a handsome face with blue eyes and a smattering of light-brown freckles. She waited. One ring. Two. Five. The call went through to voicemail the way it always did. Becky’s stomach heaved, and she pocketed the phone.

Glancing up, she eyed the van and set her jaw.

She could do this.

Easing her way between the two vehicles, her swollen belly smearing the dirty side of the van, she waddled toward the driver’s door. The side mirrors of the vehicles almost touched.

Behind her, she heard the crunch of shoes on snow. Becky’s breath caught.

She spun, her belly scraping the passenger’s door as she looked behind her.

The redhead from the store smiled.

“God, you scared me.” Becky slapped a hand over her racing heart as adrenaline shot through her system at warp speed. The baby must have felt it too. He twisted and squirmed inside her.

“Sorry. I would have called out, but I didn’t know your name.”

“Becky,” she said, still gripping the keys tight in her hand. She drew in a couple of cleansing breaths.

“I think you dropped this.”

The woman held something out in front of her. It was the stuffed animal from the store—the snow-white bunny with floppy ears. Becky frowned and shook her head.

“It’s not mine. I . . .”

She was so focused on the rabbit that she didn’t hear the grinding sound of the van’s door open until it was too late. Large gloved hands clamped onto her shoulders and heaved her inside. She landed on her belly. A bright bolt of pain ripped through her. The air rushed from her lungs.

The front door slammed closed. The engine roared to life. Becky screamed. A stabbing pain, like the sharp pinch of broken glass, burned at the base of her neck. She tried to push the man away, but he pinned her hands.

“Let’s go,” he said.

The van rumbled out of the parking lot. A right turn, then a left.

Becky screamed again. Her vision narrowed, a black tunnel growing wide around the edges. Her eyelids drooped, heavy as lead, until they fluttered closed.

***

Excerpt from Dark Harvest by Chris Patchell. Copyright © 2017 by Chris Patchell. Reproduced with permission from Chris Patchell. All rights reserved.

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Aug 022017
 

Last Breath

by Karin Slaughter

on Tour July 24 – August 4, 2017

Synopsis:

Last Breath by Karin Slaughter

Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home—and after that shocking night, Charlie’s world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honor-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?

Razor-sharp and lightning-fast, this electrifying story from the #1 international bestselling author will leave you breathless. And be sure to read Karin Slaughter’s extraordinary new novel The Good Daughter—available August 8, 2017.

MY REVIEW

5 stars

I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first book that I have read by this author. But it definitely won’t be the last. I am hooked!

The LAST BREATH is the prequel to THE GOOD DAUGHTER coming out on Aug. 8th and I can’t wait. In this book we meet Charlie Quinn, Esq. A fighter for those that can’t.

She meets Flora, a 15 year old, who hints at abuse at the hands of her grandparents and wants help to become emancipated. Charlie starts to investigate and finds that all isn’t as her client states. Who is this 15 year old and who is the manipulator?

The reader also gets a hint of Charlie’s background and earlier life where she witnessed her mother’s murder.

Even though this was a novella, the suspense was constant and leaving me wanting more!! I am trying to wait patiently for THE GOOD DAUGHTER, since this one was a page turner, I can only imagine how much I am going to enjoy the sequel!

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Published by: William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: July 11th 2017
Number of Pages: 48
ISBN: 0062742159 (ISBN13: 9780062742155)
Series: Good Daughter 0.5
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

Chapter One

“Come on now, Miss Charlie.” Dexter Black’s voice was scratchy over the jailhouse payphone. He was fifteen years her senior, but the “miss” was meant to convey respect for their respective positions. “I told you I’m’a take care of your bill soon as you get me outta this mess.”

Charlie Quinn rolled her eyes up so far in her head that she felt dizzy. She was standing outside a packed room of Girl Scouts at the YWCA. She should not have taken the call, but there were few worse things than being surrounded by a gaggle of teenage girls. “Dexter, you said the exact same thing the last time I got you out of trouble, and the minute you walked out of rehab, you spent all of your money on lottery tickets.”

“I could’a won, and then I would’a paid you out half. Not just what I owe you, Miss Charlie. Half.”

“That’s very generous, but half of nothing is nothing.” She waited for him to come up with another excuse, but all she heard was the distinct murmur of the North Georgia Men’s Detention Center. Bars being rattled. Expletives being shouted. Grown men crying. Guards telling them all to shut the hell up.

