Aug 212014
 

Murder Strikes a Pose

by Tracy Weber

on Tour August 2014

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: January 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0738739687
Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

Read an excerpt:

I laid my body on the cool wood floor, covered up with a blanket, and prepared to die.

Metaphorically, that is.

Corpse Pose’s ten-minute rest always soothed my stressed-out nerves, and for once I didn’t feel guilty about the indulgence. My to-do list was blank, Serenity Yoga’s phone was silent, and I had a whole blissful hour between clients to do my favorite activity: practice yoga.

Even my eclectic Greenwood neighborhood seemed uncharacteristically quiet, lulled by Seattle’s rare afternoon sun. The residents of the apartments above the yoga studio were off at their day jobs; the alcohol-addicted patrons of the block’s two dive bars slept off their Jim Beam breakfasts; the soccer moms shopping at next door’s upscale PhinneyWood Market purchased the day’s supplies in unusual silence.

I wiggled my toes under a Mexican blanket, covered my eyes with a blue satin eye pillow, and inhaled deeply. The ooey-gooey smell of Mocha Mia’s chocolate caramel cake wafted from across the street and filled my nostrils with sweet toffee-scented bliss—my all-time favorite aromatherapy.

Paradise. Simply paradise.

I released my weight into the earth and silently coached myself, exactly as I would one of my students. OK, Kate. Feel your body relax. Notice the random fluctuations of your mind and—

A vicious snarl ripped through the silence, startling me out of my catnap. I sat straight up, eye pillow falling to the floor with an undignified thump.

What the heck?

When had a dog fighting ring moved into the neighborhood?

A dog fight was the only plausible explanation for the commotion outside. Bursts of deep, frantic barking were followed by high-pitched yelping, all punctuated by the peace-shattering sounds of angry yelling. The phrases I could make out confirmed my suspicions. This had to be a dog fight, albeit one-sided.

“Control your dog!”

“Get that vicious beast out of here!”

And even a simple, “What the hell?”

I closed the door between the yoga room and the studio’s lobby, hoping to block out the intrusive sounds. Snarls, shouts, and an occasional ear-piercing shriek continued to reverberate right through the wall.

Undaunted, I imagined that the sounds were merely clouds floating across my mental horizon. Most of those clouds were dark and ominous, like the deep thunderclouds preceding a hailstorm. But every so often I heard a soft voice, more like the fluffy clouds of childhood summers. I couldn’t quite make out his words, but I could tell that the speaker was a man. From his tone, I assumed he was trying to calm beasts both human and animal.

It wasn’t working.

Neither, for that matter, was my attempted meditation.

I’d obviously have to shift tactics.

I tried drowning out the clamor with low, soft chanting. Then I increased the volume. But even as I belted out Om Santi, my favorite mantra for peace, I felt my jaw start to tighten. My fingernails bit deeply into my palms. My shoulders crept up to my ears.

An entirely different mantra began pounding through my head: Don’t get me angry; you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

A series of yelps and the words “I’m calling the cops!” zapped me like a cattle prod. I leapt from my mat and stormed across the floor, determined to put a stop to that infernal racket. I hurled open the door and came face-to-face, or rather face-to-snout, with the source of the commotion. Not more than five feet away from the studio’s entrance stood a paunchy, dark-haired man and the biggest, skinniest, meanest-looking German shepherd I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong. I like dogs. I love them, in fact. It’s their human counterparts I could sometimes do without. But this frothing breast was no Rin Tin Tin. A long line of drool oozed from its mouth. Its sharp white teeth glinted in the sunlight, and its black wiry topcoat still stood on end from the prior scuffle. The dog was obviously rabid.
I didn’t recognize the man standing next to the frightening creature, but I did recognize his activity. He worked as a vendor for Dollars for Change, a well-regarded local newspaper that published articles about homelessness and poverty while employing those same homeless individuals as salespeople. Ordinarily I would have welcomed one of their vendors outside my business. If nothing else, supporting the paper demonstrated yoga’s principles of kindness and compassion.
But this was not an ordinary circumstance. I absolutely could not allow that disgusting dog to raise a ruckus outside my studio. The prenatal class would have a fit. Suffice it to say that pregnancy hormones didn’t always leave expecting moms in the best of moods. My moms-to-be liked their yoga practice. They needed their yoga practice. And they needed to be serene while doing it. If a noisy dog fight disturbed their peaceful experience, I’d be the one getting barked at.

Thinking less than yogic thoughts, I marched up to the pair, determined to put a stop to the chaos.

“What in the world’s going on out here?”

The human half of the dastardly duo held a leash in one hand, newspapers in the other. He smiled at me and said, “Sorry about all the noise. I’m George, and this here’s Bella. What’s your name?”

“Kate Davidson, but—”

“Well, nice to meet you, Kate. I’d shake your hand, but mine are full, so Bella will have to do it instead.”

The vicious beast walked up and calmly sniffed my hand. I prayed she wasn’t about to ingest my fingers.

“Bella, say hello!”

Upon hearing her owner’s command, the giant hairy monster-dog immediately went into a perfect sit and sweetly offered me her paw. Maybe she wasn’t rabid after all. Just huge and ill-mannered.

“Don’t mind Bella,” he continued. “She’s very friendly to people. She just doesn’t like other dogs much. She’d be fine if people kept their unruly mutts to themselves, but they think if their rude dog wants to play, Bella has to as well.” He shook his head in disgust. “I don’t understand some people!”

I tried to interrupt, to tell him that his dog was the problem, but he didn’t give me the chance.

“Bella and I are new to this neighborhood, and we’re supposed to sell papers near the market. I tried setting up by the north entrance, but there’s a pet store at that end. Pete’s Pets, I think it’s called? The owner was a nice enough guy and all, but selling there was a disaster with all those dogs going in and out. Bella wasn’t happy at all.” He shrugged. “So I guess we’re going to have to hang out here instead.”

I bit the inside of my lip and considered my options. Up close, George wasn’t exactly the paragon of health I wanted standing outside my business. His friendly smile exposed yellowed teeth in need of significant dental care, and if the sharp, ammonia-like smell was any indication, neither he nor Bella had taken a bath in quite some time. At three-thirty in the afternoon, I could smell whiskey on his breath, and I suspected this most recent drink hadn’t been his first of the day. It would also likely be far from his last. I only knew one thing for certain: if George didn’t frighten my students away, his loud, intimidating, fur-covered companion would.

I needed them to leave, but honestly, I didn’t want to say it out loud. After all, I taught yoga for a living. People expected me to be calm and collected at all times. I wasn’t allowed to be mean, or even irritated, for that matter. I hesitated as I tried to come up with the perfect words to make him want to move, if not out of the neighborhood, then at least across the street.

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), one of my favorite students picked that very moment to walk up with her five-month-old Lab pup, Coalie. “Hey, Kate!” she said. “I hoped I’d run into you! Do you still have space in your Core Strength class tonight?”
Coalie was as rude and friendly as Labs everywhere. She couldn’t stop herself if she tried. She ran up to Bella, wiggling her entire body with glee, and covered Bella’s muzzle in sloppy wet puppy kisses.

Bella wasted no time. Faster than a 747 and stronger than a freight train, Bella pinned Coalie to the ground between her front legs, snarling and air-snapping on either side of Coalie’s neck. I heard the sound of canine teeth chomping together and imagined soft puppy bones shattering between them.
My student screamed. Coalie yelped. George grabbed Bella’s collar while I reached in between razor-sharp teeth to pull Coalie from the jaws of death. The three of us wrestled the two dogs apart, but not before my student almost died of heart failure.

“What’s wrong with you?” she yelled. “Keep that vicious monster away from my baby!”

George quickly apologized, but said, “No damage done. Bella was just teaching that pup some manners.” He pointed at Coalie. “See, it’s all good!”

Coalie, oblivious with joy, seemed unscathed and ready to dive in again. Tail wagging and butt wiggling, she pulled with all her might, trying desperately to get back to Bella.

Bella had other plans. She sat next to George, glaring directly at that pup with a patented Clint Eastwood stare. Go ahead, she seemed to say. Make my day. My soon-to-be-former student ran off as quickly as her legs would move, dragging the still-happy puppy behind her.

“See you in class tonight!” I yelled to her rapidly retreating back. I doubted I’d be seeing her any time soon.

Yoga reputation be damned. I had to get rid of this guy.

I put my hands on my hips and stood nice and tall, taking full advantage of my five-foot-three-inch frame. “Look. I can’t let you stay here with the dog. She’s obviously frightening people. You have to leave.” I paused a moment for emphasis, then added, “Now.”

George stood a little taller, too. “Look yourself, lady. The last time I checked, I’m standing on city property. I have every right to be here. You don’t own this sidewalk, and you can’t stop me from making a living on it.” He glared at me, sharp eyes unblinking. “We Dollars for Change vendors are licensed, and no matter how much you don’t like us, the city says we can be here.”

“There’s no ‘us’ I don’t like,” I replied, frustrated. “It’s your dog. And you may have every right to be here, but the dog is another story. What do you think Animal Control will do if I report a vicious dog attacking people outside my store?”

George stepped back, pulling Bella closer. Seattle had the toughest dangerous dog laws in the nation. We both knew what would happen if I made that call. “You wouldn’t do that!” he said. “Bella’s never hurt anyone.”

I planted my feet stubbornly. “Try me.”

George gave me a wounded look and gathered his papers, shoulders slumped in depressed resignation. “OK, we’ll go. But I thought you yoga people were supposed to be kind.” He shuffled away, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath. Bella followed close by his side.

“Crap,” I muttered, watching their slow departure. “Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap.”
He was right. Like all good yoga teachers, I had extensively studied yoga philosophy and tried to live by it. The teachings were clear: A yogi should respond to suffering with active compassion. And George was clearly suffering, whether he realized that fact or not.

Threatening to call the cops on George’s dog may have been active, but it wasn’t all that compassionate, to him or to Bella. I felt like a cad. My solution probably wasn’t what the teachings had in mind, but it was the best I could come up with on short notice.
“Hang on there a minute!” I yelled as I ran to catch up with him. Out of breath, I said, “You’re right. I overreacted, and I’m sorry. How many papers do you have left to sell today?”

George stopped walking. When he turned to look back at me, his eyes sparkled with an unexpected hint of wry humor. “About thirty.”

The calculations weren’t difficult. I wasn’t completely broke—yet—but thirty dollars wasn’t a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, my Monday evening classes were popular, and I had to get this guy away from the front door. Mentally crossing my fingers that the toilet wouldn’t break again, I said, “Wait here. I’ll be right back.” I hurried back to the studio and grabbed thirty dollars from the cash box.

“If I buy all of your papers, will you be done for the day?”

“Yes ma’am, and that would be very kind of you.” He gave me a broad, yellow-toothed smile. “Bella and I appreciate it very much.”
He took the money, left the papers, and wandered off, whistling. Bella happily trotted behind him.

“Well, that wasn’t so difficult,” I said, patting myself on the back. “I should follow the teachings more often!” I went back inside and finished my considerably shortened practice. I chose to ignore the quiet voice in my head telling me I’d just made a huge mistake.

Author Bio:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries.

I’m a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.

My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I’m not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Dog Writers Association of America.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:



Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aug 202014
 

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
Published by St., Martin’s Press
Publication Date:
ISBN-10: 1250010691
ISBN13: 9781250010698
Pages: 368
Review copy from: Personal purchase
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (via GR):
Bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a breakout book about a small southern town fifty years ago, and the darkest—and most hopeful—places in the human heart

After losing her parents, fifteen-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister and nephew as tenants on a small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give.

When Jane Forrester takes a position as Grace County’s newest social worker, she doesn’t realize just how much her help is needed. She quickly becomes emotionally invested in her clients’ lives, causing tension with her boss and her new husband. But as Jane is drawn in by the Hart women, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm—secrets much darker than she would have guessed. Soon, she must decide whether to take drastic action to help them, or risk losing the battle against everything she believes is wrong.

Set in rural Grace County, North Carolina in a time of state-mandated sterilizations and racial tension, Necessary Lies tells the story of these two young women, seemingly worlds apart, but both haunted by tragedy. Jane and Ivy are thrown together and must ask themselves: how can you know what you believe is right, when everyone is telling you it’s wrong?

My Thoughts and Opinion:

I have been a huge fan of Diane Chamberlain since 2010 when I first read one of her books, The Lies We Told and then subsequent books, The Midwife’s Confession and The Good Father. My husband and I visit our favorite vacation destination, Aruba, every year and it is a tradition that one of my beach reads is a Diane Chamberlain novel. We didn’t go this year, because of my recent surgery, but I still had to read her newest book, Necessary Lies.

It is 1960, as the synopsis states, in the tobacco fields of Raleigh, North Carolina. We are introduced to the Hart girls, the Jordan family and the Gardiners, owners of the plantation. We also meet Jane Forrester, a newly graduated social worker who has a huge heart, believes in principal, and truth, and with her first job, it may become her last. One thing she wasn’t familiar with was the Eugenics Program, one that the state could decide on sterilizations for those that tested with a low IQ, had epilepsy, or mental illness without consent of said candidate. Could Jane make that hard decision?

