Latest News


Andrew's historical fantasy novel based on an ancient Welsh tale, 'The Fairy Wife' (working title) is accepted for publication!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Welcoming Jeffery J Smith

I’d like to welcome author Jeffery J Smith to talk about his book, ‘Perfect Timing’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Jeffery will award a digital copy of Perfect Timing to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

BANNER-PerfectTimingB-400

Title: Perfect Timing

Author: Jeffery J. Smith

ISBN: 978-1-62420-321-3

Genre: Sci-fi

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 1

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE

Accidentally sucked from the present, caterer Crik must prove he started the trend that led to the future’s utopia—or be returned to waiting bullets.

BLURB

Perfect TimingAccidentally transported to the future, caterer Crik escapes house-arrest with Tepper, his possible distant descendant. While pursued by volunteer vigilante Voltak, goofball Crik explores Geotopia—where buildings grow, people incorporate animal powers, smart phones know it all, and vehicles defy gravity—seeking clues. If he can discover, understand, and articulate the future’s public policy that works right for everybody, he can prove he was their founder, the lone agent of change who put society on its path toward universal prosperity and harmony with nature. If he fails to convince the Futurite Authorities, they wouldn’t return their unexpected visitor to the exact second he left—something their law requires—to the moment when a hail of gunfire was bearing down on the luckless caterer and college dropout...would they?

EXCERPT

The image of a bellhop perches first on one leg then the other by the edge of a roof of a downtown skyscraper. Gazing downward, with both hands he raises a golf club over his head. The scene occurs on a large monitor.

Far below, the people look like a school of minnows flitting across the downtown central plaza. Others resemble tufts of beach grass clumped around street performers break dancing or juggling. The bellhop arches his back.

In a darkened laboratory, two wide-eyed technicians wearing white coats watch the monitor. In grainy color, the young man bends and stretches. Mouths agape, the viewers take notes and wipe their brows.

"This is your candidate?" the taller researcher says. "This golfer? Crik Duvall?"

The shorter one nods. "He's a bellhop, too."

~ * ~

1

At the wall atop the city's tallest hotel, Crik in the hotel's uniform lowers his club. The height does not frighten him, rather, the view always intrigues him. People sure look little, Crik thinks. Must be how landlords see us.

Crik takes a few practice swings. He steps back from the edge and tees up. He drives a Whiffle golf ball into the air without a hitch. The headwind blows the hollow ball back to him. He catches it. Yes! He replaces the plastic ball on the tee — yo-yo golf.

Lifting his bellhop cap, Crik runs his fingers through bleached streaks. Yo-yo golf will challenge enthusiasts of all nations, even become an Olympic event. I could pay down my tuition. Even help Randy with his debt. How dumb, messing with dudes from the vodka importers convention. What'd he know about ostrich racing anyway?

Crik's knuckles are tattooed with esoteric symbols. A stud twinkles in one ear but no weighty choker worries his swing. He's up to twenty-three straight successful drives-then-catches, closing in on his personal best.

The word "Fore!" rings out from a phone in his pocket, but he ignores it.

Steadying himself, Crik cocks his club for another swing and drives the white ball into the onrushing breeze.

"Crik!"

Crik blinks. The plastic dot sails past him, into the void. Zippers.

"Whenever you don't answer your phone, I know where to find you."

Crik looks over his shoulder, resting the club on his other one.

Randy lets the door close behind him. "My man, break be over." Also a bellhop, Randy has his cap is on backwards. As he crosses the roof, his body lags behind his head, his neck nearly level.

Like offering his empty melon to a guillotine, poor sucker. Crik takes out a twenty-dollar bill. "Another big date before next payday, bro?"

"Man, you are like family." Randy takes the note.

~ * ~

"'Crik'. That short for cricket?" People always ask.

No, Crik was named Crik because Brook was already taken; his older brother got named that.

"Oh, I get it," the hotel manager said when interviewing Crik, "Creek."

Crik nodded. His hair waved, didn't curl, despite him being the black sheep of the family. "Yeah, Crik."

Crik is too busy to finish college. How many decades would it take to pay off the student loan — a necklace of stone — anyway? Especially with good friends unable to budget themselves. Better to have a fun job. Make money and enjoy life.

~ * ~

In the gloomy laboratory, tall Dr. Alvin Ultra and his short assistant Yuri Ivanov, both middle-aged, emit gasps and wag their heads, jotting down notes.

The monitor, thin as a sheet, hangs from a ceiling in a high corner. It's cabled to a device shaped like an oversized dog biscuit with a sharp point like a syringe, big as a sled, some parts shiny, some opaque. Colored wires twist and run to other odd-shaped devices that whir and jerk.

Crik hides his club on the ledge beyond the perimeter wall.

Dr. Ultra glances at Yuri. "Neither of these two has indicated any interest in social evolution, never mind founding an entirely new way of viewing the world."

Under his beret and bushy eyebrows, Yuri shrugs. "Destinon said to check out this moment."

~ * ~

The two bellhops enter the hotel's darkened conference hall. It's packed like a tent revival on the eve of the Second Coming. Of course. Who hates money?

Strains of Wagner's majestic movements accompany the big-screen video of unabashed luxury: Acres of vineyards remind Crik of the south of France where he'd backpacked one summer. A sleek car barely looking street-legal swerves through hills.

"Tesla Roadster," Crik whispers to Randy. "0 to 60 in 3.7."

On the screen, a limousine grand enough for comfortably hosting small celebrations sits in the driveway of a mansion with the long lines of Frank Lloyd Wright draped over a seaside cliff. Inside, fashion models adorned with jewelry befriend vain hosts sipping champagne. Famous paintings hang on the walls.

Crik leans over to his pal. "I've a print of that Van Gogh."

"With his autograph?" Randy whispers.

Crik frowns. "Ethics teaches us virtue is its own reward."

Randy frowns. "Economics teaches that reward is its own virtue."

My reward would be to never get another bill, late notice, or harassing phone call.

A sharp-dressed salesman in a flawless Armani suit strides onstage. His shiny hair neatly styled, Julian Seizure keeps his posture erect and full-chested, as would a cocksure general before his troops. His blistering smile stretches his narrow-featured face.

Seizure fires his words forcefully and pounds the air with a fist, keeping time with his avarice. "Andrew Carnegie, a billionaire back when a dime bought you a complete breakfast, noted, and I quote: 'It takes hard work to amass a fortune in industry, but any fool can get rich in real estate.'"

Perking up, Randy whispers to Crik, "Did he say any fool?" His eyebrows bounce up and down.

The big screen shows slender beauties gliding in Olympic-size pools and robust businessmen driving golf balls a mile down the links. The pitchman exhales. "The old boy nailed it. Nothing else comes close to how much people pay over the course of their lives for a place to live. Directly or indirectly, a big part of everyone's spending goes to a lease or mortgage."

The sea of heads nod in assent. The speaker opens his hands in empathy. "Since all of us have been foolish at least once …"

Amid the sea of heads, only Randy bobs agreeably — until he sees nobody else owning up and slinks lower into his seat.

"Why are we not all very well off?" The instant-riches guru taps his skull. "Foresight." Seizure stares down his audience. "It's not speculation when you see what's coming."

Crik snorts. Too good to be true. "Why can't telling the unvarnished truth work to sell?"

"I believe!" Randy says.

"Time to go, bro." Crik tugs his friend's sleeve. "I've a better idea. You think Seizure plays golf?"

Jeffery J. Smith picAuthor Bio:

Jeffery J. Smith’s credits are in nonfiction, being published in both the popular and academic press on “geonomics” (ecological economics). Before switching to fiction, he edited the news site, the Progress Report and contributed regularly to TruthOut. His newsletter, The Geonomist, won a California Greenlight Award. He taught both English and composition and was a graduate scholar in linguistics. An inventor of games and engines, he lives on the West Coast and winters in Latin America, listening to tall tales.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Welcoming Elliott Capon

I’d like to welcome author Elliott Capon to talk about his book, ‘Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Elliott will give a way a digital copy of ‘Meanwhile Back at the Ranch’ to one lucky commenter.

Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed AheadTitle: Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead

Get Thee to a Punnery: 101 Shaggy Dogs

ISBN: 978-1-62420-317-6

Author: Elliott Capon

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/elliott.capon

 

Website: elliottcapon.weebly.com 

Genre: suspense

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level:

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

REVIEW:

Damn the Torn Speedos, Full Speed Ahead

Get Thee to a Punnery: 101 Shaggy Dogs

Author: Elliott Capon

Reviewed by Jeffrey Ross

Five Stars—Funny and Clever!

This is a fun book for everyone—especially if you love word play and the nuances of the English language!

