Monday, May 20, 2019

#Excerpt: MURDER BY MUNCHAUSEN by M.T. Bass


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions.

A police procedural scifi thriller ripped from future headlines!

After Jake shoots and kills a murder suspect who turns out to be the son of a powerful city councilman, he finds himself demoted to the Artificial Crimes Unit, tracking down androids hacked and programmed to be hit men.

When his case of an “extra-judicial” divorce settlement takes a nasty turn with DNA from a hundred-year-old murder in Boston and a signature that harkens back to the very first serial killer ever in London, Jake finds himself tangled up in the brutal slayings of prostitutes being investigated by his former Robbery/Homicide partner, Maddie–who is now his lover.

But a madman, The Baron, is just getting started with his AI recreations of Jack the Ripper's brutal crimes. And Maddie and Jake are teamed up again to stop the carnage as the Baron's army of human replicants imitate history's most notorious serial killers.

"It might not make sense, but the beloved Media tags it 'Murder by Munchausen.' For a price, there are hackers out there who will reprogram a synthoid to do your dirty work. The bad news: no fingerprints or DNA left at the crime scene. The good news—at least for us—is that they’re like missiles: once they hit their target, they’re usually as harmless as empty brass. The trick is to get them before they melt down their core OS data, so you can get the unit into forensics for analysis and, hopefully, an arrest." [excerpt from Murder by Munchausen]

Artificial Intelligence? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Artificial Evil has a name…Munchausen.

Excerpt:

From The Invisible Mind (#3)

It sat on a bench outside the dormitory of nursing students, waiting with its kind’s infinite patience. Originally acquired and programmed for landscaping at the Cleveland Clinic, the synthoid was one of a brigade of units which had been hacked and Munchausened, then returned to their menial daily services to mankind to await the Baron’s call.

There was no adrenalin surge behind the extremely life-like facade of humanity when that call came. Data packets, sent scatter-shot through the Atlas Grid, coalesced at the location outside the Cole Eye Institute, where it methodically trimmed and shaped the immaculate shrubbery around the building. To avoid Q’s metadata sniffing algorithms from detecting a download spike in the grid, the information came in digital sprinkles over the course of its human handler’s work shift, slowly building a malevolent intent to be executed that night. In the middle of the afternoon, it left the topiary unfinished to melt into the hospital shift change and disappeared.

Personality modules were a Gen-3 feature upgrade, which is why the earlier models were initially preferred. Swapping out a few IC chips and uploading hacked firmware was a relatively easy way to turn a quick buck with an automated contract killing. But evil innovates, too, and the same features that made synthoids even more human-like in their behavior also helped create robotic assassins which could better camouflage their malicious intents and evade the reach of the Artificial Crimes Unit by melting into and moving undetected through the humanity that surrounded them. For the Baron, it allowed for a greater measure of artistic expression in programming the synthoid’s behavior to not only recreate infamous crimes of the past, but to mimic the behavior of their perpetrators, which intensified the thrill of watching the video feed through the eyes of Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy or, this particular evening, Richard Speck. Jake wasn’t the only history buff and it amused Jamal that London police had photographed the eyes of Jack the Ripper’s victims, hoping to capture the last thing they ever saw: their killer’s face. If only Scotland Yard could have imagined the future.

The Gen-3 personality modules also supported the ANSI Adaptive Artificial Intelligence Protocol #9 to enhance the artificial human experience of real men and women who interacted with synthoids. The constant writing and rewriting of code in the personality/experience loop formed unique individual synthoid consciousnesses, which manufacturers uploaded to their servers for product improvement teams to study. In Munchausened units, that feed was hijacked and routed to another portal in the Darknet to build a collective id of evil.

At eleven PM, it rose from the bench and entered the dormitory. The bodies of nine women would be found the next day, having been strangled and stabbed to death. Unlike 1966, no eyewitness was left alive, though the phrase "Born to Raise Hell" was written on the wall in blood.

About the Author:
M.T. Bass is a scribbler of fiction who holds fast to the notion that while victors may get to write history, novelists get to write/right reality. He lives, writes, flies and makes music in Mudcat Falls, USA.

Born in Athens, Ohio, M.T. Bass grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in English and Philosophy, then worked in the private sector (where they expect “results”) mainly in the Aerospace & Defense manufacturing market. During those years, Bass continued to write fiction. He is the author of eight novels: My Brother’s Keeper, Crossroads, In the Black, Somethin’ for Nothin’, Murder by Munchausen, The Darknet (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #2), The Invisible Mind (Murder by Munchausen Mystery #3) and Article 15. His writing spans various genres, including Mystery, Adventure, Romance, Black Comedy and TechnoThrillers. A Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, airplanes and pilots are featured in many of his stories. Bass currently lives on the shores of Lake Erie near Lorain, Ohio.

Website: https://www.mtbass.net
Blog: https://www.owl-works.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlworks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Owlworks
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/author/mtbass
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5270962.M_T_Bass

Murder by Munchausen Trilogy Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Munchausen-Trilogy-Future-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07QDGHYZ6
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/murder-by-munchausen-trilogy-books-1-3/id1458934052?mt=11
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1131145794?ean=2940156040681
https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/murder-by-munchausen-trilogy
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/932579

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Friday, May 17, 2019

#Excerpt: TEN HOURS by Melissa Toppen


Ten Hours
Melissa Toppen
Publication date: May 17th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

TEN HOURS- A STANDALONE CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Ten hours…
That’s how much time we spent together.
How much time I got with the man whose bright eyes and sultry smile almost made me forget that I was sick.
Six hundred minutes…
That’s how long it took me to fall in love.

Thirty-six thousand seconds…
And then it was over. And all I wanted was more.
More seconds.
More minutes.
More hours.
More him.
Ten hours…
Such a small, insignificant amount of time.
Yet those ten hours changed everything.

Author Bio:
Melissa Toppen is a Bestselling Author specializing in New Adult and Contemporary Romance. She is a lover of books and enjoys nothing more than losing herself in a good novel. She has a soft spot for Romance and focuses her writing in that direction; writing what she loves to read.
Melissa resides in Cincinnati Ohio with her husband and two children, where she writes full time.


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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

#FREE with Kindle Unlimited: LOVE BY SECRETS by Debra Elizabeth

LOVE BY SECRETS, Book 1:


Eighteen-year-old Emily Stanton is excited to attend this season's society balls and begin her search for a husband. She is thrilled when the dashing and handsome Connor Preston begins to show her more attention. After each ball, Emily finds a love note in her drawstring reticule, and she expects a marriage proposal from Connor any day.

When her father objects and forces Emily to accept the proposal from Lady Tisbury's shy nephew, Ethan Richardson instead, her heart is broken. How can she love her new husband when her heart belongs to the man who wrote her such beautiful love letters?
LOVE BY SECRETS is a novel. (~200 pages)

Read for FREE with KindleUnlimited:
 
Excerpt:

Emily took a seat waiting for her father to tell her the good news she hoped had finally arrived. “What matter, Papa?”
“I had a visit from young Mr. Richardson the other day. He would like to speak with you in private.”
Emily’s shoulders slumped. “What? Mr. Richardson?”
“Yes, who else? Who were you expecting?”
Emily felt a sharp stab in her heart. She was so shocked that she could not draw air into her lungs. This was not the news she’d been expecting at all. How could this be? She didn’t want to speak to Mr. Richardson in private. No, this was all wrong. She had to fix it. “Papa, I thought it was, um, Mr. Preston who had come to see you.”
“Preston? No, I have not spoken to him. Emily, do you realize what this means? Mr. Richardson will propose marriage to you.”
Emily stood up and started pacing her father’s study. She wrung her hands together and tears threatened to spill from her eyes. “Papa, I don’t want to talk with Mr. Richardson. He’s nice enough, but he’s so dull. Please don’t make me speak with him.”
She glanced at her father and his eyes narrowed at her outburst.
“Emily, what has gotten into you? Mr. Richardson will be an excellent choice as a husband, and he’s from one of the finest families around. You could not ask for a better match. You will want for nothing. I’m in favor of the union and you should be too.”
Tears coursed down her cheeks. “But, I don’t love Mr. Richardson. I love Mr. Preston. Please, Papa, I know Mr. Preston will speak with you soon, perhaps even at the ball. Please wait for his visit before you make a final decision,” she pleaded. She swiped at her cheeks to wipe away the tears. “Please, Papa.”
Riley stood. “Emily, dear. You are young and not wise in these matters. I only want the best for you. Love is not the only foundation for a good marriage. Love alone cannot put food on the table, or warm you in the winter. You must be taken care of financially and Richardson will do that as well as give you an ample allowance of your own.”
“But, Papa, you love Mama.”
“I do, of course, but I did not when I married her. I admired your mother while I courted her, and that admiration grew into love over the years. Richardson is a kind young man who admires you a great deal. I’m sure you will grow to love him as I did with your mother.”
“Papa, please wait. Don’t make me do this. I’m begging you.”
Riley reached out for his daughter. “Emily, enough of your silliness. I want you…” He stopped in mid-sentence and grabbed his left arm, pulling it close to his chest.
“Papa, what’s wrong?”
“Pain…” he sputtered, before crashing to his knees.
Emily’s hand flew to her mouth.  She watched in horror as her father crumpled to the floor. She rushed over to his prone body and picked up his hand. She patted it furiously. “Papa, can you hear me? Papa, please open your eyes.”

Reviewers Comments:
"As a fan of the incredible Jane Austen ... this novella was a real treat for me to read. The author does a wonderful job with descriptions, such as when she describes Emily's first ball as a kaleidoscope of colors as the couples dance the night away." 
 
"Love by Secrets is a sweet, bite-size love story. ... I really liked the time period the book was set in. It reminded me of Pride & Prejudice in that regard."  

 "The story was captivating, truly well-written.....Overall, Love by Secrets was an enjoyable, quick read. The author did a good job in conveying all the right elements of a sweet historical romance and I look forward to continuing the series, as well as read her other works. I recommend giving this one a try.











Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#Review: ONE NIGHT OF PASSION by Erica Ridley



  5 of 5 stars
 
I love this series! Now in the third book, Thaddeus Middleton, is still looking for his Princess Charming. Thad is a kind, considerate and hopeless romantic who believes in marrying for love. However, year after year goes by without any one lady captivating him, that is, until he asks Miss Priscilla Weatherby for a dance. The set down she gives him should have discouraged him from further contact with her, but it has the opposite effect. Thad feels the spark with Priscilla and he's not willing to turn away. Priscilla doesn't want to marry. She's holding out until her 25th birthday when she'll inherit a fortune and realize her dream of being an adventurer, but is she missing out on a lifetime of happiness with Thad?

The characters in this story had so much depth--both Thad and Priscilla holding onto their dreams and finally realizes that a dream can change over time. There is no villain in this story. It's a sweet, lovely story of how sometimes what you think you want isn't the dream you think it is. Priscilla always wanted to travel with her father and thought he would want her now that she was grown, but what Priscilla finds out is that you don't need to go half-way around the world to enjoy new adventures. Ms. Ridley has written a wonderful story and I can't wait to read the next story in this series.

I voluntarily read this story and the opinions are my own.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Interview with Shayna Grissom, A SOUL RECLAIMED


Do you have a favorite character?
Aegis of course. He’s the broody guy of most women’s dreams.

If you used a graphic designer/publisher’s designer, how involved were you during the creative process for your cover?
The cover was quite the adventure. In Small Press, an author has a little bit more say when it comes to the cover. There were hundreds of bids for the cover. We had so many amazing covers that the publisher was at a loss for what to do. I wasn’t much better. We had fans vote for the cover on social media. It was an eye-opening experience.

Do you belong to a critique group? Have they helped improve your writing? 
Absolutely. Beta reading is so important. I love to beta read and have developed my own set of rules on my blog.

What is your writing process? Do you listen to music or do you like silence? 
I’d love silence or music, but I have children and animals, so there is no peace.

Do you outline your story or just go where your muse takes you?
In the writing community, we’re called “pantsters” meaning we fly by the seat of our pants. I have an idea of what I want to do and try to make it there. I’ve tried outlining, but I tend to run away from it.

Did you hire an editor to review your manuscript before publishing?
Yes. After beta reads (which are free) I hire a developmental editor to work out any larger kinks in the story or characters. As for the final edit, the most expensive one, the editor at my publishing house does that for free.

Besides Amazon, are there any other sites where your books are for sale? 
Amazon, !ndigo, Target, Wal-Mart, Barns & Noble, Kobo, and most major retail outlets.

Do you find it difficult to juggle your time between marketing your current book and writing your next book?
There are times when I feel like the writing industry is preventing me from writing. I don’t know how self-publishing authors do it.

Besides writing, do you have any other passions?
I’m a serious baker. I make more money selling my baked goods than I have this year in writing.

What’s next for you?
I am wrapping up some developmental edits on a new project before sending to my publisher.



A Soul Reclaimed
Shayna Grissom
Publication date: April 1st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Hell is divided into seven regions. The first region is designated for the purest of souls, the seventh is for the evilest. There was once a king of Hell, but the steward family has ruled for centuries.
Nora, the stepdaughter of the steward is undone when her mother and step-father take away her beloved tutor, Peter. When Nora confronts the steward and her mother, the discussion is heated and ends with the steward in inexplicable pain.
Shortly after, Nora finds herself in the Starry Wood. Peter told her of the perils within the forest, and it’s not long before the inhabitants of the wood find her.
A giant hunter named Aegis comes to Nora’s aid. He is drawn to Nora, compelled to protect her from the steward’s assassins, the giants, and the evil souls who escape the seventh region.


