Book Spotlight: Minute Zero

Happy publication day, and congratulations to author Chris Jayne on the release of Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)

Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

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Minute Zero (Stronghold #1)

Publication Date: September 11th, 2020 (Today 🎉)

Publisher: Inferis Press

When the world ends in a heartbeat, suddenly old secrets don’t matter anymore.  But new ones still do, and protecting the ones you love is the only thing that still remains.

Two sisters, one a trendy caterer on the run from a vicious killer, the other a country midwife.

Because of a simple mistake, Lori Dovner must flee from the vicious mafioso Raoul Saldata, and her life goes from routine day to terrifying journey in a single moment. On the road with her two children, her only goal is to get to her sister’s Montana farm alive.  But both Lori and Louise have been hiding a devastating secret for years.

Two brothers, one a Navy Seal on leave, the other a good man who wants to do right by his family.

Captain Deacon Hale is taking two weeks to help his brother Roger and his wife Louise on their remote Montana farm.  He loved Lori once, but has finally put her behind him.  Roger Hale just wants to give his pregnant wife and two young children a good life.  He has no idea about the betrayals that have been hidden from him.

Dangerous identity.

Angela Jones is an FBI agent with a terrible debt that she knows she will someday have to pay.  And when Raoul Saldata calls in that marker she has no choice but to comply.

Evil incarnate.

Raoul Saldata as a child in Albania, would pretend he was a dhampir, the offspring resulting from the mating between a human female and a vampire.  A myth of course, but the evil Saldata practices is anything but.  And when he finds Lori Dovner, he intends to do a lot more than just kill her.

“Minute Zero” Stronghold: Book One is an apocalyptic EMP thriller (with a touch of romance) about an ordinary family struggling to stay safe and find each other in the face of insurmountable odds, an abysmal loss of life and the dawn of a new, post-apocalyptic dark age.

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Excerpt

“Roger, I’m in trouble.”

His voice came back, quick and sure. “What’s going on? Where are you?”

“I’m at a rest area about an hour outside of Billings.”

“West or east?”

“West. We’re maybe twenty miles from where we go off the highway and come north to Lewiston. I can’t remember the road number.”

“191,” he supplied. She heard Roger speaking to someone else in the room, his voice distant, as if he was holding the phone away from his mouth. “Top drawer of the desk. Yeah, there. There’s a road atlas in there.” His voice came back into the phone. “I’m think I know where you are, but I’m getting a map. What’s going on?”

“The man who is after me is here. His name is Raoul Saldata and…”

“There? Now? With you?” Roger’s voice, while remaining calm, still carried a note of real urgency.

“No. I saw him just by chance. He didn’t see me. He got into a car and left.”

“You’re sure he didn’t see you?”

“Yes. If he’d seen me, there’s no way he would have driven off.” She quickly shared with her brother-in-law her guess that if it were not for Grace’s illness, they would already be at their destination and because of that, Saldata was no longer looking for them on the road. “Roger,” Lori voice cracked, “he wants to kill me. And he’s not alone. He’s got two people with him, a man and a woman.”

Lori heard what sounded like a door slam and then another voice muffled in the background, the words unintelligible, but it was definitely a male voice, and not her sister.

“How long ago was this?”

“Just a couple of minutes. I saw him, watched him leave, walked back to my car, and then called you.” She did the quick math. “No more than five minutes.”

“So, two hours from here,” Roger stated flatly. Lori got the feeling he was talking to someone else as well as to her. “Is he armed?”

Lori swallowed, her throat dry as dust, thinking about what she’d seem at Saldata’s house. “I’m sure he is. But,” Lori had a sudden thought, “can you bring guns on the plane?”

“He flew?”

“He was in a rental car. I assume he flew. That means he would have had to bring the guns on the plane, right? Can you do that?”

“You have to declare them if you fly commercial. But, if this guy has enough money or influence, he may have come on a private jet. Then he could bring anything he wanted.” Roger paused. “Tell me about who he’s with.”

“I don’t know who they are. I don’t know this man, really, at all. I just did a party for him. But, the first one is some sort of helper. A bodyguard maybe. I saw him at Saldata’s house. The other one is a woman. Young, maybe thirty. Very professional.” Lori envisioned what she’d seen in the restroom and suddenly Lori realized exactly what she looked like. “Like a lawyer or a detective maybe. She saw me in the bathroom.”

“She saw you?” Roger couldn’t hide the shock from his voice.

“Yes,” Lori explained, “but she didn’t recognize me. I cut my hair really short and dyed it black. I look very different. And the kids weren’t with me, thank God.”

There was a long pause as Roger was obviously considering the next steps. “Did you notice the model of the car?”

“No, Roger, I’m sorry, I don’t really know car models. It was a small SUV.” She thought about car models that she knew, ones that she and some of her friends owned. “It wasn’t as big as my Range Rover. Maybe something like a Toyota 4Runner. That size. It was gray. And it definitely had Montana plates.”

“How did he know you were coming here?”

“I don’t know, but…” Quickly, Lori shared with Roger her fear that Saldata had somehow found her employees, Salvadore and Michelle.

As she waited for Roger to respond, she watched her two children with Simone. Brandon had run over to Simone, and, his face turned up, he said something to her. He smiled, so sweet and trusting. My God, she had to protect them, all of them. The silence on Roger’s side of the call grew. “What should I do? Where should I go? I’m so sorry.” She heard her voice rising to shrill, but she couldn’t stop it.

Roger interrupted curtly. “What’s done is done, Lori. You need to hold it together. And the only thing that matters now is keeping everyone safe.”

“I don’t know what to do. Even if I turn around and I didn’t come to you, he’s still on his way there.”

“I want you to stay there.”

“Here? At the rest stop?”

“Yes, I’m going to send someone to get you. Do you remember my brother Deacon? He’s on leave and visiting us for a few weeks.”

For the second time in ten minutes, Lori felt like she’d been punched in the stomach and for a very long moment, she could not breathe. On a day when things could not possibly have gotten worse, they just did. “I met him at your wedding,” she managed to choke out. That flat statement masked a wealth of information. Did Roger notice how strangled her voice was?

Lori remembered Deacon Hale very well, but now was not the time to dwell on it, though why in the name of all that was holy had her sister not mentioned that Deacon was there visiting them? For a brief hysterical second, she wondered if she’d be better off taking her chances with Saldata. And in the next moment, she knew a hard truth, one she had never allowed herself to acknowledge. The main reason she had avoided being around Lou and Roger for the last five years was that Roger reminded her way, way too much of Deacon. She could barely gasp out her next, strangled question. “So, you’re not coming?”

“No.” Roger’s voice was flat and hard. “If what you say is true, I have three people on their way here who are perfectly capable of putting a bullet into the brains of anyone in my family.”

“You think I should just wait here? At the rest stop? What if he comes back?”

“You’re sure the woman didn’t recognize you?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. She just walked right out of the bathroom. I look really different, Roger.”

“Then, they won’t come back,” Roger responded, his voice full of confidence. “Why would they? And even if they’d turn around for some reason, they’d be on the other side of the interstate.” Lori saw the logic in that. “Just sit tight. Deke’ll be there in two hours, give or take.”

In less than three hours she’d see him. See Deke. Could she do it? There was no way. No. Fucking. Way.

The phone went dead in her hand.

And in one instant the world changed forever.

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 About the Author

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Chris Jayne is author of the apocalyptic EMP series “Stronghold.”

Jayne is also the penname of a USA Today bestselling romance and thriller author who is has started asking “what if?”  What if the lights go off?  What if the food supply chain just… stops?   The world could become an unfriendly place in a hurry.

Three years ago, Chris began exploring the “prepper” lifestyle, and hopes that if TEOTWAWKI would actually happen, she would be in a position to protect her family and loved ones.

She now spends her days  splitting her time between her romance writing and her apocalyptic and dystopian fiction novels. Because what’s more fun than imagining the end of the world from the comfort of your couch?  And if the end of the world has a few sexy Navy Seals in it?  All the better!

She loves writing stories exploring how ordinary people cope with extraordinary circumstances, especially situations where the normal comforts, conveniences, and rules are stripped away.

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I once again make an attempt at doing a weekly reading vlog! I clearly need more practice with these but hopefully, you enjoy this video of me being chaotic. Let me know how you do you reading vlogs in the comments down below! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Younger & Wiser

I’m happy to share this unique collection of poetry with you all today. Read on for more info, and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

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Younger & Wiser: Peaceful Words for a Troubled World

Publication Date: September 1st 2020

Genre: Poetry Collection

A unique literary masterpiece, richly seasoned with wisdom, humor and inspiration.

In Younger and Wiser, Gene S. Jones travels beyond traditional formats to explore the full spectrum of human emotions and experiences. Utilizing pithy vignettes anchored by clever backstories, Younger and Wiser relates the eclectic saga of the author’s fascinating personal odyssey. The result is a mind-expanding reading adventure that expresses heartfelt emotions and life lessons while demonstrating a deep appreciation for humanity’s ability to improve itself. Featuring intimate storytelling and witty humor interspersed with profound wisdom, Younger and Wiser delivers bite-sized nuggets of invaluable insights for readers of all ages.

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Giveaway: A $25 Amazon gift card, open to everyone. The giveaway will run from today until September 12th. Click the here to enter!

About the Author

GENE JONES BOOK PHOTO

Nationally acclaimed game show host Gene Jones has spent his life inspiring others to achieve creative excellence. From teaching seminars on innovation, serving as Associate Editor of the Guinness Book of World Records, and thirty years of professional speech writing to entertaining audiences and producing major events nationwide, Jones has enjoyed a colorful career. His many achievements include success as a writer, entertainer, producer, director and business executive. His brilliant use of backstories in Younger and Wiser bridges the gap between literary memoir and eclectic verse to become the missing link between mainstream non-fiction and the poetry genre.

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We tried out the Whisper Challenge using sentences from books off of our bookshelves! It was a lot of fun and we had some ridiculous results. Watch us attempt our way through this! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Telephone Road

Looking for the perfect twisty thriller, try Telephone Road by Ann Swann! 

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Telephone Road

Publication Date: August 4th

Genre: Thriller

Publisher5 Prince Publishing

Marlena caught the eye of one of the richest, hottest guys on campus, Preston. But when her attention shifts, and she falls in love with a hometown boy, Jimmy, she finds out that Preston is also deeply disturbed.

What follows is a life-changing evening out on Telephone Road, and Marlena knows she will never be the same when she takes matters into her own hands.

Justice has a new meaning. It’s called revenge.

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Excerpt

The remains of the sunset reflecting across the rippling water drew me to lean down and dip my fingers into the cold, bubbling flow. The sounds lent a storybook feel to the scene. The air was cool and still, fragrant with the loamy, nose-tickling scent of damp earth and fresh water. Multicolored leaves and drifts of pine needles carpeted the ground, softening our steps and turning the whole area into a painter’s fall palette.

I sat cross-legged on the plaid blanket he’d spread. “This is kind of amazing,” I admitted around a mouthful of pizza. “How’d you find it?”

              Preston looked into the distance. “I spend a lot of time in the woods,” he said. “It’s my refuge. I just needed you to share it with me.”

              He looked at me and I knew, suddenly and without a shred of doubt, that I had made a huge mistake. His light blue eyes had gone as cold as the water in the creek.

              I tried not to panic, tried to keep my suspicions in check, but alarm bells clanged inside my head. “It’s really beautiful,” I said. “Thank you for sharing it with me.” I put one hand down to push myself to my feet. “Now I’ve really got to get back—”

              He grabbed my shoulder, forcing me to remain seated on the blanket. For a moment, I had a ridiculous hope that he was playing, roughhousing the way Jim and I had done. But when he held me there, when his other hand clamped down on my opposite shoulder, when he smashed me backward onto the remains of the pizza, I knew this was no game.

              “Stop!” I cried. “What are you—?”

              His face came closer and closer, his lips questing.

              I jerked my head from side to side. “Preston, stop! What’re you doing?”

              His weight pinned me to the blanket, his hard chin dug into the side of my neck. He tried to hold my face still without using his hands.

              “I love you.” His voice had gone as hard and cold as his eyes. “I know you love me, too. I don’t know why you won’t show it.”

              His lips found mine and he let go of my right shoulder long enough to tangle his fingers into my hair.

              My head was trapped. Anger crashed through my body. I jerked my head aside to get his mouth off mine. Strands of my hair were ripped out of my scalp, but suddenly my hands were fighting, clawing, raking at his face, his clothing, his skin. Anything to get him off me.

              He tightened his grip on my hair but his other hand came up holding the campfire lighter. Just as he depressed the trigger to ignite it, my right hand found the wine bottle lying on its side. I wrapped my fingers around the neck of the bottle and swung it through the air, smashing it into the side of his head with as much force as I could muster.

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About the Author

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Ann has been a writer since junior high, but to pay the bills she has waited tables, delivered newspapers, cleaned other people’s houses, taught school, and had a stint as a secretary in a rock-n-roll radio station.

She also worked as a 911 operator and a police dispatcher.

Her fiction began to win awards during her college days. Since then she’s published several short stories, novels, and novellas. She’s always reading and always writing, but even if she never sold another story, Ann would not stop writing. For her it’s a necessity, like breathing. Most of the time, it even keeps her sane.

Ann Swann | Facebook | Goodreads

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Blog Tour Schedule

August 31st

Reads & Reels (Review) http://readsandreels.com

Eclectic Review (Review) https://eclecticreview.com/

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

September 1st

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

PoptheButterfly (Spotlight) https://popthebutterfly.wordpress.com

September 2nd

@the.b00kreader (Review) https://www.instagram.com/the.b00kreader

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com

September 3rd

Blood Rose Writings (Review) http://www.bloodrosewritings.blogspot.com

Entertainingly Nerdy (Review) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com

Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

September 4th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

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Check out all the books that I am attempting to read for the month of September and let me know which ones sound interesting to you! This TBR is quite ambitious so we will see how I do. Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Dead After Midnight

Welcome to the blog tour for Dead After Midnight, A Kelsey Woods Thriller!

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Dead After Midnight (A Kelsey Woods Thriller Book 1)

Publication Date: May 16th, 2020

Genre: Thriller

Suzie Q is a prostitute and determined to get out of her current line of work and excited for a fresh start with best friend Lucy by her side. Her dreams come to an abrupt halt, when, during a night of turning tricks, she stumbles upon Lucy’s brutally murdered body. Fearing for her life, Suzie runs to her neighbor, Luke’s, to regroup, where she discovers he’s not just a creepy client, but an undercover FBI agent. He blindsides her when he reveals that she’s mixed up in an FBI investigation, and that she’s been unknowingly working for Johnny Stone, New York’s notorious crime boss. Suzie flees from New York, hiding in a quaint seaside town in Maine. She changes her identity and her life. Now she has to survive, to keep the life she has come to love.

This is the first novel in the Kelsey Woods thriller series.

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Excerpt

I unlocked the door and climbed the stairs to the top floor, which opened up right by my room. I quietly unlocked my door and went right over to the large picture window and looked out. Nothing. No boogeyman hiding in the bushes and casing the joint. I shut the curtains and turned to switch on the light, stopping mid stride.

“Don’t be foolish and scream, Suzie. The cops would be called and I am pretty sure you don’t want to involve them.”

There he was, larger than life and stretched out on my bed as if he owned the place. I wasn’t surprised to see him. I couldn’t see his face, but of course I recognized the voice; I had heard it many times in my old life—a very deep, distinctive voice.

“How did you find me, Luke?”

“Just have to ask the right people the right questions over and over again. It’s good to see you. I’ve been in town a few days now, watching you. I have to say, you’ve impressed me with all the positive changes in your life. New line of work, new home, and even a new name—it suits you. I mean that. I’m very happy that you’ve left the old life behind you. Lucy would be very proud.”

“Are you here to take me back? Am I being arrested?”

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About the Author

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CP’s reading tastes are an eclectic mix of thriller, crime, romance, and the occasional fantasy novel. But, when she puts pen to paper, she can’t resist the intrigue of a thriller.

CP has written two novels in The Kelsey Woods series, Dead After Midnight (debut novel, released in May 2020) and Dead Before Sunrise – which is scheduled for release in the fall of 2020.

A true east coaster from beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada, CP is happily married to her high school sweetheart. She’s been blessed with a wonderful family, including six adorable grandchildren.

CP loves hearing from readers, connect with her via email or Twitter.

C.P. Daly

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Blog Tour Schedule

August 24th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

PoptheButterfly Reads (Spotlight) https://popthebutterfly.wordpress.com

Eclectic Review (Review) https://eclecticreview.com/

Purple Shelf Club (Review) https://www.purpleshelfclub.com/

August 25th

I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com

Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com

B is for Book Review (Spotlight) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com

Inked and Blonde (Review) https://inkedandblonde.blogspot.com/

August 26th

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

Ally’s Reading Corner (Review) http://allysreadingcorner.wordpress.com

Stine Writing (Review) https://christinebialczak.com/

Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

August 27th

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Tsarina Press (Spotlight) https://www.tsarinapress.com

Meli’s Book Reviews (Review) https://melisbokreviews.wordpress.com/

Rajiv’s Reviews (Review) https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

August 28th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Reviews by Satabdi (Review) http://satabdimukherjee.wordpress.com

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I made it to 2k subscribers thanks to all of you amazing people and so I decided to do a video where I react to your assumptions about me! Find out the real truth about me and get to know me as a person a little better! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Rainbow

Welcome to my stop on the Rainbow blog tour. Read on for book details, an excerpt AND a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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Rainbow

Publication Date: December 2019

Genre: LGBTQ/ Black Fiction/ Novella

Taylor has room for exactly two things in her life: improving her performance as a college basketball player and maintaining the grades she needs to stay on the team and someday play in the WNBA. But when she meets the beautiful and confident Melony, Taylor’s whole way of life is called into question. RAINBOW is a coming-of-age queer love story with a Love Jones kind of vibe. It’s the first of many queer black novellas by the author Verde Arzu.

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About the Author

Author Pic

Verde Arzu is a passionate, middle school special education teacher. She graduated from Fisk University, a historically black college and university (HBCU) located in Nashville, TN. There she earned a B.A in History.

Her love for teaching pushed her to go on to graduate school where she earned a Master of Science in Special Education from National University. Verde is not only a teacher but an advocate working to ensure equity for students of color, especially those with learning disabilities.

Verde is excitedly working toward completing a post-baccalaureate certificate in writing from UC Berkeley Extension. Upon completion of the program, she plans to continue to publish novellas, short love stories, centered on realistic lesbian and queer relationships.

Verde recalls writing her first piece of fiction as a kid on the front stoop of her two-flat home on the south side of Chicago. She traces her passion for writing stories about African American queer characters from her desire to see more characters’ voices she can relate to.

A native Chicagoan, she currently resides in Northern California with her beautiful wife and two furry, four-legged children, Bob and Marley. She enjoys reading books written by African Americans—with her favorite genre being romance. She is a die heart Chicago sports fan. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, basketball, biking, binge-watching her favorite TV shows, and of course, cuddling up with a good book!

Verde Arzu | Twitter | Instagram

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Blog Tour Schedule

August 17th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

Phoebe’s Randoms (Review) https://phoebesrandoms.wordpress.com/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Purple Shelf Club (Review) https://www.purpleshelfclub.com/

I Smell Sheep (Spotlight) http://www.ismellsheep.com/

August 18th

B is for Book Review (Interview) https://bforbookreview.wordpress.com

Lecari Live (Review) http://www.lecari.co.uk

Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

Bookish Lifetime (Spotlight) http://www.bookishlifetime.wordpress.com

August 19th

Cup of Toast (Interview) https://cupoftoast.co.uk

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

August 20th

Cup of Books (Review) https://cupofbooksblog.wordpress.com/

It’s a Novel Life (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/

The Book Dragon (Review) https://thebookdragondotblog.wordpress.com/

August 21st

Bookish Ends (Review) https://www.bookishends.com/

Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

Rajiv’s Book Reviews (Review)  https://www.rajivsreviews.com/

Sophril Reads (Spotlight) http://sophrilreads.wordpress.com

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I was blessed by the lovely creators of Bookishly and received another Bookishly Book Box to do an unboxing video on my channel and show you what I received! Let me know if any of you have tried this box before and what you thought! Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: RSVP

Welcome to the tour for R.S.V.P. by Ruchira Khana. Read on for details and a short excerpt from the book! I also have two $5 Amazon gift cards up for grabs!

Ruchpun front NEW (1)RSVP: A Novel

Publication Date: August 2018

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Jay Sethi, an Indian-born American, has lived with the consequences of a torn family since a teenager. After facing the effects of unrequited love and unpaid credit card bills, he settles in a small town in California from where he embarks on a cruise with his canine best friend, Yogi. Jay is shipwrecked and washed ashore on an island. It is there he realizes the importance of love and the salvation in letting go.
Will Jay be able to make up for the time he has lost?
Will the broken bridges and the seemingly permanent goodbyes remain that way?
RSVP: A novel explores the lines between reality and illusion and the significance of family.

Excerpt

Splash!

There is a strange tranquility as I realize I am surrounded by endless blue fluid. I try to talk, but no voice comes out. I frantically try looking around but except for the infinite azure, I cannot see anything.

With clenched fists, eyes wide open, and mouth shut tightly, I’m trying hard to understand where I am. I faintly remember having wished to be unborn, floating aimlessly in Ma’s womb. Has that wish come true?

That’s when I briefly catch a glimpse of Yogi. Oh no! We’re drowning. I begin flapping my hands to stay afloat. I rise, only to be sucked inside again. My hands are now paining. I cannot do it anymore.

Gasp!

**********

Jay woke up with a jerk, breathing hard, sweaty with his hands flayed up mid-air. The nightmare felt real, and he thought he was going to die. His hands went to his throat inadvertently remembering that choking feeling. Recollecting his psychologist, Susan’s suggestion, he tried taking deep breaths. His sudden action made Yogi also rise with a woof, making him quickly jump from his sofa dog bed and get cozy next to his master.

Jay was quick to hug him, all the while taking deep breaths to return to normalcy. His eyes were twitching with droplets of sweat forming around his forehead. Licking his dry lips, he gulped imaginary spittle to moisten his parched throat, the image of him drowning simply refusing to leave his mind. “Susan mentioned this would go away. Alas! When? Why does this same nightmare haunt me? And whose voice is this?” Jay mumbled.

He paused for a breather, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his arm while continuously patting his pet in a futile attempt to console himself. “Why? Why?” he moaned, trying to blink his moist, heavy eyes while attempting to reason out but no luck. The night-light was flashing various colors. He kept glancing at it for a sign, but no clarification came to him. His bedroom wore a scanty look equipped with just a queen-size bed and a table on each side that stood empty with no pictures.

He glanced at the clock that was beaming three in the morning on his side table. “Gosh! Another two hours of sleep, and slumber now refuses to take over,” he moaned. As if on the cue, Yogi began to lick his cheeks trying to relax his master.

Jay lay with the dog over him, allowing Yogi to soothe his fraying nerves, and soon he drifted off to la-la land. A couple of hours later, the alarm woke Yogi and him up with a startle. They stared at each other. Jay was embarrassed at first to see Yogi by his side as he remembered his nightmare. Sitting up on the bed with a jolt, he kept pressing the temples of his forehead while walking toward the bathroom, leaving Yogi puzzled since he hadn’t received any cuddles from his master yet.

“Atta boy!” he ordered, stepping out of the room dressed and wearing his running shoes. Jay leashed his pup, and the duo was out to catch some fresh air. Once back home, he was deep in thought while working monotonously. In a state of daze after crushing the coffee beans, he plugged in the coffee maker. Yogi was quick to break his chain of thoughts with a woof.

Jay acknowledged Yogi’s woof with a nod and smile, but that did not deter him. Finally, he bent down to stroke his fur which brought satisfaction to this small, compact, and hardy beagle as his hazel eyes and soft pleading expression made Jay melt with guilt over his earlier actions. A chuckle by Jay broke the silence, and Yogi’s tactics went berserk. “How can I ever be thankful enough to you?” he admitted while stroking both his ears playfully. “You are gentle, sweet, and so friendly that it has brought me out of the funk I was in!”

He poured Yogi’s dry food in his bowl and went for a quick shower. Yogi could not be disturbed. He was busy gobbling up his first meal of the day. While dressing, Jay remembered his three o’clock dream and paused while pressing his fingers on the teeth of his comb. He stared into the mirror with his gullible, deep-set eyes that were the window to all the memories he has made for the last twenty-seven years which provided those deep, visible lines on his forehead.

The mirror was rewinding the dream.

Sleepless nights, headaches, muscle cramps, and low back pain were a norm until he met Susan, his therapist. Thankfully, the pain was gone, but the occasional sleepless nights tormented him every time he delved into his past. It would bring back those memories he still could not triumph over, and he was adamant to keep the past in the past. Anyone who would try to bring those memories to the forefront would be chastised.

Woof.

Woof.

That sound made him come out of his reverie.

“Yes… yes… I’m coming.”

Jay was appreciative of Yogi since his pet could always feel his emotions whenever he was lost, upset, or low. He quickly combed his hair before bending down to stroke Yogi’s smooth white and tan fur. “Atta boy!” Walking toward the kitchen, he opened the door to the backyard so that his pet could relieve himself while he grabbed his freshly brewed cup of coffee.

As he sat on a chair, he noticed the empty bowl and eyed his puppy. Bladder empty, the pet was quick to place his two front paws on his leg and began his ritual of licking his face.

“No! Not the face, Yogi,” Jay objected as he pulled his face away, then paused to contemplate and gushed with embarrassment. “I am an opportunist, right?” Yogi paused and twisted his head sideways as if trying to decipher that word. For him, Jay was his dad, his caretaker, and he was obliged to take care of him whenever any opportunity arose. The word opportunist was a vague unit of language for him.

“Come on, buddy. Let’s go earn some money, so we can fulfill that bucket list of ours,” said Jay, opening the door for his pet.

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About the Author

canva-photo-editor (2)

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where she writes about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction. She projects the mental growth of her characters thus, making her readers tag her work as, “Books that make you ponder!”She blogs at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for three years. Many of her write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

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The Purple Shelf (Review) https://www.purpleshelfclub.com/

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Book Spotlight: Masters & Beginners

Welcome to the tour for Masters & Beginners, by Daley Downing, book one in The Order of the Twelve Tribes series! Read on for a sneak peek, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

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Masters & Beginners

Publication Date: August 2017

Genre: YA Fantasy/ Urban Fantasy/ Magic

When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

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Excerpt

Prologue

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a pleasant late summer’s evening, shortly after sunset, the sky a rich navy blue, stars beginning to twinkle in the distance. In a pleasant subdivision, residents were settling in for the night. In a tent pitched on one of the well-mowed lawns was a group of four teenage girls, in their pajamas and sleeping bags, currently finding out who could come up with the scariest scary story.

“…and to this day, he wanders the woods, looking for his head.”

“Can I just say, eew.” Margaret wrinkled her nose and frowned disapprovingly.

“That was the Headless Horseman. That’s not an original story, Kimberly.”

“Fine! You come up with something better.” Kimberly flopped down onto her pillow.

The tent was pitched in a backyard just like so many other backyards up and down the street. The development was one of the last to be built in the town limits, and it sat near the boundary of the state forest. The fact they lived so close to a nature preserve meant to the adults lots of hiking and biking on the trails, a chance for the kids to see wildlife, and learn about the woods firsthand. To their children, it meant a sense of danger, dark goings-on, and the perfect atmosphere for telling ghost stories during slumber parties.

“Fine, I will.” Sophie sat up taller on her blanket. It was her tent, her backyard, her house, with her family inside, hosting the slumber party. Taking the flashlight, she placed it under her chin, the beam casting shadows over the contours of her face.

“There was a house at the edge of the city that everyone called the glass house,” she began. “It looked like it was made all from glass, and it was strange to the people in the city. It belonged to the most wealthy family, the Greymalkins. They employed many servants and farmers in the past, people working on the land they owned. But these days, they had all but stopped hiring new staff.”

Margaret and Helen watched Sophie, listening politely. Kimberly pretended to be bored, and fiddled with a loose thread on her sleeping bag.

“The people didn’t really go near the glass house anymore,” Sophie went on. “The former staff, or their descendants, said that the Greymalkins were having troubles — illness, bad investments, and the like. They said that soon the family may be forced to sell the glass house and all their land.

“That was a shame, old Mrs. O’Connor said, as her grandson was coming back to town after traveling abroad for a few years, and he needed a job. He’d just completed his courses at an important university in another country, and he was well-trained in managing finances and keeping records. That was a very good thing, said Daphne, one of the few maids left at the glass house. Because the Greymalkins were looking for someone to do just that.

“And so Augustine O’Connor began to work at the glass house.”

Margaret and Helen were definitely interested now. Even Kimberly sat up a little more and glanced in Sophie’s direction.

“Daphne showed Augustine where he would work. It was mostly in one room, a study where all the family’s important papers were kept. After a few hours of working each day, he would go to the kitchens for a meal, and take a walk in the gardens if the weather was good. Most of the time, he only saw Daphne, or the cook, or the butler, Mr. Lee.

“One afternoon, just as he was finishing up, a very grand, and beautiful, woman came into the study. She wore a silver dress, and diamond combs in her hair. This was Lady Greymalkin, he knew, as he had seen portraits of her in the lobby of the glass house. Augustine quickly stood up and then bowed, as Mr. Lee had instructed him to do if he ever met a member of the family.

“Lady Greymalkin insisted he not bother about such a formality. ‘Thank you for doing this work for us,’ she said. ‘We need all our affairs in order before we sell the house.’ So it was true, Augustine asked, the rumors among the people? ‘Yes, I’m afraid so,’ the lady said. ‘Life has not gone…as we planned recently.’ Augustine gave his apology. ‘There’s no need to be sorry. It’s how things happen sometimes.’ And she invited him to tour the rest of the house with her.”