The cast of characters were believable. The setting was described brilliantly so that I could visualize something that I have never seen. Weaving within the story, a horrific true part of American history. This was the first I knew of this program, and can honestly say, was appalled.

Ms. Chamberlain, once again, intertwines a cultural situation with life like characters that had this reader, once again, turning the pages of a phenomenal book. I will be pre ordering her next novel, The Silent Sister, publication date, Oct. 7th 2014. I suggest you order your’s too!!

Highly recommend, not only this read, but any of Ms. Chamberlain’s works!!

100x30 photo 715a7b0a-fc85-4ee8-a819-679fec1f28ed.jpg

REVIEW DISCLAIMER
This was a personal purchase.
Aug 182014
 

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)
Monday:  One Of Us by Tawni O’Dell from Simon & Schuster
Aug 142014
 

Eyes Closed Tight by Peter Leonard
Published by The Story Plant
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
ISBN-10: 1611881145
ISBN-13: 978-1611881141
Pages: 276
Review Copy from: The Story Plant
Edition: TPB
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (via Amazon):
O’Clair is a former Detroit homicide investigator who now owns a motel in Pompano Beach, Florida in his retirement. He runs the place with his much younger girlfriend, Virginia, who’s a knockout and can fix anything. One morning, he’s cleaning up after the previous night’s partiers when he sees a lovely young woman stretched out asleep on a lounge chair. He shakes her gently. Then he touches her neck and feels for a pulse. There isn’t one. Her skin is cold, body starting to stiffen, definitely in the early stages of rigor.

When a second girl is murdered, O’Clair knows someone is trying to send him a message. The way the girls are killed reminds O’Clair of a case he investigated years earlier. Now convinced the Pompano murders are related, O’Clair returns to Detroit Police Homicide to review the murder file and try to figure out what he might have missed.

And when Virginia is kidnapped by the killer, the stakes grow exponentially higher.

The most powerful work to date by one of the most thrilling suspense novelists of our time, EYES CLOSED TIGHT is relentless, surprising, and deeply satisfying.

My Thoughts and Opinion:

Peter Leonard was added to my “authors to read” list in January of 2012 when I read Voices Of The Dead and his subsequent books, All He Saw Was The Girl and  Back From The Dead.

 

An author once told me that a reader had to be “hooked” by page 5 but Peter Leonard has the brilliant ability to grab the reader within the first few paragraphs and never lets go.  The suspense was constant and the action nonstop the entire book.  The author takes the reader on an incredible heart pounding roller coaster ride.  The number of twists and turns were extraordinary.

I highly, highly recommend this book, and author, if you are a fan of suspense.  An incredible “whodunit”!!!  Loved it! This book was a reminder why Peter Leonard is on my “authors to read list” and should be on your’s.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!!

100x30 photo 715a7b0a-fc85-4ee8-a819-679fec1f28ed.jpg

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.

Aug 142014
 

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: White Whisker Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 176
ISBN: 978-0-9836329-9-3
Purchase Links:

Synopsis:

In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth—and he had nothing to do with her death. While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news. The police and FBI are against him—and his wife cannot be found. He flees to find the answers.

PRAISE FOR A DEATH IN VEGAS:

“With his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Christopher Meeks spins a charming and surprisingly sexy tale of murder, betrayal, and the importance of beneficial insects.”
Mark Haskell Smith, author of Baked and Raw: A Love Story

“I’ve never, ever wanted to go to Vegas. I don’t care if what happens there, stays there. But Christopher Meeks makes me want to go so I can find out who done it. A fun, exciting read, with Chris’s usual wonderful writing and great sense of humor.“
Jessica Barksdale Inclan, author of Her Daughter’s Eyes and How to Bake a Man.

“Christopher Meeks had me at page three. I couldn’t wait to find out how Patton Burch was going to explain the naked body he woke up to in his Las Vegas hotel room – first to the cops and then to his wife.”
Sam Sattler, Book Chase

Writing a Page-Turning Mystery:

I was able to talk to Mr. Meeks and asked him how he’s able to keep writing these page turners. Here’s what he said:
I’d been a short story writer forever when my new agent said, “Write a novel.” At this point, I had enough published short stories to make a whole collection, and I wanted him to send the collection out.

My agent said, “No. Write a novel.”

“Is postage the problem? I’ll pay postage.”

He said, “The problem is fifteen percent of nothing is nothing. Write a novel.”

Even though that collection of short fiction, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea,” later did well—and it still sells—such was my introduction to novel writing. I was petrified. How does one write a novel? I soon learned there are many challenges to writing any novel, and my first one was to write any novel. I didn’t know how to keep a story going for that long. Do I write an outline first? Many problems hit me. I did nothing until a good friend said, “You know how to write short stories. Make each chapter a short story.” That’s how I structured my first novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century.

