Aug 102018
 

The Chairman’s Toys

by Graham Reed

on Tour August 1-31, 2018

Synopsis:

The Chairman's Toys by Graham Reed

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

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

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

 

Editorial Reviews:

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

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

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

 

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

 

Book Details:

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

 

Graham Reed

Author Bio:

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

 

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

 

**Q&A with Graham Reed**

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

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

Tell us why we should read this book.

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

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

Favorite meal?

The Salsiccia Piccante from Pizzeria Prima Strada

 

Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

I shrugged and swallowed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

there’s a dead guy in the bathroom 🙁

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

***

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

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Aug 082018
 

The Former Assassin

by Nikki Stern

on Tour August 1-31, 2018

Synopsis:

The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern

Susan Foster wants to retire. Her boss wants her dead.

After decades as Victor Kemp’s off-the books killer, Suzanne finally quits. Not until five years later does Kemp discover how thoroughly she’s deceived him. Determined to punish her, he tracks her to Wales to watch her die. Instead, he walks into a trap.

Believing themselves safe at last, Suzanne and her family relocate to London, where she hopes to find the peace that has eluded her for so long. Her son is engaged to a nobleman’s daughter; her husband has a good job with British Intelligence. Yet she still struggles with restless dreams and the premonition that her nemesis has survived.

He has: Kemp, though severely injured, is rebuilding his empire and plotting revenge. He’s prepared to risk everything to end the former assassin. He may not be the only one.

Suzanne has no choice: to protect those she loves, she will be forced to kill again. Assassins, it seems, can never retire.

“An explosive page-turner which owes its momentum to it two well-drawn opponents and a conflict that goes beyond good-vs.-evil.” ~IndieReader, Four Star review

“Later turns in the smashing final act come at a searing pace.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Keeps readers guessing the outcome right up to its conclusion.” ~D. Donovan Midwest Book Review

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense Thriller
Published by: Ruthenia Press
Publication Date: January 8, 2018
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 9780999548721
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

Today is not a good day to die.

No day is, not really. We humans are hard-wired to survive. By most standards, though, this morning is exceptional. The weather is balmy, even for May. The fierce winds that often pound the Welsh coastline have remained offshore. Purple heather blankets the emerald cliffs that encircle Bristol Bay. Small breakers gently lap the shoreline and wash the sand clean of debris. The water sparkles in the sunlight. Shades of azure and aquamarine yield to cyan and lapis further out. In the distance, the sea meets a cerulean sky just where the earth curves. No slate clouds gather at the horizon. All is calm.

Nothing suggested that today I would find myself on a bench in one of the most breathtaking spots in the world with a gun to my head, held by a predator who speaks just two words: “Don’t move.”

***

Excerpt from The Former Assassin by Nikki Stern. Copyright © 2018 by Nikki Stern. Reproduced with permission from Nikki Stern. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Nikki Stern

Nikki is the author of two works of non-fiction: HOPE IN SMALL DOSES, a 2015 Eric Hoffer finalist for books that provoke, inspire and redirect thought, and BECAUSE I SAY SO: MORAL AUTHORITY’S DANGEROUS APPEAL, as well as dozens of short stories. She is co-author on the Cafe Noir interactive murder mystery series, published by Samuel French. Nikki’s suspense novel, THE FORMER ASSASSIN has garnered strong reviews, including a four-star rating from Indie Reader. She’s working on a mystery/sci-fi series starring an unorthodox crime fighter named Samantha Tate. When she’s not writing about strong complex women, Nikki is working with several non-profits, taking Pilates classes, and attending to the needs of her dog, Molly.

Catch Up With Nikki Stern On:
Website, Goodreads, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

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ENTER GIVEAWAY:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Nikki Stern. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on August 1, 2018 and runs through September 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Jul 312018
 

The Consultant

by Tj O’Connor

July 1-31, 2018 Tour

Synopsis:

The Consultant by Tj O'Connor

Terrorism hits Main Street America

When a rogue CIA consultant goes AWOL from his Middle Eastern post in response to his brother’s plea for help, he arrives just in time to witness his brother’s murder. For years, Jonathan Hunter and his brother Kevin Mallory had not spoken―until Kevin’s final words, “… Khalifah … Not Them … Maya.”

