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Title: Tutankhamen Speaks
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator
Pages: 81
Genre: Teen / YA / Ancient Egypt Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB

From over 3000 years ago comes the voice of the Boy King.

Scrolls found buried in the basement of the Egyptian Museum. Transcribed in an ancient hand. Record the words of King Tut for all to read.

Tutankhamen answers all of the lingering questions, including the big one.

Discover the real story behind this famous pharaoh. Transport yourself back to an Ancient Egypt filled with mystery, magic, and danger!

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon eBook: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00E18KH46

Amazon Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/149615536X

B&N:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tutankhamen-speaks-cheryl-carpinello/1118847147

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Tutankhamen-Speaks-Cheryl-Carpinello/9781496155368

Sons of the Sphinx

Title: Sons of the Sphinx
Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Publisher: Beyond Today Educator
Pages: 189
Genre: Teen / YA / Ancient Egypt Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB

A grandmother’s gift usually bring happiness. Rosa’s gift: a very different story. Hearing the dead alienated her from classmates. Not good for a 15-year-old.

Many times very insistent, the dead cared little for her surroundings. They even bothered her in class. Dates? Forget that.

Then one day, he shows up in her room. An old dead guy. A really old famous dead guy. In living human form!

Thrilling story of battling good and evil in an ancient world.

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MVGC96Y

Amazon Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1912513951

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/sons-of-the-sphinx-1

Tolino: https://www.thalia.de/shop/home/artikeldetails/ID151524898.html

Vivlio: https://shop.vivlio.com/product/9781912513949_9781912513949_10020

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sons-Sphinx-Cheryl-Carpinello/9781912513956

iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1565754127

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sons-of-the-sphinx-cheryl-carpinello/1120481788?ean=2940161911747

Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/505876516/Sons-of-the-Sphinx-Ancient-Tales-Legends-1

Meet The Author

Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl Carpinello taught high school English for 25 years. During that time, she worked with numerous students who didn’t like to read for a variety of reasons. However, she discovered that even the most reluctant readers became engaged in the classroom and in reading when she introduced units on King Arthur and the works of ancient world writers. Upon retiring, she set out to write fast-paced, action-filled stories in these setting to encourage young readers to read more. When not writing, you can find her reading, spending time with family, and traveling.

“In 2008, my husband and I spent three weeks traveling around Egypt via train and visiting all those magnificent archeological sites. Since we returned home, Egypt has never been far from my thoughts. I truly believe that I left part of my soul in that ancient land. To satisfy my longing to return, I wrote Sons of the Sphinx and Tutankhamen Speaks.” Visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

Title: LITTLE GIANTS: 10 HISPANIC WOMEN WHO MADE HISTORY
Author: Raynelda Calderon
Publisher: Cayena Press, Inc.
Pages: 64
Genre: Juvenile Biography

BOOK BLURB:

Little Giants: 10 Hispanic Women Who Made History is a short collection of biographies about Hispanic women and the impact they made in the world. Some of the women featured in this book are iconic figures such as ballet dancer Alicia Alonso; others are less known heroines such as indigenous leader Dolores Cacuango, founder of the first bilingual school in Ecuador. Beautiful illustrations accompany the text to bring these women to life and inspire the young generation of readers to be leaders tomorrow.

This book is a great resource to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by reading about the history and accomplishments of these courageous women and their contributions in Latin America.

PRAISE

“This is what every Hispanic household needs. Finally a powerful book that we can share with our next generation ( and even adults).” – Amazon reviewer

ORDER YOUR COPY

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3ykYtbU

Cayena Press → http://cayenapress.org/shop/

**********

MEET THE AUTHOR

Raynelda Calderon grew up in the Dominican Republic, on a healthy diet of romance novels, comic strips, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s books, and the strict watch of her mother. She has a doctorate in leadership in higher education and works as a public librarian.

As a librarian, working with children inspires her to write about the accomplishments of Hispanics in history. She hopes to inspire young readers to follow their passions.

Raynelda lives in New York with an untamed Shih Tzu, Toby, and a much attached Chihuahua, Maya. She spends her free time thinking (and drafting) about books to write, or painting, crocheting, or crying over abused dogs.

You can visit her website at rayneldacalderon.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

ROSEMARY AND LARRY MILD, cheerful partners in crime, coauthor mystery, suspense, and fantasy fiction.  Rosemary and Larry have published award-winning novels, short stories, and essays. They co-authored the popular Paco and Molly Mystery Series; Hawaii adventure/thrillers Cry Ohana and Honolulu Heat; and three volumes of short stories, many of which appear in anthologies. After forty-plus years in Maryland, the Milds currently make their home in Honolulu, where they cherish time with their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. 

THE MILDS are active members of Sisters in Crime where Larry is a Mister in Crime; Mystery Writers of America; and Hawaii Fiction Writers. In 2013 they waved goodbye to Severna Park, Maryland and moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where they cherish quality time with their daughters and grandchildren. When Honolulu hosted Left Coast Crime in 2017, Rosemary and Larry were the program co-chairs for “Honolulu Havoc.”

Over a dozen worldwide trips to Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, Great Britain, France, Italy, Israel, Egypt, and more have wormed their way into their amazing stories. In their limited spare time, they are active members of the Honolulu Jewish Film Festival committee, where Larry is the statistician and recordkeeper for their film ratings. Visit their website to find out more.

INTERVIEW

    1. How many books, in total, have you written together?

Thirteen: ten novels and three books of short stories, with more to come.

   We have also published three memoirs: 

By Rosemary: Miriam’s World—and Mine, about our beloved daughter, Miriam Luby Wolfe, whom we lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988. And Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother.

By Larry: No Place To Be But Here, My Life and Times. It is not only my own story, but that of my family: how my two wives, three children, and five grandchildren have shaped my life as much as I have molded theirs. Tragedy is certainly no stranger as I dealt with death, cancer, murder, and global terrorism, not only on this written page, but in my own life.  

    2. How did you get started writing together?

Rosemary: Larry and I met on a blind date in October, 1986, at my house in Severna Park, Maryland. We came from rather different worlds. He had lost his wife to cancer. I’d been divorced for eight years, happily accustomed to having my own space, thank you. In the car, on our way home from dinner, he said, “When I retire I’m going to write a novel and I want you to help me.” Now neither of us had ever written fiction. I was an editor; he was an electrical engineer, and I’d only known this man for four hours. So I chirped, “Okay!” Instinct told me he was Mr. Right—and I‘d better not let him get away. True to his word, when we retired, he sat down and wrote Cry Ohana, Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii.

    3. What is your process of writing together?

Rosemary: Larry inherited a creative gene from his grandfather Charles Gluck, who was an excellent artist. We have his paintings in our living room. Larry’s mind works in imaginative ways, so he makes up all our plots and writes the first drafts. Then he hands the manuscript over to me. I flesh out the characters and streamline passages to pick up the pace. I call it “judicious pruning,” an expression I learned as an assistant editor at Harper’s Magazine. Originally, Larry would reply, “I worked hours on those two paragraphs!” Then, with sleeves rolled up, we would negotiate. In our early days, I would not have received a doctorate in diplomacy. Today things go a lot smoother.  

Larry: Our manuscripts are always better after Rosemary works her magic. She has this wonderful feel for people and human nature. She breathes life into my minimalist characters: physical appearance, sharpening the dialogue. Sometimes she adds a scene for more conflict. She’ll take an anecdote I told second-hand and turn it into real-time drama, like an ugly shouting match between two women in a crowded restaurant.

    4. How do you get the ideas for your novels?

Larry: From life! From keen observation of people, from newspaper articles and books (I’m a voracious reader), from eavesdropping (Yes!) and from our own personal experience. We wrote Cry Ohana (ohana means family) when we were winter “snowbirds” in Honolulu, weaving in all the local places we knew, which gave the book authenticity and color. For instance, we have a chase scene in Chinatown during Chinese New Year, which we always attended, wading ankle-deep in firecracker paper. But we also leap into other times and places with our sci-fi novella Unto the Third Generation.

    5. How do you get the ideas for the characters in your novels?

Rosemary: We draw many of our characters from real life. Most are composites of people we’ve known. When Larry and I started writing together, we hadn’t even considered writing mysteries—until we visited my psychoanalyst father, Dr. Saul K. Pollack, in Milwaukee. That visit set us on a happy new course. My father, a widower in his seventies, had a housekeeper/gourmet cook named Dorothy. She was sixty-three, with a beachball figure, waddle walk, honey curls, and good-natured, nosy-body personality. Dorothy had exquisite culinary skills and a unique way of expressing herself. “I have to take my calcium so I don’t get osteoferocious.” During our visit, my father pulled out a piece of paper from his desk drawer and handed it to us: his secret list of Dorothy’s 177 sayings. He thought we could submit it to Reader’s Digest. Back home in Severna Park, we decided Dorothy was too good a character to ignore. Forget Reader’s Digest. She belonged to us. We named her Molly, and her witty sayings Mollyprops. But we also needed a policeman, so Larry invented a semi-retired detective and named him Inspector Paco LeSoto. Larry actually met the real-life Paco when he was a field engineer for RCA. So Locks and Cream Cheese, our first mystery, was born. The lovable psychoanalyst Dr. Avi Kepple is patterned after my father.

