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Wild WithinTitle: WILD WITHIN
Author: Christine Hartmann
Publisher: Limitless Publishing
Pages:
Genre: Romantic Suspense

A year after a family tragedy, Grace Mori embarks on the journey of a lifetime…

Two thousand, six hundred miles of blistering heat, wilderness, and soul searching—that’s what Grace signed up for when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s not a voyage for beginners, but with no husband and her family still recovering from her bother’s death, Grace is more alone than ever.

This trail meant something to her brother, and she’ll hike it in his memory, but she can’t do it alone. So with her brother’s gear and a small group, Grace takes the most important first steps of her life.

Grace finds something more than peace and magic on the trail…

When her first day of hiking ends in heat stroke, Grace is rescued by a handsome, red-haired hiker who calls himself Lone Star. Grace has an immediate connection with him, and their brief encounter leaves her fearing her soul mate has slipped through her fingers. Although he vows to keep in touch, Grace doubts she’ll ever see him again.

When fears become reality, the only people Grace can rely on may be killers…

Grace is surprised to find notes left at supply posts along the trail. Lone Star’s eloquent letters keep Grace going, clinging to the hope she’ll find him—and happiness—at the end of her journey. But as the trail becomes more perilous, menace grows within the group. And when Lone Star’s letters mysteriously stop coming, Grace fears the worst.

As tensions flare and a killer emerges, Grace must battle to survive…and reunite with the man she’s sure is her future.

For More Information

  • Wild Within is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

First Chapter:

Early morning sun scorched the grimy car hood and forced its way through the window to burn Grace’s bare arms. She fidgeted as she watched the arid plane of sagebrush and light brown dust roll past. The landscape differed completely from the grassy hills, eucalyptus trees, and fog around her native San Francisco. Occasional yucca plants shouldered their way between low scraggly bushes with more branches than leaves. Small boulders peppered the area, looking like enormous grey cottage cheese curds among rolling, sere hills.

This countryside puts the wild in wilderness.

The car bounced past dry pastures and scruffy woods.

Maybe I should have spent more time reading those trail guides?

A glimpse of the Mexican border made her sit up straight.

Who cares? I’m here.

Grace bounced in her seat with excitement.

This is it.

Grace and her friend Celine were the only people at the five square wooden posts that marked the southern terminus of the 2,665-mile Pacific Crest Trail, a route leading from Mexico to Canada. A few yards away, wind forced its way through the steel border fence like the sound of screeching tires. Celine snapped a few pictures as Grace removed the spiral hiker register from its protective metal box. On the first empty page she wrote: Kenji, you’re with me.

She signed with more bravado than she actually felt.

Grace spurted back to the car. “I want to get going.” But her backpack, resting in the backseat, was in less of a hurry. She coaxed it onto her shoulders with much grunting and straining and stood, slightly bent, for one final snapshot.

“I’ve never lifted anything this heavy. What was I thinking? It’s not a trip to Macy’s where I can throw all the heavy stuff into the trunk.”

“You were thinking you might need some supplies.” Celine surveyed her. “Because you’re going to be in the middle of nowhere. For months.”

“Thanks for the reminder.” Grace straightened with effort. “I’ve been waiting almost a year for this. They say your pack gets lighter as you get used to it. So where’s the trail?”

Celine shrugged. Grace searched the monotonous sand and brush.

“I’ve got the map on my cell.”

But the phone wouldn’t turn on. Grace depressed the controls repeatedly. The screen remained as black as its case.

Come on. My paper maps are buried in my pack.

She took a mental inventory of what lay above them: a one-person tent, a sleeping bag and mat, a wide-brimmed sun hat, extra socks, the head of a toothbrush, all-weather matches, a travel-size deodorant stick, her mother’s homemade rice cakes, and Kenji’s apartment key fastened with a twist tie to the zipper of a first aid kit. The idea of spreading everything out at the base of the monument made her ill.

She pushed more buttons.

Don’t die now.

The screen flickered. She fiddled more and the contrast increased.

“Typical me.” Her hands shook a little as she pinched the trail map to zoom in on her location. “I turned down the brightness last night to save energy. For a second there, I thought I was going to faint. That would’ve made a good Facebook post. Grace Mori’s one second thru-hike of the PCT.”

Celine grinned and poked Grace’s arm. “It’s good to get all the mistakes out of the way at the beginning. Now try to make it through the rest of the day without any more.”

Grace stepped into the sparse brush.

“I already miss you as much as I miss your brother,” Celine called after her. But the wind whipped away her words.

On the trail, Grace’s pent up excitement gave wings to her hiking shoes. They floated across baked earth that meandered through scrub and around boulders. She raced securely down descents and sailed up ascents.

This is so easy.

She covered the next two miles in under an hour. Her initial destination was Lake Morena County Park, eighteen miles away. But her thoughts were of the Canadian border.

Twenty miles a day, for the next four months, before the northern mountains become impassable with snow. In this heat, that idea feels like a mirage.

She looked at her watch.

Nine thirty. Ten more hours of daylight. So I’ll get to Lake Morena with time to spare.

At first, the white circle rising in a cloudless blue seemed a happy part of the scenery. But bit by bit, the sun blazed an ever fiercer hole in the sky. Her short black hair melted into her head and burned her fingers when she touched it.

I should never have given up lightening my hair. Apparently blondes do have more fun, even in the desert.

Her legs pistoned in long strides that searched for cover. But nothing afforded shade.

A tree. A bush. A houseplant, for goodness sake. I’ll take anything.

The trail eventually crossed a highway and meandered through a grove of cottonwood trees. There, Grace slung off her pack, dropped beside it, and dug through her gear.

She squashed a cream-colored hat onto her sweaty brow. Her parched lips drained a water bottle. A rough trunk supported her back.

My shoulders ache. My feet hurt. And this pack weighs a ton. Why did I throw in everything I thought might come in handy? Pre-moistened body wipes? Am I really going to need those out here?

The previous night, she and Celine had discussed her strategy. “I read somewhere a person hiking in direct sun needs at least a gallon of water for every ten miles.” Grace laid out her water containers on the hotel bed. “But one gallon weighs eight pounds. I’ve got a two-gallon collapsible water container and two one-liter bottles. Do you think I should fill them all? That’s close to twenty extra pounds.”

“I think you should follow the rules.”

“That’s a lot of extra weight.” Grace hefted a container from the hotel sink. “Maybe I’ll fill two bottles and leave my larger container partially empty. I’ll drink a lot before I start. And Hauser Creek is on the trail. I can get more water there.”

Celine pursed her lips contemplatively and tossed an empty bottle to Grace. “What if there’s no water in the creek?”

“Then they wouldn’t call it a creek.” Grace chucked the bottle back at her. “It’ll be fine. Like I said, I’ll hydrate like crazy before we set out.”

In the morning, after a brief rest under cottonwoods, Grace continued her hike. She chased lazy clouds in search of shade. They vaporized before she reached them.

Why did I wear pants?

She longed for the hiking skirt in her pack. Then the trail narrowed, and waist-high chaparral brush clung and tore as she battled through. Rough, aggressive limbs and thick, unforgiving leaves pulled at her hiking poles. Grace held them above her head, unable to see her feet. After five minutes of struggle, she reached the other side. Her face dripped with sweat. She looked down.

I love you, pants.

Grace drained her second water bottle as she climbed. At the top of the hill, she paused. Perspiration dripped into her eyes and mouth, but she was too hot to care. In the distance, the border wall and Mexican mountains were still clearly visible. She thought of fishing out her phone for a picture.

Too much effort.

The path leveled out. Her pace slowed. The heat irritated her.

I should have had my hat on from the beginning. Why didn’t I start hiking earlier in the day? Where the heck is Hauser Creek? I need more water.

She wiped a hot tear from her cheek.

What a mess. But there’s no point in crying. Come on Grace.

Grace was the kind of person who prided herself on being someone people could count on. When her mother’s first attempt at baked Alaska set the kitchen window curtains aflame, teenage Grace doused the inferno in chocolate syrup, then helped her mother take down the gooey mess.

“People in Alaska originally lived in igloos. They probably didn’t have window curtains.” She wiped the counter with a Lysol-soaked dishrag. “Some desserts don’t translate well across climate zones.”

As an adult, Grace volunteered her services as a psychologist for the Friday overnight shift at the Berkeley women’s crisis hotline. There, she comforted agonized rape victims, beaten girlfriends, and conflicted housewives with a sympathetic ear, sensible advice, and a list of referrals she’d personally vetted.

“You’re ready to move out? Don’t forget to take his Rolex. He owes you big time.”

And when tragedy struck her family a year ago, it was Grace who negotiated with the funeral home and the florist. Phoned relatives in San Diego, New Brunswick, and Tokyo. Late at night, in bed alone, she lay exhausted but sleepless.

“How am I going to get through this by myself?”

That blistering day on the trail, she began to lose faith. The merciless, prodding sun became her enemy. It evaporated her enthusiasm, diminished her stamina, and gnawed at her judgment. Her feet dragged along the sandy path without any of their initial eagerness. She refilled her water bottles from the large container in her pack and ignored the voice that told her she would soon run out of fluids.

After another mile, the trail merged with a Jeep road. In the distance, Grace saw a disappearing cloud of dust.

That was a car. I could have asked them for a ride. Maybe they had air conditioning. Some extra water. Maybe they were on their way back to San Diego and would have taken me to a hotel. I could have started the trail again in a few days, when it’s cooler.

She checked the phone’s GPS. Four miles to Hauser Creek.

I’ll make it if I ration my water.

By the time the trail dove into Hauser Canyon’s shaded grove of oaks and sycamores, Grace hated the sun more than she’d ever hated anything. She squinted at the wooded valley. But the only hint that a creek had ever flowed across the parched land was a strip of slightly darker sand meandering through a pile of rocks. Grace’s knees wobbled.

Even in the shade, sweat poured down her face.

It’s past noon. I should eat.

She felt nauseous. Her head pulsed like molten lava in a live volcano crater.

I need to rest.