Pursuing his brother’s killer, Hunter stumbles into a nest of horrifying terrorist activity by Middle Eastern refugees, which sparks a backlash across America. In the shadows, Hunter’s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. Neither Hunter nor LaRue realizes that a new threat―the Iranian threat―has entered the game. Stakes rise as two shadowy players are one step ahead of Hunter and LaRue―Khalifah, a terrorist mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who dances with the highest bidder.

As attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another Middle East conflict, innocent refugees become trapped between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere. Is this who we’ve become? Before the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the next terror target, and pray he’s in time to stop further annihilation.

 

MY THOUGHTS/REVIEW

5 stars

I usually don’t read espionage with foreign factions’ thrillers but there was something about the synopsis, along with the author’s bio, that intrigued me. Let me tell you, I’m so glad it did! This book scared me, in the way that this could happen in reality.

Jon Hunter Malloy, a U.S. government consultant of international security, receives a letter from his brother, a Virginia BCI officer, who he has not seen or talked to in 18 years, begging him to meet him. However, when he arrives on U.S. soil and is approaching their prearranged meeting location, he is too late. Kevin, his brother, has been shot and is close to death. But he has a message for Jon. Not fully understanding his brother’s last words, all Jon wants is to find out who murdered his brother. But after the local police and FBI arrive on the scene, there is definitely more to this situation. And thus starts the page turning at warp speed.

Terrorism has hit the U.S. But who is behind it?

The story takes place over 7days, and the action is ramped up with every page.

The characters had me guessing as to who was on the right side of the law and who wasn’t. Agents and double agents.

Without wanting to give even a little bit away, I will say this book held me captive with a nervous anxiety because I realized that this could actually happen. It was also frightening to think of how little we know of our government and the workings of it, in which Tj O’Connor gives us a peek.

Palpable non stop action that culminates in an explosive ending!! An exceptional and thrilling read! I promise you, you won’t be able to put it down!

I can’t wait for the next book! I highly suggest you pick this book up!

The Consultant has been chosen by Amazon to be a July Kindle Monthly Deal for $.99. Get your copy now.

 

Editorial Reviews:

“Tj O’Connor is that rare thriller writer with both talent and street time in the worlds he rockets us readers through. O’Connor’s stories will pull you in and race you through plots that come from behind the headlines in our crazy world.” ―James Grady, New York Times best-selling author of Last Days of the Condor

The Consultant is a flat out, dynamite read. Fast paced, compelling, and all too real. O’Connor writes with authority and the pages fly by almost too quickly. My favorite kind of thriller, reminiscent of the best Ludlum and Forsyth.” ―Christopher Reich, New York Times best-selling author of Invasion of Privacy

“Thriller fans who value fast-paced action…will be satisfied.”―Publishers Weekly

“Hop on O’Connor’s back and enjoy this ride. Helluva fun tale full of action, layers, deceptions, twists, and surprises. Well worth finding this one, folks. Put the publication date on your calendar. It rocks.”―Men Reading Books

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Oceanview Publishing
Publication Date: May 15th 2018
Number of Pages: 432
ISBN: 1608092836 (ISBN13: 9781608092833)
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

 

The Consultant Trailer:

 

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1

Day 1: May 15, 2130 Hours, Daylight Saving Time
East Bank of the Shenandoah River, Clarke County, Virginia

The gunshots took me by surprise and, without luck, might have killed me. The first shot splayed a spiderweb across my windshield before it whistled past my head, peppering glass needles into my face. The second smashed my driver’s-side mirror. An amateur might have panic-braked and skidded to a stop—a fatal mistake. The shooter hesitated, anticipating that decision, and readied for my failure.
Training. Muscle memory. Response.

I gunned the engine, wrenched the car to the left to put more steel between me and the shooter, and sped forward, looking for cover.
My headlights exploded and flashed dark. Bullets breached the windshield. The rearview mirror and rear window were gone. Had I not flinched, one shot would have found my right eye but shredded my headrest instead.

I careened to a stop at the bottom of the boat launch— vulnerable. The shooter was ahead in the darkness, likely maneuvering for another shot. A closer shot. The kill shot. He’d be closing the distance and finding a new advantage.

Luck had its limits, so I dove from the car and rolled to cover behind it. I fought to control the adrenaline and bridle my thoughts.

Easy, Hunter, steady. Listen—watch—survive.

I stayed low and crept along the side of the car, looking for better cover. Spring rain made the darkness murky and dense. The Shenandoah River was to my left some fifty feet. A blind guess. Overhead, two dark spans of the Route 7 bridge blocked what little light there was but provided some cover from the rain. The six substructure supports in front of me might afford me cover. They also afforded the shooter cover. He was hidden and waiting. Still, Kevin Mallory was nowhere to be seen. Under normal conditions—and normal is relative with me—I might have judged the shots’ origins. Driving headlong into an ambush on terrain I’d long ago forgotten, in darkness and rain, I was all but defeated.

Silence.

Easy, Hunter, easy. Count your breaths. One, two, three.

Out there, somewhere, someone wanted me dead.

Worse. I was unarmed and alone.

Jesus. Where was Kevin?

The boat launch was just a small gravel lot tucked beneath the expanse of the Route 7 Bridge across the Shenandoah. At night it should have been empty. It was nearing ten p.m. and I hadn’t expected to find anyone but Kevin. Yet, while we’d been estranged for years, under bad circumstances, I doubted he was hunting me.

Although, I do tend to bring out the worst in people.

Ahead, perhaps seventy-five feet, a dark four-door SUV faced an old pickup. The vehicles were nose to nose like two dogs sniffing each other.

No movement. No sound.

One, two, three. I ran to the nearest bridge support, stopped, listened, and bolted to the rear of the SUV.

Silence. Safety. But something else—a dangerous odor. The pungent scent of gasoline. A lot of gasoline.

I got down on one knee and looked around. The dome light was on and the driver’s door was ajar. Something lay on the ground near the left front fender. A large, bulky something that washed an angry tide of flashbacks over me.

I’d seen silhouettes like that before.

A body.

Bodies look the same in any country, under any dark sky. It didn’t matter if it were the rocky Afghan terrain or along a quiet country river. Their lifeless, empty shells were all hopeless. All forsaken. All discards of violence. The silhouette three yards away was no different. Except this wasn’t Afghanistan or Iraq. It was home.

I made ready.

No muzzle flash. No assassin’s bullet. I crept to the SUV’s rear tire, crouched low, and slithered to the front fender.

The body was a man. He lay three feet in front of the fender and precariously vulnerable beneath the spell of the SUV’s dome light. He was tall and bulky. Not fat, but strong and muscled.

No. No. God, no!

After fifteen years of silence and thousands of miles, I knew the body—the man. His hair had grayed and his face was creased with age and strain. The years had been hard on him. Years he was here while I was forever there. Always elsewhere. He’d built a life from our loss while I’d escaped—run away. He once warned me that my life’s choice would leave me as I found him now, alone and dead. The irony churned bile inside me.

Kevin Mallory.

“Kevin,” I blurted without thinking. “Kevin, it’s me. It’s Jon.”

My mouth was a desert and the familiar brew of adrenaline and danger coursed through me. In one quick move, I leaped from the SUV’s shadow, grabbed his shoulders, and tried to drag him back to safety.

No sooner had I reached him when a figure charged from the darkness toward us. His arm leveled—one, two, three shots on the run—all hitting earth nearby. I threw myself over Kevin. Another shot sent stone fragments into my cheeks and neck. The figure reached the rear of the pickup, tossed something in the bed, fired another wild shot, and retreated at a dead run.

Lightning. A brilliant flash of light, a violent percussion, then a whoosh of fire erupted from the pickup. The flames belched up and over the side panels. They spat light and heat. The truck swelled into an inferno.

The heat singed my face. I gripped Kevin’s shoulders and dragged him the remaining feet behind the SUV. He was limp and heavy. The raging fire bathed us in light, and I finally saw him clearly. His eyes were dull and vacant. His face pale—a death mask. If life was inside, it was hidden well.

The truck was engulfed in flames, and the heat was tremendous. It reached us and felt oddly comforting amidst the spring dampness and dark.

“Kevin, hold on. Hold on.” I looked for an escape.

I saw the next shot before I heard it—a flash of light where none should be—uphill near River Road. Seasoned instincts threw me atop Kevin again. Glass crackled overhead and rained down. I grabbed for the familiar weight behind my back, but my fingers closed on nothing.

Dammit.

I hastily searched him. No weapon. All I found was an empty holster where his handgun should have been. Where was it? In a desperate move, I rolled off and snaked forward beneath the truck’s firelight and groped around where he’d been. It took several long, vulnerable seconds. I dared not breathe or even look for the shooter, fearing I’d see the shot that would end me. Finally, my fingers closed on a wet, gritty semiautomatic.

As I retreated to the SUV, something moved in the darkness. I pivoted and fired two rapid shots, spacing them three feet apart.

Response. A shot dug into the gravel inches away to my left.

Rule one of mortal combat—incoming fire has the right of way.

Retreat. The flash was a hundred feet away. The shooter had withdrawn and angled south down River Road.

Should I take him? Could I?

One, two, three. Reason, Hunter, reason.

The shooter had fired at least fifteen rounds. Fourteen at me and at least one into Kevin. Had Kevin returned fire? How many rounds did his semiautomatic have left? I was on turf all but forgotten, armed with a handgun that was perhaps near-empty. The shooter must have a high-capacity magazine with plenty of ammo to cut me to pieces. He’d already proven willing and capable of killing. He knew my location. I knew nothing.

Revenge would wait.

I sat back against the SUV’s tire and pulled Kevin close, keeping one arm around him and the other holding the handgun ready. The truck fire raged but was easing. The gasoline that had been splashed over it was consumed and only the paint and rubber were burning.

Soon, though, the fire might breach the gas tank.

I pulled Kevin close and braced myself.

“Kevin, wake up. It’s me—Jon. I’m here.”

“Jon?” His eyes fluttered and half-opened. “I . . . so sorry . . . Khalifah . . . he’s . . . find G. Find G . . .” He gasped for breath. “Khalifah . . . G . . . Baltimore . . . it’s not them. Khalifah . . . so sorry . . .”

“Sorry for what? Who’s Khalifah? Did he shoot you?”

“Tomorrow . . . not them. G . . . Khalifah is . . .” His body went limp.

I shook him easily. “Kevin, I don’t understand. Tell me again.”

“Find G . . .” His eyes fluttered again, and he clutched my arm with limp, sleepy fingers. “Find . . . Hunter . . .”

“Tell me who did this.”

“G . . . Jon . . . tell no one. Maya . . . Maya . . . Maya in Baltimore . . .” He fumbled with something from his pants pocket. He gasped for breath and pressed that something into my hand. “So sorry . . .”

I opened my hand. He’d given me a small, ripped piece of heavy folded paper with handwriting scrawled on it. I couldn’t make out the writing and stuffed it into my pocket. “Kevin, what are you saying? Hold on. Dammit, hold on.”

“Go . . . please . . . not them . . . it’s not . . .” He tried to breathe but mustered only a raspy gag.

“Kevin!”

Silence.

His body shuddered. A long, shallow sigh.

No. No. No . . .

My fingers found warm, sticky ooze soaking his shirt. The rain had slowed to a faint mist and, except for the river’s passing and the grumble of fire, there was only silence. Then, somewhere along the highway miles in the distance, sirens wailed.

“Hold on, Kevin. They’re coming. My God, hold on.”

I checked his pulse and wounds. Both were draining away life.

I pressed my hands into the ooze but couldn’t force its retreat. For a few seconds, I was fourteen again. The dull sickness invaded me as my parents were lowered side by side into the earth. The ache started in my gut and swelled until I spat bile and rage.

It was happening again.

The man who raised me—the man I’d abandoned—slipped away. The emptiness and loss attacked. I had to fight or it would destroy me again. This time, there was nowhere to run.

I closed my eyes and willed the anger in, commanding it to take hold and fill me.

I remember, Kevin. I made you a promise. I’m late, but I’m here.

He was limp, and I clutched him. A rush of words filled me that I’d wanted to say for so many years. But before I could speak just one, my brother was gone.
***

Excerpt from The Consultant by Tj O’Connor. Copyright © 2018 by Tj O’Connor. Reproduced with permission from Tj O’Connor. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Tj O'Connor

Tj O’Connor is the author of The Consultant, the first of The Jonathan Hunter Thriller series and four paranormal mysteries.

Tj is an international security consultant specializing in anti-terrorism, investigations, and threat analysis—life experiences that drive his novels. With his former life as a government agent and years as a consultant, he has lived and worked around the world in places like Greece, Turkey, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, and throughout the Americas—among others. He was raised in New York’s Hudson Valley and lives with his wife and Labrador companions in Virginia where they raised five children.

Dying to Know, Tj’s first published novel, won the 2015 Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) for mysteries and was a Finalist for both a 2015 Silver Falchion Award and the 2014 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Mystery Book of the Year.

 

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Jul 192018
 

Tail Of The Dragon by Connie di Marco Banner

Tail of the Dragon

by Connie di Marco

on Tour July 16 – August 31, 2018

Synopsis:

Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti never thought murder would be part of her practice, but now, Julia’s former boss and current client has asked for help. He has serious problems at his law firm. Two attorneys and a paralegal have received death threats and the only common denominator between all three is a case long settled — the highly publicized Bank of San Francisco fire. Julia’s convinced a woman is behind the threats, perhaps even the widow of the man who died in that same fire, but no one wants to listen — they can’t believe astrology could provide a clue. Before Julia can help her client, two lawyers are dead and her own life is threatened. Can she unmask the killer before he (or she) takes another life?

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: August 8th 2018
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0738751065 (ISBN13: 9780738751061)
Series: Zodiac Mystery #3
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads

 

Read an excerpt:

The doorbell rang. I hurried down the stairs to the front door. I hesitated as I saw a woman’s figure through the glass. Maggie. It was Maggie. I threw the door open and we hugged. Michael’s sister and I got along famously from the first time we met. Maggie probably understands better than anyone how I feel and even though we don’t stay in touch as much as we used to, every time we meet it’s as though no time has elapsed at all. I stepped back and took a good look at her. She wasn’t smiling. “Maggie? What is it?”

“Can I come in?”

“Of course. Yes.” She was quiet as we climbed the stairs. She headed straight for the kitchen and sat down at the table. I joined her. “What’s wrong?”

“Something’s come up.”

“About . . .”

“Yes,” she didn’t have to say it. I knew she meant Michael.

“What’s happened?” Part of me hoped against hope that we might find an answer some day, another part of me just wanted the sadness and unknowingness to go away.

“Let me try to tell you in some kind of order.” She took a deep breath. “Do you remember the elderly man who used to live across the street from Michael’s old apartment?”

I nodded. I did remember. Michael’s apartment at 45th and Taraval was just a few blocks from my old place in the Sunset District. “Michael and I used to see him when he walked his dog. And then . . .” I shrugged, “there was a time when we didn’t see him as much.”

“Well, I think what happened was his son took the dog because it became too much for the old guy. But the dad didn’t want to leave his home so the family arranged some care and a companion for him.” I waited, not sure what Maggie’s story had to do with Michael. “Apparently, the old man was always taking pictures. He wasn’t any kind of a real photographer, but he liked to do that. He was always fooling around with his camera.”

“Yes, I remember now. He’d even take pictures of the flowers in his yard.”

“He died a couple of weeks ago. And his son and his daughter-in-law are putting the house up for sale. They’ve been there every day, moving stuff out and selling a few things to the neighbors. The thing is . . . they found a box of photos. The father didn’t like digital cameras, he had an old camera that he used and then he’d . . .

“Maggie . . .” I couldn’t imagine where she was going with this story.

“They found a photo of Michael. On the street. Just as that car hit him.”

I gasped and covered my mouth. My heart was racing wildly. “He saw. He saw who hit Michael?”

“He must have. He must have tried to take a picture of what happened from his window.”

“Why didn’t he ever say anything?”

Maggie shook her head. “I don’t know. I really don’t. Maybe he didn’t want to get involved. Maybe he was afraid he’d have to testify.”

As much as I dreaded looking at anything Maggie had described, I still needed to see the photo. “Do you have it with you?”

“I don’t. The old man’s son and his wife knew what it was. They didn’t know Michael, but they knew there had been a hit and run in the neighborhood and that someone had died, so they turned it over to the police.”

“Have you seen it?”

“Yes, they showed it to me and my mother. She’s hysterical right now.” Celia, Michael’s mother had refused to speak to me since his death. She wasn’t on firm ground to begin with but after the accident, in her convoluted logic, she blamed me for her loss. If he hadn’t been in such a hurry to meet me, he would have been more careful. He wouldn’t have been killed.

“I can imagine.” I didn’t envy Maggie the emotional turmoil she must be dealing with.

“I told you before, Julia, she’s made a shrine of Michael’s room and I’m so worried about her. She never wants to go out or do anything. Once in a while I manage to drag her to a restaurant for brunch or something, but even her old friends have given up calling her.”

“What can they tell from the photo?”

“Not much, it’s not digital and it’s old. He had an old Nikon, I think, so they can’t see very much. Michael is lying on his side on the street and . . .” Maggie’s voice shook, “and you can just see the edge of the car. It’s dark or black and there’s a bit of a bumper and the corner of the right rear tire. The police think the driver must have panicked and took off. The old guy might have been looking out his window when it happened and snapped it really quick. They’re going to try to get as much information from it as they can, but they don’t really hold out much hope.”

“Who’s in charge of this?”

“Actually, a retired detective has volunteered to work on it. The case has never been closed, but this is the first thing they’ve had to go on at all. I can get you the name of the detective in charge, and maybe he’ll give you more information. I’ll find out and let him know you might want to talk to him.”

“Thanks, Maggie.” My heart sank. In all this time, no witnesses to the accident had come forward. One woman at the end of the block remembered a dark vehicle traveling fast, but couldn’t swear it had anything at all to do with the car that hit Michael. “We shouldn’t get our hopes up.”

“I want some answers, Julia!” Maggie’s voice had risen. “And I’m sure you do too. It’s not right. What this has done to our family, to me, to you. All our lives have been changed because of this. I want to see someone pay for what they did.”

I nodded. “I do too. It won’t change anything. It won’t bring him back. But you’re right. We’ve all gone through so much . . .”

“I have to go.” Maggie stood suddenly and I realized she hadn’t even taken her coat off. “I’m staying at my Mom’s for a little while. I’m so worried about her. I don’t like the thought of her being all alone in that big house.”

“Okay. Stay in touch and let me know what you find out?”

“I will.” Maggie leaned toward me and I put my arms around her, holding her tight. I felt her chest rise, a quiet sob. “I’m sorry to arrive on your doorstep like this, but I had to tell you face to face.”

“I’m glad you did, Maggie. I’m glad you did. And maybe we’ll learn more.”

Maggie pulled away. I could see tears forming in her eyes as she rushed down the stairs.

***

Excerpt from Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco. Copyright © 2018 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.

 

Author Bio:

Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Tail of the Dragon, third in the series, will be released on August 8, 2018.

Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.

