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

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor

I’d like to welcome Author Dan Ehl and his new book, ‘Jak Barley Private Inquisitor, and the Case of the Annoying Assassins’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Dan will give away a digital copy to a lucky commenter.















Title: Jak Barley Private Inquisitor, and the Case of the Annoying Assassins
Author: Dan Ehl
ISBN: 978-1-62420-328-2
Email: kdanehl@yahoo.com

Genre: fantasy
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 1
Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

TAGLINE
One again Private Inquisitor Jak Barley cannot escape dreaded adventures – this time murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes and becoming the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild.







BLURB

Jak Barley, Private Inquisitor, is tired of adventures and is ready to take on only hum-drum cases offering no drama–those of missing husbands, unfaithful spouses, or fat merchants paying well for outing thieving employees–anything not involving traveling, swords, or the darker magics.

Yet once again his otherworldy friend, Lorenzo Spasm, drags him into cases involving corrupt CIA (Clandestine Information Authority) agents, murderous bank robbers, nasty goblins, furious dragon chases, demonic foes, and going uncover at an elders’ RW (recreational wagon) park set atop a butte overlooking a harsh desert floor. To top it off, Jak finds himself the quarry of the Assassin’s Guild after an anonymous adversary takes out a whack contract on him.

Helping him get through this will be his intended, the beautiful witchling in training, Morgana.

EXCERPT

“What-t-t-t?” I managed to croak in answer to the incessant hammering on my sleeping room door. I keep it bolted along with several magical wards after a number of tedious attempts upon my life by diabolical assassins, blood-thirsty necromancers, and numerous bat-turd crazy priests and neophytes of ancient and deranged deities. Other than that, my life is fairly normal.

I am back to yawn-inducing cases dealing with unfaithful spouses, stolen silverware, and runaway teensters—and I intend to keep it that way. You will not be kidnapped by piss dragons for investigating a horse theft, hounded by nasty wizards over a missing spouse case, nor forced to traipse through monster-laden wastelands to answer a simple paternity question. I now choose my private inquisitor cases wisely in my hometown of Duburoake, and again, that means no adventures. I hate adventures.

“Come on Jak, open up.”

What kind of hedge-born miscreant would be trying to wake a person this early in the morn?

“Jak, it’s almost afternoon. Open up, you dipsomaniac.”

“Ugh-h-h,” was all my dry throat could sound. I tried opening my eyelids, but it appeared some twisted jester glued them together. I was forced to pry them apart with palsied fingers.

What had that demented lunatic been shouting last night as he kept refilling my ale mug? “There be no tomorrow.” Yes, in principle there be no tomorrow. The clock strikes midnight and it be today, with tomorrow pushed another twenty-four hours away. We all chase a tomorrow that never comes. Unfortunately, today has again arrived and it be not pleasant.

My idle thoughts were just about to lure me back into a feverish slumber when the caller again began shouting. “Jak Barley, get out of bed, you lazy ne’er-do-well sot.”

Like some pitiable prisoner coerced to climb the steps to the gallows pole, I forced myself to sit up and then fight the sudden centrifugal force that threatened to send me rolling across the room to be plastered against the wall like some youngster in a harvest carnival ride. The spinning slowly receded to where I could safely pull on my trousers, though it set off an angry outburst behind my eyeballs.
“Jak, get up, you wretched lay about.”

I lurched to the door and waved my hand across the latch, letting the ring cancel the charms placed upon it. The magical band and its wards were a gift from my betrothed, Morgana, a novice witch at the Kuu Academy of Mystical Arts and Witchcraft. Beginning at the top, I slid the five bolts over and then hesitated at the latch. I knew the grotesque vision I would see on the other side. I sighed in resignation and opened the door, there to view the huge, mocking, obnoxious, leering, and gleeful smile of my supposed friend, Lorenzo Spasm.

“Holy crap, Batman, what wizard cursed you with that aging spell?” he exclaimed.

I was used to his outlandish phrases and words because that is what they literally are—outlandish. Spasm claims to be an inhabitant of a parallel firmament, one similar to our world in many ways, but devoid of any magic. Partial proof of that claim is Spasm’s immunity to spells. Any enchantment will rebound off my friend and back onto the mage or witch who cast the curse.