Outside the tent, it was quiet except for the chirp of crickets, and the occasional, brief passing of a car. Fireflies danced in the trees beyond the fence, but the girls didn’t notice.

“Augustine walked along the halls and saw the big dining room, the library, the grand parlor, where the family had entertained in happier times. Lady Greymalkin told him a little more about her children, her husband, and his parents, who built the glass house. When it was time for him to go, she invited him to tour the property on his own, as he wished.”

Kimberly couldn’t pretend anymore; she was listening as raptly as Helen and Margaret.

“A few days after this, the Lady came to find Augustine in the study,” Sophie continued. “She told him that they had a buyer for the land, and soon his services wouldn’t be needed anymore. ‘Thank you so much for your help. I’m sorry it means you’re out of a job. If I can do anything, please let me know.’ Augustine replied that a good reference would come in handy, but also, before he left, he’d like to walk around the gardens one more time. The Lady said yes, and that she would join him.

“As they walked, Augustine saw a door in the garden wall he had never noticed before. ‘Come with me,’ the Lady said, and she showed him a tunnel beyond the door. As they began walking down the tunnel, the Lady said, ‘Oh, I forgot, Mr. Lee needed to see me! Do wait here.’ And she ran back into the garden, shutting the door behind her.”

The back door of the house gently opened and closed. A shadowed figure slipped away from the lights inside, creeping into the yard and towards the tent.

“Confused, Augustine tried to open the door. He found it locked. There was only a little light in the tunnel, and he couldn’t see very far. Deciding he should wait as the Lady had told him to, he stood still.”

The dark figure paused near the tent, crouching down, trying to stay out of the light coming through the windows of his home.

Sophie’s hand was beginning to get tired of holding the flashlight, but she was almost done with the story. “Then a loud sound came from the other side of the wall, a sudden scream. Augustine jumped, and ran into the tunnel. As he ran, he heard other sounds, on either side of him, growls and snarls like those of wild animals. All the noise came out of nowhere, but it seemed to be all around him.”

Helen was spellbound. Margaret hugged her pillow close to her. Even Kimberly’s eyes were wide.

“Augustine stopped running when he realized the light was fading in the tunnel, and the noise seemed to be behind him. He stood in front of another door, and he wondered if this one would lead back to the garden, or to the glass house. He opened the door, and saw nothing else.”

A branch snapped in the yard, and something scratched at the tent. Helen and Margaret screamed, and Kimberly dived into her sleeping bag.

Sophie smiled and turned off the flashlight.

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About the Author

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Daley Downing is an autistic author, parent to special needs children, a dance teacher, and cat whisperer. She spends her days attempting to write just a few more words than in the previous 24 hours, and lovingly refers to her genre as suburban fantasy. Visit her at: https://daleydowning.wordpress.com/.

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July 27th

I love Books and Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

Kiki’s Books (Review) https://www.instagram.com/kikis_books/

The Faerie Review (Review) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

July 28th

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

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Book Dragons Not Worms (Spotlight) https://bookdragonsnotworms.blogspot.com/?m=1

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July 30th

Dash Fan Book Reviews (Review) https://dashfan81.blogspot.com/

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July 31st

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

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Hey everyone! I did an author interview with Lisa Luciano, author of the mystery crime novel The Chosen Ones! It is a book that goes inside the scandalous & icy world of Olympic figure skating. Check out the video below:

Book Spotlight: Midnight Temptations

Congratulations to Shari Nichols on the release of her latest Ravens Hollow Coven novel, Midnight Temptation! Read on for an exclusive excerpt and a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

MT DIGITAL COVER2Midnight Temptations (Ravens Hollow Coven)

Publication Date: June 30th, 2020

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: City Owl Press

What are the stakes for falling in love?

When tarot card reader Gillian Howe hosts a supernatural speed dating event, she ponders the stakes of falling in love. Making the perfect match is her passion, too bad she can’t find one for herself. After a chance encounter with a wealthy vampire, she finds herself plunged into a secret society of trancing, blood bonds and human escort rings. But when Garrett Mulroney shows up at the scene, the vampire detective is the last person she wants…even if he is scorching hot.

Garrett has been down this brutal road before and it didn’t end well. His sire tried to force him into a life of debauchery, but he chose to uphold the law instead. Now the one woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind or out of his lust-filled dreams is at the center of his investigation. It’s a good thing she hates his guts, because it helps douse his growing desire for her and focus on the case. But when Gillian’s cousin is kidnapped into the Du Sang Brotherhood, she becomes the prime witness. Now they’re forced to put their differences aside by pretending to be a couple. The more time Garrett spends with Gillian, the more he wants her in his life—and in his bed. Dark forces from his past threaten to resurface…even her love might not be enough to save him from the Brotherhood.

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Excerpt

Suddenly, all the hairs on the back of Gillian’s neck stood on end. Her whole body tensed. The chatter and music became muffled. Her eyes flickered across the lobby in search of who, or what, had caught her attention.

Then she saw him.

Six-feet-three inches of tall, dark, and brooding stood at the front desk. Detective Garrett Mulroney? What the hell was he doing here? Seeing him again after all these months sent a jolt of shock rippling through her.

His gaze locked with hers, and for a moment, she forgot to breathe. They both stood there, staring at each other. It was as though he could see beneath her armor, the kind she wore under the little black dress.

The word handsome didn’t even begin to describe him. Mythological titans like Adonis and Poseidon came to mind, males so stunning, they couldn’t possibly be real. But then she thought of other words too, like arrogant, brash…controlling…she could go on.

Mulroney crossed the lobby with a confidant gait, his long legs eating up the distance between them in a few easy strides. Her heart hammered in her chest with every step.

Every female head turned to catch a glimpse of the vampire. The closer he got, the more her body became hyperaware of his presence. He kept his thick head of dark hair short on the sides and longer in the front. The cut showed off the angles and hard lines of his face. Sexy stubble darkened a square jaw, and he looked every bit as dangerous as she remembered. Long, and lean, Gillian could make out the ripple of sinewy muscle beneath the jacket of his grey suit. In the past, she’d always been attracted to the artistic types. So, there was no good reason why she was drawn to this rough-hewn alpha.

But Goddess help her, he was magnificent.

Laughter drifted from the bar, and that’s when she realized she was still standing on a chair, gawking at him like some lovesick schoolgirl. She went to step down and her foot slipped out from one of her strappy sandals. Before she could fall sideways onto the marble, two strong arms wrapped around her waist and caught her in midair.

When she looked up and into Mulroney’s ice-blue eyes, her heart gave a little flutter. Apparently, the legends about vampires having preternatural speed and strength were real. But then, as his gaze filled with a kind of raw, primal desire, she had no doubt the steamy ones about them possessing a certain sexual allure also rang true.

            “You’re lucky you didn’t break your neck,” Mulroney whispered close to her ear and set her on her feet. “What are you doing here tonight, Miss Howe?” The deep rumble of his voice did funny things to her insides.

“I could ask you the same question.” Gillian grabbed the scissors and scotch tape off the table, then shoved them in her black beaded bag. “If you must know, I’m working,” Gillian snapped. Ever since the prickly detective had been assigned to investigate the robbery of one of her clients, a local antique dealer, their paths had collided on more than one occasion.

Mulroney’s eyes did a slow sweep of her from the tips of her three-inch heels to the top of her head. Goosebumps instantly spread across her flesh. Gillian wanted to squirm from the flagrant perusal, but remained still, refusing to give him the satisfaction. Why would she? After all, he had tried to ruin her life. “Interesting work attire,” he murmured.

Her hands clenched at her sides, fighting the urge to tug on her dress again. “I’m sure you didn’t walk over here to comment on my choice of clothing. To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure?” she asked with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

“Trust me, this wasn’t planned,” he said in a gruff voice, refusing to look her in the eye.

Gillian couldn’t help remembering the day he and his partner had showed up at the coven. Peppering her with questions and unwarranted accusations, they’d invaded her safe space, conjuring that too familiar lash of shame, and reminding her of the days when the neighbors used to call the cops to keep her parents from an all-out war.

He kept his hands stuffed in his pockets, his stance casual, but he wasn’t fooling anyone. There was no mistaking the predatory way he kept checking out the people strolling by as only a cop would. She followed his gaze as it took in every detail, restless with intensity, before finally landing on their banner. “Is this a private fundraiser?”

She nodded, not in the mood to elaborate. “Are you here in an official capacity? What’s the matter, no real criminals on the streets tonight?” Or maybe this was personal and he was meeting someone. He’d worked with Alex on several cases, and according to Willow, he was a confirmed bachelor, not that she had inquired or anything.

 “A quick word, please, Miss Howe. We need to talk.” The object of her unhealthy obsession ignored her questions and reached for her elbow, pulling her off to the side. His touch seared through the thin material of her dress, leaving a hot flush along her skin. At five-foot-seven, she wasn’t exactly short, but even in her heels, he towered over her.

“Hold on. I’m kind of busy right now. What’s this about?” Gillian demanded, catching a whiff of his masculine scent, a blend of sandalwood and clean laundry. She fought the urge to sigh and glared at him instead.

“You shouldn’t be here.” Mulroney glanced over at the couple’s tables scattered with rose petals, floating candles, bowls of heart-shaped chocolates, and the Lawrence Charity placards. He turned back to face her and scowled. “I want you to leave. Now.”

“Excuse me?” His words knocked Gillian off-center and before she could process them, an attractive female vampire with dark hair pulled in a tight ponytail walked up to Mulroney and placed a hand on his arm.

 “It’s time. We need to go.” A surge of irrational jealousy coursed through Gillian’s veins like battery acid.

For a split second he hesitated, his gaze still fixed on Gillian, and she sensed some kind of inner battle raging inside him. Then he gave her a curt nod and walked away. Her heart sank.

Brooke approached and crossed her arms over her chest. “What was that all about?”

Not sure what to make of their twisted interaction, or of Mulroney’s ominous words for that matter, Gillian sucked in a quivering breath and let it out. “No idea.”

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About the Author

authorpic

Shari Nichols grew up in a small town in Connecticut where haunted houses, ghosts and Ouija boards were common place, spurring her fascination with all things paranormal. Ever since she read her first Barbara Cartland novel, her life-long dream has been to write sexy, romantic stories. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, going to the gym, or hanging out with family and friends.

Shari’s a member of Romance Writers of America, New Jersey Romance Writers, Liberty States Fiction Writers and Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers. Shari’s new series,  Ravens’ Hollow Coven, is an urban fantasy with City Owl Press.

Awards:  Beverley Award, Golden Leaf Finalist, Best Book Finalist by a New Jersey Author, HOLT Medallion Finalist, Literary Titan Silver Medal Winner

Shari Nichols | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

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Book Spotlight: The Accidental Hero of the City of Brotherly Love

Welcome to the blog tour for The Accidental Hero of the City of Brotherly Love, by Richard J. O’Brien!

Book CoverThe Accidental Hero of the City of Brotherly Love

Publication Date: March 31, 2020

Genre: Contemporary/ Magical Realism

In the tumultuous days following 9/11, Spencer Lee Kavanagh works as a security professional, juggling jobs, relationships, and his writing craft while trying to figure out where his life is headed. One autumn day in 2002, Kavanagh’s life changes forever after he crosses paths with Khalid Neshar, a promising graduate engineering student who recently became radicalized thanks to a less-than-scrupulous imam.

A workplace accident caused by Kavanagh results in Neshar’s death. Freshly arrived in the afterlife, Neshar strikes a deal with Allah. He goes back in time as a djinni so that he can haunt Kavanagh and thereby alter the course of events that led to his untimely death; only, Neshar isn’t much good at it. Meanwhile, in the post-9/11 hysteria of the day, Kavanagh’s anonymity and his literary ambitions are sidelined when he’s hailed as a hero for stopping a would-be terror attack. Like the stranger he accidentally killed, Kavanagh just wants his life back. The television news crews camped out in front of his apartment building have other ideas.