Included in the 101 Shaggy Dogs are topics from dictators to dentures to small towns to colonialism and humanitarianism. Each of the 101 stand-alone 1000 word stories (all finely crafted, I might add) end with a word play phrase. I hesitate to give much away, but here is a fine example…

A man named Myron had been born without teeth. His loving wife had chewed his food for him all the years they had been married. Myron won the lottery—and bought himself some dentures. He waited for the right moment to surprise his wife. While she was in the restroom, he inserted his new dentures and sat quietly at the dinner table. She returned and cut a piece of peach cobbler – and prepared to chew it for him. He stopped her hand, crying out,

"Oh, Susannah! Don't chew pies for me!"

Priceless—and there are 100 more stories to read!

TAGLINE

A “shaggy dog” is a story of less than 1000 words that ends on a groan-inducing pun. Here we have 101 of the groaniest. 

BLURB

What happens when a guy accused of stealing a type of onion defends himself by saying, “I was only taking a leek”? Or at the insect Olympics, where certain bugs hold the stopwatches, because “flies time”? That’s when you’re in the world of the “shaggy dog,” a type of story that ends on a funny, if horrible, pun that leaves the reader moaning and groaning...but laughing and eager to be abused by the next distortion of the English language. We have 101 such crimes against the mother tongue in this amusing collection.

EXCERPT

Sy Donovan was the biggest man at American International Relief Services ("AIRS" to English speakers; just "RELIEF" to the rest of the world). It wasn't that Sy was a top executive: he was the biggest man in the organization because he was six-five and weighed two hundred and ninety pounds.

RELIEF was a group much like CARE or the Red Cross, which responded to disasters all over the world: floods, famines, fires, plagues, the aftermath of war. RELIEF workers would, pushing aside bureaucrats and the obstructive complaints of tinhorn dictators, literally invade an area in need and set to work. RELIEF had doctors, nurses, engineers, epidemiologists, nutritionists, psychologists, and caring professionals in dozens of other professions, all of whom would, at a moment's notice, drop their regular practices and lives in order to fly halfway or all the way around the world to come to the aid of people who needed help.

Sy Donovan was RELIEF's most active field administrator. He had a working knowledge of medicine, logistics, and most of the other skills possessed by the RELIEF volunteers, but his job was to see that things got done. He was usually on the first plane or helicopter to reach the disaster area, he decided where the medical tents would go up, where the portable latrines would be placed (don't laugh), who would look after the children. With his imposing size and full head of bushy gray hair and Linolnesque beard to match—and blessed with the personality of the offspring of Alexander the Great and a lioness—Sy Donovan backed down from no one. People who "didn't want to" or "couldn't do" something to help, when confronted by the formidable giant, found themselves suddenly very willing and able. Sy Donovan had saved more lives than penicillin.

After a drought of several years, the tiny African nation of Tomalaland was hit by weeks of ferocious rains. The ground had dried to the consistency of concrete and therefore could not absorb the water; flooding was of almost Biblical proportions. Entire towns had been buried under a combination of water, mud, and uprooted trees; two million people found themselves homeless, foodless, clothesless, medicineless, hopeless. The day after the rains stopped, RELIEF got to work. A huge plane was quickly loaded with all the supplies to sustain at least a few thousand people for a few days. Other planes, trucks, and ships were to following within the next few days, but one plane had to get there first. Sy Donovan was, of course, aboard this plane.

In what had once been the capital of Guaziville, and which was now a sea of muck and debris, five thousand weary people made their way to the remains of the airport to await this lifebringing plane. The airport's single working radio was in contact with the plane, and the soldiers nursing the radio had found enough dry wire and undamaged equipment left over to hook the radio up to loudspeakers so that everyone present could share the joyful anticipation of the arrival of their saviors.

Unfortunately, the storms were not quite finished; when the plane was still an hour out of Guaziville, the pilot radioed—and five thousand people heard—that the plane had been struck by lightning. Two of their four engines were dead; a third was laboring. He was losing altitude, struggling to get to the airport.

Five thousand people prayed: to the gods of Islam and Christianity and to smaller, lesser-known, older tribal deities. The pilot reported that he was skimming the treetops, hoping to get as close to the airport as possible before the plane with its food, medicine, clean water and warm blankets finally hit the ground. The five thousand people at the airport were praying aloud now, crying out to the various parts of Heaven for assistance, for a miracle.

Then, in the distance—a speck! It was a plane—the RELIEF plane! Smoke poured from three of the four propellers. The sound that reached ten thousand ears was of a sputtering and choking. The plane dipped and bounced and rose and fell as if it were riding over invisible speed bumps. The people at the airport prayed like they had never prayed before.

Incredibly, the plane kept coming closer. A few people dared hope it would make it all the way to the runway. Then…closer…closer…closer… Hope was reborn! A few more feet…a few more seconds…! Come on…come on…yes…yes, yes….??

YES! The plane touched down on the holed, muddy runway just as the fourth engine exploded with a tired-sounding whuff! and the propeller stopped turning.

Five thousand people breathed out all at once, each silently thanking their God or gods. The miracle had happened. The plane had landed safely.

A few seconds later, a door on the side crashed open, and from the plane itself emerged a big Sy of RELIEF.

AUTHOR BIO:

Elliott Capon has three novels in print: the thoughtful horror story The Prince of Horror, and two funny whodunits that take place in the world of Poverty-Row Hollywood of the 1930s, The Corps Vanishes and Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch, the latter two published by Rogue Phoenix Press. He has had stories (and reprints!) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Frostfire Worlds, Disturbed Digest, and the original-story anthologies Zippered Flesh and Uncommon Assassins. He lives with his current wife and as-yet undisowned son. 

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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

‘The Fairy Wife’

I’m delighted to announce a novel acceptance.  ‘The Fairy Wife’ is a retelling of a traditional Welsh story about a mortal who marries a fairy, and the trials and tribulations they have to endure.  It’s a story I thoroughly enjoyed writing and I’m delighted to be with the publisher.

The story is very much a historical fantasy, and I see it as a sister to ‘The Footholder’s Tale’ which Rebel ePublishers unleashed in 2015.  ‘The Fairy Wife’, like ‘Footy’, is set amid north-west Wales’ stunning scenery (‘Fairy Wife’ just beyond the lake in the picture below, ‘Footy’ in the valley just off screen to the left) and takes place in a mythical time in Wales’ past.

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The original isn’t set in any particular period, so I decided to place it in 547AD so I could include legends relating to Maelgwn Gwynedd, a colourful king of north Wales who died in that year.  That’s the time and place I studied for my degree, which brought back some happy memories while I was writing.  The background knowledge was also a good basis for research.

I’m not overkeen on the title but I couldn’t think of anything better.  Hopefully before publication someone will come up with something better.

As always I’ll refrain from naming the publisher until contracts are signed just in case anything goes wrong, but it’s a house I’ve worked with before and who I’m delighted to be published by again.  ‘The Fairy Wife’ is likely to be released in 2018.

Many thanks as usual to those who commented on early drafts, particularly Phil and Carole.  Particular thanks to my wife for accompanying me on rugged walks over spectacular countryside while I researched locations.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

‘Half-Built Houses’ by Eric Keller

I’d like to welcome author Eric Keller to talk about his novel, ‘Half-Built Houses’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Eric will give a way a digital book to one lucky commenter.

Half-Built HousesTitle: Half-Built Houses

ISBN: 978-1-62420-315-2

Author: Eric Keller

Email: kellepc@hotmail.com

Genre: mystery

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 1

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE

All the taught intrigue and compelling personalities of a classic, courtroom thriller combined with the twists and turns of an engrossing murder mystery in a Canadian setting.

BLURB

Charley Ewanuschuk has been mistreated all his life and now survives by moving through society as unnoticed as possible. However, when a murder occurs behind the half-built house he is squatting in society takes notice of the introverted homeless man as he becomes the prime murder suspect. Brian Cox managed to charm his way into a good job in a national law firm but, when the recession hit, he learned that charm is a disposable commodity. Fired by the firm and forced to take on Legal Aid files to pay the bills, Charley's murder trial becomes Brian's first major case. However, this will be no straightforward case. As the trial progresses it becomes apparent forces are working behind the scenes to ensure the homeless man takes the fall for a crime. Told from the points of view of the accused, the lawyer, the detective and the manipulator, Half-Built Houses provides all the thrilling intrigue, clever ingenuity and interesting individuals readers have come to expect form classic courtroom dramas.

REVIEW:

Half-Built Houses

Eric Keller

5 stars

Published by Rogue Phoenix Press

Reviewed by Nancy A. Dafoe

In the vein of the pulsing arterial found in John Grisham’s crime/legal thrillers, Eric Keller’s Half-Built Houses is fast paced, meticulously developed, filled with plot twists, and the kind of complicated characters that keep you thinking about them long after you close the pages. Sex, drugs, and alcohol may lead to the predictable crime, but little else about Keller’s novel is predictable.

Keller’s familiarity with the law and court cases is apparent and the plot moves seamlessly through to an unexpected conclusion. More than a riveting, criminal procedural taking place in Calgary, however, Half-Built Houses offers subtle but significant social commentary on the issues of homelessness, the long-lasting damages of bullying, and the inequalities in class and social structures.

Charley Ewanuschuk, a homeless character accused of the murder of a young woman, stands at the center of the story, but Half-Built Houses is as much the story of Brian Cox, the charming but struggling young lawyer trying his first major criminal case. We know the crime in the opening pages as victim, Natalie Peterson, lies dying in the white snow, but Keller allows the reader to see into the characters’ heads and actions, shifting perspectives from the murdered woman to the suspected killer, to the defense lawyer to the Crown Prosecutor Clay Matthews, and the hardened detective Randall Jenkins on the trail of something that stinks. Lurking in the shadows, Charley is not as alone as he believes. Hugh Young and his son Jason may have wealth and power, but they, too, operate in the shadows. We come to know these characters’ backstories and circumstances leading up to their devastating encounter.

Highly visual, readers will feel as if they are watching this drama play out. With no false notes, Keller’s novel feels right even when everything is going wrong, down to the lurking ambiguity.

EXCERPT

After the car had been towed away, Charley had gone back to the basement, but he heard sirens and had to flee before he could collect his belongings. Knowing he would stand out as an oddity wandering about in a rich residential area as people started leaving their homes for work, he headed back across the river to the downtown core where the homeless merely blended into the cement. There he numbly walked the icy streets before settling into an ATM kiosk to warm up and rest.

Sitting on the wet floor, he did a quick inventory. He still had his good coat, two cheeseburgers, four dollars, and shoes, but no socks, gloves, or hat. It was thirty below and he had nowhere to go, and he could already feel the dirty slush on the floor soaking through his jeans. Over all the years he had been in Calgary, Charley had been in some extremely difficult spots, but this was one of the worst situations he had faced.

As he pulled one of the slightly squashed cheeseburgers out of his pocket, the key to the cheap padlock he had put on the basement door fell onto the floor. He picked it up. Despite being twenty-five years old, this was the only key he had ever owned. He remembered the joy he felt when he closed the lock for the first time. It was more than simply having a place of his own; it was a sense of survivor's pride because he could look past making it through each day and ponder a future for himself. Now he realized he could not be found carrying the key, so he slipped it into the slot in the bank machine, the slot where people threw away their receipts showing how much money they had in their account.

He was only able to stay in the kiosk for an hour before a security guard found him. The guard clearly did not want to send the pathetic man out into the exceptionally harsh cold, but he sheepishly said that the bank employees would be showing up soon, and they would give him grief if they found someone sleeping next to the bank machine. Charley left without a word.

Having nowhere else to go, he instinctively walked to the day labourer corner. Because the weather was so bad and he was there so early, he got picked up right away to shovel snow. Charley had worked for the boss before, and the man took pity on him, giving him a good pair of gloves and a toque.

~ * ~

Jenkins was checking missing person reports when Wilson strutted into the office and dropped an enlarged printout of a library card on his desk. The picture on the card was of a thin, unsmiling young man with thick glasses and messy hair. It matched the description the neighbour at the crime scene had given them. Wilson sat down and said, "Our basement squatter has a name. Charley Ewanuschuk. The address and phone number he gave are fakes though."

"Did anyone at the library know him?"

"Sort of. One of the librarians said the guy's been coming in about once a week for years, but she doesn't think he's ever said a word to anybody. She did say he was cleaner than the other homeless people and never had a late book, so he has that going for him."

"A name and a picture. We've found people with less." Jenkins, now feeling hopeful this would be a quicker case than he had anticipated, stood up and grabbed his coat. "Let's go check the usual spots."

~ * ~

Even though he had been extremely tired and his feet had screamed with cold, Charley had been content to push a shovel all day as the mundane, physical work was relaxing and allowed him to ponder his situation. By the end of the day, he had forced himself to conclude it was not hopeless. He could not go back to the house he had been using, but that did not mean he could not find another abandoned construction site to use. It would take some time, but he had time; he had little else, but he had time. When the work was done, he was driven back to the corner, given sixty dollars, and told to keep the gloves and the hat. It was enough money to get a room at the hostel for the night. Life would continue to be hard, but it would not be impossible.

As he started walking away, a truck pulled up, unloading another crew of day labourers, and one of the workers called out to him, "Hey, you. Guy who never talks."

He recognized the man as a regular at the corner whom he had worked with a few times. He pointed at himself questioningly.

"Yeah, you. Just thought you should know that the cops were out here this morning showing your picture around. You may want to lay low for a few days."

The man knew Charley well enough not to expect a response, so he turned to jog after his friends, leaving Charley alone on the frozen sidewalk. Renewed panic struck at him, easily pushing away the optimism he had gained throughout the day. He had not even considered the police would look for him. He had always seen himself as a mere visitor moving about beneath the notice of the real inhabitants of the city, so the thought that someone would look for him never occurred to him. Charley had never been to jail, but he had overheard much about the place from day labourers, and being locked up was one of his greatest fears among an impressive list of fears. It was not actually being deprived of his freedom so much as being constantly surrounded by people with no privacy or reprieve that he knew would be an unimaginable hell for him. He could not go to jail.

REVIEW:

Half-Built Houses

By Eric Keller

41/2 Stars

Reviewed by Tamara White

The city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada in the backdrop for Eric Keller’s intense and gripping legal thriller the Half Built Houses.

Charley Ewanuschuk is a homeless man who found comfort in being mostly invisible to the world around him. But the events on a stormy winter night in Calgary plunge him head first into a murder where the almost mute Charley becomes the main suspect instead of the hero. Charley’s quiet distinctiveness doesn’t just draw the reader into his narrative but makes him a target for the other less desirable characters. Charley’s lawyer, Brain Cox, who has his own set backs, is determined to free his client from the murder charge. Brian has a strong character and determination that balances out Charley’s introverted personality. 

Eric Keller exposes the reader to not only the grittiness of the legal system but also the vicious realities of prison life. Half Built Houses is filled to the brim with raw emotions and conflicts. Every time the reader thinks they have it figured out Keller throws in another twist that sends the reader in a new direction. One of the unique aspects of the book is the perspective of the book shifts between several of the characters. This gives the reader a full understanding of the vested interested each character has in the murder. Keller’s novel exposes how life is never black or white and happy endings are better saved for fairy tales.

Half-Built Houses

By Eric Keller

41/2 Stars

Reviewed by G. Lloyd Helm

Half-Built Houses is a crime novel with elements of the classic procedural story. The crime, the cover up, the police investigation. The difference with this one is that it is set in the great white north of Calgary, Canada. It evokes the place and the people very well.

Eric Keller has written a truly great book here. It is filled with interesting characters, all of whom are believable. There are certain of them who are so crushingly sad I could hardly read them without crying.

Charley, a lead character, is homeless and tortured and I felt ever icy shiver of his life on the streets of Calgary. His luck has gone from bad to worse when he witnesses a murder, and is arrested for that same murder. Brian, the legal aide public defender who gets to be Charley's lawyer is believable. He is scrambling to pay his bills and maintain his life style and could probably have just gone through the motions of defending Charley, but he feels for the homeless man and so works his tail off for his client.

This book is well worth the read. I only gave it four and a half stars because the book did seem to slide over into TV cop story a little bit, but Half-Built Houses is still a great story.

REVIEW:

Half-Built Houses

By Eric Keller

5 Stars

Reviewed by James Charles

Half-Built Houses is a crime novel with elements of the classic procedural story. The crime, the cover up, the police investigation. The difference with this one is that it is set in the great white north of Calgary, Canada. It evokes the place and the people very well.

Eric Keller has written a truly great book here. It is filled with interesting characters, all of whom are believable. There are certain of them who are so crushingly sad I could hardly read them without crying.

Charley, a lead character, is homeless and tortured and I felt ever icy shiver of his life on the streets of Calgary. His luck has gone from bad to worse when he witnesses a murder, and is arrested for that same murder. Brian, the legal aide public defender who gets to be Charley's lawyer is believable. He is scrambling to pay his bills and maintain his life style and could probably have just gone through the motions of defending Charley, but he feels for the homeless man and so works his tail off for his client.

This book is well worth the read. I only gave it four and a half stars because the book did seem to slide over into TV cop story a little bit, but Half-Built Houses is still a great story.

AUTHOR BIO:

Eric Keller is a lawyer living in Calgary, Alberta. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Welcoming Alicia Stone

I’d like to welcome author Alicia Stone to talk about her novel, ‘June’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Alicia will give a way a digital book to one lucky commenter.

