Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sponsor: CHASING AMANDA by Melissa Foster

Book Blurb:
Nine years ago, Molly Tanner witnessed a young girl's abduction in the busy city of Philadelphia, shifting her occasional clairvoyance into overdrive. Two days later, the girl's body was found, and Molly's life fell apart. Consumed by guilt for not acting upon her visions, and on the brink of losing her family, Molly escaped the torturous reminders in the city, fleeing to the safety of the close-knit rural community of Boyds, Maryland. 

Molly's life is back on track, her son has begun college, and she and her husband have finally rekindled their relationship. Their fresh start is shattered when a seven-year-old girl disappears from a local park near Molly's home. Unable to turn her back on another child and troubled by memories of the past, Molly sets out to find her, jeopardizing the marriage she'd fought so hard to hold together. While unearthing clues and struggling to decipher her visions, Molly discovers another side of Boyds, where the residents--and the land itself--hold potentially lethal secrets, and exposes another side of her husband, one that threatens to tear them apart.

Reviewers Comments:
"...a story of madness and mystery that drew me in from the first paragraph...a tale of love, retribution, hope and betrayal...a page turner that will leave you breathless..." --Readers Round Table

"...the MUST READ THRILLER of 2011. Intelligent, entrancing, luminious." --Author Dean Mayes

"CHASING AMANDA is a fine psychic thriller, highly recommended." -- Midwest Book Review

"[Foster's] newest release captivated me. [It] covers a subject that is every parent's nightmare. The story had me hooked and shocked. The characters are well written." --Jeanette Stingley, Women's Literary Editor, Bella Online

"...Foster's writing reminds me of Ted Dekker. The suspense is so strong I'm waiting for the theme music to jump out and scare me as I turn the pages." --The Surrendered Scribe

FINALIST, (2) READERS FAVORITE AWARD: Women's Fiction, Mystery

Buy Links: 

Author Bio:
"Melissa Foster is a wonderful connector of readers and books, a friend of authors, and a tireless advocate for women. She is the real deal"--AuthorJennie Shortridge
Melissa Foster is the award-winning, bestselling author of two novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and WoMen’s Literary CafĂ©, a literary community. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way. Melissa has written for Calgary’s Child Magazine, and Women Business Owners Magazine. She hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa is currently working on her next novel, and lives in Maryland with her family. 

Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod. A portion of every book sold is donated to Provincetown Cares. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.

Chapter One
Molly kissed her husband goodbye and closed the front door of her colonial home, listening to the silence that echoed in her ears. It had been eight years since Amanda’s death, eight years since she’d escaped the painful memories of Philadelphia, and moved to the quiet community of Boyds, Maryland. In the stillness of the mornings, Molly found herself missing the incessant background noises of the city, which seemed amplified in the six weeks since her son, Erik, had left for college. Her bare feet lightly slapped the ceramic tile as she padded into the kitchen, stopping in front of the picture window to watch Stealth, her rambunctious Rottweiler, and Trigger, her playful black lab. Molly briefly envied their carefree lives, then turned to look at the calendar that was clipped to the refrigerator with an enormous magnet that read, Dance like nobody’s watching! The calendar was blank, as it had been every day this month, except for the third Thursday, where she had scribbled, Civic Association Meeting.

Molly sighed, remembering a time when every day had held a different list of assignments and chores, schedules for Erik, and important meetings for Cole. Eight years ago she had needed a calm, almost boring, lifestyle to save her sanity. Now, she wondered if she hadn’t let it go on that way for too long. She coyly lifted her eyes to the magnet once again, remembering when Erik was young, and they’d danced unabashedly around the kitchen to silly songs from Sesame Street. The edges of her lips curled upward at the memory. That seemed like a lifetime ago. She raised her eyebrows, glancing around the empty kitchen, like a child about to reach into the cookie jar, and suddenly burst into spasmodic movements that did not resemble a dance by any stretch of the imagination. The phone rang, saving her from feeling any more ridiculous. “Yeah, right,” she said to the magnet, and answered the phone.

“Hey, Ma, what’s up?” Erik’s use of “Ma” rather than “Mom” made Molly smile. When Erik was about twelve years old, he’d suddenly started calling Molly “Ma” when he needed her help or was simply in a jovial mood, and he’d used the term “Mom” when he was angry, scared, or upset, just as Molly had called him Erik Michael Tanner when he’d misbehaved as a child. Molly had seen it as a sign of his maturing, testing the waters.

Molly blushed, her lame excuse for a dance fresh on her mind. “Not much. Are you okay?” A shadow of doubt about her mothering skills momentarily gave Molly pause. There had been a time, just before finally moving away from Philadelphia, when she’d been unable to care for herself, much less for Erik. Cole had stepped into the roles of both mother and father while Molly struggled to come to grips with the trauma that had befallen Amanda.  Even now years later, that fleeting trepidation was enough of a reminder to keep Molly on her toes.

“Yeah, ’course. I wanted your opinion. There’s this girl, Jenna? We’ve been hanging out a lot, and, um, well, she used to hang out with this guy down the hall, and—”

“And you’re his friend, and you aren’t sure if you should keep hanging out with her, right?”

Erik breathed a sigh of relief. “Yeah, exactly.”

This was nothing new for Molly. She’d been helping Erik with everything from skinned knees to breakups forever. When Erik was younger, he’d draw Molly outside to discuss matters of the heart, as if the fresh air had somehow made things easier for him to discuss. Molly pictured the way he’d drop his eyes as he spoke, the way he bit his lower lip between thoughts, just as he had since he was four, and the nervous, crooked smile that always accompanied a relieved sigh when he’d heard her thoughts. She pictured that smile while she spoke with him, gently asking about his relationship with the other boy, how much he liked Jenna, and generally getting a feel for his long-term intent, of which, of course, he wasn’t really sure, although he “really liked” her.

“Okay, so basically, I need to decide if I’m good enough friends with this other guy to be worth the pain I’ll cause him if I keep seeing her?” The conflict in Erik’s voice was tangible.

“Yeah, in my opinion, anyway. Is she worth hurting someone else, and are you good enough friends with the guy to care?” Molly thought about how cold the latter sounded, quickly revising, “It’s all about karma, Erik. Would you care if you were him? That’s what you need to think about. Put yourself in his situation. Was it a painful breakup? Were they madly in love, or was it a college fling?”

“Right. Okay.”

Molly knew the meaning behind that particular response, This isn’t easy, so I don’t want to think about it right now. “You’ll figure it out,” she said. “Everything else okay?”

“I guess. Thanks, Ma, for making it a little harder,” he laughed. “I gotta run. I’ve got class in five minutes, and it’s across campus. Love you.”

Before Molly could answer, the line went dead, and Molly longed for a hug from the boy who was no longer little, the boy who was now a young man and only needed to touch base with his mom rather than follow her around, hanging onto her every word. Molly missed those moments, feeling as though mothering a young man came with a whole different set of guidelines than mothering a boy, and accepting a phone dismissal without being hurt was one of the requirements. She missed building school projects and chaperoning field trips, taking pictures at soccer games, and standing at the sidelines, painfully silent, as her son had ordered her to remain because he was embarrassed by her cheering him on, “Go, Erik! That’s my boy!” Molly shook her head, missing the child that he’d never be again, and smirking at the trials and tribulations that accompanied youth—and motherhood—then she headed upstairs to put on her running clothes.

Molly had wondered, recently, if they’d done the right thing when they’d uprooted from Philadelphia and moved to the country. Those thoughts were immediately chased by painful memories of Amanda. Nine years ago, Molly hadn’t been sure she’d make it through each hour, much less each day. After Amanda’s death, she’d spiraled into an abyss of depression, wrapped in the guilt of her silence, paralyzed by the truth—if she’d only spoken up, told somebody besides Cole, then maybe she could have saved her. Memories of that dreadful afternoon haunted her, the nightmares that followed suppressed her only hope of escape from the mental torture. She couldn’t eat, and sleeping was out of the question.  Losing her job had come as no surprise, since the commute to and from work, the sounds of the busy streets, had brought constant panic—an obsessive need to search the face of every child, looking for that hint of fear, looking for the deceit in the eyes of adults. Every screeching child had reminded her of Amanda, bringing forth a gut-wrenching visceral reaction, causing parents to guide their children away from the crazy woman who wouldn’t stop asking them, Are you sure this is your parent? Molly remembered the unease she had felt as Amanda’s abduction had unfolded before her.

It had been a cool October evening. Molly had left Walmart with an armful of groceries. She popped open the trunk and threw the bags in, trying to ignore the little girl’s screams coming from the black minivan two cars over. She settled herself into the driver’s seat, and rolled down the window. The deafening screams continued. Molly backed out of her parking space and inched slowly past the van’s rear bumper. The child’s father frantically tried to settle the little girl into the van, the little girl’s arms and legs thrashed wildly. The frustrated father’s eyes shot in Molly’s direction.

“She didn’t get the dolly she wanted,” the man had said through gritted teeth.

Molly hadn’t realized she was staring. Embarrassed, she had driven away. It was three days later, when Molly had seen Amanda’s face on the front page of the newspaper, that Molly put her nightmares and the image of the man together, and realized that it had not been the little girl’s father she’d seen, but Amanda’s abductor, her murderer.