blog tour · book excerpt · book review · Giveaways · suspense · thriller

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Safekeeping (with an amazing giveaway)

SafeKeeping

Welcome to the tour for highly anticipated release, Safekeeping by Eva Mackenzie! Read on for more details and a chance to win a brand-new Kindle Paperwhite 32GB (Value 249.99)!

Mackenzie_Safekeeping_Ebook

Safekeeping

Publication Date: July 20th, 2021

Genre: Thriller/ Suspense Thriller

No one ever thinks they’ll get caught…

Moments before police arrive on the scene of a car accident in rural Montana, Sonia has time to make one phone call. With one word whispered, she sets off an unstoppable chain of events. Once police arrive, she confesses to the brutal murder of her stepsister, Emma.

After, she’s sentenced to life in prison where she learns her stepfather’s ruthless reach. It’s a game of cat and mouse– a game she has already lost. She only needs to hold on long enough to be sure her secret is kept safe.

Until one day, news of an unidentified man’s death confirms her worst fear, and Sonia must get out of prison, at all cost. What did the dead man say, and who heard him say it?

Because everyone is guilty of something…

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Excerpt

She winced and sucked air through her mouth as she pressed on the bridge of her nose. Murmuring could be heard outside her cell from women nearby. A whisper began, low at first, but climbing to reach her ears: “Green light go, on 216. Green light go, on 216.”

It was soft and almost childlike, and its echo sent a shiver through her. Green light was code for a hit, and 216 was her cell number. It was like note-passing among the inmates, only she was meant to hear it. Someone had decided it was time for her to die.

The morning light caught the edge of one of her paintings and she stared back at a likeness only she could see.

“I miss you,” she whispered. “I’m not done yet.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

eva-fav-alley.jpg

Eva Mackenzie is an author who enjoys twisty, emotionally engrossing tales. Her debut novel has been a work in progress for over a decade. Under the urging of a loved one, it’s finally finished.

She is a wife and mother living on the east coast. When she isn’t writing, she is spending time with her family, training for her next marathon or reading stacks of suspense novels. Some of her favorite authors are Minka Kent, Dean Koontz, Tami Hoag, and Lisa Jackson.

Eva Mackenzie | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads| Newsletter

Who wants to win a brand new Kindle??? This giveaway is open to everyone and will run all week (ending July 24th)!

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My Review

This story starts off with a bang or rather a car crash as the protagonist, Sonia Rossi, is hurled into a ditch by an oncoming vehicle. Before the emergency services arrive, and too injured to run, she makes a phone call in which the word “safekeeping” triggers a series of events for the recipient. When the police arrive, she tells them her name … and that she is wanted for murder.

From here on, the story moves to Flint Hill Corrections Centre where Sonia has been incarcerated. We soon learn that her life in there is fraught with danger, and that she is constantly in danger. Assaulted time and again, Sonia tries to keep a low profile but it’s clear there are forces working against her. That force, primarily, being her step-father Saul D’Luca who is out for revenge after she “confessed” to killing his daughter, Emma, her step-sister.

However, when her ex is killed, Sonia knows she has to get out of prison and begins the appeal process with the help of Ali, a high-powered criminal defence attorney. It’s not longer before the warden at Flint Hill shows his true colours in refusing to give Sonia protection, and later in limiting her visitors. But when Sonia’s mum visits and then goes missing, as well as Ali the lawyer, it’s clear someone (Saul) does not want Sonia to be freed or even retried.

As Sonia battles for justice, the story also includes the actions of the person who received her phone call before she was locked up. Making the connections between Sonia, Saul and this third person, Jenna helps to unlock the reason Saul wants to keep Sonia quiet – preferably dead.

The suspense element is strong and there are several secrets to uncover before the story concludes which kept my attention, and despite there being multiple POV characters with their own chapters, the links between them all tie up by the end. For me, there are still a couple of loose ends that I’d like to see resolved – maybe there’ll be another book to do that.

A good and well-paced story with plenty of upsets along the ways that mean you just have to read one more chapter.


SafeKeeping

Book Tour Schedule

July 19th

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

Books Rambling & Tea (Spotlight) https://booksramblingsandtea.com/

@books_n_yogapants (Review) https://www.instagram.com/books_n_yogapants/

@addictedtobooks86 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/addictedtobooks86/

Nessie’s Place (Spotlight) https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com

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

July 20th

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

Kam’s Place (Review) https://www.superkambrook.com/

Just 4 My Books (Review) http://www.just4mybooks.wordpress.com

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

July 21st

@gin_books_crochethooks (Review) https://www.instagram.com/gin_books_crochethooks/

@esmeralda_lagiggles18 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/esmeralda_lagiggles18/

@jypsylynn (Review) https://www.instagram.com/jypsylynn

Cocktails & Fairy Tales (Review) https://www.facebook.com/CocktailsFairytales

Phantom of the Library (Review) https://phantomofthelibrary.com/

July 22nd

@amysbooknook8 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/amysbooknook8/

@geauxgetlit (Review) https://www.instagram.com/geauxgetlit/

@isbn_reading (Review) https://www.instagram.com/isbn_reading/

@booklymatters (Review) https://www.instagram.com/booklymatters/

July 23rd

@greeneyedgirl0704 (Review) https://www.instagram.com/greeneyedgirl0704/

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

@theliterateleprechaun (Review) https://www.instagram.com/theliterateleprechaun/

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

@dreaminginpages (Review) https://www.instagram.com/dreaminginpages/

Book Tour Organized By:

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R&R Book Tours

book birthday · book blitz · book excerpt · family · historical

Book Birthday Blitz- The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus

Sometimes there are books that come along at a time when, as a book reviewer, I simply can’t squeeze them into my reading schedule. This was one of those, and so I had to get involved in the birthday book blitz in some way, if not as a reader. (I’ve added the book to my Kindle though, and will get to reviewing it just as soon as I can)

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus

Brothers bound by blood but fated to be enemies. Can their Empire survive or will it crumble into myth?

Istanbul, 1903.


Since his younger brother usurped the Imperial throne, Sultan Murad V has been imprisoned with his family for nearly thirty years.

The new century heralds immense change. Anarchy and revolution threaten the established order. Powerful enemies plot the fall of the once mighty Ottoman Empire. Only death will bring freedom to the enlightened former sultan. But the waters of the Bosphorus run deep: assassins lurk in shadows, intrigue abounds, and scandal in the family threatens to bring destruction of all that he holds dear…

For over six hundred years the history of the Turks and their vast and powerful Empire has been inextricably linked to the Ottoman dynasty. Can this extraordinary family, and the Empire they built, survive into the new century?

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Imperial Istanbul,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is a spellbinding tale of love, duty and sacrifice.

Evocative and utterly beguiling,The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is perfect for fans of Colin Falconer, Kate Morton and Philippa Gregory.

Purchase Links

Amazon

Payhip

Kobo

Barnes & Noble

Apple

Google Store

A message from the author

Lynne, thank you so much for inviting me to share an extract from my book on your Blog, and thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for organising my Virtual Book Tour to celebrate the 1st Birthday of The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus.

Extract

The Gilded Cage on the Bosphorus is the book that I always dreamed of writing. Ever since I was a little girl… Initially I did not intend to publish – it was written to encourage my children’s interest and sense of pride in their heritage, and to teach them forgotten customs and traditions. I wanted to record stories and memories that my grandfather shared with me of his unique life before they are lost forever, and I also hoped to discover more about the characters and personalities hidden behind faded family photographs… Then one day my father persuaded me that others might enjoy this personal story set during the twilight years of the Ottoman Empire, so it was published and today celebrates its first birthday!

The inspiration for this scene comes from two beautiful photographs that I have of my Great Aunts. Both were strong, independent and modern young women, confined by the traditions and conventions of their time. Yet, their spirits were free:

Jean Pascal Bey now sought and received the permission of both princesses to set about creating a suitable photographic composition with the props available to him. First, he lifted the finely-gilded tête-à-tête chair that stood by the window and placed it against a wall at an angle so that one end projected into the room; then he unrolled the small Hereke carpet that he had brought with him and laid it under the back legs of the chair, ensuring that the fringe was arranged in a way that looked haphazard and informal. He was glad that he had decided to bring this carpet: he had been right in thinking that the opulent yalı would not have such a small rug to hand. After that, he picked up a three-legged pedestal table that he had previously spotted in a corner of the room and put it on the opposite side of the rug from the tête-à-tête chair, placing on it a vase full of heavy-headed blooms. Standing back to contemplate the scene, he rubbed his chin, moved forward to remove two or three of the flowers from the vase, and laid them on the table. During the entire process, the princesses had been watching him work with great interest. After a few final tweaks, he appeared to be satisfied with the scene he had created, and turned to address Hadice.

“If your Imperial Highness would be so kind,” he said, “I would ask you to please stand between the seat and the table, and place your right hand on the curved back of the seat … Oh, and maybe your left hand might be placed behind your back.” Hadice did exactly as she was bidden. “Hmm … there is something missing. I wonder …” he mused, scratching his head just above the right ear and making the hair stick out beneath his fez. “A fan! Princess Hadice, do you have a fan? I think it would complete the portrait most satisfactorily if you were to hold a closed fan in your right hand as it rests on the back of the seat.” This was an item that it had not occurred to Hadice to bring with her: she looked across the room at her sister, who opened a narrow rectangular box that was lying on a nearby table – it bore her initials in swirling gold letters – and took out an ivory fan with a beautifully-carved ebony handle. Fehime then handed it triumphantly to her sister, who smiled at her in gratitude. “Perfect!” exclaimed Jean Pascal. “Now we are ready for Aslan Bey.” He placed a richly-embroidered cushion on the seat of the tête-à-tête chair, which was upholstered in red velvet, and Hadice called Aslan to her. The dog obediently jumped up onto the seat and sat on the cushion facing the photographer just as if he knew precisely what was expected of him. Everyone laughed, and this served to lighten the atmosphere in the room even further.