JuneTitle: June

Author: Alicia Stone

ISBN: 978-1-62420-316-9

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 3

 

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

REVIEW:

June

By Alicia Stone

A review by Jeffrey Ross

5 Stars

This is a world-class piece of literature—a finely crafted book that combines several genres successfully. On one level, June functions as an academic or campus novel—much of the text revolves around the detailed, complicated, scholarly world of Professor Perry’s anthropological research and love affair machinations. It also has robust elements of a detective story when super-sleuth David outs a cheating husband. But June most significantly and boldly illuminates a woman’s “sensual” coming of age (somewhat like Kate Chopin’s novel The Awakening) as heroine Cassie begins to unshackle herself from a life of emotional servitude and learns to love again. As a writer, I was humbled by the workmanship and power of this novel. Read June—you will never forget the story.

TAGLINE

Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband.

BLURB

Living a lie in a web of deceit, Cassandra finds the courage to challenge her controlling husband. She sets in motion a tragic chain of events that leads her across Europe from the medieval city of Tallinn to the showboating glamour of Nice. Cast aside and the victim of cruel revenge, Cassandra fights for her future and discovers she is not alone. Her new-found strength is tested to its limits, for where love is concerned there is often a reckoning.

EXCERPT

Women's toilets, a curious place for confidences. Strangers become acquainted in the queue for the loo. Teenage girls discuss conquests as they hog mirrors, applying make-up. Cassandra had once seen a laughing group of Japanese women roll their trousers to their knees, fastidious in their preparation for a Western bathroom experience. She would have given much to understand their chatter. Quite extraordinary what she overheard about people's lives in toilets, but this was gossip, and the gossip was about her. She knew these voices, Malory Jacque and Miranda Pym.

"Of course Cassandra's very nice. Oh, Lord. No paper. For heaven's sake. A hotel of this repute. I shall speak to the manager. Andrew knows him from cricket."

"Hang on. I'll pass some under the door. Lord, this reminds me of school."

Cassandra heard scuffles and giggles.

"She's pleasant…easy-going in that reserved sort of way. Good for dinner parties."

"Thanks. Oh yes. Marvellous. Pop her next to anyone. She's sort of…you know…"

"Neutral? A foil?"

"That's it. Rather beige."

Cassandra froze in her cubicle. The toilets flushed and the voices moved over to the wash-hand basins.

"Oh, no. Would you look at that? They've changed the hand cream. I always liked the wild heather. This won't do."

A blast from the hand driers drowned any further eavesdropping. The door swung open; there was a clack of heels…

"But when you consider the husband…"

The door closed.

Cassandra waited for a moment before waving her hand at the automatic flush and coming out. Standing before the mirror, she remembered what Perry had said at breakfast.

"Sweetheart. Do you think that shade of blue suits you? Book club today isn't it? You've never worn the cashmere I brought you from Cairo. I found it in your closet the other day."

She had poured his coffee, put another round of toast in the retro Italian toaster, and slipped into their bedroom. The unopened duty-free bag stood upright in the bottom of the 'hers' wardrobe. Shrugging off the blouse chosen earlier, she removed the ribbon tag from her gift and pulled the soft jumper over her head, making for the kitchen.

"Pussy-cat, lovely. Want to stroke you." He didn't. Instead, Perry was out of his seat even as she offered more toast.

"Carbs, Cassandra, carbs. Got to look after the waistline." He held his stomach in and blew her a routine kiss, but she was already moving towards the sink.

Would the puff of air reach the cupboard housing the seldom-used twelve-place dinner service, or would the vapour simply dissipate mid kitchen, she wondered.

"Late tonight, some of the faculty…a little do. Back on the Nine o'clock. Have fun with the ladies."

Cassandra had dropped the toast into the bin and stared out of the window. Next-door's cat had emerged from a clump of daisies and shuddered, the tail bolt upright. Cassandra loathed cats, especially when they treated her garden as their personal litter tray. He, for the cat was a Tom, was the same shade of grey as her jumper.

Now she was staring at the reflection in the mirror. Her face lost, framed by the heavy ornate coving and flock-wallpaper of the Victorian hotel. She had often pondered what people would say about her. They might use affable or good-natured if a little shy. What they didn't see was that she was bored; Cassandra was bored to her very core. Not languid though, never that. There was so much that people did not see. Cassandra composed herself, took a breath, and fixed her smile as she hurried to re-join the discussion about a book she had no wish to discuss.

~ * ~

A creature of routine, she went shopping after Book Club. Every trip to the supermarket was at best an exhausting in-your-face reality experience, at worst a sensory assault. From the seductive smell of the in-store baked bread and the sweet blowsy lilies in pretty buy-me cellophane wrappers to the whole gamut of riotous colour, compelling fonts and unashamed branding the weekly shop was a marketing horror to be endured. Enthusiastic staff spoke of must-buys or operational matters over the public address system interrupting the bland music and the periodic wails of infants distressed or seeking attention. Employees wearing uniform fleece offered tiny plastic pots as if shoppers were at some impromptu cocktail party or were institutionalised, standing in line to take their medication before bedtime.

"Can I tempt you to try a French cheese on offer today? Our own-brand mayonnaise has been voted Britain's favourite. Would you like to see if you can taste the difference?"

There were endless choices, from the selection of three types of trolley at the entrance to the alternative methods of checkout at the exit. Early on in their relationship during a trip to the supermarket, Perry asked that Cassandra take on the responsibility.

"Sweetheart, shopping is ghastly. You are so much better at all this pointless busyness than I. Look about you," he glowered. "Eighty percent of the people here are women. You are among your own kind; you know what to do; you have the time. Lucky, lucky girl, whereas poor old me, cash rich; time poor."

Money wasn't a problem. Perry urged her to spend what she liked. They could afford to live well on his salary and his grandfather's trust fund. Bunty and Reg, his parents, bought the couple's house as a wedding gift. Early on in their relationship, Bunty had trumpeted aloud at Cassandra's modest choice of food retailer and her student habit of shopping around for bargains.

"My dear, a housewife is judged by her table. Top end for groceries, always. It's what Perry's used to."

Cassandra did the shopping, coasting in neutral following a set path. Her face assumed a forced smile. She manoeuvred the trolley around slow mannerly pensioners, avoiding the child, skidding to a halt in the detergent aisle. She read labels comparing saturated fat and salt levels, catering for Perry's current preferences and tastes. He was most particular. Cassandra willed herself not to judge the large woman with the trolley stacked high with snack and convenience food or to think too uncharitably of the salad afterthought perched on top of the high-fat, sugar-laden mountain. She rejected the self-checkout points, aware of her need for human interaction, chatting at the till, agreeing that the weather was shocking and that the three-for-two offer on the Imperial Leather soap was excellent value.

"My husband won't try any other. His mother uses the same brand…you know, a family thing." Cassandra despised the words and herself for the weakness that was her norm.

The cashier listened with her head to one side. Was there a fleeting edge of solidarity or sympathy in the amber eyes? Perhaps it was the magnifying effect of the tortoiseshell glasses. Cassandra felt odd and lightheaded but conscious of a moment of female kinship and understanding with a woman she'd never met before.

"Are you alright dear?" The amber was almost orange, owlish, and wild.

Cassandra considered the question as she used her credit card. The first attempt failed as she tapped in the wrong number. Concentrating, she began the process again until she met with success. She stopped in the act of lifting the bag of shopping into her trolley.

"I think…I am."

The cashier reappraised her as she handed over the receipt.

"Changes take time to work their way through, don't you find? The trick is to make the right choices. Take care now."

There was no one behind her in the queue. The adjacent cashier was busy. No one else had overheard. What a curious exchange; not at all the usual bland pleasantries between staff and customers. Cassandra wheeled her trolley away, leaning against the metal frame. Glancing back at the checkout, the grey-haired woman was changing her till roll and did not look up.

Driving home through the rain, Cassandra thought about the book club. Perry had suggested she join. One evening at dinner, he announced that everything was arranged. The wife of Perry's occasional golf partner would introduce her to the club and pick Cassandra up, taking her to the first meeting.

Debbie, in a red sports car with a mane of tawny hair, tanned, wearing a lime green trouser suit, pulled up outside sounding three long beeps. Cassandra rushed out of the house, flustered with a wave of greeting. This went unobserved as Debbie shot into her driveway, executing a three-point-turn, which halted two inches from the next-door's spotless and regimented recycling bins.

"Hop in. Running late. A cul-de-sac in Westmead," she surveyed the immaculate new-builds, "bad luck. My book choice this month so they can't start without me. Got the top down…nice day…about time. Awful summer, you'd never think we lived in the south of England for pity's sake."

Cassandra held out her hand to no avail as the car sped forward.