Excerpt

No sooner than I passed the edge of my building the lights came on atop a half-dozen cameras. Reporters jostled to stick their microphones in my face. As they blasted me with questions, I couldn’t help thinking two things: one was that the author of the ninja book was full of shit, and the other was that he probably no ninja at all.

“How does it feel to foil the terror plot that would have killed countless commuters?”

“Care to comment on the phone call you received from Vice President Cheney?”

“There was no call,” I mumbled as I inched my way past them, keeping my head down so that the bill of the baseball cap masked most of my face.

“Mr. Kavanagh,” one of the reporters stepped in front of me. “Do you have any remorse?”

“Will you continue to work at Tiffany and Company?”

“Is it true that the city will pay to have the Atlas clock restored?”

“Are you at liberty to tell us which agency you actually work for?”

“What?” I cried. “I’m just a guy.”

“Lee, are you afraid of retaliation?”

“Will you relocate?”

“Is the government offering to put you under their protective custody?”

“What’s your position on invading Iraq?”

“Do you support our troops?”

“Were you scared that the device might have blown up while you stood over the terrorist’s body?”

I inched closer to the steps.

“Would you be willing to disclose the names of the operatives in your team?”

“Operatives?” I asked.

“Do you think Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks?”

“What’s your position on immigration?”

“Did law enforcement officials disclose to you whether there are any other threats in the city?”

One of the reporters followed me up the steps to the main door. She reached out and took hold of the door handle as I inserted my key into the lock.

“Is this a safe house, Mr. Kavanagh?” she asked. “If it is, now that it’s compromised, where will you go?”

I managed to unlock the door and slip into the foyer. When I did, they kept at it with their questions. Once the door was closed behind me, the reporters banged on the door as the camera lights lit up the foyer. They filmed me checking my mailbox. For once I was grateful that there were no letters from Maggie. After I locked the mailbox, I turned to the cameras crowding the door windows. With my head down, I offered them a salute before I entered the first-floor hall.

Available on Amazon!

About the Author

Author Pic

Richard J. O’Brien is a graduate of the Fairleigh Dickinson University MFA in Creative Writing Program. Richard’s novels include Under the Bronze MoonInfestation, and The Garden of Fragile Things. His short stories have appeared in The Del Sol ReviewDuendePulp LiteratureThe Dr. T.J. Eckleburg ReviewWeirdbook, and other magazines. Richard lives in New Jersey, where he teaches at Rowan College at Gloucester County and Stockton University.

Richard J. O’Brien  

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May 25th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com

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May 26th

The Magic or Wor(l)ds (Spotlight) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com

Tales of a Natural Spoonie (Review) https://talesofanaturalspoonie.com/

May 27th

The Faerie Review (Spotlight) http://www.thefaeriereview.com

Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

May 28th

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Bri’s Book Nook (Spotlight) https://brisbooknook.wordpress.com/

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Book Spotlight: Return Addresses

Michael A. McLellan has a new book out in the world! Read on for an exclusive except and a fantastic giveaway — A $20 Amazon gift card, and a copy of Return Addresses!

Psst, bloggers and book reviewers! There is also going to be a blog tour June 10th to the 26th, if you’re interested! Visit R&R Book Tours for more info!

New Final FINAL 4Return Addresses

Publication Date: April 13, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Mountain Press

“This ain’t your world. You don’t have any friends out here. Not real ones. No one out here cares about nothin’ but where their next drink or fix is comin’ from. That, or they were born too messed up in the head to even understand what friendship is. Remember that. You can’t trust anybody. You can’t rely on no one but yourself.”

Fourteen-year-old Sean Pennington never thought he’d find himself riding on an open train car in the middle of the night. He never thought he’d find himself alone. He never thought he’d be running for his life.

In the spring of 2015 Sean Pennington’s world of comfort and privilege is shattered and he becomes a ward of the state. Thrust into a broken foster care system, he discovers the harsh realities of orphanhood. Lonely, confused, and tormented by his peers, he runs away, intending to locate his only living relative; a grandfather he’s never met, who his only connection with is a return address on a crumpled envelope. Enter Andrea, a modern day hobo Sean meets at a California homeless encampment. Andrea travels the country by rail, stowing away on shipping container cars with other transients calling themselves traveling kids. Though battling her own demons, road-savvy Andrea promises to help Sean on his quest, but can she protect him from the unpredictable and often violent world she lives in?

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Excerpt

He saw the tents and the plastic tarp lean-tos too late. He was already underneath the highway overpass. The waning daylight barely penetrated the area, and the makeshift shelters were tucked back away from the road, in the shadows. If he’d seen them, he would have stopped and backtracked to the frontage road he’d passed a few hundred yards back. Breathing heavily, he slowed to a walk and kept his eyes forward.

“Hey, dude, what are you running for?” Came a voice from his left.

He turned toward the voice. Two men were walking toward him from the group of haphazardly placed shelters about twenty feet from the sidewalk. Gauging that he was less than halfway through, he turned around and started back the way he’d come. The men picked up their pace to a jog and cut him off. They stood on the sidewalk in his path. Sean stopped short of them and they casually walked forward, closing the distance. He was more afraid than he’d ever been in his life. His legs were shaking and he felt sick to his stomach. One of the men was old and had long, matted gray hair that hung to his chest in clumps. His clothes were tattered and filthy. The other was younger, maybe thirty. He was wearing a red hoodie and gray sweat pants that were so dirty they’d turned black in places. He had the hood up and masses of brown dreadlocks spilled out of the sides. The smell of the two men reminded Sean of spoiled food and urine.

“What are you running for, kid?” the older man repeated.

Sean took a step back. “I…I must have gone the wrong way.”

“The wrong way? Ha! You got that right. This is the wrongest way you could go.” The man turned and glanced in the direction Sean had came from. “You got anyone with you?”

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About the Author

Mike Author 1

Michael’s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.

Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.

His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.

Michael McLellan | GoodreadsTwitter

Giveaway: 1st prize is a $20 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of Return Addresses. 2nd prize is a digital copy of the book! The giveaway will run from today to May 21st! Click the link below to enter!

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