Her shoulders shrugged out of the pack straps and she sank to the ground. Before thinking better of it, she drank the rest of her water. A small Japanese folding fan, the parting gift from her sister, offered some relief. The hot desert air drew out the fan’s sandalwood scent. The breeze evaporated her perspiration.

She kicked off her shoes and socks, then changed into her skirt. But after thirty minutes of inertia, sweat still dripped from her chin. Sitting made her dizzy, so she lay down. The violent sun tortured her through the leaves, shafts branding her face and body like flames.

I need more water. Have to keep going. A road’s not far ahead. If I lie down in the middle, somebody will find me.

But the idea of crawling out of the partial shade into the glaring sun was too much.

Bees droned near her head.

What’s that? Airplane? Maybe they can see me down here. Call in a rescue.

Her mind drifted up, into the sparse tree branches. It hung there briefly. Then ascended into the smoldering, cloudless sky.

Later, another idea broke through her confusion.

I’m going to die. On my first day on the trail. Kind of a waste. All this equipment. All that money. Geez, I could have spent it on those cell phone-operated blinds for the living room instead. There was that coupon in the Saturday clipper magazine…

Her tongue ran along dry lips.

Hmm. I’m licking a lizard. I wonder if he’ll lick back.

Then Grace thought of nothing.

Giveaway!

Christine is giving away 2 $25 Amazon Gift Cards & 20 Wild Within Coffee Mugs!

Terms & Conditions:
• By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
• Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Card & twenty winners will be chosen to receive one Wild Within Coffee Mug
• This giveaway starts April 4 and ends June 30
• Winner will be contacted via email on July 1.
• Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!

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To the Breaking Pointe 2Title: To the Breaking Pointe
Author: Cindy McDonald
Publisher: Acorn Book Services
Pages: 250
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

Pushed to the breaking pointe!

Five years ago First Force operative, Grant Ketchum, let the ballerina of his dreams dance right of his life. Silja Ramsay returned to her birthplace, Russia, to take the position of principal dancer for the Novikov Ballet Company.

The owner and director of the ballet company, Natalia Novikov, has a dark secret: her beloved ballet company is almost broke. Natalia forces her dancers to prostitute themselves to financial contributors at exclusive after-show parties. Silja has been exempt and kept in the dark about the parties—until an American financier offers to bail the failing ballet company out. His prerequisite: Silja must become his personal companion, live in his home, and fulfill his every desire. Against her will, Silja is taken to the American’s mansion, but before she goes she manages to send a text to the only man who can save her, Grant: HELP!

Now Grant is on a mission to find his lost ballerina and rescue her from this powerful man’s subjugation. He will do anything to get her out alive. If they survive, will he let her chasse out of his life again?

Book Excerpt:

“Where is Silja?” Ballard Crafton asked Natalia as he searched the reception room in the basement of the theatre. The room wasn’t particularly large, yet it was quite elegant with red velvet swags hung in the archways, gilded crown moldings, and crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. A bar was set up in one corner while a violinist played softly in another. The room was filled with men, a few older women, and most of the dancers from the Novikov Ballet Company. Only one dancer in particular was missing… Silja Ramsay.

Natalia picked up her glass of wine from the bar. “Silja is not ready to attend our little soiree yet. She hasn’t been informed of my… financial situation.”

Ballard pulled a bracelet from his suit jacket. “Silja doesn’t like diamonds?” Natalia huffed at the sight of the bracelet that she thought she had convinced Silja to keep. He continued, “She had this returned to me by messenger this afternoon. Doesn’t she…don’t you understand just how wealthy I am?”

Natalia took a sip of her cabernet. “She still believes in love, Ballard—“

“I am in love with her!” he bellowed.

Taken aback by the sudden outburst, the crowd hushed, looking in their direction. Natalia forced a laugh, waving her hands carelessly at the crowd. She spoke to them in Russian, “Mingle, mingle, get to know our beautiful dancers.” With hesitant glances at Ballard, the crowd returned to their conversations. The women in attendance ran their hands up and down the male dancers’ muscled arms, while the men flirted mercilessly with the ballerinas.

“You told me that she would be here tonight, Natalia.” Ballard said, more hushed.

“As always, there are plenty of lovely ballerinas here to choose from this evening, Ballard. Forget Silja for now. I will keep working to make her come around. She still… how do you say… pines for another.”

“Who?”

“I do not know this. Be patient. Pick another for this evening. Here…” Natalia gestured to the bartender. He retrieved a box from behind the bar. Natalia took the box and offered it to Ballard. Lifting a brow, she said, “You may have first pick tonight, yes?”

“No. I am tired of spending time with ballerinas that I don’t want. I only fantasize that she is Silja. I want Silja!” Ballard said.

Natalia set the box on the bar. Slowly she dragged her gaze to meet his. He was like a spoiled child who had not received the gift that he desired on Christmas morning. No, he was worse—much worse. Finally she decided to put Ballard Crafton in his place. “I am quite aware of what it is that you want, Ballard. But I must wonder…will Silja meet the same fate as your other lovers?” His eyes widened in raw indignation, except Natalia did not allow his glare to dissuade her. “The opera singer from New York who no longer sings—instead she sits in a home with head injuries so severe that she can barely speak, or the concert pianist whose fingers are now crippled from the hammer that was used on them? What could these women have done to make you so angry, Ballard? What kind of monster lies within? I am desperate to save The Novikov Ballet Company, this is true. But I won’t let you destroy a beautiful dancer in her prime. How do you Americans say…we understand each other, yes?”

Ballard’s hands curled into fists of righteous agitation. The red flush started above the Armani tie that he wore around his neck and crept to his cheeks. He spun on his heels and marched out of the gathering.

Letting out a relieved breath, Natalia looked into the box which was filled with pointe shoes. Each shoe had the signature of the dancer from the Novikov Company to whom it had belonged. Her nerves tightened the knot in her stomach and shame swelled in her chest. She took another long drink of the wine, and then she managed a faux smile for the crowd, who anxiously anticipated the beginning of the evening’s event.

Natalia called out in Russian, “Who will be first to choose a pair of shoes tonight?” She held the box up high, shaking it. “Edvar! Where is Edvar?”

From the far corner of the room the ballet company’s dance instructor and choreographer, Edvar Kozlovski, brushed his fingers through ballet dancer Dominik Potrovic’s hair. After a whispered promise of return, he raised his hand calling back in their native Russian, “Here I am! Are you ready, Natalia?”

The crowd buzzed with excitement. The dancers exchanged nervous glances. All eyes were on Natalia. She said, “Yes! Who is our highest bidder this evening? Who will get first pick of the shoes?”

Edvar fished a paper from the pocket of his jacket, and then he announced, “Ballard Crafton!”

Everyone searched the room waiting for Ballard to come forward to choose a shoe for his evening of sultry delight, with the ballerina whose name was on the shoe.

Natalia shook her head. “No. He had to leave. Who is the second?”

Edvar squinted in a big show of reading the next name on the list. He proclaimed, “Belsky!”

From the back of the crowd, a tubby man merrily trotted forward to where Natalia stood. He could barely contain his excitement. He danced in place from one foot to the other. The ballerinas were now exchanging curled lips of derision hoping that he would not pull their shoe from the box.

He wiggled his fingers in anticipation of what lovely, well-toned ballerina would be his for the night. Belsky reached into the box and snatched a pair of worn European pink pointe shoes. The crowd tensed waiting for a name to be called as he handed the shoe to Natalia.

“Anna Antkowiak!” Natalia called out. The young girl from Poland shoulders drooped. Her face dropped. She was the newest member of the company. She hadn’t signed on for this. She had heard whispers among the dancers that Natalia’s ballet company was almost broke and about the after-performance requirements: prostituting the dancers for contributions to keep the ballet company above water. Tonight was her fist time to be summoned by Natalia to the contributors’ party. She could barely breathe as she watched Belsky’s eyes scanning the crowd for her.

Locking eyes with the innocent girl, Natalia crooked her index finger at the ballerina to come forward to claim her date. Trepidation filled Anna’s face. Her stomach twisted into a tangle of knots as she looked at the other dancers, who silently urged her to do as Natalia requested. When Anna suddenly noticed the bulge in Belsky’s trousers, she kept her head bowed, as she slowly crept through the crowd. Belsky grabbed her by the hand to hurry her out the door.

Natalia clapped her hands. “Another happy contributor to the Novikov Ballet Company! I’m sure Anna will make his night!” She shook the box again. “Who will be next to choose, Edvar?”

 

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Naked in Havana 7Title: Naked in Havana
Author: Colin Falconer
Publisher: Coolgus Publishing
Pages: 164
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Format: Paperback, Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

18 year old Magdalena Fuentes is lying naked next to her perfect lover when he tells her he is marrying someone else. It is soon clear her destiny lies with another man, even though she says she doesn’t believe in fate.

But fate doesn’t care whether we believe in it or not…

Havana, 1958. Magdalena Fuentes knows that Angel Macheda is the only man for her, even after he takes her virginity and then tells her he is engaged to someone else. She knows they are meant to be.

So why can she not stop thinking about Reyes Garcia? From the moment I saw you, he says, I knew there would be no one else.

From the moment I saw you, she tells him, I knew you were arrogant, conceited and rude.

Magdalena is a girl who will not let sentiment stand between her and love. But as Fidel Castro’s rebels tighten their grip around the city and she watches her family and her whole life come apart, she learns hard lessons about love abd about life.

Against the backdrop of the boleristas and the gangsters, the music and the guns, Magdalena discovers just how dangerous love can be.

Naked in Havana is the first in a three part series, a sprawling epic of passion and destiny, stretching across three decades and two continents.

First Chapter:

You want Havana?

I’ll give you Havana.

I have Havana right here, in this old photograph album I keep up here on the bookshelf. It’s a little tattered and the photographs are all black and white, I can’t even see them these days without my glasses. But it’s the most precious thing I own, apart from my wedding ring. Reyes had to smuggle it out for me. I don’t have much else left of those days. I left Cuba with the clothes on my back and not much else.

Here’s my papi. Isn’t he handsome? He’s standing outside his nightclub, the Left Bank, down on La Rampa. I was sixteen then. Yes, stunning – that’s what everyone says. Being beautiful is a blessing and a curse. When you’re young you think you own your beauty like you think you own your youth. You don’t realise that you’re just borrowing both and that someday life will come to take them back. Perhaps I would have done things differently if I was smart enough to know that.

Or perhaps not. What a lowdown, spoiled bitch I was. You really want to read this? Don’t. Do yourself a favour, find some other book to read, because I swear, you’ll want to throttle me when you learn the things I did. But I learned my lesson. Take some comfort in that; life paid me back, in full.

Here’s my mother. I didn’t know her well. She died when I was ten. We are on the Malecón, by the sea wall, back in the early fifties before everything went to hell. Look how she’s holding me. She must have loved me but I can’t even remember her face now, not without this photograph to remind me.

People treat you like a princess, because they love you, because you’ve lost your mother. And because your daddy’s rich, you think it’s always going to be like that. But life always finds a way to keep us honest, that’s what I found anyway.

And if life doesn’t, death will.

But I got lucky. Reyes Garcia came along, and changed everything.

But first there was Havana.

 

Cuba, 1958

So there I was, naked. In Havana.

On the bed.

Angel, bless him, waited until he’d slept with me before he told me he was marrying someone else.

In fact, he waited until he’d had me on three separate occasions before breaking the good news. For now he sat there on the windowsill, smoking a cigarette, listening to the scratchy sound of Beni Moré on the old Victrola singing Santa Isabel de las Lajas. We were in his father’s apartment on San Lorenzo, where Senor Macheda brought his own mistresses: I suppose, in Angel’s mind, he was just carrying on family tradition.

My thoughts were in quite another direction. I imagined finally telling my father about us, wondered whether we would have the wedding at the club or in the garden at home. I knew papi wouldn’t agree to one of the big hotels, he hated those guys taking over his country like that.

I lay on the tangled sheets, feeling the wetness on my belly turning sticky and cold as the overhead fan stirred the treacly air. He was always careful like that, my Angel; being late home from shopping was easier to explain than being pregnant. I admired the lean bands of muscle on his chest. He was a beautiful boy, a comma of inky black hair fell over his forehead and resisted all his efforts to push it back. His half lidded eyes made him appear more sensual than he really was.

My clothes were scattered over the floor. The room smelled of sweat, sex and the French perfume my papi had bought me for my eighteenth birthday.

Angel’s hand went to his penis, stroked it casually, then he looked at me and one corner of his mouth twisted in a self satisfied grin.

‘I’m getting married,’ he said.

I raised myself on one elbow, stared at him. ‘What?’

‘Father’s idea. Nothing I can do about it.’ He shrugged his shoulders, as if this was a minor inconvenience that no one could have possibly foreseen.

‘Married? When? To who?’

He drew on his cigarette, watched the long stream of smoke as he exhaled. ‘Some girl from America. He says it’s important for the family, that it’s my duty. Can you believe it?’ He laughed. ‘My fucking father would marry me to my sister if there was a dollar in it.’

He looked at her, tilted his head, like: you should feel sorry for me, Magdalena.

‘How long have you known about this?’

Another casual shrug. He examined the tip of his cigarette, the glowing ash I would have liked to have mashed in his eye. ‘Does it matter?’

Time stopped.

I could hear the waves crashing on the Malecón, children playing football on the cobblestones in the plaza below. Someone was playing a guitar and singing, quite badly. The brown barrio girls were laughing and clapping along.

I reached for the glass of iced lime juice beside the bed and threw it at him. My aim was off. If I hadn’t been so angry it would have hit him on the head and sent him toppling down into the street. Instead it missed him by a slender few inches and smashed on the cobblestones down in the plaza. The guy playing the guitar cursed us and the girls screamed.

Angel ducked his head and ran for the door.

I looked for something else to throw. The lamp. Now the bedside table. I hauled a picture frame from the wall and hurled that as the door slammed shut behind him.

I wiped myself with his shirt and tossed that into the plaza as well. I found my clothes, got dressed. I didn’t walk out, not then, not straight away. Take deep breaths, Magdalena. Don’t let him see you cry.

I don’t know why, but when I got downstairs he was still standing by the door, naked, cupping his balls with one hand. Perhaps he was hoping that I’d calm down. You should not tell a naked girl you’re getting married to someone else and hold even the faintest hope that she will calm down anytime soon.

He saw the look on my face when I came out of the bedroom and panicked. He ran out of the door and down the steps into the plaza, bare-assed. The barrio girls started laughing and whistling, thinking this was a great joke.

Angel was trapped, halfway between me and the rest of Havana. He made to run back inside, then saw me coming down the marble staircase. I kicked him and punched him while he cowered against the wall. But how much damage can a girl do?

Not nearly enough, nothing like what he deserved.

There was a crowd gathered, hooting and cheering on the pretty chica beating on the rich kid. This was much fun as anyone had seen at that end of San Lorenzo for a while. Eventually I let him run back inside.

Luis was waiting with the car on the other side of the plaza. I kept my head down so he couldn’t see me crying and jumped in the back. He knew enough not to ask questions. He started the engine and put his foot on the gas. We headed back down San Lorenzo towards Vedado.

I stared out of the window, my hands balled into fists in my lap. I needed to calm down before I got home, I couldn’t let papi see me like this.

Angel might think he was going to marry someone else, but he was wrong.

This wasn’t over. Magdalena Fuentes would see to that.

 

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Alison's bio pic.Alison Bruce has had many careers and writing has always been one of them. Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of mystery, suspense and historical romance novels.

Find Alison on the web:

Website: http://www.alisonbruce.ca

Blog: http://alisonebruce.blogspot.ca

Twitter: https://twitter.com/alisonebruce

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alisonbruce.books

Kat bio picKat Flannery’s love of history shows in the novels she writes. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. This is Kat’s third book and she is hard at work on her next.

Find Kat on the web:

Website: www.katflannery-author.com

Blog: www.kat-scratch.blogspot.ca
Twitter: https://twitter.com/katflannery1

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kat-Flannery/131065966999142

SUMMARY:

Twin sisters separated by war, bound by love…

After the death of their father, twin sisters Maggie and Matty Becker are forced to take positions with officers’ families at a nearby fort. When the southern states secede, the twins are separated, and they find themselves on opposite sides of America’s bloodiest war.

In the south, Maggie travels with the Hamiltons to Bellevue, a plantation in west Tennessee. When Major Hamilton is captured, it is up to Maggie to hold things together and deal with the Union cavalry troop that winters at Bellevue. Racism, politics and a matchmaking stepmother test Maggie’s resourcefulness as she fights for Bellevue, a wounded Confederate officer and the affections of the Union commander.

In the north, Matty discovers an incriminating letter in General Worthington’s office, and soon she is on the run. With no one to turn to for help, she drugs the wealthy Colonel Cole Black and marries him, in hopes of getting the letter to his father, the governor of Michigan. But Cole is not happy about being married, and Matty’s life becomes all about survival.

Two unforgettable stories of courage, strength and honor.

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Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, HAZARDOUS UNIONS. What was your inspiration for it?

KAT: Thank you! I’d always wanted to write a holiday themed book, and to be able to do it with another author. When I came up with the idea of doing a Christmas book, Alison Bruce was the person I wanted to collaborate with. Together we hashed out the details of the book.

ALISON: Being asked was an honor. The whole process was a great adventure.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist.

KAT: Matty loves to read, so much that she is often quoting Shakespeare and Poe throughout the story.

ALISON: Maggie took her father’s history lesson to heart and often quotes her mother’s German proverbs.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any bumps along the way?

Hazardous_Union_Front_CoverKAT: I knew very little about the Civil War and so I needed to do a ton of research. Once I knew my plot and where I was going I wrote this story in three weeks.

ALISON: I knew a fair amount about the politics involved in the Civil War but I needed to get a regular person’s eye view of the time. So, I needed to do a ton of research too. Most of what happens to Maggie is a direct result of that research and asking myself, how would she react to these situations.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

KAT: With Matty it was easy because she is so serious and yet, she is constantly quoting Shakespeare or Poe. I write my characters to be real individuals. Sometimes what they say or do comes naturally.

ALISON: Maggie is the practical one. She’d rather be outgoing like her sister or clever like Miss Patience, but she’s the one who takes care of things and ultimately takes charge. At the same time, she’s young and inexperienced. Some of the decisions she thinks are practical turn out to be anything but.

Q: Do you experience anxiety before sitting down to write? If yes, how do you handle it?

KAT: Yes, sometimes I do if I don’t know where I am going with a story. I usually take a break and re-hash all my notes to see if I can’t find the problem. Once I find it the anxiety goes away and I can write.

ALISON: I don’t get anxious when I write, but I do get a little manic at times either because something is keeping me from writing–like other jobs, the kids, an appointment I’m already five minutes late for…

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

KAT: I write everyday when I’m doing a book. This can sometimes be tricky if my boys are busy with sports or I need to work, but I find the time and sometimes that is late at night when everyone is asleep.

ALISON: It’s a juggling act. My kids always come first, but they’re old enough to also take up the slack around the house and they are invested in my books. In addition to being an author, I’m a publications manager, awards administrator, freelance writer, editor and graphic designer. Each job ebbs and flows throughout the week, month and year, so a rigid schedule isn’t practical. It’s a constant challenge to keep all the balls in the air, but it suits me better than a 9-5 job.

Q: How do you define success?

KAT: Success is different for everyone. I’m successful in a lot of things in my life; my family, my friends, my faith, my career.

ALISON: I came across a great quote: “To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.” I’m fitted to be a storyteller and I get to do that. That’s success.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

KAT: That can be tough. Be strong and believe in yourself.

ALISON: My initial reaction is to get a different partner. This may not be practical, however. Honestly, I’m blessed. My kids support my writing habit. My friends and extended family are proud of me. There was a time when they thought I was a little crazy, but they never tried to squash my dreams. Any persistent nay sayers have dropped out of my life.

Q: George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

KAT: No. I love to write—to create characters and stories and to have the ability to touch my readers through those stories.

ALISON: I do agree with the driven part but my demon and I are old friends who understand each other and enjoy the other’s company… even if we do yell at each other now and then.

Q:  Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

KAT: I love to hear from readers so please drop me a line on my Facebook page or via my website.

ALISON: I love hearing from people too. Fair warning: I am also a mystery writer. Be nice or you might end up dead in my next book. 😉

 

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Val Stasik shares a home in eternally sunny Santa Fe, NM, with her aging mixed terrier, Sugar, who allows her to sleep in his queen-size bed as well as sharpen her culinary skills for his benefit. Stasik spent many years as a writing teacher, helping other writers find their voice and tell their Val Stasikstories, and is a consultant for the Northern Virginia Writing Project. INCIDENTAL DAUGHTER is Stasik’s debut novel.

Stasik studied drama and English at the University of Pittsburgh and then transferred to the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating with high honors and a B.S. in Secondary Education, Communication. The year she attended graduate school was filled with student protests, bomb threats, and military helicopters.

Stasik became an editorial assistant for THE PHARMACOLOGIST in Bethesda. She then moved to Harpers Ferry where she taught for five years and participated in the Old Opera House Theatre onstage and behind the scenes.

In Harrisburg, PA, she became a groom and mutuels clerk at Penn National Race Track and, later, a commercial lines underwriter for Pennsylvania National Mutual Casualty Insurance Company. Right before her son was born, Three Mile Island happened. So far, neither glows in the dark.

In Virginia, Stasik enjoyed the enriching experience of teaching writing and literature in the Loudoun County Public School system, instructed other teachers in assessing student writings, and helped develop various English curricula. She also participated in the Fauquier Community Theatre on and off stage. From 2002-2004, she developed a part-time hypnosis practice. She then retired to Santa Fe where she has been writing—a few film scripts that have been produced (Café Destiny, on the Web,  Spring 2013, http://www.cafe-destiny.com) and a couple of award-winning play scripts.

Stasik is currently a member of the New Mexico Book Association, the New Mexico Book Co-Op; Southwest Writers; the Independent Book Publishers Association; the Small Publishers’ Association of North America; the Small Publishers, Artists, and Writers Network; and Pennwriters.

Visit her website at www.ValerieStasik.com.

Incidental DaughterWould you call yourself a born writer?

From the time I could talk I’ve loved stories. When I grew older and more literate, I daydreamed many stories and finally started writing them. My exposure to film at an early age—my grandmother took me to the movies weekly back when there were double features—contributed to my love of story. Other factors that contributed to my writing were my involvement in theater, film, and teaching writing.

What was your inspiration for Incidental Daughter?

Although Incidental Daughter is purely fiction, many of the details are from my own life and the lives of friends who also were born as a result of the stresses of World War II.

What themes do you like to explore in your writing?

How fear motivates negative choices. Family relationships. Secrets. Misconceptions. Narcissism. Social classes. Conspiracies (in my next novel).

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I’ve had the idea for several years, even started planning it out and writing it sometime ago, then abandoned it. Then about two years ago, I reframed the whole story and began writing it. I finished it, including self-editing, in December 2012.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I am disciplined when I’m writing. This doesn’t mean that I write every day as I did when I was younger. However, stories are continually percolating in my head, and I will capture these images in notes for my writing. I usually start off with a very rough outline. I usually know where I’m going and am clear about where to start a story. I have to be careful that my left brain doesn’t get in the way of the early creative stages. I create very detailed characters and develop a strong sense of their relationships. I do some research in the early stages, but do more as needed throughout the writing process. My day when I’m drafting begins after breakfast. I will reread the last couple of pages of what I’ve written and then write for about two to three hours before breaking for lunch. I then return to my writing for a few more hours. If I’m on a roll, I’ll continue after dinner. I don’t often do this because fatigue works against the process.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

Creating enough plot twists to make the story suspenseful. I think I succeeded because many readers have told me they couldn’t put the book down. I also found switching point of view a challenge. Although McMurtry gets away with switching point of view within a scene, I realized I could not get away with that without confusing my readers.

What do you love most about being an author?

Giving my readers a story they can love.

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?

There is a revolution happening in publishing these days that gives an author more creative control and bigger royalties—self-publishing. I found the process quite challenging and would not recommend it to every author. I had the support of an exceptional critique group, beta readers, editing help, and used a print-on-demand company that was best for me (CreateSpace). I was able to create my own cover and design the interior myself. I enjoy the graphic side of the process. The real work, however, is promoting the novel. It’s as much work as writing the book. I find, though, that other authors who have gone the traditional route or hired PR people if they’ve self-published are doing as much as I am and are not as happy with the results. I have enjoyed every stage of writing and publishing—learning all the aspects of publishing, developing new skills, and sharing my knowledge with fellow authors. I will definitely continue self-publishing.

Where can we find you on the web?

Visit me at

http://www.valeriestasik.com

https://www.facebook.com/vstasik

https://twitter.com/VStasik

http://www.amazon.com/author/valstasik

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6907934.Val_Stasik

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R. Barri Flowers is an award winning criminologist and internationally bestselling author of more than sixty books–including thriller and suspense fiction, relationship fiction, young adult mysteries, true crime, and criminology titles.

Bestselling mystery and thriller fiction, including SEDUCED TO KILL IN KAUAI, MURDER IN MAUI, MURDER IN HONOLULU, KILLER IN THE WOODS, DARK STREETS OF WHITECHAPEL, STATE’S EVIDENCE, PERSUASIVE EVIDENCE, and JUSTICE SERVED.

Author Photo R Barri FlowersOther novels by the author include the bestselling relationship novel, FOREVER SWEETHEARTS, and young adult novels, COUNT DRACULA’S TEENAGE DAUGHTER, GHOST GIRL IN SHADOW BAY, and DANGER IN TIME.

Flowers has also written a number of bestselling true crime books, including THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS, THE PICKAXE KILLERS, SERIAL KILLER COUPLES and MASS MURDER IN THE SKY. He was editor as well of the bestselling anthology, MASTERS OF TRUE CRIME.

The author has been interviewed on the Biography Channel and Investigation Discovery.

Official Website: http://www.rbarriflowers.com/

Q: Tell us why readers should buy BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN: A Veronica Vasquez Thriller.

A: BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN is a crime thriller written by an award winning criminologist and bestselling author of such true crime books as THE SEX SLAVE MURDERS and thriller fiction, including MURDER IN MAUI and DARK STREETS OF WHITECHAPEL.

This book is about an FBI profiler and criminal psychologist who returns to her hometown of Portland, Oregon, to assist the police in tracking down a serial killer, who murders beautiful women in pairs.

As someone who has written extensively about real life serial killers, BEFORE HE KILLS AGAIN brings verisimilitude to the perpetrator and his psyche as he pushes the boundaries in handpicking his victims.

For readers who love thriller fiction where the villain is a frightening serial killer who matches wits with the beautiful protagonist and homicide detectives on the case—or are fans of TV series such as Criminal Minds, Dexter, and Hannibal-– this is a novel you are sure to enjoy.

Q: What makes a good thriller novel?

A: A good thriller novel is one in which there is a constant sense of danger and a suspenseful whodunit, with three dimensional characters who bring you along for the ride as they converge for a heart pounding conclusion.

Within this regard, the thriller should also convey a strong plot with smart twists and turns and deft pacing that will allow the story to play itself out while keeping the reader thoroughly engaged.

Some great thrillers that come to mind include Robert Ludlum’s The Aquitaine Progression and John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief. I believe that BEFORE HE STRIKES AGAIN also fits in this category.

Q: What is a regular writing day like for you?

A: A regular writing day for me involves getting up at 6 a.m. and heading to my computer at 7 a.m. (after an hour of working out and having breakfast)—where I spend the next five hours writing and rewriting my latest book.

After a noontime lunch and chores, I am back at it by 1 p.m., where I go at it on computer till 5 p.m. (sometimes 6 p.m., if really on a roll), typing away in faithfully sticking to the plot in my head.

I call it quits for the night after that and am back in the grind the next day.

This is a routine I follow seven days a week. I am the type of writer who is not easily distracted by other things—understanding that I get out as much as I put in as an author.

Q: What do you find most rewarding about being an author?

A:  What is most rewarding to me as an author is being able to successfully write in multiple genres (thriller, true crime, young adult mysteries, and criminology). As such, I have fans in these different genes, giving me a good reason to try and keep up with them in bringing out fresh material they can take pleasure in reading.

Aside from that, I enjoy the camaraderie with other authors, having found some great friends over the years to seek advice and words of wisdom from while returning in kind.

Q: What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received that you’d like to pass to other authors?

A: That’s a great question. Hmm… I’d have to say that the best writing advice I’ve ever received and have passed along to other authors came from a bestselling crime writer who told me when I first got started: “The thing that separates serious writers from those who aren’t in it for the long haul is the ability to shake off rejections and look at as constructive criticism rather than personal attacks—making yourself a better writer in the process with each rejection letter.”

Definitely words to live by for any writer willing to work at it to hone your craft till you get where you’re going in finding success in the business.

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Before He Kills Again_Cover

Book Description:

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

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

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

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

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

 Purchase:

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

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Before He Kills Again_CoverBook Description:

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

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

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

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

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

My thoughts:

Before He Kills Again is indeed  a very entertaining read, one of those suspense thrillers that will keep you turning pages late into the night. At least, this was my case. I finished it in 2-3 days, as I couldn’t put it down. The heroine, criminal psychologist and FBI profiler Veronica Vasquez, is a sympathetic character, smart and independent but with a gentle side. I found all the information about serial killers fascinating, and thoroughly enjoyed all the setups, twists and red herrings devised by the author. Just when you think you know who the killer is, something happens to deter you from suspecting. The love story between Veronica and Homicide detective Bryan Waldicott  adds some spice without getting in the way of the mystery. The novel does have some graphic violent scenes, so if you’re squeamish about this sort of thing, be warned.

If you’re a fan of thrillers about serial killers, you should pick this one up!

Purchase:

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

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