"Belt up."

The recollection of that first meeting made Cassandra grimace and smile. She couldn't recall the name of the first book, the plot, or the characters, only that awful new girl paralysis, all the other women staring, appraising, and judging. Fighting an overwhelming instinct to run away, she defaulted to a learned behaviour; she smiled, crossed and uncrossed her legs, agreed and disagreed, nodded and listened, wholly intent on blending in. That was three years ago. Members came and went, but the core remained the same. Perry liked to ask her about the group, wives of cronies in his wider circle, so she stayed. Debbie stayed the course too, catching Cassandra's eye at the more outrageous comments, winking with mirth at the absurd.

Perry wanted to know who was bright. Who led the group? Who did most of the talking? That was in the early days. Of late, he had not asked much about the reading group, but Debbie had become a friend. An unlikely pairing perhaps, but, as the first meeting finished and they walked towards the waiting Mercedes, Deborah Gore-Hamilton said,

"I've got your number, Cassy Bishop. If you need an ally, I've got your back."

That was how their friendship started. Cassandra was no longer alone.

REVIEW:

Title: June (Many a Moon Series, Book 2)

Author: Alicia Stone

Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Gillespie Lamb

Cassandra Bishop is an upper-class English woman in her mid-30s who has voluntarily subordinated herself to a controlling husband (and his mother). Why would she volunteer? “I was young,” she sighs. Her pushy best bud brusquely dismisses that as a whiny excuse and lovingly prods her to reassert herself. In reluctant response, an emotionally deconstructed “Cassy” begins to reassemble her natural lively spirit.

Her quicksilver transformation into a strong, independent woman loosens the constraints in her marriage relationship, with liberating and tragic consequences. 

Author Alicia Stone’s forte is creating a believable slice of upper-crust British society within which her characters grow into people we care about. Her illuminating descriptions of the knick-knackery of the gentry lifestyle are fascinating in themselves. Cassandra comes across as an introspective, sensible, and nervy woman. It turns out her husband is multi-dimensional, too.

Testimonial: I am male. This is a woman’s book, PG-rated, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

AUTHOR BIO:

Alicia has recently returned to the UK. She is enjoying the south coast and exploring rural villages using back roads and public footpaths. The great thing about English villages is that they have amazing old churches full of history and stories often with a pub next door. Find out more about Alicia, or contact her on her blog: https://aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Blog URL: https://aliciastoneauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter handle: @Alicia_author

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

‘The Coterie-Declaration’, by Richard C. McClain

I’d like to welcome author Richard C. McClain to talk about his novel, ‘The Coterie-Declaration’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Richard will give a way a digital book to one lucky commenter.

The Coterie-DeclarationTitle: The Coterie-Declaration

ISBN: 978-1-62420-310-7

Author: Richard C. McClain

Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 2

 

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE

Dakarai Holt, sixteen, is sentenced to a rehabilitation facility. He unearths a conspiracy imposing mind control with ramifications affecting the U.S and the greater world.

BLURB

Arrested for hacking, socially awkward and speech-impaired sixteen-year-old Dakarai Holt is sentenced to two years at Sheffield Academy, an exclusive juvenile rehabilitation facility. Within the first two hours, Dak is subjected to mandatory brainwashing. The academy’s enforcers, the R.A.T. SQUADS, patrol Sheffield to ensure each student's full compliance. Gacheru, Dak’s roommate, pressures him to drink a tonic that conspicuously counteracts Sheffield’s indoctrination. This places Dak in the middle of many adversarial and explosive situations. Additionally, Dak becomes knotted in a clandestine plot involving the Secretary of State and a mysterious group who goes by the name, The Coterie. While at Sheffield, Dak must find a way to survive the R.A.T. SQUADS’ terror, the annexation of a remote island, and battle his own inner demons.

REVIEW:

The Coterie Declaration

By Richard McClain

Review by Courtney Bearss

Rating:  5 Stars.

The Coterie Declaration, by Richard McClain is a contemporary read about a Sixteen year old Dakarai Holt, who is arrested for hacking.  He’s socially awkward and speech-impaired, but he’s an awesome hacker.  When he is sentenced to two years at a Juvenile rehab, the story takes off with government brainwashing along with a plot to take over a remote island.  Dakarai however has found a way to thwart the brainwashing, but then he has a battle of his own against not only the rehab enforcers, but he has to fight in silence as well as try to overcome his own inner darkness.

This was a complicated, but highly enjoyable read.  From the first page the reader is dumped right into the action.  You sympathize with Dak as he struggles with his inability to speak and other emotional issues, compounded by his absent and uncaring father.  This book is full of suspense and action and moves along very quickly.  The wait for the next book in this series will be long for someone like me that wants to know what happens next.  Well done, Mr. McClain.  I highly recommend this book.

EXCERPT

It is 04:22:31 on Saturday morning and I'm having trouble sleeping. I sit up and turn the light on to give life to the dark room. Instead of celebrating Gacheru's absences, allowing me space to live on my own and nurture my promise to abort ideas of relationships, worrying about him is all I seem to be doing.

A sound at the door steals my attention. I wait for Gacheru to enter but nothing happens. On the floor underneath the door, an envelope sticks halfway into the room. I pick it up and work my fingers underneath the sealed flap and run my fingers the entire length.

The note reads,

Please put the twenty-five billion back.

I sit on the bed as the weight of the words hits me. Nothing in the words themselves denotes any kind of emotion. Except for maybe the "please." Still, a cursory reading initiates a panic attack in my body. A brown bag sits on the floor. I roll off the bed, hitting the floor hard. I pull the bag to my face, scrunch my body to the fetal position, and rock and breathe…

Who sent me the note? I ask an hour later. As far as I know, the man who accosted me in the computer room and his superiors are the only ones aware of what they think is a hacking mistake. To apprise me of this kind of critical information now when I'm not under the influence would violate Sheffield's environment of covertness.

Revealing such knowledge to me makes no sense.

I read the letter again. The word "please" continues to stand out. Sheffield has not proved themselves friendly on the administrative, teacher, or security levels. Why now would they want me to "please" put the money back? They're the type that would hang me up by my thumbs and torture me to get the information. I exaggerate of course.

This message couldn't have come from them. Which begs the question, who sent me this note?

I sift through short list of names. Gacheru's is the only name on it. Somehow he found out I took it and wants me to return the money. He's the only one I know who's been able to bypass Sheffield's mind control and for whatever reasons considered it important that I not succumb to their brainwashing. Would Gacheru send a note? He could speak to me any time. It's not Gacheru. That leaves nobody.

I walk to the window. Darkness still pervades the night, fighting to maintain control. Daylight is hours away. Since the note can't be from Sheffield or Gacheru, I decide to get rid of the evidence. I rip the area of the paper around the sentence and then stick it in my mouth, chew it till it's soggy, and swallow it.

I lie back in bed when I remember the drinks in the closet. It takes a second to pry the board loose. There is nothing in the crevice apart from a thick envelope and three cans. On closer inspection, all are empty. I put the hollow cans back inside and replace the board. The contents of the envelope are none of my business. I'm not a spy. Gacheru helped me for a reason. To betray him this way reeks of self-interest, the worst kind of egotism.

Lightning strikes my mind. Three cans could only mean one thing. A third person has ingested the liquid and like Gacheru and me, this person is resistant to Sheffield's mind control.

Who?

Since Sheffield wouldn't ask me to put the money back except under mind control, and Gacheru could talk to me any time, the person who sent the letter has to be the person who drank the third drink.

Why should I put the money back, especially if we're seemingly on the same side? Wouldn't we have a better chance of stopping whatever it is they're doing and going to do by hitting them in the wallet?

It seems cut-and-dry to me.

While back on the bed sheet I rack my mind, wondering who this third person is. If Gacheru trusts this person, would he approve of the letter? He could have asked this person to send it to me. So why not introduce me? What's the reason for keeping this person's identity secret? As always, my mind considers the worst. If this is a ploy by Sheffield to test whether or not I am still subject to their mind control, seeking out this third person could be nothing more than a trap.

I know three cans means three people are outside the boundaries of brainwashing. I know the third can was unopened more than a week ago. I'm making an assumption here. If Gacheru kept all three cans, this third person ingested the drink after I consumed mine. He would not need to wait till I arrived to give the drink to this person, which means this third person is likely one of the seven people who traveled with me in the van. I'm sure I can nail it down even more. I know this person is aware of the twenty-five billion dollars I stole. By process of elimination it can only be one of three people, and two of them I'm responsible for bringing to Sheffield. Shipley and Jayden. Tasi is the only other person in the room with us when the hunt for the twenty-five-billion-dollar search took place. I can constrict it more. Since I'm in the men's dorm building, it can only be Shipley or Jayden.