She said, “I’m not wasting my anytime cell-phone minutes on your silence.”

“I got something,” Dexter said. “Something gonna get me paid.”

“I hope it’s not anything you wouldn’t want the police to find out about on a recorded phone conversation from jail.” Charlie wiped sweat from her forehead. The hallway was like an oven. “Dexter, you owe me almost two thousand dollars. I can’t be your lawyer for free. I’ve got a mortgage and school loans and I’d like to be able to eat at a nice restaurant occasionally without worrying my credit card will be declined.”

“Miss Charlie,” Dexter repeated. “I see what you were doing there, reminding me about the phone being recorded, but what I’m saying is that I got something might be worth some money to the police.”

“You should get a good lawyer to represent you in the negotiations, because it’s not going to be me.”

“Wait, wait, don’t hang up,” Dexter pleaded. “I’m just remembering what you told me all them years ago when we first started. You remember that?”

Charlie’s eye roll was not as pronounced this time. Dexter had been her first client when she’d set up shop straight out of law school.

He said, “You told me that you passed up them big jobs in the city ’cause you wanted to help people.” He paused for effect. “Don’t you still wanna help people, Miss Charlie?”

She mumbled a few curses that the phone monitors at the jail would appreciate. “Carter Grail,” she said, offering him the name of another lawyer.

“That old drunk?” Dexter sounded picky for a man wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. “Miss Charlie, please can you—”

“Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand.” Charlie flipped her phone closed and dropped it into her purse. A group of women in bike shorts walked past. The YWCA mid-morning crowd consisted of retirees and young mothers. She could hear a distant thump-thump-thump of heavy bass from an exercise class. The air smelled of chlorine from the indoor pool. Thunks from the tennis courts penetrated the double-paned windows.

Charlie leaned back against the wall. She replayed Dexter’s call in her head. He was in jail again. For meth again. He was probably thinking he could snitch on a fellow meth head, or a dealer, and make the charges go away. If he didn’t have a lawyer looking over the deal from the district attorney’s office, he would be better off holding his nuts and buying more lottery tickets.

She felt bad about his situation, but not as bad as she felt about the prospect of being late on her car payment.

The door to the rec room opened. Belinda Foster looked panicked. She was twenty-eight, the same age as Charlie, but with a toddler at home, a baby on the way and a husband she talked about as if he was another burdensome child. Taking over Girl Scout career day had not been Belinda’s stupidest mistake this summer, but it was in the top three.

“Charlie!” Belinda tugged at the trefoil scarf around her neck. “If you don’t get back in here, I’m gonna throw myself off the roof.”

“You’d only break your neck.”

Belinda pulled open the door and waited.

Charlie nudged around her friend’s very pregnant belly. Nothing had changed in the rec room since her ringing cell phone had given her respite from the crowd. All of the oxygen was being sucked up by twenty fresh-faced, giggling Girl Scouts ranging from the ages of fifteen to eighteen. Charlie tried not to shudder at the sight of them. She had a tiny smidge over a decade on most of the girls, but there was something familiar about each and every one of them.

The math nerds. The future English majors. The cheerleaders. The Plastics. The goths. The dorks. The freaks. The geeks. They all flashed the same smiles at each other, the kind that edged up at the corners of their mouths because, at any time, one of them could pull a proverbial knife: a haircut might look stupid, the wrong color nail polish could be on fingernails, the wrong shoes, the wrong tights, the wrong word and suddenly you were on the outside looking in.

Charlie could still recall what it felt like to be stuck in the purgatory of the outside. There was nothing more torturous, more lonely, than being iced out by a gaggle of teenage girls.

“Cake?” Belinda offered her a paper-thin slice of sheet cake.

“Hm,” was all Charlie could say. Her stomach felt queasy. She couldn’t stop her gaze from traveling around the sparsely furnished rec room. The girls were all young, thin and beautiful in a way that Charlie did not appreciate when she was among them. Short miniskirts. Tight T-shirts and blouses opened one button too many. They seemed so frighteningly confident. They flicked back their long, fake blonde hair as they laughed. They narrowed expertly made-up eyes as they listened to stories. Sashes were askew. Vests were unbuttoned. Some of these girls were in serious violation of the Girl Scout dress code.

Charlie said, “I can’t remember what we talked about when we were that age.”

“That the Culpepper girls were a bunch of bitches.”

Charlie winced at the name of her torturers. She took the plate from Belinda, but only to keep her hands occupied. “Why aren’t any of them asking me questions?”

“We never asked questions,” Belinda said, and Charlie felt instant regret that she had spurned all the career women who had spoken at her Girl Scout meetings. The speakers had all seemed so old. Charlie was not old. She still had her badge-filled sash in a closet somewhere at home. She was a kick-ass lawyer. She was married to an adorable guy. She was in the best shape of her life. These girls should think she was awesome. They should be inundating her with questions about how she got to be so cool instead of snickering in their little cliques, likely discussing how much pig’s blood to put in a bucket over Charlie’s head.

“I can’t believe their make-up,” Belinda said. “My mother almost scrubbed the eyes off my face when I tried to sneak out with mascara on.”

Charlie’s mother had been killed when she was thirteen, but she could recall many a lecture from Lenore, her father’s secretary, about the dangerous message sent by too-tight Jordache jeans.

Not that Lenore had been able to stop her.

Belinda said, “I’m not going to raise Layla like that.” She meant her three-year-old daughter, who had somehow turned out to be a thoughtful, angelic child despite her mother’s lifelong love of beer pong, tequila shooters, and unemployed guys who rode motorcycles. “These girls, they’re sweet, but they have no sense of shame. They think everything they do is okay. And don’t even get me started on the sex. The things they say in meetings.” She snorted, leaving out the best part. “We were never like that.”

Charlie had seen quite the opposite, especially when a Harley was involved. “I guess the point of feminism is that they have choices, not that they do exactly what we think they should do.”

“Well, maybe, but we’re still right and they’re still wrong.”

“Now you sound like a mother.” Charlie used her fork to cut off a section of chocolate frosting from the cake. It landed like paste on her tongue. She handed the plate back to Belinda. “I was terrified of disappointing my mom.”

Belinda finished the cake. “I was terrified of your mom, period.”

Charlie smiled, then she put her hand to her stomach as the frosting roiled around like driftwood in a tsunami.

“You okay?” Belinda asked.

Charlie held up her hand. The sickness came over her so suddenly that she couldn’t even ask where the bathroom was.

Belinda knew the look. “It’s down the hall on the—”

Charlie bolted out of the room. She kept her hand tight to her mouth as she tried doors. A closet. Another closet.

A fresh-faced Girl Scout was coming out of the last door she tried.

“Oh,” the teenager said, flinging up her hands, backing away.

Charlie ran into the closest stall and sloughed the contents of her stomach into the toilet. The force was so much that tears squeezed out of her eyes. She gripped the side of the bowl with both hands. She made grunting noises that she would be ashamed for any human being to hear.

But someone did hear.

“Ma’am?” the teenager asked, which somehow made everything worse, because Charlie was not old enough to be called ma’am. “Ma’am, are you okay?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, thank you. You can go away.” Charlie bit her lip so that she wouldn’t curse the helpful little creature like a dog. She searched for her purse. It was outside the stall. Her wallet had fallen out, her keys, a pack of gum, loose change. The strap dragged across the greasy-looking tile floor like a tail. She started to reach out for it, but gave up when her stomach clenched. All she could do was sit on the filthy bathroom floor, gather her hair up off her neck, and pray that her troubles would be confined to one end of her body.

“Ma’am?” the girl repeated.

Charlie desperately wanted to tell her to get the hell out, but couldn’t risk opening her mouth. She waited, eyes closed, listening to the silence, begging her ears to pick out the sound of the door closing as the girl left.

Instead, the faucet was turned on. Water ran into the sink. Paper towels were pulled from the dispenser.

Charlie opened her eyes. She flushed the toilet. Why on earth was she so ill?

It couldn’t be the cake. Charlie was lactose intolerant, but Belinda would never make anything from scratch. Canned frosting was 99 percent chemicals, usually not enough to send her over the edge. Was it the happy chicken from General Ho’s she’d had for supper last night? The egg roll she’d sneaked out of the fridge before going to bed? The luncheon meat she’d scarfed down before her morning run? The breakfast burrito fiesta she’d gotten at Taco Bell on the way to the Y?

Jesus, she ate like a sixteen-year-old boy.

The faucet turned off.

Charlie should have at least opened the stall door, but a quick survey of the damage changed her mind. Her navy skirt was hiked up. Pantyhose ripped. There were splatters on her white silk blouse that would likely never come out. Worst of all, she had scuffed the toe of her new shoe, a navy high-heel Lenore had helped her pick out for court.

“Ma’am?” the teen said. She was holding a wet paper towel under the stall door.

“Thank you,” Charlie managed. She pressed the cool towel to the back of her neck and closed her eyes again. Was this a stomach bug?

“Ma’am, I can get you something to drink,” the girl offered.

Charlie almost threw up again at the thought of Belinda’s cough-mediciney punch. If the girl was not going to leave, she might as well be put to use. “There’s some change in my wallet. Do you mind getting a ginger ale from the machine?”

The girl knelt down on the floor. Charlie saw the familiar khaki-colored sash with badges sewn all over it. Customer Loyalty. Business Planning. Marketing. Financial Literacy. Top Seller. Apparently, she knew how to move some cookies.

Charlie said, “The bills are in the side.”

The girl opened her wallet. Charlie’s driver’s license was in the clear plastic part. “I thought your last name was Quinn?”

“It is. At work. That’s my married name.”

“How long have you been married?”

“Four and a half years.”

“My gran says it takes five years before you hate them.”

Charlie could not imagine ever hating her husband. She also couldn’t imagine keeping up her end of this under-stall conversation. The urge to puke again was tickling at the back of her throat.

“Your dad is Rusty Quinn,” the girl said, which meant that she has been in town for more than ten minutes. Charlie’s father had a reputation in Pikeville because of the clients he defended—convenience store robbers, drug dealers, murderers and assorted felons. How people in town viewed Rusty generally depended on whether or not they or a family member ever needed his services.

The girl said, “I heard he helps people.”

“He does.” Charlie did not like how the words echoed back to Dexter’s reminder that she had turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in the city so that she could work for people who really needed her. If there was one guiding ethos in Charlie’s life, it was that she was not going to be like her father.

“I bet he’s expensive.” The girl asked, “Are you expensive? I mean, when you help people?”

Charlie put her hand to her mouth again. How could she ask this teenager to please get her some ginger ale without screaming at her?

“I enjoyed your speech,” the girl said. “My mom was killed in a car accident when I was little.”

Charlie waited for context, but there was none. The girl slid a dollar bill out of Charlie’s wallet and finally, thankfully, left.

There was nothing to do in the ensuing silence but see if she could stand. Charlie had fortuitously ended up in the handicapped stall. She gripped the metal rails and shakily pulled herself up to standing. She spat into the toilet a few times before flushing it again. When she opened the stall door, the mirror greeted her with a pale, sickly-looking woman in a $120 puke-spotted silk blouse. Her dark hair looked wild. Her lips had a bluish tint.

Charlie lifted her hair, holding it in a ponytail. She turned on the sink and slurped water into her mouth. She caught her reflection again as she leaned down to spit.

Her mother’s eyes looked back at her. Her mother’s arched eyebrow.

What’s going on in that mind of yours, Charlie?

Charlie had heard this question at least three or four times a week back when her mother was alive. She would be sitting in the kitchen doing her homework, or on the floor of her room trying to do some kind of craft project, and her mother would sit opposite her and ask the same question that she always asked.

What is going on in your mind?

It was not contrived to be a conversation starter. Her mother was a scientist and a scholar. She had never been one for idle chitchat. She was genuinely curious about what thoughts filled her thirteen-year-old daughter’s head.

Until Charlie had met her husband, no one else had ever expressed such genuine interest.

The door opened. The girl was back with a ginger ale. She was pretty, though not conventionally so. She did not seem to fit in with her perfectly coifed peers. Her dark hair was long and straight, pinned back with a silver clip on one side. She was young-looking, probably fifteen, but her face was absent of make-up. Her crisp green Girl Scout T-shirt was tucked into her faded jeans, which Charlie felt was unfair because in her day they had been forced to wear scratchy white button-up shirts and khaki skirts with knee socks.

Charlie did not know which felt worse, that she had thrown up or that she had just employed the phrase, “in her day.”

“I’ll put the change in your wallet,” the girl offered.

“Thank you.” Charlie drank some of the ginger ale while the girl neatly repacked the contents of her purse.

The girl said, “Those stains on your blouse will come out with a mixture of a tablespoon of ammonia, a quart of warm water and a half a teaspoon of detergent. You soak it in a bowl.”

“Thank you again.” Charlie wasn’t sure she wanted to soak anything she owned in ammonia, but judging by the badges on the sash, the girl knew what she was talking about. “How long have you been in Girl Scouts?”

“I got my start as a Brownie. My mom signed me up. I thought it was lame, but you learn lots of things, like business skills.”

“My mom signed me up, too.” Charlie had never thought it was lame. She had loved all the projects and the camping trips and especially eating the cookies she had made her parents buy. “What’s your name?”

“Flora Faulkner,” she said. “My mom named me Florabama, because I was born on the state line, but I go by Flora.”

Charlie smiled, but only because she knew that she was going to laugh about this later with her husband. “There are worse things that you could be called.”

Flora looked down at her hands. “A lot of the girls are pretty good at thinking of mean things.”

Clearly, this was some kind of opening, but Charlie was at a loss for words. She combed back through her knowledge of after-school specials. All she could remember was that movie of the week where Ted Danson is married to Glenn Close and she finds out that he’s molesting their teenage daughter but she’s been cold in bed so it’s probably her fault so they all go to therapy and learn to live with it.

“Miss Quinn?” Flora put Charlie’s purse on the counter. “Do you want me to get you some crackers?”

“No, I’m

Excerpt from Last Breath by Karin Slaughter. Copyright © 2017 by Karin Slaughter. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

Karin Slaughter

Author Bio:

Karin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 36 languages, with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her sixteen novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant New York Times bestselling novel Pretty Girls. A native of Georgia, Karin currently lives in Atlanta. Her Will Trent series, Grant County series, and standalone novel Cop Town are all in development for film and television.

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Giveaway:

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Jul 252017
 

CHILDREN OF THE FIFTH SUN Tour Banner

Children of the Fifth Sun

by Gareth Worthington

on Tour July 24 – Sept 25, 2017

Children of the Fifth Sun by Gareth Worthington

Book Details

Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller | “Science Faction” science fiction, action, adventure with fact-based science, theories and mythology

Published by: Vesuvian Books

Publication Date: July 25th 2017

Number of Pages: 407

ISBN: 9781944109400

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

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Synopsis:

Thousands of years ago, an ancient species from the sea saved humanity; now a cocky, free-diving photographer tortured by his past is the unlikely hero who must save the last of their kind from a global race between nations to control the creature’s power.

IN ALMOST EVERY BELIEF SYSTEM ON EARTH, there exists a single unifying mythos: thousands of years ago a great flood devastated the Earth’s inhabitants. From the ruins of this cataclysm, a race of beings emerged from the sea bestowing knowledge and culture upon humanity, saving us from our selfish drive toward extinction. Some say this race were “ancient aliens” who came to assist our evolution. But what if they weren’t alien at all? What if they evolved right here on Earth, alongside humans . . . and they are still here? And, what if the World’s governments already know?

Kelly Graham is a narcissistic, self-assured, freelance photographer specializing in underwater assignments. While on a project in the Amazon with his best friend, Chris D’Souza, a mysterious and beautiful government official, Freya Nilsson, enters Kelly’s life and turns it upside down. Her simple request to retrieve a strange object from deep underwater puts him in the middle of an international conspiracy. A conspiracy that threatens to change the course of human history.

Read an excerpt:

Freya elegantly glided in front of Kelly, breaking his train of thought. Her slender body slid through the water with grace and ease. She must have sensed his stare, because she turned her head to face him and gave a huge, regulator-filled grin. Kelly stifled a laugh.

He turned back to his equipment to check their depth—sixty-five feet. They were at the sea floor. It wasn’t very deep, but this was where it was supposed to be. He motioned his right arm to get Freya’s attention. He then signaled for her to look down and keep her eyes open. She gave the okay sign.

As they swam a little further, the structure came into sight just as Alexandro’s information had indicated. A large horseshoe-shaped wall, three-feet thick and six-feet tall, spanned more than two-hundred-fifty feet in diameter. Other than that, it was unimpressive—just an old stone wall. Surely, if a team had already been down here, they would have found an orb? Kelly pulled himself along the bottom, sifting through the sand, picking up each stone he came across. He shook his head and looked across at Freya. She seemed to be having similar poor luck, pointlessly rummaging through silt and mud. He swam across to her and pointed in front, indicating his intent to look on ahead. She nodded and watched as he flicked his fins, disappearing into a haze of ocean and sand particles.

Freya returned to her treasure hunt. All she found were rocks and the odd tin or soft drink can. Ugh, it was disgusting. Even the ocean wasn’t safe from humanity. She reached the outer edge of the stone wall and swam along, keeping close to it. Her gloved fingers prodded into each crack and crevice, not that she could feel anything through the thick material. Her mask was beginning to fill with water. She thought about Kelly’s instruction and began the mask clearing procedure.

Pressing the palm of her right hand against the top of her mask so the bottom released a few millimeters from her face, she exhaled hard through her nose, forcing the water out. A stream of bubbles crashed about her head in a white-water curtain. As it cleared, a small metallic glint protruding from beneath one of the huge stone bricks caught her eye. She clawed her way to it, then started digging in the sand. The fine silt clouded up around her, obscuring her view. Using only her limited sense of touch, Freya kept tunneling under the wall. The familiar shape of a box began to form under her fingers. She dug beneath until she could grip the box with both hands. Tugging hard, she released the cuboid object from its hold in the silt. The billow of sand cleared.

She stared at her treasure. It was a small chest, copper-colored with a green oxidized coating on its surface. She smiled. Could this be it? Could there be an orb inside? The excitement power through her. She raised her head to see if Kelly was nearby, but he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She swam in a circle. The inability to hear or feel anything was unnerving. She only had the power of sight and that was restricted to a straight line in front of her for one hundred fifty feet or so.

The light above her dimmed. Freya frowned and raised her head to investigate. Above her, the huge shadow of a shark glided by. She knew her mask would magnify any object, but still, the thing looked huge. Its blunt snout and thick body looked positively primeval—the perfect predator. Panic set in.

Damn, where was Kelly? Clutching her treasure, Freya lowered her head. She searched for the knife strapped to her right calf. Before she could find it, her gaze was met by the cold stare of reptilian eyes. A sea snake was inches from her face, rippling its body to hold its position. Its eyes were fixed on hers. She froze, holding her breath. Freya shifted her focus from the uncomfortably close predator to the shadow lurking behind it. Oh God. The shark?

It was Kelly. A brief feeling of relief washed over her, but it was snatched away by the searing pain of fangs plunging into her left hand. Freya gargled a scream through her regulator and dropped the box, letting it fall to the sea floor. The snake shot off into murk as Kelly tore through the water toward her. Her breathing slowed and her limbs grew heavy. Her eyelids slid closed. She blinked before her eyes closed one last time.

* * *

Excerpt from Children of the Fifth Sun by Gareth Worthington. Copyright © 2017 by Gareth Worthington. Reproduced with permission from Gandolfo Helin & Fountain Literary. All rights reserved.

Q&A with Gareth Worthington

Welcome!

Thanks, glad to be here.

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

Absolutely. Its cliché, but I really feel one should write what one knows. Children of the Fifth Sun is very personal, as the lead character is based on one of my stronger character traits – though somewhat exaggerated. His journey reflects very much my own.

In books 2 and 3, Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon and Rubicon, respectively, I am drawing very much on my experience as a new father.

In terms of current events, Children of the Fifth Sun plays more on the historical things that have occurred on our planet and tries to tie many of them together. Everything from the unifying myth of the ‘knowledge bringers’ after the great flood, to the alignment of the Giza pyramids to the stars of Orion’s belt – 2000 years before they were supposed to be built – to the creation of the CIA and the NSA.

You can read much of the research at www.childrenofthefifthsun.com

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

Kind of both. I have a beginning and end in mind. Then I flesh out the chapters into one or two line reminders: this happens here; X character learns this. Then, as I’m writing, I organically change and move things. I do more research and when I find something awesome I want to include, I consider what it does to the end. I usually change the end multiple times – although, for Children of the Fifth Sun, one piece of the end was always fixed. For me, it had to be that way. I personally needed it to happen.

