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Read-a-Chapter: Lakota Honor, by Kat Flannery

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the Paranormal Historical Western Romance, Lakota Honor, by Kat Flannery. Enjoy!

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Fate has brought them together…but will a promise tear them a part?

Otakatay is hired to kill the witkowin-crazy women. A deadly bounty hunter, he has found his last victim in timid healer Nora Rushton. Marked as a witch, Nora uses her gift to heal those in need, and the bounty hunter is one of them. Will the desire to complete his promise drive him to kill her, or will the kindness he sees in her blue eyes push him to be the man he once was?

Nora and Otakatay must fight for their freedom in a time when race and discrimination are a threat and innocence holds no ground.

Purchase LAKOTA HONOR on AMAZON US /  AMAZON CA / AMAZON UK 

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PROLOGUE 

Colorado Mountains, 1880  

The blade slicing his throat made no sound, but the dead body hitting the ground did. With no time to stop, he hurried through the dark tunnel until he reached the ladder leading out of the shaft.  He’d been two hundred feet below ground for ten days, with no food and little water. Weak and woozy, he stared up the ladder.

He’d have to climb it and it wasn’t going to be easy. He wiped the bloody blade on his torn pants and placed it between his teeth. Scraped knuckles and unwashed hands gripped the wooden rung.  The earth swayed. He closed his eyes and forced the spinning in his head to cease. One thin bronzed leg lifted and came down wobbly. He waited until his leg stopped shaking before he climbed another rung. Each step caused pain, but was paired with determination. He made it to the top faster than he’d thought he would. The sky was black and the air was cool, but fresh. Thank goodness it was fresh.

He took two long breaths before he emerged from the hole. The smell from below ground still lingered in his nostrils; unwashed bodies, feces and mangy rats. His stomach pitched. He tugged at the rope around his hands. There had been no time to chew the thick bands around his wrists when he’d planned his escape. It was better to run than crawl, and he chewed through the strips that bound his feet instead. There would be time to free his wrists later. He pressed his body against the mountain and inched toward the shack. He frowned.

A guard stood at the entrance to where they were. The blade from the knife pinched his lip, cutting the thin skin and he tasted blood. He needed to get in there. He needed to say goodbye. He needed to make a promise.   The tower bell rang mercilessly. There was no time left. He pushed away from the rocky wall, dropped the knife from his mouth into his bound hands, aimed and threw it. The dagger dug into the man’s chest. He ran over, pulled the blade from the guard and quickly slid it across his throat. The guard bled out in seconds.

He tapped the barred window on the north side of the dilapidated shack. The time seemed to stretch. He glanced at the large house not fifty yards from where he stood. He would come back, and he would kill the bastard inside.  He tapped again, harder this time, and heard the weak steps of those like him shuffling from inside. The window slid open, and a small hand slipped out.  “Toksha ake—I shall see you again,” he whispered in Lakota.

The hand squeezed his once, twice and on the third time held tight before it let go and disappeared inside the room.  A tear slipped from his dark eyes, and his hand, still on the window sill, balled into a fist. He swallowed past the sob and felt the burn in his throat. His chest ached for what he was leaving behind. He would survive, and he would return. Men shouted to his right, and he crouched down low. He took one last look around and fled into the cover of the forest.

 CHAPTER ONE

1888, Willow Creek, Colorado  

Nora Rushton scanned the hillside before glancing back at the woman on the ground. She could be dead, or worse yet, someone from town. She flexed her hands. The woman’s blue skirt ruffled in the wind, and a tattered brown Stetson sat beside her head. Nora assessed the rest of her attire. A faded yellow blouse stained from the grass and dirt, leather gloves and a red bandana tied loosely around her neck. She resembled a ranch hand in a skirt.

There was no one else around, and the woman needed her help. She chewed on her lip, and her fingers twitched. I have to help her. She sucked in a deep breath, held it, and walked the remaining few feet that stood between her and the injured woman. The woman’s horse picked up Nora’s scent, trotted over and pushed his nose into her chest.

“It’s okay, boy,” she said, smoothing back the red-brown mane. “Why don’t you let me have a look at your owner?”

She knelt down beside the woman and realized she was old enough to be her grandmother. Gray hair with subtle blonde streaks lay messed and pulled from the bun she was wearing. Why was she on a horse in the middle of the valley without a chaperone?

She licked her finger and placed it under the woman’s nose. A cool sensation skittered across her wet finger, and she sighed.  The woman’s left leg bent inward and laid uncomfortably to the side. She lifted the skirt for a closer look. Her stomach rolled, and bile crawled up the back of her throat. The thigh bone protruded, stretching the skin bright white, but didn’t break through. Nora’s hands grew warm, the sensation she felt so many times before.

The woman moaned and reached for her leg.

“No, please don’t touch your leg. It’s broken.” She held the woman’s hand.

Ice blue eyes stared back at her, showing pain mingled with relief.

“My name is Nora,” she said with a smile. “I am going to get help.”

The wrinkled hand squeezed hers, and the woman shook her head. “No, child, my heart can’t take the pain much longer.” Creased lips pressed together as she closed her eyes and took two deep breaths.

“Please, just sit here with me.” Her voice was husky and weak.

She scanned the rolling hills for any sign of help, but there was no one. She studied the woman again. Her skin had a blue tinge to it, and her breathing became forced. I promised Pa. But how was she supposed to walk away from this woman who so desperately needed her help? She took another look around. Green grass waved in the wind. Please, someone, anyone come over the hill.  White daisies mingled within the grass, and had the woman not been injured, she would’ve plucked a few for her hair.

She waited a few minutes longer. No one came. Her hands started their restless shaking. She clasped them together, trying to stop the tremors. It would only take a few minutes. I can help her. No one would see. She stared at the old woman, except her. If she helped her, would she tell everyone about Nora’s secret? Would she ask any questions? There were always questions.

Nora’s resolve was weakening. She ran her hot hands along the woman’s body to see if anything else was broken. Only the leg, thank goodness. Lifting the skirt once again, she laid her warm palms gently on the broken thigh bone. Her hands, bright red, itched with anticipation. The leg seemed worse without the cover of the skirt. One move and the bone would surely break through the skin. She inhaled groaning at the same time as she placed her hands on either side of the limb. In one swift movement, she squeezed the bone together.

The woman shot up from the grass yelling out in agony.  Nora squeezed harder until she felt the bone shift back into place. Jolts of pain raced up and down her arms as the woman’s leg began to heal. Nora’s own thigh burned and ached, as her bones and flesh cried out in distress. She held on until the pain seeped from her own body into nothingness, vanishing as if it were never there.  She removed her hands, now shaking and cold from the woman’s healed limb, unaware of the blue eyes staring up at her. Her stomach lurched, like she knew it would—like it always did afterward. She rose on trembling legs and walked as far away as she could before vomiting onto the bright green grass. Not once, but twice. She waited until her strength returned before she stood and let the wind cool her heated cheeks.

The bitter taste stayed in her mouth. If the woman hadn’t been there she’d have spit the lingering bile onto the grass. She needed water and searched the area for a stream.  Her mouth felt full of cotton, and she smacked her tongue off of her dry lips. She was desperate for some water. Had she not wandered so far from the forest to set the baby hawk free, she’d know where she was now and which direction would take her home. She gasped. She’d lost track of time and needed to get home before Pa did. Jack Rushton had a temper and she didn’t want to witness it tonight.

“Are you an angel?”  She turned to face the woman and grinned.

“No, Ma’am. I am not an angel, although I like to think God gave me this gift.”

The woman pulled her skirt down, recovered from her shock and said in a rough voice, “Well if you ain’t no angel, than what in hell are ya?”

Taken aback at the woman’s gruffness, she knelt down beside her. Here we go, either she understands or she runs away delusional and screaming. “I…I am a healer.” She waited.

The woman said nothing instead she narrowed her eyes and stared. “A witch?”

Nora winced. “No, not a witch. I need you to promise you won’t tell anyone what happened here today.” Her stomach in knots, she waited for the old woman’s reply.

“You think I’m some kind of fool?” She stood and stretched her leg. She stared at the healed limb before she hopped on it a few times. “People already think I’m crazy. Why would I add more crap to their already heaping pile of shit?”

Oh my. The woman’s vocabulary was nothing short of colorful, and she liked it.  She smiled and stuck out her hand. “I’m Nora Rushton. It’s nice to meet you.”

The woman stared at her for a few seconds before her thin mouth turned up and she smiled. “Jess Chandler.” She gripped Nora’s hand with such force she had to refrain from yelling out in pain. “Thanks for your help, girly.”

“I don’t think we’ve ever met. Do you live in Willow Creek?”

“I own a farm west of here.”

“How come I’ve never seen you?” I never see anyone, Pa’s rules.

The wind picked up whipping Jess’s hat through the air.

“Max,” she called over her shoulder, “fetch my hat.”

The horse’s ears spiked and he trotted off toward the hat. She watched in awe as the animal retrieved the Stetson with his mouth and brought it back to his master.

“I’ve never seen such a thing,” Nora giggled and patted Max’s rump.

Jess took the hat and slapped it on top of her head.  “Yup, ol’Max here, he’s pretty damn smart.”

“I’d say he is.” She remembered the companionship she’d enjoyed with the baby hawk she’d rescued a few weeks ago. She’d miss the little guy. His feedings had kept her busy during the long boring days at home. “Miss Jess, I’m sorry to be short, but I have to head on home.”

“Hell, girly, I can take you.” She climbed up onto Max and wound the reins around her gloved hands. “Hop on. He’s strong enough for two.”

“Are you sure?” “It’s the least I can do.”  She clasped Jess’s hand and pulled herself up behind her. “Thank you, Jess, for keeping my secret.” Placing her arms around the woman’s waist, she gave her a light squeeze.

“Darlin,” Jess patted Nora’s hand, “you can rest assured I will take this secret to my grave.” She whistled, and Max started toward town.

 

Otakatay sat tall on his horse as he gazed at the lush green valley below. The town of Willow Creek was nestled at the edge of the green hills. He’d been gone four round moons, traveling to Wyoming and back. The rough terrain of the Rocky Mountains had almost killed him and his horse. The steep cliffs and forests were untouched by man.  On the first day in the Rockies, he’d come up against a mountain lion, a grizzly and bush thick enough to strangle him. He used his knife to carve into the dense brush, and his shotgun to defend himself. When he could, he stuck to the deer trails, and in the evening built large fires to keep the animals at bay.

He glanced behind him at the brown sack tied to his saddle. Inside, there were three. This time he’d ask for more money. His bronzed jaw flexed. He would demand it.  The sky was bright blue with smudges of gray smoke wafting upward from the homes and businesses. The weather would warm as the day progressed and the sun rose higher into the sky. His eyes wandered past the hills to the mountains behind them, and his insides burned.  He clicked his tongue, and his mustang sauntered down the hill. Wakina was agile and strong.

Otakatay knew he could count on him always. Over the years Wakina had kept pace with his schedule and relentless hunting. The emerald stocks swayed and danced before him as he rode through. The grass brushed the bottoms of his moccasins, and he dunked his hand into the velvety green weed. He’d make camp in the forest outside of the mining town.  Wakina shook his head and whinnied. Otakatay brushed his hand along the length of his silver mane.

“Soon my friend, soon,” he whispered.

The animal wanted to run down into the valley, but resigned himself to the lethargic pace his master ordered. Wakina tossed his head. Otakatay slapped Wakina’s sides with the loose ends of the reins, and the horse took off down the hill clearing a path through the grass.  The rolling blanket of emerald parted as Wakina’s long legs cantered toward the forest. Otakatay’s shoulder-length black hair whipped his face and tickled his neck as his heart pounded lively inside his chest. It was rare that he felt so alive. His days consisted of planning and plotting until he knew every detail by heart.

The eagle feather tied to his hair lifted in the wind and soared high above his head. For a moment he allowed himself to close his eyes and enjoy the smells of wildflowers and wood smoke. The sun kissed his cheeks and he tried to hold onto the moment, savoring the last bit of calm before rotten flesh and wet fur filled his nostrils.  His eyes sprung open. He pulled on the reins, and rubbed his nose to rid the smell, to push out the visions that saturated his mind. The scent clung to him burrowing deep into his soul and he mentally fought to purge it from his consciousness. He shook his head and concentrated on the fields, trying to push the memories away. He didn’t want to do this, not now. He didn’t want to see, feel, smell, or taste the memory again.

The rhythmic clanking echoed inside his head, and he squeezed his eyes closed. Sweat trickled down his temples. He clenched every muscle in his body. His hands skimmed the jagged walls of the damp tunnel. He stumbled and fell onto the rough walls, burning his torn flesh. He moaned. Every bit of him ached with such pain, he was sure he’d die. His thin body shook with fever. He reeked of blood, sweat and fear.  With each step he took, he struggled to stay upright and almost collapsed onto the ground. The agony of his wounds blinded him, and he didn’t know if it was a combination of the sweat dripping into his eyes, or if he was crying from the intense pain. His back burned and pulsed with powerful beats, the skin became tight around his ribs as the flesh swelled.  He tripped on a large rock and fell to the ground. The skin on his knees tore open, but he didn’t care. Nothing could ease the screaming in his back. Nothing could take away the hell he lived every day. He laid his head against the dirt covered floor. Dust stuck to his cheeks and lips while he prayed for Wakan Tanka to end his life.

 

 

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Read-a-Chapter: Before He Kills Again, by R. Barri Flowers

Read a Chapter is *NEW* added feature at As the Pages Turn! Here you’ll be able to read the first chapters of books of all genres to see if you like them before you buy them. Today we are featuring the suspense thriller, Before He Kills Again, by R. Barri Flowers. Enjoy!

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Before He Kills Again_Cover

From R. Barri Flowers, award winning crime writer and international bestselling author of Dark Streets of Whitechapel and Killer in The Woods, comes a gripping new psychological thriller, Before He Kills Again: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller.

FBI psychologist and criminal profiler Veronica Vasquez returns to her hometown of Portland, Oregon to assist police in apprehending a ruthless serial killer dubbed “The Rose Killer,” who kills beautiful women in pairs, leaving a rose on top of each corpse.

Heading the investigation is homicide Detective Sergeant Bryan Waldicott. Veronica must win him over, along with the entire task force, and prove herself worthy of the job. Since losing her husband three years ago, Veronica had been focused on her work to escape the pain of loneliness and separation. A romance with Waldicott, who has issues of his own, complicates things for them both as they try to stop a serial murderer before he kills again.

When she begins to suspect that the new husband of her estranged sister Alexandra could be the killer, Veronica pursues that delicate angle and, in the process, becomes a target herself.

Before He Kills Again is tense thriller that will keep readers on edge till the very end.

Amazon Trade Paperback / Kindle /Kindle UK / Kindle CA / Barnes and Noble Nook eBook / Smashwords / Kobo

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PROLOGUE

He walked around inconspicuously, nodding in a friendly manner to other shoppers who nodded back and smiled as if they really meant it. There were flowers of every type imaginable—Dutch tulips, pretty campanula, fresh lilies, and magnificent daisies—giving him ample choices. But he already knew what he wanted long before he got to the store. In fact, he had known for months now…the notion was etched in his mind. After a suitable time spent wandering around like a lost puppy, he walked up to the counter and waited to be helped.

The florist flashed him an exaggerated smile and said: “Can I help you, sir?”

“Yes, I’d like a dozen of those white roses,” he said cheerfully, pointing at a large vase behind the counter.

“Sure thing,” she said.

He watched her ass jiggle as she walked over and pulled out twelve long stemmed roses.

“White roses seem to be pretty popular these days,” she commented.

That was exactly what he was counting on.

“With good reason,” he said, pouring on the charm. “I think they are the prettiest roses.”

“I agree,” she told him.

He knew she would have said that no matter what color roses he had chosen to buy. But that was fine with him. She was just doing her job.

The woman pulled out some red paper from beneath the counter, set the roses atop it, and began to wrap them. “Looks like some lucky lady will be grinning from ear to ear this evening,” she said.

He smiled. “You’ve got that right.”

As always, he paid for the flowers with cash, was careful not to touch anything else, and left the store humming. In the parking lot, he walked over to a black van. Once inside, he tossed the flowers on the passenger seat.

“Bought something for you lucky ladies,” he said, glancing in the back of the van at his guests. “But you can’t have it yet. I’m sure you understand. You’re not exactly in a position to show your gratitude right now.”

He laughed, pleased with his dry humor, started the engine, and took off. Within minutes, he was on Interstate 5 heading south from Portland. Dusk had settled in like sand in the desert and he turned on his lights to cut through the newly formed darkness.

In the back, he could hear one of his prisoners starting to moan and squirm, as if this would somehow lead to her rescue. Sorry, but that’s not gonna happen, he thought gleefully. Though her hands and feet were bound securely and her mouth taped shut, he could not get to his destination fast enough. Alerting the attention of a nosey passerby with a cell phone could ruin his plans in more ways than one.

“Save your breath,” he shouted at her, hiding the fact that he could never be totally at ease. Not until the job was done. The bitches had to pay…with their lives. All in good time. “Believe me,” he admonished the moaner, “you’ll need it later when you really have something to whine about. And don’t even think about getting away. Escape is damn near impossible! Hell, there is no way out—at least not in the way you think.”

The prisoner increased her moaning and wriggling with the desperation of a terrified person who knew she had nothing to lose at this point. If she only knew. He turned up the volume and sang along to Louis Armstrong’s gravelly rendition of “Mack the Knife,” effectively drowning her out.

“And the shark bites,” he sang along, “with those pearly white teeth, dear…”

Looking into the rear view mirror, he observed the woman. She was in her late thirties with almond brown skin and thick curly black hair that reminded him of a baby lamb’s wool. Taller than most women and slender in all the right places, she was just the way he liked them. She had on well-worn jeans and a bright pink blouse that was so tight across her large braless breasts he was surprised it had not ripped apart during her valiant struggle to elude capture. Of course, he had been one step quicker, physically superior, and more determined to have what he wanted.

He glanced at the other prisoner. She was motionless, obviously still under from the isoflurane he’d used to sedate her. The woman, in her mid-thirties, was white with permed auburn hair and somewhat on the slim side. She was a few inches shorter than his other captive and wore a faded, oversized jersey and jean shorts. Her bony legs were less than appealing, but he knew she would have to do.

Both bitches would do tonight. They had to pay the ultimate price for what she had done to him.

And that whining bitch will be the first to get it, he thought, eyeing the squirming, moaning black woman.

The speedometer read sixty-five and he was tempted to kick it to eighty, maybe ninety. He loved going fast and feeling the pungent air hitting his face as if to snap him back to life. Instead, he let up on the pedal, bringing his speed down to the limit of fifty-five along this stretch. He couldn’t take any chances that the cops might pick his vehicle randomly amongst the many speeders to stop.

That would certainly interfere big time with his plans for these two.

Not to mention put him on a one-way trip to prison—or worse.

As if to validate his paranoia, or perhaps ensure that he would not go down without one hell of a fight, he leaned over, opened the glove compartment, and pulled out a .357 Magnum. The cool steel felt good in his hands. He rested it against his face for a moment or two before putting it back in its resting place…knowing it was ready to grab at a moment’s notice.

He took the exit for Hillcrest. Soon he was passing by the familiar gas station and a strip of stores and places to eat. He turned onto an unpaved road and headed down about three miles, made a right, and went past farmhouses, pastures, and pine trees. It was about as far away from Portland as you could get and still be within a short drive of the city.

Soon he reached his destination. He drove onto a winding gravel road that led to his property. The one story western red cedar log cabin sat on two acres of overgrown weeds and tall evergreens. The nearest neighbor was a mile away, which suited his purposes just fine.

He pulled up to a dirt path in front of the cabin that served as a sidewalk and shut off the engine.

“Welcome, ladies,” he told his captives, “to my own little private hideaway. Now it’s your home, too…at least temporarily.” He chuckled nastily.

He dragged the black woman into the cabin first, enjoying her resistance.

“Scream your pretty head off,” he spat. “It won’t do you one bit of good—except maybe give you some pointless satisfaction that you didn’t go down without making your whiny voice heard.” He laughed. “Too bad I can’t understand a thing you’re saying with that tape strapped across your lips.”

In the back room, he left her on the floor with her arms and ankles still secured while he went out to get the white bitch. She had begun to stir, as if coming out of a bad dream.

But he knew her nightmare had only just begun.

She joined the black bitch in the room. He left them to contemplate their fate while he got the roses out of the van. He put the flowers on a small wooden table in the front room. As usual, he needed only two, tossing the others in a wastebasket to rot.

He put one of the roses on some newspaper and grabbed a can of black spray paint. After shaking it, he sprayed it liberally on the rose till it was as black as charcoal.

Perfect, he thought, nodding with approval. Just perfect. It would be nice and dry by the time he finished with his captives. Then the black and white roses could be presented to them appropriately for their cooperation and participation in his game of life and death.

The mere thought of killing them infuriated and excited him like nothing else he could imagine.

Except the thought of his next kill…

And the terror in the eyes of those who would soon become his next victims.

CHAPTER ONE

Veronica Vasquez was admittedly a bit nervous as she waited in the office of Homicide Detective Bryan Waldicott of the Portland Police Bureau. At the Bureau’s request, she had been loaned to the department as a criminal psychologist and profiling member of the FBI’s Serial Killer Unit. She was proud to have earned her stripes as a certified FBI profiler and determined to stay one step ahead of those who would like to see her “put back in her place.”

Her current assignment was to help track down a vicious sexual serial killer terrorizing Portland, Oregon and its surrounding neighborhoods. Dubbed by the press as “The Rose Killer,” the unsub had murdered six women thus far. The murders occurred in pairs, involving a Caucasian woman and a woman of color. The women had all been severely beaten, disfigured, and strangled. Most had also been sexually assaulted.

As grisly and unusual as this was, Veronica’s frayed nerves were not due to the morbidity of the case or being uprooted from her home in Washington, D.C. at a moment’s notice. Nor was she shaky at the prospect of having to deal with a temporary new boss who had once been one of the FBI’s most brash and bright special agents, until he inexplicably walked away from Quantico three years ago.

It wasn’t even the fact that she had just turned thirty-five and was already a widow with seemingly the best years of her life behind her.

No, what disturbed Veronica more than she cared to admit was returning to her hometown of Portland for the first time in nearly eight years. Not too coincidentally, that was the last time she had seen her sister, Alexandra, who was two years her junior. In fact, the two had not seen eye to eye on much of anything ever since their parents died when the sisters were in their late teens.

If the truth were told, they were about as different as night and day in Veronica’s mind, leaving little ground for a stable, steady relationship, much less a bona fide sisterly bond. It had just seemed better all the way around if they went their own separate ways.

Or at least one of them.

And it ended up being her.

Now, against her better wishes, she had come back. She knew she would have to face Alexandra sooner or later to see if they could possibly salvage anything out of their kinship or if they would remain lost to each other forever.

Veronica forced these thoughts aside as she saw a tall, well-built man approaching the office. Even from a distance, she could see that he was handsome and looked to be in his late thirties. Thick hair that was as black as the night surrounded a chiseled face with a long, pronounced nose. When he got closer, she could see that his eyes—never parting from hers as if in a trance—were pools of deep blue with an intensity that probably matched her own green eyes with gold speckles. He wore a navy suit that was only slightly wrinkled, as if to indicate that he refused to go more than a few days without having it pressed. His striped tie was only loosely fastened over a crisp, white shirt.

Veronica immediately sat up in the chair, as if she had been slouching and did not want to make a bad first impression. She had chosen to wear a gray suit that flattered her five-foot-seven inch slender frame, along with a pink shirt, and black low-heeled pumps. Her straight black hair hung across her shoulders, bordering a heart-shaped face.

She rose to her feet as the man entered the office, self-consciously pulling down her jacket. Her mouth opened to a soft smile after she saw him do the same.

Don’t let him see you sweat, she told herself. You’ve done this enough times. No reason to be intimidated now.

“Mrs. Vasquez—?” he asked in a strong baritone voice.

Veronica hadn’t been called Mrs. Vasquez much in recent memory. Not since Daniel died three years ago. Did the detective think she was still married? Had he forgotten that she was an FBI agent and should be referred to as Special Agent Vasquez, if not simply Vasquez? Or, if the conversation was strictly informal, he could just call her Veronica.

Perhaps he was just being polite out of respect. Whatever his rationale was, Veronica realized that the formal title of Mrs. had the effect of dating her current status more than she wanted it to as a single woman. Though she was not looking for love, per se, she was no longer close-minded to it.

She gave a slight nod. “Special Agent Veronica Vasquez at your service,” she said, realizing too late that she had sounded as if it was a military pronouncement. She quickly tried to correct her tone. “And you must be—?”

“Detective Sergeant Bryan Waldicott, Homicide Division, Portland Police Bureau,” he said with obvious amusement. He stuck out his hand, which Veronica shook in an obligatory show of greeting that seemed to last longer than either of them had probably intended. Waldicott was the first to pull away, while giving her a hard look. “Right off the bat, Special Agent Vasquez, I think I should be perfectly honest with you and say that I was initially opposed to calling in someone from the FBI to help with this case. I figured the last thing we needed was to have the Feds looking over our shoulders while we try to get a handle on a murder case that’s strictly local as far as I can tell.”

Veronica thought about the word initially. Why should he, of all people, be opposed to assistance from his former employer? Was there a story there? Did she need to know it? She hadn’t heard specifically that there had been bad blood when he left the Bureau. But that didn’t mean there wasn’t any.

“So what changed your mind?” she asked, assuming that he had made an about face.

Waldicott ran his hand the length of a square jaw and sculpted chin with a deep cleft its centerpiece and sighed thoughtfully. “Well, I guess I came to realize that at this point we could really use all the help we can get. Even from the FBI. We’ve got a ruthless serial killer on the prowl and he’s not only elusive, but he’s frightening the hell out of the women in Portland. And a few of us men, too. So who was I to tell my boss, much less the families of the victims, that I wasn’t willing to do anything and everything in my power to bring this monster to justice?”

“I’ll be happy to do all I can,” Veronica promised, feeling somewhat relieved that she hadn’t apparently made an enemy of the man she had been assigned to work with. “And, just for the record, I’m not here to step on anyone’s toes, Detective. I just want to fit in as part of the team working on this case. Fair?”

He looked at her for a moment as if weighing his options, before cracking a slight smile. “More than fair, Agent Vasquez.”

Veronica flashed a tiny smile of mutual cooperation. So far, so good, she thought. Realistically, she knew there was only so much a profiler could do—no matter her skills and intuition. Yes, she could draw a composite of the killer and the likely victims. She could even tell them all they ever wanted to know about the psyche of a serial killer. But the real blood and guts work was performed by the people who had to follow up on leads, which often went nowhere, and sort through mounds and mounds of evidence and would-be evidence until they ultimately captured or killed the serial killer. Or stood by helplessly as the trail went cold while he continued to evade and taunt them.

“Please, sit down,” offered Waldicott with a sweep of his long arm.

Veronica sat again in the black leather chair. She watched as Bryan Waldicott sat at a desk that somehow seemed too small for a man his size. A file folder lay open on it. Waldicott looked up at her, down at the folder, and up again.

“So this is a homecoming of sorts for you,” he commented with a brow cocked whimsically. “It says here that you grew up in Portland.”

Veronica shivered. “Yes, on both counts.”

Waldicott looked at her curiously. “So why did you leave? In many respects, this seems like the ideal place to live and raise a family.”

Veronica wondered if this was a chauvinistic statement against women being in the work force, much less law enforcement, which was still mostly a male dominated profession. On the other hand, she could also imagine that Bryan Waldicott had a knock against FBI agents, in specific, as a former member of the ranks himself.

As if he sensed the implications of the question, Waldicott answered it himself with a shrug. “Why does anyone ever move away? Usually because they found something—or someone—better elsewhere. So which is it?”

Veronica considered the question and decided to reverse the tables. “Is that why you left the FBI?” she asked bluntly, seizing the moment. Or maybe it was the mystery behind the man himself that made her curious. “Because you found something…or someone better?”

Veronica could see that she had definitely struck a nerve, as Waldicott’s brow furrowed and his eyes narrowed to little more than razor slits. Immediately, she wished she had kept her mouth shut, if only because he was technically her superior. She had placed a courtesy call to the FBI field office in Portland and they had made it very clear that her current orders and assignment came from the man before her. A sinking feeling told Veronica that she had no more right to pry into his personal life than he had to pry into hers.

Waldicott’s mouth had become an irregular line, but then softened. “Looks like you’ve done some of your own homework, Agent Vasquez. I suppose that’s only fair, all things considered.” He took a breath. “If you must know, I left the Bureau because it seemed the best thing to do at the time. I have no regrets.”

Veronica could tell that he was clearly troubled by this, whatever the issue was, but managed to put on a brave face. His smile returned and he seemed to be waiting for her to respond to his original question of why she’d left home and the idyllic setting of the Pacific Northwest for a life elsewhere.

I’m not ready to share the intimate details of my personal life with him or anyone else at this time, she told herself.

After Veronica thought about it, she realized she could be just as succinct and mysterious with her response as he was, while keeping her own little secrets to herself. “I had an offer to join the FBI in D.C.,” she said simply. “And I took it.”

“All right,” Waldicott said. He seemed content to settle for that.

Veronica breathed a sigh of relief. As far as she was concerned, you could ask her anything about her profession or skills and she would be happy to respond, but her private life was to remain a closed book. It was too painful to open. Especially for someone she just met. Even though Bryan Waldicott seemed like he was used to getting what he went after sooner or later. She was determined to be the exception to the rule.

Waldicott closed the folder and stood up in one motion. “I’ll introduce you to everyone you haven’t already met. Then we’ll put your psychology and profiling skills to work—”

Veronica was sure she detected no sarcasm in his tone, which would make it much easier to work with him. She indicated her readiness by standing up. As they locked eyes, she had an uneasy feeling that they had not finished what they started. Strangely, she was not really even sure what that was.

Waldicott proffered his arm toward the door like a perfect gentleman and Veronica walked out ahead of him, lightly brushing against his jacket sleeve. She instantly felt electricity pass between them, causing the hair on the back of her neck to rise. She wondered if he felt it, too.

 

 

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Meg the Egg Book Blast and Giveaway: Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card or Free EBooks

Meg the Egg banner

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Meg the Egg coverLittle Meg finds the outside world a bit too loud and far too scary! So, she’s going to stay inside her safe white shell, thank you very much. But then the Howl breaks into the barn and steals Mother Hen! What is she supposed to do, still holed up in that egg of hers? She can’t run and she certainly can’t fly. Well, never get between a chick and her momma, cause this little bird’s got a can-do spirit and a whole lot of courage that she didn’t know she had before!

A tale of self discovery that speaks to all children’s fears of the unknown, Ms. Borg delivers a great read-aloud resource for parents and teachers alike. With an onomatopoeic construction that gives life to the story and encourages children to participate through repetition of words, noises, and actions, MEG THE EGG is the perfect story for beginning readers.

AMAZONAMAZON KINDLEBARNES AND NOBLE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Rita Borg photo new

Rita Antoinette Borg was educated in New York and now resides on the Mediterranean island of Malta. She performs storytelling and creative writing workshops in schools across the country and works as a freelance writer for local magazines and newspapers. Ms. Borg has published four picture books aimed at early readers as well as an anthology of short stories for older children. Her books have been recognized by the Malta National Annual Literary Awards. Her book “Don’t Cross the Road, Holly!” was chosen as the year’s best Children’s Book in English. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators.

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Pump Up Your Book and Rita Antoinette Borg are teaming up to give you a chance to win fabulous prizes!

Here’s how it works:

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. This promotion will run from April 22 – May 17, 2013. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on May 20, 2013. Each blogger who participates is eligible to enter and win. Visit each blog stop below to gain more entries as the Rafflecopter widget will be placed on each blog for the duration of the tour. Good luck everyone!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If the Rafflecopter form doesn’t load, you can visit the Meg the Egg tour page at http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/2013/04/01/pump-up-your-book-presents-rita-antoinette-borgs%E2%80%99s-meg-the-egg-book-blast-%E2%80%93-win-25-amazon-gift-card-and-free-books/ for your chance to enter and win!

MEG THE EGG TOUR SCHEDULE

Monday, April 22nd

Literarily Speaking

Tuesday, April 23

The Children’s and Teen’s Book Connection

Wednesday, April 24th

The Writer’s Life

Thursday, April 25th

As the Pages Turn

Friday, April 26th

The Busy Mom’s Daily

Monday, April 29th

LadyD Books

Tuesday, April 30th

Tribute Books Reviews and Giveaways

Wednesday, May 1st

Classic Children’s Books

Thursday, May 2nd

My Devotional Thoughts

Friday, May 3rd

Review from Here

Saturday, May 4th

Bea’s Book Nook

Monday, May 6th

Mayra’s Secret Bookcase

Tuesday, May 7th

Paperback Writer

Wednesday, May 8th

Read For Your Future

Thursday, May 9th

Freda’s Voice

Friday, May 10th

Lori’s Reading Corner

Monday, May 13th

Books for Kids

Tuesday, May 14th

Wednesday, May 15th

Literal Exposure

Thursday, May 16th

4 the Love of Books

Friday, May 17th

The Crypto-Capers Review

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Guest Blogger Stefan Vucak: The Drive to Write

The Drive to Write…

By Stefan Vucak, author of ‘Cry of Eagles’

Bright sunshine has flooded the landscape with light and shifting shadows as the wind whips branches into restless frenzy. A thin tendril of steam is rising from my cup of coffee and I gaze at it momentarily, captivated by the patterns it makes. I am staring at the computer screen, at the paragraphs running into each other, making no sense as I search for inspiration. No, that’s not quite right. I am driven by inspiration to pour out the words clamoring to get out, my characters screaming at me to write down what they have to say. I just don’t hear them, my Cry of Eaglesmind wandering as I look out the window at the shadows, the light and the patterns they make. There is an avalanche of ideas waiting to be unleashed, but I have stumbled into a pothole and I am too weary to drag myself out. I take a sip of coffee, taking in the aroma and the satisfying taste, and sigh as I stare at the words across the screen…

It’s strange, but I always wanted to write. Ever since as a kid when I stumbled across an illustrated book of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I was hooked. A whole new universe was opened for me, one I never knew existed, one far beyond the narrow confines of my childhood pursuits and shallow games. When I discovered a library not far from the primary school, I gladly plunged into that universe. Of course, reading led me to think that I could also create a universe of my own, something others could share and hopefully enjoy. It didn’t look all that hard. After all, it was simply putting down words on paper. Although the drive to write never left me, it was some years later that I could unleash that part of me and allow my imagination full flight. But like Pandora, I unleashed a part of me that ever since has given me moments of intense pleasure, soul-wrenching frustration and disappointment.

Part of the frustration was mastering the mechanical craft of writing, learning how to write good dialogue, not allowing myself to get swept up in flowery prose, how to plot, research…a raft of skills a writer needs in order to produce something good. And I am still learning. But why put myself through all that pain, accumulating a stack of rejection slips along the way, harboring murdering thoughts at authors whose crappy books are on the stands while stuff I produced cannot make it? Why put up with lonely hours cooped up in my study, bent over my notebook or pounding away at the keyboard, enduring cramped muscles, mental blocks, endless hours of tedious editing, simply to turn out that novel? Why do I write?

The answer is simple as it is complex. I am driven to write. It is a fire that burns within me and one I cannot quench. I tried to once or twice, but that urge to write, to create, never let go, could not be extinguished. It’s a curse and it is also a gift. Once I recognized that I could not change what I was, I accepted my fate and allowed myself to soar. All the frustration and tedious work, the attention to detail and the rewriting, it fades into insignificance when I look at the rewards of my creativity. When the words flow and I can hardly keep up with them, when my characters live and laugh and cry with me, and come alive on paper, when it all clicks and my spirit cries like an eagle high in the sky, the buzz of pure creation can be giddying and addictive. And it is addictive, far better than any smoky weed or pill.

I write primarily because I must and because I want to share with others the joy of my creations. Once that book is done, the moment of accomplishment passes, but there is always a sense of power, knowing I have left something behind that is lasting. The doubts about getting published, having the thing sell, marketing, all those things will weigh on me later. But even if one person reads what I have produced, I am satisfied, although I am egotistical enough to want as many readers as possible. Then there is a period when I must recharge and get ready for another book, more frustration, more loneliness, more tedium. Sometimes I really wonder why I put myself through all this.

I’m driven and I’m cursed and I must write. The passion and the drive that keeps pushing me is relentless and won’t give me peace. But I have ceased fighting the current and have accepted my destiny, because there is nothing more fulfilling in life.

I take another sip of coffee, now gone cool, flex my fingers and smile at the keyboard. I have come for you, I tell my characters…

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Stefan VucakStefan Vucak is an award-winning author of seven techno sci-fi novels, including With Shadow and Thunder which was a 2002 EPPIE finalist. His Shadow Gods Saga books have been highly acclaimed by critics. His recent release, Cry of Eagles, won the coveted 2011 Readers Favorite silver medal award. Stefan leveraged a successful career in the Information Technology industry and applied that discipline to create realistic, highly believable storylines for his books. Born in Croatia, he now lives in Melbourne, Australia.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

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Read-a-Chapter & Review: THE MORONI DECEPTION, by Jack L. Brody

Available for
Kindle, Nook, ipad
and other e-readers

Buy it now on Amazon.com

Identical ritual murders two thousand miles apart.

A missing Mormon relic long thought to be just a myth.

Investigating the connection, what reporter Michael Chenault uncovers may not only determine the next Presidential election, but cause an entire religion to come tumbling down.

If he can stay alive.

___________________________________________________________________

Chapter One

Greenwich Village. November 5. Present day.

I gotta find that one missing piece was the last thing Michael Chenault remembered thinking before closing his eyes that night.  The solving of a jigsaw puzzle was not a literal reference, but over the past thirteen years that was how he had come to think of his job as an investigative reporter.  He would slowly but surely come across one seemingly unrelated tip or lead after another, some appearing to have absolutely no connection to the next, but after a while,after enough twisting and turning of the “pieces,” the puzzle–his story–would begin to take shape.

As he lay in bed, drifting somewhere in the land between sleep and awake, and running through the events of the past day, he at last began to feel the heavy, blissful wave of sleep he’d been waiting for start to roll over him.  That’s when the faraway, but piercing electronic buzzing began.  The first thing that ran through his mind was the annoying sound was just part of a dream, but the persistent buzzing kept on, until Chenault finally realized he was indeed awake and that his late night visitor likely wouldn’t stop pressing his door intercom until he answered.

Looking a second too long over at the digital glow of his alarm clock, the numbers “2:45” seared into his eyes so that even after he closed them and rolled back on to his pillow, he continued to see the numbers on the back of his eyelids.  Christ almighty, he thought, as he rolled out of bed and heaved an exasperated sigh, doesn’t anybody in this town ever sleep?  Despite the clanking radiators running full blast throughout his two bedroom apartment, the old oak floors still felt as cold against his bare feet as the frozen city sidewalks outside, as he trudged to the front door wearing only boxers and an old gray tee shirt with a faded “New York Mets” logo emblazoned across his chest.

As he approached the end of his short hallway and flicked on the light, Chenault caught a brief glimpse of himself in the mirror by the front door and half laughed over his disheveled appearance.  Although he might have passed for an aging male model with his trim medium build and six foot height, Chenault’s features were slightly askew with a visible break in his nose that he had never bothered to have corrected.  Along with his five o’clock shadow, his mussed, dark hair in a longish, over-the-ear style was probably more befitting of someone in his early twenties than for a man a few years away from forty.  People he met often would tell him that he kind of looked like a certain actor, but they could never seem to remember the actor’s name or which films he had been in, so Chenault never quite knew whether to be flattered or not.

“Who is this?” Chenault muttered into the intercom by his door, making sure to convey a certain degree of irritation in his greeting, half expecting it to be one of his neighbors who’d partied a little too hard that night and misplaced their keys.

“Police.  Buzz us in.”

Other than a few New York state gambling statutes he’d probably violated earlier in the evening at his regular Friday night poker game, Chenault couldn’t think of any other laws he’d broken lately, and at the moment he wasn’t covering any stories that worthy of note.  “I’m sorry, what is this concerning?”          

 

As his uninvited guests made their way up the building’s three flights of stairs, Chenault threw on an old, plaid flannel robe and a pair of well-worn slippers before opening the door.

“I’m Detective Wheatly.  This is Detective Garcia.  We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

    Well obviously, Chenault mused to himself as he closed the door behind them.  “At 3:00 in the morning?” he said through a yawn.

“Actually, it’s only. . .2:48,” the portly, middle-aged detective informed him after glancing at his watch.

By his pale complexion, the mustachioed Wheatly appeared to do most of his work at night.  The wiry, and better-dressed Garcia appeared to be the junior partner of the duo, with his jet black hair gleaming with “product,” and a stylishly trimmed goatee and sideburns framing the lower portion of his bronzed face.  By his demeanor, he gave the impression he was indifferent to the proceedings as he casually glanced around the well-kept apartment, the décor of which could perhaps best be described as “New York City men’s club.”  Mahogany paneled walls in the main living area, overstuffed, brass studded leather chairs, wall-to-wall bookshelves lined with Chenault’s past, present, and future reading material, and a few tasteful oil paintings completed the ensemble.  The only modern touches he noticed were a high-end stereo system accompanied by an extensive blues and jazz collection, most of which was still on vinyl, and a wall-mounted flat screen with a nearby library of mostly classic films.

“So how you afford a place like this?” Garcia asked in his accented English.

With a raised eyebrow, Chenault glanced over to Wheatly as if to pose the one word question, Seriously?, before looking back to Garcia.

“. . .Rent control.  So what is it that you have to ask me that’s so important that you couldn’t have waited until, say like 9 a.m. and over the phone?”

“Well, seeing as how you’re our only possible suspect right now, we didn’t want to take the chance you might not be here at 9 a.m.” Wheatlyanswered.

“Suspected of what?” Chenault shot back as if he’d been insulted.

“First, we need to advise you that you don’t have to speak to us if you don’t want to, and if you need a lawyer and can’t afford one, one can be provided for you.  Also, anything you say.  . .”

“Wait a minute!”  Chenault interrupted.  “You’re reading me my rights?”

When Wheatly nodded in reply, Chenault first shook his head in exasperated disbelief.  “. . .I’m really tired fellas.  I know you’re just doing your job, but I’ve hardly slept in the last three days, and I really don’t feel like going downtown with you to the pokey tonight.  So just what’s this all about?”

Wheatly, not used to having his slightly botched rendition of Miranda rights waived half way through, was at first put off until he realized that the sleep deprived Chenault might very possibly hang himself with a few careless answers.  “. . .Do you know a Martin Koplanski?”

“No, I don’t know a Martin Koplanski.”

“Well then, would you know why records were found of a phone call placed from Mr. Koplanski to you, and why your work address was in Mr. Koplanski’s possession?”

Chenault paused for a moment.  “. . .That’s what you got me out of bed for at three o’clock in the morning?  Look, I can only guess this is someone I talked to one time about a story.”

“What kind of story?”  Wheatly asked.

“Do you not know who I work for?”

“Yeah, The New York Times.  What, are we supposed to be impressed?”

“No, it’s just I write stories for a living.  I’m a journalist.”

“Isn’t that just a fancy word for ‘reporter’?”  Wheatly said with a somewhat derisive note in his voice.          

“You got me.”

“All I know is, this Koplanski didn’t have much of anything to do with anybody–he didn’t get out much, if you get my drift.  He places just four long distance calls in the last two weeks–one to his daughter, one to you, and one each out to L.A. and someplace out in Utah, and two days later after talking to you, he turns up dead.”

“Murder?” Chenault said with half a laugh.  “Well why not go wake up somebody out in L.A. or Utah?”

“Because Koplanski lived upstate and it just seemed like a little shorter drive for you to kill him.”

“And I killed him because. . .he called me on the phone?”

“I don’t know, why don’t you tell us?”

“Fellas, I don’t mean to be rude, but unless you’ve got anything else, or you’re gonna take me downtown, I’m going back to bed.”

“You don’t seem to have a whole lot of remorse.  We tell you someone you know got offed, and you want to go back to bed.”

“Guys, if you haven’t figured out yet, I don’t even know who you’re talking about.  I probably talk to close to fifty people a day or more.  Naturally, I feel bad some poor guy got murdered, but it’s really got nothing to do with me.”

“Yeah, that’s an original defense–‘You don’t know nothin’ about it.’  You ever hear that one before, Julio?”

“No, never,” the Hispanic detective deadpanned.

“You guys are a regular ‘Laurel and Hardy.’  Look, I tell you what,” said Chenault.  “Give me your card and I’ll come downtown tomorrow and answer whatever questions you have.  And I’m really not normally this cranky, but I’ve got to get some sleep.  When I get to work, I’ll look up and try to see what I have on this guy.  Deal?”

_________________________________________________________________________

Review by Mayra Calvani

Jack L. Brody’s The Moroni Deception is an exciting page-turner in the tradition of The DaVinci Code, one that will be relished by fans of suspense thrillers.

The presidential election is just around the corner and it looks as though charismatic Republican candidate and Utah senator Brockston Ratchford is going to win. The fact that his wife has been brutally murdered and his daughter kidnapped has only gained him public sympathy.

However, his wife isn’t the only one whose throat has been cut from ear to ear and whose forehead has been marked with strange symbols. A retired history professor by the name of Martin Koplanski has suffered the same fate, and the fact that he’s the author of a book that apparently doesn’t sit well with the powers that be in the Mormon Church doesn’t look like a coincidence.

New York Times journalist Chenault begins working on the story. With the help of Rachel Potter, a fledgling reporter for the The Salt Lake Tribune, he sets out to investigate the murders. Soon, a dark grim history begins to emerge, one of ancient artifacts, secret societies, and a mysterious prophecy that points to none other than Senator Ratchford.

Who, in fact, is The Prophet? Who is meant to be The Great Restorer? As the clock ticks and the presidential election approaches, the bodies pile up.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. The Moroni Deception is a hell of a ride. The pace is quick, the characters compelling, the stakes high. I really liked Chenault. He’s smart and sympathetic and has a good heart. I especially like that he’s not one of those tortured journalist heroes with a bitter past and prone to drinking. That was refreshing. The ending is surprising and satisfying.

The Moroni Deception is a controversial novel in the same way as The DaVinci Code is. So if you enjoy thrillers with religious and historical undertones, you’ll get a kick out of this one.

Visit the website at  http://www.themoronideception.com/
Purchase from Amazon.

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Interview with Fiction/Family/Relationships Author Richard Alan on ‘The Couples’

Richard Alan

Richard Alan lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with his wife, Carolynn. They are the proud parents of three wonderful adult sons.He is a Vietnam combat and 101st Airborne Division veteran.

After an education in mathematics, a 17 year career in manufacturing engineering and a 22 year career in software engineering, he has started a career as an author. Richard writes novels about people trying to find their life-partner, soul-mate, the person they are meant to be with for life. His first two books, Meant to Be and The Couples, are available on his website and most online retailers.

Richard’s other interests range from mathematical analysis and photography to anything with an engine. His current projects include writing the third (Finding Each Other) and fourth novels in the “Meant to Be” series, and discovering the properties of functions of p-adic numbers. Having completed a potting bench for his lifepartner, Carolynn, he is busy driving her to watch salmon runs, visit National Parks, and anywhere that provides an opportunity to view her avian friends.

His latest books in the Meant to Be Series are Meant to Be and The Couples.

You can visit Richard Alan’s website, VILLAGE DRUMMER FICTION at www.villagedrummerfiction.com.

CONNECT WITH RICHARD:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon Kindle Store (Meant to Be)| CreateSpace (Meant to Be) | Amazon Kindle Store (The Couples) | CreateSpace (The Couples)

 

ABOUT THE COUPLES

 

 

Acclaimed author of Meant to Be, Richard Alan, once again enchants us with characters that we really want to know. You will laugh, cry, and love with them as you seek the answers to the relationship questions posed by this talented author.

Will a tough techy lady be able to find love with a man who is still mourning his deceased fiancée?

Will an intellectually snobbish genius learn that there is more to the truck mechanic than meets the eye?

Can a nerd and a party girl find happiness together?

Can a teenage boy musician get past his unrequited love to learn to love a ranch girl instead?

Will a troubled rape victim be able to have a normal relationship with a man?

The Couples is about people who may belong together and how the world around them helps them, or sometimes defeats them in their search for a life partner. It follows the lives of couples,their friends, and their support systems,as they explore their relationships.

The Couples is Richard Alan’s second novel in the “Meant to Be” series. It continues to explore relationships, love, and life.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Richard. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Couples, is all about?

The Couples continues the theme established in Meant to Be of people who may belong together and how the world around them helps, or sometimes defeats them, in their search for a life partner.  It follows the lives of couples, their friends, and their support systems, as they explore their relationships.

Meyer and Joan return in The Couples, along with several other characters from Meant to Be.  New people are introduced who also interact with Meyer, Joan, and others.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters? 

Anna and Michael, both of whom are techies, are the main characters.  Michael is emotionally hurting due to the sudden death of his fiancée a few weeks before their wedding.  Anna has to get over her poor self-image and learn to trust her feelings.  The book centers on their ability to help each other and to grow to become a couple.

There are several supporting characters.  One of the them is suddenly confronted with the opportunity to become the mother of the daughter she gave up for adoption ten years earlier.  Another is a rape victim who is trying to rejoin society as a whole person.  One is a teenage boy musician who is trying to get past an unrequited love and finds happiness with a ranch girl. These and several others come together as a community to support each other in their quest to find their life partner.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination? 

They are totally from my imagination.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write? 

First I develop characters and then the characters tell me their stories.  The stories they tell me always provide twists and turns.  I follow them wherever they take me.  Sometimes I am as surprised at the outcome of a relationship as I’m sure my readers will be.  Occasionally, a subplot will be very interesting but not fit the main thrust of the book.  I save those for subsequent novels.

Q: Your book is set in the Pacific Northwest, including the Seattle area and the Boise, ID area.  Can you tell us why you chose these cities in particular? 

The stunning backdrops of the stories my characters wish to convey is provided by the rich tapestry of the mountains, plains, deserts, forests, and marine environments of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story? 

No; the interactions between, and the growth of, the characters is the major theme of the story.  The setting provides reasons to interact.  The characters reaction to the scenes around them may provide insight into their personalities.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening? 

A 10 year old foster child is visiting with a family who might adopt her.  When a bully is about to hurt the girl, he is stopped by the potential future father.  She smiles at him and wonders if this is what it’s like to have a father.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts? 

As they sat in front of the campfire, Anna’s eyes were filled with tears.  She told Michael, “Just when things were the best, they became the worst.  I could never provide that kind of love for someone, like Sharon did for you.”

Michael left his chair, kneeled in front of Anna, and holding each of her hands in his, told her, “You can and you will.”

He leaned forward and kissed her lips.  Anna’s mind was spinning.  She tightened her grip on Michael’s hands with as much strength as she could.  She knew that business partners shouldn’t act this way but… it was heaven to be kissed by Michael.

Anna closed her eyes and said in a quiet voice, “Michael, I’m scared.  I’ve never even had a boyfriend and sometimes, just the thought of you, does things to me I don’t like to think about.  That frightens me.  I’m not sure…”

Michael stood up in front of Anna.

Interrupting her he said, “Please stand up, Anna.”

“Michael, please listen…”

Michael lifted her arms slowly pulling her to a standing position.  He guided her arms around his neck, and in a soft voice told her, “This is how to get rid of that scared feeling.”

Michael wrapped his arms around Anna, pulling her body tightly against him and put his cheek against hers.  He could feel Anna’s arms slowly tightening around his neck.  Michael thought “Thank you Lord, for bringing Anna into my life and finally letting me hold her.”

Anna thought that having Michael’s arms firmly around her was better than her dream.  With the warmth of the fire pit, the cool evening breeze blowing on her, and the warmth from Michael’s body against hers; Anna didn’t ever want to let go.

After a while Michael asked her, “Does this help you feel better?”

“Yes, Michael,” she whispered.

 

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track? 

I have never suffered from writer’s block.  I have the opposite problem.  This is a good problem which has allowed me to write four books in the last fifteen months.

 

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted? 

Create world peace.  Oh, no – this is not a beauty contest.  Seriously, I’ve written a storyline for my fourth book where a woman in her late twenties takes a six year old girl for her first ride in a sailboat.  I would use the extra hour to continue polishing that story so my love of sailing, and being on the water, comes thru and becomes part of the girl’s character.

 

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why? 

Roger Penrose’s The Road to Reality.  Only a genius can take a reader from arithmetic to particle physics and beyond in one volume.  In my opinion, this one volume provides more science than any two years’ worth of college courses.  His clarity of thought and purpose should be a guiding light for any writer, in any genre.

 

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?  

Do not try to edit your own manuscript.  Have a group of beta readers critique your book before you have it published.  Listen to the editors and beta readers, but be careful not to let them ruin the spirit of your story.  They are not the author, you are.  The final product ultimately is your responsibility.  Start creating buzz about your book long before the manuscript is even finished.  Read blogs about writing.  There is a wealth of information out there and many authors who are extremely supportive.  Good luck and have fun.

 

 

 

 

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Interview with K.S. Krueger, Author of Traegonia the Ember Rune

Kim Krueger is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. She is a writer, businesswoman, Reiki practitioner and spiritual person. She loves animals, nature and kids. Kim has lived in the Suburbs of Chicago all her life. She is creative and always tries to foster creativity in her own children as well as in others. Although her background has been in business, Kim has always loved to write. She has written poetry and several children’s stories originally for her eldest daughter. Kim enjoys the idea of seeing the world through the eyes of her imagination and finds herself submerged in the worlds she creates. Imagination has never been in short supply ever since she was a child.

You can visit Kim’s website at www.WorldOfTraegonia.com.

About Traegonia the Ember Rune

Welcome to The World of Traegonia where two young Traegons turn one boy’s ordinary world into something truly extraordinary. Where trees are homes, hawks are transportation, fairies exist and the creatures of the forests have their own stories to tell. Open yourself to possibility that just beyond the forest tree line a very different reality exists.

Traegonia the Ember Rune, the second book in the Traegonia series, continues the adventures of a young boy and a community of, mystical creatures of the forest known as, Traegons. These sixteen inch tall forest dwelling creatures, that resemble a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon, are wise and inquisitive. Although, they may appear scary at first they are actually quite kind and civilized. When Dino is faced with leaving, Karia and Juna, his two young Traegon friends behind when his parents decide to go on vacation, he decides to smuggle them on board a plane to California. His family vacation turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they meet two young girls and a bold and a bit wild young Traegon named Fletch. This Northern California Mountain holds danger, mystery and a path of learning for each of these new friends.  Faced with forces of nature, a rogue cougar and the evolution of their own journeys, the group of unlikely friends must believe in themselves and each other to uncover the meaning of the Ember Rune and get off the mountain safely. New friendships are made, old ones revealed and a new community of Traegons is introduced.  Join Dino, Karia and Juna on this second exciting adventure and decide for yourself…. Do they exist?

Do you Believe?

Q: Thank you for this interview, Kim. Can you tell us what your latest book, Traegonia the Ember Rune, is all about?

I would love to. Traegonia the Ember Rune, is the second book in the Traegonia series and continues the adventures of a young boy and a community of mystical creatures of the forest known as Traegons. These sixteen inch tall forest dwelling creatures that resemble a cross between a troll and a wingless dragon, are wise and inquisitive. Although, they may appear scary at first they are actually quite kind and civilized. When Dino is faced with leaving Karia and Juna, his two young Traegon friends, behind when his parents decide to go on vacation, he decides to smuggle them on board a plane to California. His family vacation turns into an adventure of a lifetime when they meet two young girls and a bold and a bit wild young Traegon named Fletch. This Northern California Mountain holds danger, mystery and a path of learning for each of these new friends. Faced with forces of nature, a rogue cougar and the evolution of their own journeys, the group of unlikely friends must believe in themselves and each other to uncover the meaning of the Ember Rune and get off the mountain safely. New friendships are made, old ones revealed and a new community of Traegons is introduced.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are three main characters in the Traegonia series. Dino, a young human boy who befriends two young Traegons, and of course the two young Traegons by the names of Karia and Juna. These three and their friendship is the basis of the series. They will always be at the center of the adventure and learning. The supporting characters are Dino’s mom and dad, his best friend Quinn, the community of Traegons who are where Karia and Juna are from, along with Jade and Autumn two young girls from California and a whole new community of Traegons. There are more characters like the team of smoke jumpers and a young couple who are smaller characters, but I believe that every character is really important to the whole of the book and the series.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

The characters are individual and unique, with their own incredible personalities. Most of the characters are not based off of any one person in particular, but a blend of bits of myself and others, some who I know intimately and others whose mannerisms may have inspired certain elements of different characters; possibly someone who may have simply walked into my booth at one of the shows where I sell my books or stood and talked with me at length about the sculptures, life or nature. There are a handful of characters that are truly based off of particular people and those are the people who have had Dino create sculptures that were made in their likeness or I like to say essence. It is of course not a perfect match; it is a Traegon who embodies a personality, passion, mannerism or maybe just a favorite color. I believe there are maybe four of them. There is also one human character in our first book, Traegonia the Sunbow Prophecy, which was named for someone who gave me permission to use a phrase that fit the story perfectly. He was from the Illinois Audubon Society and as we spoke, some of the things he mentioned oddly enough had already been worked into the story. Some of the characters have names that are based off of the names of mine and Dino’s children. Oh, and I suppose if you count the fact that the main human character is named Dino and the Sculptor and illustrator’s name is Dino, but you will have to figure out if they are one in the same. Because that just might make the book non-fiction. Hummm, is it real?

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I have a general idea of the premise of what the book is going to be about as well as where it is going to go. But for the most part it in itself is as much a journey of discovery and a constant progression that changes and evolves. It is such an exciting way to write. It is also really fun that it is a series that is evolving as the first books have already been released, because you never know who or what may inspire a scene or a character.

Q: Your book is set in the mountains of Northern California. Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?

I knew the second book would deal with the element of fire and California has beautiful dense forest, and wonderful plant and wildlife that make an awesome addition and perfect place where Traegons would live. There are also several forest fires every year that allowed me to work in the fire aspect to the story line.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely! For the Traegonia books the setting is an integral part of who the characters are, how they live, who the other creatures and humans they will meet will be and what will happen throughout each story. The first two books take place in rural settings, which is where most Traegons are found, but book three is going to be a little different and lots of fun, because we are going to have the opportunity to see Traegons in a very urban setting, one of the largest cities in the United States. Ever misplace or accidentally lose something on the train. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We just might be able to solve that mystery.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

This is such a fun question, and what is even more fun is that this happens to be one of my favorite parts in the book. Oh and just for the record this is page 69 from the paperback. The pages are slightly different from paperback to hardcover. Anyway, here is what is happening.

In the baggage pick up area of the airport the animals are being brought out to the area where they will be picked up. Karia and Juna never made it back into Dino’s suitcase but hitched a ride in a large dog crate with a young hound dog with huge floppy ears named Fanblade. Juna reaches through the front of the crate and unlatches the door. They are waiting for the perfect time to slip out when Fanblade pushed them out of the crate as he escapes himself, into the crowd of people. This becomes the perfect distraction for Karia and Juna to find their way back to their friend Dino.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

I don’t know if this is the best but it is where Karia meets Kamara, for the first time. Kamara is a favorite character in sculpture form; she is a very nontraditional fairy godmother type character. You can see the sculpture of Kamara at our website at http://www.worldoftraegonia.com/meet-the-characters/

Juna pulled the wagon off to the side of the path, and Karia jumped out. She headed back in the direction they had come from. She walked slowly through the market, scanning each cart for the thing that had caught her eye. She stopped at a rickety old crooked wagon, obscured on either side by two large bushes. She looked carefully over the vast array of items on display. Everything lying on the L-shaped stand that jutted out at the back of the open wagon, looked to be very old and somewhat dull. Karia visually examined each piece, hoping that whatever it was that had caught her attention would show itself. She looked over the stand a second time and then wondered if it might have been at a different wagon. As she turned to look at the other wagons, a gravelly voice called her back.

“Is this what you seek, youngling?”

Karia turned slowly back around. Standing before her, shrouded in the shadows, was a Traegon whom she had never seen before, a she-Traegon who looked to be as old as the land itself. When the she-Traegon stepped forward, Karia could see that she was short and bent. She walked with a bit of a limp and had one milky white eye that startled Karia when the old she-Traegon turned her head. On the top of her knurly walking cane was perched a crooked blackbird. He was scrawny, and his feathers were separated, with many missing, as if he were in a constant state of molting. He was unkempt, and his color was dingy, unlike the sleek, shiny black feathers of Oracle Balstar’s raven, Sable. His chirp was more of a raspy squawk. Karia’s eyes followed down the she-Traegons crooked and outstretched arm to an even more crooked hand with long, wiry, bent fingers that held a shiny, circular object. It was flat but thick, a round silver amulet with crude markings and three curved grooves that came from the edges and met in the center. It was a simple piece, not anything stunning.

Karia knew at once it was what she had spotted, even though she had no idea what it was. Little did she know the power it held.

“Yes, that is it! That is what I was searching for,” Karia replied in a puzzled tone. “Was that sitting on this cart moments ago?”

“No, my dear. It has been in a box inside my wagon since I first came to possess it. This, youngling, is not for just any Traegon.”
The old she-Traegon coughed a bit. “I believe everything has one to which it belongs, and I believe this belongs to you.” Her crooked arm reached further out of the shadow of the shaded cart and placed the item into Karia’s hand.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Kim. We wish you much success!

Thank you, for the opportunity to share about our book series and sculpture collection. We invite you to drop by our website at www.worldoftraegonia.com and our Facebook at World of Traegonia to view our sculptures on our meet the characters page and our video clips on our sightings page. Maybe you too will believe!

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Guest Blogger: What Do We Mean By Creative Writing by Heidi Ann Smith

What Do We Mean By Creative Writing?

By Heidi Ann Smith

What is creative writing?  By this question I do not mean to ask how we can cause those who are not creative writers to understand a work of creative writing rather, by this question, I mean to provoke others to ask how we might understand the question. For a long time I labeled myself as ‘a free-verse poet’ until it occurred to me that if I did not label myself as aligned with any particular genre I might have more creative writing options. Rosemary Butcher argues that, “the thesis is produced in a sense in the making of the work”. By this I mean to suggest that a creatively written text is evidence of a performance that has ended and that the performance must not aim at reproduction and by ‘re-production’, I mean a ‘preconceived’ idea.  If a creative writer is aware how a creative writing performance will end before the writing process has begun this necessarily limits the creativity since the nature of creativity implies that something will ‘arise’ or ‘come to light’.  It is in the making of the text that the artist supplies the necessary space and all of the materials that provoke a work of art to come into being.

Some may argue with the above proposition by asserting that anything can be interpreted as a work of art, for example, by arguing that Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917) and other ‘readymade’ art proponents, have demonstrated that anything ‘chosen’ by an artist can be a work of art.  If you will recall, Duchamp argued that a urinal is a work of art simply because he ‘chose’ to submit urinal to an art exhibit (that claimed it would present all works of art).  Duchamp signed the urinal with the pseudonym, ‘R. Mutt’.  I would counter this argument by suggesting that the work of art was the designer of the urinal not Duchamp.  ‘Choosing’ a common object and signing a pseudonym does not instantiate a work of art no matter how famous the artist’s signature or how ‘well chosen’ the object. In terms of creative writing, the previous argument would imply, for example, that the poet Mark Strand could sign his name to a store receipt and that store receipt would suddenly become a creatively written artifact.  While an object signed by a famous poet may be of value, history demonstrates that monetary value or affiliation with someone famous does not necessarily translate into a work of art. Vincent van Gogh, for example, sold only one painting in his lifetime (and received very little money for it) and Friedrich Nietzsche and Charles Peirce’s writings did not gain popularity until after their deaths. The previous examples demonstrate that the artist informs the field of artistic practice, not the viewer or the object, no matter how well ‘chosen’.  How was Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” altered by the viewer’s ever increasing appreciation of it?  How was Duchamp’s urinal informed by Duchamp’s artistic practice? While some may suggest that anything is a work of art, I would argue along the lines suggested by Deleuze that a work of art is ‘molded’ by a skilled and practicing artisan and that the work of art itself ‘causes sensations’ or ‘affects’ regardless of the viewer. Is a tree in a forest, a tree in a forest, if no human is there to view it? Following along similar lines of reasoning, some may want to say that a machine is a work of art. I suggest that a machine may be a work of art but a machine cannot manufacture an art theory, a machine can only instantiate an art theory.  Artists are creators of art theories that arise in the ‘making’ of the work of art. If this is not the case, then what are the fundamental notions by which we might arrive at understanding of what we mean by ‘creative writing’ and what are the conditions that allow or cause a work of creative writing to come into being?

About Heidi Ann Smith

Heidi Ann Smith grew up in the Chicago area and began publishing poems as a child. At a young age, she won various local and academic awards for her writing; based on her writing abilities, she was awarded a scholarship to a private high school and attended college courses during her high school years. After high school she began raising a family and was taken away from her writing, but soon returned to complete a Bachelor of Arts from Eastern Illinois University. She then earned a Master of Arts in Humanities from California State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Several of her poems recently found homes in various journals, and she published a scholarly thesis on the German artist George Grosz. Heidi is currently a PhD student studying Creative Writing at Middlesex University in London, England. THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY is her first novel.

You can visit the website at www.monkeypuzzlepress.com.

About The Clara Ann Burns Story

In Heidi Ann Smith’s short novel THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, a woman who suffered child abuse looks back over her turbulent life as she approaches her fifties. Smith describes it as “a story of a young girl, Clara Ann Burns, who was tortured, abused and neglected by her family. When she was old enough to go out on her own, she got herself into situations that were not always the best. But in the end she raises her own family and holds onto the hope of healing and living without fear.”

Smith explains that the story “is based on some of my life experiences,” which included sexual abuse. “I needed to write this book–and I needed to have the right and the freedom to bring together different events.”

Rather than creating a traditional narrative text from start to finish, in THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith–who holds one master’s degree in fine arts in creative writing, another in humanities, and is a PhD student in creative writing–chose to express child abuse and loss by experimenting with literary genre. The result is that the protagonist, Clara Ann Burns, tells her story through written memories (short stories, lists, poems, one-minute plays) and memorabilia (hospital records, photographs, personal records). All are presented without explanation: a grandmother cooks breakfast while she speaks to her deceased husband; a mother scalds her child in a bathtub; the funeral processions of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.; the death of a child’s father; and the rape of a stepdaughter. This multi-genre approach, Smith feels, more accurately conveys “the impossibility of piecing together this story, and reflects the inconsistencies of an abuse victim’s memories that tend to jump from one instance of abuse to the next, rather than flowing through, perhaps, what might be considered the normal ups and downs of life.”

In addition, Smith points out, “These isolated memories of abuse that flash through Clara’s mind are what it means to have post-traumatic stress disorder. I suggest further that these isolated incidents also represent the perplexity of healing from prolonged neglect and abuse, since a constant state of fear is what is most familiar to Clara since she was abused by family members and friends for many years. If a child believes his or her own family is not adverse to his or her own torture, neglect, or rape, the child cannot survive as emotionally or psychologically intact. In Clara’s case, the abuse is pervasive, there is no relief for many years, nor hope of relief until she is an older woman and capable of looking at what happened to her objectively through the instantiation of the events as presented in the text.”

Despite the personal inspiration behind THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY, Smith’s academic and scholarly understanding of both creative writing and fine art informs the book’s power. She likens writing to fine art: “All the great artists I studied reflected their life; in a great work of art, you cannot extricate the artist’s life from their work. When you look at a work of art by Van Gogh or Caravaggio you see some truth about their life. For me, the truth does not necessarily read like a biography; there are details that are blurred from your view. When I was engaged in the writing process, some things that were hidden from my view came out–which may grab the reader because it hit me as well.”

Smith hopes that readers who can identify with THE CLARA ANN BURNS STORY will find some comfort in it. “When I was a little girl I was very sick and I didn’t have a happy home life. I started reading poetry, and I felt some kind of resonance and a kindred spirit with the other writer’s work. I hope my work will reach someone and that they will also know that they are not alone.” And, she adds, “I also hope the work is received as a work of literature.”

 

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Interview with Bonnie Trachtenberg, author of “Wedlocked”

Bonnie Trachtenburg

Bonnie Trachtenberg worked as Senior Writer and Copy Chief at Book-of-the-Month Club and has written seven children’s book adaptations. She’s also written for three newspapers, and has penned countless magazine articles.Wedlocked is her first novel. She lives on Long Island with her husband, stepchildren, and cats.

Please visit her blogs at:

http://www.BonnieTrachtenberg.com

http://www.Wedlockedthenovel.com

and on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/WritebrainedNY

Q: Thank you for this interview, Bonnie. Can you tell us what your latest book, Wedlocked: A Novel, is all about?

A: Wonderful to be here. Wedlocked is the witty, engaging tale of a struggling actress named Rebecca Ross, who, after years of disappointment and heartache, finds herself catapulted into a disastrous marriage and onto a honeymoon from hell. Readers will find that the story is like a wild ride through Rebecca’s life, featuring zany, memorable characters; unique, unpredictable plotting; and lots of humor.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Rebecca starts out as a perfectionist Pollyanna and talented overachiever but gets taken down quite a few notches by her experiences in life—so much so that she begins to doubt everything she’s ever believed and is compelled to make a desperate decision. Rebecca does what her dictatorial mother, an overzealous convert to Judaism, has always wanted her to do: she marries a Jewish man, namely Craig Jacobs. Craig is charismatic and persistent but brash and defiant too, and he comes into Rebecca’s life like a hurricane. But it’s not until her wedding day that she begins to realize just how wacky and destructive a man he is—and just wait for the honeymoon!

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: The characters in Wedlocked are closely based on real people, as the story is based on my first brief and calamitous marriage. Some characters are composites and most were amplified—but not all! I guess you could say that with a few changes, Rebecca is really me. In fact, friends who have read the book say they hear my voice in their heads when Rebecca narrates.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: In this case I was very consciously aware of the plot since it was inspired by actual events from my life. In my second novel, which is in the editing phase, I used an idea that had been marinating in my mind for a while. However, in both cases, I found that the stories took unexpected turns as I wrote.

Q: Your book is set in New York, Los Angeles and Italy. Can you tell us why you chose these places in particular?

A: I’ve lived in both New York and Los Angeles and therefore have a great affinity and good knowledge of both. Many of my life experiences can be tied to places and events in both cities. I chose Italy because I’ve been there three times and find it to be a paradise. What better place to set a disastrous honeymoon? Especially since that’s where mine took place.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes, all three settings are like characters in what they offer and how they each affect Rebecca’s life. They also lend a certain richness to the story that only location can.

Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?

A: Rebecca is about to shoot her first national commercial and is practicing her lines. She wants to make sure absolutely nothing goes wrong since, thanks to her, all her other career opportunities have gone down the drain. Of course something will go wrong, but this time it will be totally out of her control.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: Sure. This is from the prologue and sets the stage for what’s to come:
“As we were announced into a resplendent ballroom filled with enthusiastic guests, it was as if a UFO had plucked me out of my should-be life, only to plop me down in some sort of bizarre alternate universe. For it had been less than a year earlier that I was this close to seeing my dreams of fame, fortune, and romance come to fruition, when they exploded in my face like a cruel joke.

With Craig’s hand gripping mine, and the Starbright Orchestra’s lead singer channeling Frank Sinatra, the glorious, Gatsby-esque room that had so enchanted me, began spinning even faster than my shell-shocked, post-nuptial brain. What some brides know is that when you find yourself sashaying down the aisle on what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life, things can sometimes turn bafflingly surreal. Sensing something’s terribly amiss, you chalk it up to jitters, refusing to acknowledge a most unpleasant fact: the man standing before you in white tie and tails is far from the soul mate you hoped for.

If I could have seen this truth in real time, I like to think I would have mustered the courage to make a mad bolt from the chapel. But I was thirty-six—trampled, lost, and romantically bankrupt—so the only thing running away that day was the train I was riding, and I kept my seat, although I was destined to wreck.” —from Wedlocked: A Novel

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Bonnie. We wish you much success!

A: It was a pleasure. Thank you!

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Interview with ‘Forbidden the Stars’ Valmore Daniels

We have a special guest today!  Valmore Daniels is here with us to talk about his new science fiction novel, Forbidden the Stars .  Enjoy!

Valmore Daniels 2In true nomadic spirit, Valmore Daniels has lived on the coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, and dozens of points in between.

An insatiable thirst for new experiences has led him to work in several fields, including legal research, elderly care, oil & gas administration, web design, government service, human resources, and retail business management.

His enthusiasm for travel is only surpassed by his passion for telling tall tales.

Valmore’s latest book is Forbidden the Stars, a sci-fi novel set at the end of the 21st century.

Visit his website at www.ValmoreDaniels.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Valmore. Can you tell us what your latest book, Forbidden The Stars, is all about?

Forbidden The Stars takes place at the end of the century and concerns the decade leading up to the point where humankind enters the Interstellar Age. There are three main plotlines that intertwine. A catastrophic accident in the asteroid belt leads to the development of an element which can fuel faster-than-light travel. The first manned mission to Pluto discovers signs of alien life. And from the depths of a criminal empire on Luna, an expatriate watches all of this and makes his move to seize control of interstellar travel.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Captain Justine Turner, NASA’s youngest female astronaut, journeys to Pluto, where she and her crew discover signs of an alien civilization.

Alex Manez, who accompanies his parents on a survey mission in the asteroid belt, is hurtled through space at near light speeds when a new element is discovered and reacts with the asteroid.

On Luna Station, a criminal mastermind, Chow Yin, intercepts communications between Pluto and Earth, and quickly makes plans to seize control of the new technology.

On Earth, Michael Sanderson has to juggle the politics of the discovery between two powerful nations, deal with the interplanetary war brewing, and at the same time spearhead the search for Alex Manez and the mysterious element that began the chain of events.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Every character I create borrows from some part of me, my life and experiences, or from someone I’ve known. It’s an interesting exercise to imagine average, everyday people in your life suddenly thrust into extreme circumstances, and extrapolate how they would handle that situation.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

My personal approach to writing a book has changed drastically with every new project. When I wrote my first novel, I flew by the seat of my pants, letting my imagination take me in whatever direction the story led me. While I had a lot of fun using this approach (and the novel will always be dear to me) the end product was less focused than it could have been. So I did some research, joined a writer’s group, and eventually adopted the outline method. While some detract from this method, citing that once you’ve completed the outline, your creativity suffers in the first draft, for me the opposite is the reality. Once I’m free from the bounds of figuring out what happens next, I can focus all my attention on characterization, character traits and quirks, conflicts, dialogue and world building.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Absolutely. Most (not all) science fiction on the market today deals primarily with either near-future events, alternate realities, or far-future space opera. Forbidden The Stars is set seventy years from now in our own future as humankind is on the brink between the space age and the interstellar age.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Michael Sanderson, CEO of Quantum Resources, is reconstructing the fatal accident in the asteroid belt which took the lives of two surveyors. They are trying to figure out why the asteroid completely disappeared, and speculating on the whereabout of the remains of the surveyors’ son, Alex Manez, who was also on the asteroid.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

Dark, cold, silent, inhospitable.

Wonderful.

Captain Justine Turner stood on the edge of the solar system. As captain of the Orcus 1, the historic honor fell to her.

It was another in a series of firsts for her; youngest female astronaut in NASA history; youngest person to get a captaincy of a space vessel; first human to set foot on the icy surface of Pluto.

She tried to think of something notable to say for the benefit of those on Earth who tracked their progress. Overcome with the tide of emotion, Justine could not think properly. The stale recycled air in her suit did not help clear her mind.

“Pluto,” she finally declared into her microphone. Swiveling her head to face the sun, a tiny glowing pinprick in the low horizon, she imagined she was speaking for the benefit of posterity.

“It’s been a two-hundred year journey to get here, since the dark planet’s existence was first theorized. Now, that dream is a reality. This occasion is a milestone in human history. From here, all that’s left is to conquer the stars.”

As she came over a rise, she shut her mouth tight with a clack that echoed insider her helmet. Below her, the science team and Helen gathered like acolytes around a divine statue.

Her eyes beheld a sight beyond anything she had ever imagined possible.

In a place where no human had ever before set foot, against the cold darkness of Pluto’s skyline, there was a monument the size of an aircraft hangar. The bulk of the structure resembled the nucleus of a complex atom.

Orbiting that nucleus, a number of spherical objects formed what looked like an electron cloud, hovering in the space around the monument without any visible tethers or supports.

An alien chill walked icy fingers up Justine’s spine.

Humankind was not alone in the universe…

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Valmore.  We wish you much success!

Thank you for having me.

You can visit Valmore Daniels at the following: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Forbidden The Stars is available at the following retailers:

Paperback: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Amazon CA / Barnes & Noble

eBook: Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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