Monday, April 6, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: CHARLOTTE STUART



ABOUT THE BOOK


In ancient Greece, the chimera was a bad omen. In Why Me?, it's a motive for murder. Bryn Baczek, a Seattle consultant, is vacationing in Scotland, hiking alone in a downpour, surrounded by midges, when she sees a body at the bottom of a ravine. Before she can return to the scene with the mountain rescue team, the body disappears. She learns that he was a scientist and that his laptop containing his cutting-edge research has disappeared. Rumors that Bryn has the laptop make her a target.



Book Details: 


Title: Why Me? Chimeras, Conundrums and Dead Goldfish


Author: Charlotte Stuart


Genre: mystery/modern cozy


Publisher: Taylor and Seale (November 2019)


Print length: 247 pages









LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH CHARLOTTE STUART


A few of your favorite things: watching the patience of herons, waiting for their breakfast, to swim by. Laughing with friends. Swimming in a lake.
Things you need to throw out: corporate wardrobe, ancient spices that I used once for recipes I never made twice, moldy smelling children’s books from my childhood.


Things you need in order to write: a computer and a cup of coffee. And a good night’s sleep.
Things that hamper your writing: the captivating view from my office window. Guilt over not doing the “should do’s” of daily living from my lengthy “to do” list.


Things you love about writing: getting lost in another world in which anything’s possible.
Things you hate about writing: trying to keep all the online file folders organized so I can retrieve information easily and remember which “update” is the most recent!

Things you love about where you live: living on the water is always interesting – birds, boats, kayakers, seals, otters, orcas . . . there’s always something to look at and, at the same time, there’s always that moment when you realize you’ve missed an opportunity to take the perfect picture.
Things that make you want to move: fear of rising water due to climate change and living a ferry ride away from friends and family.

Things you never want to run out of: popcorn, coffee and the ability to find humor in everyday life.
Things you wish you’d never bought: cleaning supplies – they make me feel guilty for not cleaning more often.


Words that describe you: short, stubborn, competitive.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: short, stubborn, competitive.

Favorite foods: prawns, wild blackberry pie, apples picked fresh from the tree, homemade bread (if someone else makes it).
Things that make you want to throw up: oysters, head cheese, and anything the color and texture of oysters and head cheese.

Favorite smell: coffee when the container is first opened and the beach at low tide.
Something that makes you hold your nose: some political pundits, especially those I disagree with.

Something you like to do: read outdoors on a warm sunny day, while sitting in a comfortable chair in the shade.

Something you wish you’d never done: I set an unofficial Guinness Record by spending five hours on Queen Charlotte Sound in a sailboat while holding a bag of vomit because I was too sick to get up and dispose of it.

Things you always put in your books: family foibles, friendships, animals, and humor.

Things you never put in your books: graphic depictions of violence and sociopathic serial killers. Those are worlds I don’t want to spend time in.

Things that make you happy: feeling productive, being around upbeat people, a walk in the woods, quirky Facebook and Twitter posts, a good detective TV series.

Things that drive you crazy: sensational and misleading headlines, people who don’t pick up after their dogs, the ragwort invasion of my front yard, some relatives who shall remain nameless, long “to do” lists.

Proudest moment: when I walked out of my orals for my PhD and knew I’d aced it.

Most embarrassing moment: I’ve had several. One was falling down on the stage after playing a solo at my high school graduation and having to walk back to my seat in the last row in the auditorium listening to “Oh, poor Charlotte” as well as hearing snickers and giggles.

Best thing you’ve ever done: marry my husband. He’s a risk taker and embraces change. Without him I never would have left a tenured teaching position to spend a year bumming around in a sailboat. I wouldn’t have spent another year helping him build a sailing/fishing boat. And I wouldn’t have traveled to Alaska by boat to go commercial salmon fishing.
Biggest mistake: not focusing on mystery writing full time until recently. When I think of all the fun I’ve missed!

The last thing you did for the first time: went to a wine and paint party. 

Something you’ll never do again: go to a wine and paint party. (Even though I did manage not to dip my paint brush in my glass of wine.)





ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



In a world filled with uncertainty and too little chocolate, Charlotte Stuart, PhD, has taught college courses in communication, gone commercial fishing in Alaska, spent time as a management consultant, and was a VP of HR and Training for a large credit union. Her current passion is for writing lighthearted mysteries with a pinch of adventure and a dollop of humor. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching herons, eagles, seals, and other sea life from her Vashon Island home office.

Connect with Charlotte:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble







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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: MAB SEGREST




ABOUT THE BOOK


A scathing and original look at the racist origins of psychiatry, through the story of the largest mental institution in the world.

Today, 90 percent of psychiatric beds are located in jails and prisons across the United States, institutions that confine disproportionate numbers of African Americans. After more than a decade of research, the celebrated scholar and activist Mab Segrest locates the deep historical roots of this startling fact, turning her sights on a long-forgotten cauldron of racial ideology: the state mental asylum system in which psychiatry was born and whose influences extend into our troubled present.

In December 1841, the Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum was founded. A hundred years later, it had become the largest insane asylum in the world with over ten thousand patients. Administrations of Lunacy tells the story of this iconic and infamous southern institution, a history that was all but erased from popular memory and within the psychiatric profession.

Through riveting accounts of historical characters, Segrest reveals how modern psychiatric practice was forged in the traumas of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and Jim Crow. Deftly connecting this history to the modern era, Segrest then shows how a single asylum helped set the stage for the eugenics theories of the twentieth century and the persistent racial ideologies of our own times. She also traces the connections to today’s dissident psychiatric practices that offer sanity and create justice.

A landmark of scholarship, Administrations of Lunacy restores a vital thread between past and present, revealing the tangled racial roots of psychiatry in America.


Book Details:


Title: Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum

Author: Mab Segrest

Genre: psychology/social science


Publisher: New Press, (April 14, 2020)

Print length: 375 pages







INTERVIEW WITH MAB SEGREST


Q: Mab, what’s the story behind the title of your book?

A:  Administrations of Lunacy is a compelling and monumental story of Georgia’s state mental hospital—the largest in the world at some periods and one of the worst.  It’s an often wild, often scathing story of the people committed there over 170 years, what happened to them, who their doctors were, and how other Georgians and the state legislature shaped their fates. Unlike most asylum stories that involve mostly psychiatric and state history, I pull back the story’s frame to show how a particular asylum’s history was shaped by larger forces of southern and U.S. history (slavery, the Trail of Tears, lynching, eugenics) in a profound way that haunts psychiatry still. That 90% of US psychiatric beds today are in jails and prisons, I argue, is a direct result of this infamous history. My hope was to tell this story in such a convincing way that we will not be able to talk about psychiatry in the same way again. I am happy to hear that it is a very readable book—“gripping, compelling.”  That makes me happy.

Q: Do you have another job outside of writing?

A: I am currently a retired college professor—I was a Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at Connecticut College from 2002 to 2014 and chaired the department.  Before that, I was a community organizer and writer.  My book Memoir of a Race Traitor: Fighting Racism in the American South is also out now in its 25th Anniversary Edition.  It tells another exciting story—of how we organized against Klan and neo-Nazi movements in North Carolina in the 1980s, against the backdrop of my conservative white southern family’s 19th and 20th century histories. In semi-retirement, I am speaking and teaching on the subjects of my research and writing. 

Q: Where’s home for you? 

A: I live in Durham, North Carolina, where I lived from 1972 to 2002. I moved to New London Connecticut when I went to work at Connecticut College, and I lived in Brooklyn, New York after I retired. I returned to Durham in 2017.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama, where my family on both sides had lived for over a century. I was born in 1949 and experienced the height of the civil rights movement in my childhood and adolescence.  It had a profound impact on my work and my writing.

Q: What’s your favorite line from a book? 

A: I wrote my dissertation on W.B. Yeats, the great Irish poet, largely because I loved about ten of his poems. “Crazy Jane Talks to the Bishop” was one: “Nothing can be sole or whole/ That has not been rent.” Tennessee Williams gives Blanche DuBois this last line, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Or Morrison from Beloved:  “You are your own best thing, Sethe.  You are.”  All three works seem to wind up to these great last lines.

Q: Who are your favorite authors?

A: Most of my favorite authors are southern writers or writers who write about the South. I got into the southern asylum story through Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Tennessee Williams. Toni Morrison is one of the all-time greats: along with W.E.B. DuBois, she reshaped the narrative of America forever. The writing of Dorothy Allison, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Natasha Trethewey, Joy Harjo: all are powerful. 


Q: What book are you currently reading and in what format?
A: Having finished a 127,000 word book that took over fifteen years from start to finish and almost four years to write, I am taking a break from serious reading. My favorite mystery writer is Jacqueline Winspear, and I love her Maisie Dobbs series. I can listen to one of her books on Audible multiple times. I am not an e-book person right now. I prefer paperbacks and really like being read to on Audible.

Q: Do you have a routine for writing?

A: When I was writing Administrations of Lunacy I would write in the morning from 8 or 9 am up until 2 or 3 pm. I could get in four to five really good hours of writing time—which meant revising prior writing and then drafting new pages. I interspersed that routine with periods of reading, note-taking, and synthesizing. Then I had huge periods of responding to my editor, rewriting, and pulling themes and structures into place.

Q: Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

A:  I need for my desk to be by a window with a clear sight line to the natural world. The last year of Administrations of Lunacy, I put a plastic bird feeder on the picture windows right above my desk and looked up frequently as birds visited and fed. It really helped my eyes and my brain to have those respites, those celestial visitors.

Q: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

A: “. . . Brilliant, compelling, and almost finished!” from my New Press editor Marc Faveau. From Dorothy Allison as she read it, she said she was “dumbstruck” and “Lord, girl, you have made a great book.” I really liked it when my favorite southern historian Glenda Gilmore said it was “astonishing” how I had told southern history from a lunatic asylum. 

Q: Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?

A: When I was at the National Humanities Center, I had the best support from their two research librarians, Brooke Andrade and Sarah Harris. They could get me articles or books in an afternoon to two days and dug up lots of arcane material I needed to see. So Interlibrary Loan with great librarians was my best library experience.

Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am working on getting Administrations of Lunacy into the world and in the middle of a pandemic, it seems. I feel that the next material will emerge from that.  I do feel drawn back to Alabama story lines.



OTHER BOOKS BY MAB SEGREST


Memoir of a Race Traitor

Born to Belonging

My Mama’s Dead Squirrel




ABOUT THE AUTHOR 


Mab Segrest was born in 1949 in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Tuskegee, Alabama during the civil rights movement. Her early experience in this apartheid culture shaped her future work as a public intellectual, organizer and scholar. Segrest’s “coming out” as a lesbian into a dynamic, multiracial feminist movement also shaped her life and work. My Mama’s Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays on Southern Culture (Firebrand, 1984) located lesbian and queer work in the southern literary canon and in movements for social justice. Memoir of a Race Traitor (South End, 1994) reflected on her white Alabama childhood and her work in the 1980s countering Klan and neo-Nazi movements in North Carolina. It rapidly became a landmark work of white anti-racist activism. It was the Editor’s Choice for the Lambda Literary Awards, was named Outstanding Book on Human Rights in North America by the Gustavus Myers Center on Human Rights, and was nominee for Non-Fiction Book of the Year by the Southern Regional Council. The New Press published a 25th Anniversary edition in September 2019. In addition to organizing against Klan and neo-Nazi movements, Segrest worked for the World Council of Churches helping to map transformative justice movements across the globe, taught ESL in Haitian migrant camps, and taught in both men’s and women’s prisons. Segrest earned a PhD from Duke University in 1979. She chaired the Gender and Women’s Studies Department at Connecticut College from 2002-2014 and is now Fuller-Maathai Professor Emeritus. She lives in Durham, North Carolina and has just published Administrations of Lunacy: Racism and the Haunting of American Psychiatry at the Milledgeville Asylum (New Press).

Connect with the author:
Website

Buy the book:
Amazon

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: KELSEY CLIFTON



ABOUT THE BOOK 



Jaelin and Aldwin have heard legends of the Grey Princess their entire lives. When it comes time for his first heroic quest, Jaelin naturally chooses her rescue - but the princess from Aldwin’s stories is a pale imitation of the sorceress that they find at the top of a lonely mountain tower. 


Known across the realms as the Grey Princess, Liana has been the subject of stories and songs for over two centuries. Every bard and historian thinks they know the truth, but the reality of Liana's power - and the secrets she has hidden under layers of stone - is something that no one is prepared for. And Liana herself is hardly prepared for two adventurers to show up on her doorstep with a doozy of a quest . . . and the key to undoing a choice she made many years ago.


Can a bratty lordling, a witty librarian, and an irritable sorceress bumble their way through an enchanted forest, survive the ruins of a haunted city, and defeat a centuries-old dragon with only a few hours of planning?

The better question is, can anyone stop them?


Book Details:

Author: Kelsey Clifton


Genre: fantasy


Published: February 8, 2020


Print length: 413 pages





LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH KELSEY CLIFTON


Things you need in order to write: music, a cup of coffee, and a window to stare moodily out of.
Things that hamper your writing: Netflix and social media mostly. 


Things you love about writing: revelations are the best. I love making a decision late in a story only to realize that it either fits perfectly, or was something that I was secretly building towards all along.
Things you hate about writing: the middle bits, the connective tissue between fun scenes.

Easiest thing about being a writer: for me, editing is the easiest part. Things hit your ear differently on subsequent reads, and I think it’s a lot easier to fix things that are already there.

Hardest thing about being a writer: balancing the desire to write with the need to make a stable living.


Words that describe you: creative, supportive, hilarious, charming.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: lazy, stubborn, suspicious.

Favorite foods: Margherita pizza, apples, chicken fried rice, deviled eggs from Whiskey Cake.
Things that make you want to throw up: canned spinach, asparagus, bleu cheese.

Favorite music: acoustic songs hit me the hardest.
Music that makes your ears bleed: most metal/screamo and EDM.

Favorite smell: bright, citrusy smells or the open woods.

Something that makes you hold your nose: heavy floral smells.

Something you’re really good at: writing and singing.

Something you’re really bad at: pretty much any sport except for horseback riding.


Something you wish you could do: play guitar.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: kickboxing.


Last best thing you ate: breakfast tacos from La Calle in Houston.

Last thing you regret eating: a vegan muffin from a local coffee shop.

Things you’d walk a mile for: free books from my list, concert tickets, plane tickets.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: shitty things made by well-known artists or authors that would be laughed out of the room if they came from anyone else.

Things you always put in your books: angry blondes, although I swear it isn’t on purpose.

Things you never put in your books: rape scenes.

Things to say to an author: “I couldn’t put your book down!” “I’m going to write a review of your book right now.” “You made me cry, I hate you so much.” Hearing any of these things gives me heart eyes.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book. It seems so easy!” My response to this is always, “Do it, then.”

Favorite places you’ve been: Florence, Barcelona, the Grand Canyon, Calabria.

Places you never want to go to again: The House of Terror in Budapest. Originally it was where Nazi and then Communist prisoners were brought for interrogation and torture, and now it’s one of the most effective museums I’ve ever been to. As important and incredible as it is, it’s also an extremely emotional experience.

Favorite things to do: dancing bachata, listening to live music, exploring nature.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: cleaning of pretty much any kind.

Things that make you happy: singing along with a crowd, curling up with coffee and a book, being around animals, sitting on the beach.

Things that drive you crazy: groups of people who take up a whole sidewalk.

Best thing you’ve ever done: moving to Florence, Italy for 3.5 years.

Biggest mistake: investing time and money in an editing business when I should have just been writing.


OTHER BOOKS BY KELSEY CLIFTON:


A Day Out of Time

After/Effects



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelsey Clifton is a science fiction and fantasy writer who hoards books the way dragons hoard gold (seriously, it’s becoming a problem). She lives in Houston, Texas with the bossy cat from her websites and too many succulents. Reports that she sold her soul in order to complete nine manuscripts in nine years have been exaggerated . . . but not by much. One thing is for certain: She is definitely human, and not an ancient being of inestimable power.


Kelsey is the author of Amazon bestselling series A Day Out of Time and standalone novel Fire and Lightning, Ash and Stone.



Connect with Kelsey:

 Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads


Buy the book:

Amazon

Monday, March 16, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: W.L. BROOKS




ABOUT THE BOOK


Charlie McKay couldn't be happier with her life. Taking care of her daughter and everyone else around her is a labor of love. But the truth she's buried lurks beneath the surface and letting the oh-so-tempting Craig Sutton into her world is the last thing she needs.



Purchasing the small-town bar is only one of the reasons Craig Sutton moved to Blue Creek. Despite having his own agenda, Craig is unable to resist getting involved with the McKays. And the closer he gets to Charlie, the more entangled he wants to become.


But secrets in this town run deep, and someone is dead set on exposing Charlie's. She isn't the only one with something to hide, and deception threatens their happily ever after. The danger increases, and Charlie must come to grips with the past that haunts her or lose everything.


Book Details

Title: Unearthing the Past    


Author: W. L. Brooks   

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press (March 11, 2020)

Print length: 282 pages







LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH W.L. BROOKS


A few of your favorite things:
coffee, cats, books, streaming, shopping, hiking, reading,
Things you need to throw out: old clothes, papers, and things I no longer need. 


Things you need in order to write: computer, coffee, and music.
Things that hamper your writing: sometimes my cats, often my phone, and the occasional squirrel. 


Things you love about writing: that feeling when it’s all flowing.
Things you hate about writing: edits.


Things you love about where you live: I’m lucky to live in the mountains, so the scenery is beautiful year-round.
Things that make you want to move: snow and ice in the winter.

Favorite foods: pizza, wings, cheeseburgers . . . all the bad stuff.
Things that make you want to throw up: green beans (they actually make me throw up).

Favorite beverage: coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: lemons.

Favorite smell: laundry. 

Something that makes you hold your nose: the litter box- ick.


Something you wish you could do: speak different languages.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: crack my knuckles.

Things to say to an author: I can’t wait to read your book. 

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: reading romance novels doesn’t really count as reading, does it?

Favorite places you’ve been: the Biltmore Estate is one of my most favorite places. 

Places you never want to go to again: Las Vegas.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



W.L. Brooks was born with an active imagination.  When characters come into her mind, she has to give them a life- a chance to tell their stories. With a coffee cup in her hand and a cat by her side, she spends her days letting the ideas flow onto paper.  A voracious reader, she draws her inspiration from mystery, romance, suspense and a dash of the paranormal.

Connect with the author:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Goodreads


Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble


Wednesday, March 11, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: MARYANN KEMPHER



ABOUT THE BOOK


One night, 28-year-old, Katherine O’Brian, decides to walk to an all-night diner. The only problem? It’s midnight, but Katherine lives in Reno Nevada, a city that never sleeps; she can clearly see the diner’s lights in the distance. It’s no big deal, until she passes someone’s garage where a man is loading a dead body into the trunk of his car. 

And now, she’s in trouble. She outran the man that night, and while she has no idea who he is, he knows who she is. And he wants her dead.

As if attempts on her life weren’t stressful enough, Katherine has gone back to college. She’s determined to finally finish her degree, but her lab partner is driving her crazy. He’s hot, but annoying. And she’s not sure which she wants more—a night of mad, passionate sex or a new lab partner. It varies from day to day.

Will Katherine give in to her lust for her partner or will she give in to her desire to throttle him? If she’s in the ground before graduation, it won’t matter.

Not your typical romance, not your typical mystery.


Book Details:


Title: Mocha, Moonlight, and Murder

Author: MaryAnn Kempher

Genre: romantic suspense


Published: This is a re-release. Originally published in April 2013

Print length: 344 pages

On tour with: Pump Up Your Book







LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH MARYANN KEMPHER


Things you love about where you live: I live in Florida, so I love our winters. While it’s ten below zero and three feet of snow somewhere else, I’m walking my dog in capris and a short sleeve shirt.
Things that make you want to move: my winters. I know, I know, but even though it’s great that it’s so nice, it has its downside. The downside? The holidays. Really hard to even remember it’s the holiday season when it’s eighty degrees outside in November.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee and creamora.
Things you wish you’d never bought: an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner. It was the same kind owned by my parents and a huge waste of money.

Words that describe you: I hope these words describe me: generous, empathetic, funny, truthful, calm
Words that describe you, but you wish they didn’t: impatient, short-tempered (when I’m driving), self-indulgent.

Favorite foods: steak, anything from a bakery, sushi.
Things that make you want to throw up: cabbage or peas.

Favorite music: soft rock.
Music that make your ears bleed: rap, hard rock.

Favorite beverage: coffee
.
Something that gives you a pickle face: anything sour.

Favorite smell: lavender
.
Something that makes you hold your nose: cabbage cooking.

Something you’re really good at:
writing
.
Something you’re really bad at: math.

Something you wish you could do: speak a different language.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: crack my knuckles.

Last best thing you ate: chicken Egg Foo Young
.
Last thing you regret eating: potato chips.

Things you’d walk a mile for: Starbucks.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: the smell of cabbage.

Things you always put in your books:
references to Starbucks. It’s one of my main characters known weaknesses, and mine.

Things you never put in your books: never say never, but rarely do I put sex in my books, other than my first—Mocha, Moonlight, and Murder—which is a romance/mystery.

Things to say to an author: I write mysteries, so the best thing you can say to me is you loved the ending and didn’t see it coming.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: so, how many books have you sold? That’s not very many, is it? (Off with your head.)

Favorite places you’ve been: New York city.

Places you never want to go to again: Qatar.

Favorite books: books written by Agatha Christie, especially those with Hercule Poirot
.
Books you would ban: books that glorify incest, child abuse, or rape.

Favorite things to do: shop, watch television, travel and sight-see
.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: fold and put away laundry.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: sky diving, 3500 feet in the air
.
Something you chickened out from doing: sky diving. Which is funny because it was virtual reality at the Space Needle. My only defense is that the two events were 23 years apart.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


For many years, MaryAnn Kempher lived in Reno Nevada where most of her stories are set. Her books are an entertaining mix of mystery and humor. She lives in the Tampa Florida area with her husband, two children, and a very snooty Chorkie.

Connect with MaryAnn:

Website  |  Facebook

Buy the book:

Amazon 

Saturday, March 7, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: GABRIEL VALJAN




ABOUT THE BOOK


Shane Cleary, a PI in a city where the cops want him dead, is tough, honest and broke. When he’s asked to look into a case of blackmail, the money is too good for him to refuse, even though the client is a snake and his wife is the woman who stomped on Shane's heart years before. When a fellow vet and Boston cop with a secret asks Shane to find a missing person, the paying gig and the favor for a friend lead Shane to an arsonist, mobsters, a shady sports agent, and Boston's deadliest hitman, the Barbarian. With both criminals and cops out to get him, the pressure is on for Shane to put all the pieces together before time runs out.



Book Details: 


Title: Dirty Old Town


Author: Gabriel Valjan


Genre: crime fiction


Series: Shane Cleary, book 1


Publisher: Level Best Books (January 14, 2020)


Print length: 172 pages








LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH GABRIEL VALJAN


Things you need in order to write: a cat.; a desk; coffee, at least when I start writing in the morning.
Things that hamper your writing: a hungry cat. A cat who insists on attention, which is almost always but definitely after several hours. A cat who thinks I have treats (usually do). Munchkin will not be denied.


Things you love about writing: I savor moments when I’m in the zone, and the scene writes itself, the dialogue flows between characters, and I feel as if ‘I’ve got this,’ which to be honest is harder to achieve. Writing is like groping in the dark for the light switch. You know where it is, but your hand doesn’t land on the exact spot on the wall. Trial and error.
I enjoy those moments when the story turns the corner, and something unexpected happens with a character or with the plot. You didn’t plan it, but it happens, and it all makes for a stronger story. When this happens, you know you are trusting yourself.
Unlike most writers, I like criticism if it is constructive because I can fix the problem with an editor. With criticism, you have to count to ten and not react. Hear what the person says isn’t working for them, because at the end of the day, what is on the page is all there is, and it has to work because you’re not looking over the shoulders of your readers to say, “Well, I meant to say this, etc.”
Things you hate about writing: all the above, and the next day you think it sucks. In reality, it often doesn’t, but that is what revision is for. There comes a point, however, when you have to let it all go, and accept that it’ll never be perfect. It can come close, and it can be work that you’re proud of, but it is never perfect.

Easiest thing about being a writer: I can’t think of anything more democratic. I can write. You can write. All you need is some limited space and tools such as pen and paper or a laptop.
Hardest thing about being a writer: self-doubt and being hard on myself. You always know the work can be better, but sometimes you don’t know how to improve it. I do think anybody can write, but not everyone has the talent or the discipline, and there are days I doubt my own talent.

Words that describe you: driven; hard-working; persistent.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: perfectionist; impatient. Perfectionism is a real enemy for a writer, like picking at a scab. I’m impatient with myself, and I do think I need to learn to relax more.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a great dessert. I like ice cream and a decadent pot de crème.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: I try my best to avoid negative people, and people who think they are better than others or try to remind people how smart, brilliant they are. Yes, they do exist and I’ve met some. Oh, I loathe people who are cruel to animals. Nothing makes me more upset or want to leave a room faster.

Things you always put in your books: food. I’ve noticed over the years that food tends to sneak into my books. It’s inevitable that I will describe a meal.

Things you never put in your books: graphic violence. I prefer to imply sex and violence. First, it is more imaginative. I do think that we’ve become desensitized to violence. I don’t want to bludgeon my reader (pun intended) with a blow-by-blow report of the trauma. As for sex, I like how the older movies handled it: you see a door close, for example. Sexual tension, like foreboding, is more difficult to write, whereas sex is comical, in my opinion.

Proudest moment: I was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery for 2019 for my The Naming Game. I’m honored and very grateful.

Most embarrassing moment: this is kind of funny. I was in a loud bar with friends. I had been limping around with a sore calf from overtraining. At the time, my cat had to have surgery and the vet shaved his stomach. You have to know that I am hard of hearing, learned to read lips as a kid, and the commotion in the bar that night didn’t help. I thought a friend had asked me, “How is your cat?” and I answered, “Fine, but he didn’t like being shaved.” The expression told me instantly I had misheard the question. “How is your calf?” Hey, cat and calf sound alike. Kind of. Sort of.




EXCERPT 


The phone rang. Not that I heard it at first, but Delilah, who was lying next to me, kicked me in the ribs. Good thing she did because a call, no matter what the hour, meant business, and my cat had a better sense of finances than I did. Rent was overdue on the apartment, and we were living out of my office in downtown Boston to avoid my landlord in the South End. The phone trilled.
Again, and again, it rang.
I staggered through the darkness to the desk and picked up the receiver. Out of spite I didn’t say a word. I’d let the caller who’d ruined my sleep start the conversation.
“Mr. Shane Cleary?” a gruff voice asked.
“Maybe.”
The obnoxious noise in my ear indicated the phone had been handed to someone else. The crusty voice was playing operator for the real boss.
“Shane, old pal. It’s BB.”
Dread as ancient as the schoolyard blues spread through me. Those familiar initials also made me think of monogrammed towels and cufflinks. I checked the clock.
“Brayton Braddock. Remember me?”
“It’s two in the morning, Bray. What do you want?”
Calling him Bray was intended as a jab, to remind him his name was one syllable away from the sound of a jackass. BB was what he’d called himself when we were kids, because he thought it was cool. It wasn’t. He thought it made him one of the guys. It didn’t, but that didn’t stop him. Money creates delusions. Old money guarantees them.
“I need your help.”
“At this hour?”
“Don’t be like that.”
“What’s this about, Bray?”
Delilah meowed at my feet and did figure eights around my legs. My gal was telling me I was dealing with a snake, and she preferred I didn’t take the assignment, no matter how much it paid us. But how could I not listen to Brayton Braddock III? I needed the money. Delilah and I were both on a first-name basis with Charlie the Tuna, given the number of cans of Starkist around the office. Anyone who told you poverty was noble is a damn fool.
“I’d rather talk about this in person, Shane.”
I fumbled for pen and paper.
“When and where?”
“Beacon Hill. My driver is on his way.”
“But—”
I heard the click. I could’ve walked from my office to the Hill. I turned on the desk light and answered the worried eyes and mew. “Looks like we both might have some high-end kibble in our future, Dee.”
She understood what I’d said. Her body bumped the side of my leg. She issued plaintive yelps of disapproval. The one opinion I wanted, from the female I trusted most, and she couldn’t speak human.
I scraped my face smooth with a tired razor and threw on a clean dress shirt, blue, and slacks, dark and pressed. I might be poor, but my mother and then the military had taught me dignity and decency at all times. I dressed conservatively, never hip or loud. Another thing the Army taught me was not to stand out. Be the gray man in any group. It wasn’t like Braddock and his milieu understood contemporary fashion, widespread collars, leisure suits, or platform shoes.
I choose not to wear a tie, just to offend his Brahmin sensibilities. Beacon Hill was where the Elites, the Movers and Shakers in Boston lived, as far back to the days of John Winthrop. At this hour, I expected Braddock in nothing less than bespoke Parisian couture. I gave thought as to whether I should carry or not. I had enemies, and a .38 snub-nose under my left armpit was both insurance and deodorant.
Not knowing how long I’d be gone, I fortified Delilah with the canned stuff. She kept time better than any of the Bruins referees and there was always a present outside the penalty box when I ran overtime with her meals. I meted out extra portions of tuna and the last of the dry food for her.
I checked the window. A sleek Continental slid into place across the street. I admired the chauffeur’s skill at mooring the leviathan. He flashed the headlights to announce his arrival. Impressed that he knew that I knew he was there, I said goodbye, locked and deadbolted the door for the walk down to Washington Street and the car.
Outside the air, severe and cold as the city’s forefathers, slapped my cheeks numb. Stupid me had forgotten gloves. My fingers were almost blue. Good thing the car was yards away, idling, the exhaust rising behind it. I cupped my hands and blew hot air into them and crossed the street. I wouldn’t dignify poor planning on my part with a sprint.
Minimal traffic. Not a word from him or me during the ride. Boston goes to sleep at 12:30 a.m. Public transit does its last call at that hour. Checkered hacks scavenge the streets for fares in the small hours before sunrise. The other side of the city comes alive then, before the rest of the town awakes, before whatever time Mr. Coffee hits the filter and grounds. While men and women who slept until an alarm clock sprung them forward into another day, another repeat of their daily routine, the sitcom of their lives, all for the hallelujah of a paycheck, another set of people moved, with their ties yanked down, shirts and skirts unbuttoned, and tails pulled up and out. The night life, the good life was on. The distinguished set in search of young flesh migrated to the Chess Room on the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, and a certain crowd shifted down to the Playland on Essex, where drag queens, truck drivers, and curious college boys mixed more than drinks.
The car was warmer than my office and the radio dialed to stultifying mood music. Light from one of the streetlamps revealed a business card on the seat next to me. I reviewed it: Braddock’s card, the usual details on the front, a phone number in ink. A man’s handwriting on the back when I turned it over. I pocketed it.
All I saw in front of me from my angle in the backseat was a five-cornered hat, not unlike a policeman’s cover, and a pair of black gloves on the wheel. On the occasion of a turn, I was given a profile. No matinee idol there and yet his face looked as familiar as the character actor whose name escapes you. I’d say he was mid-thirties, about my height, which is a liar’s hair under six-foot, and the spread of his shoulders hinted at a hundred-eighty pounds, which made me feel self-conscious and underfed because I’m a hundred-sixty in shoes.
He eased the car to a halt, pushed a button, and the bolt on my door shot upright. Job or no job, I never believed any man was another man’s servant. I thanked him and I watched the head nod.
Outside on the pavement, the cold air knifed my lungs. A light turned on. The glow invited me to consider the flight of stairs with no railing. Even in their architecture, Boston’s aristocracy reminded everyone that any form of ascent needed assistance.
A woman took my winter coat, and a butler said hello. I recognized his voice from the phone. He led and I followed. Wide shoulders and height were apparently in vogue because Braddock had chosen the best from the catalog for driver and butler. I knew the etiquette that came with class distinction. I would not be announced, but merely allowed to slip in.
Logs in the fireplace crackled. Orange and red hues flickered against all the walls. Cozy and intimate for him, a room in hell for me. Braddock waited there, in his armchair, Hefner smoking jacket on. I hadn’t seen the man in almost ten years, but I’ll give credit where it’s due. His parents had done their bit after my mother’s death before foster care swallowed me up. Not so much as a birthday or Christmas card from them or their son since then, and now their prince was calling on me.
Not yet thirty, Braddock manifested a decadence that came with wealth. A pronounced belly, round as a teapot, and when he stood up, I confronted an anemic face, thin lips, and a receding hairline. Middle-age, around the corner for him, suggested a bad toupee and a nubile mistress, if he didn’t have one already. He approached me and did a boxer’s bob and weave. I sparred when I was younger. The things people remembered about you always surprised me. Stuck in the past, and yet Braddock had enough presence of mind to know my occupation and drop the proverbial dime to call me.
“Still got that devastating left hook?” he asked.
“I might.”
“I appreciate your coming on short notice.” He indicated a chair, but I declined. “I have a situation,” he said. He pointed to a decanter of brandy. “Like some…Henri IV Heritage, aged in oak for a century.”
He headed for the small bar to pour me some of his precious Heritage. His drink sat on a small table next to his chair. The decanter waited for him on a liquor caddy with a glass counter and a rotary phone. I reacquainted myself with the room and décor.
I had forgotten how high the ceilings were in these brownstones. The only warm thing in the room was the fire. The heating bill here alone would’ve surpassed the mortgage payment my parents used to pay on our place. The marble, white as it was, was sepulchral. Two nude caryatids for the columns in the fireplace had their eyes closed. The Axminster carpet underfoot, likely an heirloom from one of Cromwell’s cohorts in the family tree, displayed a graphic hunting scene.
I took one look at the decanter, saw all the studded diamonds, and knew Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton would have done the set number of paces with a pair of hand-wrought dueling pistols to own it. Bray handed me a snifter of brandy and resumed his place in his chair. I placed my drink on the mantel. “Tell me more about this situation you have.”
“Quite simple, really. Someone in my company is blackmailing me.”
“And which company is that?”
“Immaterial at the moment. Please do take a seat.”
I declined his attempt at schmooze. This wasn’t social. This was business.
“If you know who it is,” I said, “and you want something done about it, I’d recommend the chauffeur without reservation, or is it that you’re not a hundred percent sure?”
I approached Bray and leaned down to talk right into his face. I did it out of spite. One of the lessons I’d learned is that the wealthy are an eccentric and paranoid crowd. Intimacy and germs rank high on their list of phobias.
“I’m confident I’ve got the right man.” Brayton swallowed some of his expensive liquor.
“Then go to the police and set up a sting.”
“I’d like to have you handle the matter for me.”
“I’m not muscle, Brayton. Let’s be clear about that. You mean to say a man of your position doesn’t have any friends on the force to do your dirty work?”
“Like you have any friends there?”
I threw a hand onto each of the armrests and stared into his eyes. Any talk about the case that bounced me off the police force and into the poorhouse soured my disposition. I wanted the worm to squirm.
“Watch it, Bray. Old bones ought to stay buried. I can walk right out that door.”
“That was uncalled for, and I’m sorry,” he said. “This is a clean job.”
Unexpected. The man apologized for the foul. I had thought the word “apology” had been crossed out in his family dictionary. I backed off and let him breathe and savor his brandy.
I needed the job. The money. I didn’t trust Bray as a kid, nor the man the society pages said saved New England with his business deals and largesse.
“Let’s talk about this blackmail then,” I said. “Think one of your employees isn’t happy with their Christmas bonus?”
He bolted upright from his armchair. “I treat my people well.”
Sensitive, I thought and went to say something else, when I heard a sound behind me, and then I smelled her perfume. Jasmine, chased with the sweet burn of bourbon. I closed my eyes, and when I opened them I saw his smug face.
“You remember Cat, don’t you?”
“How could I not?” I said and kissed the back of the hand offered to me. Cat always took matters one step forward. She kissed me on the cheek, close enough that I could feel her against me. She withdrew and her scent stuck to me. Cat was the kind of woman who did all the teaching and you were grateful for the lessons. Here we were, all these years later, the three of us in one room, in the middle of the night.
“Still enjoy those film noir movies?” she asked.
“Every chance I get.”
“I’m glad you came at my husband’s request.”
The word husband hurt. I had read about their marriage in the paper.
“I think you should leave, dear, and let the men talk,” her beloved said.
His choice of words amused me as much as it did her, from the look she gave me. I never would have called her “dear” in public or close quarters. You don’t dismiss her, either.
“Oh please,” she told her husband. “My sensibility isn’t that delicate and it’s not like I haven’t heard business discussed. Shane understands confidentiality and discretion. You also forget a wife can’t be forced to testify against her husband. Is this yours, Shane?” she asked about the snifter on the brandy on the mantel. I nodded. “I’ll keep it warm for you.”
She leaned against the mantel for warmth. She nosed the brandy and closed her eyes. When they opened, her lips parted in a sly smile, knowing her power. Firelight illuminated the length of her legs and my eyes traveled. Braddock noticed and he screwed himself into his chair and gave her a venomous look.
“Why the look, darling?” she said. “You know Shane and I have history.”
Understatement. She raised the glass. Her lips touched the rim and she took the slightest sip. Our eyes met again and I wanted a cigarette, but I’d quit the habit. I relished the sight until Braddock broke the spell. He said, “I’m being blackmailed over a pending business deal.”
“Blackmail implies dirty laundry you don’t want aired,” I said. “What kind of deal?”
“Nothing I thought was that important,” he said.
“Somebody thinks otherwise.”
“This acquisition does have certain aspects that, if exposed, would shift public opinion, even though it’s completely aboveboard.” Braddock sipped and stared at me while that expensive juice went down his throat.
“All legit, huh,” I said. “Again, what kind of acquisition?”
“Real estate.”
“The kind of deal where folks in this town receive an eviction notice?”
He didn’t answer that. As a kid, I’d heard how folks in the West End were tossed out and the Bullfinch Triangle was razed to create Government Center, a modern and brutal Stonehenge, complete with tiered slabs of concrete and glass. Scollay Square disappeared overnight. Gone were the restaurants and the watering holes, the theaters where the Booth brothers performed, and burlesque and vaudeville coexisted. Given short notice, a nominal sum that was more symbolic than anything else, thousands of working-class families had to move or face the police who were as pleasant and diplomatic as the cops at the Chicago Democratic National Convention.
I didn’t say I’d accept the job. I wanted Braddock to simmer and knew how to spike his temperature. I reclaimed my glass from Cat. She enjoyed that. “Pardon me,” I said to her. “Not shy about sharing a glass, I hope.”
“Not at all.”
I let Bray Braddock cook. If he could afford to drink centennial grape juice then he could sustain my contempt. I gulped his cognac to show what a plebe I was, and handed the glass back to Cat with a wink. She walked to the bar and poured herself another splash, while I questioned my future employer. “Has this blackmailer made any demands? Asked for a sum?”
“None,” Braddock answered.
“But he knows details about your acquisition?” I asked.
“He relayed a communication.”
Braddock yelled out to his butler, who appeared faster than recruits I’d known in Basic Training. The man streamed into the room, gave Braddock two envelopes, and exited with an impressive gait. Braddock handed me one of the envelopes.
I opened it. I fished out a thick wad of paperwork. Photostats. Looking them over, I saw names and figures and dates. Accounting.
“Xeroxes,” Braddock said. “They arrived in the mail.”
“Copies? What, carbon copies aren’t good enough for you?”
“We’re beyond the days of the hand-cranked mimeograph machine, Shane. My partners and I have spared no expense to implement the latest technology in our offices.”
I examined pages. “Explain to me in layman’s terms what I’m looking at, the abridged version, or I’ll be drinking more of your brandy.”
The magisterial hand pointed to the decanter. “Help yourself.”
“No thanks.”
“Those copies are from a ledger for the proposed deal. Keep them. Knowledgeable eyes can connect names there to certain companies, to certain men, which in turn lead to friends in high places, and I think you can infer the rest. Nothing illegal, mind you, but you know how things get, if they find their way into the papers. Yellow journalism has never died out.”
I pocketed the copies. “It didn’t die out, on account of your people using it to underwrite the Spanish-American War. If what you have here is fair-and-square business, then your problem is public relations—a black eye the barbershops on Madison Ave can pretty up in the morning. I don’t do PR, Mr. Braddock. What is it you think I can do for you?”
“Ascertain the identity of the blackmailer.”
“Then you aren’t certain of…never mind. And what do I do when I ascertain that identity?”
“Nothing. I’ll do the rest.”
“Coming from you, that worries me, seeing how your people have treated the peasants, historically speaking.”
Brayton didn’t say a word to that.
“And that other envelope in your lap?” I asked.
The balding halo on the top of his head revealed itself when he looked down at the envelope. Those sickly lips parted when he faced me. I knew I would hate the answer. Cat stood behind him. She glanced at me then at the figure of a dog chasing a rabbit on the carpet.
“Envelope contains the name of a lead, an address, and a generous advance. Cash.”
Brayton tossed it my way. The envelope, fat as a fish, hit me. I caught it.
***
Excerpt from Dirty Old Town by Gabriel Valjan.  Copyright 2020 by Gabriel Valjan. Reproduced with permission from Gabriel Valjan. All rights reserved.






ABOUT THE AUTHOR  



Gabriel Valjan lives in Boston’s South End where he enjoys the local restaurants. When he isn’t appeasing Munchkin, his cat, with tuna, he documents the #dogsofsouthendboston on Instagram. His short stories have appeared online, in journals, and in several anthologies. Gabriel is the author of two series, Roma and Company Files, with Winter Goose Publishing. He was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery for Company Files: 2. The Naming Game. Gabriel has been a finalist for the Fish Prize, shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, and received an Honorable Mention for the Nero Wolfe Black Orchid Novella Contest in 2018. Dirty Old Town, the first in the Shane Cleary series, was published in 2020 by Level Best Books. Gabriel attends crime fiction conferences, such as Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and New England Crime Bake. He is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime.



Connect with Gabriel:
Website Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter Goodreads


Buy the book:
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Thursday, March 5, 2020

FEATURED AUTHOR: GABRIELLE GREY



ABOUT THE BOOK


A feudalistic world embedded for centuries within the continent of Mystos is falling apart. Peasant uprisings, political and religious scheming from the academia, and the highborn’s lust for power are the causes for this political downfall in Mystos. A Death at Dawn is the first book of an epic fantasy series that follows various characters, each going through their own journey during a time of civil turmoil. In the middle of the chaos is the ruling family of the Mountain Realm, House Wayward; a racially mixed family, dealing with their own inner conflicts. However, when tragedy strikes House Wayward, instead of rallying together, the members split apart and strategize for their own advantage, even if that means taking each other down. This story gives the perspective of the people directly affected by these events. As some begin to experience adolescence, other older characters experience a taste of power, misery, deception, and insanity. Within the series, each character has to make decisions that not only affect their lives, but the lives around them, making many question if they are the true hero of this series. Book one sets up the journey that these characters will experience during the series.


Book Details:


Title: A Death at Dawn


Author’s name: Gabrielle Grey


Genre: fantasy


Series: When the Fires Broke Through


Published: January 30, 2020


Page count: 468 pages






LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH GABRIELLE GREY


Things you need in order to write: I need a clear mind, my handy notebook, and my computer.
Things that hamper your writing: something that hampers my writing is me. I over think way too much on if I am portraying the character in the best way. 


Things you love about writing: it’s fun and exciting.
Things you hate about writing: getting writer’s block.

Easiest thing about being a writer: for me, it is world building. It helps me plan out my plot better when I know the world I am writing in. 

Hardest thing about being a writer:
knowing when to stop.


Words that describe you: friendly, cheerful, unique.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: quiet, weird, anti-social.

Favorite foods: pizza, chicken tenders, French fries, and ranch.
Things that make you want to throw up: Brussel sprouts, any type of bean, mustard, and marshmallows.

Favorite song: well, my favorite song changes all the time, but my current favorite song is “Blue World” by Mac Miller.
Music that make your ears bleed: I like most genres of music, but today’s country music is not like how it was in the 90s.

Favorite beverage: Ginger Ale and sweet tea.

Something that gives you a pickle face: taking a shot of Fireball Whiskey.

Favorite smell: vanilla and roasted marshmallows.

Something that makes you hold your nose: smelly trash.

Something you’re really good at: a part of me wants to say writing and leave it at that, but I am good a more than just that. I’m good at singing, drawing, putting on makeup, sleeping, eating, and remembering history facts that no one cares about. 

Something you’re really bad at: being consistently active.


Something you wish you could do: I wish I could teleport.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: pop my knuckles.

People you consider as heroes: my parents.

People with a big L on their foreheads: people who are prejudice and not open-minded.



Last best thing you ate: my own cooking.

Last thing you regret eating: Steak n’ Shake.

Things you always put in your books: I always put jokes in my books because the narrative is usually serious.

Things you never put in your books: most likely, I’ll never put a sex scene in my books because I feel like innuendos are enough. Especially when there is so much other stuff going on in the book.

Favorite places you’ve been: England, Italy, and Switzerland.

Places you never want to go to again: I never want to go to high school again.

Favorite things to do: I like to play the Elder Scrolls Online and Call of Duty. I also like to watch anime and YouTube videos anytime I get the chance.
Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: anything shown on Fear Factor.

Things that make you happy: traveling, my dog, anime/manga, playing video games, learning new historical facts, and a good song.

Things that drive you crazy: my dog (again), clutter, inconveniences, and my anxiety. 

The last thing you did for the first time: I tried sushi. It was good, I just had to poke the avocados out. 

Something you’ll never do again: dye my hair blonde.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gabrielle Grey is the author of the When the Fires Broke Through series. Currently, she attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for her MA in History. When she isn’t writing and researching, she loves playing the Elder Scrolls Online, watching anime, and scrolling endlessly through Twitter.
Growing up in a creative and expressive household allowed Gabrielle to become interested in several different hobbies, one of which is writing. She has been writing since she was a young girl, and in 2014, at 18 years old, she began a new story – A Death at Dawn.



Connect with Gabrielle:
Website  |  Twitter 


Buy the book:

Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble