Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Author: Sahar Sabati

Sahar Sabati is here today with a guest post and an excerpt from her new book, Warp and Woof: Weaving Community Life.

About the book:

Man is a social creature; relationships are an inevitable part of his life. Formal ones, informal ones; constant ones, intermittent ones; those that make a heart race with joy, those that make it race with dread, and those that are just there because of the way society is structured. Relationships are essential to personal and collective spiritual and material development. One of the most mysterious relationships of all is that of marriage. It is a big commitment, often portrayed as the union of two individuals when in fact it is the union of two families, of two groups of friends, and, at times, of two communities, which means that a large number of relationships have to be adjusted. It is a fundamental building block of society, as married couples create homes in which two families are welcome, children are raised, and members of the community can find solace and love. It is therefore a powerful institution that exerts its influence on the two spouses as well as on those surrounding it. In this series of short stories, real life situations, conversations, and continuous study of Bahá’í Scripture come together in an attempt to understand what can go right and what can go wrong in relationships and how they can influence a community.

Guest post by Sahar Sabati

I was recently asked if I am happy with my latest book, Warp and Woof: Weaving Community Life. My friend was surprised when I was unable to answer the question, because when it came to my previous books – Spirit Within Club, Chills: A Short Story Collection, and Love: A Short Story Collection – the answer has always been clear.

The hesitation seems to be related to the fact that my latest book took me somewhere I had not gone before. The topic of community building is one that is dear to me, and I often blog about it. I could have written innumerable straightforward stories about it, but fiction is imagining what could be in the many facets of its glorious complexities. So I decided to push my thinking forward; I wanted to take a concept related to community building (relationships), pick one specific version of it (marriage), and write about community building in light of it.

I won’t lie: it was a very messy process! At first I thought to make all the stories in the collection directly related to marriage. But I very quickly understood that because marriage is about everyone that has a relationship with the spouses, friends, family, coworkers, the people we buy our coffee from, and even strangers all have an influence on and are affected by a marriage. In turn, each marriage has an effect on the community.

See why it was getting messy? I wanted to look at the prism of community building from a specific angle, only to realise that I did not have the capacity yet to isolate the prism like that. The result: a collection of stories that are not obviously related in the way the other two abovementioned short stories collections are. So much so that I sat on the book for a good two weeks before going ahead and publishing it because I realised that it should be shared to generate a constructive discussion that would feed into my next books on the same topic.

I have already been feeding my personal learnings about this process into my next novel, which is going to be about the influence a single person can have on the development of her community through the relationships that she nurtures. You read it here first! A Summer of Firsts, which will be written in large part during NaNoWriMo14, is slated for publication in early 2015. I have already had a few conversations with readers about their experience reading Warp and Woof that have helped refine the ideas behind A Summer of Firsts, and I hope that, by the time NaNoWriMo14 comes along, I will have had many more.

An excerpt from Warp and Woof: Weaving Community Life

The Ghost of My Former Self

She couldn’t get away fast enough. Unfortunately, the speed limit was low, as they were driving through a school zone. She longed to press the pedal down and feel the motor of the car kick in and pick up speed. It was a trusty little old thing that packed quite the punch, after all. Thankfully the highway wasn’t too far away.

Spying the white of her knuckles, she forced her hands to relax. No use mistreating herself the way she had just been mistreated at her latest family reunion. The minute she had walked in, every person directed a backhanded compliment to her about her trimmed physique.

“Not bad – let’s see if you can maintain it.”

“Look who is trying to be America’s next top model!”

“I guess you finally realised what you needed to do to keep a husband!”

That last one particularly hurt. The reason why her first marriage had not worked out did not have to do with her weight. Quite the contrary, actually. Her weight had had to do with her bad marriage. Ana was surprised that no one had clicked on that, since her family had a well-known history of emotional eating. Her marriage, which had begun as a fairy tale and ended as a psychological thriller, had triggered to the point of her gaining 100 pounds in a matter of three years. She had already been struggling to keep her weight at a healthy level; ever since she was born, she had a propensity for storing fat. No surprise it was downhill and “up-scale” once the emotional abuse started.

She hadn’t told many people about what had happened in her marriage, nor had she explained how it was her marriage that had driven her to overeating. They wouldn’t have understood, since overeating is, after all, a socially acceptable addiction. But more importantly, she didn’t want to waste precious energy explaining it to them. Rather, she chose to pour her energy into healing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

For the fiasco of the last five years had taken her away from her one true love: teaching children. Once a dynamic teacher, both in the elementary school she had found a job at straight out of college, and in the neighborhoods where she volunteered in the evenings and during the week-end, she had fallen out of both. Where she had been a constant dynamo of energy, channeling the children’s thirst for knowledge and love into learning opportunities for them and service projects that contributed to bettering the community, she became a ghost, going through the motions, trying to survive one day at a time. She was lucky though. Not only had both been more than willing to welcome her back once she was feeling well enough, they had practiced the skills of serving others she had helped them develop into helping her.

“You serve without expecting anything in return,” she had tearfully told the school principal. “But sometimes, you are gifted beyond your wildest dreams. Thank you.”

The weight loss had been a secondary effect of her emotional healing. As she dealt with her demons, the crutch became increasingly obsolete. And as the weight melted off, mostly without her even noticing it, she also felt the urge to move more. She started with longer and longer walks, tried jogging, then splurged on a brand new elliptical machine. Her biweekly twenty minute workouts became too easy too fast, as did her triweekly half an hour long ones; even her current five times a week for an hour was becoming easy, but she chose to leave it at that; more time dedicated to exercise meant less time with the children.

The tightening body brought with is some interesting experiences, most of which she had never had before.

“Want to hear about something totally cliché that happened to me today?” she asked her then only friend Nathan over coffee.

“You know me,” he grinned. “I love me some cliché.”

“I was walking by a construction site and a couple of the guys said hi to me and one of them said that I looked fantastic.”

“How did it make you feel?”

“It kind of validated the fact that I feel fabulous,” she admitted with a soft giggle.

“I sense some guilt,” he said.

“Definitely. I didn’t set out to lose weight. It just happened. But I love the feeling, the energy, the vitality that is rushing through my body – it really makes me feel alive in a way I haven’t ever been. That I’m OK with, because it comes in handy when I am working. But I also kind of like the superficial benefits that come with this thing.”

“I think you need to be kinder to yourself. It’s OK to appreciate the attention, as long as you keep your feet firmly on the ground and don’t lose sight of the reasons behind your weight loss. However great you feel, you are not a better person because you lost the weight; you lost the weight because you dealt with the emotional trauma that was making you eat.”

“I guess I have to remember that the doors that are opening for me are mostly because of how I feel in here,” she tapped her heart. She hesitated, then added, “I feel ready to take on more now, things that I just wasn’t ready for a mere couple of months ago.”

Nathan had been asking her out for ages, but she kept turning him down because she felt that it would be unfair to him be saddled with a girlfriend with such big issues, both metaphorically and literally. She didn’t want a relationship to start in such a dark place, because she felt that their entire lives together would be defined by it. But she did like him, and had been hoping he would still be available when she was.

Nathan smiled; he immediately understood what she was implying.  “So is this just coffee, or are we on our first date?”

She giggled, blushed, then batted her eyelashes at him. “I paid for my own coffee, so this is not a date. You could try to ask me out though. I might say yes this time.”

So he asked her out, she said yes, and a year later, they were engaged.

About the author:

The author of Spirit Within Club, Chills: A Short Story Collection, and Warp and Woof: Weaving Community Life, and both editor and contributor for Love: A Short Story Collection, Sahar was born the first of three siblings and eight cousins.  Thrust in the role of head of the brood at a very early age, she honed her imagination by creating stories and plotlines the eight of them could play to all summer long.  But soon, her interest in the paranormal took its toll on said brood.  Worried on the long-term effects (as well as potential therapy costs) of this continual exposure to increasingly scary stories her oldest was (too) expertly weaving for their terrified ears, her mother gave her a typewriter – and a writer was born.  Many books, a couple of screenplays, countless short stories, numerous essays and two blogs later, Sahar also joined the ranks of Blogcritics, delving into the world of reviews.

Connect with Sahar:
Websites | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest | 
Tumblr |

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iTunes 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Author: Nancy Christie

About the book:

There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.

Traveling Left of Center details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).

The eighteen stories in Traveling Left of Center depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings — like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.

In these stories, the characters’ choices — or non-choices — are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?

The Stories

Alice is constrained by circumstances and unwanted obligations to live an unfulfilling life. Books are her only way to escape, serving as sustenance to feed her starving soul. But what will she do when there are no more pages left to devour?

A lonely young woman, all Annabelle wants is to love and be loved. But she’s fighting by the twin emotions of fear and guilt, unable to let go of the past and embrace the possibilities of a future.

Sometimes, what one fears most comes to pass because of those fears. If Charlotte hadn’t been so afraid, would the outcome have been the same?

For Eleanor, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to tell the difference between being awake and dreaming, reality and fantasy. The boundaries were blurring. Would she be able to see clearly again?

He wanted an escape. After all these years, he was ready to go. But could he get away before it was too late?

Anna’s recurrent dreams echo through her day, as she attempts to reconcile her inexplicable feelings of loss with what would appear to be a “perfect life.”

Despite being more than three steps over the mental health line, he’s holding fast to his belief in his own sanity. Or is the rest of the world crazy?

Is it possible to overcome childhood trauma? And, even if you do, are you ever really “cured” or simply skating on thin ice, waiting for it to crack? Sarah is trying to skate across the thin ice. Every day, she makes a new path on the surface of her life. So far, the ice has held.

Mirror images of her life: how she wants it to be and how it is. Which one would be her true reality — and does she even have a choice?

Everyone has a breaking point. For Harold, it came one fateful evening when the clock once again stopped ticking.

Cassie didn’t ask for the gift. She didn’t want the gift. For all the good it had done other people, it was killing her. All she wanted was her own healing.

Mona was relying on the kindness of strangers to rescue her. One stranger, in particular. However, thanks to the interference of others, her plans keep going awry. But she’s not giving up yet.


His attitude of superiority had gotten him quite far in life. Until a chance stop at a small Mexican town illustrated that he had much to learn.

Connie makes up her stories as much for the children’s sake as her own. But even her stories can’t stop the pain of reality from hurting her listeners — or herself.

Although Chloe’s life story changes with every listener, each time her tale has achieved its intended purpose. Until she chooses the wrong person to tell it to.


Her mama was forever telling her that, on the highway of life, she was always traveling left of center. She wasn’t a bad girl, mind you — just incapable of looking down the road and seeing where her actions are taking her.

Her daughter Sara is gone, and while it was by her own choice, it was a decision ill-conceived and poorly executed. And so Sara’s mother waits, alone and fearful, hoping against hope that someday her daughter will return, safe and unharmed.

Agnes was all alone until Billy came to stay. Would he bring new purpose to her life? Or take what little hope she had for companionship?

Brief excerpts from reviews for Traveling Left of Center

For Traveling Left of Center
“As a creative writing teacher (for over 30 years)… and fiction editor for The Chaffin Journal, I have read more manuscripts than I’d like to remember. In honesty I can say that I enjoyed reading Christie’s collection of stories as much as anything I’ve read in many a year. Her style is fluid, and her use of detail really brings the stories to life. These stories need to be read by as many as possible.” -Hal Blythe, fiction editor, The Chaffin Journal

“… the stories were beautifully written, with brilliantly developed characters and settings … Nancy Christie has written my perfect summer book, short stories that I couldn't put down.” -Sylvia Bradley

For “Alice in Wonderland”
“A mere 14 pages … this story was packed with power, emotion and punch … Beautifully written, this tiny little vignette draws the reader in …” -Suzy Wilson

“I am full of admiration for Nancy Christie’s writing. In a few short pages, she created characters that I can picture and a story which drew me in, leaving me wanting more.” -Angela Thomas

For “Annabelle”
“Beautifully written with a sense of exclusion and focus in the description of the relationship that existed between her parents, there are oblique references to the sexuality and eroticism of the connection without truly delving into the deeper issue of a child looking in on a situation she is far too young to understand or process. Christie has managed to open a window into a tortured soul with [Annabelle], one that is not soon forgotten.” -Gaele Hince

“Nancy Christie adroitly describes a remarkable journey through the mind of a woman lost between desire and guilt, unable to formulate a pathway through life that adequately resolves love and sexual desire. This spellbinding short story will mesmerize the reader with powerful character development and a tale sadly familiar to many women. It’s hard to imagine anyone who will not read this excellent book through on the first attempt.” -Charles S. Weinblatt

Story teasers

From “Traveling Left of Center”
“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.”

Mama was always saying things like that. She had a phrase for every occasion, and would pronounce them with a certainty that, in my younger days, I accepted as gospel. But that time, I didn’t pay her no mind. I just went on painting my nails “Passionate Purple,” hoping that the sexy polish would catch the doctor’s eye.

I was justifiably proud of my hands, especially since, at that particular time, they were the only part of me that was skinny. A girl’s body sure takes a beating from having a baby. It had taken me at least a year to get my shape back after Robert Nicholas, and it looked like Rebecca Nicole wouldn’t be any kinder to her mama than her big brother had been.

From “Alice in Wonderland”
“Alice! Alice! Where are you?”

Her mother’s shrill voice crept up the stairs, seeping around the corners, through the cracks and under the door like a damp chill until it found Alice, sitting cross-legged on her rumpled bed, a scratchy woolen blanket wrapped around her, holding tightly to her book.

She heard the words as though they came from a great distance, not just the floor below. But instead of responding, she kept on chewing, tearing off more bits to slip into her mouth and onto her tongue. “Cairo … Alexandria … Mozambique … Tangiers …”

“Alice! I want some tea!”—complaining, demanding, the words pulling at Alice like a rope around her neck.

“Nebet, the master awaits your presence,” said the servant, bowing before her with the respect due to one of great beauty and power.

“Tell him to wait,” Alice answered calmly. She extended one slim leg to allow the servant girl to free her delicate, high-arched foot from its sandal. “I will bathe first and then see him. Perhaps. Or, perhaps not” — the control she wielded evident in her tone, her attitude … The heat from the Sahara desert permeated the room, melting her muscles and bones into a sinuous form, curled and waiting like a cobra. The perfumed water tempted her…

“Alice! Dammit, you get down here right now!”

One last bite, one final swallow, and then Alice reluctantly set the book back on the shelf, the bangles and caftan vanishing as the cover closed … She had tarried too long and the price she paid for any delay, any deviation from the daily routine, was an endless litany of complaints and grievances, lasting until her mother was fed, bathed, and finally put to bed.

From “The Clock”
“Harold,” said Margaret, sneaking up behind him and startling him so he lost his place in the Sunday crossword, “how many times do I have to tell you to wind the clock? Do I have to do all your thinking for you?”

“Harold!” rapping the top of his head where his gray hair had thinned to expose vulnerable pink flesh. “Are you listening to me? Wind the clock!”

Harold stirred his seventy-five-year-old body from the safe depths of his easy chair and headed toward the offending timepiece. There would be no rest until the clock was wound and set ticking again.

“Yes, Margaret, I’ll wind the clock. Although,” he ventured, rummaging in the side drawer for the key, “I really think it should be repaired. It never seems to stay running very long.”

“`You think, you think’,” mimicked Margaret, her words tiny thorns unaccompanied by roses. After fifty-five years together, Harold had stopped searching for flowers. “You’re just too lazy to wind it! You don’t do anything else and now you even want to pay somebody to do this for you!”

Harold climbed onto the low footstool to reach the clock, trying with limited success to ignore her words. He had learned long ago not to argue but just to let her words engulf him. So far, they had always stopped short of drowning him, although sometimes it was awfully close. Then, when her tirade would finally subside, he would have to go outside for a breath of fresh air.

“The least you can do around here is drag your useless body out of that damned chair and wind the clock when it runs down!”

I wish you’d run down, you old bitch, thought Harold, surprised at the sudden, almost overwhelming hatred that ran through him like lifeblood.

From “Misconnections”

They blamed the airplane crash on “equipment failure.” Some little cog or pin or cylinder had failed to move when it was supposed to, and so the connection was not made in time.
Mechanical misconnection. Crash. Burn.