“What in Hades do you want? Cannot you see I am ailing?” I managed to moan. I could not even lift my head to look in him eye-to-eye without setting off another round of thunderbolts.

Lorenzo is about six-foot, two inches, to my five-nine. I took in his droopy mustache and slightly greying hair that went to his shoulders—and the outlandish mixture of clothing reflecting his exotic wanderings. It is difficult to estimate his age, though I would guess in the late forties. He was taciturn when it came to personal details and background.

“Downed by the brown bottle flu is my guess,” Lorenzo observed with little sympathy. “You reek of a brewery.”

My answer was a glowering stare that failed to wipe away his enthusiastic demeanor. “What do you want?” I finally asked.

“I have a job for you. It seems . . .”

I slammed the door in his face and staggered back to bed. Anything Lorenzo found so enjoyable could only mean peril and hardship. I made the mistake of not locking the door and Spasm pushed it open. He crossed the room to open a window and then took a chair at the foot of the bed.

Author Bio:
Dan Ehl has been a journalist and editor at both weeklies and daily newspapers in Iowa. The winner of numerous journalism and photo awards, including first in humor from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, he enjoys breaking out of dryer newspaper writing to pen fantasy novels. He served in Germany as an Army photographer during the Vietnam War. “With a lot of Vietnamese people digging pits with sharpened stakes at the bottom for people just like me, I knew I wasn’t really wanted. I didn’t want to be rude and show up anyway. Being from Iowa, we always try to be polite. And Germany during the early 1970s was interesting enough with the barracks always reeking of beer, vomit and hashish every weekend.” His favorite hobbies are hitchhiking and hopping freights.




Keywords: fantasy, private inquisitor, goblins, witches, demons, adventure

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dan-Ehl

Friday, 23 June 2017

‘Choke’ – by Lisa Towles

Choke

What does a missing hospital patient in San Francisco have to do with a scientific discovery on the opposite coast that could put a serious dent in pharmaceutical industry profits? It’s a mystery that crime novelist Lisa Towles draws to a riveting conclusion in her fourth full-length novel.

Kerry Stine is a nursing assistant at a San Francisco hospital who is blamed for the disappearance of a patient from the intensive care unit, while Adrian Calhoun is a scientist on the East Coast who finds himself in danger from Big Pharma operatives after developing a cancer-curing cigarette.

Choke (Rebel E Publishers) features two seemingly unrelated plot lines, relentlessly paced through multiple layers and fascinating twists before leading its unwitting heroine down a perilous path toward truth and redemption.

Video Trailer

ACCOLADES

“A cleverly-written, smart thriller that kept me guessing, and at times holding my breath.”
- Christine Husom, author of the Winnebago County and Snow Globe Shop series of mysteries

“This unusual thriller completely intrigued me from the first page.”
- Marilyn Meredith, best-selling author of two mystery fiction series

“Towles takes the reader on a heart-pounding journey. The unlikely intersection of their stories delivers unparalleled suspense. It’s a smart, well-written thriller that will deliver on the big screen someday as well as it does on the page.”
- Leo Bottary, author of The Power of Peers

“A cigarette that cures lung cancer? Who could be against such a concept? If you can’t figure that out, just heed the basic advice of any crime investigation—follow the money, which is what Lisa Towles has done in her magnificent story. I read this with the pleasurable company of a pack of Marlboros … smokin’ good read!”
- Les Edgerton, award-winning author of The Death of Tarpons, The Rapist, The Bitch, The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnapping and others

“Choke’s complex characters fascinated me. Its layered dilemmas – threating both individual lives and the lives of cancer victims across the world – grabbed me by the throat. Lisa Towles’ new thriller is a must-read. It kept me in suspense the whole way through – and inspired me in the process.”
- Judith Schiess Avila, NYT best-selling author of Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

“Lively descriptions, characters, and dialogue make this a highly readable page-turner.”
- Albert Noyer, author of The Secundus Papyrus and other novels

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY AND CONTACT

Lisa Towles specializes in writing crime mysteries when not working full time in the tech industry and completing an MBA. The author of numerous short stories (under her previous name of Lisa Polisar), Towles also has contributed feature articles, columns, art reviews and book reviews for a variety of newspapers and periodicals.

An active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Sisters in Crime, and Crimespace, Towles is a New England native who earned two journalism awards from the National Press Women’s Association and the 2016 National Engaged Leader Award from the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Towles graduated from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music with a Bachelor’s degree in music, majoring in flute with a minor in psychology.

Website
Facebook page
Buy link

EXCERPT

In her five decades on earth, Grace Mattson had learned to pay attention to instinct. And right now hers was telling her not to touch the envelope sitting beside Neville’s note. Instead, she gazed upon it, using her powers of perception and everything Sherlock Holmes had taught her about the observation of details. The most significant of which, however, was the churning feeling in her stomach.

“You’re right to be cautious.” The female voice startled her. “I would be too.”

Grace noticed the umbrella even before seeing the woman’s face. It was a smooth, sculpted face with mistrust woven into its elegant features. “I can’t decide whether to invite you for tea or sick my Doberman on you.”

The woman blinked, revealing dark blue eyes. “I would prefer tea with an English woman than death by an invisible dog.”
Grace allowed a momentary smirk. “I don’t suppose I look like a dog-person.”

“No.”

Something about her, this woman with impeccable taste in clothes, fashionable without a hint of overstatement, and her steely voice, caused Grace’s heart to thud inside her chest. The blue eyes stared evenly, and Grace’s palms felt clammy. What was this about, and why had this woman watched her and Adrian at Atticus?

“Come in then,” Grace said finally, “we’ll have tea in the garden.” And I hope I live through the experience.

The woman followed her inside, and Grace unlocked the back door. “I’ll boil some water. Please, make yourself comfortable.” She pointed to the back yard, to a vine-covered trellis, under which sat two Adirondack chairs adorned with flowered pillows. She hated those pillows. A gift from Neville, she’d wondered if they were Neville’s way of making her more soft or feminine, somehow.

“We’re interested in your research,” the woman said after Grace came out to meet her.

“We?

“What I mean is …very interested,” the woman went on, ignoring the question. Her voice was flat, monotone, controlled, without a hint of inflection or emotion. Was she an android? A highly functioning artificial life form such as she’d seen on the SyFy channel so many times? The woman’s face looked as though it hadn’t ever cracked a smile. The skin was beyond smooth and the eyes looked hard, almost menacing. Just as the woman used her voice simply to deliver instructions, rather than the sharing of communication.

Grace fondled the sealed black envelope. “And this is to offer me a million dollars for it?”

“It’s an offer … of exchange, yes.”

“Who’s we?”

“Me and … my employers.”

“And who are you, exactly?”

The woman slowly crossed her legs. “You can call me … Beth.”

“Well, I could call you a lot of things. But that doesn’t answer my question.”

“I’ll say it again – my employers are very interested in your research.”

“What research are you talking about exactly? I’m a retired ethnobotanist, I teach gardening classes and breed rare species of plants. It’s not very exciting, I assure you.”

“Orchids. Isn’t that right?”

“Not only orchids. But yes. You want to know how I do it? Come to my greenhouse, I’ll show you.”

“We’ve been to your greenhouse.”

Grace’s palms felt slick with sweat. She took a slow sip of tea, reminding herself to breathe.

“In fact, we’ve been going there for the past six months. It’s not there.”

“Excuse me? You’ve been … what’s not there?”

For what felt like a long time, neither of them spoke. Not one single bird chirped, no traffic sounds, pedestrians, car alarms, or sirens.

“We’re prepared to pay for what we want.”

“That’s very kind of you,” Grace joked.

“We’re not in the business of kindness, I’m afraid.”

“No?”

The woman sighed, uncrossed her legs. Then crossed them the other way. She looked uneasy, as if she were about to launch a different tactic. “The decisions we make affect the economy, on global levels.”

“Really? You don’t look like a banker.”

The woman smiled and looked toward the house.

“Water’s boiling. Pardon me, I’ll be right back.”

Grace returned with a bamboo tray containing a pot of tea, two cups, a pitcher, and tiny bowls for milk and lemon.

“Royal Doulton,” Beth commented with what seemed like admiration. But Grace knew already that she was not what she seemed.

“It was my mother’s,” Grace said and swirled the brew around in the teapot and then poured.

Beth held the cup and stared intently into the liquid, glanced at Grace, and returned her gaze to the cup.

“I’m still not clear on what research you want.”

“You know what we want.” The woman sipped the tea.

“Careful, could be poison,” Grace said and stared.

She watched the woman take two more sips and then soundlessly leave down the side walkway toward Kensington. She continued watching her all the way out toward Chapel Street, and then slowly opened the envelope. On one heavy sheet of stationary paper appeared a single typed sentence.

The research in exchange for your partner’s life.

Adrian, my God, she thought. What have you done?

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Welcoming Maggie Mundy

I’d like to welcome author Maggie Mundy to talk about her book, ‘Unmasked, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Maggie will award a prize to a randomly drawn commenter.

BANNER-Unmasked

Title: Unmasked

Author: Maggie Mundy

ISBN EBOOK: 978-1-62420-323-7

ISBN POD: 978-1547054831

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 4

TAGLINE

Corrupted magic is hard to fight when you’re the only one who believes something is wrong. Daria faces a battle to save her world.

BLURB

Six hundred years of peace are destroyed when Daria’s settlement is attacked. It is the start of problems for the land of Majura. Daria saves people with magic and must join the magic wielding Mask wearers who rule the land. Her dreams have warned if she became one it would be the end of Majura. Are the Mask wearers keeping secrets or is she the only one who can see the power in the land is changing. A Mask wearer called Alenze believes her and offers to go on a quest with her to fix the Essence where the magic comes from, but he is keeping secrets from her that could be the death of them all.

Unmasked

EXCERPT

If most of the other Masks were like Alenze, then she was never going to fit in. He didn't have a hair out of place. His clothes were grey but of the highest quality, with a beautifully fitted long tunic and breeches and well-made knee-high leather boots.

"During the travelling, you'll be placed in a trance. This is done so you're not alarmed by the experience. I'll be in control, and you'll not be aware of what's happening around you."

He spoke to her as if she were a child. The fact he was at least a head taller than her didn't help matters as he peered down.

"I assure you growing up here has made me resilient." Daria crossed her fingers behind her back at the lie.

"Many people struggle with the experience. I myself was glad I wore brown britches the first time. I agree though. I sense you'll not be alarmed easily," Alenze replied.

For a second Daria saw a smirk on his face. He had a sense of humor, who would have thought. He even almost looked handsome when he smiled.

"Traveler Quatrome, the sun is setting," her father interrupted. "The Chamber is ready." He bowed his head to both of them.

Alenze offered his arm to escort her into the Travelling Chamber. Daria stared at his hand as her heart pounded in fear, but knew she had no choice but to eventually take it. Pell stopped outside the Chamber and smiled at her, then looked to Alenze.

"Take care of her, and warn your fellow Masks to watch out for her temper; she didn't inherit her mother's green eyes and red hair without reason," Pell warned.

"You have my word, Master Gallo," Alenze replied as he shook her father's hand.

Atia and Chelle hugged her with tears streaming down all their faces.

"It won't be long, and I'll be back, especially if they don't want me, which is highly likely," Daria soothed them as she tried to get her tears under control.

Alenze coughed and Daria couldn't delay any more. Again, his arm was offered and this time she accepted. He escorted her into the chamber and as the doors shut behind them, she could hear Rumus howling and her breath caught in her throat.

Alenze let go of her arm and walked into the center of the circular, windowless room. With the doors closed, there was an oppressive feel to the space, with the only illumination coming from the oil lamps placed about the walls. The floor was covered with a beautiful painting. The tales were that the settlement had been built around this place.

Alenze was studying the markings on the floor. Daria's breath was catching in her throat and the room was getting smaller. She couldn't go through with this, they couldn't make her go. Her chest was getting tight as her panic increased. She ran to the door of the chamber and raised her fists, thumping hard again and again. The yells coming from her throat blanked out the pain as her fists started to redden and bleed.

"Let me out."

A hand touched her shoulder, causing her to spin around screaming, her clenched fist aimed at Alenze. Placing his hand over hers, he brought her fist down. He stared intently at her with his dark grey eyes as he spoke.

"When I went to the Domain in Denarius, I believed no one would want someone like me. Those who came with me at that time were filled with a confidence I never had. I didn't feel I'd ever belong, but now I do. Becoming a Mask has given my life meaning beyond what I would ever have thought possible. I've grown to love what I've become. You must trust me, and believe you'll feel that, too." He paused. "Are you ready?"

Daria nodded as he let go of her hands and walked over and stood over the open mouth of the winged serpent painted on the floor. She stood on the outside of the circular floor painting and thought her eyes must be playing tricks on her. The painting was starting to move as the serpent's coils began to entwine one upon another hypnotically.

"We can delay no longer. Stand on the mark of the moon." Holding out his arm, Alenze beckoned her to move forward.

She took the step, her breath coming in gasps. The outer circle had symbols of the sun, moon, stars and the Goddess Ikrar. The Goddess stood with her hands clasped around a crystal.

Alenze removed a small, plain brown mask from a pouch hanging around his neck and put it on his face. It had no hooks or fastenings, but melded to him on contact.

"Enter the circle, Daria."

Daria stepped forward onto the moving picture. Alenze took her hands in a firm grip, and needing something to hold onto, she gripped equally as hard around his wrists. She wondered if he could hear her heart beating. He should, as it felt as if it was going to explode through her chest.

"I don't want to do this. My life is here, Crane is here, I love him and I want to stay." Tears flowed down her face.

"Trust me, Daria, and you'll be safe," Alenze instructed.

"I don't want to trust you. I don't want to go and no one there will want me. They think I'm bringing doom with me because I touched the crystal," Daria sobbed, but Alenze wasn't listening anymore. His eyes were shut and he was chanting strange words over and over. There was a humming noise making her dizzy, and then something touched her foot. She jerked her knee up. Peering down, she let out a scream as the coils of the snake picture on the floor started slithering over her feet and around her ankles - where was the trance Alenze had promised? The Mask was no longer solid on his face; the flat surface was bubbling as though something was trying to erupt. Then the small heads of two snakes broke free from the surface and bit into his temples. If he felt any pain he didn't react.

More snakes oozed from the Mask until the whole of his head was a wriggling mass moving down his back and entwining around his arms. Two vipers separated from the others encircling his arms. The snakes stopped their movements at his wrists and raised their bodies up as though to get a good look at her. They swayed hypnotically. Daria tried to pull free of Alenze's grip, but he was too strong. Then without warning, both snakes struck at her wrists in unison.

"Alenze," his name burst from her mouth as the pain hit her arms and the poison burned into her. His eyes opened, looking first to her face and then at the vipers injecting their venom. She could hear his thoughts.

Forgive me, Daria.

AUTHOR BIO & LINKS:

Maggie Mundy Pic

I live in Adelaide, Australia with my husband, one cat, two dogs and a snake. I have a motorbike that I would like to ride more than I do and I love walking at the beach and listening to the waves. I've always loved reading all forms of fiction from high fantasy and paranormal to contemporary and decided the stories in my head needed to be written down. It was either that or start on medication. Unlike many, I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until a few years back. I started off doing a degree in drama but soon realized my love was in writing, though there is a play lurking somewhere on my computer. My day job is as a nurse in the operating room. I believe romance can be fun to read and write but it’s exciting to spice it up with the uncertainty that comes with suspense where the rules can be broken.

Buy at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Website URL: www.maggiemundy.com

Blog URL: http://maggiemundy.blogspot.com.au

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MaggieMundyAuthor

Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/MundyMaggie

Monday, 19 June 2017

Their Only Choice, Their Last Chance

Storm Watch - Book III in the ‘Unfinished Business’ series by Carole Ann Moleti

Storm Watch 3 Final_338x507
Mike and Liz thought they'd gotten control of the specters haunting the Barrett Inn. But things get very complicated when they're the ghosts from your past life. The Category Five Hurricane bearing down on Cape Cod appears to be headed directly for them--or has it been spawned from inside them? Knowing it’s their last chance to end the hauntings, Mike and Liz must decide whether to run or to defy evacuation orders. Will they survive the storm?

That’s the premise behind this new book by Carole Ann Moleti, the final part of the ‘Unfinished Business’ series. Having read ‘The Widow’s Walk’ and ‘Breakwater Beach’, I was delighted to be asked to preview ‘Storm Watch’ because it meant I got an early chance to find out what happened to the people who left a mark on me in the previous instalments.

The story is about how the characters and the ghosts inside them try to cope when a massive storm approaches and then hits their homes in Cape Cod. The novel has an excellent sense of location - I’ve never been to Cape Cod but came to feel I knew it well. I was so drawn in I started looking up maps and photographs, to find Moleti described everything so well the settings are just as I imagined them.
We’re not only dealing with the storm and ghosts, but multiple sub plots that are skillfully woven into the story and add interest rather than complexity. These plots drew me in because I wanted to know what would happen with each strand, until I was immersed in the whole book. I finished the novel well before I expected to because I kept wanting to read ‘just one more chapter’.

However, as so often with Moleti’s work, the real standout is the characters who are consistent and well drawn across the series’ three books. The author has a clear picture of what makes people tick and a knack for characterisation that many authors – including me – will envy. As with the series’ other books, the people in the story are largely ordinary, everyday folk on the surface, but each has depths and uniqueness that the writing brings out. It’s this depth that really had me rooting for everyone. I particularly liked the hermit, Harley, who is a new addition. His presence changes the dynamics a little from previous books which keeps the series fresh and the reader on his toes – and he’s great fun in his own right.

‘Storm Watch’ will be available on 19 July. Details are at: http://www.caroleannmoleti.com/the-unfinished-business-series/

The pre-order link for ‘Storm Watch’ is here.

Carole Ann Moleti lives and works as a nurse-midwife in New York City, thus explaining her fascination with all things paranormal, urban fantasy, and space opera. Her nonfiction focuses on health care, politics, and women's issues. But her first love is writing science fiction and fantasy because walking through walls is less painful than running into them.

The first book in Carole's Unfinished Business series, ‘The Widow's Walk’, was published in 2015.

The prequel, ‘Breakwater Beach’, appeared in 2016.

Urban fantasies set in the world of Carole's novels have been featured in Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Seers: Ten Tales of Clairvoyance, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft, and Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires.

Carole also writes non fiction that ranges from sweet and sentimental in This Path and Thanksgiving to Christmas to edgy and irreverent in the Not Your Mother's Books: On Being a Mother and On Being a Parent.

Carole is at:
http://amazon.com/author/carolemoleti
http://Twitter.com/Cmoleti
http://www.caroleannmoleti.com
https://www.facebook.com/caroleannmoleti
plus.google.com/103609323247390103301
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/goodreadscomCmoleti
http://www.pinterest.com/caroleannmoleti/

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Rebel ePublishers

So, contracts have been signed – nice and quickly in these days of e-signatures – so I can announce that ‘The Fairy Wife’s’ publisher will be Rebel ePublishers.

Jayne at Rebel edited and generally handled my two previous novels, ‘The Footholder’s Tale’ and ‘The Door into War’, brilliantly so I was hoping Rebel would want to take on ‘The Fairy Wife,’ too.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Welcoming Courtney Rene

Banner400

I’d like to welcome author Courtney Rene and her book, ‘Before the Dawn’, published by Rogue Phoenix Press.  During this book tour, Courtney will give away a digital copy of ‘Before the Dawn’ to a luck commenter.

Before the DawnTitle: Before the Dawn

A Howl in the Night Book 3

Author: Courtney Rene

ISBN: 978-1-62420-325-1

Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

Excerpt Heat Level: 1

Book Heat Level: 2

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

Website URL: Www.Courtneyrene.com

Blog URL: www.ctnyrene.blogspot.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Shadow-Dancer-and-more-by-Courtney-Rene-164433473646449/

Twitter handle: @ctnyrene

TAGLINE

Darkness continues to haunt Abby since her escape from the Hunterz. Questions continue to circle. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much?

BLURB

Seventeen year old Abby can’t shake the darkness that continues to haunt her since her escape from the Hunterz. She can’t let it go. Questions continue to circle. Questions no one will answer. Who are they, really? Why do they hate the wolves so much? The answers could be found in a young boy named, Sam. He may be from the Hunterz, but he smells of wolf. Derek wants to believe her, and tries to help, but Abby still hasn’t learned how to accept help from others. Her relationships with her mother and father continue to deteriorate, but Derek is a puzzle. Some days he’s exactly what she wants and others he is all that she despises. Being a shifter isn’t as simple as she thought it would be. The wolf part is easy. It’s the human side that needs a little work.

EXCERPT

I huddled in the darkness, barely aware of the passing hours and days. The wolf ate when she was hungry. She found mice and rodents to catch and devour. I was barely aware of the chase or the joy she found in the hunt. The wolf drank from streams and creeks along her journey. She slept when she was tired and traveled the rest of it.

I was aware the forest was starting to look familiar, but I didn't care enough to wonder why or where I was. When the big white sprawling house came before us, I realized the wolf had brought us to the only other place she knew to go: Aunt Lilly's.

I didn't leave the safety within the wolf when we arrived at the house. I was aware when we stepped onto the porch and dropped to the cool white washed boards where the wolf curled up and slept, but I stayed safe, hidden deep. The wolf and the instincts that drove her protected us. I was happy to let her lead. I was happy to be carried wherever she decided to go. I slept as the wolf did throughout the rest of the night.

When the wolf woke, I woke with her. We were still curled on the porch, but we were within a pile of dogs that had come to keep us safe and warm and offer company. The wolf was happy for the companions, as I was not able to be one. I was silent and empty and had nothing to give right then. I had nothing left to offer her.

I saw my Aunt come out on the porch, and I saw the moment she recognized me for what I was. "Abby, honey. What are you doing here?"

I shrank back deeper within the wolf, and as the wolf had nothing to say to her in that form, Aunt Lilly was left at a loss. She crouched down before us and ran her hands over my head and down my back. "You look a little worse for wear. Do you want to come in and eat? Maybe get a shower and some clothes?"

I wasn't coming out of the wolf form. I realized that had been my intention the whole time. I simply hadn't been ready to face it. I was obviously not very good as a human, so I would try being a wolf for a bit. I used a little more energy and turned my head away from her and dropped it back down on my front paws.

"Abby? What's wrong?"

I had no answer for her, so I didn't move or acknowledge her question. I didn't know what to tell her. I was still feeling sorry for myself, and I didn't have a plan of how to fix it other than to ignore it. I was happy as a wolf. Why did I have to be a human anyway?

She stayed crouched down next to me for a long time. She tried to talk to me, but I didn't answer. Finally, she gave up and stepped back. Her dog friends stayed with me, protecting me in their own way. She surveyed the pile of us then said, "Well, I guess I'll check on you in a bit."

I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. I spent the next few days hardly moving a muscle. What was the point? Aside from getting up to empty my bladder or get a drink of water, I stayed on the porch, quiet and still. Aunt Lilly stopped trying to talk to me, but she did continue to sit with me and offer what comfort she could by way of gentle caresses or tidbits of food she could tempt me with, or just simple water. The best part was when she sat in the white rocker and just rocked. Her being there was enough. Sometimes when she sat there, I would get up and sit next to her, just to be close to someone who gave a damn about me. Just me. Not what I could do for her, or what I could do for the clan. She just cared about me.

Why was I so unlovable by everyone else? Why didn't my mother want me anymore? Why did my father only see me for what I offered the clan? Why didn't Derek just want me? Why. Why. Why! What was so wrong with just being me?

It was times like those that even in wolf form I was able to cry. When the hurt of the world grew to immense I could not hold it in anymore. I cried the sounds of the wolf, even if it didn't come with the tears of a human. Aunt Lilly wouldn't press or talk, she was simply there with me as I tried to handle the sadness overwhelming me. She'd caress my head and continue to rock.

I don't know how long things went on like that. Maybe a few days, maybe it was an entire week. I do know when it came to an abrupt end. Morning arrived with a definite chill in the air. I didn't notice the cold all that much, thanks to my warm fur, but also because Aunt Lilly's dogs took shifts with what I thought of as protecting me. There were always a handful of them, either lying next to me or with me, or whatever. I was never cold or alone. They knew I was hurting and they in their animal wisdom stayed with me as comfort. Animals are awesome. People…suck.

AUTHOR BIO:

Courtney Rene_PicCourtney Rene lives in the State of Ohio with her husband and two children. She is a graduate and member of the Institute of Children’s Literature. Her writings include magazine articles, short fiction stories, several anthologies, as well as her young adult novels, A Howl in the Night and the Shadow Dancer series, published through Rogue Phoenix Press. For a complete listing, visit www.ctnyrene.blogspot com or feel free to contact her at ctnyrene@aol.com.

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. 

Banner-TornSpeedos500

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.

DSC_0040

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