Monday, November 20, 2017

When a Stranger Comes... by Karen S. Bell

I was compensated via Fiverr for sharing this post. I only share those titles that I think my readers will enjoy.




When a Stranger Comes

Achieving what you crave can also bring the terrifying fear of losing it. For Alexa Wainwright, this truth has become her nightmare. Born Gladys Lipschitz, the daughter of an unwed Soviet-era Jewish immigrant, her debut novel, A Foregone Conclusion, soared to number one on the bestseller’s list and became an international sensation. The accompanying fame and riches were beyond her expectations. Unfortunately, her subsequent work has yet to achieve the same reception by critics and readers. Yes, they have sold well based on her name recognition, but she dreads the possibility of becoming a mid-list author forgotten and ignored. She vows to do whatever it takes to attain the heady ego-stroking success of her debut. But is she really? 

Witnessing an out-of-the-blue lightning bolt whose giant tendrils spread over the blue sky and city streets below her loft window, Alexa doesn’t realize just how this vow will be tested as she’s magically transported to an alternate reality. In this universe, the characters from her books are given the breath of life and she meets publisher, King Blakemore, who just might be the Devil himself. At first, she shrugs off her doubts about this peculiar publisher and very lucrative book deal offer because the temptation of riches and refound fame is too strong. But all too soon, Alexa realizes she’s trapped in an underworld of evil from which she desperately wants to escape. For starters, she finds herself in an iron-clad book contract that changes its wording whenever she thinks of a loophole. Desperate to get her life back, she devises schemes to untether herself from this hellish existence. She’s also aided by the forces for good who attempt to free her from her fate. However, King Blakemore is cleverer and more powerful than she can begin to understand. Playfully, he decides to give Alexa a second chance to save herself from eternity with him and to be free. He offers her the prospect of a rewrite, as most authors do as part of the writing process. Given this chance, will Alexa make the same choices and the same mistakes again? Alexa is relatable, likable, and vulnerable with a keen sense of humor. Her world is very small because writing is her life and so she is an easy target for entrapment. Her pact with the Devil is an allegory for the evil lurking in our midst. The social decay of modern society with its excessive greed is perhaps brought forth by the darkest forces of human nature.


http://amzn.to/2zVSLCG


Read an excerpt:
Getting up from a high-backed chair placed so that it has a position of prominence is an extremely tall, older gentleman who towers over me even in these heels. He’s elegantly dressed in a black suit of fine fabric and black silk shirt with a bright-red silk scarf tied flamboyantly about his neck. Peeking out from his jacket pocket is a matching red silk pocket square. This is undoubtedly the man fittingly named, King. At first look, his eyes knock me back, as if looking into yellow glowing eyes with vertical pupils like an ancient beast of lore. But then, when I blink they immediately transform and become normal looking but dark and hidden. 
I’m also nonplussed by his uncanny resemblance to the evil characters played by Vincent Price in classic horror films my mother watched obsessively when I was growing up. I always thought it peculiar, but she told me it was a way for her to relax from her studies. So, yes, this guy could easily be a vampire or the Devil himself, with his goatee, pencil-thin mustache and slicked-back black hair the color of shoe polish. He extends his hand in welcome and his ice-cold touch sends shivers up and down my spine. Strangely, as he holds my hand for a moment, a calming, relaxing warmth circulates through me. 
“Please…sit, sit, Alexa,” he says in an indefinable cultured sounding manner with the hint of a British accent and shows me to a quite comfortable-looking armchair in a conversation arrangement with two other armchairs. The chair gives me a sensation like I’m floating on air as we three sit facing each other, King, Jewel, and I. Although there are comforting sensations pulsing through me, I am also on high alert feeling at a disadvantage in this stranger’s domain. 
These opposing feelings throw me off-kilter. Here I sit in his personal space to which I am now privy, as if I were among his intimates, yet I am a total stranger. I would have preferred an office meeting, something more sterile, businesslike. But at least I’m sitting…damn shoes! King crosses his legs and reveals he’s wearing matching red socks and red sneakers. What an odd fellow. Wealthy, but odd.


About Karen S. Bell

I get so much satisfaction in the writing process. I take care to choose just the right word, to make sure each sentence has the right cadence. I appreciate other writers who respect the craft in this way, and I hope my readers do so with me. Writing is a need, a desire for expression, and springs from well within my subconscious mind. Thoughts rise up, scenes rise up and blend in with the over-arching story. These thoughts emerge whenever they want to and wherever I am and probably not when I am at the computer. The computer is for the craft, the technique. The thoughts come during walks, or while driving the car, or at the grocery store. I am the willing recipient of these thoughts and so they seek me out. It's a mystery this business and art of writing and it keeps me enthralled.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Review of The Boyfriend Swap by Meredith Schorr


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The Boyfriend Swap

Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure. Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flaky actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.


http://amzn.to/2iHTvoK

Read an excerpt:
When my mom stood up and brought her dishes to the sink, I allowed myself a small breath. Dinner was almost over. Once my parents retired to their rooms, they’d leave us alone for the rest of the night. Perry could watch television in his room or listen to his music collection. I wanted to call Will and see how things were going with Robyn.

My mom turned away from the sink. “I have an idea. It’s a Wonderful Life is on television tonight. How about the four of us watch it?”

“I’m sure Dad has work he needs to do tonight. Right?” I turned to my dad, certain he’d never choose an old movie over work.

He stroked his chin. “A two-hour break wouldn’t kill me.”

I gripped my wineglass like a vice. What was happening here? I brought home an artist whose resume wouldn’t even qualify him as an actor on the D-list, and not only was my mom encouraging our relationship, but my dad was willing to lose billable time to watch a movie with him—a film all of us had probably seen at least ten times. “I think the movie is three hours long. Besides, Perry has that script he needs to rehearse for an audition. Don’t you, hon?” I widened my eyes at Perry.

Perry nodded. “Cherry’s right.” 
I smiled. Thank God. 
“But it can wait until later.” 
I was going to kill him in his sleep.

**My thoughts**

I admit that I have been in one heck of a reading drought lately. It's not for a lack of reading material. I have that in abundance. I just haven't been into it as much lately. But once I saw the description of this book, I knew I had to read it.

It's full of all those pieces that make a romantic comedy such a joy to read. The characters get themselves into an unbelievable situation that most likely none of us would do in real life. You have two strong, beautiful women and their two hottie men. Then there are the annoying parental situations and the minor chaos that inevitably happen around the holidays.

I think there were moments when I wanted to slap each one of these characters upside the head for saying, thinking, doing something stupid. Sometimes that isn't a good thing, but in this case it was all a part of the whole story working. I was kind of envisioning the Gibbs slap on occasion. That helped me to envision it even more playing out on the big screen. Heads up Hollywood! 

You also pretty much know how this whole story is going to work out. But you don't care. That's part of the fun of rom-coms, especially when Christmas is involved. I even found myself trying to imagine being in that situation. Scary thought considering my dating history! 

One of the things I really liked in this story was how all four of the characters were able to grow in such a short time. Each one was not living up to his/her potential and didn't quite seem to understand who (s)he really was, let alone realizing the truth of his/her relationships with all kinds of people in his/her life. There's more depth than you initially realize. 

And of course there are bonus points for the shoutout to Glenwood Pines in Ithaca, in particular their corn nuggets. Ithaca is one of my favorite places to visit throughout the year and we usually stop at Glenwood Pines on our way home. The corn nuggets are a necessary part of the meal.

So yes, this book was a delightful way to spend an afternoon and left me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Download it and enjoy the comical escape.

 About Meredith Schorr

A born-and-bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to. After trying her hand penning children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing romantic comedy and humorous women’s fiction. She secures much inspiration from her day job as a hardworking trademark paralegal and her still-single (but looking) status. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan, an avid runner, and an unashamed television addict. To learn more, visit her at www.meredithschorr.com.


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Meredith will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.





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Read an excerpt from Abuse of Discretion by Pamela Samuels Young



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Abuse of Discretion


Mystery, Thriller
Date Published: September 2017
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing

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A Kid’s Curiosity … A Parent’s Nightmare

The award-winning author of "Anybody’s Daughter" is back with an addictive courtroom drama that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile criminal justice system.

Graylin Alexander is a model fourteen-year-old. When his adolescent curiosity gets the best of him, Graylin finds himself embroiled in a sexting scandal that threatens to ruin his life. Jenny Ungerman, the attorney hired to defend Graylin, is smart, confident and committed. She isn’t thrilled, however, when ex-prosecutor Angela Evans joins Graylin’s defense team. The two women instantly butt heads. Can they put aside their differences long enough to ensure Graylin gets justice?

Unbeknownst to Angela, her boyfriend Dre is wrestling with his own drama. Someone from his past wants him dead. For Dre, his response is simple—kill or be killed.


Purchase Links


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Excerpt

Chapter 1

Graylin

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”

I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.

Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.

“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”

“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”

I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!

My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.

I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”

“No, there wasn’t a death.”

She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.

Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”

She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!

I slide down in the chair and pull my iPhone from my right pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.

Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.

“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”

“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”

“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”

“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I've already made the call.”

The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?

The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”

Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.

The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.

Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”

“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”

“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”

“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!

“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”

“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”

“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”

I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”

“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”

I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.

“I also made another call.”

At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.

“So you called my granny?”

“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”


Other Books in the Dre Thomas Series:

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Buying Time

Dre Thomas Series, Book 1
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing

Waverly Sloan is a down-on-his-luck lawyer. But just when he's about to hit rock bottom, he stumbles upon a business with the potential to solve all of his problems.

In Waverly's new line of work, he comes to the aid of people in desperate need of cash. But there's a catch. His clients must be terminally ill and willing to sign over rights to their life insurance policies before they can collect a dime. Waverly then finds investors eager to advance them thousands of dollars—including a hefty broker's fee for himself—in exchange for a significant return on their investment once the clients take their last breath.

The stakes get higher when Waverly brokers the policy of the cancer-stricken wife of Lawrence Erickson, a high-powered lawyer who's bucking to become the next U.S. Attorney General. When Waverly's clients start dying sooner than they should, both Waverly and Erickson—who has some skeletons of his own to hide—are unwittingly drawn into a perilous web of greed, blackmail and murder.



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Anybody's Daughter

Dre Thomas Series, Book 2
Publisher: Goldman House Publishing

Is Anybody's Daughter Ever Safe?

Based on the real-life horrors faced by thousands of girls, award-winning author Pamela Samuels Young takes readers deep inside the disturbing world of child sex trafficking in a fast-paced thriller that educates as much as it entertains.

Thirteen-year-old Brianna Walker is ecstatic. She's about to sneak off to meet her first real boyfriend—a boyfriend she met on Facebook. But Brianna is in for a horrifying surprise because her boyfriend doesn't exist. Instead, Brianna unwittingly becomes the captive of a ring of drug dealers- turned-human traffickers who prey on lonely girls from dysfunctional homes. But they’ve made a big mistake in targeting Brianna because she doesn’t meet either of those criteria.

Brianna’s Uncle Dre, a man with his own criminal past, is determined to find the niece who is more like a daughter to him. Rather than sit back and rely on police to bring Brianna home, Dre scours the dark corners of Los Angeles looking for her. He is stunned to learn that the trafficking of children isn’t just happening in other countries. It’s occurring at epidemic levels right in his own backyard.

Dre is not alone in his desperate search. Loretha Johnson knows this world well. A social worker who previously lived “the life,” Loretha now dedicates her time to saving as many young girls as she can find. She turns out to be an invaluable resource for Dre, who ultimately gets a lead on The Shepherd, a mastermind in the trafficking world whose every move is fueled by ego and greed. Dre vows to bring his reign of terror to an end.

While Brianna makes a futile effort to thwart her captors, Dre is getting closer and closer to finding her. The woman he loves, attorney Angela Evans, knows the dangers faced by sexually exploited children because she represents them in juvenile court. Angela lends her moral support and, eventually, an important clue to Brianna’s whereabouts.

As he races against the clock, Dre ultimately comes up with a daring plan—one that puts many lives in danger, including his own. But will he find Brianna before it's too late?




 photo Abuse of Discretion by Pamela Samuels Young set_zpsrv2jcoue.jpg


About the Author


Pamela Samuels Young is an attorney and award-winning author of eight legal thrillers. Her most recent courtroom drama, Abuse of Discretion, tackles a troubling sexting case that gives readers a shocking look inside the juvenile justice system. Pamela is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction for her thriller Anybody’s Daughter. The former journalist received a bachelor’s degree from USC and also earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University and UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of child sex trafficking, online safety, fiction writing, and pursuing your passion. To invite Pamela to a book club meeting or speaking engagement, visit her website

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Read Chapter 1 of Greco's Game by James Houston Turner with Giveaway


This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them, I may earn a small commission to help support my websites. 


Thriller / Suspense / Action / Romance
Date Published: November 1, 2017
Publisher: Regis Books

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Greco's Game

Colonel Aleksandr Talanov – the “ice man” – is married to a woman he wishes he could love. But he can’t, and it’s an ugly consequence of his training with the KGB. Even so, no one should have to experience what Talanov experiences: the brutal murder of his wife in front of his eyes.

Wracked with guilt and suspected of plotting her death, Talanov spirals downward on a path of self-destruction. He should have been killed, not her. He was the one whose violent past would not leave them alone. Months tick by and Talanov hits rock bottom on the mean streets of Los Angeles, where he meets a hooker named Larisa, who drugs and robs him.

But in the seedy world of human trafficking ruled by the Russian mafia, Larisa made the mistake of stealing the ice man’s wallet. In it was Talanov’s sole possession of value: his wedding photo. Talanov tracks Larisa down to get that photo because it reminds him of everything that should have been but never was, and never would be because an assassin’s bullet had mistakenly killed his wife. Or was it a mistake?


The answer lies in Greco’s Game, a chess match played in 1619 that is famous for its queen sacrifice and checkmate in only eight moves. In an unusual alliance, Talanov and Larisa team up to begin unraveling the mystery of what Talanov’s old KGB chess instructor regarded as the most brilliant example of how to trap and kill an opponent. The question is: who was the target?


Purchase Links



Excerpt


CHAPTER 1

TALANOV slowly opened his eyes to the sound of canned laughter. You stupid idiot, he thought, fumbling for the remote. After switching off the TV, he swung his feet down onto the floor and sat hunched over for a long moment. Finally, he stood and looked around the bedroom for his clothes. In the wash of light coming in through the window, he could see them strewn across the floor. He remembered kicking them in various directions when he and “Tash” had giggled their way into the hotel room earlier that night.

Tash sure knew the routine. With legs like a sprinter and hair the  color  of  honey,  the  twenty-something  Ukrainian  had moved up and down him like a pole dancer while slow- waltzing him into bed. Talanov knew it was a set-up long before his head began to spin from whatever it was someone had slipped him back in the nightclub. Even so, he didn’t care. He had quit caring long ago.

He picked up his underwear from a tangle of covers at the foot of the bed. A remnant of what would never be a memorable night of lovemaking. He could still see Tash jumping from the bed in her hot pink g-string, contemptuous at his inability to “do it.” It was always the same, whether with Tash or any of the other hookers he had picked up over the last few months in an effort to try and forget. But try as he did, he could not get Andrea out of his mind.

Memories of that night were still embedded in him like shrapnel. On stage for the award. Waves of applause. Andrea’s sudden urge to lean over and kiss him. Suddenly a shot. An explosion of blood. The brilliant red spatter floating before him like a nightmarish special effect in a movie. And in that split second before his wife hit the stage, Talanov saw movement high on the catwalk. A fleeting shadow making an escape. Then came the shrieks. People scattering. Andrea’s fingers desperately reaching out for him while she lay quivering in a spreading pool of red.

In all his years with the KGB, Talanov had never felt panic.

But he felt it then. Diving to her side, he placed his hands over the gaping holes in her neck. He screamed for help while Andrea’s life continued to squirt through his fingers.  He looked down and saw Andrea’s eyes smiling up at him. She tried to speak.

“Save your strength, help’s on the way,” he instructed, his eyes betraying the confidence he tried to portray.

“Love … you,” Andrea whispered as her eyelids sagged closed.

“Stay with me!” Talanov shouted as the tears streaked down his cheeks. He screamed again for help.

Sitting in the ambulance minutes later, Talanov strained to breathe. But the coils around his chest were crushing, relentless, and cruel. The hope once visible in his eyes had melted into dark puddles of despair. Suddenly, a high-pitched squeal sounded and the paramedics sprang into action. Readings were shouted, drugs were administered, heart massage was commenced. Then came the paddles.

“Clear!” one of them shouted an instant before a jolt of electricity convulsed Andrea’s ghostly white body. The high- pitched squeal did not waver. The paddles were charged again. Talanov did not know how many attempts were made to save his wife before she was finally pronounced dead. He did not remember the hospital waiting room or the questions asked by police, or the young female officer who finally drove him home. Numbness was all that he felt as he lay curled up on the side of the bed where Andrea had fallen asleep on countless nights, wrapped in his arms. 

And numbness was all that he felt now as he stood at the hotel room window, buttoning his shirt.

After staring absently at the lights of West Hollywood for several minutes, he looked toward the nightstand for his watch.

It was nowhere to be seen. With a sarcastic snort, he walked over and picked up his slacks. A wrinkle of worry then creased his brow. My wallet, he thought. It’s gone. He felt his pockets, then turned a full circle, hoping to see it on the floor. He then dropped down onto all fours and searched under the bed.

You little bitch.

Jumping up, Talanov yanked on his slacks, pulled on his shoes and stormed out of the room. Outside, he paused on the sidewalk and tried to remember which way he and Tash had come. He looked right and saw a darkened stretch of asphalt lined with apartment blocks and parked cars. Half a block to his left was an intersection with a traffic light. I remember that light, he thought. He ran to the corner and paused. Which way now? Both sides of the boulevard in both directions were lined with cafés and clubs. Think, he told himself. How far had they walked? A few minutes at most was his recollection. That meant the club was not far away. He remembered its green awning, long and narrow. The kind that stretched out over the sidewalk. With bushes on each side. And black walls, half a block wide, like a warehouse.

He looked right and saw it, a hundred yards or so on the other side of the street. He waited for a break in the traffic and crossed against the light. When the next wave of cars rushed past, he felt a blast of exhaust fumes.

Guarding the front door were two bouncers dressed in black slacks and t-shirts. Flirting with them were several girls in micro skirts. Everyone was laughing. The more muscular bouncer, Gunner, was taller and bald, while the other one, Daz, had a ponytail to the middle of his back. Talanov ignored them and headed straight for the door. Gunner stopped him.

“I need to see some ID,” Gunner said. “You’re kidding. I’m over fifty.”

“Fifty?” blurted one of the girls named Tracy. “I thought you were, like, thirty-something.”  

“Shut up,” snarled Gunner, glaring at Tracy. To Talanov:

“Do I look like I’m kidding?” “Someone inside has my wallet.”

“Not my problem.”

Talanov took a calming breath. He was furious. Tash, or whatever her name was, had stolen his wallet and he wanted it back, assuming, of course, that Tash was inside, which was entirely doubtful. “Ten minutes, that’s all I ask,” he said. “I go in. I look around. I get my wallet and leave. If she’s not there, I leave, anyway. You never see me again.”

“And I’m telling you that’s not going to happen.”

Talanov took another calming breath. This one was not as effective. “I’m not looking for trouble,” he began.

“Then get the hell out of here. Or trouble is going to find you.” According to Gunner, the choice was simple. Leave voluntarily or leave forcibly. And it didn’t seem to matter to Gunner which choice Talanov made. For Talanov the choice was like- wise simple. Was his wallet worth a fight? Logic told him to either forget the wallet or try and work things out peacefully.

He opted for option number two. After all, Gunner was a big guy. He was also twenty, maybe twenty-five years younger. Besides, what were the odds that Tash was inside? His wallet had had nearly two thousand dollars in it. More than likely, Tash was partying someplace else.

Talanov looked at the other bouncer, who was staring at him with unfriendly eyes. The groupies were also watching. Everybody was waiting to see what the old guy was going to do. “Don’t make this worse than it is,” he said. “Ten minutes.
Then I’m gone.”

There was a long moment of silence, almost like a vacuum. Nobody seemed to breathe. Then Gunner’s arms shot forward, the heels of his hands like battering rams aimed straight for Talanov’s chest.  It was a preemptive two-handed blow designed to knock the wind out of Talanov and send him flying into the bushes. A lesson about who was boss.

But Gunner had made the mistake of broadcasting his intentions with a number of subliminal signals. Flaring of the nostrils, tightening of the lips, setting of the jaw, the drawing in of a breath and holding it. So when Gunner’s hands shot out, Talanov stepped to the side, grabbed Gunner’s wrist and twisted it down and back. This forced Gunner to compensate by straightening his arm and bending left in an effort to pull away. That allowed Talanov to twist the outstretched arm behind Gunner. He then used Gunner’s momentum to drive him facedown to the sidewalk in one smooth motion. The whole maneuver took less than four seconds.

Kneeling on Gunner’s back, Talanov lifted the arm in a direction that could easily pop it from the socket. Gunner cried out and Talanov eased off.

“I asked you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, glancing at Gunner then up at Daz. “What’s it going to be?” Daz glared angrily down at Talanov but knew better than to try anything with Gunner’s arms bent backward like that.

Talanov raised an eyebrow expectantly. “Ten minutes,” growled Daz. “But if you cause anyone any trouble – and I mean, anyone – I guarantee you won’t be leaving in one piece.”

Releasing Gunner’s arm, Talanov glanced at Tracy and stood. And with a hint of a smile, he disappeared inside.

“Did you see the way he took Gunner down?” Tracy whispered excitedly to her friends. “Man, he’s like friggin McDangerous! C’mon, let’s go and meet him.”

“What is wrong with you, Decker?” a friend responded, giving Tracy a slap on the arm. “You don’t even know that dude. Know anything about him!”

“Yeah, but he’s, like, totally hot.”

The inside of the nightclub had a high ceiling, exposed truss beams and flexible ductwork, all painted black. On the dance floor, a churning mass of young people gyrated wildly to a deafening blast of music played by a DJ with dreadlocks and sunglasses. Mounted above the dance floor were numerous tracks of colored stage lights that kept time to the music.

There’s got to be three or four hundred people out there, thought Talanov, squinting through the noise at the waves of arms bending back and forth. But he had to start somewhere and the dance floor was the logical place.

Finding Tash, however, was not his only problem. She also had a partner: the person who’d spiked his drink. He’d been in enough nightclubs to know one should never leave a drink unattended. And he had not. So who had spiked his drink? The waitress? One of the bartenders? Someone watching him from the service area? Whoever it was, it was imperative that he spotted Tash before she or her partner spotted him. Which meant he had to work fast.

Threading his way through the crowd, Talanov was grabbed by several laughing girls. Lost in the rhythm of the music, they whirled and swayed enticingly around him while motioning him to join in. Talanov pushed past them and made his way to the end of the bar, where he stationed himself unobtrusively in the slashes of spinning lights. There, he allowed his eyes to systematically comb the dance floor. There were lots of blondes, but none of them was Tash.

Suddenly, on the far side of the nightclub, Talanov saw Daz and Gunner enter the club. Daz spoke into a filament mike positioned near his mouth. Within seconds a large man in a suit approached. Standing a full head taller than either of them, the man looked like a Sumo wrestler, with a buzz cut and folds of flesh creasing the back of his neck. The two bouncers spoke to him briefly, then fanned out to begin sifting their way through the crowd.

So much for getting ten minutes.

To his left was a short flight of steps that led to a mezzanine full of café tables and booths. Talanov waited for a group of young people to climb the stairs and fell in behind them. At the top he stepped to one side and surveyed the room. People were everywhere. At tables, in booths, standing in the aisles. Most were laughing and drinking. Many were sending text messages or talking on their cell phones. Again, lots of blondes but none of them was Tash.

Talanov started back down the stairs, then abruptly reversed direction and excused his way to the top. You’re angry and in a hurry. This time, do it right. Thus, calling on skills learned more than thirty years ago at the Balashikha training center near Moscow, former KGB colonel Aleksandr Talanov stood in a darkened corner and methodically double-checked each face in the room. In less than a minute he saw her, seated with a businessman in a darkened booth.

“We go to quieter place now, yes?” Tash asked the businessman in broken English.

“Get comfortable. Have some fun.” With a seductive smile, she kissed his ear and began stroking his thigh.

“I don’t normally do this,” the businessman replied nervously. He was a florid-faced man in his fifties, with fleshy jowls and thinning hair.

“Me, too,” Tash replied, scooting closer.

“Where are you from, anyway?” the businessman asked, staring into her gothically-shadowed eyes.

“Wherever you want,” answered Tash. Her hand suddenly went higher and the businessman’s eyes widened. “Hurry. Finish drink,” she cooed.

The businessman was gulping the remainder of his mojito when Talanov slid into the booth. “Zdravstvuy te, Tash,” said Talanov in Ukrainian. Tash’s mouth fell open.

“Who are you?” the businessman asked, blinking several times.

“I came for my wallet,” answered Talanov, his eyes on Tash.

“You know, the one you stole?”

The businessman looked at Tash, who shook her head emphatically.

“I think you’ve got the wrong table,” the businessman said.

“Oh, I’ve got the correct table, all right,” answered Talanov. “Tash here slipped something into my drink a few hours ago. And by the look on her face, I can tell she wasn’t expecting me to wake up anytime soon.”

“He is lying, Tom!” cried Tash. “I don’t know who this man is. Or what he is talking about.”

“It’s Todd,” muttered the businessman, glancing at his empty glass.

“Let me out,” demanded Tash.

“Not until you hand over my wallet,” said Talanov.

“She said she doesn’t know you,” responded Todd. “Then how did I know her name?”
Todd started to respond then looked at Tash with a wrinkle of doubt. “How did he know your name?”

Tash replied with a disdainful huff. “I told you, I am model! He see me somewhere.”

 Todd gave Tash a dubious scowl. “Whatever,” said Tash. “Let me out.”

“As soon as I get my wallet,” declared Talanov.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t have your stupid wallet.”

“Let’s just see about that,” said Talanov, grabbing Tash’s tiny pink leather purse.

“Give that back!” cried Tash, lunging for it.

Blocking her hand, Talanov opened the purse and turned it upside down. A tube of lipstick, mascara, two condoms, and a folded wad of cash landed on the table.

Talanov stared at what was not there.

“See, I don’t have wallet,” said Tash, snatching back her purse. “Now, get out of here. Leave me alone.”

A petite Asian waitress named Jade came up the stairs with a tray of drinks. She had blue streaks in her hair and wore bright red lipstick. When she saw Talanov, she placed the drinks on a table, ran back down, and pushed her way through the crowd.

She found Gunner and grabbed him by the arm.

“Not now,” Gunner replied, shaking off her hand while continuing to scan faces in the crowd.

“Upstairs. The Russian guy that was here earlier with Tash. He’s back and he’s causing trouble.”

Gunner stared at Jade for a moment then touched the micro- phone near his mouth. “On the mezzanine. We’ve got him.”

Sliding out of the booth, Todd stood. “I’m calling the police,” he said, fumbling clumsily with his cell phone.

“Go for it,” said Talanov. “When they get here, tell them to run a drug test on your glass. Provided you’re still conscious by then.”

Tash tried scooting out of the booth. Talanov grabbed her by the wrist.

“Hey, wut’re you doing?” said Todd, fumbling his words as much as his phone. “I think you’d bedder leave.”

“You’ve got ten, maybe fifteen minutes before you pass out,”said Talanov while Todd wobbled in front of him. “If I were you, I’d get some help.”

Todd blinked several times but did not move. “Go!” commanded Talanov.

Todd nodded and hurried off.

“Okay, where is it?” Talanov asked Tash, turning to face her. Tash folded her arms and looked defiantly away. Talanov grabbed her by the chin and forced her to look at him.
“For the last time, where’s my wallet?”

Talanov and Tash locked eyes.

“Out back. In dumpster,” she said quietly. Talanov let go and settled back in the booth.
A long moment of silence passed while Tash rubbed her chin. “I want to go now,” she said.

“No driver’s license. No credit cards. No keys.” “What are you talking about?”

“You’re carrying no driver’s license, no credit card, and no keys.”

“So what? Why do you care?”

“That tells me you’re part of something you probably don’t want to be a part of,” Talanov said. “That maybe someone’s holding you against your will. Making you do things against your will.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” “I think you do.”

Tash stared at Talanov for a long moment then looked away. Talanov watched her for a moment. Tash – or whatever her name was – was a pretty girl. A pretty girl with a look of fear in her eyes.

“Sorry for getting so rough,” he said.

Tash gathered her lipstick and mascara and slid them into her purse. She placed her hand on the cash but paused when she saw Talanov watching her. “Here,” she said, sliding the money toward him. “It is all there. Count, if you wish.”

“It was never about the money,” Talanov replied, ignoring the cash and sliding out of the booth.

“Then what is this about?”

“Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left.”

“You do this for picture?” Tash asked incredulously.

“I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

The next few seconds were one of those rare moments when time seemed to linger.  And in that moment, Tash saw Talanov’s anguish. She remembered the photo – a wedding shot – in a plastic window where a driver’s license should have been. The picture was of Talanov and his bride, happy and smiling, holding flutes of champagne on a beach. Tash studied him more closely and saw desperation and a certain “lostness” reflected in his eyes. Her photo. It’s all I’ve got left. No divorced man thinks that way. My God, she’s dead, you’re in mourning, Tash realized. No wonder you couldn’t do it.
By now, Talanov’s thoughts had drifted back to happier times, what few there had been, mainly because he had been unable to love his wife the way she deserved.
Transparency and love – qualities that defined a good marriage – were contrary to what had been hammered into him at Balashikha. Love would get you killed. Or worse: those you loved.

Then the world changed. But Talanov could not change with it. And just when he was beginning to learn how— Talanov noticed Tash’s eyes widen an instant before the room flipped upside down as he crashed hard on top of a table before tumbling head-over-heels to the floor.  Around him, people shouted and ran.

For a long moment, Talanov lay stunned and motionless. What the hell just happened? He opened his eyes and saw Gunner standing over him like an angry bull. Gunner grabbed Talanov and pulled him effortlessly to his feet. When Gunner drew back his fist, Talanov closed his eyes. Do what you want. I’m already dead.

The blow hit Talanov like a freight train and sent white spots exploding through his brain. He floated limp for an instant, then landed on another table before rolling down onto the floor.  In the distance he heard Tash screaming.  Talanov groaned and rolled onto his back. His head was pounding and it hurt to breathe. He saw Gunner push an overturned table out of his way and bear down on him, teeth bared, hands like claws, his neck muscles taut and veined. Gunner took a quick half-step and swung his foot at Talanov’s head. Talanov rolled away and Gunner missed “Leave him alone!” cried Tash. She grabbed Gunner and tried to stop him but he brushed her aside and kicked again. Gunner’s kick was comparable to an extra-point kick in a football game. Full-force after a quick hop, aimed straight at Talanov’s head. That meant one foot was in motion while the other foot supported all of his weight. Talanov swung his leg like a scythe and caught Gunner in the back of his ankle. Gunner’s leg flew out from under him and Gunner hit the floor hard. When he did, the crowd of young onlookers cheered.

Gunner immediately scrambled to his feet just as a winded Talanov struggled to his, one hand holding his ribs, one hand waving back and forth, an indication that he wanted to stop.

“I’m leaving! I got what I wanted!” gasped Talanov.

“You’re leaving, but not in one piece,” growled Gunner just as Daz pushed his way through the circle of spectators, many of whom were recording the action with cell phone cameras.

“There’s no need for this!” said Talanov, looking back and forth between the two bouncers.

“Stop it, Gunner!” yelled Tash. “He got what he wanted. Leave him alone.”

“Shut up, you worthless whore!” shouted Gunner.  He clamped a meaty hand across Tash’s face and shoved. Tash crashed into a table and back-flipped down onto the floor, where she lay crying, legs sprawled, her short skirt hiked up to her waist. Her blonde hair was tangled and her lipstick was smeared. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara.

Talanov saw the crowd laughing as Tash rolled slowly onto her side and looked helplessly over at him. She tried to get up but Gunner pushed her back down and kicked her. Tash tried crawling away but Gunner grabbed her by the hair.

Five minutes ago, Talanov would have been happy to let Tash get what was coming to her. She had drugged and rolled him. She had taken the only item that meant anything to him. She had left him passed out in a hotel room in order to fleece some other guy. And now, here she was, trying to defend him.

 A thieving whore. Why couldn’t she have left well-enough alone?

Gunner lifted Tash to her feet by the hair and drew back a fist just as Talanov slammed one of the aluminum café chairs on the floor. Gunner paused when he heard the noise and saw Talanov fall into the chair. With his head lowered, Talanov sat motionless against the pulsating reflections of light keeping time with the music. Surprised by this apparent act of surrender, Gunner let go of Tash and looked over at Daz. An instant later, they both rushed forward.

Sensing their decision to attack milliseconds before any movement occurred, Talanov grabbed the leg of his chair and sprang left, slinging it straight at Daz, who stumbled backward while trying to wrestle it away from his face. Continuing his pivot, Talanov sank a roundhouse kick into Gunner’s kidney. With a bellow, Gunner stumbled forward. Talanov stepped behind him, seized Gunner by the back of the neck and hammered his forehead onto a table to the crazed delight of the crowd. He then whirled to face Daz while Gunner slid limp to the floor.

Daz picked up a chair and threw it. Talanov grabbed one of the café tables and used it to deflect the chair. Daz hurled another chair, then another, but Talanov used the lightweight table like a shield and sent each of them tumbling to the floor. Daz turned to flee but was stopped by the wall of spectators. Cut off, he turned and charged. Talanov blocked several wild punches, stepped inside and smashed Daz in the jaw with an elbow. He then grabbed Daz by the shirt, twisted inward and flipped him over his shoulder. When Daz landed on his stomach, Talanov grabbed him by the ponytail and slammed his face on the floor.

“I told you not to make this worse than it is,” Talanov said, leaning close.

With his nose dripping blood, Daz swallowed and coughed. Talanov leaned closer. “So I’ll ask you one more time. Are you ready to call this off?”

Daz coughed again.

“Are you?” Talanov demanded.

With his attention focused on Daz, Talanov did not see the big Sumo move in from behind. He did not hear the collective gasps as Sumo’s hand came down like an axe. All he felt was an explosion of pain. An instant later, everything went black.



About the Author


James Houston Turner is the bestselling author of the Aleksandr Talanov thriller series, as well as numerous other books and articles. Talanov the fictional character was inspired by the actual KGB agent who once leaked word out of Moscow that James was on a KGB watch-list for his smuggling activities behind the old Iron Curtain. James Houston Turner’s debut thriller, Department Thirteen, was voted “Best Thriller” by USA Book News, after which it won gold medals in the Independent Publisher (“IPPY”) Book Awards and the Indie Book Awards. His novel, Greco’s Game, has just been optioned for film. A cancer survivor of more than twenty-five years, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Baker University and a master’s degree from the University of Houston (Clear Lake). After twenty years in Australia, he and his wife, Wendy, author of The Recipe Gal Cookbook, now live in Austin, Texas.

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Christmas in the Sisters by Becki Willis



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Cozy Mystery, Holiday Cozy Mystery
Date Published: November 1, 2017

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The tinsel begins to tangle when someone targets the community for a series of ‘Christmas Crimes.’ Homes are broken into and wrapped gifts are stolen from beneath trees. Even vehicles loaded with presents aren’t safe, particularly on a lone stretch of highway. Things like this just don’t happen in Naomi and Juliet. Torn between solving the rash of burglaries and shutting down the gambling ring that’s active in the area again, Brash does the only thing he can: he hires In a Pinch to help with the investigation.

Finding the common link between cases is like finding the bad bulb on a string of lights. Every lead is a short circuit. The frustration mounts when Madison and the Angel Tree she’s involved with fall victim to the crimes. Only the worst kind of Grinch steals from needy children!

Brash has plans of his own for the perfect Christmas. With the help of a new jewelry store, he thinks he’s found just the right gift for Madison, until the Grinch strikes again. This wasn’t the surprise he had in mind.

Ready or not, Christmas is on its way, and time is running out to create the holiday of their dreams. As the house fills with unexpected guests, Madison and the twins honor favorite traditions from the past while creating a few new ones of their own.

Who has time for being kidnapped by men in Santa suits and bad beards?

This is one Christmas that no one in The Sisters will ever forget!


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Other Books in The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series:

Chicken Scratch ~ Book One ~ Amazon
When the Stars Fall ~ Book Two ~ Amazon
Stipulations and Complications ~ Book Three ~ Amazon
Home Again ~ Book Four ~ Amazon
Genny's Ballad ~ Book Five ~ Amazon


About the Author


Becki Willis, best known for her popular The Sisters, Texas Mystery Series and Forgotten Boxes, always dreamed of being an author. In November of '13, that dream became a reality. Since that time, she has published eleven books, won first place honors for Best Mystery Series, Best Suspense Fiction and Best Audio Book, and has introduced her imaginary friends to readers around the world.

An avid history buff, Becki likes to poke around in old places and learn about the past. Other addictions include reading, writing, junking, unraveling a good mystery, and coffee. She loves to travel, but believes coming home to her family and her Texas ranch is the best part of any trip. Becki is a member of the Association of Texas Authors, the National Association of Professional Women, and the Brazos Writers organization. She attended Texas A&M University and majored in Journalism.

Here's what readers are saying about Becki and her books:

"This is an awesome new author with a strong voice! This was a great read with tons of suspense and great character development. I highly recommend you read this author!"...

"The best new series available."...

"Full of twists and the best love story revealed in ages. Loved it!"...

"I should know better than to start one of Becki's books at bedtime. So hard to stop in the middle!"...

"I loved every line of every page!!!"


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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hacienda Moon by KaSonndra Leigh



Gothic Romance
Date Published: 10/31/17

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Centuries ago, his ancestor fell in love with a woman cursed by a jealous witch. No one believed him until it was too late. Eric Fontalvo was determined to prove one thing... that a family curse didn't cause his father's death.

The plan was working until the day he found her...again. Suddenly his life changes forever, and he is forced to question everything he believes.

Moving into an old plantation house was just what Tandie Harrison needed to recover from tragedy. So she writes a book, a story based on a man in her dreams. There's only one problem though... the characters from her novel keep showing up on her doorstep.

And then she finds a diary written hundreds of years ago.

As if that isn't strange enough, she meets him...the man from her dream, someone who reawakens her psychic power along with something else from long ago.

Can Eric and Tandie's love destroy the force keeping them apart? Or will darkness win again?

Hacienda Moon is a new classic tale of two lovers crossing time. A seductive tale of one woman's journey to confront the demons of her past and to find the courage to face her future. It is a mesmerizing novel that explores the deepest depths of human nature, and the characters will hold and haunt you long after you have read the final chapter.

About the Author


Author of the Bestelling Lost Immortals Saga, Pathseekers and Musical Interlude Series, KaSonndra Leigh is also a mother, blogazine owner, reader, gardener, home renovator, and a slayer of undead Egyptian mummies in Tomb Raider. She believes in karma, coffee, and seriously wish that the producers of Xena would bring her favorite show ever back.

Strange things about KaSonndra: Everything. She’s weird, odd, unusual, and generally tends to make people think she swooped down from another planet. Maybe she did. Who knows? She’s also a member of the #zombiesurvivalcrew on twitter. So if you need protection from the upcoming apocalypse, don’t hesitate to call on KayLeigh and crew!

KaSonndra was born in the race-car city of Charlotte, NC, and now live in the City of Alchemy and Medicine, NC, when she’s not hanging out in Bardonia (Lost Immortals Saga setting). Most of her characters are based on people that she has met throughout her travels and adventures. People tend to stop and start conversations with KaSonndra as if she has known them her entire life. Does this freak her out? Not really. Her mom says that one day she’ll get kidnapped by one of these folks. KaSonndra’s response? She told her mom that if it weren’t for these lovely people, then she wouldn’t be able to create such fabulously romantic stories.

A few other tidbits about KaSonndra… She has watched the movie Under the Tuscan Sun almost 200 times. This is her explanation regarding her obsession. She figures that if she keeps watching the film enough times, then suddenly the house that Diane Lane lives in will magically appear in her backyard. Yes! KaSonndra has a huge imagination!


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