While it worked well, and I received great reviews, one thing I later realized: short stories usually end with a final beat, as did my chapters. You wouldn’t have to turn to the next chapter right away because each one ended on its own last note.

When I later read and then taught Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling for my children’s literature class, I was struck by how page-turning it was. When I reached the end of one chapter, I had to start the next. Of course, many mysteries are built similarly, but it took reading a children’s book to remind me of this. Her series was addicting, underscored when perfectly good adults would stand in line for up to a day to be the first to get her next book. If you’re a writer, wouldn’t you want people to stand in line for your book?

Thus, when I started my first crime book, Blood Drama, I wanted it to be page-turning. I’d learned a few things by that point. Here are some:

Write an outline. I never wrote outlines for short stories, but a novel needs it. You don’t want to go off on tangents, which take away from page-turning. The details of Aunt Bessie’s doll collection for ten pages may lose your reader. One thing I came to realize about outlines: I can imagine faster than I can write. When I think about what might go in a chapter, it plays out in my mind, and I can decide, “No, that’s not good enough” or “Yes, that’s great.” The best things become the briefest of notes.

Envision a reader. As you may sense with the above that part of the secret is to envision a reader. What will make him or her want to know what happens next? My friend Ehrich, an author, is great at this. He laughs when he knows he’s going to make his reader turn the page.

Write clearly and simply. I’m from the Ernest Hemingway school of writing. Clear, not flowery sentences tend to make the reading go faster. I’m not saying don’t write lyrically. If you study poetry, you can learn a lot about how to condense and offer imagery and lyricism while increasing clarity.

Pacing. The speed of your reader is hard to judge, and pacing is extremely hard to monitor in a first draft. My mantra is Ann Lamott’s in her fantastic book on writing, Bird by Bird: “Write a sh**y first draft.” In other words, don’t worry about perfection in your first draft. Jot the rudiments of the story down. Some people write long, and I tend to write short. That means you’ll have to expand or delete later on.

If you write five or more drafts as I do, you’ll feel the pacing. When you get bored, cut. If something later confuses you because the plot jumps, then you have to add something.

Emotion. Good books make us feel things. Part of page-turning is to make your reader feel the emotion in your scenes, which means your protagonist has to feel and express things. If I keep worrying about anything, it’s “What’s the next turn?” Turns are about going from one emotion to another, such as happy to surprised, or confused to clear. What action or realization will make that turn happen? Is it motivated?

Chapter endings. When I can, I do not end a chapter at an end point, but I end in the middle of a turn. There might be the sound of a footstep in the dark. Perhaps down the cheese aisle of a grocery store, a female hand snatches away a round of Gouda. Maybe lightning strikes, and there’s a scream. End of chapter.

You can have too many ideas beating around your head as you write. Just feel, know where your next turn is, and imagine what will surprise and delight your reader. Yes, there are many other things to consider, but not in a first draft. Write that first draft. Write a novel. Make it a page-turner.

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

Under the hotel’s sheets, hands on his chest the way the dearly departed lay, Patton Burch blinked into the void of the ceiling, staring past it to the night before. He smiled. After drinking too much the previous evening, he had still remained the gentleman—except in his dreams where he’d made love to Chatterley. Should he feel guilty? Probably.

He turned. The other side of the bed was now empty. He’d slept so well, best in months, that he hadn’t heard her get up. The sound of the hotel’s shower, gentle as a rain, swept into the room. Chatterley’s clothes, which she’d slept in, lay as if hastily discarded on the floor. What if she was feeling better, amorous, even? He pictured her showering, comfortable in her body that men craned their necks for. The truth of the situation was that he was now sober, and she was young, vulnerable. The last thing she needed was an older guy taking advantage of her.

Patton lifted the sheets and saw his boxers were on. He didn’t remember getting out of his clothes. He did remember how Chatterley had trouble breathing last night, and between the drinking and another shot from her inhaler—a bronchial dilator, she called it—she’d been feeling sick again. She’d thought that strange. “I sometimes get shaky after using it,” she said. “It’s like having too much coffee, but I’ve never felt nauseous like this.” She wanted to close her eyes for a few minutes, so he’d offered his bed. “Thank you,” she said. “I just need to relax and catch my breath.”

