Joe has a problem. He is falling in love with his new housemate. Nothing unusual there, except for Joe is a poltergeist and this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen. Joe is suffering an existential crisis of no small proportion.
The object of his misguided affections – a feisty and self-assured teenager named Harriet. Will he be able to save her from something much darker than himself that lurks in the shadows of the Brighton house they share? Will she be able to help him on his newfound quest for redemption?
I’d been waiting for someone like her for a great while. I had no idea how long. I’d all lost track of time. It could have been years, decades or even centuries. If I was given to clichés, I could say that it felt like an eternity, but nobody knows what that’s like (although I’m learning, slowly; one day at a time).
I’m pleased to be featuring the new release from Suzanne Rogerson.
Will enigmatic artist Lucas ever recover from the death of his wife eighteen years earlier?
What happened to troubled Justine’s mother, who disappeared around the same time?
Why is charismatic local MP Sebastian being so friendly to Eve?
Is Eve’s involvement with the villagers a way of avoiding facing up t her own family tragedies?
And did Eve really bring Black Shuck, the legendary dog whose appearance predicts death, to the village?
Katrina has started a Kindle Scout campaign to publish the book. There’s more to read by clicking the link but in the meantime, enjoy the excerpt.
‘And so this is Christmas and what have you done?’ John Lennon sings.
‘Actually, John, I just walked out on my cheating scumbag husband,’ I say. ‘And now I’m talking to the radio. It’s not a good sign.’ Continue reading
Welcome to my stop of the blog tour for The Horse’s Arse with a guest post from the author and an excerpt from the book.
Birth of the hero of The Horse’s Arse
If you’ve ever edited a specialist magazine you’ll know it’s a hamster wheel you can never get off. Round and round it goes – planning, commissioning, writing, editing, designing – often leaving the editor no time to pursue the specialism that got them the job in the first place. From 1994-99 I edited Artists & Illustrators magazine, and during those five years I went to fewer exhibitions and private views than at any other time in my life, being usually chained to my desk at private view time. But one exhibition I made an exception for. An invitation card arrived with a painting of the Thames at Wapping that I had to see. No other artist I knew of was painting like this, and I decided to go along and ask him for an interview. Continue reading
Welcome, Liza. Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to do when you’re not writing.
When my head is not buried in a book, I love hiking in the hills of the rural French village in which I live. I’m obsessed with travel and swimming and play a decent game of tennis.
What was the inspiration behind The Silent Kookaburra?
Growing up in 1970s Australia.
When did first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I loved the idea of being a writer when I was a child, probably due to being an avid reader, but didn’t begin writing until the year 2000. Continue reading
Caught by Santa!
For Myra, Christmas means supporting her friends. They rallied round getting her back on her feet after she lost Pete, her husband, so she’s always ready to help any of them. No matter to what lengths the challenge makes her go. Only she didn’t expect to find Santa almost catching her in her wrongdoings. Then she finds that the handsome Santa is Jay, her old high school friend. Now he’s changed from a gangly geek to an attractive stranger. After missing out on the dating scene for a long time after losing Pete, she feels the first stirring of desire. But Jay is playing hot and cold, refusing to admit the attraction sizzling between them. Continue reading
I’m very pleased to welcome Nicky to the blog today. Nicky’s new release is Lost in Wonderland….
Once upon a time, Kayla was lost. Then she found Wonderland, but not the one you know. Run by ex-government agents and funded by an eccentric Silicon Valley billionaire, this Wonderland is the name of a collective of highly trained vigilantes who hunt serial killers. Now Kayla, aka Mouse, works tirelessly alongside her fellow Wonderlanders, Rabbit and Cheshire, baiting dangerous murderers. But even her extensive training hasn’t prepared her for the return of her older brother…
Shilo has spent most of his life in an insane asylum, convinced his mother was abducted by a sinister Alaskan monster who lures the lost away to feast upon their flesh. And now he’s certain that his sister is in the same monster’s crosshairs. But if Shilo is going to save what’s left of his family, he’ll have to convince his sister that maybe, just maybe, we’re all a little mad.
A murder in Berlin… A kidnapping in the Caribbean… A girl held hostage and forced to reveal vital secrets. The terrorist Malekka has joined forces with a Russian traitor from the upper corridors of power in the former KGB. Together they plot a raid on a military centre in South Africa. It’s the first action of his international plan. His parents died. Now he’s going to kill over 3 million people. Where is the attack to be? The United States? Great Britain? Jim Peregrine and the British intelligence are one step behind and play a deadly game of catch-up. Waiting for the breakthrough. Yet all is not as it seems. Who exactly is who, and what side is being played, and by whom? JP sets out to unravel and defeat the plan. And find the girl. Revenge is sweet. JP means to take it. And so does she.
EXCERPT FROM SPIDER 2-3
Chapter 01 Berlin. The Present
THE ELEVATOR DOORS opened. The night receptionist looked up from her keyboard and glanced at the man. She noticed the light brown coat, the dark shoes, the grey hair. No-one important. She put away her empty smile.
It would be the last smile he’d ever see. Continue reading
Welcome, Glynis, it’s great to have you here!
The Healing Power of Prince
I have a very wise friend who once told me, “There’s nothing a little Prince can’t fix.” I met her my freshman year in college and besides finding a roommate and a friend for life, I found a new appreciation for this musical master. I had heard of him, of course, but my meager knowledge was merely the tip of the iceberg. So she graciously took me under her wing, regaling me with facts, photos and an endless supply of music. By the time I graduated, not only had I earned a B.S. in Psychological Services, but a healthy appreciation for the brilliance of Prince. Continue reading
Jessica Hernandez is offering her debut YA Fantasy novel free on Smashwords from today, the 18th April until the 22nd April 2016. To take advantage of this offer please follow the link or click on the book cover, choose Buy and enter the code AJ86C at the checkout.
The Utdrendans have spoken, and everything has changed as a consequence. People normally avoid the fog surrounding the cursed Kingdom of Mar, but now they are asking sixteen-year-old Kaia Stone to venture into it. The Utdrendans implied that there is something special about Kaia. They claimed that she could help free the land; she need only carry out their instructions and deliver a message to the Marian king.
Mar, however, is a land in which dark secrets abound, and many will stop at nothing to ensure that it remains forever cursed. Determined to work against Kaia, unfriendly forces have already begun to gather.
Will Kaia choose to abandon the only life she’s ever known—perhaps indefinitely—in pursuit of the greater good…in pursuit of her purpose?
I’m very pleased to welcome Barb Taub, a firm favourite in the world of writing and blogging.
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered towards the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them traveling around the world, plus consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.
That’s some bio, Barb. Anything you can add? And you kind of answered the next part of my question which was going to be, what do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing? But maybe you could elaborate 🙂
I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. Although I was a journalist when younger, and had a syndicated humor column in several American newspapers, the financial realities of raising four kids who had unrealistic expectations — they thought they should eat EVERY day, sleep in actual beds, and wear clothes—meant that I spent many years on the Dark Side (HR professional). You can’t believe how much money employers are willing to pay you to fire people. Continue reading
Burned-out and broke, twenty-two-year-old single mother Anna Jennings moves to her grandparents’ rural home for the summer with her four-year-old son, David. The sudden appearance of shadowy dinosaurs forces Anna to admit that either she’s lost her mind or she can actually see her son’s active imagination. Frightened for David’s safety, Anna struggles to learn the rules of this bizarre phenomenon and how best to protect him. But what she uncovers along the way is completely unexpected: revelations about what her son’s imaginary friends truly represent and dark secrets about her own childhood imaginary friend.
Living next door is Jamie Presswood, Anna’s childhood friend who’s grown much more handsome and hardened than the boy she once knew. But past regrets and their messy lives are making the rekindling of their complex friendship prove easier said than done. Between imaginary creatures stalking her son and a tumultuous relationship with David’s biological father, Anna may find it impossible to have room in her life or her heart for another man. But as David’s visions become more threatening, Anna must learn to differentiate between which dangers are real and which are imagined, and whom she can truly trust. Continue reading
Growing up more than a thousand miles apart and worlds away from each other, Johnny and Adrianne seemed to have all that a child could ask for. However, the demons of their respective mothers would tear their young, fragile lives apart.
Eventually, destiny would bring Johnny and Adrianne together, but first they had to endure the painful toll that alcohol, drugs, and a negligent court system would take on them. With parts of Adrianne’s story ripped from national news headlines, their story takes them from the depths of despair and near death, to their first serendipitous introduction and the moment each knew they were finally safe. Continue reading
W. E. Lawrence’s latest historical romance novel Chakana is filled with action, adventure, suspense, and intrigue.
In 1940, before the start of World War II, James Fleming, the original British secret agent, races on a high-stakes chase to track down the ancient lost treasure of King Huascar of the Incas. He must recover it before the Nazis do or the whole world will be in imminent danger.
But this is no ordinary treasure hunt. The Incas have proven their cunning and intellect in not only how they hid their treasure, but how they protected it. Fleming joins forces in the remote ruins of Peru, South America with Kate Rhodes, a policewoman on leave from the United States, her archaeologist brother, Nick, and their college professor, Dr. Charlie. Together, they must decode, interpret the clues, and face the challenges of the Chakana on their hunt for the treasure.
If this wasn’t difficult enough, the group is hounded throughout their search of the ancient Sacred Valley by international artifact smugglers, familiar with the Chakana and working with the Nazis, who are determined to acquire the treasure to help finance their war effort. Intrigue, danger, suspense, action, adventure, and even romance abound in this brave band’s quest to save the free world. Continue reading
Her partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, Jen’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son.
She means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis?
Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open.
Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?
I’m very pleased to welcome Margaret as she tells us about her new novel, with an invitation to attend the online launch party….
I started writing my novel Taming Tom Jones when I was at the University of East Anglia as a mature student, taking an MA in Scriptwriting. I was supposed to be building up to writing my dissertation – a full-length screenplay or stage play, but the beginning of Taming Tom Jones just sprang vividly into my head, and I quickly became obsessed with my character Jen and her dilemma. When the book starts, Jen has just found out she’s pregnant by her partner Michael, and she’s thrilled, because she’s always wanted a family. In fact, she’s so thrilled, it makes her realize just how much she’s been supressing her desire to have children; because, unfortunately, Michael doesn’t feel the same way. He’s always been honest about it, making sure she was aware of his views very early on in their relationship. His exact words were: Continue reading
Memphis Hoodoo Murders, by Kathryn Rogers, is an occult horror mystery novel. It was released on August 15, 2015, published by Sartoris Literary Group, and is available for sale on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
Addie Jackson has witnessed people trying to kill her family her entire life, and now her grandparents’ attackers are hunting her. The Memphis police are never able to catch these crooks since the cops have been bewitched to stay away. Her grandparents, Pop and Grandma, habitually lie to Addie, but she is attentive enough to overhear the secrets they keep from her. In her predictive dreams, Addie regularly sees future events, which disturb her, but to her dismay, she has never been able to stop them from coming true. She often dreams of a dark character, who she is later shocked to discover is the Man, a devil from hoodoo legend. Continue reading
I’m very happy to welcome Mike Phillips, the author of Hazard of Shadows, The World Below, Dawn of Ages, and Reign of the Nightmare Prince. His short stories have appeared in ParAbnormal Digest, Cemetery Moon, Sinister Tales, Beyond Centauri, the World of Myth, Mystic Signals and many others. Online, his work has appeared in Lorelei Signal, Kzine, Bewildering Stories, Midnight Times, and Fringe. He is best known for his Crow Witch and Patrick Donegal series.
The enchanted creatures of legend still exist, hidden away in the secret places of the world. They take refuge from an age of camera phones and government labs, from people who won’t let them live in peace. One of these last places of safety is known as the World Below.
Ancient powers are at work. The Lords of Faerie seek to revenge the death of Baron Finkbeiner and recover the mysterious Blade of Caro. Hidden in the shadows, they await a chance to strike. The chance arises when an old enemy escapes the splinter realm in which he is imprisoned. Anxious to settle the debt, the Faerie Lords send him to finish the Lady Elizabeth and her Champion once and for all.
The Sullivans, a family of hard-working Irish lawyers, came from nothing and built a life they can be proud of. The Deschanels amassed incredible wealth by siding with the North during the Civil War, betraying their people. Both New Orleans families have a dark and rich history, painted with secrets, treachery, and colorful, supernatural abilities.
The House of Crimson and Clover unravels the mysteries surrounding both families, pulling us further into their tangled, enigmatic lives. Continue reading
Anton Mackey is a man with everything. At least, he seems to be on the surface. He has a rising career as a private attorney, a lovely wife, a beautiful daughter; he and his family live in an idyllic neighborhood that most people dream about. Sure, there are troubles that plague this family, the same as any other, but all in all things are looking up. Life is good, and the future is better.
Except Anton has a past, too, and something has been looming, bearing down on him from that history, just waiting for the chance to strike. Soon, everything will change, and the life he’s struggled so hard to build will come crashing down around him.
And the worst part of it all: Anton Mackey has no one to blame but himself. Continue reading
The story of one man’s attempt to live a normal life, even though he is not normal.
The United States government is under siege. A secretive cabal of super rich elitists, The Krakow Klub, has initiated the final phase of its long-range plan to take over the USA from within. They have achieved control of the Presidency and the military. Their puppet in the White House has declared martial law. The Congress, The Supreme Court and many other political leaders not under their control are slated for elimination.
Only one man has the power to stop The Krakow Klub. His name is John F. Scott and he appears to be an ordinary human being. But he is part alien. His power is based on alien technology. Can he be trusted to stop the takeover and return power to a lawful government afterwards? Can he control his power once he unleashes it? Can he control himself during the process? Will he take the risk? If so, at what price? Continue reading
The Dragon Of The Month Club is the exciting first installment in a new book series that tells the story of Ayana Fall and Tyler Travers, two best friends who stumble across an extraordinarily magical book and soon find themselves enrolled as members of a very special and exclusive club – The Dragon of the Month Club.
On the thirteenth of every month a new dragon conjuring spell is revealed and the two friends attempt to summon the latest Dragon of the Month. The varieties are almost endless: Air Dragons, Paper Dragons, Fog Dragons, Waterfall Dragons, Rock Dragons, Tree Dragons – not to mention special bonus dragons for all the major holidays, including a particularly prickly Holly Dragon for Christmas. Continue reading
The city of Los Angeles is no stranger to violence. It has both a colorful and grotesque history with it. Sheriff’s Homicide Detective Jim O’Brian and FBI Profiler Special Agent Steve Hoffman are also no strangers to the violence of the sprawling metropolis, but in the past decade something has changed. There’s a serial killer preying on other serial killers – some known by law enforcement, others well off radar. “The Iron Eagle,” a vigilante, extracts vengeance for the victims of Los Angeles’ serial killers. His methods are meticulous and his killings brutal. With each passing day, “The Iron Eagle” moves with impunity through the streets of Los Angeles in search of his prey. O’Brian and Hoffman create an elite task force with the sole purpose of catching “The Eagle” and bringing him to justice. But the deeper they delve, the more apparent it is that he may very well be one of their own. As the two men stare into the abyss of their search, the eyes of “The Iron Eagle” stare back.
*Content Warning: The Iron Eagle Crime novel series contains mature subject matter, graphic violence, sexual content, language, torture and other scenes that may be disturbing to sensitive readers. This series is not intended for anyone under the age of eighteen, reader discretion is advised.
Rise of the Iron Eagle, by Roy A. Teel Jr., is a suspenseful crime thriller. It is the first book in The Iron Eagle Series and it is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Smashwords
About the author
On May 11, 1995, at 30, Roy’s life was irrevocably changed. After walking into the hospital, he was admitted and later received the worst possible diagnosis – Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. His doctors gave him two years to live, and he left the hospital in a wheelchair. After battling Multiple Sclerosis for nearly 16 years, Roy began devoting his energies and passions to the full-time art of storytelling. His disability has brought with it an unforeseen blessing. He can finally take medications to alleviate some of the pain from his MS and focus on the pleasures of character creation and the joys of putting words to paper.
As an author, Roy A. Teel Jr. is very diverse, and his works include both fiction and nonfiction. His previous works include The Way, The Truth, and The Lies: How the Gospels Mislead Christians about Jesus’ True Message (2005), Against The Grain: The American Mega-Church and its Culture of Control (2008), Light of Darkness: Dialogues in Death (2008), and And God Laughed (2013).
In 2014, Roy began publishing his latest and largest project – a 15-book geographically-centered hard-boiled, mystery, suspense, thriller crime series: “The Iron Eagle Series.” The main character, a former Marine Corps Black Operative turned rogue FBI agent, hunts serial killers in Los Angeles. Each novel addresses different subjects, and while fiction, all titles deal with real world subject matter. “The Iron Eagle Series” is not about things that can’t hurt you. What happens in these novels can happen to any one of us if we let our guard down and/or are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Roy has published 4 books in the Iron Eagle series so far: Rise of The Iron Eagle (Book One), Evil and the Details (Book Two), Rome Is Burning (Book Three), and Operation Red Alert (Book Four). The fifth book, A Model for Murder, will be released on June 5, 2015. To learn more, go to http://ironeagleseries.com/
There’s a giveaway via Amazon of one Kindle copy of the book to the first person who sends me their email via the contact button in the navigation bar.
Excerpt from Rise Of The Iron Eagle
Rise of the Iron Eagle (Book One) by Roy A. Teel
From the opening of Chapter 8:
John walked into Starbucks at the corner of Topanga and Lassen just before six thirty a.m. He got a coffee and a copy of the Daily News, and the headline said it all, “‘Billy the Kid,’ Crips Gang Member and Serial Rapist, Body Found in Legion Park: Iron Eagle Said to Be Killer.” He shook his head, “I should really start looking for the people who leak this stuff.” He walked to a flower shop a few doors down to purchase a dozen long-stemmed red roses. His truck was parked in front of Country Deli, a local landmark for nearly fifty years. He knew the area very, very well, but he knew it for all the wrong reasons. He pulled out of the lot and headed west through the neighborhoods of oak and eucalyptus trees, following Lassen as it turned from a busy thoroughfare into a quiet neighborhood of post-World War II homes and horse properties, until he reached the entrance to Oakwood Cemetery.
He parked his truck outside the large black wrought iron gates and the ivy covered brick walls of the cemetery and walked through the entrance and up the steep incline of the main road. He walked past a blue and white striped tent; a small backhoe sat quietly where fresh earth had been moved, and a concrete burial vault sat on the ground next to the newly-opened grave. He walked out into the cemetery grass and stopped in front of a grave marker set beneath a huge California Live Oak. He looked at the gray and white granite and its inscription, ‘Amber Lynn Swenson.’ He knelt and brushed away the fresh cut grass, so the whole inscription was revealed. ‘Loving Wife and Beautiful Soul. April 8, 1978 – March 20, 2003.’ Placing the flowers on the stone, he sat down, leaning his back against the tree. “I miss you, honey. I miss my best friend. I’m sorry I’ve been away for so long.” He heaved a sigh as a tear rolled down his face, and he whispered, “I’m still looking for him, Amber Lynn. For the man who took your life and our life together away.” He wiped the tears from his eyes, his lower lip quivering. “I know I’ve told you, and I don’t know if you are somewhere where you can hear me or not, but I’m sorry. If I had just been on time that night, he wouldn’t have gotten you.” He wiped the stone with a handkerchief from his pocket and laughed. “You always made fun of me for being old fashioned … but you were glad I had it the night I asked you to marry me. How could I know that this same piece of linen that dried your tears of joy at our engagement would later dry my tears of sorrow at your funeral.” John paused for a moment, his anger rising up. “He’s still out there, Amber, hurting women and children. I can’t let that continue. I will find him…and I will avenge you and all the others he’s tortured and killed. He’s a sly one; so far below the radar not even law enforcement sees his pattern or knows that he even exists. The randomness of his killings and the large area that he covers is his protection. I thought I had him with Roskowski. He was evil but wasn’t the man who did this to you.”
He stood up and walked toward the unmarked piece of land next to Amber’s headstone. “This is my spot, baby, right next to you. I’m not afraid of death…I’m afraid of dying before I catch him and bring him to justice.” He leaned down on his hands and knees and gently touched his lips to her name. “Rest, my angel. The next time I come back, it’ll be to tell you that I got him.”
I’m very happy to welcome Glynis back to BetweenTheLines with an imaginative and fun guest post in which she considers….
The Philosophy of Yoda
Whether you’re a Star Wars geek or not, you can learn a great deal from this petite powerhouse. Whenever I find myself unsure of a decision, my first thought is, “How the heck did this happen?” followed very quickly by, “What would Yoda do?” It may sound insane, but this brilliant (though fictional) character moved through his very long life with a grace and humility that we could all learn from. Feeling skeptical? Let me fill you in on the genius of this Grand Jedi Master. Continue reading
Barb Taub is…as am I. Please take a few minutes to read Barb’s holiday appeal and take her up on a great offer for some fantastic stories. My reviews for Barb’s stories can be found further down the post. Thank you in advance.As the villain of Don’t Touch, the Krampus is a monster who literally feasts on the fear and terror he inspires in children. The demon who threatens Stefan and Lette is a cornered beast, an anachronism whose ever-diminishing influence only makes him more desperately dangerous.
The other inspiration for this story is the image of Rapunzel. But in Don’t Touch, Lette isn’t the helpless girl awaiting rescue by her prince. Instead, I go back to the origins of the folk story in sources such as Giambattista Basile’s Tale of Tales from 1616, where she is actually the hero who rescues herself and her children, and then saves her lover. Like her earliest predecessors, Lette is a tough, self-reliant young woman who tells her would-be prince, “If I need rescuing, I’ll do it myself.”
My final message in Don’t Touch is that we build our own towers. They can provide safety; they can even be gorgeous and appealing, but if they keep us from truly living our lives or cut us off from others, they are still our prisons. I think that’s one of the things I love the most about the holiday season. No matter how often we hear them, those messages of peace and goodwill just keep reminding us of our connections to each other. More sophisticated folk can turn up noses at the consumerism and the crowds, but I believe the reason we all come back for more every year is that basic gift of hope and belief.
It’s that belief that inspires my holiday appeal to you. In most of my stories, an animal companion plays a prominent role—from George, the grumpy cat in Don’t Touch to Bygul, the bitchy feline goddess of Payback is a Witch. My own life has been immeasurably enriched by my dog Peri who came from a shelter in eastern Washington State, and by the friends (feline, canine, and the occasional rodent) rescued by the dedicated members of many shelters.
In thanks, therefore, I will donate all royalties on sales between now and January 1, 2015 from Don’t Touch as well as the newly released set (Payback is a Witch and Just For The Spell Of It) to the following wonderful organizations:
- USA: No Kill Advocacy Center. Headed up by Nathan Winograd, the No Kill Advocacy Center movement is revolutionizing shelters across America.
- United Kingdom: DogsTrust. Active since 1891, this no-kill shelter rehomed almost 15,000 dogs last year.
As a special incentive, both Don’t Touch and the brand new release set, Tales From Null City (containing Payback is a Witch and Just For The Spell Of It), will be listed at the sale price of $0.99 in the USA, and £0.77 in the UK.
Both make wonderful holiday reads, while at the same time supporting the work of the no-kill shelter movement. Please help ensure that animals are not left unsheltered during the very difficult winter months to come. To help, please order a book by selecting one of the following links:
Barb is offering a giveaway and a random tweet will be chosen which mentions any of the following – @barbtaub @CathyRy #NullCity #Don’tTouch #Payback #Spell
PayBack Is A Witch
Claire Danielson, the last Danielson witch, is facing a big problem. Actually, two problems. Not only has Director Jeffers from the Accords Agency given orders for a Warden to tail Claire, a man from her past who she walked away from six years ago. Now, after spending time together, she doesn’t think she’ll have the strength to resist Peter Oshiro again. But Jeffers doesn’t want to lose another of his top Wardens so Peter is on guard duty whether they like it or not.
Bygul, the goddess who Claire has been trained from birth to protect, and who was one of the giant cats who pulled the Goddess Freya’s chariot, has alerted Claire to the dangerous barghests in the woods outside her home. They have been trying endlessly to gain possession of Bygul’s power but without success. And to make matters worse there is demon who wants to acquire control over Claire’s mind.
Claire’s spells are not yet long-lasting and she’s unable to channel Bygul directly. She will need all her skills to outwit the demon.
Just For The Spell Of It
Eirie and Liam work for the Accords Agency and when they are charged with finding a missing football player, his girlfriend and baby daughter it gets too close to home for Eirie. The girlfriend looks just like her mother. But how can that be when Eirie has believed for years that her mother was killed? And does that make the missing child her sister and the second in line to the throne of Tír na nÓg?
One of the four ancient treasures, gifts of the goddess Danu to her people, the Tuatha Dé Danann, has also gone missing. If the child and the treasure are not returned the threat of an armed force is imminent. Liam and Eirie have a weeks grace before the attack begins.
Two wonderfully entertaining and imaginative additions to the Null City series and, as with all the stories, a fun look at distinct and unusual worlds people by great characters.
In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends them consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American.
Excerpt: Payback is a Witch
As Claire boiled water and set out two teacups, she had plenty to say to herself. There was a lot about what a bad idea it was to remember his arms around her, the taste of his kiss, that heart-stomping smile. Hell, a little over ten years ago their families were still trying to kill each other. For the last six of those years, she’d done her best to remember what she owed Nana and Bygul. And she’d done her damnedest to forget the look on his face when she turned and walked away.
Through the screen door, she could see him staring at something near the porch swing, just outside her line of sight. She had a bad feeling she knew what that something was. “Do you still take your tea without sugar?”
“You remembered.” He didn’t turn around, but she felt his smile anyway. “You live here alone?”
“Yes, unless you’ve turned into a twisted psycho stalker. In that case, I have several large homicidal brothers. And the world’s meanest cat.”
“Witches don’t have brothers. But I see what you mean about the cat.”
A purr, definitely amused this time, rubbed against the back of her brain. Damn it, Bygul. You stay out of sight for a thousand years, but you can’t stay off the porch for one afternoon? Sighing, she filled a small dish with tuna and placed it on a low table at the end of the kitchen. Why can’t some goddesses mind their own business? With a twist of lemon for her own tea, she set both cups onto a tray. Sniffing an open package of cookies that had been around a while, she dumped them onto the tray with a shrug. Before she reached the door, he turned and held it open, took the tray from her, and put it onto the little table between the rocking chair and the old porch swing.
“You’re a witch, right? So is she your familiar?” He pointed to the porch swing and the silver-gray feline posed regally across its sofa-length cushion. “I never knew a cat could get that big.”
“She isn’t my cat. She goes with the house and especially the woods.” Claire understood his surprise. You just don’t see a lot of house cats the size of Labradors. “I suppose you might say I’m her staff.” She took a seat next to the cat, who stretched and sat up, wrapping a tail thicker than Claire’s arm around her front paws. “Best we can tell, she’s a Norwegian Forest Cat. They get pretty big, but yeah. She’s big even for that. We call her Bygul.”
“In Norse mythology, Bygul was one of the giant cats who pulled the Goddess Freya’s chariot. Some said they were goddesses in their own right.” Bygul yawned and her eyes closed halfway. “Minor goddesses, of course…” The giant cat’s eyes snapped open, and she jumped off the porch with a noticeable thump.
“Didn’t the Egyptians worship cats too?”
Claire laughed. “Bygul pulled a war chariot and fought alongside Valkyries. Those Egyptian pussies couldn’t fight their way across a coffee shop.” Tail held high, Bygul waited for Claire to open the kitchen door before stalking inside to the tuna offering. As Peter lifted his tea from the tray, he smiled again. She sat back too quickly and her own tea sloshed over the rim. Dear goddess, that smile.
Excerpt: Just For The Spell Of It
“And how does an ex-fairy princess end up an Agency operative and part-time radio host?” Liam might have been amused, but his face was, as always, impassive.
“Pretty much the same way an ex-world champion soccer star becomes a teetotaler card sharp who runs errands for a former priest.” She shrugged and turned back to Dr. Tom. “What aren’t you telling us?”
Dr. Tom hesitated then seemed to reach a decision. “I think your mother did die. But we’ve discovered that when she was trying to get pregnant with you, she visited a specialized clinic in California. A clinic that froze several of her fertilized eggs. Ten months ago the last three viable eggs were supposedly stolen from the clinic. Last week a young woman who served as professional surrogate was found dead. Autopsy suggests that she had recently given birth.”
Eirie looked at him blankly.
“I think the baby is your sister. And the real problem is that not only is the baby missing, but one of the four Treasures has also disappeared.”
“I’m not sure. Now your father’s advisors say if the infant and the Treasure aren’t returned to Tír na nÓg, the king will send an armed force to recover it.”
Liam sat up. “What Treasures?”
“There are four of them, the ancient gifts of the Goddess Danu to her people, the Tuatha Dé Danann.” She counted off on her fingers. “The Lia Fáil, a stone that supposedly names the King of Ireland. The Spear of Lug that guarantees you’ll win all battles, the Sword of Núadu that allows no escape once it’s been drawn, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, which is never empty.” She frowned. “But there’s not much demand these days for naming a King of Ireland, and even enchanted spears and swords aren’t going to be much use against automatic weapons.” The frown gave way to a snort. “And after the fae ‘warriors’ have been sitting on their fairy arses for a thousand years, I imagine our biggest danger is being forced to eat the prehistoric slop the Cauldron serves up.”
Dr. Tom looked at her. Folded his hands. Waited.
She sighed. “Right. Find Matias León and the baby. I’m on it. Liam?”
He nodded and picked up the folder. “I assume this has the info on the dead surrogate and the clinic?”
Dr. Tom nodded. “The Tuatha Dé gave us one week before their force arrives.” He stood and moved to the door. “Good luck.” As the door swung behind him, Eirie thought she saw him shaking his head.
Liam waited until the door closed. “Eirie?”
She stared at her teacup. “A sister.” With her hood again covering her bright hair and her “work-clothes”—strategically ripped gray hoodie, tulle-puffed skirt, bright striped leggings stuffed into chunky blue Doc Martens—she seemed little more than a child herself. Then she lifted exotically tilted lavender eyes to his, and something ancient, not-quite-human looked out. “She’ll need someone to tell her about our family…and make sure she has toys…and how to use her magic…and put on makeup…and hear about her first boyfriend who will, of course, be all wrong for her…and…someone to keep her safe.” Carefully, precisely, she placed both hands on the table in front of her. “Well, she has a sister for that.”
There were things he could have said. The teasing, mischievous Liam who found a way to call into her show each week could have said something to make her smile. The self-assured soccer-star Liam could have made a charming, romantic overture. The Liam who had been her partner for the past year said, “We should start with the clinic. Ready?”
Ahead of the release of Blond Cargo (Jack Bertolino #2) on Monday 20th October, I’m very pleased to welcome John Lansing to Between The Lines.
John, where did the inspiration for Jack Bertolino’s character come from?
Jack Bertolino is an amalgam of all my favorite detectives that I’ve read about in books, written about on television, seen in film, met in real life, or just wanted to be. I’ve always been drawn to flawed characters that were interested in reinventing themselves. Maybe because of my own personal demons and varied career paths.
I wanted to write about a detective who was standing at the crossroads, recovering from a nasty divorce, retiring from the NYPD, leaving the old neighborhood in Staten Island, and moving west to find some peace in his life.
It certainly didn’t work out the way he planned. Twenty-five years of taking down drug dealers, money launderers and thieves, came back to haunt him and shook up his newfound state of bliss in Marina del Rey, California.
What’s more important, character or plot?
This question also encompasses question #4.
When I first began writing, I was writing scripts for network television. In that arena, an outline was imperative. First of all, you would never get an assignment until a story, and then the outline was approved. And then once you were green-lit, if another script fell out of the schedule, you might be asked to turn in a finished script in a week’s time. An almost impossible feat without a concise outline.
When I started writing books, my process changed. I began with a premise, which dictated the characters I’d need to tell the story, and they defined the plot. No outline. Flying without a net. Frightening and exhilarating, but it seems to be working. It’s not a better way, just different.
If you have well defined characters that people can empathize with, care about, you can lead them most anywhere. But ultimately, it’s the plot that shows the audience how your protagonist responds to conflict, how he thinks, what makes him tick, and why you should care about him.
So, long winded answer, I think it’s a 50-50 split.
This is your second novel, did you find the process any easier/different this time round?
The only process that’s been easier for me the second time around is the marketing of the book. When I wrote The Devil’s Necktie, I didn’t know what a blog was. I’d never heard of a blog tour. I didn’t have a clue what social media was all about, and it was damn intimidating. It was a difficult learning curve, but I’m starting get the hang of it.
Writing a book is difficult work. There’s no other way to say it. It’s gratifying when you’re in the zone and the words are flying off the page, but it’s not for the faint of heart. But as I was telling someone, it’s the only discipline in the creative arts where you don’t have to be hired to ply your craft. You can write a book on a napkin, on a plane, in a one-room shack, all you have to do is commit to writing every day, and you can end up with a completed first draft. I think that’s pretty cool.
Could you describe your writing day, and do you work to a structured outline or where ever the characters take you?
When I’m writing a book, it’s pretty much a 24/7 kind of thing. The characters are bouncing around in my head most of the day. I’m problem solving in my sleep. I sometimes wake up with the answers and head for the computer. I write the scene, pour some coffee, walk the dog, and then rewrite the work.
My biggest production occurs in the afternoon. And then the dog demands another walk. I’ll get a little lunch, take a hard look at what’s on the page, and I might do a simple step outline for the next sequence, just to keep things straight in my head. It’s only a road map. Nothing is set in stone. I like to end the day, having some idea of the direction I want to take the next day.
Are you planning more Jack Bertolino stories?
I’m knee deep into the third book in the Jack Bertolino series. And in November, Chris Sulavik at Tatra Press is publishing my short story, The Test. It’s a coming of age tale, set on Long Island in 1963 that deals with race, violence, social politics, and young love.
That’s good to know! What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
This is a hard question. I began my career, out of college, as a theatre actor before getting into television and film. I started writing for television and moved behind the camera, creating for the first time in my life instead of interpreting. Writing novels is my third career.
I think the best advice I could give to my younger self would be to pick up a pen every day. Fight the negative voices. Make writing a habit. It might be the only habit you have that can enrich your life.
On your bucket list?
Bucket list, huh? To have ten Jack Bertolino novels published in the next eight years. Okay, and to find the time to travel more. There’s too much of the world I haven’t seen.
Best gift you ever received?
I think the best gift I’ve ever received was getting cast as an understudy for Danny Zuko in the first national tour of Grease. It was a life changer. I rode that train until I won the title role. I spent a year playing Zuko on Broadway. It was a gift that set me on a life course, which allowed me to become a writer. All of my past experiences come into play when I’m sitting in front of my computer.
If you won the lottery what would you do first?
Well, now that I’ve won the lottery, I can afford to take that time to travel I was talking about on my bucket list. Maybe spend a few months at a time in another country where I can get Jack Bertolino involved in new cases in exotic locals.
Thanks so much, John, for taking the time to share your thoughts
Jack Bertolino’s son, Chris, was the victim of a brutal murder attempt and Vincent Cardona, a mafia boss, provided information that helped Jack take down the perpetrator of the crime. Jack accepted the favor knowing there’d be blowback. In Blond Cargo the mobster’s daughter has gone missing and Cardona turned in his chit. Jack discovers that the young, blond, mafia princess has been kidnapped and imprisoned while rich, politically connected men negotiate her value as a sex slave.
A sizzling whodunit for fans of James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell, Blond Cargo taps into the real-life crime world to deliver a thrilling, action-packed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the explosive, unprecedented finale.
Excerpt from Blond Cargo:
Jack carried a Subway turkey sandwich, a tall unsweetened iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a smile as he keyed the security gate that led to the dock in Marina del Rey where his boat was moored. The marina was always quiet during the week. Just the way he liked it.
He stopped to admire his twenty-eight feet of heaven before stepping onto his boat’s transom and then . . .
“Yo, Mr. B.”
Jack never forgot a voice, which explained his reluctance to turn around.
“Yo, yo, Mr. B.”
Miserably persistent, Jack thought. He turned to face Peter Maniacci, who was dressed head-to-toe in black. With his outstretched arms draped over the chain-link fence, Peter looked like an Italian scarecrow. The black circles under his eyes belied his youth. The sharp points of his sideburns, his boots, and the .38 hanging lazily from a shoulder holster added menace to his goofy grin.
So close, Jack thought. His only worry that day had been
whether to eat his sandwich dockside or out on the Pacific with a view of the Santa Monica Pier.
“How you doing, Peter?”
“How you doin’?”
Jack let out a labored sigh. “We could do this all day. What’s up?”
“That’s funny, Mr. B. How’s the boy? How’s his pitching arm?”
Jack’s face tightened. He wasn’t happy that Peter knew
any of his son’s particulars. When he didn’t answer, Peter continued.
“Hey, nice boat. I used to fish for fluke off the north shore. Long Island. I think I must be in the wrong business.”
“Count on it,” Jack said. “What can I do for you?”
“My boss was wondering if you could spare a few minutes of your time.”
As if on cue, a black Town Car materialized behind Peter and came to a smooth, silent stop. The car rose visibly when Peter’s boss, a thick, broad-shouldered man, stepped out of the rear seat.
Vincent Cardona. Expensive suit, the body of a defensive linebacker—fleshy but muscled. Dark, penetrating eyes. Cardona looked in both directions before leveling his feral gaze on Jack. An attempt at a smile fell short of the mark. A thick manila envelope was tucked under one beefy arm.
Jack had been aware there would be some form of payback due for information Cardona had provided on Arturo Delgado, the man responsible for the attempted murder of his son. He just didn’t think it would come due this quickly. He opened the locked gate and let the big man follow him down the dock toward his used Cutwater cabin cruiser.
As Peter stood sentry in front of the Lincoln Town Car, Jack allowed the devil entry to his little piece of paradise.
“How’s your boy? How’s the pitching arm?” Vincent asked bluntly. Just a reminder of why he was there.
“On the mend.” Jack gestured to one of two canvas deck chairs in the open cockpit of the boat. Both men sat in silence as Jack waited for Cardona to explain the reason for his visit.
Jack wasn’t comfortable with Cardona’s talking about Chris, but the big man had taken it upon himself to station Peter outside Saint John’s Health Center while his son was drifting between life and death. Cardona’s enforcer had scared off Delgado, and that might have saved his son’s life. The unsolicited good deed was greatly appreciated by Jack. The debt weighed heavily.
“It rips your heart out when your children have problems and you can’t do nothing to help,” Cardona said with the raspy wheeze of a man who had abused cigars, drugs, booze, and fatty sausage for most of his life.
“What can I do for you?” Jack asked, not wanting to prolong the impromptu meeting.
Cardona, unfazed by Jack’s brusqueness, answered by pulling out a picture and handing it to Jack.
“Angelica Marie Cardona. She’s my girl. My only. My angel. Her mother died giving birth. I didn’t have the heart to re-up. I raised her by myself.”
Mobster with a heart of gold. Right, Jack thought. But Cardona’s wife must have been a stunner because Angelica, blond, early twenties, with flawless skin and gray-green eyes, didn’t get her good looks from her father. Cardona’s gift was her self-assured attitude, which all but leaped off the photograph.
Jack Bertolino, master of the understatement, he thought.
“And doesn’t she know it. Too much so for her own good. You make mistakes, my line of business. Whatever.”
“What can I do for you, Vincent?” Jack said, dialing back the attitude.
Cardona tracked a seagull soaring overhead with his heavy-lidded eyes and rubbed the stubble on his jaw.
Jack would have paid good money to change places with the gull.
“I shoulda never moved out here. L.A. I’m a black-socks- on-the-beach kinda guy. East Coast all the way. Never fit in. But I’m a good earner and the powers that be decided they were happy with the arrangement. Everyone was happy except Angelica and me.
“She turned thirteen, didn’t wanna have nothing to do with her old man. Turned iceberg cold. I tried everything— private schools, horses, ballet, therapy, live-in help; nothin’ worked. She closed up tighter than a drum. I finally threatened to send her to the nuns.”
“How did that work out?”
“I’m fuckin’ sitting here, aren’t I? On this fuckin’ dinghy . . . no offense meant,” he said, trying to cover, but the flash of anger told the real story. “I hear you’re an independent contractor now.”
It was Tommy Aronsohn, his old friend and ex–district attorney, who had set him up with his PI’s license and first client, Lawrence Weller and NCI Corp. But Jack Bertolino and Associates, Private Investigation, still didn’t come trippingly off his tongue.
And thinking of the disaster up north, he said, “We’ll see how that goes.”
“This is the point. I haven’t seen my daughter in close to a month. Haven’t heard word one since around the time your son was laid up in Saint John’s,” he said. Reminder number two. “It’s killing me,” he continued. “I’m getting a fuckin’ ulcer. Then this.”
Cardona pulled out the L.A. Times with the front-page spread reporting on the woman who had died when her boat crashed on the rocks at Paradise Cove. As it turned out, a second woman down in Orange County had washed up on the beach a few weeks earlier at the Terranea resort, scaring the joy out of newlyweds taking photos at sunset. Talk about twisted memories, Jack thought. As if marriage wasn’t tough enough. He’d already read both articles with his morning coffee and hadn’t bought into the pattern the reporter inferred.
“And the connection?”
“I got a bad feeling is all. She’s never disappeared like this before—not for this long anyway,” he said, amending his statement. “And then . . .” Cardona said, waving the newspaper like it was on fire. “It says here they were both blonds. Both about Angelica’s age. They could be fuckin’ cousins. Could be nothing.”
“Did you file a missing-persons report?”
Cardona gave him a hard side eye. “Jack, don’t fuck with me. We take care of our own.”
Jack thought before he spoke. “I’m not one of yours.”
“What about your crew?”
Cardona flopped open his meaty hands. “I get angina, I don’t call my cousin Frankie, who has a certain skill set but stinks when it comes to open-heart surgery. Look, I get it. You were on the other team. But this is straight-up business. One man to another. One father to another. I need you to find my girl. You got my number. Use it, Jack. Money’s no object. Find my baby.”
Jack didn’t answer. He stared out at the navy-blue water of the marina, past row upon row of beautiful yachts, symbols of dreams fulfilled, and knew they were empty notions compared to family.
Cardona hadn’t actually spoken the words you owe me, but they filled the subtext of everything he’d said. He was not subtle. The big man had reached out when Jack was in need, and Jack had accepted the offer. Now Vincent Cardona wanted his pound of flesh.
“This is everything I know. Last address, phone numbers, phone bills, e-mail accounts, bank, credit cards, friends and whatnot. The whole shot,” Cardona said, holding the manila envelope out in Jack’s direction.
“I have other commitments,” Jack stated.
“You look real fuckin’ busy, Jack, if you don’t mind my sayin’.” His eyes crinkled into a sarcastic grin. Vincent Cardona does charm.
Jack accepted the overstuffed envelope with a sigh.
“If she don’t want to come back, fine. No funny business, no strong-arm bullshit from my end. You got my word. I just need to know that my blood is alive. I’m fuckin’ worried and I don’t do worry too good. Sleep on it, Jack. But do the right thing.”
Cardona’s eyes locked on to Jack’s. Jack remained silent. He’d take a look. No promises, not yet.
Vincent’s knees cracked and the canvas chair squeaked like it was in pain as he stood up. He covered a belch behind his fist and rubbed his gut as he moved stiffly past Jack. The boat rocked when Cardona stepped off and walked heavily away, his Italian leather shoes echoing on the wooden dock.
The weight of the world. Jack could relate.
Peter Maniacci opened the gate for his boss and then the door to the Lincoln Town Car, which plunged to curb level as the big man slid in. Peter ran around to the other side of the car and tossed Jack a wave like the queen mum. He jumped into the Lincoln, which lurched forward before Peter could slam the door shut.
Jack walked into the boat’s deckhouse, grabbed a bottle of water, and downed two more Excedrin. He stretched his back, which was going into a spasm from yesterday’s violence, and chased the pills with a Vicodin to stay one step ahead of the pain that he knew was headed his way.
Jack had already decided to take the case.
About the author
John Lansing started his career as an actor in New York City. He spent a year at the Royale Theatre playing the lead role in the Broadway production of “Grease.” He then landed a co-starring role in George Lucas’ “More American Graffiti,” and guest-starred on numerous television shows. During his fifteen-year writing career, Lansing wrote and produced “Walker Texas Ranger,” co-wrote two CBS Movies of the Week, and he also co-executive produced the ABC series “Scoundrels.” John’s first book was “Good Cop, Bad Money,” a true crime tome with former NYPD Inspector Glen Morisano. “The Devil’s Necktie” was his first novel. A native of Long Island, John now resides in Los Angeles.
What should have become a powerful alliance between charismatic Attorney General Will Guidry, and his strategist, Tucker Callahan, deteriorates into a bitter feud once Tucker realizes that beneath Guidry’s polished persona lurks a calculating sociopath.
Caught in the crossfire is Carter, Tucker’s betrayed brother and the story’s narrator. Carter wants nothing to do with the escalating feud until he stumbles on a monstrous crime and finds himself being drawn into the vortex of his brother’s private war.
From a bungled execution through a brass-knuckled political campaign, a no-holds-barred courtroom showdown and a climactic bloodbath by the side of a bayou, Destiny’s Anvil promises to give readers a sleepless night as it races across the new, dark landscape of modern American politics.
Excerpt from Destiny’s Anvil:
THE MERCURY WAS STILL HOVERING ABOVE NINETY when the three of us rolled up to the first set of gates at the state penitentiary in Angola. Climbing out of my car, I glanced toward the sun dropping over the cotton, bean and sweet potato fields that stretched unbroken toward the horizon. I wondered if the hapless bastard who had fewer than fifteen minutes left was gazing out a window, watching the last day of his life ebb toward eternal darkness.
I didn’t want to be there. I was twenty-six years old, secure in the prospect of at least fifty more years of a generous life, and didn’t want to see a man put to death before my eyes, no matter what he did. My brother Tucker had tried to worm his way out of witnessing the execution as well, but he couldn’t come up with an excuse that Will Guidry might buy. We both knew that over the previous fourteen years Will had worked up a hankering for blood that eclipsed any reverence he ever may have held for justice.
Two guards checked our names against their clipboard, opened the back doors of a cruiser and we got in. Without a word, they drove us through the prison compound to the no-frills building where Louisiana’s executions were carried out. We were led through several sets of barred doors until we reached a stark room with two rows of wooden chairs at one end and the electric chair at the other, maybe fifteen feet apart, maybe less.
The drifter who had raped and smothered Will’s kid brother Robby in the clearing of a cane field was already strapped into the chair and an electrode was being attached to his left calf. He watched the process, showing no emotion beyond detached curiosity. His expression didn’t change as his shaved head was straightened and a man wearing a threadbare black suit put a moistened sponge on the crown of his head and covered it with a metal skullcap. His eyes never wavered as he declined to buy final seconds with last words.
Father had told Tuck and me about how the dog, after nosing the sneaker around the drainage ditch, took off through the canebrake, how the three men looked at each other and started working their way into the thicket behind the dog, their hands and forearms collecting nicks and scratches as they hacked through the stalks of cane, how they were barely twenty yards into the cane when they heard the single bark followed by whimpers. I was later told that my father had been the first of the three to make it into the clearing, and that once he realized what he had stumbled upon, the only thing he could whisper was, “Oh, Jesus.” The dog’s chin was between its forepaws, and inches from the tip of its nose lay the second sneaker, still on the foot of Robby Guidry’s lifeless body. Even in the rose light of fading afternoon, the sock on the boy’s other foot glowed white, in stark relief from the blue jeans that had been yanked down to his ankles. A rivulet of blood had seeped out of his rectum, and was drying halfway down his left thigh. Once his face was pulled out of the mud into which it had been pressed, the parish coroner said he wouldn’t be able to tell if Robby had been strangled or forcibly drowned in mud until he got the body hosed off for the autopsy.
While the warden read the sentence in a bland monotone, the drifter’s eyes scanned across the faces on our side of the room. I felt myself shudder when his eyes locked on mine. He looked at me for an eternity that lasted less than a second, and my eyes followed his as he shifted them to his left and into the steady eyes of Will Guidry. Will’s face was stone except for the slightest movement of his lips, and I heard him whisper, “Fry in hell, dickhead.” Even though I knew there was no way the drifter could hear Will at that distance, I swear I saw him smirk at Will as a sweating guard stretched a black blindfold across his eyes before knotting it against the back of his skull.
The warden nodded his head and the electricity rocketed through the convict with the hiss and crackle of bacon in a dime store skillet. His hands tensed into claws as he dug his nails into the arms of the chair and his body thrashed against the leather restraints until thirty seconds had passed and the current was switched off. The silence was thick and underlined by the stench of smoldering flesh.
A doctor with a stethoscope moved toward the convict, but stopped once he realized the body would need a few seconds to cool down enough to touch. I let my held breath release and was gulping for any whisper of sweet evening air when the doctor looked at the warden and said, “He isn’t dead.”
Robby Guidry was only the murderer’s first victim. Three months after her son’s desecrated corpse had been discovered in the cane field, a disconsolate Marie Guidry had shoved her head in the family oven and turned on the gas. Having lost his wife and younger son within less than one hundred days of each other, Frank Guidry’s drinking ran away from him until the day that an increasingly withdrawn Will showed up at school with a shiner everyone couldn’t help but notice. The news of Will’s black eye hit my father particularly hard. Father was a good neighbor, the kind of man who always kept jumper cables in his trunk or saw to it that your garden was watered if you’d gone out of town and forgotten to ask anyone for help. I knew for a fact that Father felt acutely sorry for Will Guidry when he stepped up his regular prodding of both Tucker and me to spend more time and behave like brothers from the womb with Will. But Tuck was better at being an open hearted brother than I ever was, and as Tuck and Will became more like actual brothers, Tuck and I became less.
The second jolt was set to last a full minute, but I doubt thirty seconds had gone by when tongues of orange flame blazed from beneath the skullcap, followed by billows of steam and acrid smoke. A urine stain spread across the front of his pants, his skin bloomed scarlet as the temperature rose, and his body swelled to the point his flesh began to split. Blood streamed from his nose and mouth, and the smell of sizzling flesh mixed with the stink of where he’d fouled himself. I was ready to scream for someone to cut off the power for God’s sake when the room went silent except for the retching coming from Tucker as he lurched forward and vomit spattered on the waxed linoleum floor.
After letting the lifeless body cool, the doctor listened to his stethoscope, nodded and read the time off the wall clock in the death chamber. Two guards wheeled in a wobbly cart, on top of which was a state-issue coffin covered with a cheap, nubby fabric, while a third guard started to absentmindedly whistle between his teeth as he unbuckled the restraints. We were herded out with the other witnesses and taken back to our car at the prison’s main gate as the evening’s first stars pierced the twilight.
The emotional canyon separating me from Tuck had widened during our time at LSU, and I was neither surprised nor disappointed, in fact I was relieved, when Will Guidry realized he’d find more butter on my brother’s side of the bread than he ever would on mine. Hell, Will glommed so close to Tucker that people on campus started to snicker that Tuck was having the devil of a time trying to figure out how he might ever separate himself from his Siamese twin.
Following graduation, Tucker and Will had set off in search of stars beyond their reach while I returned home to New Acadia, a house that had grown empty during my time away and no prospects for any kind of meaningful work.
None of us had said the first word to each other since we pulled up at Angola, and I didn’t think any of us knew what to say after what we’d just witnessed. I glanced at the rearview mirror expecting to see a brooding Will Guidry, only to find one who was downright chipper as he said, “That was great. Let’s go find us someplace to eat.”
Destiny’s Anvil was published in June 2014 and is available for sale on Amazon
About the author:
Steven Hicks came to Mississippi in 1974 and spent the next quarter century writing for various advertising agencies, including his own. He wrote commercials and print ads about hot dogs and other baloney, used cars, barbecue shacks, sunscreen, banks galore, white bread, undertakers, churches, casinos, turkey calls, finger-lickin’ chicken and symphony orchestras. Some of the work was thoughtful. Some was funny. Most was neither.
During that period of time, he earned the enmity of his competitors and peers by being named Mississippi’s top copywriter nine times, winning six certificates of excellence in the International CLIO Awards, over 150 ADDY Awards, Radio Mercury honors and being included in Who’s Who in American Advertising.
A major portion of his advertising and marketing income came through his work as a political consultant, engineering the media and messaging efforts for more than six dozen campaigns, culminating with the POLLIE Award for best statewide/national commercial from the American Association of Political Consultants in 1989.
While the embarrassing abundance of honors mean next to nothing to Hicks, the education he got through the process meant everything. He learned how to write what people like. He learned to write with economy and clarity, because consumers won’t buy things from long-winded peddlers of perplexity. He learned when words have to be polished and when they’re best left plain.
Through it all, people kept telling Hicks he should write books and he kept saying, “Maybe one day,” until the day came when a near-fatal stroke in 1997 forced him into an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with his own mortality, and he realized he wanted to be remembered for something more consequential than gimmicky commercials.
There was only one hitch. The stroke had taken away his ability to read.
For the next thirteen months, Hicks stubbornly stared at newspaper letters until he could form words, read sentences, then paragraphs, and finally had the ability to once again read novels, albeit at a far slower pace and with cognitive problems enhanced by lingering reading difficulties stemming from alexia, an aphasia problem caused by brain lesions.
It made the headstrong Hicks more determined than ever to take a shot at those novels people had been encouraging him to write for years.
Ten years and eleven revisions later came his debut novel, The Gleaner, a trans-racial romance set in a sleepy Mississippi whistle-stop. In a competition of 5,000 entries, The Gleaner was named a quarter-finalist in Amazon.com’s prestigious “Breakthrough Novel” competition. Upon its heels came two comic novels in 2009, The Fall of Adam, a satire of Deep South advertising, and Horizontal Adjustment, a farce about sexual escapades among competitors for a news anchor position in a tank town television station along the Florida Panhandle.
Deciding to take a breather from novels, Hicks started publishing New Orleans restaurant guidebooks on an annual basis in 2011, all of which have become mainstays on Amazon.com’s list of the 100 top-selling books about world dining.
In May of 2014, Hicks published his fourth novel, Destiny’s Anvil, which marked a stark departure from the breezy style of his earlier works.
“The final product is the polar opposite of the novel’s original intent. It is dark, violent bordering on savage, as it strips away the veneers of not only politicians, but the entire American political system. At the same time, it moves with the furious pace of a thriller overflowing with cliffhangers,” says Hicks.
Steven Wells Hicks lives in New Orleans. To learn more, go to http://stevenwellshicks.com/, or connect with Steven on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hickswrites
For further information, to request a review copy of Destiny’s Anvil, or to set up an interview or appearance by Steven Wells Hicks, contact Book Publicity Services at
To celebrate the release of the paperback edition of HeartSong we have the cover images, an excerpt and an interview with the author, Desiree Williams.
Excerpt from HeartSong
Laelynn prepared herself for whatever was to come. She attempted to concentrate on her breathing, but pain radiated through her chest at each attempt to breathe. Shallow breaths were all she could muster. The Varkadons were engrossed in their meal, paying her no attention. Laelynn prayed Dustan and Alanna appeared soon before she became dessert.
Laelynn jerked, almost screamed, when the campfire burst out into a flaming whirlwind. It grew and rolled into the air, forming a towering mass of orange and red flames. Tongues of fire leaped at the Varkadons encamped around it. The grass capes that once aided them were their downfall as their armor went up in flames. Laelynn watched the scene unfold as many succumbed to the raging fire storm. The stench of charred flesh permeated the air. Bile rose into her mouth at the odor. Few had been successful to remove the grass-covered armor. Laelynn marveled as she took inventory. The attack took out half the soldiers.
The ground quaked beneath her tree. Abruptly, it cracked and groaned, forcing the tree to whip around. The act brought Laelynn face to face with a piercing set of green eyes. The girl before her looked lethal.
The woman—Laelynn assumed she must be Alanna, the girl the voice mentioned–used her sword to cut Laelynn’s binds. Her legs were too weak to hold her up, and she dropped to the ground the moment she was freed.
Alanna sheathed her sword and put a shoulder under Laelynn’s arm. Together the two hobbled behind a large, thick tree. Alanna let out low bird-like whistles. Seconds later Laelynn heard a heart rattling howl that vibrated through her. Screams accompanied it.
“What was that?” Laelynn whispered to her rescuer.
“That was Dustan,” Alanna whispered, then offered her a calming grin. “I’m Alanna. I’m going to set you up in this tree to keep you a safe distance away. I’ll retrieve you once the remaining Varkadons are overcome.”
Without another word, a rush of wind surrounded them. The mighty wind carried both girls effortlessly into the tree. Alanna set her down and assessed her injuries. Compassion flooded the girl’s emerald eyes.
“I’ll heal you once we’re a safe distance away from here. However, I have to leave you for just a moment to assist Dustan. Please don’t be scared. You’re safe now.” Alanna jumped down, leaving her in the tree to watch the event unfold.
Laelynn gaped in amazement at what she saw below. An incredibly large wolf thrashed a Varkadon soldier back and forth. Laelynn couldn’t remember seeing a wolf that large before. She compared it to a horse, solid black in color. With a flick of its jaw, the wolf sent the soldier flying haphazardly into the air. The Varkadons left standing formed a semicircle, pushing him back toward the growing fire.
Laelynn saw no possible way for the wolf to escape as the soldiers corralled it closer to the ravenous flames. She knew it was all her fault. How could live with herself if she had to watch another die in their plight to help her? At that moment, it looked up at her, then winked. Since when did a wolf wink?
I’m very pleased to welcome Desiree to BetweenTheLines
Desiree Williams is a dreamer by day and chocoholic by night. She lives in the beautiful state of Kentucky with her husband and daughter, where she juggles life as a wannabe supermom. Desiree is a lover of food and avoider of dirty dishes. She delights in making people laugh and strives to bring hope and love with her wherever she goes.
Good to have you here, Desiree.
Tell us a little about yourself, what you do when not writing?
I’m a crazy madwoman trying to keep up with life. =) I juggle a family (husband and daughter), a church family, a job, self-publishing, and all the fun that goes in between. Sometimes I kick back and watch all the balls floating in the air, knowing there are times when I have absolutely no control over them.
What are your greatest strengths/weaknesses as a writer?
My greatest strength would be my determination. I love what I do and I strive to give it my all. And in regards to weaknesses … no one ever likes to admit their faults, but for you, I will. I tend to be a passive individual in life, so unfortunately that runs over into my writing. Thankfully I enlisted an amazing content editor and beta reader to help me kick out those passive moments.
What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
I can be impatient at times (another fault, yikes!), so when I have a great thought or scene playing in my head I get frustrated that my fingers won’t type as fast as I’m demanding them to.
Do you work to an outline or wherever the characters take you?
A little bit of both. I pinpoint on my story board the key points: where I’m going, what scenes are critical, and how I want it to end. But then I let my imagination get me to each point by dreaming in the moment. I put myself in the character’s shoes and journey with them.
What are you reading at the moment?
Betrayals in Spring, the third instalment of The Last Year Series by Trisha Leigh.
This is your first book, how was the whole process for you?
Amazing doesn’t even describe my life right now! =) Looking back I’m amazed at the courage it takes to really step out and publish something that you create from your heart. And I hate bragging on myself, but I seriously jumped out of a major comfort zone to do this. So worth it! Self-publishing is a lot of work, and there are some nail-biting moments, but you rise above all that. Nothing worth achieving ever came easy.
What’s on your bucket list?
Three things on my bucket list would be … 1) I would love to be a well-known, bestselling author one day. 2) Travel to a foreign country (which might be hard since I’m afraid to fly). 3) Remind everyone that they’re loved. That one might seem silly, but you wouldn’t believe the number of people out there don’t think they are loved. I for one, want to remind them that they’re loved and they’re valued.
That’s lovely..and quite sad because it’s true.
What do you fear the most?
Spiders! I hate those creepy, crawly, gross creatures. I once lived in a trailer that I swore was invested with new species. Quick story – one day I saw a wolf spider (so the size of my fist) in the hall but I was too afraid to step on it. So I hovered a text-book over it, dropped it, and successfully destroyed my enemy. But then I was too afraid to clean it up and left it there for my brother. Gut covered text-book and all.
An actor or book character you have/or have had a crush on
Okay, so I thought about this question wondering if I would brave answering it, knowing my husband could learn of my secret crush. But then I figured out I had more secret book crushes then I realized and knew I had bigger problems. HA! I picked out two: Costin from the Grey Wolf Series by Quinn Loftis, and Lucas from The River of Time Series by Lisa Bergren. I love a guy that can make me laugh. But I must say, my handsome hubby is still number one in my heart. =)
Thanks for having me!! I had so much fun with your questions!
Thank you, Desiree, for a great interview!
As part of the Saving Raine blog tour I’m pleased to be sharing a book spotlight and excerpt, as well as a little bit about the author, Frederick Lee Brooke.
Frederick Lee Brooke launched the Annie Ogden Mystery Series in 2011 with Doing Max Vinyl and following with Zombie Candy in 2012, a book that is neither about zombies nor sweets. The third mystery in the series, Collateral Damage, appeared in 2013.
Saving Raine, the first book in Fred’s entirely new series, The Drone Wars, appeared in December, 2013.
A resident of Switzerland, Fred has worked as a teacher, language school manager and school owner. He has three boys and two cats and recently had to learn how to operate both washing machine and dryer. He makes frequent trips back to his native Chicago.
When not writing or doing the washing, Fred can be found walking along the banks of the Rhine River, sitting in a local cafe, or visiting all the local pubs in search of his lost umbrella.
When 19-year-old Matt Carney gets a cryptic message from his father telling him to go to California and save his girlfriend, Raine, he doesn’t hesitate—he grabs his AK-47, revs up his blue pickup, and gets ready to make the 2,300-mile road trip.
But cross-country travel in 2021 isn’t easy—or, sometimes, even possible. The U.S. has become a near-military state: 17,000 checkpoints severely restrict interstate movement, Predator drones target innocent civilians without cause, and explosions rock cities daily. Matt and his stepbrother, Benjy, face deadly attacks from a corrupt government, ruthless local law enforcement, and bloodthirsty terrorist groups as they embark on their trek. They’re about to find out that their trip is much more than a private journey, and their success could change the face of the country—forever.
Can Matt and Benjy outrun the drone missiles raining down on their heads? Can they avoid assassination by government officials hell-bent on taking over what little is left of the country? Can they outsmart the deadly schemes set in motion against them?
Break the rules.
Save the girl.
He only gets one chance before she’s gone forever.
Excerpt from Saving Raine (The Drone Wars: Book 1)
The pickup lights cut a path through the darkness as they shared a bag of tortilla chips. All at once, Matt’s eyes picked up a familiar form in the grass by the side of the road. He pulled over fifty yards ahead.
”What’re you doing?” Benjy asked.
Matt got out without answering, and walked back up the road. Benjy followed. They found a small doe sprawled in the ditch, eyes staring.
“Is it dead?” Benjy asked.
“Dead and delicious,” Matt said. “Can you lift her?”
His stepbrother studied the deer, trying to figure how to pick it up. He bent down, then stood again.
“You sure it’s dead?”
Matt prodded the deer with his boot. “Even if she weren’t, they don’t bite.”
Benjy worked his left arm under the animal’s neck. With his right hand he grabbed one of the hind legs, just below the knee. When he stood up, he managed to get about half the deer off the ground before collapsing.
“She’s too heavy. I can’t.”
“Let’s do it together,” Matt said. He picked up the neck and the front legs while Benjy lifted the hindquarters. Matt could’ve thrown the animal in the back of the truck himself, but getting Benjy to help somehow seemed right. Although he was tall for fourteen, Benjy’s arms and legs were thin as twigs.
Off in the distance, another car was coming. They jumped in quickly, and Matt hit the gas. After a brief stretch at high-speed, they entered a town and had to slow down. The car tailing them had caught up, an old red Chrysler. The other driver rode him close, his high beam lighting up the truck interior. Matt looked away from his mirror, but the lights blinded him just the same. People shot each other over less.
“Want me to check him out?” Benjy asked.
“You’ve got your own Viper?”
“I brought two Vipers and two Tornados,” Benjy said. He rolled down his window and released a small quadcopter. Then he studied his Jetlink.
“What’s a fourteen-year-old doing with four drones?”
“These are just the ones I decided to bring.”
Matt looked at his stepbrother, unbelieving. Where had Benjy been hiding all these drones? He himself, like most people, owned one all-purpose Viper. “Well, what about those guys back there?”
“Two men. Skinheads. Maybe locals, picking a fight.”
They had reached the end of town, and the speed limit was back up to 50 mph. Matt gradually increased to 40 mph as the Chrysler rode up his tail. The road was deserted.
“Why doesn’t he pass?” Benjy asked.
Matt rolled down his window. “Get ready to take the wheel.”
“What? I can’t drive.”
On the next straightaway, the Chrysler made its move and pulled alongside. Matt met the gaze of the man in the passenger seat, whose shaved head gleamed in the ambient light.
“Pull over to the side. Pull over now.”
Matt had the slingshot ready while Benjy guided the truck with one hand on the wheel. In a split second, he could kill the man, whose impassive face was less than six feet away.
Something made him decide not to shoot. Maybe there’d been enough killing for one night. Maybe it was the fact that the man didn’t show a weapon. Maybe he was just tired. He retook the wheel, braked, signaled, and pulled over.
The skinheads got out and walked back to the truck, two men in black leather. Still no weapons. He got out to meet them.
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