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WHITE WITCH by Larry D. Thompson, Thriller, 291 pp., $14.95 (Paperback) $5.95
(Kindle edition)

 

Title: WHITE WITCH

Author: Larry D. Thompson
Publisher: Story Merchant Books
Pages: 291
Genre: Thriller

Jamaica is a place where the surreal is simply everyday reality. When a ruthless American aluminum company plans to strip mine the Jamaican rainforest, they send former Navy SEAL Will Taylor to Montego Bay to deal with local resistance on their behalf. But he’s unaware that the British had signed a treaty deeding the rainforest to the Jamaican Maroons, descendants of escaped slaves, over 300 years ago. The Maroons fought and died for their land then, and are more than willing to do so now, whether it’s the British or the Americans who threaten them this
time around.Upon Will’s arrival, a series of inexplicable murders begin, some carried out with deadly snake daggers that were owned and used by Annie Palmer, a voodoo priestess better known as the White Witch. She was killed 200 years prior, but is said to still haunt the island at night, and the local Jamaicans are certain she’s responsible for the gruesome murders, her form of retaliation against the new turmoil taking place in the rainforest.

And Will has been forced directly into the middle of it. After a few close calls, he’s finally convinced to leave his company and join forces with the Maroons, headed by Vertise Broderick, a Maroon who resigned from her position at the New York Times to return to Jamaica to stop the mining. Together they hire a Jamaican attorney to prove that
the Maroon/British treaty is still valid to stop the mining, and they take it upon themselves to solve the White Witch murders, because the legend of the White Witch can’t possibly be true…

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https://www.amazon.com/Mistress-Suffragette-Diana-Forbes-ebook/dp/B06XG3G2TF

Will returned to his room, too wound up to sleep. He stripped to his

underwear and flipped channels on a large screen HD television until he ran

across First Blood with Sylvester Stallone. Having lived that life for a few years,

he never passed up the opportunity to watch it again. He settled back and had

drifted off to sleep when his cell chimed. He glanced at the television to make

sure it was not coming from there and found Fred Astaire waltzing Ginger

Rogers around a ballroom. He turned off the television and reached for his

phone.

 

“Taylor.”

 

“Will, Alexa here.” It was nearly three in the morning and Alexa was still at

her desk. Smoke drifted from a cigarette in her ash tray while she sucked on a

Tootsie Pop. She was on the speaker phone. When Will answered, she walked to

her window and stared at the lights of Baltimore.

 

Will turned on the nightstand light, glanced at the clock, and swung his feet

into a sitting position on the side of the bed. “Yes, ma’am. Little late for a booty

call.”

“Cut the crap. Kaven was just found at Rose Hall. He’s dead.”

 

“What? Are you sure? I just saw him a few hours ago.” Will got to his feet

and began pacing the room. “Shit.”

 

“Must be those goddamn Maroons. He called me last night once he got

back from Accompong. He told me about what happened up there. By the way,

they let the pilot go. They said they had no beef with him.”

 

“So I heard. What was Kaven doing at Rose Hall? When I saw him, he was

going to his room.”

 

“How the hell should I know? I got a call from some local detective. They

found his employee identification in his wallet. When the detective called here,

the operator knew I was still in my office and put the call through to me. You need to get to Rose Hall now.

“Yes, ma’am,” Will agreed.

“And I’m flying down there tomorrow before this gets any more out of

hand. See if you can keep anybody else from being killed until I get there.”

 

Will’s cell went dead. He put it on the nightstand and picked up the hotel

phone. Pleased to find it working, he punched the key for valet parking.

 

“Good evening, Mr. Taylor. How can I be of assistance?”

 

“Bring my company Land Rover to the front as quickly as possible.”

 

Getting assurance that it would be there when he got downstairs, Will hung

up and walked to the bathroom. Five minutes later he was met at the hotel

entrance by a valet.

 

“Can I give you directions, Mr. Taylor? It’s a little late at night.”

 

“No thanks. I know exactly where I’m going.” Will got in the car, fastened

his seat belt, and left the hotel.

When Will got to Rose Hall, he turned onto the road they had just come

down the evening before. At the top of the hill he could see the mansion, now

well lighted. He dodged tree limbs and utility wires and parked among several

other vehicles. Police cars were positioned so that their headlights focused on the

steps of the mansion where Will could see the yellow police crime scene tape. He

walked up a path from the parking lot between the police cars that faced the

mansion to the yellow tape where an officer stood watch. The officer came to

attention as Will approached.

 

“Sorry, mon. I can’t let you past here. We’re investigating a murder.”

 

Will kept his voice even but controlling. “I know, officer. That’s why I’m

here. Name’s William Taylor. I’m head of security for Global American Metals.

Here’s my identification.” Will tried to hand him an ID. The officer just shook

his head. “Officer, the dead man is one of Global’s employees. Can you get

someone in authority to let me up there?”

 

Before the officer could reply, Miles Harper, the St. James Parish Chief of

Detectives, approached. Harper was a lean, fit man with a shaved head and a no

nonsense manner. He was dressed in a brown suit, yellow shirt, and matching

tie. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ Magazine, even at three in the

morning.

 

“Mr. Taylor, I’m Miles Harper, Chief of Detectives in this parish. I was

told by your company to expect you.”

 

Will extended his right hand. Harper ignored it. Instead, he nodded at the

officer and motioned for Will to follow him. Harper went up a dozen steps and

turned to Will as he stood beside Kaven’s body, sprawled on his back with dagger in his chest. Will bent over for a closer look and found that the handle of

the dagger was in the shape of a snake. At the top of the handle was the snake’s

head. The snake’s eyes were two bright rubies.

 

“Shit,” Will muttered, “He was almost killed because of one snake on the

road today and now someone finished the job with a, what would you call this, a

snake dagger?”

 

“That’s as good a name as any, Mr. Taylor. My officers reported what went

on up in Accompong and the incident with the boa.”

Will continued to study the body. “Looks like he’s been dead a couple of

hours. I last saw him about ten last night. Who found him?”

 

“The hotel has a security guard that roams the mansion grounds and up to

the club house in a golf cart. He spotted the body.”

 

“Where’s your coroner?”

 

“He’s a local Justice of the Peace, not a medical doctor. He won’t set foot on

these steps until morning. My men here won’t go past the tape either. They

believe the White Witch did it.”

 

Will shook his head in disbelief. “Come on, Chief, this is the twenty-first

century.”

 

“Old beliefs die hard, Mr. Taylor. Come on. Let me show you something.”

 

Harper stepped around the body and climbed the steps with Will behind

him. Entering the ballroom, Will said, “I was just in this room yesterday evening during the storm.”

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

 

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion

while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

 

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar

for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”

Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake

daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been

broken and the daggers were gone.

 

“You see this case when you were up here?”

 

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.

It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out

power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I

don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told

us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer.

evening during the storm.”

 

Harper turned to study Will. “Would you care to explain?”

Will covered the details of the previous day and their time in the mansion

while they waited out the storm. “You know a woman named Vertise?”

Harper nodded his head. “She’s a local. Works for the paper and tends bar

for the hotel. Since you were in this room a few hours ago, come over here.”

Harper led Will to a glass display against one wall with pictures of two snake

daggers above it along with the history of the daggers. The glass had been

broken and the daggers were gone.

 

“You see this case when you were up here?”

 

Will studied it and thought back to the day before. “Can’t say I did, Chief.

It was pretty dark in here, lit only by candles since the storm knocked out

power. I wandered around the room but never glanced toward this case. And I

don’t believe anyone else mentioned it. Now that I think about it, Vertise told

us the legend of Annie Palmer and her using a snake dagger to kill an overseer. Surprising that she didn’t show us these daggers when she was telling the story.”

 

“Interesting,” mused Harper. “You have any idea why your man would

come up here in the middle of the night?”

 

“Not a clue. Have you checked his cell phone? He always carried it.”

 

“Yeah. The last calls were with you yesterday afternoon and one with Ms.

Pritchard later in the evening.”

 

Will nodded. “He called me from Accompong, warning me of trouble up

there. I should have gone with him.”

 

Harper shook his head. “Whether you were there or not wouldn’t have

made any difference. Just would have been one more person that was in my

police car that rolled, assuming, of course, you didn’t take a bullet up on the

mountain.”

 

“Understood.”

 

“How did you get in the mansion?”

 

“Vertise said she knew where a key was hidden and let us in.”

 

“Strange that she could get into the locked mansion. It was my

understanding that only the manager of Rose Hall had a key. He locked it and

left when the storm was hitting. The hotel spent a fortune on period pieces to

recreate how it looked two hundred years ago. One of his jobs is to make sure

they are not stolen.”

 

“Any signs of a break-in?” Will asked.

 

“This is not for publication, you understand, but when I got here the

mansion was locked and the lights were off.”

 

“So, you’re saying that someone got into the mansion, stole two daggers, let

themselves back out, killed Kaven, and left no trace.” Will paused to absorb all

that he had just said. “Wait a minute. If someone wanted to kill Kaven, why not

just use a gun? Why go to all the trouble of getting that dagger to do it?”

 

“I’ve been wrestling with that very question,” Harper said. “It’s illegal for a

private citizen to own a gun in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean they are not

available if you know the right people. My working hypothesis is that the killer

or killers wanted the public to think voodoo was involved, or maybe even the

White Witch. The only other possibility that comes to mind is that the Maroons

are trying to send a message to Global. They tried to kill Tillman in Accompong

and failed. Maybe the message is that they finish what they start. Either way,

someone is trying to make trouble for your company. I have another problem

that may not be apparent.”

 

Will looked quizzically at the detective.

 

“As you can see, there were two snake daggers in this case. One’s accounted

for out on the steps. The other is gone. Nearly everyone around here thinks that

they are voodoo daggers with magical powers. They were found in an overseer’s

grave during the restoration of the mansion thirty years ago.”

 

“Does ‘everyone’ include you? Looks to me like the killer or killers are just

trying to mess with the minds of my co-workers, maybe keep some locals from

hiring on with us.”

 

Harper stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not up to me to decide if they’re

magic or not. I’ve got a murder with one of those daggers. My job is to solve the

murder and along the way, find that other dagger before someone uses it.”

Will’s eyes searched the room in a futile effort to see any clues to the crime.

 

Then he focused on the chief. “Look, I’m going to need a gun. My company is

obviously under attack. I’m licensed to carry back home.”

 

“No way, Mr. Taylor,” Harper exploded. “Foreigners are not permitted to

have guns in Jamaica. For that matter, as I just told you, neither are Jamaicans.

And I want you to stay the hell out of my investigation. We don’t need your

help. Understand?”

 

“Yeah, I understand. You know that each of our mines on this island is

permitted a certain number of guns for our guards. I’ll just get one of those.”

 

“The hell you will. Don’t you dare go behind my back. Those guns never

leave mine property. I have an officer that inventories them. If one turns up

missing, I’ll confiscate every damn weapon that Global has and put you under

house arrest. Clear, Mr. Taylor?”

 

Will clinched his fists and tried to hold back the anger that was apparent in

his face. Without another word, he turned and stormed out of the mansion,

pausing only to gaze at Kaven and say a prayer for him and his family. At the

bottom of the steps, he got in his car and glanced toward the mansion. The

lights from his car somehow caught the ruby eyes of the snake, making them

appear briefly to be alive. Will shook his head, put the car in reverse, and

returned to the hotel.

Book Trailer:


After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Larry spent the first half of his professional life as a trial lawyer. He tried well over 300 cases and won more than 95% of them. Although he had not taken a writing class since freshman English (back when they wrote on stone tablets), he figured that he had read enough novels and knew enough about trials, lawyers, judges, and courtrooms that he could do it. Besides, his late, older brother, Thomas Thompson, was one of the best true crime writers to ever set a pen to paper; so, just maybe, there was something in the T hompson gene pool that would be guide him into this new career.  He started writing his first novel about a dozen years ago and published it a couple of years thereafter. He has now written five highly acclaimed legal thrillers. White Witch is number six with many more to come.Larry is married to his wife, Vicki. He has three children scattered from Colorado to Austin to Boca Raton, and four grandchildren. He has been trying to retire from the law practice to devote full time to writing. Hopefully, that will occur by the end of 2018. He still lives in Houston, but spends his summers in Vail CO, high on a mountain where
he is inspired by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

His latest book is the captivating thriller, WHITE WITCH.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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http://www.pumpupyourbook.com

 

 

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Back Story: Stairway to Paradise by Nadia Natali

This memoir is about my bumpy journey toward truth and authenticity with the hope that those of you who read it can glean some value.

You may believe fame and wealth bring happiness. That was not my experience.

My mother, sister of George and Ira Gershwin, and my father who invented color film were the primary models in my childhood. Growing up with such talent as I did, you learn early on that it distorts values.

I unwittingly set my brilliant father up as an authority figure, even though he was terrifying and unpredictable. And because the family dynamic was unhealthy I didn’t know whom to trust or even that trust was possible, especially in myself. Later as a young woman I turned away from my background and looked to teachers and professionals for the truth. It took some time for me to realize that their expertise could only take me so far.

After one false start and then another I found a caring partner, Enrico, whom I initially turned to, believing he could impart a way for me to find my own direction and answers, as he seemed to have found for himself. What was so radical to learn was how and where to look. What I learned was going to sensations in the body rather than the thinking mind was where the key to change and transformation lay.

We married and moved out to the wilderness where we faced floods, fire, rattle snakes, mountain lions and bears. In the years it took to build a house we lived in a teepee. We tried to create our own paradise where we raised and homeschooled three children.

Our life turned upside down when the kids became teenagers. Paradise crashed and my relationship with Enrico deteriorated. The grown children struggled to find a place in the outside world. We faced tragedy and I, cancer. This was when my hard earned ability to experience the somatic (inner experience as sensation) helped regulate me and provide me with a chance to find authenticity and authority, as well as a more mature relationship with Enrico. I was able to use this inner working as a way to help others, which I call DanceMedicine, a healing through movement.

We are still living in the wilderness and offer workshops and retreats to anyone who is interested.

About the Author

Nadia Natali, author of the memoir, Stairway to Paradise: Growing Up Gershwin, published by Rare Bird, Los Angeles, 2015, and The Blue Heron Ranch Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from a Zen Retreat Center published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley CA, 2008, is currently working on a second cookbook titled Zafu Kitchen Cookbook. 

Natali, a clinical psychotherapist and dance therapist, specializes in trauma release through somatic work. She earned a master’s degree from Hunter College in New York City in Dance/Movement Therapy and completed another masters degree in clinical psychology with an emphasis in somatic psychology at the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute. Nadia is a registered practitioner of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (RCST) and is also a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) who trained with Peter Levine.

DanceMedicine Workshops is Natali’s creation where participants move through their trauma with dialogue and dance. She also offers the Ojai community, DanceMedicine Journeys. In addition to her private practice, Nadia and her husband offer Zen Retreats at their center.

Born into a famous family that was riddled with dysfunction, Nadia Natali made the choice to turn her life inside out and step away from fame and fortune. Against her parents’ consent she married an artist and moved to the remote wilderness in California. It was there that she found grounding as she and her husband raised and homeschooled their three children and opened a retreat center. As she gathered her own momentum, she enrolled in a doctorate program finally becoming a clinical psychotherapist specializing in psychosomatic work. She and her husband live in Ojai California.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

 

Growing up as Frankie Gershwin’s daughter, the sister of George and Ira Gershwin, was quite a challenge. I didn’t have the perspective to realize that so much unhappiness in a family was out of the ordinary. But I knew something was off. My mother was often depressed and my father was tyrannical and scary, one never knew when he would blow up. I learned early on that I had to be the cheery one, the one to fix the problems. Both sides of my family were famous; the Gershwin side and my father who invented color film. But even though there was more than enough recognition, money and parties I understood that wasn’t what made people happy.

As a young adult adrift and depressed I broke from that unsatisfactory life by marrying Enrico Natali, a photographer, deeply immersed in his own questions about life. We moved into the wilderness away from what we considered as the dysfunction of society. That’s when we discovered that life had other kinds of challenges: flood, fire, rattlesnakes, mountain lions and bears. We lived in a teepee for more than four years while building a house. Curiously my mother never commented on my life choice. She must have realized on some level that her own life was less than satisfactory.

Enrico had developed a serious meditation practice that had become a kind of ground for him. As for me I danced. Understanding the somatic, the inner body experience, became my way to shift the inner story.

We raised and homeschooled our three children. I taught them to read, Enrico taught them math. The kids ran free, happy, always engaged, making things, and discovering. We were so sure we were doing the right thing. However, we didn’t have a clue how they would make the transition to the so-called ‘real world’. The children thrived until they became teenagers. They then wanted out. Everything fell apart for them and for Enrico and me. Our lives were turned upside down, our paradise lost. There was tragedy: our son lost his life while attempting to cross our river during a fierce storm. Later I was further challenged by advanced breast cancer.

It was during these times that I delved deeply into the somatic recesses of myself. I began to find my own voice, a long learning process. I emerged with a profound trust in my own authority. It became clear that everyone has to find his or her way through layers of inauthenticity, where a deep knowing can develop. And I came to see that is the best anyone can offer to the world.

Enrico and I still live in the wilds of the Lost Padres National Forest, a paradise with many steps going up and down, a life I would not change.

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Harley Mazuk was born in Cleveland, the last year that the Indians won the World Series. He majored in English literature at Hiram College in Ohio, and Elphinstone College, Bombay, India. Harley worked as a record salesman (vinyl) and later served the U.S. Government in Information Technology and in communications, where he honed his writing style as an editor and content provider for official web sites.

Retired now, he likes to write pulp fiction, mostly private eye stories, several of which have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. His first full length novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder, was released in 2017, and his newest, Last Puffs, just came out in January 2018.

Harley’s other passions are his wife Anastasia, their two children, reading, running, Italian cars, California wine and peace.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

 

Frank Swiver and his college pal, Max Rabinowitz, both fall in love with Amanda Zingaro, courageous Republican guerilla, in the Spanish civil war. But the local fascists murder her and her father.

Eleven years later in San Francisco in 1949, Frank, traumatized by the violence in Spain, has become a pacifist and makes a marginal living as a private eye. Max who lost an eye in Spain but owes his life to Frank, has pledged Frank eternal loyalty. He’s a loyal communist party member and successful criminal attorney.

Frank takes on a case for Joan Spring, half-Chinese wife of a wealthy banker. Joan seduces Frank to ensure his loyalty. But Frank busts up a prostitution/white slavery ring at the Lotus House a brothel in Chinatown, where Joan was keeping refugees from Nanking prisoners.

Then Max sees a woman working in a Fresno cigar factory, who is a dead ringer for Amanda, and brings in Frank, who learns it is Amanda. She has tracked the fascists who killed her father and left her for dead from her village in Spain to California. Amanda wants Frank to help her take revenge. And by the way, she says the ten-year-old boy with her is Frank’s son.

Joan Spring turns out to be a Red Chinese secret agent, and she’s drawn a line through Max’s name with a pencil. Can Frank save Max again? Can he help Amanda avenge her father when he’s sworn off violence? Can he protect her from her target’s daughter, the sadistic Veronica Rios-Ortega? Join Frank Swiver in the swift-moving story, Last Puffs.

Praise:

.5 out of 5 stars Wonderful Read – Easy and Fun

February 10, 2018

Format: Kindle Edition| Verified Purchase

Frank Swiver is a detective. Murder investigations are his specialty. He likes wine, loose women and fast cars. Not necessarily in that order. Swiver inhabits an earlier world that is archaic and, without doubt, politically incorrect by today’s standards. Harley Mazuk recreates in Swiver a character from another era whose story is fun and entertaining. Mazuk has an impressive knowledge of wines and cars which permeate his narrative. As to his knowledge of women, I am not competent to judge. I do know that the geography and time period portrayed is well researched. There are many twists and turns to the plot as well as an injection of espionage that keeps the reader guessing. Fans of old fashion detective novels will enjoy this book. I know, I did.

— Amazon Reviewer

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

I’m a born story-teller perhaps. Nothing I’d like better than sitting down on the barstool next to you and telling you a story. But although I wanted to be a writer, even back in my college days, I was not a born writer. I studied the craft in various writing classes and workshops. Most of all, I read.

What was your inspiration for Last Puffs?

The main inspiration was a piece I heard on National Public Radio about an old-fashioned cigar factory like they had in Havana or Tampa. The workers rolled cigars by hand while a lector read to them. That idea—a factory so quiet that someone could read to the workers—appealed to me. I knew I wanted to write a scene in which a beautiful dark-haired, dark-eyed woman rolled cigars on her tawny, bare thigh while the lector read. It was a small seed, but the whole book grew from that.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Non-violence—my series private eye, Frank Swiver, is a pacifist. The importance of courage. The duality of human nature—how villains can have some good, and how our heroes are often flawed, flawed to the point where they act in evil ways. The breakdown of civil order in society at certain times and places—for example during the Spanish Civil War in Last Puffs. How do characters act when there is no rule of law, when society cannot protect the weak or powerless? Finally, there are the classic noir themes like love, lust, loneliness, greed, jealousy, tough guys, lying dames, violence, double-crosses, and murder.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

The first draft came along quickly—no more than 18 months, I’d guess. The first draft was good; it seemed to be what I was aiming at, but there were many disparate themes and plot lines. I had to pull it all together, and I probably spent twice as long on revisions. Last Puffs was not the only burner I was keeping lit at the time. I had short stories on the fire too, and all along, I was shepherding my first novel through the editing/publishing process.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m lucky to have learned discipline early. I delivered the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a morning paper, for nine years. That meant getting up every day at 6 a.m., and in Cleveland there were about 14 snowy winters in those nine years! It took discipline to go out to deliver 100 papers on a morning that was not fit for man nor beast. I also learned discipline taking four years of Latin in high school. Reading 50 lines of Caesar or Virgil every night for homework—that too was discipline.

I’m retired now, so I have a very casual schedule. I used to write in the morning, but now, on a typical day, I run about three miles when I get up. I make myself breakfast, do household chores, and run errands. When I’m done with everything else, I settle down to write. Typically, I shoot for a minimum of 500 words, but I’ll go 1,000 some days if the mood is on me.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

My character’s backstory is tied up in his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, where he fought with the Abe Lincoln Brigade in 1937-‘38. But Last Puffs is also about a Red Chinese spy in San Francisco, a private eye, and a murder in Fresno in 1948-‘49. The challenge was tying these ideas together into a coherent narrative, spanning the continents and the years.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love writing and a wise person once said, “If you’re doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” I love not working.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I went with a small press for my first novel, White with Fish, Red with Murder. They were perhaps too small. My book couldn’t support the publisher, and they went out of business in October. That put my second book and me back at square one. I sent my manuscript around to publishers who accept unagented submissions. Those are mostly small presses—folks who publish and sell e-books and print-on-demand books via online retailers. Last Puffs is a good book but getting published is a matter of finding the right home for your novel. I feel fortunate to have found New Pulp Press.

Since I signed with them, the process, the production of the book, has been quick, and very easy for me. I am quite happy with New Pulp.

Where can we find you on the web?

My web site is www.harleymazuk.com. I blog at http://harleymazuk.blogspot.com/. I’d be happy to hear from you on my Facebook author’s page, https://www.facebook.com/HarleyMazukAuthor/.

Thanks!

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When a Stranger Comes…is Ms. Bell’s third novel. Her debut, Walking with Elephants, was initially published by a small publisher who went out of business. Subsequently, she took over as an indie publisher. It went on to win the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence and was a top-five finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2012 contest for the best indie books. Sunspots, her second novel, was awarded the IndiePENdents.org Seal of Approval for good writing. She holds a Master of Science in Mass Communication and for 15 years, she was an editor/copyeditor for a “Big Four” public accounting firm. Ms. Bell was also technical editor for an accounting industry magazine.

Here are some reviews of her previous work published in the Florida Times Union:

http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/2013-07-13/story/book-review-sunspots-karen-s-bell#

http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/literature/2011-03-13/story/book-review-karen-s-bell-fills-walking-elephants-charm

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About the Book:

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

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

Alexa, as the MC, is relatable, likable, and vulnerable with a keen sense of humor. Her world is very small because writing is her life and so she is an easy target for entrapment. Her pact with the Devil is an allegory for the evil lurking in our midst. The social decay of modern society with its excessive greed, the ignorance of our political leaders, and our indifference toward the survival of all species from the effects of climate change, among other environmental pressures, are perhaps brought forth by the darkest forces of human nature.

When A Stranger Comes is available at Amazon.

Would you call yourself a born writer?

No. First I was an avid reader but the urge to write began forming in my twenties.

What was your inspiration for WHEN A STRANGER COMES…?

I thought it would be fun to picture myself as a very successful author. Would it be all laughs or would there be a downside? Quickly, natural insecurities took hold like when you read about famous actors being afraid they will never work again. So making a pact with the devil seemed plausible…ha ha.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to have an underlying social message. In this work it’s about our culture of greed and how it’s causing society’s moral decay. In my debut, WALKING WITH ELEPHANTS, written way before others on this topic, it was about the work/life pressures on working mothers. In SUNSPOTS, I explored a young woman losing her husband after just two years of marriage and how some women can lose their identity in marriage, so a loss like this is on many levels.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

About two years.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Before the plot takes hold, I find myself marketing my other books—avoidance technique. But I’m at the computer, so eventually a sentence or two is composed. When I’m in the throes of the narrative thoughts come to me all the time, insert themselves into my conscious space and then I add it to the narrative at some point. So short answer, I’m very undisciplined.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Choosing the right word, always a challenge. Grammar, grammar, grammar always a conundrum.

What do you love most about being an author?

The honest answer is I love the process. I love composing sentences. Seeing the scene in my mind and getting it right using words. I love being enthralled in the narrative. Compelled.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I really wanted to get an agent and then a New York publishing house. Big dreams. I thought this book had it. But, alas, after a year of “no thanks” I published it myself. My first book was published by an indie publisher who went out of business, so I took over. SUNSPOTS could not find a home so I self-published that as well. I’m not happy with the limited distribution of POD. I cannot afford a vanity press with a print run so my books are not stocked at Barnes and Nobles or other book stores. Very disappointing. But what can you do? My mantra: maybe my next one.

Where can we find you on the web?

http://www.karensbell.com

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Title: SURVIVORS’ DAWN
Author: Ashley Warren
Publisher: Chaparral Press LLC
Pages: 316
Genre: Contemporary Fiction / Women’s Fiction / New Adult Fiction
BOOK BLURB:

A heroic story of three college women’s fight for justice

At first glance, Brooke Flanagan, Lauren Le, and Nikki Towers have little in common: a churchgoing virgin, a party girl, and a resident advisor. But they all have their own dreams, dreams that can be shattered in a single night.

When freshman Brooke Flanagan first arrives at the university, she’s excited to escape her sheltered life in a Southern town. Lauren Le, a scholarship student, likes to have a good time, but she never disappoints her hardworking, single mom. Nikki Towers always goes her own way. Confident, poised, and wealthy, Nikki’s biggest problem is what to do with her future.

Into these girls’ lives walks Colin Jordan. Colin is the son of a private equity titan, captain of his club basketball team, and a brilliant pre-law student. He is also a sexual predator.

Survivors’ Dawn relates a journey of heroes: the strength, courage, and determination of the victims as they fight to survive; the obstacles they face in their pursuit of justice; and finally, with its conclusion, hope for a future where students can pursue their dreams without fear of being attacked.

A contemporary novel, Survivor’s Dawn wrestles with issues of privilege, sexual assault, and the responsibility of academic institutions to protect their students.

ORDER YOUR COPY:

Amazon

First Chapter:

At nine o’clock on a Saturday evening in September, Colin Jordan, a senior, sat at an outdoor table at Jolene’s, a sandwich place in the Triangle. A popular pedestrian plaza, the Triangle was lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. The open-air center was paved with brick and dotted with mature trees. As Colin ate a Rueben with chips and sipped a Diet Coke, he thought through his evening plans. He would have opted for an IPA, but he needed to keep his mind sharp.

Colin believed, due largely to the brilliant example his father provided, that life’s endeavors could and should be assessed in terms of investment and return; for example, Colin had invested several hundred hours to raise his LSAT score. As a result, on his second attempt his score climbed from 170 to 176, an improvement that assured his acceptance into an Ivy League school instead of one of the second-tier programs. This differentiation in pedigree would afford him a valuable advantage for the rest of his life, so the investment in preparing for the test, while painful to endure, yielded an attractive return.

Investment and return. Colin had applied the paradigm successfully in many areas of his life: sports (basketball and boxing), Greek society, and what he considered a uniquely laudable achievement: his efficient approach to sexual gratification.

Colin realized that in terms of opportunity he was living in an enchanted age created by the combination of promiscuity (supercharged by social media) and the propensity of newly liberated young people to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

But here again, investment and return played a role; after considerable thought Colin had developed a framework for partitioning his sexual partners into three distinct categories.

The first category, casual hookups, required almost no investment; they satisfied his physical need but provided little intrinsic reward.

The second category, which Colin had dubbed “this evening’s entertainment,” required an investment of several hours to find and compel a girl (by needs both promiscuous and intoxicated) to return with him to his condo. This last step, no matter how inebriated the girl, sometimes required an extra nudge. Colin found that the more investment required to secure these conquests, the greater his return in terms of psychological satisfaction.

But the third category offered the greatest prize. Colin first had to find the right candidate, in and of itself a challenge, for the girl had to be exquisitely beautiful and innocent. Once he had identified his quarry, Colin was prepared to invest considerable time and ingenuity in her seduction, and to that point in his life, he knew of no greater joy than the moment of consummation. To date Colin had succeeded in the third category only twice.

Nevertheless, to achieve an acceptable return he had to closely manage how much time he invested on each girl, and this discipline demanded that Colin, on occasion, take shortcuts. He knew lesser elements of society would view these shortcuts with a skeptical eye. He did not share their view. The girls would without question acquiesce to their natural instincts and his desires, given sufficient time.

But still, there was an aspect of the enterprise that felt like stealing, like pocketing a candy bar in a convenience store, and the mere recollection of that sensation made his heart beat faster.

In between bites of the sandwich Colin watched girls stroll past, mostly in groups. He mentally catalogued his prospects: queen bees, athletes, sorority sisters, free spirits, and the party girls. The girls dressed to attract attention, with low necklines stretched tight across breasts, or short, tight skirts. Some wore skinny jeans with manufactured tears in the fabric. Many wore high heels.

Some of the girls had pre-gamed to manage their budget for the evening. They talked constantly as they walked, excited to be young and embarking on an evening of possibility.

He searched for a particular type of girl, someone who might be persuaded by his looks, stature, and generosity. He sought a girl who fit his second category, for he had the full evening to invest; but he absolutely had to have his desire fulfilled that night and would settle, if compelled, for a casual hookup.

One girl walked on the edge of a group of seven, tall, with high heels. She had big hips and wore a tight black skirt with a fuchsia top. What was that? She had a round face and black hair, distinctly Asian. She had a sexy walk, not fake sexy like the girls who learned everything from the Internet, but naturally sexy, like an animal in search of a mate.

He checked his watch. Nine fifteen. How long would they stay in the Triangle? Four or five hours. They’d have dinner at the Italian place or the gourmet burger spot, a trendy restaurant that wasn’t expensive. They would split the check. After dinner they would try one of the bars in the Triangle, buy a cocktail, and hope to find boys who would treat them to more drinks.

He spied a second group of girls with potential and found three of them exciting. One in particular wore a top with navy and white stripes. She, too, walked with a sexy sway. As Colin watched her, his penis grew semi-erect.

“How was the sandwich?” asked his waitress.

He hadn’t noticed her approach. She wore a black skirt and a white collared button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled past her thin wrists.

“Excellent. The sauce and sauerkraut were just as you described…awesome. Great recommendation. Thank you.”

She smiled, which illuminated her eyes, brown eyes so big he could stare at them for minutes at a time.

“Is there anything else I can get you?” she said.

What a peculiar question. Yes, oh yes. There was something else. He imagined her wearing a black spaghetti-strap top and nothing else. She faced away from him, bent over, her hands on a table. She was skinny, with bony hips. He loved that, too.

“No, thanks. Just the check when you get a chance.”

He left a 30 percent tip. He always left a big tip, because hardworking people like the waitress deserved to earn a living wage.

Colin was perfectly sober. He would spend two hours studying at the library before returning to the Triangle.

 

* * *

 

At eleven thirty Lauren Le stood with her new friends at the Homestead, a lively bar in the Triangle. Everyone talked at once, shouting to be heard above the music. The Homestead had space for a couple hundred people, with a large square bar in the middle, dozens of stand-up tables, and two dance floors. The constant beat and the bass notes coursed through Lauren’s veins.

She took a slug of the vodka soda.

Pace yourself, Lauren.

It had taken her a month to get comfortable on campus. She had grown up in Irving, Texas, outside of Dallas, and had never traveled this far to the east before starting school here. Some of her high school friends had gone to college, but none as far away as Lauren. They fell short when it came to grades and test scores and ambition.

Lauren was the result of a short-lived and reckless affair between a Vietnamese immigrant, Kim Le, who worked in a nail salon, and a tall Texan who lit out for the oil rigs as soon as Kim missed her first period. Kim had never heard from him again, and she seldom mentioned him to Lauren. As Lauren grew older she became curious and would sometimes ask about her father.

“I was stupid,” Kim had said. “I tried for a big dream with a big white man. But he was no good.”

When Lauren pressed for more information, Kim would grow adamant.

“You forget about him. You need to study.”

If Kim wasn’t working at the salon, a short distance from their apartment, she was doing piecework for a local tailor. Kim never paid Lauren an allowance, but she let her work a part-time job so long as she kept her grades near perfect.

With a tired mother and an absent father, Lauren was forced to learn how to have a good time on her own, and at that she had excelled. As a senior with a full figure, a fun nature—her hobbies were cosplay, online gaming, and organizing flash mobs—and a curious mind about partying and sex, Lauren had always attracted guys.

She had drunk one cocktail at the Italian restaurant and started with a shot of tequila at the Homestead. When they had first arrived, the girls danced as a group for nearly an hour, not allowing the dearth of boys to deter them from getting the party started.

Lauren took a break, her head buzzing slightly from the alcohol and the dancing. Cool air from the duct above her whisked away the perspiration.

God, college is fun.

The bar began to fill, and boys drifted by their group in ones and twos. A sophomore from New Jersey bought her another drink. He was her height, with red hair, and talked fast in a northern accent. He was almost cute, except for a big pimple and his lack of coordination. They tried dancing but couldn’t make it work. Afterward, he told her his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Snore.

Lauren spied one of the resident advisors from Roxbury Hall, Nikki Towers, watching her from the other side of the bar. The girls had approached Nikki when they first entered the Homestead, nervous because they had used fake IDs to get past the bouncer. They needn’t have worried. Nikki’s nickname was Cool RA. She had a reputation for doing her own thing in her own way and never traveling in a crowd. Cool RA had wished them a good time but advised them not to get wasted. (“I’m your RA, not your babysitter.”) Nevertheless, when Lauren caught Nikki’s eye, she could tell Cool RA was not impressed with the New Jersey kid.

“So…,” he said, “do you want to come over to the frat house and listen to music? I’ve got some killer weed.”

“Oh…well…like…”

His eyes were glazed and his shoulders swayed, like a five-year-old on a bicycle. Lauren wasn’t a fan of just-met sex. If he had been gorgeous, like Liam Hemsworth, then maybe. Wait, maybe? Not maybe. Definitely! But she would not have sex with New Jersey, at least not tonight. “You know, I’m gonna hang with my friends a while longer. Thanks, though.”

“Not a problem. Catch you later.”

He leaned toward her as if expecting something. She hesitated, unsure, and then offered to shake hands. He only got about ten steps before he stopped to chat up another girl.

“What did he want?” said Caitlyn, her roommate. Caitlyn’s face turned sour as Lauren told her of the invite to smoke pot. “Eewww! That guy?”

They laughed. Lauren was light as a feather. She could party all night.

 

* * *

 

Nikki Towers sat at the bar and sipped her second glass of Sauvignon Blanc, wanting to make it last. She’d budgeted only three drinks, and the buzz from the one-hitter she’d smoked on the way over had dissipated. She would have liked to drink more, but she couldn’t afford the hangover.

She watched the girls from Roxbury Hall, laughing, talking fast, and dancing. Boys started to arrive and wandered through the bar searching for girls they knew, or new girls to meet. One of them tried to buy Nikki a drink. She politely declined and then ignored him until he vacated the stool at her side. She hadn’t come to the Homestead to find a boyfriend. Sure, she liked the feel of the wooden bar, sanded smooth with a semi-gloss finish, and she liked to watch the bartenders, a man and a woman, as they hustled drinks, swiped credit cards, and matched the rhythm of the crowd. But Nikki had primarily come out on the off chance she would stumble into a solid hookup with someone she already knew.

The lingering stress of a long week of classes and countless bullshit RA duties had worn her down. She didn’t want a boyfriend—too many time constraints—but she craved the physical closeness of a naked man, the thrill that lovemaking brought, and the intimate cuddling that came after. Good sex relaxed her. She glanced at her phone. She could try Tinder, but usually the guys were drunk, or less attractive than their profile, or just plain rude. And sex with a stranger carried certain risks. Much better to go with someone she knew.

She looked back at the Roxbury group. Lauren Le, the girl in the pink top, laughed and tipped her glass back. They all had to learn their own way, to suffer through some hangovers before figuring out their style. Most of the freshmen went through the same pattern, but not Nikki. She had arrived at college fully mature, her hard partying days behind her, her virginity surrendered in a neighbor’s basement in tenth grade.

Nikki was self-aware, a solid B student with a high street IQ, the daughter of a successful interracial couple in St. Louis. Her father had begun his career as a plumber in the western suburbs but soon started a plumbing supply company, which he grew rapidly until it earned a major share of the market in four states. He’d eventually sold out to a conglomerate for over a hundred million dollars, which meant they were rich, but that didn’t stop him from insisting that Nikki get a part-time job at school, hence the RA gig. He said it would build leadership qualities. Right.

Her mother, unquestionably the life of the party, was a white blues singer who sang with several local bands around St. Louis. She had met Nikki’s father through a drummer she performed with on occasion.

Neither of her parents had allowed the business windfall to change how they lived: her father worked for the conglomerate as a regional manager, and her mother sang three nights a week. They both seemed solidly comfortable with their lives, which made Nikki a bit nervous, because she had no idea what she wanted to do.

Eventually, she had chosen economics because she liked the courses, particularly the macro stuff, but the major provided no easy career choices. Some econ grads became bankers. Others became baristas. She still had a year to work it out, but uncertainty bothered Nikki. She liked to have a plan.

 

* * *

 

Colin logged a couple of hours at the library and then briefly stopped by his condo to freshen up. After that, he tried Raven’s Way, a popular bar in the Triangle. It was almost midnight, and the energy of the crowd had begun to climb. Students crammed the dance floor, enticed by the pop music. They moved constantly, as if they were a single many-limbed entity.

Colin scanned the bar and spotted the girl in the navy and white top. The stripes ran horizontally, about two inches thick. The sleeves were three-quarter length and carried the stripes with them. Tight brunette curls sprang from her head and ended before they touched her shoulders. She stood at a cocktail table with two other girls and talked in an animated fashion, her arms moving constantly. He walked straight to her.

“Can I buy you a drink?” He stood erect with his shoulders back, wearing an open-collared white shirt and designer jeans. He looked right at her, his gaze unwavering, not acknowledging the other women, his attention reserved solely for her.

Navy stood dumbstruck, her eyes wide, unblinking, and took a moment to scan his upper body, strong neck, and face. “Uh…sure.”

From that point, the action unfolded as he expected. He helped her decide what to drink and then extended the offer to the other women. They declined, perhaps hesitant to interfere with Navy’s good fortune. He went to the bar for the drinks, giving the girls some time to confer, and by the time he returned the other two had gone to dance.

It was obvious to Colin when they introduced themselves that she didn’t recognize his name. No matter. He’d work that into the conversation at the right time.

She was too sober. He’d suspected as much when they first spoke, so he had asked the bartender for a double Manhattan. She nibbled on the cherry and took a big sip. Another couple of those and she’d be ready.

He asked about her intended major. Education. He inquired about her other interests. Movies. Politics. He laughed at the right moments and touched her elbow where the navy met the white. She hoped to study abroad her junior year.

“What country?” he said.

“Italy.”

“A beautiful place. I once sat on a balcony in Sorrento overlooking the Gulf of Naples; no place on earth should be so beautiful. I couldn’t speak.”

“Sorrento.”

“Have you been?”

“No…never.”

“You’ll love it. Like another drink?”

“Um.” She looked at her glass, which had less than half an inch left. “Sure.”

He hustled to the bar again, but by the time he returned, her friends were back from the dance floor. Both of them, the tall one and the blond girl in glasses, were texting madly.

“We’re thinking of going to a party at Holcombe,” said Navy.

“It’s supposed to be a rager,” said the tall girl.

“You could join us,” said Navy, her face lifted toward him, her lips slightly parted.

The tall one raised her eyebrows, still texting; the blonde studied Colin closely, as if trying to figure something out.

Colin said, “I’m not into freshman dorm parties.” He glanced at the blonde; she listened closely. “But you could stay here. We’ll talk more about Italy, have another drink, and then I’ll drive you back to the dorm.”

Navy considered his proposal, leaning toward acceptance, her face framed by impossible curls, so cute, but then the chick in glasses touched her elbow.

“You need to stick with us,” she said. “That was the plan, remember? You two exchange digits and meet for coffee sometime.”

After they left, Colin trolled the bar but found no other prospects, so he went to the Homestead.

 

* * *

 

He gave his eyes a minute to adjust to the darkness. It was nearing one o’clock, and the crowd had begun to crest, both of the dance floors jammed with sweating bodies. Tropical house music bumped from the speakers. He spotted Nikki Towers sitting alone at the bar; it was the first time he’d seen her all year.

He had slept with Nikki four or five times, the first when she was a freshman, but Nikki was no rookie in the bedroom, not even then, her talents honed before she arrived at the university. He considered her a near equal in that regard.

His fingers had thrilled to skim her light brown skin, the surface unblemished. Her figure enhanced her beauty even further; the top of her head came to his chin, and her arms and legs were strong from yoga, her breasts and ass firm.

She came from wealth, not big money like him, but enough to live well; however, at the insistence of her father she drove a mid-size Nissan SUV and worked as an RA at Roxbury Hall. Colin had asked his own father about the plumbing company her family had owned. Francis had heard of it, said they’d tried to get in but had been priced out of the deal.

“Yo, stranger,” she said as he came to her side. He kissed her on the lips and slipped his hand to her back, strong, as always. In addition to yoga, Nikki favored the odd sports: mountain biking, rock climbing, and snowboarding.

“You look great,” he said.

“Thanks.”

He ordered a light beer for himself, pacing his consumption, and another wine for Nikki. They talked a while about nothing much: the forthcoming elections, their summers, and their respective plans for the year. Between sentences he searched the room.

“Here to check out the newbies?” she said.

He gave her a you-caught-me-in-the-act smile. “Well, you know, it’s my last year.”

“Okay, but if you crash and burn, I’ll be here a while longer. We could go to your place and…listen to jazz.”

Nikki would be a hell of a consolation prize; it was tempting. He recalled the lighter color of her breasts, which contrasted with her tanned arms and shoulders. But he had principles, objectives, and he hadn’t given the night enough of a chance, so he kissed Nikki again and then toured the room. That’s when he met Lauren Le. She was alone at a stand-up table.

The black skirt looked even better up close, pulled tight across her gorgeous ass, and the fuchsia top glowed in the black light. Her face—framed with fine black hair, her lips full and her skin like porcelain—made his heart jump.

He used the same approach as with Navy, and it worked just as well, only Lauren had had more to drink. She talked loudly, laughed a lot, and soon asked if he wanted to dance.

She came alive on the dance floor, whipping her hair and twisting her hips and shoulders. He watched from all angles as she spun around. She used the crowded floor as an excuse to dance close, and flashed him a smile whenever their bodies came into contact. They danced enough to perspire, a thin film appearing on her upper lip that he found exciting.

Back at the table, she finished her drink and asked if he could get some water. As he returned from the bar he saw her texting. Her fingers flew until he reached her side.

He ran through his standard questions about academics, hobbies, and dreams. He asked about her home, and she lamented the boredom of Irving, Texas. Many of her friends had remained in the Dallas area to attend local schools or work in retail or construction. When he mentioned his summer internship in London, her eyes grew big.

He was about to suggest another drink when two of her friends returned with two boys in tow, guys they knew. The boys had offered to walk them back to Roxbury Hall, and they were ready to leave.

“I thought we could have a nightcap,” said Colin. “I can drive you to Roxbury after.”

Her words came more slowly now, enunciated with great care. She pulled him to one side and leaned softly against him, holding his arm.

“Just so we’re clear,” she said, “I’m not going to have sex with you tonight.”

“Of course not.”

“You know…maybe someday, but not tonight.”

She turned back to her friends and announced that she already had a ride. The three girls huddled in a tight circle. Colin asked the boys where they were from and smiled politely at their answers, his ear tuned to the women. They giggled. Lauren said, “No,” and one of the others said, “Whatever.” And then they were gone, leaving Colin with Lauren.

The Homestead crowd had thinned considerably although a few stubborn dancers remained on the floor. Colin and Lauren moved to the bar itself, taking two stools. Nikki had already left.

Colin ordered Negronis in tall glasses, and Lauren got up to visit the restroom. When she had gone he gulped a third of her drink and then glanced around the room. No one was watching. He took a small flask from his back pocket and poured three ounces of Everclear into Lauren’s drink. The liquid was ninety percent alcohol, the equivalent of four regular cocktails. The strong flavors of Campari and sweet vermouth would disguise the extra booze. Lauren was close to hammered already. It wouldn’t take much to put her over the edge.

On her way back from the restroom he found her even more attractive than when he’d first spotted her six hours earlier. Her hips and breasts hinted of licentious potential. The bartender had turned off the black light so her fuchsia top no longer glowed, but when she arrived at his side and turned into the stool, his breath caught at the sight of her tight skirt.

“Now,” she said, a little too loudly, “where were we?”

 

* * *

 

Colin’s condo wasn’t that big, less than a thousand square feet, but it was more than he needed. He had been content to stay in the frat house, but his mother had lambasted the place on her last visit—called it a roach haven—and insisted he move out his senior year. Over the summer she had overseen the complete remodeling of the condo. They’d torn down the walls to create one large room with an upgraded kitchen (Sub-Zero refrigerator, Wolf range, and green granite countertops), a high-end sound system, classic but comfortable furniture, and a platform bed. They’d expanded the bathroom to create space for a giant walk-in shower and a freestanding tub. Honestly, it was too ostentatious for Colin, and was more his mother’s style, but he had to admit that living alone had its advantages.

Colin sat naked in a plush armchair, temporarily sated, and considered Lauren. She lay nude across the bed, on her side, sleeping, one knee pulled up toward her chest, the other leg almost straight, a sheet draped over her torso. Her hair covered most of her face. Gravity pulled her heavy breasts; one rested on the mattress and the second nestled against its twin.

Colin relished Lauren, admiring her dark-brown nipples. He replayed in his mind everything he’d done to her, the various positions he’d tried. Was he done for the night? He looked at his penis, flaccid now with a light pink tinge.

It was three thirty in the morning. She’d floundered in his car, almost completely out. In the garage, he patted her face to wake her enough to walk in. He’d once had to take a girl to the emergency room, so he knew to watch her carefully.

With experience he’d learned what a girl could take, how to read their subtle noises and the movements they made if they were about to vomit. Lauren’s size helped her process the extra alcohol, and she hadn’t thrown up—much better that way, far less messy.

He liked it best when they were semiconscious, like Lauren, generally not aware of what was happening but still reacting. She had moaned a few times. At one point he could swear she moaned in pleasure.

Lauren had experience with sex. He knew that. He’d had no trouble and, of course, he’d used a condom. He kept a drawer full of condoms.

He was a thief in the night, a modern-day cat burglar pursuing jewels of a different sort, and his nerves burned with the thrill of his success. Few women, he knew, would acquiesce to his wishes after a single conversation. (“Just so we’re clear, I’m not going to have sex with you tonight.”) It took time—dinners, movies, concerts—but he always got there. And after a couple of carnal encounters they would urge him to make a commitment. In essence, they wanted him to lie to them, and to what end? If he made any kind of commitment, exclusivity, for example, they would fall in love with him. Soon they’d angle for a longer-term proposal—“Let’s go public”—and if he succumbed to that demand, they’d fantasize about him asking the even more preposterous question, “Will you marry me?” It was absurd. He’d endured that torture already, once in high school and twice in college, during his freshman and sophomore years. To make matters worse, the girls suffered when he broke up with them. A long-term commitment? Why did they even want that? It was stupid.

The express route was a better approach for all concerned. Lauren got laid. She may not have realized it at the time, but she still got laid. And he got laid. Fuck, did he ever get laid.

Of course, the mainstream would judge him harshly, but what about his family? What would his mother say? The materially gluttonous Sharon Jordan, a blue-blooded debutante from Northern Virginia, had hit the jackpot when she met Francis. She would avert her eyes and say, “What a mess! Clean up, Colin, and escort this young woman home.” On the other hand, his father, with a knowing smirk, would nod and say, “Enjoy it, Colin. A young man should sow his oats before settling down to make money and build a legacy.”

Colin chuckled. Enjoy it.

 

 

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Pamela Samuels Young has always abided by the philosophy that you create the change you want to see. She set giant-sized goals and used her talent, tenacity and positive outlook to accomplish them. Pamela consequently achieved success in both the corporate arena and literary world simultaneously.

An author, attorney and motivational speaker, Pamela spent fifteen years as Managing Counsel for Toyota, specializing in labor and employment law. While still practicing law, Pamela began moonlighting as a mystery writer because of the absence of women and people of color depicted in the legal thrillers she read. She is now an award-winning author of multiple legal thrillers, including Anybody’s Daughter, which won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction, and her new release, Abuse of Discretion, a shocking look at the juvenile justice system in the context of a troubling teen sexting case.

Prior to her legal career, spent several years as a television news writer and associate producer. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from USC and earned a master’s degree in broadcasting from Northwestern University and a law degree from UC Berkeley School of Law. She is a frequent speaker on the topics of teen sexting, child sex trafficking, self-empowerment and fiction writing.

Would you call yourself a born writer?

A born writer, but not a born fiction writer. I was a journalism major in college and worked as a TV news writer before becoming a lawyer. I published my first book, Every Reasonable Doubt, a month before my 48th birthday. So I was definitely a late bloomer when it came to becoming a novelist.

What was your inspiration for Abuse of Discretion?

I was talking to a law school classmate who was lamenting the fact that he had yet another teenage client facing life-altering consequences as a result of sexting. He’s a criminal defense attorney and he explained to me that children as young as 13 and 14 were being prosecuted for distributing child pornography after taking naked selfies and sending them to a classmates. I was floored when he told me that these children faced the possibility of having to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives if convicted. I immediately knew this was a topic I wanted to address in a legal thriller and Abuse of Discretion was the result.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I don’t explore themes as much as social issues. My books have discussed sexual harassment in the workplace (In Firm Pursuit), gender discrimination (Attorney-Client Privilege), the HIV epidemic among women (Murder on the Down Low), paternity issues (Lawful Deception) and child-sex trafficking (Anybody’s Daughter).

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

It took me about a year to complete Abuse of Discretion, which is typical for me for a full-length novel. I just released my first erotic romance novella, Unlawful Desires, under the pen name Sassy Sinclair, which took me three months to write.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I’m pretty disciplined in the home stretch of the novel. Once I have a first draft and I’m three months or so away from my publication date, I’m pretty consistent.  The real writing is in the rewriting and I need about three months to tinker with the book. I’m a morning writer, so I like to get to the computer by 7 a.m. I typically write until about noon, then break for lunch. If the writing vibe is strong, I’ll start up again around 2 p.m. and write until about six or seven.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The research for sure. I’m a lawyer, but I’ve never practiced in juvenile court. It’s a totally different world from civil court and employment law, which is my expertise. Luckily, I had several juvenile criminal attorneys and a juvenile judge who helped me out quite a bit.

What do you love most about being an author?

The freedom to educate as well as entertain through my books. After reading Abuse of Discretion, I hope parents sit down and talk to their teens about sexting. Education and frank conversation are key to saving our children from very devastating legal consequences.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

My first two books were traditionally published. My third book, Murder on the Down Low, was rejected by nine publishing houses, which forced me to self-publish. I’m now a successful indie author with ten books to my credit. When two major publishers who rejected my earlier books later solicited me, it truly validated my decision to take charge of my own writing career. It was also quite validating when Anybody’s Daughter won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Fiction against four traditionally published authors, including New York Times bestselling authors Walter Mosley and Terry McMillan. In the words of Tyler Perry, “We don’t have to wait for someone to green light our projects. We can create our own intersections.”

Where can we find you on the web?

Website: www.pamelasamuelsyoung.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pamelasamuelsyoung and

Twitter: www.twitter.com/pamsamuelsyoung

 

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Kathleen Shaputis lives in the glorious Pacific Northwest with her husband, Bob, a clowder of cats and three pompously protective Pomeranians with little social aptitude: Brugh, Bouncer and Miss Jazzy. If not writing, she’s busy reading and watching romantic comedies, her ultimate paradise.

Her latest book is Their Witch Wears Plaid.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 

Would you call yourself a born writer?  

Absolutely, my DNA is actually colourful scribbles and characters. I wrote plays and stories in the second and third grade which became productions in the backyard using the clothesline for the stage curtain. Dialogue then and now is my favorite part. My imagination knew no bounds in creating invisible people, animals and ideas. I would scare myself plotting out a dramatic scene when I should have been working on multiplication tables.

What was your inspiration for Their Witch Wears Plaid

I have been fascinated with psychics and palm readers most of my life. And being of Scottish descent, I’ve dreamed of living in the moors of Scotland. What better fun than to blend these two fantasies together in a magical realism storyline. Years ago I discovered a talented and incredible acquaintance who is a palm reader here in Olympia, Washington and she became the inspiration for Lady Nell.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing? 

Strong, independent women characters are a staple in my books. Despite what happens around them or to them, they struggle to remember who they are. Lightness, laughter, looking at the world with rose-tinted glasses are also important. Though I have written darker stories, I most enjoy romantic comedies.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? 

This one took about nine months to complete as I suffer from Meniere’s Disease and find it difficult to stare at a computer screen for more than an hour or so without feeling seasick and dizzy. I take a notebook with me wherever I go and can write scenes or dialogue passages whenever I get the chance.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day. 

Um, somewhat. I am up before the dawn usually and those first quiet hours of the morning are my ideal time to write. The windows near my computer face west, unfortunately, so I don’t get the excitement of sun rises, but the general lightening of the world outside. However, I also use this time for social media and reading the headlines of the news.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book? 

Actually, giving the male lead enough script time – he probably could have used more. I see my novels as a movie playing out in my mind and many times during the early drafts I found myself asking, “What happened to Galen? Where is he?”

What do you love most about being an author? 

Creating characters, they can be much more rewarding and pliable than real people. Listening to their lives play out, knowing their dreams and wishes, is quite powerful. As an author you wear many hats: creator, director, producer and casting supervisor.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision? 

I’ve done all three throughout the list of my books. However, for Their Witch Wears Plaid, I first offered it to the Simon & Schuster imprint Crimson Romance who published the first two books in the series: Her Ghost Wears Kilts and His Lass Wears Tartan. They passed on the story and I ended up self-publishing. There are pros and cons to both traditionally publishing (whether a big sister house or small press) versus doing it yourself. And each attribute of the process has pros and cons: Cover design, editing, marketing. With DIY, you have control with the cover design. This is fulfilling but can be expensive, as you shouldn’t do the design yourself. It’s like your book is wearing a dress to the top awards ceremonies, would you rather it wear a professional designer gown or something you made from home?

Where can we find you on the web?

Blog Address: http://kathleenshaputis.com

Twitter Address: https://twitter.com/NWAuthor

Facebook Address:  https://www.facebook.com/KathleenShaputisAuthor/

 

 

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