That led to her falling deeply asleep on his bed. He let her be. He’d mixed himself another gin gimlet and watched a Star Trek rerun. Captain Picard was on a planet where he had a wife and family. He wasn’t a starship captain anymore but worked as an iron weaver, and no one believed him that there was a space vessel called the Enterprise. He came to love and accept his new family and let go of his past life.

After that, Patton had been too tired and dizzy to stay up. He remembered checking on Chatterley in the bedroom, hearing her breathe steadily and easily. He’d thought he’d just lie on the bed in his clothes, but here he was under the covers. He wasn’t used to drinking, but it was Vegas. Ah, the fantasy of it all: a woman like her in bed with him. But he had to let her go. He loved his wife—and he wasn’t like his father.

He could still smell grapefruit on the sheets. When he was a kid and even skinnier, for breakfast his mother would painstakingly cut each section of grapefruit halves for her family. Each pulpy chunk, cut from its heart wall, could easily be scooped up carousel fashion, one by one, and the sour sweet juice could be slurped. He loved that smell. In his dreams, there was something so pure and innocent about Chatterley’s small tight frame, naked and fruity, that their lovemaking seemed as fun as the first time he’d floated down a freshly snowed hill on a sled. In dreams, we get what we need.

Chatterley was showering now. Maybe he should step out and let her have some privacy. He sat bolt upright. Was his wife due in this morning? No. Maybe tomorrow. He held his chest, feeling the pounding of his heart. Calm down. Nothing had happened. As he thought about the situation more, it wasn’t as if he told Tess everything he did anyway. He’d snuck out to a few afternoon movies over the years and never mentioned them, and she certainly never asked. People could never be completely transparent to their mates.

The shower was completely steady sounding. He sat up, frowning. When someone’s in a shower, movement makes the sound vary. Wasn’t Chatterley in it? Patton turned his head toward the bathroom door. It was open. That’s why the sound was so loud. “Chatterley?” he said. No answer.

He swung his legs over the side and stood. They hadn’t closed the thick curtains against the daylight, so the western light, filtered by rare cloud cover, gave the beachscapes on the walls color. Outside, the gentle clay-colored hills far to the west looked flat. Considering that nothing green grew naturally in this area, Las Vegas was an unnatural place for a Lawn and Garden show, but this show was the biggest.

On her side of the bed on the floor, Chatterley’s purse was upside down with everything in it spread out, including a few coins, her friend Faith’s keychain, and a few panty shields. It was as if she had been desperate for something. Perhaps she’d merely kicked it accidentally. Then he saw her inhaler was in two parts: a small aerosol can and the blue plastic part that the can fit in. He picked up the can. It was empty. She must’ve been looking for another. Why hadn’t she awakened him to help?

He strode into the steamy bathroom. “Chatterley?”

The room had both a large whirlpool bathtub for two and a separate shower with a glass door. She wasn’t in either, though the shower was still on, pouring out steamy water. How could she leave it on? He turned it off, and the silence made her absence that much more profound. Did she step into the living room for a moment? Perhaps she’d put on a hotel robe and zipped to the pool. But without a suit? She could be topless in her panties, and the guests would love it. It was Vegas. She had beautiful breasts.

He could hear the air conditioner, a wide unit wedged into the wall near floor level in the living room, with its fan on high. As he moved toward the room, he was freezing with only his shorts on.

He stepped into the living room and saw her, near the Stratocaster, crouched naked on her knees before the long wide air conditioner. Her hands outstretched like a swimmer scooping the cool air. It looked erotic. “There you are,” he finally said, wondering about her intentions. He really couldn’t act on them. “Are you really that hot? Are you okay?”

She didn’t move. Was she asleep? Her head, between her arms, rested on the thick carpet. “Chatterley?” he said and kneeled down to her level. He touched her to wake her, and his first thought was she shouldn’t have been in front of the air conditioner so long because her skin felt downright cold. He shook her. “Chatterley.” She splayed onto her side. Her eyes were open. She didn’t appear to breathe. She stared skyward as if frozen in surprise.

Author Bio:

Christopher Meeks has four novels and two collections of short fiction published. His most recent novel before this was the acclaimed thriller, “Blood Drama.” His novel “The Brightest Moon of the Century” made the list of three book critics’ Ten Best Book of 2009. “Love at Absolute Zero” also made three Best Books lists of 2011, as well as earning a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist award.

He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections “Months and Seasons” and “The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea.” Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, “Who Lives?” had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize.

Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design. To read more of his books visit his website at: www.chrismeeks.com.

Catch Up With the Author:

Tour Participants:



Giveaway: