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Pump Up Your Book! Announces September 2013 Authors on Virtual Book Tours

Jump into fall with a great book. In the month of September, Pump Up Your Book features dozens of authors with books in a variety of genres. New adult novels, paranormal thrillers, horror novels, young adult fiction, self-help books, true crime stories and more are making their way around the blogosphere.

Kristin Kuhns Alexandre continues her tour for her new adult novel, “Gem City Gypsy,” while Pamela Fagan Hutchins returns to talk about her mystery romantic thriller, “Leaving Annalese.” Romance novels come to you from Elaine Cantrell, Mike Hartner, and Deborah Hawkins. L.T. Getty talks about her historical fantasy/mythological novel, “Tower of Obsidian,” and Chuck Waldron shares his dystopian fiction book, “Lion’s Head Deception.”

Thrillers in a variety of subgenres come to you from Becky Komant, Danu Maurer, Joseph Spencer, Andy Straka, Marty Weiss, Vincent Zandri, while Marta Tandori tours with her suspense family saga, “Continuance.”

Younger readers will enjoy learning about “The Funny Adventures of Little Nani” by Cinta Garcia de la Rosa and “The Sign of the Elven Queen” by Mark J. Grant, and young adult books are being promoted by Joe Sergi and Mike Thomas.

Michael Phillip Cash is promoting two books and giving away great prizes during his book blasts, and we finally reveal the cover for “Romancing the Million $$$ Ghost,” by Heide AW Kaminski, Pam Ryan, and Pump Up’s founder, Dorothy Thompson. Also on tour are: Dora Machado and Mike Phillips.

For non-fiction, you’ll find Tim and Debbie Bishop talking about their inspirational travel adventure memoir, “Two Are Better,” Lakeysha Green and her fashion/self-help book, “The Seeds of Beauty,” the memoir/autobiography, “The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen” by Julia Helene Ibbotson, “Superior Vocal Health” by David Aaron Katz, Alan Power’s true crime royalty book, “The Princess Diana Conspiracy,” “Depression and Your Child: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers” by Deborah Serani, and Dee Simon’s comedy book, :Play Something Dancy.”

Visit YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGN2iFR1CT4  to view a video trailer introducing our clients on tour in September.

Pump Up Your Book! is a virtual book tour agency for authors who want quality service at an affordable price.  More information can be found on our website at www.pumpupyourbook.com.

 

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Greg Messel’s ‘San Francisco Secrets’ First Chapter Reveal

San Francisco SecretsTitle: San Francisco Secrets
Author: Greg Messel
Format: Paperback, ebook
Length: 405 pages
Publisher: Sunbreaks Publishing

Noted novelist and newspaper editor Edgar Watson Howe once said. “A man who can keep a secret may be wise but he is not half as wise as a man with no secrets to keep”

As the spring of 1958 arrives in San Francisco, it seems that baseball player turned private eye, Sam Slater and his fiancée, TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan, are surrounded by people who have secrets.

A prominent doctor, John O’Dell is being blackmailed by someone who has discovered a dark secret from his past. When the private investigator trying to catch the blackmailer is murdered, Dr. O’Dell hires Sam Slater to try to pick up the pieces. Someone is playing for keeps and will do anything to protect their own secrets.

Meanwhile, Amelia begins her new job as an international stewardess which takes her on adventures to New York City, London, Paris and Rome. In hot pursuit is a womanizing older pilot who has his sights set on Amelia.

Their lives get even more complicated when a mysterious woman from Sam’s past returns.

Sam and Amelia’s relationship will be tested as they work together to solve the mystery on the foggy streets of San Francisco.

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CHAPTER 1
THE STASH
March 6, 1958

On a quiet sunny Thursday afternoon, a quaint, little Spanish-style bank on Macarthur Boulevard in Oakland was robbed.

Two career criminals, Lloyd Wells and Doug McAllister, who were down on their luck, were elated as they pulled off a big score and made their getaway towards San Francisco.

The small neighborhood bank, made of white stucco with a red tile roof, had minimal security provided by an ancient bank guard who seemed to be dozing when the robbers stormed in. In the middle of the afternoon, there were just a few old people putting some money in their passbook savings accounts or cashing their Social Security checks.

Wells and McAllister needed this score badly. They planned to grab their loot and head for the Reno area where McAllister had a small rundown house. The score at the bank would set them up for future exploits in Reno.

Wells was anxious to get out of the Bay Area where he had already had several run-ins with the law. The bank robbery went flawlessly. It was over in just a few minutes with the tellers quickly emptying their cash drawers into McAllister’s bag before the thieves fled.

After making a clean getaway from the bank in Oakland, the pair caught the on-ramp to the Bay Bridge and headed for San Francisco. They kept checking their rearview mirror but there was no one in pursuit, even though they expected a lot of heat after the robbery.

McAllister and Wells wanted to get as far away as possible until things cooled down a bit after the heist. Wells had a plan to stash most of the loot from the robbery and then come back later to retrieve it before they permanently relocated to Reno.

McAllister tried to do a quick count of their haul while Wells drove the car cautiously over the bridge into San Francisco. It all happened so quickly inside the bank, but to his astonishment, it looked like they might have gotten away with as much as $70,000.

Wells drove out to Ocean Beach near the Cliff House on the western edge of the city, where he had parked his light-blue and white 1953 Chevy. He pulled the stolen aqua-colored 1954 Ford into the parking lot by the beach.

The men emptied everything out of the Ford. Wells popped the trunk on his Chevy and retrieved a burlap bag. The men put their black masks, hats, gloves, and two bricks into the bag.

They inspected the interior of the stolen car one last time and then locked it. McAllister looked around and then threw the keys to the Ford as far as he could out onto the sand of Ocean Beach. Wells transferred the bag full of money into the Chevy. The two men got into the car and drove away slowly.

They drove north past the Cliff House on the roadway that snaked along the seaside heading toward the Presidio grounds.

“Pull over here,” McAllister said.

Wells complied. McAllister retrieved the burlap bag and walked to the edge of a cliff near China Beach that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. He gave the bag a few swings and then threw it as far as he could off the cliff. McAllister watched the bag create a large splash as it landed in the ocean below.

When McAllister returned to the car, Wells said, “Time to go visit uncle.”

The men then headed to a house on O’Farrell Street in the heart of San Francisco. Wells’ uncle, Andrew Griffiths, was 85 years old and lived in an old Victorian townhouse that appeared frozen in time.

Wells had always been very fond of his uncle, who had raised him after his troubled parents abandoned him. Andrew Griffiths thought of Lloyd Wells as the son he never had, but he knew in his heart that attempts to keep his nephew on the straight-and-narrow were largely in vain. Griffiths had stopped asking Lloyd about his activities. He had come to the sad conclusion that it was best if he didn’t want to know a lot of details about his nephew’s life.

Wells knew that his uncle’s health was beginning to fail and he was spending more and more time in bed. His uncle’s only child was a daughter, Yvonne, who lived in Vacaville near Sacramento.

As the men parked in front of Uncle Andrew’s house, Wells gave final instructions to his partner.

“When we get in there, I’ll go into the back of the house and keep my uncle busy. There are two high-backed overstuffed antique chairs with green upholstery by the front window,” Wells explained. “Take the bank money and stuff it in the bottom of the two chairs. Just take your pocketknife and carefully pry off the covering on the bottom of the chairs. Put the cash inside and reattach the cloth on the bottom of the chairs. Got it?”

“Got it,” McAllister replied.

“Just make sure the covering on the bottom of the chair is securely fastened so the wad of cash stays put. Put the cash in these paper bags and secure it to the frame of the chair.

“Understand?”

“Yeah, no sweat,” McAllister said.

“It’s important that no one suspects that there is anything stashed in the bottom of the chairs. Those chairs haven’t been moved for a hundred years, so it’s the perfect place to hide our money until we come back to San Francisco and get it. I just want to make sure no one gets wise about what’s in those chairs.”

“Okay. You’re sure you can keep your uncle occupied and he won’t hear me tinkering with the chairs?”

“You could run a herd of cattle down my uncle’s hallway and he wouldn’t hear it. Just be quick about it and I’ll talk with him. I need to make sure he’s taken care of and I’ll explain that I’ll be out of town for a few weeks.”

“Sounds good. I’ll keep enough cash to get us through while we’re waiting for things to calm down,” McAllister replied.

“Right,” Wells responded. “Let’s get to work.”

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Paranormal Thriller Author Mark All’s The Spellcaster’s Grimoire Virtual Book Tour in May!

The Spellcaster's Grimoire banner

Mark All, author of the paranormal thriller, The Spellcaster’s Grimoire, will be on virtual book tour May 6 – 31 2013! Mark is the author of paranormal thrillers The Spellcaster’s Grimoire and Mystic Witch, published by ImaJinn Books in trade paperback and eBook formats. He has won two international writing awards and contributed to Computer Legends, Lies & Lore.

Mystic Witch received a 5 Star review from the Paranormal Romance Guild, and 3½ stars (out of 4½ possible stars) from RT Book Reviews.

Mark is a full-time author after a career as an instructional systems designer at a Fortune 16 company. Prior to his work in computer-based training, he held jobs ranging from gravedigger to FM radio announcer to professional rock guitarist.

Mark presents writing workshops and taught his “Planning Your Novel” course at the Spruill Center for the Arts.

He earned a Masters degree in computer-based education and a Bachelor of Music cum laude.
You can visit Mark All’s website at www.MarkAllAuthor.com.

The Spellcaster's GrimoireAbout his book:

Bestselling witchcraft author Trish Sinclair has a shameful secret: she’s a lousy spellcaster, and the spells in her books belong to others. So when a dying warlock entrusts her with an ancient and powerful grimoire, she runs for her life from his murderer, psychotic witch Kate Cavanaugh. Kate pursues Trish relentlessly to obtain the grimoire, which holds spells to command the fearsome power of a magic crystal hidden in town—and Kate is determined to have that power.

When the town coven refuses to help Trish protect the grimoire, she is forced to turn to cynical warlock Aidan McCarthy, who has a secret agenda of his own, and Rain Devereaux, a novice witch whose spellcasting abilities are even worse than Trish’s. As Kate unleashes the elemental might of tornados and ice storms on the trio, they desperately struggle to defeat her.

But Kate is too powerful, and she manages to steal the grimoire and unearth the crystal. Trish knows Kate will use the stone’s power to exact her deadly revenge on Aidan and the town coven unless Trish can manifest her latent magical abilities to save them.

Purchase The Spellcaster’s Grimoire:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE

Click here to visit Mark’s official tour page!

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Was there a conspiracy behind JFK’s death? Interview with Jack Duffy, author of ‘The Man From 2063’

Jack DuffyJack Duffy is an attorney from Fort Worth, Texas.  The Man from 2063 is his first book.  On November 22, 1963 he was in school at Bruce Shulkey Elementary when he heard the news about President Kennedy’s assassination.  His parents were at the breakfast in Fort Worth, Texas, that morning when President Kennedy gave his last speech.  In 1970 he saw the Zapruder film for the first time.  He has been researching the JFK assassination since then.  He has interviewed many eyewitnesses including Marina Oswald and several Parkland physicians who treated JFK.  He has met many researchers who have written books on the assassination.  He came up with the idea for a time travel novel in 1998.  He has one of the largest private collections of materials on the JFK assassination.  He graduated from Texas Tech University with a B.A. in Political Science.  He then earned an M.B.A from Baylor University.  He then graduated from South Texas School of Law with a J.D.  He is an Eagle Scout.

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The Man From 2063Who are some of the key people connected with the JFK assassination who died suspiciously?

William Pitzer is one of the most important strange deaths. Pitzer was a naval commander who took the photos and X-rays of JFK’s autopsy.  Pitzer told his family he was going to go public with the photos after he retired from the Navy.  He was threatened with court martial if he talked about the autopsy. He was visited by CIA agents and warned not to reveal what he had observed at the autopsy. Pitzer made a 16 mm film of the autopsy.  In the mid 1960’s a Green Beret was asked to kill Pitzer for the CIA. He refused to kill him.  Later Pitzer was found dead in his lab at Bethesda naval hospital. His death was ruled a suicide. His 16mm film disappeared.   Dorothy Kilgallen was a reporter for the NY times. She was the only person to ever have a private interview with Jack Ruby.  She later told people she was going to blow the JFK assassination story wide open.  She was found dead in her NY apartment. Her death was ruled a suicide from a drug overdose.  Albert Bogard was a used car salesman who met a man who claimed he was Oswald at his car lot.  He later said the man was not the real Oswald. Bogard passed a lie detector and recieved death threats. He was found dead in his garage. A hose had been connected to his cars exhaust pipe and put in the window. His death was ruled a suicide. George DeMohrenschildt was a close friend of Oswald’s. DeMorenschildt worked for the CIA.  In March 1977, he committed suicide with a shotgun at his home in Florida hours before he was to be interviewed by an investigator from the HSCA.  Several high ranking mobsters were murdered before they could be brought to Washington D.C. to testify before the HSCA.   

What is the single bullet theory?

The single bullet theory was developed by Arlen Specter who was a junior lawyer on the Warren Commission.  The theory is that one of the bullets fired by Oswald from the School Book Depository hit JFK in the back of the neck, exited his throat, hit Gov. Connally in the back, struck one of his ribs, exited his chest, entered his wrist shattering it and then ended up in his thigh.  The bullet was later recovered from a stretcher in Parkland hospital.  The bullet was Commission exhibit 399 and had very little damage to it. It has been called ‘The Magic Bullet” by critiics of the Warren Commission. 

What are some of the problems with the single bullet theory?

First, Gov. Connally never agreed with it. Connally was an experienced hunter and testified that one bullet did not hit him and JFK.  Connally said he was hit by a separate bullet.  The surgeons who operated on Connally disagreed with the theory.  They said the trajectory of the bullet that wounded Connally proved it could not have hit JFK first. JFK’s shirt and coat prove the bullet entered his back several inches below his neck and could not possibly have exited from his throat.  Autopsy photos show the location of the back wound on JFK.  One of the pathologists at the autopsy stuck his finger in JFK’s back wound and could not feel any point of exit.  An Admiral present at the autopsy ordered the pathologists not to track the back wound. Tests done at firearms labs with the same ammunition that Oswald allegedly used show bullets that are flattened out completely after being fired into cadavers wrists.  More bullet fragments are present in Connally’s wrist X-rays than are missing from CE 399.

Is there evidence that JFK’s head wound was caused by a different type of ammunition than Oswald allegedly used?

Yes. X-rays of JFK’s skull reveal a snowflake pattern of small bullet fragments scattered throughout JFK’s brain. This is indicative of a hollow point or dum dum bullet that explodes on impact and fragments into dozens of pieces. This is the type of bullet often used by the Mafia and CIA because it is almost impossible to trace and causes massive damage to the victim. Oswald was allegedly using military jacketed ammunition which does does not explode into dozens of fragments like a hollow point bullet.

Were gunmen observed on the Grassy Knoll several days before JFK was killed?

Yes. On Wednesday, November 20, 1963 two Dallas police officers were driving down Elm Street through Dealey Plaza when they saw two men dressed in suits and ties standing behind the picket fence with high powered rifles. The policemen ran up the knoll however the men drove away in a car before the officers could catch them.  The police officers made a report about the incident. The report was buried by the FBI until the HSCA discovered it during their investigation of the assassination in the 1970’s.

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Pump Up Your Book Announces Letitia Fairbanks’ ‘Princess April Morning-Glory Virtual Blog Tour’

What kind of a world would you create, if you had to do three good deeds to make it home again? The answer to that crucial question, as given by the title character in Letitia Fairbanks’s charming fairy tale, PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY, tells a unique and captivating story. Although she lives a fabled life in a paradise called Fairyland, the princess makes a fateful decision to step outside of her cloistered existence to face the outside world and all of its Princess April Morning-Glory long bannertemptations. Once outside The Enchanted Forest, the princess longs to return home, but she is told by a benevolent wizard that she must first do three good deeds. She follows his sage advice and starts her journey home, performing three good deeds, peerless in the annals of fairy tales. But along the way, Princess April is tempted by the wicked Fairy Misery with the promise of riches and fabulous fairy wings if she remains in the outside world and does Misery’s bidding. Which life will Princess April choose?

For its writing, beautiful illustrations, and moral weight, PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY — written and illustrated by Letitia Fairbanks over seven decades ago — can be compared to such classics as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s THE LITTLE PRINCE and Walt Disney’s classic film FANTASIA.

 

PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY also comes with a fascinating history. Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of the fabled silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford. When she was a little girl, Letitia’s family moved to Hollywood from Utah after Douglas Fairbanks

appointed his brother Robert, Letitia’s father, to be the production manager of United Artists, the film company formed by Fairbanks, Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith.

Letitia, who was born in 1913, spent much of her childhood through early adulthood at Pickfair, the legendary estate built by Fairbanks and Pickford, where she was surrounded by the luminaries of the time. When she started writing and illustrating PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY in her twenties as a homage to her recently-deceased uncle, Letitia derived inspiration for the illustrations from then-current Hollywood blockbuster films, as well as deriving her portraiture from a composite of that era’s celluloid legends, along with immediate family members including her mother, father and sister, Lucile. The book was first copyrighted in 1941 and has not seen the light of day since.

Princess April Morning-Glory banner

Despite the book’s glamorous provenance, it’s the story, detailed imagery, and moral framework of PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY that make it special, says Kelley Smoot Garrett, Letitia’s stepdaughter and the successor trustee of the Ella Letitia Fairbanks Smoot Family Trust. Kelley, born in Texas and raised in New York City, holds a bachelor of science in geological sciences from the University of Texas at Austin and worked as a consulting petroleum geologist from 1983-1995. She currently works in Austin as a business analyst/project manager for hi-tech companies.

Following the painstaking digital restoration of the original artwork by Kelley’s husband, Danny Garrett, who, like Letitia, is an artist, Kelley has been collaborating with Amanda Millner-Fairbanks, the granddaughter of Letitia Fairbanks and Kelley’s step-niece, to publish the long-lost manuscript. Amanda is a graduate of Smith College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Newsweek, and the Huffington Post.

PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY’S theme of, “you create your own destiny from the three good deeds you choose to do,” Kelley says, gives the book the potential to become a modern classic for all ages.

About The Author, Letitia Fairbanks

Letitia Fairbanks was the niece of the fabled silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford. Born in 1913, Letitia spent much of her childhood and early adulthood at Pickfair, the legendary estate built by Fairbanks and Pickford. When she started writing and illustrating PRINCESS APRIL MORNING-GLORY, in her twenties, as a homage to her recently-deceased uncle, Letitia used an ensemble of current celluloid legends as inspirations for her illustrations. The book was first copyrighted in 1941 and has not seen the light of day since.

In honor of Letitia, Kelley Smoot Garrett is sending Letitia Fairbanks’ children’s book, Princess April Morning-Glory on a virtual book tour February 4 – April 26 and is giving everyone a chance to win a free Kindle Fire HD!  If you would like to follow her tour or enter the giveaway, visit her tour page at Pump Up Your Book by clicking HERE.

Pump Up Your Book is an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion & publicity for authors.

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A Conversation with Holly Bush, author of ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

Click on cover to purchase

Q: Thank you for this interview, Holly. Can you tell us what your latest
book, Reconstructing Jackson, is all about?

I’d love to and thanks for having me. Reconstructing Jackson is set a few yearsafter the Civil War and follows Confederate veteran, Reed Jackson, as hemoves west to begin again after the devastation of the war.

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

Reed Jackson is in a wheelchair, having lost part of one leg and the full use
of the other from a war injury. When he arrives home, his father decides
because of his injuries, he is unfit to carry on the Jackson legacy, and deeds
the plantation to Reed’s younger brother. With that deed goes Reed’s fiancé
from a neighboring plantation. Reed’s mother urges him to move to Fenton,
Missouri, where her nephew, Henry Ames’, operates a successful hotel and is
eager to help his cousin get settled in a new town.

Belle Richards is dirt poor farm girl and lifetime resident of Fenton. She
endures an abusive family with one quest in mind – learning how to read.
Circumstances throw Reed and Belle together in a violent fashion.

Beulah Freeman manages The Ames Hotel for Reed’s cousin Henry. She is an
oddity, as a former slave, to be in a position of responsibility, literate and
teaching others to read.

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

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?

I do not know the entire plot of the book at the outset, but I do quickly know
the arc or dramatic turn of the book. Mostly, I see characters in my head and
record their actions and write their dialogue. With Reconstructing Jackson,
I saw a man, a young man, in a wheel chair on a dusty train platform, with
his trunk beside him looking around as if thinking about where to go next. I
wondered why such a young man would be in a wheel chair, why no one was at
the station to meet him. Where was he from, where was he going?

Q: Your book is set in Fenton, Missouri. Can you tell us why you chose this
city in particular?

The state of Missouri was the site of battles and guerilla warfare before and
during the war. The Dred Scott case, eventually argued by the Supreme Court,
originated in St. Louis and the state sent money and soldiers to both sides of
the war. This split of sympathies must have resulted in some dramatic and
horrible rifts among families and neighbors, even in the fictional town of
Fenton.

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

The time period plays a major part in the development of the story because
while Missouri was an obvious place for violence and tension, these kinds of
stories played out across America as social change was far ahead of general
sentiment.

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

Belle is holding a dictionary. She has never seen such a book before in her life
and is overwhelmed when she sees a word she knows. The book is a gift from
Reed.

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

Reed’s cousin, Henry, visits him his first evening in Fenton.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at

Father’s business for a while. Didn’t care for it much. Had a dream of moving

west. Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful

woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I

know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s

head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes,

but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war

began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have

continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have

managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel

existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this

visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already

were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp.

An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family

nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never

replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I

have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign.

His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with

pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the

same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s

encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe

she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past

and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new

world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

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

I usually take a break from writing for a few days or weeks. Then I read other
stories or books I’ve written and then I read the story I’m currently working on.
Usually by the time I’m done with the reread, I’m ready to write again.

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

Read or write.

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

Pride and Prejudice. Then I’d be a genius of subtle character building.

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

The publishing industry has changed and many of the barriers to publication
are gone. It is very tempting to self-publish, which has been a wonderful
experience for me and very, very successful so far. But I would caution writers
that while rejection from editors and agents is discouraging, there are usually
other agents to query. Rejection from the public, however, could be a once
and done affair. Make sure your book is ready and has been edited by a
professional before self-publishing.

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

Thank you for having me!

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A Conversation with ‘Saving Grace’ Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Pamela Fagan HutchinsPamela Fagan Hutchins writes award-winning mysterious women’s fiction and relationship humor books, and holds nothing back.  She is known for “having it all” which really means she has a little too much of everything, but loves it: writer, mediocre endurance athlete (triathlon, marathons), wife, mom of an ADHD & Asperger’s son, five kids/step-kids, business owner, recovering employment attorney and human resources executive, investigator, consultant, and musician.  Pamela lives with her husband Eric and two high school-aged kids, plus 200 pounds of pets in Houston. Their hearts are still in St. Croix, USVI, along with those of their three oldest offspring.

Her latest book is the mystery/women’s fiction, Saving Grace.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOOGLE+ |GOODREADS | LINKEDIN | SKIPJACK PUBLISHING

Saving GraceQ: Thank you for this interview, Pamela. Can you tell us what your latest book, Saving Grace, is all about?

Thank you! Saving Grace is the story of Katie Connell, a Texas attorney whose life is one train wreck after another: too many Bloody Marys, a client who’s the Vanilla Ice of the NBA, and a thing for a Heathcliff-like co-worker. She takes refuge from it all on the island of St. Marcos, where she plans to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

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

First, there’s Katie. Oh, Katie, Katie, Katie. She’s the main character, a 30-something lawyer who vacuums her rugs backwards and is as much a danger to herself as the bad guys.

Nick is the object of her unreturned affections, an investigator in Dallas with a penchant for surf boards and bass guitars.

Ava is an island seductress who convinces Katie to become her new best friend and a second for her vocal duo.

Rashidi John befriends Katie when he introduces her to the jumbie house Annalise on one of his popular-with-the-ladies rainforest botany tours.

And then there’s Annalise, a giant abandoned house in the rainforest who shows her magical side to a chosen few, and, boy does she ever choose Katie.

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

I steal most of my characters from people whose big imprints on life inspire my creativity. But if fiction is life without the boring parts, my fictional characters are those people without them either. Their fictional bads are badder and their crazies are crazier.

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

I am a planner and a plotter, but the novel takes me wherever it ultimately wants to go. Kind of like my kids do, in real life. In Saving Grace, a character named Zane McMillan shows up who wreaked havoc on my carefully constructed outline. I had a heck of a time keeping him from hijacking the whole book. I love it when that happens.

Q: Your book is set in the Virgin Islands.  Can you tell us why you chose this area in particular?

The islands are magical. I lived on St. Croix for six years, and the people and the places just burned into my brain and my heart. I had no choice in the matter: Saving Grace set itself there.

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

The island setting, and the rainforest jumbie house Annalise in particular, are pivotal to the story. In the islands, Katie can embrace the magic in herself and the world around her, whereas she is much too pragmatic for that kind of nonsense back in Texas.

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

Katie is throwing caution and common sense to the wind and is about to make an offer to purchase a half-finished abandoned house in the rainforest because she believes she and the jumbie spirit offer each other a chance at mutual salvation.

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

Sure, here’s one I really like:

We had hiked for nearly two hours when Rashidi gave us a hydration break and announced that we were nearing the turnaround point, which would be a special treat: a modern ruin. As we leaned on smooth kapok trees and sucked on our Lululemon water bottles, Rashidi explained that a bad man, a thief, had built a beautiful mansion in paradise ten years before, named her Annalise, and then left her forsaken and half-complete. No one had ever finished her and the rainforest had moved fast to claim her. Wild horses roamed her halls, colonies of bats filled her eaves, and who knows what lived below her in the depths of her cisterns. We would eat our lunch there, then turn back for the hike down.

When the forest parted to reveal Annalise, we all drew in a breath. She was amazing: tall, austere, and a bit frightening. Our group tensed with anticipation. It was like the first day of the annual Parade of Homes, where people stood in lines for the chance to tour the crème de la crème of Dallas real estate, except way better. We were visiting a mysterious mansion with a romantic history in a tropical rainforest. Ooh là là.

Graceful flamboyant trees, fragrant white-flowered frangipanis, and grand pillars marked the entrance to her gateless drive. On each side of the overgrown road, Rashidi pointed out papaya stalks, soursop, and mahogany trees. The fragrance was pungent, the air drunk with fermenting mangos and ripening guava, all subtly undercut by the aroma of bay leaves. It was a surreal orchard, its orphaned fruit unpicked, the air heavy and still, bees and insects the only thing stirring besides our band of turistas. Overhead, the branches met in the middle of the road and were covered in the trailing pink flowers I’d admired the day before, which Rashidi called pink trumpet vines. The sun shone through the canopy in narrow beams and lit our dim path.

A young woman in historic slave garb was standing on the front steps, peering at us from under the hand that shaded her eyes, her gingham skirt whipping in the breeze. She looked familiar. As we came closer, she turned and walked back inside. I turned to ask Rashidi if we were going to tour the inside of the house, but he was talking to a skeletally thin New Yorker who wanted details on the mileage and elevation gain of our hike for her Garmin.

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

I’m in a perpetual state of writer’s block, or recovery from it. The first thing I do when I feel it coming on is change locations or go outside. If I can’t nip it in the bud, I talk it out with my husband/muse. If it persists, I force myself to write something else — anything to keep me writing. I am a big believer that creativity happens when you’re putting in the work. I had a huge episode of block while writing the sequel to Saving Grace. It took me two months of other writing before the block broke and I could get back to the islands.

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

I’d love to say I’d run six miles or snuggle in the front of the fire with my husband, but it’s a lie. If I had an extra hour, I’d keep writing, but I’d at least play footsie (very vigorously) with him on the couch while I did it.

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

I wish I had written Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, because of the characters: unforgettable, flawed, and larger than life. Gus and Woodrow, oh, how I love thee.

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

More than ever, a fiction author must be fearless and relentless. The number of books published a year is growing exponentially, and you can’t just write yours and hope someone else will sell it for you. You need a marketing plan and an entrepreneurial spirit. It doesn’t hurt if you have a lot of support, too.

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Read-a-Chapter: Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush

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 historical fiction, Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. Enjoy!

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Reconstructing Jackson 2

  • File Size: 321 KB
  • Print Length: 191 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: BookBaby; 1 edition (September 25, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009LMKGUW

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

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Chapter One

May 19, 1867

“Need some help, mister?”

“I’ll be fine, thank you,” Reed Jackson said.

The conductor approached through whirls of black smoke and repeated, “Do ya need some help?”

The whistle blew as Reed replied. “I’m a cripple, not deaf, you jackass. I said I’d be fine.”

The conductor squinted through ashed air and hefted himself onto the train’s step. “OK, son,” he shouted.

The train pulled away and Reed struggled to pull his bag on to his lap and wheel himself to the step of the station house. A sign, swinging in the locomotive’s draft, read ‘Fenton, Missouri – Population 6,502.’

“Is there a boy about who can get my trunks to the hotel?” Reed shouted into the dim building. The scrawny station manager shaded his eyes as he stepped into the dirt street.

“Where ya be headin’?” he asked.

“The Ames Hotel,” Reed replied.

Reed contemplated the man who was now rubbing his jaw and eyeing his wheelchair; the last, hopefully, in a long line of nosy, prying half-wits whom Reed had encountered on this tortuous journey. The man knelt down and touched the leather strapping of the wheels.

“Please don’t touch the chair, sir,” Reed said.

He stood, eyes still perusing Reed and his belongings. “In the war?”

“Is there someone able to bring my trunks to the Ames Hotel?” Reed repeated.

“From the sound of that drawl, I’d bet my Helen’s berry pie, you was wearing gray,” the stationmaster added.

The man’s self-righteous smile did nothing to lighten Reed’s mood. He was tired, his leg hurt, and he wanted nothing more than complete and utter silence, followed by a long soak in a tub. But this was to be his new hometown. His fresh start.This imbecile may need his services as an attorney if he killed his pie-making wife, Reed thought.

“I served in the confederacy, sir.”

“Damn. I was right. A Johnny Reb, huh?”

“I consider myself a U.S. citizen,” Reed replied.

“Well, yeah but . . .”

“Excuse me,” Reed said as reached his hands to the wheels of his chair. “I must get to the hotel. I’m expected.”

The stationmaster turned as a man and woman approached. “Reed?” the man called.

“Henry.” Reed recognized his cousin from the remarkable likeness the man had to Reed’s mother. Tall and dark with great smiles marked the Ames family.

Henry clasped Reed’s hand and shook, turning to a petite blond beside him. “Reed, this is my wife, Mary Ellen. Mary Ellen, this is my cousin, Reed Jackson.”

“Pleasure to meet you, sir. How was your trip?” she shouted over the clang, roar and bedlam of the station.

Mary Ellen Ames wore an expensive, up-to-date gown and filled it most attractively, Reed noticed. He smiled his best Southern charm and held her dainty, gloved hand in his. “Dirty, hot and long.”

She laughed and turned to her husband. “Our traveler is weary, Henry. Let’s get him out of the sun and the dust.”

Reed was thankful this woman, his hostess was gracious and mannerly. So unlike the passengers he’d been forced to sit beside and occasionally converse with. He was sick of boorish behavior and basked in the delightful smile Henry’s wife bestowed upon him. Henry must have married as well as he possible could have in this God-forsaken town. His mother had told him that her brother’s son had come west before the war, married and was a successful businessman. She apparently was right.

Reed looked at the stationmaster as he listened in on their conversation. “I was trying to hire someone to bring my trunks to the hotel when you came.”

“Oh, yes siree, sir. Right away, sir.”

“Thank you.” Reed wheeled himself along beside Henry and Mary Ellen as they walked away from the station. As the roar of travel sounds dimmed, Reed turned to his cousin. “So what is life like here in the wild West?”

Henry stopped, looked at Reed’s serious face and leaned back, laughing. “The wild West? Fenton is hardly wild, Reed.”

“Well, we are west of the Mississippi, Henry? I was raised to believe civilization begins in the heart of the South,” Reed said and smiled.

“You’re teasing, Mr. Jackson. Why we have churches, shops, theatres, and even a small hospital. The fine ladies of the Aid Society consider Fenton a bastion of civilization.”

Reed regarded her sincere countenance. “Why, of course, Mrs. Ames. Forgive me.”

“Please call me Mary Ellen. We are related, and I want you to feel comfortable in your new home.”

“I would be honored if you would call me Reed or Jackson, in kind,” he replied.

The streets of Fenton were busy with wagons, horses and people. He watched as he wheeled and found some staring strangely at him, many on their own way, paying him no mind. He dodged horses’ hooves, children running and the hems of calico dresses.

“The sidewalk here in the main part of town runs right in front of the hotel. Let me get you up the first step,” Henry said, taking the handles behind Reed’s chair and turning him around.

It was humiliating to depend so entirely on others. Strangers, Reed didn’t mind, but the thought of a relative helping him merely negotiate the street riled him.

“I’m fine, now. Which way are we headed?” Reed said and caught an embarrassed glance from husband to wife.

Mary Ellen Ames motioned forward.

Reed pardoned himself many times on the narrow sidewalk. He passed the Fenton National Bank and a dreary theatre beside it and waited for Henry to move a pickle barrel a few inches back in front of the general store.

Mary Ellen turned onto a wooden sidewalk lined with flowers.  “Here we are.”

The Ames Hotel was indeed grand, yet to Reed’s thoughts, homey. A wide porch held wicker furniture and guests reclined and chatted there. Reed looked up at the large brick building, seeing three floors, curtains blowing softly out of tall windows. White gingerbread trim edged the porch pillars and roof. His gaze fell to six wide wooden steps, their backs white, the footfalls, forest green.

“You’ve done well for yourself, cousin. A very inviting hotel and busy from the looks of things,” Reed said.

Henry put his arm around his wife and looked up to the building. “We’ve been very fortunate.”

The couple’s eyes met, and Reed felt the intensity from feet away. They stared at each other, glowing, and Mary Ellen’s hand raised to her husband’s chest. This must be quite an accomplishment out here in the prairie; they rightly deserved to be proud, Reed thought.

Henry motioned Reed to follow him around the side of the hotel. A swing under two shade trees held a mother reading to a child. Pots of flowers lined the walk until Henry came to a gate. “We use this entrance, Reed. Rarely use the front. I’ve lowered the latch so you can come and go as you please.”

Reed followed his cousin and his wife through the gate. The back of the hotel was a sea of activity. Sheets hung in the breeze near a huge pot. Two women, their hair held back with red kerchiefs, straightening from their stirring, turned and stared. A round man in white carrying dead chickens,emerged from a shed and stopped abruptly. An old man painting a fence halted his brush, mid-stroke. He sat his bucket down, pulled a paint-stained rag from his pocket to wipe his hands and hobbled in Reed’s direction.

“Mr. Ames, Mrs. Ames, I sees your company’s here,” the wizened man said.

“Arlo, this is my cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Henry said.

“Pleased to be meetin’ ya,” the rough, wrinkled man said and held his hand out to shake.

Reed lifted his hand. “Likewise, I’m sure.”

“Looks like yer chair will fit after all.” The man circled Reed, nodding. “I done worried for no use.”

Reed looked at the man quizzically until Henry motioned to a back porch. The wide steps were partially blocked by a series of elevating ramps. Reed stared. He looked up to his cousin with questions. Reed knew that all in the yard listened intently, but it did not stop his comments.

“Your father’s letters implied that I’d have no trouble getting into the hotel. That a back entrance was level.” He struggled to maintain a polite tone but could not.

Henry rushed forward. “You won’t have any trouble, Reed. Arlo and I built this ramp.”

Reed watched his cousin’s nervous face and hurried gestures. He wheeled himself to the base of the ramp while his audience waited.

“Let’s all get back to work, now,” Mary Ellen said to her employees. “We have a full house.”

Reed wheeled himself up the first ramp, stopped and turned on the landing. The next level appeared steeper and Reed pulled the wheel hard to get some momentum. Near the top, he began to roll backwards. Reed caught himself and concentrated on the last ramp. From the corner of his eye, he saw the laundresses and cook slyly watching his progress.

Arlo however could not restrain himself. “I toldsya, Mr. Ames. We needed another foot to make that second piece not so steep.”

Henry spoke softly. “We couldn’t lengthen the ramp anymore without covering the coal cellar. It’s fine.”

Reed pushed himself up the last ramp and onto the porch.

“Yeeha,” Arlo shouted and threw his hat in the air. “I done told ya it’d work.”

Reed heard Mary Ellen hush the old man and smile approvingly to her husband. She climbed the steps and faced him. “That went well, don’t you think?”

Reed Jackson took a deep breath and nodded cautiously. He had yet to decide if he was insulted or thankful. Reed’s eyes were drawn to a tall Negro woman in the doorway. She wore a black dress with a white scarf at her neck and carried a large, wooden bowl of beans. Their eyes met, and he felt a flash of anger in her stare. The woman looked out over the work in the yard, and Reed noticed a quicker pace from all.

“Beulah, this is my husband’s cousin, Mr. Jackson,” Mary Ellen said.

The woman’s head nodded once, and Reed was surprised when she spoke. A rich cultured baritone met his ears. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Jackson.”

But Reed knew she was anything but pleased. Truthfully, Reed was shocked into silence. He had never imagined his cousin keeping a darkie. His father referred to the Ameses as nigger-loving liberals, Northerners with no sense as to how the southern economy and ways, worked. “Beulah,” Reed said.

“Henry, dear, I saw the guests from San Francisco on the porch. I want to fuss over them a bit,” Mary Ellen said to her husband and turned to Reed. “Do excuse me. Henry will show you your rooms, and I’m sure you two have much to talk about.”

Reed inclined his head. Beulah moved past him, down the steps and into the yard. He heard a laundress reply to her low words. “Yes, Miss Beulah.”

Reed’s eyes and brows rose to his cousin. “Miss Beulah?”

Henry smiled tight-lipped and gestured Reed to follow him into the hotel. He unlocked a door and handed Reed a key. Reed looked around the rooms that were to be his home. The rug was flowered, the walls covered in pale blue paint with two large windows overlooking the side yard that held the porch swing. Reed wheeled himself into the bedroom and the attached bathing room. In the main room a large desk sat between the two windows. Amazingly, someone had remembered to remove the chair. An overstuffed settee faced a small fireplace with flowers gracing the mantle.

“Very nice, Henry,” Reed said as he looked around the room.

“Arlo’s painting book shelves for the corner. I thought you may want to work from here for a while.”

“It seems you’ve thought of everything,” Reed replied. “I thank you.”

Reed watched as his cousin turned away uncomfortably and sat down in the upholstered chair.

“There are some things we need to discuss, Reed.”

“Of course,” Reed said and wheeled closer.

Henry shifted in his seat and leaned his elbows on his knees.

“I fully expect to pay my way, Henry. I wrote your father as much,” Reed said. Perhaps the hotel was not as profitable as his mother claimed. Reed knew that appearances could well be deceiving.

Henry’s hands flew forward, and he grimaced. “The money’s nothing. We’ll come to an agreement.”

Reed waited for the man to continue and wondered what was causing his cousin such distress. Henry and Mary Ellen had offered him a home. If not the money . . .

“It’s about Beulah.”

Reed shrugged, relieved. “Rest assured. I’d never let on to your family that you keep a darkie.”

Henry turned, his eyes glittering. “I don’t keep a ‘darkie,’ Reed. She is an employee.”

Reed sat back in his chair and tilted his head with a smile. “Whatever you want to call it is fine. I understand your reluctance.”

“No, Reed, I don’t think you do. Beulah manages this hotel with Mary Ellen and me. We couldn’t do without her. And she gets paid at the end of each week like the white employees, except more. I know many Southerners came west with their slaves. There are some here in town. Neither seems able to change. Not the white master, nor the Negro slave. And they’ve continued on as before the war, here some two years after. Beulah however is a free woman.”

Reed nodded and lowered his eyes. “I see.”

“Will you, ah . . .will you be comfortable with this?”

Reed wondered whom the man would choose if Reed was, in fact, uncomfortable. The Negress or his own flesh and blood? “It’s a new world, Henry. The choices weren’t mine.”

Henry nodded and sighed. “Damn complicated subject, Reed.”

They sat quietly until Henry stood. “I imagine you’ll want to get settled. I see your trunks being brought around. We eat together at four and feed the guests at five-thirty. Turn left out your door, and you’ll run into our kitchen.”

“Thank you, Henry. And be assured, I don’t plan on being a burden.”

Henry opened the door when someone knocked and motioned the men forward hauling Reed’s luggage. “Yes, bring it right in here.” He turned to Reed with a smile as he stepped through the door. “I can’t imagine you being a burden, Reed. This is your home for as long as you like.”

Reed directed the men carrying his trunks where he wanted them, tipped them and went to the bedroom. Close up to the bed, Reed pulled himself onto the top coverlet. His mangled right leg ached from travel, hoisting himself on and off train cars and in and out of hotel beds. Reed pulled and shifted his leg till it was comfortable. The stub below his left knee followed. His eyes closed, and he listened briefly to the fairy tale the woman read to her child as they sat in the swing near his window. He soon slept.

* * *

Reed’s eyes opened, gritty from sleep and exhaustion. He pulled his gold timepiece from his pocket. Hell’s fire. After four. Reed pulled himself into his chair and went straight to the sink in the bathing room. He washed his hands and face, combed his blond hair and dug through a trunk for a clean shirt. Reed muttered, knowing he was late and cursing these heathens for eating the evening meal in the middle of the day.

Reed struggled to button his jacket and wheeled himself to the kitchen. The sight he beheld stopped him. A large, clean spacious kitchen, humming with aromas from bubbling pots with spices and herbs above, hung to dry on racks. A huge table down the center of the room was covered with a gingham-checked cloth, and every person Reed had seen so far sat around it. Others, he didn’t recognize. Henry sat at one end, Mary Ellen on his right and Beulah at the other end with her back to Reed.

“Apologies for my late arrival,” Reed murmured.

Mary Ellen rose and came to him. “I told Henry I’d bring you a plate tonight. You must be exhausted.”

“I admit I napped. Something smells delicious.”

A young girl, seated beside Beulah, stood. “Mrs. Ames, I got to get home now anyway. Your company can have my seat.”

“Thank you, Constance. Tell your mother I hope she feels better,” Mary Ellen said as she pulled the girl’s chair away. Clean china and a fresh napkin appeared at the now vacant spot.

Reed wheeled himself in and looked around at the curious stares. They employ Negroes, eat in the middle of the day and do so with their employees. He noticed the only person at the table not smiling or eyeing him was the woman to his left. Beulah continued to eat as if he had never entered. Arlo sat on his right and handed Reed a constant flurry of bowls and platters.

“Pickles, Mr. Jackson? Miss Beulah, hand Mr. Jackson the pickles,” the old man said.

She turned to Reed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear Mr. Jackson ask for the pickles.”

“They do look tempting,” Reed said.

Beulah did not move her gaze from her plate. She gently dabbed her mouth as the other diners began to talk again amongst themselves.

Reed looked at her and the plate of dill spears just out of his reach. She nodded regally in conversation to her left.

“Would you pass the pickles?” Reed asked.

“Pardon, Mr. Jackson,” the woman said with a tight smile.

Obviously she had heard. She was less than a foot away from him. Reed smiled and looked down at his plate. He turned to her and spoke clearly, “Miss Beulah, would you please pass the pickles?”

The woman nodded and picked up the plate. “Certainly Mr. Jackson. Do be careful of this dish. It’s one of the good set.”

Reed could not stop a slow smile. Beulah made clear her boundaries over a plate of pickled cucumbers. This adversary may prove a challenge, he thought. “I will be careful, Miss Beulah. My momma says I can be clumsy.” The woman turned back to the laundress on her left.

Reed watched the diners as they stood to leave, one at a time, and carried their dishes and glasses to the wash sink. He laid his napkin down and pushed back from the table, satisfied. His cousin knew how to choose a cook. Reed watched the round man, now fluttering from pot to pan, stirring and shaking.

Arlo stood. “Lets me git that dish for ya, sir.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied, feeling better with a stomach full of food.

It was then he observed his cousin and wife carry their own dirty dishes away. Mary Ellen giggled at something Henry said and Reed saw them smile flirtatiously at each other.

“I’ve got some bookkeeping and such to get done. I’ll bring a brandy by later,” Henry called to him.

“That would be grand,” he replied.

Reed spent the evening filling the chest of drawers and unpacking his things. He placed a picture of his mother and father on the table. Reed stacked books on the huge desk and on the floor beside it. He wrote a short letter to his parents and brother Winston, assuring them he had arrived safely.

Much had been made of his traveling alone, especially as great stretches of the southern tracks were still being repaired. His trip to Missouri had been a tortuous trek with multiple stops and some day or more layovers. His mother was convinced a companion should accompany him, but Winston could not take the time and the plantation’s finances needed no further stretching. He was crippled and he knew he must learn to negotiate his own way without staff or servants. His mother had compromised by making arduous arrangements with hotels and station masters by letter over the course of six months.

“Come in,” he replied to a knock at his door.

“As promised,” Henry said as he came in, bottle and glasses in hand.

“I was hoping you remembered,” Reed said and moved to the small table where Henry was seated and accepted a glass.

“So,” Henry said between sips, “tell me about your family.”

Reed rolled the brandy over his tongue. “What do you want to know?”

“Father said you’d be tight-lipped. Wasn’t trying to be nosy. Just hoping they were in good health and all.”  Henry crossed his legs and looked away.

“Forgive me, cousin. Mother and Father are fine. Winston is well and set to marry in the fall.”

“Sounds like things are getting back to normal. The girl Winston will marry, do you know her?”

Reed smiled and raised his brows. “Quite well.”

“Will they be living at the plantation? Father said your family managed to hang onto it.”

Reed wondered how much his cousin knew. “Father made enough in gold running blockades to pay the taxes and begin again. Winston brought his first crop of cotton in without slave labor.”

“I’m glad your family business survived. I am sorry about you brother Franklin. Terrible loss, a sibling.”

“Thank you,” Reed replied.

The two men sat in companionable silence, listening to the hushed chatter of guests as the hotel quieted for the night.

Henry leaned forward and stared at Reed. “I know I shouldn’t ask. Can’t seem to help myself. But if the plantation survived, why didn’t you take it over rather than a younger brother.” Henry looked at Reed’s stern face and hurried to continue. “None of my business,” Henry said, smiling at Reed, “Anyway, why would a successful lawyer want to plow and sow?”

“How is your family, Henry? Your father’s letters to Mother were always interesting. I would like to meet them.”

Henry chuckled. “Quite an assortment there. Mother and Father are fine. My younger sisters drive my father crazy with a varied group of suitors.” Henry poured another brandy from the crystal decanter and sat back. “Funny we never met. Our families I mean. Your mother and my father corresponded regularly. Father loved getting letters from Aunt Lily.Said she was the pride of the South.”

“Pride of the South,” Reed whispered and sipped.

Henry turned the framed daguerreotype around. “Father said my sister Susan was the spitting image of her. He’s right.”

“How is your father’s business?” Reed asked.

“Doing well. Always be a market for coffee, I imagine.”

“Begs the question, why would a coffee wholesaler’s son, move west and leave a prosperous business behind?” Reed asked over the cut edge of his glass.

Henry chuckled. “Turnabout is fair play, I suppose. I tried my hand at Father’s business for a while.  Didn’t care for it much.Had a dream of moving west.Wanted to watch this country grow. I love it here. I found a beautiful woman and my life’s work. Oh, I miss my family and what I grew up with, but I know I would’ve never been happy in Boston.”

Envy of a clear-cut longing and the fulfillment of that goal filled Reed’s head. Nothing seemed clear for Reed. He was schooled as an attorney, yes, but had practiced little. Reed certainly missed nothing of his life after the war began. Had the war not come, things may have been different. He would have continued on as the second son to a prosperous cotton farmer and would have managed a great estate’s affairs. But the war had come. Gone were a genteel existence, his older brother, and Reed’s legs.

Henry corked the brandy and stood. “Mary Ellen told me to keep this visit short. That you’d be tired. I fear I’ve worn you out more than you already were.”

“My bed does seem to be calling,” Reed said. “Thank you for the ramp. An ingenious invention.”

“Mary Ellen and I both would like you to be happy. We have no family nearby and want you to make your life here,” Henry said. “I know I’ll never replace your brother, I never had one, of course, but it will be good to know I have someone to lean on. And that you, too, can count me as family.”

The sincere exposition touched Reed in a way that seemed foreign. His thoughts of family were as muddy and murky as the bayou, filled with pride, resentment and the undeniable knowledge that he may have done the same things under the same circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, his mother’s encouragement to begin a new life elsewhere came from the heart. And maybe she was right. He had best try and forget the hurts and the wrongs of the past and make something of himself in a new land. He had told Henry it was a new world, and perhaps this was the place for a new beginning.

Reed watched Henry turn the brass door handle. “My brother’s fiancée was to marry me. Her family’s plantation adjoined ours,” Reed said.

Henry turned back with a confused look. “I’m sorry, Reed.” He stood unmoving and smiled wistfully. “Maybe it was for the best. If she loved your brother, you two wouldn’t have been happy.”

“Had nothing to do with love, Henry,” Reed said. “After Franklin was killed and I returned from the war like this,” Reed said with a sweep of hands to his chair, “Father decided that Winston should inherit. That I was not up to the task. Belinda was part and parcel of the deal.”

Henry’s eyes widened. His mouth opened and closed. “Oh.”

Reed watched the man absorb and tackle that bit of Jackson family chicanery. This was the first time Reed had spoken aloud this tale, and it sounded sordid and cold to his own ears. What must this straight-laced Bostonian think, Reed wondered.

“What shit,” Henry said in awe, finally.

Reed laughed. “Well put, cousin. What I think exactly.”

Henry shook his head again and left Reed in his thoughts.

Reed wheeled himself to the window and listened as human sounds faded and a night orchestra began. Crickets chirped and an owl screeched in the distance over the low hum of a faraway piano. Reed smelled rain in the heavy air. He remembered the shocked look on Henry’s face and relived its source. Betrayal, anger and bitter disappointment filled Reed’s head. But he could not hate his father even though he wanted to. Reed knew that forging a new life in the devastated South would require a man fit in all ways. His father bound and determined to resurrect a lost cause with new rules to follow.

His cousin had proven, against all odds in Reed’s mind, to be a man he could like. There was no doubt of the sincere outrage in his eyes. And the straight talk had freed some of Reed’s anger and cleared a space in his mind to look forward and not back.

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

Reprinted with permission from Reconstructing Jackson by Holly Bush. © 2012 by Book Baby

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Character Profile Sheet for Reed Jackson from Holly Bush’s ‘Reconstructing Jackson’

Years ago (and still applies today), the experts were telling fiction writers that in order to really know their main character, they must come up with a character profile sheet for them and definitely applies to all your characters as well.  This is a good practice because once you know all the ins and outs of all your characters, the book flows better and allows the author to get inside the head of each of their characters.

We decided to ask authors if they would like to come up with a character sketch of their main character, throwing in a few unique questions to make it really fun!

Today we have Holly Bush stopping by on her blog tour with a character sketch of her main character, Reed Jackson.  Tomorrow we’ll be hosting Holly with her first chapter and on Thursday, an exclusive interview!  Enjoy!

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Learn more about Reed Jackson!

Reed JacksonName of Character: Reed Jackson

Age: 28

Eye Color: Blue

Hair Color: Brown to blonde

Birthplace: Georgia

Marital Status: Married

Children: None

Place of Residence: Fenton, Missouri

Description of Home: Four room house with a picket fence

Dominant Character Trait: Distrustful

Best Friend: Henry Ames

Enemies and Why: Jed Richards. Jed is Reed’s wife Belle’s brother. Reed marries Belle before Jed can marry her off to a neighbor man and get a horse in return.

Temperament: Brooding

Ambition: To find happiness.

Educational Background: Apprenticed by reading the law.

Philosophy of Life: Kill or be killed.

Bad Habits:Holding a grudge.

Talents: He’s a convincing orator.

Hobby or Hobbies: His dog

Why is Character Likeable? Because he changes and grows.

Favorite Pig Out Food: Whatever his wife makes.

Character Mini-Interview:

Every New Year’s I resolve to: Tell my wife I love her every day.

Nobody knows I am: A war hero.

I wish I could stop:

The worse part of my life is: Being crippled.

I want to teach my children that: They must be true to themselves.

A good time for me is: An evening out with our friends and a trip to the theatre.

The worse advice my father gave me is: The war will be over quickly.

When I feel sorry for myself I: Work with other crippled veterans.

My friends like me because: I’m honest.

My major accomplishment is: Becoming a Judge.

My most humbling experience was: When my wife Belle helped me learn to walk with a wooden leg.

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Holly BushHolly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.

Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, and was the vice-president of her local library board for years. She loves to spend time near the ocean and is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS

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Reconstructing Jackson 2Restructuring Jackson Summary:

1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.

Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.

Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.

Purchase the book at:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | ITUNES

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Read-a-Chapter: Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

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 mystery, women’s fiction, Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. Enjoy!

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Saving Grace

Click on cover to purchase at Amazon!

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Skipjack Publishing (September 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0988234807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0988234802

If you’re at all inclined to be swept away to the islands to fall in love with a rainforest jumbie house and a Texas attorney who is as much a danger to herself as the island bad guys, then dive headfirst with Katie Connell into Saving Grace.

Katie escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and her Bloody Mary-habit when she runs to the island of St. Marcos to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit Annalise in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend.

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Chapter One

Last year sucked, and this one was already worse.

Last year, when my parents died in an “accident” on their Caribbean vacation, I’d been working too hard to listen to my instincts, which were screaming “bullshit” so loud I almost went deaf in my third ear. I was preparing for the biggest case of my career, so I sort of had an excuse that worked for me as long as I showed up for happy hour, but the truth was, I was obsessed with the private investigator assigned to my case.

Nick. Almost-divorced Nick. My new co-worker Nick who sometimes sent out vibes that he wanted to rip my Ann Taylor blouse off with his teeth, when he wasn’t busy ignoring me.

But things had changed.

I’d just gotten the verdict back in my mega-trial, the Burnside wrongful termination case. My firm rarely took plaintiff cases, so I’d taken a big risk with this one—and won Mr. Burnside three million dollars, of which the firm got a third. That was the total opposite of suck.

After my coup at the Dallas courthouse, my paralegal Emily and I headed straight down I-20 to the hotel where our firm was on retreat in Shreveport, Louisiana. Shreveport is not on the top ten list for most company getaways, but our senior partner fancied himself a poker player, and loved Cajun food, jazz, and riverboat casinos. The retreat was a great excuse for Gino to indulge in a little Texas Hold ’Em between teambuilding and sensitivity sessions and still come off looking like a helluva guy, but it meant a three and a half hour drive each way. This wasn’t a problem for Emily and me. We bridged both the paralegal-to-attorney gap and the co-worker-to-friend gap with ease, largely because neither of us did Dallas-fancy very well. Or at all.

Emily and I hustled inside for check-in at the Eldorado.

“Do you want a map of the ghost tours?” the front desk clerk asked us, her polyglot Texan-Cajun-Southern accent making tours sound like “turs.”

“Why, thank you kindly, but no thanks,” Emily drawled. In the ten years since she’d left, she still hadn’t shaken Amarillo from her voice or given up barrel-racing horses.

I didn’t believe in hocus pocus, either, but I wasn’t a fan of casinos, which reeked of cigarette smoke and desperation. “Do y’all have karaoke or anything else but casinos onsite?”

“Yes, ma’am, we have a rooftop bar with karaoke, pool tables, and that kind of thing.” The girl swiped at her bangs, then swung her head to put them back in the same place they’d been.

“That sounds more like it,” I said to Emily.

“Karaoke,” she said. “Again.” She rolled her eyes. “Only if we can do tradesies halfway. I want to play blackjack.”

After we deposited our bags in our rooms and freshened up, talking to each other on our cell phones the whole time we were apart, we joined our group. All of our co-workers broke into applause as we entered the conference room. News of our victory had preceded us. We curtsied, and I used both arms to do a Vanna White toward Emily. She returned the favor.

“Where’s Nick?” I called out. “Come on up here.”

Nick had left the courtroom when the jury went out to deliberate, so he’d beaten us here. He stood up from a table on the far side of the room, but didn’t join us in front. I gave him a long distance Vanna White anyway.

The applause died down and some of my partners motioned for me to sit with them at a table near the entrance. I joined them and we all got to work writing a mission statement for the firm for the next fifteen minutes. Emily and I had arrived just in time for the first day’s sessions to end.

When we broke, the group stampeded from the hotel to the docked barge that housed the casino. In Louisiana, gambling is only legal “on the water” or on tribal land. On impulse, I walked to the elevator instead of the casino. Just before the doors closed, a hand jammed between them and they bounced apart, and I found myself headed up to the hotel rooms with none other than Nick Kovacs.

“So, Helen, you’re not a gambler either,” he said as the elevator doors closed.

My stomach flipped. Cheesy, yes, but when he was in a good mood, Nick called me Helen—as in Helen of Troy.

I had promised to meet Emily for early blackjack before late karaoke, but he didn’t need to know that. “I have the luck of the Irish,” I said. “Gambling is dangerous for me.”

He responded with dead silence. Each of us looked up, down, sideways, and anywhere but at each other, which was hard, since the elevator was mirrored above a gold handrail and wood paneling. There was a wee bit of tension in the air.

“I heard there’s a pool table at the hotel bar, though, and I’d be up for that,” I offered, throwing myself headlong into the void and holding my breath on the way down.

Dead silence again. Long, dead silence. The ground was going to hurt when I hit it.

Without making eye contact, Nick said, “OK, I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.”

Did he really say he’d meet me there? Just the two of us? Out together? Oh my God, Katie, what have you done?

The elevator doors dinged, and we headed in opposite directions to our rooms. It was too late to back out now.

I moved in a daze. Hyperventilating. Pits sweating. Heart pounding. My outfit was all wrong, so I ditched the Ann Taylor for some jeans, a structured white blouse, and, yes, I admit it, a multi-colored Jessica Simpson handbag and her coordinating orange platform sandals. White works well against my long, wavy red hair, which I unclipped and finger-combed over my shoulders. Not very attorney-like, but that was the point. Besides, I didn’t even like being an attorney, so why would I want to look like one now?

Normally I am Katie Clean, but I settled on a quick brush of my teeth, a French shower, and lipstick. I considered calling Emily to tell her I was no-showing, but I knew she would understand when I explained later. I race-walked to the elevators and cursed them as they stopped on every other floor before the Rooftop Grotto.

Ding. Finally. I stopped to catch my breath. I counted to ten, took one last gulp for courage, and stepped under the dim lights above the stone-topped bar. I stood near a man whose masculinity I could feel pulsing from several feet away. Heat flamed in my cheeks. My engine raced. Just the man I’d come to see.

Nick was of Hungarian descent, and he had his gypsy ancestors to thank for his all-over darkness—eyes, hair, and skin—and sharp cheekbones. He had a muscular ranginess that I loved, but he wasn’t traditionally handsome. His nose was large-ish and crooked from being broken too many times. He’d once told me that a surfboard to the mouth had given him his snaggled front tooth. But he was gorgeous in an undefined way, and I often saw from the quick glances of other women that I wasn’t the only one in the room who noticed.

Now he noticed me. “Hi, Helen.”

“Hi, Paris,” I replied.

He snorted. “Oh, I am definitely not your Paris. Paris was a wimp.”

“Hmmmmm. Menelaus, then?”

“Um, beer.”

“I’m pretty sure there was no one named Beer in the story of Helen of Troy,” I said, sniffing in a faux-superior way.

Nick spoke to the bartender. “St. Pauli Girl.” He finally gave me the Nick grin, and the tension left over from our elevator ride disappeared. “Want one?”

I needed to gulp more than air for courage. “Amstel Light.”

Nick placed the order. The bartender handed Nick two beers beaded with moisture, then shook water from his hands. Nick handed mine to me and I wrapped a napkin around it, lining up the edges with the military precision I adored. Nick sang under his breath, his head bobbing side to side. Honky-tonk Woman.

“I think I like you better in Shreveport than Dallas,” I said.

“Thanks, I think. And I like seeing you happy. I guess it’s been a tough year for you, losing your parents and all. Here’s to that smile,” he said, holding his beer aloft toward me.

The toast almost stopped my heart. He was spot-on about the tough part, but I did better when I kept the subject of my parents buried with them. I clinked his bottle but couldn’t look at him while I did it. “Thanks, Nick, very much.”

“Want to play pool?” he asked.

“Let’s do it.”

I was giddy, the sophomore girl out with the senior quarterback. We both loved music, so we talked about genres, bands (his old band, Stingray, and “real” bands), my minor in music at Baylor, and LSD, AKA lead-singer disease. Over a bucket of beers, we swapped stories about high school, and he told me he’d once rescued an injured booby.

“An injured booby?” I asked. “Implants or natural? Eight ball in corner pocket.” I sank it.

He gathered the balls out of the pockets and positioned them in the rack while I ground my cue tip in blue chalk and blew off the excess. “You’re so land-locked. A booby is a bird, Katie.”

I rolled his use of my real name back and forth in my brain, enjoying how it felt.

“I was out surfing, and I found a booby that couldn’t fly. I carried it back home and took care of it until I could set it free.”

“Oh, my gosh! How bad did it smell? Did it peck you? I’ll bet your Mom was thrilled!” I talked fast, in endless exclamation points. Embarrassing. I was a Valley Girl on acid, like Oh-My-Gawd. “It was in shock, so it was calm, but every day it got wilder. I was fourteen, and my mom was happy I wasn’t in my room holding some girl’s real booby, so she was fine with it. It smelled really bad after a few days, though.”

I broke. Balls clacked and ricocheted in every direction, and a striped one tumbled into a side pocket. “Stripes,” I called. “So, your mom had caught you before holding a girl’s booby, huh?”

“Um, I didn’t say that . . .” he said, and stuttered to a stop.

I was more smitten than ever.

“Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover” was playing in the background. I hadn’t heard that song in years. It got me thinking. For months, I had been fighting off the urge to slip my arms around Nick’s neck and bite the back of it, but I was aware that most people would consider that inappropriate at work. Pretty small-minded of them, if you asked me. I eyed the large balcony outside the bar and thought that if I could just maneuver Nick out there, maybe I could make it happen.

My chances seemed good enough until one of our colleagues walked in. Tim was of counsel at the firm. “Of counsel” meant he was too old to be called an associate, but he wasn’t a rainmaker. Plus, he wore his pants pulled up an inch too high in the waist. The firm would never make him a partner. Nick and I locked eyes. Until now, we’d been two shortwave radios on the same channel, the signal crackling between us. But now the dial had turned to static and his eyes clouded over. He stiffened and moved subtly away from me.

He hailed Tim up. “Hey, Tim, over here.”

Tim waved to us and walked across the smoky bar. Everything moved in slow motion as he came closer, step by ponderous step. His feet echoed as they hit the floor, reverberating no . . . no . . . no . . . Or maybe I was saying it aloud. I couldn’t tell, but it made no difference.

“Hey, Tim, this is great. Grab a beer; let’s play some pool.”

Oh, please tell me Nick didn’t just invite Tim to hang out with us. He could have given him a short “hey how ya doing have a nice night I was just leaving” shpiel, or anything else for that matter, but no, he had asked Tim to join us.

Tim and Nick looked at me for affirmation.

I entertained a fleeting fantasy in which I executed a perfect side kick to Tim’s gut and he started rolling around on the floor with the dry heaves. What good were the thirteen years of karate my father had insisted on if I couldn’t use it at times like these? “Every woman should be able to defend herself, Katie,” Dad would say as he dropped me off at the dojo.

Maybe this wasn’t technically a physical self-defense moment, but Tim’s arrival had dashed my hopes for the whole neck-bite thing, and all that could have come after it. Wasn’t that reason enough?

I cast out the image. “Actually, Tim, why don’t you take over for me? I was in trial all week, and I’m exhausted. We have an early start tomorrow. It’s the last day of our retreat, the grande finale for the Hailey & Hart team.” I handed my pool cue to Tim.

Tim thought this was a fine idea. It was clear women scared him. If I had hoped for an argument from Nick, though, I didn’t get one. He reverted to his outside-of-work “Katie who?” act.

All I got from him was “Goodnight,” with neither a Helen nor a Katie tacked on.

I grabbed another Amstel Light from the bar for the plod back to my room.

Reprinted with permission from Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins. © 2012 by Skipjack Publishing

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