Feb 082017
 

Concrete Smile

by Bernard Maestas

on Tour February 1-28, 2017

Synopsis:

Concrete Smile by Bernard MaestasA crooked conglomerate makes a move on fictional Newport City by first attempting to incite a war between its existing criminal organizations before taking over with its own “in-house” group. Hired by a major gang leader to avert the war, freelance information broker Kevin recruits his ex-enforcer, ex-con brother Chance, and Kaity, a reporter with a vendetta, to uncover the conspiracy.

Book Details:

Genre: Crime, Thriller
Published by: Rebel ePublishers
Publication Date: December 2016
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 1944077154 (ISBN13: 9781944077150)
Series: Internet Tough Guys, #3
Purchase Links 🔗: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

BUSINESS HOURS

Lost somewhere in Newport City’s densely crowded, late-night skyline, six bulky bodies packed into some unimportant restaurant’s musty storeroom.

Bulging with prison muscles and bulletproof vests, their dark skin branded with black tattoos broadcasting their gang affiliation, the men were silent. They crowded around a single rickety card table, the room’s only furniture, and toiled under the dim glow of a single yellow bulb dangling from the ceiling. A masonry bucket full of glittering brass ammunition sat centered between them. None spoke. The rhythmic clicking of guns and bullets was the only soundtrack accompanying the tension.

Aside from their silence and the grim, practiced precision with which they pressed the unstamped cartridges into their magazines, they each had one other detail in common: Each man, whether dangling from a pocket, knotted around a wrist, or cinched across his brow, displayed a deep crimson bandana. That bandana, the gang flag of The Reds or Red Nation – the umbrella under which all the African-American gangs in Newport City fell – was the most crucial accessory.

Durel Rivers, better known as Bones, set aside his last loaded magazine and grabbed his weapon. Exceedingly illegal, the fully automatic Tec-9 machine pistol, with its taped grip and folding stock, actually had a Federal law banning it by name. A loud slap cut the stifling air as he locked a magazine into the receiver and jacked the first round into the chamber.

Bones covered his body armor with a baggy sweatshirt, loose enough to conceal the illicit firearm beneath it, its papoose pocket stuffed with the ready reloads he’d prepared. Behind him, the rest of his crew wrapped up their own loading tasks, donned jackets and hoodies of their own and then followed him out of the storeroom.

The creaky storeroom door swung open into the deep gloom of a deserted kitchen. The restaurant’s legitimate business hours long over, the white-coated cooks and staffers long gone, Bones and his crew had special access. He led them past the stainless steel appliances and shelves to and then through the back door.

Windows down, keys in the ignitions, a pair of black SUVs waited in the greasy shadows of the narrow alley behind the restaurant. Bones climbed into the shotgun seat of the leading truck while the rest of the crew split up between them, wordlessly sliding into their plush leather seats.
Bones gave a simple and wordless nod to the man who took the driver’s seat beside him. Engines came to life with deep rumbles but the music that came on in the cabins was low. They were on a mission and there would be no distractions.

As one, the pair of SUVs rolled out of the alley and onto the darkened Newport City streets. While the bustling city of nearly five million had plenty of nightlife, Bones’ crew stuck to the quiet streets of closed businesses, darkened storefronts, and slumbering apartment dwellers. It was late, or more precisely, early in the morning, and only the creatures of the night were out haunting the streets. Moving patiently, always five miles per hour over the speed limit – no more, no less – they rolled to their first stop at the fringe of a housing project complex, a U-shaped cluster of old tenement towers.

Silent and pensive, Bones scanned every inch of the block around them, scrutinizing each of the people who made up the sparse nighttime populace. A pair of teenagers with Reds’ flags
on display occupied one corner while a homeless man wandered the block further down.

No police, no “jackers,” Bones was as certain as he could be of that. He twisted in his seat and said it all to the gangster in the back with another wordless nod.

The back door popped, as did that of the trailing SUV, two men emerging into the street and crossing, their hands beneath their shirts and gripping the handles of their guns. As they disappeared into one of the building lobbies, Bones let his attention slip for just a moment. He plucked a cigarette from his pack, set it between his lips, bringing it to life with the click of his lighter, and blew the fumes from his nose.

He had only taken two deep drags when the gangbangers emerged. The one from the trailing truck led the way, alert and ready. The man behind had a small gym bag slung over his shoulder. Bones turned to look as the man climbed back aboard the SUV.

“All there,” he said simply, ripping open the zipper to give Bones a look inside at the bricklike bundles of cash.

Bones straightened in his seat, his cigarette hand pushing out through the open window and waving the trailing SUV forward. Together, they pulled away from the curb and rolled off into the city.
It was after three when they finally pulled away from their last pickup in East Charity, a sleepy neighborhood on the southeastern side of the City’s eastern borough. Bones lit up a third cigarette and then threw a glance into the backseat. Aside from the burly gangster riding with them, more of those bulging bags of cash now packed the seat to shoulder height. Over the last hour and change, they had stopped everywhere from drug dens to basement casinos, collecting the week’s deposits.

With the trucks laden with money, the first half of the job, in some ways the easy half, was done.

Alert, mind focused, Bones allowed himself to relax just a little, let the flood of nicotine calm his blood slightly. From here on, it was a straight drive to their final destination where they would turn over the money to be cleaned. No more stops, no more tense minutes of waiting on the street like sitting ducks. That said, he also knew that the best time to hit the convoy would be
now, when it was flush and the crew had backed off the razor’s edge of their nerves.

The bold glow of their headlights swung down a street heavy with shadows, most of the streetlights out except for some pale yellow ones at the far end. Bones’ hackles came up and he was just about to order them off the street when shrieking tires sang their discordant chorus into the night as something flashed out of the driveway ahead. No headlights had offered any warning.

“Shit!” Bones’ driver seethed as he stood on the brakes, grinding them to a hard halt.

In the glare of their SUV’s headlights, Bones now made out the form of the battered minivan that had darted across their path and stopped. He was already pulling his Tec-9 from beneath his shirt when the van’s sliding door scraped aside with a raspy grind of worn metal.

Crouched tightly in the back of the van, shoulder-to-shoulder, a pair of masked men took aim and opened up torrents of fully automatic gunfire.

The driver beside Bones jerked and flopped violently, his body riddled with relentless fire. Bones himself managed to duck down below the dash, behind the protection of the engine block, the only part of a normal car that would actually stop a bullet. Jagged pebbles of shattered glass rained down on the back of his neck.

Behind Bones, the back door kicked open and the armed gangster ducked out as he sprayed the van with his own vicious rake of fire.

Without rising from behind the dash, Bones reached out, shoving open the driver’s door and rolling the bloody, shredded corpse of the driver into the street. He was halfway over the center console when he saw his doom.

From behind the row of parallel-parked cars lining the far side of the street, cloaked in the heavy shadows, more gunmen popped up, bracing and steadying their rifles on the hoods, trunks or roofs of the parked cars. Bones threw his machine pistol into line but it was too late.

The last thing Bones ever saw was the hellish strobes of the muzzle flashes popping in the darkness as they poured another withering hailstorm of copper-jacketed death into the street.

***

Don’t shit where you eat. Words to live by in Kevin Wyatt’s book. So, even at three in the morning, making the drive across the Admiralty Bridge into the peninsular eastern borough was just smart business. Polished black paint gleaming, throaty engine growling melodically, Kevin’s ’67 Mustang fastback made short work of the trip, weaving only occasionally around slower moving traffic.

An oasis in the night of closed businesses on an otherwise nondescript street in East Charity, a brightly lit parking lot snipped off the corner of the block. It wrapped around two sides of a large diner that, despite its size and popularity with the late-night crowd that knew of its existence, still looked like a greasy hole in the wall.

Kevin had grown fond of the place, though. Referring to it as his office, he conducted those meetings there that required a certain degree of public exposure mixed with only a modicum of privacy. He’d chosen the spot for the food initially and had quickly adopted it as a regular haunt. Despite this, no one greeted him by name as he entered and left the biting air of the early November chill in the parking lot.

The diner was warm inside, full of the aroma of food frying in grease. At least a half-dozen parties of three or four twentysomethings in nightclub attire were scattered among the booths and tables. His regular booth, the one at the far back corner, just on the fringe of the last overhead bulb’s halo of light, was unclaimed, he noted with a smile.

Kevin took another moment to scan the diner’s patrons and confirm that his clients hadn’t arrived yet. He pivoted and swung down the row of booths running along the diner’s storefront of greasy picture windows. As he went, he sloughed his black leather jacket, a dark T-shirt with a stylish designer logo beneath.

Though he could have melded into one of the packs of club goers in the diner with his age and good looks, he wasn’t here to socialize. He had a narrow face of mildly chiseled features decorated with a light dusting of freckles that went appropriately with the rusty copper color of his short hair. He was above average height at just under six feet, but his fit and trim frame was not particularly remarkable.

A waitress, mopping the countertop with a rag, glanced up as he passed her. She made contact with his bright hazel gaze and a faint smile of passing recognition turned up the corners of her mouth. “The usual?” she asked, getting a nod and a smile in reply.

Kevin dropped into his booth’s far side, his back to the wall, his face to the door, and slid into the corner. It was a good spot, behind the wall and out of the frame of the big window while still giving him an excellent line of sight into the parking lot and the establishment.

Kevin scanned with intent while taking care to seem oblivious, just another late night customer out for a midnight snack. A nondescript sedan, gray, neither old nor new enough to be noteworthy, coasted to a halt outside. Three young men, cautious and patiently panning their gazes over every angle of surrounding night, sat in the car for a few long moments before dismounting and approaching the diner door.

The waitress returned and slid Kevin’s order in front of him just as the trio filed through the front door. She turned and left the table while he raised an arm, brushed with a sleeve of freckles, and waved them over.

In a moment’s pause of prudent appraisal, they sized Kevin up from the door before sliding down the row. They were dressed to slip under notice, plain jeans and plainer hooded sweatshirts, but that didn’t fool Kevin for a second.

“You the guy?” the first, a deeply tanned Hispanic in his late twenties, asked with no discernable accent.

“I am,” Kevin confirmed with a nod. “Have a seat.”

“How’d you know it was us?” asked the second, a black man of the same age as the first, as the whole trio – rounded out with a smaller and younger Asian man for diversity – took the opposite side of the booth.

“Lucky guess,” Kevin replied plainly. He lifted his steaming cup of black coffee and nursed a sip, careful to keep his eyes above the rim to watch the three of them. “You have something for me?” He set the cup beside the plate holding his so far untouched “Heartstopper” sandwich.

The trio exchanged glances before the leader threw one back over his shoulder at the rest of the diner. Kevin didn’t have to look so obviously to know no one was paying them any mind. Satisfied, the leader nodded at the Asian at the end of the booth. He slipped an envelope from the papoose pocket of his sweatshirt, laid it on the table and slid it across.

Kevin took the envelope and peeled it open in his lap, leafing through its stack of crisp twenty-dollar bills. He kept his poker face firmly in place as he did, lifting his head to nod to his clients in approval. He reached across the booth, stuffing the envelope into the inner pocket of his jacket and slipping out a coin-sized SD card. He slid it across the table the same way he’d received his payment.

The Asian man took it, plugging it into a small tablet and scanning through it.

“As promised,” Kevin said, his focus on the leader. “Truck routes, communications protocols and duty rosters for Allied Armored Couriers. Good until the end of the month.”

The leader looked from Kevin as he finished, to the Asian, who had completed his scan and nodded. Kevin scooped up his mug and took another sip of his coffee, watching as the leader turned back to him.

“How’d you get this?”

Kevin smiled a thin smile that didn’t reach his eyes as he lowered the mug. He offered his hand across the table for a shake. “A pleasure doing business with you.”

The leader’s eyes narrowed, but he clasped Kevin’s hand in a brief squeeze before he and his crew exited the booth. He watched them leave, as did the waitress, who glanced over at him and met his eyes. This time, his smile was a little warmer as he offered her a shrug and dropped his attention to his plate.

***

The Heartstopper was an egg sandwich, in simplest terms. To be more exact, however, it was a heaping serving of scrambled whole eggs capped with a slice of full-fat American cheese and enclosed in two slices of grilled and buttery bread. It was decadently delicious and so worth the bloated feeling in Kevin’s gut as he left his booth, leaving cash, including a generous tip, on the table top and exited the diner.

He mounted up the Mustang, kicking it to grumbling life, and swung out of the parking lot, aiming for home. Business for the night finished, it was late and, crucially, he had a very early and very important errand awaiting him in the morning.

Blue and red strobes blazed through the Mustang’s rear windshield as the howl of a siren drowned out even the healthy rumble of his powerful engine. Kevin’s heart nearly stopped as his eyes flicked to the rearview mirror framing the police sedan rushing up on his bumper.

“Fuck me,” he breathed, hands tightening around the wheel. For half a second, he considered running. Lean fingers coiled around the shifter, his dress boots settled over the pedals, and Kevin sketched out a plan for his flight for freedom. It started with a downshift and a ferocious bellow of acceleration but he had no idea where it went from there. Instead, he reminded himself he wasn’t carrying anything illegal, nor did he have any warrants out for him. At least, as far as he knew. Easing toward the first gap in the row of cars lining the curb, Kevin blinked as the patrol car blew past him.

Before he had a chance to relax, crack a smile of relief, three more cops in roaring sedans, their emergency lights screaming their urgency, sirens wailing, blasted down the road. They were moving fast, fast enough that their passing rocked Kevin’s heavy car as they went.

Kevin stared after them as they faded into the distance before whipping around the corner at the end of the next block. His hands squeezed the wheel tightly and his mind reached, pondering the possibilities. Slowly, his thin lips spread in a smile.

Something big had happened. He had a pleasant influx of new business to look forward to.

From CONCRETE SMILE, A novel, By BERNARD MAESTAS © BERNARD MAESTAS

Bernard Maestas

Author Bio:

Bernard Maestas lives in paradise. A police officer patrolling the mean streets of Hawaii, he has a background in contract security and military and civilian law enforcement. When not saving the world, one speeding ticket at a time, and not distracted by video games or the internet, he is usually hard at work on his next book.

Q&A with Bernard Maestas

INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR GUEST AUTHORS

Welcome!

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Absolutely! My first series, “Internet Tough Guys,” was inspired by a mix of both, with headline-ripped plots and some of my real action sequences mixed in.

Those who have been following the development of “Concrete Smile” on social media and/or have followed this tour already know that a big portion of the novel was written as a way for me process my feelings after a loved one’s death a few years ago. Digging deeper, the three novels I mashed together to create this book were all, in one way or another, written for the same purpose of coping with grief.

Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I have a habit of skipping around. I struggled so much the first two decades of my writing career because I couldn’t start at the beginning and write straight through anything. I’d always have an idea for something in the middle, or I’d be missing something in between, and I’d lose interest. Now, I write what’s fresh, in the forefront of my mind, and work around it. Whether it’s a chapter, a paragraph, even just a great sentence, I put it down and move on to wherever my imagination takes me next.

Everything starts with an idea, though. Sometimes it’s an ending, sometimes it’s a beginning, sometimes it’s something in the middle.

If I had to pick a jumping off point for “Concrete Smile” (harder to do than you might think)… No spoilers, but there’s a certain scene with Kaity, a sweatshirt, and a cigarette. I remember mourning and thinking up that scene and it grew into a whole book. You’ll know it when you read it.

Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Definitely. In “Internet Tough Guys,” the two protagonists were based off me and one of my oldest friends – quite loosely, of course.

In “Concrete Smile,” it’s a longer story. One of the two males started as the hero of his own series who was, in turn, inspired very distantly by eighteen-year-old me. He grew from there but his story was partially inspired by something that happened with a friend of mine from high school. I borrowed that friend’s look to make the second male protagonist in this book.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
Ugh, I wish I had a routine. I wish I knew the formula for the magic when I get in the “zone” and can churn out thousands of words at a sprint.

Music is always a thing, for sure. I used to rely on Pandora shuffling – which is how I wrote “Concrete Smile.” For the book I just finished, I made a (extremely long) playlist on YouTube but I did it mostly while I was procrastinating.

Speaking of which, if there’s one thing that’s constant when I’m writing, it’s procrastination. I click away from Scrivener for just a minute to confirm something on Wikipedia and two hours later…

Tell us why we should read this book.
Because I asked nicely and I want to get a puppy.

Seriously, though, aside from the “only if you want to” stuff, I think people will like it. I learned a lot from my first three published novels and I feel like this is a new pinnacle for me. I really did a lot of things right with this book. All the flaws in the novels I combined to make it cancel each other out.

Everything’s been done at this point, nothing is truly original anymore. But with “Concrete Smile,” I feel like I’ve captured some really good film noir tropes but presented the whole thing in a different package that’s sort of original. The characters are really solid and play off each other well. Plus, the story, the mystery, I’m really proud of the whole thing.

Beyond those reasons, if it counts for anything, is all the blood and pain I let out onto the pages. Sometimes, some really bad things can pave the way for something beautiful. If that’s true, “Concrete Smile” is a perfect example of that.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
Rob Thurman of the Cal Leandros (among other) series is likely my absolute favorite. Her wit and clever fantasy have spoken to me since I picked up her first, “Nightlife,” on a whim. Karen Traviss – who rocked my world by blurbing my third “Internet Tough Guys” novel, 2015’s “You Think this is a Game?” – runs neck-and-neck with her, though. She can write the hell out of some military sci-fi and techno-thrillers, let me tell you.

Comic writer Alan Moore has had a hand in just about every one of my favorite comics and I credit him a lot with inspiring me as a writer.

I have to take this time to mention Orson Scott Card. By the time I picked up “Ender’s Game” in grade school, I’d read a decent amount, done a few short stories, made a lot of comic books and even short films and screenplays… but “Ender’s Game” changed everything for me. Not only did I love the story – though I never did read any of the sequels – it might singlehandedly have pushed me to write prose novels. Even though it was over a decade before I actually finished one, I remember that being the moment that the seed blossomed in my brain of writing only in prose. That’s gotta be worth a vote or two for favorite, no?

What are you reading now?
Two of my friends, separately, just finished (hopefully) debut novels and I’m beta reading those

Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
As I write this, I just wrapped up my latest manuscript. I can’t share too much about it, obviously, but it’s an urban fantasy and superhero tale, sprinkled with a bit of horror and wrapped up in a YA package. I think it’s going to be great! Hopefully it’ll get published…

That said, I’m also working on another thriller, this one sort of a military/spy one. I’m debating on a course for the future of “Internet Tough Guys” as well. I have book four hanging in limbo until I decide.

Fun questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Gosh, I loved this question the second I read it but, as I went to answer, I found it harder than expected. First off, I’d really love to see some no-name, up-and-coming young actors step into the roles and shine. People even I’ve never heard of. That would be ideal.

If I had to pick… Carlson Young (of the “Scream” series) almost has the look for Kaity and I think she could pull off the role. For Chance and Kevin, even though they already starred in something together, I could almost see “Awkward’s” Beau Mirchoff and Brett Davern, respectively, playing them. Beau would need to bulk up for the role (quite a bit) but I feel like their looks, their talent, and their chemistry would actually really capture what I was going for.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Most of my fans know that meme-slinging and PC gaming are definitely in the conversation. I’m also a karaoke superstar and take any opportunity to do that. I enjoy NFL football, anime, Netflix/Hulu shows, and I also play in an adult kickball league. (Yes, that’s a thing. Shout out to Team Ridiculously Good Looking!)

Favorite meal?
Steak. Or pizza. But mostly steak. And also pizza.

Catch Up With Bernard Maestas on
His Website, Twitter, or Facebook!

Tour Participants:



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Sep 172014
 

WELCOME Sydney Avey

Sydney Avey

Sydney Avey is an author of historical and women’s fiction set in California. The Lyre and the Lambs is the sequel to her first novel, The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, which won an honorable mention from the Center for Basque Studies (University of Nevada, Reno) in their Basque Literary Contest. Both novels were published by HopeSprings Books, a small publishing house that promotes realistic Christian fiction.

Sydney and a lifetime of experience writing news for non profits and corporations. Her work is has appeared in Epiphany, Foliate Oak, Forge, American Athenaeum, and Unstrung (published by Blue Guitar Magazine). She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley and has studied writing at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. She lives with her husband Joel the Sierra Nevada foothills of Yosemite, California, and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.

Visit Sydney and sign up to receive her monthly News for Readers and Writers.

WEBSITE TWITTER

Q&A with Sydney Avey

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

Both. I write about the communications gaps between the generations. Members of different generations have different frames of reference. They struggle to understand and be understood in a family setting. I have experienced this in my own family. Current events help form frame of reference, so I research the “current” events in the time period I’m writing. For example, The Lyre and the Lambs is set in the Sixties, when President Kennedy’s assassination had a huge effect. I drew from my own experience of that event to show how society changed, partly as a result of having our sense of personal security threatened.

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

I always know how my story ends, but I never know how my characters arrive at their destination until we get there together. I begin by identifying critical plot points and outlining chapters and scenes. I tweak the outline as I go, expanding some sections, adding or deleting others. My Scrivener software makes it easy to see the story flow. The process is like starting with a rough sketch, then thickening some lines and shading for depth. Gradually, an image emerges.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

I write in the morning, at my desk in the mountains or the desert. I set fingers to keyboard, rejoin my characters by reviewing the last scene, and then move with them into the next scene. Sometimes I come out of the story to research details that makes the setting jump to life. For example, what kind of equipment did the news crew that showed up on Lundy Lane use when they tried to ambush the Dolds? On site reporting was very new in the Sixties. How did the cameras and microphones work? I go down lots of rabbit holes like that! Readers don’t want an explanation of cabling technology, but knowing how it all fit together helped me write a funny scene where aggressive “reporter girl” gets tangled in a microphone cable plugged into a heavy camera shouldered by the camera man.

Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?

Writing is my full time occupation. I can’t really call it a job until I start making some money! I balance my writing life with nurturing family and friend relationships and participating in church and community life, but writing is the activity that takes priority.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

The writers who make my heart beat faster are those who use beautiful language and show a grasp of deeper truths, or those who give me a sense of place or the sweep of history. I love the classics. I like historical fiction, like Edward Rutherford’s books. I admire literary fiction, like John Updike’s stories. I enjoy women’s fiction writers who have a sense of humor and are kind to flawed characters, authors like Elizabeth Strout, Elizabeth Berg, and Anne Tyler.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Slugger, debut fiction by my former HP colleague David Price. His signature humor, depictions of heart wrenching struggles with addiction, and cutaways to drama on the baseball field were brilliant. Next up on my iPad Kindle App is Lady of Devices, A steampunk adventure novel, by Shelley Adina Bates. I’m looking to her for influence for a short story collection I am preparing, Pastor Jerry and Jesus at the Beanpunk Café.

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

My third novel is about a young man with unrecognized genius who flees rural poverty for the West coast. Shadowed by the mother who abandoned him and a mentor who pursues him for decades, he will receive help from a young woman who, despite their brief attachment, will play a big role in his future on the national stage. On Edge (working title) explores the unlikely connections that make us who we are.

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

A Hallmark TV movie or an Indie film, I hope. I’d love to see new faces should my novel ever reach the screen.

Manuscript/Notes: handwritten or keyboard?

My handwriting is illegible, but I touch type like the wind.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I gave up hobbies when I took up novel writing. I like leisure activities that counteract all the sitting I do, yoga and exercise classes, walking on the beach or hiking in Yosemite. Also, activities that refresh my soul, movies and plays, singing, laughing with my husband, seeing God show up in daily life.

Favorite meal?

Organic, local fare, but mostly whatever I don’t have to prepare or clean up. The savory buckwheat crepes accompanied by hard cider, served in a petite Montmartre creperie using recipes that originate in Bretagne come to mind. Ooh la la!

About The Lyre and the Lambs

It’s the Sixties. Modernity and tradition clash as two newlywed couples set up house together. Dee and her daughter Valerie move with their husbands into a modern glass house Valerie built in a proudly rural Los Altos, California neighborhood. When their young relatives start showing up and moving in, the neighbors get suspicious. Then a body is found in the backyard and the life they are trying to build comes undone.

Father Mike is back to guide Dee through a difficult time with humor and grace, even as his own life is unraveling. Now he’s going to have to take some of his own advice about love.

The Lyre and the Lambs explores the passions that draw people together and the faith it takes to overcome trauma.

BOOK DETAILS:

Number of Pages:
Genre: Romantic Christian Fiction Suspense
Publisher: HopeSprings Books
Publication Date: September 3rd 2014
ISBN-13: 9781938708312

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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.

 

Jun 242014
 

WELCOME JUDI CULBERTSON


Judi Culbertson

JUDI CULBERTSON draws on her experience as a used-and-rare book dealer, social worker, and world traveler to create her bibliophile mysteries. She has co-authored five illustrated guides with her husband, Tom Randall, of such cities as Paris, London, and New York. She is also the author of the acclaimed nonfiction titles SCALING DOWN and THE CLUTTER CURE. She lives in Port Jefferson, New York, with her family. 
Connect with Judi at these sites:

WEBSITE      TWITTER   

ABOUT THE BOOK

Bookseller-turned-amateur detective Delhi Laine is back with another atmospheric mystery, but this time, it’s a family affair.

Nineteen years ago, Delhi Laine’s two-year old daughter disappeared. After a frantic but inconclusive search, authorities determined that she must have drowned, her body washed away from the picturesque English park in which she was playing.

Delhi’s heart has never healed, yet her family has since soldiered on. But when a mysterious letter arrives containing the ominous words, YOUR DAUGHTER DID NOT DROWN, their lives are once again thrown into turmoil. With her family torn between fighting for the past and protecting the future, Delhi is caught in the middle. For a mother, the choice to find her daughter seems easy. But for a family left fractured by the mistakes of the past, the consequence, and the truth, may be infinitely more costly.

Fans of Carolyn Hart will be swept away by this story of a family on the brink – and their hunt for the truth.

READ AN EXCERPT

In those days photography had been my passion, my way of escaping from the endless rounds of dirty diapers and runny noses and tears. At home, as soon as the children were bedded down, I’d fled to my darkroom, working into the early hours printing and tinting photos. The quiet darkness was an addiction. As sleepy as I often was during the day, I came alive in those night hours.

I had been taking photos in Stratford to work on, to enlarge and color when we got home.

After that day by the river, I never took another. Growing up I had never daydreamed about having a family, of being surrounded by children. I’d read endlessly, imagined myself in exotic places, even saw myself as an archeologist. So when I met Colin . . . I loved the children, they were mine, but they were part of the scenery of my life.

When I lost one of them due to my preoccupation, I vowed never to let anything distract me again. Not even photography. Especially not photography.

“You thought falling asleep sounded better?” Colin felt menacing beside me, as if he might grab my shoulders and shake me.

I knew then that I should have told him about the note first, that we should not be having this conversation in front of everyone. “I—yes . And after I kept saying it a part of me started believing it. When I finally admitted the truth and told someone else, she pointed out that if I was standing right by the water, I should have heard a splash or seen Caitlin fall in. And I was, right by the edge of the river. I–”

“But the police must have investigated all that?” Patience couldn’t keep out of it any longer.

“Of course they did.” Colin boomed. “They interviewed everyone who’d had been in the park that day. We even hired a private detective. Who found nothing.”

Through the miasma of wine and coffee I tried to remember what had been in the detective’s report. Surely, for all the money we borrowed from Colin’s parents to pay him, he had turned up something. “But the police never found her. They said that was unusual for that part of the river.”

“But not impossible.” Colin held up a professorial hand, a gesture he would use to silence a classroom. Everyone looked at him, waiting. He addressed the girls first. “I’m sorry you had to learn this from someone in a drunken stupor. It’s something that happened long ago. We didn’t want you to grow up thinking something terrible would happen to you too. We didn’t want it to overshadow your childhoods. It was the worst thing that ever happened to us. But your mother has conflated another day when she was taking pictures with the day it actually happened. All I can say is, memory is notoriously unreliable.”

I was so furious that I couldn’t think of which calumny to address first. I was not in a drunken stupor. I was not mixing up the days. But I needed to explain why I was bringing it up now. “What I was doing that day isn’t the point.” I reached in my Mexican jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. “This is the point.”

A rustling, a squeaking of chairs, as everyone craned to look.

It was a square white envelope, the size of a small greeting card, addressed to “The Fitzhughs.” On the front were stamp images of Queen Elizabeth in red and green and a postmark I could not read. I pulled out the white paper inside, unfolded it, and laid it flat on the table so that the people closest to me could see. In large black letters it read: YOUR DAUGHTER DID NOT DROWN.

When Colin and the girls had seen it I passed it to Pat who scanned it and gave it back so I could show it to Ben. “This came in the mail Monday,” I said. “I can’t tell what part of England it’s from.”

Colin picked up the envelope and studied it. Again, everyone seemed to be waiting for his official pronouncement. “A mean trick,” he said finally. “Someone’s idea of a bad joke.”

A bad joke? “But why now?” I argued, shocked. “Almost twenty years later? Who would know anything about it now?”

“Maybe they ran a story in the local Stratford papers,” Ben said. “Maybe the detective who investigated it is retiring or something.”

“And that would make somebody track us all the way over here to taunt us, a mention in a retirement story? I don’t buy that. It wasn’t even a criminal investigation, they just thought she’d drowned. No policeman would be remembered for it.”

“Maybe that’s what the story was about then, people drowning in the river.” Ben brightened as if he had solved the problem. I told myself he wasn’t trying to be cruel, that he just liked to fix things.

“They’d hardly go to the trouble of finding Delhi and Colin’s address in another country. That’s ridiculous,” Patience said. “It sounds like whoever wrote it knows something definite.”

“Can’t we have the handwriting analyzed?” Jane interrupted. “Or have it dusted for fingerprints?”

Colin sighed, playing with a small glass salt shaker that had been left on the table. “That note is hardly a criminal matter. They wouldn’t go to the trouble. Besides, the real point is if Caitlin did somehow survive, it’s too late now. Too much time has passed. It’s like an adoption, it’s final.”

“No!” It came out of me as a wail.

Patience gasped. “It is not like an adoption. If your daughter didn’t drown, then she was kidnapped! She has every right to know her real family.”

“Patsy,”—Colin lapsed into her old nickname–“it’s not that simple. You can’t assume a kidnapping. If she didn’t drown, she probably wandered off and someone found her.”

“Daddy, what are you talking about?” Jane grasped his forearm. She was flushed, probably with cabernet, and furious. As close as they were, she often lost her temper with Colin. “People don’t keep lost children. They find a policeman and get them back to their parents! It’s not like a stray kitten that you decide to take in.”

“No, Daddy’s right,” Hannah looked up from where she had been tormenting a cuticle. “How would you feel if someone contacted us and claimed after nineteen years that I had been stolen and was part of their family? That everything I’d thought was true was a lie and they wanted me to come live with them. Anyway, I don’t want a twin. I’m fine just as I am.”

Colin pushed back from the table. “I think it’s time for us to go.”

“But we haven’t had our walk,” Ben protested. “We have to take our beach walk!”

Poor Ben. If he’d been on the Titanic, he would have been demanding his nightly whiskey as the ship went down.

“Yes, go on your walk. I have to show Delhi something of our mother’s that I found. We’ll catch up.”

I knew we wouldn’t.

“Can I see?” Jane asked eagerly.

Patience and I exchanged a look.

“Sure,” I told her.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Mystery & Detective; Women Sleuth
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: 5/27/2014
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 9780062296351

PURCHASE LINKS:

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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.

May 052014
 

 

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia of A girl and her books and is  now hosted on its own blog.        

According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.
Click on title for synopsis via IndieBound (I am an IndieBound affiliate)
Friday:  The Heart of Healing by Regina Rosenthal, PT, MA from Author
Mar 042014
 

WELCOME BACK PETER LEONARD


PETER LEONARD

Peter Leonard lives in Birmingham, Michigan with his wife and four children.

Peter Leonard’s debut novel, QUIVER, was published to inter- national acclaim in 2008, and was followed by TRUST ME in 2009, and VOICES OF THE DEAD and ALL HE SAW WAS THE GIRL in 2012. BACK FROM THE DEAD is his fifth novel. (click titles above for my reviews)
Connect with Peter at these sites:

WEBSITE       

Q&A with Peter Leonard

In preparation for writing EYES CLOSED TIGHT, you spent a month with Detroit police detectives investigating murders. How did the experiences help you prepare and develop your characters?
I spent a lot of time taking to detectives, listening to their stories and the rhythms of their speech. I watched them in action at crime scenes. All of these experiences helped me develop characters who sound real.
 
How did your experiences with the Detroit detectives compare to your expectations before the research?
I thought it would be interesting. I had no idea how interesting.

Was there a particular case that you shadowed that inspired you for the book?
There wasn’t a particular case. It was the complete experience that helped with the background of my story, the procedural aspects of investigating a homicide, watching the Detroit detectives in action.

When you were growing up, how did watching your father Elmore Leonard inspire you to be a writer?
If I ever aspired to be a novelist, I gave up the notion when my father appeared on the cover of Newsweek magazine and became famous.

You spent much of your career in the advertising industry. What made you decide to become a full-time novelist a few years ago?
I was bored out of my mind. At age fifty-two I thought, if I’m ever going to do it I better get going. One evening on my way home from a client meeting at Volkswagen, I stopped at my father’s house. Elmore was writing The Hot Kid. He picked up a piece of paper and read a scene he had written that day. He was excited, enthusiastic about what he was doing and I wasn’t. That might have been my epiphany. A couple months later I started writing my first novel.

At the start of your writing career, you dabbled in scriptwriting. What made you decide to move to novels?
My father said, “If you want to write, write a novel. Writing scripts is like wanting to be a co-pilot.

Of all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite?
I don’t have a favorite. I like O’Clair from Eyes Closed Tight, Harry Levin from Voices of the Dead, and McCabe from All He Saw was the Girl.

How has living most of your life in Detroit shaped your writing?
If you write crime fiction you couldn’t find a better city than Detroit.

ABOUT THE BOOK

All O’Clair wanted was a quiet life far from the frozen streets of Detroit. A former homicide investigator, he was spending his retirement as a motel owner in sunny Pompano Beach, Florida. He had it all, including his knockout girlfriend, Virginia, who can fix anything.

One morning, while he’s cleaning up after the previous night’s partiers, he sees a lovely young woman who appears to be stretched out asleep on a lounge chair. When he goes to awaken her he realizes she’s taken her last nap. The discovery triggers a rollercoaster chain of events that launches EYES CLOSED TIGHT.

When a second girl is murdered, O’Clair realizes someone is sending him a message. The murder pattern is eerily reminiscent of a case he investigated years earlier. Convinced the murders are related, O’Clair returns to his former stomping grounds at Detroit Police Homicide to review the murder file and try to figure out what he might have missed.

Then Virginia is kidnapped and the case becomes personal. Highly personal.

Read an excerpt

O’Clair got up, put on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, glanced at Virginia’s cute face and naked shoulder sticking out from under the cover, and went outside. It was seven twenty-five, big orange sun coming up over the ocean, clear sky; looked like another perfect day. O’Clair had moved to Florida from Detroit three months earlier, bought an eighteen-unit motel on the beach called Pirate’s Cove; it had a friendly pirate on the sign surrounded by neon lights.

The Motel was at the corner of Briny Avenue and SE Fifth Street in Pompano Beach. Four-story condo to the north and public beach access immediately south, and next to that, a massive empty lot that a developer was going to build a twenty-five-story apartment building on.

The idea of living through two years of heavy construction had O’Clair concerned, but what could he do about it?

He’d brought a paper grocery bag with ihm and walked around the pool, picking up empties, a dozen or so lite beer cans left by a group of kids from Boston University who’d been staying at the motel the past three days. There were nine of them, three girls and six guys. They’d caravanned down from snowy Massachusetts a week after Christmas.

He fished a few more beer cans out of the pool with the skimmer, picked up cigarette butts that had been stamped out on the concrete patio and threw them in the bag with the empties. O’Clair straightened the lounge chairs in even rows, adjusted the back rests so they were all at the same angle, and noticed one of the chairs was missing. He scanned the pool area, didn’t see it, glanced over the short brick wall that separated the motel from the beach and there it was, twenty yards from where he was standing.

O’Clair kicked off his sandals, opened the gate and walked down three steps to the beach. As he got closer, he could see a girl asleep, stretched out on the lounge chair, one leg straight, the other slightly bent at the knee, arms at her sides. She was a knockout, long blonde hair, thin and stacked, wearing a white T-shirt and denim capris, early twenties. He didn’t recognize her, but figure she was with the group from Boston. She looked so peaceful he didn’t want to wake her. “You should go to your room,” O’Clair said, looking down at her.

The girl didn’t respond. He touched her shoulder, shook her gently. Either she was a heavy sleeper or something was wrong. He touched her neck, felt for a pulse, there wasn’t one. Her skin was cold, body starting to stiffen, definitely in the early stages of rigor. He looked at the sand around the lounge chair, surprised it was smooth, no footprints. Glanced toward the water at the joggers and walkers moving by. O’Clair went back up to the patio, wiped the sand off his feet, and slipped his sandals on.

Virginia was standing behind the registration counter, yawning, eyes not quite open all the way, holding a mug of coffee.

“What do you want for breakfast?”

“There’s a dead girl on the beach.” O’Clair said, picking up the phone and dialing 911.

Virginia’s face went from a half smile, thinking he was kidding, to deadpan, seeing he wasn’t. “What happened?”

The cruiser was white with gold and green stripes that ran along the side, light bar flashing. O’Clair watched it pull up in front, taking up three parking spaces. Two young-looking cops in tan uniforms got out and squared the caps on their heads. O’Clair went outside, met them and introduced himself.

“You the one found the body?” Officer Diaz, the dark-skinned cop said.

O’Clair nodded.

“You know her?” Diaz pulled the brim lower over his eyes to block the morning sun, the top of a crisp white T-shirt visible under the uniform.

“At first I thought she was with the group from BU. Now I don’t think so.”

“What’s BU?” the big, pale one, Officer Bush said, showing his weightlifter’s arms, uniform shirt bulging over his gut.

“Boston University. Nine kids staying with us, units seventeen and eighteen.” O’Clair didn’t know the sleeping arrangements and didn’t care. They were paying $720 a night for two rooms, staying for five days.

An EMS van pulled up and parked facing the police cruiser. Two paramedics got out, opened the rear door, slid the gurney out, and O’Clair led them through the breezeway, past the pool, to the beach. The paramedics set the gurney next to the lounge chair, examined the girl and pronounced her dead.

Officer Bush said, “What time did you find her?”

“Around twenty to eight.”

“How can you be sure?”

“I looked at my watch,” O’Clair said, like it was a big mystery.

Diaz grinned, showing straight white teeth, reminding O’Clair of Erik Estrada, his tan polyester uniform glinting in the morning sun. “Did you touch the body?”

“Her neck, felt for a pulse.” O’Clair saw Virginia wander down, standing at the seawall with her cup of coffee, watching them. Officer Bush went back to the cruiser and got stakes and tape, then set up a perimeter around the dead girl, protecting the crime scene. The paramedics picked up the gurney and left, leaving the body for the evidence tech.

Diaz took a spiral-bound notebook out of his shirt pocket, wrote something and looked up at O’Clair. “Ever see her before? Maybe lying in the sun, walking the beach?”

“I don’t think so,” O’Clair said. “Someone like that I would remember.”

Diaz said, “You see anyone else?”

“College kids out by the pool.” He almost said drinking beer, but caught himself, he doubted they were twenty-one and didn’t want to get them in trouble.

“What time was that?”

“Around eleven o’clock.”

“Then what happened?

“I went to bed.”

Diaz said, “Anything else you remember? Any noises?”

“No.”

The evidence tech arrived carrying a tool box, set it on the sand a few feet from the lounge chair, opened it, took out a camera, and shot the crime scene from various angles. Diaz searched the surrounding area for evidence and Bush questioned the morning joggers and walkers wandering up toward the scene. O’Clair watched from the patio, learning against the seawall. Virginia had gone back to the office.

A guy in a tan, lightweight suit walked by O’Clair and went down the steps to the beach. He had to be with homicide. The evidence tech, wearing white rubber gloves, was swabbing the dead girl’s fingernails. He glanced at the guy in the suit.

“What do you got?”

“Fatal.”

“I figured that unless you were doing her nails.”

“Not much here,” the evidence tech said, “couple hairs, maybe a latent, and something you’re not going to believe.” He whispered something to the suit that O’Clair couldn’t hear.

“Jesus, I’ve seen a lot, but I haven’t seen that.” The homicide investigator shook his head. “Where’s the blood?”

“That’s what I want to know.”

“How’d she die?”

“You want a guess? That’s about all I can give you right now. She was asphyxiated, been gone about four hours.”

“Who found her?”

The evidence tech turned and pointed at O’Clair above them on the patio. The detective came up the steps and stood facing him.

“I’m Holland, Pompano Beach Homicide.” He has a goatee and a crooked nose, early thirties. “What’s your name, sir?”

“O’Clair.”

“I understand you found her.”

“That’s right.”

“You down here for a vacation, or what?”

“I own the place, bought it three months ago.”

“Where you from, Cleveland, Buffalo, someplace like that?”

“Detroit,” O’Clair said.

“Even worse,” Holland said, breaking into a grin. Just kidding. I got nothing against the Motor City.”

“Well that’s a relief,” O’Clair said.

Holland wore his shield on his belt and a holstered Glock on his right hip.

“You married?”

“Living with a girl named Virgnia, helps me run the place.”

“The hot number in the office?”

O’Clair fixed a hard stare on him.

“How’d you arrange that?”

“I must have some hidden talents.”

“You must,” Holland said. “Tell me what you saw this morning.”

“Same thing you did—dead girl on a lounge chair,” O’Clair said. “Know who she is?”

“No ID. No idea. Have to check with missing persons. Was the chair left on the beach?”

“It shouldn’t have been. The lounge chairs are supposed to be kept in the pool enclosure. It’s one of our rules here at Pirate’s Cove.”

“Your guests break the rules very often?”

“Oh, you know how it is. Get in the Jacuzzi with a beer, without taking a shower, and you’ve broken two right there.” O’Clair paused, playing it straight. “The rules are from the previous owner, guy named Moran. I keep them posted ‘cause I think they’re funny. Someone sat down and wrote them in all seriousness.”

“What do you think happened? This girl was walking by and got tired, saw your place, went up, got a lounge chair, brought it to the beach, lay down, and died in her sleep?”

“I’d ask the medical examiner.”

The evidence tech was taking off the rubber gloves, closing the top of the tool box.

Holland said, “What else did you see?”

“You’re asking the wrong question,” O’Clair said. “It’s not what I saw, it’s what I didn’t see.”

“Okay. What didn’t you see?”

“There were no footprints in the sand. Like she was beamed there.”

“So the wind erased them,” Holland said.

“You really believe that?”

“It’s the only plausible explanation I can think of.”

“What else didn’t you see?”

“No obvious cause of death. No evidence of a struggle. In fact, no evidence at all.” O’Clair looked at Holland, caught something in his expression.

“You sound like you know the trade,” Holland said.

“What’s you do before you became an innkeeper?”

“Worked in homicide in Detroit.”

Holland grinned. “I had a feeling. Then you must’ve seen her eyes were missing right? Bulbs removed, empty sockets.”

“But no blood,” O’Clair said. “So it was done somewhere else. Find the primary crime scene, you’ll find the evidence.”

“You weren’t going to say anything?”

“It’s not my case,” O’Clair said. “I figured somebody was going to notice sooner or later, it wasn’t you or the evidence tech it would’ve been the ME.”

“Why do you think the girl ended up here?”

“I have no idea. Why don’t you roll her over, maybe you’ll find something.”

Occasionally there was a crucial piece of evidence under the body, a lead. IT could be a round that would be tested for ballistics comparison against other homicides. It could be money or drugs, suggesting a possible motive, or it could be a cell phone that would lead to the possible killer or killers.

But there was nothing under the dead girl. No ID. No cell phone. Her body was bagged and the remains taken to the Broward County Medical Examiner’s Office. They took O’Clair’s lounge chair too.

“It’s evidence,” Holland said. “You’ll get it back eventually.”

O’Clair doubted it. He knew what happened to evidence.

Bush and Diaz went upstairs, woke the BU students and brought them down to the pool, nine kids looking hung over, yawning. Eight twenty in the morning was the middle of the night for them. O’Clair had noticed they usually didn’t get up till after noon. Holland questioned them one by one, showed photos of the dead girl, took statements, and sent them back to their rooms. No one knew or had ever seen the girl before. No one had seen anything suspicious or heard anything during the night.

The MacGuidwins from Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland in unit two, who had complained about the students making too much noise, were questioned next by Holland. O’Clair watched the fair-skinned, red-haired couple shaking their heads.

As it got hotter, Holland commandeered unit seven for his makeshift interrogation room and brought the other renters in two-by-two for questioning. There were the Burnses, Susan and Randy, from Troy, Michigan; the Mitchells, Joe and Jean, from San Antonio, Texas; the Belmonts, John and Shannon, from Chicago, Illinois; and the Mayers, Steve and Julie, from Syracuse, New York. Steve Mayer woke up with four-alarm heartburn at three-thirty a.m., got up, took a Nexium, walked out by the pool and remembered seeing the lounge chair on the beach, but didn’t think anything of it. None of the other renters saw or heard anything.

O’Clair walked Holland out to his car at eleven twenty, glad to finally get rid of him.

“Miss the life?” Holland said.

“Are you kidding?”

“Some things about it I’ll bet.” He handed O’Clair a card. “Call me if you think of something.”

Watch for my review in the near future.

BOOK DETAILS:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Number of Pages: 300 pages
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
ISBN-10: 1611881145
ISBN-13: 978-1611881141

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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.