I had purposely avoided watching any part of the televised reports because I was afraid I would dream about it. But the information could not be avoided. The news was everywhere: on the radio, in the paper, part of everyone’s conversation. And so the dreams came.

I was watching rescue workers at the scene of the plane crash. One woman, dressed in a starched white nurse’s uniform, white hose and shoes, was bringing from the wreckage small stained bundles that turned out to be dead infants.

I remember the sticky film of blood and body fluids as she unwrapped them, and I wondered why there were so many dead babies on the plane.

When I arose the next morning, I saw the bedsheet was stained with pink, and I realized my period had come—unexpectedly, but not undesired. We didn’t want any more children. We had agreed on that. That was why the IUD scraped me clean with efficient regularity.

No babies to be born, no eggs connecting to a nutrient-filled lining.

Disconnection. Removal.

So why the dream?

From “Beautiful Dreamer”
“Eleanor, Eleanor … you look beautiful tonight.”

The words drifted into her mind, like leaves on an autumn breeze, settling softly in the forefront of her consciousness. She awoke to find the phone cradled between her cheek and the pillow, the insistent buzzing the only sound from the black receiver.

Had there been a voice on the line? Or had she only dreamed it?

She had had dreams before—the kind that would wake her like an alarm bell. Heart pounding, pulse racing, it would take her several moments to get her bearings and know where she was and that she had been dreaming.

Sometimes, her mouth would be dry and her throat sore, as though she had carried on a long conversation with someone now absent. But she always knew when she had been sleeping. However real the dreams would seem—and at times, the line between reality and dreamland was very fine indeed—she always knew the difference.

She was certain this had not been a dream … With that single phone call, everything had changed.

About the author:

Nancy Christie is a professional writer, whose credits include both fiction and non-fiction. In addition to her fiction collection, Traveling Left Of Center, and Two Short Story E-Books, Annabelle and Alice In Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.

Her inspirational book, The Gifts of Change, (Beyond Words/Atria) encourages readers to take a closer look at how they deal with the inevitability of change and ways in which they can use change to gain a new perspective, re-evaluate their goals and reconsider their options. Christie’s essays have also appeared in Woman’s Day, Stress-Free Living, Succeed, Experience Life, Tai Chi and Writer’s Digest. She is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers.

A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), Christie teaches workshops at writing conferences and schools across the country and hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.

Connect with Nancy:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn 

Nancy's Blogs: Finding Fran | The Writer’s Place | One on One | Make a Change

Buy the book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Order Traveling Left Of Center and Other Stories now and take advantage of the pre-release special pricing! 
Until September 9th, the eBook version of Traveling Left of Center is available for $4.99 or less. The ebook will automatically be delivered to your eReaders on September 9th.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Spotlight on: Christopher Meeks

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: White Whisker Books
Publication Date: August 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 176
ISBN: 978-0-9836329-9-3
Purchase Links:

About the book:

In A Death in Vegas, the president of BenBugs, a company that specializes in beneficial bugs for organic gardening, discovers a young woman dead in his Las Vegas hotel suite. She had worked as a sexy lady bug at his convention booth — and he had nothing to do with her death. While that’s being investigated, the FBI raids his booth on a money-laundering scam that he knows nothing about, either. Soon, the coroner doesn’t have good news. The police and FBI are against him—and his wife cannot be found. He flees to find the answers.


“With his tongue planted firmly in cheek, Christopher Meeks spins a charming and surprisingly sexy tale of murder, betrayal, and the importance of beneficial insects.”
Mark Haskell Smith, author of Baked and Raw: A Love Story

“I've never, ever wanted to go to Vegas. I don't care if what happens there, stays there. But Christopher Meeks makes me want to go so I can find out who done it. A fun, exciting read, with Chris's usual wonderful writing and great sense of humor.“
Jessica Barksdale Inclan, author of Her Daughter's Eyes and How to Bake a Man

“Christopher Meeks had me at page three. I couldn’t wait to find out how Patton Burch was going to explain the naked body he woke up to in his Las Vegas hotel room – first to the cops and then to his wife.”
Sam Sattler, Book Chase

Read an excerpt:

Under the hotel’s sheets, hands on his chest the way the dearly departed lay, Patton Burch blinked into the void of the ceiling, staring past it to the night before. He smiled. After drinking too much the previous evening, he had still remained the gentleman—except in his dreams where he’d made love to Chatterley. Should he feel guilty? Probably.
He turned. The other side of the bed was now empty. He’d slept so well, best in months, that he hadn’t heard her get up. The sound of the hotel’s shower, gentle as a rain, swept into the room. Chatterley’s clothes, which she’d slept in, lay as if hastily discarded on the floor. What if she was feeling better, amorous, even? He pictured her showering, comfortable in her body that men craned their necks for. The truth of the situation was that he was now sober, and she was young, vulnerable. The last thing she needed was an older guy taking advantage of her.
Patton lifted the sheets and saw his boxers were on. He didn’t remember getting out of his clothes. He did remember how Chatterley had trouble breathing last night, and between the drinking and another shot from her inhaler—a bronchial dilator, she called it—she’d been feeling sick again. She’d thought that strange. “I sometimes get shaky after using it,” she said. “It’s like having too much coffee, but I’ve never felt nauseous like this.” She wanted to close her eyes for a few minutes, so he’d offered his bed. “Thank you,” she said. “I just need to relax and catch my breath.”
That led to her falling deeply asleep on his bed. He let her be. He’d mixed himself another gin gimlet and watched a Star Trek rerun. Captain Picard was on a planet where he had a wife and family. He wasn’t a starship captain anymore but worked as an iron weaver, and no one believed him that there was a space vessel called the Enterprise. He came to love and accept his new family and let go of his past life.
After that, Patton had been too tired and dizzy to stay up. He remembered checking on Chatterley in the bedroom, hearing her breathe steadily and easily. He’d thought he’d just lie on the bed in his clothes, but here he was under the covers. He wasn’t used to drinking, but it was Vegas. Ah, the fantasy of it all: a woman like her in bed with him. But he had to let her go. He loved his wife—and he wasn’t like his father.
He could still smell grapefruit on the sheets. When he was a kid and even skinnier, for breakfast his mother would painstakingly cut each section of grapefruit halves for her family. Each pulpy chunk, cut from its heart wall, could easily be scooped up carousel fashion, one by one, and the sour sweet juice could be slurped. He loved that smell. In his dreams, there was something so pure and innocent about Chatterley’s small tight frame, naked and fruity, that their lovemaking seemed as fun as the first time he’d floated down a freshly snowed hill on a sled. In dreams, we get what we need.
Chatterley was showering now. Maybe he should step out and let her have some privacy. He sat bolt upright. Was his wife due in this morning? No. Maybe tomorrow. He held his chest, feeling the pounding of his heart. Calm down. Nothing had happened. As he thought about the situation more, it wasn’t as if he told Tess everything he did anyway. He’d snuck out to a few afternoon movies over the years and never mentioned them, and she certainly never asked. People could never be completely transparent to their mates.
The shower was completely steady sounding. He sat up, frowning. When someone’s in a shower, movement makes the sound vary. Wasn’t Chatterley in it? Patton turned his head toward the bathroom door. It was open. That’s why the sound was so loud. “Chatterley?” he said. No answer.
He swung his legs over the side and stood. They hadn’t closed the thick curtains against the daylight, so the western light, filtered by rare cloud cover, gave the beachscapes on the walls color. Outside, the gentle clay-colored hills far to the west looked flat. Considering that nothing green grew naturally in this area, Las Vegas was an unnatural place for a Lawn and Garden show, but this show was the biggest.
On her side of the bed on the floor, Chatterley’s purse was upside down with everything in it spread out, including a few coins, her friend Faith’s keychain, and a few panty shields. It was as if she had been desperate for something. Perhaps she’d merely kicked it accidentally. Then he saw her inhaler was in two parts: a small aerosol can and the blue plastic part that the can fit in. He picked up the can. It was empty. She must’ve been looking for another. Why hadn’t she awakened him to help?
He strode into the steamy bathroom. “Chatterley?”
The room had both a large whirlpool bathtub for two and a separate shower with a glass door. She wasn’t in either, though the shower was still on, pouring out steamy water. How could she leave it on? He turned it off, and the silence made her absence that much more profound. Did she step into the living room for a moment? Perhaps she’d put on a hotel robe and zipped to the pool. But without a suit? She could be topless in her panties, and the guests would love it. It was Vegas. She had beautiful breasts.
He could hear the air conditioner, a wide unit wedged into the wall near floor level in the living room, with its fan on high. As he moved toward the room, he was freezing with only his shorts on.
He stepped into the living room and saw her, near the Stratocaster, crouched naked on her knees before the long wide air conditioner. Her hands outstretched like a swimmer scooping the cool air. It looked erotic. “There you are,” he finally said, wondering about her intentions. He really couldn’t act on them. “Are you really that hot? Are you okay?”
She didn’t move. Was she asleep? Her head, between her arms, rested on the thick carpet. “Chatterley?” he said and kneeled down to her level. He touched her to wake her, and his first thought was she shouldn’t have been in front of the air conditioner so long because her skin felt downright cold. He shook her. “Chatterley.” She splayed onto her side. Her eyes were open. She didn’t appear to breathe. She stared skyward as if frozen in surprise.

About the author:

Christopher Meeks has four novels and two collections of short fiction published. His most recent novel before this was the acclaimed thriller, Blood Drama. His novel, The Brightest Moon of the Century, made the list of three book critics’ Ten Best Book of 2009. Love at Absolute Zero also made three Best Books lists of 2011, as well as earning a ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Finalist award. He has had stories published in several literary journals, and they have been included in the collections Months and Seasons and The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea. Mr. Meeks has had three full-length plays mounted in Los Angeles, and one, Who Lives? had been nominated for five Ovation Awards, Los Angeles’ top theatre prize. Mr. Meeks teaches English and fiction writing at Santa Monica College, and Children’s Literature at the Art Center College of Design. To read more of his books visit his website.

Catch Up With the Author:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Featured Author: Dale Gibbons

I'm happy to have Dale Gibbons here with his non-fiction book, Master Your Money in 7 Days. It's intended to help families, individuals, and businesses to ... well ... master their money in 7 days. The book includes a downloadable cash flow management tool using Microsoft Excel, which I have started using, and which I think will be enormously helpful for me and my mathematically illiterate brain.

As the book description says, "In this short, easy to read story, you'll learn why budgeting doesn’t work for most people and what to do about it. You’ll learn how to get control and keep control of your money by focusing on your cash flow. You'll meet a young couple who are tired of struggling and worrying about money. They're tired of their money bossing them around and causing stress in their marriage.

They're introduced to a few caring people — true "Money Masters" who share with them a simple seven-day system and easy new habits that put them in control of their money and on the road to financial peace and prosperity.

It doesn't matter how much you currently earn. College students making a few thousand dollars a year to doctors making a half million have benefited from this simple method. It has helped countless folks in all income brackets get and keep control of their money, and it will help you, too."

Get to know Dale in my interview with him, and check out his book. Find out how to master your money in 7 days.

About the book:

Get complete control of your money and enjoy financial peace in as little as seven days using the world’s simplest cash management method.

Dale Gibbons wrote Master Your Money in 7 Days to help individuals and businesses to rebuild their finances in a week. No matter what the income bracket, the constructive new habits taught by Dale Gibbons in his new book Master Your Money in 7 Days and his Cash Flow Tracker are empowering people on every career path to get and keep control of their cash flow.

Gibbons’ system has been tested by college students to CEOs to a church congregation and has helped them all build more financial security for themselves and their families than they ever thought possible.
In his new book, Master your Money in 7 Days, Gibbons speaks to both business owners and individuals who share the common goal of getting their finances under control. He reminds business readers: “Never delegate your checkbook.”   

Gibbons then asks readers to examine their current fiscal status and be candid with themselves when answering the following questions:  
  • Do you run out of money before you run out of month?  
  • Do you worry about how you’ll afford important things for your family?  
  • Have you ever pay overdraft fees?  
  • Were you ever embarrassed at the cash register by an overdrawn account?  
  • Have you tried to save money only to transfer it back to your account to pay living expenses?  
If the answer to those questions is “yes,” then money is mastering you instead of you mastering your money.  

He has also developed a free cash flow management tool using Microsoft Excel, which he details in the book, advising you to use it once a week.  

“Cash flow statements have been around, but they’re set up on a month-to-month timeline, and a month is far too long for the law of entropy to raise its ugly head. So I decided to manage our cash flow on a week-to-week basis. Having 20/20 visibility of our cash flow helped us make informed decisions. As a result, we saved the business and since then, it has grown to millions in sales each year, employs dozens of people and has been on the Inc. 5000 list four times.
Use the Cash Flow Tracker for your business or your personal cash flow management like we do. Set it up properly then update it weekly and you’ll never wonder, guess, or worry about your bank balance again.” -Dale Gibbons.


“Dale brought a different perspective regarding how to evaluate efficiency in our daily processes.” -Kent Weigle, Vice President Credit at Farm Credit Mid America  

“Dale is a high-energy, high-integrity business leader with a knack for developing talent. His marketing skill is matched by his ability to grow a team to deliver on his promises. Dale mentored me to grow my business through expansion.” -Howard Jacobson, PhD Health Writer | Online Marketing  

Interview with Dale Gibbons

Dale, how long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I’ve been writing about eight years, mostly newsletter articles for my own publications sent to customers.

What inspired you to write Master Your Money in 7 Days?
After a dishonest bookkeeper almost put me out of business, I developed a philosophy and a method for never losing control of my cash flow again. I shared the method with friends and relatives, then church groups, and it has changed their lives. They encouraged me to write the book, and at age 49, my mid-life epiphany was to share this with the world.

How long did it take you to write this book?
Six weeks.

Wow. That’s amazing. What do you hope readers will get from it?
I hope they are inspired to take action immediately with the information I give them. It will help them become true masters of their money so they can live their life with more peace, confidence, and power. They can better serve others.

How did you come up with the title Master Your Money in 7 Days?
I wrote several titles and got lots of input from others. I felt this one best summarized the purpose of the book.

Writing isn’t your primary occupation. What else do you do, Dale?
I own two others businesses. One is a tech consulting company, and the other is a coaching and mentoring company to help others improve their cash flow.

How would you describe Master Your Money in 7 Days in a tweet?
Stop worrying and start living. New method helps you get control and keep control of your money in just 7 days.

Excellent. And you did it in just 111 characters. Why did you decide to write this book?
I’ve seen my parents, relatives, and so many friends struggle with keeping enough money in the bank to live without worry that I had to share this with the world. It’s a disarmingly simple, yet incredibly powerful method that is changing lives and improving relationships.

How did you come up with your cover art?
The publishing company designed it, but it is inspired by some of my favorite books by Ken Blanchard.

Tell us about your favorite chapter in the book.
Oh, chapter nine is my favorite because Andrew and Ellie are stunned when they discover who their mentor really is. They learn that being rich doesn’t mean being fancy.

What song would you pick to go with your book?
“Overcomer” by Mandisa.

Who are your favorite authors?
John Maxwell, Dan Kennedy, Zig Ziglar, and Seth Godin.

Um ... wait a minute. My name isn’t on that list. Just kidding. What was your favorite childhood book?
The Little Engine That Could.

Good one, and appropriate. What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant in paperback.

Do you have a routine for writing? Do you work better at night, in the afternoon, or in the morning?
I write best in the morning but force myself to write any time I need to meet a deadline (mostly self-imposed).

Where do you prefer to do your writing?
My office at home in the country.

Name one thing you couldn’t live without. (It can’t be your phone!)
My computer.

Ditto. If you could only keep one book, what would it be?
The Bible.

What meal or particular food would you want to have if you were leaving the country for an extended period of time?
My mother’s meat loaf!

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?
Bookstore for sure.

You won the lottery. What’s the first thing you would buy?
My wife’s dream car, a fully loaded Toyota Sequoya.

If you're ever lucky enough to win the lottery, she's a lucky woman. Name five people with whom you would pick to be stranded in a bookstore.
Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, and John Maxwell.

Where would your dream office be?
A beautiful estate overlooking the Mediterranean.

Where’s home for you?
We live on 130 acres north of Louisville, Kentucky in southern Indiana.

We’re practically neighbors! I knew I liked you. What’s one of your favorite quotes?
Geez. There are so many. This first that came to mind was actually written by Paul: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

What three books have you read recently and would recommend?
1.)    The Tools, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels
2.)    Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzer
3.)    The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Go fishing with my wife. She loves to fish!

What are you working on now?
Writing the material for a 9-week virtual workshop called “The Cash Flow Mastery Workshop.” Enrolling in September.

Excerpt from Master Your Money in 7 Days


What’s different about this book, and why should you buy it?

It isn’t philosophical froufrou. It’s real, step by step “how-to” that will help you get control of your money and sleep well at night.

Most books on personal finance are overwhelming. They try to cover everything there is to know about managing your money. These books leave you frustrated and stuck at square one.

This book reveals the most important, most powerful step to financial peace and wealth. It’s a secret hidden in plain sight, and being blind to it — or ignoring it — is the biggest mistake most people make with their money.

In the easy to read story that follows, you’ll meet a young couple who are tired of worrying about money— tired of their money bossing them around and causing stress in their marriage.

They’re introduced to several people—true “Money Masters” who share with them a simple seven-day system and uncommon habits that put them in control of their money and on the road to financial peace and prosperity.

It doesn’t matter how much you’re currently earning. College kids making a paltry five thousand dollars and doctors raking in five hundred thousand each year are using this method. It has helped countless ordinary folks in all income brackets and careers get and keep control of their money. They learned the system, developed constructive new habits, and have gone on to build more financial security for themselves and their families than they ever thought possible.

The method you’re about to learn isn’t a hard-to-manage budget, and you won’t be carrying around cash in cumbersome envelopes. Plus, your shopping will be guilt free, and you’ll pay your bills with confidence.

Enjoy the journey!

About the author:

Dale Gibbons is an entrepreneur, author, speaker and cash flow consultant. After a dishonest bookkeeper nearly put him out of business in 2007, he developed a simple, effective method for managing cash flow that saved his company. It worked so well, he decided to use the method with his personal finances, then shared it with others.  He has since helped hundreds of people gain peace and confidence with their money. His unique seven-day cash flow management method replaces traditional budgeting and helps his students stop worrying and start living ... in as little as seven days.

Connect with Dale:
Website | Facebook | Twitter 

Buy the book:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Author: Karen-Anne Stewart

Pump Up Your Book Virtual Book Publicity Tours brings Karen-Anne Stewart here today with Ash to Steele, a new adult romance suspense novel. Don't miss the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for a chance to win a copy of Ash to Steele and a $25 Amazon gift card.

About the book:


Who I am and all I believe is marred with just one glance into angry, steel blue eyes. He seems to control my air, my ability to breathe. He makes me crave everything I know is a sin. Pure becomes tainted and lines are blurred. It's my fault; I'm the one who isn't strong enough. I've been damaged...broken. Breck's words haunt me...'There's a consequence for every choice you make.


I've had so many women I can't even remember over half of their names, but none of them are mine; I make damn sure of that. I take what I desire and never look back. I don't need or want anyone, ever...not until I met Emma. Those eyes bore into what's left of my soul and her touch sears me, weakens me. I want to hate her for that. She is my sweetest hell. 

Disclaimer: Intended for readers 18+ due to strong language, mature scenes, and some violence.

Read chapter one here.

Interview with Karen-Anne Stewart

How long have you been writing, and how did you start?
I began writing my debut novel, Saving Rain (Rain Trilogy #1), in September 2012. It was in college when I was slammed with the realization that I wanted to be an author one day.  Once I started writing, I became completely addicted!

How did you create the plot for
Ash to Steele?
Being from a small town myself, I can relate to several of the struggles Emma deals with by wanting to break free from the image everyone has of her and find out who she really is, to find her more! I’m obsessed with bad boys with a good heart, so I fell in love with writing Breck’s character. I’m also a huge sucker for a powerful romance, and Ash to Steele is more than just a ‘bad boy meets good girl’ story. It’s full of tension, angst, tears and humor, a group of supporting characters who I want as my BFFs, and a powerful, redeeming love that can tame even the most hellacious personal demons.

How do you get to know your characters?
The best way I get to know who my characters really are is by shutting up, letting go of the image I have for them in my head, and following their lead. When I stop fighting them, they love to show me their heart and soul. 

Which character did you most enjoy writing?
I had a blast writing Breck Steele’s character. At first glance, he’s an arrogant bastard! He’s definitely a tattooed, cocky, panty-melting, ‘I’ll-kick-your-ass-if-you-mess-with-me-or-someone-I-love' kind of bad boy, but he has a heart of gold underneath. 

What would your main character say about you?
That I’m quite shy in person, but all of that shyness evaporates when I write … it’s my sweet liberation. 

One of your characters has just found out you’re about to kill him off. He/she decides to beat you to the punch. How would he kill you?
All he would have to do is lock me in a room full of spiders and my heart will explode from the furious thundering inside my chest. 

If you could be one of your characters, which one would you choose?
This is a tough question, but I would choose Raina Kapture, from The Rain Trilogy.  I would NEVER want to have to endure all the hell she went through, but I love her strength, and Kas is my idea of the perfect man: loyal, sexy, sweet, protective to the point of bossy at times, and willing to go through hell and back for his girl.

With what five real people would you most like to be stuck in a bookstore?
James Patterson (my fav author!), Jamie McGuire, Gillian Felix, Pink (because she rocks), and Bon Jovi … because he’s freakin’ Jon Bon Jovi!

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
The scene after Emma is attacked is one of my favorite parts of Ash to Steele because the reader gets to see a heartbreaking, sensitive side of Breck before getting a taste of his lethal, badass side. 

What song would you pick to go with your book?
If I have to choose just one from my playlist for Ash to Steele, it would be "Demons," by Imagine Dragons. This song is PERFECT for Breck and Emma’s story!

Who are your favorite authors?
James Patterson is my all-time favorite author.  In my mind, he’s a genius.

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose?
Chris Hemsworth. He’s my pic to play Gavin (sexy, badass bouncer in Ash to Steele).  I also love his voice.

Do you have a routine for writing?
Like most people, I wear a myriad of hats. I’m a mom, wife, and have a full-time day job, so I don’t have a set routine to write. I do almost always have my laptop with me and I’m usually in my PJs with music blasting my drums as I write.

Where’s home for you?
I live in a small town near Asheville, North Carolina, tucked in the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

If you were leaving your country for a year, what’s the last meal (or food) you would want to have before leaving?

Ravioli di Portobello, because it’s God’s most perfect food, ever! 

What would your dream office look like?
We just redecorated my office and removed the desk to create an environment that’s comfortable, colorful, and fun to work.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
“If music be the food of love, play on.” -Shakespeare. I adore Shakespeare! I could get lost in his quotes all day . I actually have this quote on my office wall. 

What’s your favorite candy bar?
Almond Joy.  I love the nutty, coconut scrumptious treat!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a pretty simple chick.  I love hanging out with family and friends, especially my daughter and husband, watching movies, and going for hikes in the forest.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would love to live in Italy for a while. I don’t think I would ever tire of the beautiful vineyards and cobblestone streets. 

What are you working on now?
I’m working on Feel, a new adult paranormal romance, and I’m very excited about Jensen and Saige’s story that will be live late this year. Then, I’m beyond thrilled to write Gavin’s (sexy, badass bouncer from Ash to Steele) own story in 2015. 

Excerpt from Ash to Steele

Slowly, she lifts her head, her gaze meeting mine, and I rush to her side. Wanting to maim the man who did this to her, to erase her pain.

“Breck, don’t touch-” Gavin calls, but Emma slides off the bed, throwing herself into my arms before he could finish his sentence.

I pull her close, gritting my teeth at the bruises on her face and deciding that I might kill the bastard instead of just making him wish he were dead. Holding her tightly against me, I brush my lips against her forehead, afraid my hold is hurting her. The way she clings to me proves otherwise, so I tighten my arms around her slender frame, cradling her protectively. My throat is raw when I whisper in her ear, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there to prevent this, Emma.”

Her head makes the slightest move against my chest. Her words are muffled against my shirt, but her lips pressed against the cotton fabric doesn’t do anything to hinder the sorrow in her voice, “It’s not your job to protect me. You shouldn’t have come.”

Gently pushing her to where I can see her beautiful eyes, I shake my head in disbelief, “Nothing in hell could have kept me from coming to you tonight, Emma.”

The agony in her eyes bleeds my soul. A small tear slides down her cheek and she goes to wipe it away, embarrassment and sorrow stripping the light that usually shines so brightly in her eyes.  For that alone, the man should die.  Pulling her back into my arms, I hold her as if the flow of the blood in my veins depends on her touch. When her phone died, so did I.  Without her, I’m nothing.  When I first realized that truth, it made me feel weak and ashamed at how strongly I need her. Now, I have no shame left. I need Emma like I need to breathe. She is my air. It’s as simple as that.

Trailer for The Rain Trilogy

About the author:

Author of new adult romance, who doesn't shy away from writing about dark issues and hot heroes, 

Karen-Anne Stewart has always adored reading and has now fallen in love with writing. Her written works are The Rain Trilogy: Saving Rain, Healing Rain, and After the Rain, and the newly released stand alone novel, Ash to Steele. Her debut novel, Saving Rain: The First Novel in The Rain Trilogy, was a nominee for the Book Junkie’s Choice Awards, and Saving Rain and After the Rain were nominees for the 2014 RONE Awards. 

When Karen-Anne isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and visiting new places. She fuels her addiction of creating new stories by her only other addiction, caffeine, and listening to a myriad of musical genres. Tucked away near the Blue Ridge Mountains, Karen-Anne lives with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and their cat. She plans on writing new adult romance as long as her fingers maintain dexterity.

Buy the book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Conncet with the author:
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest

Giveaway Details:

Karen-Anne is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card & one Kindle copy of Ash to Steele!
Terms & Conditions:
•    By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
•    One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive one $25 Amazon Gift Certificate or Paypal Cash and one copy of Ash to Steele delivered by the Kindle store.
•    This giveaway begins July 7 and ends on September 26.
•    Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, September 29.
•    Winner has 48 hours to reply.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Featured Author: Ethan Cross

About the book:

A father returns home to find that his family has been kidnapped and the only way to save their 
lives is for him to kill another innocent person ... 

So begins a journey that will force Special Agent Marcus Williams of the Shepherd Organization to question all that he believes, unearth his family's dark legacy, and sacrifice everything to save those he loves. In order to stop the serial murderer whom the media has dubbed the Coercion Killer, Williams must enlist the help of one of the world`s most infamous and wanted men ... the serial killer Francis Ackerman Jr.

Rippling with intensity, charged with tension, and brimming with a relentless spirit of humanity, Father of Fear is the latest evidence that Ethan Cross is one of the finest suspense novelists on the planet.

Excerpt from Father of Fear

Her real name was Rhonda Haynie, but her clients called her Scarlet. None of them had ever asked her about a last name or inquired if “Scarlet” actually appeared on her birth certificate. The kind of men who hired her didn’t care about who she was as a person. They paid for the fantasy, and that was what they got. And some of those fantasies tested the boundaries of what even she would do for money; they exposed the dark and depraved inner workings of people who seemed perfectly normal by all outward appearances.

When she opened the door of the motel room, Rhonda knew that tonight’s job would push those boundaries once again.

The paint on the walls had most likely started its life cycle as a flat white but had now aged into a dull yellow. Only one lamp lit the space from the far corner, leaving most of the room in shadow. No lights overhead. All the better to hide the filth-ridden sheets and floors that were probably swept once every six months. Generic prints of babbling brooks and nature scenes had once covered repairs in the drywall that hid holes placed there by inebriated former occupants. For some reason, the pictures had all been removed and stacked in the corner. The bed hadn’t been slept in or touched, and a blanket and pillow lay crumpled along the floor against the far wall. The place smelled like the carpet had been left out in the rain.

It was no surprise that none of the motel’s other rooms seemed to be occupied and that the parking lot was free of cars.

The client had pulled an old wooden desk chair into the center of the room and handcuffed himself to it. He just sat there, shirtless and staring at the wall, clothed in darkness. Trepidation clawed at the corners of Rhonda’s mind, but the rent needed to be paid, and so she stepped cautiously into the room and closed the door behind her.

“Hello, darling. It looks like you’re all ready for me.” She stepped toward the dresser and flipped on another small lamp. She gasped at what the light revealed.

Scars covered the man’s chest and arms. She had seen plenty in her time on the streets, but never anything like this. Burns, knife wounds, bullet holes. More damaged tissue than healthy skin. His body was a road map of pain and suffering.

“Is something wrong?” he said in a deep and confident voice.

Rhonda forced her gaze up to his face for the first time. It didn’t match the rest of the man. Handsome. Youthful. Strong features and bright, intelligent eyes. She often wondered what led her clients to seek her services. With this man, the reasons were self-evident. Anyone would be self-conscious about scars like this.

She offered her best smile. “No, baby. Everything’s fine. Just give me a minute to freshen up, and we’ll get started.”

She moved toward the bathroom, but his next words stopped her. “There’s no need for that. We won’t be engaging in any sexual activity.”

“Then what kind of activities did you have in mind?”

“There’s a knife on the dresser. I want you to cut me. Just stick in the tip and run a nice long slice. Along a tricep, to start.”

Rhonda had received more than her fair share of crazy requests. Some guys wanted to be beaten or whipped or to dress her up in all manner of crazy outfits and live out their sick fantasies. But she’d never had a client ask her to mutilate his body. The thought of it nearly made her sick.

“I was told that you were the most adventurous companion that the service offered. The money’s there on the dresser beside the knife. It’s three times the fee that I was quoted.”

She looked at the dresser and the money. Judging by the thickness of the wad of bills, he was telling the truth. Still, she knew her limits all too well. She couldn’t go through with this, and she didn’t want to spend too much time in the company of any man who would make such a request.

Then an idea took shape. “Are these real handcuffs?” Rhonda asked. An edge of fear caused her voice to tremble.

She tried to examine them without raising too much suspicion, running her fingers over the edges of the cuffs and feeling for releases or anything to indicate that they were fakes.

“They’re standard police-issue.”

“How did you plan on getting those off when our business was completed? Are you a magician?”

Rhonda tried to laugh, but it didn’t sound convincing even to her own ears.

The man smiled, but the expression didn’t reach his eyes. “I assumed you would be kind enough to remove them. The key’s also on the dresser.”

“Good. That’s what I hoped.”

She patted him on the shoulder, grabbed the money and the key, and headed for the door. Her fingers wrapped around the knob—but then something struck her from behind. Strong hands squeezed her shoulders and spun her around, slamming her back against the door.

He pressed the edge of the blade against her neck with just enough force to hold her in place without breaking the skin. His breath was hot on her exposed flesh. “I apologize if I gave the impression that I was secured to the chair. Because of all the scarring that runs up my forearms, my wrists are much larger than my hands. It comes in handy when I want to slip out of a pair of cuffs. The restraints were to keep me from lashing out involuntarily when you began to make the incisions. They were for your protection.”

Tears ran down Rhonda’s cheeks, streaking the layers of make-up. “Please ... don’t ... ”

The man lowered the knife from her throat and leaned closer. “I suppose that I shouldn’t judge you too harshly. I do admire a woman who shows initiative, and you can’t blame a girl for trying. But you see, we had a verbal contract, and you’ve yet to hold up your end of things.”

Her fingers clawed at her thigh, pulling up the black fabric of the skirt. She kept a small switchblade concealed there for moments such as this. “You want me to cut you?” She felt the metal handle of the knife, pulled it free, and pushed the button to expose the blade. “How’s this for a start?”

Rhonda jammed the knife into his leg and shoved him away. She expected him to drop, but he remained on his feet and fell against the room’s door, blocking her escape. Screaming for help, she bolted for the bathroom, nearly falling over the chair resting in the middle of the floor. Once inside, she slammed the door behind her and engaged the lock.

Lime green tile-covered the walls, and the room smelled of mildew and urine. A blow shook the doorframe. “You’re trying my patience,” the man said calmly from the other side.

Her whole body trembled. She wiped the man’s blood from her hand onto her dress as she scanned the room for a way out. The shower curtain was thin and white, and light shone through it. She ripped it back, snapping the rings in the process. They fell to the tile with small metallic clinks.

A window occupied the back wall. She scrambled into the tub and pushed up on the window’s frame. It wouldn’t move. She checked for a lock. Flipped the latch. Pushed again. But the window still wouldn’t budge. It must have been painted shut.

The bathroom door flew open. The wood splintering, and the knob striking the tile on the opposite wall. The old green ceramics cracked and shattered and fell to the floor.

Rhonda screamed, but he was already on top of her. His grip was like a vise. It crushed her airway and cut off her cries. He pressed her against the window and lifted her from the floor of the tub.

She clawed at his hand and kicked at him with her legs, but he was so strong and refused to relent. A wave of dizziness swept over her, and she realized that this was her last moment on Earth. She would never see her baby girl again. She would never have the chance to tell her grandma that she was sorry for running away after her parents died.

She wondered what he would do with her body. Would he mutilate her? Bury her in some shallow grave, a feast for the bugs? She imagined the worms crawling through her veins.

The man raised the knife and admired the blade. Light from the translucent window danced across its surface.

This was it. Rhonda tried not to think of the pain to come. Would he bury the knife in her stomach, stabbing her over and over, savoring each thrust in some twisted sexual way? Or would he slice her throat and let her bleed out quickly? She prayed for a quick death.

The knife came toward her. She wanted to close her eyes, didn’t want to see the sight of her own blood. But, for some reason, her eyelids refused to obey the signal that her brain was sending.

She watched as the blade swiped across his forearm just in front of her face, opening three long gashes in his flesh. The blood flowed quickly and dripped down into the bathtub. He closed his eyes as if savoring the moment and licked the blade clean.

Then he relinquished his grip. She dropped to her knees, and he backed away. She gasped in greedy mouthfuls of air, and violent sobbing seized her whole body.

Rhonda looked up to see him sitting on the toilet, watching her. He took a deep breath and said, “I apologize. I lost my head for a moment. I didn’t want to hurt you. To tell you the truth, this is the first time that I’ve contracted with someone of your profession.”

Her hands found the edge of the tub, and she pushed herself to her feet, preparing to lunge for the door. He must have sensed her intention and moved forward, blocking her way out.

“What’s your name? Your real name.”

“Screw you.” Her throat felt like she’d swallowed sandpaper.

He stepped closer, and his eyes narrowed. “I’ve killed a lot of people. Men, women. Knives, guns, fire, my bare hands. I possess an unnatural talent for extinguishing life. But I’m trying to be a good boy here, and I would appreciate it if you showed me at least some small measure of respect. What’s your name?”

“Rhonda,” she said through the tears.

“Thank you, Rhonda. It’s moments such as these when a person must examine their existence and their place in this world. We all have regrets. Some mistakes can be rectified, and some can never be undone. The trick is realizing the difference and acting upon it. In the past, I would have enjoyed killing you. I would have drawn out the process and extracted every exquisite moment of pain possible. But I’ve come to believe that there are three kinds of people in this world. At our core, we’re all either a creator, a maintainer, or a destroyer.”

He took another step toward her, reached out, and took her hands in his. She didn’t recoil from his touch. She just stood there, oddly transfixed. Hypnotized by the intensity of his gaze.

“Maintainers keep the status quo. They’re the worker bees of our little hive, and they enjoy keeping the cosmic wheels turning. It’s what they were made for, and without them the walls of our reality would crumble. Then there are creators. Those rare individuals who dare to discover new things and think differently, to break the chains of fear and bring into existence something beautiful and new. I fall into the third group. The destroyers. But I want to be better than that. I need to be more. Unfortunately, I’ve found that I only feel alive when I’m inflicting pain or experiencing it myself.”

The man kept hold of Rhonda’s hand as he guided her gently back into the bedroom. “What I’m asking you to do is a kindness to me. I want you to help me be a better person. To transcend my nature as a destroyer and become something more.”

He gestured toward the chair and laid the knife in her palm. She stared down at it in confusion. When her gaze returned to his face, he smiled and said, “Now, are you ready to begin?”

Praise for Ethan Cross and Father of Fear

“Cross pushes the boundaries in this sinisterly clever showdown between one shadowy vigilante justice group and three twisted serial killers. The surprises are fast and furious, and will leave you breathless to read more.”
– Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on The Prophet

"A fast paced, all too real thriller with a villain right out of James Patterson and Criminal Minds.”
– Andrew Gross, #1 New York Times bestselling author, on The Shepherd

"The Shepherd is full of surprises to the very end — you won’t be disappointed and you won’t see it coming.”
– Blogcritics

“The best book of its kind since Thomas Harris retired Hannibal Lecter, a cat-and-mouse-game extraordinaire that will leave your knuckles white and your stomach churning.”

– Jon Land, bestselling author of Strong Vengence, on The Prophet

About the author:

When a fireman or a policeman would visit his school, most of his classmates’ heads would swim with aspirations of growing up and catching bad guys or saving someone from a blazing inferno. When these moments came for Ethan Cross, however, his dreams weren’t to someday be a cop or put out fires; he just wanted to write about it.

And his dream of telling stories on a grand scale came to fruition with the release of his first book, The Shepherd, which went on to become an International Bestseller published in several countries and languages. Ethan followed this up with more great titles like The Prophet, The Cage, Callsign: Knight, and Blind Justice. His latest book is the third installment of the Shepherd series coming from the Story Plant in Summer 2014.

In addition to writing and working in the publishing industry, Ethan has also served as the Chief Technology Officer for a national franchise, recorded albums, and opened for national recording artists as lead singer and guitar player in a musical group, and been an active and highly involved member of the International Thriller Writers organization.

Ethan Cross is the pen name of an author who lives and writes in Illinois with his wife, three kids, and two Shih Tzus. 

Website | The Story Plant | Amazon

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guest Post by Shay West

About the book:

Alexis Davenport is learning to come to grips with her ability to travel through time, but she still hasn’t been able to stop the evil Drifter and his Master from trying to alter the past.

When she travels back to ancient Egypt, Alex gets a most unexpected surprise; she meets someone who can help her figure out how to use her powers, another Traveler like herself.
But can Alex learn how to control her gift before Drifter finds a way to stop her from meddling in his Master’s plans?

Twisted Reflections is the highly anticipated book two in The Adventures of Alexis Davenport series.

Guest Post:

Time Travel

I have always been fascinated with the idea of time travel. It would be so amazing to travel back in time and observe how people really lived. It’s one thing to use archaeological evidence to hypothesize about how people lived in the past, but to actually be able to observe them going about their daily lives, or to see what their homes looked like and what they ate would be so incredible.

Ah, to see Rome and watch the gladiators perform in the Coliseum, or walk through the streets of an ancient Egyptian city, or watch as druids built Stonehenge. How many mysteries would be solved if only we could travel back in time? Kind of makes me wish the Doctor would arrive with his TARDIS and whisk me off to see something no other modern human has ever seen.

Of course, there is always the danger of screwing up the time line. It could spell disaster if an innocent act by a time traveler inadvertently altered the course of history. The repercussions could be disastrous. This is what makes me thankful that no one has managed to invent a time travel device.

In my Adventures of Alexis Davenport series, fifteen-year-old Alex has the unsavory task of protecting the time line from someone trying to alter the past. Not only that, she also has to deal with all of the other things a teenager has to deal with. This poor girl has a lot on her plate! But she’s spunky with a side of sass thrown in for good measure and can handle anything that comes her way.

About the author:

Shay West was born in Longmont, Colorado and earned a doctorate degree in Human Medical Genetics from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical. Dr. West currently lives in Grand Junction, Coloarado with her two cats. When not writing novels, she plays with plushie microbes and teaches biology classes at Colorado Mesa University. She is the author of the Portals of Destiny series and the Adventures of Alexis Davenport series. She has also been published in several anthologies: Battlespace (military sci-fi), Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior (fundraiser), and Ancient New (steampunk/fantasy).

You can find Dr. West and more of her work at

Connect with Shay:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads

Buy the book:

Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | iTunes  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Featured Author: Wendy Tyson

CLP Blog Tours brings Wendy Tyson here today to talk about the second book in her Campbell Mystery series, Deadly Assets.

About the book:

An eccentric Italian heiress from the Finger Lakes. An eighteen-year-old pop star from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Allison Campbell’s latest clients seem worlds apart in every respect, except one: Both women disappear on the same day. And Allison’s colleague Vaughn is the last to have seen each.

Allison’s search for a connection uncovers an intricate web of family secrets, corporate transgressions and an age-old rivalry that crosses continents. The closer Allison gets to the truth, the deadlier her quest becomes. All paths lead back to a sinister Finger Lakes estate and the suicide of a woman thirty years earlier. Allison soon realizes the lives of her clients and the safety of those closest to her aren’t the only things at stake.

Interview with Wendy Tyson

Wendy, what’s the story behind the title of your book? 

A great deal of thought went into choosing the title for Deadly Assets. It was originally called Murderous Looks, but after the book was finished, my editor at Henery Press and I decided we needed a new title. We wanted something that reflected the overall story, the main character’s occupation (image consultant) and that also worked with the cover image.  After brainstorming dozens of potential titles, we both felt Deadly Assets nailed it.

Do you have another job outside of writing? 

I do! I’m an ERISA attorney, which, in my case, means I work on retirement plans. Before that, I practiced corporate and securities law, and before law school I was a therapist in a residential treatment program. Working full-time while writing has its challenges, but my experiences have definitely influenced my ideas. A background in law and psychology can come in handy when you’re plotting murders!

I can see that. How do you get to know your characters? 

I live with them for a long time before I start writing. I think about them while I’m driving, cleaning, exercising and cooking. I do free-writing in spiral notebooks to flesh out their likes, dislikes, histories and motivations. I try to capture the way they look in my mind. Sometimes I’ll live with a character this way for months, or even years. Even after I’ve written a first draft, I’ll go back and free-write about a particular character, especially if I feel like he or she is flat, or if I’m having trouble identifying their motivations or subsequent actions. I think for many authors, characters become like real people. Eventually, I’ll get to a point where my characters enter my dreams — or I’ll see something and find myself thinking “Oh, Allison would like that!”

Which character did you most enjoy writing?

I enjoy writing all of them, but I really like writing Mia. Whereas most of the characters in the Campbell series have reinvented themselves to be more successful, Mia has done the opposite.  At one point, she had it all: the big house on the Philadelphia Main Line, a successful career as an image consultant, a family. After losing her adult daughter in a tragic accident, she gave it all up and moved to a house in the country—alone. When we meet her in Killer Image, she’s still battling the demons of her recent past, but by Deadly Assets, she’s re-discovering a Mia who is completely different from the woman she once was. Mia’s brave and smart and doesn’t care what people think about her or her choices. I have a blast with her.

What would your main character say about you?

Oh, wow — she’d say, “Sweetheart, you could use a few sessions with an image consultant.  Call Vaughn and make an appointment!”

You get to decide who would read your audiobook. Who would you choose? 

Helen Mirren. Probably a little below her pay grade, but I love her voice.

Why dream if you aren't going to dream big? What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)? 

Ann Rice’s Queen of the Damned. It’s a signed paperback copy. I saw Ann Rice speak recently at ThrillerFest and then had the opportunity to attend her book signing. I’ve read many of her novels already, but was inspired to re-read this one after meeting her.  She’s lovely!

What’s your favorite candy bar?

Almond Joy!  While growing up, I detested coconut, but now I love it.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? 

The French Alps. We spent a few weeks in Chamonix, France two summers ago and we loved it. The views, the food, the ready access to Italy, Switzerland, and other parts of France, and the numerous outdoor activities ... very beautiful and peaceful. 

And finally - what are you working on now?  

Several projects! I’m currently writing the third Campbell novel, Dying Brand—look for it in May 2015. I’m also writing a second mystery series — the Delilah Percy Powers series — which features a team of four female private investigators: a displaced cowgirl, a former nun, a militant homemaker, and an ex-stripper. The first novel in that series, The Seduction of Miriam Cross (E-Lit Books), came out last fall, and I’m now writing the second book in the series, The Initiation of Carolyn Wu. And finally, I’m working on a standalone thriller set on the island of Corfu, Greece.

Excerpt from Deadly Assets

The hawk fell from the sky like a bomb, its body graceless in death.  It plummeted through a canopy of oaks, their foliage laced with the vestiges of afternoon sun, and landed just feet from Allison’s bumper in a limp, twisted heap. Heart racing, Allison slammed on the brakes.  She bolted out of the car in time to see a young woman emerge from the forest.  The woman wore a rifle slung over one shoulder, a rucksack across the other. A wild mane of black hair flew behind her like a cape.

“That one's mine,” the woman shouted. “Don't touch it!”

Allison glanced down at the dead hawk with equal parts sympathy and disgust. She certainly had no intention of touching it. 

“Bastard's murdered a dozen chickens in two weeks.  Damn thing had it coming.” The woman leaned down, grabbed the bird by the throat and shoved it into the canvas satchel. Finished, she looked up at Allison as though registering for the first time the presence of a stranger on her property. “Who are you?”

“Allison Campbell.  The image consultant.”  Allison started to hold out her hand, but with a second look at the rifle, opted instead for a friendly nod.

The woman harrumphed a hello, wiped her hands on her jeans, and gestured toward the house behind them. “I suppose you're here for Francesca.”

“Is she ready for me?”

The woman shrugged. She was in her late twenties, lean and muscular, and now that she was closer, Allison could see the face beneath the hair. Beautiful features–dark almond-shaped eyes, a regal nose, full lips, and high, defined cheekbones–clashed with an almost savage indifference. 

Allison tore her gaze from the woman with the gun and looked around at her surroundings, too startled by the bird to have taken in the Benini estate–the home of her potential client, Francesca Benini–before now.  The house lay sprawled across a hilltop, fronted by woodland that sloped down to the angry edge of Cayuga Lake. A winding driveway meandered its way up the hill, ending in a semi-circle in front of the house. The town of Ithaca was visible in the distance, an urban island in a sea of forest and farmland.

The house itself stood as testament to Benini Enterprises’ dwindling finances. A dilapidated three-winged monstrosity with a triple gabled front, a look-out tower and multiple entries, its wood trim was in desperate need of paint. Small patches of stucco had disappeared off the fascia, leaving scars like pockmarks across the broad facade. The building’s height blocked out the sun and shadows slashed across a yard that was unkempt around the edges.
It was a warm August day. Storm clouds bruised the distant skies, and a sticky breeze offered no relief from the heat.  Allison wiped the sweat beading along her brow.  Her attention now back on the young woman, she asked, “And you are?” 

But before the woman could respond, the front door flung open and a tall, athletic-looking man in his early forties came down the steps toward them. He was slim, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, and his movements were quick and elegant, especially for a man of his height. A day or two’s worth of stubble gave a rakish air to a strong nose, sharp cheekbones and smooth olive skin. And, most noticeable of all, were his cerulean-colored eyes, which pierced Allison's own with a knife-like gaze.

He flashed Allison an apologetic smile. “Please ignore my sister, Maria. I’m Alessandro Benini. Most people call me Alex.” He held out his hand. “You must be here for my aunt.  Let’s get you inside where it’s cool.” To Maria, he said, “Don't just stand there gawking. Do something with that bird.”

About the author:

Wendy Tyson is a corporate lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers.  She’s the author of three crime novels.  Her latest, Deadly Assets, the second Allison Campbell mystery, was released on July 22. The first Campbell novel, Killer Image, was named by as one of the ten best mysteries for book clubs in 2014. She’s also written The Seduction of Miriam Cross. Wendy lives near Philadelphia with her husband, three sons, and two muses, dogs Molly and Driggs.

Connect with Wendy:

Website | Twitter | Facebook

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo  

Books by Wendy Tyson:

Killer Image (Campbell Mystery No. 1) |
Deadly Assets (Campbell Mystery No. 2)
The Seduction of Miriam Cross