Hadice looked magnificent. Her thick dark hair framed her face in a loose pompadour bun; the simple cream dress she was wearing had a high neck and ruffled sleeves that fell to the top of her white gloves, while its sweeping train lay pooled in front of her. She had decided not to wear much jewellery as she wanted the Imperial Order that hung around her neck, and the Mecidiye Order pinned to her left breast, to stand out. Fehime thought she had never seen her sister looking more lovely or more dignified.

Jean Pascal wheeled his camera forward on the small wheels attached to the tripod legs; noticing how badly they creaked, he made a mental note to have them oiled as soon as he returned to the studio. He then made a slight adjustment to the camera’s angle, tilted the lens, and disappeared for a moment beneath the dark cloth draped over the camera box in order to view the inverted image. He brought the image into focus by adjusting the distance between the lens and the film plate, moving the folding leather bellows as though he was playing an accordion. When he reappeared, he was utterly dumbfounded to see that Hadice was unveiled: during the few seconds it had taken him to re-emerge from under the dark cloth, she had unpinned her yashmak and allowed it to float to the floor. Zeynel Ağa moved forward to pick up the discarded veil, his smooth, finely-chiselled face betraying nothing of what he might be thinking. Jean Pascal, meanwhile, looked thunderstruck, having been thrown completely off guard. Unlike the old eunuch, he was incapable of hiding his mental confusion.

“Jean Pascal Bey, I think you will need to hurry before Aslan tires of the pose,” Hadice said. Fehime giggled behind her hand. How she loved her sister, and how she admired her ready wit!

Jean Pascal now disappeared under the dark cloth for a second time – more to settle his nerves than to double-check the focus. Then, standing to attention beside his camera box, he squeezed the small air-pump ball that operated the shutter system and took the photograph. Neither Hadice nor Aslan had moved even a millimetre. He knew instantly that he had captured a perfect image.

Author Bio

Ayşe Osmanoğlu is a member of the Imperial Ottoman family, being descended from Sultan Murad V through her grandfather and from Sultan Mehmed V (Mehmed Reşad) through her grandmother. After reading History and Politics at the University of Exeter, she then obtained an M.A. in Turkish Studies at SOAS, University of London, specialising in Ottoman History. She lives in the UK with her husband and five children.

Social Media Links

https://www.facebook.com/ayseosmanogluauthor

https://www.instagram.com/aysegulnevsultan/

https://twitter.com/AyseGulnev

As always

book excerpt · dystopian · Giveaways · R&R Book Tour stop · series · survival · YA

Book Tour – The Demon of Yodok (plus a giveaway)

Tour Banner

To celebrate the release of the latest novel in the Juche series, The Storm of Storms, we’re going back to the book that started it all! The Demon of Yodok! Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of the novel!

Juche part one - eBook - Copy

The Demon of Yodok (Juche 1)

Genre: YA Dystopian

A highly addictive Young Adult Dystopian Survival series that will keep you glued to the pages.

JUCHE [dʒuːtʃe]

Just when Areum, daughter of a privileged family in the totalitarian state of Choson, thought she was free from her personal prison, her world collapses around her as her family are taken away in the middle of the night to a hell-like camp in the mountains where people who have strayed from the righteous path are brutally re-educated through blood, sweat, tears and starvation.

There she has to fight for survival together with the family she hates and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life until then – her deep resentment toward her twin sister; her view of her father in face of the mounting evidence he is a traitor with the blood of millions of fellow countrymen on his hands; and even her love and affection for the Great General – the eternal savior and protector of Choson, whom she had always considered her true father.

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Excerpt

Cranes sang songs of joy from the mountain tops.

Double rainbows appeared in the sky.

The aggressors from the west were defeated. The invaders from the east were expunged. The traitors from the south were put at bay.

The people of Choson were finally free to create their own destiny, and so a hermit kingdom of people’s rule rose from the ashes, and the doors to the enemies of the outside world were closed, never to be opened again.

The world around them moved on. Years passed. Decades passed. Peace and prosperity spread throughout the world, and nothing was heard from the secluded hermit paradise.

Then one day, people started emerging from its closed borders. The stories they brought with them were, however, not of a paradise on earth. Instead, what they depicted were horrors so vile and cruel that they almost exceeded human comprehension.

Little had the people of the kingdom known when they closed its doors to the outside world, that the vilest beast of all was still lurking among their midst, and as soon as the curtains had been drawn, the beast unleashed its reign of terror upon the people, not stopping until it had crushed and enslaved every soul within its reach.

The beast now rules the kingdom from a throne of human misery and agony.

No one alive has ever encountered this beast, but everybody knows its name.

JUCHE

Available on Amazon

About the Author

AC Logo 2

Adria Carmichael is a writer of Young Adult Dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or binging a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.

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Click the link below for a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of The Demon of Yodok

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Book Tour Organized By:

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blog tour · book excerpt · historical · mystery · thriller

Blog Tour – Old Cases, New Colours (including an excerpt)

Old Cases, New Colours

(A Dudley Green Investigation)

Sick of working in a world of spies and bureaucracy, Ena Green, nee Dudley, leaves the Home Office and starts her own investigating agency.

Working for herself she can choose which investigations to take and, more importantly, which to turn down.

While working on two investigations, Ena is called as a prosecution witness in the Old Bailey trial of a cold-blooded killer who she exposed as a spy the year before.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

US – https://www.amazon.com/Cases-Colours-Dudley-Investigation-Sisters-ebook/dp/B08Y9887QM/

Author Bio

I was bought up in a pub in a small market town called Lutterworth. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be an actress and a writer. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live with so many characters to study and accents to learn. I was offered Crossroads the first time around. However, my mother wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job that I could fall back on if I needed to, so I did a hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and wig-hire business in the theatre for a place at East 15 Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television.

In 1995, with fewer parts for older actresses, I gave up acting. I taught myself to touch-type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau and began writing articles and presenting radio.

In 2010, after living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth. I swapped two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write. Since then, I have written nine novels. The first four, The Dudley Sisters’ Saga, tell the stories of four sisters in World War 2. My current novel, Old Cases, New Colours, is a thriller/detective story set in 1960. I am writing Christmas book – Christmas Applause – and a Memoir; a collection of short stories, articles, poems, photographs and character breakdowns from my days as an actress.

Social Media Links

Madalyn Morgan’s books- https://www.amazon.co.uk/Madalyn-Morgan/e/B00J7VO9I2

Blog – https://madalynmorgan.wordpress.com/

Facebook – www.facebook.com/madalyn.morgan1

Twitter – www.twitter.com/ActScribblerDJ

Pinterest – www.pinterest.co.uk/madalynmorgan

Instagram – www.instagram.co.uk/madalynmorgan1

Excerpt

Intro: Ena is called as a witness for the prosecution in a murder trial at the Old Bailey. When she is cross examined by the defence lawyer of a German spy who murdered her colleague the lawyer twists what she says in an attempt to discredit her.

‘I believe you worked closely with Director Bentley at the Home Office?’

‘Yes.’

‘How many years had you worked with him?’

‘Thirteen.’

‘Thirteen years!’ the defence lawyer exclaimed. He looked at the jury. ‘Thirteen years,’ he said again. ‘And you would have us believe that in all that time you never once suspected he was a spy?’

‘No.’

‘What changed your mind, suddenly?’

‘I had reason to question Richard Bentley’s motives in a certain matter.’

Anderson swung from left to right, his black gown flaring theatrically as he looked around the court. ‘Reason to question? Motives? A certain matter? It all sounds very Machiavellian.’ He put his hand up to his face, his fingers on his lips. ‘And who was it that gave you reason to question the Director of The Home Office?’

Ena had been waiting throughout the cross-examination for a question like this. ‘I am not at liberty to say.’

‘Was it the same person who fed you lies about my client and his lover, Hugh Middleton? The truth is, Mrs Green, Hugh Middleton was not the victim in the relationship. The victim was my client. Mr Middleton cheated on him, lied to him and stole from him. My client regrets the outcome of their relationship and wishes there had been some other way. Alas,’ O’Shaughnessy’s lawyer looked down and sighed, his voice growing deeper and softer as if with emotion, ‘there was no other way.’ The defence lawyer then turned to the jury, cleared his throat, and in a matter-of-fact way, said, ‘During one of Middleton’s aggressive outbursts he attacked my client who, fearing for his life, struck out in self-defence, accidentally killing Mr Middleton.’

Ena looked across at the dock for the first time. She held O’Shaughnessy with a cold stare. As arrogant as ever, he grinned at her. Still looking at O’Shaughnessy, Ena said, ‘Hugh Middleton did not lie, cheat or attack your client. On the contrary–’

‘And how would you know, Mrs Green!’

Ena looked back at the defence lawyer. ‘I am not at liberty to say,’ she said again.

‘Whether you tell the court or not is of no consequence,’ Anderson said, ‘because, Mrs Green, the information that you received came from Nick Miller, a man of dubious character who owned the Minchin Club, a nightclub that my client and his lover frequented in Brighton.’ Anderson looked at the jury, leaned his elbow on the edge of the witness box and crossed his legs as if he was at a bar waiting for a drink. Then, as if something had that second come into his mind, he turned and faced Ena. ‘Perhaps you know Nick Miller better by his real name, Nicolaus Müller – a German spy who became a south London gangster with whom you accompanied to Austria. Is that not so, Mrs Green?’

‘I–’

‘I know!’ Anderson spat, shutting Ena down, ‘You are not at liberty to tell us what information Müller gave you for his freedom.’

‘Before Ena could retaliate, Anderson turned to the judge. ‘No more questions, My Lord.’

Ena looked up at the judge in disbelief. She then looked pleadingly at Sir John.’

The judge waved his left hand. Sir John was already on his feet.

‘If I may, My Lord.’

The Judge nodded.

‘Mrs Green,’ Sir John said with a reassuring smile, ‘would you tell the court why you were not at liberty to answer some of the questions asked you by my learned friend?’

‘I have signed the Official Secrets Act. The work I did at the Home Office was… highly sensitive.’

‘Top Secret?’

‘Yes.’

‘Thank you. You were also asked questions that you were not given time to answer. I apologise in advance if the questions I shall ask you now are repetitious.’ Ena nodded. ‘On the day of McKenzie Robinson’s funeral, did Mrs Robinson accuse you of killing her husband?’

‘No. Mrs Robinson said it was my fault that her husband had been killed, not that I had killed him.’ 

‘Your fault? Why?’

‘Director McKenzie was going to help me with an investigation I was working on before he was murdered. He gave his wife a folder to give to me, which she gave me on the day of his funeral.’ Tears filled Ena’s eyes as Mac’s last words came into her mind. “Make sure Ena Green gets this.”

‘No,’ Ena said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, ‘Eve Robinson did not accuse me of killing her husband. ‘Her exact words were, “I hope what you find in there was worth my husband’s life. If you hadn’t come to the hospital to see him, he would still be alive.”’

‘Thank you for clearing that up, Mrs Green.’ With a sympathetic smile, Sir John said, ‘Are you happy to continue?’ Ena nodded. ‘I think the court has been misled about your association with Mr Nick Miller. Would you describe the relationship between yourself and Mr Miller and tell the jury why you travelled with him to Austria?’

‘There was no relationship. Nick Miller had been taken into Police custody for questioning. He had valuable information that the security services – my department in particular – and the Police needed in order to expose a large and deep-rooted spy ring. As you know, the Director of the Home Office was the head of the cell, Helen Crowther and Shaun O’Shaughnessy were members. Nick Miller said he would release the information once he had arrived safely in Austria. I didn’t choose to go with him, he insisted I went as insurance.’

Ena looked at the jury. ‘But I did have a personal reason for accompanying Nick Miller to Austria. Nick had proof that Helen Crowther, who was found dead on December 23rd, 1958 in my office, had killed herself. Crowther went to extraordinary lengths to make her suicide look as if my husband had murdered her. I flew to Austria with Nick Miller to save my husband from being hung for a murder he did not commit.’

‘Thank you, Mrs Green.’ Sir John turned to the judge. ‘No more questions My Lord.’

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book excerpt · book launch · comedy · Giveaways

Book Release Blitz – X-RATED! – plus a giveaway

Xrated

Happy publication day to author Bridget Beasley! Today marks the release of her hilarious book, X-Rated! I have the first chapter for you to read AND the most amazing giveaway– A chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a digital copy of the book!

Book Tour Cover Photo

X-Rated: A virgin. A porn star. A comedy.

Publication Date: February 21st, 2020 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Romcom/ Comedy

Bailey Finch is twenty-four, living in LA, and working for a trendy Sex & Relationships magazine as their entry-level Calendar Editor.

She’s also painfully body-conscious, clinically anxious, and still a virgin.

When Bailey lands the chance to interview Elijah Mattox – coined the Ryan Reynolds of Porn Stars – she seizes the opportunity to befriend the man behind over three-thousand BDSM films, with popular titles such as The Domination of Elia Rose, Dungeon Sluts and Whores of Riverdale County.

As she delves deeper into Eli’s world, and their relationship takes an unexpected romantic turn, she realizes that this piece couldn’t possibly be just an interview. There was something much bigger yet to come. No pun intended.

X-Rated: A virgin. A porn star. A comedy.

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Excerpt

Chapter One – The Dick Cake Guy

Cue: Darude – Sandstorm.

Wait. 99 Luftballons. That’s a much better intro song.

No. That’s not how I want to start this shit show. Or is this supposed to be a romantic comedy? You know, happy ending, lots of tissues, laugh-out-loud dialogue. Brilliant and sweet, with well fleshed-out, dynamic characters. Because that’s usually a thing, isn’t it?

And I’m already rambling.

How the hell do I start this? I’m twenty-four. Name’s Bailey Finch. Yeah, that’s a good name – it’s not just my actual name, but it also looks damn good in print. A good, solid protagonist name.

And the guy? There’s always a guy. I know you’re waiting for the guy.

Well, what to say: Tall? Check. Muscles? Sorta-check. Tattoos? Check. Wry grin and one of those devious smiles akin to Ian Somerhalder? Check and check. One-thousand checks.

His name is Elijah Mattox. He’s twenty-eight years old. Favorite things that I’ve scrounged up so far include Asian-fusion cuisine, Single Malt Scotch, and perfecting his purposely tousled hairstyle. He’s an actor, trying to break into main-stream, silver screen, accolades and Oscars.

As for now, well – he’s only the most renowned Porn Star in the country. Over three-thousand films. Yeah, no kidding.

And here I am, sitting at my desk, pen in hand, trying to conjure up some questions to ask him that don’t consist of how many tits he’s seen and what his thoughts are on the real-to-saline ratio. How many times could he climax in one session? Was his relationship with sex boring now? What is sex like once you’ve made a career out of using your cock?

Was he worried that working in porn might affect his career as a mainstream actor? This isn’t some one-time Kardashian sex tape. Even though I’m sure he’s got one of those floating around somewhere. The guy has history.

Then again, I’ve never actually seen his stuff. Never been much into porn. Even the soft-core variety. I mean, I’ve done a few Google searches in my time. I technically know what a penis looks like. One time in fourth grade, me and my old best friend, Ginny Weirkowitz, looked up Two Girls One Cup, and refused to eat for the rest of the day. Whatever you do, don’t do it. Don’t Google it. My eyes went to hell.

But IRL, I’ve never seen the real thing. I’m a virgin. And I don’t say that to sound interesting, either: I’ve wanted to get laid more times than I could count. I have a vibrator, thank you very much. Have you ever used a Hitachi Magic Wand? Let me tell you…

I’ve just, you know, never had a real dick. I’ve never made love, had intercourse, fucked. Real hands, rough, desperate, passionate. Body-crushing. Mouth-on-mouth action. My only real kiss was Sophomore year of high school, on a dare, and that same guy ended up pouring an open container of spaghetti into my backpack after I reminded our Geometry teacher that he had forgotten to collect our homework.

I tapped my pen against the edge of my desk, glancing around the office: large windows, exposed brick walls, and blown-up copies of magazine covers from over the years, largely featuring notable men and women of the celebrity variety.

This was Come’s first porn-star. Clever magazine name, I know. Come as in, welcome, enter. Come as in…orgasm.

We were known for our sex tips and relationship advice. That said, it’s been agreed upon that fucking in the shower just doesn’t really work. I’ve never even fucked a guy before, and even I can tell you that I know for a fact, unless maybe you’ve got one of those shower-bath combos or a seat in your shower, it’s freaking impossible. I’d like to put out a request: if you’re a woman who has had mind-blowing shower-sex while standing up, please write to me.

I grinned unabashedly, outwardly, probably looking ridiculous. I hadn’t accomplished a lick of work in the past two hours. I couldn’t concentrate. I was hungry: one of those gripping, all-consuming, carb-salt-sugar craving hungers. I wanted a pretzel, doughnut, and Diet Coke, stat.

What do you ask a porn, star, though? What are the questions?

I don’t know, Bailey. Maybe treat him like a normal human male. Like a person. Like you.

I flushed at the thought. Like me, a virgin. A big-mouthed mope of a virgin, with brown hair that was frizzy on good days and unhinged on bad days. Shoulder-length. I wore loafers and slacks to work, button-downs with quirky designs. Today was yellow ducks. But Bailey Finch, as a whole, was painfully unquirky. I was a poser. Inauthentic. Maybe a little too self-deprecating. I was most authentic at home, in bed with my laptop, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, leggings, and cabin socks. The fluffier the socks, the better.

I wondered briefly what Elijah would think of me in comparison to the girls he’d been with on-screen. Did that even matter? No, of course not.

Still, I wondered. Maybe I should flat-iron my hair, or wear shoes with wedges. Lip-gloss vs. lip balm.

Procrastination: I typed out on the keyboard. Failure to concentrate. Here are some random facts: Scotland has 421 words for ‘snow’. Elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump. The first oranges weren’t actually orange. The most common name is Mohammed. Cats can hear ultrasound. Children grow faster in the springtime. Karaoke means ’empty orchestra’ in Japanese.

Delete. Roll eyes. Sigh heavily.

As I sat there, staring at a blank Word document, my boss Deborah – a tall, all-limbs woman, popped her head into my cubicle.

“How are the interview questions going?”

Her expression was vaguely fatigued despite remaining without a single crease or line; her face was elongated, elegant. She had the most delicate bird-face. Long, a pointed nose, elven cheek-bones. Her eyes, two silver buttons, were wide, perpetually surprised. Her foundation was light enough that I could still see the subtle, natural gloss of oil on her forehead. She was, all said, pretty in a pained sort of way. Her ash-blond hair was always styled as if she were ready to step out onto a runway. She wore Louis Vuitton stilettos and a tailored houndstooth-print suit.

“Excellent,” I lied. “I’m wrapping them up now, actually. I’ll email them to you in a minute.”

I’ll email them to you in a minute. Panic. My heart jumped. Why did I always do this? I was a people-pleaser to my core, and it always, always ended up biting me in the ass. I lived in constant pause-or-panic.

“Awesome,” she was indeed pleased. Her smile showed a bit of rose-pink lipstick on her front tooth. “Don’t feel the need to get too detailed with them. Let him lead the interview, if you can. He seems talkative enough in past interviews. He did a very informative interview with Cosmopolitan last fall – we want to go deeper than that. Deeper than male skincare, workout regimens and how to maintain an erection, at least.”

“Do you want me to confirm how many inches he is, exactly?” I inquired.

Deborah laughed.

“These are the imperative questions,” she said. “Yeah. If you can get his favorite lay, too, there’s a good one. Best orgasm story.”

“I doubt his best orgasm has been on-film,” I quipped. “I mean, porn is technically work.”

“Then in a relationship! I don’t really care. I just want the details and we can Jane Doe or John Smith the rest.”

“Gotcha,” I nodded. “I’ll keep it professional. I’ll keep it sexy.”

While still focusing on the fact that he was now looking to step away from the Adult Industry. Maybe he wouldn’t want to talk about anything sexual. He possibly wouldn’t. Maybe he’d find it offensive – like a strain on his shirt that he was hoping nobody would notice, or an unruly cowlick.

Deborah scurried off in the direction of her next to-do, and I shook my head, a common mind-reset practice of mine. Like one of those Etch-A-Sketches.

Elijah Mattox, who are you, sir?

My fingers lingered on the keyboard, hesitant. I pressed my lips together, gave another heavy sigh, and then began typing. Twenty-minutes later, I had produced something palatable. Questions sure to please Deborah, keeping it sexy, keeping it professional, keeping it to the point: Elijah, the whole person. Not just the lead in I Didn’t Know She Was Your Mom: Anal Edition.

I sent the email off. As soon as I hit send, my pocket vibrated. It was also a known fact about myself that I wore pants loose enough to permit for large pockets. I hated purses. I had one, of course, but it contained mostly my wallet, a few old receipts, loose change and three Chap Sticks. I hated fishing for my phone, or taking the time to search for anything, really. Pockets simplify. It’s a beautiful thing.

The text was from Charlie, my roommate.

Charlie: Important. Come to the shop immediately. Consider this urgent.

The shop, as it were, was the bakery Charlie worked at. It was infamous for its cupcakes and house-brew. It also offered a wide array of customized-confectionary.

I clicked my tongue, typing out a response.

Me: At work. Will stop by after.

Charlie’s reply was instant.

Charlie: THERE’S A DICK CAKE HERE. YOU NEED TO SEE THIS.

Charlie: BAILEY.

Charlie: I KNOW YOU AREN’T WORKING. YOU HAVE THE WORST WORK ETHIC OF ANYONE I KNOW. HOW DID YOU EVEN GET THAT JOB?

Calendar Editor, and through an excellent referral at university. It was more of an administrative role, entry-level, truth be told. I worked on the weekly calendar of events for the publisher. This was, officially, my first stint doing an actual interview. My first written-piece, scored through the fact that I just so happened to be replacing the original auteur, who was on Maternity Leave. Everyone else was swamped. This was my one chance, and it had to be good.

My phone vibrated again.

Charlie: THAT WAS MEAN. I LOVE YOU.

I tossed the phone into my purse with a soft thud, forgetting my pocket sentiments. Somewhere out there – that somewhere actually being a bakery in East LA – a Dick Cake existed, which apparently was a must-see. Akin to the Seven Wonders of the World. The Pyramids, or Stonehenge. A Dick Cake. Enough said.

The bakery smelled like burnt blueberry scones and buttercream. Baristas were pouring coffee from French Presses, their hair in updos – even the guys. Long hair was a thing here. They served pastries on small ceramic plates depicting clever quotes and tiny paintings of animals or flora, and espresso, tea, coffee from plain paper cups. No lids. Names were scribbled on the side hastily in black ink. One time I was Bali. Another time I was Bobby. I’ve been Bailie, Baley, and SO CLOSE – Baile.

Charlie was at the counter, grinning ear-to-ear.

“You best not be wasting my time,” I told him. “I’ve got an interview to prep for.”

“Oh, since when do you prepare for anything?” his tone was joking. He was an asshole, but a loving one. “I’ve got a date I should be grooming for, but I’m here, slaving away for the corporate giants.”

“This place is a family-owned. There is literally no other Pastries & Coffee in Los Angeles, or anywhere for that matter. Also, great business name. To the point.”

“Whatever. My pubes look like my dick has a bad perm.”

I shot a quick look over my shoulder to make sure he wasn’t blabbering to listening-ears. Etiquette Police. The shop was quiet, with only a few sitting by the windows, lightly chatting, drinking their drinks and eating their croissants or danishes or tiny, adorable tea cakes.

“Who is it this time?” I asked. “Also, where is this aforementioned Dick Cake that you insisted I come here and see?”

He motioned for me to follow him behind the counter, into a small back-room. The counter was covered in frosting (I might have tasted it – vanilla marscapone) and cake scraps. A squat fridge sat in the corner, holding the awaiting custom orders.

I stole a cake scrap and popped it into my mouth. Ginger-lemon. Score.

Charlie carefully pulled the cake from the fridge, resting it on the counter. We both took a step back, just looking at it. Taking it all in.

There it was. Indeed a cake, shaped like a giant dick. Pubes and all.

“Well, shit, you weren’t kidding,” I muttered, candidly in awe. “Who is this for?”

Charlie shrugged. “Don’t know. But the inside is almond and there’s a chocolate-ganache filling. I wouldn’t mind a slice of that D.”

“You are the worst,” I said. He slid the cake back into the fridge, and we walked back out to the storefront. “I’ll take a coffee, black, and a Bear Claw. And tell me about this date.”

“Their name is Sacha. Pronoun: they. Likes watercolor, wearing combat boots, and The Aquabats. Most importantly, DTF.”

“DTF,” I said. “What, are we still in high-school?”

“They literally said it,” Charlie said defensively, whipping out his phone. There it was, a text from Sacha, reading: whatever you want to do. I’m DTF. “Besides, I’m not expecting anything. Just hopeful. Really hopeful. If not, we’ll enjoy the extended version of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King celibately, and I’ll enjoy my blue balls.”

“Follow your bliss,” I told him, taking my coffee and pastry. “Just be safe about it.”

“And you watch out for tall men in sunglasses,” he replied. “Behind you, Bailey. Oh God.”

I turned, completely oblivious, and knocked straight into said Tall Man in Sunglasses.

The sharp sunlight cast shards through the window, and in the brightness I couldn’t really make out his face, but I knew he was grinning. Grinning and soaked in hot coffee. Hot coffee that I had spilled, all over him, because of course I did.

“Ohmygod,” one word. I chocked. “I’m so sorry! Do you want a napkin? No, a towel. I could get you a towel.”

Charlie tossed a rag over the counter, and Tall Man grabbed it with an acknowledging nod.

“It’s fine,” he said, blotting the fabric. “Trust me. It’s a shirt. I have others. Besides, this isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with a spill.”

“Oh.”

Great reply, Bailey.

“Me either,” I stuttered. “I spill stuff all the time. I’m pretty much a walking mess.”

He laughed. I tried to find his eyes behind the sunglasses, but I couldn’t.

“You’re a little weird, aren’t you?” he said, placing the rag on the counter. “Like one of those girls who wasn’t very popular in high-school because they preferred wearing a Harry Potter house robe instead of normal clothes, and hung out in the teacher’s lounge, and watched BBC at home with your cat.”

“What the fuck kind of person says that to a complete stranger?” I snapped. “You don’t know me, dude.”

Tall man laughed.

“You’re right, dude,” he said. “So tell me, what house are you?”

“Hufflepuff.”

“Of course you are,” he said, and then: “I’m a Slytherin.”

“Bullshit.”

“I have a Sorting Hat on my keychain. Here, look:” he pulled his keys out of his pocket, and there it was. It glinted in the sunlight. “See? Guys can watch BBC at home with their pets, too.”

I studied him. Dark hair, obviously fit. Even though it was a wretchedly hot day outside, he wore a black T-shirt and gray hooded sweatshirt, so I couldn’t quite see his body. I tried to fill in the spotty imagery in with my imagination: sinewy, strong, not an ounce of fat. He didn’t look like a guy that ate carbs. No bagels. No muffins. No Bear Claws, obviously. What a miserable life.

His smile was coy. His lips pulled at the corners teasingly. From over the counter, Charlie was on his phone, unphased. The shop had emptied; the afternoon lunch drizzle having dried up.

“Enjoy your afternoon,” he said. There was a distinct conclusion to his tone. The conversation was over. A sense of tension hung in the air; I was intrigued at how someone, with a simple three words, could be so commanding and yet apparently had a nerdy streak.

How nerdy? I wondered briefly. Like, cosplay nerdy?

“You too,” was all I could say. I didn’t bother asking for another coffee. I could feel the paper bag wrinkle in my fist, still holding my pastry. My stomach grumbled. “See you around.”

I wouldn’t, of course. He was just a passerby. I decided it was best to leave.

From behind me, as my hand touched the door, I could hear his brief banter with Charlie: light, nonchalant. And then, as if by some stroke off magic, he said:

“Just here to pick up an order. I’m the Dick Cake Guy.”

I smiled inwardly, pure satisfaction: like the first pop of a pretzel bite into your mouth. Buttery, delicious, so unhealthy but oh-so good.

See you never, Dick Cake Guy.

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Audiobook Blog Tour ‘n’ Review – Past & Present

Audiobook Series Tour: Marketville Mysteries by Judy Penz Sheluk

Author: Judy Penz Sheluk

Narrator: Kelli Lindsay

Series: Marketville Mysteries, Book 2

Publisher: Judy Penz Sheluk

Released: Apr. 8, 2019

Genre: Mystery

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present. It’s been 13 months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother 30 years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what’s next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone – least of all Callie – could have predicted.

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Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including Live Free or Tri and The Best Laid Plans, which she edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

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Narrator Bio

Kelli Lindsay’s versatile style and years of experience with commercial, corporate and e-learning projects have created a dream career for her. She has lent her talents to TV, radio, video games, and various other fantastic projects, but she proudly admits that her true passion is narrating audiobooks. Her professional training has taught her how to put herself into the script or audiobook and deliver an incredible performance. With her professionalism and love for what she does, Kelli ensures that her clients and listeners get to hear exactly what they’re looking for!

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Another great mystery featuring Callie Barnstable, now running her own investigations business – Past & Present.
Picking up with Callie a year or so after she was left the family home in Marketville by her father on the condition she find out who killed her mother, Callie is selling up and moving to a new location to run her business with her friend, Chantal, a genealogist.
With Misty – the psychic from book one – also on board, the team set up a website to attract business, and indeed it is Misty’s tarot card reading together with a recommendation from another friend that gets them their first case: to find out more about Annaliese Pree who was murdered in 1956 and her husband Horst was imprisoned as her killer.
it seems straightforward enough, until connections to Callie’s own family – her mother’s estranged grandparents – adds an extra touch of spice, intrigue and mystery.
The story flows at a gentle pace, the research carried out by the team is well-explained, and outside of the investigation Callie’s personal life is boosted by developments in her relationship with former Snapdragon Drive neighbour, Royce.
The truth about Annaliese’s murderer provides a nice twist, although it seems quite obvious early on who the killer is. Despite that, it is interesting to see how Callie gets to that conclusion herself.
The ending provides scope for another case, one I’ll be sure to check out.
Having listened to both audiobooks in the Marketville Mystery series, I did prefer the narrator of the first book as I felt she better portrayed the different characters with a greater clarity. Overall I’d give this 4.5 stars, rounded up based on the quality of the story.

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Audiobook Blog Tour ‘n’ Review – Skeletons in the Attic

Audiobook Series Tour: Marketville Mysteries by Judy Penz Sheluk

Author: Judy Penz Sheluk

Narrator: Claira Jordyn

Series: Marketville Mysteries, Book 1

Publisher: Judy Penz Sheluk

Released: Jul. 31, 2017

Genre: Mystery

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there.

Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville – a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder.

Callie’s not keen on dredging up a 30-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic? Find out.

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Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series. Her short stories can be found in several collections, including Live Free or Tri and The Best Laid Plans, which she edited. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at http://www.judypenzsheluk.com.

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Narrator Bio

Claira Jordyn is an on-camera and voice over actress based in New York City. She can most recently be heard on a variety of television and radio commercials encouraging you to ski in Colorado, shop at Old Navy and also to try a particularly popular makeup brand this holiday season. She can also be heard reading countless books including Opaque, The Endless Horizons Sagas and an upcoming retelling of children’s fairytales. She lives just north of New York with her husband and super mutt Junebug, loves telling stories for a living and is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do that every day.

 

Callie (Calamity) Barnstable has a problem. And it’s not merely an addiction to cocoa butter lip balm!
Her father has just passed away, naming her as his only beneficiary. That, in itself is not unexpected; she’s an only child and her mother left the scene years ago when Callie was only six.
Callie’s father never spoke much of her mother during her childhood or since, and Callie hadn’t given her mum’s disappearance much thought either.
So, when her father’s will stipulates she move back to her childhood home – to a house she didn’t realise her father still owned – Callie is more than surprised, to say the least. Yet, the surprise doesn’t end there. Her father wants her to find out who killed her mother! Until that point, Callie had never heard any mention of her mother being killed. So what exactly was her father thinking?
The story develops at pace as Callie moves into her new home and meets the neighbours and previous tenants (the house had been rented out by her father).
Each person that comes into Callie’s life from thereon, has something to say about her parents’ relationship – or they know someone who knew them.
Callie is drawn into a world of secrets and cover-ups, affairs and separations. Conflicting information makes her wonder who to trust, but amidst the sleuthing she finds new friends as well as some unwelcome relatives.
The sleuthing is quirky and interesting, relying on old microfiche records of newspaper articles, objects hidden under carpets, not to mention the very specific tarot cards. I found the story flowed well and with short chapters, I was already ready for “just one more”.

This was the first full-length audiobook I’ve listened to in a long time. The narrator did a great job at conveying Callie’s thoughts as she questioned those around her.
As for the story, I felt there were a few events that were left hanging – whether they’ll be resolved in a future story, who knows? I hope so, I’d like to hear more of Callie’s adventures in Marketville.

I received a free copy of the audiobook as part of the AudioBookWorm blog tour, and have reviewed this voluntarily.

Q&A with Author Judy Penz Sheluk
  • Do you believe certain types of writing translate better into audiobook format?
    • I believes it completely depends on choosing the right narrator. I have a collection of three short mystery stories that comes in at about an hour. Kate Tyler narrates that and she does a great job, absolutely nails it. But as much as I enjoyed working with her—she’s a complete pro—and loved her narration of Live Free or Tri, she didn’t have the right voice for Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, the protagonist in my Marketville mystery series. Find the right narrator, and any book will be a good fit for audio. After all, just like traditional readers, audiobook listeners have a variety of interests.
  • Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing?
    • Not initially, no, in fact, when I first started writing I never thought any of my books would end up on audio. However, when we were recording (narrator Kelli Lindsay) A Hole in One, book 2 in my Glass Dolphin mystery series, Kelli pronounced Graham Gilroy as “Gram Gilroy.” I’m from Canada (Toronto area) and here Gram is short for Grandma…we say Gray-ham. I consulted with fellow members of Sisters in Crime and discovered this is very much a regional thing. Some parts of the U.S. say Gray-ham, and others, like California, say Gram. Because the book is set in Canada, Kelli switched to the Canadian pronunciation.
    • Fast forward to writing A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in my Marketville mystery series, and I have my protagonist, Callie, entering a foyer. Now, in Canada we say Foy-eh, but I know from watching house hunting shows set in the U.S. that Americans say Foy-ur. To avoid another Gram/Gray-ham situation, I switched it to “Callie entered the front hallway.”
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • All of my books are loosely inspired by real life events, emphasis on the loosely. The idea for Skeletons in the Attic came to me while I waited with my husband, Mike, in our lawyer’s office in Newmarket, Ontario. We were there to update our wills, and our lawyer’s goldendoodle kept us company while our lawyer was detained at court. The opening scenes of the book are culled directly from that experience: While Mike spent the time reading back issues of Bicycling Magazine, I started thinking… “What if I was here, not to update my will, but to inherit…what if there were strings attached…what if I inherited something I had no idea had existed…what if that something was a house in a small town called…Marketville.” I started scribbling notes down (I always keep a notebook and pen in my purse) and by the time our lawyer arrived I had finished chapter 1.
    • In the case of Past & Present, the inspiration came from a train case found at the back of my late mother’s clothes closet. I’d never seen the documents inside—her immigration papers from 1952, an old passport, her mother’s death certificate, among other things—made me want to delve into a past she’d pretty much kept to herself. Before long, that research became Callie’s research. The book is dedicated to the memory of my mother, Anneliese Penz, and there is a character in the book named Anneliese Prei, who was murdered in 1956 in Toronto, after immigrating to Canada in 1952. Prei was my mother’s (my grandmother’s) maiden name, something I learned for the first time from the death certificate in that train case. A personal aside: Skeletons in the Attic was the last book my mother read.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • Burn-out is what I felt working in a 9-5 corporate world, mostly in management positions. In 2003, I walked away from that life and started to work as a freelance journalist, which eventually led to Senior Editing positions for several different magazines. In 2012, I went to a writing conference as a reader and came away knowing I had to write a book; the result was The Hanged Man’s Noose (published July 2015 in print/ebook and in Nov. 2017 in audio). My writing journey hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve never looked back. There’s something magical about creating a world, living in it for weeks and months, and knowing when to write THE END. By the time I do that, I’ve already got an idea or two for another book.
  • If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
    • I’ve been told that this series would adapt well to film, so I love this question. In Skeletons in the Attic, Callie is 36, so perhaps Evangaline Lilly, who is also Canadian. Kate Hudson would make a great Chantelle Marchand, Callie’s best friend and, in Past & Present, her business partner. But wouldn’t it be fun if the role of Callie became a breakout for an actress hoping for the perfect part. Let’s put that thought out there in the universe: The Marketville Mystery Movie Series. I do like the sound of that!
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • There’s an old saying: You can’t judge a book by its cover. You also can’t judge a person because they choose to listen to a book, for whatever reason, instead of reading it. Even when it comes to “real reading” people have different preferences: hardcover, large print, paperback, e-book…as an author, I’m delighted if someone enjoys what I’ve written, regardless of format.
  • In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
    • I’ve written two series (Marketville and Glass Dolphin mysteries), and zero standalones, though I am working on a standalone. The pros of a series is you create a world and then keep adding to it, so it becomes familiar, not just to the author, but to the reader. The cons are exactly the same: it becomes familiar, meaning the author must allow the characters to grow and age. A standalone can be freeing…everything is shiny and new and you don’t have to worry if your character suddenly does something completey out of character (in the way you would with a series) because no one really “knows” that character yet. The con is that from a marketing perspective, there’s no one following the series, or waiting for the next book in the series. Because there is no expectation, it’s easy to put the project aside for another day.
  • What’s your favorite:
    • Food: cheese pizza, but any non-meat topping pizza will make me smile
    • Song: Bulletproof by Jim Cuddy
    • Book: Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery, which I first read as a young girl, and is one of the few books I’ve read more than once.
    • Television show: Gilmore Girls
    • Movie: The Sting (tied for second, Primal Fear and The First Wives Club)
    • Band: Blue Rodeo
    • Sports team: Toronto Maple Leafs though I’ve recently hopped on the Raptors bandwagon
    • City: Toronto
  • Are any of those things referenced in appearance in your work?
    • Callie loves pizza, though she orders it with hot peppers and extra sauce. I mention Blue Rodeo and Jim Cuddy in my Glass Dolphin series. And there’s a scene in A Hole in One, book 2 in my Glass Dolphin series, where Arabella recites lines from The Sting. That’s an old movie, but it holds up. If it was re-released, as is, it would still be a runaway hit. Great cast, great writing.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • I always answer this question with a quote from Agatha Christie: “There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.”

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Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – The Finest Supermarket in Kabul

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R&R Book Tours Proudly Presents: The Finest Supermarket in Kabul, a fascinating novella inspired by true events!

Finest Supermarket in Kabul - cover image

The Finest Supermarket in Kabul

Publication Date: Oct. 30th, 2017

Genre: Novella/ Terrorism/ Inspired by True Events

Kabul, Afghanistan January 28, 2011.

Merza, a freshly minted Parliamentarian receives ominous threats after he wins his seat. Alec, an American journalist, flies from Kandahar without his editor’s permission to chronicle daily life in the capital. Elyssa, a Canadian human rights lawyer in Kabul to train female magistrates, is distracted by unwanted attention from a male justice. On this grey, wintry Friday, all three are embroiled in a dramatic and savage bombing. Inspired by true events and places, The Finest Supermarket in Kabul follows Merza, Alec and Elyssa as their idealistic and visionary hopes for Afghanistan are deeply challenged in the aftermath.

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Excerpt

Alec:

I’ve been in Kabul for just under twenty-four hours. I flew in yesterday from Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, after a heated argument with my editor earlier in the week during which I suggested a temporary reassignment to Kabul. Eric demanded I stay in the south for another three-week stint embedded with a US platoon. According to him, my stories from the US outpost were gripping and getting positive reactions from readers. Certainly, the embed was riveting – my first time moving around with US platoons – and gave me stories I couldn’t otherwise have written: intense firefights on a patrol, the evacuation of a wounded soldier, discussions about post-traumatic stress disorder, and fortifying against ambushes. But after three months of only covering action on the front line, I felt my outlook had started to skew by living and breathing the life of an American soldier. The longer I stayed in Helmand, the harder it was becoming to be okay with just telling one side of the story, as opposed to the broader picture. It was when I began saying “T-Ban” instead of Taliban that I knew I needed to get out. Meanwhile, Eric kept insisting that front-line coverage was our best news feature and refused to accept my other ideas, no matter how vigorously I pushed.

So I travelled to Kabul of my own accord to regain some perspective. I figure I’ll hold out an olive branch to Eric later, a magazine-length piece about how local ex-combatants are using the continuing conflict to their advantage. From fellow journalists, I’ve heard about former warlords, their identities and deeds well known, who’ve built massive houses painted in vivid carnival colours in the centre of Kabul and are living the high life, seemingly without repercussion. Interviews with a few of them, along with regular ex-Taliban fighters who got away from the fray, will form the story’s core; here and there, I’ll filter in views from ordinary people. I’m pretty sure Eric will go for an article with a military focus, even if it’s set in Kabul. Plus, he and I go way back, having both started out at the Chicago Tribune after studying at Columbia College Chicago fifteen years ago. If things go completely awry, I’ll hightail it back to Helmand.

I had my initial foray into Afghanistan’s real world yesterday morning. As I entered the plane bound for Kabul, I saw rows and rows of Pashtun men with long beards and turbans or woolen, round-topped hats with thick edging. My heart skipped a beat, as Pashtuns were the ethnic group that had birthed the Taliban, and I wondered if any were Taliban fighters. No one here would protect me from danger, and my visit wasn’t even sanctioned by my boss.

A familiar blast of adrenaline rushes through me.

Jakob stamps out his cigarette and leaps up while I gather my coat and Tish’s things under my arm. We race for the door. Ahead, I see Ben still on his phone but can’t hear him. As news of the explosion circulates, the room’s noise level surges and nervous energy grips the space.

We pick Tish up at the entrance and rush through the security gates, easily retrieving our various IDs and my passport as Ben advises that he’s called for a taxi to pick us up and that Masood, his interpreter, will meet us there.

After three minutes of energetic conversation about what we’ll find at the Finest, the four of us pile into the black Toyota Corolla that has pulled up. Sitting on the raised middle seat in the back, I have to duck my head to glimpse the street scene outside. It looks calm and oddly sedate considering what we know has just happened. Fortunately, traffic is far less jammed than on our morning’s walk over from the Safi.

We’re silent; our initial eagerness to cover this story has given way to an unpleasant realization that we will soon be confronting the bomb’s aftermath of chaos, destruction and injury. Jakob has already explained that the Finest is a convenience store that stocks expensive Western products like Nutella and peanut butter, so almost no Afghans ever shop there. An expat target, then, I ponder.

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About the Author

Ele Pawelski has lived in Afghanistan, South Sudan, Bosnia, Kenya, Uzbekistan and Kosovo. She has climbed in the Himalayas, walked the Camino and hiked in Newfoundland.

Now living in urban Toronto with her husband, she’s always planning for her next travel adventure.

Her stories have appeared in magazines, journals and newspapers. The Finest Supermarket in Kabul is her first novella.

Ele Pawelski

My Review

This is a fascinating read all centred around one very ordinary day – until something extraordinary happens. Three characters continue with their everyday life, until an explosion at the Finest Supermarket stops them in their tracks. The story focuses on their reaction to the event, and how the aftermath impacts upon them.

Merza is up first. he has just been elected to parliament, and is full of optimism for change, at the same time frustrated by the stranglehold placed upon the pace of change by the governing party. His family has reacted differently to his new position – his parents wary and seemingly disinterested, whether out of fear or because of the attention his new role brings to them. His sister, on the other hand, is excited for him. This nicely shows the changing attitude of a generation towards change. It inspires hope for a better future.

Next up is Alec, a reporter who has just abandoned his job as a military reporter to get some greater insight into how life is for people living it outside of the US forces’ field of vision. He mixes with other journalists, most younger and more daring than he is now – but that’s as a result of a ‘been there, done that’ attitude. That said, he really wants to find a great story to convince his boss that he was right to pursue his own version of AWOL. His encounters make for an interesting read.

Last up is Elyssa, whose role is to train female magistrates in Kabul, a job which suggests change is afoot but is not really given much attention as her story focuses on a social gathering and whether people will be able to attend. For me, this last story lacks the intrigue of the other two. When the story then ends with several lose ends, it leaves me wondering if a sequel is in the offering. Well, if there were such a thing, I’d be up for reading more about this. Absolutely!

The author presents Kabul and its inhabitants with details that get to the heart of the city,reminding us that real people have real lives here. I certainly have a renewed fascination for the human story after this, after all, these are the stories that touch us, inspire us and give us hope.

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Oct. 1st

Reads & Reels – Review

Cup of Toast – Interview

The Reading Mermaid – Excerpt

Where Dragons Reside – Excerpt

Oct. 2nd

Loving Life Every Day – Excerpt

The Bookworm Drinketh – Excerpt

Tranquil Dreams – Review

Oct. 3rd

The Voluptuous Book Diva – Excerpt

Didi Oviatt – Excerpt

Valerie’s Musings – Excerpt

Oct. 4th

The Genre Minx – Excerpt

Just 4 My Books – Review

Oct. 5th

Bri’s Book Nook – Excerpt

On the Shelf Reviews – Excerpt

Jessica Rachow – Review

My Baby, My Books, and I – Review

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art · book blitz · book excerpt · murder mystery · must-read · psychological suspense · summer reading

Book Blitz – Death in Vermilion

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When you’re packing up your sunscreen and towel, make sure to add Death in Vermilion to your bag, because this is the perfect Summer read!

Death in Vermillion Cover.jpgDeath in Vermilion

Publication Date: April 16th, 2018

Genre: Murder Mystery

A psychological mystery about art and obsession…

Artist Leila Goodfriend is laying down the bones of a painting. When she’s interrupted by Iris, the noisy, unlikeable artist in the studio upstairs, Leila is distracted and annoyed.

When Leila discovers the racket was actually Iris’ dead body hitting the floor, she becomes obsessed: Who murdered Iris?

The other Red Barn Cooperative artists—competitive, jealous and hypocritical—are prime suspects. They all hated Iris. “An artist owes his life to his art,” Iris said.

Iris was good for a laugh. But no one is laughing now.

In this gripping mystery, new author Barbara Elle paints a clever, twisted picture of women and sisters, whose lives are entwined by a brutal murder in a charming Cape Code town.

Alibis fall apart. Plot twists multiply. And Leila comes to a dangerous conclusion.

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Excerpt

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Chapter 1

Bellies and Strips

There was no glance more cutting or cruel. The narrowing of unsympathetic eyes a shade of cool, blue slate, like Dylan’s on the cover of Highway 61 Revisited. The imperceptible flare of nostrils, followed by a slow yoga exhalation in Savasana, the corpse. It wasn’t going well.

Leila Goodfriend was laying down the bones of a painting. She took a step back from her easel. A no-name clam shack clung fearlessly as a barnacle to the edge of the old East End pier. A forlorn wooden structure, barely bigger than a Punch & Judy puppet stage, had withstood the fierce winds whipping off the water in the dead of winter. The pier was deserted. Anyone could paint a sunny day.

After outlining the shack in ghostly charcoal strokes, she stood, hand on hip, poised with a palette loaded with ultramarine and cobalt blues for the sky, sap green for foliage, a transparent manganese blue hue for waves in the water, Van Dyck brown for the pier’s planks and Naples Yellow Hue for sunlight. Flake white blobs dabbed in the foreground could be gulls, or children, or discarded clam containers. She hadn’t decided which. Leila loved that shack, the rough pier, and the view of dotted Race Point Lighthouse off the distance. Painting was all about execution, feeling a connection to the subject, the composition, the angles of light. Though local artists mostly painted popular summer scenes of boats and beaches.

That’s what the summer birds, vacationers who nested in the Cape Cod dunes from June until the end of August, bought. Her husband Joe dubbed them the dorks of summer. Leila didn’t care what unflattering name Joe had for them, or whether the summer birds cared as much about this place she called home as she did. She wanted to sell them a painting capturing what she loved about this place.

If she was lucky, and painting was largely a matter of luck, random strokes on the canvas would become a painting, At the Clam Bar: Succulent Bellies and Strips. If one of the summer birds bought her painting, she’d be happy. Even the most dedicated of artists needs affirmation sometimes.

A loud whacking thump overhead jarred Leila rudely from her thoughts; the thud traveled like a jolt of electricity down her spine Immediately, Leila knew the disturbance, of course, was Iris. Iris again. Always Iris. Of the six other artists who called the Red Barn home, her studio had to be, unfortunately, overhead.

And inevitably, as Iris worked, the creaking old floorboards quaked under her relentless assault with her flapping Birkenstock sandals.

Leila complained about Iris to Joe more than once, actually almost every day. It was impossible for someone who barely grazed five feet could make so much noise. Iris could be quiet if she tried, she’d say. She was inconsiderate. She was pompous. “Art,” Iris would say, “has a life of its own and an artist owes his life to his art.” Quoting Iris was good for a laugh.

If Iris bothered her so much, Joe would say, why keep talking about it? Why not rent a different studio? That would make sense, except Leila loved her space, had been there for nearly five years, and was lucky to have found it in this touristy town. Besides, she hated giving in to her own annoyance; she’d learn to ignore Iris if it killed her. Maybe, someday, Iris would just float away like a child’s birthday balloon. No such luck; gravity worked overtime with every tread Iris inflicted in her flapping Birkenstock sandals. Leila fought her first instinct, which was to grab the long, telescoping pole by the casement window, stand on a stool and bang her weapon of choice sharply on the lofty ceiling, twice. It wouldn’t work. It never did. Iris would ignore her.

Instead, Leila turned up NPR on the radio. She could drown out Iris with the sound of undemanding human voices on the radio. NPR was excellent company and, when necessary, excellent white noise. The hourly news, a lengthy interview, a personal piece affected in that breathless NPR accent was the perfect antidote for distraction. And the distraction was usually Iris.

Iris McNeil Thornton was a fellow member of the Red Barn Art Cooperative at Castle Road, which was housed in the happily dilapidated Red Barn Studio. It was high on a hill, overlooking Pamet Marsh, close enough to spy the flights of blue herons and egrets wheeling through the Aliziran Crimson sky, the sun an orb of Cadmium Yellow falling into the salt marshes from her window.

Among the Red Barn’s many charms were the old building’s quirky twists and turns, the sizeable studio spaces with high ceilings from its former life as the Southwind Bros. Button and Snap factory. Leila loved the patina on the old, uneven oak floorboards, the room secreted under the stairwell, doors that jammed and staircases that creaked.

But it was the heady mix of gesso, turp, linseed, pigments, primer, developers and emulsions, the fat smell of oil layered with acrylic resin and a faint dash of watercolor, an acrid, chemical concoction heady in the nasal passages, smells as familiar as the scent of a baby, that made it home.

Not that the Red Barn was without its problems. The daily irritations of artistry and intimacy meant the Red Barn artists were often less than happy. And when the Red Barn artists were less than happy, which occurred as frequently as the tides, they would reach for anything on hand ⎯ brooms, clogs, slammed doors, sighs in the hallways, post-it notes on the bulletin board, giggles behind a back, and any combination thereof ⎯ to convey their displeasure. Under other circumstances such communications might be considered rude, but the Red Barn operated by its own set of rules.

It wasn’t that the Red Barn, a collective space of otherwise solitary individuals, didn’t have its share of fellowship and communal spirit. Sometimes it was nice to see a friendly face.

But, recently, their friendships had been called into question by a series of items gone missing, small stuff, seemingly at random, from their studios, Daklon paintbrush, a can of gesso, and unused tube of paint and a half-used tube of paint. A box of plastic gloves was now empty; which Leila was sure had been half-full. No

one said theft, not at first. It was more like, did I leave this in your studio? did you find this in the bathroom? I must be a little crazy because I was sure I had it, but as the missing items mounted, minor though they were, so did whispering, suspicion, and an uneasy sense someone, maybe one of them, was a thief.

It made Leila uneasy; maybe someone was invading her studio, without her knowing. She debated whether, like Iris, she should lock her door at the end of the day. But she shook it off as unnecessary paranoia and decided to ignore it.

Leila took a deep breath, brushed back her unruly, graying curls, squinting at her canvas. When she painted, the circling steps of the heavy woman upstairs receded from consciousness, and time was suspended.

The wood planks of the pier were muddied. The perspective wasn’t quite right. The colors weren’t right. Leila waggled the end of her paintbrush like a cigar between her lips. It was a messy habit. She looked down at the black-and-white photo of the shack, not that she had any intention of painting the snapshot, any more than a musician only plays the notes.

Leila picked up her palette knife. Shaped like a small trowel for digging in the dirt, its usefulness came from its versatility in blending colors, creating textural effects, or scraping across the surface of a painting to obliterate an offense. Artists can be rough on their work; Leila was her own toughest critic.

The pier had to go. Leila wielded the knife, scraping hard until she hit the tooth of the canvas. She preferred working on a good, tightly woven cotton duck. It wasn’t an inert surface, so it recovered quickly after Leila’s brief attack. She dabbed a rag soaked in turpentine on the wound. The reconstruction of the pier could wait until tomorrow.

What time was it? Leila lost track of time as she worked. She never wore a watch in the studio.

But if she left too late, Joe would be annoyed his port wine reduction for the seared tuna had broken. It wasn’t the sauce—he could revive with a quick whisk of butter on a low heat—it was her spending more and more time at the studio and coming home later. The sky over Cape Cod Bay was a wistful grey heading into night.

Leila put down her palette knife, turned down her radio, and listened. There was quiet, finally quiet, blissful silence.

Now, at the end of the day, Leila had to steel herself for the most infuriating moment of the day: Iris leaving. The torrential thumps of Iris’ flapping Birkenstocks as she gathered up her belongings, slammed the window, searched for her purse, and slammed her door. The old oak boards were punished as as Iris clomped overhead.

The stomp was followed by the slam. Iris was incapable of doing anything quietly. There was some relief in the slam—it meant Iris was no longer overhead. The Red Barn artists never said good night, pretending not to notice each other’s comings and goings. So Leila didn’t expect Iris to poke her head in, or wave when she passed by. However, the daily drama of the swirling clamor that was Iris, like a performer doing a star turn on the stage, made it impossible not to notice her entrances and exits.

Leila walked to the window. The light of an Indian summer day was fading. Sailboats moored in the bay listed drunkenly. Had the final thump earlier signaled Iris’ departure? Leila walked back to her canvas. She recognized this as the same solitary circling as that of her neighbor overhead. It was ironic, but that didn’t stop Iris from being an annoyance.

She put her tools on her workbench. She should rinse them in turpentine and water in the bathroom at the end of the hall—the brushes would be tackier and difficult to clean after drying overnight. Oh well, she’d deal with that in the morning. Grabbing her backpack, she turned out the lights and closed her door. The hallway was silent. The other studio doors on her floor were closed. No Philomena, no Dové.

But something in the quality of the jarring loud noise earlier somehow made the quiet louder.

The stairs were poorly lit, even after Leila switched on the bare bulb dangling overhead. The whole damn place was a fire hazard. She climbed to the second floor. No Liz, no Gretchen. Later, she couldn’t quite explain why hadn’t she gone home.

The crap fixture in the upstairs hall, that never worked right, was out, as usual. The damn, dusty moose head Iris had mounted above her door stared down dolefully through its blind, button eyes. Its antlers wore a fine coat of dust.

Iris’ door was open a crack, which surprised Leila. Iris worked behind closed, locked doors, all day, every day. The other Red Barn artists left their doors open at least a smidgen, not exactly an invitation, but not a deliberately antisocial act. Iris had no such compunctions.

Leila knocked. Silence. She hesitated. Should she leave Iris alone? She took a few steps back toward the stairs, but turned around. What harm was it peeking inside? “Iris, its only me, Leila. ” No answer. “Iris, are you there?”

Leila stared through the crack in the door. At first, she thought the room was empty, but as her eyes adjusted, Leila made out a shape, or maybe a shadow, in the center of the studio.

The value of the only available light source, through the far window, made it difficult to see. Iris refused to use artificial light. She insisted on painting ‘as the Old Masters had’, that is, only by natural light. For a time, she had painted by candlelight, until the Red Barn got wind of it, banning burning candles before Iris burned the place down.

Leila stared at the shape. It didn’t move. Iris never left her door unlocked. Maybe she’d left something behind and would come back for it. Leila pushed the door open further, venturing into the silent studio, under the disapproving gaze of the mildewed moose, inching towards the shadow.

Iris, who incurred the Red Barn artists’ collective ire by deprecating the work of her fellow artists, neglecting to lock the front door, leaving puddles around communal hall sink, and far worse, as the prime suspect in the ongoing war of toilet squatting accusations, that same annoying Iris, was splayed on the floor, eyes wide open, inert as a tube of sepia.

It was a body. Iris’ body. Later, Leila recalled the body like a dead deer, abandoned on the side of the road after an accident. She remembered noting the color of Iris’ skin, like the underpainting of flesh in a neutral shade—what artists called grisaille, or dead coloring.

Ironically, under the circumstances, the scene is not unlike Iris’ own brooding assemblages: the carnage of death, overripe fruit in silver bowls, bird carcasses on platters, and game animals, fresh and bloodied, trophies of the hunt hung in the background, rendered in the style of the Old Masters.

And later, Leila was vaguely ashamed of her observations, her detachment. But, she thought defensively, isn’t observation was a habit developed over a lifetime?

Tentatively, Leila inched forward, reaching out her hand to touch the body. She yanked it back as if it was submerged in a shark tank. Iris was surprisingly warm, alive warm.

As her eyes adjusted to the low light, Leila saw Iris’ blood was a seeping stain from her flowing blue dress onto the floorboards. The red was the red every paint manufacturer had tried, but failed, to capture in a tube. Brilliant, blood red. But the eyes were dead, even if the heart was beating. Leila’s heart dropped a beat. Fear crept up her throat. Leila had to look away; she couldn’t look at those eyes. Should she call out? Is anyone here? But it was better she was alone, even if it was with a dead body. But, Iris wasn’t alone.

A small figure stood—as if on guard—over the body. Leila bent down to look at it: it was a wooden artist’s mannequin, no bigger than a child’s toy, standing guard over Iris. She recognized him immediately.

Jesus, it was Fred, fucking Fred— Leila, in a fanciful mood, had painted the figure to be anatomically correct, as well as well-endowed—who had gone missing from her studio months ago.

But poor Fred, as an eyewitness to a crime, could have nothing to say. There was no doubt he was Fred, and that he belonged to her. Bending down to pick up her missing mannequin, Leila gazed into his dead eyes. What to do?

In truth, she was both embarrassed by her handiwork, and concerned his presence could be construed as evidence at the scene of the crime; she pocketed Fred and in a sleight of hand he disappeared.

Leila didn’t need Fred to paint the picture. Iris prone. The blood. The burnished wood handle of a knife stuck in an ample left breast. Iris had been murdered. Leila didn’t scream. Leila wasn’t a screamer

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About the Author

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Barbara Elle grew up in Boston, but as an adult became a New Yorker. Barbara loves writing about people and places she remembers, so Death In Vermilion is set on Cape Cod, a place of many memories. She continues collecting memories and places, traveling the world with her touring musician husband, whether exploring Buddhist temples in Beijing, crypts in Vienna or Kabuki Theater in Tokyo, in search of new stories to write about. She invariably packs a notebook and her laptop.

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Blog Tour – The Phoenix Cycle

 

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phoenixcyclefrontcover.pngThe Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise

Publication Date: June 23, 2017

Published By: The Department of Smoke

Genre: Dystopian/ YA/ Sci-Fi

New San Francisco is the last city standing on a world ravaged by storms of ash and debris. The city survived by putting the ideals of the American dream on steroids and inspiring its people to persevere, though they have become ruthless in the process. Its citizens are ruled by the General, who has made sure that his people understand that gentleness and pity have become weaknesses that nature no longer tolerates.

Now Steve and Leslie must choose whether they will apply for the General’s once in a lifetime opportunity to “Rise from the Ashes” and join the Inner Circle that rules the city. If they don’t, they will be damned to spend the rest of their lives in the ghettos of Edingburg, a place where virtual reality has become a government-subsidized addiction.

For Steve, the choice is easy. His loyalties lie with the IRA, a revolutionary army led by a voice only known as “Mom.” They are trying to overthrow the General and free the people of New San Francisco from the cruelties of the City Guard. Steve’s mission is to broadcast a recording of a speech that a famous philosopher died to tell. Many thousands have and will perish to get this message out, but is anyone willing to listen?

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Excerpt

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Every wrist in the stadium beeped. Every boy and girl glanced down at the face of their watch. “00:10” then “:09” then “:08.” Everyone turned their heads to the west. There it was. Right on time, as always. The nightly storm. A wall of blackness had lurched up into the sky, swallowing the setting sun. The hairs on Steve’s neck stood up, urging him to get the hell out
of there.

Instead he grabbed Leslie’s hand, who sat quietly quivering next to him, instinctively pressing her bow into her head for comfort. Steve knew her shaking wasn’t coming from Line’s yelling, the storm, or even the tank pointing at them. Her quivers never came from the barrel of a gun, no, the ragging agony she held within her was the very same thing that pushed him back into the sheets when the sun finally rose—are we going to lose each other?

Leslie’s mind pushed the feeling away for at least another moment. “It’ll be all right,” she whispered. Her brown eyes guided him to the dozens of mortar tubes pointing upward and outward on the vibrant green field and then to the perfect line of churning ash that approached the stands.

“Unity can only be achieved and be maintained when it is the STRONG who come together and fly under one flag! We, like no other in the world, have created a unity that has never broken, has never FLINCHED! When the rest of the world saw THAT—” Line’s long arm pointed at the coming avalanche of black— “They all fell to pieces!”

The earth began to quake as the wall rose over them. Someone screamed. The mortars on the field fired as one at the roiling sky. The blackness spilled over the stadium, then slid over the perimeter of the frizzing wall of static that had encapsulated the field. No Phoenix Cycler had seen—only heard rumors from past Cycle Pref parties—this blackness that was sliding over and them whispering their deaths.

– The Phoenix Cycle: The Best Shall Rise

About the Author

Author Pic

Bob is pretty dope. Firstly, his name is Bob, so…yea. Second, have you seen him rock that suit while in a maximum security prison? Epic.

Yea. That’s Bob. No psychological scarring with that author. Nope. Totally fine.

Gosh he looks good in suits.

Hey Have you read The Phoenix Cycle? He wrote that.

One suggestion before you read it and become one of those fans that leaves him roses by his doormat. Read her slowly. This book is not Twilight. She’s deeper than that. Take your time with her. Show the book you care. Cradle it and make it feel loved. If you do, she’ll be good to you. Go too fast and you’ll have no idea why she’s acting so crazy.

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My thoughts:

I really wanted to read this after seeing the trailer. It struck me as a book I could really sink my teeth into.

However, for me, it was anything but that.  I tried twice, following the author’s instructions to read it slowly, take my time. Unfortunately, there was not enough time in the world to make the book hold my attention.

The beginning was fabulous, engrossing and exciting. I was so hopeful.

Then came the tubes, and the strange announcements. All logic flew out of my window.

On my second attempt, I got further than first time around. Maybe persistence is the key to getting the most out of this book. I just don’t want to see reading as a chore, and as a result had to mark this with a DNF.

Perhaps another day I’ll try again. The premise really was something I was excited about. But, on this occasion, this wasn’t for me.

Recent reviews on Coodreads show many others have thoroughly enjoyed this story.

Guess it proves the old adage that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Try it for yourself – it might be just what you’re looking for.

Giveaway!!!

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The author is giving away 10 print copies (That’s right 10) and 5 Digital copies of his book so make sure you enter as the odds are definitely in your favor! (Runs from May 21st to May 30th)

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Blog Tour Schedule

May 21st

Reads & Reels (Kick-Off Promo)

Just for My Books (Excerpt)

The Lit Cottage (Review)

Adventures Thu Wonderland (Review)

The Midwest Ladies Who Lit (Excerpt)

May 22nd

IAMAGEEKINGGINGER (Review)

Tranquil Dreams (Review)

On the Shelf Reviews (Excerpt)

May 23rd

Didi Oviatt (Excerpt)

The Genre Minx (Excerpt)

The Cozy Pages (Excerpt)

Valerie’s Musings (Excerpt)

The YA Book Divas (Interview)

May 24th

J Bronder Reviews (Review)

Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Interview)

Bri’s Book Nook (Review)

The Cozy Pages (Excerpt)

Wicked Good Reads (Review)

May 25th

Afire Pages (Excerpt)

Port Jerricho (Excerpt)

Touch My Spine Book Reviews (Review)

Life at 17 (Review)

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