    6. Tell us a little about the process of writing your latest novel, Death Rules the Night. How did you come up with the plot?  How long did the writing process take?

Larry: Death Rules the Night is our fourth Dan & Rivka Sherman Mystery. Dan and Rivka think they’re buying into a pleasant, predictable life. Instead, they become unwilling, frightened sleuths in the wake of a mugging, robbery, kidnapping—and murder. I chose to set the crime inside the bookstore. A tell-all hair-raising book about the prominent Atkins family has disappeared. The real focus of the book is the Atkins family’s eighteenth-century house in Annapolis. The ancestors of three unhappy sisters and a reprobate brother date back to the American Revolution. I delved into research—as long as it didn’t overshadow the plot—touching on the Revolutionary War, the Underground Railroad, and Prohibition. How long did the writing process take? About a year. We always send our final draft to our eagle-eyed proofreader friend. That takes her a month or so. 

    7. Your popular Dan and Rivka Sherman Mystery series is filled with charm. Are there any autobiographical components in these wonderful characters—and if so, what?

Larry: We made Dan and Rivka a lot like us, but much younger: a Jewish couple in their early fifties. They abandon thriving careers to buy the fictional Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Rosemary: Physically, Dan is his own man. Tall and gangly, he sprawls when he sits. He has bushy black hair and eyebrows. The only thing that’s thin about Larry is his gray hair. However, Dan’s personality is very much like Larry’s: analytical and practical, a born problem-solver. Rivka is a lot like me. Affectionate, addicted to chocolate, and feisty—I came out of the womb arguing. In Death Rules the Night Dan secures a manuscript copy of the tell-all missing book. One night an intruder breaks into the bookstore. Dan thinks that’s what he or she was trying to steal. Rivka despairs. “Oh, Dan, do you think the intruder is violent? Are we in some kind of danger? Forget trying to discover the Atkins family secrets. You are being so pigheaded!”   

8. What’s the best part of writing with your spouse? 

Larry: We’re never working in a vacuum. We always have each other to bounce off our ideas. When Rosemary read my first draft of Death Rules the Night, she said the plot seemed a little thin. I was able to immediately come up with a juicy, seductive subplot and we talked out the details.

Rosemary: Larry’s my soul mate. I’m convinced we knew each other in a previous life. Writing together gives us daily structure and the joy of seeing our books in print. Larry also formats all our books for Kindle, and we even have a talking book. Death Goes Postal, our first Dan & Rivka Mystery, is available as an Amazon Audible Audiobook.

9. What’s the most challenging part? 

Larry: She could work a little faster. We’re getting “behinder” by the day. And when she edits out some of my favorite paragraphs, I call it slash and burn. She replies with a quote by Stephen King: “To write is human, to edit is divine.” 

Rosemary: I know it’s aggravating for Larry to have to wait for me. You see, I have another creative life of my own: writing personal essays. In addition to my memoirs, I just published my essay collection In My Next Life I’ll Get It Right, my quirky takes on everyday life from the hilarious to the serious. 

10. What’s next for authors Rosemary and Larry Mild?  Any new books in the works? 

Rosemary: Yes, two. Charlie and the Magic Jug is a collection of mystery and suspense stories—plus some delightful fractured fairy tales and our own Hawaiian menehune legends. Larry is also working on a new novel called On the Rails, A Boxcar Bertie Adventure.

Title: PRETTY BROKEN DOLLS
Author: Jennifer Chase
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 302
Genre: Crime Thriller

In the thin light of the moon, the woman’s limp body hangs from the iron fence amongst the redwoods. Looped over the railings is the little gold locket her mother gave her when she turned sixteen. The picture of the girl inside smiles out at a future she’ll never see…

As day breaks over the fairground, Detective Katie Scott forces herself to take in another disturbing scene in front of her. A woman, the same age as her, found slumped in the carriage of the Ferris wheel, red lipstick dragged across her lips, her throat cut.

Katie doesn’t want to believe that the serial killer picking off women across the state has found their way to the small town of Pine Valley, California, but when her team finds a gold engagement ring hanging nearby, it’s a terrifying, but undeniable fact.

With a twisted killer on her doorstep, Katie knows if she doesn’t act fast, she’ll find more women left out in the cold like broken dolls. Her team hit dead end after dead end, but only she can see the vital link between the victims: a connection with Katie herself.

Katie has spent years pushing traumatic memories of her years in the military far out of reach, but she must confront them now or more innocent women will die. But as the killer circles closer and closer to Katie, what if the only answer is to give him what he wants? There must be another way…

Warning – This absolutely unputdownable thriller will keep you up all night! Fans of Lisa Regan, Rachel Caine and Melinda Leigh better hold on tight for a nail-biting rollercoaster ride!

PRAISE

5 Stars! “This is the first book in the series I have read – and I want more! Suspense up to the end, characters I enjoyed, and K9 units. Loved it!” – NetGalley

5 Stars! “As always this Jennifer Chase thriller just cries out to be read in one sitting. Here we see Katie get tangled up with a serial killer although it takes time before anyone takes her seriously. Great characters and a great story, I loved this book.” – NetGalley

PROLOGUE

The front door stood ajar. It bumped gently against the jamb in rhythm with the evening breeze. The screen remained wide open and was bent precariously around the aluminum frame. Pieces of broken glass from a shattered light bulb above had scattered across the porch, leaving behind a shadowy darkness draped across the front of the small house.

The neighborhood remained quiet; the light blue one-story cottage eerily so. No outside illumination or motion lights flooded the front area. The blooming climbing vines and perfectly manicured bushes were eclipsed by the darkness.

Headlights approached.

A small, dark vehicle pulled into the driveway. Waiting a moment before turning off the engine, a woman pushed open the car door and stepped out. The young redhead was dressed for the evening, in a sparkly blouse and tight black pants. Wavering a moment in her spiked sandals, she looked at the house in curiosity—and then in disappointment. Quickly grabbing a warm jacket from inside the car and slipping it on, she walked up the driveway.

“Jeanine, where are you?” she whispered and headed to the front door, ignoring the shattered light bulb on the step crunching under her feet. She knocked on the door. “Jeanine,” she said, more loudly, leaning closer to the opening. “We waited for you… you missed a great party.”

No response.

The front door pushed open, revealing a darkened interior.

“Jeanine?”

The woman hesitated but seemed to be pulled by an unknown force. She stepped over the threshold, not bothering to close the door, and moved through the living room. Confused by the darkness, she turned on a lamp sitting on a small table. The room lit up instantly. Everything seemed in place. The oversized beige couches with brightly colored throw pillows, the dark mahogany coffee table with neatly stacked magazines and books precisely centered appeared usual for Jeanine’s house. It was always neat and organized.

“Jeanine?” the woman said again. “Are you here?”

The woman walked around and checked the kitchen and small bedroom, but there wasn’t any sign of her friend. She eyed a piece of paper on the counter and decided to leave a quick note, scratching out that she had stopped by and asking Jeanine to call her when she got the message.

She suddenly noticed a strange high-pitched whistling noise coming from the other side of the living room. Curious, the woman moved closer to the sound. The back sliding door was slightly open. The crack was enough for the wind to invade and make a strange noise.

Her foot touched something. A tall turquoise vase that had been sitting on a shelf nearby was now lying on the carpet. It seemed strange to her that it had been knocked over. She bent down and picked up the vase, replacing it on the shelf.

She retrieved her cell phone from her pocket and tried calling Jeanine again. It rang numerous times and then went to voicemail where Jeanine’s upbeat voice said, “Hi, sorry I missed your call but please don’t hang up. Leave a message and I’ll get right back to you.”

The greeting was followed by a quick beep.

“Jeanine, it’s Mandy again and now I’m standing in your living room. Where are you, girl? Everyone was asking about you tonight. Hey, and you left your front door open. Call me.” She ended the call.

Mandy was about to head back to the front door to leave, but something stopped her—it didn’t feel right—and instead, she stood at the sliding door staring out into the large backyard where dense rows of pine trees and acacia bushes huddled around the house’s boundary. During the day, the property appeared green and lush, but now it looked gloomy and foreboding.

Mandy flipped on the outside light, but it only lit up the patio areas directly outside the house, and the extended wooded region still looked dark.

She pulled open the sliding door and the wind whipped through the house. It chilled her. Goosebumps scuttled up her arms. Worry now set in and she didn’t know what to do. Redialing Jeanine’s number, Mandy listened to it sound again and in unison heard the faint, far-off ringing of a phone somewhere in the distance.

She stepped outside, trying to decipher where the ringing was coming from. “Jeanine?” she said, noticing that one of the outside chairs had been toppled over and lay precariously on its side.

Moving off the stone patio and pulling her jacket more tightly around her, Mandy slowly trudged toward the trees, a bit wobbly in her shoes. She turned on the flashlight mode on her cell phone and moved forward.

She dialed Jeanine again. This time, she heard the distinct ringing of the cell phone coming from the trees—low at first and then it rang louder.

Jeanine,” she said, with barely a whisper. Her voice sounded oddly distant.

Looking down, she saw where there were crushed weeds and small broken branches as if someone had walked back and forth recently. Still, she kept moving forward, into the trees, swinging her cell phone back and forth which only illuminated a tiny patch of ground in front of her, creating dense shadows outside its beam.

Her pulse quickened.

Anxiety escalated.

Something fluttering on a bush caught her eye. She leaned closer, focusing. As she moved the cell light beam nearer, it revealed a piece of white fabric with a mother-of-pearl button still attached.

Mandy gasped.

It wasn’t the fact that she had seen Jeanine wear that pretty white blouse on so many occasions, it was the droplets of crimson spattered across the fabric that shoved a spear of fear into her gut.

Thoughts of dread and horror-filled scenarios ran through Mandy’s mind. Urgently, she pushed the redial button on her phone again.

The sound of Jeanine’s ringtone rang in the darkness. This time it kept ringing and there was no cheerful message.

Mandy walked further into the dark realm of the trees, still hoping that there was a logical explanation. Stepping over old branches with loud crunching noises and sidestepping bushes just before reaching the back fence of the property, she managed to make her way to the sound of the ringing phone.

Everything went quiet.

Mandy stood a foot from the phone lying on the ground. It mesmerized her. She slowly bent down to pick it up. With a startled gasp, she stepped back, dropping the phone as she stared at her hand. It was covered in blood.

In a frenzied panic, Mandy ran past the phone and continued along the low wrought-iron fence. The flashlight feature dimmed and she couldn’t see where she was going. Slowing her pace, she glimpsed something white and moving slightly.

“Jeanine? What’s going on?” She spoke in a strained whisper.

Trying to catch her breath and calm her hammering pulse, Mandy approached. Her cell phone flashlight surged and shone brightly on the blood-soaked white silk blouse, now shredded from Jeanine’s right shoulder. She reeled back at the sight of her friend.

Mandy couldn’t tear her eyes away from the horror. Her throat constricted as her breath trapped in her chest. She staggered backwards, taking in the entire scene—unable to turn her focus away.

Her friend’s upper body was impaled on the iron fence penetrating from her back through her ribs, and her throat was slit open. Her head flopped down, lifeless eyes trained on the ground. Her long brown hair fell forward, some strands sticking to the blood seeping from her chest. Her arms hung at her sides, legs crooked, like a marionette waiting for someone to pull the strings. Blood still dripped from her body, sliding down her arms to her fingertips before collecting on the ground—the wet crimson almost matching her fingernail polish. The body was shoeless and Jeanine’s feet were dirty and bloody—as if she had been running through the woods barefoot.

It was the sight of Jeanine’s face that made her sob in terror. Caked in grotesque makeup, making her look like a caricature of herself—a hideous broken doll. Red lipstick drawn heavy around her lips, dark purples for blush on her cheeks, and dark blues for eye shadow made her look like a circus clown instead of her friend.

Beside Jeanine’s body, a necklace hung on the fence. It was a small locket that she always wore, which her mother had given her when she turned sixteen.

Mandy mouthed the word “Jeanine” but no sound escaped her lips. Realizing she still had her cell phone in her hand, she tried to dial 911 but fumbled a few times with the buttons before she heard the words, Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?”

Amazon → https://amzn.to/3xDXuU9

Jennifer Chase is a multi award-winning and USA Today BestSelling crime fiction author, as well as a consulting criminologist. Jennifer holds a bachelor’s degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology & criminal justice. These academic pursuits developed out of her curiosity about the criminal mind as well as from her own experience with a violent psychopath, providing Jennifer with deep personal investment in every story she tells. In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is an affiliate member of the International Association of Forensic Criminologists, and member of the International Thriller Writers. You can visit her website at www.authorjenniferchase.com or connect with her on TwitterGoodreads and Facebook.

Sponsored By:

“Overbeck’s pace is spot on and makes for a thoroughly engaging and quick read…a clear look at the way racism and bigotry continued to leak far beyond the bounds of the deep South even after desegregation began to make its way across the US.” ★★★★★—Literary Titan

Real Life Inspiration

            As I’ve given author talks around the country, one of the most common question I get is “Where do you get your inspiration?” I don’t pretend to have any great revelations. My writing inspiration have sprung from pretty ordinary circumstances.

The inspiration for the first book in my series, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE, arose from our many visits to the Eastern Shore—but perhaps not the way you think. We’d made a couple trips to the Chesapeake Bay, drawn by incredible scenery, unforgettable sailing experiences, some of best cuisine anywhere and the natives’ hospitality.

I thought what a scenic place to set a my murder mystery. But it wasn’t until our third trip to the shore that I noticed some of the more nuanced characteristics of this area. This region is seized by a certain dichotomy, a split personality, so to speak. On the one hand, the Eastern Shore is steeped in the New England tradition of shipping and fishing. But the area still clings to its more Southern heritage. Confederate flags still hang from more than a few homes and establishments.

As I pondered this seeming contradiction—and at the same time, the political world was deteriorating into a more partisan realm—I thought the Eastern Shore would be a perfect setting for a story I’d been working on that centered around racial injustice and, hence, the seeds of BLOOD were germinated.

For the second entry, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, the genesis was based more on a single experience. A few years earlier, I’d visited Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. I expected to learn about the many stations of the Underground Railroad which dot the landscape around the city, and I did. But the museum is actually dedicated to exposing the horrendous crime of human trafficking going on around the world. I was so stunned by what I learned that I decided to craft the second murder mystery I’d been percolating around the crime of human trafficking. When I was fortunate enough, a few years later, to pay a visit to the wonderful city of Cape May, the pieces came together. (Insert pic of Cape May beach) Cape May is located only a few miles away from one of the busiest shipping routes in the country—and one often used for human smuggling as well. The charming town, the beautiful shore, the crime, both large and small, became book number two.

For my newest work, SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER, the origin is a bit more humble—our local grocery store. Our family has really tried to maintain more healthy diets. For us, that has meant a generous helping of fresh produce daily. We have fresh fruit almost everyday and most dinners include freshly cooked vegetables or crisp salads. I have to admit that I never gave much thought as to how those rows of broccoli and coolers of strawberries got from the field to the stores. Then, as fate would have it, a current political discussion about illegal immigrants led me an older article about migrant workers laboring in the fields (the same one discovered by Darrell in the novel).

The details in the article shocked me and, as I did more research into the issue, I realized that our bounty and good health arise from the difficult and poorly paid work of migrant workers, many of them illegal. These interests led me to research towns in Florida—I try to find a truly memorable location for each of my stories—and I discovered the enchanting town of Crystal River, complete with manatees. Combined, these gave me more than enough inspiration for SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER, the story of a very different kind of murder of some very unusual victims, that I’d been working on. It was the perfect fit.

If you pick up any one of the Haunted Shores Mysteries, you’ll not only be able to savor an eerie adventure and solve a puzzling whodunit and you might gain some insight into a few heady areas you weren’t even considering.

“I loved everything about this book. As a ghost story combined with a mystery, a romance, a social injustice and stunning historical details, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY has something for everyone. The most sobering storyline in the book for me was the human trafficking angle. Overbeck puts a spotlight on this social justice issue in a way that makes you shake your head in disbelief and will hopefully, enlighten more people on the matter.” ★★★★★—ReadersView

Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for four decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake, Crimson at Cape May and Scarlet at Crystal River have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the Year–ReadersFavorite.com, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”—ReadersView.com and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation, “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Title: THE WILLING
Author: Lindsay Lees
Publisher: Indpendent
Pages: 299
Genre: Dystopian

BOOK BLURB:

In less than a year, fifteen-year-old Gypsy Capone will be considered a woman in Ovoidia, a “utopian” city-state where every woman can be approached for immediate sex by any man, where curving architecture adds weird whimsy, sporks are the only cutlery, and true intimacy between the genders is a sign of suspect subversion. After all, if a woman just plays along, she’ll also do her job and have children, with the reward of a fine home in the “Communities,” where she and the other “Mamas” live together in harmony with everything they need. Right?

The irony: Diam and Isis, the two leaders of Ovoidia, are themselves females. Fun, yes! And just below the surface, perversely sinister. They personally execute these precise sacrifices by women to establish their “happy,” absurdly totalitarian utopia, and are backed up by their chosen army of male “crusaders,” enforcing a crime-free, fully controlled society.

Men are relegated to work in the “City” where they may “enjoy”—right there on the street if they wish—any woman they want and are welcome to satisfy their sexual and emotional needs at establishments called Gaje Clubs where only the most “gifted” among women are chosen to work.

Not surprisingly, in Ovoidia women have evolved until they feel nothing of sexual pleasure. But in Gypsy’s deepest heart, she realizes her own dark secret: she is the exception. Next she discovers to her horror that her secret, if known, could result in the ultimate punishment—genital mutilation.

To save her body and even her soul, Gypsy chooses a dangerous path—to single-handedly confront this scary and absurd world. She has the support of her allegiant sister Sadie and Miles Devine, a rogue, secretly gay crusader, and also “Doctor,” a morally questionable physician to help her. But none of them fathom the levels of paradox, incongruity, and twisted evil they will soon face, and the ride becomes something even Gypsy could have never imaged.

PRAISE

“The Willing is stunning in its brutality as well as its sensitivity! Absolute must read. We all have a piece of Gypsy in us. We must consider our potential future as women now with eyes wide open.”

–Amazon Reviewer

“The Willing is an unusually deep commentary on a malignant dysfunction in our society, dressed in fishnet utopian stockings. While the premise and its sensual details push the boundaries of belief, a community that is ostensibly focused on the greater good but is governed by fear and hypocrisy fits perfectly in the dystopian genre. Gypsy’s character is flawed and immature in many ways, but her shield-like honesty is refreshing among a sea of conformists. A rather feminist piece filled with satire on the state of equality, The Willing is weighty and serious in its message, and sad in its reflection of how women are treated in our modern world. For a change from the norm, Lindsay Lees provides a gripping story that will have you thinking deeply about the importance of the relationships in your life.”
–Jennifer Jackson from IndiesToday.com

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~ Chapter 1 ~

Gypsy

Three shrill bells blasted through the hidden speakers in the shiny ceiling tiles. A warning. Five minutes later, another three shrills will announce everybody’s butts better be in their chairs.

Gypsy took a seat in the front row of the dark, stifling auditorium for her Life Science class and wiped the sweaty auburn hair off her neck. Every time she entered the steamy classroom, she considered chopping off her hair, but didn’t dare go through with it, in fear of what everyone would say. Stagnant air lingered near an open oval window. Gypsy smoothed her denim shift against her bare legs. The sweat was everywhere. The heat had only gotten worse that year. The whole country sizzled like a frying pan on a burner without a high point.

Gypsy slid her right hand under her desk and stroked the round screws. She was in year ten of Passage school—her second-to-last year—but she had stopped paying attention when the Madams began the boring task of preparing the girls for life as women in the Communities. Life Science consisted of learning and drilling domestic life hacks and mothering skills.

Next to the whiteboard, a laminated poster of the Head Gaje family tree depicted the original Gajes—six desultory faces with deep creases around their rage-filled eyes. As the generations progressed, the Head Gajes began to look more their age, skin less ravaged, eyes less resentful. The current Heads, with the open-ended parentheticals under their busts, were on the bottom row—laughing, mouths splayed open, and lips the shiniest shade of red.

Above the poster, Gypsy noticed several new banners on the wall. The Head Gajes didn’t normally use colorful language or curse words to empower the women of Ovoidia, but this read, in upper case letters:

—Put Peace Between Your Legs—

—A KINDER, SAFER COUNTRY:

Thanks to Our Cunts—

—SEX: Just Say YES!—

Sweat moistened Gypsy’s palms. She rubbed her hands down her chest to try to dry them off. Her boobs weren’t the biggest in the class, but they were close. She came from a big-boob family. Grandmama Goyma’s cleavage was a sight to behold, but most of the time, Gypsy wished Goyma would just put ‘em away. Gypsy’s bust made her hips appear narrow and out of proportion with her legs, which were thin, undefined, and in need of a tan. A handful of laminated brochures circulated around the room. Gypsy turned the shiny pamphlet over in her hands and sighed at the cover image of her house. Well, not her house specifically, but rather a standard “Communities” home. The drone’s angle offered a bird’s-eye view of a headless snowman, and Gypsy imagined it melting into a staircase ribcage. The brochure was titled: Welcome to the Communities: Living the Ovoidian Dream

Gypsy squeezed the pamphlet quickly into a wrinkled mess, surprising even her.

Madame Adel stepped in front of the room, her denim shift hanging below her knees, her voice already rattling on about the silly brochure. She wore thick cotton socks pulled up below the hem of her shift, revealing a hedgehog strip of black leg hairs. Gypsy thought Madame Adel dressed as though actively engaged in repelling men. The anti-Gaje. And she wondered how well her efforts worked.

Then she glanced at all the phonies around her with their stoic expressions, pursed lips, and suspicious eyes. Practically carbon copies of Madame Adel’s perennial sour face. As far as Gypsy knew, Madame Adel only had one daughter, Vegas, who had just turned sixteen and gone straight to the City for higher education, a career, or if that failed, a baby. Gypsy tried to drown out Madame Adel’s diligent explanation of the brochure for the new homes that would be available next year, when the girls in the class would make the passage into women, and then mothers.

Gypsy watched the other girls ogle at the glossy images. They were holding their future in their hands, and it was the first time anyone had seen the upgrades. Previous upgrades had included a massage chair and pinball machine; the most recent came with a tanning bed. Gypsy knew Grandmama Goyma wasn’t pleased she missed out on that one.

Gypsy raised her hand, but Madame Adel wasn’t looking her way, so she held it up until Madame Adel finally noticed her. “A question?” she asked.

“When are they going to turn the air-conditioning back on?” Gypsy asked, fanning herself with the brochure.

“Due to the heat,” Madame Adel said, “between the hours of eleven and three, the lights and air-conditioning will be temporarily turned off in the Communities to conserve energy. It’s a recent decision by the Head Gajes but they say it shouldn’t last long.” Madame Adel stepped in front of Gypsy and clasped her brochure. “And,” she said, “this is not a fan, please stop using it as such.”

“But I’m melting here,” Gypsy said, wiping droplets off her face and displaying her damp fingers to Madame Adel.

“I’ve had enough of your complaining, Gypsy,” Madame Adel said, and folded her arms. “You’re only required to be here for four hours a day, three days a week. That’s it! You’re long past the arduous twelve-hours a day, six days a week of Formation school, unlike your male counterparts, and yet you still are unsatisfied …”

Gypsy turned her face away and tried to ignore Madame Adel. She didn’t need to hear a lecture about how much better things were since she’d graduated into the Passage school back when she was eleven. Madame Adel still wasn’t finished with her lecture when Gypsy tuned back in.

“… these are not difficult lessons, Gypsy,” Madame Adel said. “Would you prefer to spend your long days with the children in the Formation School filling in the coloring books of families being held up at gun point, and depraved monsters brandishing assault rifles and shooting-up preschools?” Madame Adel walked to her white, oval desk, pulled open the drawers and started rifling through paperwork. “Because that can be arranged for you, or perhaps you’d prefer a refresher course during detention, where together, we can go over some of the history of Pre-Ultimate Revolution murderers. I’d love to hear what you remember about the horrors of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.” Madame Adel pulled out a thick history book complete with full-page illustrations and slammed it on the desk.

Gypsy remembered the text from her early history lessons. By the time students completed their formative education, they understood that the world outside of Ovoidia was filled with monsters. Only, to Ovoidian children, monsters were real people.

“No, Madame Adel,” Gypsy said. “I’ll be quiet and listen.”

“I’m so glad to hear it,” Madame Adel said, and turned to face the class. “Now open your brochures and we’ll go through them together.”

Gypsy opened her brochure to a young Ovoidian woman with harp-shaped cheekbones and buttery skin, holding two babies on her narrow hips. In the picture, she held a set of keys in the air and had the biggest smile Gypsy had ever seen. Gypsy quickly skimmed the text and flipped it over, looking for an answer to a question she’d been wondering. Unable to find the information, she raised her hand and when Madame Adel noticed her, she asked, “What if I want to live by myself?”

The class giggled.

“Communities’ homes are reserved for women with children,” Madame Adel said, clearly unamused. “You know this, Gypsy. If you want to live alone there’s always the City. I’m sure the new Head Gajes have made it much nicer for all the new women they’re expecting.”

“That’s not fair though,” Gypsy said. “What if I can’t get pregnant? There could be something wrong with my uterus.” She stared at her navel and shrugged. “I don’t know yet, and then I’d never be allowed a home in the Communities?”

“Come now, Gypsy.” Madame Adel said, wiping the sweat from her upper lip. “The chances of that happening are slim to none. Ovoidian women are extremely fertile.” Madame Adel rolled her shoulders. “But, if that is the case, the City does provide housing for women, including barren women. There’s really no need to be paranoid though. You’ll have ample opportunities to get pregnant and most of the time, it occurs much faster than you intend.”

Gypsy wasn’t concerned that getting pregnant was going to be a challenge. She had entered the last year of her childhood and began to wonder how mature those girls really felt the first time they were approached.

Then she thought of Sadie, and Madame Adel’s voice slowly faded to mute. On Monday, her older sister would turn sixteen and become a woman. In Ovoidia, the day a girl becomes a woman, she travels to the City alone for the first time. It wasn’t meant to be a ceremonious occasion; girls were introduced to their purpose every day.

But Sadie wasn’t just visiting the City. She was one of the new women moving there, and even though Gypsy wasn’t supposed to be worried, she kept coming back to an image that made her stomach sick—a white-domed luxury car, the driver pulling Sadie down a dark alley, a lifted shift, cold marble, supple flesh.

She hadn’t noticed her reverie until Madame Adel slapped a brochure against her palm and finished her lesson, as always, with the same admonition. “A woman’s body is her most trivial sacrifice,” she said with purpose. “You can love anyone as long as you serve your country.”

Gypsy took the steps two at a time to the house Mama Asya was given when she got pregnant with Sadie. At the top of the stairs, two lioness sentries flanked an arched glass doorway. The front room light was turned off, and the leather couches glowed in the angled shadow looking lonely, giving an illusion of vacancy. Gypsy opened the door to a familiar feeling of emptiness. The icy blast of the air-conditioning invited her inside.

A dim glow lit the kitchen hallway where Grandmama Goyma softly hummed the theme song to The Club Gajes—Ovoidia’s only reality soap opera. Even Gypsy found the melody inexplicably catchy; at times it made her want to dance around, and other times wipe a furtive tear from her eye. The music appealed to emotions; unlike the show, which followed the lives of stuck up, bitchy Club Gajes.

Gypsy climbed the stairs and found her sister, Sadie, standing in front of a round plastic container holding a pile of sweaters, red and blue sleeves spilling over her arms like octopus-legs. Her frizzy mahogany hair whipped around as she spun her head from side to side looking around the mess she’d made on the floor. Gypsy had always been the neater of the two, but Gypsy couldn’t deny she was going to miss seeing Sadie’s messy room.

“How’s it feel to pack up all your stuff?” Gypsy asked her, walking in under the oval archway.

Sadie pursed her lips, and Gypsy instantly recognized the expression on her face. Sadie huffed and said, “Mama Asya put these out to take, but she’s crazy. They’re too thick. I’m not taking everything I own!”

Gypsy gave a half-shrug, not wanting to get in the middle. “What’s wrong with some extra layers?”

“I’ll never wear them.” Sadie raised an eyebrow. “It’s boiling outside.”

“What about at night?” Gypsy asked.

Sadie rolled her big brown eyes and dropped the sweaters into the container.

“Oh, my Gaje! Oh, my Gaje!” Goyma yelled from the kitchen. “Girls! Get down here quick!”

They rushed downstairs side-by-side, and Gypsy saw Goyma resting her chin on her perched hands, and her right ear pressed to the radio speaker due to her faulty hearing. Her light-gray hair was braided into a bun and there was an astonished look in her green eyes, the way an eager fox might look when chased away from a chicken coop. Her thin lips were sealed together and tiny bubbles formed alongside her mouth.

“What’s wrong?” Gypsy asked.

“Hush!” Goyma pressed her finger to her mouth. It was a special gesture both Gypsy and Sadie understood to mean, “I love you. It’s best if you don’t ask questions.”

The volume was on max, and the reporter’s voice bounced off the high ceiling.

“There’s not much that can be done for the young woman,” he said, and they listened closely. “It’s up to the tribunal to decide the consequences. In many ways, her fate has been sealed. We must bear in mind this form of crime is virtually extinct. Historically, the Head Gajes have a zero-tolerance policy for subversive behavior, but our current Head Gajes haven’t had to dole out punishments since their inauguration, and we’re all eager to hear their plans. The age of this young woman may result in leniency, but we’re still waiting on reports.”

Gypsy ran to the living room across the tile floors, her white sneakers squeaking. In the dark space, she stopped in front of Mama Asya’s thirty-six-inch, flat-screen TV.

Gypsy thought about the creased brochure stuffed in her backpack: the new upgrades would come standard with sixty-inch voice-automated plasmas. Mama Asya would want to see it when she got home from her daily group powerwalk, one of the many activities assiduously attended by the Communities’ women. They called it leisurcise, and Gypsy had to smile.

She couldn’t think of a time when Mama Asya had missed a day. On the weekends, hundreds of women flooded the streets in custom shifts, designed to wick away moisture, as they weaved through the neighborhood.

Gypsy flicked on the lights and pushed the red button on the remote. The TV flashed, then faded into focus, revealing Ovoidia’s anchorman, Stan Mac, sitting at a desk and staring at the camera with his sad, shocked eyes, hidden beneath black and gray eyebrows. Wisps of his feathery hair stood up in varied shades of senescent color. He had been the anchorman of Ovoidia news since Mama Asya was a baby. He wore the same suit, every day; a boring, itchy-looking affair.

Gypsy tried to imagine Stan Mac’s life outside of work, a life others were only allowed to dream of. Yet, even with the most freedom any one person could have, he was still confined to that uniform—a stiff button-up, that pinched at the neck, an area of his body which appeared more saggy by the day. It was garroted by a dull, lifeless tie; a fashion accessory that once served a functional purpose—to keep a man’s shirt together before the invention of buttons. But the tie remained, Gypsy assumed, to satisfy men’s asphyxiation fantasies.

She may have drawn her conclusions from watching too many episodes of Ovoidia’s three imported documentaries: Most Wanted Men and Women, Killer Couples, and Unsolved Tragedies. Every night at six, an omnibus ran until midnight, and Gypsy often stayed up late, glued to the re-enactments of murders and kidnappings occurring outside of Ovoidia. She was never sure where, exactly. Ovoidians weren’t taught much about foreign countries, other than information about their safety concerns, which acted as a large enough deterrent in learning anything else.

Stan Mac provided the voice over for Most Wanted Men and Woman: Depictions of the Most Heinous Atrocities Man is Capable of Inflicting. In fact, Mac opened each show with that line, while his puppy eyes reflected, “How can humans be so cruel? Feel sorry for them. Be grateful.”

At this moment on the screen, Stan Mac turned his attention to the top right corner above him. Gypsy expected him to reveal some scenario like a young woman throwing babies into the Ovoidia river or walking through the mall with an ax, hacking shoppers while they carried their bags.

“Can you tell us what you remember about the girl?” Mac asked aloud to the blank screen.

The thumbnail expanded to fill the screen with a live feed from the City. The camera focused on a dark-haired young man with close-set eyes and a squashed cherry for a mouth. He was standing on one of the marble bridges spanning the Ovoidia river. Oval skyscrapers lined the horizon. The chyron beneath his chest read, “City Man Approached Traitor One Time.”

“She was a pretty girl,” the young man said. “I remember wanting her right away. She looked fresh. It didn’t seem like there was anything wrong with her. She acted no different than most women. I figured she was shopping.”

Stan Mac appeared back on the screen and said, “There you have it, folks; witnesses claim sixteen-year-old Vegas Adel was not acting suspiciously before attempting to take her own life during the early hours of this morning. Up next, stay tuned for the weather. Some unexpected rain is on the way!”

“Did he say Vegas?” Sadie asked, turning to Gypsy. Her normally sunny complexion had gone pale.

“He’s wrong,” Gypsy said, turning the volume down a bit. “I just had class with Madame Adel. She didn’t say anything.”

Madame Adel had been responsible for preparing thousands of girls for womanhood. She taught women to believe the spirit of what was best for society. Madame Adel had tried to make Vegas into a perfect specimen. An ideal Ovoidian woman.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Sadie said, shaking her head. “Vegas didn’t want a baby. She was studying to be a doctor.”

Stan Mac’s voice came back from the screen. “Before the weather, we wish to provide this commentary.” He cleared his throat. “Vegas Adel’s fate is yet to be determined. Suicide is viewed as a form of treason in Ovoidia, which could result in a public stoning or hanging. If the Head Gajes are lenient, they may decide on a hundred lashes or a genital sealing. Based on the severity of the crime, we hope swift and earnest action takes place. These acts of terrorism on Ovoidia’s status as a utopia should be handled with the utmost seriousness.”

Gypsy flicked the red button on the remote and turned to Goyma who had followed them into the room. She had dried dough squished between the stack of rings on her fingers.

“What did he say they were going to do to her?” Goyma asked.

Gypsy had one image in her mind. A picture from a history book.

“What’s a genital shutting?” Sadie asked.

Gypsy remembered learning about “sealing” in year two of Formation School. They were performed on women as purity rituals, before the Ultimate Revolution, but Gypsy didn’t fully understand why it would be used as a form of punishment.

Goyma said, “It’s called a sealing, not a shutting,” then shrugged, indifferent. “They’re going to zip her up. Teach her a lesson. She’s going to wish she were dead. They would have shown more mercy with a stoning.”

“That still happens?” Gypsy asked, hearing her voice squeak with fear at the mere thought of the agony.

“Not technically,” Goyma told her and rested a hand on her hip. “It hasn’t happened in centuries. There hasn’t been a crime this serious for years.” She took a seat on the couch and fell silent. Gypsy knew Goyma would take a minute to consider the best way to explain certain things to the girls.

Finally, Goyma said, “When I was a girl, a few good years younger than you two, a man was sentenced to death by castration for sex with a minor. It happened at Gaje Circle, and every man, woman, and child in Ovoidia was forced to walk past him.”

Goyma pressed her pink polished finger to her lips and looked lost in a thought for a moment, then continued. “By the time it was our turn, the man had been left outside for days. A puddle of black-tar blood covered his legs and groin. A flock of crows were plucking out his eyes and rats had taken most of his tongue. It was terrifying to see, but after that, we all felt safer, grateful for all our fore-Gajes had sacrificed. That man’s body was a warning and a reminder we were in safe hands. It’s that sense of security the rest of the world has never known.” She rose from her seat. “It’s so inconceivable people can’t understand. They’re jealous of our power. Ovoidian women are selfless. Invested in the greater good. What’s best for us all is best for you.”

“Vegas believed that,” Sadie said quietly and with less certainty than Gypsy was used to hearing.

“Impossible,” Goyma scoffed as she walked back toward the kitchen. “If she’s anything like your teacher, she just cares about herself.” She stopped and turned back around. “No wonder Vegas tried to drown herself! Madame Adel’s not an ideal role model. The woman’s too tense. She found a loophole to this life, but she’s not really living.” Goyma’s voice rose, along with her arms which started to wave. “She doesn’t embrace being an Ovoidian woman. To tolerate this existence is merely an act. A survival mechanism maybe, but such a waste of power.”

The front doorknob clicked open, and Mama Asya walked in.

“What’s going on?” she asked, surprised.

Her flushed cheeks glowed beneath a navy denim visor secured around her forehead. She wore her thick black hair pulled into a high ponytail.

Gypsy had never seen her mama wear make-up. When she was younger, with her naturally dewy lashes and plump lips the color of coral, she didn’t need it. Gypsy had slept in bed with her almost every night. It hadn’t been that long since she’d stopped, and it wasn’t because Gypsy didn’t want to sleep alone. Well, that wasn’t her favorite part of the day, but as she fell asleep, she always enjoyed stroking Mama Asya’s downy peach face—one of the first times Gypsy had connected body to mind with pleasure. She relished the tingles that pulsed down her arm and the quick, tiny thumps of her heart. She wasn’t sure if she was allowed to feel that pleasure or what that pleasure even meant.

The rules were all unclear, and nobody talked about whether or not they enjoyed touch. Over time Mama Asya’s once-plump skin deflated, and with it, Gypsy’s enjoyment of stroking it thinned.

Goyma clutched her hips, the gold coins on her turquoise shawl jingling. “Vegas put our entire country at risk,” she said. “That stupid girl wasn’t thinking about us, about how her decision affects the greater good. You girls understand how important it is to follow the rules.

Without rules we’d be living like the barbarians on TV. It doesn’t warrant thinking about.”

Goyma tucked her chin and clicked her tongue. “I’m going to finish dinner. Be at the table in an hour,” she said before throwing her hands up and walking off.

“Would they seal her up because she can feel?” Gypsy asked. She felt suspiciously unnerved, and almost panicked. Gypsy could see Mama Asya wasn’t sure how to react. She hadn’t even stepped inside the house all the way. The arched front door was held open by her hand, and her fingers were decorated with a silver band engraved with the girls’ names and a couple of the biggest diamonds she’d ever received, back when she was desirable.

Mama Asya blinked twice and shook her head as though some pesky insect had flown in her ear. “Vaginal sealings? They’re archaic,” she said, and closed the door. “There’s been no need for them. Why would the Head Gajes start using them now?”

“Vegas tried to commit suicide!” Sadie said, her face filled with disbelief.

Mama Asya caught her breath. “I knew it. Women don’t belong in the City.”

Sadie glared at her. “Well, I’m still going!” she yelled, then turned and stomped up the stairs.

“They’re going to do that to her, too.” Gypsy’s voice broke, and she held her breath to stop from crying. A woman’s body is her most trivial sacrifice, echoed in the recesses of her mind.

“Why are you so upset?” Mama Asya asked. “If it’s true, she put everyone at risk. Who do you think would suffer? We’re safe because we follow the rules, and no one should be allowed to jeopardize that, Gypsy.” She paused, then said, “The better question is why would anyone want to? We can’t call ourselves a utopia if people start killing themselves. Poor Madame Adel, she must be devastated. Her own daughter a defector. I should go call Beth and Amira.”

Mama Asya exited the conversation as quickly as she entered, and headed up, the pristine stairs in her new white trainers, meant to target areas of her calf muscle and increase caloric burn by thirty percent.

“Can I get into bed with you?” Gypsy hovered over Sadie’s bed in her oversized night shirt and bare feet. It was late, and Mama Asya and Goyma had gone straight to their rooms after dinner. Most nights Sadie didn’t mind staying up late and talking to Gypsy, but over the past few months, she’d gotten annoyed with Gypsy for falling asleep before getting back into her bed.

“I don’t think so. I need to get some rest.” Sadie stared at the domed ceiling as she spoke. The walls were bare except for an oval mirror.

“Move over.” Gypsy lifted the white duvet and pushed Sadie. “I might not be able to do this again after the weekend.”

“Thank Gaje.” Sadie smiled.

Gypsy frowned, then followed Sadie’s gaze to the ceiling. “You scared?”

“Scared of what?”

“I don’t know. Going to the City. What happened to Vegas.”

“Mama Asya and Goyma are right,” she said. “What Vegas did was dangerous. We could have all been affected. If she didn’t like the City, she should have come back. The Head Gajes aren’t forcing us to stay.” Sadie closed her eyes and smiled. “When we move to the City, we’ll live in the top floor of one of the new co-ed hives, wear designer clothes, and you know, do something meaningful with our lives.”

Gypsy held her breath and bit her lip. She was afraid to look Sadie in the eyes. “We don’t know that for sure.”

Sadie rolled over and tickled her side. “Oh no, you’re not getting out of our pact that easily.”

Gypsy curled into a ball and almost fell off the bed.

“Whoa!” Sadie pulled her back up, and they both laughed.

They sat facing each other, pretending they were a mirror, sticking their tongues out, pushing their noses up and squishing their cheeks together. They loved to make each other laugh, and when they calmed down, Gypsy looked closely at Sadie. They had similar markings in the shadowy details of their brown eyes, but Sadie always looked more worried.

“What do you think being approached is going to be like?” she asked, a slight sadness in her eyes.

“No big deal.” Sadie shrugged. “Like how they’ve said.”

“But what if it’s gross?” Gypsy asked, sitting up. “What if a guy’s got bad breath like salami or something? Or what if their hands are small and they have warts?! Or if they don’t cut their nails? What if they’re a lot shorter than you? What if you can feel it?” Gypsy paused, and then said quietly. “Maybe that’s why Vegas did it. What if she could feel it down there?”

“I won’t feel a thing,” Sadie said and chuckled. “Maybe a breeze every once and a while.” She shuddered. “That might take some getting used to.” Sadie nudged Gypsy playfully. “All women say it feels the same. We do what’s best for the safety of everyone. Don’t you think that includes us as well? Being approached isn’t meant to be pleasurable. It would be different if we could feel sex.” Sadie looked closely at Gypsy. “Think of this—if women enjoyed having sex, then being “approached” would be called “rape.” But you can’t rape the willing.”

“What if you do feel it?”

“Then I’d get circumcised, so I couldn’t.”

Sadie answered so quickly and coldly that Gypsy felt a small stabbing pain between her legs and reeled back. “And you’d be okay with that?” Gypsy asked.

“Sure. Who wants the burden?” Sadie shook her head as though casting out whatever images had appeared. “You know our ancestors were sex slaves. They got circumcised as a form of mercy. We might not like being approached, but it’s better not to feel.”

Gypsy laid there quietly and thought about her late-night talks with Sadie about what life was going to be like in the City, and how until now, they’d never spoken about actually being approached. Even if the women of Ovoidia didn’t feel the pleasure of sex, Gypsy wasn’t sure Sadie was as ready as she claimed to be. She opened her mouth to say something but turned away instead. She wanted to press her further, but she also didn’t want to show Sadie how utterly afraid she felt about her leaving. Women in the Communities were more protected from being approached, although that wasn’t the case when it came to the Crusaders.

Sadie stirred beside her. “What are you thinking about?” she asked, half asleep.

“Nothing,” Gypsy said. “Weird thoughts. They’ll pass. Of course, you’ll be fine, and if any guy hurts you, we’ll have him castrated.”

Sadie smiled and seemed to nod and drift away to sleep.

About the Author

Lindsay Lees headshot

Lindsay Lees is originally from Los Angeles and holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and while growing up and later in college, she split her time between the two countries. Lindsay earned a B.A. in 2008 from Manchester Metropolitan University, and next an M.F.A.in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts. The Willing is Lindsay’s debut novel. She currently lives a quiet Southern life with her husband and a houseful of pets. Visit her website or connect with her at FACEBOOK and GOODREADS.

Title: WORDS KILL
Author: David Myles Robinson
Publisher: Terra Nova Books
Pages: 250
Genre: Thriller / Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

Famed reporter Russell Blaze is dead. It appears to be an accident, but after Russ’s funeral, his son, Cody, finds a letter in which his father explains that the death may have been murder. It directs Cody to Russ’s unfinished memoir for clues as to what may have happened. The opening words are: On the night of October 16, 1968, I uttered a sentence that would haunt me for the rest of my life. The sentence was, “Someone should kill that motherfucker.”

As Cody delves into the memoir, a window opens into a tragic past and thrusts the still-burning embers of another time’s radical violence into the political reality of the present. History that once seemed far away becomes a deeply personal immersion for Cody into the storied heyday of the Haight: drugs, sex, war protesters, right-wing militias, ground-breaking journalism—and the mysterious Gloria, who wanders into his father’s pad one day to just “crash here for a while until things calm down.”

Cody discovers aspects of his father’s life he never knew, and slowly begins to understand the significance of those words his father spoke in 1968.

Words Kill is a story of loss, violence, and racism; love, hate, and discovery. It is a story of then … and now.

CHAPTER ONE

As Russell Blaze emerged from the public parking garage on Montgomery, the famous San Francisco fog enveloped him and sent a chill through his body. He pulled his brown houndstooth sport coat around his chest, crossed his arms, and stuck his hands in his armpits. Despite the biting, wet cold, Russ smiled to himself. It was his first time in the city since the great pandemic of 2020, and it was good to see people out on the streets again.

As he turned onto Columbus, the wind coming off the bay hit him. He lowered his head and strode forward. He didn’t have far to go. He was meeting his son, Cody, at the historic Tadich Grill, which Russ was pleased to see had survived the shutdowns. He looked up and saw the sign not far ahead. Then his attention was drawn to a striking woman who was walking toward him. Her stride seemed purposeful as her high heels clicked on the pavement. She looked to be around Russ’s age, seventyish, and wore a gray wool pantsuit with a white blouse. Her gray hair was cut short. As they passed, Russ studied her face. Her green eyes darted his way for a brief moment, and Russ imagined some past familiarity. Was she someone he knew? Someone he should have acknowledged? She hadn’t seemed to recognize him.

Russ saw Cody standing at the entrance to the restaurant and put the woman out of his mind. Cody, in his early thirties, stood a little over six feet tall, about two inches taller than Russ. He had inherited his father’s rugged good looks but wore his hair short while Russ had spent his life sporting long hair, one of his enduring holdovers from his hippie days in the Haight Ashbury. A moment later, father and son hugged before they entered the restaurant.

They were seated in a dark wood-paneled booth. Russ ordered a vodka martini. Cody ordered a Coke. He was on his lunch break and was due in federal court in a few hours.

Cody watched his father studying the menu and smiled. “Why are you even looking at the menu?” he asked. “We both know you’re going to have the Cioppino and a glass of Pinot Grigio.”

Russ looked up and grinned. “Oh, we know that, do we? Mister smarty pants lawyer.” The grin disappeared as fast as it had appeared as he looked back down at the menu. Cody said nothing but continued to watch his father stare at a menu he knew by heart. Russ had aged well, Cody thought, although his chiseled face was well-lined and his brown eyes, usually intense and piercing, would sometimes drift into a faraway look.

After a moment, Cody was struck by the thought that Russ wasn’t really looking at the menu at all. He was thinking about something else. That, in and of itself, wasn’t surprising. Although Russ had been an exemplary father, never missing a soccer game or a debate club tournament or any of the myriad events parents were expected to attend, Cody had noticed from a young age that Russ would sometimes space out as if his internal attention became focused on something else. It would start with that faraway look, and at times Cody thought he saw a kind of sadness in Russ’s expression. But it was always fleeting, and more often than not, Cody assumed he’d imagined it.

Russ must have felt his son watching him; he looked up again, smiled, and put the menu down. A moment later, as an ancient waiter asked to take their order, Russ said he’d like the Cioppino and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

When the waiter left, Cody asked, “Something on your mind, Dad? You seem distracted.”

Russ gave a small shake of his head. “No, not really. Just before I arrived, I passed a woman on the street I thought I recognized, but I can’t reel it in. It bugs me when that happens.”

“Give yourself a break,” Cody said. “You’ve interviewed thousands of people in your career. You can’t expect to remember every one of them.”

Russ shrugged and drank the last of his martini. “Especially at my advanced age,” he said. “Tell me what’s happening in your world. Anything new?”

Cody smiled. “I thought you’d never ask. I’m in the process of settling a major discrimination case.”

“Nice. Can you tell me about it?”

“Not too much. I’m sure the defendant will insist on a confidentiality clause.” Cody paused and took a sip of his Coke. “Let’s just say it’s a big tech firm that allowed and, at times, even nurtured an environment of sexual harassment.” Cody paused again and then let out a small snort of a laugh. “With a dash of racism. We got our hands on a bunch of internal emails. One of my favorites was from the CFO that referred to a Black woman in accounting. The email said he’d like to get some of that ‘brown sugar,’ ” Cody said, making air quotes.

“Oh, my.”

“That’s what we said. Anyway, I’ve been lead counsel on it and have worked my ass off, so it’s very rewarding.” He grinned again. “Not to mention it will be a big payday.”

The two men were silent while the waiter served their food and poured Russ’s wine. When he left, Russ raised his glass in a toast. “I’m proud of you, Son.”

What Russ didn’t say was how bittersweet it made him feel that Cody had become a civil rights attorney. That was a story he’d save for another day.

But Cody never saw his father again.

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_____________________________________________________________________

About the Author

David Myles Robinson has always had a passion for writing. During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, while in college, Robinson worked as a free-lance writer for several magazines and was a staff writer for a weekly minority newspaper in Pasadena, California, called The Pasadena Eagle. However, as he himself admits, upon graduating from San Francisco State University, he decided against the ‘starving writer’ route and went to law school, at the University of San Francisco School of Law. It was there that he met his wife, Marcia Waldorf. After graduating from law school in 1975, the two moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and began practicing law. Robinson became a trial lawyer, specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation law. Waldorf eventually became a District Court and ultimately a Circuit Court judge.

Upon retiring in 2010, Robinson completed his first novel, Unplayable Lie, which was published by BluewaterPress LLC, in 2010. He has since published five more novels, three of which are legal thrillers set in Honolulu: Tropical Lies, Tropical Judgments, Tropical Doubts, and Tropical Deception. His other three novels are The Pinochet Plot, Son of Saigon, and Words Kill. Robinson has also published a book of short travel stories, Conga Line on the Amazon.

Robinson and Waldorf divided their time between Honolulu and their second home in Taos, NM for seven years before finally deciding to see what it’s like to be full-time mainlanders again. They now live in Taos, where Robinson can pursue his non-writing passions of golf, ski, and travel.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

Websitedavidmylesrobinson.com

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/DMRobinsonWrite

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/DavidMylesRobinson

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Title: HONEYMOON ROULETTE
Author: Irene Woodbury
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 180
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Dark Humor

BOOK BLURB

To marry or not to marry Connor J. Barrington? That is the question Roxy Drake faces one hour before her wedding, when she discovers her handsome fiance may have murdered his first two wives. Did Connor kill Annie and Charlotte, or simply let them die? Does Roxy become wife number three, or the runaway bride from hell? Find out in the darkly funny Honeymoon Roulette.

PRAISE

Honeymoon Roulette is funny and off the average track of love and romance stories. Honeymoon Roulette was a very quick and fun read. It was impossible not to love Roxy and share in the troubles she got herself into at every turn. There is plenty of romance but no vulgar sex scenes or cursing going on, only lots of good clean reading. This book is perfect for an afternoon at the pool or a relaxing day snuggled in front of the fireplace. Irene Woodbury has created great characters and a plot that leaves you wanting more. I am hoping for a second book so I can continue to follow my new friend Roxy’s life. Do not pass up Honeymoon Roulette – it is a winner.”

Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review

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**********

Meet The Author

Luckily for all you fans of romantic fiction, Irene Woodbury knows that what happens in Las Vegas doesn’t have to stay there. The Denver-based author has captured the heart and soul of Sin City in four colorful, suspenseful novels.

In the gritty, engrossing Romeo Stalker (2021), a Vegas showgirl’s life is plunged into stalker-hell when her ex returns from prison and learns she has a new boyfriend. Love and Payback (2021) is a dark, dramatic look at a married woman’s mysterious death in Sin City, where she has gone to meet an Internet love.

In the darkly humorous Honeymoon Roulette (2021), a bride goes rogue after learning her handsome fiance may have killed his first two wives. And A Slot Machine Ate My Midlife Crisis (2021) is the vibrant, funny story of a mixed-up newlywed who goes to Vegas for a girls’ weekend that never ends.

Irene, a successful travel writer whose favorite destinations are London and Las Vegas, is currently working on another novel.

You can visit her website at www.irenewoodbury.com or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Title: GROUP
Author: Lynne Turner
Publisher: FriesenPress
Pages: 102
Genre: Mystery / Crime Thriller

BOOK BLURB:

Dr. William Osgood, a Beverly Hills psychologist, must make a quick decision. Seventeen-year-old Loretta, his most troubled patient, has just fainted on his couch, and his Thursday night group is about to arrive. Knowing that allowing Loretta to stay is ethically murky and potentially perilous to the group’s dynamic, Dr. Osgood begins to consider what might happen once Loretta opens her eyes. He feels that Loretta will be safe – but even the good doctor can’t possibly predict the results of his decision.

Loretta, as it happens, has come to be Dr. Osgood’s patient under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Her story rivets the six members of Dr. Osgood’s weekly group, who themselves struggle with inner demons and life conflicts; when a bigtime talent agent is shot, the doctor recognizes that each of the group’s members may have had a motive. These psychological twists and turns – as well as Dr. Osgood’s own as he copes with a bitter divorce and downsized

lifestyle – pave the way for the captivating story told in the debut mystery GROUP, by Lynne Turner. The thriller’s author knows her subjects well: she herself is a psychotherapist in Beverly Hills, and deftly weaves the lives and maladies of her characters with elements of mystery and surprise, set against the backdrop of the fringes of Hollywood and Beverly Hills.

“None of the characters in the book are based on my actual clients. However, the many compelling cases in my work, along with my deep love for Los Angeles, inspired me to write GROUP,” explains Turner, a lifelong fan of mystery writers. “My years of practicing psychotherapy have enhanced my ability to create characters that readers experience as real people, as opposed to caricatures.

“What is underscored in GROUP is the discrepancy between outward appearance and the actual genesis of one’s dynamics and one’s pain. In writing it, I wanted to give readers a ringside seat inside a therapist’s office and allow them to ‘hear’ the intimate details of each group member’s life, as well as to give them the rare opportunity to hear a therapist’s internal dialogue and witness his private life.”

Equally authentic is the geographic setting Turner provides, in part because another of her passions, Los Angeles street photography, gives her a literal close-up view of the city and its denizens.

“The many cultural references drawn from life in Southern California are, on the surface, funny and absurd,” Turner notes. “However, they also reveal a great deal about the values and aspirations of many Americans. The social injustices are gently exposed with humor and compassion. I’d like to think readers will be entertained, especially in these troubled times.”

By book’s end, not only is the mystery solved, but the characters – psychologist and patients alike — have grown and begun to heal, and a romance has bloomed. “GROUP is indeed a story about a particular group,” Turner says. “However, the word ‘group’ accrues meaning as the story develops. It demonstrates what can be accomplished with group effort, strength and understanding.”

BOOK EXCERPT:
After the group had left, there was an eerie quiet. Even the wheezing of the cleaning crew’s vacuum cleaner had ceased. The doctor opened one of his desk’s secret compartments, which was empty save a single glass and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black. He poured himself a generous double. His lips surprised him. They trembled as he took his first horrid swallow; the second one went down easier. He could see the Hollywood sign from his office window tonight. The Santa Ana winds had cleaned up the city. It was now flooded by an amber wash that was so devastatingly beautiful his throat tightened unexpectedly.

— GROUP (p. 54)

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About the Author

Lynne Turner is a psychotherapist in practice in Beverly Hills, California, where she has practiced for over 30 years. She grew up on the East Coast, in the aptly named seaside town of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Montclair State University, she moved to Los Angeles, where she earned her Master of Science degree in psychology at California State University, Los Angeles. In addition to her practice and her writing, she is a Los Angeles-focused street photographer, which has afforded her the opportunity to take a closer look at the human condition from yet another perspective. She lives with her daughter and two dogs in the Hollywood Hills. Visit her WEBSITE or connect with her on INSTAGRAM.

Two beautiful stories of eternal love and redemption…

By Arabella Sheraton

Title: LORD BLACKWOOD’S VALENTINE BALL (Book 1)
Author: Arabella Sheraton
Publisher: Bublish
Pages: 90 (novella)
Genre: Regency Romance

BOOK BLURB:

In this romantic traditional Regency novella, Patience Cherwell is resigned to a life of spinsterhood. Therefore, when her young friend, the lovely Lorna Hartley, comes to stay for a London season, she decides the eligible, charming Lord Blackwood is the perfect match for Lorna. Granted, Lord Blackwood, at forty, is much older than the vivacious 20-year-old Lorna, but Patience is determined to help her young friend make a good match. So why isn’t she happy when his lordship and Lorna seem to like each other’s company? The problem is that Patience is already madly in love with his lordship! An unexpected invitation arrives for Lorna and Patience to attend Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball. This is the perfect moment for him to propose to Lorna. Mysteriously, a corsage arrives from an anonymous admirer. Who is it for? And what will be the outcome for the wearer at Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball? Patience and Lord Blackwood’s enchanting story continues in The Lady’s Revenge.

PRAISE

“Set in the era of grace and chivalry, Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball by Arabella Sheraton is the heart-warming novella prequel to the more adventurous novel, The Lady’s Revenge. Written with similar charm and panache of Jane Austen’s, Pride and Prejudice, this enchanting story captivates the reader and draws them into the vibrant life of Patience Cherwell. Patience’s loving and noble spirit is evident from the onset of the story; instantly capturing the reader. Despite the results that could lead to a lifetime of loveless solitude, Patience’s sacrifice of self for the love of a friend is gut-wrenching, yet profoundly noteworthy. This is a beautiful story of eternal love and redemption, and I highly recommend it to hopeless romantics.” – Amazon Reviewer 5 stars

Charles Edward Jasper, Lord Blackwood, was, in her opinion, the handsomest man she had ever met, possibly, the handsomest man in London. The first time he shook her hand had sent a shocking tingle radiating right through her body and caused her to blush so fierily that she was sure he must have noticed. He had held her hand for a few moments as he spoke to her, his touch producing such an alarming effect that her knees trembled as if they had turned to water. Patience had felt breathless and thought she might have gasped her greeting. He did not appear to have observed her awkwardness because by then he had turned to welcome Lorna and her ever-giggling friend, Miss Sophie Sutcliffe. Had he even really noticed her that first time? Perhaps the only reason he tried to engage her in social chat on subsequent occasions was out of politeness to her as Lorna’s hostess during her London sojourn.

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Title: THE LADY’S REVENGE (Book 2)
Author: Arabella Sheraton
Publisher: Bublish
Pages: 186
Genre: Regency Romance

BOOK BLURB:

This engaging traditional Regency romance is the sequel to Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball. Miss Letitia DeVere decides that revenge is a dish best eaten cold when she returns to London after a two-year absence to find her former admirer Lord Charles Blackwood on the verge of proposing to Miss Patience Cherwell. Lord Blackwood’s Valentine Ball proved to be the turning point in his fledgling romance with Patience. Letitia is not the kind of woman who gives up easily, as Patience and Charles soon find out. She stops at nothing to achieve her aims. However, Letitia has a dark past, with secrets that threaten to return and destroy her newfound social success. When Charles proves less malleable than in the past, Letitia resorts to subterfuge, seduction, blackmail, and even violence to force him to propose. Will he see through her tricks and remain true to Patience, or will Letitia’s seductive wiles lure him back?

PRAISE

“The timing is one of the most wonderful things in this read, especially because of the various means of subterfuge and blackmail which are at play. Author Arabella Sheraton has a knack for timing her comedy and her suspense in just the right balance to keep that rompy pace going, just like authentic Regency novels should do. I can’t recommend this two-partner enough, or indeed the author herself and her other super-fun works. Readers with a modern mindset or a lack of historical knowledge might not fully ‘get’ the style, but if you’re someone that does, then you’re going to truly fall in love and want to keep stepping back into this world time and again, so give them a try!” – Amazon Reviewer 5 stars

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Arabella Sheraton grew up reading her mom’s collection of Georgette Heyer novels, the queen of modern-day Regency romance, and of course, Jane Austen’s iconic Regency novels. Although Arabella’s literary background was in publishing and editing, she had never written a fiction book. Her first novel started out in response to her mom’s complaint that she had nothing new to read. That first Regency novel was The Dangerous Duke! Since then, Arabella has penned six more authentic Regency novels and a romance self-help guide to finding the right partner, with useful quotes by none other than Jane Austen. Arabella has branched out with a mash-up of genre in her latest work in progress. A murder-mystery, time travel, Regency romance coming soon!

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

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