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

Yes and no. Honestly, I pour a lot of myself into the protagonists, as it helps to keep them real. In Children of the Fifth Sun, Kelly Graham represents my fear of human connection only to then lose it. Like me, he uses sarcasm and distancing tactics to keep people at arm’s length. Whereas in It Takes Death to Reach a Star, Demitri Stasevich is based on my self-doubt – the character has a voice in his head that constantly chides him. I can’t speak for Mila in that story, Stu wrote her. But as I know Stu, her character has some of his strong traits (sorry Stu!).

As for other characters, I create them based on what the story needs to balance it out. But I don’t base them on people I know.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I wouldn’t say idiosyncrasies. But I write when I can – literally, any minute I have. My day job is complicated and takes me all over the world. If I combine that with two children under three years old, going to the gym, being a husband, and all other things people have to do, I need to write when I have an hour. Usually on a plane, or late at night when the kids are in bed. I’m not a morning writer, that’s for sure.

Tell us why we should read this book.

Haha, well several reasons I guess.

1. There is no story like it. More than 20 years of research has gone into it and I do believe it to be unique.
2. It has multiple story threads, so even if you hate one character or one plot line, you will hopefully love another (everybody loves the character K’in).
3. You get to learn things as well! It’s full of scientific research, history, and geographical locations. You might be able to apply for credit at an open university!
4. I try to tackle everyday issues as much as anything. It’s a story about what it means to be human.
5. You should always read the book before the movie comes out (you can’t see, but I’m winking).

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman and J.R.R. Martin. Awesome authors. And of course my co-author Stu Jones – we’ve just written a new book together. He’s a great creator and our latest book would literally be half what it is if he weren’t with me.

What are you reading now?

Weirdly, I actually read more non-fiction than anything. It’s where my ideas come from. The best one I’ve read in a while is Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. Fantastic book summarizing human existence to date.

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

I’m working on four! First and foremost, Children of the Fifth Sun: Echelon (book 2). Book three, COTFS: Rubicon is simmering in the back of my head.

Stu Jones and I have written, and are editing, a futuristic thriller duology that extrapolates two hundred years into the future and considers how the war on terror, widening differences between social classes, and anti-bacterial resistance will shape humans.

The interesting piece about this duology, is that we aimed to also explore theistic and scientific explanations for human existence. Stu is a Christian law enforcement officer from Alabama and I’m an atheist scientist from the UK. The book is written in first person present tense from two points of view, with Stu writing one character and me the other. It’s worked perfectly. The first book called It Takes Death to Reach a Star will be published by Vesuvian Books in 2018. We’re also working on the sequel, With the Fourth Comes Hades.

You can read all the research at www.ittakesdeathtoreachastar.com

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

Oh that’s easy! I wrote Children of the Fifth Sun as if it were a movie playing in my head. Kelly would be played by Gerard Butler – I wrote it for him. I need someone who can play the sarcastic, cheeky, Indiana Jones-type guy but also do hurt and vulnerable too. For Freya, I had Jennifer Connelly in mind. Just the right amount of tough and feminine. And as for K’in? He’d be CGI and I’ve already created him, you can check him out on the website!

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

Muay Thai, without a doubt. A proper combat sport that has so much honor and discipline woven in. I love the Thai Fighters and miss my Krus in Singapore.

Favorite meal?

A good old fashioned English Sunday roast. I’ve lived abroad for many years now, and this is one of those meals that just hasn’t spread to many places. It’s all down to the roast potatoes and the gravy made with the juice of the bird. Okay, now I’m hungry.

More about Gareth Worthington:

Gareth Worthington

Gareth Worthington holds a degree in marine biology, a PhD in endocrinology, and currently educates the World’s doctors on new cancer therapies. Gareth has hand tagged sharks in California; won honorable mention at the New York Book Festival 2012 and 2013 for his writing; and trained in various martial arts, including Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, and MMA at the EVOLVE MMA gym in Singapore and Phoenix KampfSport Switzerland. Born in Plymouth UK, Worthington currently resides outside of Zurich, Switzerland.

Visit Gareth Online:
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

Tour Host Participants:

Stop by the other hosts for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Gareth Worthington and GH Literary. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND 3 winners of one (1) eBook copy of CHILDREN OF THE FIFTH SUN by Gareth Worthington. The giveaway begins on July 24th and runs through September 27th, 2017.
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Jul 232017
 

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

All Signs Point to Murder

by Connie di Marco

on Tour July 23 – August 23, 2017

Synopsis:

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

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

Book Details:

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

Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

GUEST POST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connie di Marco

Author Bio:

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

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

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

Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Connie di Marco. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card AND 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of All Signs Point to Murder. The giveaway begins on July 21 and runs through August 24, 2017.

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Jul 112017
 

LARRY KILHAM

Larry Kilham has traveled extensively overseas for over twenty years. He worked in several large international companies and started and sold two high-tech ventures. He received a B.S. in engineering from the University of Colorado and an M.S. in management from MIT. Larry has written books about creativity and invention, artificial intelligence and digital media, travel overseas, and three novels with an AI theme. Currently, he is writing a novel about free will.

Connect with Larry at these sites:

WEBSITE TWITTER

ABOUT THE BOOK

Will digital media sweep us into a new era of prosperity? What new advances in entertainment, culture, education, and knowledge can we expect? Will we get stuck in Cyberland only to be saved by digital detox?

The Digital Rabbit Hole reveals that we are becoming captive in the digital universe. The portals are smartphones and the world is the Internet. We immerse ourselves in social media; we learn through packaged feel-good information; and we will leave the hard work to robots and AI. The book details digital media and discusses smartphone addiction problems. It proposes solutions to stimulate creativity and education and to recapture our humanity.

BOOK DETAILS:

Paperback: 144 Pages
Genre: Social Science/Non Fiction
Publisher: FutureBooks.info; 1 edition (January 1, 2016)
ASIN: B01A3MTVBS

PURCHASE LINKS:

FOLLOW THE TOUR

Monday July 10th @ WOW! Women on Writing
Interview & Giveaway
http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

Tuesday July 11th @ CMash Reads
Cheryl Masciarelli spotlights Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole”. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about Kilham and his many published works.
http://cmashlovestoread.com/

Wednesday July 12th @ Bring on Lemons with Cathy Hansen
Educator, Business Owner, and Mother Cathy Hansen reads and reviews “The Digital Rabbit Hole” by Larry Kilham. Read her thoughts today!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Thursday July 13th @ Linda Appleman Shapiro
Author and Psychotherapist/Addictions Counselor Linda Appleman Shapiro shares her thoughts and insight after reading and reviewing “The Digital Rabbit Hole” by Larry Kilham.
http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

Friday July 14th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto
Avid reader and reviewer (and social media lover) Crystal J. Casavant-Otto reads and reviews Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole” and shares her thoughts about how social media has changed our lives.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Monday July 17th @ Beverley Baird
Writer, Reader, and Book Enthusiast Beverley A Baird reviews Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole” and shares her experiences with her readers.
https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

Tuesday July 18th @ Bring on Lemons with Troy Pflum
Midwestern father and avid reader Troy Pflum reads and reviews Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole” and shares his ideas and afterthoughts with readers at Bring on Lemons.
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

Wednesday July 19th @ Constant Story
Fellow author David Berner reads and reviews Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole”.
http://davidwberner.blogspot.com/

Thursday July 20th @ Book Santa Fe
Reader and book enthusiast Tange Dudt reviews Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole” and shares her thoughts with readers at Book Santa Fe.
http://www.booksantafe.info/

Friday July 21st @ Eric Trant
Fellow author Eric Trant shares his thoughts after reading and reviewing “The Digital Rabbit Hole” by Larry Kilham.
http://diggingwiththeworms.blogspot.com/

Sunday July 23rd @ Hott Books
Today’s author spotlight at Hott Books is none other than Larry Kilham. Find out more about this accomplished author and “The Digital Rabbit Hole”
http://hottbooks.com

Monday July 24th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interviews
Lisa Haselton interviews Larry Kilham about “The Digital Rabbit Hole”
http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

Tuesday July 25th Bring on Lemons with Tess Fallier
Tess Fallier is today’s guest blogger with a review and insight into Larry Kilham’s “The Digital Rabbit Hole”. Don’t miss this blog stop!
http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

DISCLAIMER
I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
ADDENDUM
I do not have any affiliation with Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble. I am an IndieBound affiliate. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.