The doorknob twists. My heart is catapulted into my throat. Is it the R.A.T. SQUADS coming to drag me away so I can be tortured? Is it Shipley or Jayden?

I hold my breath.

REVIEW:

The Coterie Declaration

Richard McClain

4.5

Reviewed by Tamara White

From the first page Richard McClain’s novel The Coterie Declaration the reader is thrust into Dakarai’s high anxiety speechless world. Darkarai’s complicated reality over flows with suspense, action, and danger. The entire novel moves at a thrilling neck breaking speed. When Dakarai’s magnanimous actions plunge him into a plea deal where he quickly finds out he is going to lose more than his freedom. Dakarai is a complex character that is fighting to not only survive the Sheffield Academy but also his every present anxiety. Sheffield Academy is a place where the rules on paper are not the rules that are followed. As the reader is drawn further and further into Dakarai’s world the characters that surround him become more shady and much more corrupt. While Dakarai does not speak with words McClain does a great job of creating intense scenes that allow Dakarai’s actions to speak for him.  Allowing the reader to explore Dakarai’s thoughts also gives the reader get a deeper understanding of the mute teenager. Even when The Coterie Declaration ends the reader know it’s not over. 

REVIEW:

Title: The Coterie-Declaration

Author: Richard C. McClain II

Rating: 4.5

Reviewer: J.C.

Young Dak, the socially reclusive mute and estranged teenage son of a multi-billionaire tech magnate, is a gifted hacker who hacks into multi-national banks to steal and redistribute money to charitable intuitions and organizations; a somewhat modern-day Robin Hood.

Dak is caught by the conniving FBI agent, Yarbrough, who convinces Dak to plead and be sentenced to a so-called rich-kid reform school, Sheffield, where he soon becomes a pawn in a sinister plot to help a secret organization steal something from Easter Island. Along the way, only able to communicate with the aid of a whiteboard, Dak comes into connection with several characters including shady government officials, a couple attractive young girls that Dak becomes infatuated with, the so-called R.A.T SQUAD—Sheffield’s brutal young security force—and other student-inmates, all of whom have secrets and pieces of the puzzle Dak needs in order to figure out what is going on.

With Dak’s social awkwardness, his muteness, and inability to form friendships, Dak struggles to survive and obtain clues as to not only the fate of his roommate—the only one he really trusted who is found hanged in a tree—but to uncover this secrete Coterie and their plans.

The Coterie Declaration begins with the action-packed FBI pursuit of Dak after he attempts to hack into a major bank. The action and intrigue continues at a fast pace and the reader turns the pages in continued anticipation of what will happen next, or where it is that this story is going. The reader empathizes with the young Dak, estranged from his wealthy father, and roots for him to not only survive, but to put a stop to the secret plans of the Coterie Declaration. 

Author Bio

Richard C. McClain II, "The Storyteller"—an advocate of imagination and a deliverer of truth through creative writing. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Richard is one of five children who was taught to dream and believe that anything is possible. This thought premise inspired Richard to pursue the creative arts, through music, theatre and writing. Richard later became a pastor where from the pulpit he used his story telling abilities to bring the word to life in the hearts of the congregation. Richard is the husband of Sharon, and father of Nicholas, Nicola, Nathan, Natalie, and Nadia. He has had the privilege of honing his storytelling craft and understands the balance between imagination, fantasy, and real life.

"Consider this, before the story is ever heard, it is active, pulsating, and full of passion. It needs but the storyteller to tell it."

McClain avatar

Saturday, 1 April 2017

‘Dana’s Children’

I read on Facebook a few days ago (and now confirmed on their web site) that Wild Child Publishing (WCP) has folded after ten years in publishing.

The reason it’s a deal for me is that WCP had accepted ‘Dana’s Children’.  It’s a violent horror novel about a group of archaeologists who blunder into creatures from Irish myth while exploring an underground passage.

The novel has been through WCP’s editing process, and I was only awaiting cover art and a release date. 

So, it’s disappointing, but there are a couple of things I can do with the story.

Firstly, I could submit it elsewhere.  As WCP accepted it I don’t see why another publisher shouldn’t, and I have an added advantage with it being professionally edited.

Secondly, I could self-publish.  I don’t have a cover but that should be relatively straightforward.  So, maybe ‘Dana’s Children’ will be my first venture into self-publishing.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

‘Hippie Mafia’, by Jessica Evans

I’d like to welcome author Jessica Evans to talk about her first novel, ‘Hippie Mafia’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Jessica will give a way a digital book to one lucky commenter.

Hippie Mafia is a story of urban redemption, examining how greed and loyalty influence decisions in a sub-culture that is generally accepted as being peaceful and without strife.

BLURB

Hippie Mafia is a multi-voice narrative that examines gender roles within the constructs of urban identity. The antagonist of the work, Mason, is the antithesis of the female archetype, both in her decision making skills and in the progression of her character through her stand-alone agency. The female protagonist, Amy, is one who responds to the situations she finds herself in as one might expect of a standard female character. It is the hope of the work that these two conflicting female identities will help the reader to begin to understand and examine ways in which female characters do not need a male counterpoint to advance their own stores.

Hippie Mafia

REVIEW:

Hippie Mafia

The Granola Gang Book One

By Jessica Evans

4.5 stars (out of 5)

Review by Nancy Dafoe

 

Refuting the claim that Hippie Mafia is strictly a Southern California cultural phenomenon, propelled by drug users and dealers, Jessica Evans takes readers deep into a group within the counterculture of Cincinnati, Ohio in her new novel Hippie Mafia: The Granola Gang. As benign and healthy as the subtitle sounds, Evans’ gang is anything but hearty or harmless to each other. Betrayal ultimately strains and unravels the bonds found in what was once a tight-knit “family” of drug users chasing Phish on the circuit.

Propelled by the rawness, as well as naturalness of dialogue, the narrative moves with agility and acceleration until the denouement:

“‘Hello,’ I offer. She looks around the room like she's seeing it for the first time, too.

‘Like these kinds of accommodations,’ she snickers.

‘Excuse me?

‘You know, a room like this,’ she says, waving her hand, ‘with four blank walls and nothing to do or anyone to see.’

‘I've been in worse places.’”

This is a subculture the author appears to know intimately, with knowledge of “moving weight,” yet Evans’ narrative is empathetic. At the center of this group of friends, who grow, cook, sell, and use, are the slightly unusual best friends Mason Williams and Dugan Reeves, and brother and sister Amy and Ghost Barnes. Mason is a lesbian with a tough outer shell and a soft inner core. Dugan is half in love with Mason, as well as in love with Amy. Their lives of casual and serious sex, love affairs, fighting, stealing, drug use and selling, parallel their individual and collective search for redemption on the less-than-prosperous streets of Middle America in Cincinnati.

We come to know Amy, Angela, Beata, Mason, Ghost, Dugan, Nola, Ian, Julian, and Theseus intimately, these characters who took communion in drugs on tours. Their sacrament, however, comes with an end date. Almost from the opening pages, we know it will be Mason who betrays the family, but Evans’ story examines people, not caricatures, the how and why, as much as taking us inside the limits of loyalty and love within this counterculture.

Brother and sister Amy and Ghost may be the heart of the Granola Gang, and Ghost quite possibly dispenses the wisest words, even from his tentative stance: “‘All I'm saying is you're too narrow. Your focus is too pinpointed. It's always Dugan. Dugan can't just be your whole world. Let this be it, man. Get your ass out of there while you can still remember who you are.’”

Mason and Dugan spur the action, but it is Theseus and Julian who symbolically orient this novel that is as much about love and fumbling attempts at redemption as drugs, violence, and betrayal.

EXCERPT

Amy shakes her head and looks at Ghost. He wonders just what his sister is thinking, and why he can't see the same kind of rage he's feeling in her.

"So, what? We need to go get you packed?" Ghost's mind is thinking ahead to the logistics of getting Amy out of the apartment in Norwood. He knows Julian has an extra room at his spot in Mount Auburn he would gladly offer up to Amy.

"Your girls know? Beata? Who did you tell?"

"I couldn't," Amy starts, shaking her head, "I couldn't call anyone. The only one who knows is you. Beata would've come last night."

"So would I if you would have called me right after it happened. You shouldn't have waited. I would have been right there."

"But I know you. Your temper. Really, I was worried about what you would do."

"You mean you were worried I'd force you to make the right choice is more like it."

"Something like that," Amy says into her palms. "Like I don't think he set out to do it. I'm sure he was stressed, and whatever he was on didn't help. Probably, I should have just left when he started yelling like that."

"So what, now you're justifying his behavior? You sure this is the first time?" Ghost squints his eyes at Amy, trying to read into her.

She nods her head but doesn't say anything, confirming Ghost's suspicions.

"Right, well. We still need to get you out. Since no one knows, I'll just tell Julian your spot has ants or something. I don't know, I'll figure it out. We need to get back over there and get you a bag of whatever you need. I'll handle getting the rest of your stuff out later."

His mind in overdrive, Ghost sees him helping his sister move out of the apartment. He's never disliked Dugan, but he's never been a big fan either. There's something to be said about a dude who has a chick for a best friend. Something about that has never sat well with Ghost, and looking at his sister's face, he wonders if he's known something like this would happen all along.

"Ghost, I can't do that."

"Why are you arguing this with me, homie? I don't get it."

"It was an accident, man. I can't just get up and leave over something Dugan didn't mean to do."

"Yes, you can. You should. You will." Ghost lets the words sit between he and his sister before going on. "When we were little, there were a million times I wanted to be able to do something to save you. To save us. To get us out of that bullshit we had to deal with. I couldn't then. Had no money, no heat, and no options. Now I can. You need to listen to me, Amy. Listen hard. You say this was the first time, we both know that's probably not true. But this was probably the worst so far. You think he's just going to stop? That all of a sudden a chump ass dude like Dugan is going to realize he shouldn't go around hitting females? You have to see it's just going to keep getting worse. I mean, you have to. Until the next time you call me, it's not going to be about a black eye, but a broken arm, or getting shoved down the stairs, or a slug in the chest. I get that you want to be solo and indie and all that. Cool, I dig. You can't do this on your own, and you can't go back to him."

"I don't know what to do." Amy reaches for her cheek. "I hear you, brother. I really do. Promise this was the first time, but I can see how you might think otherwise. Thing is, I know you're right. I can't just leave. I can't abandon him like that. I know he didn't mean it. I called you because I was scared. Looking in the mirror and seeing this is not the way to start a morning. Shit freaked me out, and I didn't know what to do. Just running away isn't going to solve this problem either."

Ghost shakes his head. "Amy, you realize how you sound right now?" he asks. "I mean really. I've watched you over the last few years let yourself get so wrapped up in this dude, you've lost all your drive. Remember when you were a person outside of Dugan? There was this whole other life you always talked about, the one where you're getting out of the city, doing something with yourself. Now what? Dude's clocking you in the jaw and you're growing boomers in your spot? How is that any different from the shit we saw growing up? Thank god you're not pregnant at least."

Ghost's voice has been steadily rising. A few of the early morning coffee sippers are cutting sideways glances at their table. Ghost realizes they're being observed and tries to dial it back in a bit.

"All I'm saying is you're too narrow. Your focus is too pinpointed. It's always Dugan. Dugan can't just be your whole world. Let this be it, man. Get your ass out of there while you can still remember who you are."

Amy stares at her brother, unflinching. Her eyes move in a pattern from the table to the sugar canister to Ghost's eyes and back, a constant revolving circle, as if she's running on a wheel. She sits like that for a while, and Ghost doesn't say anything, hoping his words are sinking in and will have some effect. He's already cleared his schedule for the day so for the first time in a while, he has nowhere else to be, nothing more important to do than to sit and vibe with his sister, to protect her the ways that she protected him for so many years. He finishes his coffee and stands up.

"I'm getting another one. You need an answer by the time I get back."

Amy looks at the line, four people deep, and then down at the ground. She doesn't say anything to Ghost, but nods her head. Her mouth forms into a flat line and she starts chewing her cheek.

"You're going to chew a hole in your cheek, kid," Ghost says lightly, putting his hand on her shoulder. It's a throwback to something their mother used to say before she went off the deep end and landed herself in prison. Amy smiles wanly and pats Ghost's hand.

"Sounds like something Mom used to say," she replies.

"I'll get you another cup," Ghost says as he walks off.

AUTHOR BIO

Jessica Evans photo

Jessica Evans is a Cincinnati native. Her work examines the ways in which personal experiences shape perspectives. She has earned an MFA from Spalding University. Currently, she lives at the base of the Wichita Mountain Range, where she’s falling in love with wide open spaces.

Website: http:// www.jessicarevans.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jevans624

Thursday, 16 March 2017

‘Side Slip’, by Mike Fuller

I’d like to welcome author Mike Fuller and his latest novel, Side Slip (book three in the Sam Deland series), published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Mike will give away a digital copy of one of his books to a lucky commenter.

Cops, mobsters and murder all mixed up and no one knows where it will end. But smart, tough and lucky swirl together to push the action through the chilling story of both good guys and bad.

Side SlipTitle: Side Slip

Sam Deland Crime Novel Book Three

ISBN: 978-1-62420-334-3

Author: Mike Fuller

Genre: suspense

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 3

Buy at: Rogue Phoenix Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

REVIEW:

SIDE SLIP -- A Sam Deland crime novel. Book III

Mike Fuller

Rating--5

Reviewed by G. Lloyd Helm

Side Slip is not an easy read, but well worth it. There is nothing predictable about this book, but it does have a sort of familiarity. It has everything a crime novel reader could want. There are decent plot lines, but it is character driven all the way, which is why it is sometimes hard to read. Fuller has made the characters so real that the reader sympathizes with them, even the bad guys. And he gives you a wide range of characters to choose from, Pennsylvania State Troopers, Male and Female, Florida Sheriffs, Male and Female, Farmers that used to be Navy SEALS, Dope seller/ murderers, crooked cop/burglars, and dogs.

Side Slip is worth the read.

BLURB

Stuck in paradise and he isn’t very happy about it. Even the beautiful lady detective that gunned down the man trying to kill them both can’t get him to stay. Corporal Sam Deland wants out. Back to work leading his squad of state troopers and home where he can take up the life he had to put on hold. But Sam isn’t the only one wanting him to return. The woman he left behind is waiting for him and so is the Russian Mob. Sam’s past is catching up with him, and he doesn’t see it coming, yet. Detective Christie O’Shea, the pretty Florida cop that nursed Sam back to health won’t have the time to miss him when he’s gone. Murder is what she’s paid to solve, and she has to go after a killer that has sent shock waves deep into the police community around her. A triple play of heart stopping and heart warming suspense, action and life as Sam, his troopers and Christie all find they are in the middle of murders and mobsters. A story that twists and turns through the investigations and the lives of characters you will grow to know, to cheer and to fear. Sharp dialogue, real characters and enough drama, humor and mystery to keep the reader up late not ready to put it down yet. Another thrilling Sam Deland crime novel from the author of Sink Rate and Rope Break.

EXCERPT

The search for a hidden key did not go well. All the usual spots came up empty. Dickie went down the steps to the garage but still no luck and then back up to where Ray stood next to the front door and sighed, "Well, ain't no key. Let's get it over with."

The pry bar didn't get it done. Ray had to whack the deadbolt a couple of hard hits with the sledge before the door flew inward. Dickie started in and stopped short. He smelled cinnamon. Ray almost ran into his back. Probably one a them plug in thingys.

Dickie held up his hand and then swiveled his head back and forth, trying to adjust to the slightly brighter light inside. Dickie heard nothing except the clicking of a wall clock somewhere. He shrugged and crossed to the kitchen door at the other side of the living room. Ray split to the right and did a quick walk through of the downstairs.

They met at the foot of the stairs and Ray pointed to a metal cabinet next to the cold fireplace, "I'll start on that, give me the bar, eh?" It wasn't a real gun safe, just a thin metal locker meant to keep kids away from the guns.

Dickie handed the pry bar to Ray and started up the stairs, shining the flashlight as he moved out of the light cast by the lamp. The cash and handguns were usually in the bedrooms. There seemed to be three upstairs and a bathroom. Dickie had to piss by now and stopped to go. He started and almost pissed on his hand when he realized there was a candle in a glass jar burning on the tub rim. That appeared to be the source of the cinnamon odor and was certainly the source of big trouble.

Ray was pounding loudly on the metal cabinet downstairs, and Dickie almost shit his pants as the figure of a small woman in a bathrobe passed by in the hall just outside of the bathroom. Dickie didn't even zip up his jeans and stuck his head out of the bathroom and looked down the hall. The small woman was there leaning out to try to get a look at what was making all the noise downstairs. Dickie's blood turned to ice when she turned toward him, and he saw the black automatic in her left hand.

She hadn't seen him yet. She just stood there but then turned to go back toward the bedroom. He knew there was probably a phone there, and he couldn't let her get to it. He tried to melt into the small space between the sink and the door, and as she moved past, he stepped in behind her and grabbed at the gun.

He missed. All that police training didn't help. She yelped and turned the pistol toward him. It was not quite full dark in the hall and Dickie could see it happening and knew what was coming. Without hesitating, he swung the heavy flashlight and struck her across her left cheek. The blow emitted a sickening crunch as bone gave way to the heavy metal light. She staggered but did not go down. The gun was waving in the short space of air between them and Dickie expected it to spit flame and his death at any moment. He stepped into her and brought the flashlight down with all his strength on top of her head.

She followed the motion of the blow and crumpled onto the hallway floor. Dickie was breathing in gasps by now, but he could still hear Ray pounding metal on metal. He tried to hit the button on the flashlight to see if the woman was still conscious but his finger slipped across. The wetness puzzled him for a moment but he got the light to come on and as he played the beam down on the figure at his feet, he was surprised to see blood dripping off the end and falling through the shaft of light onto the pink bathrobe of the very dead woman beneath him.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Mike Fuller

After writing professional documents for many years, Mike has finally devoted time to his true passion, writing fiction where the story and characters come alive in the reader’s mind. While his days were filled with authoring hundreds of detailed crime reports, arrest affidavits, search warrants and grand jury presentments, he took some of his own time and devoured books by the dozens. Reading not only was a rewarding diversion, it provided him with the added education he needed to function at a high level in his profession.

This has led to the creation of Mike’s crime/suspense/detective novels Sink Rate, Rope Break and Side Slip, the first three in the Sam Deland Crime Novel series. All are expected to be published in 2015 and 2016 by Rogue Phoenix Press

Mike writes with the real life experience that many years of law enforcement shaped and influenced. The stories may be fiction but are based on how things happen in the real world. His books are honest and captivating novels written with a unique voice that will both chill and charm.

Mike is a veteran police detective. He did it all from rookie patrolman to Senior Special Agent. His life has been enriched by a wonderful marriage, parenting, work, flying, sailing and good books. Mike is a lifelong outdoorsman, an experienced tactical firearms instructor, champion sailplane pilot and the captain of his own sailboat. All of these skills have made his novels vivid, exciting and real. Now retired after a career with three law enforcement agencies, Mike enjoys winters writing in Naples, Florida and summers sailing, writing and researching the next novel at his rural Pennsylvania home.

Web/Blog: http://mikefullerauthor.com

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mikefullerauthor

On Twitter: @mikefullerwrite

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

‘Weekend Treat’ Released

After a speedy turnaround following acceptance, ‘Weekend Treat’ is now released. 

A big thank you to all at Cobblestone Press for making it happen, especially Courtney, my editor, who was as great to work with as she was with ‘Bank Manager’.

I’ve already visited Carole Ann Moleti’s blog to talk about the story’s background.

WeekendTreat Big

Here’s the blurb:

Rachel McKenzie has to give up another Saturday morning to her job. Lucky for her, two handsome plumbers have to work through the weekend too. Egged on by a dare from her colleagues, Rachel dresses sexy and flirts with the men while they work in her office. The plumbers are eager to return her attention, but can Rachel handle taking things to the next level? 

And an excerpt:

Rachel brushed a layer of dust from the counter in the department’s tea point. “God, this place is a mess.” She poured milk into her tea and then into the mug Kerry-Jane held out.

“Ta.” Kerry-Jane had been Rachel’s student for nearly three years. People around the university sometimes joked that they could be sisters. They both had black hair, but Rachel thought Kerry-Jane looked so much younger.

“It’s dirtier than an archaeological site,” Rachel commented. “At least I had the sense to wear my tatty fieldwork stuff to the office.” She winced in response to the clatter of yet another radiator being ripped from a wall.

“That’s my and Amy’s waterworks being adjusted,” Kerry-Jane confirmed as she flicked her ponytail over a shoulder.

The department had been under construction all week. Rachel wondered when the boys would start in her office. She knew the windows would have to be shut while they were around, and she dreaded the summer heat. That breeze through the windows was the only reason she had survived the season this far.

Kerry-Jane fished the teabag from her mug with a spoon. “Having those two replumbing the place is a fine compensation for having my PhD research interrupted. Christ, they’re Swedish and Italian.”

“Does that make a difference?” Rachel asked, feigning disinterest.

Kerry-Jane gave a long, slow sigh. “It makes them exotic. A cool Scandinavian and a hot Latin make a sexy combination. And they’re both hunks.”

“Are they really hunks?” Rachel dropped her teabag into the bin. “I hadn’t noticed.”

Kerry-Jane laughed. “I bet you did.”

“Well, maybe I had noticed their bulging biceps, thick thighs and tight bums, just this much.” Rachel placed her thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart. “But as they’re nearer your age than mine—”

“Christ,” Kerry-Jane interrupted. “You’re only, what...thirty?”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Thirty-one.”

“And you’ve still got it.” Kerry-Jane’s voice fell to a whisper. “All the blokes in the department have the hots for you.”

Rachel raised an eyebrow. “I thought that was just banter.”

Kerry-Jane shook her head with a mischievous smile. “And the plumbers are miffed at their boss making them do your office on a weekend when you won’t be here to flirt. Apparently you’re the most beautiful doctor they’ve ever seen.”

Rachel raised her other eyebrow.

“You’ve got no idea how gorgeous you are, have you?” Kerry-Jane bit her lip. “That’s what the blokes say.”

Rachel sipped tea to hide her warming cheeks. “Well, you’re gorgeous, and everyone reckons we could be sisters, so I suppose I’ve got cause for hope. And the hunks will have to work around me after all because I’ve got a paper to finish.”

Kerry-Jane laughed. “You’ll be lucky if they let you get anything done!”

Rachel rolled her eyes, trying not to let her pleasure show. “But don’t you and Amy want them? What kind of friend would I be if I got in the way?”

“Of course we do, but we’ve got other halves, so we can only flirt.” Kerry-Jane shook her head in mock sadness but then brightened. “Instead of your fieldwork grunge, why not try something daring tomorrow? Feel sexy. Don’t wear a bra.”

Rachel’s cheeks warmed more. “I couldn’t do that.”

“Why not?”

She sipped her tea as the thought sent butterflies into her stomach. “Well, I...”

Kerry-Jane winked. “Amy took hers off at lunchtime.”

Rachel was shocked. “Did she?”

Kerry-Jane nodded.

“I’ll think about it.” Well, fantasize about it. Rachel tried to push those naughty thoughts away. She walked with her student along the corridor and leaned casually against Amy and Kerry-Jane’s office doorframe to glance at the plumbers. She dragged her gaze to Amy.

The blonde looked up from her laptop to smile.

Rachel saw the nipples pushing against Amy’s flimsy T-shirt. Rachel couldn’t imagine being that brave.

She sipped her tea again as her gaze drifted back to the men leaning over the radiator. Their shirts were riding up to reveal muscular backs, and the cut-off jeans did little to hide their tight rumps and their taut leg muscles.

Kerry-Jane leaned toward Rachel to whisper, “Let’s make a bet. If the boys don’t make a pass tomorrow, your two favorite PhD students will take you out for a meal. If they do, you pay.”

“I think I might take you up on that, KayJay,” Rachel said, secretly hoping she would have to pay for the food.

Kerry-Jane grinned. “Cool.”

They shook hands.

One of the plumbers looked around. His sparkling blue eyes regarded Rachel’s figure before pulling back to her face. “We’ll do your office tomorrow,” he said with a Scandinavian accent.

His smile made Rachel shiver. She took the opportunity to gaze back into his eyes. “I need to work tomorrow. Will my presence inconvenience you?”

His Latin partner stood. “It would be a pleasure to work around you.”

Rachel’s stomach fluttered. A little flirt tomorrow can’t hurt.

The Latin’s bicep flexed as he picked up the end of a radiator.

Rachel glanced at Amy, whose mouth hung open as she watched.

The Latin’s grin showed off his dimples. “We’ll see you tomorrow, then, Doctor McKenzie.”

Kerry-Jane winked at Rachel.

“Yeah. See you tomorrow.” Rachel retreated to her office. She couldn’t resist looking at her radiator and imagining the two men distracting her.

She wondered if she’s have the nerve to go without a bra.

Feel sexy. Kerry-Jane’s advice floated through Rachel’s mind as she glanced at the photograph near her computer.

Ebony, her cat, stared back.

“Tomorrow might be fun, Ebbs...”

Friday, 17 February 2017

‘Weekend Treat’ – Release and Cover

Since editing for ‘Weekend Treat’ was completed a couple of weeks ago, things have moved on quickly.  I now have both a cover and a release date.  Cobblestone Press have told me the story will be available on Wednesday 15 March.

I’ve also got a cover, which is brilliant and a big thank you to Kelly.  The characters are exactly as I imagined them.

WeekendTreat-700x1059Here’s the blurb:

‘Rachel McKenzie has to give up another Saturday morning to her job. Lucky for her, two handsome plumbers have to work through the weekend too.  Egged on by a dare from her colleagues, Rachel dresses sexy and flirts with the men while they work in her office.  The plumbers are eager to return her attention, but can Rachel handle taking things to the next level?’