 

Guest Post

10 Things About Julia Bonatti You Didn’t Know

Ten things we don’t know about Julia Bonatti? Well, let me think. As the author of the Zodiac Mysteries, I’m not sure there’s anything my protagonist Julia hasn’t already revealed. I’ve tried to make her fairly open and honest about who she is and what motivates her. But maybe I can go further . . .

Let’s see . . . Julia’s a Sagittarian and because she’s an astrologer she lets everyone know that her Sun sign indicates optimism, generosity, a free spirit, one who isn’t afraid to take on challenges or tackle danger. But her birthday? So far, that’s been a secret. So here goes — Julia was born on December 3, 1981 at 11:51 a.m. PST in San Francisco.

You can see her chart below. Notice that her Sun, Mercury and Uranus are all clustered around her 10th house cusp (her career). Uranus always figures significantly in the charts of astrologers. Neptune is in the 10th as well. Her profession is linked to the mysterious, to the occult arts. Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn are clustered in her 8th house, a mysterious arena, the house of death. Her Ascendant is Aquarius. She’s eccentric, doesn’t really fit into the norm of a woman her age. And her Moon is in Pisces. She’s sensitive and a pushover for people in trouble.

We do know that her parents were killed in a car crash on the Bay Bridge when she was just a child. She really can’t remember them too well, just an occasional vague memory. And she’s an only child raised by her grandmother. What she doesn’t talk about very much is her sense of displacement, her sense of not belonging. Her grandmother is her only link to the past. Then of course there’s Kuan, her grandmother’s friend who lives in the first floor apartment of her grandmother’s house in Castle Alley and practices Chinese medicine. Kuan was a dear friend of Julia’s grandfather (now deceased). In fact, Kuan saved her grandfather’s life many years before, but that’s something I’m holding back for a future story. To Julia, he’s a surrogate grandfather.

With such a small family, her friends, Gale and Cheryl, are terribly important to her. Julia had hoped that when she and Michael married, that haunting sense of not belonging would be healed. Together they would start a family, but sadly that was taken away from her with Michael’s death.

But what does Julia not talk about in the Zodiac Mysteries? Her fears. None of us can talk very lightly about our deepest fears. Maybe we’re superstitious, as if talking about the things we fear will bring them about.

Julia fears her grandmother will die. After all, everyone else has left her. She knows logically that her grandmother will die someday, but it’s more than she can get her head around.

She fears she’ll be alone for the rest of her life.

She fears she’ll never fall in love again.

She fears she’ll make a terrible mistake with a client’s chart and make a wrong prediction. That would destroy her reputation and her practice.

She fears her skills as an astrologer won’t help her prevent another disaster, like the death of her fiancé.
And she fears if she keeps sticking her nose in crime, she’ll die young. Then she thinks, maybe that’s better than being alone and the last one left on earth.

She fears she’ll find out her parents weren’t the wonderful people her grandmother claims they were. And most of all, she is still terrified of driving across the Bay Bridge.

Is that 10? Oh, not quite. One more thing — she absolutely loves bitter-sweet dark chocolate!
I hope you’ll get to know Julia even better in the books of the Zodiac Mysteries and tag along with her on her crime-solving adventures. Don’t worry, she’s not going to talk about her fears, she’ll be following the clues and tracking down a murderer! And hopefully entertaining you.

 

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

 

Tour Participants:

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


 

ENTER TO WIN:

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. The giveaway begins on July 16, 2018 and runs through September 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

 

Jul 182018
 

Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum Banner

 

Selected

by J. Allen Wolfrum

July 1 – August 31, 2018 Tour

 

Synopsis:

Selected by J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

 

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

 

Book Details:

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

 

Author Bio:

J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

 

Q&A with J. Allen Wolfrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?

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

Tell us why we should read this book.

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

Who are some of your favorite authors?

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

What are you reading now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite leisure activity/hobby?

I enjoy running and mountain biking.

Favorite meal?

Carne Asada burritos washed down with a cold IPA.

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

 

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

 

Read an excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

 

Tour Participants:

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

 

GIVEAWAY:

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours