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Archive for the ‘Virtual Book Tour Guests’ Category

Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy worked as an actress and writer in film and television in the United States and Israel. Night in Jerusalem is her debut novel, which she has adapted to film. She lives in Ojai California with her husband and daughter.

She writes, “I lived in Israel in the 1960s, a naive twenty-year-old, hoping to find myself and my place in the world. The possibility of war was remote to me. I imagined the tensions in the region would somehow be resolved peacefully. Then, the Six Day War erupted and I experienced it firsthand in Jerusalem.

I have drawn Night in Jerusalem from my experiences during that time. The historical events portrayed in the novel are accurate. The characters are based on people I knew in the city. Like me, they were struggling to make sense of their lives, responding to inherited challenges they could not escape that shaped their destiny in ways they and the entire Middle East could not have imagined.

I have always been intrigued by the miraculous. How and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny. How two people who are destined, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another.

Israel’s Six Day War is not a fiction; neither was the miracle of its victory. What better time to discover love through intrigue, passion, and the miraculous.

Writing this story was in part reliving my history in Israel, in part a mystical adventure. I am grateful that so many who have read Night In Jerusalem have experienced this as well.”

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

Yes, but I didn’t know it until my twenties. Before then, I was always intrigued by people – their stories, mannerisms, and how they behaved. I’ve always read a lot. I love stories that are told simply, where the writer is unobtrusive and the characters and plot say it all. It is hard to write stories that are so clear and transparent you can see right into the souls of the characters. That’s what works for me.  I studied creative writing at Columbia and came to appreciate the astonishing virtuosity of our writers. I was in awe of their literary talent. But a pivotal shift for me came when I realized I am not at all interested in writing for its own sake, no matter how well-crafted it is. The writing I love is where the writer becomes invisible. I found it hugely liberating to disappear into my characters and their world. I have never looked back.

What was your inspiration for Night In Jerusalem?

The love story in Night In Jerusalem came to me on a movie set. We were filming on a blazingly hot day, dressed as lightly as possible. A young Hasidic woman in long black clothes and a wig kept coming out to look at us from her balcony. We spent most of the afternoon filming there, and she kept reappearing. I realized she was attracted to one of the crew members who had unbuttoned the top of his shirt, exposing his handsome chest. I sensed how strongly she yearned for contact. The gap between us could have been crossed in a few paces, yet we were centuries apart. I imagined what it would be like to be her, what courage it would take for her to break free, how she might do it. Decades later, I wrote her story in Night In Jerusalem.

I set the book in Israel at the time of the Six Day War, which I experienced firsthand. I remember vividly huddling in shelters with other women, listening to Arab radio news reports proclaiming victory while we contemplated how we would end it for ourselves. It turned out, of course, that the war went the other way. We were to live! Winston Churchill wrote that there is nothing as exhilarating as when someone shoots at you and misses. Emerging from that shelter was exhilarating. It also brought up questions that have been with me ever since – why does it take such courage to truly love, how impossible it seems to bring peace to the world, and, of course, why “God works in mysterious ways.” There are endless ways to work with these themes, it’s just a matter of grounding them in a time and place, with characters you love and admire. The characters in Night In Jerusalem, and their responses to the challenges they encounter, express different points of view that I share, even as they conflict with each other.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I have always been intrigued by the miraculous: how and where the soul’s journey leads and how it reveals its destiny; how two people who are destined to love, even under the threat of war and extinction, can find one another. Night In Jerusalem is a love story set during Israel’s Six Day War in which passion, mystical encounters and the miraculous come together to change the lives of everyone caught up in it.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? 

The story percolated for decades, but the actual writing took two years – six months for the first draft, then the re-writing.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.   

I write every day. I especially enjoy writing before sunrise. In India, they call the two hours before dawn the “ambrosial hours” when the world is most open to spiritual connection. I understand why! In the afternoon, I usually do rewrites and edits.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

There are endless ways to work with these themes. It’s a challenge to ground them in a time and place with characters you love. As you get to know the characters, though, they tell you more about themselves. That’s when the story reveals itself, often in surprising ways.

What do you love most about being an author?

I can’t wait to meet my characters every day. Previously, I have written screenplays. They are, of course, visually-oriented and they provide limited opportunity for the writer to describe the characters’ states of mind – everything has to be shown on the screen. I was drawn to writing a novel because the canvas is so much larger –as big as you like –  and the story does not have to fit a budget. Also, the relationship with the reader is more intimate and complete.

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 decided to self-publish. I had an agent tell me she liked my writing, liked my story, but didn’t like my book. Go figure. But after working in Hollywood, I’ve not encountered much by way of new craziness in the publishing industry – and it’s wonderful that authors can now publish and promote their own books, without having to genuflect to “the industry” – not an option with movies. I found the notion I could publish my own work the way I wanted it, without “taking notes” in endless meetings, just fantastic!

In my previous work, I was not involved in the promotional side of things.  I don’t know much about book promotion and there is a whole lot of work to do there. Fortunately, I have a partner who is well-versed in it, otherwise I would be lost. Also, going into this project, I had no idea how pivotal an editor is. After working for months, on and off, with the editor of Night In Jerusalem, I would never consider publishing a book without a strong and talented editor. So, for me, self-publishing does not mean going without professional support; it means you must take the initiative yourself to find the right professionals to partner with.

Where can we find you on the web?

http://www.nightinjerusalem.com

 

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Title: NADYA’S WAR
Author: C.S. Taylor
Publisher: Tiny Fox Press
Pages: 300
Genre: Historical Fiction

BOOK BLURB:

Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a young pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter when a dogfight leaves her severely burned and the sole survivor from her flight.

For the latter half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and they only come after she’s saved the life of her mortal enemy and fallen in love with the one who nearly kills her.

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Chapter One

13 August 1942

Anisovka, Saratovskaya Oblast

When I climbed into my single-engine, low-wing fighter, praying to get my first kill, I never thought I’d fall in love with someone who’d have me shot.

I flew through my pre-flight checklist as fast as I could, verifying every setting and gauge in the cockpit. I was a last-minute substitution for a patrol near the Don River, and the added pressure of having to scramble put a tremor in my hands. I feared I would miss something that would prove deadly. A single overlooked item could be the difference between coming home in one piece and not coming home at all. And I had promised my little brother a game of cards when the war was over. I didn’t want to go to my grave knowing a fourteen year old had cleaned me out the last time we played.

“Nadya! Slow down!” Klara Rudneva shouted as she hopped on my plane’s wing. Her short stature and oversized male, khaki uniform made her look childish, but her face looked anything but. She reminded me of the famous operetta star, Anastasia Vyaltseva, as they both had the same lively smile, sparkling dark eyes, and angelic beauty. Despite the urgency in Klara’s voice, she gently slid a pair of goggles over my leather cap. “You’ll want to have these, Little Boar.”

I groaned as I set the trim and flaps to neutral in preparation for takeoff. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that. I’m not a boar.”

Klara was a mechanic at the airfield and had seen me off for all seven combat sorties I’d been on. She’d called me Little Boar since I’d arrived at the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment regardless of my constant objection. She gave the gritty harness that held my parachute on my back one solid tug before tightening my lap belt. “Little boars are hot headed and charge fearlessly at their enemy.”

“Boars are mean and ugly.”

“You are far from ugly, Nadya,” she said with a longing in her tone. “Not with those gorgeous cheek bones and golden locks of yours.”

“And fat head,” I tacked on. “You forgot to mention that, and you do think I’m mean.”

“Only when someone teases you about your Cossack heritage,” she replied, referring to an incident that had happened two days ago involving me and our commanding officer, and ended with me scrubbing floors for eight hours straight. “But if you are mean, be mean to the Germans. Be mean and deadly as my Little Boar should be.”

The roar of two engines firing up on the airfield drew both our attentions. That was the start of the other Yak-1 fighters on this mission’s flight. In moments, we’d all be in the air, eagerly looking to pick a fight with the German Luftwaffe. The time Klara and I had was short, despite my wishes to the contrary.

Klara leaned into the cramped cockpit and gave me a one-armed hug. She smelled of sweat and oil, and grease transferred from her face to mine. I didn’t mind. “Come back to me safe, Nadya.”

“I will,” I replied. This brief exchange had become a ritual between us since our first pairing, twelve days ago. It was a moment in time I’d come to relish. It was our little space where nothing could harm us. Not Hitler nor his army looking to conquer. Not Stalin nor his fanatics looking to purge. It was a place where two friends could savor a moment before being thrust into the chaos of the Great Patriotic War.

“Now go and get your first kill,” she said, squeezing me one last time before jumping off the wing.

Once she waved she was clear of the propeller, I gave her a light-hearted salute and started my plane’s engine. I watched the needle on the oil pressure gauge climb and tried to calm my nerves. The Luftwaffe had dominated the air since the start of the war. Today would be no different, and I wondered how many more planes and pilots we would lose in defense of the homeland. My muscles tightened in my back, and I blew out a simple, hushed prayer. “God be with me.”

As comforting as those words were, I hated whispering them, but over the last twelve years I’d learned to keep prayers to myself after seeing those who didn’t be shot or sent to labor camps. I told myself I was being pragmatic, surviving, even if official persecution had been called off. Some nights when I tried to sleep, however, I considered it was more cowardice than anything.

I used the two wheels on my right to open the water and oil radiators, and then started taxiing the plane into position on the runway. I leaned out of the cockpit to see where I was going since the plane’s nose blocked my view. The cool afternoon breeze carried with it hints of petrol.

The radio sprang to life. Martyona Gelman, my wing leader, spoke with calm authority. “Form on me after takeoff, five hundred meters. One circle of the airfield and we’re going.”

I slid my canopy over my head and locked both it and the tail wheel into place. The roar of the engine softened by about a third, but I felt as if its vibrations in the stick and the foot pedals were three times what they were. I soon became aware that the engine wasn’t causing my controls to shake. I was.

“Easy, Nadya. You can do this.” I told myself, double-checking the gun sight. Focusing on the crosshairs felt reassuring, as if I had control over my destiny. All I had to do was put my enemy in them and down he’d go. I could make a difference in this flight, in this war. A great difference. More so than any of the other girls? No. As far as I was concerned, each one of us in this all-female regiment would leave our mark in history.

“Red Eight, this is tower. You’re clear for takeoff.”

I pushed the throttle forward, and my fighter started down the runway. It built speed like a wild horse cut free from the pens, and I was along for the ride. I used the left rudder pedal to counter the plane’s innate desire to hook right, lest I crash before leaving the ground. God, how embarrassing would that be?

Once the plane hit one hundred and seventy kilometers per hour, with both vehicles and buildings zipping by on the ground, I eased the stick back. My Yak-1 leapt into the air as if it were as eager to reach the sky as I was. An overwhelming sense of freedom washed over me, and I smiled while slipping into a V-formation with the two other girls. Flying was still as magical as I’d dreamed it would be when I had been a little girl watching hawks sail overhead.

I took my position flying wing for Martyona. I was off her right side by a dozen meters, and another girl, Kareliya Malkova, flew on Martyona’s left. In the short time I’d known Kareliya, I had learned two things. First, she was as reserved as they come, and second, she had a vicious streak that hungered for her first victory against a German pilot like none I’d ever seen. I wondered if she’d beat me to it and secretly prayed she wouldn’t.

Our flight should have been four, a pair of wing leaders and wingmen, but another girl’s plane needed last-minute work on the landing gear, and even a dullard knew taking off with only one wheel ended badly. Normally, we would have waited on the repair, but the Germans had reached the town of Kalach-on-the-Don a couple of days ago and were now less than seventy kilometers from Stalingrad. We couldn’t afford to let them reach that mighty city, and thus were forced to go up one pilot short. Our CO said we’d be fine. I dared to believe her.

Our trio headed south. On most flights we’d protect high-value targets from the Luftwaffe, such as railways, bridges, and depots, but with the pressure on Stalingrad, we were being sent to patrol a swath of area northwest of the city. Despite the Red Army Air’s high losses, I was glad we were headed closer to the front as it let me be proud of my service and reinforced the notion we were all doing something important. That and guard duty was about as exciting as hours of pot scrubbing.

The Volga River flowed off to my left. I enjoyed the view of it from above as it reminded me that even in war, nature was beautiful. I also loved seeing the ships come and go from port—they looked so free—and enjoyed wondering what the little girls in the nearby fields thought when they looked up and saw us fly by.

“Everyone tighten up,” Martyona ordered. There was a bite to her tone, not painful, but threatening, like a straight razor pressed against the skin. “Sloppy girls are dead girls.”

I stiffened in my seat. Kareliya was in formation, but I had drifted off and dropped altitude, putting me outside and low of my slot by fifty meters. I slipped back into position with a combination of throttle, elevator, and rudder so we once again made a perfect V.

For the next fifteen minutes we flew in silence, and I was embarrassed at my rookie mistake. I was a Cossack, proud and true, and from a long line of warriors whose skill was only rivaled by our dedication. Thankfully, Father hadn’t been witness to it.

I wondered when we’d encounter German fighters on the prowl. At our current speed, we’d reach their lines in about twelve minutes. As such, I kept a constant watch over the bright blue skies and the rears of the other girls’ planes as best I could and trusted they did the same for me. Though rear visibility wasn’t as bad as I heard it was with German fighters, our Yaks still had a blind spot.

I saw no planes other than the two dark green Yak-1 fighters to my left, and nothing shared the sky with us other than the late afternoon sun. That scared me more than anything. Ever since I’d come to Anisovka, Martyona had told me time and again most pilots were shot down by enemies they never saw. German aces came from unseen places, like monsters in the night every child fears. Luftwaffe pilots, however, were real and more lethal than any imagination.

The radio crackled, and our wing leader spoke. “I can see the Don. Change course to two-three-zero and look sharp. The fascists want to tear into us as much as we want to tear into them.”

Her plane climbed with a gentle bank, and Kareliya and I followed suit. My mouth dried, and goosebumps rose on my skin. The past seemed to fade away, and thoughts of the future fell as well. All that existed was the moment.

I flipped the safeties to both the nose-mounted cannon and the pair of machine guns in the cowl. They should have been ready to fire after takeoff, but I’d developed the habit of waiting later in flight to do so. I was fearful of an accidental discharge, and the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for damaging—let alone destroying—another girl’s plane.

“Stay with me and Kareliya, Nadya. I haven’t lost a girl in almost twenty-four hours,” Martyona said.

I chuckled nervously, her joke doing little for my nerves. Still, I tried to keep the air light and confident. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to ruin your new record.”

Kareliya didn’t chime in on the conversation. She couldn’t, as only a few planes in our regiment had RSI-3 Eagle radio transmitters installed. All Kareliya had was the RSI-3 Hawk receiver, thanks to some genius who thought the ability to talk during a dogfight was unnecessary. After all, who in her right mind would want to lug around a few extra kilos for the ability to say, “Check your six!” or, “I need help!” Idiots probably thought we’d talk about hair and makeup the entire flight, as if that’s all us girls were capable of. They did promise us we’d all have two-way capabilities in the future, but I wasn’t expecting that day to be anytime soon.

The Don River passed beneath us. I bit my lip in eager anticipation of a fight and the chance to prove myself. At the same time a knot formed in my stomach. I checked and rechecked everything. Water temperature. Clear tail. Oil temperature. Oil pressure. Clear tail. Fuel pressure. Manifold pressure. Clear tail. Gun sights. Fuel level. Clear tail. I did this entire routine four times before running my fingers over my leather cap and wondering what I was missing.

“I’ve got eyes on Luftwaffe, one o’clock low,” Martyona said. “Four He-111s along with two 109 fighter escorts. Five kilometers away. Headed east.”

I easily spotted the flight. He-111s were medium-sized, twin-engine bombers, and a staple of Hitler’s war machine. Their lumbering bodies flew in a tight formation and bristled with machine guns to cover one another. Their green paint jobs blended well with the terrain, but their bulk made them stand out. The bright yellow noses of their Bf-109 escorts were even easier to see.

Martyona’s plane accelerated, and my engine’s pitch grew louder and higher as we followed her higher into the sky. The enemy planes stayed on course, apparently unaware of our presence. Even as a green pilot, I understood why Martyona didn’t charge in. She wanted to have the advantage in altitude. Altitude could be traded for speed, and speed meant life. The only thing flying a low and slow plane would grant you in a dogfight was a condolence letter to your next of kin. The only letter I wanted written was to Father, telling him how his little girl scored her first aerial victory. I’m sure he’d celebrate for a week straight once he got that news.

“Stay fast and hit them hard,” Martyona said. “Hit them for the Motherland. Hit them for all you’re worth!”

The ferocity of her words ignited a fire in my soul. I narrowed my eyes and turned my anxiety into hate, hate for those who bombed our cities and razed our villages. I rolled my plane to the left and followed Martyona in a diving attack, vowing to make the fascists pay for flying half asleep over Soviet soil and thinking we’d been so beaten they were safe from our air force. Their audacity fueled the burning in my chest.

Though I was flying to cover my wing leader, I placed the last of the German bombers in my sights. I’d be able to make at least one firing pass on it while keeping Martyona clear of escorts. Once we shot by, we could reassess, maybe even engage the 109s if no one took damage from the tail gunners. Three on two were good odds as far as I was concerned.

Time stretched, and I measured each second by the heavy thumps of heartbeats. I used the gun sight to gauge the distance to my target. Once the bomber’s wings filled the diameter of the sight, it would be about two hundred meters away.

The bomber drew near. Six hundred meters. Five. Four. I don’t know if it was sheer luck or an angelic whisper that tore me away from my target to peek over my shoulder, but when I did, I gasped. Four German Bf-109 fighters bore down on us from out of the sun, their yellow noses filled with guns and cannons promising swift and certain death.

“Break! Break! Break!” I yelled.

Martyona snap rolled her plane and reversed direction with an inverted dive. I followed her as best I could, flipping my fighter and pulling back on the stick. The hard maneuver pressed me against my seat. My arms felt as if they had large bags of lead attached to them. I strained under the G’s, gritting my teeth. My head grew light, and the world muted. I prayed I didn’t black out under the maneuver, and I prayed it had been fast enough that the Germans couldn’t follow.

<< End Ch 1 Sample, Hypable has an exclusive from this point on>>

About the Author

C.S. Taylor is a former Marine and avid fencer (saber for the most part, foil and epee are tolerable). He enjoys all things WWII, especially perfecting his dogfighting skills inside virtual cockpits, and will gladly accept any P-38 Lightnings anyone might wish to bestow upon him. He’s also been known to run a kayak through whitewater now and again, as well give people a run for their money in trap and skeet.

His latest book is the historical fiction, Nadya’s War.

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When Marguerite Ashton was in her twenties, she took up acting but realized she preferred to work behind the camera, writing crime fiction. A few years later, she married an IT Geek and settled down with her role as wife, mom, and writer. Five kids later, she founded the Crime Writer’s Panel and began working with former law enforcement investigators to create; Criminal Lines Blog, an online library for crime writers who need help with their book research.

She’s a workaholic who hides in her writer’s attic, plotting out her next book and stalking Pinterest for the next avocado recipe.

A member of Sisters in Crime, Marguerite grew up in Colorado, but is now happily living in Wisconsin and playing as much golf as possible.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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About the Book:

 

Speaking second-hand truths can be deadly …

Detective Lily Blanchette will stop at nothing to solve a murder. Her current case involves the killing of an undercover cop working to bring down the mob for prostitution and drugs.

But Lily’s usual laser-like focus on the case has been disrupted.

Two weeks earlier, she learned she was pregnant by her murderous husband whom she’d killed in self-defense. Unsure whether to keep her baby or place the child of this cruel man up for adoption, Lily keeps the pregnancy a secret from her colleagues.

Under mounting pressure to solve the case, Lily arranges a sit-down with a local mob boss only to find out her suspect is also wanted by them. But before Lily can warn her team, she and her new partner, Jeremiah, are shot at, and another body is found.

When she discovers Jeremiah has a connection with the underworld, she is pulled into a conflict that swirls around the boss’s son who’s hell-bent on revenge.

To add to the complexity of the situation, Lily learns that her victim might still be alive if it wasn’t for opportunistic Assistant District Attorney, Ibee Walters, who has a twisted vision of justice.

As Lily gets closer to finding the killer, she unravels ugly secrets that point to Ibee and Jeremiah – placing Lily’s life and her unborn child in danger.

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

I’m not sure. All I know is that I have to write. If I don’t, I get cranky. It’s important for me to get ideas on paper and see where it takes me.

What was your inspiration for Her Final Watch?

I came up with the idea to write Her Final Watch as I finished the ending for Promised Lies.  It went through several rewrites until I was happy that this book would again, force Lily out of her comfort zone.

Her Final Watch starts two weeks later. When we meet Lily, we see a strong woman and a cop who prides herself in balancing work and family. But underneath she’s hiding a lot of emotional pain. On top of everything else, Lily’s learned that she’s pregnant by her husband whom she’d killed in self-defense. So, what’s supposed to be a joyous occasion has turned into a stressful situation. Now, Lily has a decision to make. Does she keep her baby or place the child up for adoption?

Then there’s the case involving the murder of an undercover cop. That’s when everything hits home for Lily. She’s the lead investigator. Her victim is a colleague and a mother.

At this point, there’s no turning back. Lily has to find her killer.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

Betrayal

Justice

Deception

Family

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

About a year and a half.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Yes. I write for seven hours six days a week. And occasionally, I’ll take a Sunday off. Although, I’m trying to make it more of a permanent day off.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Writing Her Final Watch was tricky. I had to find a way to work Lily’s pregnancy in the story and allow her to work in the field. That’s when I turned to my friends in law enforcement. They helped me understand what my heroine, could and couldn’t do. After I did my research, I put myself in Lily’s shoes and focused on what would be important to her. No matter how much she loved her job, her motherly instincts would kick in. And I think I’ve managed to find a balance between the two.

What do you love most about being an author?

Rewrites: I love taking my messy first draft and polishing it. Also, I love entertaining readers. If they can laugh, cry or find something in my book that they could identify with, then I’ve done my job.

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 chose Endeavour Press, an independent publisher.

The publishing process has been a smooth one. Once they were done with their editorial queries, I went through the manuscript once more. They’ve been very helpful.

I appreciate Endeavour making the time to respond to my emails and helping me promote my books. I look forward to working with them again.

Where can we find you on the web?

You can find me at http://www.margueriteashton.net

 

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Title: CIRCUMVENT
Author: S.K. Derban
Publisher: Touchpoint Press
Genre: Mystery

 

Imagine living in a quaint, beach front cottage on the Hawaiian island of Maui. You have an amazing job, combined with the pleasure of working from home. Lunch breaks become a daily picnic on the sand. Dessert is always included because of your marriage to a famous pastry chef. Life could not be any better. Or so it seems… When French born, Nikki Sabine Moueix travels to Hawaii for a special work assignment, her job of writing an article about a famous Swiss pastry chef generates more than a magazine piece. They fall in love, get married, and Nikki becomes Mrs. Ruggiero Delémont.
When another assignment calls for Nikki to spend three weeks in France, Ruggiero’s schedule prevents him from joining her. She travels alone, advancing straight into danger. After a threatening confrontation, Nikki wakes up in a
French hospital with no knowledge of her past. When she fails to check in, Ruggiero panics and pushes for an immediate investigation. But as he closes in, Nikki’s new found friend moves her to another city. It becomes a game of hide and seek with Nikki as the prize.
CIRCUMVENT allows readers to form a bond with Nikki as they yearn for her to remember. They will cheer for Ruggiero and his relentless determination to locate his beloved wife. This is a story about two people who never lose their faith in God, and find amazing friends to help them along the way.  
When the plane leveled at a cruising altitude, Nikki reclined her seat back and reopened her novel. Her seat mate appeared to be napping, and Peter Safin was busy preparing his work area. Nikki’s curiosity flourished when she realized her reclining position provided a clear view of his laptop screen. But, as his fingers danced along the keyboard nothing on the illuminated display made sense. She was reading a combination of letters and numbers that appeared to be some sort of code. Maybe he’s a spy, Nikki amused herself in thought. A Russian spy. No, wait! Her mind raced. Maybe he’s a mole, or even a double agent.
Nikki almost laughed aloud as she refocused on the book within her hands. It was the latest spy novel, written by one of her favorite authors. Maybe I should switch to romance.
Born in the United States, S.K. Derban moved to London within the first three months, and remained in England
until the age of five. Her mother was involved with the London Royal Ballet Company, and a great fan of the arts. Even after returning to the United States, S.K. Derban’s life was filled with a love of the theatre and a passion for British murder mysteries. 
Her personal travel and missionary adventures also help to transport readers virtually across the globe. S.K. Derban has smuggled Bibles into China, and has been to Israel on seven missionary trips. When writing, she relies on all aspects of her life, from a strong faith in the Lord, to her unique combination of professional experience. The many personal adventures of S.K. Derban are readily apparent as they shine through into her characters. Circumvent is the third mystery novel for writer S.K. Derban.

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Title: STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: GROWING UP GERSHWIN
Author: Nadia Natali
Publisher: RareBird Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Memoir

BOOK BLURB:

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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First Chapter:

On December 8, 1980, my husband, Enrico, our three-year-old daughter, Francesca, and I finished our cross-country journey to Ojai, California, where we planned to make a home on land we had seen only once but had long been dreaming about, away from city life and, especially, away from my difficult and powerful family.

We’d caravanned in separate vehicles, hauling all that we could carry in and on top of our cars, in addition to a foldout trailer hitched to Enrico’s Toyota jeep. At the end of a long, winding two-lane road that followed Matilija Creek, a brown metal gate barred our way. Beyond the gate lay the Los Padres National Forest, wilderness, and a mile farther up a dirt road through the canyon, our property. We had to wait for a key to open the lock, a key that a forest ranger was going to hand over—the key to our new life. I gazed toward the jagged and intimidating mountains that leaned over the canyon. Inhaling the sweet smell of the dry chaparral, I couldn’t help but compare it to the lush, green landscape of my childhood home in Connecticut. This is going to be a very different life, I thought. My privileged upbringing seemed the polar opposite of this place, and maybe that was what attracted me to it. Observing the struggles of my family and seeing that money and fame had failed to bring happiness, I’d learned I needed to find my own path. I had not fully formulated my goal, but it was something unique and original, and I had to find it on my own.

A moment later a forest service truck pulled up by the gate. “You sure found yourselves a beautiful piece of property out here,” the ranger said, as he offered his hand to shake. “I’m Dave Brown. I suppose you know there are some pretty dangerous natural conditions you’ll need to look out for.”

Enrico shook Dave’s hand as he asked, “And what does that mean?” Dave took a big breath. “Well, you should know about this if you guys are planning to live here. There’s the flood. That’s real serious this time of year. There’re two creeks you have to drive through that rise fast and wild when there’s a lot of rain. The water turns black and fierce. You could get trapped in here for weeks.”

Enrico and I exchanged worried looks. We had not known about this. “Also,” he continued, “as you probably know, there are rattlesnakes, coyotes, bobcats, and black bears. The bears won’t bother you much if you keep your food well covered. But the mountain lions . . .” Dave trailed off, as he looked at our young daughter. “If you suspect there are any about, better keep your little girl close by.”

I glanced at Francesca to see if she was listening. She was busy poking the dry dirt with a stick, her red corduroy cuffs turning brown with dust. I wasn’t sure I wanted her to hear all this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. I imagined grabbing a stick of my own and drawing pictures in the worn shoulder of the last bit of paved road.

“The thing that would bother me more than anything though,” Dave continued, “are the kooks that come out here.” That was all he said on that subject, as if he expected us to know just what he was talking about. Then we noticed a large parking area at the side of the road for vehicles, and figured that must be where people parked who were going to walk in.

I hoped he was exaggerating. Kooks? Francesca continued to prod the ground, making scratching sounds that in my mind echoed off the hard landscape and the ranger’s words. Suddenly a sweep of fatigue from the packing, driving, and camping for many nights hit me. I was beyond tired.

“But,” Ranger Dave went on relentlessly, “the fires are the biggest threat. This is the most dangerous canyon in California, if not the whole country. It hasn’t burned in fifty years, and it’s real serious when it does.

There’s only one road kept open, to get in and out.” The ranger stopped.

My heart skipped a beat. He must deliver this information routinely, I thought. That was why he seemed unaware of how scary it sounded. Maybe the reason that no one else lived up here in the Los Padres National Forest is because of the danger. I didn’t know what to say. This was not how I’d imagined our arrival at our new home would be. Was I being irresponsible and risking the safety of my family? I felt numb. I wondered what my mother would think, though I knew she wouldn’t want to get involved. She couldn’t handle challenging situations.

A warm, peaceful breeze sighed through the chaparral, along with the high-pitched buzz of tiny flies that Dave kept sweeping away with his hand. Enrico was silent, typically slow to react. I suspended my negative thoughts. What could we do at this point anyway? “We’ll figure it out,” a voice in my head whispered. “It’s the cold season, and we won’t have to worry about rattlesnakes, bears, or fire for now.”

Francesca’s voice broke into my thoughts. “Mommy, let’s go,” she said, gently tugging on my hand. Her smile pushed my worries away.

I picked her up, gave her a fat smooch on the cheek, and brushed off her pants as best I could. Looking around at the dusty terrain, I had to laugh at my futile attempt to keep her tidy.

Dave handed Enrico the key. We said good-bye and closed the gate behind us. Enrico crept along in the jeep, his tires stirring up dust in the clear winter air. Francesca and I followed in the faded-blue Renault. Only one more mile to go.

Rugged mountains surrounded us, and then a graceful valley emerged before us. Its colors were muted, everything brown and dry. The chaparral and meadows were sunburned to a pale sage green. The tangled grasses were still yellow from the dry heat of summer and fall. The rainy season had barely started.

As I followed the jeep, I heard the ranger’s words in the noise of the tires on the dirt road repeating over and over, “Floods, fires, rattlesnakes, and bears, oh my!” And yet the pronouncement of these threats couldn’t diminish the beauty we saw on our first day.

Our vehicles splashed through the shallow water of the first creek crossing, bumped over stones, and labored up the steep bank on the other side. The dirt road was narrow and densely shaded by spindly red alders. Then the landscape abruptly opened and again revealed the mountains and a bright blue sky.

A quarter of a mile farther ahead we met the second creek crossing, a broad convergence of three streams. There was so little water flowing that winter day that I could not imagine it as a raw, roaring flood. The slow- moving water gently murmured around the rocks, serene and harmless. I recalled Phil Kern, who had sold us the land six months earlier, telling us that this was a special site of the native Chumash who had come to Ojai and into Matilija Canyon thousands of years ago. “A chief and his tribe used this area where three creeks meet—the Matilija, the North Fork, and the Murrieta— as the site for spiritual retreats and shamanic rituals,” he had said.

Once beyond the crossing, I told Francesca the little I could re- member learning about the Chumash. I could almost sense the imprint left in the canyon from when they lived there so many years ago. The earthy color of the chaparral with its sages and scrub oaks was a visual echo of the color of their skin and of the animals they used for clothing, while the wind rushing through the dry grasses could be their distant voices like a welcoming presence, leading us to our property. Something was definitely special about this place, something alive within the landscape. Francesca opened the window, and we excitedly inhaled the fragrance of a wilderness and life new to us.

I had made this rash move with no thought to its consequences. Six months earlier, without considering the details, I’d impulsively decided to buy the property. But I wanted to be in Ojai so badly that the decision felt like it had to be right. The risks I was taking in this drastic move were prefer- able to my previous life in a family with a history of deception and false promises of happiness.

I knew how well Enrico had handled rough living during the years when we lived at what had been his family’s cabin at Sackets Harbor, New York. How he thawed out our hand pump every cold day to get water, how he blasted out a well, cut firewood, tobogganed in the snow to and from our car, and repaired the rustic cabin to make it livable. Amazingly, he did it all with little prior experience, having only watched his father make do and create from very little. But he had the gift of confidence. He had a conviction that he could do just about anything. It was Enrico’s self-assurance and my belief in his abilities that allowed me to move to this wild land.

Bumping along the dirt road to our new home site, I felt the conditioning of my privileged past dispersing with the plume of dust kicked up behind us. Watching Enrico’s jeep lumbering ahead with our foldout trailer bobbing and bouncing behind him, I felt like a kid on a new adventure.

That trailer was to be our dwelling while we built a house. I knew I could handle a simple life because I had become expert at making a home in temporary primitive campsites. But it could be a year before we had a real house. Could I last that long? One thing I did know: this was going to be a life very different from my childhood.

Enrico parked the jeep in a small clearing on the edge of our forty acres, the national forest surrounding it on all four sides. I jumped out of the Renault and tried to find a larger clearing, but the dense chaparral blocked my way. I knelt down to peek through the undergrowth, its strong, tangy scent unfamiliar. The undergrowth was so thick that it kept the sun from reaching the ground. There was no chance of getting farther onto our property until we cleared a long wide path. Perhaps a week, I thought.

 

 

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Mike Martin was born in Newfoundland on the East Coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a longtime freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand. He is the author of Change the Things You Can: Dealing with Difficult People and has written a number of short stories that have published in various publications including Canadian Stories and Downhome magazine.

The Walker on the Cape was his first full fiction book and the premiere of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. Other books in the series include The Body on the T, Beneath the Surface, A Twist of Fortune and A Long Ways from Home.

A Long Ways from Home was shortlisted for the 2017 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award as the best light mystery of the year. A Tangled Web is the newest book in the series.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

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Would you call yourself a born writer?

I was a born reader, at least a very young one. I had 3 older sisters who would drag me to the library with them and I was hooked early. Writing came a little later, and fiction writing much later. But as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a writer.

What was your inspiration for A Tangled Web?

In all of my books there has been an image that inspired me. That was true of the very first book in the Sgt, Windflower Mystery series, The Walker on the Cape, when the image of the lighthouse in Grand Bank appeared in the fog and Sgt. Windflower himself walked out and started talking to me. At least in my head. In A Tangled Web there was a large truck with its back doors wide open and no driver in sight. I thought that would be an interesting place for a child to climb inside and explore. And so little Sarah Quinlan did, and the story had a starting point.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

I like to weave history and local customs with Sgt. Windflower’s native background. And all stories are really about relationships. Sometimes loving, sometimes not. But always interesting.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

It takes me about 3 months to write the first draft of a book. Then there’s another 6 months of editing and tweaking before it’s ready for production.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

You have to be disciplined to write a book. So, when I’m doing that I set a word count for the day. Usually about 1500 to 2,000 words a day. I start writing early in the morning, my best time to write. If I get my quota I get a break. If not, I have to go back at until I hit my word count.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

This book has a set of scenes that were very emotional because of the main characters was in a dangerous, life or death situation. It was tense, even for me, just to write about it. I can’t tell you the outcome. Only that things were and are as they were supposed to be. But it was tough to write, because, like some readers, I too have an emotional attachment to the characters.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the interaction with readers, online or in-person. Without readers, writers would have no echo to their words. Our characters would never come to life. That’s what the readers do as part of the bargain in fiction writing. So, I love to meet them and thank them for the gift they have given me.

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 have used small presses and self-published. Both are viable options that I would choose again. I have been pleased with both choices and the truth is that for every author, big publisher or indie, we all have to do our own promotion. No publisher does much of that anymore unless you are JK Rowling or somebody. The most important thing for a writer is to write the best book you can and to invest in professional editing and proofreading services as your budget permits. Then you will be a successful writer.

Where can we find you on the web?

Website: www.sgtwindflowermysteries.com

Twitter: @mike54martin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWalkerOnTheCapeReviewsAndMore/

About the Book:

 

Life is good for Sgt. Wind­flower in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. But something’s missing from the Mountie’s life. Actually, a lot of things go missing, including a little girl and supplies from the new factory. It’s Windflower’s job to unravel the tangled web of murder, deceit and an accidental kidnapping that threatens to engulf this sleepy little town and destroy those closest to him. But there’s always good food, good friends and the love of a great woman to make everything better in the end.

A TANGLED WEB is available at Amazon.

 

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Title: THE AMENDMENT KILLER
Author: Ronald S. Barak
Publisher: Gander House Publishers
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller/Mystery & Suspense/Political Thriller

 

BOOK BLURB:   
                                                   
“WE HAVE YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER. HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO
DO.”
That’s the text message Supreme Court Justice Arnold Hirschfeld receives as
hearings commence in the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the fate of the 28th
Amendment – enacted to criminalize abuse of power on the part of our political
representatives.

In court to defend the amendment, retired U.S. District Court Judge Cyrus
Brooks observes his old friend and law school classmate Hirschfeld acting
strangely and dispatches veteran D.C. homicide detective Frank Lotello to find
out why.

In the meantime, Hirschfeld’s precocious and feisty 11-year-old diabetic
granddaughter Cassie, brutally kidnapped to control her grandfather’s swing vote
upholding or invalidating the amendment, watches her insulin pump running dry
and wonders which poses her greatest threat, the kidnappers or the clock. As
Brooks is forced to choose between saving our nation or saving the girl.

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Amazon

About the Author
Described by his readers as a cross between Agatha
Christie, Lee Child, and John Lescroart, bestselling author Ron Barak keeps his
readers flipping the pages into the wee hours of the night. While he mostly
lets his characters tell his stories, he does manage to get his licks in too.
Barak derives great satisfaction in knowing that his books not only entertain
but also stimulate others to think about how things might be, how people can
actually resolve real-world problems. In particular, Barak tackles the
country’s dysfunctional government representatives—not just back-seat driving
criticism for the sake of being a back-seat driver, but truly framing practical
remedies to the political abuse and corruption adversely affecting too many
people’s lives today. Barak’s extensive legal background and insight allow him
to cleverly cross-pollenate his fiction and today’s sad state of political
reality.

In his latest novel, THE AMENDMENT KILLER, Barak calls upon his real world
legal ingenuity and skill to craft a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
criminalizng political abuse and corruption that Constitutional scholars across
the country are heralding as a highly plausible answer to the political chaos
destroying the very moral fiber of the country today. It’s difficult to read
THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not imagine what could—and should—be expected and
demanded of those political leaders who have forgotten they are there to serve
and not be served.

Barak is also a committed and strident advocate of finding a cure for diabetes.
One of the primary characters in THE AMENDMENT KILLER is the feisty and
precocious 11-year-old diabetic granddaughter of the Supreme Court justice
holding the swing vote in a case in which Congress is challenging the validity
of Barak’s hypothetical 28th Amendment. It is no small coincidence that Barak
is himself a diabetic. Or that he has committed 50% of the net proceeds of THE
AMENDMENT KILLER to diabetes research and education.

Barak is singularly qualified to have authored THE AMENDMENT KILLER, which will
appeal to political and legal thriller aficionados alike. Barak is a law school
honors graduate and a former Olympic athlete. While still in law school, he authored
a bill introduced in Congress that overnight forced the settlement of a decades
long dispute between the NCAA and the AAU to control amateur athletics in the

United States.Present-day politicians would do well to read THE AMENDMENT KILLER and not
underestimate the potential of Barak’s 28th Amendment. You can read his 28th
Amendment at ronaldsbarak.com/28th-amendment-page-2. You can also read
his occasional political blogs at ronaldsbarak.com/blog.

Ron and his wife, Barbie, and the four-legged members of their family reside in
Pacific Palisades, California.

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