Friday, May 24, 2019

FEATURED CHARACTER: JEFF BOND'S DEB BOLLINGER






ABOUT THE BOOK


Big Tech meets Die Hard in this techno-thriller Kirkus Reviews calls "a clever, spirited tale with a brainy, nimble heroine at the helm."



From IndieReader's 5 star (highest rating) review:
"Bond weaves an entertaining story filled with deceit, robots, Russians, and tech entrepreneurs that all combine to give the reader a reason to flip pages furiously to find out what might happen next.

"

Deb Bollinger has no time for corporate training.



Her company’s top engineer at just twenty-seven, Deb has blocked off her day for the one project she truly cares about: the launch of Carebnb, an app that finds spare beds for the homeless. When she’s told all employees must drop everything for some busywork exercise called Blackquest 40, it’s an easy no.



Trouble is, her bosses aren’t really asking.



Blackquest 40 is the mother of all corporate trainings. A near-impossible project to be completed in forty straight hours. No phones. No internet. Sleeping on cots. Nobody in, nobody out. Deb finds the whole setup creepy and authoritarian. When a Carebnb issue necessitates her leaving the office, she heads for the door.



What’s the worst that could happen?



Armed commandos, HVAC-duct chases, a catastrophic master plan that gets darker by the hour — Blackquest 40 is a fresh take on the Die Hard formula, layering smart-drones and a modern heroine onto the classic action tale.



Book Details:

Title: Blackquest 40

Author: Jeff Bond

Genre: Techno-thriller


Publisher: Jeff Bond books (May 15th, 2019)


Print length: 348 pages









ABOUT JEFF BOND'S CHARACTER, DEB BOLLINGER


Race: Caucasian

Age: 27

Height: 5’2”

Weight: Hundred-odd pounds

Build: Wiry

Hair color: Blond

Hair style: Short, spiked

Eye color: Green

Relationship status: Single/occasionally dating

Name of romantic partner: Liz

Distinguishing features: Deb blends just fine on the San Francisco coffee shop circuit, but at the office – among her engineering coworkers, who’re 90 percent male and homogenous as Safeway milk? She sticks out like some freak-colored poisonous frog.

Mental handicaps: Deb’s mother lives at Crestwood Psychiatric, a schizophrenia care facility. Deb is prone to occasional disorientations herself; “One ear seems to accelerate to the floor while the other flies off my head, then they flip, then flop, then flip again—like some sadistic kid is yanking kite strings.” She worries these could be precursors to her mother’s disease.

Does she have any quirks? Deb is a robotics and software engineering savant whose workspace is a veritable cornucopia of gizmos: Raven, her trusty solar-powered quadcopter drone; a bin of remote-controlled Hot Wheels; her buggy mechanical dragonflies (which suck at flying); and Hedgehog Eleanor Roosevelt, who she built as a peacenik entry in a battle bot competition while at MIT.


PERSONALITY
What is Deb’s favorite catchphrase?
When Deb needs to establish ground rules for new male coworkers who seem skeevy, she simply states, “I’m gay.”

Is she optimistic or pessimistic?
Depends. Deb keeps a “Polarity of the Universe” toggle on her desktop. As Blackquest 40 begins, it’s set to Amoral. Other settings include Good and Evil.



Does she have any bad habits?
Once daily, she sends her buggy dragonflies to secretly film Jared—her slovenly coworker with a demonstrated penchant for harassment—to make sure he’s behaving. Deb realizes this is an abuse of power but doesn’t consider it a bad habit, per se.

What is her strongest character trait?
A desire to do good. Deb pours her spare time—and much of her non-spare time at Codewise Solutions—into an app she built called Carebnb, which matches up the homeless with hosts willing to share spare beds in their homes.

What is her weakest character trait?
Cynicism—particularly towards people who don’t share her worldview.

What is her obsession?
Solving homelessness, the plight she shared with her mother.

What is her pet peeve?
Software engineers who don’t properly indent their code.

What is her greatest achievement? 


The Carebnb launch, which—as cruel fate would have it—is scheduled for the same day that Deb’s bosses impose Blackquest 40 on the firm.

Where’s her favorite hangout place? 


Simple Pleasures, a café just down the street from her apartment in the Outer Richmond—a western neighborhood of San Francisco.


What is her password? 

Wouldn’t you like to know.



What is her favorite food? 

Bánh mì.


Is she superstitious?
Deb weirdly won’t kick off a program if her cursor isn’t at the beginning of a line.

Is she a messy or a neat housekeeper?

Neat—but she can’t take credit. She’s not home enough to make messes.

What does she do first thing on a weekday morning? 

Ensure none of her gizmos have become sentient and hidden her hair gel for laughs.

What does she do on a Sunday afternoon?


Either code or troubleshoot Carebnb problems in the field, among the homeless.

What does she do on a Friday night?

Ditto.

What is her soft drink of choice? 


Kombucha.

What is her alcoholic drink of choice? 

She’ll drink a straight-up whiskey with Cecil or froofy drink if a girlfriend’s into them, but Deb doesn’t go out of her way to impair her own mental faculties.

How does she feel about herself? 

Meh. Deb feels proud of her interpersonal integrity—she calls BS when she sees it, to your face—but angsty about the percentage of her career devoted to work she doesn’t care about.


Is there any aspect of herself that she is blind to?

Deb doesn’t see the world from other people’s perspective. At all.

Does she make a positive or negative first impression? 

Depends how you feel about bike messengers with androgynous hair and attitude.

Does that impression hold up?

Depends how you feel about good-hearted geniuses with no verbal filters.


FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Does she have a big or small family? 

Small: just Deb and her mother.

What is her perception of family? 


Deb is fiercely protective of her mother, often confronting Crestwood Psychiatric orderlies about her dosages.

Describe her best friend. 

Deb has been variously close—manically, desperately—with women she’s dated, but doesn’t have a prototypical best friend otherwise. She might call Cecil a half-friend, half-father figure.


Does she have any pets? 

Nope. No time.


Who are her enemies? 

Jared Ackerman: the embodiment of all that is wrong with Tech Bro culture.


Is she in a relationship? 

As the novel starts, Deb is between relationships.


Has she ever had her heart broken? 


On page 323 of Blackquest 40.


Does she have a sidekick? 

Deb would never demean Prisha—the woman she and Susan hired out of Cal-Berkeley—with the term “sidekick,” but, yes, Prisha would fit the commonly understood definition.


CONFLICT

How does she respond to a threat? 

Vigorously.

Is she most likely to fight with her fists or her tongue? 

Yes.

What is her kryptonite?
Corporate-speak. She feels it on her skin like eel slime.

What does she love to hate? 

Fakers.

What are her phobias?

Institutions taking advantage of her mother. Life passing without purpose.

What is her choice of weapon? 

Robot.

Does she have a secret? 

The percent of her Codewise work hours that are, in fact, devoted to Carebnb. Deb’s contract stipulates 25 percent, and she kinda…sorta…well, actually, not at all, complies.

Does she carry a weapon? 

Deb’s politics prevent her from carrying a weapon, but by the end of Blackquest 40? You bet.


WORK, EDUCATION, AND HOBBIES

What is her current job? 

Principal software engineer, Codewise Industries.

What does she think about her current job?

It’s a paycheck.

What is her educational background? 

Deb entered MIT at age sixteen, graduating with a double major in robotics and gender studies. She then received her PhD from Harvard in computational science and engineering.

Does she have a natural talent for something? 

Deb’s graduate advisor at Harvard once told his department chair, “If I can only have one human to defend the planet when our alien overlords arrive, I’ll take Deb Bollinger.”


POSSESSIONS

What is in her fridge? 

Cold air.

What is on her bedside table? 

Programming manuals.

What is in her car? 

Deb, a faithful rider of SF muni, owns no car.

What is in her pockets? 

A Google phone, which she largely designed and built at Google before jumping ship to Codewise.

What is her most treasured possession? 

Deb doesn’t treasure possessions, but losing Raven—her trusty quadcopter drone—would be super awful.


MISCELLANEOUS

If she could call one person for help, who would it be?

Cecil, the homeless man who’s known her since she was a baby, “When her mother would push her around in a cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked Deb through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught her the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through her septum in fifth.”

What would she do if she won the lottery? 

Plow the money into solving homelessness and other societal ills.

What would she ask a fortune teller? 

Will the launch of Carebnb succeed? If not, why?—what can I fix?



EXCERPT FROM BLACKQUEST 40




I am in the middle of solving homelessness when my boss raps his knuckles on my cubicle border. I know it's Paul - my eyes stay on the computer monitor, what with an intractable social ill hanging in the balance - by the timid tap...     tap-tap pattern. Also the smell. Paul eats McDonald's every morning for breakfast. He's a Sausage McGriddle man.
"Deb, we're heading up to the meeting - "
"Busy." I squint around the San Francisco street map on-screen, mousing over a blinking dot labeled Wanda. She isn't moving. None of them are moving.
Paul sighs. "We're all busy. But it's a Company-All, so if you - "
"Is it a Susan meeting?"
"No. It's the kickoff for Blackquest 40."
"Means nothing to me." I click Wanda. Why aren't they moving? Database problem?
Paul says the meeting invite should have explained everything. Blackquest 40 is a training exercise, mandatory for every employee in the company.
I look up and see that, indeed, he has the whole team in tow. Jared in his My Code Can't Fix Your Stupid trucker hat. Minosh fingering his spiral-bound notebook, peeking at a clock. They are watching me - all 5'2" if you count the platinum spikes, and a decade younger than them - like zoo visitors wondering if the glass is thick enough around this freak-colored poison frog.
"Susan hired me," I say, invoking our rockstar CEO again. "Susan said I don't have to participate in anything I don't believe in."
"Look, this project - "
"Is corporate training. High on my list of things to not believe in."
With that, I pop over to the log file, which confirms my worst fear: the Carebnb database isn't refreshing. The last GPS coordinates are from eight minutes ago, meaning Wanda and every other unhoused person on that map is misplaced.
Ugh.
The timing is brutal. Today is my launch, the day I am supposed to start demonstrating to all the venture capitalists not funding my side project that a little technology plus basic human decency can equal disruptive positive change.
Across the city, 137 unhoused San Franciscans are wearing 137 smart wristbands, produced at great expense by a local micro-manufacture co-op, in the hopes of connecting with a beta host. I signed up 344 hosts, but that number is dicey because many I bullied into joining. Some will have uninstalled the Carebnb app, not anticipating that I'll soon be combing my list for chicken-outs and visiting their apartments to measure, then post on social media, just how many square feet of covered living space they waste nightly.
My brain races for solutions, but Paul's voice and eau de McGriddle distract me. He's explaining that Susan is out of pocket tying up loose ends in Davos, that Carter Kotanchek has the ball until -
"Okay Paul, honestly?" I click over to the T server, the probable source of my issue. "There is no combination of words or faux-words you can say that will get me off this workstation."
"You're the principal software architect, Deb," he says. "We need you. I'm still in the dark myself, but I'm hearing Blackquest 40 is enormous."
My mouth twists. "Getting colder."
Paul hates managing me. I'm sure he goes home every night to Li Wei, his former-secretary-now-wife, and curses Susan for poaching me away from Google.
Now, as his eyes roam my workspace - hemp satchel, bin of droid Hot Wheels, Polarity of the Universe toggle currently set to Amoral, my toes in their sandals (he has a pervy thing for my feet) - his face drops another shade closer to dough.
He looks at my screen. "How much time are you spending on Carebnb?"
"Twenty-five percent, just like my contract says." I manage to keep a straight face.
It's a required Company-All. You don't badge in, you lose network privileges. It would set you back."
"You can void that."
"I can." Paul taps his ample jowls, thoughtfully paternal. "But I won't."
I've been working throughout our exchange, deciphering error messages, rebooting, tweaking this and that...     nothing is helping.
I grit my teeth. Resetting my network privileges would be a big, sticky wad of red tape.
"Fine," I say, "I'll do the meeting. But I am still not participating in this Blockquest deal."
"Blackquest."
"Whatever." I can bring my laptop and troubleshoot from the conference room. "Our queue is about ten miles long - whose bright idea was some lame time-suck training?"
Paul grimaces. "Carter is driving it."
Carter Kotanchek, our chief financial officer, is warring with Paul about the makeup of the Codewise Solutions workforce. Paul favors programmers in keeping with our reputation as the leading machine-learning and optimization company on the planet.
Carter wants more salespeople and has a knack for finding third-party vendors who sport the same Gatsby slickback he does. Inexplicably, Carter is winning.
The engineers behind Paul knock in place like pens in a mug, waiting.
I flop my wrist toward the elevators. "Go, go - I'll catch up. Two minutes."
They go. Paul lowers his gaze in a final I know you will choose wisely appeal.
I focus on my screen with a wonderfully McGriddle-free breath, then try refreshing the database.
DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.
I rejigger a script and try again.
DENIED: CONNECTIVITY ERROR 612.
Same error every time.
This is infuriating. Have I been found out? I never officially informed Paul about routing Carebnb's unhoused-person GPS data through T, Codewise's least busy server. Did he shut me down without telling me? Coincidentally on my most important day of the year?
No way. Paul would write a huffy email or file a ticket. He won't refill our departmental stash of teabags without paperwork.
My calendar bleeps. YOU HAVE NOT BADGED INTO BLACKQUEST 40 KICKOFF (ORGANIZER: CARTER K.); NETWORK PRIVILEGES WILL RESET IN 4 MINUTES.
I stand and grab my laptop, then remember it doesn't have the software to access the T server. I won't be able to troubleshoot during the meeting after all. I'll be forced to sit there and eat an hour's worth of corporate mumbo-jumbo.
"Raven!" I call over my shoulder.
My trusty solar-powered quadcopter perks up. She hums around to my sightline, her underside dome blipping green to indicate her attention.
"Attend meeting in conference room 6-A. Badge in. Watch, back row. Record."
Raven processes each command using natural language algorithms I wrote in grad school, then lowers her claw - repurposed off a junked arcade game - to accept my keycard.
As the drone whispers up the hall, I feel a twinge of unease. She's attended meetings in my stead before but never on a different floor. She will need to push a button, read a floor indicator, possibly accommodate human riders...     logic I have given her but not thoroughly stress-tested. It's asking a lot.
I work another five minutes without success.
Air blasts through my nostrils.
I need eyes on a live wristband.
I grab the phone and dial Cecil, my go-to trial user. Cecil has known me since I was a baby, when Mom would push me around in her cart, snuggled in among dumpster scraps and Styrofoam peanuts. Cecil walked me through the roughest part of the city every day of second grade, and taught me the nutcracker choke after a kid pushed a shiv through my septum in fifth.
"Lil Deb, yo," he answers in a deep baritone.
"Cec! Hey Cec, I'm seeing weirdness on my end and I need to know if you - "
"How's your mom?"
"Oh, she's cool, I talked to the orderlies and - "
"They're keeping her meds straight?"
"No no, yeah, it's all good," I say - Cecil is so unfailingly polite you have to move him along sometimes - "listen, what are you seeing with Carebnb? Is your wristband working?"
"Think so."
"Green light?"
"Yep."
"Map of available host beds showing up?"
"Yep."
"How many hosts in range? My database wonked and I gotta know if the problem is local or if peer-to-peer transfers are broken too."
A guttural breath over the line. "English, Deb. Regular English please."
I grip the keyboard tray, slow myself down. "Could we possibly meet? I think I have to see the wristband myself to diagnose this. Sorry, I hate to inconvenience you."
"I'm homeless. Where else I gotta go."
"Right. How about our usual spot, say twenty minutes?"
Before he can respond, the call drops. Bzzzzzzzzzz.
I clench my jaw and redial.
NO SERVICE.
I stand and waggle my phone outside my cube, I walk to the window, I glare at the Verizon logo and telepathically threaten to hack their transceivers to mush if they don't find me a signal.
Nada.
I plunk back down. I'm contemplating flipping my Polarity of the Universe toggle to Evil when a tinny sound announces the presence of a new window on my monitor: Raven's livestream.
She made it up to the Blackquest kickoff meeting. Atta girl. I resize the window to span my entire screen and watch as the big conference room comes into focus.
The Company-All is underway. Carter Kotanchek stands at the podium in a dapper summer-weight suit. Raven's camera won't win any TechCrunch awards, but Carter's teeth still gleam from the middle of a plastic grin.
"Like y't'meet Jim Dawson," he says, introducing a stone-faced man in chunky glasses. "Jim here runs Elite Development, the company that will be facilitating Blackquest 40. Guys are doing phenomenal stuff in a new space called Extreme Readiness. Helping organizations build capability to complete projects of extreme complexity, requiring extreme teamwork, on extreme deadlines. So far they've been working with high-leverage government agencies, paramilitary, et cetera. We, ladies and gents, are fortunate enough to be corporate client number one."
Dawson, in a bland accent - Ohio? Indiana? - thanks Carter and says he's pleased to be here today. Excited for our shared journey.
Gag. So not participating.
As my focus returns to Carebnb, I groan at the ceiling. I need to test a wristband, but if I can't meet Cecil...     hmm. I have a few spares lying around, but none are initialized.
I'm figuring how long initialization would take - and how true a read I'd get from a wristband not in the field - when I hear something that stops me cold.
"...     campus quarantine and data blockade will remain in place for the duration of Blackquest 40. If you absolutely require outside contact, in case of emergency or vital family obligation, a protocol exists...    "
Wait, data blockade? I rewind Raven's feed and replay the last fifteen seconds. Elite Development, in the name of "improved focus and personal efficiency," is collecting every cellphone in the building and blocking all inbound-outbound internet traffic.
I feel slight queasiness at the authoritarianism of the whole setup, but mostly relief. Because now I get it. These jerks shut down T. They killed my call. Probably they're using some military-grade antenna to zap cellular signals, and a simple software block on the servers.
And that won't stop me.
***
Excerpt from Blackquest 40 by Jeff Bond.  Copyright © 2019 by Bond. Reproduced with permission from Bond. All rights reserved.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Jeff Bond is a Kansas native and graduate of Yale University. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Michigan, and belongs to the International Thriller Writers Association.


Connect with Jeff:

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Buy the book:
Amazon















Wednesday, May 22, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: KATHLEEN BRIDGE




ABOUT THE BOOK


When a murderer crashes a masquerade ball, it's up to Liz to unmask the killer . . .    
 


It's been quite a year for novelist Liz Holt. She's overcome a lot and is finally feeling at peace with her new life at her family's hotel, the Indialantic by the Sea, on the beautiful barrier island of Melbourne Beach, Florida. She's exactly where she needs to be to ring in the New Year at the Florida Writes Literary Masquerade Ball.
 


But when her ex-boyfriend surprises her at the ball, she can't disguise her anger, and the two engage in a very public argument. Naturally, after her ex is found dead on the hotel grounds, shot through the heart, Liz tops the suspect list. With the help of family and friends, she needs to clear her name before the real killer waltzes away scot-free . . .


Book Details:

Title: Murder by the Sea

Author: Kathleen Bridge

Genre: Cozy mystery


Series: A By the Sea Mystery, Book number 3

Publisher: Lyrical/Kensington (May 21, 2019)


Print length: 204 pages








IFs ANDs OR WHATs INTERVIEW WITH KATHLEEN BRIDGE


Ifs



If you could talk to anyone, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Louise Penny. I would ask her about her writing process and tell her how big a fan I am.

If you could talk to someone no longer living, who would it be and what would you ask them? That would be Dame Agatha Christie. I would ask her how shedunit! To have sold the most books in the world besides the Bible is pretty astounding.

If you could live in any time period which would it be?
I think I would pick the late-19th century. I believe in another life I was a governess working at a dark and mysterious castle on the moors—Can we say Jane Eyre?

If you could be anything besides a writer, what would it be?
Can’t think of anything. I’m living my dream.

If you were on the Amazon bestseller list, who would you choose to be one before and one below you?

Louise Penny before, James Patterson below.



Ands



5 favorite possessions:  
-my antique Underwood
-typewriter for inspiration
-
my WRITER coffee mug my daughter bought me 

my collection of antique 19th century books

AND
-my oil lighthouse painting
my framed family photos

5 things you need in order to write
-Coffee

-reading glasses 

-Montauk baggy T-shirt 

-laptop

AND
-classical music in the background

5 things you love about where you live: 
-my cozy cottage
-
the Atlantic Ocean a block away
-
the Florida birds

-Sea Turtles 

AND
-the great restaurants on the water

5 favorite foods:  
-Duck Foie Gras

-brownies

-beets

-anything Mexican
AND
-Stove Top Stuffing with melted cheese on top and sour cream

5 things you always put in your books:  
-Recipes
-history
-the ocean
-cottages on the beach
AND
-a cozy sense of family and friends


Whats


What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
I used to play an extra in TV and movies.

What’s your favorite/most visited Internet site?
Pinterest, I love crafting, cooking, fashion, vintage décor etc.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Montauk.

What’s your favorite thing to do?
Read.

What’s your favorite quote?
It’s never to late to be what you might have been. –George Eliot (Mary Evans)

What’s your favorite candy bar?
Pay Day.

What’s your favorite color?
Aqua.

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
Phone.

What drives you crazy?
Close-minded people.

What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
My latest book.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Not to sweat the small stuff.

What do you collect?
Antiques, Vintage, Books.



What book are you currently working on?
Evil by the Sea, the 4th By the Sea Mystery and Hamptons Scream House, the 4th Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery.

What’s your all-time favorite place?
London.

What’s your all-time favorite memory?
Giving birth to my children.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
To Kill a Mockingbird.

What’s your all-time favorite library?
The NYC main Public Library, the one with the lions Patience and Fortitude at the entrance.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
Food: Avocado toast on homemade whole-grain bread.
Music: Contemporary Country, I’m a late bloomer to country music, but loving it.
Movie: A Star is Born.
Book: Murder at Ochre Court, Newport Historical Mystery by Alyssa Maxwell.
Audiobook: Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny.
TV: Poldark and The Durrells in Corfu (PBS—my fav).
Netflix/Amazon Prime: The Night Manager.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

National Bestselling author Kathleen Bridge started her writing career at the Michigan State News in East Lansing, Michigan. She is the author of the Hamptons Home and Garden Mysteries: Better Homes and Corpses, Hearse and Gardens, Ghostal Living. She is also the author of the A By the Sea Mysteries: Death By the Sea, A Killing by the Sea, and Murder by the Sea. Kathleen is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and blissfully lives on a barrier island on Florida's central east coast.


Connect with Kathleen:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  Pinterest 

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo







Monday, May 20, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: CHARLES SALZBERG




ABOUT THE BOOK


When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who's swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can't say no. Although he doesn't actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner's mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortunetellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.



While working his partner's case, he's approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who's scheduled to go on trial in a week for murder he claims he didn't commit. Swann's search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant's girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the bay from Mobile, Alabama. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?


Book Details:


Title: Swann’s Down,

Author: Charles Salzberg

Genre: Detective/Crime
Series: Henry Swann Mystery, book 5

Publisher: Down & Out Books (May 20, 2019)

Print length: 300 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours








LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH CHARLES SALZBERG



Things you need in order to write: all I need is my computer and the will to actually sit down at it and write.
Things that hamper your writing: just about everything. What I mean is that I am always distracted by “shiny” objects. In other words, I’ll use every possible excuse not to write.


Things you love about writing: what I like best is having written. But in terms of what I love about writing is seeing these letters magically appear on the page when I press down on a key. And then seeing them form words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. And there’s nothing better than the feeling of thinking you’ve written a perfect sentence. Of course, as soon as I think that I begin to think it’s probably the worst sentence I’ve ever written.
Things you hate about writing: seeing that blank page.

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.

Hardest thing about being a writer: writing.

Things you love about where you live: I live in New York City, and I’d never live anywhere else. I love the energy the city gives off. I love knowing that at any time of day or night there’s someone out on the street and there’s some restaurant and drug store that’s open.
Things that make you want to move: absolutely nothing. I don’t care how noisy or dirty or loud or crowded it gets, I’m here for the long haul.


Things you never want to run out of: ketchup.
Things you wish you’d never bought: all those clothes in the back of my closets and drawers that I never wear but am too lazy to throw out or give away.


Favorite foods: pasta; anything Mexican; hamburgers; lamb chops; fries.
Things that make you want to throw up: tongue, beets (although the latter I just retch a little).

Favorite music or song: very eclectic. Blues, classic rock, country, classical, or any combination of the aforesaid. Anything by the Beetles or the Stones or The Band.
Music that make your ears bleed: that kind of disco that mimics your heart beat.

Something you’re really good at: I’d like to say everything but then everyone who knows me would know I’m a liar. I’ve always been good at sports, remembering people’s names, and typing—I can type around 90 words a minute. And I have an excellent memory for the spoken word. If you say something, I will remember it forever, almost word for word. It’s a talent that came in very handy when I was a journalist for reasons I won’t go into here. I warn my friends, “Don’t say anything to me that you hope I’ll forget.”

Something you’re really bad at: most things requiring good balance: bicycle riding, roller skating, ice skating, and driving a car. For the latter, I learned but never got a license, and I think I’ve probably saved hundreds of lives because it.

Something you wish you could do: ride a bike.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: I love learning new things, so I can’t imagine something I’ve learned to do that I wish I didn’t—except maybe washing dishes.

People you consider as heroes: anyone with a disability, no matter how large or small; anyone who lives life in a way that doesn’t harm anyone or themselves.
People with a big L on their foreheads: people who hate or belittle other people; people who are intolerant; bullies; people who think they know who you are but really haven’t the slightest idea.

Things you’d walk a mile for: I’d walk a mile for just about anything because I love walking, especially here in New York. But please don’t call it hiking! I associate that with climbing up, and that’s far too much work. I’d also walk a mile, more than a mile, actually, to help out a friend.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: boring people and people who are boors.

Things you always put in your books: information about something I didn’t know before I started writing the book, and that includes anything about myself. I always try to make my books about something and have them take place in worlds I’m not all that familiar with.

Things you never put in your books: if hardly ever counts, then it would be love scenes.

Things to say to an author: “I’ve read your books and I love every single word you’ve ever written.” And “When can I expect your next one?”

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Have I ever heard of you?”

“Have I ever read anything you’ve written?”

“I read your book and loaned it to three other people.” 

“I took your book out of the library (don’t get me wrong, I love libraries, but we actually want you to buy our books so we can write another one, not so we can get rich, which for a writer is pretty much impossible.) 

“On page 142 there’s a mistake . . .”

Favorite books: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow, Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth, The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett, Naked and the Dead and The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer, In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, anything by Margaret Drabble and Jean Rhys, Desperadoes by Ron Hansen.

Books you would ban: not a single one. Ever. No matter what was in it.

Most embarrassing moment: every single moment of the day . . . and that can even include sleeping hours.

Proudest moment: when I first saw my name in print . . . it was a magazine article in the Daily News Sunday magazine.

Best thing you’ve ever done: learned to say yes to everything. It’s the underlying reason behind every single thing I’ve accomplished, from being published to teaching to taking jobs I had no business taking.

Biggest mistake: saying no when I should have said yes. And giving in to my shyness and not asking for something I wanted.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: quit my job in the mailroom at New York Magazine, while having very little in the bank, not having another job lined up, and not having published a single thing.

Something you chickened out from doing: the page isn’t long enough to list the things I’ve chickened out of doing but what comes immediately to mind is being too shy to ask out a woman I found interesting and attractive, and not standing up for myself when I should have.




EXCERPT FROM SWANN'S DOWN

1
The Age of Aquarius


"We're partners, right?"
Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.
"I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?" he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.
"I think you're confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I'm afraid that's not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you've started."
We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as "business." I have another name for it: waste of time.
Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today's eatery of choice (Goldblatt's choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we'd just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.
At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank--okay, let's be honest, no dough in the bank--and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don't like to admit it, lately it's been my "partner," as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who's brought in the bulk of our clients.
We'd already finished eating--though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don't apply the brakes--and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man's land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we'd be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he's still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.
"I'll get right to the point," he said.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don't want to have anything to do with.
"That would be nice," I said, reaching for my wallet. "What is your point?"
"I need to hire you."
I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
"Really? To do what?"
"I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it's not really for me. It's for my ex-wife."
Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I'd never even considered.
"You…you've been married?" I stammered.
Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn't exactly anyone's idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.
"Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact."
"Holy Cow," I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. "You're kidding me?"
At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.
"This is not something a man usually kids about."
"How many times?"
He held up three fingers.
"Three times! You've been married three times?"
"Yeah."
I gulped.
"Are you married now?"
He shook his head. "Nah. I'm kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I'll be back in the saddle again soon enough."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. You've been married three times and now you're single but you would consider getting married again?"
"Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate."
You're fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I'd already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn't have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.
"Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I'm one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too."
He smiled and puffed out his chest. "What can I say, Swann? I'm a friggin' babe magnet."
I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he'd been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt's mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.
Still in shock, I avoided our weekly "who's paying for this meal" tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet...again.
"So, wanna know the story?" he asked.
"Which story would that be?"
"The story of why I want to hire you?"
"Desperately."
***
Excerpt from Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg.  Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.




OTHER BOOKS BY CHARLES SALZBERG







ABOUT THE AUTHOR 


Charles Salzberg is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Henry Swann Detective series, Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann’s Way Out, and Swann’s Down. He is also author of Devil in the Hole, which was named one of the best crime novels of 2013, and Second Story Man, which won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Crime Fiction in 2018. His novellas, Twist of Fate and The Maybrick Affair, were included in the collections Triple Shot and Three Strikes.

He is a former magazine journalist, whose work has appeared in New York Magazine, Esquire, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review, GQ and other periodicals; and he has written over two dozen nonfiction books including Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times, with Soupy Sales, and From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA.

Charles was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is also on the MWA-NY Board.


Connect with Charles:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble





Saturday, May 18, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: KATE YOUNG



ABOUT THE BOOK


Life has always been sweet on Georgia’s Peach Cove Island, but a case of murder has Marygene Brown down in the pits . . .
 


For generations, the women of the Brown family on Peach Cove Island have been known for their Southern sass and sweet homemade desserts at their beloved Peach Diner. Since their mother's passing two years ago, Marygene has been stuck in Atlanta while her sister Jena Lynn has been running the family business. Now Marygene has left her husband and returned to her hometown, where she can almost feel Mama's presence.



But all is not peachy back home. Marygene has barely tied on an apron when a diner regular drops dead at the counter. When it turns out the old man's been poisoned, Jena Lynn is led away in handcuffs and the family eatery is closed. Now, to save her sister and the diner, Marygene must find the real killer. With some startling assistance from her Mama's spirit, Marygene will be serving up a special order of just desserts . . .



Includes Seven Recipes from Marygene’s Kitchen!



Book Details:


Title: Southern Sass and Killer Cravings


Author: Kate Young


Genre: Cozy mystery


Series: Marygene Brown Mysteries


Publish date: Publisher: Kensington (May 28, 2019)


Print length: 368 pages






   


LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH KATE YOUNG


A few of your favorite things:
good cookware and kitchen gadgets (Le Creuset, Green Pans, KitchenAid Mixer, Instant Pot, and Silpat Mats): book collection; and photo albums.
Things you need to throw out: I declutter often, so as of this moment not much. I probably could use a closet clean out. 


Things you need in order to write: coffee, my Mac and noise canceling Bose headphones.
Things that hamper your writing: three kids (hence the Bose headphones). Love ‘em anyway. lol. 

Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.


Hardest thing about being a writer: marketing.

Things you never want to run out of: coffee, dark chocolate, and fixings for a great charcuterie or cheese board.
Things you wish you’d never bought: food dehydrator (don’t ask. lol).

Favorite foods: Mexican, Italian, and good ole Southern Chicken Fried Chicken with lots of white gravy.
Things that make you want to throw up: anchovies.

Favorite music or song: anything from country to pop.
Music that make your ears bleed: not a fan of rap.

Favorite beverage: coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: bad coffee.

Something you’re really good at: cooking. Being in the kitchen makes my heart sing. 

Something you’re really bad at: organization. You don’t want to see the inside my kitchen cabinets.



Last best thing you ate: oh my, that’s a tough one. Hmm. Lobster ravioli with truffle butter.
Last thing you regret eating: Probably the Lobster ravioli with truffle butter. I have a love/hate relationship with amazing food. I love it too much sometimes.

Things you’d walk a mile for: a great Italian cream cake.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: public speaking terrifies me. I can do it, but if I ponder it too long beforehand, I’m tempted to run screaming from the room. Lol.

Things you always put in your books: strong female leads
.
Things you never put in your books: explicit sex and graphic violence will never make it into my cozies.

Things to say to an author: I love your book, and I’ve reviewed it everywhere! 

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: Can’t think of a thing.

Favorite places you’ve been: Ireland.
Places you never want to go to again: Haven’t been there yet.

Favorite books: mysteries, thrillers, historical, and some fantasy
.
Books you would ban: none. I don’t believe books should be banned.

Favorite things to do: reading, traveling, sun bathing, anything out doors with the fam. 

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: again, public speaking.

Things that make you happy: a clean house; spending time with friends and family; beach reading; and really good food.

Things that drive you crazy: clutter.

Best thing you’ve ever done: having a family. Love my hubby and kiddos. 

Biggest mistake: hmm. Back in my catering days, I got in a hurry and stacked a wedding cake warm . . . Big crumbling mistake . . .


BOOK TRAILER








ABOUT THE AUTHOR 



Kate Young writes Southern mystery novels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Guppy Chapter. Kate lives in a small town in Georgia with her husband, three kids, and Shih Tzu. When she is not writing her own books, she’s reading or cooking.

Connect with Kate:
Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon  |  Barnes & Noble









The author is hosting a pre-order contest!


Click on the link to fill out the form and enter the giveaway. Pre-orders of Southern Sass and Killer Cravings purchased before May 28 will be eligible.


* Grand Prize Winner receives a gorgeous Coach Avenue Tote and Coach wristlet pictured below (value $450) and a $100 gift card to either Amazon or B&N.
​​* 2 Runners up will receive a $10 gift card to either Amazon or B&N and an autographed paperback copy of Southern Sass and Killer Cravings.

Winners will be notified via email and on social media with a pinned post on Kate's fan page, so make sure you like and are following her on Facebook.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: A.S. FENICHEL




ABOUT THE BOOK


Can a broken engagement ignite the spark of true love?
 


Sylvia Dowder had almost made it to the altar when her fiancé unexpectedly became a viscount, and dropped her like a stale crumpet to make a more “suitable” match. Though Sylvia’s heart has been crushed, her spirit has not. She puts her wits and social savvy to use as a secret gossip columnist—and as the Everton Domestic Society’s party planner to the ton. Luckily, she’s not in danger of ever falling for an aristocrat again . . . 


Especially not one like Anthony Braighton, Earl of Grafton. Raised in America, Anthony sees no reason to marry when he can enjoy all the perks of being an eligible earl. Determined to convince his family he doesn’t need a wife, he hires Sylvia to act as hostess and decorator for upcoming parties. Yet Sylvia is as adept at captivating his interest as she is at beautifying his home. And despite this Everton lady’s aversion to titled men, some attractions can’t be denied—and love rarely does go where it’s told . . .


Book Details:


Title: A Lady’s Virtue


Author’s name: A.S. Fenichel


Genre: Regency Historical Romance


Series: Everton Domestic Society


Publisher: Kensington Books/Lyrical Press (March 19, 2019)


Print length: 225 pages


On tour with: Pump Up Your Book







   

LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH A.S. FENICHEL


A few of your favorite things: my husband, my cat, my phone, a nice purse, my books.
Things you need to throw out: old books (let’s say donate), clothes that don’t fit, old stacks of research papers. 


Things you need in order to write: my computer, scrap paper, an expired day planner for plotting, my current day planner for scheduling.
Things that hamper your writing: my phone, social media, drama on SM, my sweet husband. 


Things you love about writing: the blank page before I write the first word; creating a world and developing a great story in that worldl the voices in my head.
Things you hate about writing: the stress of finding a publisher, the first round of editing, the point in every book where I doubt myself.

Things you never want to run out of: wine, coffee, chocolate.
Things you wish you’d never bought: fancy wine glasses, the brown dishes, chocolate.


Words that describe you: tenacious, passionate, smart.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: loud, shy, middle-aged.

Favorite foods: anything Italian, spinach, cucumbers, steak, cheese, chocolate.
Things that make you want to throw up: beets, raw tomatoes, kale.

Favorite beverage: wine, water, tea, coffee.

Something that gives you a pickle face: Kombucha.

Favorite smell: lilacs. 

Something that makes you hold your nose: any kind of musty smell.

Things you always put in your books: empowered women.

Things you never put in your books: domination shown in a positive light.

Things to say to an author: a specific thing you liked in the book.

Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “You should write my story, it would be better than anything you can dream up.”

Favorite places you’ve been: Italy.

Places you never want to go to again: Chicago in winter.

Favorite things to do: cook.

Things you’d run through a fire wearing gasoline pants to get out of doing: dust.

Things that make you happy: my cat, finding new treasures for my house. 

Things that drive you crazy: the news, gossip.

Most daring thing you’ve ever done: ziplining.

Something you chickened out from doing: rollercoaster.



EXCERPT FROM A LADY'S VIRTUE


Late again, Sylvia Dowder ran down the stairs at the Everton Domestic Society as if her skirts were on fire. It was impossible to read her handwritten pages while moving at such a pace, but she needed to send her article to the Weekly Whisper’s editor before the day was out. She’d been late last month and nearly lost her post at the newspaper.
At the bottom of the stairs, she noted her failure to sign the article. Quill in hand, she dripped ink on her brown skirt, leaned on the banister and scribbled Mable Tattler at the bottom. She would ask Gray to have  a footman carry it to Free Market Square. Jumping down the last step brought her up against a wall that toppled her to the floor.
Stunned, she lay still with her papers strewn around her and the light from the transom windows blocked by whatever had felled her.
A masculine, ungloved hand reached toward her. “I’m terribly sorry, miss. Entirely my fault. Are you hurt?” His accent was strange, American perhaps. Having no gloves on, she was hesitant to touch him, but there was no help for it. She couldn’t remain on her back like a turtle. The warmth of his skin traveled up her arm, and her cheeks heated. His fingers were strong and rough. This was no gentleman’s hand. She stood as he eased her to her feet. “Not at all,” she said. “I was distracted.”
He towered over her. At her full height of barely over five feet, she craned her neck and was frozen by the most stunning pair of golden eyes, olive skin and full lips. She blinked to focus on the whole rather than the parts. “Anthony Braighton?”
He bowed over her hand, which he still held firmly in his. “Lady Serena or Sylvia? I’m afraid I don’t know.”
The mention of her twin’s name brought reality crashing back on Sylvia. She pulled her hand back and made a curtsy. “A common mistake, sir. I am Sylvia Dowder. My sister is still living at home.”
Cocking his head, he gawked at her. “And you are now living here at Everton House, Miss Dowder?”
“I have joined the Society.” While he seemed only curious, it still rubbed her wrong, and she forced herself not to defend her decisions. Anthony Braighton was just a rich gentleman from America. His opinion didn’t mean anything.
“Because of Lord March?” The problem with Americans was they said exactly what they thought rather than keeping a conversation polite. Sylvia bit down on the inside of her cheek. The last thing she wanted was to recount the demise of her engagement to Hunter Gautier, the current Viscount of March. She had been so close to the altar before disaster struck. No. She wouldn’t think about that anymore. “My reasons are not your concern, Mr. Braighton. If you’ll excuse me, I have to see the butler.” His eyes were wide. “Have I been rude, Miss Dowder? I assure you, it was not my intention. I only meant to convey that March’s treatment of you was abominable and no one blames you.”
Despite his effort to make things better, his mention of what everyone in London knew of her life and failure only exacerbated her mortification. Still, she could see he was sincere, if mistaken. “There is no harm, Mr. Braighton. I am uninjured.”
“I am pleased to hear that. It seems I have a bad habit of offending the English with regularity.” His smile created the most charming dimple in his left cheek, and his eyes sparkled with mischief.
If she were honest, she did not mind looking at Anthony Braighton.
Best not to be too honest. “I am made of tougher stuff than most.” “Indeed.” That dimple deepened, and he raised an eyebrow. Looking at the pages in her hand, he said, “I’m keeping you from something. Forgive me. I was on my way to see Lady Jane Everton.”
Curiosity over what troubles might bring a rich young man to the Everton Domestic Society warred with her need to have her article delivered to her editor before her deadline passed. Her training as a lady won the battle. She gestured toward the hallway, which led behind the stairs. “Lady Jane’s office is the first door on the right.”
“Thank you, Miss Dowder. Very nice to see you again.”
“And you, Mr. Braighton. If you will excuse me.”
He bowed, and she rushed from the foyer to find Gray, the Evertons’ aging butler.

Excerpt from by A.S. Fenichel.  Copyright © 2018 by A.S. Fenichel. Reproduced with permission from A.S. Fenichel. All rights reserved.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

A.S. Fenichel gave up a successful IT career in New York City to follow her husband to Texas and pursue her lifelong dream of being a professional writer. She's never looked back. 



A.S. adores writing stories filled with love, passion, desire, magic, and maybe a little mayhem tossed in for good measure. Books have always been her perfect escape, and she still relishes diving into one and staying up all night to finish a good story.



Originally from New York, she grew up in New Jersey, and now lives in Missouri with her real life hero, her wonderful husband. When not reading or writing she enjoys cooking, travel, history, and puttering in her garden.





Connect with the author:

Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads

Buy the book:
Amazon   |  Barnes & Noble  |  Book Bub


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

FEATURED AUTHOR: LINDA LOVELY




ABOUT THE BOOK


Vegan Brie Hooker lives and works with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. Brie’s fun farm outreach attempt backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship. 



Believing one of the zealots might be persuaded to see reason, Brie’s free-wheeling friend Mollye convinces her they should call on the young woman. Big mistake. 



Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. 



In her personal life, Brie’s still torn between the town’s two most eligible bachelors. While she’s edging toward a decision, she must first survive a cunning killer adept at crafting murders that look like tragic accidents. 



Will Brie be another “accident” victim? Pay a visit to Udderly Kidding Dairy and find out!


Book Details:


Title: Bad Pick


Author: Linda Lovely


Genre: Cozy mystery


Series: Brie Hooker mystery series, book #3


Publisher: Henery Press (April 16, 2019)


Print length: 274 pages

On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours







   


LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH LINDA LOVELY


A few of your favorite things: books by my favorite mystery/suspense/thriller authors; photos of family and friends that spark memories; my plain gold wedding ring; the sweet-smelling tea olives we planted in our yard.
Things you need to throw out: clothes I’ll never fit into again; decades old computer and paper files; a bowling ball and snow skis, both unused for more than 30 years.


Things you need in order to write: a computer and relative quiet.
Things that hamper your writing: nuisance phone calls.


Easiest thing about being a writer: writing. 

Hardest thing about being a writer: getting discovered in a crowded marketplace; earning a living as a full-time writer.


Words that describe you: optimistic; active imagination; determined; stubborn.
Words that describe you but you wish they didn’t: overweight; slow to let go of grudges.

Favorite foods: almost any pasta dish—lasagna, Fettuccini, stuffed shells . . . turkey and all the fixings that are part of our Thanksgiving menu, and, of course, anything chocolate.
Things that make you want to throw up: okra and other vegetables cooked until they’re mush.

Something you’re really good at: editing other people’s copy; interviewing experts; internet research.

Something you’re really bad at: backing up a car; keeping my temper when I feel someone is exaggerating, lying, or falsely accusing others to try to get their way.  


People you consider as heroes: good mediators who are able to listen to all sides and suggest compromise solutions. The friends and family who put up with all of my foibles.

People with a big L on their foreheads: self-righteous hypocrites, braggarts, bullies (physical or verbal).

Things you always put in your books: smart women; love (for family and/or the opposite sex), and romance. Love and/or romance can increase the stakes when loved ones are in peril. Romantic interests also tell readers a lot about the values and principles of my heroines—and sometimes give insight into their weaknesses.
Things you never put in your books: Gratuitous violence and gore. I prefer to use other vehicles to communicate a villain’s psychosis, lack of empathy, and rage. There’s no need to describe in detail how he/she is torturing someone or every blow a hero/heroine or other victim suffers for the reader to grasp what’s happening. 

Best thing you’ve ever done: Married my husband, who, for more than four decades, has always supported my professional decisions and encouraged me to do what makes me happy.

Biggest mistake: My husband and I once bought a direct mail advertising franchise. The business wasn’t anything like I thought it would be. It’s the only job I ever had that prompted me to cry. Nonetheless, our brief stint in that business taught us skills that served us well in the years to follow.


EXCERPT FROM BAD PICK

ONE

“How many people did you con into trying this goat yoga?” Aunt Eva asked as she slapped two strips of cold bacon in a skillet.
“No conning needed,” I answered. “Everyone’s looking forward to the class.”
“You sure goat yoga’s a good idea?”
I laughed. “I’m sure. People love it. Admittedly, a sense of humor’s required, but it’s caught on all across the country. Why don’t you join the fun? Class starts at three. We don’t have many Sunday customers this time of year. We’ll probably have the farm to ourselves by then. You up for some downward-facing dog?”
“No.” Eva harrumphed. “Don’t go insulting our noble dogs. Bad enough you’ll expose our baby goats to human pretzels. It’s bound to confuse the poor kids. Won’t know which human end is supposed to be up. They’ll think all us two-legged beings are bonkers. So who’s coming?”
“Jayla, our yoga instructor, wanted to limit the trial class to four students so it’s just Mollye, Fara, Mimi, and me.”
I pulled out a bag of frozen blueberries I’d picked at the Happy Berry Farm last summer. While Udderly Kidding Dairy, my home for the past seven months, boasted dozens of blueberry bushes, our four-hundred goats called first dibs on the fruit.
“Oh, and Paint’s shooting video to promote the class,” I added.
Aunt Eva chuckled as she flipped her sizzling bacon strips. “Not a hardship for Paint, videoing young ladies in nothing but skivvies and tutus.”
I glanced heavenward. “We don’t wear tutus. Our workout clothes show less skin than you do on the Fourth of July.”
Eva cocked an eyebrow. “Could be you’re helping Paint select babes for the weeks he’s not your designated beau.”
I opened the cupboard and grabbed a microwave packet of steel-cut oatmeal. “Paint sees a variety of ladies when we’re not dating, and he knows everyone in this class. No behind-the-camera scouting required.”
“Maybe, but as far as I know, he hasn’t seen any of them with their ankles up around their ears.”
“And he won’t today.”
“If you say so, but I swear my old bones creak just looking at some of those yoga contortions.”
Eva cracked two eggs in the hot bacon grease, while I used our microwave—a new kitchen addition—to thaw my frozen berries and heat the oats. My usual February morning fare. At Udderly, we didn’t chow down until the morning chores were done. That meant I was starved and in dire need of a caffeine injection.
Eva glanced over. “So how’s that boyfriend-for-a-week plan working? Who’s ahead in the Brie Hooker heart throb race? Any close calls on the clothing discard clause?”
I smiled. “Paint and Andy try to outdo each other in dreaming up ways to initiate a striptease. Despite their enterprising efforts, the nude- default clause remains unchallenged.”
Last November, I’d agreed to this bizarre boyfriend pact with Andy Green, our veterinarian, and David “Paint” Paynter, an entrepreneurial moonshiner. Though strongly attracted to both thirty-four-year-old hunks, I’d sworn I’d date neither. Didn’t want to lose them as friends or come between them. They’d been best buds for thirty years, practically since they left diapers.
The boys came up with an alternative. I’d date Paint one week, Andy the next, until either I selected a fulltime beau, one of them opted out, or a ridiculous nudity clause kicked in. If I disrobed on any date, the magician who assisted in making my clothes disappear would win by default. Both men swore the arrangement would not affect their friendship.
Me? I felt like I’d been locked in a chastity belt. Foreplay’s a lot less fun when there’s no after.
“You know it can’t last, don’t you?” Aunt Eva asked, giving voice to my own misgivings.
“Yep, I do. But like today’s sunny warmth—way too early for mid- February—I’ll enjoy it while I can.”

TWO

Jayla Johnson, our tall, willowy teacher waved as she walked toward me. Had to admit Paint would get an eyeful watching her stretch every which way. He was male, and Jayla was a stunner. As a shorty—I’m five four—I’d always envied long-legged ladies like Jayla. Somehow those extra inches made them look cool and sophisticated.
Luckily, Jayla wasn’t in the running to join Paint’s off-week harem. She was happily married to one of Clemson University’s football coaches and had a darling three-year-old son.
“Do we have a plan B?” Jayla glanced up at the Carolina blue sky. “It’s really warm for February, but the ground’s too muddy to put our mats down in a pasture. After five minutes, we’d look like we’d been mud wrestling.”
“Agreed. It’d be a shame to get that outfit muddy.” Jayla looked like an Oreo cookie, her ebony skin a sharp contrast to her snowy outfit. “I did warn you baby goats aren’t potty-trained, didn’t I? Accidents can happen.” “Not to worry.” Jayla smiled. “My laundry room has one whole shelf devoted to stain removers for husband-son accidents. So where are we setting up?”
“The horse barn. Plenty of room and it will be easier to keep Curly, Moe, and Larry contained.”
“Who?”
“Curly, Moe, and Larry are the baby goats—five-day-old triplets. We named the kids after The Three Stooges. Full of energetic hijinks. They’re also super cuddly.”
We turned as Mollye Camp’s psychedelic van crunched down the gravel drive. Her van’s midnight blue paint job served as a backdrop for a galaxy of glittering stars, a super-sized harvest moon, and a broom-riding witch. Moll, my best friend since childhood, was a gifted potter who sold her creations along with an eclectic hodgepodge of homeopathic remedies, herbs, and astrological doodads in her Starry Skies shop.
Moll jangled as she hopped down from her ride. She adored jewelry and had more piercings than a rapper. A vibrant purple streak adorned her white-blonde hair. She chose a new neon hue every month.
Mollye hustled over. “Who we waiting for?”
“Mimi and Fara,” I answered. “We’re keeping the group small for the test run. Paint’s shooting video.”
Mollye checked the amount of cleavage revealed by her scoop-necked purple top and inspected the seams of her orange leggings as they meandered south of her shorts. “Glad I didn’t wear anything too revealing. Don’t want folks thinking I’d participate in some racy video.”
Mimi and Fara’s arrival cut short Jayla’s and my eye rolls. Racy might not be Mollye’s middle name, but outrageous could be. I loved Mollye and her adventurous spirit though it sometimes landed me in hot water. Okay, in one case, freezing water.
With rolled mats tucked under their arms, the class newcomers looked like an odd couple. Mimi, who’d emigrated from Vietnam at age two, stood four feet nine on tiptoe, while Fara, a busty blonde with long braids, topped out at five ten. Mimi was a pharmacist; Fara grew up in her family’s funeral parlor and was now the town’s youngest funeral director.
Hard for this class to be more diverse. Paint would enjoy himself. “Hey, Fara, you boxing anyone up today?” Mollye joked.
“Maybe you after class,” the funeral director quipped. “You want the deluxe mahogany coffin or a pine box? I’m thinking you and Brie have used up eight of your nine lives. Better not exert yourselves today.”
Jayla clapped her hands. “Now children. Snarky is not the proper frame of mind for yoga. Think serenity. We want to clear our minds, be one with nature.”
I chuckled at the good-natured kidding. “Follow me to our classroom. We have the horse barn to ourselves. The smell alone will remind you we’re one with nature. I evicted Rita and Hank. They’re grazing in the pasture. Figured Lilly’s mule and Eva’s horse were more inclined to nicker than meditate.”
“Where are the goats in this goat yoga?” Fara asked.
“Eva will bring Curly, Moe, and Larry in after we start. We need to leave the barn door open for the light. Jim, our Border collie, will keep the little goat Houdinis from escaping.”
The triplets’ antics drove Jim nuts. Yesterday Moe pranced on top of a picnic table for five minutes taunting the poor herd dog. Jim ran circles around the table, barking in protest, unable to figure out how to nudge Moe back to her pen. After we placed our mats, Jayla led us through a series of simple warm-up stretches and breathing exercises. I’d been an avid runner and swimmer for years, but yoga was a new pursuit. I was pleasantly surprised to find its emphasis on breathing and mindfulness and its practiced movements helped me shed stress and fall asleep faster.
Believe me, falling asleep quickly is a prized skill for anyone required to rise before the sun. At Udderly, one of my jobs appeared to be waking the roosters.
Jayla announced the cat pose. I knelt on my mat and set my arms to provide four-point support. Then I arched my back like cats do when threatened. I lowered my head, giving my neck muscles a pleasant stretch.
“Looking good, ladies.” With my head down I heard the man’s voice before I saw him.
“Don’t mind me,” the newcomer continued. “I’m gonna wander around and take photos.”
The sexy baritone belonged to Paint. It should be outlawed.
“Have fun, kids—human and goat.” Eva laughed as she let the baby goats loose in the barn. Moe immediately darted under my arched back, executed a one-eighty, and raced back again as if she were playing a game of London Bridge.
My concentration faltered as Curly discovered she had easy access to one of my earlobes and began to nibble with her lips. It tickled.
Fara broke out laughing as Larry scrambled up her arched back and danced a little jig on his newly discovered perch.
“I’ve got a miniature geisha doing a four-footed massage.” Fara giggled. “Actually feels kind of good, though very strange.”
“No talking,” Jayla admonished. “Concentrate on your breathing, your muscles. Be one with nature.”
Paint hooted. “Nature’s winning.”
Paint obviously felt he was exempt from Jayla’s no-talking reprimand. The instructor began laughing, too. Moe had curled her body around Jayla’s legs as she attempted to hold the Big Toe pose.
We were all bent in half, butts in the air, when a loud voice brayed, “Oh dear God, save us. They are bowing to the devil, mocking the Lord Jesus by thrusting their bottoms at heaven above.”

THREE

What the feta?
I snapped around to see who was calling us devil worshippers. Was this a joke?
Flipping out of downward dog, I body slammed the mat. A second after hitting the plastic, a furry comedian bounced against my side. Curly shook her head as she attempted an impressive four-legged hop. She’d taken my tumble to the ground as an invitation to play. The little goat butted my side again.
“Lord Jesus, help us keep these devil worshippers from claiming more souls!” the stranger bellowed.
I was flabbergasted. No other word for it. Then my shock morphed into anger. Who did this woman think she was, calling us devil worshippers? Who invited her to our private workout? How did she even find out about it?
The plump leader held a super-sized wooden cross before her as if she were fending off a clutch of vampires. I figured her for mid-fifties. Gray streaks wound through her mousy brown hair. Light glinting off oversized spectacles lent her the look of an alien with round yellow bug eyes.
Two cross-carrying acolytes hovered about a foot behind her.
Were these people serious? I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. My heartbeat raced. Angry? You betcha.
I almost yelled one of my old-time favorite curses. Years back, I cleaned up my salty language for dear old Mom. As a vegan, processed- meat-and-cheese exclamations had become my exclamatory substitutes. But Cruddy corndogs! didn’t quite express my outrage.
Mollye, closest to the barn door, marched toward the scowling leader. “Susan, what in blazes do you think you’re doing?” she growled. “I got a restraining order to keep you and your looney-tune zealots off my property. Now you’re following me?”
“I didn’t know you’d be here,” the intruder raged, “though I’m not surprised. Goat yoga! What blasphemy. At church this morning, one of our faithful told me you were planning this abomination. I prayed on it, and decided we had to stop the spread of this evil in Ardon County.”
She waved her cross at us. “In the name of the Father and the Son we demand—”
“You need to leave,” Paint spoke through gritted teeth. “The only evil here is you.”
Susan closed her eyes and rocked back and forth on her heels. “You are Satan’s handmaidens duping people into believing Baphomet goat worship is fun.”
Susan’s diatribe was accompanied by a murmur of “Amen, Sister, Amen” from her backups. The sidekicks still wore church-go-to-meeting dresses, nylons, and heels. They kept sneaking peeks at the ground. Worried their high heels might sink in goat doo-doo during their barnyard sortie?
One of the acolytes looked to be Susan’s age; the other much younger, about my age.
“Knights Templar worshipped Baphomet as a deity.” Susan’s tone changed. Her words flowed in a singsong chant. “These monsters with their snake eyes are his descendants.”
“Are you nuts?” Jayla broke in. “How can you think these adorable babies are evil?”
Susan’s rant hadn’t cowed my friends.
The harpy wasn’t deterred. “Open your eyes. The Satanic goat is a source of evil.” Her yellow bug eyes flashed at each of us in turn. “You worship the Devil. We won’t allow your sickness to infect the pious people of Ardon County.”
Aunt Eva appeared in the barn door carrying two pails of goat milk. “You’re trespassing and you’re scaring the baby goats.”
My aunt’s face flamed red.
“We’ll leave,” Susan said. “But this isn’t over. We will fight to the death for the soul of Ardon County. Goat yoga will not corrupt our world.”
Curly made a break for it. The tiny kid ran pell-mell toward the barn door, which happened to be a few feet beyond where the intruding trio stood. Susan screeched. Did she really believe the Devil inhabited the itty- bitty creature?
The woman raised her leg to kick Curly.
Eva flung both buckets of goat milk, drenching Susan. The white liquid plastered her beehive hairdo to her scalp and her puffy blouse to her chest.
Oh my, was she really wearing a flaming red teddy under her prim white cotton?
A laugh bubbled up. I laughed so hard I doubled over.
Susan shrieked like a storm-warning siren and ran. Though only a few drops of goat’s milk spattered her companions, they caterwauled like they’d been doused with acid as they scurried after their leader.
The entire Udderly Kidding Dairy crew exploded in laughter.
Eva halted her hee-haws long enough to imitate a cackling witch. “You’ve been baptized with the milk of Baaa-Phooey. Your souls belong to us!”
Susan spun when she reached a shiny Chevy van. “You’ll pay for this!” she yelled. “Laugh all you want. You’ll see Hell sooner than you thought.”
I quit laughing as abruptly as I’d started. It was Susan’s tone not her words that gave me the heebie-jeebies. We’d embarrassed the woman. Humiliated her. Perhaps she’d started this protest as some form of ecclesiastical theater, art for show, a way to rally the troops.
Now it was personal. Susan had been scorned.
***
Excerpt from Bad Pick by Linda Lovely. Copyright © 2019 by Linda Lovely. Reproduced with permission from Linda Lovely. All rights reserved.




ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Over the past five years, hundreds of mystery/thriller writers have met Linda Lovely at check-in for the annual Writers’ Police Academy, which she helps organize. Lovely finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She writes a blend of mystery and humor, chuckling as she plots to “disappear” the types of characters who most annoy her. Quite satisfying, plus there’s no need to pester relatives for bail. Bad Pick is her eighth published novel. Bad Pick is the second book in her humorous Brie Hooker mystery series with Henery Press. She served as president of her local Sisters in Crime chapter for five years and belongs to International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America.



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