Together, they travel the seven layers of Hell to discover why the steward is so threatened by a teenage girl.



Author Bio:
Shayna Grissom was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband, two children, and her beloved pets. Shayna draws inspiration for her writings from binge-watching too many shows with far too much wine. She is a lover of the macabre, the strange, natural sciences, and films that feature vivid colors and imagery. Her favorite film director is Guillermo Del Toro, and her favorite books growing up were Anne Rice novels.


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#Review: HEART'S DESIRE by Wendy LaCapra



    4 of 5 stars

After being rejected by Lord Bromton at the end of their ten-year betrothal, Lady Clarissa has decided that she never wants to be under the whims of a man and decides to reject marriage. When she refuses a request by the cruel Lord Moultonbury, he places a scandalous bet at the gentlemen's club. Not wanting Clarissa to suffer any repercussions, Lord Markham swoops in and claims he's courting Lady Clarissa. Markham has had a tendre for Clarissa for years and the more time they spend together, sparks fly between them. No matter how much she enjoys Markham's company, Clarissa has decided to stick to her decision to never marry. Can she let down her walls and let love in?

Ms. LaCapra has written an enjoyable story with the tables turned a bit in the characters. Markham gives control over their interactions and submits to Clarissa's desires, hoping to show her that he would never dominate her. I loved Markham. He was the ultimate gentleman. Clarissa was a strong woman who has been abandoned by everyone she counted on and she refuses to let her feelings for Markham rule her decisions. I liked the twist at the end that finally allowed Markham and Clarissa to be together because what's a romance with a HEA.


I look forward to reading more books by Ms. LaCapra. I voluntarily read this book and opinions are my own.


Friday, May 10, 2019

#Excerpt: NOBODY'S FOOL by Ophelia Bell


Nobody’s Fool
Ophelia Bell
(Fate’s Fools #5)
Publication date: May 7th 2019
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Deva Rainsong has a mission to take revenge on a god, but all she really wants is to understand why one mortal man doesn’t love her. Once upon a time, Ozzie West was her first love, her savior, and the man she always believed she could count on no matter what.
But to him it’s as if she never existed.
Unfortunately Deva’s mission won’t wait, and she needs Ozzie’s love to fulfill her promise to Fate or their entire world could come crashing down around them. Because when you piss off a god, you’d better have the power to strike back.


EXCERPT:
I plucked at the strings again, restarting the song and finding my voice. Despite a tongue clumsy from drink, I had no trouble singing clearly. Call it my superpower; I may not have been able to walk a straight line, but I could still make flawless music while wasted.
Her eyelids fluttered closed and some of the tension in her expression eased. Her spine became less rigid and she seemed to flow across the room toward me. The way she moved may have been the most graceful thing I’d ever seen. She was just walking, but it felt like a dance, each step matching the beat of my song. My pulse raced, my body heated, and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, thrumming to the same tempo.
My mouth had gone dry by the time she climbed up on the bed. She crawled across the covers, her movements seductive though her eyes were closed now. She only paused for a second to listen before continuing toward me, straddling my legs.
I pushed back against the pillows, the notes faltering, then stopped entirely when her breasts grazed my hand.
“Uh, I can’t play if you’re going to climb all over me. You understand that, right?”
“Sing,” she demanded.
I got the impression her vocabulary must have been limited to singular syllables in this form, and I doubted the wisdom of allowing her to just crawl on top of me the way she was doing. I clutched the guitar, deciding it was probably better to keep some barrier between us, considering she was looking at me as if she wanted to eat me.
“Why don’t you just sit next to me here, and I’ll sing you all the songs you want?” I patted the bed beside me and then started in on a different song—one I knew all the words to.
Her face twisted with displeasure. “No!” She tore the guitar from me with surprising strength and sent it crashing to the floor in a dissonant clatter. She surged up close, her breath hot against my ear, her full breasts warm through the thin fabric of my shirt.
“Sing,” she rasped.
I cleared my throat and hummed a bar of the unfinished song, then stopped. “You mean that one?”
“Mmm,” she said, a small smile gracing her lips and her eyelids fluttering closed again.
“All right, but I need you to—ah—move off me.”
I grasped her by the shoulders and attempted to twist around to position her beside me. The next thing I knew, I was pinned flat to the bed, her wild eyes staring down at me as vines snaked down and coiled around my wrists.
“Sing.”
“Fucking hell,” I muttered, staring at the vines. I tugged hard, but they held tight.
Her lovely, dark face hovered over me, eyes a maelstrom of need, but a flicker of deeper awareness made me think Deva was still in there, perhaps along for the ride while her instincts had control. Up close, her lips were a deep blue, as was her tongue as it swept across her lower lip.
Fuck, now she did look like she was going to eat me, and I was only more convinced of that when she grasped the sides of my shirt and wrenched it open, leaving me absently relieved it had snaps instead of buttons.
She raked her blunt nails down my chest, the sensation more arousing than painful. My body came alive under her touch despite the fact that I knew she was off-limits. But holy fuck, was this hot. If she went any further, all bets were off.


Author Bio:
Ophelia Bell loves a good bad-boy and especially strong women in her stories. Women who aren't apologetic about enjoying sex and bad boys who don't mind being with a woman who's in charge, at least on the surface, because pretty much anything goes in the bedroom.
Ophelia grew up on a rural farm in North Carolina and now lives in Los Angeles with her own tattooed bad-boy husband and four attention-whoring cats.
If you'd like to receive regular updates on Ophelia's publications, freebies, and discounts, please subscribe to her mailing list: http://opheliabell.com/subscribe/


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Thursday, May 9, 2019

#FREE Contemporary Romance: THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING by Debra Elizabeth



Blurb:
Has Keira made the worst mistake of her life?

Unemployed Keira Callahan decides to try her luck at the casino before delving back into job hunting. As she walks through the casino, she bumps into the most handsome man she’s ever seen. When he asks her to dinner, she doesn’t hesitate. As she learns Cade Tyndale’s story—he needs to wed or lose his British estate, her impulsive nature rears up and she agrees to marry him and move to England for one year. What does she have to lose except her heart to the impossibly handsome Earl of Barrett?

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0744PNS1H

Excerpt:

Cade put his glass down on the side table and pulled her into his arms. “Please don’t be alarmed. He will not succeed,” he said.
Being in his arms felt so right. Keira sighed. “I just hate the thought of Edward being so nasty to you.”
Cade lifted her chin. “That’s very sweet of you,” he said, brushing his lips against hers.
His lips were soft and inviting. Desire scorched through her, leaving her breathless. She let him take the glass from her and stepped closer to him, pressing her body to his. Her curves fit perfectly against his solid muscles.
His hand caressed her cheek, and she moaned with pleasure. “Have I told you lately how beautiful you are?” he whispered.
Keira’s lips parted, and Cade deepened their kiss, setting her heart on fire. This wasn’t part of their deal, although there was nothing in the contract that said they needed to avoid all physical contact. This was want she wanted. This and much, much more. Her body was on fire, and she longed to know what it would be like to lie next to him. To have his hand trail up her body. To feel him fill her completely.
As if reading her mind, Cade abruptly broke contact and stepped back. “I’ve overstepped the boundaries of our agreement. Please excuse me,” he said, stalking from the room.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#Excerpt: BREAKING THE RULES by Tinthia Clemant


Breaking the Rules
Tinthia Clemant
Publication date: April 15th 2019
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Love isn’t supposed to hurt.
Hedge witch Shannon Baldos isn’t looking for love. She isn’t even looking for sex. She’s looking for the courage to finally leave her gaslighting husband’s ass. So the last thing she needs is a distraction, like the town’s land-grabbing yet oh so sexy property developer, Adam St. John.
Then again, maybe a little distraction is exactly what she does need.
Growing up under the domineering thumb of her maternal grandmother, and then married to a misogynistic husband, thirty-nine-year-old Shannon Baldos has learned that love hurts. For almost seven years she’s lived under the thumb of her abusive husband, all with the guise of wanting to give her son a stable home. The truth? She’s stayed because she’s a coward. Still is. But maybe, with heart fluttering, groin throbbing, Adam St. John by her side, or on top of her, under works too, she might discover some hidden courage and finally take her son and escape. As for falling for St. John and his pirate grin, not a chance.
Rule #1: Don’t fall in love.
Referred to as an emotional train wreck, Wexford’s successful developer, Adam St. John, has rules. A lot of them. Created to keep him well-insulated from further pain and disappointment with regards to life, and love. At forty-nine, he’s quite happy with his life of solitude. With three divorces under his belt, he’s in no hurry to add a fourth. Besides, there are more than enough women willing to keep him warm at night.
But when he meets the town’s green-eyed witch with the freckles splattered across the bridge of her nose, and the hips that sway under her flowing skirts, one night of passion leaves him craving more. Maybe it’s time to break a few rules.
In her newest novel, Breaking the Rules, Tinthia Clemant has woven a story about one brave woman’s determination to take back her life as she learns that love doesn’t always hurt.

EXCERPT:
Prologue
September 2005
Shannon fiddled with the buttons of her dress as she and Justin waited for their coffees. Outside, rain fell on people rushing by the window of the coffee shop. She moved her attention from the scene outside to her two-month-old son in the carrier next to her. He was the most beautiful baby she’d ever seen, and it still amazed her that he’d formed inside her body.
“Are you listening to me?”
She looked up at her husband of one year sitting on the opposite side of the booth and nodded. A sense of hopelessness washed over her. She’d tried to do everything right—paid for the train tickets with cash and not her credit card, hadn’t used her real name, all the little tricks she’d picked up from watching movies over the years. She’d even cut her hair. Yet Justin had found her after only two days. She wouldn’t make a very good spy.
“Say something,” Justin demanded, loud enough that the people across from the booth glanced over.
Shannon rubbed at her forehead. “I’m sorry, my head is pounding.” Hopefully, the lie would keep his anger at bay.
“Do you have anything you can take?”
“Yes.”
He reached across the table and grabbed the diaper bag. After rifling the contents, he removed a pocket-sized tube of Advil, along with her cell phone.
She watched her phone slide into his coat pocket. “What are you doing?”
“I’ll hold on to your phone. Now that I’ve found the two of you, you won’t be needing it.” He poured four pills into his palm and held them out. “So, what do you think?”
“I need my phone.”
“Why?”
“I…I’m expecting a call.”
“From who?”
She struggled to come up with a name that wouldn’t set him off. “Maureen,” she lied a second time, hoping he didn’t know she hadn’t spoken to her coworker since quitting the ad agency.
“If she calls, I’ll give it to you. Now, back to what I said. What do you think?”
“What do I think about what?”
She received a severe frown as a response before he said, “You’re doing it again.”
“Doing what?”
“Not listening to me. How about thinking about me for once and not always yourself?”
“I…I’m sorry?”
“Yeah, you’re always sorry after you do something.”
She glanced at the baby. Satisfied he was still sleeping, she adjusted his blanket and returned her attention to the table, where she stared at her coffee.
Justin’s tone softened. “You make me do and say things. If you acted better, I wouldn’t be so hard on you.” He reached across the table again, this time offering his hand.
Shannon bit into her lower lip in the exact spot she’d recently opened with her right canine. Blood meandered through her teeth, and she slowly placed her hand in his.
“That’s my girl. What I said was, if you and Chad come back home where you belong, I’ll go to couples counseling like you asked. I can change.”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what?”
“I don’t know what to do.”
He lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles but then squeezed her fingers, driving her wedding band into the side of her pinkie. “I’m not the bad guy, Shannon. Most of the time I’m only joking around, but you take things much too serious. You know what your problem is? You’re too sensitive. You need to lighten up.”
The baby squirmed and drew her attention. Chad scrunched his face, coloring the round cheeks so that he resembled an angry plum. “I have to clean him.” She moved from the booth and looped the strap of the diaper bag over her shoulder. “I’ll be right back.”
Justin pushed his chair back from the table and walked with her to the bathroom. “I’ll wait right here,” he said, positioning himself against the wall. She pulled on the door, but he blocked it. “I’m taking you back, Shannon. You need me—you’re too weak to raise a kid on your own.”
He released the door, and she entered the bathroom.
While changing Chad’s diaper, distant voices filled her ears, voices that belonged to ghosts who wouldn’t stay vanquished. In her mind she was a child of six and hiding under her grandmother’s heavy, wooden desk.
‘Don’t you walk away from me, young lady.’
The memory of the voice was like a cold wind, the kind that could get under her coat and raise goosebumps up her back.
She knew her mother would speak next; the memory was always the same—never changing because the dead wouldn’t allow it.
‘For Christ’s sake, Mother, I just buried my husband.’
‘Keep your voice down, Katherine. Do you want everyone to think you’re hysterical?’
‘I don’t care what people think. This is not the time to have this conversation.’
‘This is the perfect time. What are you planning on doing? Raising the child on your own? You know you’re not equipped for that.’
‘I’m perfectly capable of taking care of my daughter.’
‘No, you’re not; you’re too weak. You need me.’
In the restaurant bathroom, Shannon squeezed her eyes closed, recalling the spider that had crawled up her young shin and how she’d placed her hand in its path and lowered it back to the floor. It had scurried out from under the desk, and her grandmother’s thick-soled shoe had turned it into a black splotch. That was how she felt now, like a spider with a dark shadow hanging over her head, ready to drop and crush both her and Chad.
“Shannon.” The doorknob rattled. “Hurry up.”
“I’ll be right out.” She unbuckled Chad from the changing table, returned him to his carrier, and paused to stroke his dark brown hair. In exchange for her tender touch, he cooed. She kissed his cheek and whispered, “I’m sorry munchkin. I tried.”

Author Bio:
Tinthia Clemant was born in Medford, Massachusetts, over sixty years ago. Her childhood was a happy one. She lived in a loving home with her three siblings, mother and father. Her imagination soared as she passed the days enacting the scenes from the stories that spun through her mind.
Tinthia always wrote. From the time she first picked up a pencil, or perhaps it was a crayon, she wrote. Stories about searching for secrets. Stories about joy and sadness; friendship and betrayal; and, of course, stories about true love.
She self-published her first book by stapling six pages together. Her marketing plan was simple--give the book to her mother for Mother's Day. Marketing her indie-published books has gotten a whole lot harder but she pushes on, knowing the worlds she creates will take each reader on a magical journey.
A romantic women's fiction author, Tinthia fell in love with romance when she witnessed, at the impressionable age of five, the power of true love. On the silver screen of the Meadow Glen drive-in, she watched Prince Phillip defeat Maleficent's tangled web of thorns and the fire-breathing dragon so he could save his lady love. As Phillip pressed his lips against Sleeping Beauty's, she understood the power of true love's first kiss.
As a hopeful romantic, Tinthia has searched far and wide for that special someone who will take her breath away. Unfortunately, she has yet to find love's magical kiss. However, she learned a lot about herself along the way and uses these lessons to weave her stories and the strong (and older) heroines she brings to life.
Tinthia lives on the banks of the Concord River and spends her time teaching science at a local community college, gardening, painting, tending her flock of Mallards (follow her natural history blog at: concordriverlady.com), reading, and, of course, writing about journeys, disappointment, joy, and true love. Her two favorite men are Ben and Jerry and she wishes they would bring back the summer flavor, Blueberry Cheesecake.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

#Excerpt: FORGIVEN ARE THE STARRY-EYED by Christine Dore Miller


Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed
Christine Doré Miller
Published by: Evernight Teen
Publication date: April 26th 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult

Naïve sixteen-year-old Andrea Cavanaugh is elated when Josh, a charismatic, bright-eyed piano prodigy, becomes her first boyfriend. But the closer she gets to him, the more she realizes that he is not the boy she first fell for.
In its poignancy and emotional darkness, Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed takes you deep into the delicate and devastating web of shame that spirals from the depths of dating violence when dreamy teenage love turns dark. Andrea must find not only an escape, but a belief that she is even worthy of freedom.

EXCERPT:
My eyelids closed as if they were being drawn down by sluggish, unhurried weights. When I forced them open after several seemingly endless moments, nothing had changed. I could still make out a blurry image of Josh standing nearby, Mr. Thompson’s hands clenched firmly on Josh’s shoulders from behind. There was a crowd, I think, and muffled voices. The steel school locker felt cold against my back and I recognized the familiar feeling that lately seemed to just dwell and ache in my bones. Fear, I think it was, mixed with just enough madness to keep the blood racing through my veins … fast. Too fast.
“Why did you do that, Andrea?” Josh shouted in my direction.
My eyes fell closed again. I don’t remember what else he said. I just remember the feeling of each overly pronounced syllable piercing the air while he said it. I stared through the darkness that danced behind my heavy eyelids. What had I done?
I tried to pry open my hazy eyes to examine the faces of the expanding crowd as they stood, mouths agape. I only recognized a few. There were hardcover music books sprawled open on the tile floor at my feet. Confused, I looked to Josh, but the heavy silence of the room deafened any words he may have been saying. I gripped the ends of my soft, thin hair between my slender fingers and waited. Each thought sunk deeper than the last.
There was a poster taped sloppily against the locker behind me. I turned my head to face it and focused. The ends were curled up and there were ripples in the masking tape adorned to the edges. “Oakwood High School Invitational—TONIGHT” it read in handwritten purple block letters. There was a pixelated saxophone image pasted underneath the words, “Brought to you by Mr. Thompson and the Oakwood High Jazz Band.” I brought my hand up to trace the edges. The poster board felt crisp and thick under my fingertips. I could smell the aftermath of the permanent marker. The loud reverberating voice behind me got softer until it resembled a deep echo I could easily ignore. I started to pick at the tape from the bottom left corner of the poster until I felt the sticky residue ball up underneath my fingernail.
Suddenly the life reentered my body in one abrupt breath when I felt a strong tug on my arm. I turned and saw Ethan Marks. Everyone else was gone. Had it been minutes this time? Hours?
“Andrea! Come on,” he barked at me, interlacing my arm, tucking it quickly under his. He jerked me to a standing position and pulled me down the hall, speeding up his gate as I stumbled to catch up.
“Where’s Josh?” I asked worriedly, but he didn’t answer. We were silent as we walked through the empty hallway. I lifted my gaze, trying to catch Ethan’s eye, trying to read his thoughts. His light blue eyes, usually sparkling with laughter, were steely and somber as he charged forward, dragging me with him, away from the wreckage I’d caused.
He stopped short and took a deep breath. His eyes were unyielding and dismal as they studied me, and slowly his frustration melted into a deep sadness.
“What happened, Andrea? What was that back there?”
“I don’t know…” My voice began breaking. My thoughts were muddled beyond recognition and I couldn’t form the right words, or any words, to explain.
Ethan wrapped himself around me in a gentle, firm embrace. It felt kind. And warm. And wonderfully different. My muscles unclenched for the first time in months, and I didn’t know I was crying until I tasted the salt as it stained my face. I buried my head into Ethan’s chest as he tightened his hold on me. I wanted him to say something, to tell me everything would be all right, but we both knew better. So we just stood there, Ethan supporting me as I clasped the back of his cotton t-shirt between my fingers.
After a few minutes, I fully returned to my body as my breathing calmed. I steadied my stance and took a step backward, shakily holding Ethan’s forearms as I regained my balance. Wiping smudged mascara from my pale face, I met Ethan’s eyes and quickly looked down, fixating on a crack in the tile below me.
“Hey,” he started, “Andrea … it’s…”
“I’m okay. Ethan, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to … I’m sorry I … ugh your shirt.” I motioned to the tear stains on his light green tee that crept from his chest to his shoulder.
“Oh God, don’t worry about that. Andie, I just…”
“It’s fine.” I wiped my face and took a deep breath. “Thanks,” I said, squeezing Ethan’s hand and looking in his eyes sincerely, so he knew I meant it. “I should go. But thanks.” I shook my head and turned around to walk back into the havoc and face what I had done. I felt Ethan staring at me as I left. He was just another person whose life would’ve been better if he hadn’t met me. I swallowed, took a breath, and kept walking.
It was over for now, that latest incident, and there was no way to tell when there would be another one … but there would definitely be another one. I was too broken for it to be any other way.

Author Bio:
Christine lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and their two children. She works full-time as a senior marketing manager for a large media company and holds a Bachelor's of Business Administration degree from Western Michigan University where she studied marketing. Growing up in the chilly midwest, she developed a deep passion for dramatic writing and alternative music at an early age, which still peaks through in her adult-corporate-mom life today. Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed is Christine's debut novel.


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Friday, May 3, 2019

#Review: NEVER DENY A DUKE by Madeline Hunter


  4 of 5 stars
 
Eric Marshall, the Duke of Brentworth, has definitely met his match when fiery Scottish Davina MacCallum presses her claim that his Scottish estate Teyhill actually belongs to her family. She will not be dissuaded and pursues every clue and proof that she can find. Brentworth is a very private man and the last thing he wants is for this problem to become public. Much to his annoyance, the feud becomes public and he agrees to help Davina find proof is there is any to be found to prove her claim. What Brentworth doesn't anticipate is how attracted he is to Davina the more he gets to know her. Her intelligence, medical knowledge and kindness draws him closer and he is reluctant to step away from her.

I loved Davina! She is a strong opinionated Scottish lass who believes in fighting for her family's legacy. Her blunt matter of fact attitude marks her as odd for a young woman of her time, but I enjoyed the conversations between her and Eric. Her influence eventually wears down the mask that Brentworth presents to the ton and he soon he welcomes her presence. Ms. Hunter seamlessly weaves fact with fiction and I enjoyed reading about a different Scottish story than is the usual plots about Scotland. This 3rd book in the series is my favorite. I look forward to reading more books by Ms. Hunter.

I voluntarily read this book and all opinions are my own.